Can People Change?

This is an age old question, with many examples of conventional wisdom on both sides of the debate. Can people change? Or are facets of their personality fixed forever?

On one hand, cautionary tales abound. If your spouse cheats on you, they will do so again in the future. Addicts will use again. A convicted criminal will re-offend. A liar will continue to lie. Because people don’t change.

Conversely, stories of redemption are some of the most powerful stories of all. Everyone deserves a second chance, as the saying goes. Someone who learns from a mistake and takes steps to correct it is a hero.

How you view this issue may influence how you view the criminal justice system. Is it about punishment for doing wrong, or a chance to redeem yourself as a member of society? Does someone who serves out a prison sentence deserve the benefit of the doubt? In addition, does it matter what the offense was?

If you think it is possible for a person to change, how can any improvement be shown? In other words, at what point do we accept that a lesson has been learned, or that someone is truly remorseful?

Furthermore, what about change for the worse? Someone who has previously been kind and generous and thoughtful can do something selfish or mean. At what point does it become a change in personality? Is a nice person always nice, even if they do some things that are definitely not nice?

Usually, change is the one fixture in our lives. As we age, our body goes through physical changes: we get grey hairs, wrinkles around the eyes, gain some weight. But does our personality go through similar changes? Or do we have some traits that remain constant?

Related questions: What is time? What is necessary to change your mind? How have we changed? How have you changed?

 

How Can We Encourage Meaningful Conversation?

Sometimes it seems like conversation is a dying art.

We don’t talk much anymore. In-depth discussions have been replaced with small talk. Long, rambling phone calls are now five second Vine videos. A ten page, hand-written letter is now a text message.

Why is this?

Generally, there are many reasons for this change. Technology, in the form of smart phones and social media, encourages brevity. We are warned to avoid controversial topics as a way of keeping the peace. In addition, an entire generation of young adults have grown up online, where tone of voice and body language are non-existent.

As a result, we grow ever more isolated from those around us. People are not confronted with differing opinions. We don’t often talk to people with opposing views, and when we do it devolves to a shouting match. Violence is increasingly more common. Consequently, entire communities are dismissed and ignored.

Is it all bad?

And yet, we still crave conversation. We want to be intellectually stimulated. Ted Talks, for example, are wildly popular, and can be thought of as the first half of a conversation. The vlogbrothers, Hank and John Green, are YouTube celebrities based on their ongoing weekly video chats. So the desire exists in each of us for communication of ideas, and the act of sharing them with our friends and acquaintances.

So how can we revive the art of conversation? How do we overcome our dependency on the endless Facebook newsfeed scroll, and engage each other in an actual dialogue? Can we recapture the give and take, the challenge of ideas, the talk for sake of the talk? In short, to be exposed to new ideas and new points of view?

How can we encourage meaningful conversation?

Related questions: What do we have in common? How can we encourage debate? Are we too busy? How can we become better listeners? What do you get out of social media?

Could Everyone Benefit From Therapy?

There are multiple ways of viewing therapy and the role it may play in our lives.

First of all, you might view it as you might a dentist. You schedule regular check-ups, which are supposed to be preventative. That way, you avoid dental issues. Or if you have them, you might just need a small filling rather than a root canal.

A psychiatrist, or a couple therapist, can be used in the same way. Deal with small issues in your mental health, or in your relationship, before they become big ones.

On the other hand, you may think of a therapist as you would a plumber. As long as your sinks are working fine, there is no need to get help. But once there is a clog, a professional is the way to go.

In the same way, therapy might be something you only need when there is an issue to deal with. If there is some sort of mental problem or obstacle that you cannot deal with yourself, you need professional help.

Lastly, you might think that therapy simply isn’t for you. Maybe you aren’t comfortable discussing (or even thinking) about your innermost thoughts, desires, or problems. Or perhaps the idea of sharing them, particularly with a stranger, feels wrong. Maybe it makes you feel better to read a self-help book or two. Or even to ignore your problems and hope they go away.

So which is it for you? Have you seen a therapist? Do you think it best to be proactive to avoid issues, deal with them once they arise, or just try and handle them on your own?

Could everyone benefit from therapy?

Related questions: Why do we care what strangers think of us? What is your retreat from the world? How do you judge yourself? How can we appreciate life more?

Is Technology Neutral?

The word “technology” refers to methods, systems, and devices which are the result of scientific knowledge being used for practical purposes. Examples are all around us. Whether you’re reading this question on a desktop, laptop, or a smartphone you are, of course, using technology.

Cameras are an example, from the early devices called daguerreotypes to today’s digital cameras. Are each of these devices neutral, their value only determined by their use? For example, cameras can be used positively or negatively.  You might capture a loved family portrait or stalk celebrities as an over-zealous paparazzi.

In addition, what about technology being used on a grander scale? For instance, the science of splitting the atom is used to produce electricity from nuclear reactors as well as to build potentially population-erasing bombs. Are these technologies neutral or do they have inherent value?

Simply asking if nuclear energy is “clean,” or do its waste stockpiles serve as a danger for current and countless future generations implies value, doesn’t it?

Do nuclear bombs make us less safe due to their destructive capacity? Or alternately, do they make us safer because of the deterrence their existence creates?

This debate is a long-standing one. Critics claim that technology is used/built for a reason — reasons that carry inherent positive or negative values — while the other side posits that it is simply a process or tool that derives value solely from its use by the user.

Where do you stand on this issue? Is technology neutral?

Related questions: Are science and religion compatible? What role does technology play in your life? What do you get out of social media?