I don’t very often strike up conversations with random people. I’m more of a headphones-on-the-plane don’t talk to me type most of the time, but partially because I seem to have such bad luck with it. My wife, Jen, talks to everyone and has legitimate The Secret moments where a random number on a backpack leads her to a roommate of a long lost rugby friend, or whatever. My friend Melissa talks to strangers and has these amazing heartfelt conversations. I get this…
I had just given up trying to take a picture of the crazy sky before a summer storm in Philly the other night. They dynamic range and swirling of the dark clouds was incredible, but a photo just didn’t capture it. I turned around to walk the dogs back to a green area to pee, and I noticed a guy trying to do the same with his phone.
“Just doesn’t quite capture it, does it?”
“Nah, but I’m tryin.”
I let the dogs pace around a bit.
“Ya ever [garbled]?”
“What? Sorry, I didn’t hear you.”
“Ya ever seen clouds like that?”
“I mean, well, sort of but yeah they’re pretty crazy looking.”
“Ya know why they look like that?”
“Those are chemtrail clouds.”
“Yeah. They’re mixed with chemtrails, like poison and chemicals and stuff. I don’t remember the exact chemicals but yeah that’s how they control people.”
“Welp, probably a good time to get home then! See ya.”
That’s what happens when I talk to random people. Other people get heartwarming connections, I get crackpot conspiracy theories about mind control.
I will say this though, chemtrail guy reminded me of the power of belief. Now I don’t know what he gets out of this conspiracy belief and I don’t care to speculate.
But, I have met people who have believed empirically nonsense things to great effect. Let’s say soemone who lost 30 pounds on the blood type diet, which is an absolutely horseshit theory whereby you eat according to your blood type. There’s no evidence what so ever to support any connection between blood type and immune response to food, but nonetheless no matter what blood type you have common allergens or immuno-reactive foods are placed in the “avoid” category, and generally really beneficial things go in the “eat” category: such as dark leafy greens, cultured dairy, oily fish, fruits and so on.
So people really believe that this works and because of the strength of their convictions they adhere to it really closely – so it DOES work!
At least until some “expert” comes along to tell them how they’re wrong and it can’t possibly work.
And don’t think it’s just for fad diets. Placebo accounts for the success of a massive portion of surgeries performed every day – turns out sham surgery works just as well.
I’ve always offered that maybe biofeedback training doesn’t “really work”, and we won’t know until someone seeks to properly study it in a controlled manner, but if it gets people faster results with fewer injuries because they “believe” it works then I’m ok with that too, especially that it’s essentially free and comes with no costs of risk, or time, or lost opportunity.
I’m not saying you should go out and find the most woo thing you possibly can and become a true believer.
But, maybe sometimes a strong belief in a less than perfect dogma is better than wishy-washy adherence to the ideal.