Your Life As A Crime Scene

Recently I read and reviewed a book that sought to compare computer code to a crime scene and conduct a forensic study of that code to gain insight [1].  I found the book to be a worthwhile one, and the author of the book found the review to be worthwhile enough to promote it on Twitter and Goodreads, leading to hundreds of views of the book review within the past few days.  That kind of attention to a subject matter I seldom write about led me to ponder that it was not only computer code that would be benefited by forensic techniques, but that we can profitably view our lives as a crime scene and act accordingly.  Being a person who enjoys study and examination of matters of patterns and conventions, and taking insights from one area and putting them to use in other areas, this sort of examination is far more congenial to me than it probably should be, or would be to most people.

Since I feel this sort of examination is going to be easily misunderstood, it is useful to answer the question of why one would want to look at one’s life as a crime scene, given that most people want nothing to do with crime or with criminals, and few people are comfortable with looking at their life with the sort of eye for details and insight that one looks at the scenes of gruesome crimes.  Admittedly, the circumstances of my life have required me to look at my own life as a crime scene for insights, in ways that most people are likely fortunate enough to be able to avoid [2].  Even where one does not have literal crime scenes in one’s life to examine, though, there are still insights to be gained from looking at one’s life with the dispassionate eye that a forensic expert would when it came to tracing patterns and exploring leads.  For one, criminals are human beings, and the way that one determines the motive and identity of criminals are also of use in determining our own identity and the motives of our own lives that can be discerned through our behavior.  Viewing life with an eye on forensic reporting does not view us or other people as criminals, but rather seeks to use an understanding of how human beings operate to determine patterns that can be of us in better understanding our own lives.

What kind of insights can we gain by turning forensics on ourselves?  For one, we are creatures of immense habit [3].  This is not usually a bad thing.  In fact, we know that we are learning something when it becomes second nature to us.  When something has become a habit, we no longer have to think about what we are doing, we do it naturally.  And it is what we do naturally, what we do without having to think about it, that is worthy of occasional thought.  Those things that are not habit already occupy our conscious mind, as we try to figure out what the best way to do something that is not yet automatic may be.  But once something becomes automatic and habitual, it often entirely escapes our grasp altogether, and therefore does not even figure into our reflections as to what kind of people we are and what we may be doing.  Keeping track of what we do, no matter how small we may think it is, is worthwhile in helping us determine what we are about.  For example, I know that I have a habit of going to sleep too often while I’m on the computer, which is perhaps unsurprising as I’ve been working long hours all week while simultaneously trying to read and review an e-book a day after I finish with work.  This is perhaps a bit too ambitious, and the fact that I wake up in the middle of the night with the light on still reminds me that sometimes I try to do more than I can actually accomplish.

There are insights that we can gain from looking at our lives with an eye for detail.  For one, those areas where we tend to go over and over again are what feels like home to us.  For the past few years, wherever I have lived I have relatively quickly discovered the most suitable place for taco Tuesday.  What are the motives behind such an odd habit?  As I have reflected several times [4], it is a combination of several factors.  For one, I have an existing habit of social reading, in that I like to read in public where I am at least around other people.  I also like going out to eat and enjoying cheap food, and for whatever reason tacos are a comfort food that is a lot less expensive than, say, chicken parmesan.  A love of social times while simultaneously reading and eating inexpensive but comforting food combines to make a certain habit an easy one not only to make, but to transfer as I have made my complicated series of moves in the Portland area, as no less than three restaurants have been my resident restaurant for that particular tradition.  It should be noted as well that our habits are of interest to other people–not only criminals, but also loved ones, our bank/credit union/credit card companies, and so on.  If our habits lead us to the same bar or gentleman’s club, we can expect that will cause problems in our personal life, especially if it leads to other related habits as a result.  If we don’t pay attention to our habits, other people will, and they will likely not be as kind about those habits as we are to ourselves.

Let us review some of the reasons why we should view our lives with the detail-oriented mindset of those involved in forensics?  For one, our lives contain a great detail of activity that we do not pay close attention to on a regular basis because such behavior is habitual and automatic.  That which escapes our attention likely contains something that deserves our attention.  For another, we live lives where others around us are paying attention to our patterns of behavior, which places us at a potential disadvantage if we are unaware or unconcerned with that which other people are aware of and concerned with.  Additionally, paying attention to our patterns can help us determine if we are really doing what we ought to be doing to fulfill our deepest desires and longings, if we are interested in fulfilling them at all and are not seeking to actively restrain them.  We may not all be criminals, but our behaviors form patterns that can serve to provide us with insight and provoke thought and action as a result of our investigations.  That ought to be reason enough for us to look more seriously at our lives than is often the case.


[2] See, for example:

[3] See, for example:

[4] See, for example:

About nathanalbright

I'm a person with diverse interests who loves to read. If you want to know something about me, just ask.
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