Fight, Flight, or Freeze

Fight or Flight, That’s the recognized responses to “perceived harmful event, attack, or threat to survival.” How was freeze left out of the discussion?

You’re familiar with “deer in the headlights”? Maybe you’ve seen one. Perhaps you’ve seen another animal, a rabbit maybe, frozen, waiting. A flight may follow, but freeze comes first.

Perhaps, also, you’ve seen people in high-stress situations just curl up. They follow the path of no-action as a response to the harmful event or perceived threat.

Why this doesn’t get more recognition and attention is a mystery to me.

Stoic Humor?

Stoicism is getting some attention in contemporary US culture. It is a widely misunderstood philosophy. A daily email, Daily Stoic, provides short observations on Stoicism. Today’s email included this clarification.

One criticism of Stoicism and its emphasis on our ability to control our responses to events is that some reactions really are out of our control. If it gets cold, you’ll shiver. If you hear a loud enough noise, it will startle you. Sure, training can reduce some of this but we are biological creatures. No amount of mental discipline will neutralize a dump of adrenaline or prevent a reflex.

This criticism is often used to dismiss Stoicism…as if the Stoics hadn’t thought about that already. In fact, Seneca readily acknowledges that we will have involuntary reactions to things. He talks at some length about the distinction between motus (our impulses) and affectus (our passions).

Say some stranger comes up and strikes you. You’re going to have a reaction. You might duck. You might throw your hands up. You might even impulsively strike them back. There will be very little thinking involved in any of it. Stoicism is not primarily concerned with those involuntary and immediate reactions. The decision to hate this attacker forever? Being afraid to go outside? Plotting some disproportionate revenge? Those are dangerous passions—passions that are in your control. That’s what Stoicism is about.
~ The Daily Stoic email for January 18, 2018

To which I reply:

Say you have a terrible hangover from tequila. You might attempt to sleep it off, to take aspirin, to moan loudly in your discomfort. The decision to hate tequila forever? Being afraid to go drink again? Plotting temperance advocacy? Those are dangerous passions—passions that are in your control. That’s what Stoicism is about.
~ that voice in my head

Does Stoic humor exist?

Should It Look Nice?

While I was in Art school we debated whether photographs of disturbing subjects could or should be beautiful objects. One strong example arguing for this was Brian Fesseden’s Water in the West series. In Brian’s words “A photographic essay focusing on rivers, dams, and the environmental cost of the human expansion of the West.” He opposed the building of dams due to their negative environmental impact. One image hauntingly showed a still fully leafed out tree submerged and drowning in a newly formed lake. The print was gorgeous. Richly toned, beautifully composed, aside from the drowning tree the full scene was bucolic and peaceful. Was it right, we discussed, to make such a beautiful image of such a distressing subject? Would the beauty of the print lull people into supporting the activities the photographer was intending to oppose? Shouldn’t ugly subjects have congruent ugly art depicting them? In the school a large punk population raging against society served as living counterpoint to Brian’s work.

Those questions remain. You can experience the ongoing discussion in the arts and social expressions of the world around you.

This subject comes to mind as we start watching American Gods. Jennifer was not interested. She’s seen reviews objecting to the levels of, to the reviewer, gratuitous violence. Recent viewing of Black Mirror had brought enough physical and psychic violence into our lives. I persisted. The novel by Neil Gaiman is excellent. I had vague memories that the TV series was faithful. It is.

Yes, there is violence. Some, like the reception Nordic seamen receive on the beach of a new island, is even humorous. (sorry, no spoilers from me) But, but!, the visuals of the violent acts are so stunningly beautiful that one can easily suspend revulsion at axes splitting skulls, a lynching, and so on. The producers of the series are not attempting to effect social change. They are telling a story of mythic characters fighting for survival. The beautified violence fits. And, to this eye, does not offend.

Frightful Thought

From The Art of Manliness,

“What, if some day or night a demon were to steal after you into your loneliest loneliness and say to you: ‘This life as you now live it and have lived it, you will have to live once more and innumerable times more; and there will be nothing new in it, but every pain and every joy and every thought and sigh and everything unutterably small or great in your life will have to return to you, all in the same succession and sequence—even this spider and this moonlight between the trees, and even this moment and I myself. The eternal hourglass of existence is turned upside down again and again, and you with it, speck of dust!'” –Friedrich Nietzsche, The Gay Science

TAoM asks: How would you live if you were to repeat this life, as it is lived this time, over and over again for eternity?

This is frightful. How does the prospect strike you?

So you don’t get lost

I’ve been reflecting on So you don’t get lost in the neighborhood, a novel by French author Patrick Modiano. What seemed a quiet tale is revealed as a gripping mystery.

This mystery unfolds at a languid pace. A lost address book is found. The finder would like to return it in person. Oh, and he has questions about one of the entries.  Lies are uncovered and memories restored. Jean Daragane is disturbed and removed from his life of total solitude in his Paris apartment. He searches out people from his past. It ends in a place that puts the reader on a cliff of unknowns.

So you don't get lost in the neighborhood
So you don’t get lost in the neighborhood

P.S., GoodReads synopsis and reviews for other perspectives.

Typewriter Takeover

Before typewriters many jobs required a fine “hand.” A hand in this context meant the quality of one’s writing. Clerks, certainly, required this skill. Their function was to create legible records.  Professionals such as lawyers also required a fine hand. With the introduction of typewriters a fine hand became less important and speed and accuracy with the machine became the skill needed.

At some point this extended to resumes and job applications.  When did the hand written resume die out? Certainly before I entered the job market in the 1970s.  I have memories of my mom typing dad’s resume in the early 1960s. A typewritten resume was required as much as descring the family status. “Married with three children” was included with job history and military discharge status. My wife reports that in the 1980s there were still some ads that requested hand written resumes – oddly these were for laboring, physical effort jobs, not office positions.

Now resumes are expected in electronic form. The frequent requirement is a Word document or PDF file. Paper is not appreciated.

When might we return to handwritten resumes? I suspect a candidate for some creative position in advertising or gallery work or perhaps someone wishing to be a personal assistant will lead the way. The word of their hand written application and resume will spread and be emulated.

I’m not holding my breath.

Typewriting vs Other Ways

Last week Joe Van Cleave’s writing group anthropormophized their typewriters. This week we compare using a typewriter vs other ways of writing. How does the physical experience affect your writing? I reflected on this during the entire week.

Music and memories from a writing machine
How does using a typewriter affect your writing? What makes it special?

Whose Holiday?

July 4th is a pretty big holiday in the USA. If a job doesn’t involve working with customers its workers probably have the day off. But why not retail too? Who really needs to buy something on the 4th?

After dropping a relative at the airport on the 4th of July we thought about swinging by the Costco close to the airport. Costco employees will be enjoying (or so we hope) the 4th with the day off. The 4th is one of seven holiday days that Costco closes each year. Go Costco!

What about other major retailers? Ikea only closes for Thanksgiving, Christmas, and Easter Sunday. Walmart only closes for Christmas. On Easter Sunday, New Years Day, and Thanksgiving they’re open with limited hours. Home Depot only closes for Christmas and Thanksgiving. Their parking lot was pretty full at 10:00. Not so the Michaels Arts and Crafts next door. Employees outnumbered customers about four to one.

When checking to see what businesses were open on what holidays a pattern emerged. If a business is only closed for the big two or three (Christmas, New Years, Thanksgiving) its holiday hours page will provide a long list of holidays on which its open. For example:

New Year’s Day
Martin Luther King, Jr. Day (MLK Day)
Valentine’s Day
Presidents Day
Mardi Gras Fat Tuesday
St. Patrick’s Day
Tax Day
Good Friday
Easter Sunday
Easter Monday
Cinco de Mayo
Mother’s Day
Memorial Day
Father’s Day
Independence Day (4th of July)
Labor Day
Columbus Day
Veterans Day
Black Friday
Christmas Eve
New Year’s Eve

Let’s get real. What business do you know that closes on Halloween? Cinco de Mayo? Mothers or Fathers Day? Valentines Day? Tax Day? Mardi Gras? Gee how nice for the fine business to be open on those holidays. Or is this just something to obscure they make people work on Labor Day, Memorial Day and other important holidays?

We’re going to hear a lot about this in a few months when retailers open for Black Friday and Thanksgiving. Not too consistent to make a fuss then and not today.

Banks and the government do a nice job on holidays. All the work excepting essential services close down for holidays with meaning.

Two disclaimers: I’m personally glad nice to have businesses remain open, like grocery stores. I spent a few years in my teens and twenties working for radio stations. More than one Thanksgiving dinner was eaten from a tray in the control room.