Ming the Mechanic
The NewsLog of Flemming Funch

Wednesday, May 7, 2003day link 

 Sanity
picture I used to imagine that it was possible to make people sane by working them through a certain regimen, a certain sequence of progressively more advanced steps. That there would be a methodology that could be applied to just about anybody, and the end result would be a sane and rational human being.

I'm not saying I no longer believe that it is possible, but I've sort of lost touch with that way of looking at things, and I have more reasons to be doubtful than I used to.

A.E. van Vogt wrote a series of science fiction books in the 50s about the world of "null-A". They would make the most sense to somebody who had studied general semantics, and they were essentially a fictional description of a world where general semantics principles were put to serious use. An elite corps of individuals were trained in infinite valued logic, the awareness of abstraction, and the ability to create a semantic pause, where you step back from all the inadequate perceptions, limiting concepts, reactions and emotions, and examine what is actually going on before you act. Somebody who could think clearly and rationally, on multiple levels, taking all factors into consideration, no matter the circumstances. And, well, despite that Korzybski had outlined such principles in considerable detail, no such corps of rational people has been assembled in our world. Maybe because he outlined the principles, but not necessarily the techniques for getting people to live them. Maybe because it is more complicated than that.

Many years ago I was a scientologist. More than 20 years since I was kicked out of Scientology. One of the key endeavors in Scientology is to develop individuals into a state called "clear". A clear would be a person who no longer has irrational reactions to what he experiences in life. I.e. no more blind push-button reactions, where one ends up doing something that one doesn't want and which doesn't work. Where one unconsciously does something destructive instead of what serves the circumstances best. Where one walks around in a hypnotic state, responding to distorted commands from one's subconscious mind, rather than being aware, awake and present in the moment. And, well, there are systematic methods for locating and transforming these various areas. And when one has reached a certain state where one is more powerful than one's subconscious, and actually able to make one's own conscious and rational decisions about things, that's when one is labeled "clear". I became a clear, and there certainly is something to it. You can systematically become more sane. However, since then I've more and more taken it with a grain of salt, and realized that it wasn't quite as absolute and permanent a state of being as it appeared. Nevertheless, it became part of who I am.

For many years after that I would predominantly hang out with people who were "doing their work" as it is often called in new age circles. In part because I was a professional counselor who would facilitate personal change. So, I was mostly paying attention to people who were on a path of personal development, who were working in their own way on being more sane, more present, more whole. Maybe they were meditating, maybe they were getting therapy, maybe they were rewiring their own minds with NLP. But they were doing something, and even though it would be many different disciplines, there would be a certain underlying agreement about the value of being more awake, empowered, enlightened, whole, or whatever it might be called.

At some point I stopped bothering seeking out that kind of people. In part because I'm interested in life as it really is, in whatever form it takes, and it was a little boring just hanging out with people who had the same kinds of views on things. Great gifts might appear in unexpected places. The truth might be spoken where you least expect it. Life is something to experience, not to just sit and be holy about.

But now, to get to my point. We live in a world where there's no generally agreed upon norm for what is sane and what isn't. We aren't being trained in identifying what is sane and what is less sane. We aren't being trained in thinking. We aren't being trained in recognizing truth or deception.

The people who are supposed to be the certified specialists in such things often have the least clue. Oh, there are some brilliant and prominent psychiatrists around, who somehow have managed to maintain an intuition for what people need. But aside from that, I don't think I've enountered such a concentration of lunatics in any other field. That's not what I wanted to rant about, however.

My point is more personal. I somehow have an implicit assumption that the people I deal with have gone through a path in life that somehow is equivalent to mine. Not doing the same things, but somehow having similar experiences, learning similar things, and ending up with some kind of mature sanity about life. And the thing is that I'm more and more noticing that that is not the case at all. Many people have made it this far in life without ever "working on themselves". Many people have adopted some kind of fixed solution to everything, making themselves right and others wrong. Religious dogma, fundamentalist materialism, self-centered cosmology, everybody else is an asshole kind of beliefs.

See, if I were a counselor and you came to see me to fix that kind of personal problems, I'm thoroughly trained and educated in helping you out of such limiting beliefs. But if you don't, I have neither the right nor the means to disabuse you of very much that you believe in. And what I realize I'm missing nowadays is a shared frame of reference. Many human relations remain dysfunctional, or end in a word-against-word impasse, because there is no shared methodology available for bringing back sanity. "You're an asshole! No, YOU are!!" Hard to sort out unless we agreed to a shared frame of reference and a shared ethic from the start.

If you're part of some group that has a shared standard and a shared frame of reference, life is so much easier, even if the frame of reference is itself flawed. If you're a religious fundamentalist, you'll have a book where you can look up what is wrong with other people. They're sinners, they eat meat on Thursdays, they use bad words. They just need to act the right way and say the right words, and they're back on track. If you're a scientologist you notice when people act irrationally, and you know that if they'll just do their next level of clearing, they'll be better. If you belong to an -ism, you probably have tests of whether somebody is in their right mind or not, and you're have solutions handy. Some better than others. But if you don't belong to any -ism, you can't go around correcting other people's lack of sanity. Much of the time you have to just put up with it, ignore it, argue about it, or refuse to work with them, calling them names if necessary.

What I'm afraid of is whether maybe we all on this planet are half-lunatics walking around in our own little private worlds, seeing what we want to see, re-confirming our old beliefs, grumbling about things that didn't even happen, never quite understanding anybody else, other than when they accidentally happen to validate our own beliefs. Uarrrgh!
[ | 2003-05-07 14:32 | 37 comments | PermaLink ]  More >

 iTunes Store
picture Billboard:
Apple Service Tops Million First-Week Downloads. Apple Computer says its new digital music service, the iTunes Music Store, sold more than 1 million downloads in its first week, Billboard Bulletin reports. The figure roughly matches the download sales to date by all other digital music services combined, sources say.
No wonder. They've actually tried to make something that works for everybody involved. What a concept.
[ | 2003-05-07 16:42 | 2 comments | PermaLink ]  More >

 Brain Dancing
Cass McNutt suggests I'll probably like the BrainDance site. Yeah, good stuff, I like. About a book by Patrick Magee. Mind Mapping, NLP, meta perspectives, simple diagrams and cute mind tricks.
[ | 2003-05-07 16:53 | 10 comments | PermaLink ]  More >

 XML weather
Adam Curry mentions he found weather.interceptvector.com which provides weather for just about any town in XML format. He was looking for a way of putting it into an RSS feed, and a fellow named Marcus made a script for that. That's cool. But actually I'd just like to have the current weather in my area reported in the sidebar on ming.tv. So I spent an hour figuring out how to do that. A cron job picks up the XML file for Van Nuys, California every hour and stores it in a cache file. And I then made an XSL document, which defines a way of transforming some of that into a little snippet of HTML for my sidebar. I use PHP with the Sablotron XSL processor compiled in. This is a pretty primitive use of it, but I just wanted to try something slightly useful. I'd post the code here if I could just figure out a way of showing it in raw form.
[ | 2003-05-07 23:59 | 4 comments | PermaLink ]  More >

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