Open Thinkering


Tag: opinion

My two biggest insights from last year

Last year, the pandemic was more ‘annoying’ to me and my family than damaging to our health or finances. So, if there’s one thing that 2020 showed me, it was my privilege.

I turned 40 in December, which means I’m now inescapably middle-aged. I’m also a straight, white, male. Thankfully, somewhat unrelated to the pandemic, I also spent 2020 learning a bunch of things about myself and how I relate to others. This happened primarily through CBT, research and learning around the Black Lives Matter movement, and doing some work around Nonviolent Communication.

My two biggest takeaways from the above were:

  1. I don’t need to have an opinion about everything. As Marcus Aurelius said, “We have the power to hold no opinion about a thing and to not let it upset our state of mind—for things have no natural power to shape our judgments.”
  2. I should stick to only discussing my own experiences and context. I have no idea of the internal world of others, and how things which seem major/minor to me might be minor/major to them.

I guess this is a lo-fi version of Hume’s fork. In other words, there are statements that can be made about ideas (which are either true or false by definition) and statements that can be made about the world (which are true or false based on experience).

Over the last six months, I feel that there’s been a shift in my writing here since starting the #100DaysToOffload challenge. This has been incredibly useful in weaning me off assertions meant to provoke a response from others towards more introspection and self-documentation.

This post is Day 80 of my #100DaysToOffload challenge. Want to get involved? Find out more at

Why we don’t celebrate Hallowe’en in our house

As a write this post we’ve got the lights off at the front of our house and, instead of being parked on the drive, our car is parked in a nearby street. Why? It’s Hallowe’en.

It’s not that we live in a rough neighbourhood and I’m scared of the kids. It’s that I:

  • can’t (as a historian/philosopher) see the point in it
  • don’t wish to celebrate evil, even implicitly
  • think that it’s 99% marketing-fuelled

Ten quick facts about Hallowe’en:

  1. It’s not a pagan festival.
  2. It was originally a couple of days of feasting without much religious or supernatural significance.
  3. Before the 8th century it was celebrated in May.
  4. It’s related to the enthusiastic ringing of bells by Catholics on All Souls Day to assist the passage of souls from purgatory.
  5. Hallowe’en traditions almost completely died out in England before the 20th century.
  6. Around this time, girls traditionally attempted to find out via various ‘signs’ – such as brushing their hair at midnight in front of a mirror – who they would marry.
  7. In 1950s England people either celebrated Guy Fawkes night or Hallowe’en, depending on geographic location.
  8. There was an ‘explosion of interest’ in Hallowe’en in the 1970s/80s and ‘trick or treating’ due to the influence of American TV series and films such as ET (1982) which depicted such scenes.
  9. Teachers have been accused of encouraging the spread of Hallowe’en celebrations to remove the focus on Guy Fawkes (‘Bonfire’) Night and associated safety concerns.
  10. Hallowe’en parties in England have been going since around the 1920s/30s and are now the busiest time of the year for fancy-dress hire shops.

The above were gleaned from a book I came across this weekend at Barter Books. I added photos of relevant pages to my Evernote account.

So, in conclusion, dressing up as something scary and begging is not something I’ll be encouraging my children to do when they’re old enough. Whilst I could open the door and lecture each group of children, the words ‘water’ and ‘off a duck’s back’ spring to mind. And, to be honest, I don’t want to be ‘that guy’.

The power of the media and invented tradition is, unfortunately, too powerful.