The S4 Diary: “Leap of Faith”

Text version and links:

Thanks to Gibbontake and Jesse Wood for their contributions to this video:
Gibbon’s channel:
Jesse’s channel:

Opening and ending cards by Munchy:
My OC is designed by Hanna:
The original design was by Mizuki Takashima:

Background music:
1. Something from Persona 3
2. Bass Rattles Stars Out the Sky (instrumental) – Death Grips
3. Something from Persona 3
4. Artificial Death in the West (instrumental) – Death Grips
5. SWAG – Mathematicus ft. Digibro and Le Soldat Pony

WARNING: Even though I loved Leap of Faith and had a ton of fun writing this, it managed to be be the most depressing video I’ve ever made. Just letting you know.

Leap of Faith touches on a lot of interesting little sociological tidbits across its run, so I’m just going to talk about each of them in the order they arrive.

Firstly, Granny Smith telling Applebloom about how much she relishes in the memory of being a high diver, but telling her that it was an unwise and unadvised choice of passion. If you’ve ever watched my video on how to get into analysis, you may remember how I dedicated the entire first ten minutes of the video to basically asking the viewer WHY they wanted to get into making analysis videos. That’s because I don’t really consider this a career choice that I’d advise other people to go down, even though I love doing it myself. Whenever people ask me about making money off of youtube videos, the first thing I tell them about is all the reasons youtube is a shitty employer, and why youtube popularity is both difficult to gain and fickle to hold onto.

That’s not to say that I discourage becoming a youtube videographer, but I also don’t want to glamorize it. If you talk to people who try to get into the creative arts, you’ll hear countless stories of disillusionment and phrases like, “it’s not what I thought it was going to be,” because most of the time it takes a kind of single-minded, blinding obsession to succeed in a creative endeavor–the kind of attachment to what you’re doing that, even if it means you have inconsistent pay and no benefits, which will be true of most creative careers, you can’t bring yourself to chose any other lifestyle.

I’d like to think that if Applebloom had a real passion for high diving, Granny Smith and Applejack would have been supportive of her career choice. However, when Applebloom finds out that it’s not just a fun thrill ride, she backs off of the idea.

EVERYTHING IN THE WORLD HAS THE POTENTIAL TO KILL YOU. This is a realization I came to in high school, and I think it’s one that most people have two possible reactions to–either, realizing that there’s nothing you can do about it, and not worrying about it anymore, or becoming obsessed with protecting yourself against every possibility.

Because it’s true, there are so many variables in the way that life events can unfold that the potential for death is always there. And you can do all you can to avoid germs, dangerous situations, and bad habits, but internal factors under your control are far from the only threats. You never know how or why a germ might find its way into your body, or if some kind of accident is going to happen, or if you’re just genetically predisposed to a life-threatening illness, etc.

And our culture and media likes to make sure you know just how dangerous the world is, because they want to play on your fear to sell you shit, like a miracle tonic that will make you healthy. Just look at nearly every dietary supplement or workout device ever, claiming that they’re going to make you lose weight, get healthy, and have hard toned abs JUST by using their product–never mind how it’s nearly impossble to do those things without regular exercise and a well-planned diet that fits the needs of your routine.

What’s crazy about the whole thing is people still buy into it harder than an April Fool’s joke about changing my OC back. People have a tendency to leverage undue trust towards people who communicate through mediums like stage, television, and movies, even though those mediums thrive specifically on their ability to manipulate the thoughts and feelings of an audience. I kind of covered this subject already in my video on For Whom the Sweetie Belle tolls, but it’s interesting that this episode tackles the idea even more directly.

Moving on to the main points of the episode, Leap of Faith deals heavily with “the placebo effect,” a psychological and medical phenomenon which you’ve probably heard of at least once because it’s a pretty popular way to introduce people to the intricacies of the human mind. You can literally type “placebo effect” into youtube and get a bunch of videos explaining it.

But in this episode, the placebo effect simultaneously works positively by giving Granny Smith the confidence to perform at her full potential, as well as having the negative effect of making Granny believe that she’s more healthy and capable than she really is.
If we let it, this could take us down a pretty deep rabbit hole discussing the powers of confidence and faith versus the powers of medicine and the inevitability of death. The best way I can think of to explain what I mean is through myself and my dad.

My family is decidedly non-religious, though in the mid-2000s, my dad had a big spiritual awakening. In the process of reading a lot of spiritual and philosophical books, he came across one called The Secret, which claims that the secret to getting what you want in life, is to believe that you will get those things. Essentially, the idea is that the universe consists of a shared energy between all life forms, and that this energy can be manipulated through individual actions. (I’m simplifying it a lot, but bear with me.) By pouring a certain thought and energy into the universe, you can make that thought become reality, but only if you believe wholeheartedly that it is going to be true.

The book and movie present these concepts almost like an infomercial would, but in reality, this is kind of a high-scale, spiritual placebo effect. The universe does not magically give my dad whatever he wants, but by believing that he’s feeding his energy into the universe and receiving energy in return, he gains the confidence to set out on his endeavors and make them real. And my dad has had a MASSIVE amount of success in his life believing in this.

A problem arrived, however, in that because my dad so strongly believed in the power of the human mind and spirit to change their reality, when I was depressed he thought that the key was to power through it mentally. I had been trying for years to do that and concluded that I was just not going to get through my depression unless I was medicated, and I eventually convinced my dad to let me see a psychiatrist and get perscribed something. And I can say this: those were definitely NOT placebos. I know because they had side-effects which I wasn’t aware of until they were already hitting me. My brother also went through a ton of different anti-depressants before finding ones that actually worked for him, so clearly expecting the pills to work didn’t do shit.

My point here is that it can be dangerous to trust the placebo effect alone, becuase the mind is NOT all-powerful. If I break my arm right now, I don’t think anyone’s going to tell me to will it back together, and there are some unseen physical ailments, such as chemical depression, that we can run the risk of ignoring by thinking that the placebo effect will fix them.

Ideally, the placebo effect should be used in combination with real medicine. I’ve mentioned before how when my mom was in the hospital with cancer, all of her family and friends conciously agreed to never show any fear in front of her so that she wouldn’t think she was dying. My mom had stage four Burkitt’s Lymphoma, and we were told that had she been brought to the hospital even a day later than she was, she would’ve died. Her fight got to some incredible lows, but she was always so confident that she was going to live that she fought against the cancer with all of her might, and I really do think that if she didn’t have that confidence in her survival, she wouldn’t have made it all the way through her treatment.

HOLY SHIT this is the most depressing video i’ve ever made. I can’t believe I’m talking about My Little Pony right now. Quick, Gibbon, make them laugh!

Okay you are just, THE worst at this. Jesse, why don’t you try?

…what have I become?

While we’re doing intro to psychology, Leap of Faith also touches on the subject of herd mentality, and if you think I’m about to draw an elaborate comparison between this episode and the so-called, “brony herd,” then you are correct.

People tend to underestimate how easily we can influence one-another with our actions. When you think about it, we don’t really learn anything on our own–all of our learning comes from adapting to the world around us, so really, ALL of our actions are influenced by others. Not all of these actions are directly corellated to someone telling us to do something. If I yell “FUCK THIS” right now, it’s not because someone told me to, but it’s also not like I made those words up, nor developed a mindset that yelling “FUCK THIS” in the middle of an analysis video is acceptible, on my own.

Indeed, up to a certain point, everything we learn, we learn from other people, and we kind of just have to trust that we’ve learned everything correctly. This trust is both necessary and dangerous, as we won’t have time to prove that every single thing we learn is true, but we’re also damn near guaranteed to learn a number of false truths in our lives that we’re just going to take as fact. I mean, how many of us grew up thinking that velociraptors looked like this, and that Pluto was a planet, only to learn the truth and be devastated years later?

And of course, most of us are going to leverage more of our trust towards people that we, rightly or wrongly, believe to be trustworthy. This trust isn’t only, or even primarily built on the person’s truthfulness, though–it’s built more on how much we WANT what they say to be true. And that can be a force of good as well. When someone we like or respect tells us something we want to hear, it can be close to an enlightening experience. And that, I think, has a lot to do with the brony fandom’s general message of positivity.

Say whatever you want about bronies, all of them are different and everyone is going to have a different experience with them. However, there’s no question that on the whole, the brony fandom has promoted and often lived up to a standard of kindness and acceptance.

This is something discussed at length in episode three of the Elements of Brony, which you really should have watched by now, and if you haven’t, you totally must. The reason “the herd” has been a force for good is that so many big names in the community pushed it that way. So many of the early content creators pushed the message of love and tolerance and so many advertised charities and other kindhearted gestures that it permeated through the crowd. I’ve seen it happen first-hand when I’ve promoted things in the past that grew in popularity on the basis of my endorsement, as well as in the general feelings that my videos have inspired in so many viewers when their thoughts were affirmed by my own.

But this is also where we stumble upon Applejack’s dillemma. To pull a quote you probably all know, “with great power, comes great responsibility.” The power to influence other people is something that can easily be abused, and it’s not always easy to know how you should be using your influence in the right way.

I’ve made a point to limit my endorsements in my videos specifically because I want them to remain credible. If I was constantly telling you to go look at stuff, and not all of it was up to snuff, not only would you quickly get burned out on recommendations, but you’d also stop trusting me to endorse high quality stuff in the long run. If I only promote things that I consider to be comparable to or better than my own videos, then I know that I’ll keep people’s hopes up for things that I introduce them to in the future. And I have had the experience in the past of encouraging people to put time or even money and effort into things that ultimately disappointed them, so I’m careful not to let it happen again.

All of this comes down to a matter of marketability. Trustworthy opinions are marketable ones. When you let the opinion of a reviewer sway your decision to go see a movie, it means that you trust that reviewer, and the movie’s marketing department are going to want to promote the fact that trustworthy reviewers enjoy their movie in order to draw people in to watching it. That’s exactly what Flim and Flam do with Applejack. They take her reputation as the most dependable of ponies and make it into a marketing gimmick, which in all fairness, would be a great idea if their product was actually up to snuff, and Applejack wasn’t the equivalent of a studio-paid reviewer.

The Flim Flam brothers convince Applejack to lie to the public under the basis that ignorance is bliss. This falls in with the smarm effect, like when people say things like, “if you don’t have something nice to say, don’t say anything at all.” Either one is an extreme stance to take, and like everything else in life, sticking to one extreme is going to be dangerous. The other extreme would be hardcore social darwinism, where we say that people who don’t know better deserve to be tricked, which isn’t helpful either. What we need is an ideal middle ground. Help people to understand the world around them with all of its harshness and give them the tools to deal with that harshness. Don’t tell people what makes them happy, tell people what is going to help them to become better people.

I think that about wraps up what I’ve got to say about this episode. I’m sorry that this video is so late, and the next one is probably going to be late as well. Honestly, I don’t know what I’m doing with my life right now. My girlfriend and I just broke up, my channel isn’t getting as many hits as it used to, and I can’t figure out how to promote my video game and anime videos. I’ve got no plans for the future and it’s kind of causing a minor existential crisis. So I might take a break from making videos for a little bit to play through a bunch of video games and do other weird shit with all the free time I have now. That, or I’ll make a TON of new videos as soon as a burst of inspiration hits. I don’t know.

But I do want you to understand something. I’m not making these videos to show off, or to be some cool smart guy, or to depress you or fuck with you or anything like that. I just want to invite you in. This is the only way I really know how to communicate with people. So, for those of you who stick around and still watch these videos like the conversation that they’re meant to be, I extend my sincere thanks.

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