Just a Theory

By David E. Wheeler

Posts about Love

Superfan

Terrific talk by Sacha Judd:

Trust and psychological safety are core elements of high performing teams.

Trust is the willingness of a party to be vulnerable someone else. Trust implies that you respect your teammates abilities and you respect their intentions. Psychological safety builds on trust and is more about how you feel about the team dynamics. What are the risks of blame if you try something and fail.

Trust is about individuals and psychological safety is about the team. And when we build teams that have that trust, where people feel like they can be their whole selves, and they feel safe enough to raise their hand, to offer contradicting opinions, to think differently and work differently and contribute in their own way. That’s when we get a high-performing team.

(Via Adrian Howard)

The Women at XOXO Rocked It

XOXO was fantastic again this year. Since it wrapped up a week ago, there have been a number of fantastic posts from the likes of Frank Chimero, Maciej Ceglowski, and Kelly Kend; you should go read them. I was particularly moved by the unabashed vulnerability and honesty of the speakers, and their willingness to recruit the audience to confront the debilitating effects of impostor syndrome. I expect to write more about the festival in the future. Or maybe I’ll just create something awesome in the coming year, instead.

One thing struck me after the first day of talks that I’ve not noticed addressed elsewhere. While women were under-represented in the audience (though far better than at most tech conferences), but they were pretty well-represented among the speakers. And the women speakers — oh man. They. Kicked. Ass.

Erika Moen openly shared her quest for sexual identity via comics. Vi Hart hilariously described how to make money on YouTube — and Andy told her she could keep going for as long as she wanted. Molly Crabapple raised important yet seldom discussed issues around the independence of artists and the availability of capital on the internet. Julie Uhrman humbly shared all the ways in which Ouya has failed, and in doing so making it better. And Christina Xu discussed [BreadPig]’s objective to enable artists to make a living online without exploitation.

These amazing people weren’t at XOXO because they’re women; they weren’t there to represent women as a separate entity, or to talk about the under-representation of women in tech. No, they were there because they’ve created incredible things and wanted to share. Their energy was palpable. They just came out on stage and totally fucking rocked it.

This is how it ought be. You make something. You’re excited about it. Your energy infects the audience. And your gender and ethnicity have nothing to do with it. It’s moving simply to be amazing.

Alas, XOXO is the outlier here. But it points to the future, and I’m excited to help push it forward.

This post originally appeared on Svbtle.

Misguided Delusion

A simple post. “Something to make you think,” Dustin Curtis wrote. I followed the link and have hardly stopped thinking about it since.

“Something to make you think.“

Sam Harris wants to help non-religious people understand how it feels to be a believer confronted with scientific rationality. Toward that end, he offers the fireplace delusion. The idea is simple:

On a cold night, most people consider a well-tended fire to be one of the more wholesome pleasures that humanity has produced. A fire, burning safely within the confines of a fireplace or a woodstove, is a visible and tangible source of comfort to us.

That love is misguided, however. The scientific evidence is compelling:

The unhappy truth about burning wood has been scientifically established to a moral certainty: That nice, cozy fire in your fireplace is bad for you. It is bad for your children. It is bad for your neighbors and their children.

So far so good. People like to romanticize fires, yet research shows it to be anything but wholesome. It’s incontrovertible, and Harris presents the argument well. I’ve never felt that fires were particularly healthy, so it was no challenge to convince me.

Yet it seems that my reaction may be unique, to judge by the reactions of the people with whom Harris has discussed the issue:

I have discovered that when I make this case, even to highly intelligent and health-conscious men and women, a psychological truth quickly becomes as visible as a pair of clenched fists: They do not want to believe any of it. Most people I meet want to live in a world in which wood smoke is harmless. Indeed, they seem committed to living in such a world, regardless of the facts.

My reaction to such a commitment: Those people are being completely irrational. Why would anyone argue with such compelling evidence, unless they are so wed to their belief that it deafens them to the truth. They plug their ears and over and over shout “I can’t hear you!” These are Harris’s friends:

Of course, if you are anything like my friends, you will refuse to believe this. And that should give you some sense of what we are up against whenever we confront religion.

Now, I am not a religious person, and like Harris strongly advocate for the use of scientific reasoning and rational thought in social, political, and economic discourse. I have no bona-fides to offer, but personally find the entire idea of religion to be nonsensical.

But even I think that this analogy — admittedly imperfect, Harris says — to be entirely disingenuous.

The problem is not that religious people are irrational in their beliefs, but my reading of The Fireplace Delusion makes exactly that point: Religious people continue to believe in the face of rational refutation simply because they want to believe. But that’s a dishonest reading of faith.

Faith has nothing whatsoever to do with rationality.

Nothing. Nada. Faith is not an irrational resistance to rational reasoning and facts, because it is not subject to rational reasoning and facts. It’s something different, an entirely other animal. Not irrational, but a-rational.

A better analogy than the fireplace delusion might be something derived from it. I offer, instead, love.

Love is not rational. It cannot be refuted by rationality and facts. Scientific reasoning may suggest that my entire biological purpose is to pass my genes on to my children. Yet my deep and abiding love for my wife does not enter into it. It might be argued that love evolved to increase the chances of human genetic success, but such argument neither supports nor refutes my love the way scientific research refutes the value of fire. It simply is.

It’s not just love and religion that work like this, that are a-rational. Art. Jazz. Hacking. That which motivates, that drives passion, dedication, and creation, that embodies culture in the Anthropological sense-including, yes, the pursuit of scientific research and reasoning-is a-rational. No, better: it’s extra-rational. That’s part of what makes it beautiful.

You cannot refute love. You cannot refute art. You cannot refute faith. Because they are not in the domain of refutation, are not subject to the facts. They are something else entirely. Often-not always, but often — they create beauty.

And beauty isn’t subject to refutation, either.

This post originally appeared on Medium.