Most of my (limited) group of readers know that I had some significant surgery on July 28th and it has taken me this long to recover enough to be interested in writing again.
This post may seem a bit redundant to my last one, but since time has passed, I think that it might make sense to repeat a few things and add some color commentary.
On a side note, looking at the statistics for readership there are some folks in Eastern Europe and Western Asia that read this blog. Now, I do not know if they are different people who are just browsing the blogger site or if I actually have fans in Russia, Turkey and other West Asian countries. If so, please send me a note or comment, I'd like to hear from you.
In my last post back on July 19th, I discussed the possibility of at least three future topics:
(1) How does morality and ethics play out in a pre-determined, atheist worldview?
(2) Why not "just give up" if everything is pre-determined?
(3) Attachment vs Happiness, do Eastern Philosophies know something that we don't?
Toward the 3rd topic I have been (slowly) reading a book titled, "The Book of Not Knowing" by Peter Ralston. It is a fun book for me to read, as he is attempting to walk the reader through the Eastern process of cleansing yourself of your "made up self" in order to discover your "real self". This idea that we are mostly what we have been told, taught and think about versus what we "really are" has always gotten my neurons firing, so I am enjoying the read.
This brings me to the insight that I gained the other day whilst reading this particular book. In it he is trying to offer a variety of analogies to explain to the reader the mechanics of how humans develop their sense, view and concept of the society, culture, world and self.
To summarize, he noted that if you watch a kitten (or kittens) play, they chase, fight, run and jump during their play. These skills are necessary for cats in order for them to both hunt for food and defend themselves. Adult cats also seem to enjoy play and while they do it less often, it would appear that their play helps them maintain these important survival skills.
If you watch a child or children play, they often play "pretend". They can imagine that a shoe box is a boat and grandma's floor is the ocean. If you interrupt their play, they return to the "real world" of mommy and daddy (sometimes unhappily) and therefore demonstrate that they are not hallucinating or psychotic per se', however why do they play pretend? In fact why do adults fantasize? It might be that kids (and even adults) are "practicing some skills" that are required for success and as adults these skills may need maintenance, just like in adult cats. Those skills (playing pretend) would most aptly be defined as creating our worldview, our sense of self and our persona as an individual human. There is nothing fundamentally real about "who we are" other than the molecules that make up our current state of mass. Everything that we believe about ourselves is created in our minds. Tall, short, skinny, fat, pretty, ugly, smart, dumb, funny, boring, confident, shy are all constructs that we have made up - often with the help of our familes, friends and society in general.
I thought that this explaination was cool and it stuck with me as being important to ponder and incorporate into how I think about myself and other people.
This made me wonder about a thought experiment whereby you would take a fresh new human and attempt to remove all forms of feedback from them regarding their behavior, gender, intelligence, attractiveness and social "fit". What would you end up with? My first thought (like most parents or even non-parent adults who can't stand feral children) is that you'd have a "caveman". Then I wondered two more things. Would you REALLY have a "caveman" child if they received ZERO feedbac? I often find that some of the most irritating children that I run across receive all sorts of feedback and most of it is conflicting or non-specific, in other words, chaotic. The second thought was that whichever outcome on the spectrum of caveman to shy polite and calm (which actual cave people were more apt to be like, based on what we know of ancient humans), the child WOULD possibly reflect what "real" humans are like, deep down inside all of us, under all of our trappings and manners and pretense. I think that would be an interesting thing to know!
5 days ago