not feeling yourself disintegrate

12 01 2009

what is wisdom?  is it simply knowledge handed down from those who came before?  can we live our lives according to the principles of those who have already lived and learned, and told the tale so that others could benefit from their folly?  we could, i’m sure, though i’ve noticed in my years here is that people love to make their own mistakes, that no amount of telling someone that they’re on the wrong track will engender change until that person comes to the end of that road or somehow is able to detect the wrongness of their action from within.  think about that.  you’ve done all kinds of dumb things that you probably knew were dumb; that others explained to you was dumb; but that you had to experience before it became part of your operating knowledge.  so really, is conventional wisdom all that it’s cracked up to be?  can we actually expect to be better off than our ancestors simply because we came along chronologically after them?

i’m afraid that we’re all doomed to make most of the mistakes we may have made if we were the first people even though we’re so far from it.  every person seems to need to experience a mistake or, perhaps better, the intuitive understanding that it is a mistake, in order to progress personally beyond that folly.  the intuitive understanding is tricky, though.  if we’re born with such an ability, it seems to be trained right out of us as we march a trail of explicit-logic-is-Truth toward adulthood, and if we find ways to reconnect with this skill, it’s difficult to be able to trust it, even after we convince ourselves that it’s real.  so, most of us continue to learn from mistakes–which is quite effective any way.

i remember once i was sitting at a table with six friends and one unknown (to me) girl, and though i knew from intuition AND from conventional wisdom not to speak ill of people (golden rule, anyone?), i said approximately the rudest thing i could about someone who wasn’t there, whom i thought nobody but a couple of us knew, and whom nobody had seen around for at least a year.  the silence and averted eyes at the table were bad.  but it was better than learning that the unknown girl happened to be the offended party’s best friend.  it was kind of incredibly awkward.  i knew i shouldn’t have been rude.  i was.  and then i learned by example the pain that such an indescretion could bring.  truly, there couldn’t be a more elementary and obvious piece of handed-down wisdom–yet it wasn’t enough to save me from my own sense of imperviousness.

so i was thinking about tv.  i was thinking about the ramifications of an unprecendentedly huge world population taking most of their information from a very small number of information outlets that happen to strive to be, more or less, aligned with one another anyway, and of course, it’s a little worrisome.  compared to the “old” model of smaller communities and more localized information, the implications get the illumination they deserve.  hopefully lessons from thought like this can be the teacher, rather than the impact from continued thoughtlessness.

i don’t think you’re stupid.  i just wanted to state it:  one thousand people in ten villages (one hundred per) are taught in each village how not to accidentally poison their drinking water.  one of the ten teachers has it wrong.  oops.  mistakes happen.  the next year, there are 900 people alive and armed with good knowledge on maintaining potable water.  but if those thousand people watch 2 television stations teaching them the same thing and one of the teachers is wrong, that’s 500 dead.  that’s all i’m saying.  not everything’s life or death, though.  a lot of the fallout can simply be people being wrong about dumb stuff.  but that can get to as divisive and polarizing as anything.  and when you’re living in a world where the decisions of the population have enormous impacts on the environments and other people around them…  well, it can be not so good, i think.

americans in particular are so proud of their immensely varied backgrounds–this “melting pot” provided us with many points of view and historical wisdoms that enabled this country to be as great as it is today (jingoistic words, not mine).  but what do we have today?  we have a huge wall of homogenized culture that is continuously stared at and compulsively agreed with by our populace, which is becoming incredibly homogenized as a result.  nearly every piece of corporate culture shakes hands with the next, from news broadcasts to car design to reality television shows.  all the news places import upon the same basic “issues,” and if i’ve learned anything in my time, it’s that there are literally boundless interesting, amazing, and important things to look into in our world.  but we don’t see most of them.  we see just a little.  usually what someone trying to sell something wants us to see.

i see this wall of fake culture as preventing millions of people from really being alive in their lives.  who disagrees that death is part of life?  you’ll never avoid it.  it’s pretty much the only thing that’s impossible.  then why all the “stay young” products for purchase?  why the craze?  what’s wrong with getting older?  with feeling less strong and not getting upset about it?  it’s part of life, to disintegrate, little by little, until the body is ready to rest.  stop telling me that it’s not, or that it’s avoidable, stupid wall of fake culture that tries to sell me things!

i mean, that’s all i’m saying.

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One response

12 01 2009
all is on

so…are you saying you wish you’d bought more boxes of candy cane joe joe’s? That’s what I’m saying.

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