Category Archives: Philosophy

Pre Historic Depression

So the question to my mind is not how depression, which appears maladaptive, proves through secondary gains adaptive for the individual gene carrier.  Rather how does the depression of the individual gene carrier contribute, not to his or her particular survival, but to the survival of the group as a whole?

Since I lack any scientific evidence for what I have to say I must engage in rampant speculation and attempt to imagine circumstances that suggest how depressed gene carriers might have been of benefit to the whole.  And since about the only think I really know is me—and not very well even there—I imagine myself in Pre Historic Times.  I am a very pasty white person and my knowledge of family genealogy suggests my particular genetic make up evolved in quite cold areas, like England, and possibly prior to that Denmark.

So I imagine a time and a world that, for certain periods of time was warm, and then for extended periods extremely cold.  What was one to do on those days but to sit in one’s cave, eat bits of bark and insects possibly, while trying not to freeze to death?  I think such circumstances might have depressed the hell out of anybody.  But this is situational depression, not genetic.  I am talking about the folks who are depressed even when it’s all warm and sunny.

One thing we know about depression today is that depressed people tend to lose their appetites and, in many cases, sleep way too much.  The tendency to not eat and to sleep excessively seems to be in the circumstances as described quite adaptive for the individual gene carrier since in those cold months in the cave there was very little to eat and little to do but sleep. 

Further these depressed people might have functioned for the whole as “role models.”  Even the more active and non-depressed types might have located in the behavior of the depressed a way to endure their terrible circumstances.  If I am not to go completely insane or stir crazy under these horrible circumstances perhaps I should mimic the behavior of my depressed colleagues who while perpetually miserable seem able to endure terrible circumstances.

The non depressed person, one knowing hope, might then have adapted the behavior of the depressed knowing that this too will pass and the sun will shine again.  The depressed persons would lack this consolation—that the sun will one day come out again and there will be plenty of berries and flightless birds to eat—and think, yes, this too will pass…when I die.  That for the depressed would seem to be the only end in sight and death one might say really is maladaptive.

I therefore conclude that the depressed, lying around moaning and groaning, began to try to imagine reasons for their maladaptive selves and so became the first philosophers and religious figures.  Why did this terrible thing happen?  Why did my infant die at birth or my spouse for no apparent reason?  Well, you know…the gods did it.  Thus the depressed became the first ideologues; people desperate to explain and somehow understand the unmitigated horror of their condition. In which case, I believe I can claim, that the depressed contributed mightily to the survival of the whole, and I say this without fear of contradiction because there is no way to prove me wrong, and for that matter to prove—thinking of those pseudo scientists—that individual gene carriers in Pre Historic times were ever depressed.
 

Depression, Evolutionarily Speaking

Recently a pseudo science of a sort has started to emerge called “evolutionary psychology.”  The basic premise seems to be that our emotions or psychology must have evolved at different times and in different situations as means or ways for individual gene carriers to survive in these different times and situations.  In other words, the premise says: emotions must serve an evolutionary adaptive purpose.  Take anger for example.  That clearly could serve adaptive purposes; surely it is closely related to the fight part of the deeply embedded (somewhere down on the back of the neck) fight/flight response.  Flight is of course related to fear.  If one did not feel it—at the appropriate moments—one might rather maladaptively be eaten, for example.

Since to their credit these speculative pseudo scientists do take what they do seriously they have been forced also to look at emotions that on the face of it seem maladaptive, one of the big ones of those being—you guessed it—depression.  Once again the depressed get the shaft; if one is depressed one must be maladapted and generally unfit for normal human functioning.  One pseudo scientists looking into this matter suggests that depression may produce what ordinary non-evolutionary psychologists call “secondary gains.”

Take for example you have a phobia about loud, sudden popping sounds.  Every time you hear a loud, sudden popping sound, you freak out, break into sweats and piss yourself.  Now the secondary gain here might be that you are rendered completely and recognizably unfit to serve in the military where loud, sudden popping sounds frequently occur.  So what appears maladative turns out to be adaptive in that one has less of a chance of being killed in some war. I am making a joke of course, but that’s roughly the reasoning.

The pseudo scientist concluded that depressed people back in cave person times may, as a result of their depression, have received extra attention—in the form of say, what the hell is wrong with you and can’t you get up off your butt—and resources.  Other people might for example feel the need to feed you (since you are their genetic extension or even one’s mate, carrying one’s genetic extension) or something.  The depressed person pays a heavy price for these secondary gains (that is, being depressed) but secondary gains make it worth it and thus evolutionarily adaptive, rather than maladaptive.

Now of course this theory is as sexist as hell since it is well known—and seemingly verified by the advertising of anti-depressants which universally are directed at women—that many, many more women are depressed than men. Accordingly one must conclude that women are depressed, evolutionary speaking, to manipulatively acquire those secondary gains.

But there’s another problem with this outlook.  It’s based on the idea—more or less—that each individual being is largely out for his own.  But what if this is not the case; what if what is most distinctive about human beings (and their ability to survive) is not the survival of the individual but the survival of the whole.

I think again of the nervous prairie dog about which I have previously written in these pages.  This is the prairie dog that STANDS on the top of the prairie dog hill keeping an eye out for predatory birds (that might eat his fellow prairie dogs).  Now let’s face it: standing on top of the hill seems maladaptive for that individual prairie dog since clearly and stupidly this prairie dog is putting itself at considerable risk from exactly those predators that it seeks to detect.

Maladaptive for that individual prairie dog, well yes, maybe; adaptive for the whole and the survival of it.  Conclusively.  Yes.

Tick to the Tock

I looked back over the blog to see what I was thinking about on Christmas, 2006.  But I could find no entry for that day.  Then I remembered I had an awful day.  That was the day I decided not to watch the Lakers anymore because watching them play so pathetically made me want to throw the TV through the window; and later that day in some sort of fit, I banged my head into the wall, leaving a roundish indentation in the sheet rock.  Now that’s always embarrassing.

Looking back, I see I was going through withdrawal from that terrible effexor.  That was part of the problem, maybe the straw that broke the camel’s back.  But partly too, there was all that other stuff going on at the time.  Trying to sell Joan’s house being the big thing so we would have the money to pay for the place where she was staying.  We had made the deal for the house, but it hadn’t closed.  I was waiting and I hate that and I was still recovering from the pneumonia.  All and all, I felt like jumping out of my skin.

I can’t believe that was just one year ago; it feels like eons.  These last two years feel like eons.  How can that be? I wondered yesterday, I think, and remembered having read the French philosopher Bergson on something he called duration.  Scientifically or objectively speaking, last Christmas was 365 days ago.  How can 365 days feel like more than that?  That’s where duration may come in as the explanatory factor.  Bergson wrote:

When I follow with my eyes on the dial of a clock the movement of the hand which corresponds to the oscillations of the pendulum, I do not measure duration, as seems to be thought; I merely count simultaneities, which is very different. Outside of me, in space, there is never more than a single position of the hand and the pendulum, for nothing is left of the past positions. Within myself a process of organization or interpenetration of conscious states is going on, which constitutes true duration. It is because I endure in this way that I picture to myself what I call the past oscillations of the pendulum at the same time as I perceive the present oscillation. Now, let us withdraw for a moment the ego which thinks these so-called successive oscillations: there will never be more than a single oscillation, and indeed only a single position, of the pendulum, and hence no duration.

I don’t know if this explains anything or not, but to follow up on what Bergson says, we might imagine a year clock with 365 positions or ticks on it.  When we count these ticks, he seems to say, we are thinking of time in terms of the spaces between the ticks.  Each tick perceived in space is a single position with no past positions implied.  But in duration one endures and in that position, outside of space,  all the past ticks are summed up or implied in the previous ticks.  Something like that.

So perhaps this feeling: “I cannot believe last Christmas was only 365 days ago” arises from my immersal in “duration.”  From that perspective, the perspective of duration, all the days merge and flow indistinguishable into each other.  There is no such thing as 365 days ago.

This Christmas is not the tick to the tock of last Christmas.

Golden Fears

My shrink has been warning me for five years at least that as I approach those “golden years” I should find some things that I do and want to do just for myself.  Otherwise she seems to suggest I will just dry up and become even more bitter and cranky than I already am.  It’s a life and death matter.  But I remain uncertain about what she means—what is this thing I want to do for myself.  I suppose she means something like a hobby, maybe, collecting stamps or bird watching.

But I remember—when was it? 15 years or so ago or maybe longer—she started hounding me at every session.  What do you want Neek (she is French so Nick comes out Neek); what is it exactly that you want?  This question just drove me crazy.  It pissed me off.  I understood the words, but not what they meant exactly or how they might apply to me in particular.  What I wanted, I had learned over my childhood, was not a matter of any significance.

I don’t remember my parents having ever been interested in what I wanted, except as in “what the hell do you want” and “stop bugging me” because you can’t have it since money doesn’t grow on trees and if wishes were horses beggars would ride.  If wants come f rom wishes I was pretty much horseless.  So to drag out the metaphor I became a foot soldier, one of those Roman Legionaries that just march along, do as they are told (because their lives depended on doing that) and took pride in wanting next to nothing.  Sure I needed a few things, that was a matter of survival; but wanting things, well, that was a damn luxury I could live without.

So when my shrink said Neek, what do you want, the question struck right at the heart of who I am—a person that might need some things, but want nothing.  I would rant and rave about how wanting stuff just got you screwed anyway.  Want stuff and you are going to have to live with the pain of not getting it.  You were going to fail.  And then I would go all Buddha on her and talk about how desire or want was just the road to suffering.   Or maybe existentialist and talk about how our beings are contingent and how wanting just led to increased anxiety in the face of a fluid and unpredictable future.

I was a tough nut to crack alright.  Fact was, while she was plenty smart, I was smarter and could pretty well thrown up an effective road block to anything she might say in this vexed area of Neek, what do you want?  But all unconsciously my brain went to work on the problem and finally I copped to the idea that maybe she wasn’t asking me about what I wanted in the future but what I wanted right now, at this instant.  I didn’t know what that was either, but gradually it dawned on me that maybe she wasn’t asking me what I wanted in some big way, like whether I wanted to live in the USA or Canada, but like, “right now I want to scratch my ass.” 

Time was I would go on this semi-rant with my students—to make some sort of point I guess—that we had all become such unnatural creatures that we no longer knew even when we wanted to sleep or when we wanted to eat or what we wanted to eat.  We ate by the clock, we slept by the clock, we move and breathe by the clock.  So all this thinking on wanting led me to the conclusion, that much of what I did was not the consequence of my wanting something but was the product of compulsion.
 

I was driven, but I did not drive.

Dialectically Speaking

I have spent an inordinate amount of time over the years trying to understand the dialectic. There are different kinds of dialectic. Plato’s for example. But I am thinking particular of Hegel’s. He laid out the "structure" or "form" of the dialectic pretty clearly. Thesis; Antithesis; Synthesis. Usually this form if represented pictorially by a triangle:

 

level0

This looks simple enough, I guess. It’s the kind of things teachers like to draw and then stop talking about it. Because actually the whole damn thing is damn complicated. Hegel appears to claim for example that the synthesis does not represent a canceling out or answer to or something like that to the first two terms (thesis, antithesis) but that the first two terms are lifted up and preserved in the synthesis. He uses the word "aufhebung" frequently translated as sublated." Or to put it another way, nothing is lost in the process of the dialectic.

I have been interested in this partly because I am interested in the dialectic and partly because I am interested in the development of the psyche-soma. In the development of the psyche soma–nothing is cancelled out, everything is retained starting in the womb. Without the first primordial steps in the womb, none of the later steps in the development would be possible. Or for example, some people are concerned–whether they should be or not–when their child begins to walk and never crawls. Crawling is a prelude–and some thing necessary–for the next state of walking.

So in these diagrams I am trying…with great difficult..to fathom the notion of sublation. Yes, the primal steps are necessary. But more than that the steps that come later are not "higher" or "superior" stages of development–since all the steps in the development are necessary to the overall developmental process. It is hard to call the primal steps inferior when no steps would be possible without them.

The following represents my attempt to think about this critical issue of sublation (also related to the negation of the negation).

level1

 

Here I plug some simple concepts into the dialectical triangle. Sometimes under thesis I have seen A and under antithesis I have see Not A. The synthesis would be then (A=not A). This suggests a pretty unstable configuration and one reason the more logically oriented have dismissed the dialectic entirely. How can A equal Not A? But here comes the negation of the negation (necessary to preserve the sublation as it appears in the synthesis). A is negated by Not A which turns out to be A in the synthesis as the negation of the negation (not A).

So I write in yes and then no which is the opposite of yes; and I arrive at Maybe–which preserves both the yes and the no–but in qualified form. The definitive yes and the definitive no are both cancelled out, yet preserved (I think) in "maybe."

Here’s level two:

 

level2

 

Here again, I attempt to preserve, sublate, all the terms so far encountered. The prior synthesis splits to become maybe yes or maybe no. Now things get even more tricky. Hegel’s dialectic feels like it jumps; and people have complained about the transitions in the Phenomenology of Mind. Like, OK, I buy this, but how the hell do you get in the above diagram from maybe yes maybe no to Who Knows? Hell, it seems like a logical step to me…Maybe Yes, Maybe No..who knows? Also I think I am doing what Hegel does overall which is to move from the flat assertion of the truth of something–yes this is so, no this is not–to the role of the human subject in the construction of "knowledge."

Take the nature and nurture debate. Personally I consider this a completely sterile chicken-egg debate. Scientists have tried to study the subject statistically and come up with the surprising conclusion, hey, as far as we can tell it’s 50% nature, 50% nurture. Freaking idiots. More alarmingly though as I see it is the fact that this question is viewed sub species aeternitatis (i.e. outside of and beyond time). Given this perspective, the subject (i.e. the person who is nurtured or natured) is completely left out of the equation BECAUSE the subject exists only in and by means of time. So there may be a sort of logic to my "who knows" because I am returning to and rooting the prior terms of my dialect in a subject, a who, that exists in time

OK…here comes level 3:

 

level3a

Well, I am not entirely satisfied with this third step. True, I have preserved the terms, all terms so far, in the thesis and then in the antithesis; but the synthesis strikes me as lame. Maybe I should drop that "can" and just go with "Who knows maybe yes, maybe no." Or perhaps I am getting at the idea or the question of whether or not it is possible to claim that one knows "confusion," or "conflict," or "contradiction," or "ambiguity" or "paradox." And perhaps also if one can claim to know "ambiguity" is one claming to know the unknowable as "ambiguity" and so in the process closing off the dialectic completely.

I don’t know frankly. Frankly I don’t know what it is even that I am trying to think. But this may say something about the dialectic generally; it’s a bit of a trip; it can turn this way or that at any one of its hinges. The idea here–if there is an idea at all–Hegel would probably call it a notion, not an idea–is "knowable" only in its unfolding.

Enough unfolding for now. But I am pretty sure this idea of the dialectic is related to the bildung and the bildung in turn is related to a view of the education as developmental or as rooted in the development of the individual.

 

Mixed Feelings

I have mixed feelings about everything.  I am sort of a master of ambivalence.  When my buddy and I were starting up the union and walking on thin ice with the administration and with our colleagues, sometimes—since he was more active in a daily way than I—he would come to me for a consult because he said I was the “conscience of the writing program.”  He was a funny guy and actually said things like that…

I felt sort of odd being the conscience of the writing program, because I didn’t know what that meant.  But he would have a bit of a dilemma about something; should we tell x what we had heard y say about z.  Or something to that effect.  Or should we hold a secret meeting to plan policy because d and e were disruptive.  And then I would say, well, I have mixed feelings, and go round and round looking at the question, all the time making the question less a matter of whether we should or not and more a matter of the nature of the question and what might be implied in it from a moral, ethical point of view, so in the end I wouldn’t be talking about the question at all, but about what it meant to be a human being, and the nature of decency, and the role of trust.  And he would listen and say, yes, you are right (not because I was right but because he knew he tended to think more in terms of strategy and power politics and I didn’t).

 

littlerain

 

 

 I was doing the mixed feelings thing this morning at the club.  We had a tiny bit of rain last night, finally.  One guy said, “Well, that wasn’t much rain.”  He seemed to be condemning the tiny bit of rain for being tiny, so I said, “Yes, but maybe it’s the amount we need right now to get the green stuff growing a bit on the hills, so if the next rain is a big one we won’t have flooding.”  And another guy said, he had gone out to check his garden and the rain hadn’t gone down very far, and I said, “Yes, but I bet your garden is happy for the little bit it got.”  “You are certainly right about that,” he said.  So I said, “But of course the weeds will be happy too.”

 

I think I do this all the time and am not even aware I am doing it.  My favorite sentence construction must be “yes, but.”  A student says something and I say why yes of course that’s right, I can see that.  But..”  I think the “yes, but” comes from some sort of attempt on my part to get the whole picture into focus.  This can cause problems because you can come across internal contradictions in your own thinking, and if you are trying to look at the whole you have to admit there’s a contradiction.

This one old guy has been talking at me for several days about Global Warming.  So, he says, “If there is Global Warming, why are these people, especially liberals, going on about rebuilding New Orleans.  Shouldn’t we just close the whole thing down?”  I felt hoist on my own petard because I believe there is global warming, and if there is then he might be right.  Just shut down New Orleans.  Then as I was talking with him, the whole question switched to another level.  This guy doesn’t believe there is global warming or let’s say he believes in it but not as a byproduct of humanity’s destructive habits, but because the globe is simply warming up as we go out of an ice age.  For him the whole global warming thing is beyond human control (and human responsibility).  In the face of this implacable reality “New Orleans” should be closed down; this would be the logical and rational response to a change in nature.  But since I believe Global warming is at least partly the result of human activity, I don’t see the warming thing as being quite as implacable.  Thus save New Orleans because who knows, if we change our ways a bit, it might not just disappear under 20 feet of water. 

 The guy I was talking to is not into “yes, but” thinking, he is more either/or.

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We had a little bit of rain yesterday, but the clouds are still hanging out….as they go further north. 

On Contingency

Brother Steve comments:

I always thought that Hegel was one of the more lucid amoung us…..and doesn’t "Being and Nothingness" have that great line…"When a women walks down the boulevard, her behind belongs to the world"?

Thanks for the memories dude. 

I keep forgetting Brother Steve was a philosophy major and a damn good one I expect.  I probably would have been one of those myself.  But for the fact that I had decided to be an English major.  Come to think of it, the best paper I wrote in college was not in English but for a class in aesthetics.  I argued roughly that the aesthetic experience was not restricted to the experience of things like art.  Instead I argued that a person could have an aesthetic experience driving a motorcycle fast on a narrow mountain road, and that as far as I could tell you could have an aesthetic experience watching a Bob Hope movie. To hell with high art, in other words. The professor said he would recommend me to any graduate school in the country on the basis of that paper.  Sadly I don’t think there are any departments of aesthetics.

People argue that Hegel is very, very obscure.  But to read him you have to let yourself go and buckle up for a wild ride.  If you want little quotable points you aren’t going to find then. For me though Hegel is the Phenomenology of Spirit.  He takes you in one direction and you are fully convinced of that direction and then he drops the bottom right out from under you.  From Hegel I got one big idea:  if you had a huge scale and you put reality on one side and appearances on the other, they would weigh the same.

Sartre in Being and Nothing does go on a pretty long disquisition on the behinds of women.  Really though he doesn’t like them too much.  He talks about how they wiggle and flop about and he finds a sign in them of “contingency.”  I couldn’t say what contingency is right now though Sartre seems to associate it with gooeyness.

As a teacher at a university, I have the opportunity walking to my class or to my office to observe many behinds.  That’s not all I observe of course.  But it’s hard to miss all those behinds there being so many of them.  I must say from what I have observed that the style or styling of behinds changes.  The full or opulent behind seems to be on the out; instead narrow behinds are favored.  People with behinds are wearing jeans that do odd things to their behinds.  Some people sport jeans that seem to flatten and squash the lower part of the behind, where the curve of the behind might otherwise be visible.

Being old school, I guess, I don’t like this new styling of the behind.  Perhaps people with behinds these days are trying to shape or control their contingency.

Brain Dead

Lately, I have been feeling brain dead.  I hate it when that happens. This morning when I sat down to write a blog entry, nothing came out at all, so I decided to write on that.  I tend to feel that my brain functioning is somehow related to my state of well-being.  When I have stuff pouring into my head—like song lyrics maybe—or something I want  to say in class, or like this open Letter to the Guv that I was composing in my head a few days back, I tend to feel that while I am far from a-ok I am at least not in agony.

And I have wondered for a long time why I have, at least in the past, actually received some relief, in moments of depression, by reading the abstruse and incomprehensible work of somebody like Hegel and feeling at least a momentary uplift at managing to noodle something out of it.  When depressed, I doubt few people would turn to Hegel as a pick-me-up or to JP Sartre’s Being and Nothingness which I noodled all the way through during my period many years ago of maximum depression. Along with of course Heidegger’s Being and Time, though that goes without saying.

Sometimes when I start expressing myself somewhat hatefully about Joan to my shrink, she sees fit to remind me that after all I did get something from here: brains genetically speaking.  Not that WB was un-smart.  But Joan had less of the practical brain and more of the speculative kind that might help a person do well in school.

 But I think there’s more to it than that.  The psychoanalyst, DW Winnicott speculates on the “mind as object.”  Since Freud at least psychoanalysts have been interested in what might be called the “varieties of thought” and the psychological purposes these might serve.  I do believe Freud felt philosophers tended to be very obsessive; and another psychoanalyst suggests that Descartes’ “I think therefore I am” was the utterance of a person suffering a major collapse in his “sense of reality.” Perhaps more technically “disassociation” and “de-personalization.”  In all likelihood Descartes was of the schzoid type and had, along these lines, a great deal in common with Robespierre.

Winnicott writes:  In one extreme type of case an intellectual overgrowth that is successful in accounting for maladaptation to need becomes of itself so important in the child’s economy that it (the mind) becomes the nursemaid that acts as mother-substitute and cares for the baby in the child’s self…. The result may be gratifying to teachers and parents who like cleverness.  Nonetheless the psychiatrist knows also of the dangers and unrealness of everything to an individual who has developed in such a way.

So Joan’s contribution to my particular powers of brain and my dependence upon those powers for a sense of well being may not be wholly genetic but the result of her perpetual absence as a mother.    

Speaking of Accuracy

My experiments with the modern digital thermometer suggest two possibilities: a) they are more frequently inaccurate because delicate, b) they are not inaccurate but because more delicate indicate that the “normal temperature” of 98.6 is itself a gross measurement or rounding off of one’s actual temperature which can and does fluctuate several tenths of a degree up and down in the course of a day.  I am inclined to believe both of these statements are true.

The gross measurement of the old fashioned mercury thermometer was true and remains true because it could not measure small fluctuations in a way that allowed a person at least to see them on the thermometer.

I bring this up to make a point about the so-called social construction of reality, as in duh! Have you had your brains in a freezer or something to make such a big deal about it?  Like at one point, in literary studies, it was like if you didn’t use the idea of the social construction of reality and talked instead about something called reality you were a naïve idiot.  I would say for my part that these guys are naïve idiots.

Duh!  Just think about it as I did years and years before people started talking about the so-called social construction of reality.  I don’t know how long I have been bothered by the fact that there are seven days in a week.  I could make neither hide nor hair of it or locate any reason why this should be the case.  In fact, given that the year is 365 days long, I think it would make more sense to divide by 5.  That works out to a nice even number of weeks in a year: 73.  But if you divide 7 into 365 you come out with this weird 52.21 weeks in a year. 

 So this is a sort of elemental demonstration of the social construction of reality.  A brief check into the history of the seven day week suggests nobody is quite sure why we have it.  But at one point the Romans took up the idea and pretty much forced it, since they were so powerful, on everybody since.

I wrote an article about being an academic from the working class and got attacked (and rejected) by a reader who over and over again accused of me being an idiot because I did not refer to the social construction of the working class and talked as if it actually existed.  Well, if it walks like a duck, and talks like a duck and so forth, it is damn well a duck if you ask me.  The seven day week is obviously no less real because it was socially constructed.

But the social construction fanatics seem to think that if you just think “this reality is socially constructed” it ceases to be a reality.  These folks are idealists of the kind Marx attacked when he said changing the way you think about the world is not changing the world.

Gross Measurements

When I started getting a fever yesterday and was sure I was on the fast track to certain death, I dug into my medical accessories drawer looking for a thermometer.  I found a bunch of old sleep apnea masks, plus tubing, and two blood pressure taking machines with those cuffs that expand around the upper arm and four thermometers.  Two were made by Vicks, but they were different models and the battery was dead in one; one from Walgreen’s and then one of those old mercury kinds.  I don’t know who made it.

So first I tried to take my temperature with the one that had the dead battery; I didn’t know it was dead till I tried it.  Then I tried the other Vicks one and it said 99.7 which freaked me out because that was nearly nine tenths of a degree higher than what it was supposed to me.  And then later it read 99.9 which freaked me out more, so I kept digging around in the drawer and came up with the one from Walgreen’s.  It read like 98.9, only three tenths of a degree high, and a few minutes later when I stuck it in under the other side of my tongue it read 99.

 In desperation I stuck the trusty old mercury in my mouth and waited and waited and waited.  Those digital ones work a lot faster for some reason.  The numbering on the mercury is tiny; I mean there’s no digital read out obviously and you have to hold it this way and not that or you won’t see the mercury at all.  It seemed to read closer to 99, confirming the reading of the Walgreen’s. But clearly with those tiny little lines and not actual specific numbers the results of the mercury seem to be a sort of approximation or gross number of whatever my temperature actually was.

I wanted to make a general point about technological advancement.  I am not sure it’s such advancement.  I expect those digital thermometers are more accurate than the old mercury job, but at the same time, they are way more delicate.  Exactly because they have the potential for greater accuracy, they also have the potential to be wrong more frequently.  But the mercury job because it has less possibility for being absolutely accurate also has less possibility of being completely wrong.

It’s sort of like that digital scale we bought a while back.  I expect it is very accurate, possibly way more accurate that the old-fashioned scale with weights where I work out.  But the more accurate one gives me vastly different readings from one moment to the next.  When I step off the old fashioned scale where I work out and then step back on, it gives me the same reading every time.  But if I move the digital scale from one square of tile to another on our bathroom floor it will sometimes give me different readings.  The more accurate scale—the digital one—is also the more delicate.  The tiles on the bathroom floor are irregular.  Some have a microscopic slant and the delicate scale responds more readily to changes in its weighing environment.

Technological advancement while aiming for greater and greater accuracy also gives us the potential to be wrong more and more frequently.  The same with the computer: the more then expand your so-called options for this or that, the more chance you have for screwing up.  Which in my case, is usually the case.

I still remain uncertain as to my exact temperature, but my explorations in this area have led me to believe that 98.6 as the so called “normal” temperature, is itself a gross sort of indicator at best because while I have been above it several times today and below it also several times, my temperature has never been exactly at 98.6.