Wednesday, December 14, 2005

I Guess You Had To Be There

People who know me know that I’m prone to fits of philosophical angst, most of which they write off to “looks as if the poor boy’s got a case of the ‘Mondays.’” Argh! I’m thinking back to some of my conversations with a young (at the time) female friend. A number of those talks involved me pontificating about motherhood, parenthood and parenting in general. She couldn’t have disagreed more. To her, my thinking was dinosaur-ish; the sooner extinct, the better.

It was many years later, after she married and had her first child, that she said to me, “Now I understand what you were talking about. I just never imagined I could feel this way.” I thought it remarkable that someone actually learned from experience.

When I told this story to another friend, he wasn’t nearly as impressed as I was about this woman’s newfound awareness. “What kind of world do we live in when people can’t make observations and learn from the world around them? If everyone has to actually have an experience before they learn, we’re all in trouble.” (We are all in trouble.)

Of course, when we’re very young, direct experience is a great teacher. It’s the old, “you only need to burn your hand on the stove once” thing. (For me, it might have been twice, but I’ve been known to test reality.) But my friend’s comment made an impression. I agreed with him. After all, I was a single man with no children and was able to perceive something that my female friend couldn’t – until she actually experienced it.

Perhaps this is why “history repeats itself.” (Hell, reruns of “Mr. Ed” would be far more entertaining.) Perhaps the experiences of generations of people who preceded us simply aren’t enough.

One woman I knew who hailed from Moscow told me a story about how her father followed Stalin’s coffin along “Main Street,” amazed and in awe that a man who was a “god” had passed away. I was stunned. “Stalin was a bad guy.” In response, I got the expected, “but the people only knew what they were told,” etc. I couldn’t accept that answer. Personally, I don’t know too many politicians (world leaders included) that I would turn my back on. (I wear my wallet in my back pocket.)

I have the same reaction to people who explain their xenophobia using the same reasoning. “You have to understand that we grew up in an environment where we were told…..” Really? You observe another human being, one who has ears, eyes, a nose, mouth, organs in basically the same places yet you accept the “teaching” that, because in some way they’re different, “they suck?” Really? Observation tells us nothing? Our own eyes and ears don’t suggest the possibility that what we’re being told (taught) might be fallacious?

In “Dances With Wolves” Costner had to hold a dying Indian in his arms to finally realize that the fallen man, too, was a human being. Sorry, folks, I don’t buy it. Oh, I accept that most of us simply absorb what’s around us, put on blinders and form few conclusions from observation. Looking at the history of the species, we’ve paid a price for that.

As we grow up, we’re continually being fed heaping spoonfuls of BS. I contend that it’s our choice (or intellectual limitation) as to whether or not we swallow it. Why on earth should anyone have to “be there” to perceive fundamental, obvious, reality?!!!

In the “Nowhere Man” pilot, Tom confronts Dr. Bellamy, wondering, “how did you get to my wife?” Bellamy is saddened by poor Tom’s inability to “get it.” “In the end,” the Dr. tells him, “most people choose to go along.” Still fighting the obvious, Tom replies, “under a great deal of threat and pressure.” Poor, naive Tom. He expects so much from people. Bellamy simply shakes his head. “You’d be surprised.”

I’m sad to say, the daring doc had a point.

2 Comments:

Blogger knowwhereman said...

In the great original 1965 movie
version of "The Flight Of The Phoenix" is a script line of utter brilliance. After hearing a series of what he believed to be less-than-intelligent remarks
one marooned desert dweller has enough and tells the object of his frustration "You wear your stupidity as if it were a virtue".
Every day that line comes to mind a couple dozen times.

We seem to enjoy going through life
trumpeting our stupidity, our
biases and limitations and general lack of inspiration. To learn from the experience of others would require personal initiative, a desire to change and a process of
constant redefinition of we are as
a person. That's too much work, especially for a society that seeks little more than "quick and easy!". "The experiences of
generations of people who preceded us simply aren’t enough" because we don't want them to be. We demand to be as ignorant and clueless as generations that came before. We demand this as if it were some treasured birth rite.
We like our "heaping spoonfuls of BS" (and since we do there's no shortage of politicians to provide our daily dose).

To be fair, I know there's a Paris, France. I've never been there, but I suspect that spending
just one hour there would change my awareness and perception of the place more than all the video and digital pictures and diary entries
of others in the world put together.

Some people learn from direct experience. Some people learn from indirect experience. Some people learn from both. Some people learn from neither. And it's that last group we all need to fear.

6:28 PM  
Blogger Mark said...

Well, that was an interesting nights worth of reading & listening, especially coming from a guy who started his blog off suggesting that we might be better served by a little less indulgence in the mind. Maybe I'm getting old, but I don't try and figure it all out a whole lot anymore. I just try to listen. Everything I need to know can be heard, if I listen. My job is being willing and able to receive. That doesn't mean to live a passive existence. On the contrary, being willing and able to receive, in my opinion, goes hand in hand with taking action.

I've been flirting with a simple mantra lately. Ironically, when I first thought of it, and even still I have an aversion to it. It's so simple, and yet I haven't been able to bring myself to practice it. It's kind of like this style of yoga I know that's considered "heart oriented." In this practice the intent is for every movement to be motivated from the "inside out" rather a manipulation of the body and mind from the outside. I figure no matter what your belief system it certainly can't hurt to come from a place of the heart for an hour or so a day. So, what if every day I just set the intention to be the best person I can be? OK, it's not really a mantra. Thank God, 'cus I'd surely be quite a sap if I kept repeating that to myself over and over every day. But even as an intention to set for the day, I'm almost blocked in attempting it. I mean it certainly wouldn't hurt to affirm for yourself every day that you're going to be the best person you can be. Maybe I just don't want to let myself down? Maybe I feel like I'm not being the best person I can be. It'd be like saying I'm going to eat sensibly today and then going out and eating a double Whopper with cheese and extra everything. Maybe I want to indulge myself. How then am I to be the best person I can be? I set the intent, I eat my burger and I enjoy it. Or I don't.

"Nothing says Happy Holidays like paranoia." That's my favorite line from all that stuff....

12:37 AM  

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