Travels with Myself

A Journal of Discovery and Transition
Doug Jordan, Author

4. Skepticism

Patience may be a virtue, as we discussed in the previous chapter, and I have already confessed of my lack of virtue in that regard, but forbearance may be patience’ first cousin. Apparently I have a low quotient of that too as I reflect on some rather heated exchanges I have observed, or even been party to recently. But patience and forbearance are not the main issues here: at root is that my mind is wired for skeptical thinking. Skepticism may not be a virtue but is not a bad thing; it’s not, as conventionally thought, negative or cynical, it’s actually critical thinking. It’s the habit of not accepting a statement or claim at face value, but to question and challenge it, to examine whether there is actual truth and wisdom in the claim. 

My personality type may be the source of my impatience and may also be the cause of my skepticism. Besides being an intuitive thinking judging type I’m also a curious, inquiring and questioning type. 

Perhaps apparently paradoxical, I am also devoted to fidelity. This virtue, Fidelity, cleaving to the truth, means this, according to Sponville[1]: Fidelity is to honour that which was good about the past. 

But fidelity does not mean blind faith. Fidelity to ideas is closely related to Plato/Socrates’ notion of the examined life: An idea worth having is an idea that is also capable of examination, should be examined, tested, proven, and continue to be adopted, or if disproven, discarded. Note that Sponville’s definition speaks of honouring the good in the past. What he means by that is that the good in the past should not be discarded in the present just because it is in the past. The inverse is also true, we cannot hang onto an idea just because it was believed to be true in the past. (Note, true conservatives cleave to traditional values, but only those that may still bear adherence today. More on conservatism in a future post.) This means that ideas and artifacts should be constantly examined and those elements that no longer hold true should be discarded. But that doesn’t mean throwing out the baby with the bath water. The goodness that is still good of a prior belief should be retained even as some of it must be discarded or rendered as an historical footnote. Here’s an example, beautiful stained glass windows in historic churches are valued for their art, if no longer valued for their religious message.

Fidelity also is dependent on perception and we know now of brain physiology that perception is a highly subjective process: first because our senses have limited capacity to actually perceive all the data that exists, second that it is inattentive to information that doesn’t fit with its current [often survival] priorities; third, it compares the incoming data (to which it is attentive), and then compares it with previous known or remembered phenomenon and decides what to do with the information: act on it, store it or discard it. These perceptual biases significantly inhibit the mind from considering new information. When the mind has imprinted what is ‘truth’ it takes a significant event to retrain the mind to accept a new ‘truth’. Shouting at your adversary is very unlikely to change his or her mind; insults and ad hominems are just as useless.

Ably and articulately expressing one’s own point of view is challenging enough (see sweeping generalisations above!), listening attentively to the others’ point of view, and then both engaging in a spirited and open-minded discussion is increasingly rare. (Twitter and Facebook and most of the rest of modern social media are not models for the search for truth even though their idealistic inventors may have thought they were creating tools for open discussion.) 

Such is the state of the Sunday Night Supper Club otherwise known as the Sunday Night Conversation Club. In theory, any topic is available for discussion so long as each participant is respectful of the other, and of the relationship. But this is the challenge of modern discourse, especially if a little drink is involved. In vino veritas may not always be the case, especially where such discussion is [invariably?] distorted by ego defence or the need to dominate, the conviction of sound over light. (I’m not shouting at you because I think you are deaf but because you are blind.) 

I am allowed to express contrary opinions to the majority present at the Sunday Night Dinner/Conversation Club. I think that’s why I’m invited, for the entertainment value. I am skeptical of the others’ points of view, often. Regrettably, the others may be merely skeptical of me. Still, if I am yet welcome at the Sunday Night Dinner Club I resolve, once again, to stifle my impulses and mix a little water with my wine (and perhaps a little blood from my bit tongue), yet at the same time continue to offer considered opinion so that the Conversation Club continues to meet its objectives. I hope the other members have the same resolve.

And on other fronts I am proud to state that I have overcome my skepticism of lulu.com and rejoice at having successfully put up my book, Travels With Myself. (Well, I am still skeptical of lulu’s claims that self-publishing a book is as easy as 1-2-3. It is if you have perfect knowledge of Microsoft Word and how it must be formatted in absolute compliance with the PDF criteria in lulu’s print engine. But most of us are not so familiar with the bowels of MSWord software and lulu provides precious little help interpreting its error messages. I said previously patience is not one of my virtues but persistence is.)

You may order your copy at this url: https://www.lulu.com/en/us/shop/doug-jordan-and-amanda-spencer/travels-with-myself/paperback/product-8j4zev.html

And I really hope you will because I just got my cover designer’s invoice. I need to sell at least 40 copies just to make up the cost of the cover!, assuming these books are bought directly from lulu.com. No doubt this raises the question in your mind, what sort of margins are we talking about here? I’m glad you asked. If you buy my book directly from lulu you will pay $46.32(CDN) plus tax and shipping. Yikes! (Well that’s because it is a rather substantial book at 355 pages and it’s printed on high gloss high density paper in order to hold high fidelity photo images on it.) Of the $46.32 price I stand to earn a royalty of ~$25 from lulu. Seems a lot you say but, here’s the rub: if you were to buy the book from Amazon you might pay $38 CDN and my royalty would be $5! Or less. Amazon drives down both the price and the royalty (for the author) relentlessly and keeps a much bigger margin for themselves (on top of the margin lulu already keeps). So in pricing the book on lulu’s distribution system I have to take into account my final margin from Amazon. And at $5/book I need to sell 200 copies just to recover my cover designer’s cost. (Of course, I could restrict the sale of my book only to lulu, but one has to admit the large on-line distribution channels – Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Ingram, et alia, are more visible to the average purchaser than lulu.com.) 

Or maybe I should be less skeptical and assume I will sell hundreds of books on Amazon and thereby make a decent amount of net revenue through volume than through margin. More on marketing books in my next post, Entrepreneurism.

Good thing I’m in the writing business for fame. Still, the psychic income is great. 

And with that, please refresh your mind with the title of today’s post.

Doug Jordan, Reporting to you from Kanata Ontario.

© Douglas Jordan & AFS Publishing. All rights reserved. No part of these blogs and newsletters may be reproduced without the express permission of the author and/or the publisher, except upon payment of a small royalty, 5¢. 


[1]A Small Treatise on the Great Virtues, André Comte-Sponville, Henry Holt & Company, 1996

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