You might have noticed that there are an awful lot of things to care about these days. If you haven’t noticed, there are plenty of people that are thoughtful enough to share those opportunities with you. You can start a facebook account where you can hourly be challenged by the knowledge that many of you won’t care, but you can always share if you disagree!
If you would like to enter the advanced field of choosing your own things to care about, try not to be overwhelmed! If you care about saving the whales AND ending world hunger AND dismantling institutional racism AND funding Wikipedia, well that’s some heavy duty caring right there. You’re going to burn yourself out and end up with an anesthetized moral compass and before you know it, you just don’t give a hoot.
And so, as a bona fide public service, I present the Martin EaZee Introductory Guide to Elementary Caring aka Fun with Math. The beautiful part is that you can start out with the baby steps of thinking (which is easy) and work your way up to feeling, which is a little more advanced. Thank goodness someone invented the graph.
The first step in thinking about what you feel is answering the question, what is Important enough to earn my emotional involvement? This is a two-fold proposition, represented by the x-axis (known as the stupidity factor) and the y-axis (aka the harm ratio). See below.
These are of course irrelevant terms without data points with which to define our scale. The minimal entry point in the stupidity scale is, let us say, making a poor choice in shoe selection when planning out the day.
The other end of the stupid scale is, I’m going to say racism.
You can decide for yourself where items such as flat earthism, leggings as pants and kale at McDonalds fit on your stupid scale. I’m only here to talk about the hows, not the whats. So… now that we have set our stupid terms, we move on to issues of harm. My entry level point for harm is hurt feelings.
I know we all say sticks and stones and all that, but anyone that’s ever heard someone say something hurtful and not had it stick with them on some point… well, I was going to say that person is the Terminator, but he learned to make jokes and gave a wistful thumbs up at the apex of his noble sacrifice, so maybe no one is that unfeeling a monster (insert rejoinder about someone you really hate here if you like- for extra credit graph why you hate them).
After hurt feelings I assume we are all good with the idea that genocide is much worse. Like racism, I suppose that we can make the argument that it might not be at the very end of the harm scale, but it’s got to be up there. Certainly higher than hurt feelings.
So you should definitely care more about genocide than the time your partner said you look fat…. In theory. Why is this theoretically debatable? Because of the Brooks Factor. This is the line which must be crossed to engage your emotional center and the line is by necessity a variable. It derives its name from comedian/filmmaker/philosophical font Mel Brooks, specifically his axiom that “Tragedy is when I cut my finger. Comedy is when you fall into an open sewer and die.”
We are, of course, at this point beyond basic algebra and in to more advanced physics wherein your commitment to a moral good is inversely proportional to your proximity to the harm inflicted by sustained inaction, but hey let’s not get all Newtonian up in here. Stick to the graphs. So, thanks to the Brooks factor, each person’s emotional attachment grid will in fact have multiple Brooks lines based on the impact to persons within one’s relative awareness.
To engage your emotions for your personal Brooks line, one need think something minimally stupid about you (you’ve got a dumb haircut) or cause minimal harm, like cause you to stub your toe. To get you to care about strangers, the idea has to be incredibly stupid (monkeys at the center of the earth control a covert cabal focused on influencing world governments through hidden code in bagpipe music) or the act incredibly harmful (again, genocide).
I like to imagine a magic unicorn flying through the Brooks line shooting all those things that make the world a terrible place with cartoonishly happy pew pew pew noises. It doesn’t actually change anything, but I feel better for having done it and in the end isn’t that what the whole act of caring is for in the first place? I hope you have enjoyed learning about this system. Why not share it with your friends? You can graph how much they care. Have fun with caring kids, and try not to abuse the power.