A stimulating conversation

  This afternoon right after my tea duty, I was somewhat confronted by two colleagues from the math department, one of them a girl of unusual caliber (placed in the top 15 scorers on Putnam exam over several years while in college). So they started attacking my proposition made carelessly "over the counter" that allergy has a psychological component. Apparently I wasn’t aware how offensively some people could take that statement, if they happen to suffer from some sort of allergy. So in the end I had to confess that I was speculating, and was referring to allergies in their metaphorical sense. The whole psychology course I took over the past summer, which I was so fond of and thought was key to analyzing all sociological problems, turned out to be an illusion, and my incompetent memory in the face of vast amount of discrete information tends to water down my professionality and I always feel I am talking like a 12 year old.
  But in the end the conversation was channeled in a more friendly manner, especially after I found alliance with another Chinese student who was senior to both of them. Although he wasn’t paying much attention to the conversation first. Again I sensed the tremendous amount of logical reasoning instinct in those trained in a western culture. They easily label every statement as well-documented, scientifically based, rational, or speculative, unsubstantiated or what other seamless adjectives, to give you a sense of impregnability. These adjectives were used with so high a frequency that it became outrageous to me at some point. Maybe I have been used to my dad’s more subjective, emotional ways of analyzing things from which I could usually extract personal victory through more rational counterattacks that I found myself suddenly at loss for not able to respond with dominant eloquence. It was especially scary when the objects were math people. They are so ready to relax their brain in the form of less technical, sociological debates, that one could easily compare the strength of their words at those moments to expletives. Of course I kept my cool throughout, except maybe when David (the other of the initial two) acted with outspoken violence to my suggestion of the existence of psychological factors in allergy formation, but I quickly pointed out how dangerous a personality that is and he was flexible enough to adjust himself accordingly. The discussion in the end landed in the domain of sexism in schools and professional careers, as well as how affirmative action could be potentially downgrading to certain talented individuals in minority group. Americans tend to be very open in expressing their feelings, so the initial two people were engaged in very intense conversation and virtually ignoring me for the whole time, except in rare instances when either of them deemed it necessary to engage me back in the conversation. But in the end it was a well worthwhile experience of getting into the ethics of western thinking, so all the transaction costs are well justified.

About aquazorcarson

math PhD at Stanford, studying probability
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One Response to A stimulating conversation

  1. arena says:

    good use of ‘transaction cost’!

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