Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Binocular Cosmic Vision and the Expansion of Mental Space (6.06.09)

We've posted on this subject in the past -- which is to say, when the mind expands, what does it expand into? To the extent that the mind exists, does it have an edge? And what does the edge shade off into? And what exactly expands? The content? The space? Or is it simply the density of connectedness? If so, how do ideas link together in the scaffolding of the mind?

Yes, this sounds like an airy-fairy subject, but as a matter of fact, it comes into play in the nature of my work in forensic psychology. For example, exactly what is a "psychiatric injury?" I am routinely asked to answer this unanswerable question. If you actually think about it in a deep way, it's a bit like assessing the damage to a cloud caused by bumping into another cloud. What caused the cloud's injury? What did the cloud look like before the accident? Was it a fully functioning cloud, a cumulonimbus? Would it have eventually produced rain, or was it merely a worthless cirrus cloud? Were there other causes? Apportion exact percentages to all the causes. Were 51% of the causes related to the injury in question?

It's madness. This, by the way, is why I know that liberals are demagoging (if that's how you spell it) the veterans-with-PTSD issue. As we already know, liberals can only relate to the military if they can convert them to victims. The diagnosis of PTSD is perfect in this regard, as it can magically convert virtually all combat veterans into victims of PTSD, being that war is intrinsically traumatic.

Now, as it so happens, over the past two decades, I've dealt with any number of cases of PTSD. And while the diagnosis is real, it is almost always a transient condition that eventually resolves on its own, especially if the person was healthy to begin with. In my experience, the only exceptions to this have been people who had significant pre-existing psychiatric issues.

To put it bluntly, they were not particularly well put together to begin with. Thus, you sometimes hear the liberal media report stories of "gross injustice," because a vet was denied benefits on the "pretext" of having a pre-existing mental condition, often a personality disorder. But if I were the evaluating doctor, I can well imagine arriving at the identical conclusion: Sorry. This guy was nuts to begin with. PTSD is the least of their problems. It's somewhat like calling someone "homeless," when that is a "final common pathway" to a host of other personal issues.

Anyway. That's a liberal for you. Always speaking naked power to Truth and comforting or patronizing lies to the powerless. Or, you could say that liberalism is a systematic way to convert good impulses into bad ones through a defective ideology -- in particular, compassion into cruelty. It is the mirror image of the free market, which converts supposedly "bad" impulses into mutually beneficial outcomes. For example, when I check my email in the morning, I see that there are dozens of people from all over the world who care deeply about my, er, sexual functioning. Only in a market economy can greed be converted into worldwide concern with another man's privates. It's touching, really.

Yes, you could say I'm just rambling, waiting for some thoughts to attract my thinker. Toots used to call it ad homena homena homena, or
"speaking in raccoon tongues." Superficially it sounds like pointless speech, but it does have a destination toward which we are dimly groping.

Let's look at some notes to myself that I've recently scrawled. Maybe that will help get this thing off the ground: What kind of space is the mind? If it is holographic and multi-dimensional, we need a language that parallels that fact, or it will mislead. What does it imply about the nature of mental space to say that something is deep? Or what does it mean to say "the other side?" Is what we see a projection of mental space? Or is psychic space the internalization of external space?

Let's look at it this way. The only reason we experience mental space at all is because we live at the intersection of the vertical and horizontal. This is what it means to be "bi-cosmic." If we lived only in the former, we would be like the angels, who abide in this static, archetypal, eternal space. If we lived only in the latter, we would be like animals and lower humans, who essentially live on the surface of the senses. But the differing vertices of the vertical and horizontal axes create a new kind of space, similar to the way our two eyes, which have slightly different angles, create binocular vision, or our two ears create the possibility of the three-dimensional stereo image.

Here again, this might sound overly abstract, but it really isn't, as it is the stock-in-trade of the psychoanalyst. As I've mentioned before, we talk about the "unconscious mind" as if it were a sort of reservoir, or fluid ocean, that lies "beneath" the solid and dependable ego. But obviously, that is merely a spacial metaphor borrowed from our experience of the external world. In reality, the situation is much more like one of those blinky toys (is that what they're called?), where if you turn it at a different angle, a different picture appears. The unconscious is analogous to this, in that it is "embedded" in every conscious act; you could say that the unconscious is "in" the ego, and vice versa.

That being the case, the same thing apples to the higher realms. They are always here, but we must "tweak" the picture and look at it from a slightly different angle for it to "jump out." And if you want to do this on a continuous basis, you need to practice it -- which is what a spiritual practice is all about!

For example, I don't think I could ever be an Orthodox Jew, partly because I think you need to be immersed in the culture and exposed to it from an early age by people who experience and convey the joy of it. But the whole point of all the laws and rituals is just this: to try to look at virtually everything "from the divine angle." It is a kind of karma yoga that involves the constant recollection of God in most every activity. Thus, it shouldn't feel burdensome, but liberating; far from being restrictive, it should open one out to a much "deeper" or "higher" space. But if the living spirit is lost and only the letter remains, one can well understand how it could become about as joyful as Michelle Obama.

Frithjof Schuon often spoke of what has been lost with modernity, in particular, a kind of collective "spirit" that we can scarcely imagine today, partly because we are so distracted and even hypnotized by our conveniences. But as hard as life was in the past, there is no evidence whatsoever that people were any less happy than we are today. In fact, there is reason to believe that they were actually more content in spite of it all. I think of how Judaism survived down through the centuries despite being so persecuted. Why not just abandon it? Again, there must have been such a supernatural payoff, that we have difficulty wrapping our minds around it today. The same can be said for the early Christian martyrs.

To paraphrase something Theodore Dalrymple once said, "misery rises to the level of the means available to alleviate it," which is an ironyclad law that liberals will never understand, for to understand it is to instantly liberate oneself from the magical prescriptions of liberalism. Of course the implementation of liberal policy only results in more greed, more bitterness, more envy, more sexual conflict, more of a sense of entitlement. But the prescription is always more of the same, which then creates the need for.... more of the same!

Clearly, despite the "war on poverty," there is more envy and bitterness today than there was in the 1950s, when conditions were immeasurably worse. A "poor" person today lives beyond the dreams of an affluent person in the 1950s, but it doesn't matter so long as one lives in the single vision of flatland liberalism, divorced from the liberating vertical energies that cause one's world to expand without limits.

As Perry describes it, the vertical axis is the only real "exit" from the burden of existence. Have you ever noticed how you feel "lighter" after a religious service? It's because you are lighter. I used to attend services at the Vedanta temple in Hollywood, and wouldn't pay to much attention to the words. Rather, I would just close my eyes and focus on the sensation of vertical liftoff.

The vertical passage is God's way "in" to manifestation, and our way "out." Or, you could say that God's expiration is our inspiration. I actually practice this consciously; when I meditate, I imagine that my inhalation corresponds to God's exhalation, and vice versa. There is a reason why spirit and breath are synonymous in the esoteric literature. When you inhale, take it all the way from the crown of head down to the heels, and when you exhale, pour it from your heart and out the top of your head while repeating the name of your favorite saint or deity.

That's it for today. Off to earn my daily bread in cloud-cuckoo land.

I've looked at clouds from both sides now
From up and down, and still somehow
It's cloud illusions I recall
I really dont know clouds at all
--Joni Mitchell

69 Comments:

Blogger QP said...

Some deep thinks found the thinker today!

"Frithjof Schuon often spoke of what has been lost with modernity, in particular, a kind of collective "spirit" that we can scarcely imagine today, partly because we are so distracted and even hypnotized by our conveniences. But as hard as life was in the past, there is no evidence whatsoever that people were any less happy than we are today."

Best advice today: Practice

6/11/2008 09:18:00 AM  
Blogger Storm-Rider said...

C.S. Lewis came to the conclusion that the higher forms of human reasoning are supernatural, as opposed to mere cerebral neurophysiology and cognitive function. He believed that higher human reasoning is a gift from God, and that reasoning is part of our Divine nature - part of being made in the image of God. God is the author of our supernatural gifts of life and love; and our supernatural gift of reason. Human reason is a part of God within our minds and hearts; and therefore a manifestation of His Holy Spirit within. These gifts help us to become His sons and daughters, and not to remain merely intelligent animals.

6/11/2008 09:27:00 AM  
Blogger mushroom said...

GB says: The unconscious is analogous to this, in that it is "embedded" in every conscious act; you could say that the unconscious is "in" the ego, and vice versa.

That being the case, the same thing apples to the higher realms. They are always here, but we must "tweak" the picture and look at it from a slightly different angle for it to "jump out." And if you want to do this on a continuous basis, you need to practice it -- which is what a spiritual practice is all about!


Fractals and recursives again. Nano-me's to mega-me's in an Escher-scape.

As Perry describes it, the vertical axis is the only real "exit" from the burden of existence.

I can surrender only myself to God. The only place I can give Him to rule is my own heart. Yet, if He is truly enthroned there, He rules the cosmos.

6/11/2008 09:34:00 AM  
Blogger mushroom said...

S-R said: C.S. Lewis came to the conclusion that the higher forms of human reasoning are supernatural, as opposed to mere cerebral neurophysiology and cognitive function.

(Careful now, Ray will hit you with his EAAN link.)

I don't know if I agree with that phrase -- "higher forms of human reasoning" entirely (though I'm a long-time CSL fan). I think I would say it more like, the recognition of truth is supernatural -- or, you might say the apprehension of revelation. But I'm an intuitive sort of person so maybe I'm parsing unnecessarily.

Storm-Rider, my favorite Lewis book is The Great Divorce. Are you familiar with it?

6/11/2008 09:48:00 AM  
Blogger Storm-Rider said...

Mushroom,

I have a copy of The Great Divorce, but haven't read it. I have read Miracles, Mere Christianity, The Screwtape Letters and The Chronicles of Narnia; and I'm currently reading God in the Dock.

Tell me what you think of The Great Divorce.

By the way, I've just discovered this site, and so far I feel very good about it. It is so nice to find a group of Christians who are not fearful of discussing and defending Christian faith - particularly with those who have other faith. I'm with you; and as C.S. Lewis said, from a demon’s perspective in The Screwtape Letters, in reference to God's availability to us when we seek Him in time of need or crisis: "The post is nearly always defended."

6/11/2008 10:39:00 AM  
Blogger Van said...

Mushroom and Storm-Rider,
"Tell me what you think of The Great Divorce."

Two opposable thumbs straight up.

6/11/2008 10:59:00 AM  
Anonymous joseph said...

qp,

The site you link to--do you agree or disagree with it's author?

6/11/2008 11:15:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"For example, when I check my email in the morning, I see that there are dozens of people from all over the world who care deeply about my, er, sexual functioning. Only in a market economy can greed be converted into worldwide concern with another man's privates. It's touching, really."

Well that's a stupid example. You really believe that works? If you were going to try to point out how a system works you could have at least given a good point, you totally made a point opposite your intention. And if it weren't sarcasm you fall to the same injustice the Liberals try to defend you against, and in that sense you have made a case in their favor. Way to go. You need help, thank god liberals protect you from yourself.

6/11/2008 11:35:00 AM  
Blogger mushroom said...

Like Van, I highly recommend it. Maybe I can get away with a brief review. It's a fairly fun read, a great display of Lewis' strength as a writer of fantasy -- his ability to interject the right amount of grounding, e.g., the bus queue, into an unreal world. Fair or not, his depiction of Napolean in hell always sticks with me, as does the general depiction of the vast distances.

In contrast, another memorable scene is when the narrator tells his guide about the yawning abyss out of which they came. The guide brings the narrator's attention to a tiny crack in the soil. He explains that he can't be sure that they ascended through this particular crack but, if not, it was one no bigger. Hell and its self-obsessed problems seem huge to the sufferers, but all of hell cannot contain an atom of heaven.

6/11/2008 12:08:00 PM  
Blogger mushroom said...

anonymous 11:35 -- "You need help, thank god liberals protect you from yourself."

At least you're honest, if humorless.

OK, maybe not humorless -- is ugly a humor or just a state of mind?

6/11/2008 12:13:00 PM  
Anonymous Jew said...

Storm-Rider said:

"It is so nice to find a group of Christians who are not fearful of discussing and defending Christian faith - particularly with those who have other faith."

FYI, we're not all Christians. But I'd lay down my life for The Universal Church of Perennial Racoonalism.

6/11/2008 12:17:00 PM  
Anonymous Bob said...

I'd lay down my life for the Church of the SubGenius.

6/11/2008 12:21:00 PM  
Blogger Van said...

Mushroom said "Hell and its self-obsessed problems seem huge to the sufferers, but all of hell cannot contain an atom of heaven."

...and also the little creatures (sorta mind parasites) cutting them off and speaking for them, leading the people by a leash... the sense that the people are not so much condemned to Hell, as clinging to it....

6/11/2008 12:23:00 PM  
Blogger Van said...

Mushroom said "is ugly a humor or just a state of mind?"

More like a way of life... which people come by anonymously.

6/11/2008 12:24:00 PM  
Blogger River Cocytus said...

I don't think Bob was trying to point out that the system works. In fact, spam would exist with or without the free market (i.e, grifts and scams have existed since time immemorial) but your ability to receive it with such ease is a result of the free market. Such care for manjunk!

6/11/2008 01:26:00 PM  
Blogger River Cocytus said...

As long as its The Church we're talking about...

I'm with ya, Stormie!

6/11/2008 01:28:00 PM  
Blogger Storm-Rider said...

Jew: "FYI, we're not all Christians."

I'm the newbie here; and I didn't mean to offend you or exclude you.

6/11/2008 02:14:00 PM  
Anonymous christopher said...

I am going to be chewing for a long time on the freedom to move in spiritual space I find here married with the conservatism I also find here.

In all honesty I find that I am able to take conservative Buddhist and Hindu and Taoist writing (like I find in Tricycle quarterly) much more easily than the Christian version.

As for the free flight in the vertical, Sir Bob's language and my own are twinned. So I intend to hang around for a while.

Here's a haiku I wrote for Robin's site

Seventeen peaceful
Ways to find the light of God
Shining on my face.

6/11/2008 02:17:00 PM  
Blogger Van said...

"To paraphrase something Theodore Dalrymple once said, "misery rises to the level of the means available to alleviate it," which is an ironyclad law that liberals will never understand, for to understand it is to instantly liberate oneself from the magical prescriptions of liberalism."

So true. I just got my Amazon box last night, with "A Conservative History of the American Left" and Dalrymple's "In praise of Prejudice". I'm finishing up a book by Robert D. Kaplan "Warrior Politics: Why Leadership Demands a Pagan Ethos" which I've been enjoying arguing with (meaning that I've scribbled nearly as many words in the margins as are on the page), so far he has many good points which he often follows off onto false trails, but he presents and them intelligently and I'm enjoying it so far... about 3/4 through. But I couldn't resist reading a few pages of Dalrymples, and within just a pages into it, he already laid open and bare the false 'Can't do x on Principle!' stands and evasions at the lefts root in Descartes... can't wait to get to it, he reminds me of a Christopher Hitchens without the strident streak.

6/11/2008 03:25:00 PM  
Blogger Ray Ingles said...

What would count as evidence that people were less happy in the past? Hypothetically, I mean.

6/11/2008 08:07:00 PM  
Blogger julie said...

Actually, Ray, what Bob said was this:

"But as hard as life was in the past, there is no evidence whatsoever that people were any less happy than we are today."

6/11/2008 08:37:00 PM  
Blogger QP said...

Joseph, See my answer here

6/11/2008 08:55:00 PM  
Blogger Smoov said...

Keith "strolling bones" opined with a spit-take.

6/11/2008 08:57:00 PM  
Blogger Smoov said...

$7,280 per seat.

This is not for the upcoming Van Morrison concert in Toronto -- possibly his last.

I'll cover a few grand up front if 'Coons want to attend.

6/11/2008 09:06:00 PM  
Blogger Smoov said...

Attempted to book multiple 'coons for the Van Morisson concert in Toronto.

6/11/2008 09:15:00 PM  
Blogger Smoov said...

'Coons:

The remants of Motowan are still out there.

Seriously.

Track it down,

I'm easy like Sunday morning...

6/11/2008 09:20:00 PM  
Blogger Robin Starfish said...

Smoov - aren't you in Afghanistan?!?

Seeing 'Van' and 'last concert' in the same sentence disturbs my wa. Wha?

6/11/2008 10:38:00 PM  
Blogger Smoov said...

Robin:

No. No clearance.

Low-level, grain-bag efforts over the kush.

6/11/2008 11:03:00 PM  
Blogger Ray Ingles said...

Julie - Yes, I know he's saying "there is no evidence whatsoever" that people were less happy in the past.

But he's saying there's no evidence. I'm asking what such evidence would have looked like if there had happened to be some. I mean, there must be something that would have qualified - otherwise it would be a vacuous statement, like "There's no evidence of triangles with four corners."

For example, on the assumption that people are less likely to murder when they are happy, we could look at historical murder rates compared to modern ones.

6/12/2008 04:55:00 AM  
Blogger Magnus Itland said...

Ray, that's a wonderful link about debunking the "Noble Savage" myth.

I doubt murder rates are a good indicator of happiness though, otherwise Europeans would be much happier than Americans. Scandinavians and Japanese would be deliriously happy, as they almost never kill anyone. Except, strangely enough, themselves.

6/12/2008 05:31:00 AM  
Blogger River Cocytus said...

The 'Noble Savage' myth simply is that culturally primitive man was superior morally, or whatnot, to modern or 'cultured' man.

The problem with this idea is that obviously it is a sweeping generalization, and secondly that yes, murder rates in the past reveal it to be false.

But, it is also true that there were good people - groups of them in fact - in our distant past. (Or, at least, fairly decent folk.)

It is like the general mythical mindset of modern people that life was worse for black people before the civil rights movement. In truth, like had been improving for most blacks before it, and shortly after it life got a lot worse (thanks to liberal social policy.)

There is also some evidence that among the most ancient humans there were people of such impenetrable depth and wisdom as to make any of us look like children.

So - false dichotomy.

6/12/2008 06:33:00 AM  
Blogger NoMo said...

(River) "...among the most ancient humans there were people of such impenetrable depth and wisdom" (that's for sure) - and if I may add, faith. The writer to the Hebrews provides a list of examples..."as to make any of us look like children."

6/12/2008 07:21:00 AM  
Blogger Van said...

Ray said "But he's saying there's no evidence. I'm asking what such evidence would have looked like if there had happened to be some."

Ray, I don't think you're going to find many statistical happiness quotients for the 19th century or earlier. What you can find, requires human investigation, rather than scientific, and it can be found in the literature and papers of the time.

The newspapers and magazines are available (gutenberg.org has reams of them), as well as sources such as 'Little House on the Prairie", Mark Twain, Louisa Alcott, Emerson, Edgar Allan Poe... that'll give you a grasp of what was considered the norm, the norm sought for, and the norm feared.

On balance, in my estimation, they seemed pretty much the same as us, sans the 'stuff'... and curiously far better able to grasp and express it.

Of course, since they weren't burdened with an educational system, it was far easier for them to become educated, grasp and express such things....

6/12/2008 07:47:00 AM  
Blogger Van said...

As far as any idea of an uncivilized 'Nobel Savage'... that's one of the bunkier ideas to come out of the thoroughly bunked up Rousseau, and is in a word,

BUNK

6/12/2008 07:54:00 AM  
Blogger Magnus Itland said...

We should bear in mind that the people we read from earlier times were those who had the food, the shelter and the time to commit themselves to creative works. The starving were probably unhappy, as starving people generally tend to be.

6/12/2008 07:54:00 AM  
Blogger mushroom said...

When more people were farmers I think they were probably a little more hardened to blood and gore where animals are involved. We butchered our own hogs, often beheaded large numbers of chickens, and if an animal needed to be put down, we did it ourselves. That does not equate to cruelty or violence, but certainly previous generations had more direct exposure to the reality of pain, suffering and death.

Also, fistfights among men used to be far more common and a more acceptable way of settling differences, or, frankly, just having fun.

Statistical evidence of historic murder rates are probably extremely questionable for, among others, the same reason that statistics about the number of tornadoes in Kansas in 1854 would be questionable.

6/12/2008 07:57:00 AM  
Blogger Ray Ingles said...

If murder rates aren't a measure of happiness in the past, then what would be?

For example, River, what would the general happiness curve look like for black people in the U.S. from slavery onward? Trending up until the civil rights movement, then down, I take it? How far down? Equal to or lower than slavery times?

It's not necessary to answer all those questions, of course. They're all just different ways of asking my original question: How do we know about happiness in the past, even in a relative if not quantitative sense?

(Which, of course, shades off into the central question, how do we know, full stop? I just thought Van might want to hear that justification... :-> )

6/12/2008 07:58:00 AM  
Anonymous struggling to be civilized said...

No need to look in the past for a correlation between primitive societies and violence.

Vengeance is Ours
http://www.newyorker.com/reporting/2008/04/21/080421fa_fact_diamond?printable=true

6/12/2008 08:34:00 AM  
Blogger Van said...

Not sure why, but I had 19th century on the brain... for the time in between 300's and 1600's...that's guess work. All you've got to go on is your own understanding of what life looks like... how you adjust to difficulties & horrors... and how you felt, in my case at least, when there were just 4 channels of TV and no electronic games or computers, VCR's, mp3 players, etc... did you feel the absence of what wasn't known to exist?

Not so much.

What you can thought experiment, and what doesn't change, is what you felt like when forced to do, say or act in ways you didn't want to or like, and when you have been able to follow your own thoughts and conclusions. Imagine the geometric progression of how those feelings would intensify in something such as dictatorship, or the... probably unimaginable... horror of being owned, beaten, treated like an animal.

You've also got to try to imagine what thoughts you could think... in the absence of the thoughts you normally use in now, in your thinking. That's a toughie. Me ten years ago, was perfectly 'happy' and content with the state of my head, and yet from my perspective now, I was impoverished. I (now) would be miserable, limited to the thinking I thought then... but then... I didn't know it.

Probably the better question would be, depending upon how densely colonized your inner landscape is, what are you able to, and do use, of the known terrain, and of that landscape - are there areas you don't tread because of choice, or failing to visit because of distractions, or because you're kept from them (to the extent that outside pressures can do so).

You have to think it through, and to some extent you can assess it... but I think that requires some semblance of a civilization as a backdrop... could we effectively imagine a situation of living in savagery? I don't think so.

6/12/2008 08:42:00 AM  
Blogger mushroom said...

It's all individual and, vapid as it sounds, "happiness is a choice".

Consider Paul who said, "I have learned in whatever situation I am in to be content."

I believe Boethius was a slave when he wrote the "Consolation of Philosophy" and Epitetus was or had been a slave and was crippled as well, wasn't he? My memory's a little foggy on those.

Most of us, given normal brain chemistry, are about as happy as we decide to be.

6/12/2008 09:33:00 AM  
Blogger julie said...

Ray,
I suspected that's what you meant, but I figured I'd let you spell it out, just in case I misunderstood.

So here's the thing. Happiness is not correlated with time. Happiness is, instead, correlated with circumstance and with the nature of individual people. If happiness were merely a function of material possessions and physical health, there'd be little need in Western societies for psychologists and anti-depressants. I know quite a lot of people who have spent most of their lives deeply unhappy, in spite of the fact that their basic necessities are met or even unsurpassed, and who are yet unlikely to become happy unless they make the necessary internal changes.

Obviously, though, the kind of unhappiness we usually face here pales in comparison to the lives of Sudanese villagers or Saudi house slaves. Again, that is a function of circumstance, not time. In the 18th and 19th centuries, there were slaves whose lives were beyond miserable. There were also some who were able to create happiness, even in wretched circumstances, and there were lots of people who weren't slaves, who struggled the usual struggles for their time and considered themselves not only happy, but blessed.

Our physical and material circumstances have changed dramatically over the past century. What hasn't changed much at all is basic human nature.

6/12/2008 09:34:00 AM  
Blogger Magnus Itland said...

We could say that with divine intervention, it is possible to be happy even when our basic needs are not met. It is certainly not the default, but it can happen. The perennial religion leaves this option open throughout the times, and some souls go there.

Conversely, we could say that diabolical intervention makes it possible to, despite having all one's needs fulfilled an many of one's wishes, still be unhappy, bitter and envious.

This subhuman force also has its prophets throughout the ages, and is referred to even as long ago as the Old Testament as "the left", whereas the upward mobility of the soul (so to speak) is referred to as "the right".

6/12/2008 09:53:00 AM  
Blogger Van said...

Mushroom said "I believe Boethius was a slave when he wrote the "Consolation of Philosophy" and Epitetus was or had been a slave and was crippled as well, wasn't he? My memory's a little foggy on those.
Most of us, given normal brain chemistry, are about as happy as we decide to be."

Epictetus was born a slave, and lamed, probably intentionaly by an owner... he was freed, but I think ended up being exiled? I think Boethius was in prison awaiting execution... talk about a case for our being as happy as we deicide to be!

6/12/2008 09:55:00 AM  
Blogger Van said...

Julie said "What hasn't changed much at all is basic human nature."

Yep.

And what Magnus said.

6/12/2008 09:58:00 AM  
Blogger Van said...

Which brings up the issue, do knowledge and ideas affect, alter, modify human nature... or merely make more granualar distinctions within it's normal operations - no matter the level of personal or societal advancement? This is one I still waffle about on....

6/12/2008 10:02:00 AM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

Re grace coming in the most abject circumstances, the cases of mystical insights and prison house conversions are too numerous to mention.

6/12/2008 10:05:00 AM  
Blogger Ray Ingles said...

Van - So, the 'evidence' either way is kinda vague. As Julie states, though, "the kind of unhappiness we usually face here pales in comparison to the lives of Sudanese villagers or Saudi house slaves".

I'd argue that that kind of unhappiness has declined greatly over recorded history. It's by no means gone, or likely to vanish entirely anytime soon, but still... I have a hard time seeing that as anything but 'progress'.

Of course, once basic needs - material and liberty - are met, happiness becomes much more of a choice. A lot more people have that choice these days, though, happily.

And another point - made in a different way in "Evolution For Everyone" by Wilson, which I'll flog yet again - is that "basic human nature" "hasn't changed much at all" in that time. So the potential for that progress was there the whole time... what changed to bring it out?

6/12/2008 10:45:00 AM  
Blogger Magnus Itland said...

Van,
I like to compare the human psyche to an operating system. The version our ancestors shared with the Neanderthals and probably with various earlier hominids could be called 1.x, which was replaced by 2.0 some 65-40 000 years ago. (There seems to have been local beta tests of various features at least as far back as 90 000 years ago, but they seem not to have come together.) The upgrade was quite sudden, and spelled the end for our Neanderthal friends and probably for many individual humans and even tribes. Mankind seems to have gone through a bottleneck at that time, which is attributed to volcano activity but could also simply mean that most of the then humans simply didn't "get it" and died out.

There is surely a huge difference between version 2.0 and whatever we have today. If you think of even classical Greece, it was perfectly OK for a father to kill a child that displeased him, and sexual abuse of children was close to mandatory. And even 200 years ago, it was perfectly normal and legal for men to duel to the death over mating rights rather than simply asking the woman. So there sure has been some serious upgrade.

But I am sure we are still in the 2.x series. There isn't really any discontinuity like between 1.x and 2.0.

6/12/2008 11:01:00 AM  
Blogger mushroom said...

There isn't really any discontinuity like between 1.x and 2.0.

Then it obviously is not a Microsoft app.

6/12/2008 11:20:00 AM  
Blogger Van said...

Ray said "the potential for that progress was there the whole time... what changed to bring it out?"

The slow opening up and colonizing of interior Space. The slow process of clearing, tilling, excavating, marking and mapping of human nature. Poetically advancing from the flat sketch to Mercator maps, to globes as well as travelling it in fact. You can see the beginnings of this in Lascaux.

Moving our stories from the group to the self, without losing the their pOint. Realizing that as the person develops and maps their own interior space, they can and must be trusted to respect the boundaries in our outer space, because they are inseparable - denying that, denies progress

"Which brings up the issue, do knowledge and ideas affect, alter, modify human nature... or merely make more granular distinctions within it's normal operations - no matter the level of personal or societal advancement? This is one I still waffle about on...."

Perhaps puzzling because I'm trying to do the skeptical dance, and reduce the Three axioms to a single, and eliminating the One in the process - they are woven together. The Polis, the People and the Word; the Father, the Son, the Holy Ghost; Existence, Identity & Consciousness.

At some point you have to admit you can't even refer to a part without the use of the whole.

6/12/2008 11:22:00 AM  
Blogger Van said...

Magnus said "There isn't really any discontinuity like between 1.x and 2.0."

Mushroom said "Then it obviously is not a Microsoft app."

Van said "Bwahhahhh-HAAA!"
(grabs paper towels, wipes up mess)

6/12/2008 11:29:00 AM  
Blogger Ray Ingles said...

Magnus - One potential way to understand that progress is the "expansion of the 'in-group'". Human nature is actually pretty good about cooperating and playing nice with the people we consider 'folks like us'. Those we consider 'outsiders', though... oy.

Perhaps 2.0 came about when groups of people started to be able to cooperate in numbers larger than a small tribe. The in-group has expanded greatly since then, from nobility to commoners and even to (gasp) women and other 'races'.

"As man advances in civilisation, and small tribes are united into larger communities, the simplest reason would tell each individual that he ought to extend his social instincts and sympathies to all the members of the same nation, though personally unknown to him. This point being once reached, there is only an artificial barrier to prevent his sympathies extending to the men of all nations and races." - Charles Darwin

6/12/2008 11:43:00 AM  
Blogger Van said...

Magnus, I generally agree and follow you on that (the extent of greek kiddy-creep has been exagerated... but any 'tent at all is beyond the pale). When I feel like engaging in futile and frustrating speculation, I tend to think that at some point the graphics processor reached the ability to manage 4D images and the all encompassing grasp of the Poetic was opened up... opened up to... 'Let there be Light!' (No Ray, the mechanics didn't create the "I", only facilitated its reflection).

My series on What are Words for, and Reasons of Reason, were stabs at that. It's kind of like stabbing at Godzilla though.

But all the details you mentioned... are they really key differences, or differences that appear Gross (in more ways than one), because we've made distinctions into them... as Joe Sixpack will pick up any (and all) of the glasses of wine on the table, gulp them down and "urrp! Yeah, good Wine!", where as the connoeseur will shudder at the thought, and then select only the particular vintage suitable for dish on his plate, and savor it, noticing and 'bouqet' and whatever else froggie distinctions they're prone to make. From Joe's point of view - it's all wine, and all gulpable, from the knowledgable ones point of view, there are vast distinctions and barely the same in any distinguishable way to him - and yet they are still wine.

Is killing the imperfect or girl baby for the prehistoric Joe, and seeing that the imperfect child gets the necessary addition care needed, and the Girl is securely lifted up onto the pedestal... from our detailed point of view, they are vastly different, we see the horrors Joe is engaging in... but Joe? He sees dealing with a situation in its proper way.

Got to be careful going down this road, the precipice of relativism is a sharp and steep drop to either side, a mistep I do not make... but it takes concentration on your footing....

6/12/2008 11:59:00 AM  
Blogger Van said...

Ray said Darwin said "...the simplest reason would tell each individual that he ought to extend his social instincts and sympathies to all the members of the same nation..."

Yes that would be the simplest reason, which is why Darwin has been so useful to the lefties. All that does though, is extend, artificially, a collectivist basis, one prone to implode at the first realization of one groups neglected differences, and it shakes the whole conglomeration to its core (see the dem's o'bamamma & billary smoldering feud).

Something else must be identified and grasped within first, which I'd toss out as the Religious, the Philosophical and the Legal - without understanding and unity there, it's just a disunity beaten together with a fist.

6/12/2008 12:09:00 PM  
Blogger Ray Ingles said...

Van - I'd argue that external factors were pretty important to that development, too. Better tech leads to few people starving, for example.

6/12/2008 12:14:00 PM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

Well, whatever the case may be, Government Can't Make You Happy.

6/12/2008 12:23:00 PM  
Blogger Van said...

Ray said " I'd argue that external factors were pretty important to that development, too. Better tech leads to few people starving, for example."

If I'm to take that literaly, then I say no. False.

It has to come from within, before it can exist without. No Tech, without Techne first, and no Techne, without a mind free enough to conceive it. Jarod Diamond and his "Guns, Germs and goobers"... or whatever it was called, was, technically speaking - poop.

6/12/2008 01:05:00 PM  
Blogger Ray Ingles said...

Van - Any particular bone to pick with Diamond's book?

And re: Darwin's comment - you want internecine conflict, look at the division over McCain. Yikes!

But even families have internal conflicts. Extending our "social instincts and sympathies" - growing the in-group - involves adding to the human family. Recognizing a relationship at the more-than-blood level.

6/12/2008 01:33:00 PM  
Blogger Van said...

Ray said "And re: Darwin's comment - you want internecine conflict, look at the division over McCain. Yikes!"

Look closer, the conservatives conflict is over ideas, the dem's are battling over the collectivisms of race and gender.

No comparison.

6/12/2008 01:41:00 PM  
Blogger Van said...

Ray said "Any particular bone to pick with Diamond's book?"

Yeah, it, and the entire philosophical underpinings are the lowultimate in crap.

I don't have the book here, and thankfully I used the library on that one and didn't waste a dime on that deterministic slop, but Victor Davis Hanson did a rather good job of hitting the highlights, "For example, how did the Ptolemies create an even more dynamic civilization than that of the earlier dynastic pharaohs, when they inherited from them a supposedly exhausted and increasingly salinized landscape? Or why did the palatial culture of Mycenae prove to be a dead-end society, and yet the radically different Greek city-state centuries later blossomed in the exact same environment? "

(not that I feel strongly about it...)

6/12/2008 01:47:00 PM  
Blogger Van said...

"Extending our "social instincts and sympathies" - growing the in-group - involves adding to the human family. Recognizing a relationship at the more-than-blood level."

No, it doesn't. Instincts and sympathies do not of themselves extend beyond 'blood level' associations. That takes, Reality, Truth and an "I" honest and brave enough to derive one from the other.

6/12/2008 01:50:00 PM  
Blogger Van said...

Typical of your buddy Jarod's bilge is this from the article you linked to above, "Then, too, for Americans old enough to recall our hatred of Japan after Pearl Harbor, Daniel’s intense hatred of the Ombals may not seem so remote. After Pearl Harbor, hundreds of thousands of American men volunteered to kill and did kill hundreds of thousands of Japanese, often in face-to-face combat, by brutal methods that included bayonets and flamethrowers. Soldiers who killed Japanese in particularly large numbers or with notable bravery were publicly decorated with medals, and those who died in combat were posthumously remembered as heroes. Meanwhile, even among Americans who had never seen a live Japanese soldier or the dead body of an American relative killed by the Japanese, intense hatred and fear of Japanese became widespread."

It's the same equivocation dance that chompsky and the rest of them do, take two or more isolated facts, tie them to a general term devoid of context, in this case revenge, and them declare them to be on an equal par. It is a dance of dehumanization, anti-intellectualism, and seeing as they know full damn well what they are doing, evil.

I fart in their general direction.

6/12/2008 02:04:00 PM  
Blogger Van said...

This part especially disgusts me, from the remainder of the paragraph I excerpted above, "Meanwhile, even among Americans who had never seen a live Japanese soldier or the dead body of an American relative killed by the Japanese, intense hatred and fear of Japanese became widespread. Traditional New Guineans, by contrast, have from childhood onward often seen warriors going out and coming back from fighting; they have seen the bodies of relatives killed by the enemy, listened to stories of killing, heard fighting talked about as the highest ideal, and witnessed successful warriors talking proudly about their killings and being praised for them. If New Guineans end up feeling unconflicted about killing the enemy, it’s because they have had no contrary message to unlearn.
"
They complete the equivocation dance, with a neat pivot that puts the Americans in particular, and Western Civilization in general, in the role of the flawed and inferior

"If New Guineans end up feeling unconflicted about killing the enemy, it’s because they have had no contrary message to unlearn."

Not because the tribesmen haven't risen to the point of differentiating between the loss of a pig and the loss of a female, or haven't risen to the point of seeing 'others' as being as Human as they are, haven't risen to the point of being able to begin to grasp the concept of the value of all human life, and the necessity of Individual Rights, not because they've only managed to rise just the littlest amount above the animals they herd... no, no that's not the problem, the problem is that they have no contrary messages to unlearn.

And of course, that would mean admitting the existence of not only Individual Rights, but an Individual "I", Truth and a reality we are capable of grasping, which ultimately leads to the refutation of their Cartesian skepticism, and the demise of every leftist agenda they espouse and profit from.

Disgusting Filth Buckets.

6/12/2008 02:29:00 PM  
Blogger Ray Ingles said...

Um, Van - you may want to check your attributions. I didn't link to that article.

And I think you and Hanson may have missed a point in the Diamond's book. Environment played an important role - in some cases and senses, a necessary one - but not a sufficient role. Geography made some things possible, but it took actual people and historical contingency to exploit it.

Not unlike this, really.

6/12/2008 02:30:00 PM  
Blogger Van said...

"Um, Van - you may want to check your attributions. I didn't link to that article."

Oh surrre, I get myself all worked up into a fine lather, and you attempt to divert attention just because you didn't link to the link I said you linked to...

(offer's to let neighbor light cigarettes from either blazing red cheek)

Sorry about that, Cheif

(sheesh)

However, what I said does still fully apply to Jared Diamond, and his ilk.

"And I think you and Hanson may have missed a point in the Diamond's book. Environment played an important role - in some cases and senses, a necessary one - but not a sufficient role. Geography made some things possible, but it took actual people and historical contingency to exploit it."

Bollocks. That isn't the point of Diamond's book. Whatever incidental comment sucking up to that idea he may sprinkile here and there, he undermines completely with the rest of what he says. I've read his book, and several of his articles. Like Kant posturing as a defender of liberty, while destroying every intellectual foundation it rests upon, it just ain't so.

6/12/2008 02:48:00 PM  
Blogger Van said...

Ray said "Not unlike this, really." (which ends with:)"A potentiated cell took the one less traveled by, and that has made all the difference"

Not that its particularly relevant, but the Frost poem ref'd, which we all usually read it at the first level and ascribe to having the guts and fortitude to choose " the one less traveled by"... but if you read it carefully, it's told from the point of view of someone looking back on their life for comfort and 'seeing' into it what possibly wasn't there to begin with....

6/12/2008 03:16:00 PM  
Blogger Ray Ingles said...

Well, perhaps I luckily missed something, but that's not the point I took home from "Guns, Germs, and Steel". In any case, I think the point I outlined is quite defensible.

6/12/2008 05:34:00 PM  
Blogger Van said...

Ray said "Well, perhaps I luckily missed something, but that's not the point I took home from "Guns, Germs, and Steel". In any case, I think the point I outlined is quite defensible."

Ray... the small excerpt above from the link that you didn't link to, is from Jarrod Diamond, same author, same philosophy, same point of view, and same tactics.

If you missed it, you're fortunate, but I assure you, he didn't.

6/12/2008 05:55:00 PM  
Blogger Ray Ingles said...

Van - I read that that as the "conflict" between the base - but human - impulse to vengeance, and the civilized - but difficult - 'message' of limited retaliation and forgiveness.

New Guineans - at least, by Diamond's report - haven't gotten the latter message, that endlessly holding on to hatred is wrong. (Even C.S. Lewis noted that hatred has a purpose.)

Not that Diamond is flawless, if I can essay a minor pun. But that doesn't mean there's nothing insightful in what he's written.

6/13/2008 05:22:00 AM  

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