Alarming News: I like Morgan Freeberg. A lot.
Anti-Idiotarian Rottweiler: We were following a trackback and thinking "hmmm... this is a bloody excellent post!", and then we realized that it was just part III of, well, three...Damn. I wish I'd written those.
Anti-Idiotarian Rottweiler: ...I just remembered that I found a new blog a short while ago, House of Eratosthenes, that I really like. I like his common sense approach and his curiosity when it comes to why people believe what they believe rather than just what they believe.
Brutally Honest: Morgan Freeberg is an intriguing guy...[he] asks great questions and answers others with style, flair, reason and wit. On the blogroll he goes. Make him a part of your regular blogospheric reading. I certainly will.
Brutally Honest: Morgan Freeberg is brilliant.
Common Sense Junction: Misha @ Anti-Idiotarian never ceases to amaze me. He keeps finding other good blogs. I went over to A.I. this morning for my daily Misha fix and he had found this guy named Morgan Freeberg in Fair Oaks, California, that has a blog, House of Eratosthenes. Freeberg says its "The Blog That Nobody Reads" but it may now become the blog that everybody reads.
Jaded Haven: Good God, Morgan, you cover a topic from front to back with a screwy thoroughness I find mind boggling. I'm in awe of your thought proccesses, my friend, you're an exceptional talent. You start by throwing in the kitchen sink, tie in someone's syphilitic uncle, bend around a rip tide of brilliance and bring it all home in a neat, diamond dripping package of an exceptionally readable moment of damn fine wordsmithing. I love reading you.
Mein Blogovault: Make "the Blog that No One Reads" one of your daily reads.
Philmon: When Morgan meanders, stick with him - he's got a point and it'll be worth it in the end. He's not a hit-and-run snarky quip kind of guy. The pieces all fall into place like tumblers in a lock and bang! He's opened a cognative door for you.
Rightlinx: Morgan at House of Eratosthenes is one of the best writers out there. I read him nearly every day because he manages to provide an interesting perspective, even though I don't always agree.
Poetic Justice: Cletus! Ah gots a laiv one fer yew...
I have been challenged to, and accepted, a duel with JohnJ at RightLinx, whom I understand to be one and the same with Johnjrambo2000 at Bullwinkle Blog. At issue is the ninth installment of Yin and Yang, and the points of disagreement, as stated by my opponent, are these:
Freeberg’s basic point is that individualism is better than collectivism. This is, of course, a value judgment. Since not everyone has the same values, individualism cannot be better than collectivism for everyone. Some people will prefer collectivism because it corresponds to their values. What would Freeberg do with these people?
Freeberg also claims that there is no middle ground between Yin and Yang. I have to disagree with that point as well. Yin, as he defines it, are those people who, basically, lack social sense, but who can often make up for it mechanically. Yin will never achieve the natural social sense that Yang has, though. It seems to me, though, that there’s no basis for assuming that people don’t have various levels of use of the Orbito-Frontal Cortex, a part of the brain that is used in socialization. I don’t see any reason to assume that it’s all or nothing. If anything, the assumption should be just the opposite. The vast majority of people should fall between the two extremes.
We’re still in the stages of defining the points of disagreement, but I’ll have to cut in at this point because there’s disagreement in this definition. If there is a value system to be promoted in recognizing the Yin and Yang bifurcation, I would hope it is limited to leaving well enough alone. To hold one of these halves above the other in a universality of situations, such that one is innately superior and one is innately inferior regardless of whatever challenges would come up, would not only be inaccurate but also unkind. Somewhere within the thousands of words I’ve written about this, that message may have been blunted or even lost. But the Yang, while largely a mystery to folks like myself, accomplishes things we need to get done. So what would I “do with these people?” The question answers itself. They are here; they are doing stuff; the stuff they do cannot be done by anybody else.
But if I get to decide what the Yang are going to do, I would scribble down one preference. I would like the Yang to leave others alone.
There’s something about the strongest Yang, and I gather it comes from the lifelong habit of viewing all challenging exercises to be social. They tend to be controlling. They tend to want others to resolve problems the way they resolve them. I touched on this somewhat in the Fourth installment, which was inspired by a story that mothers-of-brides in some Asian cultures force their daughters to cry at the wedding. There’s nothing inherently Asian about this, it’s universal. Yin think; Yang feel. The thinker is touchy about how he is allowed to do his thinking, nevermind what everybody else is doing — but the feeler must control the feelings of everyone in proximity.
This explains my many references to the construction of a giant wall. Imagine a room containing twenty people, a piano and a computer. If the piano and computer are both to be used, friction will inevitably result. A piano must be a social vehicle. A computer — notwithstanding YouTube clips and photo albums — is not. Whoever wants to use the piano is going to want to control the feelings of the other nineteen people in the room…that is what a piano does. A computer processes information. Or — it looks at porn. It is, mostly, a device to be used in solitude.
The point is, the guy using the computer will be likely oblivious to what others in the room are doing. They can do what they want as far as he’s concerned. He’s a Yin, and the first step to what he is doing is to draw a boundary around what he is doing. Working on a drawing, writing up a post on his blog, testing a computer program…all of these things work within a system. Even if the system is complex, it is a system of interrelated parts that function within a perimeter, and anything outside that perimeter will be disconnected.
Some will argue, with a kernel of truth to it, that the concept of disconnection is mythical — all things are connected. There is truth to this only if one regards trivial or irrelevant things to be somehow important. The computer is connected to other things because there is an Internet…and there is power. These things are true, but they’re ultimately meaningless. The program, or the drawing, or the blog, all these things are essentially isolated systems. A stimulus crosses the perimeter surrounding the system, and the system with it’s interrelated parts is supposed to provide a proper response. If the response is correct, a task is complete, and if it isn’t, more work needs to be done. This is how the Yin see the world. Not just the computer…but every little thing they do. And they’ve been looking at it that way since they were little kids.
Contrast this with the piano. There is no meaningful boundary that surrounds the piano. Someone plays it, and “we” are going to listen to it. “We” are going to feel whatever the song being played on the piano, tells us to feel. If one person starts singing along, everyone else will feel compelled to start singing too (unless the song is something like Ailein Duinn).
If these are both happening at the same time, there is going to be friction. Screwing around on the computer, after all, is not what “we” are doing. “We” are gathering around the piano, and you should not be doing what you are doing on the computer. Come over and join us.
Note — if the lone-wolf was watching a football game or wrestling match on television, this would make so much more sense. That would intrude on the piano-playing. But with goofing off on a computer, or doing work on a computer, this doesn’t apply. Yet anyone who’s been in such a situation, understands that the urgency involved in getting the computer-guy off the keyboard, to come join the crowd, is just as pushy as it would be if he had the TV cranked at full volume.
There is no explanation for this, other than the Yin and Yang theory. The Yang want all things in proximity to work in a uniform way. It has to be that way, because a mission to defeat all borders within visible proximity is what being social is all about. It isn’t disrespect or unfriendliness. It’s quite the opposite. When you’re socializing, you want to bring everybody into the fold.
And so John and I have a disagreement about what I said. I do not want to banish people or wish them away to the cornfield. But I do think building a wall would be educational. I’m convinced it’s part of the human nature to repeatedly stir up friction of the “piano and computer” variety, friction that has no real reason to be there, and in response to such friction, do anything but what would make the most sense. We tend to put up with it, we irritate each other, we schedule our daily activities in such a way as to stir up the same useless friction at the same time every day.
I do have the sense that the Yin tend to build things used by the Yang. That is our place. We are “systems builders.” We draw lines around things, we wait for the loud sociable people to leave us the hell alone, and then we get things within those perimeters to work the way they should. The Yang do exactly the same thing — except to them, the perimeter is whatever they happen to understand at a given moment. Within line-of-sight, everything has to work the way they want.
The Yin get stressed out if the perimeter or something within it, starts to slip out of their control. One sign that a person is a Yin, is if he curses his own bad memory. Yang seldom do this. God damn it, there’s something else I was supposed to get right…what was it? The Yang, to my long-standing envy, seem to be spared from this. You see this most definitely when you see them hosting a party. Good heavens, is there anything we can do that is more demanding of detail, achieving pre-defined tasks within a boundary, than hosting a party? It gives me a huge migraine. Nevermind that socializing-with-people thing you have to do.
But the strongest Yang pull it off effortlessly. If their definition is strong, they are extraverts, and that means as the party goes on they recharge their “batteries” while mustering up the energy to carry dirty dishes out to the kitchen and bring out new plates of food, coordinate the entertainment, switch the music around, etc. etc. etc. Yes, they need to do things a little bit out of their turf, but they’re up for it. All evening long, they are in the mode of being fully charged. People like me, see the “chore” of socializing with folks as an ancillary task, one we could barely manage — even if we like the people — without all these minute-to-minute cleanup details we have to do. But the Yang see it as the payoff.
Yet another reason why I wouldn’t banish them anywhere. We need them.
And some Yang don’t even mind the details. They are spared the Yin headache of remembering details, because they simply…don’t.
The Yin are spared headaches too, though, that plague the Yang. This is in the form of other individuals doing things in a way different from the way we would do them, if we were they. Doesn’t bother me one bit. I’m a guy who types away on a computer. Now honestly, John & everybody else…how many people do you know who are the exact opposite of that? We’ve all had the acquaintance of some Yangy-type person who constantly has a problem — something that is easily seen by others as a great source of concern, giving her an upset stomach and sleepless nights — something to do with someone doing things the wrong way? This is their cross to bear. And I doubt it’s an act, I think it is an ongoing source of real tension.
Tolerance, John. That is my solution. Good old-fashioned tolerance, the kind our liberals say they support (although seldom do). Tolerance, respect, empathy. Let the Yin support the Yang in all the things that Yang labor day-to-day to get done…and vice-versa.
Now to your second point, that there is no middle ground. On this issue, you are half right in understanding where I’m coming from. But as I said in the ninth installment that inspired your challenge, we have to dispense with the latent skills that can be nurtured by highly intelligent and functional individuals in their more mature stages of life. If you’re sufficiently talented, obviously you can make up for what you left undeveloped in childhood. “Yin” can figure out how to socialize; “Yang” can figure out how to solve puzzles. And when they do this, they end up being what I believe you’re describing with this “middle ground.”
But we have to dispense with that when we consider how these people are going about these tasks upstairs, between their ears. And this is what we need to do when we talk about Yin and Yang, because that’s what the divide is all about. What kinds of pathways did you dig out in your brain tissue, in the “old-growth” parts. The thinking you learned how to do before you lost all your baby teeth.
That’s important because any other kinds of things you learned to do, much later, after your teenage years — functional as all that stuff may be, it’s still stilted and awkward. If you’re highly adaptable, the best you can do is to cover up the awkwardness. But it’s still like a right-handed person writing with the left hand. You’re attempting a task, perhaps completing it, perhaps netting satisfactory results, maybe even super-satisfactory results. But it’s not something that comes naturally to you.
Let me introduce a theory to help explain this. Let’s call it the “Big Gray Building” theory; we will take all of your formative years, stretching deep into adulthood in which, as your maturing personality develops skills to meet rising challenges in the business world, you do this crossing-over. This writing-with-the-other-hand.
Imagine this vast expanse of time, from birth to age forty or fifty or so, as a walk halfway around a block. You are born on one corner of the block — you pop out of your mother’s womb there, with no skills whatsoever. There is a “business convention” at the opposite corner, which I’ve represented here with a great big red X. When you get to the big red X, you’re going to have to show functionality in both Yin and Yang endeavors. That goes without saying. This is an important business conference, and we’ll need the participants to have social skills (Yang), as well as problem-solving skills (Yin).
Here’s the challenge: As any informed parent will agree, young children have an amazing talent for learning whatever it is they want to learn. Regardless of intelligence, the pace at which micro-toddlers learn their things, is amazing. If we could keep this pace up into adulthood, we’d all be geniuses. But we don’t.
And so, as this micro-toddler, you can “crawl” along these avenues toward the business convention, at a rocket-like pace.
But — you can’t turn corners.
And there’s this big gray building between you and the red X. It is a monolithic building. There is no alley. All entrances on the building (save for the one at the X) are locked shut tight.
And I think this is our real point of disagreement. I’m contradicting hundreds of years of dogma in the education of children in asserting this…but based on what I’ve seen, it’s true. Children crawl toward the business conference that demands a functional representation of all skill sets. They develop one half of the needed skill sets…or the other. They’ll neglect one of the other. There are two paths toward the X, from which each child can choose only one — neglecting the other.
Appearances notwithstanding, that’s the way things will stay. Until at least the teenage years, one path will lie neglected.
If they lack the maturity to build a network involving peers or parents, they’ll have to be forced into it. But if that’s the situation, they won’t naturally take to it. They’ll do it when forced to do it. And meanwhile, if they have any intelligence at all, they will become adept at solving problems. This is simply path of least resistance. Being children, they will have to challenge themselves, and if the socializing presents too much of a challenge they’ll find a challenge that doesn’t involve socializing. They will crawl — more like shoot — due North along the street I’ve called “Rain Man Lane” — developing cognitive ability while neglecting, to some degree, social skills. And they can’t turn corners, so they’ll be stuck up there once they reach the end. They’ll become “nerds,” seeking out more and more challenges that don’t involve interacting with people. Let’s say there is a “library” up there. They will pop over to this virtual library at around age five, and stick around there. They’ll remain there until, roughly, the age they can start driving.
They’ll be “nerds.”
You don’t want to deny there is such a thing as a “nerd,” do you John? The nerd has become a staple in American culture, for good reason.
Now, some children will have the maturity to build the above-mentioned parent-peer network. And at a very early age, on the light side of two years old, they’ll shoot off Eastward along “Valley Girl Street,” toward a “social club.” These sociable kids can’t turn a corner any better than their nerdy counterparts, even if they’re very mature and intelligent. This favored pastime of socializing people, just burns too brightly and is too tempting for them. Even with homework and exams and so forth, there is little point to nurturing problem-solving skill. The need just isn’t there.
But — I’m sure you want to ask this — these are the kids who tend to get the best grades. Surely you’re not suggesting they’re all “socializing” by cheating on their tests?
No, there’s a huge bundle of evidence here that the babies shooting off to this “Social Club” can indeed solve problems. They can do their homework, with little error, and they can get sky-high scores on pop quizzes.
But here’s the rub. Their advantage dissipates when there is re-interpretation involved. They excel at multiple-choice questions, but their impressive achievements start to taper off with essay questions. If they can complete an essay question, they aren’t often known to re-word the phraseology they’ve learned, to construct synonyms — to show true comprehension. And most impressive of all: I’ve noticed this in childhood as well as after I’ve come to maturity. They tend to lack the ability to retain.
This is a big hole in our educational system, in public schools as well as private. Testing a student’s ability to truly absorb concepts as well as text, is a highly difficult chore. Again, we’re at path of least resistance — this time with regard to the teacher instead of the student. And path of least resistance is, you test short-term retention. Study on the week that ends on the 10th, and we’ll have our test on the 15th.
So these Yangy kids, for the most part, are allowed to wind through the school system being tested only on their ability to memorize things; to mimic. True understanding of concepts, and problem-solving, is something tested only rarely. Far more often, the exercise at hand is repeating things back. When this is a prelude to socializing, the social-minded kids tackle it with gusto.
Many will disagree with this. Want proof? Go to your high school reunion, approach a dozen of the brightest, most socially-outgoing kids who got the best grades. Ask them a textbook question they could easily have nailed in the days-gone-by. At least ninety percent of the time, you’ll get a deer-in-the-headlights look back.
Memorize a concept, you’ll never forget it. Memorize text, you’ll forget it in a week. By and large, school tends to force kids to memorize text.
So now our block is complete: You’re born at a corner, there is a library at one corner, a social club at another, and then there’s a business convention going on at the far corner where you won’t arrive, until you’ve become a mature adult. Not a twenty-something, but someone with the maturity to achieve functional command of the spectrum. Since kids lack the ability to round corners, and childhood itself runs light on challenges that make real demands to do such corner-rounding…each set of child is stuck in his respective corner. Adulthood, probably, will bring a fresh wave of challenges. These challenges will, at long last, demand this corner-rounding — accepting no substitute for it. The child who crawled East will have to crawl North, and vice-versa…the business convention is at that inconveniently-located corner after all.
And both kids will work hard at it. But now they’re nurturing talents in adulthood. They aren’t learning as quickly or as definitively as they did before.
So they both arrive at the business conference, which demands all this Yin-and-Yang skill from everyone present.
This is the part John missed: Yin and Yang is about the path they have taken, not where they end up. This determines how their brains are wired, and how, between the earlobes, they tackle each perplexing problem that comes up. At least, the problems that have no pre-fabricated solution. The route they have taken to the business conference, dictates the method they’ll use to solve these problems.
And as far as the path they have taken, there is no middle ground. At least, that’s the theory. Remember, the big gray building is monolithic. For a socially-exuberant child to develop real problem solving skills, is improbable because it’s unnatural. Children develop skills wherever need intersects with opportunity. They have to have both, or the development is highly unlikely to take place…and the socially-energetic kids don’t have need. As for the socially-interactive skills developing in the nerds, that’s a matter of opportunity. It’s absent, and so they go for the next best thing. They develop the ability to think out unorthodox challenges through a cognitive process, an ability their more friendly and outgoing counterparts invariably lack.
So I think those are the points of disagreement between John and myself. I don’t want to banish the Yang…and the divide between my kind and theirs, is clean and decisive. That doesn’t mean we can’t work together. In many ways, we have to work together.
But I do think I need to pick on them a little bit. They get in trouble with people like me, from time to time, because of this controlling behavior. Their superior skills in the realm of engaging their peers socially, gives them an unfortunate tendency to behave as if all problems can be solved this way. Not some — all. And this, in turn, saddles them with a weakness in the department of looking at reality as it objectively exists…along with an ego too fragile to acknolwedge that this might be the case.
And this brings me to Macmic, the deep-thinker with the .ca e-mail address who attached two impressively-sized epistles to the end of the Michael Moore post in the week just past. He, I am gathering, is exactly what I’m talking about. Now that I think about it, so is Michael Moore himself. As I wrote about Mr. Moore…
Why does Moore have anything to do with America? Every time he comes out with a movie he keeps returning to his “Bowling For Columbine” theme that there is something wrong with America, something rotten in its core — something that compels us to be afraid of things and shoot each other all the time. He makes his films in Canada. He claims to be from Flint, MI — not too much of a drive to go from there, into Canada, for good. I’m not saying it to be derisive or dismissive — watch his movies sometime. Any one. The dude really likes Canada, and I don’t know of a single good thing he’s had to say about the U.S. by comparison. What’s he doing here?
It’s a question I might as well have posed with regard to a lot of other folks besides Michael Moore.
Now take a good look at what’s going on here. Just take a long, hard look at the world. We have all these countries that are not America. Hundreds of them. They have all embraced socialism, in one way or another. First world, second world, third world. Oh sure, they have different rules, different programs in place that address different things, and they all allow “businesses” to operate in some crippled form. But America trails behind all of them in this path to socialism. America, alone, struggles along awkwardly as a half-breed society, kinda socialist, kinda not, with some semblance of longing for true individualism still trickling through it’s veins.
In all other places, the need comes up for the individual to sacrifice something for the “public good” — and it’s done. We have a social problem and we need a curfew — okay. There is violence at nighttime and we’ll have to ban alcohol after seven o’clock — done. Traffic is congested so we’re going to install round-abouts to force your errand to take longer than it should — we comply. We’re disarming, please present all your guns to the sheriff in the town square tomorrow at noon — alright.
Only in America is there some remnant of healthy, cantankerous protest on behalf of the individual. We waver a lot here & there, but we still have it.
And along come passionate, all-controlling collectivists like Michael Moore to stamp it out. Here. It is not a case of live-and-let-live. Michael Moore could live in Canada, which already manages healthcare exactly the way he wants it done. He could live anywhere. He could let America sink or swim.
But he has to mount a crusade to get one country on the face of the globe, to do things the way he wants them done, when all other countries already do it more-or-less the way he wants. He’s got to stamp out the last remnant of resistance. Why, if that isn’t controlling, I don’t know what is.
Macmic makes the same point about countries that John makes about people: I have neglected the middle-ground. China has socialism and capitalism, both. So does Japan. So do many, many other countries.
Macmic’s logical error, here, is to presume all these societies are at rest. That is untrue in all his examples, and it cannot be true anywhere. It simply can’t hold up, because in human history all efforts to control others are prolonged struggles. My point about the collectivists is that the desire will always be there. Remember what I said about the Yang — we are all gathered around the piano, gathering around the piano is what we are all doing. Individualists can live in harmony with collectivists, but collectivists cannot abide individualism.
And so, when Yin and Yang are placed in proximity, there will be an enthusiastic and energetic effort among Yang to convert the Yin. Yang, obviously, foster an environment friendly to collectivism, so this bleeds over into the interaction between individualists and collectivists; where they exist in proximity, there will always be a mission among the collectivists to eradicate all others.
And that’s why I referred to socialism as the Terminator robot of economic models. It really is. Michael Moore proves it — he’s got the entire world, sans America, and it isn’t enough. His physical obesity and obvious mode of gluttony, turn out to be convenient metaphors for his desire that socialism should cover a few more square miles, until it has gobbled the globe.
No, I don’t think the Yang are inherently unfeeling or evil. I don’t think they want to eradicate humanity. I don’t even think they want to kill Sarah Connor. I don’t think they’re all collectivists or socialists…all they do, to my mind, is create an environment that allows collectivism to spread. If someone must erect a breakwater so this attack on the individual can be stopped, or slowed down, it is up to the Yin to build it. But the collectivists must run everything, every square inch all over the globe, or else they are perpetually hungry for more. “Terminator” fits the collectivists very, very well. That’s why socialism always ends up being unimaginably hostile and dangerous, even though it is never designed to be that way.
Listen. And understand. That terminator is out there. It can’t be bargained with. It can’t be reasoned with. It doesn’t feel pity, or remorse, or fear. And it absolutely will not stop, ever, until you are dead.
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