Preconceptions, Notions, and Mispersceptions of Crustaceans

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I, being myself, said something a little silly today. My roommate’s girlfriend asked for some clarification about something I had said, saying that my statement was one that was prone to a common misconception. I retorted that I did not have misconceptions. I was being sarcastic, hyperbolic, and perhaps a little snide, but later, I was thinking about a challenge posed to me in the form of an (ironically enough, misconceived) obvious example of a misconception; I had noticed that my roommate’s food contained shrimp. I stared at the shrimp for a second before I said aloud “Oh, that’s a shrimp.” My roommate responded with “I thought you didn’t have misconceptions.”

Here’s the thing, that wasn’t a misconception. I hadn’t actually conceived of the shrimp as something other than a shrimp. My questioning was part of the process of my perception of the crustacean. To say “oh, that’s a shrimp” is not to exhibit a prior misconception of the thing that turned out to be a shrimp. It’s an exhibition of the result of understanding and correctly processing the sensory data that led me to conclude that the item I was staring at was a shrimp. I had perceived that the thing I was staring at was a shrimp. I had no prior conception that shrimps were things other than what they are, and I hadn’t formed misconceptions about what the thing on the plate was. I simply hadn’t given any thought to the sensory data that allowed me to identify that the thing which I later determined to be a shrimp even existed. This led me to think on things other than shrimp.

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about our perceptions of people who hold differing Opinions. I capitalize Opinions to emphasize that I’m writing here about things that shape the way we live our lives: our religions, our politics, and our ethnic backgrounds (among other things that I’ve surely forgotten to list). I strive to treat other people in the best way possible. I don’t mean that I always ascribe the best of intentions to their actions, but I do mean that I try not to assume that I know why people act in certain ways.

The tribalism that we so often see on Twitter, in politics, and scattered throughout our various forms of media exhibits itself in our everyday lives, at least it does in mine. I see people voicing uninformed or misinformed opinions about others whilst simultaneously casting those people as the “bad guys” who have the worst intentions. It seemed to me that those people had misconceived the intentions of others, but now I’m no so sure that’s it.

So what’s my point? Why did I start off talking about shrimp and end on a ramble about the biases that people hold? I’m not sure, but I think I may have noticed something today about the way that we perceive others. I’m not sure that many of the so-called misconceptions that we hold are those at all. I think that we often view others as maliciously holding on to misconceptions of those who they view as the other, while in reality, they haven’t properly conceived of the other person in the first place.

It seems that when people see others of opposing political affiliation, they tend to discount the worth of the words that person could share. They ascribe the worst intentions, and then they use the preconceived notions that fit the political label to describe the rest of the person. Before today, I would have said that the person judging the other had severe misconceptions, but I now think that the problem is one even more fundamental. Instead of dealing with misconceptions of shrimp, we can’t even see the shrimp for what it is. My roommate should have told me that I may not have had misconceptions, but I obviously have a problem with misperceptions. I think that our problem is that we have conceptions of labels, we perceive a person as falling under a label, and then fail to try to conceive of the ideas that the person himself holds.

So, yeah. That’s what I thought about tonight.

I Like Some Things

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What do I like? I don’t know, honestly. I know what I dislike. Those feelings are strongly defined in my mind. I know I dislike crowds of people. I hold no affinity towards hypocrites and those who are cruel. I think my dislike of crowds comes from my distaste for consumerism and hivemind. I like things arbitrarily. I sometimes choose a thing to like based on its lack of popularity. Is it a hipsteresque tendency? Or do I just fancy some things for their exclusivity, their difference from the norm?

Cool temperatures, and trees; I don’t know what I would do without those. I like mountains. The distance from society and the peacefulness of the forest, I can live with that. Of course, to say such a thing is an implication of a more insidious reversal of states. Can I not live with the other? With the norm? Who knows?

I like reading, and I enjoy some books. Others are chores: useful, but tedious. I enjoy a good story. I adore a good story. Some would say that a good story is essential. I think I agree. Stories define our characters and shape our world. Stories teach who we could be and what we should or shouldn’t do. Stories are the means by which we adventure into uncharted territory. We send our heroes into the fray and observe the result, uninjured in our safe, real life.

I like some people. I don’t like them all. To like all people requires a like for oneself.

I respect all people. That’s a different story.

I like blue skies, but I also like the rain. I especially like the clouds in a storm. I like the pummeling of the earth as a particularly severe storm thrashes in rage. I like animals, for the most part. Some I like less well than others.

So yeah, I like some things, but I’m not sure why. Maybe I’ll figure it out sometime. Maybe I’ll like what I find.

The Physical Intangible

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A tuba sat next to the wall – neglected by all appearances. The dust was thick on most surfaces, and anybody could tell what was used regularly by the lack of dust. A fairly-clean pair of glasses sat next to an extremely dusty old television set, and a barely-visible stack of envelopes sat next to a somewhat polished typewriter.

The furniture was that of a bachelor. A single armchair sat in the corner, next to a small round side-table. A few books, mostly classics, were piled on the table. The wood floor was spotted here and there with throw rugs of various shapes and smells. An ancient phonograph hummed from its stand, some vaguely familiar tune. A man sat in the chair, talking to an uninterested cat.  

“…and to be honest, I was treated with… um… utter… uh… hold on…”

The man stood up and half-walked, half-stumbled over to the opposite wall, which, other than the man himself, was the most interesting aspect of the room. Dressed in some form of loose-fitting night clothes, he looked rather ridiculous as he shuffled across the living room floor. His hair was disheveled and his beard fluffed out like an upside-down afro. The cat twitched his tail and turned his head to follow his human. The cat glanced briefly at the wall as his human reached it, but cats really aren’t interested in most inanimate things that can’t be made to roll across the floor.

The wall was one of those impressive bookshelves that one might find in an old library or mansion. A ladder on rollers was fitted to the wall, and the man could reach any part of any shelf by merely rolling the ladder back and forth, which he often did just to amuse himself. The shelves, ladder, and contents of the shelves, I might add, were the cleanest things in the room. Not a trace of dust was to be found on any of them.

“Umm…. Let’s see here,” the man muttered and mumbled under his breath as he slid expertly on the ladder along the wall.

“con… con.. continent, California, caliphate, concentrate, congenial, oh.. wait… gee…” he slid back along the wall in the other direction.

He rummaged through the objects on the shelves as he went.

“Ah ha! Geniality! It was right on the tip of my tongue; I could picture it and hear it, but I couldn’t say it, Tabs.” The cat watched a fly buzz around the room. “Yes, it was a welcoming atmosphere, to be sure, but I….” his voice droned on as the fly came just a bit too close to Tabs.

The man placed the little carving of “geniality” back on the shelf. The words all quivered as he climbed back down the ladder. Tens of thousands of combinations of letters. They all sat proudly in their spots in his physical vocabulary.

“Anyway… huh… you don’t care, do you, Tabs?” He picked up his book and began to read. “Ooh… there’s a new one.” Setting his book back on the little table, he set to work whittling a few letters out a block of wood, and Tabs batted the wood shavings as they fell.

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