One of my favorite thoughts, and I think it came from a movie, is that the reason to get married is to have a witness to your life. It's the sort of idea that might not strike you immediately as brilliant, but over time it unfolds.

Another great quote along those same lines - and I wish I knew who said it - goes something like "You're not a writer until a writer tells you you're a writer." I had that experience when Dilbert was first accepted for syndication, and my editor told me I was a cartoonist. Until that moment, I wasn't. Literally the moment she told me I was a cartoonist, the quality of my drawing improved about 30%.

I think this is the same reason little kids continuously chirp "Mommy, look at me! Look at me!" They are struggling to get a witness, to know they exist.

It's nice to think that you can be your own person, true and accountable to no one but yourself, but I don't think life works that way. We are what other people allow us to be. We exist more in their perceptions than in our own, if you had some way to add it all up and compare.

I was thinking of this as I finished a first draft of my survey of economists. (Yes, you will see it. I need to get it right.) I sent it to my friend whose opinion I value, asking for some comments.  As I sent it, I realized my writing doesn't fully exist until he comments. It lives in some sort of Schroedinger's cat half-state. If he likes it, then it becomes real. If not, it will quickly seem as though it never existed. I will rewrite from scratch.

The key to life is picking the right witnesses. Thanks for being mine.

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Sep 18, 2008
I realize I'm a latecomer to this post, but if you're still reading the comments Scott, you might want to check a book called "The Origins of Speech" by Eugen Rosenstock Hussey. The author was a legal scholar/philosopher/theologian/linguist emigré from nazi Germany but the book is a relatively easy read. I was amazed how well your post summarized one of its main thesis.
Sep 10, 2008
Look up the theory of "the looking glass self." It was coined by Charles Horton Cooley in 1902, and basically says that you think of yourself the way you think other people think of you. Ie, if you think that others think you're stupid(or intelligent), then you begin to think you're stupid (or intelligent). Same goes for beauty, likability, etc.

Now we can add the Scott Adams corollary: if people aren't witnessing you doing stuff and expressing judgment on you, you don't have nearly as strong of an identity as someone with witnesses who give feedback.

I only learned of this theory last night. My wife (a sociologist) just started her first tenure-track job last week. She was preparing a lesson plan, and was showing it to me. At the time, I was bored and confused as to why, but now I see it was so that I could judge whether or not she was a teacher. I suppose she realized her teaching will be better because I sat there and witnessed the fact that she made a lesson plan.


Sep 10, 2008
Somehow, I really don't think that you were addressing your "thanks for watching" message to me. Mainly because I believe that, aside from Dilbert, the greatest contribution you make to humanity is that you don't vote.

When conquering Roman generals returned to their accolades and parades, a slave was always put in the chariot, standing right next to the general. Into his ear, as he received the cheers of the crowd, the slave would whisper, "This too, shall pass." And, "From the ranks you have arisen, to the ranks you shall return."

The main reason for this was not what you would assume - to keep the general from getting a big head from his accomplishments, although that was a part of it. Rather, thought the Romans, the most imporant reason to do this was to prevent hubris. Having a big head makes one ambitious, but having too big a belief in the infallibility of one's positions and accomplishments leads to angering the gods, which would then come back to affect the entire society.

To me, you are a perfect example of hubris waiting to happen. Your decisive and intractable position on anthropogenic global warming, reached after four whole days of studying biased reports while ignoring the actual temperature records over the last ten years, is one example. Another is making the incredible decision that not only is the economy overwhelmingly the most important thing to consider in the upcoming presidential election, but that your commissioning a "study" by a bunch of academics whose specialty is economics will result in anything more than a showcase for their political biases.

My advice? Hire yourself a slave.

Sep 8, 2008

Try this date in the search, January 31, 1995. There is a strip where Wally and Dilbert fight in cyberspace. I think you may want to read the terms of use before putting it in your paper, though.
Sep 8, 2008
Considering the entire Universe with everything in it is merely a figment of my imagination, I can safely say that I exist wholly in my own perceptions and no one else's.

I don't have too high opinion of my subconscious though.
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Sep 8, 2008
That's why the blogosphere exists. It's a social contract; we're all offering each other the chance to exist.

What the heck: http://salttrick.blogspot.com/
Sep 8, 2008
this post was so great that i won't mind u ppl with the easy jokes.

(must.... restrain.... joke...)
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Sep 8, 2008
Hey - I quite like this ''We are what other people allow us to be' idea. Almost as good as the Buddhist 'As we think, so we become'. I can relate to the you're not a writer thing too - I'm a school Principal (relax - a New Zealand secondary school) and I realised I was really 'the boss' when I overheard a vice-principal say "I'll check it with the boss". By the way - as a school principal I relate heavily to the Dilbert meetings cartoons. Cool post Mr Adams!
Sep 7, 2008
Hey Scott,

Loved this post.. Somehow I dont agree it to be General Nonsense coz it makes a loooooooooot of sense to most grown-ups.

I think this is the video which where Susan Sarandon in Shall we dance has these beautiful lines about life and marriage.http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tdBATA_Ag5s

God Bless such Writers.. :)

Thnx for putting ur thoughts 2gether.
Sep 7, 2008
Or maybe the universe created us so IT could be a witness to ITSELF! How narcissistic is that! Of course, if I was a universe, I would be the center of myself too...
Sep 7, 2008
I have a theory that the universe created us so it would have a witness to its existence. Maybe if we applaud, we will get a free wish.
Sep 7, 2008
According to Dan Simmons (link: http://www.wabash.edu/magazine/1998/spring/features/simmons.htm), Harlan Ellison was the one who said "you know you're a writer when a writer tells you you're a writer."
Sep 7, 2008
Can anyone remember the movie SA referenced in the first part of this post? I have been trying to find that quote for months!
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Sep 7, 2008
I remember, in the good ol' days, Scott used to comment the comments...
Sep 7, 2008
Kids always go "look at me! look at me!" obviously because when we were monkeys, a child out of sight would fall easy prey to predator. Genes of the non-attention-grabbing child would not likely last many generations.
Second reason for seeking approval is imo, sexual reproduction. If we were hermaphrodites, we would not bother so much about what others think of us.
Third reason is simply because we all have similar body structures, needs and seek out the similar natural resources. Advantages can be gained by cooperation. We also interact to avoid needless fights when contending for same resources by displaying our strengths in non-lethal ways.
Can you be happy, being a recluse? I think it takes lots of effort to logically reason against the natural emotions of the brain structure formed through years of evolution, but imo, it can be done. All you need is to find clever ways to satisfy your desires that fools the brain. Drugs, self-gratification, virtual friends, etc.,
Sep 6, 2008
Thanks for allowing us to be your witnesses too.

I like this entry. When I get married I'll remember what you've written and cherish the chance of witnessing the life of someone dear to me.
Sep 6, 2008
Thanks right back at you. Your expressions (whether in writing, blogging, cartooning or any other media) of our experiences lend some much needed levity. Your illustrations of the absurd situations that we find ourselves in help us to understand that indeed, we are not crazy; at least not all the time. They are a sort of witness to our moments of doubt in others.

You are a writer, a cartoonist, a satirist and an enjoyable voice in literature for me. I hope that you find someone to be all the other things that you wish to be for as well.
Sep 6, 2008
I like you, Scott Adams.
Sep 6, 2008
I studied this when I did literature in high school. It's termed as gaining subjectivity -- that one requires the affirmation of the people around him to become a person, or a subject, and it is the cornerstone of the ego.
Sep 6, 2008
Scott, Thank you for helping me to not feel so all alone in this world. I think i now have a better grasp of why i continue to walk the path less traveled. Maybe some day it will all pay off.
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