This is a rather broad category. Inclusive of any global behaviors.
We are every bit as natural as Blue Green algae or Pterodactyls but we can’t accept that. We hold unshakable convictions on what people are and how people should behave yet in the face of perpetual disappointment we are mystified. Perhaps humans are like every other animal: Living out an innate strategic script with limited degrees of freedom from it.
Part 1. There is no clean break between stories lived, dreamed, or told.
Our world is a measureless ocean of stories. Some are untouchable, uneditable, unmeeting parallels, distant in space/time. Some are sliding intimately through and around each other, mutually editing in motion.
We are stories who sprout further stories. Each of us is a tale partly told. We are suspenseful and unfinished. We are story-birds and every feather, large or small is someone or something else. Every chance meeting, ambition, fear, and plan is a story within our story. We are narrative fractals. Particles to self-observation, waves to outsiders. We all have public stories that we wear like expensive coats and secret stories in our silent flesh like pearls or tumors. Intimacy invites the listener or reader inside, then downward, past the public exhibits into the little-seen rooms and closer to the story you wouldn’t even know how to tell another person. Some are so private we don’t even grant ourselves clearance. Out of loyalty, pride or fear, some tales serve life sentences in solitary confinement, dying alone in the heart of the only witness.
To hear a story is to be offered a ride in it with an option to buy. Each telling generates new participants and versions. Stories are medicine, though whether they are magical elixir, placebo or poison is determined mostly by the state of the listener. To know something is to tell it to yourself, and hear it permanently.
The branching stories of our local neighborhoods mingle and tangle with those of our family, friends, loves, and enemies; familiar as those childhood streets until they fade in the gray distance of untold strangers.
Once upon a time…
Stories are the universal means to humanity’s ends. Stories are the acid test proof of humanity the species. They are the medium of culture, family, battle-plans, jokes, memes, and inventions. We could not conduct any of our signature business without them.
Therefore, to imagine a time of people before there were stories is sheer, well… fiction. No such animal existed. After our last common ancestor, there were wicked smart primates of many kinds, but the first people and the first stories are simultaneous, mutual creations, creating each other. The outside borders of humanity are where the stories cut off suddenly in the vacuum-like silence of animals*, plants and the great unknown. We exist in an atmosphere of exhaled and inhaled narrative. In the beginning…was the beginning.
Shared Narrative is the economy of human activity and stories are the coin. Underlying any economy is an agreement about how it works and the recognition of common units of exchange. A system of exchange must be understood well enough to be taken for granted.
In the narrative economy, I believe this means that the story elements used in a tale being told by A initiate a request inside the listener, B, to load their corresponding copy of that element in order to recognize meaning. We must each have our own copy of ABC or the alphabet wouldn’t work.
A narrative structure in the telling must match up with a corresponding structure in the listening. These elements must land, like drug or scent molecules, on matching neuroreceptors. If not, drugs would have no predictable common effect on us and we couldn’t say things like: “Is that cigarette smoke I smell?” We easily refer to the smell of fall leaves, wet dog, or shit because we can take the same recognition system for granted. Continue reading
Humans are in a symbiotic relationship with another species. Without this relationship, modern people would not exist.
The only thing that really separates us from other species is our shapeshifting survival strategy. Most animals have a survival strategy that sets like concrete into a virtual job description. The job description includes what food you eat, how you acquire it, how you shelter, mate, and raise young: A strategy.
Survival strategies are like an idea that grows into an organism. The organism fully commits to the idea by adapting; physically becoming the technology (the claws, teeth, running muscles, etc.) needed for the job. These adaptations improve success within the strategy but it’s like evolving into a corner. It’s like gambling the house on your betting system.
Humanity substitutes tools for adaptations, we don’t morph into a specialized form and narrow down. Tool use isn’t exactly what separates us though. There are numerous “generalist” species such as birds and other primates that cleverly use tools. The difference is that these species are elegantly solving problems posed by tasks in their job description and surviving better as a result, but never innovating to the extent of “leveling up” to a different job.
We have a sort of default simple job of walking around in a group picking up food. We have a second sense for noticing useful stuff and trying it. It’s as simple as understanding that that stick will help us knock down more fruit. When faced with more complicated problems like catching fish, we try all sorts of half-assed ideas before getting a flash of insight like damming up the far end of the pool in the stream to trap the fish for easier capture. Continue reading
I don’t believe Chakras are the literal mystical energy centers believed in by new age people. I also don’t believe they are the nonsensical-fantasy-things-that-don’t-really-exist, as believed by nearly everyone else.
Chakras are symbolic foci for real aspects of our selves, our sub-selves, the parts of your overall whole being. They are defined as 7 modular aspects of self that come on-line by stages as we grow and experience life. They absolutely can be blocked and out of balance, under or overactive. Below is the traditional list though it can vary a bit, they work upward from the bottom of the spine to the top of the head and each is associated with specific areas of our lives, feelings, and personalities. They are distinct color-coded points on the spectrum. But ultimately their functions blend into a healthy, unified self.
- Root – Base of the spine; red; governs survival instincts, grounding.
- Sacral — Lower abdomen; orange; governs sexuality, intuition, self-worth/-esteem.
- Solar Plexus — Upper abdomen; yellow; governs impulse control, ego.
- Heart — Center of the chest; green; governs compassion, spirituality.
- Throat — Throat; blue; governs communication, emotion.
- Third Eye — Between the eyes; purple; governs rationality, wisdom, imagination.
- Crown — Top of the head; indigo; governs connection with the Divine
The Chakras rather neatly mirror Abraham Maslow’s almost universally accepted hierarchy of needs. Notice how the artist used defining colors for different levels.
- Physiological needs
- Safety needs
- Social belonging
(There are somewhat alternative versions as well.) If a sub-self is broken at the physical safety level, of the self-confidence level, for example, self-actualization is blocked. The person experiences various psychological symptoms expressing the fears and frustrations of lack and instability in those areas of life. The chakras and the H of N chop up the human pieces a little differently and each one tilts a bit toward the surrounding belief system that hatched it. Still, it is the same invention, spontaneously cropping up to fill the same need for vastly different communities.
The invention is a simple map of the human soul and what it needs to thrive. It describes the places we can break down and suggests a course of treatment.
The Chakras and Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs also dovetail nicely with Carl Jung’s Individuation, the challenging synthesis of becoming a complete, integrated person.
I’ll be writing here soon about some original and creative ways I’ve recently found to work with this material but I think this overall idea is interesting enough to consider on its own.
The title is reputedly what the intellectual swashbuckler and psychological pioneer William James found he had written down during a drug-induced revelation of ultimate truth: “Overall there is a smell of fried onions”.
In his essay “Subjective Effects of Nitrous Oxide” he wrote:
“only as sobriety returns, the feeling of insight fades, and one is left staring vacantly at a few disjointed words and phrases, as one stares at a cadaverous-looking snow peak from which sunset glow has just fled, or at a black cinder left by an extinguished brand.”
We descend from ecstasy to the ordinary world as if “Whatever goes up, must come down” applied equally to airplanes and inspiration. Emotionally and psychologically it is as if Newtonian physics rules our inner lives. If there is a version of gravity in there I think it’s the inevitable return to the linguistic/rational level of human reality where we conduct all our business with each other. The human mind surfaces here when submerged and re-lands here after being elevated. This is the homeostatic balance of our kind, the default neurological coordinates of return from highs and lows. Notice that highs and lows aren’t being critically evaluated, merely suppressed as not conducive to social intercourse. The default settings for humanity are designed to function as the center of a common Venn chart, an area where we all overlap despite other differences.
This realm of normal life is completely dominated by words and concepts as if they were the fundamental atomic forces and structure here. Concepts and words (within a general logic framework) are everything here from the solid ground to a breathable atmosphere. The human community is contained within this verbal\conceptual structure but only a few even recognize its existence: Water isn’t perceived by the fish. Within this domain, we don’t usually feel limited or cramped but only realities that can be sealed inside words or concepts can exist here. These can be considered, shared and exchanged, but only, like a nerd’s action figures, if still sealed in the original container. Flatland is a reality composed of things with no objective reality, it is equally Plato’s Cave and Keanu’s Matrix.
Mean exactly what they sound like: Fear of the new and Love of the new.
They aren’t cute made-up words, they are technical terms from biology. Animal ethologists (they study behavior) coined them because they needed to describe a common trait variation. Within a species, there are individuals who exhibit an openness to novelty. They try different foods, different hunting or mating techniques, for example. This is Neophilia.
The only way we could notice this is against a background of “by the book ” individuals. These are not risk-takers, these are ones who typically define “normal behavior “. Whenever an animal’s general survival strategy and behavior is described, it ‘s the story of the Neophobes. But the deeper story is that Neophiles, while they live risky and often unsuccessful lives as individuals are key to survival and evolution.
In fact, it ‘s likely that that the pattern lived out by the neophobes was initiated by neophiles. First, the neophile may simply hit upon a more successful approach, and thrive. Second, when the species experiences a crisis in food or health or predation, the neophiles are likelier to be “the resistant strain ” that survives. These are the two main reasons for subspecies variations. So if you imagine this heretical thought; that life, rather being the 100% dumb luck festival of the neo-Darwinians, has strategic algorithms for success, then these observations make perfect sense. Where or how these exist and operate is not my problem here. When patterns predictably exist in nature there are underlying causes to be found. If you follow this blog you know that my vaguely mystical point of view is not pointing to a “god did it ” conclusion and is not content with a “mere coincidence ” explanation.1 Continue reading
“I do not believe in free will. Schopenhauer’s words: ‘Man can do what he wants, but he cannot will what he wills,’ accompany me in all situations throughout my life and reconcile me with the actions of others, even if they are rather painful to me.”
– Albert Einstein
Minor premise: An organism’s life & survival script never conflicts with its sexual strategy…even if it appears to.
A complicated cultural schematic overlays our behavior: Success hinges on remaining acceptably within cultural mores while acting with sufficient energy and persistence to attain sex. We have always found it necessary to act like better-behaved people than we are, by the standards of whatever culture surrounds us. Culture presses on us from above while the force of desire presses against it from below. It’s another dynamic tension force that sustains community homeostasis.
It also means hypocrisy is structurally essential to us. We have to put on a perfectly innocent demeanor before the world or face disapproval. Even when sex is the objective we must simultaneously try, try, try to get laid while acting like it isn’t all that important to us and we’re sort of over it. It is a required best practice to be split along this line and feign nonchalance no matter how desperate for sex we may be. Perverse as it seems this behavior makes PERFECT sense for humanity. Like so many of nature’s sex settings for us, this one is about restraint and self-control. It’s about being steady and self-possessed; delayed gratification is the only kind we have. So when a male human is very horny and female human is very horny too, they approach each other and pretend they are not much interested in sex. Ladies and Gentlemen, HUMAN COURTSHIP and why it is so awful.
People who don’t worry about being morally perfect make far better sense of this than those who do. We either know what we’re about or at the extreme, we split into a creature of a dangerous naivety whose left hand is worried because it hasn’t heard from the right hand in weeks. In the first case, we are defacto hypocrites, but big deal. Society demands it. Hypocrites are generally more trustworthy, they know what’s going on and therefore have more reliable self-control and limits. In the second case, we believe our own “sheep’s clothing” and are surprised by our behavior when sexuality appears “out of nowhere”. It doesn’t have to be full submersion denial of erotic impulses, for many people brought up in the “rule following” school of goodness, getting erotically worked up is touching the downed power line of guilt and shame. We call these people Catholics.
The even MORE deeply naive will act out sexually in kind of compulsive, semiconscious state and blame the victim or claim a misunderstanding… and believe it themselves. They will harumph with wounded pride at the very idea… Naive moralists will often develop complex and bizarre rationales to forgive themselves their “trespasses”. Apparently, some predator priests convince themselves they are doing LESS harm by having sex with children than with grown-ups…BECAUSE the kids are not sexually mature, so it’s less seriously breaking the celibacy vow than if they were with adults. Notice they are concerned about themselves alone and trying to change the whole subject to theology. After a thousand years of child rape, perhaps it’s time to stop addressing priests as “Father”.
An interesting short article at livescience.com about the Neolithic revolution, the brief period when humanity shifted from wandering small tribes to settled agricultural communities. It was a radical shift in lifestyle that undoubtedly challenged the self-control of all participants. One of these early Neolithic communities in southern Turkey lasted for over a thousand years and provides fascinating insights into the experiment in living that took place there. It was densely populated, a proto-city.
The archeological record paints a picture of people pushed beyond coping to into routine violence.
“Archaeologists recently discovered that the transition from foraging to a more communal farming lifestyle raised significant challenges for people who lived at Çatalhöyük, a 32-acre site in southern Turkey that was occupied from 7100 B.C. to 5950 B.C. Çatalhöyük was home to as many as 8,000 people at its peak, and is one of the earliest known cities.
Overcrowding and other factors created a highly stressful environment. And for Çatalhöyük’s Neolithic occupants, stress found an outlet in brutal violence, including bashes to the backs of heads with projectiles, scientists reported in a new study.”
Major premise: All sexual organisms have a sexual strategy.
In part 1 I talked about how desire has sculpted human bodies into what would have been a sexual superstimulus 200 thousand years ago but I left out an essential underlying principle. Unless you are a drab shell of a person who has entirely given up, there is a layer of your daily behavior that is about sustaining fuckability. It’s unlikely you check the mirror on your way out the door and say “Awesome, still fuckable” but I’ll bet that thought HAS surfaced, maybe using different words or no words at all, many times. The fact that you can estimate your fuckability quotient by glancing in a mirror points to the underlying principle.
Even the people who would summon up an old school “harumph, well I never…” of denial at the suggestion that they glance at everyone’s naughty bits or evaluate their own fuckability this way, absolutely do operate this way but with their naivety draped modestly over their self-awareness. Nature cares about the behavior, not the self-awareness. Nothing is more representative of our behavior than to think endlessly of sex while doing everything in our power to hide those thoughts from others.
With the origin of humanity, nature launched a new project that included radical departures from her standard rules for mammals. Having a harumph reaction to sexuality is uniquely human and a frankly weird deviation from standard earthly norms. Animals have a “stop that!” reaction, and a”get that thing away from me” reaction but they lack the harumph. Why? Why do we Harumph? Why don’t they? What exactly does “harumph” accomplish for us? That end will be tied up in part 3. Continue reading
(Note: This article needs editing. I’m leaving it published because that’s how I hold myself accountable to get that done)
Cultural tension force and the Human Operating System (HOS)
Humans naturally group together to form communities. Culture is the connecting, unifying skin that automatically grows over these communities, reflecting them, defining them, and binding them together. They are now a community organism, existing through one lens as their normal human selves but through another lens as a massive individual, autonomous self as unaware of us as we are of it.
What the Hell are you talking about, Hugh?
The Human Operating System or HOS is the innate battery of automatic and mostly unconscious behaviors that humans display by default, a handful of tiny cultures may not use these defaults but defining anything by the exception to its rule is being perversely counter-intuitive on purpose. It’s a demand that we ignore most of what we see going on in favor of something that is barely going on at all.
Tension force is societal homeostasis generated by opposing ideas. You could visualize it as the reason why both teams in a tug of war don’t simply fall on their asses.