Archive for April, 2014

Sure, I still get the itch.

Wednesday, April 30th, 2014

For fifty years I’ve been astonished by the differences between what is and what it seems. Over and over again. I suppose people aren’t exactly wrong, really – we’re just preoccupied with superficialities and diversions.

So it is that, yes, we’ve got some high-profile conservative bigots mouthing the established Republican outlook with atypical clarity – and sure, the Democrats are serious when they argue over money.

All this is sort of refreshing, I guess. But the fact is, we’re still just talking about headlines, as if we’re in a democracy, when the only meaningful questions concern the unlikelihood of ever getting democracy back.

Proof

Sunday, April 20th, 2014

If the third temple is built, and nothing changes, the devout will immediately produce a watertight explanation – and continue praying.

I say this because I’ve been thinking about ideas from an on-line psychology course I’ve been auditing. I didn’t study psychology in college, since it seemed obvious to me we exist only as composites of the groups which surround us. I’ve been enjoying the sensation of receiving a variety of pop-culture truisms as something more ‘meaningful’ – as ‘scientific findings.’

We’re all quite aware we’re not going to change our opinions. Not for nothing, really – and we don’t. The ‘why’ from cognitive science is that it’s difficult to incorporate contradictory information into a ‘successful’ world view. This is a brain function. It’s just really hard for us to do it. On the rare occasions we do, it seems, it’s because someone congenially offers the info as part of a more attractive viewpoint itself. We might accommodate our prior errors if we’re given a more productive forward story line.

So, the temple failure won’t change opinions because it isn’t part of a better story. So, too, people in the U.S. won’t modify their views of government – because they know we have a Constitution, they know we hold elections, and they know the law is the will of the people. If they observe the rich getting away with murder it doesn’t matter – that evidence is too difficult to incorporate into the ‘fact’ we’re all equal before the law.

My son participates in a belligerently atheistic pop culture which seems to be growing in the country. Being human, adherents look for the ‘true’ story of their experience, and often seem to counterpose ‘evolution’ and ‘science’ against the larger frameworks of ‘religion’ and ‘democracy.’

There’s now science (of a sort) which proves the U.S. is not a democracy at all. I haven’t paid much attention to this, but it may be transformative.  In the new social psychology, ‘effective’ truths are derived via rational method and conclusion. So the ‘scientific’ declaration we are not a democracy (call it ‘oligarchy’ if you must, but a better label must be waiting) – appears final and meaningful. The declaration is part of a new description which is powerful and predictive. It will be personally useful to recognize you’ve been dis-empowered. It’s part of a more accurate (better) world view.

Over the last decades, the story unfolded in bits and pieces, developing its own cohesion. It’s no longer my primary interest: may the winds of history continue blowing far overhead; may I be left in peace until I am gone. But historically, societal transitions have rarely been comfortable.

Since I do celebrate, today, the return of an original social revolutionary, I’ll just quote him.

‘There shall not be left one stone upon another, that shall not be thrown down.’

 

 

Under the sun

Friday, April 18th, 2014

I have a plot of ground, fenced against deer and rabbits. The land faces south, on a gentle slope. The earth is gray clay, and I’m suspicious of it. A heavy dump truck brought a pile of compost to the base of the plot, and I’ve been shoveling it into a wheelbarrow, ‘barrowing it up the hill, and spreading it over my future garden.

I find it hard exercise. I like it. Spring seems early this year and I sweat. My neck burns from the sun. There are sharp, unusual pains between my shoulders when I rest before bed, reading with my back pillowed against a wall.

I saw a video of the Speaker of the House of Representatives mowing his lawn. I’m not the only one who likes to get out in the yard, for one reason or another.

I hear the Affordable Care Act is embarrassingly successful. I signed up at once, myself, and save quite a bit of money for having done so.

I guess a lot of folks don’t think the Crimea should really belong to Russia. There have been some boats and planes going down. A lot of us remain surprised how well the global economy functions on currencies with no intrinsic value at all.

My gray clay is going to take some fixing, I think. I spread a thick layer of compost over it, then cover that with a deep layer of straw. I’ll sprinkle the layers once in a while this summer – infrequently, water’s running low. This winter it will rain. Inevitably, the mulch will rot into the clay. Next February or March, I’ll plow it all under and do it again.

 

The perils of rational thinking

Friday, April 11th, 2014

‘We find what we’re searching for’ doesn’t conflict with ‘we never get what we expect’ – because we forget that we didn’t.

Perhaps we pretend, on rare occasion, we can think meaningfully about our futures. But really, we can’t. Six months or so, I believe the pros say.

I’ve always loved beautiful women. Those I relate to are in their fifties or sixties now, often liberated from husbands, a certain freedom and comfort in their eyes. Suddenly, I can see them twenty years hence.

I don’t believe we change as we become helpless with age. If we have an unpleasant streak it works against us when we can’t rise from our chairs; when we have to beg for attention.

Rational thinking involves planning for ourselves as if we’re something else – like our own children – scheduling probabilities years in advance.

I’ve spent some time lately concerned a year in college costs seventy thousand dollars. A barely adequate year in an elderly ‘care facility’ costs a hundred. Easier, I think, just to imagine everything will work out for the best…

 

The little thingy that’s not

Friday, April 4th, 2014

The science people say this: my expectations of what I’ll enjoy or dislike have nothing to do with what I turn out to enjoy and dislike.

I think researchers were surprised to discover this. A confusing thing about our awareness is: it appears real to us. Thousands of years of reflection and conviction are the result. Commonly, we view ourselves as existing because we think so. And more: we regard our self-impressions as definite beings, with reliable fears and preferences, responsive to education, counseling, and medications. We think we have histories and effects. We think we can please or defend ourselves.

None of this is real.