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thoughts and feels and thoughts and feels
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September 2009
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thoughts and feels and thoughts and feels [userpic]
Five small essays

Would like to extend to wetdryvac heartiest congratulations: I think somehow these five questions have crystallized pretty much my entire being.

1) what's your ideal tea, including preparation methods, environments for consuming tea, and would you ever, perhaps in the interest of suspense, conceal the name of a person who sustained a small bruise on the upper arm?

I am quite fond of most any tea, with the exception of a few of the more cloying herbals, and in general am not particular about brewing methods (though tipoffs from British friends have led me to discover that tea is a bit better when not steeped for 45 minutes). Most mornings I drink some standard black or pekoe blend breakfast tea. I am especially partial to Lady Grey (a Twinings tea - bergamot + citrus essences). I also very much like jasmines, which are the only teas I drink without milk or sugar, unless I have a head cold, and then all is a crap shoot. Of random off-brand teas, Camellia (available from foodservices) and Albertson's are my favorites. GV is good only to dye paper for theatrical props. Of non-off-brand teas that come in big boxes, Tetley is most choice. Environment-wise, I have found that the best place to drink tea is wherever I am at that very second.
I would, if I truly deemed it necessary.

2) Referencing readiness for graduate school in a more general sort of way, what process do you use when making decisions? Covering the large to small decision gamut here would be cool.

Historically, I try to avoid Great Huge Decisions, frankly. This has (historically) ended with me being shoehorned into things I don't particularly care for. I am trying to learn now how to choose more productive ways of living. For instance, when I do get around to going to grad school, I will probably look at schools for both music and religion, and decide what I'm going to study next based on which school I prefer. There is also a certain intuitive process there that can't quite be put into words - but when I find the right thing, I know it. Figuring out when things are wrong is a lot harder (I tend not to question big decisions, even when numerous flags are raised that they might have been Not the Best Idea) but also follows the same principle. When things are going the way they ought (and 'the way they ought' is a very vague state of being) everything sort of ... falls together. And perhaps part of my sense of 'the way they ought' is that in general, while I do find change exciting, I would rather have things falling together tidily than thrown all up in the winds.

Smaller decisions are based on a plethora of minutiae to which I (being faintly idealistic) try not to subject these big decisions: is it expensive, is it time-consuming, is it even possible, does it make me more like the person I want to be. (Well, that last applies to the big ones too.) The smaller the decision, the more it is subjected to the rigors of time and expense; the larger it is, the more it is exempted from these and subjected to the question "Where could this lead?" with the most favorable outcome usually being a very long list of possibilities.

What it boils down to is evaluating whether the result is worth the cost. I often pick the wrong one, usually because I don't adequately understand the costs. But I also try to avoid making decisions that are irreversible, so things turn out in the long run.

3) INTP - I gotta ask, since I generally can at will show up as whatever I want to on the MB, how do you think you'd go about profiling yourself or someone else to get the most accurate result - and having done so, to what uses would you put the results?

This is a rather complex issue, since the best profiling method depends on what type one is, and one doesn't know what type one is until one is profiled. :p

And another thorny bit of this is that Jungian type is not usually the same thing that you get when you take a MB/Keirsey sorter. Many (most) online type quizzes create a dichotomy, a spectrum if you will: you're either introverted or extroverted, you're somewhere between pure thinking and pure feeling, and so on; if you're a thinker you can't be good with understanding feelings, blah blah blah. In fact this is not the case - though I will understand and use the Feeling function in a different way than someone for whom Feeling is dominant (though in fact my need to 'understand' and qualify Feeling at all is a result of dominant Ti.) They do sometimes work out the same (mine did), but it's not for the right reason.

This all comes about because most sorters ask four pairs of opposed questions (E/I, T/F, S/N, J/P) rather than eight individual questions that can be grouped any way one chooses but are not inherently opposite (Ti, Te, Fi, Fe, Si, Se, Ni, Ne). This could very easily be fixed by a more perceptive method of survey. The one on the Keirsey site (I think it's here) seems to have the best understanding of this.

The four-pair quizzes also lead to a lot of personal misconceptions. An I type is not necessarily introverted, and a J type is not necessarily judgemental, and an F type is not necessarily incapable of reasoning or using logic. Anybody can do anything (though obviously some people will be better at some things than others) but they all will do the 'anything' in very different ways. This is because really, you are not more intuitive or less judgemental - rather, everyone's type includes all eight functions in some application and to some extent, and that is lost when J and P are set up as opposites to each other (when in fact neither J nor P are functions at all, but rather are results of the first two functions.) I think the ideal would be to be essentially typeless, and equally capable of using all eight functions - though the question then becomes whether the functions are like containers that can be filled up, or if they are more like, say, methods of locomotion - I can learn to locomote in a way similar to that of a snake, but if I have four jointed legs instead of a series of scutes, I will still be essentially quadrupedal.

True Jungian typology is far more predictive; an assay will tell you things you didn't tell it ('your last letter is P because your strongest extroverted function is S or N' rather than 'your last letter is P because you scored 68 on the P questions and only 30 on the J questions'.) One might take a standard quiz to perhaps get oneself headed in the right direction, but the only way I know (short of seeing a psychologist) is to either (a) read about the functions and decide which ones you do most, and then classify yourself accordingly or (b) read type descriptions until you find the one that fits best. Obviously, the accuracy of both (a) and (b) - and of the quiz to begin with - is contingent upon one's own self-knowledge and one's willingness to be honest about oneself, and, short of importing people who know you very well and/or are willing to not mollycoddle you, there is no way around it.

So perhaps the big answer is to diffuse all this obfuscation, and perhaps people will sort it out on their own.

The primary use of all this (indeed, the only one I can discern) is to enable one to understand oneself better. Reading the INTP profile (the really long one) was like unto a revelation for me - to find that perhaps there were some ways I did things that I did just because That Is How I Am, and not because my aunt sneezed three times at my birthday party or something. And knowing yourself makes you better able to handle the things that you are and are not good at - you can refine your strengths and strengthen (or create workarounds for) your weaknesses. Furthermore, being able to understand The Way Other People Are enables me to better communicate with and understand them.

The question all of this raises is whether the typology is self-determinative - that is, I saw those things in myself because someone else suggested they were there. Since I am my only test subject, all I can say to that is that I recognized patterns of behavior that were extant before I knew they were supposed to be - so perhaps I classified them as such because someone told me to, but I certainly hadn't been doing them because someone told me that was the way I did things.

4) I see you cook, and seem reasonably happy about it. What's your ideal cooking environment and methodology?

I LOVE to cook.

Preamble: I would like to say that I enjoy having state-of-the-art culinary equipment and only the finest ingredients
Actually, that's completely misleading. While I might find a use for state-of-the-art culinary equipment, and I certainly would not object to the finest ingredients, these things are really not essential to my delight in cooking.

Most of my culinary experience (heh) is from hanging around in the kitchen while my mom cooks, or from working at Camp Barnabas this past summer. Small-scale cooking (making a batch of cookies, bringing an avocado and garlic powder to the school cafeteria to make The Best Omelette Ever TM) is relaxing and rewarding, but it is Cooking For The Masses that gets me really excited.

The short answer (environment and methodology): I like great big kitchens with loads of pots and pans and shelves and counter space (you can make more food and have more people in them). I like it when the kitchen is orderly and everything runs smoothly (see comments under question 1) but sometimes it can be fun to have to improvise (and do it quickly - and without those moments of panic, kitchen life would probably become mundane. Anyway, a kitchen without occasional panic is only a theoretical construct and has not been proven to exist in reality.) I like that there are rules that can sometimes be ignored.

You didn't ask, but: I think the reason I like to cook is because making delicious food with whatever's on hand is a task that incorporates many of my favorite things to do. It is a puzzle in big tastes (baked beans and ranch beans on consecutive days?) and little tastes (how much seasoned salt goes on brisket?) and big time (how many meals until the food truck comes again?) and small time (how fast can we make another three pans of dinner?) and large space (the kitchen) and small space (how many chicken tenders go on a sheet and will I have enough oven racks to get them AND the cornbread done) and strategy (if we serve cereal at breakfast, we won't be able to make Rice Krispies treats for dessert). It's creative, it requires skill and experience and thus is measurably learnable, it sometimes calls for a certain level of physical ability (be it manual dexterity or brute strength or endurance of extreme temperature or being capable of using sharp utensils at 5:30 AM). Most of the time it is not cooperative, but it is done with other people around, and sometimes getting bodies and tasks to align properly is another part of the puzzle (and plus, they can help when you realize that you've somehow got to drain the meat for the spaghetti and put the rolls in the oven at the exact same time. And when you're done, you get that awesome feeling of "Look at this huge thing we all helped make!"). Food is something I understand almost intuitively - I know that if the water's not boiling when you pour it into the mashed potato mix the potatoes will be grainy, and I don't know how I know it, but it makes perfect sense. It is often thankless (keeps my head from getting big; plus, when someone does thank you, it means a lot.) It benefits people - I believe that good cooking makes the world a better place. Kitchens are where everything happens and where (sooner or later) everyone comes. There is an almost continuous sense of accomplishment, but there's never time to stagnate.

It might be nice to know how to make some exotic five-star dish, but I think I would still be prouder to say that I got up early and came in to cook before anyone else was awake (well, except our dawn-patrol cohort Nate). The kitchen is silent except for the sizzling of eggs going into hot oil and the sound of my spatula on the griddle. I start making the first of twenty four batches of scrambled eggs, seasoning them with a pinch of seasoned salt and a hearty dash of six-pepper blend. And as I scrape them from one end to the other I think about the staff that spends their summer helping and loving and shining their light, and I think about the volunteers who give a week (or three months) of their lives to someone else's life, and I think about the campers that [we think] we need to serve, but who actually make OUR lives beautiful, and who often are infinitely wiser than we. With every spatula stroke I think about each and every person who will eat the eggs I'm cooking (by name, if I know their names) and I lift them up, and pray for them that they can experience what I do, that their days today, and the rest of their lives, are full of blessings and miracles.
And if that isn't enough to work hard so that the scrambled eggs are worth eating - I don't know what is.

And I have things to contemplate about cooking that is not going on right now (like 'why is it that cooking eggs gets me to be all spiritual, but panning rolls makes me think about silly things that happen at camp, and cooking chicken tenders is completely mindless?').

AND, I got to take naps in the afternoon. THAT was excellent.

5) Typically I'd ask as personal and prying an uncomfortable question as I could come up with - that I thought you could stand. Not knowing you at all, however, this is terribly difficult, so: What sort of personal, prying, thought provoking question would you think to ask yourself? (With an answer, of course.)

What do you think of people, really?

Well, of course the most horrible question I can think of is horrible because I don't know the answer. :P

I don't know how I could know so much about people and not understand them at all.

I don't understand why sometimes I feel like I have to have time away from the most amazing, loving friends I will ever meet, but I know that sometimes I do feel that way. I don't understand why some people stay married for fifty years and some don't, but I know that there doesn't seem to be any rhyme or reason to it. I don't understand why some people get sucked into abusive relationships. I don't understand abortion and I don't understand pro-lifers. I certainly don't understand how anyone hopes to accomplish anything so long as we stick to party politics. I don't understand why people will so easily give up their essential freedoms - why people will let themselves become enslaved to things that don't matter, why they will accept without questioning - without even thinking - the restrictions that others impose upon them. I don't understand why those others impose the restrictions. I don't understand why people vie for power just for power's sake, without even having any idea what they'd do if they ever gained power. I don't understand why people complain so much and do so little. I don't understand how mothers love babies. I don't understand why I seem to love in a different way than anyone around me knows, and I don't have any idea what word everyone around me uses when they do the thing that I call love - because I know they do it, I've watched them. I don't understand how people can be so horrible and smelly and still love each other. I don't understand how I love them, or how they love me.

I see it all happen, but it just doesn't make sense, and I don't understand why people are so powerfully reluctant to enjoy sense. And until it makes sense, until I find the solution to all this ridiculousness, I don't think I will understand.

Sometimes I am wise for people, but I do not know what happens when I am wise, and I cannot speak wisdom when I am not wise. It must not really be me that is wise. But I don't think I can get rid of myself by trying. (That is why I am not an ascetic.)

Perhaps it is also telling that I would have answered exactly the same to "What do you think you might never understand?". I believe I could learn particle physics and I believe I could be a world-famous ballerina, even though right now I barely have a functional grasp of precalculus and I am terribly out of shape. These are things that one can take steps to accomplish (even if the steps take longer than you are alive, or interested.) But I do not know if I will ever understand people. I take steps in all different directions and it seems none of them lead anywhere. But perhaps that is because I do not really know where I am going or what I am looking for. When one can do particle physics or when one is a world-famous ballerina, one knows it. Perhaps there are no outward signs when one understands people. Perhaps it has no words at all.

Meme rules: I will find you five questions if you want. Though I make no guarantees that I will think of terribly witty questions ;), for you lot I will be happy to try.


Besides Jasmine, are you a fan of Chinese teas? I've been on the lookout for the perfect oolong and have found some winners but a lot of losers. I am also a huge fan of pu-er and black rose tea... :) Yum. Tea! :)

I do enjoy Chinese tea, though I cannot claim any extensive knowledge of it.

There's a place down the road where they at least used to sell loose tea of esoteric and delightful varieties... I should probably investigate.

Very cool.

Detailed answers are always the best reads, and camp life - yeah, I know what you mean about different foods leading to different thought processes. Cool!

Re: Very cool.

Thank you, and thank you again. :D

That question thing looks interesting. I'd like to try it, perhaps.

Is that your final answer? ;)

Well, assuming it is, I'll start wandering through your backposts in search of appropriately interesting questions. :D