Wednesday, February 25, 2009
Tuesday, February 24, 2009
The country has divided into two camps, as usual. Those who think the Stimulus Package® will instantly rain wondrous miracles of prosperity on the country and those who think it is the work of the Antichrist designed to hobble our nation with an unbearable debt burden while not really helping anything. I have heard this latter stance at a personal level from family and friends and also at a national level, most recently this week from some of the GOP governors assembled for the governors' conference.
So I have a simple question. It is really, really simple. Let's see if I can set it up correctly with an example first. I think most people would agree that if they were offered free goods that they knew to be stolen it would be immoral and unethical to take the loot, even if they also knew they weren't going to be caught, and even if everyone around them were doing it, too. In fact, I believe our courts think the same thing - you can be charged and convicted for receiving stolen goods for doing just that.
Are you with me so far? I think you see where I am going with this.
So, if you are a true-blue fiscal conservative, someone who believes big government is immoral, someone who believes that the Stimulus Package® not only will not work, but is wrong, then isn't it immoral to benefit from it, either as a private person or as the governor of a state? Wouldn't it be better to not take the money, which would lower the amount of the cost of the bill, thereby helping the country save some of the money you don't think should be spent? On a personal level shouldn't you return your $400 or $800 tax credit? Shouldn't you make sure and not file for the $8,000 first time home buyer tax credit or the tax credit for buying energy efficient appliances? And if you're the Republican governor of a state, shouldn't you take a true stand and save our country billions and billions of dollars by refusing to take any of the state aid from the Feds?
That is, unless you don't really believe what you say. Unless you practice the morality of convenience. Unless you're just "in it for me" and your political "ethics" are just blather for cocktail parties to hide the fact you really are just a cheapskate who doesn't like to pay taxes.
I know I am roiling the waters a bit by combining "politics" and "ethics" into an oxymoronic implausibility. But I don't like people who say one thing and act another. I hereby call on each and every small government conservative in this country to simply refuse to participate in the Stimulus Package®. Just say no to your share of the pork. It's that easy.
Given the presidential election popular vote let's be gracious and say there are still 47% of the citizenry who are conservative. OK. Then here is the opportunity for conservatives to lead the way, to take the moral high ground they like to preach about holding, to prove their point, and most importantly, to be true patriots and save our beloved country $370,000,000,000 dollars (47% of $787 billion) through a selfless act, simply by refusing to receive stolen goods. Wouldn't that be the, ahem, "right" thing to do?
Or am I missing something?
Monday, February 23, 2009
...but I like it.
Here's a statistical representation of my library, minus "special" genres like comedy, soundtracks (something I don't put much in, I'd rather categorize it under its "real" genre), Christmas music, etc.
Here's my explanation of how I classify music. I claim no expertise, only what I think sounds good together.
- Ambient - ethereal stuff...You know...Enya.
- Americana - rootsy stuff that doesn't really fit under "country" or "rock".
- Bluegrass - mmmm, Ralph Stanley and Bill Monroe.
- Blues/Blues Rock - I like it more towards the rocking chair on the cabin porch, hound dog underneath the porch variety, not so much the Stevie Ray Vaughn $#!+.
- Christian Rock - not a lot here, mostly because of my wife and middlest daughter.
- Classical - I wish I could admit there was more here, but there's not. I came to classical music via Warner Brothers cartoons (yay, Rossini!)
- Classic Rock/Pop - British invasion 'til 1976 or so (told you I was arbitrary! Kids now days think the '80s are "classic rock"...Blasphemy!)
- Country/Country Rock - I like "alternatwang" and roots country. Modern, slick mainstream country makes me throw up in my mouth a little.
- Dance Hall - this is roughly categorized as "big band", with big band/swing revivalists and some zydeco thrown in.
- Dance/Rave - all that Ibiza/Euro-trash/remix stuff the kids nowdays (or at least 5-10 years ago) dance their nights away to.
- Easy Listening - pretty much what you'd think.
- Folk/Folk Rock - watch "A Mighty Wind".
- Gospel - I loves me some Gospel, especially bluegrass-tinged. I will sing along to that harmony. "Angel Band", anyone?
- Instrumental - think "Sleepwalk".
- Jazz - my earliest album memory is my parents listening to Dave Brubeck.
- Latin - I wish I had a lot more of this.
- Oldies - anything between "Dance Hall" and the Beatles, not counting "Easy Listening".
- Opera - Elmer Fudd washes Bugs Bunny's hair.
- Rage - 'nuff said. When the mood is right, this genre is the only thing that satisfies.
- Rap - Public Enemy, anyone?
- Reggae - I tire of this genre.
- RnB/Funk - James Brown's hot tub. But more like P-Funk ("Tear the roof off the sucker!")
- Rock/Pop - everything else from 1976 on. I long ago gave up subdividing it all. What does "alternative" even mean any more?
- World - I am totally into Afro-Pop, a lot more than is shown here. I need to get out and buy more.
Sunday, February 22, 2009
This section starts tying the whole book together. For example, he notes that sometimes a single good (or bad) memory can completely overwhelm all other memories of an event and cause us to misapply that memory as representative of future events of the same type:
This tendency to recall and rely on unusual instances is one of the reasons why we so often repeat mistakes. When we think about last year's family vacation we do not recruit a fair and representative sample of instances from our two-week tour of Idaho. Instead, the memory that comes most naturally and quickly to mind is of that first Saturday afternoon when we took the kids horseback riding, crested the ridge on our palominos, and found ourselves looking down into a magnificent valley, the river wending its way to the horizon like a mirrored ribbon as the sun played on its surface. The air was crisp, the woods were quiet. The kids suddenly stopped arguing and sat transfixed on their horses, someone said "Wow" in a very soft voice, everyone smiled at everyone else, and the moment was forever crystallized as the high point of the vacation. Which is why it instantly springs to mind. But if we rely on this memory as we plan our next vacation while overlooking the fact that the rest of the trip was generally disappointing, we risk finding ourselves at the same overcrowded campground the next year, eating the same stale sandwiches, being bitten by the same surly ants, and wondering how we managed to learn so little from our previous visit. Because we tend to remember the best of times and the worst of times instead of the most likely of times, the wealth of experience that young people admire does not always pay clear dividends.He describes the concept of super-replicators, beliefs (he doesn't use the word meme, but it is a similar idea) that aren't necessarily true, but somehow get propagated over the truth. One of the prime examples in the book is the belief that "children are a source of happiness", when in fact at least while you are raising them, study after study (he references four of them in the book, I just saw this piece stating more than 25 different studies concur) has shown that the happiness of a couple decreases with kids, reaching a nadir during the spawns' teen years, and then progressively climbs back up, leading to the conclusion that the "empty nest syndrome" is a myth. And yet, we continue to hear, believe and moreover spread the meme that "raising children are a joy". Why? Well for one reason that's obvious when you think about it, because people (and cultures) who don't believe that don't last very long. It is self-perpetuating, even though wrong, precisely because it brings about the thing it is trying to propagate, in this case, another generation to pass along the mistaken belief.
Finally there is a section on how, if we're so bad at predicting the future, one would think we could instead find and ask someone going through the exact experience we want to try (or avoid) and find out what they are experiencing. Studies show that when we do that, our predictions become much more accurate. But in general humans reject that path and try to find more information from different sources than fellow humans. A large part of the reason for that is we all think of ourselves as more unique than we really are, and we always think of others as more average and alike than they really are. So we then discount what others think and are experiencing because while that may be valid "for them", "it has nothing to do with me, because I'm special!" Except, really, you're not.
Because if you are like most people, then like most people, you don't know you're like most people. Science has given us a lot of facts about the average person, and one of the most reliable of these facts is that the average person doesn't see herself as average. Most students see themselves as more intelligent than the average student, most business managers see themselves as more competent than the average business manager, and most football players seem themselves as having better "football sense" than their teammates. Ninety percent of motorists consider themselves to be safer-than-average drivers, and 94 percent of college professors consider themselves to be better-than-average teachers. Ironically, the bias toward seeing ourselves as better than average causes us to see ourselves as less biased than average too. As one research team concluded, "Most of us appear to believe that we are more athletic, intelligent, organized, ethical, logical, interesting, fair-minded, and healthy - not to mention more attractive - than the average person."And that special person is not very good at making itself happy.
"We don't always see ourselves as superior, but we almost always see ourselves as unique. Even when we do precisely what others do, we tend to think that we're doing it for unique reasons. For instance, we tend to attribute other people's choices to features of the chooser ("Phil picked this class because he's one of those literary types"), but we tend to attribute our own choices to features of the options ("But I picked it because it was easier than economics"). We recognize that our decisions are influenced by social norms ("I was too embarrassed to raise my hand in class even though I was terribly confused"), but fail to recognize that others' decisions were similarly influenced ("No one else raised a hand because no one else was as confused as I was"). We know that our choices sometimes reflect our aversions ("I voted for Kerry because I couldn't stand Bush"), but we assume that other people's choices reflect their appetites ("If Rebecca voted for Kerry, then she must have liked him"). The list of differences is long but the conclusion to be drawn from it is short: The self considers itself to be a very special person.
In the end I must say the book was compelling and did a very good job of opening my eyes to a variety of reasons why and how I, and all of us, really do a pretty poor job of making ourselves happy. It doesn't give any answers, but just by raising awareness, I hope I can be a bit more conscious of some of the problems with predicting the future (which is what planning for things that make us happy really is). Whether I can avoid them or not is another story. But the book certainly was like holding up a mirror and seeing not my face but my subconscious reflected back at me. I heartily recommend reading it.
Saturday, February 21, 2009
I believe special purpose social networks are an evolutionary dead end. I just spent some time this morning unsubscribing from a handful of them - TripIt, GoodReads, Last.fm, YouVersion. Each was a good idea in and of itself, but I ended up not spending much time on them, nor really having enough friends on each to make them worthwhile.
I predict almost all single purpose social networks will be subsumed by the likes of Facebook or will die from lack of interest and scale. And here's why - anything you can do in a special-purpose social network you can do in a more general purpose network like Facebook or MySpace. If not using built-in features, then by someone writing an app to be embedded in them.
Each social network you add to your list is just one more damned thing to remember to check, manage and participate in. And it just isn't worth it to keep up that level of effort around a single topic or interest. The only special purpose networks I see remaining viable are those that allow you to share (and in some more important sense, store) media, like Picasa, Flikr and YouTube, and those that serve groups with specialized vocabularies and interests, such as various programming and medical groups.
At least that's what I think. Thoughts? Comments?
Tina tagged me on Facebook to come up with a list of 16 albums:
Think of 16 albums, CDs, LPs (if you're over 35) that had such a profound effect on you they changed your life. Dug into your soul. Music that brought you to life when you heard it. Royally affected you, kicked you in the wasu, literally socked you in the gut, is what I mean. Then when you finish, tag 16 others, including moi. Make sure you copy and paste this part so they know the drill. Get the idea now? Good. Tag, you're it!Then she promptly cheated and listed 19 albums! :o)
Below is my list. I added a few more restrictions to help me narrow it down. First, there are lots of albums that met the above criteria, so this is just my list for now, today. Second, there were lots of albums that affected me deeply at various points in my life, but don't speak to me now (ah, the 1970s). I only chose albums that I still actively listen to. And in some cases for certain bands, I just had to punt and choose a representative album.
- Exile on Coldharbour Lane - Alabama 3
- Revolver - Beatles
- Time Out - Dave Brubeck Quartet
- Tubthumper - Chumbawamba
- Sheryl Crow - Sheryl Crow
- Puzzle - dada
- Surrealistic Pillow - Jefferson Airplane
- 'Round About Midnight - Miles Davis
- Exile in Guyville - Liz Phair
- Fumbling Towards Ecstasy - Sarah McLachlan
- Everybody Knows This is Nowhere - Neil Young
- The Texas Campfire Tapes - Michelle Shocked
- Graceland - Paul Simon
- Girlfriend - Matthew Sweet
- True Stories - Talking Heads
- The Joshua Tree - U2
Thursday, February 19, 2009
This was one of the most fascinating sections. It covered a lot of ground, and over and over I would have an "A-ha!" experience while reading it. The first is the very fact that we do rationalize to make up for bad experiences. We all do it, we all recognize it. One of my favorite lines from The Big Chill is:
Michael: I don't know anyone who could get through the day without two or three juicy rationalizations. They're more important than sex.Indeed. But here's the important point - while we all recognize that we rationalize, we never account for doing it in the future and the impact that will have on mitigating anything that could go wrong. We instead try to avoid bad things happening at all costs, and by so doing often make them out to be a bigger deal than they actually would be, and take the wrong action (or inaction). Consider:
Sam Weber: Ah, come on. Nothing's more important than sex.
Michael: Oh yeah? Ever gone a week without a rationalization?
The fact is that negative events do affect us, but they generally don't affect us as much or for as long as we expect them to. When people are asked to predict how they'll feel if they lose a job or a romantic partner, if their candidate loses an important election or their team loses an important game, if they flub an interview, flunk an exam, or fail a contest, they consistently overestimate how awful they'll feel and how long they'll feel awful. Able-bodied people are willing to pay far more to avoid becoming disabled than disabled people are willing to pay to become able-bodied again because able-bodied people underestimate how happy disabled people are. As one group of researchers noted, "Chronically ill and disabled patients generally rate the value of their lives in a given health state more highly than do hypothetical patients [who are] imagining themselves to be in such states." Indeed, healthy people imagine that eighty-three states of illness would be "worse than death," and yet, people who are actually in those states rarely take their own lives.A second section dealt with how we make ourselves feel better by making sure we only compare ourselves to others that will make us feel better and by framing questions such that we are more likely to get an answer that makes us feel good. The problem, of course, is that we are doing that to hide reality, even while in fact we are pretending (to ourselves anyway) to be open and objective.
For example, studies reveal that people have a penchant for asking questions that are subtly engineered to manipulate the answers they receive. A question such as "Am I the best lover you've ever had?" is dangerous because it has only one answer that can make us truly happy, but a question such as "What do you like best about my lovemaking?" is brilliant because it has only one answer that can make us truly miserable (or two if you count "It reminds me of Wilt Chamberlain"). Studies show that people intuitively lean toward asking the questions that are most likely to elicit the answers they want to hear."The third point was about each of us having an psychological immune system much akin to how we have an physical immune system. And as with the physical immune system, the emotional immune system doesn't kick in over little stuff, only the big stuff, and then it does much of its work via rationalizations. For example, a lover may be quicker to forgive cheating (a big thing that triggers the emotional immune system) than something like their partner always leaving dirty dishes in the sink (little thing, doesn't trigger the immune system, so the irritation is always present).
"For example, volunteers in one study took a test that ostensibly measured their social sensitivity and were then told that they had flubbed the majority of questions. When these volunteers were then given an opportunity to look over the test results of other people who had performed better or worse than they had, they ignored the tests of the people who had done better and instead spent their time looking over the tests of the people who had done worse. Getting a C- isn't so bad if one compares oneself exclusively to those who got a D."
To my knowledge, no one has ever done a systematic study of people who've been left standing at the altar by a cold-footed fiancé. But I'm willing to bet a good bottle of wine that if you rounded up a healthy sample of almost-brides and nearly groooms and asked them whether they would describe the incident as "the worst thing that ever happened to me" or "the best thing that ever happened to me," more would endorse the latter description than the former. And I'll bet an entire case of that wine that if you found a sample of people who'd never been through this experience and asked them to predict which of all their possible future experiences they are most likely to look back on as "the best thing that ever happened to me," not one of them will list "getting jilted."
"Indeed, in the long run, people of every age and in every walk of life seem to regret not having done things much more than they regret things they did, which is why the most popular regrets include not going to college, not grasping profitable business opportunities, and not spending enough time with family and friends."
Wednesday, February 18, 2009
This section deals with how hard it is to actually imagine the future. Sure, we all do it, but we all do it pretty damned poorly. For one, we don't accurately predict the passage of time and its consequences (see prior posts). We also tend to project whatever we are feeling and thinking into the future, disregarding that our feelings and thoughts may (and will) be different when it arrives. If you're asked to predict something while you're in a bad mood it is likely your prediction will be pessimistic. Consider the following two quotes from the book.
For instance, if we try to imagine a penguin while we are looking at an ostrich, the brain's policy won't allow it. We understand this, and thus we never become confused and mistakenly conclude that the large bird with the long neck that we are currently seeing is, in fact, the penguin that we were attempting to imagine. The visual experience that results from a flow of information that originates in the world is called vision; the visual experience that results from a flow of information that originates in memory is called mental imagery; and while both kinds of experiences are produced in the visual cortex, it takes a great deal of vodka before we mix them up. One of the hallmarks of a visual experience is that we can almost always tell whether it is the product of a real or an imagined object. But not so with emotional experience.Another issue we don't account for in our future happiness is that too much of a good thing is a bad thing. We may want to win the lottery, but as we all know from endless news reports about such things, we'd probably end up being some broke basket case on Geraldo. Yet when we plan for our future happiness, we often choose a path similar to a child's wishing for "Chocolate every meal!"
You've probably been in a similar conundrum yourself. You've had an awful day - the cat peed on the rug, the dog peed on the cat, the washing machine is busted, 'World Wrestling' has been preempted by 'Masterpiece Theatre' - and you naturally feel out of sorts. If at that moment you try to imagine how much you would enjoy playing cards with your buddies the next evening, you may mistakenly attribute feelings that are due to the misbehavior of real pets and real appliances ('I feel annoyed') to your imaginary companions ('I don't think I'll go because Nick always ticks me off'). Indeed, one of the hallmarks of depression is that when depressed people think about future events, they cannot imagine liking them very much. Vacation? Romance? A night on the town? No thanks, I'll just sit here in the dark. Their friends get tired of seeing them flail about in a thick blue funk, and they tell them that this too shall pass, that it is always darkest before the dawn, that every dog has its day, and several other important clichés. But from the depressed person's point of view, all the flailing makes perfectly good sense because when she imagines the future, she finds it difficult to feel happy today and thus difficult to believe that she will feel happy tomorrow.
Among life's cruelest truths is this one: Wonderful things are especially wonderful the first time they happen, but their wonderfulness wanes with repetition. Just compare the first and last time your child said 'Mama' or your partner said 'I love you' and you'll know exactly what I mean. When we have an experience - hearing a particular sonata, making love with a particular person, watching the sun set from a particular window of a particular room - on successive occasions, we quickly begin to adapt to it, and the experience yields less pleasure each time. Psychologists call this habituation, economists call it declinging marginal utility, and the rest of us call it marriage. But human beings have discovered two devices that allow them to combat this tendency: variety and time. One way to beat habituation is to increase the variety of one's experiences ('Hey, honey, I have a kinky idea - let's watch the sun set from the kitchen this time'). Another way to beat habituation is to increase the amount of time that separates repetitions of the experience. Clinking champagne glasses and kissing one's spouse at the stroke of midnight would be a relatively dull exercise were it to happen every evening, but if one does it on New Year's Eve and then allows a full year to pass before doing it again, the experience will offer an endless bouguet of delights because a year is plenty long enough for the effects of habituation to disappear.
Tuesday, February 17, 2009
This section picks up where the last left off. If our memories are unreliable witnesses then why do we rely on them so much, especially to project the future? It is, as the section's first chapter title says, "the blind spot of the mind's eye." In addition we do a poor job of noticing and accounting for the mundane, the ordinary. When imagining a future event and evaluating it for its potential to make us happy or sad and for how long that feeling will last, we don't account for the fact that other aspects of life will be happening to us and around us just as it is right now. For example:
To illustrate this point, I often ask people to tell me how they think they would feel two years after the sudden death of their eldest child. As you can probably guess, this makes me quite popular at parties. I know, I know, - this is a gruesome exercise and I'm not asking you to do it. But the fact is that if you did it, you would probably give me the answer that almost everyone gives me, which is some variation on Are you out of your damned mind? I'd be devastated - totally devastated. I wouldn't be able to get out of bed in the morning. I might even kill myself. So who invited you to this party anyway? If at this point I'm not actually wearing the person's cocktail, I usually probe a bit further and ask how he came to his conclusion. What thoughts or images came to mind, what information did he consider? People typically tell me that they imagined hearing the news, or imagined attending the funeral, or they imagined opening the door to an empty bedroom. But in my long history of asking this question and thereby excluding myself from every social circle to which I formerly belonged, I have yet to hear a single person tell me that in addition to these heartbreaking, morbid images, they also imagined the other things that would inevitably happen in the two years following the death of their child. Indeed, not one person has ever mentioned attending another child's school play, or making love with his spouse, or eating a taffy apple on a warm summer evening, or reading a book, or writing a book, or riding a bicycle, or any of the many other activities that we - and that they - would expect to happen in those two years. Now, I am in no way, shape or form suggesting that a bite of gooey candy compensates for the loss of a child. That isn't the point. What I am suggesting is that the two-year period following a tragic event has to contain something - that is, it must be filled with episodes and occurrences of some kind - and these episodes and occurrences must have some emotional consequences. Regardless of whether those consequences are large or small, negative or positive, one cannot answer my question accurately without considering them. And yet, not one person I know has ever imagined anything other than the single, awful event suggested by my question. When they imagine the future, there is a whole lot missing, and the things that are missing matter."The real issue is that we don't foresee all the details of the future, and hence discount their importance:
Seeing in time is like seeing in space. But there is one important difference between spatial and temporal horizons. When we perceive a distant buffalo, our brains are aware of the fact that the buffalo looks smooth, vague, and lacking in detail because it is far away, and they do not mistakenly conclude that the buffalo itself is smooth and vague. But when we remember or imagine a temporally distant event, our brains seem to overlook the fact that details vanish with temporal distance, and they conclude instead that the distant events actually are as smooth and vague as we are imagining and remembering them. For example, have you ever wondered why you often make commitments that you deeply regret when the moment to fulfill them arrives? We all do this, of course. We agree to babysit the nephews and nieces next month, and we look forward to that obligation even as we jot it in our diary. Then, when it actually comes time to buy the Happy Meals, set up the Barbie playset, hid the bong, and ignore the fact that the NBA playoffs are on at one o'clock, we wonder what we were thinking when we said yes. Well, here's what we were thinking: When we said yes we were thinking about babysitting in terms of why instead of how, in terms of causes and consequences instead of execution, and we failed to consider the fact that the detail-free babysitting we were imagining would not be the detail-laden babysitting we would ultimately experience. Babysitting next month is 'an act of love,' whereas babysitting right now is 'an act of lunch,' and expressing affection is spiritually rewarding in a way that buying French fries simply isn't.
Monday, February 16, 2009
1) You own and generate transmission, storage and style.
2) We still own and generate the content.
3) You may place any number of ads in front of our eyeballs for the privilege of transmission, storage and style.
4) We still own and generate the content.
5) You may open your service to any number of third parties through APIs, applications and opt-in/out strategies to enhance the transmission, storage and style.
6) We still own and generate the content.
7) You are a carrier. A pipe. A given amount of transmission, storage and style.
8) We still own and generate the content.
9) You can do anything you want, as long as it doesn't interfere with the second precept. Otherwise, we'll take our content and go elsewhere.
10) And then you'll be...what, exactly? Because...
11) We still own and generate the content.
Glenn asked an interesting question today, and one I've thought about a lot - Did We Misunderstand God? If I may summarize it, he wonders why Christians throughout history and in present times seem to miss what grace really means, but instead "the human awareness of our badness and foolish thinking that we can fix everything ourselves has led us to place of perpetual guilt and striving." Amen.
I think there's a very natural, human explanation for this. Actually, I think there are lots of them - our constant need to prove ourselves better than someone else, our innate judgmental natures, our tendency to not trust good news. But I also think there's a simple, mathematical explanation. It's because our canon as Christians emphasizes law and works over grace. Now, I am not saying that in a theological sense - I understand completely the building of God's story of forgiveness through the Old Testament and then the New, how things in the first "half" lead to things in the second. That's all clear. But here's the problem - the Old Testament isn't "half" - it's more like "three quarters". And I will get to what I mean by that in a second.
First, I want you to think about something. Let's say you have a family member or friend and you talk about things in your lives every day. Over time, you will know what's really important to that person, what's really on their mind, because they will talk about it a lot. If you cared, you could count the number of times they mention it, and find out where their children vs. their spouse vs. their pet vs. their job vs. the economy vs. global warming and on and on all lay out in terms of relative importance to them. If they talk about it a lot, then it's important. If they don't talk about it at all, then it's not important. And topics will be scattered everywhere in between. We of course don't do that type of explicit analysis with our family and friends (unless you're an obsessive compulsive nutjob), but we do do it at some level subconsciously. I bet if I asked you, "What are the top five most important things to your spouse?", with a bit of thinking you could come up with an answer.
So we all do that sort of analysis, whether we're aware of it or not. Well, here's the deal - the Bible spends roughly 75% of its time talking about the old covenant, and only 25% on the new. Moreover, if you look at just the "red letter" books in the New Testament (the ones in which Jesus spake, versus the other NT books comprised of sittin' 'round talkin' 'bout Jesus), the ratio is less than one sixth of the entire Bible.
Where am I getting these numbers? I did some analysis using book, chapter, verse and word counts of the Bible conveniently provided by one of those Biblical numerology crazoids on the 'net. Now, I am not saying I think there's anything "magical" or hidden in these numbers. But in terms of pure statistical analysis they do provide an objective measure of the sheer amount of verbiage in each book of the Bible, and allow for comparison between the Old Testament and the New Testament (and the "red letter" books as well). I have included a partial table at the bottom of this post with more details. But I will sum it up here, rounded to the nearest percent:
|Old Test.||New Test.||(Red Letter)|
Yes, yes, the entire OT is pointing toward Jesus, but I think so many people get hung up with the minutiae in it that shows trying to follow God through good deeds (I could be snarky and lump in the book of James with that, but I won't). Never mind that it shows that mankind fails over and over to do it on their own and God was wroth. The mere fact that so much space, so much verbiage, is devoted to it means it is subconsciously weighted as more important in our minds. I wonder if so many Christians come across as judgmental "Old Testament" Christians precisely because of this? Three quarters of what they read is law, judgment and wrath? Less than a fourth is Good News. Seems sort of backwards, huh?
What do you think?
Note: In the following table, if a percentage represents more than 2% of the entire Bible it is bold, and if it is more than 4% it is in bold red. Observe that only the Old Testament has books in bold red. Also, these numbers were taken from the KJV, but I don't think the percentages would change in any material way using any other English translation. A full spreadsheet that shows more (including percentages for each book relative to its respective testament) is available upon request.
|Book||Chap.||Verses||Words||%Ttl Ch||%Ttl Vs||%Ttl Wd|
|22||Song of Solomon||8||117||2658||0.67%||0.38%||0.34%|
|Book||Chap.||Verses||Words||%Ttl Ch||%Ttl Vs||%Ttl Wd|