Theresa O’Connor

Let Them Eat Chewy Granola Bars

Other people don’t matter.

Now, before you get rather angry at that, let me clarify.

Value is agent-relative, which is not to say that it is subjective. Think of marginal utility in economics. I prefer the cup of water over the diamond when I’m stuck in the Sahara, and yet prefer the diamond when I’m at school or at home. This is not the same as claiming that the utility of the water and the utility of the diamond is arbitrarily chosen by me.

Some people bring value to your life, and others disvalue. For instance, my friends and family enrich my life on a daily basis. If someone barged into my room right now and pulled a gun on me, this person would be a large disvalue to me.

But the vast majority of people in the world don’t have any effect on my life one way or the other. I have had no interaction with them, and the odds are that I will not either.

Now, just as the legal system presumes a suspect innocent until proven guilty, it is appropriate to presume that someone you have no (or very little) knowledge of is a well-adjusted, friendly and productive human being, until and unless I find out otherwise.

I don’t see much point in worrying about people that I don’t know and will never know. Certainly, I hope they aren’t destitute, starving, and/or oppressed. If they’re happy, great. More power to them. If they’re not, that’s too bad. I hope their situation improves. But I’m not going to dwell on it.

Marie Antoinette is (probably erroneously) remembered as saying of the peasantry “let them eat cake.” Cake, in this case, isn’t the sweet goodness that you and I know and love, but rather the stuff you scrape off of the sides of your oven when you’re cleaning it. That’s pretty icky. This statement, of course, is intended to convey a general contempt for the vast majority of people.

I’m borrowing the title of a Blake Babies song to describe my general attitude toward people: “Let them eat chewy granola bars.” I, for one, like chewy granola bars.

You might describe my policy as “positive indifference,” and the former Queen’s as “negative indifference.” Along those lines, someone once described freedom as when everybody goes to hell in their own fashion. I think it’s better to describe freedom as when everybody goes to heaven in their on fashion.

I don’t mean to convey some kind of dualist, some-people-matter-and-others-don’t kind of position. There is a sense of proportionality here. Some people matter more to me than others, and some further still. You might even describe it as a spectrum of valuing. Jasmine’s most recent update touches upon this too. The time and energy that I expend on a person should be proportional to that person’s value to me.

Online Journals and Chewy Granola Bars

Both Duff and Kari have stopped keeping online journals, and Hanah recently mused about online journaling. Jasmine claimed to be closing as an April Fool’s joke (see here for her explanation). All of this has me thinking about this site and its future.

This site was originally intended to be a place where I could capture thoughts that I was having. It was to be a record of my intellectual development.

I used to have a daily update page. I updated it less and less frequently as time went on, and the same appears to be happening here. So, I decided to reevaluate my purpose in having this site in light of how it has actually turned out.

I’ve found that I’ve had two, conflicting motivators for writing things here [and on my update page as well]:

  1. “Wow, what a neat new integration!”/“Wow, [something that I just did] was so [neat|fun|interesting]!”/etc.
  2. “I haven’t updated this site in a wicked long time! I should write something.”

I can think of more than one occasion when I sat in front of an empty Emacs buffer, because I hadn’t updated in a while and was beginning to feel bad about that (pursuant to motivation 2 above).

That’s no way to do this. I don’t want to do that.

So I won’t. I’ll write something iff I have something to write about. Hanah really captured this well: “But I will never keep a journal for the sake of my readers or for its own sake. My journal will only be for me.”

How does this relate to what I was saying before? I think is does, at least tangentally. Minutes spent writing nonsense here because I haven’t updated in a while and I don’t want to disappoint site visitors is not a good use of my time. I shouldn’t worry about what the site visitor thinks.

So don’t get annoyed if I don’t update for a while. You can deal.