A discussion about humanity and progress in one of the discussion threads inspired an epiphany. (Which is totally cool!) Add to this the fact that I'm currently listening to an audio book of Sir Terry Pratchett's Hogfather because it's the holidays, and well... I do that kind of stuff, and we have today's winter holiday-ish topic.
I think philosophy and belief is an important part of being human. Although some people are capable of living without it to varying degrees, I've watched these same people cross their fingers when rolling dice. (D&D players are among the most superstitious when it comes to dice.) I'm not making that statement because I think that Atheists are bad or wrong. (They aren't.) I'm merely making the observation that human beings need belief. Again, if you've read the scientific studies on perception you'll understand what I mean. We're hardwired to create patterns for ourselves whether or not the pattern is actually there. Frankly, we'd be in serious trouble within minutes without it. So, this ability to see patterns is important to survival. However, like anything, moderation is key. Perceive too many patterns that aren't there and well... it's a sign that something is wrong.
Ultimately, I feel we each need to find our comfortable place in regards to belief. There's not one solution for everyone, and there's absolutely nothing wrong with that. Where we often get into trouble is when we insist that everyone must think exactly the same--or be thought stupid, or delusional, or made to starve, or be jobless, or dead. History has shown that the insistence that everyone not have religion is just as deadly as insisting that everyone have a specific brand of religion. Thus, I believe that it's fanaticism and absolutism that is the problem, not religion or belief.
Anyway, I like what Sir Terry Pratchett had to say about belief in Hogfather:
Death: Humans need fantasy to *be* human. To be the place where the falling angel meets the rising ape.
Susan: With tooth fairies? Hogfathers?
Death: Yes. As practice, you have to start out learning to believe the little lies.
Susan: So we can believe the big ones?
Death: Yes. Justice, mercy, duty. That sort of thing.
Susan: They're not the same at all.
Death: You think so? Then take the universe and grind it down to the finest powder, and sieve it through the finest sieve, and then show me one atom of justice, one molecule of mercy. And yet, you try to act as if there is some ideal order in the world. As if there is some, some rightness in the universe, by which it may be judged.
Susan: But people have got to believe that, or what's the point?
Death: You need to believe in things that aren't true. How else can they become?
And now we get to the mystical snowflake epiphany part of my essay. My personal philosophy or belief is that life is about education. This ties into my beliefs about mistakes. Therefore, because I try to be careful of repeating mistakes it means that I often see repeating patterns of behavior within myself and others. I've always seen it on a more personal scale. I never thought of it on a macro scale before--that humanity as a whole repeats patterns until it learns the associated lesson. That thought makes me feel better about seeing this renewed fascination with things that went out of fashion after the Gilded Age ended. I can only hope that, like snowflakes are unique in pattern, our repetition of previous mistakes is varied because it marks that we've learning something as a whole. Go us.
Mind you, I do believe that everything cycles. Winning out and making forward progress isn't guaranteed. There are no guarantees in life other than death. However, sometimes sideways progress is what's needed--a more thorough understanding of the repeated problem, and that gives me hope for humanity.
I'm not sure that makes sense outside of my own brain. (Sometimes my husband says he has to pull a Jackie Chan to catch up to my train of thought.) Nonetheless, it was (for me) a nice winter holiday thought--a light in the darkness as it were. Thanks, y'all. It was a nice wrap-up for me. I hope you got something out of all this. I sure did.
Happy Hogswatch, everyone--or whatever form of winter holiday you celebrate or don't. Or something.
 I'm talking about the evolution of sight and perception. Blindness doesn't mean instant death. I know. However, I did most of my studies in perception during a time when sightlessness wasn't an aspect of the studies performed. That may have changed.
 Nobody is perfect for a reason. The way I see it, we're designed that way. You see, mistakes bring experience, and experience brings wisdom. So, I try not to sweat making making mistakes. There are a couple of personal rules that go with that. The first being that one must admit to the mistake and own it before one can learn from it. The second being that it's important to try not to repeat the same mistake. Be efficient. Be smart. Try to learn from it the first time around--if you can learn from others' mistakes and skip that particular mistake altogether? W00t!
 And that's why my characters will repeat behaviors. The smart ones learn and respond differently.
 Which is why I enjoyed the film Defending Your Life so much. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Defending_Your_Life
 However, I haven't gone over yesterday's thread yet. Ha! With ninety comments appearing overnight, I'm hoping it isn't evidence of a smoking ruin.