Nonfiction: On Confidence

Things to Trust Vs. Things Not to Trust

Things to trust: Pop music. Sensitive skin. Somebody thinks the youth of America is degenerating. Infants and toddlers (for the most part; excluding characters in horror movies).

Things not to trust: Atheists. The neighbor boy. Nightmares and hallucinations, obviously. Wheat flour, which sometimes but not always makes the bread turn out dense and hard.

Things to trust: White flour. Books. Empty cathedrals. Librarians, whether or not they look the part.

Things not to trust: Teachers, authors, and priests.

Things to trust: Even though everyone told me if I didn’t wear earrings the piercings would grow in, the holes in my earlobes are permanent.

Things not to trust: “Don’t worry, I promise I’ll delete this photo.” Marriage. Websites that peddle self-presentation either latently or blatantly. Tattoos, politicians, and people with foreign accents.

Things to trust: David Bowie. Michael Jackson the artist but not Michael Jackson the person. Certain domesticated animals.

Things not to trust: The amusement provided by zoos, because what if the lions won’t come out and the orangutan acts too human and then it’s just horrifying?

Things to trust: The ground.

Things not to trust: Navigating through space (stubbing my toe, car accidents, walking into the doorframe when I meant to walk through it).

Worrying Psychological Phenomena

Confirmation bias: people favor information that confirms their beliefs or hypotheses. For example, I love you; life is worthwhile; I am a good person.

Endowment effect: people require a lot more money to give something up than they would pay to get it in the first place. For example, craigslist.

Apophenia: People see meaningful patterns in random, meaningless data. For example, I believe in God.

Rhyme as reason effect: When a statement rhymes, people perceive it as more truthful. For example, “either latently or blatantly.”

Illusion of control: People think they have more control over external events than they actually do. For example, I make lists of things to trust and things not to trust, but even though I knew better than to trust my teacher, she still took away my copy of Love in the Time of Cholera and told me I’d better get back to Dante.

Addendum

Things not to trust: Authority figures, human judgment, and self-generated lists. Also, lists printed in magazines.

Things to trust: Latin American literature but not Latin American history.

Relevant Self-Revelations

I make my bed every morning but sometimes I don’t. I am more convincing telling lies that nobody wants to hear than I am when I’m telling truths that anyone wants to hear. I believe that I am incapable of disclosing all the ways in which I deceive myself and other people. When I was sixteen my guidance counselor made a copy of one of my diary entries because someone I knew was raped by his coach and I wrote about it in my diary, but before I submitted the entry to my guidance counselor, I altered it. In the original entry I didn’t write the coach’s name because I didn’t know who he was. In the alteration I wrote the coach’s name because by that time, I had learned his name, and I wanted him to go to jail. He never went to jail. He didn’t even lose his job.

Erratic Love Letter

To you, the reader and/or my lover: The confessional ploy is the oldest trick in the book when it comes to engendering intimacy, but that was a true story about my diary entry, so you can make your own judgment. I don’t believe keeping secrets from someone you love, so I’ll tell you up front that there are few relationships I wouldn’t trade for the ability to breakdance.

Addendum #2

Things not to trust: Romance.

Things to trust: I will always want to breakdance. I will never breakdance.

Reflective Postscript

The humorous deflection is the oldest trick in the book when it comes to avoiding intimacy.

Hysterical Deflection

Things not to trust: Rhetoric. People who want things. You. People who don’t want things. Words. My eyeballs. Your body. My fingertips. Emotions, because they’re often an indicator of mental illness. Myself. Memories. The comprehensiveness of psychology and the effectiveness of psychiatry.

 My Spanish teacher when I was in seventh grade was a small man who was born in some other country and who liked America, he told us, because you could do whatever you liked so long as you didn’t hurt anybody. During our lessons he wrote Spanish phrases on the board and while we copied them down, he liked to talk about Dolly Parton’s breasts and anything else that was on his mind. One day he told us that he didn’t believe in God. After his mother and his brother died, he began to whisper their names into the dark before he fell asleep at night, begging them to say just one word to him. Surely they would have said something; if there were a God and a heaven, they would have come down to reassure him.

What a dumb reason to be an atheist. Of course the dead will never talk.

Reliable Love Letter

Sometimes I want you so deeply and thoroughly that the desire transmutes into grief. You are not here. Your absence is ungovernable and absolute.

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