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Abstract Thought and Authenticity part two

For this post, I would like to focus on the concept of ‘abstract’ or ‘abstraction’.  I have a few reasons for this particular emphasis, the first of which is the necessarily vague dictionary definition.

From my handy-dandy:

abstract  adj

1: Considered apart from a particular instance.

2:  Expressing a quality apart from an object

3:  Having only intrinsic form with little or no pictorial representation.

abstract  n

1:  Summary, Epitome

2: An abstract thing or state.

abstract  vb

1:  Remove, Separate.

2:  To make an abstract of: Summarize

3:  To draw away the attention of

4:  Steal

abstraction  n

1:  The act of abstracting:  the state of being abstracted.

2:  An abstract idea

3:  An abstract work of art

I  have reread these definitions three times and still cannot attach any interest to them.  So, I am going to quote Wikipedia (en.wikipedia.org/wiki/abstraction)

“In philosophical terminology, abstraction is the thought process wherein ideas are distanced from objects.  Abstraction uses a strategy of simplification, wherein formerly concrete details are left ambiguous, vague, or undefined, thus effective communication about things in the abstract requires an intuitive or common experience between the communicator and the communication recipient.  This is true for al verbal/abstract communication.”

I would like to use the above references – or rather the sources of those references – to make my point.  Our society is being held hostage by miscommunication.  We lack the intuitive or common experience necessary for effective conversation.

Where do we find information?

My first instinct is always to reach for my dictionary.  In this habit, I am a product of my generation and those that came before me.  I have adjusted with advances in technology (for the most part), but I adjust from the foundation of ‘before’.  Before the internet was on your phone, before laptops were smaller than hardback books, before you could download and read a book without having to turn a page.  I even remember when home computers were a luxury rather than a necessity.  In truth, ‘before’ was not that long ago.

Sadly, my handy-dandy failed me.  I turned instead to the internet.  I typed a single word into a search engine, and almost immediately received thousands of options to choose from.  In utilizing an internet search engine, I began thinking on an abstract level.  I stripped away the specific characteristics of inquiry and approached the subject broadly.  Using this approach I can use deductive reasoning to narrow my field of interest to suit the aim I wish to achieve.

From:  www.scrassociates.com/glossary.html

Deductive:  Reasoning from the general to the specific; to chunk down.”

From:  www.dfamily.com/philosophy/teach/hswtl/glossary.html

Deductive:  Given a set of facts of assumptions which are supposed to be true, deductive reasoning is the mental process to extend these facts into new conclusions using logic; ‘Top Down’, or from the more general to the more specific.”

This method of reasoning was favored by such intellectual giants as  Descartes, Galileo, and Hobbes (www.psychnut.com/gloss.html) and yet, it is not the preferred method in our education system.  Rather, the opposite approach of Inductive Reasoning monopolizes the academic opportunities afforded young scholars.

From:  www.scrassociates.com/glossary.html

Inductive:  Drawing a general conclusion (abstract) from specific facts; chunking up.”

From:  www.philosophy.uncc.edu/mledrid/logic/logiglos.html

“Unlike deductive arguments, inductive ones promise only probability, not certainty.  Thus, if one argues that having watched several different newscasts in several different cities on many different nights, one may infer that newscasts emphasize, in Bob Inman’s phrase, ‘mayhem and misery’, then one is making an inductive argument (in this case, and inductive or empirical generalization).  Another kind of inductive argument is an argument from analogy.  Inductive arguments are judged by their reliability, where one expects only a high degree of probability, not one hundred percent reliability as with deduction.”

In an academic environment, students are ‘supplied’ with examples of a principle idea.  Oftentimes, the principle idea is omitted or addressed only after the examples have been presented.  In English class, students read short stories, poetry and essays from respected authors’ representative of their time and society.  They are familiar and well explored so much so that the ‘meaning’ and ‘interpretation’ of their works have lost subjectivity.  The analysis of their work has come from a long and distinguished line of ‘reliability’, as a result, differing interpretations are often classified as ‘wrong’, ‘misguided’ or ‘misunderstood’ and in need of ‘correction’.  The negation of individual responses cripples the students’ ability to form their own opinion.  They are denied the journey of exploration and enlightenment that comes with increased knowledge.

In the age of information, blind acceptance of majority opinion is dangerous.  As a society we have come to accept ‘probability’ as ‘certainty’.  We view ‘exceptions’ as ‘aberrations’ and ‘originality’ as ‘defiance’.  Rather than seek a personal understanding we rely on the explanations of others.  I am left to wonder where we would be in Descartes, Galileo and Hobbes had been satisfied by accepted ‘truth’.

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Posted by on October 7, 2011 in Coffee Shop Whore?, Confessions, philosophy

 

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Day Jobs and Life Callings

         16 days ago I  had a job interview; 15 days ago I was offered a job; 14 days ago I accepted the job, and 13 days ago I posted about authenticity (rather, I was easing into the concept of authenticity).  12 days ago, I started the job that I now view as the ‘entry-level position’ to my life calling.

            Now, before I get too far into the ‘job’ post, I have to tell you something about the past year. 

                                    I discovered Existentialist Philosophy.

I had planned on a gradual and detailed account of these new insights, but, well… abstract half-thought… to be continued…  The important thing now is the idea of authenticity.

            Those who have read my posts of the past know that I try to live my life openly, honestly and without reserve.  For many who meet me in person, this can be a little unnerving and overwhelming at times.  At times I have doubted the wisdom of my choices.  When I discovered the existentialist concept of authenticity … vindication!!!!!

            So, segue completed, circling back to my new job.  I am happy to report that I love my day job.  I am working as an Instructional Assistant at a high school.  My duties include:  taking notes for students who, for various reasons, cannot take notes for themselves; help students organize assignments and complete assignments in a timely manner; find new and interesting ways to explain confusing or difficult material, and assist instructors in non-academic ‘chores’ that detract from quality teaching time.

            Many of the students I work with remind me of a teenage me.  Some have unusual learning styles, some have a single-minded focus on one subject, and sadly for some, life has taught them lessons not found in a classroom – lessons no child should have to learn. 

            High school the first time around made little impact on me academically.  It was an escape or a chance for creative exploration through theater and music, but rarely was it inspiring on an intellectual level.  I appreciated concept and significance, while the faculty appreciated memorization and regurgitation.  I rarely went to class.

            Now, after all this time, I get to experience a little bit of high school again.  I finally made it to US History and I can truly appreciate how far my country has come in such a relatively short period of time.  I feel a renewal in my optimism.  I also have the privilege of sitting in on a fundamental English class.  I finally understand the ‘comma-splice’.  I know, I know, its basic grammar, but I must have been absent the day they taught subordinating, coordinating and correlative conjunctions because I have been faking it and passing the buck to ‘grammar check’ for years.  I was in BAD FAITH!!! (I just had to throw in another term from existentialism).  So, while my posts may be a bit irregular for a while, I am taking notes and forming thoughts.  

 
 

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Retrospection

            My decision to blog again has much to do with the tenth anniversary of 9/11.  I didn’t go into detail about how that day influenced my life in my early posts, truthfully, I skipped the experience entirely.  Everybody has their own version of that day, and each one carries a unique burden in that experience.  Those experiences should not be trivialized or diminished as so often happens when comparisons are made.  I have held my memory of that day close to my heart, protecting it from cynicism and recrimination.

            I avoided all media exposure on the anniversary.  Instead, I sat outside in the sunshine and read a romance novel, avoidance in a truly self-indulgent fashion.  When I had read the last page and the sun had dropped below the horizon I felt ashamed.  Without my distractions I began to feel that I had desecrated the sanctity of that day, that I had disrespected the memory of the lives that were lost.  Some days later I read a memorial blog that changed my perspective.

           From ‘Ephemera and Pseudo-Events’ by J.N. Nielsen:

                        “An anniversary is an arbitrary thing – the length of a year is utterly arbitrary – but it is natural to want to commemorate a loss, as it is natural to want to celebrate some joyous occasion. … To memorialize an event is to prevent its repetition, the render it singular, although we must relive the trauma in each memorialization.  Failure to memorialize an event means that it will be visited upon us time and again, though we will be spared the retraumatization of the continual consciousness of the event.”

             My experiences of that day have shaped every aspect of my life, but not in a negative way.  I honor the memory of that day by living each subsequent day with deep appreciation in my heart.  When I remember that day I don’t linger on images of destruction or fear, I am overcome by the humility and compassion I felt all around me.  I tremble not with grief, but with awe.  Remembering now feels like a renewal of hope, and hope and shame cannot coexist.

 
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Posted by on September 20, 2011 in Coffee Shop Whore?, Confessions, philosophy, psychology

 

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Letter – a work of fiction

Dear Julie,

     I couldn’t help but notice how nice your hair smelled today.  It was so beautiful in the sunshine, it took all of my self-control to not run my fingers through it.  I also couldn’t help but notice that you had lunch with that man again, I thought that my previous letters would have alerted you to how disastrous a relationship with this person might be, surely he could not love you as much as I do, but that is beside the point, I am sure you will realize that I am right on this point.  Have you told him about me?  Silly me, asking such questions, he would know better than to intrude on our relationship.

     I have been trying to decide what I would get you for your birthday this year.  I never see you wearing the earings that I bought you last year.  I have been trying to think of something more personal, something that you can cherish, something to remind you of my love.

     The first time we met my life changed.  You were so young and beautiful.  You were wearing that little pink sweater.  I remember how pretty your hair was in that ponytail,  I thought it a shame that you cut it all off.  I know you didn’t mean it to be hurtful to me, after all, I did say how much I liked it.  I am glad that you are growing it out again.  It’s much better looking when it is long.  It would have looked so beautiful streaming down your back at graduation.  But that was a long time ago, I barely knew you then, not like now.

     I hate to keep harping on about it, but that man you had lunch with… he is so much like that boy you were dating back then.  Richard something or other.  I tried to warn you about him.  You wouldn’t listen then either, I don’t know if you know, but I finally had to talk to him, I mean, really, even then you knew that we were destined to be together.  I know you had to have your fun, but he was getting a little too serious, he thought he could steal you from me.  I hope this one doesn’t make the same mistake.  Richard whatshisface just wouldn’t believe me when I told him you were mine.  Even after you moved away, I knew you were getting away from him, you knew that I would find you, no matter where you went.  The connection between us is too strong to ever be broken by miles.  Richard didn’t have that connection with you.

     Anyway, that’s all in the past.  We are the future.  I should go now, I will see you soon anyway, but I wanted to tell you that I love you and think of you always.

                                                                                                                                     Love and Devotion,

                                                                                                                                     Your Secret Admirer

 

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The Truth About Social Self-Concept

This is not an easy post for me.  My last little post was optimistic, but it was not really how I was feeling.  Yes, I have been having an interesting week, and yes I have  had many great ideas, however, I have not been able to act on many of those ideas.

The truth is, I have not been liking myself this past week.

I am in a new place where I don’t know anybody.  I have never really had that  many ‘friends’ per se, but I usually have people who know me and who accept my eccentricity, despite the nature of eccentricity, mine is rather consistent.  That is no longer the case.  I find myself having to explain myself once again.  There is nothing quite as disheartening as justifying why I am the way that I am.  And, no, I can’t just ‘be normal’, it is far too late for that.

For all that I have learned so far in my life, I am still frozen in fear when faced with a job application.  Somehow I find it difficult to fill those darn things out.  How do you explain gaps in employment in three lines of ‘additional information’?  How do you explain that you haven’t known someone for two years but that  you know more about them after two hours of real conversation.  How do you ask that person to be a reference?

How do you explain that you have a phone number from one state, a mailing address in another and a driver’s licence from yet another.  These have been the circumstances of my life for as long as I can remember.  In fact, I  have never lived at the address on my driver’s licence, but I needed a stable street address, I had to give the DMV my mother’s address.  Why can’t I stop moving?

I have no reason to stay other than to stay.

The jobs that I have had in the past – well, since the Navy – have been dissatisfying.  When I am hired, I am told the guiding mission statement for a company – and I believe it.  It all seems to make sense, yet as the month’s go by, a corner is cut, a shortcut is taken, the bottom line comes to light.  I find that I no longer respect the company I am working for… I move on.

Does that make me a runner?  I guess so.  Perhaps I have held on to the dream of purpose and of pride in accomplishment.  I like to think that it is more important to lose a sale and keep the customer than the other way around.  I like to think that people are more important than  profit margins…. this does not make me a team  player.

I have hidden in academics, a way to avoid disappointment in the working world, but more and  more, the lines are blurring.  Textbook costs are through the roof, teachers are disenfranchised by limitations on what they can teach, they are stressed about how to stretch their  paycheck a little further because number crunchers say that it is more important to buy the new computer thn it is to invest in creative minds.  Frustration rolls down hill and students seek a piece of paper rather than information and education.  Conversation and curiosity dies.

I fill out applications for jobs that minimize my exposure to hu,man beings, not because I don’t like people, but because I don’t want to have to explain why I am the way that I am.  I don’t want to be asked why, if I am so smart, why am I doing this job or that job when the answer is very simple.  I need to eat.

I think about applications, and then job interviews and I wonder where I missed the lesson on the ‘right answer’.  Is there such a thing.  What do  they want to hear?  What do you want to hear?  What do I want to hear?  It all gets so complicated… I want to hear silence.

I have tried to stop apologizing for myself, but in this case I am sorry to be so morose.  Normally I am pretty good with me, but on paper it is difficult to see much that is redeeming.  I guess that is what happens when you only look at the bottom line.

 

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The Space Around Anger

A Statement of Personal Self-Concept

One thing that I am not always happy to admit is that I have a lot of anger.  This is not to say that I am an angry person.  In the past, I have been an angry person – I allowed my anger to control my vantage of the world and those who inhabit the world.  It was a familiar filter through which every decision, every perception and every relationship would have to pass through.  I was not a happy person, nor was I a  pleasant person to be around.

These days, I try to pass the world through a different filter – one of optimism.  You see, optimism is the space around anger.

Anger is not a primary emotion.  I learned this through acting.  When you are angry it is in response to something else.  Surprise – say, when someone cuts in front of you on the freeway – leads to fear at the possibility of harm, and then anger at the individual that presented the threat of that harm.  The anger is not really at the individual, but rather the aggressive counter to fear.  Fight or Flight.

Frustration is another good instigator for anger.  For me, ignorance and social injustice are mammoth triggers of frustration.  Mostly because the aforementioned evils serve no real purpose other than as camouflage for the further aforementioned fear.  Become a bully before someone else is given an opportunity to bully you.  When faced with ignorance or social injustice I am faced with two options.

Option One:  Make like the Unibomber, wrapped up in isolation and my own sense of superiority and proceed to destroy all those I deem unworthy.Problems – aside from all illegality murderous,  sociopathic, hypocritical and generally not productive or helpful.

Option Two:  CHOOSE to assume that ignorance is not self-imposed and can quite nicely be swept away with knowledge and/or constructive disapproval.  Social Injustice – well, can be solved with a little active justice – don’t you think.  A big rally is not always necessary, a single person saying, that is not acceptable – and then calmly explaining why it is not acceptable, that can work too, AND ANYONE CAN DO IT.  Problems – takes an awful lot of patience and extremely thick skin.

Option One is a choice made within anger.  Option Two, a choice made from the space around anger.   But how do you find the space around anger?  That is the big question, isn’t it?

Think about a fight with a loved one.  JJ can make me so angry that I see the entire color spectrum behind my eyes, I lose any and all ability to string words into a sentence (that is a BAD thing with me) and I lose motor function beyond banging my head (fist/foot) against a wall.  But the thing about it is… I love the man.  As social creatures we always get angriest with those we love the most, but we still love them.  We forgive them because of that love.  With JJ, whenever I am the most angry – and this is a direct result of my time with the Medical Examiners Office – I think of him as no longer there.  I have no choice in this vision, my grief for those lost in war has become the home for my anger.  Whenever I go down that slippery slope of rage, it is here where I settle.  In that moment where I envision JJ as no longer alive in this world, my anger cannot survive – it is after all, a secondary emotion.

My love, my grief at the loss of the man far outweighs any temporary anger I feel toward a situation.  And in an instant all of the anger I was feeling vanished, replaced by an overwhelming gratitude that he is still in my life, alive – pissed beyond all measure – but breathing.

This works with JJ, my mother, my sisters, my friends…. heck… if you think about it,if I want to stay away from the hypocrisy of the Unibomer (isolation, absurd sense of superiority) – it can work for the entire human race.

The space around anger

 
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Posted by on April 29, 2010 in Coffee Shop Whore?, Confessions

 

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A Preface to the Question of Self-Concept

     I have three lap-top computers.  To most people, that is a bit excessive.  Considering how non-computer literate I am, some might wonder how I became that person… well, it all started with a Toshiba, an LCD screen, a highly priced case of very low quality and a road trip.  Somewhere along this road trip, my Toshiba met with tragedy.  A single point of impact, a spiderweb of cracks,  and only a third of a functioning screen later – I bought my Acer Mini-PC.

     The Acer is a neat little computer, friendly – except with anything that involves audio – but generally gets a lot of compliments on its cuteness.  The problem with the Acer:  It is SMALL, which is good when I have it strapped to my back and I am riding my bike, but not so good when I have to  read a textbook online.

     Which brings me to my HP Pavilion 9000, which I bought – used – from someone who didn’t know its value.  This wonderful computer, my dream lap-top in fact,  came Microsoft Vista, which some may know has its problems.  My Norton AntVirus subscription ended taking with it my ability to log onto the internet.  While Windows 7 promises to solve my internet-woes, I cannot log on and download the severely discounted (and about all I can afford) Student Edition.  Sadly, the Acer, in all of its cuteness, does not have a CD-ROM drive.  Sigh.

     I do have a point in telling you all of this sad tale.  You see, with only one out of three PC’s functioning entirely – I have been shuffling files.  I have a lot of files…. I very rarely delete something I have downloaded/ripped/written/critiqued/edited…etc.  While surfing through curiosity of the past, the proverbial light bulb came on.

I am gleefully clapping my hands like  little girl singing “I want to share, I want to share” but before I do so , I must bypass the detailed dissections of Plans B, C and D and just come out and tell you what they were.  Afterall, that is where all of the files came from.

  • (1998-2004ish) — Plan A (some may recall) was Politics by way of the Navy.
  • (2004 – 2006)  —- Plan B – removed me as far as possible from Plan A – The American Academy of Dramatic Arts in Hollywood, CA  http://www.aada.org/home/home.html
  • (2006-2008½)  – Plan C – Brought me back to school in order to study ‘the sciences’ I had neglected in the past.  Ironically, I had hit a creative wall when writing a science-fiction story – I didn’t understandthe ‘science’ in my story, but I knew it ‘sounded’ good – sorry, the ‘Because I said so…’ defense does not fly with the scifi. 

The next leap does require a little explaining as there were several factors involved.

  1. The right side of my brain was feeling abandoned.
  2. Individuals with the misguided belief that ‘science’ was superior to ‘art’
  3. A general accepted belief that ability in one meant inability in the other
  4. Tutoring https://missfionna.wordpress.com/2010/03/20/when-does-it-start/
  5. ‘Science’ professionals at the VA Hospital insisting that the answer to all of my problems would be the addition of another medication
  • (2008½- late 2009) –Plan D – alternated between two  equally valid and interesting paths,
  1. The use of Acting Techniques in therapeutic use when treating PTSD
  2. A supplementary education program combining academic studies in a comprehensive, context based forum. (how’s that for a pitch-phrase???)  Basically, a conversation that explains how everything fits together. 

Luckily, both these areas could benefit from a single foundation.  I began a degree in Psychology. 

     Which brings me to 2010 where I am venturing into Plan E, which consists of no real plan other than to just keep going with whatever comes along – and above all, FINISH SOMETHING.

Wow, after all that I sure hope my ‘sharing time’ is worth it….  I’ll let you be the judge of that.

 
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Posted by on April 12, 2010 in Coffee Shop Whore?, Confessions

 

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