Before I begin this long winded account of the twists and turns my mind takes as it ambles through the corridors of questions and ideas, I'd like to say that the Clippers commercial in which a grand piano is thrown out of the back of a truck to smash onto the ground just about made me cry. I know it's an inanimate object... I know realistically, logically, that it doesnt have feelings, I know I can't treat it as something with a soul...but... even still, there is something just wrong about destroying anything so beautiful as a piano for a sports commercial. To me, it's as if I had just watched a murder. I think the next time it comes on, I'm going to have to close my eyes. :(
Incomprensibly and inexpressably fortunate, is how I feel to have met some of the human beings that I have the privelege of conversing and being friends with. It is a direct result of conversations I've had with them recently that I'm considering these thoughts, and formulating this post.
Talk Is Cheap
words, actions, meaning
Words words words. We hear them every day. The matter at hand, however, is not so much words themselves. Is it ever? Maybe for linguists. For us, and for my purposes at the moment- it is the meaning that is concerned. Our personal responsibility over the words we speak. How the persons we say them to receive and perceive those words, their ability to measure the weight of our words by matching them up with our actions- which ultimately culminates in how we then are thus perceived.
How many times have we heard the phrase that titles this ramble: Talk is cheap? In conversations how many times have we heard or said of someone 'they're all talk' or other expressions alluding to being unable to trust what someone says. Promises made by politicians, friends, and lovers broken time and again. Some so afflicted by these kinds of situations, that they become suspiscious of nearly all people and their words. I feel it somewhat tragic that such a complex and advanced form of communication as human language is abused and essentially rendered powerless. Unfortunately, the well of human hypocracy never seems to run dry. Rarely does anyone follow their own advice. Fingers are pointed eagerly, voices ringing out in indignation at the crimes done against them, but almost never will those same voices be as clear when answering to crimes of their own. They shake their fists and talk proudly of ideals and beliefs, of honor and right, but when called upon to defend or act upon those beliefs, all falls to a resounding silence. Turning those that do feel obliged to stand by or eat their words into martyrs, saints, terrorists, and anti-heros.
The really sad thing about this is that it is accepted behavior. Every time someone gets away with it, from presidents to your 5 year old son, the action is condoned. Lying (wihout neccessity), hypocracy, general untrustworthy behavoir is condoned. As a result the behavior spreads and becomes more prominent with nothing stopping it. It makes everything worthless. Words, worthless without actions. Beliefs and rules, worthless without their preachers practicing. Obviously the so-called 'fabric of society' isn't coming apart at the seams, because of this unfortunate situation. It only makes trusting anyone more difficult. I'm not sure how you go through life feeling good about people around you, when it consists of one big let down after another. I'm even less sure how you go through life being the source of countless let-downs. How do you say anything with conviction when every promise prior is one that you've not been able to keep? I just don't know. If you're a person who most of the time is able to be trustworthy, your choices can be so very limited. You can either believe blindly and be hurt, never believe anyone, or expect that people be believable and excommunicate them from your life when they don't live up to that expectation. Not one of those is really any better than the other, although the first one sounds most rotten to me personally. There's really no answer, no panacea to this particular aspect of shitty human stupidity. I can preach that thinking about what you say before you say it would be nice all that I want. As I told my uncle the other day (when talking about prejudice, as I had just sat through an evening filled with vehement comments of disgust concerning gay persons, by a guest that they'd had over), you're not going to change a person's opinion or actions by arguing with them. You simply have to be an example of why they're wrong. You have to be an example of why you're right, by living up to your own expectations, and giving meaning to your words and beliefs through your actions.
What Came Before
Only a fool walks into the future backward
I've had two conversations recently that brought up the past. The individuals involved in those seperate conversations had ideas on the subject that couldn't have been more different. One told me that they didn't blame their past for their present choices, and didn't use it as a scapegoat(I feel wont to note that this was a side note in a conversation concerning an entirely different subject, but it popped into my head while listening to the second person's words). The other told me that they essentially felt as if the past was effecting them quite a bit, and was having negative consequences on their actions in the present. It set the ball in my head rolling around, thinking about the past and it's place and function in the present in terms of personal development.
My first thoughts were of current sciences. The discovery of neurogenesis, and of the hand in hand relationship of nature and nurture in combination that creates an individual. I thought, we really are like clay in some ways. It's not the same as a blank slate, nor as something fully formed and destined. We may never NOT be Clay, but we can be clay as a lump or clay as a sculpture. We can be baked, or have water added to us. We can be painted and carved. Both our biology and our experiences serve to shape us and differentiate us further into who we are. We can't point the finger at our pasts and blame it entirely for our actions. But too, neither can we say that it hasn't had a hand in developing us into the person that makes the decisions for action in our present and future. To get a tiny bit more technical, a hard life and the stress that puts the body through can have an effect on our body's ability to produce new cells in the brain. This in turn effects plasticity, learning new things, the production of neccessary chemicals, as well as many other areas concerning its over-all effectiveness. There is evidence to suggest that anti-depressants jump start the brain in manufacturing those new brain cells that had stopped, in turn improving mood and function. Possibly also explaining the several week delay for such medications to show effect.
If you subscribe, as I do, to the idea that we are self-determined agents. Then, like me, you might scratch your head and spend some time thinking about how you procede and inventory information like that. It certainly can't be ignored. I feel a little bit torn on it. If poverty can create such effects on a mind that it would almost seem to hold them trapped in that poverty, if a wound to the emotional center of the brain can completely change a personality and render a person unable to make good decisions in a timely manner or behave in a 'socially acceptable' way... then can't I blame biology and my past both for everything? Why couldn't I then use it as a scapegoat? I am but a helpless bystander to my genes and my dark past. I guess to a certain extent you could, but something in me really just balks at that idea. I guess I like thinking, even if its not entirely true, that I am in control of my life. I am the one who makes my decisions, and can be held accountable for them. In turn, others can be held accountable for their actions also. It seems a dangerous idea to throw up our hands, and absolve everyone of everything because 'they couldn't help it.' In some cases that might be ok, but even in those cases 'help' is needed. Personally, I think the best way to think about it is to accept that our biology and our pasts both have helped to form us, and are continually effecting and changing our views, but still maintain a sense of personal responsibility. That we can take from the good just as easily as stumble from but overcome the bad. I think we can be optimistic and point the fingers at ourselves to continue to improve our lives and be better people. If situations shape us, make sure to put yourself in good situations if you can. Whatever small bit of control you have, excercise it and use it for better. Some are not as fortunate as others, but some don't realize how fortunate they are.
It's a small world after all
Many conversations, including some with my grandmother contributed to this line of thought. My grandmother is becoming worse and worse in terms of short term memory. She still believes that she drives her car to see the house, that she goes to church, that she does a lot of things that she really just doesn't do any more. What she does remember, however, in quite vibrant clarity is her childhood and adolescence. One of the conversations that we have is about the difference in view points among different groups of people- even among people who belong to a larger group identity. Of course, that's not the way it's worded when we're having conversations, but that is the basic sentiment. She speaks of how the Japanese kids on the west side were different then the Japanese kids on the east side. How where she grew up, there were more white people, and they had to interact with other cultures more. The kids on the other side, however, all grew up together in their own tight knit little cultural group. Her group was more open minded, more comfortable in new situations, and more accepting. The other group was suspiscious, uncomfortable in anything outside of their own circle, and more prone to prejudice. I kind of see it almost as an interesting mini example of why and how racism, nationalism, and all the other kinds of prejudices form. It's almost an animal thing really. There's the in-group, and the out group. The groups have their territories, and their comfortable with what they've always experienced, and if not subjected to change, end up disliking changes intensely. I understand to a point that it is kind of a natural phenomenon, but I tend to think it'd be nice if it didn't happen. Sometimes the things that are fought over as a result of this happening are so trivial, and the lives lost and things destroyed in the process, so very sad.
I consider myself really fortunate to have had the experiences and the opportunities that I have. I might not be exempt entirely from these behaviors, I'm sure I display some from time to time without noticing. I really wish someone could watch and let me know lol. But for the most part, I've been made into a fairly open person. This happened because of a few things. Part of it stems from being adopted into a Japanese family, though I am a Native American/Hispanic/Caucasion mix. The largest part is that I began travelling at the age of three. We visited other states to begin with, but then around twelve years old we moved to Ireland for about a year. While there we visited several other countries. Traveling so young, and particularly getting to live in a similar but different culture really shaped me in positive ways. Seeing other cultures, people who looked differently, spoke differently, acted differently, but also to note all of the ways in which they were similar. I became ok with being out of my element, in fact I became and still am uncertain as to whether I even have an element. Sometimes I just feel like an alien with everybody. At other times I feel like I could really just be anywhere and find a way to somewhat fit in and feel at least OK. These travels made me intensely interested in other cultures, other places, human history, religions, and whet my appetite to learn ever more and more about the world around me. It inspired my mind and my creativity. Another large reason as to why I'm so very in love with learning about Neuroscience, and the biological underpinnings of human behavior that tie every one of us together. I really just do not think I would be the same person, if I had not had those experiences.
Are we not like two volumes of one book?
This is such a sore subject. Not all families are good families, and I don't really believe that blood is thicker. I think you either get lucky or you don't, and you do your best with that. There's plenty of crazy in my family situation, but there's a lot of good too. I'm not close to my mother. I've written about that before. I'm not sure I'll ever be. But, I am very close to my young siblings and my adoptive family. They mean the world to me. I'm not the kind of person who is so great at being close to people. Being open verbally with my thoughts and emotions is something I don't do well. I write them out here sometimes, but outside of digital life they aren't something I'm so very good at sharing. Not exactly ideal for growing relationships of any kind. It's just how I am though, and I'm very lucky to have people in my family who /are/ very good at expressing their feelings, who are patient and kind, and don't push me to be someone I'm not. Instead, they sometimes give me gentle nudges in the direction of becoming a better person. Mostly they accept me and let me be. I love how close my adoptive family is. I love that Thanksgivings are momentous events and might consist of up to 40 people, I love that everyone knows what everyone's doing, I love that we go to cousins' concerts and sports games, and spend time together.
One thing I kind of have discovered/decided... is the role that my relationship with my family has kind of played since I started having a life of my own, and my consequent needs. I moved away from Arizona to live in Michigan with my ex. No need to rehash most of that ordeal, if you don't know about that then ask me about it in an IM some time and I'll explain, but I think something that kind of made it even more difficult was our families. Her relationship with her family was completely dysfunctional. She'd practically flip out before going to see them, though once she'd gotten there she usually was OK. This was something that was somewhat difficult for me to comprehend. Not entirely so, since I can become the same way about spending time with my mother. What was more difficult, was for her to be able to understand how close I am with my family. She never did come travel with me to meet my adoptive family, because she was too afraid. She wasn't sure she would be able to handle or understand the kind of family that I have. That was something that always hurt me quite a bit, because they're so important to me. It's important to me to spend time with them, and to be able to bring someone I care about (be it friend of lover), who I intend to have as part of my life and share that part of me with them. My family is a part of me, and a part of who I am. You miss out on a big part of my more congenial, gentle, not-at-all powerful or intimidating, and almost near normal side, if you miss out on spending time with my family and I together. Every person who is important to me, and have been around for a long time in my life- like Gerry, Keera, Margeaux, Talina... they've all spent time with my family. Some even lived with us before I moved out, they've been on vacations with us, they've spent a thanksgiving...if I intend to keep you in my life and you're around for a while then you eventually become adopted too. It's just the way that my family works. We're in eachothers lives, we're in eachother's business to a certain extent, and family comes first. It's difficult to have a relationship and sometimes even a friendship, with someone who can't fathom that. So anyone I'm with I really would hope to have similar feelings. A closeness and love for their family, even if their situation is not perfect (no one's is), and then we can mutually respect on another's family and view point.
And that is all. If you read all of that... I don't know, I'll bake you cookies and make you some tea (or a mixed drink?). ^^
Also thanks to those persons who will probably know who they are as they read through this, for giving me endless things to contemplate.