Wednesday, May 7, 1997 by Dave Winer.
Good morning people!
I know this sounds geekish, but it pays to use the scientific method in relationships with other people. When conflicts arise, as they always do, instead of assuming you know why your friend is doing or saying something, take a deep breath, put on your lab coat, and ask them to describe their experience.
Listen carefully. Remember this is a person you care about. This is not one of your ancestors (unless it actually is) and they are not behaving just like someone you know very well.
Just when you think you know someone, they change. Sometimes the change can come out in a confusing way. The simplest assumption is just that something about the person changed, nothing more. It can feel like you're being abandoned or betrayed, and in a sense you are. Your old friend is leaving, and a new one is taking his or her place.
When a friend changes you can find the bond that's connecting you at a deeper level. The surface stuff isn't a good thing to depend on. Physical bodies change as they grow. So do emotional bodies and intellectual ones. Take a deep breath. People move, life is more like a wild dance than a ceremony. You just can't tell what's coming next.
Anger is only dangerous if it's bottled up. If you deny it, run away from it, it'll come up anyway, it will find you, and in the process it could hurt you or others.
Anger is a very powerful force. If it's allowed to release naturally, it can be a thing of beauty. It can be safe. A source of movement. It makes things happen. I believe that anything that expresses our true nature is beautiful, so when anger comes from inside, it's a source of beauty.
But when a raging firestorm of anger is directed at you, it can be hard to listen. But, if you can, or if it can be quickly re-channeled, a release of anger can be as spectacular as Old Faithful, the Hale-Bopp comet, or a huge plume of anti-matter at the edge of our galaxy.
Anger is real. It can be truly gorgeous.
Is anyone really gliding thru life, unopposed, with nothing to say or prove, with nothing to overcome? Many people would have you believe this is the way for them, or that this is their goal. I don't believe it.
People you think aren't struggling are the ones with the biggest struggles. I know people who want to let go of everything, to become pure spirits, to let go of all their struggles, and just be love. I've even had this as my goal at times. Now I believe that this isn't possible, or even desirable. Sometimes, it's inevitable, a trance takes over, you become your emotions, or your intellect or your physical body. You just can't transcend it.
What to do? Just as when a car goes into a skid, turn into it, let the trance take over, breathe deeply, straighten the wheels, and when you regain control, continue the trip. Too many friends try to grab the wheel, and that always ends in an accident.
Some people believe in reincarnation. They believe that whatever you don't resolve in this lifetime becomes the struggle of the next one. According to reincarnation theory, you can and do take it with you.
Even if you don't believe in reincarnation, it's still clear that our struggles outlive our bodies. Put on your lab coat again. Think about the struggles your parents gave you, and the ones their parents gave them, and think about the ones you're passing on. You don't have to go too deep to find them. The welcome-wagon of parenthood! Parents have lots to say to their children, and children just soak it up.
Programmers have a very precise understanding of truth. You can't lie to a compiler. Try it sometime. Garbage in, garbage out. Booleans, the ones and zeros, trues and falses, make up the world programmers live in. That's all there is! I think programming is deep, it teaches us about the non-cyber universe we live in. There's something spiritual about computers, and I want to understand it.
Programming is good training in the scientific method. For example, last week I spent five hours learning that "50" + 1 = 501 in my scripting system. That truth was available to me the instant I discovered the malfunctioning software, but it took five hours of investigating, digging in, and challenging assumptions before the truth was clear, and I could move on to the next problem.
Programmers build castles out of theorums. Every program is proof that certain input will produce certain output. We build more complex castles, and look for synergies that allow the generality we like and still be approachable in non-mathematical ways. In movies they call this suspension of disbelief. In programming we call it the user interface. Same idea.
In the last few years we've learned how to connect programs together producing meta-software built out of programs that come from many different places, from people who don't even know each other. An amazing evolution has been happening!
When a programmer catches fire it's because he or she groks the system, its underlying truth has been revealed. I've seen this happen many times, a programmer languishes for months, chipping at the edges of a problem. Then all of a sudden, a breakthrough happens, the pieces start fitting together. A few months later the software works, and you go forward.
This process can be very confusing viewed from the outside. If you're not developing the software yourself, you can still understand the process if you listen to and trust the programmer. It's a fascinating world inside the machine. When programmers connect with the truth, they want to tell you about it! I promise you. This can make many people uncomfortable, and that's so unfortunate.
I think, in some ways programmers, who live the scientific method, are better prepared for life than non-programmers, but the opposite is often assumed. We all have a visual image of the programmer, but this is just the outer package. A great programmer is a seeker of truth and beauty. Successful programmers know how to ask questions, and they know how to ask the *right* question. You can't go forward until that happens. A programmer is a rigorous scientist determined to coax the truth out of the ones and zeros. There's the beauty.
My pitch to programmers, which is far more revolutionary than any programming language or operating system can be, is to look for understanding where you find it, work with people you want to work with, and don't waste time with people who won't listen and aren't grounded in the truth.
PS: A great gift for a new friend, or a friend who's changing -- Conscious Loving by Hendricks and Hendricks. ISBN 0553354116. You can read it together. It's a great way to start something new.