Archive for the 'human history' Category

Breaking the puzzle piece

September 2, 2012

The Republican National Convention was a lot about upwards striving — a certain pattern of immigration and small business development.  Not a lot about downwards falling.

Rather than accept that what goes up is supposed to come down, I think some group of people at some point either misunderstood or tried to avoid the second piece of the sequence.  Instead of continuing to be willing and to follow where that leads, they don’t.  Maybe it’s an exercise of free will, maybe it’s being paralyzed by fear, maybe it’s through an attempt to use the human cognitive ability to change the circumstances externally instead of learning to accept external circumstance through internal development.  (I think humans have tried very hard to move as many things as we can from the “things we cannot change” category to the category of things we can.)

Some people do take the fall, even publicly.  Sex scandals, plagiarism scandals, cover-ups are some of the mechanisms.

Upwards striving seems to produce a set of attitudes towards life, downwards falling I think produces another, including compassion for other human beings.  There’s some variety within each set, but the sets as wholes are characterized by very different perceptions of the human condition.  People who avoid falling don’t collect that item on the scavenger hunt that is the spiritual journey — their art project needs some variation of that component.

If a person doesn’t want to fall and break, they sometimes try to break or change their environment instead — through medicine, technology, using other people — I see it as almost a form of cheating.  In fact the recent cheating scandal at Harvard reminds me of this sort of spiritual pitfall, because it, too, includes the claim of having been following the guidance of superiors (of teaching fellows in the Harvard case) and indeed all the answers come out looking very similar and it is not clear whether a process of learning and improving skills has been improved by the manner in which the exercise was undertaken.

A lot of perception, in my experience, is about rearranging understandings as if one could remake the (art project) collage over and over again.  I think maybe this process stops being available once a component has been broken in order to avoid playing it out in one’s life; let’s say one needs to experience loss, and one tries to avoid it through manipulating others or manipulating the environment.  (To use another Harvard cheating scandal, Ted Kennedy’s, it’s like having someone else take your exam.)  What we learn from the experience of loss is not learned if loss is avoided.  When the upward strivers go on about the need for creative destruction in capitalism, I want to say that it’s needed in spiritual life, too.  One of the components we need for spiritual progress is compassion.  I think this is acquired through experiencing and processing loss without hiding from its import and with honestly and fearlessly looking at what it reveals about ourselves, others, and the world.

That’s what I see in fearful and strident talk about refusing decline at a national level and about treating people who have fallen on hard times harshly — I see people who have refused to take the fall themselves or have shrunk from its import (I’m thinking about somebody like Rick Santorum here — he seems to have gotten some of it but not all of it, having filtered the feedback through some self-protective maladaptive coping mechanism, it looks like to me.)

I suppose if human cognitive ability got us into this detour in evolutionary development through willful avoidance it will also lead us back on track in some way.  Or, at least it can.  Or it could lead to a third way of human society developing, something that comes out of a combination of our lives as animals and our permutation of it through species willfulness.

We’ve been calling out for extraterrestrial help for quite some time by now, whether from gods, God, ETs, whatever.  The thing of it is, from my point of view, is that we don’t listen when we actually get a response.  In some ways, I think we’re stubbornly insisting on staying lost in this detour, of doing this our way, even if it’s dead end.

Thawing out

November 6, 2011

Someone I know, but not very well, was talking about feeling like a Neanderthal who has been frozen in time and is now thawing out and stumbling around this modern world of homines sapientes.  I was interested especially because I have the impression she’s pretty different from me in some significant ways, so her feeling this way, too, suggests that my attribution of my own similar sense of being a “stranger in a strange land” to particulars about me or my life is just wrong.

Today we chatted about it a bit, and she suggested that maybe it has something to do with a transitional stage when one sheds certain previous ways of making one’s way in the world.  Relaxing from being hypervigilant was a particular scenario she brought up as a possible explanation.  What I like about her image is that it gives me hope that the condition is temporary and part of a progression moving forward towards improvement, and that it’s not like losing one’s guide dog or something.  I also like that it involves warming up, because that is an image I have had for years in many guises, from furnaces with delayed ignition to icy souls to cold toes, or rather, cold feet.

My contribution was that I think Neanderthals get a bad press.  I suspect they had strengths we dominant humans with all our sapientia don’t have.


Invasive species

August 12, 2011

I was reading the article by Elizabeth Kolbert about Neanderthals in The New Yorker August 15th and 22nd issue, and I was thinking of how we could view the same set of facts, and instead of wondering why modern humans have been so “successful” in comparison to other forms of humans, we could wonder whether our replacement of the extinct forms reflects some sort of invasiveness on our part.  Maybe I’m looking at it this way after watching some nifty machinery remove lots of water chestnut from a local reservoir over the past week.

I also wonder whether the DNA differences between modern humans and Neanderthals that are being sought to explain our “success” will actually be the paper trail of physical evidence for a change that began in a different way.