Friday, February 11, 2011

Static in the Reception

Janus was the Roman god of gateways, beginnings and endings; time itself. Looking at this image, though, I see humankind with, on one side, a dark face contorted with inchoate emotion, passions and beliefs, lost in the irrational, and the other with a shining brow enjoying the positive outlook of cognition and the skills of a scientific mind.
Based on our cultural and chemical inheritances and environment, our perception, how we see ourselves and others in the context of the known world, varies are much as the species of living creatures.
"The difference between Europeans and Americans is that Europeans think
that 100 miles is a long distance, and Americans think 100 years is a long time."
This telling aphorism is from John Michael Green's The Long Descent, which opens with him standing on a hill overlooking Caernarfon in Wales; he sees the whole human history of that "corner of the world" spread out clearly before him:
First, the earthworks of a Celtic hill fort of 2500 years ago
On low hills to the left, the outline of a Roman fort
Edward I's great castle (meet the new boss)
Brick Victorian homes neatly lined up
RAF jets streaking across the sky
A gaudy sign and parking lot of the American-style supermarket...
Five empires in succession, the latest headed toward its fate just as the others were.
A human's life may just be too short and caught up in ODTAA (one damn thing after another) to develop the ancient sage's ability to see backward, forward and inward with clarity.
Rather, we are hobbled and blinkered to a very sorry extent; just as our physical vision is limited, our mental processing has psychological threshholds to be breached. Some we may become aware of, but even then we might not find a work-around. Denial is prevalent; we'd much rather avoid a migraine than admit the existence of and carefully consider a problem. We are immersed in the status quo and things are obvious, to most, only after the fact. Perception trumps reality; we are so full of ourselves to think that reality is what we say it is. Prisoners of our beliefs, we persist in folly: empires, one after another, going to their deaths in Central Asia; people reproducing mindlessly in Haiti, Bangladesh, Somalia and Utah in full denial of the obvious horrible consequences of overpopulation.
Perspective, in cognition (rather than in art) is the reference from which to sense, categorize, measure or codify experiences, to cohesively form a coherent truth. Data, patterns, system, conclusion: the old scientific method. Why do so many ignore it and it seems increasingly, why do so many vilify it? Are only a minority born with the ability to use, not be used by, their perception?
Machiavelli, with dark humor, said that there are three kinds of people: one who thinks for himself, one who is able to understand the thinking of others, and that one who can do neither.
People then were thought to be governed by four "humors," as codified by Hippocrates:
Choleric: the doers and dominators; ambitious
Melancholic: thoughtful and creative
Phlegmatic: content and stable
Sanguine: extroverted and social
Not a bad start to understanding what our qualities and limitations are; on the other hand you have the religious and supernatural explanations of what we are.
The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator posits 16 personality types, expressed in four-letter codes. After many questions are answered, the one that best describes you is clear. I've taken about three of these tests without being let in on the results, which is irrirating, but I've figured it out on my own. You must know thyself, after all, or just be a ball in someone else's game.
The most common personality types seem to be ISFJ (friendly, committed, loyal), ESFJ (cooperative, conscientious), and ISTJ (responsible, quiet, thorough, a "trustee").
What I want to find out is what makes up a denier and what makes up a seer.
Your type code is whether you are an E or an I; an N or an S; a T or an F; a J or a P(E=extraversion, I=introversion, N=intuition, S=sensing, T=thinking, F=feeling, J=judging, P=perceiving).
The very abbreviated descriptions here of the three most common personality types do not seem to explain why most people are conservative, traditional believers and beholden to the status quo. There are Myers-Briggs scholars and full-time practicioners who know the theory better than I ever will, but I think the F, S and J are conservative traits, and you can see they are all over the three dominant personality types. With the hopeful exception of the ISTJ, more thoughtful (vs. feeling) than the other two, we can see why most people can't get past the human limitations and psychological roadblocks to a rational perception of reality.
In Ideology and Utopia, Karl Mannheim explained how the conversative way of looking at things is inherently irrational. It's walking backwards toward the future with eyes fixed on a mythologized past, feelings and beliefs providing comfort as they reinforce each other.
We don't and we can't know everything; the information is always incomplete and the complexities are often unthinkable. If we can remove some shackles, though, why wouldn't we?

1 comment:

  1. Tonight the moon cast shadows over the leaves and dried branches in a wonderment of shapes. And it was all free for anyone who took time to watch and listen.