Diary of a Network Geek

The trials and tribulations of a Certified Novell Engineer who's been stranded in Houston, Texas.


Magical Thinking

Filed under: Deep Thoughts,Life, the Universe, and Everything,Personal — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Hare which is terribly early in the morning or 6:10 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waning Gibbous

How “civilized” are we really?
The other day, I was thinking about the phrase “like attracts like”. I’d been talking with a friend about relationships and my seemingly fruitless search for a datable woman. Oh, I know, there are plenty out there, but I never seem to run into any, or they have “issues”, like they have a husband or they have thousands of miles between us. In any case, we were talking about a woman I know who thought she’d found the One, only to discover that he wasn’t quite what she thought. This dear thing, who’s recently been through a divorce and has been dating about six months, isn’t really over her marriage ending, I don’t think. My friend knows the story and, when I told him about her latest difficulty, said, “healthy attracts healthy”. (Which, incidentally, might explain why he and I are both single! But, that’s another story.)
Well, I thought about that phrase. It sounded so familiar that I just couldn’t let it go. Turns out, that’s the Law of Attraction, as laid out by most coffee-house mystics who read their tarot decks. “Like attracts like.” Of course, I quickly made the jump to something my ex-wife posted on her blog right before she left me, “What am I? Flypaper for freaks?” Well, setting judgement aside, considering that she married me, it still made me wonder. How often does that kind of magical thinking, often expressed in “folk sayings”, direct our actions?
Consider, “Don’t judge a book by its cover”. A warning against doing something comes naturally to us. Another “law”, the Doctrine of Signatures, says “the attributes without mirror the attributes within”. At some level, we think that what we see on the surface is the reality of a thing. This is just a warning that we might be misinterpreting what we see. That there is more to the universe than what our five senses percieve.
Then, there’s my old favorite, “guilt by association”, or in a more folksy way, “If you lay down with dogs, you wake up with fleas”. That, simply, is the Law of Contagion, or, “contact results in contagion”. That which we touch or become overly familiar with becomes a part of us, and, conversely, we become a part of it. In magical thought, this is how so-called voodoo dolls work. The doll represents the whole, but we think this way all the time when it comes to people. How many times have you decided not to get involved with someone because of the company he or she keeps? I can’t count the number of times I got this message in one form or another when I was growing up. The admonition to keep to one’s own tribe.

So, why do we think this way? Can we overcome this kind of thinking? Should we? Does it serve its purpose and make our society what it is?
I don’t know, folks. I don’t have any answers, just questions. And, I’m always looking for better questions.


  1. On this theme, I agree with Dr. Laura. The notion that “opposites attract” is ridiculous in the long run. And while we’re both looking for girlfriends, keep hands off Maria Sharapova. I saw her first.

    Comment by Mark — 12/19/2005 @ 8:15 am

  2. Golly, Mark, I find the future ex-Mrs. Network Geek on a regular basis. Now, when I start convincing them that there’s potential in that title….

    Comment by the Network Geek — 12/19/2005 @ 8:23 am

  3. Hmmm…of course, there are always the contrarions in the crowd.

    My wife and I are in her own words, like “oil and water.” I agree. Our approaches to getting anything done are dissimilar. e.g. She likes to focus on tasks sequentially, doing one things are the other is finished. She likes her whole day to go this way. I on the other hand, prefer to be doing 5 things at once, when I get bored with something I go on to the next until I’ve completed the cycle and start again with the last. In the end, suddenly, everything is done. There are numerous examples of this in our life, long before you look at the Astrology of the situation, in which she is a Virgo and I am an Aquarius. You may have yourself a nice, long belly laugh about that, but we fit the astrological stereotypes well.

    Anyway, despite our different ways, if we work together on a project, folding clothes, making breakfast, going camping, we work amazingly well together. Our styles compliment each other. As long as we don’t discuss methodology, we’re fine.

    I believe that people are drawn to that which that are comfortable with. If someone reminds you of a parent, a sibling, an old friend…we are drawn to that, and it may not be at all consciuos;we may not even realize it. My wife reminds me of my mom, in certain key ways.

    Beyond that, women are drawn to slim men with small butts and a good sense of humour. Men are drawn to curvy women with lustrous hair.

    Comment by PM — 12/20/2005 @ 7:17 am

  4. I find your comments about men’s butts sexist and degrading. Also, slightly inaccurate. At least once, I was told that I had a “big old booty for a white boy” and, after confirmation, found that was a compliment. It’s all context and culture.

    Comment by the Network Geek — 12/20/2005 @ 8:28 am

  5. Personally, I believe there a number of “hardwired” mating strategies that override the “software” of “context and culture.” You can take the human out of the jungle, but you can’t take the jungle out of the human. That’s why much of this politically correct stuff baffles me. Instead of accepting ourselves as we are, we try to change ourselves to some ideal notion of how we’re supposed to be, all the while ignoring our baser instincts. It seems like basic denial to me.

    Comment by PM — 12/20/2005 @ 10:44 am

  6. And, thus was civilization formed. The fight between how we are and how we think we should be is society, civilization, etc.

    Comment by the Network Geek — 12/20/2005 @ 10:50 am

  7. I’m currently readin Thoreau’s Walden. He tends to put civilization in quotes when referring to our progress. I’m with him…I’d rather work 2 or 3 hours a day like the “savages” and have the rest of my day for leasure and art. Spending 10 hours a day away from my family so I can afford the luxuries doesn’t seem like a very good trade-off.

    I’m obviously a lesser man than he, since I still participate in a “civilization” I think insane.

    Comment by PM — 12/20/2005 @ 11:03 am

  8. That 2-3 hours is a myth and you know it. That lovely, simple, rural life that Thoreau loved so well, is, in fact, made of long, hard, back-breaking days, so that there’s enough for the lean times.
    I, however, like my English cologne, my Columbian coffee, my Egyptian cotton shirts assembled by Indian or Chinese line workers, my Scotch, my Indoneasian clove cigarettes, and sushi. Nope, thanks, I’m a thoroughly modern man and glad of it. But, I love the fact that you, my idealistic friend, are as hippy as you are. Makes a nice balance for my cynical realism, neh?

    Comment by the Network Geek — 12/20/2005 @ 11:09 am

  9. I’m talking about pre-agriculture my friend…

    Comment by PM — 12/20/2005 @ 11:17 am

  10. Blech! That’s even worse! Not even pit toilets then! Icky!

    Comment by the Network Geek — 12/20/2005 @ 11:21 am

  11. Yeah, but a true interdependent village and fertility rites! Wahoo!

    Comment by PM — 12/20/2005 @ 11:26 am

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