Arguing with Reality

August 19, 2009

Right after my girlfriend and I started dating, I got sick and she drove me to the hospital in my car. It was out of gas and when we stopped to fill up, she couldn’t figure out how to open the tank. I don’t know how it happened exactly, but the next thing I knew, we were arguing about whether the lever was on the door or not. Through the fever I remember thinking, how are we even having this discussion? Just because they’re normally on the floor doesn’t mean anything, it happens to be on the door.

John August wrote something in January about a new unlimited DVR service in Canada that might disrupt re-run and syndication rights. Buried in the middle is the same comical kind of thinking: I’d love to use the service they’re making but I don’t think they should be able to. Here is what I’m willing allow.

His readers chime in “yeah my vote is for John’s plan” or whatever. No one stops to point out that this whole issue is happening in another country, is left up to the courts, has no consideration for what individual writers may like or dislike about it, and lastly is part of an inevitable technological trend. They’re much too busy attaching riders like it’s a bill through congress. And that is the perfect metaphor too because what they’re doing is trying to vote on reality. They’re voting on reality

We’ve become so used to preposterous internet speak that we don’t even notice anymore. You have to remind yourself: don’t have time for these meaningless discussion about what should or shouldn’t be. Abolish a word? Are you serious?

Our energy would be so much better spent accepting it and finding a way to change it. Looking for cracks to apply leverage and force, not rhetoric. But it feels better to voice your disapproval like some papal proclamation. Ryan does not agree, the facts are on notice!

Enough. Admit to yourself that this is hollow. It is self-absorbed helplessness. And promise that you’ll try to waste less time arguing about reality, pointing out what the weather was supposed to be like today, and take the world as is, for what it is.

Ryan Holiday

I'm a strategist for bestselling authors and billion dollar brands like American Apparel, Tucker Max and Robert Greene. My work has been used as case studies by Twitter, YouTube and Google and has been written about in AdAge, the New York Times, Gawker and Fast Company.

16 responses to Arguing with Reality

  1. That whole homeless blog is doubleplusbad. Where do you find that stuff?

  2. You summed up Digg and the internet Ron Paul brigade in a single short post. *golf clap*

    I think that since the internet has exposed a lot of people to the good and bad with society, and given them a voice, everyone decided that a voice was good enough. People just post their opinion and argue over it, like the president’s going to use it to design policy or something. Seems like a good way to stay ignorant, waste time, and develop a cynical streak.

    Almost nothing people get riled up about about affects them, either. Tune into a 24/7 news cycle, bitch about he said/she said, repeat. I’m sorta doing it myself right now, so I’m leaving.

    Your posts are always a kick in the ass for me, but in a good way.

    Thanks dude.

  3. This excerpt is just completely silly: “But if they’re not getting paid, nobody’s getting paid. And if nobody’s getting paid, there is no industry.” It’s just such a thoughtless thing to say for so many reasons. The industry will adapt to the changes like it always has because cable IS content.

  4. You should read Malcolm Gladwell’s review of the book “Free” by Chris Anderson and Seth Godin’s response to Gladwell’s review. It touches on many of the same topics. Basically, Gladwell lists all the reasons why the things Anderson is predicting shouldn’t be allowed to come to be, and it’s pretty persuasive. Godin’s response, rather than a bunch of reasons why Anderson’s predictions are or aren’t a good thing, instead sidesteps that issue altogether and says it basically doesn’t matter if it’s right or wrong, what matters is that it’s inevitable and we have to figure out how to adapt to it. It’s such a simply point that it basically made me realize how much of blogging in general and my blogging in particular is intellectual masturbation about things that ultimately don’t matter in the big picture.

    After reading Godin’s piece, I try to focus less on railing about how things should be and more on adapting to things that are inevitable.

  5. If you look at the 10 words that guy wants to see more of, you know he’s -really- asinine. Especially if you notice some of his justifications for dislikes could be applied to the words he likes.

    Thought provoking posts like this are what make you one of the top Rudius writers. I never really thought about why excessive small-talk about the weather genuinely pains me, but this gives me some insight.

  6. Great post.


  7. I really like your description of these sorts of arguments as ‘self-absorbed helplessness’–it’s a neat bit of irony. When somebody takes the time to type out walls of words about this or that social trend, underlying their action is a deep-seated need for control that they can’t have. (You could replace every word of every linked post and comment with “Oh, if only those bastards would listen to ME!” and lose very little of the actual content.) The half-assed grab for power/intellectual currency tends to point out how little of it they actually have.

    Expressing that thought as a blog comment is also a great reminder of how discussing all the stupid, mindless things that ‘they’ do is really more of an observation on what -I- do.

  8. Reality as a singular noun does not make any sense to me. What the hell is reality anyway?

  9. I read this post weeks ago when you first posted it, and I find myself reminded of it almost every day since. I like that phrase, ‘voting on reality’; catchy and accurate. I moved to a rural state from California, and it seems that nobody really understands there that so-called “liberalism” happens when cities get bigger, not because of some malicious counter-culture to their old time ways. They don’t get that their cities WILL get more crowded, have stricter police, more department stores and such as long as it keeps growing, whether they like it or not. A similar phenomenon exists with the growth of online higher education and the inevitable decline of overpriced B&M universities.

    Anyway, thanks for that post.

Trackbacks and Pingbacks:

  1. Projecting Rules « - August 25, 2010

    […] Consider the logic in applying the “Bechdel Test” to Christopher Nolan movies, or to any movie for that matter. The fact that it’s often also called the “Bechdel Rule” is illustrative. Essentially, this is to assert an arbitrary benchmark, apply it retroactively and then angrily wonder why it wasn’t respected. Such behavior is voting on reality. […]

  2. Arguing With Reality (Bearing the Unbearable) | - December 30, 2011

    […] Just because you can’t bear it, doesn’t mean that it’s not the case. To think otherwise, is to argue with reality. […]

  3. How And Why To Keep A “Commonplace Book” | Thought Catalog - August 27, 2013

    […] Death. Writing. Stoicism. Strategy. Animals. Narrative Fallacy. Books. Article Ideas. Education. Arguing with Reality. […]

  4. How And Why To Keep A “Commonplace Book” | - January 24, 2014

    […] Death. Writing. Stoicism. Strategy. Animals. Narrative Fallacy. Books. Article Ideas. Education. Arguing with Reality. […]

  5. Week 2: Readings | Massimo's Commonplace Book - August 13, 2014

    […] Death. Writing. Stoicism. Strategy. Animals. Narrative Fallacy. Books. Article Ideas. Education. Arguing with Reality. […]