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”

vs

“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!”

“*sigh*”

“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.

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