More Physical Life

I have been substitute teaching for a physical education class in a grade school the last couple of days. It has been an amazing learning experience of how physically incapacitated children are in the United States.

This is a very small subset technically but, with what else I’ve read I can only assume that this must be somewhat usual across p.e. classes now: these grade and middle school students cannot even bend over to touch their toes!

Part of my notes had the students doing some push-ups and for the classes we had to stop to have a quick lesson in proper technique, I then asked them to just do a bodyweight squat and none of them could do it with their feet flat on the ground or their knees not caving in. In fact, some students didn’t quite comprehend that a squat requires bending their knees at all.

Now, this is not to ridicule these students, this is to point out a fundamental flaw in how we view physicality now. As humans, we are not even getting our children how to move in remotely proper ways, instead they all claim aches, pains and tightness like they are 80 year olds and think that I am super human because I can get my butt below my knees.

This has already been covered by many I am sure but, we definitely need to reevaluate our relationship with physical activity, if only for the health and wellness of the next generation. I am sure, especially in the case of boys, physical exploration would help with all sorts of mental health problems (ADD/ADHD, I’m looking at you) and physical health.

Another example of needing simply more physical lifestyles comes from a recent safety training that I had to sit through.  The training was on “heat illnesses”: heat-strokes, heat exhaustion, heat cramps, etc.  I have to admit that heat-strokes are a serious issue just like hypothermia but, “heat cramps” and exhaustion are not. Those are simply signs of discomfort, something that people desperately fear but physical work makes constant.  In this training, acclimatization is brought up for heat saying that an individual needs at least 2 hours per day of heat exposure for 5 days in order to be “acclimatized” to a hot environment.  Did those safety people check how weather patterns work?  Sure, going from winter in Antarctica to mid-day in the Sahara would be a violent shift that could be problematic but a) who actually does that? and b) the less extreme differences happen with the weather, our bodies are built to be able to handle that sort of stress.

What if, we actually had physical work to do again?  How would that solve our health problems, fix our movement, and solve a bunch of other random illnesses and issues that seem to suddenly exist now?


The Art In Craft

Craftspeople: those individuals in dialogue with the world around them.

I think art has to be re-humanized and honor brought back to skilled labor and crafts.  In short, we need to start recognizing the artwork that exists in a well built house, a well performed weld.

Have you ever stopped to watch something being built; all the separate individuals moving together towards one, single end goal and knowing their part and place in that whole.  There is a certain beauty to it which generally seems to go unrecognized because we are too busy looking at the environmental issues coming from industry.  I am not saying that the environmental side is not an issue but, what are all of those artisans going to do if those jobs are completely gotten rid of?  That is a question that does not seem to be asked often.  These people have spent years honing their skills to be able to perform their tasks efficiently; something that only writers and musicians seem to gain recognition for.

Why is this important? Not just the political reasons of individuals’ livelihoods etc.

I have a friend who likes to point out that we are “human beings, not human doings.” Generally I think they are trying to point out how, in a corporate type organization humans are expected to constantly be productive and are judged on their “productivity.”  (If I am wrong in that understanding, I am sure they will be in contact with me and I will make the proper edits.)

Generally I agree to the issue they are trying to point out but, at the same time, we are human doings. What is existence besides doing something opposed to nothingness?  Anything that we acknowledge as existing seems to be fundamentally affecting the other stuff around it in some way, that affecting I am calling dialogue because, I think, usually that influence is multi-directional.  As in, the influencing thing is also influenced by the other things around it.  Humans grow in dialogue together, we tend to call it experience.  As someone gains experience they change their opinions, attitudes, habits etc. which then will influence other people they come into contact with. For a more scientific type of example , plants grow from the ground and influence the pH of the soil around it but also their growth is influenced by the pH of that exact same soil.  I call this sort of interaction dialogue.

That dialogue seems to be an important part of existence, of being, as in human being.  So, a human in dialogue with the world they inhabit.  Art is just a very specific sort of dialogue with the world just as, I think skilled craft and labor is too.  A skilled craftsperson/laborer is in dialogue with their medium be it, wood, metal, glass etc.  All of these individuals are learning how to open dialogue between themselves and the world around them using these different things and tools this is why skilled labor and crafts need to be re-honored and brought back to the fore and reconsidered as art also.  Those individuals doing that type of work are doing the fundamental human being thing of being in dialogue with our world.  Something a lot of our current service-oriented work does not do, which is why being “productive” becomes a problem.

First, a lot of current service industries, I do not think really engage in dialogue with the world.  An individual in those industries is not really influencing things around them and then being influenced by those same things, instead they are applying rules and policies because that is what they are supposed to do, without considering context.  That is not dialogue, that is doing things for the sake of doing them.

Whereas, service areas such as, teachers, have to take into affect context in order to more effectively engage in dialogue with students and help them learn.  But, the only way we have to test this “effectiveness” is through standardized tests which do not have context, they do not have a dialogue with that student, they are simply a policy.

This type of “productivity,” applying policies without dialogue I think is an issue we are starting to notice as a community and starting to try to find ways around.  I simply propose, that to continue this line, we begin to treat skilled laborers and crafts people as the artists they are and we all start trying to pick up a craft and re-open dialogue.


Life With Social Media

It’s really interesting how as the internet and technology and social media expand people are more and more coming to have two separate types of lives: their physical, to-be-framed, life and the digital, framed life.

Now, with this technology and social media, all of physical life seems to simply be as yet to-be-framed, a present waiting to be captured by a picture, a video, a tweet, a pin, a blog post and saved and put elsewhere for a future present to look back upon and reminisce about.  More importantly, this framed life, is framed, one can decide not to show parts of the to-be-framed life, one can cut and paste, crop, edit, perfect.  This, among other things that I will not be going into, for me, points towards this framed life being the ideal life for our current society, possibly even the ideal life of human society in general, the life the subconscious wants to live.

One can surround themselves with only the things one wants to hear, one can ignore others and not have to feel guilty about it  one can support everything for free and without actually having to expend any actual effort.  Not to mention, one can present themselves exactly as they as they want to be presented, total control over their social presentation.  Bad presentations never have to exist in the framed life, unless that is part of your presentation.  Plus, one can always control their reactions, it’s impossible to read body language or facial expressions in text, so a reaction can be exactly as one wants it to be nothing more and nothing less.  It’s perfect, for everyone.

So next time you’re taking all sorts of pictures to get the best one for your profile, stop and think about how you’re framing your own life.

Fear of Death

Recently in a class the topic of prisons came up and how prisons are the place that society tends to send mental health patients and anyone who doesn’t either look or act like the norms set. That prompted this little piece:

Fear of death causes the fear of having to deal with anything reminding us of life, the frailty of it and parts of it that aren’t pleasant. Only by accepting and living with death can life be appreciated, thus making prison populations smaller and weakening the prison system. Until then prisons are going to be the model of life for everyone.

Fear of death and therefore fear of life, makes society split everything up into little pieces. This fear causes everything to be compartmentalized into smaller and smaller little separate pieces for us to deal with and never actually get a look at the larger picture. We have our private/semi-private space, we have a certain time to go outside, certain times to eat, no one sees when we die, as few people as possible see us when born. We then create a section of the world that is only for “us” or whatever your group is and exclude and include others according to your whims.

Cells, time to walk around outside, times to eat, times to sleep, fences all around. Apartments, “free time,” lunch break, curfew, borders. Which one is more free? Arguably the second, I cannot fully disagree with this, but I can point out the trajectory this second lifestyle seems to be taking and it ends up quite similar to the first one, only with a bit less gray.

Everything becomes a little tiny piece of life but is never put into the full context of a life, all because of a fear of death and life. So it is easier for society to put everything that doesn’t fit with the norm into a confined area that we do not ever have to deal with: hospitals, prisons, retirement homes, schools even. If the individual doesn’t fit the norm, put them into some space to either make/train them to fit the norm or just keep them out of the way until later on. Prisons will expand unless we begin to think differently.

A Fundamental Logical Error

The law of non-contradiction: X cannot have the adjective q and not-q at the same time. Within logical systems this of course works and is fundamental for a lot of ideas, theories, etc. But, it has expanded too far; it expanded into the human realm with the assumption that an individual cannot be both an individual and not an individual.

The law of non-contradiction made it so that one cannot say that a person is both an individual and a part of a group.  They cannot be both the private person and the public person; only one or the other is allowed at one time.  For some reason I am not sure of yet, the Enlightenment chose the individual, private person as the main focus of reason/logic. This is the point that I think one must put on the breaks.

Only through being aware of one’s connectedness can one really accomplish anything.  In other words, humans are a social animal, I am personally incredibly okay being alone for periods of time, but I know that being alone all of the time is both boring and bad for me.  A lot of great thinkers have struck on this idea: Aristotle being a big early one, there is Alexis De Tocqueville in Democracy in America, he calls this idea “self-interest rightly understood” (or something along those lines), Feminists with the ethics of care have hit it, Jesus with “love thy neighbor” (if you’re feeling religious), for the underdogs we have Marx who talks about this idea, Nietzsche considers humans as herd-animals, wanting to get more scientific our cousins the primates, apes etc. tend to be social, not to mention our friends: dogs.

Dogs brings up an interesting subject with cats and dogs being usually two of the most popular pets: cats are solitary and dogs are more social.  Could this be an image of this unusual spot humans find themselves in?  We somehow go back and forth between the two extremes of being solitary and social.  The problem with the law of non-contradiction is that it does not allow one to be both or work on being both at the same time.

It also seems that no one wants to attempt to deal with both of these natures at the same time.  I think it could be a solution to the theological problem of evil, I also definitely think being aware of this back-and-forth allows for a much more fluid and useful ethics.  It also allows for massive critiques of a lot of Western society: education and economics specifically.  I intend to go into these later.

So consider, which is “more” human?  The individual in the “state of nature” as our society is founded upon or the individual in a family/society as the ethics of care and virtue respectively are roughly founded on?

Big Conclusions

The Truth, Good, Just, God, to be enlightened, to be awakened, Quality, Right, the Way this list could continue.  The point is, all of those heavy words or phrases which are used to define something that is inherently undefinable.  Yet somehow, when we hear these words we know what they mean until one tries to sit down and get a solid definition on paper.  Try, what is Truth? Or Good? Or Just? A lot of time has been spent by other philosophers to sort out what these words mean, entire sections of thought are devoted to these questions, political and legal theorizing for Justice, Ethical theorizing for the Good, religions for any and all of the words.  There is still seemingly no absolutely solid definition, Merriam Webster when you look up “truth” uses the word “true” in the definition.  So, go to that word and you still end up with true in part of the definition and the rest of it does not seem to fully cover what “truth” really is.  Try this experiment with “good” you end up with the word quality, so go on to that definition you get, “a peculiar and essential nature” for a definition, that is not too helpful if you are attempting to establish really hard facts.

The next experiment though, you can point to something or someone and say that it is good or bad.  That it has a quality, that it is good quality, low quality.  You can say that this is just but that is not that this is right and that is not.  You can claim that God is separate from everything and in everything and created everything.  All of these terms defy a really good, solid definition like the word “dog” does.  (Although dog can be hard to define too even.) You do know what it means though, you know what it means to you which is enough and we all operate off of this, luckily our definitions can be in enough agreement that our society can function on some level.

In short, there are terms that exist which a person can recognize when they see it in the world but cannot rationally define with any sort of quality.  This seems to be a fundamental problem, especially as a scientist or trying to be super logical like some philosophers.  This fundamental split seems to be the focal point of differences between philosophers and people in general.  Some go with the “front-end” gut definition and work with it and others attempt a “back-end” rationalization.

This difference also appears to be on a pendulum, swinging back and forth through history.  Although often history is not as peaceful as this idea of the pendulum is.  This argument over priority to front-end or back-end almost appears to be a constant war in western thought.  A war which western thought has brought to all corners of the world (if it wasn’t already happening before, I’m not well-read enough to know).  One side being those who fully support rationality and the “church of reason” as some might say.  The other side being less rational, considered a counter-culture in recent years.  Of course each side has its variances with more and less extreme people through the spectrum of reason to romantics.

I like to imagine this spectrum as one side of an equilateral triangle and at each end of this side is either reason or the other, the final vertex is this thing that is called Truth or Good or God or etc. etc. etc.  On this discussion of a triangle remember that a triangle is considered the most stable shape in mathematics (or so I was told anyway).  Which I think is an unusually convenient path into claiming that having an equal spectrum of rationalism and this other end leads to being a solid equilateral triangle and thus every human being has a life that they would consider good.  The problem though is that war I mentioned earlier.

The two extreme ends do not like to share and would prefer that everyone end up closer to one end of the spectrum or the other which leads to weird bulges towards one vertex or the other, de-stabilizing the triangle.  This triangle recently has been incredibly unstable, a heavy lean towards the rational end of this spectrum.  My beginning research into this idea has pointed to the Enlightenment being when this destabilization took its full effect and western society has been dealing with that ever since.  Luckily enough though, it seems that I am at a point in history where the pendulum has begun its downward sweep back towards the other end of the spectrum.  This is all I have for the moment, once I can get some more historical research I hope to come back to this.