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.

 

 

 

 

 

Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )

Me, Myself, and I

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

 

Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )

Arrogance: A Very Human Trait

Posted on February 10, 2013. Filed under: Journalism, language, Religion | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , |

Your words for the day:

  • arrogance = knowledge of one’s superior status
  • expert = a recognized or self-proclaimed know-it-all in a given field (but you may need to ask, “Which field?”
  • god = a being transcendent beyond humanity (a.k.a., expert)
  • AJ = Average Joe;  Average Jane

Just in case you didn’t notice, I sorta dabbled with those definitions.  Please, do not send hate mail to Wikipedia.

We, humanity in all its past incarnations, created language.  I noted somewhere in these articles  that information sharing (the venerable IT Dept) was the greatest of human* inventions.  Knowing how to make fire and passing that knowledge to others was a far greater achievement than just luckily starting a single friendly fire and using it as a one-time marshmallow toaster.  A spoken language was key to that achievement.

Each human is a mirror of humanity’s achievements.  In today’s societies, certain individuals rise above the general population in specific areas:  mathematicians, musicians, political leaders, legalists, investigators, athletes, teachers, medical practitioners, psychologists, astronomers, cosmologists, physicists…   this list could go on and on and still leave out some area of specialization.

Maybe “starter kit” is more apt than “mirror.”  All of these specialists rise from the general population by simply growing into a specialty according to their personal interests or by imposition of circumstance.  In order for that specialist to be recognized as superior in performance, the general population must also have the capacity to grasp that individual’s achievement, and — if so inclined — emulate that overachiever.  Ergo, there is healer, teacher, mathematician, priest, a beggar, a leader, a competitor ad infinitum in each and every one of us.  Because of that innate human capacity, superior achievements of other individuals are recognized and, often, revered.

There are social hazards associated with the ability — or simply the good fortune — to excel, exemplified by proverbs such as “Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall” ** and terms such as smug, self-aggrandizing, egotistical, god complex, condescending, arrogant…   another list that could go on and on.  This is a two-edged sword.

On the one hand, there is the risk of alienating the general populace, that group providing back-light for your stage performances, and of provoking jealously from other overachievers who want to crowd you out of the limelight.  And, yet, a third group that feeds like buzzards on celebrity status, picking at perceived hot spots to enhance its own standing as self-appointed judge…   and, blabber-mouth.  (Hmmmmm!  Now that is very annoying.  Pardon me while I slip out and preen my feathers.)

On the other hand, the euphoric appeal of such elevated states is what drives individuals to exceed their previous bests, often enhancing humanity’s understanding of self and nature.  Those human traits that cause achievers to turn a deaf ear to criticism and their backs to their humble roots may chaff uncomfortably on some individuals (the jealous and the left behind) while simultaneously advancing the human condition.  If there is one thing we know about Nature, it is that individual comfort takes a back seat to the survival of the group.  Yet, paradoxically, it is that quest for personal comfort that propels the group forward.

KISS.**  Cutting through the rhetoric, societies consist of two parts:  experts and laymen.  (Okay!  A third group, also:  critics.  But, they walk the fence between the other two and could land in either camp.)  Many ignore that the two groups are but two manifestations of a single fluid in flux.  The tendency is to view the ambient social status quo as a firmament defining immutable human interaction, so that the extant hierarchy is the once and future way of things.  In Galileo’s time, the experts to be revered were the ruling religionists;  in the time of the Industrial Revolution, innovators were the revered;  in our time, it is the scientists who rule the expert roost.  Each time the fluid stirs, society is panged by fear of change, loss of roots, confusion, and loss of direction.  The individual, truth be known, prefers the comfort of known truths to that of new, untried truths (the devil we know versus the one we don’t…   blah, blah…)

Experts.  Holier than thou.  Smarter than you.  Superior to you.  Entitled to more than you.  Totally disdainful of AJ and AJ.

Aye.  There’s the rub.

_______________________

*human.  Actually, this should be hominin.  Humans inherited, then refined all of the achievements made by near-humans.  Had to throw that in for the Science Department.

**The Bible (KJV) Proverbs 16:18

***KISS.  Has nothing to do with Valentine’s Day.  Keep It Short and Simple.

_______________________

Next up:  Manipulators, puppet masters, trick knees

Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )

Liked it here?
Why not try sites on the blogroll...