People vs. our memories of them

I was reading “The Last Lecture” by Randy Pausch, and you know how it goes, he tells amazing stories about his life and all these lessons he’s learned, because he’s dying of pancreatic cancer at 43 or something. It’s really inspiring, both the book and the lecture itself- look it up, it’s everywhere.  He was pretty much sainted afterwards, which is awkward, because saying “this person, as a whole, is great” implies that other people as a whole are bad, or at least not great.

There are stories in there that portray him as this superhero, this modern techie ubermensch who created the CMU ETC and Alice with his bare hands, while stopping by along the way to work at Disney and act in Star Trek and play football and complete all of his childhood dreams.  And yet, parts of the book hint at the fact that he might not actually be Jesus #2.  Take his living situation as a young professor: a $450/month attic apartment with a card table and chairs.  Now, I thought this a cool trait, but others saw it as him refusing to grow up.  Or an incident in which he pours soda on his car seat to demonstrate to his niece and nephew that people are more important than things: awesome, or just kind of preachy and dumb?  And those are the ones that he mentions; you’d imagine there are a lot of situations where he was kind of a jerk.

So what?  Well, I guess the thing I’ve taken from it is: don’t get so hung up on whether Randy Pausch was a good or bad guy.  It’s a book of his lessons, after all, not a book in which he tries to prove he’s a great guy.

And on maybe the same note, I saved this article a long time ago because it pretty perfectly captures my two thoughts on Facebook (which thoughts are apparently important to have these days):
1. Zuckerberg is wrong because he thinks we are each no more than one self.  He wants a world without privacy, where privacy is unnecessary, where your grandparents see you drunk at parties but they understand because they used to get drunk at parties too.  This idea is flawed because we will always have at least two selves: public and private.  At least until mind-reading exists.
2. Zuckerberg is wrong because he thinks we each must be a self.  A large part of Facebook is explicitly “branding” yourself.  Creating a concept.  And we each must have one concept of ourselves that we throw out to the world.  How else will you get famous?

On an even further note: you can easily distance your current self from your past self.  “Oh, that was just something I did as a kid.”  You can even distance yourself from your last-year self: “I’ve learned a lot since then.”  Can you distance yourself from your yesterday self?  Can you distance yourself from your five-minutes-ago self?  And why not?

What I’m getting at is: self is an illusion, right?

Even more tangentially, I’m glad someone coined the phrase “spiritual materialism.” (end of paragraph 2.)  It’s a bit of a trap I could fall into by posting “deep” things here.  “look at me, my blog is all spiritual and stuff.”  I’m really just interested in throwing some ideas out there and maybe sparking some discussions later.  I’m sorry if it comes across as spiritual materialism.


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