Thursday, December 24, 2015

Things are just right

The name "Goldilocks" often comes up when discussing how things are.  It can be surprising that our situation on just about any variable can be too high or too low.  Want to be liked?  Yeah, but not that liked.  Not as liked as the scene in the movie "Love Potion #9", where a young woman with high levels of need and adventurousness inadvertently attracts several hundred lustful guys all at once and literally runs while they give vigorous chase.  In most things, as we have been told for more than 2000 years, a middle way is best, like Goldilocks: not too hot and not too cold but just right.

We learned in psychophysics that any of the body's detection senses can reach a level of pain, too high or too strong or too much light or smell or noise.  Similarly, any sense can be unable to detect stimuli that are too low, too weak, too dark.  Only in a given range, can we tell there is something there to detect.  We use our minds to settle questions of judgment on many other things that are not directly sensed.  Is our car running all right?  Is the situation in the Middle East all right?

I think it is possible for some people to simply decide that things are all right, just as they are.  If I decide that, it might be difficult for anyone else to convince me that they aren't.  I guess one of the most famous characters who seems utterly committed to optimism is the tutor of Candide, Dr. Pangloss (="all talk") in Voltaire's novel in the mid 1700's or the endlessly cheerful girl called Pollyanna in a 1908 children's book.  Such a philosophical or personal outlook can be a bother to others, it can be ridiculed and jeered but held to strongly enough, it seems very like being drugged.  Whether I am high on some drug or drunk or a beserker Nordic warrior, I can get into a mental state where I refuse whatsoever to recognize limits, difficulties, pains or dangers.

The woman religious leader Julian of Norwich, who lived in the 1300's, is known even today for her pronouncement that "all will be well and every manner of thing will be well".  During the time of the Black Plague, facing the obstacles in pioneer life of the settlers of the US, or bearing a life with heavy tragedy in it, as did the author of the hymn "All is well with my soul", people will sometimes simply decide that things are all right.

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