Trying to Make New Friends

Recently, I've been trying to meet new people by joining different groups on meetup.com. I've been to some events so far (a couple of which were quite interesting), but I still haven't made any new friends. The main thing that I've realized the past month and a half since I've been back is that not very many young people attend the same events as I do, which makes me think that other people my age are just interested in different topics. Most of the groups that I've joined on meetup have to do with either science, atheism or philosophy. I know that these subjects are more academic in nature, but I still would have expected more young people. I have to say it's quite disappointing and discouraging to be welcomed by a sea of gray and white hair; it makes me not want to come back.

I've been trying to figure out why only old people attend the same events as I do and I've come up with three possible explanations: (1) young people are not interested in the things I'm interested in because they're young; (2) young people are not interested in the same things due to a general shift in people's interests; and (3) young people in Los Angeles are not interested in academia because of the local culture. Of all three explanations, I sincerely hope that it's not (2) because that would imply it won't change with age. Unfortunately, seeing the kind of filth that is now on TV and on the internet, which I think encourages materialism and superficiality, I believe it is equally plausible with (1). Explanation (3) I find to be the least plausible since there are so many inhabitants of Los Angeles. I'm not denying that certain cities have their own cultures that will attract certain kinds of people, but I don't think it's significant enough.

Now that I've gone over the analysis of my recent experiences, I would like to describe a few of the events that I've attended. The first event that I went to was actually a lecture given by an evolutionary anthropologist. He recently published a book about how he thinks certain morals are the products of evolution. On the whole, it was an interesting lecture. He wasn't the best speaker, but he made his point. He argued that morality was the result of evolution because those people who didn't possess those traits, such as bullies, would have been “weeded out” of the group eventually and therefore, would not have been able to pass down their genes. I asked him why he thought it was necessarily an evolutionary phenomenon since it seemed that everything he was saying could be explained through social conditioning. In response, he pointed to the fact that babies have a sense of morality, which points to genetics and hence, evolution.

The next event that I attended was also a lecture and it was about the separation of church and state. The speaker in the second event was a constitutional lawyer who made the point that if Obama lost the next election, it would give Romney the chance to appoint a conservative Supreme Court Justice and thereby overturn the majority that the Court currently holds that supports a separation of church and state. This, he argued, should not happen. Contrary to what I previously thought, I didn't think this was such an important issue; I assumed that this part of the neutral state was already engrained in the basic law of the land, but this is not the case. It's true that the state cannot adopt an official religion, but the question is not one religion vs. another religion, rather the question is whether or not the state can favor religion over non-religion.

After the above mentioned lecture, I went to another one hosted by the same organization the next week. The speaker in the third lecture argued that religion is generally opposed to gender equality because it sets the stage for hierarchy. Although some religious people argue that all human beings are created equal, the fact that there is a God and that certain people are closer to him, such as priests, creates the conditions from which inequality can easily arise. In the end, I wasn't too convinced of the speaker's argument because the problem really is human (mis)interpretation of religion.

On a completely different note, I've also joined an improv class. I've been to 3 classes so far and they've all been extremely fun. Acting has always been one of my interests, but I've never really pursued it because I always had other things to do. (The last time I acted was over 10 years ago in high school.) Now that I have a bit more free time, I think improv provides a nice balance in my life. It's too bad that I'm not very good at it though; to be funny so quickly is extremely hard, much harder than it looks like on TV. For example, one game that we play is called the Gauntlet, which is an exercise to train your ability to take bad lines and turn them into something funny. The way this game works is that 4 people stand around you and give you horrible opening lines, usually about an external object. Then, you have to change the conversation so that you create some sort of relationship between the two people and the object (if there is one). So for example, the other day, one guy gave me the line: “Eating hair gives me really bad heart burn.” I responded by saying: “You're taking this role in Cats way too seriously.” Not the best example, I know, but I think you get the point. The last thing I want to mention is that almost everyone else taking the improv class is around my age. We only meet once a week so I haven't established a relationship with any one of them yet, but I think I'm going to make new friends soon.