Monday, November 26, 2012

Well, I Never

A few posts back, the moral of the story was "never say never."  Sometimes that's a good guide, in that the most unlikely things could (and do) happen.  But you are not in control of random events or tides of history, so you're off the hook whether you say "never" or not.  As for yourself, where do you draw the line at things you will not do?  And do you suspect that the line drawn might have a shelf life, short or long, and you will have to admit that "never" happened and you were wrong/misguided/wishfully thinking?

If your memory's intact, the only sure thing is looking backward and stating the facts, as in, "I've never broken a bone."  True in my case, despite falling through one ceiling, off two ladders, and surviving several motorized accidents.  I have noticed people who transitioned into a family business after the school years, and have thought they should be thankful they've never had to apply for a job -- especially in situations or times when the competition is overwhelming or the choices are like Hobson's.  But we can't say anything about what happens from here on out, of course:  a vow never to break a bone is vacuous.

So it comes down to matters of will. We just saw Spielberg's movie Lincoln, depicting a time when many died or were maimed in the struggle to establish a definitive "never" about the expansion of slavery in the United States and a dissolution of the Union.  But right now tens of thousands of Texans are proposing secession again (I'd be in favor of that, except for the sacrifice of so many to remove that possibility, and also that the departure of the state's representatives in the House would not result in a non-Republican majority anyway).  We'll see if the line drawn in 1865 will stand.

If I can help it, I will never take another test.  The last one I submitted to was a Myers-Briggs personality test during an excrutiating job interview for the science center in Ft. Lauderdale.  I had to wait in a room alone while they computed it; the interviewers were so creepy I thought there was probably hidden video surveillance and they were also watching for suspicious behavior.  My main motivation was mostly just to move us to sunny Florida, and after that brief incarceration and unwelcome invasion of my psyche I'd decided I was no longer interested.  If they were not skilled or bright enough to size me, or anyone, up without CIA methods, who would want to work for them?  (I came in second.  The poor guy who did get the job moved his three children and wife there and was canned three months later  -- the director and her associates were looking for a fall guy to blame the expansion project's failures on.  I saw him at the ASTC conference the next year and he still looked shell-shocked).

A mathematics blogger, Tanya Khovanova, stated clearly the way I've felt about IQ and SAT tests for many decades:  "creative people get fewer points -- the tests actually measure how standard and narrow your mind is."  She had taken a test for non-native-English speakers and found it was based on culture, which left her at a loss:  objects were shown in a row and the odd one was to be picked out, but many of them she'd never seen in Russia and didn't know what they were.  That was only a starting problem, though; what really bothered her is exactly what bothered me.  I.E, which is the one that does not fit among cow, hen, pig, and sheep?  The expected answer is hen, because it is the only bird, but you can immediately think of several other valid filters.  I think recognizing those is an indicator of mental ability.  What of emotional, or even moral, intelligence?   Someone who scored perfectly might go to Dartmouth and work his way up in Wall Street, and have the morals, or soul, of a weasel (there are thousands of examples).  Also:  the standard "determine the number sequence" questions -- there are 1479 different kinds of integer sequences, not just one.  And while the tests hold that there is one definition of every word, I suggest that the writers of them take a look at a dictionary.


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