Thursday, May 5, 2022

Subtle Self-Centricity



This is about you. And me too. We cannot help but see things from our own point of view. Yet some of us are overtly, deeply, self-centric. We can stand in another’s studio and prattle on about a relative of ours who also paints. We can stand among another’s library of books and prattle about the book they have not yet read, or worse, haven’t yet got. We can stand in a custom-built home and prattle about the grand view to see from some other home. Our sense is about ourselves, and how the world, elsewhere from the immediate, affects us.

In the immediate we are a paradox of being. We exist in the moment yet are full of stories about the past, about other things, or about other people. Our own ideas can be limited to a restructuring of what we know, have seen, or can interpret. Naturally so. Yet often the lack of compassion, awareness, insight, or empathy can speak volumes about ourselves, like it or not.

To advocate here for inculcating, as a habit, the 5 x W’s can appear didactic, or patronizing. And yet it is remarkable how little we can practice it. Which of us engages in another’s presence fully, consciously? When with another, how much of that person’s life-story do we absorb, or easily recall? Why can there sometimes be a sense of disconnect? Who among us is so much in ‘the now’ that we can sensibly integrate the other with compassion? What is it that imbues our immediate interests: the evidence before us, or some memory of the past? Where does it end?

Often, during someone else’s speech, we interrupt easily, and draw attention back to the self. We listen not to understand, but to interject with our point of view. Worse, often in our own speech we speak on and on without pause for the other to intervene, easily, with their response, interpretation, or intervention.

Self-centricity is subtle. The ‘I’ in almost everything we apprehend deeply impels our lives. It is a small-meme behaviour at best, but can also be a large-Meme attitude, to our disadvantage. We like certain colours, music, food, fashions, and even vehicles. These things can easily change over time. But not so easily changed are the large Meme adoptions we’ve acquired. They are the ones of our culture, political persuasions, religious affiliations, and sense of morality. At times so very constrained by our childhood beliefs, we eschew the shift we can feel toward having to enlarge, accept, integrate, absorb, or include yet something other into the oeuvre of our own cherished contentions. And thus, evolution, in all its tugs toward enlightenment, gives pause to one easily overcoming oneself.

Self-centricity, at its worst, tugs us away from the other. It tends to make everything directly relatable to the self. It engages life in terms of how life itself affects the self, with little genuine inclusion of the other, for the other’s sake. It can bloat the self. It can diminish or negate the other.

And so, in having read all these words, do they prattle on about you, or are they meant as a subtle reflection on me? At the baseline is this: Do we predominantly give, or do we chiefly take? (And in giving, do we indeed get to feel sufficiently good about ourselves?)

Such can be one’s not so subtle self-centricity.



Tuesday, March 15, 2022

Doubting Dichotomies


                             (Passing Through Too, oils, 6ft by 3ft 6 ins, by the author)

Series of threes consistently tug at us. Vacillations between the left and the right, or the up and the down, are an awkward thing. Easier to make a stand. Growing up, we mature somewhat easily; we make many choices throughout the seven ages of life, from mewling infant to being big bellied to our arriving at sans sense at all (1). But perpetually caught in the dichotomy of left or right choices, we generally make Dabrowskian Level One Factor Two decisions (2) and live quite happily within the moral, religious, and political contentions of our ilk. It is in our indecisiveness with too many choices, or with too much time spent in a quandary, that we can feel debilitated. What to do? Inaction can lead to abstention. Without knowing all the facts; with our having too personal an attachment to one side, or the other; or with being bombarded by contrary dis-information; just how is one to decide? And so, ‘sitting on the fence’ becomes a balancing act. But for how long?

Then there is the sheer volume of one’s counterparts that can sway our choices. For whom did you vote? Why? And how dare I be contrary? (That is, unless there be sufficient counterweight to support my own contentions.) But how can we then dance to the same tune?

In the current crisis of dis-information, of the threat of war growing yet more dastardly, of the disappearance of freedom to speak, to protest, to promulgate and publish truthfully, authentically, we are caught up in the fear of being ostracized, jailed, penalized, and dismissed. How to contend ideas without the reprisals of angry, hateful, and personalized projectiles? How to accept that out of 106 essays in the book of Our Stories the diverse participants mentioned The Torah, The Bible, Theory U,  and The Blank Slate? (See images).Then again, how do others get to share their views without being humiliated for still being immured by what occurred in Grade Two? (3) How to nurture maturation to the next Meme? (4)

Dichotomies, which are in frequent symbolism as revealed in plant seeds, in the structure of our brains, in the fact that we have left and right sides to our bodies, are sometimes overlooked in their essence of being rendered together, in the first place. The one side supports the other; the two sides are linked; the whole makes for the life within. So too for the membrane that divides the whole; it is a semi-permeable line allowing for osmotic transitions (5), and as such the division filters out that to which it cannot relate, but certainly feeds off the very chemistry of the ‘opposing’ side. And therein rises the riot; it is in the objectionable sensitivity to ‘the other.’ We eschew those who use big words. We discard those who come across as too fancy. We vilify those whose reactions are evidently immature, hateful, hurtful. We want to beat the bully; kill the killer; and subject those who threaten us to go to their own jails of isolation, cut off from our communication, and blocked at the passes.

Détente appears to be lost. The restoration of friendly relations, the agreement, compromise, and amity that might be forwarded, gets caught up in the division between the dichotomies. East versus West. North versus South. Me, versus You. How sad it is that we do not get on. And is it all because one of us is Liberal, and the other Conservative? Or for that matter, Ukrainian, and not Russian? Or is it because of the lumbering elephant in the room? It is this division-line itself that is the third tug at us; are we not surely best to meet at its interrelationship points, share in the transfer of our talents that it could afford?

We are at a crossroads. The choices are no longer quite so clear, unless they be to be kind, caring, compassionate, considerate, loving, gracious, forgiving, accepting, and integrating. But then again, history has proven that we simply cannot, collectively, do that. Well then, how about you and me; let’s start with us. Hmm? (But then again, indeed, as the song goes, “It takes two to tango!”)

................................................................................................................

(        (1)   Shakespeare's AS YOU LIKE IT, ACT 2, SCENE 7

         (2)   Dabrowki web: https://positivepsychology.com/dabrowskis-positive-disintegration

 The theory of positive disintegration (TPD) by Kazimierz Dąbrowski is a theory of character development. Unlike some other theories of development such as Erikson's stages of psychosocial development, it is not assumed that even a majority of people progress through all levels.

         (3)  See Original Grade Theory: Mr. P's Words: Gradual Gradations (mrpswords.blogspot.com)

         (4) See Gravesian Memes: Mr. P's Words: Aspiraling as we Aspire (mrpswords.blogspot.com)

          (5) Osmosis:

[äzˈmōsəs, äsˈmōsəs]

NOUN

1.      biology

chemistry

a process by which molecules of a solvent tend to pass through a semipermeable membrane from a less concentrated solution into a more concentrated one, thus equalizing the concentrations on each side of the membrane.

synonyms:

soaking up · sucking up · drawing up/in · taking up/in · blotting up · mopping up · sponging up · sopping up

2.      the process of gradual or unconscious assimilation of ideas, knowledge, etc..

"what she knows of the blue-blood set she learned not through birthright, not even through wealth, but through osmosis"

 

 














Thursday, February 17, 2022

Given Gaps

 


(Cover design by Justin Neway; painting by author.)

“Mind the gap!” Loudspeakers in London’s Tube Stations bark out. Between concrete platforms and going elsewhere, one needs mindfulness. All of history would have one aware of the gap between ‘then,’ and now. It is not so much the voids as it is multiple periods of transitions; one is best to practice caution, consideration, and consciousness.

Mind the gap. So it is that five months of intense focus on a project has separated thee from me. Or has it been even longer? Communicating only occasionally, rarely seeing each other, we can feel these great gaps between us. The minutiae of days smudges into months of ordinariness, unless some major event occurs that might best be shared in the moment: Weddings; Funerals; Birthdays; and significant happenstances. These are the milestones of our lives. The rest can be m. o. t. s. (much of the same.) And the days churn into Time’s gap between us; you do not write to me, nor I to you. Compassion for all is our métier.

Mind the gap. So it is that over one hundred Old Boys from The Class of 1970 have each contributed a two-to-three-page essay about the last 50 years of their lives. Intending to encourage and inspire all youths who follow us, the resultant book of Our Stories is to be published, next month, and all proceeds and royalties that the book-sales make shall go as a gift to The School, in perpetuity. And given the privilege of collecting, editing, and formatting the works, as sent in from far-flung outreaches, it has been an intense five months of correspondence, and computer-based focus, and the re-integration of others into our collective lives. The 106 stories are humbling, fascinating, engaging, and challenging too. The gap years between 1970 and now, for each, have proven a trial of searching, encountering, attainments, and enduring. Some essays are profoundly vulnerable. En route the proponents have achieved a sense of enlightenment, wisdom, insight, and peace. For some. For most. Then too, some are still struggling. Living is not equitable. The gaps we mind, for each, vary by degree. Our lives are indeed lessons in the making.

Mind the gap. As differentiated as we are, as long as Time drags between our seeing each other again, between our sharing news, between giving each other a hug, we each have had our days and energy focussed on doing, on being, and on living within the scope of our various interests. And in the background, however subliminally, we’ve been aware of others, been aware of each other, been aware.

Mind the gap. Yes, you’ve been in mind, however ‘now and then’ such mindfulness may be construed. Like leaping from rock to rock in a stream, or turning from day to day in a calendar, the gaps between are vitally important, however minimally we may attend to them, breath for breath, or even in memory.

Mind the gap. Between grade levels, between paradigm shifts, between stages of enlightenment, between you and me there exists the gaps that make for the transition from the concrete discussions about things and people, to the exploration of ideas and hypotheses. That’s where the mind lies, where it creates, in the gaps!

Mind the gap! Distances can be deceptive. Between my shore and that ship, or raft, or the other coast, an ocean of meaning and intent, even as yet unrealized, lies between. It is a gap into which one could drown, or metaphorically, keep swimming. Mindfulness is all. Who?; Where?; What?; When?; are each interesting; but it is the Why? that really intrigues.

Mind the gap! What lies between is the now for now for now. And as we move we are indeed best to appreciate not just where we are going, but how we get there. Step for step. Breath for breath. Gap for gap. Keep caring.