You and I have learned

I was born in Boston, a citizen, went to Hollywood and became an alien. Leonard Nimoy

You and I have learned

 

You and I

have learned

The song of love

 

and we sing it well

 

The song is ageless

Passed on

 

Heart to heart

By those

Who have seen

What we see

And know

What we know

And lovers who have

Sung before

Our love is ours

To have

And

To share

 

The miracle is this

The more we share…

The more

We love

 

Leonard Nimoy

The three act structure and social anxiety

Once upon a time, the three act structure was a useful construct. It provided security and stability. However, it is time to move beyond it. It seems to me that the three acts structure contributes to the overall level of social anxiety.

The three act structure narrative is an unreasonable and unreal construct because it always resolves all problems, and, in most cases, offers happy solutions. The problem is most people do not realize that it is an unreasonable and unreal construct. It is precisely because so many do not realize it that it creates the opposite effects within them.

People watch movies, series, documentaries, reality shows, and so on and feel inadequate. They are not aware of it. They could not articulate it. However, the resolved three act structure affects their minds and they feel unhappy about their own lives, their abilities, their place in the world. It’s an unconscious fear. An anxiety. Audiences celebrate others. They laugh. They perceive their own external actions as happy. They see a movie or a TV show and they are happy about it. But the mind is an extremely complicated construct. They remain unaware of how the individual stories they view as well as the shared narrative structure shapes their minds, behaviours and expectations. They suppress the feeling of inadequacy it creates within them and go on.

In fact it seems to me that ‘reality TV’ and platforms like YouTube are a desperate attempt to provide the masses with an opportunity to experience ‘fame’ and a small, a very, very small ‘fortune’. Unfortunately, the solution does not address the true source of the problem: the ego and its role in one’s perception of his or her true and complete self.

The message coming from the digital mainstream realm is simple. Everybody can be rich, famous, beautiful, and so on.

Needless to say, it’s a delusion.

An insidious delusion which turns us, people, against one another, and, more importantly, individuals against themselves.

Reflecting on Kerouac Wore Khakis

Vince Passaro had written a well researched and therefore an interesting piece about Jack Kerouac. Unfortunately, Passaro had done the very thing he claims had contributed to Kerouac’s fall, depression and alcoholism and which he was trying to understand and explain within the article. Passaro had criticized Kerouac’s work in terms of the mainstream commercial success criteria (the desire to advertise oneself and one’s work and attribute profits derived from such activities to creative success) and according to the established academic ideas and modes of  teaching and understanding. The very elements that Kerouac and other writers of the period (Burroughs, Ginsberg, etc.) tried to analyse, criticize and change (partly via the Beat Generation construct). The irony is Passaro refers to Kerouac’s lover’s letters to criticize his unedited spontaneous prose style: ‘by 1957 (Joyce Glassman) was already a better writer than he was. Her prose in these letters shows her to be calmer, more astute, more honest, more in control of the tone and meter of her language and, in her way, more exploratory, if not of experience and sensation, then at least of herself and the people around her’. The imagined importance of the need to create emotional, linguistic thus creative constraints in order to define, establish and perpetuate the alleged ‘civilized behaviours’ is nothing more than the ruling class ideology. The Edwardian/Victorian ruling class aesthetic constructs and orders are the very things Kerouac and his contemporaries had been trying to destabilize. As well as the academic elite system which had aligned itself with the (profit driven) notions of ‘the acceptable aesthetic’ demanded by the illiterate but wealthy business owners. Kerouac and the other members of the movement had lived within the environments made up of injustice, manual labor, hate, fear, drugs and therefore crime and violence. The ruling class permits such environments to exist because it ignores them. They are not on its map because it does not want them on its map. It ignores them because it cannot exploit them. Or it explores them in the worst possible way and does not want anybody to know about it.

‘The only people for me are the mad ones, the ones who are mad to live, mad to talk, mad to be saved, desirous of everything at the same time, the ones who never yawn or say a commonplace thing, but burn, burn, burn, like fabulous yellow Roman candles exploding like spiders across the stars, and in the middle, you see the blue center-light pop, and everybody goes ahh…’

Jack Kerouac

On The Road

 

Kerouac Wore Khakis

By Vince Passaro

New York Times

There is a scene near the end of Joyce Johnson’s lovely and moving 1983 memoir, ”Minor Characters,” in which she describes one of the last glimpses she will catch, in a not yet ruined literary kingdom, of two young men who contributed to a vast change in American writing: Jack Kerouac, her recent lover, and Allen Ginsberg, his friend, walking with Peter Orlovsky on a snowy Village street near the turning of the year to 1959. Forty-one years have passed since this was an actual scene in the world.

Johnson reports in the same book that 10 years later she attended a showing of ”Pull My Daisy,” the film Kerouac made with the great Swiss émigré photographer Robert Frank, and there they are again, backlit, timeless and large on the screen before her: Jack, Peter and Allen, all ”beautiful young men.”

The Beat movement was very much about beautiful young men. That these were the figures who drove it was its strength and part of its undoing — among its many personalities, only Ginsberg and William S. Burroughs lasted as important and accomplished writers, and they just barely did so. Time and changing fashion ate the rest of them up, as they tend to eat up the beautiful and young.

Alcohol and a general lack of intellectual and spiritual resources also consumed Kerouac; by the time Johnson met him, in early 1957, some months before he was turned into an international celebrity by the long-delayed publication of ”On the Road” (he’d written it six years earlier), Kerouac was already on the way downhill, unsuccessfully fighting off alcoholism, an iron-clawed mother, wandering habits of attention and a befuddled, sentimental, ever more queerly hybridized collection of religious views. His letters to Johnson over the two years of their love affair display all these problems in abundance. They display it in his itinerant behaviour; in his chronicles of new ideas and new projects, one following the other, few to be completed; and in the prose itself, as peripatetic on the page as Kerouac was on the globe.

Some readers of this wonderful new collection of letters between Johnson and Kerouac, ”Door Wide Open,” will feel a bit uncomfortable with the recognition that the young Joyce Glassman (Johnson’s maiden name) — more than a decade Kerouac’s junior, a bourgeois Barnard girl who’d rarely left the Upper West Side, never mind the continent, and an artist who, unlike Kerouac, found respect but little fame or fortune — by 1957 was already a better writer than he was. Her prose in these letters shows her to be calmer, more astute, more honest, more in control of the tone and meter of her language and, in her way, more exploratory, if not of experience and sensation, then at least of herself and the people around her. Her strengths beside Kerouac’s growing weaknesses explode some treasured myths not only about him and the male-run Beat society but about American writing in general, with its muscle and its energy and its emphasis on experience over intelligence. An example from one of Johnson’s letters, dated April 14, 1957:
”I went to hear Miles Davis, who is playing at the Cafe Bohemia in the Village. He’s really fine — beautiful crazy lines floating on top of each other. He stood up very straight and looked stern. The place was packed, but silent as a cathedral — everybody at the bar looked sad and a little apprehensive and there was a weeping girl with a cat’s face wandering back and forth looking for jazz musicians. Then — all of a sudden, a car smacked up across the street between a house and a lamppost. The people in the front seat were trapped but giggling. A man at the bar cried ‘Crazy!’ threw up his arms and ran out into the street, followed by everybody except Miles Davis who kept playing. He finished and said quietly, ‘Thank you for the applause,’ and walked off. It was like a dream.”

In a considerably weakened condition, Kerouac in 1957 was thrust into the way of a force few writers before him had to face as intensely as he did: the brutal machine of commercial publicity that obliterates identity and ideas — that is intended to obliterate identity, ideas and anything else that gets in the way of sales and simplification. ”The process by which society neutralizes the cultural irritant of avant-garde art had been set in motion,” as the art critic Roger Benjamin once put it, talking not about the Beats but about another quickly absorbed group, the Fauves.

Readers of ”Door Wide Open” can follow the process fairly closely, as the letters and Johnson’s commentary trace out the quick series of events that landed ”On the Road” on the best-seller list and Jack Kerouac on Steve Allen’s ”Tonight” show, only months after he’d been holed up and near broke in Tangier, helping William Burroughs pull together his impossible manuscript of ”Naked Lunch.” People descended on Kerouac from every direction, especially, as Johnson comments with wry irritation, ”the whole parade of predatory women,” who seemed to feel ”entitled to their own piece of Jack and were shameless about proclaiming their intentions.”

Kerouac was neither shrewd nor strong. After the commercial machinery got going he had no idea what happened to him. His writing quickly dissolved in alcohol and crude self-parody. A recent piece in The Times Literary Supplement noted that ”On the Road,” despite Kerouac’s mythologizing of it as having been written in the automatic mode, was a properly and traditionally edited novel; I don’t know if this is true, but it certainly reads as a considerably more polished and thoughtful construction than anything Kerouac published thereafter, and we will never know whether this was because of his declining talents or his insistence that nothing he wrote would ever again be mangled, or improved, by someone so spiritually and aesthetically wanting as an editor.

Shortly after ”On the Road” was published, Kerouac wrote to Johnson that he’d been sent ”photos, wild photos, by Jerry Yulsman.” In one of her sharp, dry footnotes, Johnson remarks: ”Yulsman followed Jack around the Village, taking a series of color photos for Pageant. One of them, from which I was airbrushed out, was later used for a Gap ad for khakis.” This is the caprice of history, in a period when history is written by marketers.

A surprising number of innovative and talented young writers are suddenly now appearing on the literary landscape (over the last year or so, Dave Eggers, Jeffery Renard Allen, Zadie Smith and John McManus have come along, to name a few). We get a sense of romance and intense energy in discovering new voices; it keeps us in touch with a hope that as the world changes there are people around who will understand it and capture it well enough to allow us to continue seeing it. Otherwise we don’t want it to change. ”Door Wide Open” conveys that sense of energy and excitement in a very personal way, and conveys too Johnson’s own growth as a woman and writer in the 1950’s, absorbing Kerouac’s remarkable freedom:

”It’s funny the way you and Allen and Peter came to town this winter and shook us all up. Just think — we had been here all our lives, and now suddenly Elise is in Frisco . . . and I’m going to Mexico — most peculiar. . . . I remember walking with you at night through the Brooklyn docks and seeing the white steam rising from the ships against the black sky and how beautiful it was and I’d never seen it before — imagine! — but if I’d walked through it with anyone else, I wouldn’t have seen it either, because I wouldn’t have felt safe in what my mother would categorically call ‘a bad neighborhood,’ I would have been thinking ‘Where’s the subway?’ and missed everything. But with you — I felt as though nothing could touch me and if anything happened, the hell with it. You don’t know what narrow lives girls have, how few real adventures there are for them; misadventures, yes, like abortions and little men following them in subways, but seldom anything like seeing ships at night. So that’s why we’ve all taken off like this, and that’s also part of why I love you.”

Beliefs about facts distort facts

One of the most important global problems that we are unable to solve, because so many remain unaware of it (and there are no formal education systems or structures whose responsibility is to  make them aware of it), is the fact that we continue to deny the fact that what we disagree about are not facts but our beliefs about facts.

Our beliefs are shaped by our personalities that are made up of psychological properties that are not as universal as they should be. More specifically, our psychological properties are shaped by our individual location, nation, culture and religion, etc.

I would like to examine the fact versus belief problem.

To demonstrate the difference in perception I will use something as simple as a cloud. It’s an analogy.

Two very different individuals or groups of individuals could select a specific cloud, examine it using technology and science, agree that it is made up of water and oxygen (keeping it simple), and agree that it will move away and change its shape and merge with other clouds or dissipate on its own. The point is they can use logic to apply science and technology in order to explain its physical presence. However, what they don’t have to agree on is its shape and therefore the meaning of its shape. For example, the problem is they might not agree on what events have caused the cloud to assume the particular shape which implies that they cannot accept the difference between their minds which manifests itself as the difference in the perception of the cloud’s shape.

For example, one side might see the cloud as a butterfly, the other might see it as two dogs sitting next to each other.

Who is right and who is wrong. Whose perception is more accurate.

The answer is both of them are accurate because they come from two different systems of thought therefore it is impossible and unnecessary to try to determine the true or better or more important version.

This kind of thinking should suggest that we need to focus on our own ability to expand our own mind and exercise our own sense of empathy so that we do not feel threatened by others’ perceptions.

We must realize that we must stop using natural and artificial resources in order to transform one another’s minds, beliefs, cultures and so on.  Or worse, to try to destroy one another. It is impossible for us to change one another’s true nature without destroying one another.

Different leaders responsible for different regions  need to change their own people and turn them into more humane beings. Their attempts to change or destroy people who inhabit other regions, neighboring or otherwise, have been failing for thousands of years, and will continue to fail, and in the process perpetuate needless hate, fear, violence and destruction.

Our beliefs about facts is what distorts facts.

We have to learn how to accept our very different beliefs if are to advance to the stage where we can begin to share the same belief.

A belief cannot be forced by any one individual or group. A shared belief must arise as a consequence of our ability to accept one another as we are. Only when we don’t feel threatened by others’ differences, culture, etc., will we be willing to embrace it and absorb its elements thus leading to a new unifying culture and or civilization.

Brian Boyd’s On the Origin of Stories (evolution, cognition and fiction)

Evolution and human nature

Many in university literature departments have denounced the notion of human nature as ‘essentialism’, a belief in human essence. For many in the modern humanities and social sciences there is no human nature, only the construction of local culture, and to think otherwise can only endanger hopes for changing what we are and do.

This position is confused. Even to deny a universal human nature and insist only on local cultural difference already constitutes a claim about human nature: that the minds and behavior of all humans, and only human, depend solely on culture*.

This happens to be false: our minds and behavior are always shaped by the interaction of nature and nurture, or genes and environment, including the cultural environment. And false too, about other species, many of which have culture, and at least one other, chimpanzees, have a different culture in every group observed in the wild and could not survive without their local culture*.

Even on an everyday level we could not engage with other humans without an implicit theory of human nature.

We do not respond to other people as if they were dogs, mice or chimpanzees. Bared teeth on a Rottweiler mean one thing but something very different on a smiling human face.

If many in literature departments reject the idea of a human nature, let alone of evolution’s power to explain it, many in other fields from anthropology to religion and sociology have recently recognized that the deep past that shaped our species can help to explain our present and our recent past.

Evolutionary aspects of the mind may not be as accessible in the fossil record as we would like, but evidence has converged from many sources across species, cultures, eons, and life stages , from evolutionary theory; from observation and experiment with animals and human infants, children, and adults; from game theory, artificial intelligence, and computer simulations; from clinical and cognitive psychology and neuroimaging, that many aspects of our minds and behavior have been configured over evolutionary time.

By nature we have much in common before and even after local culture shapes us.

Human differences

Although an evolutionary view of human nature will often focus on ‘universals’, on common features of our brains and behavior, it does not ignore or deny enormous cultural differences between peoples.

Human differences have been exaggerated in contrasting ways over the century and a half since the publication of On the Origin of Species, first in a racist, then in an antiracist direction.

In the late nineteenth century, the heyday of Western imperialist expansion and laissez faire capitalism, Darwinism and especially the notion of ‘the survival of the fittest’ (not initially Darwin’s term) were seized on by Social Darwinists to justify the idea that the strong deserve to win, since the their success in competition ‘proves’ their superiority (whatever happened to intelligence, logic, humanity and empathy as the defining features of an intelligent species). They and others used this to rationalize a ‘science’ of human racial difference, and, unsurprisingly for the times, European racial superiority. The result was ‘the mismeasure of man”*: a program to measure ‘racial’ differences to ‘prove’ racial superiority of some human ‘races’ and the inferiority of others.

Modern evolutionary approaches to human nature have nothing in common with this program. Science itself shows that despite differences strikingly visible to us, humans are genetically an unusually uniform species (three humans selected from around the world will differ genetically much less on average than three chimpanzees selected from any of their shrinking African habitats) and that there is more variation within a local ethnically homogenous population than between one ethnic population and another*. Ware of the ghastly consequences of racism in the twentieth century, modern evolutionary psychologists stress ‘the psychic unity of humankind’ and focus more on what human minds have in common than on differences.

The nineteenth century Western assumption that the West embodied the standards by which all peoples should be judged caused a reaction among early twentieth century cultural anthropologists. Top reject the idea that observed differences in behavior arise from biological differences and to show that they do not prove superiority or inferiority, cultural anthropologists and sociologists stressed the malleability of human nature under the pressure of culture.

Early twentieth century anthropologists insisted on the power and variety of culture, but although they claimed an almost limitless diversity of human behaviors, the behaviors they observed actually remained within narrow boundaries. No human culture, for instance, ‘even begins to compare to with the social system’ of any of our closest primate relatives.

Physiology renders visible the huge differences between human and great ape sociosexual systems: all adult male chimpanzees try to couple with all adult females in their group, their massive testicles testifying to the intensity of male sexual competition; among bonobos, the other species closest to us, fervent and frequent female female couplings result not only in enlarged clitorises but also in female alliances holding the balance of power; among gorillas no other male dares attempt to contest the dominant silverback’s sexual control of all the adult females, and in the absence of direct male sexual competition, these huge apes have tiny testicles.

In the late 1960s the anthropologists’ insistence on human differences began to permeate the humanities as well as the human sciences, and seem like a moral crusade, a rejection of the hegemony of a Western sense of human nature.

Roland Barthes, for example, criticized ‘the mystification which transforms the petit bourgeois culture into a universal nature’. Many in the humanities and social sciences began to deny human nature and to excoriate ‘essentialism’*.

But as some anthropologists realized late in the century, their stress on human diversity had led them to overlook human universals*. On the receiving end, a Samoan scholar bemoaned Margaret Mead’s enormously influential depiction of her people: she ‘took away our oneness with other human beings…We are no different from you.’ To insist only on difference and deny commonality actually frustrates the commendable motives that led to the rejection of narrowly Western standards of human nature. Without any sense of all that we share in what the Ghanaian-American philosopher Kwame Anthony Appiah calls ‘the one race to which we all belong’*, what can be the basis for our special concern for human beings, for human justice?

A critique of unquestioned Western assumptions about human nature was needed, but the anthropological critique extended by Barthes and Michael Foucault in the 1960s and dogmatized over the following decades was shortsighted. It did not look nearly far enough. While structuralism and its more or less rebellious offspring continued in the direction set by early twentieth century social sciences, the natural sciences moved in the opposite direction, toward the first comprehensive scientific attempt to understand human nature in the context of evolution and human, animal, and artificial cognition and behavior.

The best way to critique Western bourgeois assumptions about human nature is not to deny that human nature exists, but to apply the hard tests of science , examining humans against other species ; in many cultures, from hunter gatherer bands to modern industrialized states; in many ages, in their history and their arts, especially the arts of orature (oral literature) and literature: to investigate human universal and human particulars, similarities and differences.

Far from denying cultural difference, an investigation of human nature that takes into account our evolutionary past makes it possible to explain cultural difference in a way that insisting that humans are completely ‘culturally constructed’ cannot. Constructed out of what in any case?

The argument that people are culturally different because of their culture, or because humans are shaped just by culture, is merely circular*. Moreover, explanations of differences in, say male and female behavior in terms of ‘our culture’ or ‘their culture’ look empty when we realize that similar systematic differences exist not only across human cultures but also in hundreds of animal species.*

An evolutionary account of human nature can show the advantages of sociality, and of social learning, in many species, culminating in the unique human susceptibility to culture. The extent of human cultural differences has been made possible by the evolution of the mind.

Without the complex shared architecture of the mind, culture could not exist. Because of the that shared design, there are many universals across cultures: there is a human nature.

Class control and inaction

The harder it becomes to make a living the less likely it is that any kind of change will occur.

When it is so hard to make a living that the only thing that most individuals are able to think of is their own survival then their time becomes the currency of their existence. By treating the under, working and middle classes’ time as the currency the business owning elite increases its power and reduces their ability to change their situation.

Our ‘great theoretical bodies of work’ are useless. Despite their creators’ genuine intentions all that their work does is disempower people. The greater the people’s knowledge about the nature and extent of their oppression the more aware they become of how powerless they are thus the more they focus on their own daily survival.

At this point in time the only thing that can empower people is action driven leadership. Anyone with anything to lose is not going to want to act so it is very easy to determine who is genuine and who is protecting its position and interests.

When one is trying to survive it is against the logic (of survival) to select the most difficult path. Consequently nobody is going to decide to act. Most people will continue to try to make themselves as comfortable as they can within the existing system.

Perhaps one of the ways in which we could reach more people is by showing them the results of their inactions?

How could we visually demonstrate the consequences that is the resultant state created by our inactions in a way that does not devalue people?

Furthermore we could demonstrate what could happen as a result of: A) individual actions B) collective actions and C) combined actions.