Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Sherry Turkle And Solitude



I noted that I’m reading Sherry Turkle’s book Reclaiming Conversation.

She inveighs against device addiction both intrinsically because it’s addiction and consequentially because it minimizes conversation—the basis of human exchange—and, so, minimizes face to face communication and, so, empathy. She argues not to do away with devices but to use them judiciously. She diagnoses that those enslaved by their devices cannot stand being alone or bored or the burdens of unmitigated human exchange and friendship.

Her evidence for her thesis is her compilation of years of interviews with many different people.

I’m waiting to be convinced of this widespread loss of empathy, keeping an open mind. But her recounting of and generalizing from her interviews come across to me like she’s relating a series of anecdotes. 

Here’s one conceptual puzzle she presents me with.

She emphatically touts solitude as an intrinsically good thing and as an antidote, and an answer, to our need for constant distraction and immediate connection: “We share, therefore we are,” contrasting connection with real live conversation and friendship.

But her conception of solitude is unclear to me. Denotatively, it means being alone without being lonely, the contrast being between solitude and loneliness. By the way she talks about solitude, however, almost as a kind of mindfulness, but not quite, I sense she means being alone and undistracted for lengths of time beyond the few minutes mediation typically involves, a time for reflection and self creation emerging out of boredom. 

But if we listen to music are we undistracted? Does it depend on the kind of music, soothing sounds compared to raucous music? Classical music, for instance, covers that span. If we’re reading, are we undistracted? Does it depend on what we’re reading? These kinds of questions multiply themselves. If we’re writing are we undistracted? Does it depend on what we’re writing, say poetry compared to texting? If we walk and have a lively sense of our surroundings, are we undistracted? Do our surroundings matter: something pastoral against some active urban scene? 

So my point is that it seems unreal to me to prescribe mindfulness as solitude even as that may be a good but brief daily practice. I don’t think Turkle has mindfulness in mind. As I say, I think she means something more enduring by solitude than a few minutes of mind clearing. The unreality is that for the vast most of us us, who really, achieves anything like a pure state of solitude for any length of time? Who among us when alone doesn’t want some form of engagement: music, something to read, writing, checking out our surroundings and so on?

That being so how do we distinguish from the perspective of solitude what is and what isn’t distraction? Maybe the line between checking our texts, emails and reading, enjoying music alone and so on isn’t so clear and bright. Maybe one person’s distraction is another person’s solitude. 

So I need to understand better what she means by solitude and how it exists in people’s lives when they’re alone as opposed to it being an abstraction as it seems to be in her discussion of it so far.

Saturday, February 10, 2018

Colten Boushie Acquittal


I know little about the trial and the acquittal in the Colten Boushie homicide.

So this is an off the top of my gut reaction.

Why do people who didn’t sit through the trial nor sit with the jury during its deliberations so quickly criticize the verdict? 

Why can’t it be as simple as the defence having raised a reasonable doubt about Stanley’s intent?

Why is Trudeau weighing in saying, paraphrase, “Canadians have to do better”?

Is Trudeau saying the justice system didn’t/doesn’t operate legitimately when the results cut against prevailing narratives?

As someone who didn’t sit through the trial nor the jury deliberations, how does Trudeau have a clue as to any injustice here? 

Was he advised of the injustice by people who also didn’t sit through the trial, weigh the evidence, judge credibility, and hash it all out in jury deliberations? 

Is it so clear that racism predicted this result?

I’m open to be persuaded that this tragic but reasonably possible accidental loss of life should have resulted in a verdict of guilty.

But the law is that judicial results are prima facie—right until proved otherwise—correct.

So those rushing to judgment who have no first hand experience with the trial, the evidence, the forensics, the cross examination and credibility of witnesses and the weighing of all that by the jury, let alone the judge’s charge to it,  might want to step back, take a few breaths, and inform themselves of all this before feeding the beast of the narrative.

Not least Trudeau.

Friday, February 9, 2018

Tribalism As Idelogical Conformism


In his long conversation with Joe Rogan, 2 hours, 13 minutes, Steven Pinker says he changed his mind about this-political views flowing from ideological premises. 

He now thinks that tribalism counts more heavily than ideology for our positions on political, and for that matter public, issues generally, that our “group,” whatever that consists in, presses in on us to conform to it at the risk of social sanction, (say) ridicule or even ostracism. Pinker and Rogan note that almost to a man or woman, positions held on discrete issues are as eyes into fixed political souls, into leftward or rightward. 

This view makes sense to me though I wouldn’t cleave so sharply between ideology and tribal pressure. They probably overlap and are a piece of each other.

I’d like to think I don’t fall into the web of that human disposition, that within a general creedal framework, sort of Third Wayish really, I try to call em as I independently as possible see em, wanting to be moved by logic, evidence and the best argument.

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

The Shapelessness Of Water

I generally don’t like in movies magic realism, fables, allegories, science fiction, fantasy, and people and sea creatures rising from death to live happily ever after together under water. 

But I try keep an open mind when I reluctantly see one of these genres. 

I reluctantly saw The Shape Of Water.

I wasn’t bored by it. It wasn’t uninteresting. It was dramatic at points. But in the end I found it off putting and pointless. So I guess all the dislikes I first listed kicked in. I could see what its themes are, I think, and the institutions and human types the characters were proxy for, but my mind wasn’t provoked and I wasn’t moved.

My problem is I like movies about real people with real problems. Take Manchester By The Sea for instance. A painful but magnificent movie experience, I found. It’s like a piece of perfectly cooked, rare to bloody steak to The Shape’s appetizer of mock crabmeat. 

I’d give The Shape of Water 2.5 out of 5 and wouldn’t recommend it.

Monday, February 5, 2018

A Further Note On My Gloss On Jordan Peterson On Immanence And Exhiliration

I wrote this to someone, fwiw—he’d listed a lot of really bad folks who were/are religious 

....Your first sentence sounds pretty and profound but makes not a lot of sense to me. 

I could a stab at unpacking it but it would be guess work. 

I was trying to put a gloss on what I heard Peterson say, that, as I have it, there is deep within us all a drive, an impulse, to make meaning, to seek coherence, to seek the wholeness of ourselves. The medium for the manifestation of that driven impulse is consciousness informed by our feelings, themselves the outpourings of our deepest selves, physically and psychologically. 

When we feel profound exhilaration, then that drive for meaning for the instant of our experience resolves itself in a heightened state we might characterize as something like pure being or transcendence, an instant of experience when we get past the ordinary fractiousness, tensions, paradoxes, weaknesses, frailties, deficits, enigmas, uncertainties and so on of ongoing typical living, (which rationality and deliberation not only can’t ultimately resolve but inhere in and help create.) We reach peaks in those experiences.   

And here’s a point in response to your list: the achievement of these high moments of being does not confer morality or beneficence on us. What may ignite transcendence will for good or (say) normal people will likely include the kinds of things I first listed but the twisted and the perverse and the evil the external sources may well include what destructive and depraved, I’d argue. But the evil too have their own experiences of transcendence. In that regard your list, on consideration and further reflection, seems in fact outside Peterson’s point as glossed by me, even as your list and your elusive further comment prompted some further thought by me.  

Any thoughts on this?...

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Exhilaration As Transcendence


A deep insight from Jordan Peterson.

He argues that deepest within us is the inclination to transcendence. Whether that has its source in evolution or God, it is immanent in us. When we experience transcendence, we glimpse, we experience, our highest mode of being.

And then he gives plain spoken examples—the exhilaration in hearing great music, experiencing great art, the joy in ideas, the wholeness and thrill of creativity, the deep satisfactions of love, sex, sex in love, love in sex—that coexist with other less plain spoken examples such as mystical experiences, ecstasies, the effects of certain chemicals, out of body experiences.

Our exhilaration is our experiencing of our deepest immanence, of revelatory meaning, of transcendence.

Fred Astaire Polemics


Nice insight from Jordan Peterson:

He was was asked what is the most legitimate criticism of him.

He said it is his inclination to anger. 

Then he noted his need to keep his temper in check. 

He’s been thinking about this a lot and trying to do this, he said, especially over the last year and a half or so as he’s become publicly more prominent. 

Then he spoke about the common law doctrine of self defense using only the minimum amount of force necessary. He spoke about how he has adapted that doctrine to situations in polemics, particularly oral polemics, in a word, discussions.

He then said, in a striking, indeed a sparkling, formulation, that it’s a mark of “sophistication and elegance” in discussion and debate to defend yourself, which you have a clear right to do, which is necessary that you do, with only the amount of rhetorical, personal (and maybe intellectual—I’m not sure about intellectual) force that is necessary.

What a wonderful notion: so often in discussions, particularly virtual ones where you don’t have the constraint of the living presence of another person (though I suppose that that face to face dynamic can cut both ways) we can get overheated, lose it, become insulting, want verbally to hurt. How often do we regret what we’ve said. How often have we frayed or even blown good relations by what we’ve said. And how often have we counted to ten, gone back to a first version and toned it way down and then breathed a huge sigh of relief for doing it. 

I love the notion of “sophistication and elegance” in self constraint in polemical self defense. 

And hey, who doesn’t want to be sophisticated and elegant?