Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Nomad, a response

Well Nomad, my response was so long they wouldn't let me post it as a comment, so here it is as a post.......for the rest of you, she and I have been exchanging comments left on the lying post and here I go:

Nomad, I think you're right, some of this confusion we're having is a linguistic issue, because from what I am seeing there are three different topics we're discussing and we're calling all of them lying.

1.The neurological juggling that goes on inside of our heads, largely unconsciously, when different parts of our brain are messing with other parts.  And we do lie to ourselves that way all the time, everyone does, it has mostly been below the radar until more modern neurological study techniques have emerged.  I'll try to find a reference to the books I have been reading about this.  Is this lying or the internal functioning of our brains?  Let's not call it lying, let's call it the weird quirks of our internal system. (see references below)

2. We have labelling, which is, clearly, a level of lying; in that it is a shallow rapid assessment of a single narrow aspect of a person's being and the subsequent attribution to the entire fascinating depths of them of that one finite aspect and letting it go at that.  We are both, without a doubt, willing to say that this is not a good thing.  Yet, we as humans, especially as adults, label things for  the sake of speed and efficiency.  We cannot function while going down the street at the pace of a one year old studying with awe and amazement every pebble and blade of grass that we see, marvelling at it's individual beauty (though I believe that artists have to begin to reattach to this ability).  We must be more efficient.  Weirdly there have been studies that people in messier and more chaotic environments are more racist.  This is pertinent because, when stressed and forced to function in an environment that demands more of our brain to negociate, we (unknowingly) broaden our categories of labels and apply them more often and more strongly in order to stream-line what we have to do in any given moment.  Sadly, we also err on the side of negativity, (hence racism as opposed to something positive) as it was better for our ancestors to assume that an unknown something lurking in the bushes might eat/attack them, and was therefore bad/dangerous that to err on the side of positive fluffyness and assume that it means us well.

When I say I lie to mysef, esp when teaching, working with someone I find dislikable (to invent a word), a lot of what I am doing is resisting the labelling, consciously pointing out to myself the positives, sometimes to the point of ridiculousness.  But, esp as a teacher, I am there to get these people through the class, happy, energised and with a larger body of knowledge....and that's hard to achieve if I am dwelling on their loathsomeness (normally a gross exaggeration).

3. I think we have outright lying, as in not telling the truth and generally being a dishonest person.  Do I never ever lie?  No.  I lie.  Sometimes.  I will boldly lie in the face of irrational and vengeful bureaucracy if it is expedient.  I will tell lies to save people's feelings - so called white lies.  I will lie in defence of my kids or myself, ie. someone wants them to go somewhere or do something and I'm not thrilled about it, I'll lie and say they have too much homework or whatever.....Lying, to me, is a necessary part of social interaction.  We cannot always tell the truth and still interact with people in a kind way.
I suppose that for me, at bottom, with this type of lying, kindness is the baseline.  With the irrational orwell-esqe bureaucrat, it is just getting the heck out of there (kindness to myself).  Socially necessary lying - generally kindness to others.   For getting myself and others out of things unwanted social interactions?  Kindness to my kids or family before kindness to others.  When one has to chose, who would I prefer to be kind to?

You mention focussing on the payoffs when dealing with an unpleasant situation.  Yeah, I have the same concept, I tend to use cost/risk - benefit analysis, but I think it is ultimately the same thing. Is it worth it to put up with a n unpleasant activity in order to achieve a desired goal...yes or no.  Sometimes no isn't an option though and we simply have to put up.  This is when I begin to lie to myself again. I've got to get through this, come what may and preferably without going MAD, so I work at convincing myself that there are good things, that there is depth, that the person is indeed likeable.  I know I am lying to myself, I know why I am doing it, but it does make it more bearable.  Sort of like when you get up in the middle of the night and deliberately try to move around like a zombie to make it easier to get back to sleep...it works, but it's a trick you're playing on yourself.

Bringing us to your shitty prof, bailing out of the course is, presumably, not a choice if you want to graduate, so there's your cost benefit done for you.... and no, from your description you aren't lying to yourself, you are being very honest.  When it comes to individual opinion, I think the truth is very subjective, what my rub you WAY the wrong way may be no issue whatsoever for other folks....that's just reality.  What I find interesting is when I find myself unconsciously willing myself into another opinion of someone to get through....though I am INFINITELY less tolerant of shitty teachers than unpleasant kids.  Sorry, they're being paid for this, it is their JOB and they had better pull their shit together and yesterday.  It is their JOB to leave their issues at the door, they are grown-ups and they'd better get on with it, now.  In a professional manner thankyouverymuch. Maybe it comes from being in the trade.  I'm with you, I'd try to focus on what I can get out of the class, keep my head down and try not to bust my teeth grinding them down to the raw and bleeding gums.


References:  Jonah Lehrer at Wired magazine, always fascinating

Jonah Lehrer, How we Decide

Jonah Lehrer Proust was a Neuroscientist (particularily fascinating as it looks at the relationship between great artist's work and neuroscience.  FABULOUS)

Robert A Burton, MD, On Being Certain: Believing you are right even when you're not.

V.S:. Ramchandran A Brief Tour of Human Consciousness.  Very good, but super irritating read.

Lisa Genova, Left Neglected.  A novel by a neuroscientists that discusses a type of brain injury where the entire left side of the body, and indeed the world is, well, forgotten by the brain.  The brain then spends quite a bit of time creating reasons for all the strange things that then result, ie, lying to itself.


Beth said...

You have the outline of a graduate thesis here. Since your post of October 8th, I’ve been observing my interactions with others. I’ve always been aware that I “do” # 3 – it’s the others that have me intrigued.

Nomad said...

My darling, YOU are amazing.
A thesis indeed. :-)

I am sorry I do not have the energy or focus to type reams more on this, but I do want to say, thank you SO much for writing all of that.

In the end it has been very thought provoking, and I think my philosophy studies have opened me up so much more, and that I am trying to be even more open, both as an artist and as a person who wants to be peaceful.

I find negative judgements of others makes me feel very NOT peaceful, and well I want peace.

I will continue to think about this, as it is indeed a very interesting subject.

I do however think when it comes to people being sh*tty to our kids however something completely different surfaces, that is much closer to some sort of primal eating urge...so definitely hear you on that one...

I do have to say though at the end that we might be pretty polar opposites on this one, (not that it matters) but I am going to spend more time thinking about it, and especially look forward to when we can share a pot of tea and a pastry and have a good go.

I will look up some of your suggested reads, and thank you for that too.

Big hug,