Archive for February, 2009

When Socio-Economic Relationships Clash War Erupts

February 27, 2009
large platform


A Picture Of Self

Future Time

“So what did your ‘self’ picture look like” said MV, “the one you gave to your Professor?”

“Well, in my description I left out the self’s logical component, but my picture got the job done, at least it did for Jim,” I replied. “Also, it probably helped that I compared my concept of self with George Herbert Mead’s symbolic interactionist model of self. Mead was the ‘main man’ with some of the professors in the department, so if I compared well with him, I was home free.”

“Alright already,” said MV, “what picture?”

“I used Venn circles to describe the self. You know those three overlapping circles originally used to test for the validly of syllogisms,” I replied. “I used those circles to describe the three cognitive boundaries of freedom, the boundaries of ‘self.’ Those boundaries are 1) physical, 2) energy far from equilibrium–life, and 3) culture:

“Draw two circles, one slightly intersecting the other. Let one circle represent life (green) and the other matter (brown). Let the exterior space of the circles, the space that does not overlap, represent evolution, both physical and biological evolution. Where the circles intersect, –the space inside the two overlapping circles, let that space represent all existing life, or the survival domain of all living plants and animals (the biosphere-green). When it comes to human life, however, something more is required, and that something is something different. Let the third circle (blue) represent that difference.

“Again, draw a circle that slightly intersects the other two circles. The non-overlap portion of that circle represents the time-dependent evolution of human culture. Existing culture, the ‘now’ aspect of human culture is located (represented) within the overlap portion (blue and purple quadrants) of the circle representing human culture. Where this circle overlaps the other two circles, a curved triangular space comes into view. Let the lines defining that space represent the interface of human consciousness with the outside world.

“Extending out from that triangular space are three leaf-like structures—three quadrants (blue, green, purple). Where the circle representing human culture overlaps the circle representing matter, that is where the ‘self’s’ cognitive boundary interfaces with the natural world (pink self horizon); that is, that is where the ‘self’s’ curved triangular space interfaces with the economic well being of the individual, where commodities (mortar into bricks, iron into steel) are used to transform the environment, and where power/knowledge relationships come into play. But, all of these cultural artifacts, – tools, commodities, weapons- are inter-reliant upon the ‘self’s’ other cognitive boundary, the ‘self’ boundary that interfaces the life circle (yellow self horizon). Here the ‘self’ engages cultural meanings; here women and men develop their attitudes toward life. In this quadrant a diversity of attitudes and opinions are communicated and psychologically weighted. The culturizing of language, art, religion, ideology, and spiritual concerns develop here. These shared meanings become the “life blood” of social interaction, organization, and institutions. Consciousness gets objectified here— beliefs and paradigms originate here. The lessons of history are continually repeated here. When different “objectified consciousnesses” clash over conflicting socio-economic relationships, war erupts here.

“To sum up, ‘what we do with stuff’ defines the ‘physical cultural quadrant of self’ (pink horizon), and ‘who does what with stuff and why,’ defines the self’s other quadrant, the quadrant that adds the symbolic dimension to our physical culture (yellow horizon); but, what about the other side of the three sided triangle? What does that cognitive boundary interface with, and how does that quadrant affect the ‘self’?

“Human consciousness interfaces with the survival domain of all life (red horizon), but this interface, for humans, is different. Within this interface we experience the capacity to question our own “objectified consciousness and ask why.” We encounter our own demons and “ask why me?” Choice and decisions are made at this interface. All journeys begin here; even spiritual journeys begin here– or, perhaps not, and, if not, in moments of despair, the echoing reverberation of “why not” can always be heard in the distance. Opportunities for self-actualization, transcendence, and liberation are found at this interface—they only have to recognized and then acted upon. A man well published in the fields of religion and science, Ian Barbour, would agree with me I believe. Here’s what he has to say about the uniqueness of human consciousness:

“‘In the capacity for abstract thought and symbolic language there is a radical distinction between man and animal. Self-conscious awareness, critical self-reflection, and creative imagination are found nowhere else in nature. In memory of the past, anticipation of the future, and envisagement of ideal potentialities, he transcends his immediate environment. He is unique in his search for truth, concern for moral values, and acknowledgement of universal obligation –and above all, in his relationship to God.’” (1966, p.29)

Layered Sequencing Of Platforms—Reductionist, Life, Mind—That Constitute Self.

1 R—The reductionist, mass/energy, platform.

2 L—The life, biological/reproductive, platform.

3 M—The mind, symbol/meaning, platform.

4 S—Human self—is not an entity, rather, it is intersubjective boundary horizons.

5 The reductionist, physical/cultural, self-boundary quadrant.

6 The life, biological/emotional, self-boundary quadrant.

7 The mind, psychological, sociocultural, self-boundary quadrant of human discourse.

8 The connecting bridge that separates and connects the life platform to the mind platform.

9 The connecting bridge that separates and connects the mind platform to the life platform as well as to the life platform’s limiting condition—the reductionist platform.

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I Investigated The Question: Why Do Some People Handle Ambivalence Better Than Others?

February 21, 2009
masks1os0

Future Time (Back to the conversation with MV)

“But you got married,” said MV.

“No, that was later,” I replied. “True, three years after my bicycle trip I did get married, but it took another five years after that before I finally stopped pushing my God idea. Once I rejoined the student ranks, I was back at it.”

“Oh, my mistake,” MV responded. “It’s hard to keep a time line straight when you keep jumping around the way you do. How did you combine sociology with your metaphysic anyway?”

“It wasn’t easy,” I said. “Actually, back in the classroom, I kept my mouth shut most of the time. I needed to become employable, not understood.”

“But what about your thesis,” replied MV, “you said the data supported your ideas.”

“I didn’t write about my metaphysic,” I said. “I wrote about the implications contained in it. Remember, my first two thesis topics were rejected, so when it was suggested that I do survey research on prejudice my topic became prejudice. Actually, I was okay with that. Prejudice always made my blood boil, so I thought getting to know more about it was a good idea. In my literature search on the subject I found a connection between prejudice and ambivalence. Ambivalence played a major role in Adorno’s study of the Authoritarian Personality. In order to escape ambivalence, the child, in Adorno’s investigations, redirected hostilities toward out-groups and away from his or her own authoritarian parents. In fact, the need get rid of ambivalence ended up in prejudiced attitudes in other studies too. I found that curious.”

“So what’s all that got to do with your metaphysic?” responded MV.

“What could possibly be more ambivalence generating than the condition of being-what-is-not-while-not–being-what-is?” I said. Of course I know most people don’t experience the self in that way, but some do, and among those that do, you do not find much prejudice, if any.”

“Except for you, who experiences the self like that? responded MV.

“Anybody who hangs close to the self,” I said. “People who meditate know this firsthand. Existentialists deal with this condition on a theoretical basis, and liberal-minded humanists, although they might not experience self-scrutiny first hand, struggle to keep this freedom alive fore everyone else. If the issues of self-identity, for those people who seek that knowledge, are not ambivalence generating, than I don’t know what is–and that’s the approach I took when writing my thesis. I investigated the question: Why do some people handle ambivalence better than others? And I ended up hypothesizing: People who frequently deal with self-directed inquiries are less likely to exhibit prejudiced attitudes (they get used to dealing with ambivalences) and, thus, the corollary becomes prejudiced attitudes are more likely to be found in people who engage in infrequent self-directed inquires.”

“How the heck is something like that measured? said MV.

“Well, that was the problem,” I replied. “But, while doing my research, I stumbled upon a measure of private self-conscious activity. After looking over the questions, which already had a high reliability quotient built into them, I decided those questions would work for me. My problem was half solved, but finding a scale to measure ambivalence was not so easy. In the end, I created my own questions. My committee had already signed off on my thesis, so this new expanded area of inquiry did not alarm them. The thesis became more difficult to write, but, in the end, it became a scientific investigation of my own metaphysic–if only indirectly.”

“I see,” MV replied, “but I still don’t understand what you’re talking about.”

“Yeah, that was also a problem,” I said. “The four professors on my committee pretty much left me alone. I guess they figured that since I was a good student I could handle the new material. Nobody questioned what I was doing because measuring prejudice attitudes toward African Americans and physically disabled persons (the level of significance that connects prejudice to both groups) was a valued sociological project all by itself. But, now that I think about it, Professor Julian did require some clarification on what I was talking about.”

“He thought you were crazy? replied MV.

“Not at all,” I replied. “He was a big help. If it weren’t for him my thesis would never have made it past the conceptual stage. He guided me through the statistical analysis and that was necessary because I suffered from what some people call math phobia. Anyway, my thesis was a numbers thesis and I was so scared that before I even got started I wanted to ditch the whole project and go to plan B, which, as a requirement for graduation, substituted taking exams for writing a thesis. But I went to Jim and asked for help. It wasn’t hard to go to him because I knew him from an earlier time. We met in the ‘60’s when we were both students at CMU. You might say we were old friends.”

“So what didn’t he like?” said MV.

“Jim was very sociological,” I replied. “He didn’t buy into the ‘freedom issue,’ especially when it came to personal identity and volition concerns. At one point, he turned to me and said, ‘I don’t understand what the hell you’re talking about. Draw me a picture why don’t you.’ And that is exactly what I did.”

“What picture? How did you draw a picture of the self?” said MV.

“I didn’t,” I replied, “but the cognitive boundaries that define the self can be drawn. Once again, it’s a holistic thing. It encompasses all that we know, and a little more.”

Freedom, Civilization, Humanity—Something To Die For

February 14, 2009
Faust sunset

Because I Know I Am Alive So God Can Be Free—I Cry, Because I Know That The “Spirit Of Freedom” Is More Important Than Life Itself—I Cry, I Cry Because I Can’t Hold It In Any Longer

Home

Aug. 26, ‘82

I’m in a highly charged emotional state. I’m in my parent’s house, but they are both working.

I was drinking coffee when I flicked on the TV. The morning movie was an old Errol Flynn movie entitled Uncertain Glory. Immediately, I became wrapped up in the complexity of the French underground movement as it fought for a free France during the German occupation of WWII. Freedom is indeed worth fighting for, and dying for if need be, but not because it allows us to pursue and satisfy our desires, but rather, because existence, human existence, is the result of its evolution. Freedom is about awareness, growth and, ultimately, bringing the divine into realization. Freedom moves freedom forward through the liberation of humanity and civilization. At the end of the movie, when the “cad,” Flynn, made the ultimate sacrifice (faced the Nazi firing squad to save 100 innocents), I began to cry uncontrollably. I cried for the “preservation of the good” in the face all the violence, pain, and despair in the world. I cried for the “spirit of freedom.”

Whenever I experience something profoundly meaningful, like what happened to me after that movie, I get scared as hell. Every time I see something in a new light, with understanding, it scares the hell out of me. What am I supposed to do? Who am I to tell another person what ought to be believed, what ought to be done? I’m just like them; pleasure drives us all. And besides, I lack the will for that kind of thing, not to mention the ability–so why me? Sure, I believe I see things that other people do not see, but I don’t understand this. I’m frightened! I do not know how to respond. But I do know that this lump in my throat is very painful, and these knots in my stomach are very tight. My psyche is not strong, never was, yet life, for me, is so full of meaning that I am overflowing to bursting. What can I do? What should I do? Why am I so tormented? Perhaps I will write another page, and then another, and then another, until this emotional rage subsides; or, perhaps, I will take the “show on the road,” and speak the words that I know and believe. Why am I so uncertain? Whatever my future holds, I know it will be different. I feel I am about to embark on a destination-free journey, but not on this day, — not today! Today I lack the strength and conviction. Today, I can only cry. And why? Because, inside, I know God is free. Inside, I know that my death is a gift, a gift of divinity, the God-given gift of freedom. Inside, I know the “spirit of freedom” is more important than life itself. I know that the eternal question–“Why?”—is itself the answer to the question “why.” I know that there is equivalence among time, reason, and freedom. I know that God’s conscious freedom—human freedom– liberates divinity, and I know, contrary to what is written in Genesis, and in Heidegger too, that meaning’s origin is not found in “guilt.” Rather, it is found in God, in freedom—in God’s freedom.

And so it goes–with this writing I have worked myself back into a calm, but a calm that waits to be broken again and again. On the lighter side, I have been in Houghton Lake for a few days, and tomorrow I will ride my bicycle home to my apartment. I have fine-tuned my home to satisfy my needs and desires, and there I will pick up my creative work– guitar, painting, writing, meditation, and hopefully, my release, conversation.

Aug. 28

Well this is it, the end and all of that jazz. I suppose it’s time for a few reflections on the meaning of this trip. I have already mentioned that the success of this trip can be attributed to the good weather, but I would also like to give some credit to an even more general source, my value system. It didn’t come easy. I had to survive first. That is remarkable in itself, but more than that, now I have an answer to what lies embedded at the heart of what it means to be alive and think. Being in touch with that knowledge allows me to optimally participate in life’s blessings. I am more alive now than ever before. I am incredibly fortunate, and I know it! I am 34 years old, and I have brought to life my Castalian dream, albeit a different one, perhaps, than the one Hermann Hesse envisioned in his book, Magister Ludi, but I don’t think he would disapprove of the changes. Home never felt so good!

For me, there’s still a great deal to be accomplished. As for tomorrow, and whether my efforts will bear fruit, time will tell. I am already engaged in bringing my ideas to light, but it is a slow process. Failure is certainly a possibility. My optimism, though, is based in what I believe to be real—the meaning contained in this symbolism: (((x/y) –(x/y)) (–(x/y) (x/y)))

I Wanted To Begin This Journal Entry With Reverence—And I Have

February 7, 2009
P1010239

Life Is A Patient Teacher, Especially For Those Who Never Learn

Aug. 20, ‘82

When the boat docked, the wind didn’t seem quite as bad. At times, while bicycling, it was even at my back. When I arrived in Swift Current, I was definitely ready to camp, though. When I was sitting on some steps in front of a store, two bicyclers, a boy and girl, pedaled up to me. They told me about a free campground three miles up the road. The guy was having the same kind of knee problems that I was having, but his were worse. He was in the process of getting a bus ticket back to Michigan. He also told me that the retail brewery just around the corner was closing, so if I wanted anything, I’d better hurry. I thanked him and made it through the door just as it was being locked behind me.

I rolled into the free campsite about a half hour later. Sure it was free, but as I looked around and saw all the trash thrown on the ground, I was not impressed. As it turned out, I found out that the reason the campsite was free was because the owner of the property wanted to keep trespassers off the rest of his property. That idea was swell, but broken glass and beer caps substituted for grass, and although there were some large poles lying around for firewood, you needed an axe to cut them up. (The next day I was told they were put there to keep people from burning the fences.) Anyway, I was not down on the guy; after all he could have been like everybody else and just cursed the trespassers.

That morning I was on the road by 7 am. It was cloudy and looked like rain. Just before the cloudburst, I took shelter in an old garage. When the rain let up a bit, I climbed on my bicycle and began to ride. The bicycling conditions were hilly, wet, and windy. By late afternoon the weather had cleared, but biking was still hard. My knees had been sore ever since Niagara Falls; a lot of it probably had to do with the fact that I had been keeping an 80/90-mile a day pace. Sault St. Marie was now in range.

Michigan

Aug. 21, 1982

Well this is it, the last night of my trip–a sad occasion. I have a super campsite, however, I’m just south of Wolverine, Michigan, on top of a hill in the woods with the beautiful view of the sky. Blending into the horizon there are shades of yellows, blues, violets, and grays, and in the southwest there is a descending slivered moon. I passed a lot of good-looking campsites before I found this one. One was a State Forest Campground, and another was a park that offered free camping. I didn’t want to be around people tonight. Tonight, it’s just between me and Ma Nature and she’s quite a lady, and has been this entire trip. It’s getting too dark to write, but I wanted to begin this journal entry at a time of reverence, and I have. Tomorrow I will fill in the rest.

Aug. 22

I’m drinking coffee at McDonald’s in Gaylord, Michigan. I am quickly approaching the final mile of this trip.

Biking the Trans Canada, on my way to Sault Ste. Marie, was just what I expected it to be—horrible. The condition of the highway was good. That surprised me, but the traffic was heavy, and some of the trucks were not sympathetic to the bicycler. I ran off the road twice. I can’t remember the last time that happened. I’m not sure if I’m losing my nerve or if the trucks were really that bad. I arrived in the Sault under pouring rain around 6 p.m. I had been fighting a head wind all day long, and I was very tired.

I needed a place to stay, so I went to the University. Lake Superior State University was accommodating. I stayed in their dormitory guestroom for $5.50. That’s where I met Tom. He’s a musician by trade, hitchhiking his way to Toronto. I felt better after a shower, so when he suggested that we go to the bars downtown, I was up for it. Well, we met a couple of girls, and one beer led to another until the bar closed. Tom left with his girl; I wasn’t so lucky.

I went looking for my bed, and wasn’t sure how to get there. I finally stumbled into my room around 4 AM, but not before I scared the heebie jeebies out of the poor woman who was walking in front of me. I was trying to figure out how to get back to the university, so I tried to catch up with her to ask directions. I didn’t notice that the faster I walked the faster she went until it was too late. She ran into a house where there was a party going on, and, as I passed that house, I was greeted by some of the guys who had come out on the porch to ask me a few questions. I basically told the fellows my situation, and I guess they believed me because they gave me directions to the university.

Early the next morning I woke up irritable. After straddling my bicycle seat, I wanted to be anywhere except peddling into the cold, damp, weather. I was mentally and physically wasted, and all because the night before I followed my nose from beer to another. The beer did all my talking on that night except for that tiny little voice in the back of my head that kept repeating, “You should be sleeping, you should be sleeping.” Life is a patient teacher, though, especially for those who never learn. I didn’t even like the people I was with. The only good that came out of last night was my resolve not to repeat it. Anyway, I will remember my Sault Ste. Marie “night out on the town” as one of my many unnecessary mistakes.

After three or four hours of morning biking, things got better. The sun came out and the wind was at my back, not to mention that I was getting closer to home. I still had a hangover, though, so, as good as it got, it could’ve been better. By the end of the day, the beautiful lakes, streams, and countryside, not to mention the sparse traffic, all went into the feeling of reverence that I experienced on that hill just outside of Wolverine. As I have already noted, that campsite was especially nice. This morning, however, I awoke to rain, and lots of it. And, since this is my last official bicycle day, I have chosen to ride in it. My parents are expecting me home by late afternoon, and my visiting cousins (I have been informed) are sticking around until I get there. This rain is the worst I have bicycled in on this trip, and it doesn’t appear as if it will let up. All I can say is that in another 50 miles I will have a warm place to dry out. That is a good thought, and the best reward!