Full Circle on Ambiguity

This is a post on proverbs and parables, and their usefulness.  We should hoard them and seek to disseminate them.  I will end this post with the same opinion; the part in the middle is the why.

If this blog has a conflict that pulls it all together, it is the angst of a well-meaning young man coming to the realization that he has heard both of these uttered in his lifetime, by seemingly sane people:

“Out of sight, out of mind.”

“Absence makes the heart grow fonder.”

Obviously there is some nuance, and the manosphere exists in part to untangle it.

This post is not about attraction or intersexual relations at all. Because my reaction was not just, “Oh, wow, people have no idea what they’re talking about (or at least are terrible at explaining it) when talking about attraction,” but also, “If people have no idea what they’re talking about regarding this…do they make these ridiculous mistakes elsewhere?”

And, of course, they do.

What’s considered trashy if you’re poor, but classy if you’re rich?

Whatever Mrs. Grundy believes is false, even if she used to believe the opposite

“You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take”


“Better safe than sorry.”

If you have a certain frame of mind (or are just an arrogant jerk like me), when you hear people say both of these things, your reaction is, “<curse of surprise>, you’re actually an idiot, aren’t you?  Like, I thought you were basically capable of logic, but you just said two mutually contradictory things and meant them both.  I..uh…well, be seeing you.”

If you’re also polite like me, you don’t actually give voice to that reaction.

If you’re intellectually plucky like me, you set off on a multi-year journey to find the Truth and find yourself reading shady blogs with shady authors and learning acronyms and memorizing Chesterton quotes.  And eventually…

you find it!  You understand what was formerly mystery to you; you understand the different contexts from which mutually contradictory statements arise, and how to deal with them (if she’s absent and you’re not married, go find another girl.  If she’s absent and you are married, why is she absent?  If you’re absent and you’re not married, this may or may not affect her attraction to you.  If you’re absent and you are married, be careful…on both sides.  And further intricacies; I could go on.  I won’t.)

Now your problem is that you are Alone.  You have conversations like this:

“How’d the date go Dropit?”

“Well, it was OK and she was cute, but I don’t think she’s on the chaste-to-marriage train, so…”

“What’s the problem? Score, man!”

“No, you don’t get it, the divorce rate jumps astronomically with the first non-husband sexual partner, blah blah hypergamy…”

“Well, if she was cute and into you, then why not pursue it?”

“Well that’s for now, once it becomes clear I’m not gonna fuck her she’ll lose attraction, and…”

“Dude, she’ll love that! Girls just want to get married, man!”


“Like, are you gay or something man?”

You have done so much research, that you’re working with different fundamentals than most people.  The idea you’re trying to communicate is bigger than the budget of mental effort they’ve allocated to the conversation.

And!  This is where parables and proverbs show their worth.  They take out the specifics of your reasons for believing (when choosing data from which to form your beliefs, if you optimize for good experimental practice rather than ease of explanation, you end up with correct opinions that are hard to explain) something, and simply summarize the belief.  After about five seconds of looking at the above conversation, I know how it could be made much shorter:

“How’d the date go Dropit?”

“Eh, you know…can’t turn a ho into a housewife.”

Not a single reference to a study, or the mechanics of why and how it’s so unlkely—but the core concept, the answer to the question that was asked, is there.  It is within the mental effort budget of the questioner, and so will be heard.  If it piques their interest, they might ask about that, and then you can talk about the Teachman study and Baumeister’s ancestor ratio, etc., etc., etc.  But not before.

Let’s take a second and admire the feat accomplished here.  Because as a culture we don’t really believe “can’t turn a ho into a housewife,” and anything even suggesting it is rude, not publicized, misogynistic, etc.  And yet the idea gets through.  All those fundamentals and intermediate concepts people lack—doesn’t matter. They might not agree with it, but they get the point.

It’s important to note that statements of this nature do not fit in the idea of Theory.  It has no Becauses or Therefores; they are not consistent with anything but themselves.  In fact, the attempt to use them as foundations for theory led to the consternation I described upon discovering that two well-accepted proverbs contradicted each other.

What this means is: proverbs come at you devoid of context.  Nothing supports them; there is no proof that they apply to your particular situation.  The ones that you need to hear, you cannot judge on their merits; because if you had all the fundamentals to understand their merits, you wouldn’t need truth in bite-sized, allegorical pieces.

What should you judge them on, then?  The people saying them to you.  Any proverb or parable may apply or not apply to a particular situation; discerning whether it does or not requires a person of judgment and knowledge.  Is the person mouthing a proverb at you competent in this sphere?  If they are, either seek to learn what they know, or just do what they say.  If they’re not competent, then this is the definition of a platitude: a proverb uttered by someone without understanding.

So it’s funny; I began by revolting against contradictory proverbs that had been presented to me; now I’m here advocating their use as a means of a communication to the uninitiated (…to whatever strange field you happen to be an expert in).

I’ll leave you with one that I find memorable, fun to tell, and therefore useful and helpful: The Cobra Effect.

Don’t Marry (Or Date) the Prettiest Girl You Can

In any group, there will be a status ceiling, above which there are no group members, and a status floor, below which there are no group members.

We intuitively get, I think, the idea of a status floor; unless you were accepted to every college you applied to, got every job you tried for, and have always hung out with the “cool kids” of your social milieu, you’ve experienced a status floor.

The ceiling is a bit trickier.  No one’s stopping a high-status person hanging out with a group, so why aren’t they there?

The  answer is that at that level, those of high status can probably succeed at joining a higher-status group, and leaving this one behind.

OK.  Well and good.  So why am I writing a blog post about this?

Because this dynamic is not necessarily obvious.  The reason is that there are different types of status.

When I was in high school, I wanted to do…I don’t know.  Smart things.  And I had pretty insanely good test scores.  So when it came time to apply for colleges, I applied to BYU, Harvard, Stanford, MIT, and Cal Tech.  I was only accepted to BYU.

Why?  Because I had abysmal grades in high school.  Like, barely graduated.

So let’s take a second and think about how one gets into a college.  They look at a bunch of stuff: test scores, grades, extracurriculars, essays, who knows what else.  But to get in, one must do well on at least one of these.  That’s the status floor: anyone you meet on campus must have something, orthey wouldn’t be there.

But after the acceptance letters go out, it’s time for the status ceiling to take effect.  Imagine a more diligent me with better grades.  Perhaps I would have made it to Harvard.  In which case: I probably would have gone there.

So while it’s true that anyone you meet on campus isn’t a complete moron, they’re probably not Ivy material either—because if they were, they’d be there!

Note that the floors and ceilings for individual characteristics is much wider than for the composite used for admissions.  You can have a very smart person at BYU (who’s a slacker) or someone not too bright (who works very hard and plays the system well).  So it doesn’t look like there’s a narrow floor/ceiling, because on any one characteristic, there isn’t.

But a ceiling/floor combo there is, which leads to an interesting property — if you meet someone really smart on the campus of an average school, you automatically know they probably have some sort of other problem.

This could lead to some weird conclusions.  If you went around asking everyone for their test scores and high school GPA’s, you would find that they’re negatively correlated.  You might conclude that “public schools just can’t manage their genius!”  or that “tests don’t measure scholastic aptitude!”  Those may or may not be true, but they aren’t supported by our little ad hoc study.

So let’s bring this back to the topic at hand.

Am I making a mountain out of a molehill about my BF helping out his mentally unstable ex?

Don’t even click the link for a second.  Just think about it.  The boyfriend, to have a girlfriend, must somewhat have his life together.  Why does he have an unstable ex?  I’m guilty of this as well.  All my bro friends are down-to-earth dudes.  Why are some of the girls I’ve dated crazy?

The answer is:  the layer effect.  The field of girls available to a guy will, overall, fall in a narrow range.   But on any given characteristic the range is much wider—including looks.
So we really need to be asking two questions: a) why did the guy date her (she was hot), and why did she date him.  Or, to put another way: if she was so pretty, why couldn’t she date a better dude?  The answer: crazy.

Feminine Virtues: Grace

This post took a long time to write.

Not the actual post: I’m just starting that, and it won’t take me more than half an hour.  But the thinking behind it.

The reason is that I have been trying to do something very difficult: think about what it’s like to be a female, as a male.

The Manosphere, in its various forms, has been around for…well, at least ten years.  Probably fifteen.

In that time there have been a lot of dudes writing about masculinity.  It would be hard not to have covered everything.  Perhaps not everything is arranged correctly, but I don’t think any new words have to be invented.  If you want to know how to be a man, there’s a lot you can read, and you can probably piece it together.

The same is not available for women.  Much less available, I feel.  That may not be the same obstacle to women that it would be to men—masculinity is earned, much of feminity is innate—but I have to believe it’s some obstacle.  What do I tell my little sister when she wants to know what boys like?   I can tell her, of course, but “be hot” is not actionable, or if it is, it’s often not, err, righteously actionable.  I am very aware of the dangers of trying to teach swimming to fish, as a fisherman.

But the fish, you see, are not nerds who spend a ton of time thinking about the meaning of fishiness, and write long screeds about it.  That, as it happens, is one of the traits of fish.  Worse, the ones who do spend a lot of time on this end up writing guides suspiciously like, “Being a fish is bad and don’t be one, or: Down With The Fishermenarchy.”

So if someone has to do it (if only to satisfy my curiosity), and if it’s me, then I will try, but: very cautiously.  I am out of my element.

So what have I come up with so far?  Not much.

The first two posts will be about charm and grace (of Rhett Butler fame), in reverse order.  Frankly, they’re the only two I’m sure enough of to write about right now.

Worry Less About It Than A Man Would

Masculinity is very much something that is performed.  A man not paying attention can find himself losing his manliness.  The upside of this is that one can very much be a 13-yr-old or 80-yr-old man; the downside is that one can be a 30-yr-old boy.

This is less true for women.  Puberty, marriage, childbirth, menopause—all these things happen to women, and are things to be negotiated or endured or appreciated or dealt with, but not made to happen.

(Puberty happens to boys too of course, but it just doesn’t have the same life-changing effect.  22-yr-old girls [or 14-yr-old girls for that matter] did not give 14-yr-old me a second look.  22-yr-old-men do give 14-yr-old girls second looks.  Puberty happens to boys, but “becoming a man” is not something that *happens* to you)

This is why the relative paucity of information is less of a problem than it would be for men.  To paraphrase Moldbug, paraphrasing Trotsky: you may not be interested in femininity, but femininity is interested in you.


While women are certainly not exempt from work, much of femininity is not deserved or worked for.  To tired housewives bristling at this: would your husband let me take your place if I did what you do?

Some women are plain, but many—perhaps even most—are quite pretty.  This is inborn, free, no strings attached, a gift.  Even those who are plain will be shown greater courtesy and consideration than men of a similar station.

The point is: women often find themselves receiving more than they perhaps “deserve,” and it is a skill to deal with this situation.  It is not trivial or easy.  One the one hand she can refuse what is offered on the grounds of militant, principled fairness, or to avoid being in another’s debt; on the other hand she can take it into her head that these things are her natural right, which they are not.

The challenge is to do neither; to recognize and accept gifts as gifts, while discerning strings-attached gifts as such and refusing them.  And all of this is to be done gracefully.

An anecdote:

A friend of mine went to a university in a different state than her home.  After college, she took a job in her home state and moved home.  An awkward guy she had known drove 800 miles, showed up at her door, and proclaimed his love for her.

Reader, what do you do in this situation?  What should she have done?  There’s no easy answer, but I think everyone would agree that it’s not easy.  It’s not difficult in terms of effort, necessarily, but it does require: adroitness, tact, social dexterity.  Grace.  Like walking a tightrope.

Things happen to women more than they do to men*, for better or for worse, and adjusting to that, taking it in stride, reacting well—that’s grace.  If any young women are reading this blog, they might want to be told: it is a very attractive trait.

How to be graceful?

Congrats, reader!  Some of this is inborn, similar to my penchant for punching things.

But the rest of it comes down, as I think of it, to awareness and preparation.

I used to work at small software startup trying to sell our services to big clients.  At one point we only had one potential client, but it would be a lot of money if we could land them.  So sales meetings were a really big deal.  I didn’t actually participate in these meetings, but I did help prepare for them.  So, the night before a meeting, I would routinely stay up until four in the morning, fall asleep in some corner of the office, wake up around eleven and ask how the meeting went, then get back to work in my day-old clothes.

This should not be you!

I was a zombie after those nights, or at least I looked like one.  I had no reserves.  If there was any situation requiring the minutest bit of thinking on my feet, I wouldn’t have been able to do it.  I did my thinking!  The night before!

Men can (and should) do this, because the upper limit of what we can achieve is usually higher, especially in bursts.  And frankly, the expectations of our tact are generally lower.  And finally, we just get blindsided less.  What if a girl had asked me out on a date that night?  Ha!  Not a concern.  But for a woman, it might have been.

So: pace yourself, keep a reserve.  Be prepared.

For awareness, there’s no magic here.  This may even come naturally.  But find yourself either offending people by accident, or daydreaming, then either is a sign you might want to work on this.

I am still thinking about this, but it was well-formed enough in my head that I thought it was understandable.  I would invite comments.



*Why?  Partly, because there are no men that look like this:


Once when I came out of a movie theater a girl came up to me and said I had pretty eyes.  That’s happened once in my life.  How many compliments on her appearance has this girl received?  I have received no creepy emails, ever.  How many has this girl received?

My Half-Week At Scout Camp

I attend what in the LDS church is called a “singles’ ward,” but I maintain ties with the “family” ward in the same area.  So I had the (task? opportunity? burden?) of going to Boy Scout Camp for the last few days, to keep 12-14-yr-olds from burning down California.

1.  Monsters

Feral children are terrifying if you imagine a few years of testosterone in them.  Imagine having NRX ideas on proper rulership going through your head as you watch 12-yr-olds throw rocks at each other.  But with the restriction that you are not sovereign, because these aren’t your kids, they’re not even related to you.  So I broke no bones and raised no bruises, though I did bop one kid on the head, and overturned a pitcher of water on another.  And I was being light.

2.  Anarcho-tyranny

Is it a safe environment when random unrelated males are allowed to dispense corporal punishment?  Maybe, maybe not.  However, in the absence of sovereign force, kids throw rocks at each other, and that is not a safe environment either.  Were they abandoned in the wilderness, the biggest kid would have established order.  But ironically, our presence preventing overt violence made things worse by preventing that.

3.  Peace through superior firepower

The best of the bunch was a hulking giant-for-his-age fourteen-yr-old.  This guy will probably play college football in a few years.  He endured basically zero persecution, meted out none, and acted as a general calming force in the group.

4.  BSA are basically good

First aid, fishing, kayaking, swimming, camping, wilderness survival, how to stand in a line, how to shut up, how to function in a hierarchy, how to give and receive orders (proudest moment was when I quietly told the senior patrol leader to order someone to get some water for the table.  He picked the worst-behaved little **** of the bunch, and he obeyed).  A lot of these kids will get eaten by the Cathedral, another contingent will join the benighted guns-and-ammo-are-all-I-need crowd, but I have a hard time imagining a better NRX program for young men (well, some political philosophy would be nice but 13-yr-olds, whatchagunnado).  All of this under the auspices of three community-engaged fathers, and, well, me.

5. Men

This should go without saying, but there’s stuff boys learn from men that they don’t learn from women.  It’s not facts so much as facts with credibility.  Despite my complaints of lack of sovereignty before, my basic superiority in all things male (I know how to actually survive in the wilderness, I weigh half as much again as any of them, my frame is far superior) let me do things like point to a boy and say, “I need a volunteer.  You just volunteered,” and he’d follow without fuss to help me unpack something from my car or whatever.

6. That Happy Desert People

This was just something I noticed today, and I suspect it will be more noticeable tomorrow and Friday (although I left today and won’t be going back).  As I walked around the camp (as an adult, I didn’t have my schedule filled up with merit badge classes), I saw everyone busily at work (certainly with some misbehavior)—and generally happy about it.  Boys learning to start fires, to cook, being yelled at for misbehaving with knives—but purpose-driven activity, rather than the glazed eyes of the Virtual Option* or the soulless learning and teaching of government-mandated “concepts” for grades and money respectively. **

What I saw, I think, was the beginning of (short-lived; gone by the end of the week) asabiyyah.

So there you go.  What I Did This Summer, Early Edition.

*”All around the world, anywhere there is a slum with an X-Box in it, the Virtual Option is taking shape.”  ~ The Dire Problem and the Virtual Option

**”In my high school French class we were supposed to read Hugo’s Les Miserables. I don’t think any of us knew French well enough to make our way through this enormous book. Like the rest of the class, I just skimmed the Cliff’s Notes. When we were given a test on the book, I noticed that the questions sounded odd. They were full of long words that our teacher wouldn’t have used. Where had these questions come from? From the Cliff’s Notes, it turned out. The teacher was using them too. We were all just pretending.” ~ “Why Nerds Are Unpopular”

Notable Successes of Neoreaction

Arrests to date: 0.

Failed bomb plots:0

Lies told to the public: 0.

Financial scandals: 0.

Parlor conversations in which NRx comes up as “Those people”: unknown, but likely low

Suicides: Unknown, likely 0.

Individual lives benefited: inherently uncountable; this number should never be measured but often thought about

Families benefited: see above, more important than above.

We have no super-secret “methods for change,” folks.  The trick is understanding that the above are successes, and in fact are notable ones.  Different philosophies should measure their own successes differently.  Don’t keep score with the other guy’s rulebook!

Fun Stuff

Today in my ward we had a couple come present to us on pornography and its effects.  I’m sad to say that while their hearts were in the right place, I was not particularly impressed.  They had presumably visited yourbrainonporn.com, and had some very nice science.

The science probably holds up.  But I am extremely wary of taking moral directives from science.  Did you know that men are naturally polygamous?  Science says so!

If I could recommend a non-religious book to read (what am I talking about: all books are religious) I’d recommend Neal Stephenson’s The Diamond Age.  This passage in particular is relevant:

“Nell did not imagine that Constable Moore wanted to get into a detailed discussion of recent events, so she changed the subject. “I think I have finally worked out what you were trying to tell me, years ago, about being intelligent,” she said.

The Constable brightened all at once. “Pleased to hear it.”

“The Vic[torians, a “phyle,” or intentional society in an anarchocapitalist future] have an elaborate code of morals and conduct. It grew out of the moral squalor of an earlier generation, just as the original Victorians were preceded by the Georgians and the Regency. The old guard believe in that code because they came to it the hard way. They raise their children to believe in that code– but their children believe it for entirely different reasons.”

“They believe it,” the Constable said, “because they have been indoctrinated to believe it.”

“Yes. Some of them never challenge it– they grow up to be smallminded people, who can tell you what they believe but not why they believe it. Others become disillusioned by the hypocrisy of the society and rebel– as did Elizabeth Finkle-McGraw.”

Which path do you intend to take, Nell?” said the Constable, sounding very interested. “Conformity or rebellion?”

“Neither one. Both ways are simple-minded– they are only for people who cannot cope with contradiction and ambiguity.”

If this blog has a mini-theme, it is “dealing with ambiguity,” which I happen to pretty bad at.  But I’m getting better.

Here follow things hard to understand, mostly gleaned by my own intuition.  They are meant as guideposts for your intuition to follow or work toward, not as defensible statements:

1)There is a fundamental ambiguity in just about everything.  You should put money in stocks except when you shouldn’t; you should call the girl except when you shouldn’t; you should obey the laws of the land except when you shouldn’t.

2)As such, deciding what is the right choice, or “good,” in any situation is very difficult.  That said, there is something about the action of deciding that is godlike.

3)Ambiguity means that you need…something else…when making decisions.  I am not quite sure what that is.  It would perhaps be a set of rules that change whenever they wish to.  You might call that a “personality.”  Fortunately, you are exactly that.  We are not all that great at knowing what to choose, but we do have the guidance of God.  (Un?  No, I don’t think so)Fortunately, God tends to contradict Himself quite often.  This is what any reasonable person would do when trying to explain reality, because, as in 1) above, reality is contradictory.

Do you see?  Principles are good, but they cannot be your master.  The Israelites murdered for God; the wise men lied for Him; Christ broke the Sabbath.  Only God is unfailingly Good.

Things got interesting when one girl spoke up after they had finished and had a, well, impassioned outburst that the conversation was too euphemistic and one-sided.

As in most things, I was torn, because

1) She was absolutely right.

2)So were the presenters.  What, did you think a straight-laced Mormon guy like your humble blogger was going to come out in favor of pornography, even after my spiel above?  Nope.

My thoughts during the presentation were mostly along the lines of MCJDGI.  Impassioned outburst girl was pointing out the absurdity of pretending we’re sexless androgynes (is that a word?), and she was right, but she was also bordering on heresy with some of her phrasing.  Because the problem isn’t Church People Not Understanding Sex, but materialism pushing marriage back beyond normal human endurance—so, really, People Not Understanding Sex.  I’m a 28-yr-old virgin dude, so I’m hardly an expert, but I have read and paid attention to Genesis, and C.S. Lewis, understanding wind by standing against it, etc.*

Why the prelude about principles and ambiguity?  Because I get along best with people who try to navigate the ambiguity.  Some of them have left the Church, and I mourn them; but the ones who have stayed are uncommonly capable.  And this girl has the potential.  She’s holding a dinner in the next few days for further discussion; I’m going, hoping to keep it from derailing into sin and rebellion, and perhaps share some of what I’ve learned here.

*“No man knows how bad he is till he has tried very hard to be good. A silly idea is current that good people do not know what temptation means. This is an obvious lie. Only those who try to resist temptation know how strong it is. After all, you find out the strength of the German army by fighting against it, not by giving in. You find out the strength of a wind by trying to walk against it, not by lying down. A man who gives in to temptation after five minutes simply does not know what it would have been like an hour later. That is why bad people, in one sense, know very little about badness — they have lived a sheltered life by always giving in. We never find out the strength of the evil impulse inside us until we try to fight it: and Christ, because He was the only man who never yielded to temptation, is also the only man who knows to the full what temptation means — the only complete realist.”