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Rittenhouse, Gucci, & Pleasure Eating

By: Michael Blankenship |

If someone succeeds in provoking you, realize that your mind is complicit in the provocation.

– Epictetus

Greetings from LA and Oahu!

This week we’re discussing the extremism around the Kyle Rittenhouse case (on both sides), why you shouldn’t invest in a Gucci coffin, how bias and “noise” play an important role in high-level decision making, and why French people enjoy eating more than Americans. 

Hope you had a wonderful Thanksgiving last week!

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At The Tonic, we believe staying informed is an important part of contributing to society and growing personally — it challenges us to think about new perspectives and question the way things are as well as perhaps the way they should be. 

The Kyle Rittenhouse case has lit fires on both sides of the political divide (neither of which, by the way, Alec or I affiliate ourselves with). 

Here’s a brief overview of what happened from The New York Times… 

“Kyle Rittenhouse, a white 18-year-old from Antioch, Ill., was acquitted on all charges on Nov. 19 in his trial over the shootings of three white men — two of whom died — in the aftermath of demonstrations in Kenosha, Wis., in August 2020. The jury deliberated for more than three days before reaching the verdict.

The protests in Kenosha erupted after Rusten Sheskey, a white Kenosha police officer, shot and wounded Jacob Blake, a Black man, on Aug. 23, 2020. The episode was captured on cellphone video and came only months after the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis set off protests nationally about police abuse of Black Americans.

Kenosha, a former industrial hub of 100,000 people on the western shore of Lake Michigan, experienced widespread looting, arson and property destruction in the days after the police shooting. The shootings by Mr. Rittenhouse, which he contends were committed in self-defense, occurred on the third night of protests.

Mr. Rittenhouse faced six counts, including homicide charges. One, a misdemeanor weapons charge, was dismissed near the end of the trial, and Mr. Rittenhouse was acquitted on all of the others.”

Republicans saw this outcome as a victory. Americans have the right to defend themselves with firearms and this is just one citizen exercising that right. 

Democrats saw this outcome as a loss. Rittenhouse is a murderer and deserves to be punished as one — and this case reveals just how dangerous and flippant current gun laws are in the U.S.

Both perspectives are shallow, short-sighted, and uninterested in context or nuance. 

The truth likely lies somewhere in the middle. 

Rittenhouse was a 17-year-old who took it upon himself to defend local businesses with a firearm from ongoing riots.

Maybe that’s reasonable — or maybe he was just a young kid trying to play the hero, and because of his meddling, two people were killed.

There probably isn’t a right answer. 

And if there is, it certainly doesn’t lie at one extreme or the other. 

If you want to learn about the case and make a reasonable decision for yourself, check out the resources below… 

Gucci Coffin

Life’s most precious treasures can’t be owned. 

They can only be borrowed — loved ones, special memories, moments of bliss. We have no control over the duration of those things.

We only have control over how much we enjoy them while they’re here. 

John Martinez, salesperson and entrepreneur, posted this on Facebook this previous week… 

“I can guarantee you this… on your death bed, while contemplating whether or not you’ve lived a good life… a Gucci belt will not be part of the equation.”

He’s right.

When death looms, we won’t be concerned about the stuff we’ve accumulated. We’ll only care about spending time with loved ones, reminiscing on special memories, and making amends for past mistakes. We’ll wish to have had a positive impact on others, we’ll hope to have created some sort of legacy, and we’ll want to feel that our loved ones are secure (financially and otherwise) after our passing. 

Those are the things that we should prioritize — starting right now. Those are the things that we should put above all else: making memories, sharing adventures, spreading love, inspiring others, being kind, having impact, giving generously… 

That Gucci belt?

It’s just white noise. 

It won’t matter in the end. 

That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t buy a Gucci belt, but it does mean you should reconsider what that Gucci belt means to you — it’s not as special as Gucci tells you it is.

Nor is anything that can be owned. 

Bias & Noise

In a recent article titled, How to Make Better Decisions: Understanding Bias vs. Noise, Peter Attia discusses the important role that “bias” and “noise” play in high-level decision making.  

We all know what bias is (“factors that sway judgment in a particular direction”) but what about noise?

Here’s a definition. 

Noise: “Noise is the unwanted variety in a set of responses, or judgments about something. I say unwanted because the variability, in this case, is not beneficial but rather represents deviation, or error. A noisy system is one that has a large variation in decisions pertaining to a given topic. For example, if a patient consults with four doctors and they all give a different stage of cancer diagnosis, the determinations are collectively undesirably noisy.”

He continues, “The point is that while bias is perhaps more commonly accounted for in the decision-making process, reducing and preventing noise deserves the same emphasis. Ultimately, the aim is to improve accuracy by reducing the unwanted variability (noise) and average error (bias) in the decision-making process.”

Ultimately, Attia concludes, “To make effective judgements, we not only have to have information, but we also need a system and process in place for navigating bias and noise, respectively.”

Check out the full article if you want to learn more.

Pleasure Eating

Why do you eat? How do you eat? 

If you’re American, then your reasons are probably quite different from people’s answers in France. 

In Thinking Fast and Slow, Daniel Kahneman explains results from his research where he and his team examined the amount of joy that people experienced doing various activities throughout their daily lives. 

We found that French and American women spent about the same amount of time eating, but for Frenchwomen, eating was twice as likely to be focal as it was for American women. The Americans were far more prone to combine eating with other activities, and their pleasure from eating was correspondingly diluted.

He points out:

In normal circumstances, however, we draw pleasure and pain from what is happening at the moment, if we attend to it. To get pleasure from eating, for example, you must notice that you are doing it.

Eating is something that most of us Americans could learn to enjoy more. Many of us are remarkably bad at only eating — we also watch TV, drive, or work. Sometimes we just eat because we’re anxious or depressed. And we rarely sit down at the dinner table with family to eat a meal we spent the day preparing. 

But the joy we experience while eating (or doing anything else, for that matter) is directly related to how focused we are on the experience. 

Are we actually tasting the food? Are we admiring the hard-work that went into preparing the food? Are we eating only what we need?

Ask yourself those questions the next time you sit down to eat. 

This Week’s Photo

Christopher Furlong / Getty

“Artist Luke Jerram’s new “Floating Earth” debuts in Wigan, England, on November 18, 2021. The installation will be on display for 10 days, as part of a celebration of Wigan and Leigh’s watercourses.” via The Atlantic

This Week’s Riddle

Here’s this week’s riddle — the answer is at the bottom of the email!

Can you name three consecutive days without using the words Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday, or Sunday?

This Week’s Question

Answer this question — either privately or by replying to this email. If your answer inspires us, then we’ll ask for permission to include it in a future email!

What’s a boundary that you’ve had to put into place with family members or friends? How did that help make the relationship healthier?

This Week’s Challenge

It’s easy to just eat without thinking about it. This week, try to focus a bit more on the experience of eating and pull a little more joy from it. Make your own food, sit down with family or friends, and don’t be in a hurry. The dinner table is where memories are made. 

Until next week, 

Mike & Alec

Riddle Answer: Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow.

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