The Fine Line Between Fantasy and Reality

So I’ve started to realize that there are at times a (very) thin line between fantasy and reality. 


In some cases, people hear some facts or some truth, and then in their mind, they concoct entire stories of fantasy or full-fledged conspiracy around it.


But more than that, the fantasy in their minds, because it starts with a real fact or two then becomes entirely perceived as reality itself. 


We saw plenty of this in the last election cycle and even today, with one political side or the other purchasing phony dossiers or making up stories about the opposition–and they may even have some underlying facts associated with it. 


But around these facts, entire scripts and stories are concocted through inductive reasoning or highly imaginative thinking, whether for example, of deep Russian conspiracies reminiscent of the era of McCarthyism or the Salem Witch Trails of yesteryear. 


Again, I’m not saying that nothing is there, but the question is whether there is real truth then to the whole conspiracy that has been drawn from fantastical minds of opposition agents, reporters, and others gainfully benefiting and perhaps running amuck with these grandiose versions of alternate reality?


What I am coming to believe is that it’s not so much that people are willfully making up these stories (although there can certainly be plenty of biases, exaggerations, and agendas at work as well), but that in their mind, they create these bombastic versions of what seems like truth to them and then they pawn it off and sell it to others who are only to happy to latch unto some juicy new gossip or theory of “what’s really going on.”


Similarly, some people who get very mad may actually take albeit a genuine fight with another person and pour layer upon layer of evil doings and manipulations on them until by the time their mind is done, the other person has become the devil themselves–and the fantasy for a short time seems like it is the reality–until such time that cooler heads prevail and reality replaces the mind’s fantasy or it’s ultimate fears. 


In short, there is a very fine line between fantasy and reality–our minds can get carried away with facts or notions of the moment and build those into full-fledged conspiracy theories of “who done it” and “why didn’t we see it all along.”


Certainly, this doesn’t mean that there aren’t some very good pretenders out there who truly are doing very bad things and covering their tracks, and it’s for the gifted and detective minds out there to perceive those and prove them as being the greater reality.


But we have to be careful in accusing people–until such time that the facts are all there and the perception or fantasy of our mind’s eye is shown to be the reality indeed. 


We need good investigative journalism, excellent law enforcement and intelligence, and clarity of mind to know what’s real and what’s fake in life and in our fantastical minds. 😉


(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

Not Your B*tch

Dog Carriage

Another story from a friend of a friend in the office.


A person has someone working for them who hasn’t been working out all that well. 


Basically, the staff person is having challenges simply getting their job done. 


The boss asks what the problem is and if there is anything they can do to help the person be successful. 


The staff person blurts out to their boss that “Nothing is wrong–I just don’t want anyone to say I’m your b*tch!”


For all the possible reasons for not doing your job this one was quite a shocking one. 


Sure people have challenges–not everyone is good at everything and it’s not always a right fit, but being worried about what other people think about your doing your job…uh, not a very good excuse. 


Seems like something the boss is not going to be able to really fix…maybe a shrink. 😉


(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

Talebearing and Other Trivialities

Talebearing and Other Trivialities

What do you really care about?

Your family (and close friends)–health and wellbeing, your finances, your job, your soul…

If you’re a little more social and aware, perhaps you care about the environment, the dangers of WMD, human rights, our national debt, and more.

Yet as Rebecca Greenfield points out in The Atlantic (5 Sept 2013) “the dumbest topics [on the Internet] get the most attention.” She uses the example of all the chatter about Yahoo’s new logo, which mind you, looks awfully a lot like their old logo.

The reason she says people focus on so much b.s. on the web–or derivatively at work or in social gatherings–is that it’s sort of the lowest common denominator that people can get their minds around that get talked about.

Like in the “old country,” when gossipers and talebearers where scorned, but also widely listened to, there has always been an issue with people making noise about silly, mindless, and mind-your-own-business topics.

Remember the Jerry Springer show–and so many other daytime TV talk shows–and now the reality shows like the Kardashians, where who is sleeping with whom, how often, and what their latest emotional and mental problems are with themselves and each other make for great interest, fanfare, and discussion.

Greenfield points out Parkinsons’s Law of Triviality (I actually take offense at the name given that Parkinson’s is also a very serious and horrible disease and it makes it sounds as if the disease is trivial), but this principle is that “the amount of discussion is inversely proportional to the complexity of a topic.” (Source: Producing Open Source Software, p. 91)

Hence, even in technical fields like software development, “soft topics” where everyone has an opinion, can invoke almost endless discussion and debate, while more technical topics can be more readily resolved by the limited number of subject matter experts.

This principle of triviality is also called a bikeshed event, which I had heard of before, but honestly didn’t really know what it was. Apparently, it’s another way of saying that people get wrapped around the pole with trivialities like what color to paint a bikeshed, but often can’t hold more meaningful debates about how to solve the national debt or get rid of Al Qaeda.

We may care about ourselves and significant others first, but most of us do also care about the bigger picture problems.

Not everyone may feel they can solve them, but usually I find they at least have an opinion.

The question is how we focus attention and progress people’s discussion from the selfish and lame to the greater good and potentially earth-shattering.

I recently had a conversation with my wife about some social media sites where the discussion posts seem to have hit new rock bottom, but people still seem to go on there to either have their say or get some attention.

I say elevate the discussion or change sites, we can’t afford to worry about Yahoo’s logo and the Kardashians’ every coming and going–except as a social diversion, to get a good laugh, or for some needed downtime dealing with all the heavy stuff. 😉

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

>Speaking with Integrity

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At work, there is often a lot more talking going on than just work issues. There is the office politics and the chatter about staff, colleagues, management, stakeholders, and so on.

“Oh by the way, have you heard what John said to Mary this week?”

Rumors easily get started about office indiscretions, “dumb mistakes,” bad decisions, injustices, nepotism, and even office romances.

Yeah, it goes on everyday.

Some of it is true, but more often than not, a lot is exaggerated, taken out of context, only one side of the story, or just plain B.S.—but for many, it makes for interesting conversation nonetheless.

Speech is a true gift. It enables us to easily communicate with each other and to share feelings, thoughts, and form meaningful relationships.

But speech is also something that needs to be guarded, because words misused or abused can hurt others—their feelings, their reputation, their future prospects, and even their basic human dignity.

There is an old saying that G-d gave us two ears and one mouth, so that we could listen twice as much as we speak. In other words, our speech should be carefully thought and wisely used.

I remember this Talmudic story going something like this…there are various parts of the body arguing about which is the most important—the legs said without me you couldn’t walk, and the eyes say without me you could not see, and so on and so forth. But the mouth says, I am the most important because with just one (or a couple of) word(s), I can get you in trouble and even killed. And sure enough, on some pretense the man is called before the king and from the man’s mouth comes some insulting words to the king who orders that the man be executed for his insolence.

Indeed our words are very important—they can harm and they can heal.

I was reminded of this just recently, a young adult was telling me that a boy in her high school class made fun of her “in front of everybody” and she broke out crying—deeply hurt and humiliated. Sometimes, these are the events that can scar a person long after the event is over and seemingly forgiven and forgotten. Perhaps, this was just another person’s insensitivity or their misguided thinking that they are elevating themselves by putting down someone else, but either way, their words cut like a knife.

I ran into another example of this recently, when I heard of a Star-Trek fan who questioned whether artificial intelligence (e.g., like the character Data) could be considered human, “just like Jews and Blacks.” Whatever the intent, it was a shockingly racist and hurtful use of language.

Words can and do hurt others, and people should be careful with their speech as well as with their actions.

On this topic, I read this week in the Wall Street Journal (6 January 2009) about a movement to get people to stop gossiping—like the Jewish prohibition against lashon harah (evil language).

Essentially the mantra for better speech is kind/true/necessary. Before we say something, we should ask ourselves:

· Is it kind?

· Is it true?

· Is it necessary?

And “every word we utter should pass through [these] three gates.”

One organization called WordsCanHeal.org advocates for this and asks that people take a pledge, as follows:“I will try to replace words that hurt with words that encourage, engage, and enrich.”

This is a great and worthwhile endeavor for us all in the workplace and in our personal lives.