When you meet a new person who seems friendly and intelligent enough, it still takes a while to figure out if they are somebody you want to know.
I try to assess whether new people I meet are sane. I have had my fill of the alternative, and the older I get, the more suspicious I am that things aren't always what they seem in the first five minutes.
So, I have a mental checklist I go through to make sure new people I meet are somewhat rational.
First question: Will this person try to convert me to something? Is that why they are so blame friendly?
Will they try to rope me in to a multi-level marketing scheme with them just above me in the pyramid?
Sorry, I am not interested in earning $25,000 per month from my own home by taking advantage of all my other friends, thank you very much.
Do they hear voices telling them to seek high political office?
Sorry, that not only disqualifies them from high political office, but it would remove them from my Christmas card list, if I had one.
Do they confide to you that a secret cadre of Rockefellers and Rothschilds runs the world and has for five hundred years? Run the other way before they think you are part of the conspiracy.
What is disappointing is when people make it a ways down the checklist, appear to be rational, thinking beings -- and suddenly blow it all:
"Of course, I am a Pisces, so I have a wild imagination."
Stop. Right. There.
You mean to tell me that, for all your intelligence, you still think that the position of the stars in the sky when you clambered out of the womb fifty years ago is a reliable predictor of whether you will have a good day on December 15, 2008?
At this point, people get condescending "You have to study it to understand it," they say, as if some guru somewhere has a viable explanation.
Or they say something like, "I don't know how it works, but it sure makes a lot of sense!"
It does not. Astrology is insane, every bit as insane as any of the other soothsaying pseudo sciences.
In the 1800s, they told your future by feeling the bumps on your head. A phrenologist allegedly foretold that Ulysses S. Grant was going to be president when he was only a boy. After all, he had a bump on his head that only presidents had.
Pretty hard to argue with that!
My grandfather was an amateur graphologist, a person who studies handwriting. He didn't foretell the future, he just told people what they were like in general terms, terms so general that he couldn't really be wrong.
Of course, as with all pseudo sciences, people judge the soothsayers on the degree to which they tell them what they already know.
"It was just spot on!" they marvel, not even bothering to wonder what good it does to find out something by magic that you knew already by using your God-given noggin.
Is all of this harmless fun? Perhaps. Parlor soothsaying isn't, as some rival superstitions claim, evil. It is merely stupid.
But it is ever more apparent that the human tendency to drift into irrationality is dangerous and should be combated right where it begins.
People are blowing themselves and others up because they are convinced they're going to nirvana as a reward for murder.
Unintelligent, unthinking people aggressively seek political power because they insanely imagine that some deity has whispered commands in their ear.
We are in the 21st century. At every level it is time for people to grow up and make decisions rationally. It is dangerous and foolish to read the tealeaves or resort to other forms of ancient crackpot silliness.
And those who rely on metaphysical magic to mesmerize the masses should be relentlessly exposed as the retrograde defenders of ignorance that they are.
Humans were given the biggest brains around. It is time we use them and insist that others do, too.