Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Face Book is a Creative Thought Killer


I preface this application  with this statement: The content of this entry is from pure observation over the six years I have had facebook, this is merely my observations and conclusions I have drawn form those and I am in no way a professional. J As most of you have noticed, facebook started grouping status updates that contained the same keywords together under a tab. Such as yesterday, in the early morning hours, I log onto this social networking  culture site and see there had already been over 40 some status updates about the snow; among those were even statuses about “here come the obligatory facebook updates about the weather” type statuses, because it is a well known fact now that I don’t even have to turn on the weather channel to know what’s going on right outside my window.  It’s not just the weather though, it is about any MAJOR news event or local news. And that’s where it stops, the MAJOR things…
Here is this amazing vehicle for global connection and over three fourths of the thousand people I am “friends” with on facebook are all talking about a variation of the same thing. It is usually grouped by people, who share the same cultural interests, and each group generally only updates about those interests in addition to the MAJOR events that everyone speaks of. For instance, my rock climbing friends generally post of nature crack type things, but at the same time post about hurricane sandy, hurricane sandy being the topic of discussion of 3/4ths of my facebook friends and nature crack things being an only 50 or so people.
The scary nature of this social networking is that even though this global social networking site has infinite potential to facilitate major cross cultural connections and possible global change, here the majority of my facebook friends discussing only subjects localy relevant to themselves and what is of popular discussion across the vast majority of facebookers. There is hardly original thought to be found, which I realize this is a mater of opinion, but I feel it is somewhat of a truth. The language of facebook is limited and generic and more or less exists in a vacuum, when ideas and language should be flourishing and expanding by leaps and bounds.
What is so scary about this is that if language is self-limited like this, does that also mean that different ways of thinking are limited and many people have begun to think the same way?  If Whorf’s hypothesis is correct and language is an integral part of the concept of culture, culture is becoming smaller and more generic and of less variation and humans are becoming “like” thinkers, less creativity, less critical thinking. If every person is talking about the same things what will happen to the world? Language variation is absolutely necessary to experience other ways of viewing the world. Although facebook is great for social networking, it has become irresponsible and verbatim and unoriginal. It has become an epicenter of the in-crowd, sheep like mentality; curiosity and critical thinking is not shared, rather similar experiences are discussed in an instant and liked because other people have shared that experience, and within human experience, who doesn’t want to be relevant to someone else’s experiences? It integrally makes people feel closer. People read the same books, watch the same movies, and generally think the same thoughts because of the instantaneous connection of facebook, and if everyone is  thinking the same way, why couldn’t it be possible for human thought control to exist?
Before I go off on a conspiracy tangent, let me end with this. Baywatch, yes the super sexy beach show of the 90’s reaches an estimated 5.7 billion people in 148 countries. If our experiences are what we speak of and what we speak of is our culture…. will we one day soon all have David Hasseloff bods and Pamela Anderson boobs? I mean….check out plastic surgery rates since the 90’s.
So what will be the future implications of mono-status updates of facebook?

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

This blog is about to go through a drastic change.

Welcome to the inner workings of my mind... after much encouragement from a professor I confided in and had many great conversations with, I have decided to change the nature of these blog posts and try to keep them regular. I welcome debate and conversation, these are my original ideas prompted from my daily interactions, reading, and observations. Some prompted by class assignments and others by thoughtful and listless day dreaming.
So to begin with... the reply email that I awaited for a month to arrive.... and i still need to reply back to. Keep in mind, I'm not a fan of grammar, mostly because my grade school teachers were terrible and I have yet to get around to teaching myself of the formalities of  English concourse and writing.
Take what I write in the same manner you would Kerouac, Thompson, Burroughs, Thoreau and other such writers who write stream of conscious. If grammar is a construction and rule that one must fit their thoughts into, I feel that it deters and takes away what the writer is trying to put into text....So here goes.

The email I debated writing for months after my return from Greece:

"Hello again, I've been contemplating emailing you for a few weeks now.
Possibly because my mind has been on overload recently with new
classes, new mental stimulation, resulting in creative neuron pulses,
leading to thoughts dissecting all things human and cosmological...

To begin with, Im very appreciative for a professor such as yourself
that put up with my ridiculous rants and behavior and who coaxed me
back down to a general level of normalcy during my worst spasms of
mental overload and doing so in an egalitarian manner, which i hardly
ever encounter in professionals, and sometimes professors, as an
undergraduate. It meant and still means a lot, especially when i never
reach out to people in those moments of madness, but for some reason i
felt safe speaking with you and i am utterly grateful I did. So, thank
you for your help
Secondly, i dont know what the hell was going on with my mind in
Greece, but I know i have my feet back on the ground and my head
straight- but that trip and those conversations helped ground me and
left me feeling more asserted in myself and my thought processes. This
has lead to a manner of control during those crazy moments where i
wander in to mental daydreaming and and welcome it and embrace it but
at the same time dont let myself slip over the boundary of craziness
and implode.
So now to truly begin...
Today, i read an article today on the Voyager 1 on the verge of
reaching interstellar space! HOLY FREAKIN COW. How phenomenal is
that?! What i didnt know about the voyager(s) is that Ann Druyan had
recorded her brain waves while reciting different philosophical ideas
and writings and while she thought about the moment her and Carl Sagan
had decided to get married- all of this recorded via her brain waves
in a "series of crackles and pops." Along with that, she included the
humpback whale song along with various musical compositions from the
generations.. i'll include the link to the article if youre feeling
inclined to read it. I've loved astronomy  since i was a small child,
i remember buying my first planets and stars books around kindergarten
and had my first telescope at age 7 or 8, which i never fully
understood how to work.. but the defining astrological moment of my
life was when my uncle, with his super powerful telescope from the
navy, showed me the rings around saturn and jupiter. I still vividly
remember that night and other nights when i would sit outside bundled
up and sit back and watch for comets (which, averagely, visibly enter
our atmosphere every 10 minutes) and its something i still do...and
now that im older a little more technologically adavanced, NASA is on
my daily news feed and i religiously watch Carl Sagan's cosmos along
with other movies and shows describing and philosophizing deep space.
I sometimes wonder if i should have been an astrophysicists.... ha
(but kind of seriously.)
[ article- http://www.brisbanetimes.com.au/technology/sci-tech/mankind-set-to-cross-the-final-frontier-20120910-25nwl.html
]

Now to the fun stuff:
The more i delve into anthropology and other subjects of course,
specifically cognitive anthropology, the more i wish to withdraw from
society. If education is the path to freedom as Epictetus implied,
then maybe freedom is to withdraw form the social and  cultural
constructs that humans created in response to their environments and
each other over the thousands of years we have existed. Maybe the true
meaning of life is to exist as one with the natural world, not to
dominate it, and be happy and to love. That's how i see it. Its very
simple in my mind and very complex in the same instance. But i feel
the complexity of it all comes from the cultural noise i am a part of.
 I hate it in all honesty- the culture part, at the same time though
what humans have created is a beautiful thing. Im so close to
graduating I'd forever regret dropping out of school now, only because
i dislike not finishing things is start, but that in itself is a
social pressure, that not finishing something is failure and failure
is a negative construct, which compares you to other humans and their
accomplishments, which is a construct as well, and makes you feel
lower. SO maybe beating the constructs is being okay with all of that,
actually i know it is. I just cant justify wasting the strongest
youngest most bale years of my existence stressing myself out over
working and class and bullshit when i could be out experiencing the
world and people and beautiful things... Being an independent minded
person requires strength, but without support it is easy to crumble,
that i know for sure. It has taken all 22 and half years of my life to
know that im okay and that i am someone and that i dont have to be
"something to be anything." Its a harsh reality feeling that everyone
around you unknowingly (a few knowingly)  buys into this system (i
know i sound ridiculous but im not sure how to express it in other
ways) and have no idea that it is all fake and symbolic and set up to
provide the people at the top the means to ENJOY life and that they
will go on in their lives as "successful" human beings, in the terms
of society, and will go onto breed new individuals who will be raised
the same.
i feel like i belong on a different planet or a different space and
time. im so bored in school, except in the instances where i am able
to speak of "real" (in my terms) things with other people, i try not
to be rosa minded centric but i cant help it. The things most of my
peers and sometimes professors speak of and the things i am required
to do in my class settings are so mind numbing and obvious i want to
drop out and it is laborious to drag myself to class or do the class
work that is required of me for a symbolic A that supposedly
determines my mental abilities and capacities which are just symbols
and my willingness to turn in an assignment at a symbolic date and
time.... its INCREDULOUS. Im sick of stressing over dates and times
and symbols that supposedly represent my "intellect" but are really
just measurements of my willingness to conform and step in line and
become a college robot. I need stimulation of different forms. The
only class i truly enjoy are my classes where i learn method and
theory- and even those are ridiculous because they're all product of
human minds trying to define our world around us that ultimately
cannot be defined because it is made up of billions of different minds
but at the same time those minds are somewhat assimilated because of
cultural constructs.......... i know im ranting, hopefully i havent
lost you in my millions of dilemmas and spiraling mind. The only other
person i want to speak of this stuff with is  one of my anthropology
teachers but i have no idea how to even approach him with the
ramblings of my mind, his name is Dr. (Blank)  and i would love to speak
to him about all this because i feel he could also provide some
insight, but im too scared i will be rejected in some way, so keep
this to myself, and well share with you i suppose.
The more i realize the less i care about simple things, such as like
grammar, paying bills, etc. Because none of it matters. The only thing
that matters is being kind and a loving human being to my fellow
humans and animals and leaving the world for the next seven
generations to live on. I hate being a cynic, even though i claim
myself a realist, i dont mean to be one, and maybe im not actually
one, because a cynic is, again, a cultural construct....

I should just start writing a blog, like you suggested; a creative
outlet. And actually i did find a creative outlet in making jewelry,
ridiculous and simple i know, but it calmed the craziness of my
thoughts, and brought me happiness.
 Its hard to find the time to do those things though between working
to make money and to keep up with deadlines of homework.

I dont what this email is about honestly, other than whats on my mind
and letting someone who already has seen some of it and listened to
me, listen to me again and possibly gain some mature insight? i dont
know, im sorry if i took to much time out of your day and you find
this a waste.

I hope yo maybe hear form you, i dont know if you can help me. I just
want dialogue i think.
Have a wonderful day!"


And finally the reply.....

Boy, Rosa, did you hit this one right on the top of the nail!  Your subject line said "you might want to block out time to read this one" and that is exactly how it turned out.  You email came to me on September 10th right as I was getting ready to leave campus for a national convention that I organize each year (though this one was my last one).  Then when I returned from that, I had 3-4 weeks of unburying myself  from everything that piled up while I was focused on my conference.  Then all the student papers I could not grade while I was busy on other things needed to be tended to.  Well, you get the point . . . .  I kept saying, "I need to email Rosa back," but I did not want to just toss you a short response.  You raised some important questions in your email and I really wanted to respond to each of them.  So, I am sitting at my house today in my office with your email in front of me, two sets of graduate student  papers, two books I am reading, and my digital rhetoric project to work on.  And I am determined to sit here all afternoon and work on all of them.  So, with that introduction--here we go . . . .

First, I hope you are well.  I loved your line "new mental stimulation, resulting in creative neuron pulses,
leading to thoughts dissecting all things human and cosmological."  Sounds familiar.  Life is like that sometimes.  I also like this line, "This has led to a manner of control during those crazy moments where i
wander in to mental daydreaming and welcome it and embrace it but at the same time dont let myself slip over the boundary of craziness and implode."  That is good to hear and really an essential thing one battles; one just develops new strategies for doing so as life goes on.

On things astrological, the other morning I was getting to the gym for my morning workout and it was still quite dark.  The full moon was still up, and there was a comfort walking through the deserted parking lot to the gym, and high above was the bright moon and one star bright enough to be shining nearby.  Back in the 70's when authors were writing more about interstellar space than they do now, I think I thought about that more then (and I was watching the "Tonight Show" each night in which Johnny Carson regularly featured Carl Sagan).  The vastness of it all often provided the backdrop for novels which were often focused on the incomprehensibility of life.  The funny thing was we were regularly going to the moon, so mixed with that vastness for us was a sense that we humans were going there.  So, the incomprehensibility was mixed with the knowability of space travel.  That someone tapes her brain waves hoping some other intellectual life might be able to read them certainly does not surprise me.  I hadn't thought until today about the effect on your generation of our not going into space as regularly.  We don't have a prevalent sense of "knowability" today as we did then.  That is a shame but we also need to sense of awe too.  For me that full moon is more of an aesthetic reaction than anything else.  Still, three very interesting things to me were sent on this mission which I appreciate being used to represent me: that Druyan wanted aliens to sense the love she had for Sagan, that they sent even extinct languages on the tape, and that I am being represented by Chuck Barry's "Johnny B. Goode."  Very cool.

I think "cognitive anthropology" suits you very well.  I had a few years ago a very good student who was interested in "cogntive linguistics" and wanted to pursue graduate school in that at UCLA.  Then, two courses from graduating he disappeared from campus.  I have always wondered what he is doing right now.  Don't do that!

Your tie to Epictetus is interesting and you read him correctly.  Your advice to yourself is better, "Maybe the true meaning of life is to exist as one with the natural world, not to dominate it, and be happy and to love."  I don't think Epictetus carried it to that end.  For many Stoics and Epicurians they stressed withdrawal from the world, emphasizing withdrawal rather than engagement in the world.  I don't think anything is gained from withdrawal, but also engagement is part of who we are as human beings.  We can do that in many different ways.  There is a line about Thoreau who says he left the woods for the very reasons he went into the woods: he had beaten a path between the woods and the town, meaning he was acting in a rut and needed to get out of the rut--any rut--in order to live life consciously and deliberately.  My friend the Thoreau expert entertains me with stories of Thoreau's lack of social graces, so it is interesting to me that he valued society even when he was so uncomfortable with it.  Of course, you express that in your own way when you say, "I hate it in all honesty- the culture part, at the same time though what humans have created is a beautiful thing."

So, you should graduate, of course.  There will come a time when you need the degree to open the doors you want to open (you do not know all of them yet), and with your being so close, not to do it now would be to allow your future to be less filled with "possibilities" than you deserve.  Yes, there is some "social control" to that, but in the end, it is about YOUR "potential" and YOUR "possibilities."  Of course you want to "be out experiencing the world and people and beautiful things..."  Who wouldn't!  But you won't be "old and wasted" in another year or so either!  Believe me, at my age, I know that you have plenty of years after graduation when you are still not "old and wasted"!  You are not responsible for everyone else, by the way, and how they do or do not "buy into" the system.  Most of the hippies of the 60's are now living perfectly conformed lives!  Others who did not buy into "tune in and drop out" are living exemplary lives four decades later.  Cannot predict who is which, but you can associate over time with those who do, rather than those who say they are but are not.

Think of "stress" more as "tension" and if you are determined to think and live differently, think about those dichotomies that are best lived between.  Life is not, "you have to do x or do y."  It is actually finding out how to live BETWEEN x and y.  And if you are doing that then there is a natural tension to doing that.  Try to eliminate stress but embrace the tension, if that makes sense.

So, yes, everything we have are human constructs and yes, even the Greeks recognized those as constructs (or at least some Greeks did!).  We can make some leaps from those constructs to others that we speculate about (for some that is faith, for some that is science, you best describe this as the awe you feel from interstellar wonder).  But as the existentialists understood (not the nihilists among them) we move between knowledge of our constructs and the speculations that push beyond them.  That is part of  being human too, as is our consciousness about them.

I think you are right when you say, "The only thing that matters is being kind and a loving human being to my fellow humans and animals and leaving the world for the next seven generations to live on. I hate being a cynic, even though i claim myself a realist, i dont mean to be one, and maybe im not actually one."  You aren't a cynic.  A cynic would not say the things you say about the cosmos, or about love.  You are just aware of the tensions involved in life--probably too aware.  Actually, just more aware than most your age.  Focus, as I have said to you before, on how to see those tensions as creative and positive and not debilitating.  Right now you have found an outlet--jewelry--that allows you to maneuver between work and school work.  That is good, but take some time to write too.  You are good at that as well.

Your almost final line, "I just want dialogue, I think, is about the most human thing we can say about ourselves and about others.  That evokes the sense that communication is what makes us human, as we define ourselves and come to understand ourselves and others by the contact.  (And do you see the connection then between this and the story you began with about Voyager 1?!)

And it prompts me to apologize for taking so long to get back to you.  I'll do better next time.

Best,