Life Lesson
or, not

In front of the paywall (until Q's pile up in front of it) there is this Hey Bill:


Hey Bill, do you ever get bored of baseball. As a youth, I was mad about baseball like a lot of kids, but my interest waned in my 20s as I got interested in other things.  Then it gradually stabilized but at a much reduced level than it was before. I'm about your age.
Asked by: manhattanhi

Answered: 1/7/2018
 No. . .things get more interesting when you know more about them.   Since I work in the game I continue to learn about it, so it stays interesting.  


Got to thinking about that.  Is it true?  Hmmmmmm........

1).  Music.  When I learned how to compose simple power rock music, I got sick to the gut of I-IV-II-V chord progressions.  Now I never listen to music of any kind any more; it's all rehash.  Did you realize that 90% of music, if not much more, is swiped from 1650-1950 musical ideas and figures?  It gets boring watching the recycle.

2).  Chess.  Again here, I don't know that I like chess better, now that I know how to play this or that ending.  I like it the same.  Hence the "hmmmmmm."  This is an interesting self-realization.

3).  Baseball.  If the Cleveland Indians hired me to be a junior analyst and I had to spend the next 500 hours catching up on Hardball Times studies, I think I could safely say there'd be tears trickling down my cheeks most of the time.

4).  Martial arts.  At a certain point, every style imitates every other.  There are only so many ways to throw a knee and only so many ways to deal with one.


Personally I'm a guy who likes to jump from one topic to another ...

1).  Art Appreciation.  Explain how to decipher a set of two dozen metaphors and I'll spend several happy days wandering the halls of a museum. But here we're talking about the discovery of a new interest, a walk through new-blown snow.

2).  Comparative Religion.  Offer a book on how Native Americans related to the Powers above them and now, THAT, that's interesting.

3).  Kanji.  Body language.  Mass persuasion (Scott Adams).

4.)  Buddhism.  Perhaps I'd put Christianity in this category; I'd have to think about it.  Have seen a lot of new converts with That Look about them, y'know?

5).  etc.


So what IS James talking about?  It could be he's talking about morphing from Master to Grandmaster, how the game shows you brilliant depths at a certain point, becomes a type of language, shows you a beauty you cannot otherwise see.  I wouldn't know.


Mariners I understand and therefore appreciate better, based on my understanding of what they're doing:  0.

Mariners I so understand and therefore am more intrigued in, for my lack understanding of what they're doing:  Juan Nicasio, Dee Gordon, David Phelps, Mitch Haniger, Ben Gamel, Dee Gordon, Mike Zunino, the concept of the shift, the Wolf Pack pitching staff, the concept of a Great Bench and Bullpen.


Would love to hear from Denizens who have the opposite view.



Dr D




The more questions you answer, the larger your sphere's surface area becomes--which means that simply by answering questions you will be able ask an ever-increasing number of questions built upon the answers to the previous questions.  In that sense, yes, I agree with James that things become more interesting the more you know about them.  The fidelity, if you will, of the questions becomes greater with each successive 'generation' of inquiries--that, to me, makes the inquiry more interesting.

But enjoyable?  Fulfilling?  Rewarding?  Those are totally different questions (not sure if those facets were represented in your own query, but they seem like next door neighbors to 'interesting' in my way of looking at things).  And honestly, when it comes to whether or not greater understanding leads to greater, I don't think that knowing more about a thing generally makes it more enjoyable, or fulfilling, or rewarding.

As the fidelity of one's inquiries increases, the price (it seems to me) is that the sense of wonderment and awe which accompanies all junior-grade Eureka! revelations diminishes at a directly proportionate rate to the (increasing) fidelity of the inquiry.  Famed physicist Richard Feynman, if memory serves, had a quote which hit me like a Mack truck when I first heard it (relayed by Laurence Krauss, who I generally don't care for), and it goes something like 'Any question based on the word 'why' is not really a 'why' question--it's a 'how' question.'  Can't seem to find the video where Krauss quoted him...think it was a panel at a science communication convention, featuring Neil deGrasse Tyson, Bill Nye, and a few others.

Basically, what I understood Feynman to be saying is that if you ask a question with a 'why' like 'why is the universe here?' what you're really asking is 'how is the universe here?'  Slow learner that I am, it took me awhile to wrap my mind around that one.  But in the end I think, in terms of intellectual inquiry, he's probably right: when it comes down to it, every inquiry will eventually become a nuts-and-bolts examination of how a thing is, rather than any query like why it is.

It seems to me that the question of 'why' is a much more human question than the question of 'how.'  'How' is a cold, methodical, mechanical question.  'Why,' on the other hand, is one which seeks not only accuracy, but truth (and beauty) as well.  Eventually, after sufficiently discrete and effective inquiry, the opportunities to ask 'why' diminish until they're all but gone.  To a scientific mind, this is not a problem in the least.  Indeed, it would be preferable to Mr. Spock if all inquiries became simple intellectual exercises in the application of the scientific method (or some superior version of methodical inquiry).

And no, I'm not suggesting that scientific inquiry cannot yield awe or wonderment.  I'm saying that the opportunities to experience such during an inquiry diminish the more you know about a given thing.  And, to me, that generally makes a thing less enjoyable.  More interesting?  Probably--especially if it's something which held my interest at the outset of my inquiry--but 'interesting' is sometimes less preferable than 'inspiring,' 'breath-taking,' or 'humbling.'

Sumodave's picture

This is one of the very best comments among a very long list of brilliant comments I've had the pleasure of reading on this site. So, Thanks for that.

That said, I can't miss the chance to play devil's advocate...

My favorite author, Kurt Vonnegut, once said, "I want to stay as close to the edge as I can without going over. Out on the edge you see all kinds of things you can't see from the center."

One of my favorite things about SSI is that it exists, in my mind, out on the edge. Away from the 'center' of the (Seattle) Baseball world. And as a person, I can identify with that concept - living out on the edge. I'm currently reading "Start With Why" by Simon Sinek, and he argues that when people consume things out of a sense of loyalty to a company, they don't do it because of the specifications of the good or service consumed. They do it because they're actually buying the company's WHY. And a person that identifies with a company's WHY will buy that product as a way to show who they are, and what they stand for.

And that's the way it is here, I suspect. With all the denizens.

The depth and breadth of the thought (out here on the edge), both from an analytical and a philosophical standpoint is unmatched. The optimism, the general kindness and calm that pervades the community here is also unmatched.

Anyway, on to the question at hand.

It's my belief that the more knowledge you gain on a subject, the more perspectives you have to view the subject from. When you only know so much, you only see things one way - head on. As you learn the nuances and subtleties of anything - a sport, hobby, chess - you not only gain experience, but the ability to approach the same topic, the same problem, from more directions. Your ability to "solve" that problem grows. Your ability to understand the topic broadens, I believe. How you use the knowledge you've learned (to appreciate or grow tired in) is up to the individual. Take those same four chords for example: even if you're hearing the same chords over and over, everything else changes. The lyrics, the song, your mood, your environment - creating an entirely unique experience even for those same chords. Your ability to appreciate them (or not) can't really be said to diminish because you know what they are, or when they'll be played. Go completely deaf for 7 years and see how much wonder and amazement you could get hearing those same tired chords ;) My life motto is: Perspective is Everything. Empathy is everything else.

As misterjones points out, whether that leads to fulfillment, or joy, or boredom is really a separate, and genuinely personal question. We don't always choose the things that move us. I recently discovered, after a decade in the personal training business, that I have an immense passion for human movement. It fascinates and confounds me that I have such a passion, but there it is. I have my 10,000 hours and then some invested. And to this day, I could talk for hours at how astounding the human body is to me. I used to joke when I was doing research that the more I learned about the body and movement, the less I knew for sure. And I'm most comfortable when I'm unsure. When I'm out on the edge of my comfort zone, or the edge of human knowledge, with my hypothesizing-balloon, working like a thief in the night to expand that edge a few more millimeters.

As for 'why' - I don't believe that any 'why' question is in fact or in sum, a 'how' question. I do agree that it is a very human question to ask, and one that seeks beauty, perhaps above all else. This is the bounty of our brains, I believe. Our ability to ask why. To contemplate what it means to be a part of this thing we call life. Do snails or leopards, or even elephants have the prescience to ponder such things? Part of me hopes they do, marvelous treasure that it is.



I think I co-sign pretty much everything you just wrote.  I greatly prefer 'why' to 'how' for reasons which both you and I have elucidated.  'Why' brings with it philosophical depths; 'how' is simply attempting to describe a thing accurately.

And it truly is amazing to me the quality of expressed thought here at SSI.  Everyone puts on their Sunday Best when they login to type up a comment, and it really shows in the product of our ongoing interactions.  Jeff has built something special here, and it is a treasure we get to share with each other as a result.

Kinesiology is probably something I could have gotten into; in high school when I was wrestling I spent *probably* three out of every four minutes lost in thought about how a given maneuver or position worked, what it needed in order to succeed, and how I could move from one position to another.  I'm not exaggerating--it was all-consuming for my mind.  Pity I never got very good at it ;-)


I could compose/listen/play over the I-IV-V, I-V-VI-IV, I-III-IV-V  and their many variations all day and they never get old.  A singing melodic lead guitar over a strong power chord progression is my favorite stuff - almost precisely because it does borrow from classical progressions.  As a matter fact it gets even better when backed by an orchestra - even with some shredding metalheads like Mahlmsteen - so long as (for me) the melody isn't grating.

Every Christmas I overplay Trans-Siberian Orchestra and work on trying to one day be decent enough at a cover to add it to our church's Christmas show.  There is not much inherently complex about their music, but it has remained a favorite of mine for many years.

It's my own opinion, but in my mind there are certain chord progressions that are "designed (not by humans)" to invoke emotion.  The great composers, classical and modern, are awesome at putting the notes and progressions together, but I believe that many of these progressions that the great composers of classical music and those in modern times use are not created, but discovered.  Not the individual pieces of course, but I believe the match of frequency combinations to our ability to sense them and feel them are something we have barely tapped into. 

The ability of music to move me, including and especially power chords, is one reason I stay tuned to it.  A sweet melody for me is only made sweeter by amplification and power chords.  I might be all alone on an island here (my wife certainly does not agree), but one of my good friends locally here is a very accomplished player and he and I are eye to eye on this stuff.


when it comes to TV shows.  The plotlines are so predictable that, often, I disengage entirely.  But sometimes I can see that the director and writer have worked up a wrinkle on a given utterly-predictable plot development, and waiting for their EXECUTION of it is what keeps my interest.  Usually I'm disappointed, but sometimes--not often, but juuust frequently enough to keep me coming back for more--I get one of those emotion-inducing moments that (great) art is supposed to elicit in the consumer.

So yeah, simplicity--even predictability--aren't deal-breakers for me.  But if you're going to be predictable in your form/structure, you'd better execute flawlessly or, barring that, you'd better have a twist to throw in that keeps the experience fresh.  (relatedly, I think the 'twist' is a big part of why George R. R. Martin gets so much positive press--he, somewhat predictably at this point, has no qualms with turning an expected development/arc on its head and leaving his readers in breathless shock/bewilderment at what just transpired.  Also, M. Night Shyamalan basically made a career out of nothing BUT twists...)  So, again, predictability isn't a deal-breaker for me, but there'd better be something great in the payoff at this point.  We've been oversaturated with art to the point that nobody is surprised or awestruck by anything any more.


I knew a woman, revered in the community where I live, who essentially committed slow-motion suicide by simply refusing to eat. She was in her mid-90's, and complained there was simply nothing interesting anymore.  (Of course, her family had her hospitalized and an I-V inserted, but she kept pulling it out.  Finally the doctors asked the family if they wanted to have her strapped down...but they decided not.)  She said she was ready to see what was on the other side (similar to the feelings supposedly said by Socrates at his end).  I guess you could say she applied a literal definition to 'terminally bored'.  

But this gets at what Jonez is saying.  The experts say there are only seven basic plots (or nine, or 36, depending on who you listen to).  You've seen them all before, like Doc listening to his rock chords.  And I think it's true that over time it can get tiring--you're not watching to rom-com because you don't know how it ends...but you're willing to see how it plays out.  (I suppose the mystery category is an exeception to this, since you're not supposed to be able to forecast the outcome).

I guess this is why I don't really care much for fiction, in any form.  I like to follow the news.  I like sports.  Because I can't predict the ending.  But even here, it's a natural tendency to overlay the elements of fiction.  We all decide who the good guys and the bad guys are, what their motivations must be, why (how!) they make the decisions they do, etc.  

But back to Doc's initial point, I've been following baseball my whole life...played it into young adulthood...and if you had asked me 20 years ago if I thought I understood it, I would have answered, "sure!"  But then along came analytics, which expanded the sphere surface exponentially.  I like it more!

So I can't imagine ever getting bored in an overall sense--there must be things I'm not seeing.  


I find myself in a similar camp as you Doc, perhaps not with music though. I've always been more of a polymath type, jumping from subect to subject, hobby to hobby. The good side of this is that it brings you an understanding of a wide and diverse set of knowledge. At its worst though, it means you never finish or see things through... And if I'm honest with myself, has been the case for me through much of my life. Once I'm past the "good enough" bar (which coincidentally is often way above average), I lose interest and move on.

I've always found the Ben Franklin stereotype of a, "Renaissance man" compelling.

IDEO the global design consultancy credited with the modern practice of "design thinking" and the innovation of many technology products in use today, famously looks for "T-shaped" people when hiring new employees. If you visualize a capital "T" as the shape of their knowledge, they have a wide set of general understanding (empathy), but go very deep in a singular expertise. I think that describes me... to a T (sorry).

I also remember this pretty fun illustration and explanation from a professor to his first-year PhD students, to explain to them what it is they are about to embark upon:


That pursuit always sounded alien to me.


I like your schematic OKDan.  I think it reflects how a Ph.D.'s knowledge changes over time.  What is exciting about doctoral studies is the transformation in thinking that can occur.  A plot of the evolution in doctoral students ability to think incisively, to communicate pursuasively, to analyze data and synthesize ideas would look more like the blooming of a flower than the piercing of a balloon.  While doctoral studies are only one, of many, ways to train the mind, I will say that emersion in a subject with a single minded focus on compelling and challenging  goals is transformative.


To the topic at hand, I suspect Bill James' has remained excited about baseball because how he understands the game is continually evolving (how organization structure influence player development and performance, etc.), not just what he 'knows' about it (ever more detailed correlations and regressions with no knew insights).


I wouldn't claim to have the same depth and breadth of experience that you have, Jeff, but I would suggest that if you're sick of listening to the same old re-hash of Western musical ideas (which I kind of am, too, except I'm still able to listen to the classical composers pretty regularly), and if you haven't already, you could give some Eastern music a try.  Specifically Chinese stuff.  There's some great, GREAT material there that is NOTHING like our formulaic Western stuff.

A lot of the time when I'm listening to Chinese opera tunes, or even more pop stuff like Wang Xu-dong (Acupuncture For Mind has some great stuff on it) I'm always struck by just how unstructured it seems.  It's unpredictable (to me) and it doesn't conform to a nice, tidy structure like I'm used to.  It engages my mind a lot more than anything but the original Western classics precisely because I usually don't know what's going to come next, or how long a given sequence will last, or how it will pay off.  It's just very different, and I find that I enjoy it precisely because of that.  YMMV, of course.


I'm getting tired of fiction movies because there doesn't seem to be anything new to offer any genre.

A notable exception this last year was The Last Jedi.  You've heard of the hero's journey? A boy discovers he's a prince and slays a dragon after he gets a mentorship and a magic sword? Yawn. 

Introduce the Villain's journey.  Most villain movies have an old villain who tried to go straight then return to villany.  the villain does something bad because he becomes offended or driven to it.  John Wick kills 100 people because they were bad men affiliated with someone who killed his dog and really hurt his feelings.  This is basically the Unforgiven plot line.  William Munny tries to go straight for twenty years until a posse angers him for the last time.  An emotional monster is formed.

Who drove Will Munny to whiskey again?

The Last Jedi is something different.  Kylo Ren makes bad choices because he thinks its the right thing to do and even though it hurts his feelings.  His logical brain is telling him to be bad while his emotional brain is telling him to be good.  He listens to logic over emotions and becomes bad.  He does bad things for bad reasons and does good things for bad reasons. He gets more enjoyment out of doing good than doing bad.  Or something. 

Anyway, this plot line is fresh and a lot of people seemed to hate it. 

My retort is that there needs to be something new in pop culture at some point.  Right?

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