Monday, May 3, 2010

Evolutionary Musings

Good thing that Toby has "musings" in the title of this blog, cause that is what I am going to proceed to do : muse...
One of my psychological/sociological maxims is : IT all hangs together.
By that, I mean that our society is constructed like our languages, and you can be sure that THEY hang together in a sophisticated manner, each tiny part hooking into another tiny part that combines to make larger and larger components, as our language itself CONSTRUCTS our social order, which in turn inflects our language.
Very complex.
So, my hypothesis, if you like, is that you can really see our ideas, our social IDEOLOGY at work in our daily lives, in the smallest details, IF you are looking for it, and have an idea how/where to find it.
Is this search governed by the scientific method ? Depends on what you call the scientific method. What I'm doing is based on personal observation. So, my advice to YOU, reader, is... don't take ME for granted. See if what I say works for YOU, on the basis of YOUR personal experience... But... take the time to observe, ask questions and THINK before making up your mind, please...
Observation number 1 : More than ten years ago my small daughter informed us that she wanted to become a string instrument maker... During the time she was growing up she (and I) regularly invested HANDICRAFT activities, beading, knitting, for example. Two weeks ago, I was chatting with a Mommy friend whom I have known since my children were little who told me that a short while ago she had become dissatisfied with her extremely intellectual, abstract scientific research job, and wanted to change to a new profession, kinesiology, which involves... massaging people, and modifying their corporal/spiritual energy WITH HER HANDS. And to get back to me, now I spend between one and three hours a day practicing my still new piano.
I'm going to make a big generalization here, so... be patient with me.
I HAVE THIS THEORY... that as a species, particularly in our Western culture, we have collectively moved farther and farther away from activities that demand intricate hand/eye coordination, and that this... EVOLUTION is NOT GOOD for us as a species.
We should remember that our enormous frontal cortex evolved in great part as a result OF this coordination, and that our HANDS represent our IMPRINT on the physical world around us. Or should we say, particularly, they represent the imprint of our thinking, WILLING minds.
They translate what we think and desire into action. And they materialize our intelligence, which i consider to be our capacity to inflect our physical world, to ACT UPON it.
I'm going to skip the part about the fact that an enormous surface of our hands is represented on the surface of our frontal cortex, and if I'm wrong, I call upon a reader to correct me.
Observation number 2 : our ancestors, when they knew how to write, took time to do it ; their handwriting was DISTINCTIVE and INDIVIDUAL, and books were written to teach people how to write BEAUTIFULLY... Calligraphy is high art with writing words. High art which demands great concentration, skill, and fine hand/eye coordination.
And... MAYBE you can do it with a machine, BUT... if you do it with a machine, YOUR PHYSICAL HAND WILL NOT BE TRACING THE MOVEMENT WHICH WILL NOT BE IMPRINTED ON YOUR BRAIN... And the individual differences (present in YOU, the individual) which enrich our world will disappear too.
Just how much of a loss is this ?
A great one, in my book.
While it may save us time, I conclude that... it WILL sap our intelligence IN THE LONG RUN.
Some people may say that.... typing on the keyboard of a computer is putting our hands to use.
I say.. NIET. Compare typing on that keyboard for a minute with handwriting. Every time you press a key, you are performing THE SAME GESTURE.
Just how.. enriching is it to your mind to be performing... THE SAME GESTURE ?
Hell, I think that doing my housework COULD represent more variety in its monotony and drudgery than pressing down the keys of a computer.
So... how much STIMULATION are you getting from typing ? Not much.
Certainly not lots next to using your hands for handwriting.
Observation number 3 : three years ago now, I traversed a major melancholic episode, a spiritual crisis, as I like to say, for personal and professional reasons. In my scramble to make myself better, (and since I'm an old hand at melancholic episodes, and now have some ideas about taking care of myself in them...), I started volunteer work in a small library with NO COMPUTER card system. In other words, I had to manually fill out paper cards with the name of the borrower, the author of the book, the book title.
You may be surprised but.... the simple activity of manually filling out those cards WAS A GREAT FACTOR in improving my intellectual capacities, which were reduced to zero at the time. Tracing the letters and words on those cards RECONSTRUCTED my mind (not JUST filling out those cards, of course...).
Conclusion : we NEED to be WORKING in a way that develops our hand/eye coordination.
We need to be working in ways that INDIVIDUALIZE our movements, our gestures, in order for us to develop and maintain our intelligence, our capacity to solve problems.
So.... the next big question is... WHY has THIS society developed TO SUCH A HIGH DEGREE, situations and activities that DESTROY meaningful work ?
WHY are we doing this to ourselves ?
Even... the plutocrats and the intelligentsia suffer from the destruction of work in the way I'm talking about it, (cf the scientist above) so it is NOT a class war...
The computer keyboard represents a massive attempt at... uniformization.
It represents a.. gain of time, a "value" that we have idolized in our current society.
If you look around you, you will see evidence of our attempts at uniformization EVERYWHERE around you.
A dangerous activity, uniformization.
In the long run, I think that its disadvantages will CERTAINLY outweigh its immediately apparent advantages...
The good news is that WE are dimly aware of this, many of us. And we are making confused attempts to remedy this situation, many of us. My daughter, for instance, in her noble choice of work...


Edwardo said...

Deb wrote,

"WHY has THIS society developed TO SUCH A HIGH DEGREE, situations and activities that DESTROY meaningful work?"

It probably wasn't "our" intention. As the man said, "We know not what we do."

Here's a personal example (with a happier outcome than above)

I spent a lot of my youth joyously engaged in a lot of endeavors-sports mostly- that demanded and developed my hand/eye coordination. According to you, those activities may have been beneficial to me in ways I did not imagine at the time.

Debra said...

Yeah, Edwardo, they did you a lot of good.
But... I HATE the hygienist trip, if you know what I mean...
I'm gonna have to do ANOTHER post on WHY PLEASURE IS STILL OUR GREATEST TABOO, and this, in a highly secularized society...
Makes you wonder, doesn't it, WHY WE HAVE TO TAKE ALL THE FUN OUT OF WHAT WE DO ??

Debra said...

Another important point...
Our species is THE MOST NEOTONIC one.
That means that... WE are the most helpless and dependant at birth.
And we carry this dependance WITH us all through our lives.
It is the PRICE WE PAY for being able to continously learn.
For better and for worse.
Gotta be careful there.
Think about the implications, y'all...

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