Friday, January 29. 2010
The final episode of Joss Whedon's sci-fi series Dollhouse aired tonight. I'm going to seize this last occasion to write about Dollhouse, since I will probably never feel motivated to do so again. The overall reaction to Dollhouse, from myself, the geek community and perhaps even Joss himself has been . . . meh. Whedon fans watched it, but they never really committed themselves to it.
So, a few final comments (warning, spoilers follow):
Best Character: Topher Brink. The egotistical, amoral technical genius went through a believable transformation into someone who cared, and therefore someone we care about. His style was so distinctive that you could never mistake his lines for anyone else's (the first law of memorable dialog).
Best Character (runner up): Adele DeWitt. The iron-fist-in-silk-glove leader of the L.A. Dollhouse had style, grace, and sophistication. She also went through a believable development, showing vulnerability as well as ruthless resolve. Somehow we always wound up cheering for DeWitt, even when she was being bad. In her final post-apocalyptic days, she was stripped of her title, power, and make-up, but she still had the bearing of authority. Her nursing of the deranged Topher was touching -- it was perhaps the first time her British stiff-upper-lip notion of moral duty was overshadowed by unadorned love. Amazing how restraint magnifies the impact of the smallest gestures.
Adele narrowly edged out Alpha for the runner-up position. Alpha really wouldn't be in the running at all, except that I enjoy Alan Tudyk so much and hope to see him again in future roles.
Worst Character: Echo. I loved Eliza Dushku in Buffy. She's a good actress . . . but only good. I don't know whether to blame the writers or to blame Dushku for the role of Echo falling flat. I had predicted from the very beginning that the conceit of beaming a new personality into her every week would prevent us from bonding with her, but it's more than that. All I know is that all the actors around her managed to make us care about their characters -- Topher, Adele, Boyd, Paul, Anthony/Victor -- and yet somehow I never really cared about Echo. This would be the second time that Joss managed to build a series around an actress who was consistently outshone by her ensemble cast. (I loved Buffy the Vampire Slayer, but never really bonded with Buffy herself.)
Best Acting: I'll go out on a limb and say Enver Gjokaj's portrayal of Victor/Anthony showed the best acting chops among the whole cast. Most of the Dolls could never quite make me believe in the premise of uploadable personalities, but Gjokaj could. When he was imprinted with Topher's mind, he was a perfect Topher. Now that I think about it, he got the most widely varying roles -- Russian mobster, English playboy, American soldier, psychopathic killer, corporate villain, etc. -- and he played them all with equal convincingness. Use him again, Joss -- he can handle whatever you cook up for him.
Best Plot Twist: Adele going from kinda-good-guy to washed-up good guy to bad guy to really-good-guy in the course of three episodes. Joss kept me guessing -- how will she wind up? And when the dust settled, it was all believable in the realm of Adele's character.
Best Plot Twist (runner up): Whiskey/Dr. Saunders shooting Bennett. Joss openly acknowledges that all romances must be cruelly frustrated in order to make for good TV, so the moment Topher kissed her I knew Bennett was toast. But I didn't know she would be toasted quite so fast. And for Joss this was a two-fer, since it simultaneously shattered the romance of Boyd and Saunders. Speaking of which . . .
Worst Plot Twist: Boyd revealed to be the super-villain. It just . . . didn't . . . work. It's the sort of revisionist twist that signaled that Angel had jumped the shark. The romantic arch between Boyd and Saunders was carefully developed and then . . . totally forgotten about. You will never convince me that the writers planned to do that from the beginning, and I can't support such twists unless they were planned.
Best and Worst Themes: Mind and identity. The good news was the show was alive to all the mysteries of consciousness: what makes a person a person? Is person a body? A mind? Memories? Relationships? But the show's grasp of the issues was so muddled that it took different perspectives without even realizing it. One moment they act like the mind is identity, and the body just a shell -- a "suit" to be worn and discarded. But then the characters feel moral compunction for the body -- say, Echo trying to save Whiskey, even after she's been imprinted with an evil villain. But then when Paul is suddenly killed, Echo is reunited with his mind when she uploads him into herself. The premise of programmable people turns out to be too big for a prime-time series to sustain smoothly. We have to believe in the impossible on a regular basis, but then believe in enough limitation to sustain dramatic tension. For instance, we have to believe that Topher can reprogram an entire world of people with a bomb made of spare parts, yet somehow he can't rig it with a timer and has to blow himself up with it. When everything is possible, all limitations become arbitrary, and we stop caring. We drop them like, um, dolls, and go play with something else.
Good luck, Joss, on whatever comes next. Please let it be a Dr. Horrible sequel.
Tuesday, January 26. 2010
I love all pop culture that dares to be smart. Still, I had not fully realized how much of an economics geek I had become until I watched "Fear the Boom and Bust", a rap video recently featured on NPR that contrasts the philosophies of John Maynard Keynes and F. A. Hayek. This beautiful work manages to be unapologetically thick with ideas and still convey the core of the debate to a layman's audience. I've been reading the Wall Street Journal for the past twenty years, so the on-going battle to retrieve our nation's fiscal policy from the Keynesians is familiar to me, but the video makes it much more dramatic.
On the outside, economics looks like the driest form of abstraction. It took writers like Dubner and Levitt (Freakonomics) and Ariely (Predictably Irrational) to remind us that economics is really the study of human decision-making, which makes the field both accessible and endlessly fascinating. Or, to put it another way: economics is the study of how people work together in a society. I'm not sure if you can have a really well-developed sense of fairness, freedom, or the meaning of life without some basic understanding of economics.
Monday, January 25. 2010
When I described the Axe and Dove ads, and how they demonstrate the need for media awareness, I was only relating the lesson as it was presented in the workshop. I had some other thoughts on the matter. As Kenny points out in the comments, feminist interpretations of things are fraught with contradictions.
Why (Kenny asks) is the Axe ad supposed to be offensive? Can anyone pretend to be surprised to find out that young men (and who are we kidding here – all men) like to look at scantily-clad women? Well, no. I think the most rational feminist explanation would go something like this:
"The ad shows women primarily as sexual objects and not as human beings. The young man on the beach does not know or care who these women are. He is gleefully happy to have any of them, all of them. In that sense, the ad is reaffirming and tacitly justifying a dehumanizing view of half the human race. The women are also portrayed as being sexually enslaved by the technology of a man, reduced to slavering animals by a mere scent, which is degrading and insulting."
All this is true, but it doesn't change the sad and obvious fact that the ad is more or less correctly portraying the real attitudes of men. It is a scientifically established fact that, barring the restrictions of moral codes or established relationships, nearly all men are willing to have sex with nearly any woman. (Consider, for a moment, if an advertisement featured hoards of slavering men clawing their way through a jungle to attack a woman. It wouldn't be funny, because, well, it's too close to the true state of affairs.) Our societal codes of modesty and chivalry are not intended to deny our animal natures – they are very explicit recognitions of our animal nature, and a rational attempt to transcend them by constraining when and how our animal instincts are engaged. So, I agree with Kenny that all men are transfixed by nudity – that's why we don't want to be let advertisers to take advantage of it.
If the Axe ads are offensive, you would think then that most feminists would be champions of modesty. Some are – some even renounce heterosexuality entirely – but they are a minority, I think. Far more feminists see the exposed thigh and breast as signs of a progressive and free culture: women liberated from their slavery to marriage and free to pursue their own pleasures. Feminists want to have their sexual cake and eat it, too: they want to be free to present themselves as sexual objects, and yet not be regarded as sexual objects. To the women who want the freedom to present themselves as sexually attractive beings, I say: great! But don't be offended when men stare at your chest.
My feminist straw-person would probably excoriate the Axe ad but praise the Dove ad as being a positive message for girls. But actually I think the Dove ad doesn't get off that easy. Even though the Dove ad attacks the media-enhanced images of beauty, and tries to praise "real beauty," it's still focused on beauty. In other words, it is still encouraging women to define themselves primarily by their ability to be attractive to men. If you really want to encourage young women, you would break that cycle entirely, and talk about women building businesses and curing cancer. But, of course, this is an ad intended to sell soap, and beauty turns out to be more compelling to young women than mere comfort or healthy hygiene.
Both the Dove and Axe ads are preying upon the sexual insecurities of young people in order to sell stuff. That is understandable; sex sells. I don't think sex is bad. I just want my life, and the life of my children, to be more than just sex. And to achieve that end, I think we would be better off with fewer ads like these.
Thursday, January 21. 2010
As a side-note to our earlier conversation about pantheism, I thought it was interesting to see how that religious philosophy was playing out in the global warming debate. I just finished SuperFreakonomics (really enjoyed it, more on that later) and I had heard on the news that the authors, Stephen Dubner and Steven Levitt, had gotten lambasted by various prominent environmentalists for daring to suggest that geoengineering was a promising strategy for averting global warming. Evidently, backing any solution that does not revolve around carbon reductions is considered "aiding and abetting the enemy," since it takes the wind out of the carbon-reduction cap-and-tax (oops, I mean, cap-and-trade) schemes currently being pushed. After finishing the book, I read the critiques from Elizabeth Kolbert and Raymond Pierrehumbert, as well as Dubner and Levitt's replies.
Let me start by saying: I have no idea who's right. I generally agree with Dubner and Levitt's basic assertion that it will be well-nigh impossible to get 6 billion people to all forego their self-interest for sake of averting a possible crisis hundreds of years from now. The outcome in Copenhagen only bears that out – the costs of the proposed solutions (slowed growth, lots of money changing hands) is still too high to get everyone on the same page, and you need everyone on the same page to avert a tragedy of the commons. So I think it's only sensible to look for some game-changing technological breakthroughs instead of relying on altruism and changes in human behavior. I also know that Malthusian doomsayers have been predicting the end of the world for centuries, and they routinely overestimate the hazards and underestimate the effects of new technology. On the other hand, I think geoengineering is so rife with the potential of unintended consequences that it also deserves some serious skepticism – even if we succeed in changing the earth's climate, it's impossible to predict the side-effects. So on the facts of the matter, I'm not taking any sides yet.
What interests me about this debate, though, is how absolutely nasty some of the environmentalists were in their reactions. Dubner and Levitt maintain a basically cheerful but factual tone in their writing, while Kolbert and Pierrehumbert drip with condescension, insult, and innuendo. Dubner and Levitt notice it, too, and they suggest the reason some environmentalists are so upset about geoengineering is because it offends a moral sensibility rather than an intellectual one. Dubner and Levitt just wanted to find the best strategy for cooling the earth, while environmentalists like Al Gore are trying to live in harmony with Mother Earth.
It does seem like a lot of environmentalists are carrying around certain pantheistic assumptions:
Someone with that kind of world view will perceive global warming very differently than those who don't. For the pantheist, global warming is a moral issue. We haven't merely created a difficult situation; we have sinned against the Goddess. The problem isn't that global warming will cause all kinds of problems for humanity; the problem is that a global economy, capitalism, consumerism and technology have offended the gods. Sometimes it seems like averting global warming is only the convenient pretext for a much larger agenda for reshaping society into a socialist, vegan, agrarian, earth-worshipping retro-utopia (with environmentalists as the high priests, of course). So of course geoengineering would be a heresy – that's only more "interfering" with Nature. That's why even safe, non-polluting thorium-based nuclear energy still ruffles their feathers. A purely technological fix only interferes with their plans to stick it to the capitalists.
Ok, maybe that's too much. I don't want to descend to Kolbert's level of snark. I think everyone in this debate is well-intentioned and even well-informed. I also think everyone in this debate has self-interested motivations and underlying philosophies that affect their positions (even me). We might as well root them out.
Wednesday, January 20. 2010
When I first heard the premise of "Ratatouille", Pixar's 2007 tale of a rat trying to become a chef in Paris, I thought I heard the most unlikely high concept imaginable. Think of what the pitch must have been like: "Let's take a garbage-eating rat and put him in with high cuisine." Neither cuddly nor appetizing.
But then came Up, and I heard an even more un-Hollywood premise for a family film: "Let's tell the story of an old man who loses his wife before he could ever fulfill their shared dreams." A typical studio exec would pick his jaw up off the floor and say, "Yeah, great, Oscar potential, but this is not going to sell plush dolls."
Yet for all the gravity of the subject, Up defies gravity, and maintains a life-affirming tone throughout. The silent montage that summarizes Carl and Ellie's life had me in tears, and yet even at the end of it my wife could say, "Oh, that's so sweet." Bittersweet, that is, and beautiful in an achy sort of way. I wonder if the kids in the audience can follow the full pathos. As Carl turns the page in the scrapbook past "Things I'm Going to Do" and finds blank pages, did the theater echo with: "Daddy, why are you crying?"
It was the profound realness of Carl's life, and Ellie's death, that provides sufficient counterweight to all the credulity-stretching premises that follow: the floating house, the talking dogs, the old man finding an even older hero, a protagonist who starts the story needing a chair-lift and ends in a leaping, climbing, rope-sliding, cane-dueling rescue attempt. It is all so perfectly unbelievable, and it doesn't matter, because what is happening inside Carl is so perfectly true.
Whenever a house features prominently in a story, you should brace yourself for Jungean archtypes: "Coraline" and "Howl's Moving Castle" are recent examples. Up is no exception. A house is a classic symbol of the self, and Carl's house follows the same transformation he does. It starts as his childhood playground, with the promise of adventure. It later becomes the center of his adult life, loaded up with the full pleasures, painful disappointments, and unfulfilled dreams that humans are prone to. In old age it is his refuge, the last vessel of everything he holds dear. He struggles to preserve the old dream, flying his house away, even dragging his house behind him over mountains (he is literally "tied to his past"). But in the end, he lets go of the past, empties his house of its old furniture, and sets off on a new mission. When Carl transcends his old life, sacrificing it for worthy cause, only then does it finally drift down to its proper place above Paradise Falls. The dream is fulfilled only when Carl no longer needs it.
Tuesday, January 19. 2010
Monday, January 18. 2010
Malcolm Gladwell's latest New Yorker article, "The Sure Thing," follows his trademark formula: find a truism and turn it on its head. In this case, the truism is "entrepreneurs are risk-takers." American culture lionizes the entrepreneur for taking risks that others wouldn't take, by staking huge amounts of money, time, and energy in something totally new. Gladwell finds, though, that extravagant risk is something the most successful entrepreneurs scrupulously avoid. He cites several famous entrepreneurs – Ted Turner (Turner Broadcasting), Sam Walton (Wal-mart), and Ingvar Kamprad (IKEA), among others – who distinguished themselves by their superior insight and exhaustive research, and not their cahones. Hedge-fund manager John Paulson, who made billions of dollars betting against the U.S. housing bubble, may seem like a high-stakes gambler, but in fact he did months of research before he would so much as touch a credit default swap. The successful entrepreneurs took every opportunity to avoid risk, by shifting it onto outside investors, or leaning on cash reserves within a family or a family business, or simply making astute choices of business deals where they couldn't lose.
I can say that Gladwell's thesis holds up well in my own experience. I had the distinct privilege for working for Augie Turak during the early years of his startup Raleigh Group International (RGI) which sold and marketed software develop tools. His motto of entrepreneurship might have been: "Live to fight another day." "Business is very simple," he said. "A successful business has more money coming in than going out. All you have to do is remain solvent, one day after the next, until you find your niche." Turak started his venture with $10,000 and never sought outside loans. He was ruthless about controlling costs. For the first two years he didn't draw a salary. The employees took turns cleaning the office instead of hiring a cleaning service. He shunned most paid advertising, which was expensive and of questionable worth, and instead mastered guerrilla marketing tactics – direct mail to lists he traded for, email subscriptions, and all the editorial coverage he could squeeze from the trade magazines. All his sales reps were paid on straight commission, so he never had to worry about unprofitable employees dragging the company down. When he finally found a niche with a promising future – bug-tracking systems – he found a silent partner to front most of the money for the project, and found an enormous marketing partner – Microsoft – to piggy-back on for the marketing. When he finally sold the business to another software company, he held most of the equity and profited handsomely . . . because he had avoided financial risk rather than taking it.
Gladwell pointed out that entrepreneurs were willing to take social risks, even though they avoid financial ones. That fits Turak to a T. He was a master of telephone sales, and telephone sales reps risk social rejection on a minute-by-minute basis. He taught his sales force to be aggressive, to take risks, and most of all to persevere in the face of rejection and failure. He was famous for making over-the-top, impassioned sales pitches, doing things others would never dream of doing to get the sale. Once, he was pitching a quiet Japanese prospect who told him: "Prease, understand – I Japanese. We vely conservative and careful." "Conservative?" Turak bellowed. "The heck you say. What about the samurai? BONZAI! BONZAI!" Turak didn't get the credit card on that call, but everyone in the sales pit knew he had pulled out all the stops. And then, later that day, he got a call back from the "cautious" Japanese prospect: "You . . . vely good saresman. I buy."
Gladwell is only demonstrating what most performers already know: through discipline, training, and preparation, you can take something that looks dangerous and risky (like, say, a triple somersault on the trapeze, or investing billions of dollars) and make it an everyday occurrence.
Friday, January 15. 2010
It's Friday, and I'm tired, and moreover I'm strung out on all the hyperlogical arguments of the last couple of weeks. I have tried to follow logic where logic will lead, without regard to the outcome, and with faith that somehow it will get me closer to the truth. But I don't much like where it leads, and I have only so much tolerance for existential dread.
So, as an antidote, let me offer an extended passage, one of my favorites that I take out and read at least once or twice a year. I don't know how, exactly, it relates to the discussions we've had, but it resonates with me, and never ceases to move me. This is from The Farthest Shore, by Ursula K. LeGuin, which is widely considered to be one of the classics of high fantasy. The characters in this scene are Ged, a powerful and wise wizard, and Arren, a young prince. They have travelled together to the literal ends of the earth, hunting another wizard who is on the verge of destroying the world in his quest for immortality.
They followed the lowest, outmost range of hills, mostly within sight of the ocean. The grass was dry and short, blowing and blowing forever in the wind. The hills rose up golden and forlorn upon their right, and on their left lay the salt marshes and the western sea. Once they saw swans flying, far away in the south. No other breathing creature did they see all that day. A kind of weariness of dread, of waiting for the worst, grew in Arren all day long. Impatience and a dull anger rose in him. He said, after hours of silence, "This land is as dead as the land of death itself!"
"Do not say that," the mage said sharply. He strode on a while and then went on, in a changed voice, "Look at this land; look about you. This is your kingdom, the kingdom of life. This is your immortality. Look at the hills, the mortal hills. They do not endure forever. The hills with the living grass on them, and the streams of water running . . . In all the world, in all the worlds, in all the immensity of time, there is no other like each of those streams, rising cold out of the earth where no eye sees it, running through the sunlight and the darkness to the sea. Deep are the springs of being, deeper than life, than death . . ."
He stopped, but in his eyes as he looked at Arren and at the sunlit hills there was a great, wordless, grieving love. And Arren saw that, and seeing it saw him, saw him for the first time whole, as he was.
"I cannot say what I mean," Ged said unhappily.
But Arren thought of that first hour in the Fountain Court, of the man who had knelt by the running water of the fountain; and joy, as clear as that remembered water, welled up in him. He looked at his companion and said, "I have given my love to that which is worthy of love. Is that not the kingdom and the unperishing spring?"
"Aye, lad," said Ged, gently and with pain.
They went on together in silence. But Arren saw the world now with his companion's eyes and saw the living splendor that was revealed about them in the silent, desolate land, as if by a power of enchantment surpassing any other, in every blade of the wind-bowed grass, every shadow, every stone. So when one stands in a cherished place for the last time before a voyage without return, he sees it all whole, and real, and dear, as he has never seen it before and never will see it again.
Sunday, January 3. 2010
Shortly before Christmas, I was running some late-night errands when I heard a lecture by David McCollough, the Pulizer Prize-winning historian, on NPR. It was an unexpected Christmas gift.
Our culture does not appreciate history much. We are a people of industry and innovation and technology – we think only the present and the near future matter. With the increasingly rapid pace of change brought on by technology, even ten years ago feels like the distant past, and almost by definition irrelevant. (See, for example, the Onion's coverage: "Internet Archaeolgists Find Ruins of 'Friendster' Civilization".) Why, then does history matter at all?
History is not merely useful or good. McCollough maintains it is vital to the education of our children, and most especially to our leaders:
After hearing the lecture, I went back to my bookshelves and found a gift from several Christmases past: a copy of 1776, McCollough's best-selling history of the beginning of the American Revolution. It is every bit as good as the critics proclaim. One of the advantages of my relative ignorance of history: it makes for an exciting story when you read it for the first time.
Saturday, January 2. 2010
Every writer (or reader, for that matter) can't help but watch the bookstore shelves. We know the relative dimensions of the Barnes & Noble sections better than the supermarket aisles. One trend I had noticed is the philosophy section growing significantly larger. About ten years ago, genuine philosophy books took up about two shelves, wedged between three bookcases of Religious Inspiration and two bookcases of New Age. Now, philosophy is occupying about two bookcases, with two whole shelves just dedicated to the "new atheism." About three shelves are given over to the "Philosophy and…" books. Evidently the popular culture has a taste for philosophy as long as it is liberally mixed with its favorite music, television, movies, and/or pulp fiction: "Philosophy and Superheroes". "Philosophy and Def Leppard". "Philosophy and Twilight". The publishing trend is noticing something the SKS has recognized for decades: people (especially young people) are interested in philosophic ideas, so long as they are made relevant to the things they care about, and framed up in compelling narratives instead of abstract principles.
Maybe it's just a matter of title inflation. After all, the big-box bookstore came into being in my lifetime, and now there's five times as much of everything. Christian Inspiration now has one side of an entire aisle. But still, the Long Tail is making for more and better philosophy offerings.
I've always been somewhat ambivalent about these "Philosophy and…" hybrids. I got into philosophy by reading popularizations like Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, which made high-falootin' thinkers accessible to a high school senior. So I'm usually for anything that brings the wisdom to the masses, no matter where they are at. On the other hand, it's a little sad that Plato can't get a hearing in our culture unless he dresses up in a clown suit. I'd feel a lot better about the popularizations if they led people to read the actual texts, or better yet, to write them.
I got an unexpected taste of the Philosophy and [insert pop culture fad] trend in a stocking stuffer this year: Heidegger and a Hippo Walk Through Those Pearly Gates. This is a sequel to Plato and a Platypus Walk Into a Bar: Understanding Philosophy through Jokes. (I am notoriously difficult to shop for, Puritanical Stoic that I am, so a lighthearted book on philosophy was a safe bet for Santa to make.)
The book was . . . much better than I expected. The jokes were only so-so -- there were only one or two worth the retelling. What surprised me was how heavy the philosophy was. The book opens with a discussion of Ernest Becker's The Denial of Death, which is the correct place to start with talking about death, but it's no laugh riot. Kierkegaard gets a surprisingly detailed treatment as well, in spite of hilarious titles like "Fear and Trembling" and "The Sickness Unto Death". For all of their lighthearted banter, the authors don't pull any punches. They keep up the banter strictly because it's the only way to sugar coat a bitter pill. "We're all going to die, and that really sucks! Hahahahahahaha!" Rather than hewing to the chicken-soup recipe of feel-good visions of heaven, they deconstruct it. It turns out our common popular notions about the afterlife -- clouds, harps, meeting loved ones, etc. -- are more the result of paintings and movies than scripture, and the authors make it fairly clear that even a fundamentalist (especially a fundamentalist) will not find a lot of scriptural backing for a continued existence in the hereafter.
I give them credit for tackling not only the unpopular ideas, but the hard-to-understand ones, too. The nature of consciousness, qualia, time and eternity -- no philosophical distinction is too subtle for their undertaking. That's tough sledding, especially if you want to keep Joe Six-Pack's attention.
Even more surprising: the authors reference the same pop culture items that had been part of the SKS canon for years. For instance, Peggy Lee's "Is That All There Is?" or Tim McGraw's "Live Like You Were Dying." And best of all: Thornton Wilder's Our Town. I'm glad we're not the only ones who noticed.
After all their wise-cracking explanations, do they take a stand on anything? Do they have an answer to the question of Death? Not really . . . but they are mostly honest about it. They candidly admit that the promises of religion are not credible, the offerings of existentialism are cold comfort, and technological immortality is currently unobtainable and not even necessarily desirable. They have a consolation prize from Williams James, a get-out-of-angst-free card that defends our "right to believe anything that is live enough to tempt our will." In effect: "Unless you have direct contradictory evidence, you're free to believe whatever you darn well please. Whatever works for you, baby, that you're thing." That sounds like a great way to avoid offending anyone, but throws wide the gate to all kinds of rationalizations. As many devout Pastafarians can attest, once you're free to believe in something without evidence, you are free to believe anything . . . which ultimately devalues the very notion of belief. The whole reason we have beliefs is because they are true (at least, conditionally true), and truth helps us navigate the universe. If we use our beliefs to guide our actions, then there is an inevitably price to be paid for holding false beliefs. And if we don't use our beliefs to guide our actions – if a belief is so harmless that it has no impact on the way you live -- then it's hardly worth having, is it?
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