Thursday, April 17, 2008

"If we really want to live, we'd better start at once to try: If we don't, it doesn't matter, but we'd better start to die" - W.H.Auden

The words were found in the opening to a book a client recommended to me called "Finding Flow" by Mihaly Csikszentmihaly(I can spell it, but I definitely can't say it).
The intro goes on to say

Biological life is an automatic process, as long as we take care of the needs of the body. But to live in the sense that the poet means it is by no means something that will happen by itself. In fact, everything conspires against it: if we don't take charge of its direction, our life will be controlled by the outside to serve the purpose of some other agency. Biologically programmed instincts will use it to replicate the genetic material we carry; the culture will make sure that we se it to ropagate its values and institutions; and other people will try to take as much of our energy as possible to further their own agenda

I'm not sure what course the book will take because one page in, I got lost in thoughts of consciousness and control. Walking down the street yesterday, I was overwhelmed with the sense of order and rightfulness set down from society in the form of dress, language, streets, house, social interaction, etc etc etc. Indeed, everything we do in life has a particular way that it is done. And compared to other animals, we are incredibly elaborate and advanced in the ordering and structuring of our environment. And this is sociology right? This is our "nurturing" and is a very complex system that keeps us in line and ensures the propogation of whatever particular ideals we subscribe to.
The other side of that would be "nature" gynetic structures determining what form we take and what course our life will take. For most animals/species the nature side is very dominant, and we think of this in terms of instincts. Things that are innate, known but never 'learned'. we have our own instincts/reflexes and often they are not that dissimilar from other animals. But what is unique is the extent to which we have created societies.
At essence, what society is, is an externalization of our genetic makeup. We still are instinctual and reflexive, but these reflexes are now learned or taught to us by our parents, friends, the media. Overall, they are taught to us by our community. And as we grow and learn, we affirm these reflexes and pass them on to our children just as if they were genetic codes.
It seems clear enough to me that our genetic coding is shrinking in inverse proportion to the growth of elaborate social structures. The more complex our external world becomes, the more reliant our children are in us for development. But also, the more complex our external world becomes, the smarter we get and we are more able to adapt and respond to a growing changing world. This is important because naturally, everything has a reason and has to make sense. Doesn't have to necessarily be explainable but, at least to me, things should make sense. And it makes sense to me that we would pool in communities and teach each other what we learned in our own life and pass on the information that are forebears discovered.
If you look at other species in the animal kingdom that have not externalized their instincts and genetics, there is very little dissimilarity generation to generation. Their survival relies on their natural conditions remaining the same. Subtle changes in the environment can and will wipe out whole species that are not able to react in a timely fashion. Species change relies on a slow process of genetic mutation, ala Charles Darwin and evolutionary theory.
What I'm saying is that the nature verses nurture question is a trap, there is complete fluidity between the two. What should be honored is the externalization of genetic change into a tangible, controllable world around us; a world sensed and controlled by our cortex. it's in the cortex that we have memory, emotions, thoughts, consciousness, sense and movement. The cortex is the newest part of the brain and is most pronounced in humans. Relative to other mammals we have an extremely large cortex. This is what allows us to grow and adjust, because as we project ourselves in the form of culture and community we need to be that much more able to sense and respond to what we are doing. This is our locus of control.
So there we go, control. At the point that we have a much more developed sense of consciousness, we have options. We no longer have to rely on genetic determination to dictate the course of our lives. To a great extent, we can decide at any point where we want to focus our attention and what course we want our lives to take. We're fully capable to take a back seat to our lives and let our instincts and reflexes run the show, but we are also able to steal the spotlight, redirect the train, live less reflexively and more consciously.
And as I said before, I believe that there is an inverse relationship, and if were are progressing and maturing as a species, then we are now more able to control and develop our own lives than past generations. Evidence of this can be found in the slower and slower rate that people seem to develop independence on their own. 30's are the new 20's right?
The more that we nurture, the more depth and possibilities we create for our selves. The longer we put off the drudgery of a stable repetitive life, the more able we are to create an elaborate vibrant world for our future generations and the more vitality our own lives will have. phew........ back to my reading.

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