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Too Literal?

1 March 2024


I recently had to attempt navigating a multiple-choice gauntlet to get past an online security wall.  I flunked the digital test.

 

Even the automated responder seemed aghast at my ineptitude:

 

“There seems to be a problem here. . . Let’s try again.”

 

I did worse the second time around.

 

I’m notoriously awful at passing any multiple-choice test.  In school, from kindergarten on up to university, I was the one student struggling, mentally writhing, to find the best choice among A, B, C, and D.  My peers had left the classroom, but I remained, outlasting the timer-clock!


After a few years, I came to the conclusion that there were 2 throwaway options, which left me with 2 possible answers, either of which I could plausibly make a case for, and against.

 

The condition is called being “too literal” — but I’ve begun to think the real “problem” is that I’m too literate.

 

Whenever a person approaches life from a statistical-analysis point of view, I’m thrown for a loss as to what to think of that way of thinking.  I can put a certain level of credence in statistics, but, having taken one university-level class in Statistics (which my fellow victims called Sadistics), I’ve not too high a level of confidence in those figures.


Figures can be fudged, and they often are.  The sample size, and composition, typically suit the suits paying for the sample.  Intuition, instinct, and insight are left out of the mix; thus, to me, the results add up to a real mix-up.  A savvy combination of numerical data and real-life experience, along with common sense, innate knowledge, and that sixth sense:  that approach approaches my gut reaction on an intellectual level.

 

I have gotten to the point where I cast aside the blind faith in double-blind studies.  My second sight cannot see the point in pointing out to anyone the futility of numerical dissections that claim to have penetrated a complex reality.


Perhaps reality, for the digital diagnostic disciple, is a step removed from real life.  If so, then the over-reliance on figures to figure out a complicated world has become either a threat to actuality, or it’s laughable.  Maybe it’s both.

 

I suppose both conditions can exist at the same time, but I do not perceive them as co-existing.  The view of life as compartmentalized and quantifiable flies in the face of faith, credence in Providence, the spark of genius that can make the difference between wisdom and folly, the happenstance that can be THE prime mover for something to happen, and the quirks of fate that are pretty much inexplicable, much less measurable, but can make the difference between life and death.


We’re a sadder lot if the bean counters and number crunchers epitomize an expert and adroit assessment of countless aspects of life.  The crackerjack opinion, backed up by levels of confidence and percentages of risk, becomes the child’s cracker jack, without the prize, when a new and completely unforeseen circumstance rears its ugly, but miraculous head.

 

What can the pollsters and compilers tell us about the person who beats the odds and lives, despite the odds being stacked against him?


What can the graphs state about a phenomenon that appears for the first, and only, time before our eyes?

 

One must not diminish the data that are valuable insights into a troubling question; but neither can we relegate to the sidelines an exception to the rule that was relied upon, to the point of it becoming a religion.


Science is as much an art as it is a proven system, a method, and a diligent discipline of discerning the physical world.  Medicine and music are based upon the same profound belief in, and love of, the beauty, the gift, and the sublime divine creation called humanity, the mere mortals such as you and me and the beasts and the children.

 

My novel, NOCTURNE, explores those facets of faith in the Ineffable and the fates of the individuals who try to thwart that faith, and the destinies of those who, conversely, triumph because of holding fast to that faith — in the face of fear.

 

Separating out your fear from that of another person — that arduous but necessary deed has always been the task of any person who wishes to prevail over ghoulish manipulation, gaslighting, ill will, foolish doubt and the ever-present cynical skepticism that skews hope, faith, and charity.  The Golden Rule gets tarnished real fast in that toxically suspicious scenario.  The literalist in me lambasts that whole shebang.  Emotionally, I take out a gun and shoot it!


The past four or five years behooved the realists among us to make use of those critical thinking skills that the panic-mongers so critically lack. That reflexive strengthening of the moral and emotional backbone assured me, and re-assured me, of my own courage.  Sorrowfully, I also became aware and convinced of the lack of courage within others around me.


It takes all kinds to make a world.  We don’t have to be happy about that truism; we must, however, accept it.  How we do so is not the crucial component or authorized objective of a taxpayer-funded study, or prissy academic research, or pontificating official inquiry, or a cold-fish mathematical report. That function comes from the heart.  And the heart is rarely, if ever, included in any study compiled for the good of mankind.

 

If having heart, and a good one, equates to being too literal, I’m a definite determinant of that definition.  I’m also an agent of change and an instrument for achievement.  Those in-the-saddle catalysts are composed of passions and zeal, forces that cannot be computed, controlled, counted, calibrated, or cooked-up with counterfeit sine waves.

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