Morning Hail

I’ve lived in the KC area over ten years now and this was the biggest, longest lasting hail I’ve see in person since I’ve moved here.

Worrying About People Who Don’t Matter

I was listening to an episode of the Nerdist podcast that featured Mira Sorvino. Sorvino is an Academy award winning actress who doesn’t need to prove anything to anyone. Still, she said she didn’t want to go to any of her high school reunions because she was still intimidated by the classmates that tormented her. I can relate to this as I have no desire to go to a high school reunion and relive the worst four years of my life.

It got me thinking about how much time I spend or have spent worrying about people that just don’t matter. In how I construct the multi-layered concentric circles of people that do matter, it first starts with my wife Kelly. The next layer would be our animals, because I’m responsible for their well being. Then you have my family, but I have a small family. The next circle comprises my close friends, and after them, my good friends. I didn’t say “co-workers” because they get balanced between close friends and good friends. After the circle of good friends, you start getting into a universe of people, that while not bad people at all, just don’t matter enough to worry about what they do or say, even if it’s about me. Beyond them, you have a very, very large universe of people who absolutely just don’t matter.

I need to do a better job of not spending a moment in my short life wasted thinking about them. The incident in which a friend ditched me over a link share still bothers me, even though everyone tells me I did nothing to deserve that. Minor, minor celebrities in community bubbles who write horrible blog posts with lazy, sloppy writing still bother me. People who are able to achieve a certain level of infamy/fame by being dishonest and shady bother me. But none of these people are within the circles of people who really matter.

The counter to saying they don’t matter is what if they ruin things I’m affiliated with that I really enjoy. Some might say that matters, but the older I get I wonder. Ron Paul has done awful things to ruin the image of libertarians, but am I supposed to give up my political ideals because of him? The JREF has made a mess of itself lately, but does that mean I swear off skepticism? Lots of dishonest people are trying to profit personally from the freethought community, but do I let that ruin it for me?

If this was 1990 and I was stuck in the middle of nowhere with practically no one to talk to about any of my interests (which is what 1990 was like for me), maybe these people should bother me. Now, though, you can leave people behind, you can form your own communities, and you can connect to people in so many new ways. I haven’t done a good job with this, but I cannot let a small minority of people who don’t matter ruin things for me. It’s hard to do that sometimes, especially when they might ruin something you really loved.

But when I’m home, eating dinner with Kelly or watching a movie with her and the dogs, I’m reminded that I have my own little thing going on that doesn’t require or need the validation or acceptance of anyone. Everything else kind of drifts away to the back corners of my brain. Last year, when we were hit with the double whammy of Ralphie and then Kaylee passing away right after each other, a rage blog post about someone’s out of context sentence could not matter less. When Peedee was in surgery to have part of his lung removed, tweets and Facebook statuses really weren’t all that important.

I don’t know exactly where the line is when you should worry or shouldn’t worry about about someone else. I’ve been tightening the circles slowly the last few year, even I don’t know where that line is exactly. Surely losing a friend this year has made me reconsider things. Seeing the worst in people at the same time seeing the best in people also has me thinking. I guess the trap for me is to wonder how much time I should spend worrying about how to know if I’m worrying about the right people or not.

Back to Our Corners

Another break from social media, another meltdown in the skeptic and/or atheist movement. My timing has been almost supernatural. If I thought the MDC would remain maybe I’d apply for the superpower of leaving social media right before the world of skepticism/atheism has another meltdown.

Okay, no more snark.

For the last ten years, I’ve seen a tendency for national exposure for individuals to be a driving force behind a lot of what makes up the public face of the skeptic movement. This is the reality of the Internet Age. Today is the most connected the world has ever been and tomorrow it will be even more connected. Not only are we more connected, but over those connections comes more information (good or bad) than ever before. Skepticism has embraced this and we have seen the rise of skeptic brands: JREF, Skepchick, SGU, etc. The movement has created celebrities with sycophantic followers no different than what a Kardashian might have. Oh, and sometimes they even talk about skepticism…if you spell skepticism “M – E”.

Time to go back to our corners of the world for a nice long timeout. The national movement is a broken bubble of politics, snark, and narcissism. Get involved in your local skeptics movement. Attend school board meetings to make sure creationism isn’t creeping in. March in a parade, or put on a workshop on a topic you feel super passionate about it. Pressure the local pharmacy to stop carrying homeopathic “medicine”. Look for a local skeptics conference or even put one on yourself.

There are so many things you can do that don’t require a national organization or support, you would never have time to worry about what that person said about that person saying something about that other person you once saw in a bar a conference you’ll never attend again because of how you heard they might have possibly treated this one person this one way you didn’t understand was wrong until you saw it on the internet in a cat picture.

I say this, not as someone who has any pull or influence, but as someone who has acted as a patron to help people attended things like TAM. I thought that was the best way I could help the skeptic movement. I wasn’t wrong, but times change. I’d much rather support a local group trying to develop vegan cheese using science or help a comic get a comic book made. Small, focused donations on impact items is where you will see me go next. After I go back to my corner first, of course.