Words matter. They change our interior world.
Pete Holmes is a comedian, writer, cartoonist, "Christ-leaning spiritual seeker", and podcast host. His wildly popular podcast, You Made It Weird, is a comedic exploration of the meaning of life with guests ranging from Deepak Chopra and Elizabeth Gilbert to Seth Rogen and Garry Shandling.
Pete Holmes: Language does matter. With transgender people, people joke a lot. They're like, oh, they want they want to be called "them". Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. He and she is made up, too, you stupid bitch. You know what I mean? But the thing is, words have power-- words have power. If you don't believe it, date someone who calls you dummy. You know what I mean? Oh, they're just sounds from a mammal. No, they're not. They're spells. We're casting spells on each other. I do this on stage as a stand-up sometimes. I point to someone in the front row, I go, that's a great shirt. You made a great choice of that shirt. And you can see, even though they know I'm just joking around or making a point, it works.
Why do we say have a great weekend? That's just a spell. You're just going-- I have no control over your weekend. But words matter. They change our interior world. Have a great weekend. And they're like, oh. It's not literal. I'm not like, I'm thinking about your weekend. You get laid. Text me the word "finance", that's how I'll know you had a good weekend. So I think words do matter. I think because I'm into-- I like unity of consciousness, which is not that trippy of an idea. Science agrees. The theory of the big bang is obviously the singularity. At one point, all of this was one thing, this impossibly dense speck of mass, basically, that contained everything-- contained this lighting thing and the camera and me and my hair and my balls. It was all in there. The mystic me-- I just think that that singularity is worthy of a metaphor, it's worthy of a story or a symbol system, so that I can not just know it, but feel it and experience it.
Both the mystic and the scientist agree. Both are just theories, that everything at one point was one. So when it comes to being called a pronoun, sometimes I like to call other people "me". I go like, oh, these mes voted for Trump, this me is begging for change, this me is driving me to the airport. I find that useful instead of going like-- because it's so pleasant to go, you. I think it's overwhelming to love. I don't think hate is actually hate. I think it's too overwhelming to love. So we call groups-- it's hard to pick an example because they all sound so hateful. But if somebody hates left-handed people, I think it's because it can be too overwhelming to love that group that you call left-handed people. Because if you love them, now you have to worry about them and you have to care about them. So we get overwhelmed in our heads. So we go, oh, a group died, but they were gang members. OK. Gang members up here-- I don't love them, they can die. So this is what we do. So it's helpful sometimes in our language to go like, no, those mes are in a gang. You know what I mean? That's a way that language can-- it's very trippy and I don't expect everybody to sign on and start doing that. But I do it privately, especially if anybody's serving you or helping you or you think you're like, oh, this is the flight attendant. No, this me just brought me a Sprite. Thank you. That me is doing great. Looks nice. It's just a nice way to increase compassion instead of going, this flight attendant. Look, that's a label we made so we feel OK about yelling at them that there should be more overhead space. No, that me is doing my best.
- As a stand-up comedian, Pete Holmes knows how words can manipulate audiences — for good and bad.
- Words aren't just words. They stich together our social fabric, helping establish and maintain relationships.
- Holmes has a clever linguistic exercise meant to bring you closer to the people around you.
Political activism may get people invested in politics, and affect urgently needed change, but it comes at the expense of tolerance and healthy democratic norms.
- Polarization and extreme partisanships have been on the rise in the United States.
- Political psychologist Diana Mutz argues that we need more deliberation, not political activism, to keep our democracy robust.
- Despite increased polarization, Americans still have more in common than we appear to.
An amateur astronomer discovers an interstellar comet on its way to our Sun.
Psychologists look to combat the illusory truth effect.
- Two recent studies looked at the illusory truth effect.
- The effect describes our propensity to start believing untrue statements if they are repeated.
- The phenomenon is a universal bias linked to cognitive fluency but can be counterbalanced.