There I was, leaning against a construction site wall, looking out to Sergels Torg, the heart of Stockholm’s downtown. That’s the location of the main subway station and the commuter station hub, with a tunnel connecting it to the main train station. It’s also the place for markets and on most days, demonstrations of all sizes and for all causes.
Right behind me on the wall, there was a gigantic H&M logo and in front of me, a stage where a band was playing Swedish pop. All around me, there were blue-and-yellow flags, and faces and wigs, also blue-and-yellow, as Stockholmians got ready to celebrate the nation’s beloved hockey team, Tre Kronor, the national team that had won the world championship the night before.
An old man in Indiana named Glenn was once asked at a church meeting about his religion. He replied, “When I do good I feel good, when I do bad I feel bad, that’s my religion.” Now, Glenn’s words of wisdom probably wouldn’t have spread much farther than Indiana if Abraham Lincoln hadn’t heard him speak and later repeated Glenn’s words to describe his own moral compass.
Altruism as a concept isn’t very old. The word itself didn’t exist until 1851 when the French philosopher Auguste Comte coined it based on the Latin word alteri, “others,” but the act of giving may go back to the beginning of time. “When I do good I feel good” is something most of us can relate to.
A good deed does make us feel better. A smile of thanks after you’ve helped a person lift a stroller off a train, or the gratitude in the eyes of a beggar when a few coins land on the bottom of their paper cup, will make you feel like a good person.
And most of us want to be good people. It’s the definition of “good” that varies.
A couple of weeks ago, I had an epiphany. I was in the kitchen making a cappuccino when a theory started to form in my brain. A Theory of Cool, to be exact. The part of the theory that was most unclear was its name, because while it is a theory, it might be best formulated as a law instead. The Law of Cool.
But in short, this is my epiphany:
“The things you think are cool by the time you turn 17 will always be cool to you.”
It doesn’t mean that you want to wear the same clothes and listen to the same music or try to walk just like your favorite Phys Ed teacher – who does that? – your entire life, it just means that deep down, your definition of cool doesn’t change that much after you turn 18.
“Social anxiety is the fear of interacting with other people, which can bring on intense feelings of self-consciousness. Put another way, social anxiety is the fear of being judged negatively by other people, leading to feelings of inadequacy, embarrassment, humiliation and depression.”
Let’s just face it. Sharing is a little scary. We all know the feeling when the teacher singles you out for talking in class. You do not even realize that she is staring at you. Once you do realize it, and look up, the teacher looks you in the eye and says: “If it is such a great story, would you like to share it with the rest of the class?”
Of course not.
Today, I wrote a new “fear column” for Aalto EE’s Profile, and realized I probably hadn’t posted my previous one so here it is.
Fear is a survival mechanism. Fear keeps us alert, on our toes. And it’s primal. According to neuroscientific research, the neural circuitry underlying fear is highly conserved in mammalian species, from rats to humans. In other words, fear mechanisms and systems are so fundamental that they’ve been carried over through the biggest of changes, the many, many slow changes that have made us us: the evolution.
Phobophobia is a phobia which is defined as the fear of phobias, or the fear of fear, which includes intense anxiety and unrealistic and persistent fear of the somatic sensations and the feared phobia ensued. Phobophobia can also be defined as the fear of phobias or fear of developing a phobia. It differentiates itself from other kind of phobias by the fact that there is no environmental stimulus per se, but rather internal dreadful sensations similar to psychological symptoms of panic attacks.
Here’s a brain twister: The fear of fear. As if it’s not enough to be afraid of something, especially since there are a lot of phobias to be afraid of.
The airport is quiet. Only two international flights remain for today, and only one from this particular part of the terminal. Most of the shops are closed, only one coffee shop serves its customers.
Why do people often run as fast as they can all the way to the street, then look around, and finally walk across it, slowly? Why not just keep running?
If they’re afraid of getting hit by a car, walking slowly is not going to help.
Is this one of the predictably irrational decisions we make? (And when I say “we”, I mean “they.” I run, baby.)
Twenty years ago, I wanted to become a Hallmark card writer. I thought that it took a special talent to make a joke in such a small space, with only one element of surprise – the turn of the page – available.
I’m about to hit the road, going on a quick trip to the old country. I thought I’d update this blog as I go, so .. stay tuned.
12.25: “No, I don’t live in Sweden,” I said to her. Not that there’s anything wrong with it – naturally. I just didn’t want to hear her pitch about the benefits of having an American Express card.
I had one, a long time ago. I think I used it once.