language structure and brain usage? really?

13 10 2008

so in my last post, i said that writing and explaining myself in general “may become more of a problem if i am successful in cultivating my intuitive side at the intentional expense of my rational side.”  i think rational side is ready to strike back a little already.

i have an uninformed interest in language’s role in defining the mind as more rational versus more intuitive.  SCIENCE tells us that the left side of the brain is the more rational side, whereas the right half is more intuitive.  painters, dancers, and clairvoyants are very handy with their intuitive sides, and accountants, scientists, and technical writers are stars with their logical bits.  so, if we live in an era of logic, which i think is not so debatable, and the efficient design beats the ornate or more aesthetic, uncalculated design, to speak generally, then we clearly have neglected a half of our brain-gifts.  at least, we’re probably not balanced in our uses of the hemispheres.  i find this interesting, by the way, when 90% of our population is right-handed, which is, of course, in cahoots with our left brains, our logical brains.

more to the point, when i took a child development course a couple of years ago, i found the brief study of language acquisition to be surprisingly interesting.  basically, our brains learn the code of the languages we’re born into and rely on those sounds/precepts so strongly that we can actually lose the ability to hear sounds not native to our tongue.  it happens in music, as well.  the structure of the music we hear is deeply embedded in our experience of it for the rest of our lives.  we in the west have an awful lot of 4/4 music, but that’s not the norm for everyone.  when researchers did a little musical exchange program between the west and some other cultures, don’t ask me which at this point, the groups mutually didn’t even hear notes when they fell outside of the structures they’d learned in their cultures.

so the next question i had that i couldn’t get answered was whether language itself had an effect on the balance of logic/intuition of the individuals of a culture.  i wondered if the structure of the english language predisposed people to rely more heavily on the left sides of their brains, deprived them of some aesthetic gifts they didn’t know they had, and forced them into being right-handers.  i don’t know if research about this has ever been done, or if it in any way should be.  but it’s the kind of stuff i think about–and in a semi-logical way, at that.  as i’ve been writing this, my right hand has kept encroaching on the some of the keys that have been permanently reserved, by logical keyboard designers and typing instructors everywhere, for the left hand.  thanks for the help buddy, but ol’ lefty can hold its own.  i hope.


the prison in our minds

13 10 2008

you’ve probably never spoken to me about enlightenment.  or, if you have, you had something to say about it, and i eventually had to admit that i didn’t really understand it.  i get the concept, sure, it makes sense to me academically, but all the logic i threw at it didn’t help to reify it as an actual possibility.  i never doubted that the buddha had reached enlightenment; i just never got why enlightenment was there for the achieving.

underneath it all, it seemed to me, we’re simple prisoners.  we don’t have any plans for escaping the earth with or without our worldly bodies.  we have our superstitions, beliefs, and hopes, but for all the searching we’ve done, nobody’s ever produced a bit of proof of our transcendence.  so, we’re caught here, right?  you are born and you die here.  how could i convince myself that one could reach a level of true understanding and oneness with the entire universe, which is what i understand enlightenment to be?  that’s stuff for the gods, for higher beings that don’t have our limitations and inabilities.

then i thought about it in a more logical way, maybe.  the wisest men and women who believe the most in transcendence have their catch phrases no matter what the discipline:  they speak of utter calmness, of letting go and leaving your body behind.  i was thinking about this today when instead of the words i was thinking, i was suddenly seeing a graphical representation.  if the universe is completely cohesive and makes absolute sense, you can consider that the most perfect iteration of itself.  i thought of it graphically in terms of speed: it was the fastest speed, or most perfect speed, because it is itself, the entirety of existence.  it’s like a no-friction machine, even.  so to understand it, to be one with it, one must also be no-friction, able to travel at the same perfect speed.  being a human is a low place to start.  you can imagine us flying in the same direction as this perfection we’re seeking to know, but our imperfections catch all the wind and prevent us from approaching it.  swimmers shave themselves clean before racing because they want the least friction they can have for tearing through the water.  if our goal isn’t speed but is understanding, then every flaw in our minds is another obstacle in approaching the goal of enlightenment.  this is why we’re supposed to “let go.”  the anger you feel toward someone who hurt your feelings slows you; the concern you have over attaining your worldly goals diverts you.  every unresolved emotional problem you have, or for that matter, every logical thought you think becomes another blemish on the zero friction sleeve of your oneness with all.

but you’re human, so you have millions of them.  but that’s why people practice meditation, forgiveness, and the ability to truly let go of things that concern them:  they realize, the closer they get to feeling this apparently amazing state of being, that the things that they worry about are less important than they thought, and that letting go of everything speeds them ever closer to the most perfect, to a true sense of understanding or belonging, even if they have to reach it without thinking.

i’m not honestly sure if that makes sense as i’m explaining it.  this may become more of a problem if i am successful in cultivating my intuitive side at the intentional expense of my rational side.

it takes almost three months

10 10 2008

“So many people live within unhappy circumstances and yet will not take the initiative to change their situation because they are conditioned to a life of security, conformity, and conservatism, all of which may appear to give one peace of mind, but in reality nothing is more dangerous to the adventurous spirit within a man than a secure future. The very basic core of a man’s living spirit is his passion for adventure. The joy of life comes from our encounters with new experiences, and hence there is no greater joy than to have an endlessly changing horizon, for each day to have a new and different sun.”
— Chris McCandless (aka Alexander Supertramp)

i maybe wasn’t tracking this stat, but i knew somewhere deep inside that at some point, and i should have been expecting this for a while, but at some point it had to occur to me that it was getting to be time to do something besides drive around and visit people.  i have to say that one time i thought about how i should be feeling such a way but wasn’t, and couldn’t concieve of doing so.

it was like i was the great dolphin of freedom, rallying up the energy to dive and resubmerge with all of my power through the water-surface-mounted fishing net wall of the unintentionally (intentionally?) sinister economy-informed culture.  if that’s obtuse, then i was supposed to find a sunset into which I should have ridden off, but I couldn’t find my way out of Dodge.

i’ve been free for nearly three months, and finding that i lack having done anything i feel particularly proud of or at the moment even seems that promising, my Mind is trying to retrace the lines of logic that this era has so effectively programmed into it that remind me to do things the way that everyone else does them.  it’s a disheartening feeling to realize you’re having.  i suppose that my lack of explorative applomb is partially to blame.  i also seem to be a bad planner.  whatever personal fault can be held culpable, my lack of a directed action suddenly seems like a problem.

the point is, tonight i lapsed into high school behavior while in my hometown and at my mom’s house, and i think it’s because my drifting didn’t carry me far enough away to force me to feel different.  or vulnerable.  or certain.  somehow i didn’t let it.

remember how alex supertramp burned his money and destroyed all his personal information when he began his directed drift?  i made sure i had $80 in cash and two forms of identification on me at all times.  i really think you do have to make yourself uncomfortable to change.  i think i’m realizing i haven’t really shown the courage to do that just yet.  and i’m wondering if this is the time to make sure i give myself the opportunity to change or to just settle back in, prevent the surely approaching anxiety, and perhaps look for another chance in the future.

i guess i know what the right answer is supposed to be, but the road less traveled is as it is for a reason.  don juan would know that i’m still facing my first enemy of a man of knowlege and and it is “FEAR!”  i just need to remember that most things worrysome aren’t actual threats.  also that FEAR! is just an anagram of ARFE! and cannot thusly be respected.


2 10 2008

i was on a long motorcycle ride the other day, when about 100 yards ahead of me, there was an accident.  an 18-wheeler jackknifed, another hit the highway divider, and a pathfinder got squashed somewhere in the tween.  the rest of us quickly stopped.  and were stuck behind it all.

it was over 45 minutes before the scene was cleared, and in that time, i cut the engine and tried to relax as best i could, wearing black and sitting in the sun.  i leaned forward and noticed a beetle that had come onto the road from the grass.  he was scuttling frantically, as beetles tend to do, but the road wasn’t really made for his beetle features, and the little bumps that he’d hit would divert him pretty dramatically, so that in effect he was going around in big circles, or rectangles, or spirals, but always was staying in the same four square feet or so.  he scuttled on; i wondered if he was aware that he might not be getting anywhere but remained confident that in time, he’d hit the right bumps in the right ways and he’d be on his way to green pastures again.  if it was unnerving to watch at first, as i was hoping for his intelligent or lucky passage out of the danger of baking or eventually being squashed by rubber, it became a full-fledged situation when, as he hit the wrongest bump in the wrongest way, he was flipped to his back.  his legs crawled on air; they reached for nothing over and over again.

I thought to myself of how close he always was to relative safety in the grass.  never was he farther than 6 or 7 feet from the grass of the ditch, but he didn’t have the faculty or the vision to know it.  all he seemed to me to have was hope and resolve.  i don’t suppose either of those are optional when you’re a bug.  they’re as hard-wired as having six legs, if my years of bug watching can attest to any insect behavior.  compulsive, obsessive, and endless bug activity seems to be all they know.  i wondered if that was sad, or if it was nice that they never had to worry about fulfilling a higher purpose.  they had their jobs and they did them to the best of their abilities, always, and without complaint.

did i just start eulogizing bugs?

i guess we think that most bugs and animals and plants are that way.  but, we think, they wouldn’t be if they had the ability to perceive as we do.

so what about people?  great with all of our terrific abilities to perceive, to know, to learn, to act.  but, i don’t believe that we’re the highest consciousness in the universe.  far from it.  in fact, i don’t think many people do think that.  most people believe there is something greater than ourselves.  and how much do you want to bet that they look at us and think that we’d do so much better if we just had their abilities of perception, of knowledge, or understanding?  to them, how much do you think our running to work, to the gym, to pick up the kids, to eat lunch and dinner, to save for retirement, to upgrade the domicile, and to copulate with impressive specimens of our species looks exactly like an innumerable amount of bugs frantically scuttling about, compulsive,  obsessive, and without real reward?