RW157 - Sitting In Your Eden

This week, Dan and John talk about:

Bonus-content for Patreon supporters:

  • The journey of taking Omnibus independent (Podcasting)

The show title refers to Dan making an allegory in connection with the question if a person in Eden who has never met another human being would murder that other human being if they showed up.

John is doing just spiffy! Haddie read John’s update from the Facebook group Gary's Van to Dan about everything that has been going on.

Draft version
The segments below are drafts that will be incorporated into the rest of the Wiki as time permits.

Gary’s Van (RW157)

See Gary’s Van!

The nature of Road Work, not having any catch phrases (RW157)

Of all the podcasts John and Dan both do, Road Work is the least likely to be a gateway to either one of them. It is a place for people who know them, who want more of them, and who are looking for a conversation that is not happening other places. Road Work is like Beluga Caviar: It is not for the faint of heart and no-one starts with Beluga Caviar. John would be very surprised to hear from any of their listeners that they discovered Road Work first and then branched out and started listening to Back to Work and all the other works.

Road Work is a more challenging listen, justified by the possibility, the pedagogy, and the idea that they really are talking about something and they are not riffing. In those few instances where Dan tried to riff John stopped him immediately! They do not have any catch phrases. John's other three shows all have catch-phrases, which is not bad and keeps with those shows natures, but on Road Work it never occurred to them and none of the listeners to this program ever throw catch phrases back at them on the Internet.

It is one of the reasons that making a T-shirt for Road Work has been difficult whereas there are a lot of catch phrases for Roderick on the Line that John is proud of because they are shorthand for a mentality and a way of thinking. Dan and John don't have any of those because they are talking in a different way. If it weren't for Road Work, a major component of what John is hoping to do on the Internet and in the world would be missing.

Dan seeing The Breeders opening for Nirvana (RW157)

Dan went to see Nirvana when The Breeders were opening for them. They were a good band and Dan had heard their song Cannonball, but it wasn't getting much radio play outside of little college radio stations. It is an incredible song based on absolutely nothing! There is zero musicianship happening and it is the best. Make some noise and make it fun!

This was the time period where Dan wasn't going to a concert to have fun at a concert, but he was going to see a specific band, in this case Nirvana, and that was it! He didn’t want to see the opening act and he had no idea that they were going to become a relatively big thing with all the radio play and everything that they got later on.

Universities having lost their place (RW157)

John had a conversation with college professors about where colleges are and the consensus seemed to be that universities aren't what they were and they aren't what we hoped they would be, but university education morphed into something else. John had been talking about this for a long time. Not only are universities not working, but there is no other place either that is doing what universities should be doing, which is a place where people are thinking critically and not descending into screaming at each other about ideas that are hard and then walking away from conversations without a clear picture.

A lot of people mistake a university as a place to become an expert, but that would be a trade school: Having expertise in something is a trade, more than it is a discipline! The more you know about liberal arts the less you know about anything, that is by definition. The smartest people are the ones with no answers! Now we are living in a culture where that is not allowed and it is not even a conception that people have anymore, that to be smart is to have fewer answers, not more. That is not to say to be smart is not to advance a lot of possibilities and to talk broadly about it, even as John does as though you are speaking knowledgeably.

Can you teach curiosity? (RW157)

If John were not a curious person, none of the things that define him would be true. Curiosity drives him out the door in the morning, it is why he asks questions of people, and it is why he reads! He is doing nothing other than satisfying his curiosity, he is not working toward any expertise, he did not pursue any academic career, he did not pursue any technical expertise, it doesn't benefit him directly, but the indirect benefits are the narrative of his life.

The great question is: ”Can you impart curiosity to someone who isn't naturally curious?” Dan doesn’t think so! Most of what he is doing during the day is writing code, developing software, and that is what he has done most of his life since he was a child. For a long time it was a hobby, then he realized he could make money doing it, and what makes for a good developer is curiosity, wanting to know how something works and why it works that way.

According to Dan there are two kinds of people: People who wonder "How?" and "Why?" about everything, and people who are content not to wonder. Neither is good or bad, we need both kinds of people, but there is very little in the world around Dan where he knows how it works or he doesn't know how it works, but he wants to know. That pretty much covers everything. He knows in great detail how this microphone works and in very very great detail how the computer that he is using works behind the scenes, and that comes from just curiosity.

Dan always having been curious

When he was very young Dan always took things apart, whether it was tape recorders, flashlights, toys, or whatever. He always wanted to know how these things were put together. He didn’t really come away with any useful knowledge from it, but half of it was just: ”What is that thing? Why does that do this thing?” and as cars got more modern he started to get angry because you couldn't work on your own car as easily anymore.

That is what pushed him into getting interested in muscle cars back in high school. He wanted to work at a shop fixing cars because he wanted to understand them: ”How did they work? And why? How does this car work? How is this one different?” That was why he bought an RX7 because it had a Wankel engine and he was fascinated by the way the Wankel engine worked, even though it leaked oil and he had to keep a quart of oil in the backseat for when he would get the little oil label come on. It was Dan’s car for the early 1990s after his Civic was stolen (see RW10) and he could buy it with the insurance money.

Dan loved learning about that kind of stuff, it was very fascinating to him, and that is how he approaches everything. He is not content to just know how something works, but he wants to know what went into it, why it works that way, and why we wound up with the thing we have as opposed to some other thing. Dan doesn’t think that you can teach that! You can't make someone be curious or make them feel curiosity if it is not there.

Lots of people know that the way the car works is you put the key in and you turn it. You might have to have your foot on the brake and press the button if it is that kind of car, and when you give it gas the car goes faster and when you push the brake the car goes slower and if it makes a noise or shudders or explodes then you take it to someone who fixes it. That is their knowledge of how a car works.

This isn't a gender thing either. Dan knows plenty of dudes where that is how much they know about their car. A very good friend of his was in the process of selling their house and people aren't liking it because of the state of the bathroom. The caulk is all disgusting around the tub. Dan told him that he can just fix that in an hour by stripping off the old caulk and putting new caulk on, but he didn’t know how to do that. It is the easiest thing to do in your house, but many people will call someone to do that.

Dan doesn’t know why he got the curiosity bug. His granddad was a scientist, maybe he got it from him because he helped raise him, but Dan was curious before that. He was always that annoying kid who said: ”Why? Why? Why?” and he is still tempted to take everything apart.

John talking to the adults instead of taking things apart

When John was a kid in elementary school his best friends were twins, Thomas and Peter Klüge. Their dad and mom were immigrants from Germany, he was a doctor and she may have been a doctor as well. They lived in a very cool mid-century house that John didn't think was cool at the time because he didn't think mid-century was cool until a year ago and he didn't understand it. It seemed like the kind of house his parents had.

Thomas and Peter's father was a surgeon and they were the kind of boys that Dan is describing himself as: Their idea of how to interact with an electronic toy was to take it apart and then try to put it back together, often put it back together so that it did something that it didn't formally do or make it so that it no longer could do the thing that it was meant to do.

Their room had all kinds of electrical and mechanical things. They started building a crane with an Erector Set and then they realized that the Rock ’Em Sock ’Em robots, little robots that you could wind up, also basically had a little Erector Set inside of them and if they figured out how to get them apart they could turn them into basically monsters.

John did not share their interest in that kind of play at all and the little monsters they made, little robots that they had taken apart and turned into other things, didn't intrigue him. It wasn't just that taking it apart to see what made it go didn't intrigue him, but the machine itself didn't. It just seemed like a thing that didn't work very well and John wouldn't have bought the robot as a toy in the first place. They were very close friends and played together merrily, but they had very different interests.

John would sit in their kitchen and talk to their mom, but they wouldn't sit in John’s kitchen and talk to John’s mom. John has a pretty clear picture, considering that he put this picture together when he was 7 and 8 years old, of the Klüge parents' journey from Germany to America after the war. They were reticent people, they were extremely Germanic, and there were tones in those conversations suggesting that Dr. Kluge played some part in the war in some capacity that was very definitely not in the conversation.

John doesn’t remember whether he was old enough to have served in the war or whether that was just the environment when they were young, but they certainly were in Germany for the war in some way shape or form and John knows how they came to America and he knows this because he asked questions while she was making them peanut butter sandwiches. ”Well, you guys are from Germany? Where's that?”, just little kid questions.

John doesn’t want to take apart machines, but he definitely wants to take apart other people's experiences and he wants to take apart other people, not because he thinks of them as machines, but because all the necessary information for what John wanted to build was inside other people and the only way to get it out was to ask them. He wasn't trying to build a robot or a Gollum that he was going to sick upon the world, but he doesn’t know.

Asking people about their religion (RW157)

Last night John asked a friend whom he hadn’t talked to in a while if she and her husband were different religions. Something she posted online finally tipped him over into wanting to get to the bottom of this so that he could understand not just what he was seeing, but this was a key element in understanding this person, her family, and their dynamic.

Initially she was a little suspicious that it was a trap and that anybody who would ask that question would immediately begin with a perspective, with a hot take, either that John would think one religion was better than the other or that all religion was stupid and this was his opportunity to make a big speech about how the fact that they were different religions meant something, that he was playing around in their private sandbox and: What business of it was his?

John wasn't any of those things, he wasn't going to use this information against them, he didn't have a dog in the race, he just had some questions, but most people would think that asking a question like that of someone was crossing a line. John is friends with her, they have definitely gone to a second location together, maybe even to a third location, but not a fourth because that requires that you get into a car with them.

To go to a second location is: ”We are going to a thing, I will meet you there!”, a third location is: ”Just the few of us are going to a third place!", but a fourth place basically means everybody in the car and we are going to go up the mountain. John could have gone there and could be closer to her than he is, but part of what keeps him at one remove is her husband and something about him that is tonally different.

John realized that it was possibly a religious conflict. Initially she said that they were different religions because over the last several years she had a conversion experience that was born out of a lot of suspicion about the religion that they shared, but later on in the conversation she indicated that they had left their old church together as a family and now attended a different church together as a family. It seemed like they were ultimately still going to church together but she was practicing a side religion.

It was all within the umbrella of Christianity, but there are extremely patriarchal schools of Christianity that preach that a wife submits to her husband, that obedience is the number one way you please God, that your husband is the God in the house, and in contrast to that is the Liberation Theology of an activist Catholic priest in Guatemala who is standing in front of the government guns in order to spread a Marxist Catholicism among the mountain peoples, and those are two radically different Christianities. Theologically she and her husband weren’t very happy bedfellows and John was super-curious about that.

If you are Jewish and your wife is Christian you may decide to celebrate both Hanukkah and Christmas because neither of you is especially serious about their religion. Your parents might believe that nonbelievers are going to hell and they might be really worried about your eternal soul because you went to the city and got a septa piercing, but you keep going home for Christmas and you decided that you are just not going to talk about it.

It is a different thing to be raising two kids living in a house where both people are devout and one of them believes that the wife should submit to the husband and the other one believes that there should be a Marxist revolution in Central America and that Jesus wants both things. You guys can't possibly have decided that you are just not going to talk about this and arguing the finer points of this every night would be exhausting. What kind of treaty have you hammered out?

That is personal shit in a lot of families, but John could not not ask that question of them once it had occurred to him. Most people don’t recoil from being asked personal questions like that. Some people really want to hide something and are failing at hiding it or they really don't want to think about it, and most people, if you go right up to them and say: ”What's your religion?”, they may not have tried to describe it in a decade or ever!

John will only come up to someone and ask that question if he has been prompted because he doesn't care what your fucking religion is if you are just walking around, but if you performed a public act or a private act that he was aware of and that shed some light on you having made a decision to act according to a code that was evident, then John would want to know what it was immediately and he would want to know how you had shaped it because it is very rare that John is going to walk up to somebody and they are going to say: ”I'm an orthodox something!”, but it is always going to be: ”I come from an orthodox place and here is where I am now!”

John's friend Rick the conservative Catholic (RW157)

John’s friend Rick teaches at Notre Dame. He is a conservative Catholic theologian and legal scholar, but he loves the Blues, he likes to ski, and he likes to be a dick. He is a fully fledged person who has very compelling way, he is argumentative, he has a great sense of humor, he is really not a dork, and although he has nerdy interests he is not a nerd. He is the kind of guy who you would like to lead your little group somewhere, but John has not hung out with Rick in a way in which he might potentially lead a little group in 25 years. He would still happily follow Rick on a mission! If John just read his writing, certainly if he just followed his Twitter account, he would develop an opinion about him, but that is true of everybody!

People taking Twitter too seriously (RW157)

Dan would be horrified if anyone actually read his Twitter and thought that it was real. Nothing that he puts on Twitter should be taken too seriously! Every single day people are upset because of what the president said on Twitter. Dan can't speak to that, but he doesn’t take anything on Twitter too seriously. He is not walking out of an Adam Sandler movie thinking that was 100% who Adam Sandler is, but it is simply what he thought at the time would be funny to put into a movie and Dan is not going to use that as a barometer for the Adam Sandler world. Twitter is just a place to talk to people and goof off, but then someone gets angry and then they laugh about it and then something else happens.

Dan was one of the very first people on Twitter when it was still a text messaging service. You would text to 44044 or whatever it was and you got alerts from your friends on your phone via text. His username was @dan and he had to change it because he kept getting @-messages for every other Dan on the Internet. That is what Twitter has always stayed to him: It has always been a fun thing!

Dan’s daughter is 8 years old now, just like John's, and Dan still sees every stage of her life in her. He sees her in the sonogram picture, as the baby that was just born, as a little girl running around the house, and now as the young lady who entertains her friends at her birthday party with stories. Dan sees all of that and everything in between. The only way you can really get a complete picture of someone is to spend a whole lot of time with them, but there are people who are looking at Twitter and think that it is the way someone is. God!

Twitter represents less than 1% of Dan’s personality, and it is usually the percent that is not in the best mood. He would never want someone to look at to his Twitter and say: "That is what Dan is about!" Twitter is a slice of life when everyone is experiencing road rage and it is not representative of anything. Some people don't know that or don't feel that way about it, and they see something posted by someone who does feel that way about it and take it very seriously and get upset. Twitter is like an Adam Sandler film: You jump in and you laugh for a minute then you get out of there and don't talk about it again!

Dan having the Twitter handle @dan (RW157)

In the early days of Twitter Dan had the handle @dan, but it was too much trouble because he was getting all these calls from other Dans. His three-letter Twitter handle was @dan, not even something like @brp, but one of the only three-letter names like Tom or Joe. Twitter names were never traded like URLs, but people have bought them and Dan probably could have made some money if he had kept that. What a coup!

John only has @johnroderick on all the platforms that he is interested in being on because somebody told him to go sign up for Instagram now and get his name. When he signed up for Instagram it was still possible to just be @johnroderick and all the other poor John Rodericks have to be John Roderick 57, but Dan was @dan because he was very early when it was still available. All the listeners understand that, but John wants to remark upon it. It would be the equivalent of John being @john! Can you imagine? Wow! He would be The John.

Dan is @danbenjamin on every service with the exception of GitHub where he was also early enough to be @dan. He gets tons of invitations for secret repositories and he will just ignore it and then get an email later that he had been removed. Dan continues to explain to John what GitHub is and how source control works. It is a very well-known service and it is pretty much where all the code for everything is kept.

If you hire someone new you are going to give them access to your GitHub repository for your code and it seems like Dan is getting all the invitations for anyone whose name starts with Dan because as you are adding your collaborator you start typing Dan and someone comes up and then people click it and Dan gets invitations for super-secret code. He doesn’t look at it, but this is the equivalent of getting hundreds of @-messages every day for someone that is not you. Dan is not changing it because it is way less bandwidth than it was taking up on Twitter and all the text messages.

All humans are murderers (RW157)

Some of their listeners just enjoy hearing people shoot the breeze, but the majority of their listeners is probably trying to glean insider information about the clockwork that is the universe. Does Dan have a sense that he and John are building something and if so what? What are these podcasts making? If they did a podcast about a murder it would be like a murder TV show and people would listen to someone describe a murder.

Few people are less eloquent storytellers than murder cops. They are no poets, but people still love to hear those guys with clip-on ties go like: ”… and then we realized we are going to have to look more deeply into where the corn syrup originally came from!” People are digging this kind of show because people love murder because people are murderers!

All people are murderers! Everything we do, everything we have learned, every bit of agriculture, animal husbandry, beer-making, architecture, and patent leather shoes, has been a studied effort to distance ourselves from murder, which is our number one thing. Our desire to build all those things is at the same time due to something in us that doesn't want to murder but wants to live without it, and that is the push and pull inside us all.

Every morning we wake up and go: ”Gotta brush my teeth and comb my hair and stumble downstairs and stumble in the kitchen and grab a coat and grab my hat” (lyrics for On The Sunny Side Of The Street by Brenda Lee) The whole time we are telling ourselves: ”Don't murder! Don't murder! Please don't murder!”, but that is not how John feels because he is successfully domesticated, like we all are.

There is a reason that the most popular shows are all voyeuristically about murder, either zombie murder, cop murder or criminal murder. Dan does not draw the same conclusion and thinks it is a logical fallacy! Murder is repulsive and if we were truly repelled by it, it would be very easy to watch television shows about animal husbandry and about farming. We are often drawn to things that we fear, that we don't like, and that we find repulsive.

A lot of people have a morbid curiosity: Faces of Death part 1, 2 and 20, but that doesn't mean that we like it or want to do it. John questions that we are drawn to things we fear and says that there aren't any television shows about being locked in a small box, but Dan could name a dozen about people being trapped in a small space and not all of them are in preludes to them being murdered. Some people want to be in the box! Dan continues to name movies about people locked in small spaces throughout the rest of the podcast, the summary being:

  • Boxing Helena
  • Pulp Fiction
  • Kill Bill
  • The Prestige
  • Room, where the lady is abducted, based on a true story and she actually gives birth inside of a very small room that she is locked in.
  • Locked in a Box, everything in horror has to do with that
  • The Wicker Man gets locked in something
  • Devil, where people are trapped in the elevator
  • Panic Room with Jodie Foster
  • Primer, a SciFi film about time travel where they enclose themselves into a small box to travel through time.
  • Cloverfield Lane with John Goodman, they are trapped in a small space in the shelter and there is all this talk of prepping and stuff.

Within the human community there are people we hire to murder for us, people whose job it is to murder by any other name. We are murdering things constantly, and we reserve the actual murdering for the murdering caste, which differs from place to place. John was talking about this the other day: The Untouchables, the tanning and butchering class in feudal Japan, the Cargot in Southern France and Spain, they all do these jobs that no-one else wants to do. Those people are proxies for this work we don't want to confront.

People starve all the time rather than become cannibals, but other people survive because they were cannibals. The other day John read a thing that said that during the Ukrainian starvation genocide, the Stalinist famines in Ukraine, all of the good people died first because if you were inclined to share your food with someone else who was hungrier than you were, you died first. If you weren't willing to steal, you died first. If you weren't capable of being a cannibal, you died first. That is a terrible little epigram: The good die first. It is a Billy Joel song, too, which makes it even worse. ”The good die young!”, but he means it differently and doesn't mean those unwilling to steal or cannibalize die young.

It is an awful daydream and maybe the reason true crime shows are so popular with people is that we do imagine ourselves in that situation and on both sides: ”What if I were killed this way and what if I were driven to kill this way?” All by way of saying: We are no strangers to it! Those are the popular shows and as the shows get closer and closer to two middle-aged guys philosophizing freelance and freehand, those are less popular than murder shows. Marc Maron is interviewing rather than freelancing, which is a whole separate deal.

What is the goal or expected result of Road Work? (RW157)

Dan conceived of Road Work, he pitched it and he performs it, but he is not completely rooted in the act of it and he does not imagine a result from it, but he just shows up, looking forward to talking to John about whatever comes up. Obviously he hopes that people will support the show so that he can make a living, but even if he woke up tomorrow and had $20 million in the bank account he wouldn’t just cancel the show. If anything he would put more energy and time into making it better because he wouldn't have to worry about anything else.

If John had a windfall he would absolutely keep doing his shows. Many people would consider that John already has a life of leisure, but if he suddenly were able to sit in his room in a hotel in Saint-Tropez in France and have the bellhop set up his podcasting rig in some corner of his expensive suite, he would wake up in the morning and say: ”Draw my bath and bring me my podcasting rig so that I can talk to this dingaling in Austin Texas that I have been doing a show with for a long time!” - ”Missieur, what are you talking about with your friend?” - ”Nothing, really!”

John doesn't have a goal for this show, but he definitely anticipates a result, maybe a greater shared understanding, or having facilitated a small pocket of people add to their vocabulary of techniques and capabilities. The end-goal is unknowable, but hopefully some little contribution will reverberate long past their lifespans. John is hopeful and optimistic.

Dogs are not smiling (RW157)

Animals, especially dogs, don't smile in a way that you might smile after you have had Dutch apple pie and an Affogato and you might sit back and say: ”Yeah!” with a little smile on your face. John claims he doesn’t smile. Dan has seen John do something with his face that Dan would call a smile, but it is just rigor mortis.

People will look at a dog and say: "Oh look! My little dog is smiling at me!” The owner will say something to the dog that makes the dog wag its tail because the dog is getting attention, but it doesn't know why or what it did. After the second or third time it realizes: ”Wait a minute! After I was doing a yawn and that thing with my face I got all this praise. I am going to do that again!” Then the smiling dog gets bread with another dog where the person realized it also smiled and the next generation of dogs is going to naturally smile more. They are not feeling the emotion necessarily, they just look like they are smiling.

Dan in South Korea, dogs as food (RW157)

When Dan was in Busan in South Korea many years ago there were a lot of dog restaurants. One time he was walking with one of his handlers, they saw a guy walking a dog, Dan said: ”Look at that little dog over there!” and his handler laughed, shook his head, and said: ”No pet! Eat!” This guy had bought the dog to butcher and eat it. Although there are people who might keep a dog as a pet, that was very unusual and most dogs were for food. There was a certain breed of a white dog that was an eating dog.

As you walked down the street you would see a sign in front of a building with a picture of a chicken and that was where you were going to eat your chicken. Then there would be one of a dog and that is your dog restaurant. Dan did not eat dog, but his handlers took him to a dog restaurant and ate dog while they were there. He was mortified by the fact that these people were eating dog because you are not supposed to eat a dog, a dog is a pet! Later he realized how hypocritical it is that one non-human animal is somehow blessed and another one is not and he regretted not eating dog.

All people are murderers (RW157)

It is very possible to be cynical and crusty and still believe that mankind is basically good and that we are all effectively murderers. The fact that the part of us that desires not to murder would go as far as inventing patent leather shoes to distract us from murder is a sign that we are good. That is the side of us that John is intrigued by, not the murderer-part of us, which is why all true crime shows bounce off of him.

There are a lot of ways to kill somebody and catching the killer is a fun game of chase, but the vast majority of us who wake up every morning, suppress the voice that is going: ”Kill kill kill!” and say: ”I got to get these shoes tied and get out the door!” because that is way more compelling and way more fruitful. A lot of people like to study human nature and wonder who these killers are: ”Jesus! What is it with everybody?”

Dan doesn't like true crime stuff either. It doesn't interest him and in the best case scenario he just doesn't like it, but in the worst case scenario it would make him feel paranoid and it should: Every single person, your neighbors, even your own children, are prepared to gnaw on your finger-bones if pushed. Your cat will eat your face, although animals don't have any higher reason centers. Dan does not agree with John.

We don’t kill babies because we think they are cute (RW157)

If you draw a picture of a cute little baby face and show it to your child, the child will say: ”It is so cute!” We are hard-wired to like the face of a baby so that we don't kill the babies because they make really loud noise in the middle of the night. If they weren't so cute we might kill them, but they are really cute because they have big eyes for the head and a big head for the body. They also look helpless, which is cute. You want to help, you want to hold them, and all of a sudden you are a parent and: ”What the hell did I do? How did I get here?” This thing looked cute, the defense against murder is being cute, and we are biologically programmed to think that.

You also think that a squirrel is cute like a baby because it has big eyes for its head, a big head for its body, and we are programmed to think that that is cute. Dan doesn’t have feelings for squirrels, but there is no difference between a squirrel, a cow, a cat, or a dog. They are all mammals, but we don't want to kill and eat the ones that look cute.

When we are driving down the road and see a raccoon that has been run over, we say: ”Poor little raccoon! Let's go get a burger!” We differentiate that because we don't have to look at the thing we are about to eat and think it is cute. Something in human nature is very primitive, barbaric and aggressive. As a believer in evolution you would say that is how we evolved and where we came from. Most things in nature are brutal and harsh!

Dan read an article this morning about a tiger or a jaguar, some big cat that was in captivity in Germany and had two babies and then ate them. They were disappointed, but that happens! It could have been something about being in captivity, or it could have been that there was something wrong with them. If the kittens act weird she will eat them because the maternal instinct in her that says: ”This is a cute little kitten and it is mine and I need to take care of it” turns off and now it is no longer their cute little kitten, but a small furry thing and they eat small furry things.

Human beings are protected from that because most people think that children or little babies are cute. The same is true for most animals and that is why there are stories of dogs becoming a foster parent for a family of mice. All mammals can recognize a baby and we are programmed to not hurt babies generally.

Is our natural state to murder things? (RW157)

Thomas Hobbs believed that life is nasty, brutish and short while John Locke believed that man is basically good. People have argued about that for hundreds of years ever since then. It is possible and maybe necessary to believe both things: Life is nasty, brutish and short and man is basically good and there is a state of all against all that is nature. Animals do not think in terms of the greater good. Some work cooperatively, but a lot of them just sit and eat plants. Not all of them eat birds.

We have the nature of a predator in us and we work cooperatively to accomplish ends, not because we love it or for the sheer enjoyment of it. We are cooperative because we recognize that five people can lift a heavier thing more easily than just one. We are capable of seeing the greater good, the bigger thing that we want built, and we are willing to put our effort into a pool to accomplish something that we can not do alone.

But as soon as that is accomplished, the work party dissolves because our natural state is not to remain in communion with one another. People might then work on something else with that same group because they have a good working relationship, but just that little term ”a working relationship” does not suggest that working together is in the nature of relationships and that you are in a relationship with somebody if you work well with them. You are in a working relationship with them!

We are certainly tribal but we are not actually looking to be part of a single organism. We each are alone and you mate and you cleave to one another, but you are always alone. If your entire family is murdered by a murderer and featured on a murder show you can survive somehow and move on and maybe even start another family, as impossible as that might sound, because we are born alone and we die alone.

We are each a beast, but that better nature is also in us and we seek God, we write books, and we do podcasts to tease that out! There is nothing about the beast in us that is not already known by each of us personally. What makes it interesting to people and why it is so intriguing is that that is the sex of life.

It is why all these preppers are so freaked out: If the power goes down we all revert. Ten days of no food and anyone listening to this show is going to be a freaking animal. Dan totally agrees with that, but he doesn't think that it is our natural state. It is one possible state for us. John counters that it is our natural state as the result of scarcity of food and shelter.

If you were not raised in society, but if you all of a sudden were on your own in the world, living in a forest, fending for yourself, and you were used to killing stuff and eating it, if you never met another human being before besides your own reflection in the tide pools, if a human being shows up, is there is a 50% chance that you are just going to pull off and kill that person? Or is it that you might kill the person if you had to?

Dan says that after ten days with no food a lot of people who would say: ”I do what I have to do!”, but they are not going to kill their spouse and children. John is not saying that our natural state is to murder our spouse and children, but we will murder someone else's spouse. You will not try to kill this person of the opposite sex that is arriving in Dan’s edenic world and takes their clothes off.

John is not saying that humans are only murderers, that all we know how to do is murder, but if you are sitting in your Eden and you are eating a raw rabbit, looking up at the stars, wondering when they are going to fall on your head, and someone comes in and stands across the little stream, you would be very curious about them. If they stepped across the stream and grabbed the raw rabbit out of your mouth that you had spent two days trying to capture you would lunge at their throat. Dan totally agrees: ”No one is taking my rabbit!”

What John means is that murder is not an aberration and it is fascinating how many things we have built to not murder, and to spend any time at all wondering what was in the head of the murderer. The reason why true crime shows on TV are so popular is that we want to tickle that animal. We put some veneer on it to have it appeal to our minds, but we are really stimulating our loins when we spend any time at all thinking about murder. That raw rabbit that you were eating: You had to murder it! Every morning you wake up and think: ”Shit, what am I going to have to kill today?” and fortunately for us all we have to do is kill a box of macaroni and cheese!

John is betting not a single person of the tens of thousands of people listening right now is willing to even consider eating a raw rat. Some of us have done the wash, put it in the dryer, and then left it in the dryer before putting it away longer than it would take them to descend to a state where they would be willing to eat a raw rat. Dan would murder a person who did that! If your refrigerator stopped working and there was no store anymore and you hadn't figured out how to make fire, you would be eating raw rats!


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