sociology

Sunday the 4th: North Star

Posted on November 2, 2014. Filed under: Religion, sociology | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

North Star

Lindale in Houston

This is not a class in astronomy; rather, it is a highlight to the fact that humans are communal creatures and that their basic characters are shaped, not by a single individual, but, the cumulative effect of numerous associations throughout those pre-adult years.

From cradle to rocking chair, the human psyche transitions through many phases.  The basics of our future selves are laid down, layer upon layer, within our memories in our developing years.  While this is an essential process in the maturation of SELF, it has a serious downside —

…this construction of an individual’s foundation is being overseen by a clueless kid who takes everything as fact — even the “wisdom” espoused by other clueless kids — and incorporates it, without modification, into the structure destined to become ADULT SELF.

Everyone is raised in some kind of culture, and the newbie human absorbs the tenets, practices, rituals, et cetera, of that culture at face value, never questioning the wisdom of the kids, adults, and authorities dispensing it all.  (My mother raised me in a religious environment where many adults of kindred mind instructed me for 18 years on the way I should go.  Between the secular education of public schools and the teachings of the Church, I had a full rucksack of certainties with which to set out on Life’s long road of UN-certainty.)

The young adult following the kid’s improv act will spend the first ten years of adulthood trying to appease the conflicts within as it struggles to reconcile all that old childhood stuff with all the new adult stuff being dealt with in real-time.  Somewhere around the age of 30, the ADULT SELF finally gets to take a lot of childhood stuff out of the attic and label it irrelevant; thusly, childhood gets chalked up to what it really is — a learning experience.

Still, like a hoarder, we hang on to some unresolved issues just because they feel good and, therefore, MUST be relevant.  That reasoning points a finger at the kid’s primary retention technique:  remember the impressions made by persons, events, and concepts rather than the circumstances or reasoning by which they came.  That lack of footnotes becomes the source of all that YOUNG ADULT angst.

In my case, I held on to a recurring impression for several decades.  The names, faces, and time frame of acquisition constituted the totality of those flashbacks.  Accompanying that was a conviction that the persons remembered were of special importance and that, by not remembering, I had lost something that I couldn’t even define.

Through what I consider a special blessing, I have recently had the opportunity to speak to one of those dim memories.

They were an adult couple who taught church youth, a duty they shared with many of the church adults.  One of the  youths they taught was exceedingly shy and shunned attention in any non-family gathering; that remained a social impediment until he was into his thirties.  This couple had been part of the kid’s church background for years, but he did not become aware of them until the later teen years.

The Memory with whom I spoke did not tell me any of that.  I pieced that together after our conversation.  Actually, she did not really remember me at first.  During our conversation, she asked me two unrelated questions which, later, explained one thing to me and caused me to realize another.  The questions and my answers were of no real importance to my enlightenment; what mattered was the seamless manner in which she navigated from my first answer to the second and unrelated question.

As with any adult, the years can take one far from the place and conditions of upbringing.  When encountering someone from “back then,” there is a brief exchange of catch-up questions.  One of them, often, is “Where do you go to church?”  I came to resent the question because my answer does not always please them, and I get the condescending “tut-tut” expressions or verbal disapproval as though they have been appointed my personal judges.

She asked THAT question, and I felt no offense in the slightest.

I answered truthfully, even though I knew she would disapprove of my answer.

Then, without comment or pause or a change in her tone, she changed the subject by asking that second, unrelated question.

  • She did not criticize…   yet I felt criticized;
  • she did not scold…   yet I felt scolded;
  • she did not judge…   yet I felt judged.

It seems that my unexplained Memory was, and continues to be, a superb counselor with the gift of teaching without teaching.

With that demonstration of conversational elan it is easy for me to see why that clueless kid labeled his impression of THIS couple “important.”  Shy and easily embarrassed, he favorably responded to the ease of their interactions:  they accepted him as is and he did not feel awkward in their presence.  To him, they were the same as family.  Exactly why, the kid didn’t know since his  MO was to simply accept things.

JUST HOW DOES ALL OF THIS RELATE TO A STAR?  The North Star is actually not a single star, but an association of several stars closely situated along an observer’s line of sight.  Though Polaris, the brightest one, gets all the press, it is their collective brilliance that has guided humans across this globe for untold centuries.

Likewise, an individual’s inner moral beacon, emanating from the past to illuminate today, does not have a single source; it is the cumulative result of many caring and attentive persons who have lent their efforts to teach us how to walk.  Though we will remember those who especially appeal to our specific needs, it is the combined influence of those mentors that powers a light strong enough to span the length of our lives.

My former — and, it seems, current — Counselor has coaxed the realization of that debt from a very recalcitrant memory.  It is knowledge that serves to deepen the magnitude of the losses that Time has imposed on mortals and is the impetus for these 4 “Sunday” articles concerning Naomi, Ruth, and the Prodigal, each of whom yielded to an inner beacon emanating from their pasts.

Thank you, Counselor, for being a prominent star in my personal sky of uncertainty.  I did not recognize your influence way back there, but, I am well aware of your illumination today.  I am also aware that you were not trying to instruct me, a stranger, in any way; you were simply being yourself, thereby benefitting this stranger just as you benefitted a shy kid long ago.

By the way, that kid never gave the slightest hint about your very charming regional accent.

 

 

 

 

 

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Me, Myself, and I

Posted on July 14, 2014. Filed under: Animals, Nature, Self-awareness, sociology | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , |

LIARS* from the elite and restricted club of The Great Learned** have decreed that, if a living entity cannot recognize the reflection in a mirror as itself, it cannot be self-aware.  Such evaluations ignore that…

  • Humans are born not knowing squat about anything except screaming and kicking.
  • Human babies, like all mammals, learn by mimicking what others around them are doing.
  • Human babies finally see the grooming utility of mirrors after much coaching from older persons.  More importantly, they are taught the satisfaction of admiring the fine creature-form looking back at them.  (Oooh!  From this angle I have a Roman god-like profile.  And check those pec definitions…   uh, sorry!  Having flashbacks.)
  • Most life forms, including non-human mammals, depend on other senses than sight to describe the world and their particular placements in that world.
  • A wide variety of life forms have survived on this planet for millions upon millions of years.  Had they not been able to delineate the boundary between SELF and the surrounding environment, they would not have survived for one single day.
  • Being alive is about being SELF-ish.  Didn’t anybody read anything in that book The Selfish Gene?***

But, the Great Learned maintain that if an entity does not perceive the world as the Great Learned perceive it, then that entity must be simply a robot-like biomass bound to instinctive action and programmed reaction.  So, I repeat my question from a previous post:

  • If a blind homo smart sapiens cannot recognize its reflection from a reflective surface, is that h. smart sap. NOT self-aware?

The world in which non-humans live is fast-moving and dangerous.  Lethal even.  Quite often.  The only creatures goofy enough to kill time staring at their reflections are those who are not constantly on the lookout for predators and have the leisure time and safety to amuse themselves…   with themselves.  The ability to even see that reflection in the first place is a biggie, too.

All living entities know about Numero Uno.  The only ones in the dark on this have been converted to Numero Dos.  All others not SELF (the perceiving Numero Uno) are accorded different degrees of trust in keeping with their genetic and social distance from SELF.  These are my classifications of sentient entities:

  • self = me, myself, and I; numero uno; an entity’s awareness that it is separate from other stuff
  • near-self = siblings and other kin and relations bonded to SELF during the growing years.  Accorded the highest degree of trust
  • other-self = distant relatives and casual members of the self, near-self group.  Accepted, but regarded cautiously
  • far self = others that sort of look like me and my group, but, I don’t know them and I don’t trust them;  unrelated others of my species

Through the years, I have been out and about at all hours of the day and night.  Taking public transportation some years ago put me out on the streets around dawn and dusk when certain birds (grackles) flocked from sleep mode and, later, flocked in from their far feeding ranges.  At first, the view was just a noisy din of chatter and fluttering feathers amid a chaotic and frantic in rush of bird bodies.  Over repeated inclusions in these social interactions, a pattern began to resolve itself:

  • MORNING.  Great rushes of feathered bodies rose from the various night lodgings (trees to you hardcore city dwellers) and began chattering and swooping, then briefly settling on electric power lines.  There, you could see strings of bird-beads arrayed in varying proximity to each other.  These “beads,” bit by bit, eventually took flight and joined a selected group of passing flyers as they left the area to begin the day’s business.
  • EVENING.  This was almost an exact reversal of the morning start-up.  One by one, flocks of varying sizes returned to the same area swirling, diving, coasting a-wing as though in play.  On the power lines, a few birds began perching, typically with a large separation between them.  Early arrivals settled on a spot that was equidistant from bird-left and bird-right.  As more birds settled in, I began to see little groups separated by gaps.  Groups of birds would take off as one, join a passing group of flyers and wing off to sleeping quarters.

But there is more to this ordered disorder than meets the  eye.  After more and more flocks arrive, the beads are closer packed on the power line, with two, three and four or more parked side by side.  An arrival might fly up to one bead excitedly and the two might carry the flitting above the rest spot, then both settle down side by side.  New arrivals seem to do a fly by of all the parked beads then either move on to another area or settle in with or near previous arrivals.  But, the process is not always peaceful.  Sometimes a new arrival drops in close to a bead only to have the original arrival jump him and run him off.  Toward night fall, pretty much all the flyers have settled in — peaceably — on the power lines and are pretty much packed shoulder to shoulder with a gap in the string here and there.  Then, segments of the string take off as one and move on to the various bedrooms.  In the morning, from bedroom to assembly area, this same process is repeated with departure to foraging areas the goal.

Within this observed process, I see the SELF, NEAR-SELF awareness playing out.  The variable spacing between the beads is directly related to the relationship of one bead to another:  the shorter the distance, the closer the relationship.  This explains the ejection of an arrival by a sitting bead.  The assault says:

  • I don’t know you that well.  GET LOST!
  • I’m sorry, but that seat is taken.  GET LOST!

The swirling, chattering fly bys are a sorting out process.  I surmise that the sleeping group has a different composition than the foraging group.  In the morning, the sleeping group hits the assembly area and looks for those it prefers to hang with during the day.  In the evening, the various foraging groups meet at the assembly area and begin locating the members of their  sleeping group.  My guess is that the sleeping group is close kin to each other.  Like humans, there is a domestic life and a separate work life.

And all that chatter is excited TALKING, not just generalized, instinctive noise.

 

_________________________________________

*LIARS = Learned Individual Ascribing Refinement to Self

**The Great Learned = that association of self-proclaimed experts, as in “See my sheepskin from the University of Great Humans?”  (UGH for short)

***Author Richard Dawkins.  And, all I have read of the book is the title.

 

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Do Not Offend Tomorrow

Posted on August 16, 2013. Filed under: Philosophy, sociology | Tags: , , , , , , , |

Twice I got to see my tomorrow.  This is the first one.

Twice I got to see my tomorrow. This is the first one.

Today’s proverb:  As the twig is bent, so grows the tree

Your words for the day:

  • guile = deviousness; cunning; deceit
  • innocent = noun:  one devoid of guile

The reality of the world into which we are born results from the actions of previous generations coping with their own brand of realities.  By “reality,” I refer to the social and environmental conditions into which each is flung.  Neophytes all, that specific reality that cradles our early growth becomes the standard to which we expect our entire lives to adhere…   Talk about a pitcher of ice-water in the face.

Existence is a dynamo pumping out change with every passing instant.  The childhood reality that dresses us for the School of Life is but the first of a long list of nannies destined to take us aside and explain the way Life really is.

Thus the chorus of lamentations resulting from these icy dousings:

  • The end times are near (every generation seems to have a new crop of doom’s day prophets).
  • The world is going to hell in a hand basket.
  • What is the world coming to?
  • Repent!  The end is near…   again.
  • I just don’t know anymore.
  • What is this younger generation thinking?

Not to be outdone, the younger generation, dripping from its first icy baptism, points an accusing finger at that previous generation and says, “Don’t tell ME how to do things; look at the mess YOU’VE made of the world!”

Truth is, the social fabric that defines humankind is a complex weave, and, as populations increase, so does the complexity of that weave.  Life moves toward Tomorrow, and humankind will move with it for better or for worse.  The efforts of any one individual or group to change the overall pattern will be overshadowed by the sheer numbers of strands being woven in simultaneously.  TODAY is the culmination of eons upon eons of Yesterdays, yet, it is merely the single starting point for a still-theoretical Tomorrow.  On and on the march of change continues, in spite of the useless exercises of fist shaking and whines of self-pity.

Statistically speaking, most of us (say…   99.9999 and a whole bunch more 9’s %) will have no appreciable effect on the avalanche of Time’s passage that, at first, carries each of us along, then — and quite matter-of-factly — buries all of us beneath the ruble of Yesterday.  That very same percentage will not even rate a footnote in the pages of history.

All that we can expect to influence are those persons and things that physically surround us, and, we can only do that in the time we are ultimately allotted.  If we are to paint the Wind of Time in colors that scream “Me!  Me!  Me!” we have to work fast.  In spite of what our conscious state tells us, we do NOT have forever.  The wind is a fickle medium anyway.

If yours was not the voice of the horrified announcer at the Hindenburg disaster, it is not likely that it will disturb the airwaves much when you are under the topsoil.  If you were not videoed naked on the White House lawn during a presidential inauguration, it is not likely that your form will be seen by large audiences for very long after your funeral.  Being a hit in the future is awfully hard if you are not there to toot your horn or run naked in public.  “Now” is where it is at.

Humanity of Yesterday extended itself into uncounted Tomorrows, all of which constitute TODAY.  It will continue into unknown Tomorrows in only one way — in the impressionable minds and voices of TODAY’s children.  Most of us will accompany them for at least a short distance into the mystery of the future, but, the major part of that journey is theirs, and theirs alone, to make.  Humanity’s children are Humanity’s Tomorrow, and they will inherit what TODAY leaves them.

As a very small part of TODAY, I can’t really bequeath much to Tomorrow.  About all I can do is to make a favorable impression on TODAY’s messengers to Tomorrow.  If a child smiles at me, I smile back.  If it* speaks to me, I respond, whether with “goo, goo, goo,” or “What’s the name of the pet dinosaur you are holding?”  If it stares at me, I give it a wink.  I just do stuff to make them smile or giggle rather than shrink away, dubious of my intentions.  Neither ethnicity nor economic status is a factor in my offering of goodwill.  I try to connect favorably with all children I encounter.  It is the only way I can influence Tomorrow.

If I do not offend Tomorrow today, then Tomorrow may not have to look back at me and say, “Well, here’s another nice mess you’ve gotten me into.”**

_____________

* it = he or she

** “Well…   into.”  A recurring line I remember from old Laurel and Hardy movies…   no, I did not attend the original screenings.

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