Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for February, 2013


Think about it: every child, every baby animal, every person is the manifestation of someone’s sense of goodness: some sort of fulfillment, or beauty, or love, or courage, or honor. Because every person’s parents were loved by someone else once.



Read Full Post »


As we draw near to one of my least favorite days of the year, my thoughts turn to past relationships. I remember my break up with my ex-wife and I remember the impulses that I struggled with during that time and how difficult it was to steer my life by values instead of raw emotions. I chose the values over the impulses and I now realize that I’m proud of that choice. I’m not proud of very much in my life, but I’m proud of that.



Read Full Post »


Politics is all about finding commonly shared goals and forming partnerships around those goals. Political alliances are reinforced between people who believe they have inter-related objectives. Large power differentials tend to weaken the sense of shared goals. For one thing, it’s hard for those on the weaker end of the stick to believe that the more powerful partner really cares about their needs. Whereas when partners are more equal in power, they really do require each other to maintain an alliance that effectively supports the all the diverse goals of the coalition. This is why it is unwise to appear extremely powerful when you are trying to form a coalition with someone else. Excessive power does not encourage effective partnerships.



Read Full Post »



I am sitting by the side of the river, watching it flow by. Every once in a while I look at my reflection in the river. Once my reflection was young, now it is old. What hasn’t changed is that it remains alone.



Read Full Post »


motivation is nothing more than a memory of having been rewarded for what you are trying to be motivated for.



Read Full Post »


One problem western philosophy has with understanding behavior (human or otherwise) is that it has a cultural tendency to look for rules. (And see, I just reproduced that habit!). What I mean is that western models tend to view human behavior as rule governed when it is actually just rule described. And when it isn’t rule governed, it is seen as baser, more animalistic, more primitive, less valuable, less trustworthy and less virtuous (viz, the classical Greek distinction between techne and episteme). Actually, though, ever since Freud and Lacan we’ve even learned to see our most primitive instincts as rule governed. They’re just governed by rules that we don’t like and so we cover them up. But the rules are still there, waiting to be revealed by highly trained professionals (analysts). The issue I have with this approach is that I just don’t think it’s accurate. In fact, if humans were more rule governed and rule aware, I think we’d be living in a much saner world! Because then humans would have learned to follow Kant’s favorite rule (rendered here in more colorful form): “don’t fuck with someone if you don’t want to get fucked right back!” Pretty simple right? And yet it’s a principle that gets ignored millions of times every day and I suspect one of these days will be the spark that ignites our nuclear firestorm. The problem here is that what we call rule governed behavior is often merely rule described behavior, and people tend to conflate the two in an age old intellectual feint.

Most behaviors actually are fairly automatic, held in what modern psychologists call procedural memory. These are the memory circuits that allow you to drive to work each day while plotting the overthrow of your evil boss or fantasizing about your newest crush (or so I’ve heard…. 😉 ). The other type of memory, declarative memory, is the memory that actually allows you to follow a rule, explicitly. That’s the memory you used when you were 15 and first learning to drive. But by now the skills are automatic and you actually don’t follow any specific rule when you move your foot from the accelerator to the brake in response to one of those red polyhedron signs by the side of the road. The behavior is automatic, overlearned and no longer stored in the explicit rule following part of your brain. This is why depression and other mental illnesses are frequently so insidious and difficult to treat: they are in part learned behaviors that have been automatized by influences completely outside of our awareness.

Most therapists are all too familiar with this phenomenon as they frantically try to “teach” their clients to stop doing all kinds of self-destructive behaviors, and then in desperation move towards a theory of unconscious rule following to explain the failure of their inept therapeutic interventions. Theories of unconscious hostility and masochism abound the literature and professional conversations about client self-harming and therapy interfering behaviors. My issues with Freudianism aside, I do applaud analysts for their creativity in trying to find other ways to teach new behaviors, however I would like to dig even deeper into our western habit of “rule talk,” as I have recently thought of it. I do think we need to find ever more creative ways to change our own and other’s behaviors, but more because I think we tend to be creatures of blind, stupid habit, rather than creatures of any sort of obedience.


Read Full Post »



Communication is an interesting phenomenon, isn’t it? The ways in which animals try to change the behaviors of other animals? Sometimes they engage the acoustic blast technique–talking, yelling, bellowing, grunting, trumpeting, singing, panting, barking, whistling, calling, crying, chirping. Sometimes though they emit something a bit less “definitive”: the facial expression, the hand gesture, the foot twirl, the head tilt, the neck swivel, or the nose wiggle. Each one has the potential for expressing so much, and each one can go so terribly wrong. We often get indignant at what we perceive as the “message” and the “sender.” As if these were more than just events. As if information were out there somewhere in the world to be apprehended by a sentient mind. One of the illusions of the western magic show we call “rationality” is the notion that human brains can adopt a special relation to events, and thereby establish (or un-cover) something like meaning. Philosophers love to believe that humans (and sometimes other animals) exhibit this special property called “intention”– as if our brains had some special monopoly on relating to the world through symbol, gesture, roar. This sleight of hand has had us blaming intentions for all sorts of evils, and still entangles contemporary discussions. For example, I once attended a conference on clinical therapeutic technique in which the teachers at once cautioned us not to attribute intention to client behaviors by use of such terms as “manipulation” or “masochism,” while at the same time exhorting us to carefully assess the intent associated with acts of self-harming or suicide…. What confusion is this….?! If a “message” gets lost in transition, whose fault is it really? How do we understand our all too common “failures in communication?” Are observation skills not part of our communication skills? And is the fault not as much with the sender as the receiver? For not observing the receiver closely enough? Indeed, even perhaps for choosing the wrong LANGUAGE…..?




Read Full Post »



Winter Morning, Shasta Valley

Winter Morning, Shasta Valley





Read Full Post »



isn’t creativity fascinating? i don’t just mean the way an artist or a musician can be walking along and run themselves into a creation – that’s just a matter of stimulus control, learned behavior. i mean the way we can learn to fashion those moments into a completely other world. you know the process when you see it. it’s the difference between doodling and creation. the artist creating fictions that also live. you know it when you listen to a beethoven quartet or a schubert sonata, a painting by picasso or richter, a poem by rilke or plath or oliver. when i walk down the street and become aware of color, light, texture and shape as a coalescence, i feel something growing all around me even before i lift my camera to my eye. it’s like life itself is learning to breathe again.


                        Venice2-VER2-bw copy



Read Full Post »



                        aún eres mi vida

there is
no sadness like the day we met
no earth bound song like the day we fled
against the tide, against the road.
when you let me go i was all alone.
no higher skies, no treasured troves
could ever replace the eyes i loved,
a raptured heart : my life
my only home



Read Full Post »

« Newer Posts