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The Wrong World
by Jan Sand
2007-10-18 09:58:02
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There is an old story of a scientist who invented a machine to transfer consciousness. When his apparatus was complete he had no convenient subject but spotted a centipede on the floor and scooped it up and dropped it into the receiver section. He then put on the headset to dispatch his consciousness. He pressed the activation switch and suddenly discovered himself looking up at his immobile body.

"Hurray!" he thought, "It works." Then he tried to move the centipede into the light beam that would reverse the process. He moved the first foot and then found he couldn't figure which other foot to move. The story leaves him immobile, frozen in place. He never gets to figure out which other foot to move to get back into himself.

The story lays out one of the basic problems that has plagued the world since people congregated in herds. It is extremely difficult, if not impossible, to understand what the world looks like from the point of view of another living being. We can make accommodations and somehow assume that the other being is us just moved over there where it is but that is merely a superficial special transformation. Being someone else is a very special rare gift sometimes available to imaginative writers who can in some instances not only put the reader into another's situation but put him into someone else's mind.

Centipedes and probably other arthropods are a difficult case but even other creatures closer to us physiologically represent difficulties that might be beyond possibility to overcome. What would it be like to be a sparrow? To be perfectly comfortable sitting on the edge of a roof of a skyscraper and then easily pushing off into emptiness. To have no qualms floating hundreds of feet up in the air with nothing but your body to deal with it. Perhaps skydivers can do this but I doubt anybody could tell me how it feels. Anymore than someone could tell me how vanilla tastes or I could tell someone blind from birth what a surface covered with red and blue polka dots on a black background looks like. Language has severe limitations.

But we can move our focus much, much closer to ourselves and still find ourselves in incomprehensible difficulties. How many men and women who have lived together for years merely stop trying to get across to each other their intense emotional feelings about each other? "I love you", or "I hate you" are impossibly blunt linguistic instruments to carry across what is really going on in their heads. Silence is frequently the applied remedy to disastrous effects.

And the difficulties of parents, of teachers, in dealing with children and totally misunderstanding them and how they think is a commonplace. The essential capability in education is to understand what goes on in students' minds and the widespread failures in the US to make children literate bespeaks of the lacks of educators to penetrate the minds of children and present to them the worlds of imagination and wonder that lies in books.

But it is in the much more crucial area of law that the worlds that lie within each mind most frequently fail to connect to the world of social commerce. The remedy for an individual who directs his efforts against rather than along with the behaviors that make society viable has been, for thousands of years, to subject a convicted person to one form or another of brutality. This does work in some instances but the rates of return to criminal behavior once a convict has served his term are extremely high.

It's a cruel joke on the procedure that the prison has proven a better educational institute for more sophisticated criminal action than an introduction to civil behavior. The restrictions that a released convict encounters on re-entering society are frequently so daunting that further criminal behavior becomes the only future path and thus ensures a quick return to prison. At present time the USA is incarcerating more people than any other country in the world and this has proved not only to be a very expensive procedure but building prisons has become a growth industry which is proving difficult to maintain.

The same callous mindset is prevalent in the US prison in Cuba and other US prisons throughout the world devoted to what is assumed to be terrorists. Recent reports from people who interviewed top Nazis to gain information at Nuremberg indicated that they were much more successful in friendly approaches such as playing chess to stimulate conversation to elicit valid information than through the type of brutality used in current prisons which mostly results in useless lies.

Despite the slogans, what is necessary is not love but understanding. Sometimes love results. Sometimes it proves impossible. It is vitally necessary to know.

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Asa2007-10-18 15:45:33
"Silence is frequently the applied remedy to disastrous effects."

So very true, Jan.

Simon2007-10-19 09:19:27
All you need is understanding.. not quite as poetic as The Beatles would have said.

Emanuel Paparella2007-10-19 09:59:52
Well put Simon, given that wisdom and not understanding is the highest form of knowledge. The allusion to the poetical in the Beatles' songs neatly balances an extreme rationalism deluding itself that science alone can solve all human problems not excluding ethical and moral ones. Perhaps you too find it intriguing that the French president Sarkozy has suggested a committee of ten wise men rather than ten scientists to debate the future of the EU. He must understand something we don’t!

Sand2007-10-19 10:41:43
Delighted, Paparella, that you have finally managed to dredge up a few particles of humility.

Simon2007-10-19 12:15:18
Jan, good things come to those who wait ;)

Jack2007-10-19 21:04:26
Simon, I agree, we all could use more understanding of each other, whether people or nations. I think that hate and love are closer than most believed. If the human race had to unite to survive against a massive, incoming asteroid, we would all drop many of our differences. Compromise...the great peace maker. "I" is in the middle of pride.

The opposite of love is not hate, it is indifference. This is worse.

Emanuel Paparella2007-10-19 23:36:35
Jack, we need not wait for an asteroid to hit us to bring us together. From time immemorial there has been something around that can do just that once its proper function is properly understood and practiced. In Latin the word "religio" semantically means "binding together."

Sand2007-10-20 03:16:26
"Opposite" is a much misunderstood concept. On its face it seems obvious but there are some, as demonstrated, who think the opposite of something is its absence. Some who think that chocolate is the opposite of vanilla, cat is the opposite of dog, science is the opposite of wisdom, atheism is the opposite of faith, man is the opposite of woman, God is the opposite of Devil, front is the opposite of middle, stupid is the opposite of intelligent, Sand is the opposite of Paparella. These things require much closer analysis than mere designation as opposite.

Jack2007-10-20 05:50:04
Is not the opposite of cold hot?, or dark the opposite of light or just the abscense of it. I see your point.

Perhaps a better way to state it would have been that "love has sharp differences with hate, yet even greater than with indifference. Indifference and love are not the same thing...upon further analysis.

Jack2007-10-20 05:59:05
If this state of consciousness has plagued the world since they first started to comgregate in herds, it has been a huge waste of time. To imagine what a cricket might think seems highly irrelevant when we can't even tell what a man from another nation thinks.

However, I absolutely agree that the US prison's worldwide, are a debacle and should be all made public.

Sand2007-10-20 06:29:07
I am fascinated but rather helpless in psychoanalyzing a cricket. Freud's fascination with the sexual component of mental configuration would, from a human point of view, no doubt have bizarre implications when applied to crickets. But time is never wasted. It merely presents material for understanding and if the material remains unappreciated it is certainly a waste of a fertile source of information.
The concept of opposites involves a scalar measurement presenting positive or negative directions on a scale. If a scale is made measuring light intensity then positives and negatives can be determined. I doubt that love and hate can be resolved on a scale. It is entirely possible to both love and hate something simultaneously. This is why I am not entirely pleased with the term "tolerance" as an acceptable relationship between people of difference. It implies a condition of ignoring and suffering the differences with suppression of a negative reaction. It seems to me to be healthier to invite some sort of active mutual comprehension and interaction with careful control of violence so that a mutually acceptable adjustment can be made.

Simon2007-10-20 09:27:29
Would an asteroid hitting earth really bring us together?

I fear it would be every Man for Himself.

Emanuel Paparella2007-10-20 13:00:42
Indeed Jack, the opposite is also true: the absence of darkness is the light. If a man proclaims "I am the light of the world" he may be crazy, or he may be what he says he is. Indifference will not do. Either way, light cannot be conceived without darknes and vice versa. Those Chinese who remember their tradition know something about the reconciliation of opposites about which we Westerns with all our technological toys don't have the foggiest

Sand2007-10-20 13:11:52
I wonder what strange twist of mind venerates ignorance and despises technological accomplishment. Cricket problems!

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