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Friday, October 27, 2006

Mitigating the Interference of Humans

Many people like to "rescue" insects. When funning across spiders, ladybugs, bats or butterflies in their house, many people go to the trouble of catching them and taking them out into the garden rather than the easier remedy of killing them. Doing such a thing such as that makes me feel that I'm doing a little bit to accommodate the fact that humans have eliminated the habitat of many creatures. This is a story about a mysterious thing that happened one time when I did something like that...

look closer

While driving across country by myself in the summer, I stopped to camp in Colorado in Dinosaur National Monument. Because I was driving at night and sleeping during the day, and because of the heat, I was spending nights awake and still wearing my shorts.

My campsite was a beautiful one on a ridge. I had made a fire in the camp ring to pass the time by burning the wood lying there that had been left by the campers before me. Without a moon, I couldn't see well except for the light of the fire. It was so dark that I could see the light of the fire slightly illuminating the other side of the canyon if I looked away from the light for awhile.

So it took awhile before I noticed a group of large carpenter ants who were running around on one of the logs I had put on the fire. I laughed to imagine what it would be like for these ants, because they were milling around very fast as if they had to dance to not burn their feet on the slowly warming log. To give them a way of escape, I found another stick and placed it from the log the ants were on to the edge of the fire ring, which wasn't hot. Delightfully, they figured it out at once and made a fast march toward safety.

After arriving on the ground, most of the group of perhaps ten ants set off. One ant reversed direction to come toward me. Eventually the ant ran into the road block of my bare leg. It stopped and touched my leg with its anntennae, tickling me for perhaps ten seconds. Then it turned around and trundled off in the direction of the rest of its comrades.

What I've always wondered was, was that ant saying, "Thanks!"

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Truth for Yourself

What do you think of the questions on this page about how to determine truth for yourself?
by David Gorman

I really like the idea that he says we have a built-in value meter that tells us when something needs attention. I also enjoyed the way David outlines some of the points of how evaluating can be done by yourself.

It has always been curious to me how people will go to the trouble of training themselves to do a new thing, and it never occurs to them to consider or question the need for why add this new habit. I guess hindsight is 20/20 - and most other wise sayings apply here. It always also fascinates me how people can so easily misunderstand each other because they have such original meanings of the words themselves in how they tell themselves what to do.

It's always interesting to me how people mean a very different thing when they use a word. Take for example the word, "grounding." When different people say they are 'grounding' themselves, they all do a very different thing - so it's not a very good word to use if you want people to participate with you and do a specific action. It seems more accurate to describe the active parts of what you want people to do, because the word "grouning" seems to be a somewhat all-inclusive and popular word in certain unique subcultures.

Alexander teachers would think about how everyone is doing a different thing in response. Others might think of "wiping the slate clean" so they blank their minds. Some people think of their new age teacher, so they close their eyes to shut out distractions. Some think of their yoga teacher's class, so they inhale a big breath. Some people think of their American Indian ancestors or the sweat lodge, so they imagine their spirit animal. Others think of using creative thinking strategies to improve themselves, so they brainstorm. Some would think of their balance, sigh or yawn. Dialoguers would think of the holographic universe that allows the fly-eye perceptions of multiple realities, as I would. (But then I know I'm rarely representative of what most people would do.)

So this quality makes me much more careful how I tell others and myself to do something if I have a reason to communicate precisely.

Commonly Habitual

There is some bramble of confusion that goes on when human perceptual abilities interpret meaning. Humans seem to imperatively send ourselves a message of a result or conclusion so very quickly. Why so quick and needfully is this done? How does it serve us for humans to be designed to be relentlessly driven? If there is a habit in place that can go into action to respond to our instantaneous interpretations or conclusions (and once the order of "go" is allowed,) humans act so automatically! This sense registers as if the action is "going off by itself," it's such a common experience. We seem to blindly follow an already defined habitual course of what we assume is a suitable response. If it has been conditioned in us, that's the way we stay.

Someone can prevent themselves from making a conclusion or an interpretation, and instead "suspend" this habitual response and the order to now go into action. Then these habitual responses can be put on "temporary pause." Doing this has an advantage; it makes it possible to choose how you prefer to react and definitely gives you more options beyond how your assumptions and conclusions will allow you to react. Once you interrupt this Perception-Interpretation = Response process you can do at least three other possibilities: you can choose to can gain more data before you make an interpretation or conclusion, you can choose to do something else more appropriate or just choose to not react indefinitely.

But this takes quite a bit of training and skill to be able to do, because the justifications that require these habits have often been imperatively shaped and installed under duress. Instead most of us only sense what is bothering us - the negative problems. We don't seem to ask the right questions about how we got to where we are now. Many disciplines and therapies address this lack of questioning, and this lack of good ideas that may need to be updated. Some people don't ever ask themselves any questions!

It seems rare for people to be able to question or suspect our own thinking strategies in this "meta" reframing way, without undermining our sense of self in my familiar subculture. But I believe the ability to question one's own means of carrying out intentions is a sign of a strength of character.

Perhaps this is because we as humans are not designed to sense our own innate habitual programming that is "doing" something - we just use it. Habits are designed to become innate and disappear into skills that we can build on. But I can't believe that we humans have a design flaw that freezes us indecisively as more habits combine with other contradicting directives. But that's what I see happening at this point in my thinking. I know that one's bias selects what one gives attention to - so what I notice everywhere is probably wrong. Nevertheless, I see it so often.

I'm wondering if suspecting the assumptions and content of the original conclusions themselves would be even more useful than going to the trouble of suspending the reaction,(as opposed suspecting the strategy that is being used to respond to it.)

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Is Respect Shown by Offering or Receiving?

I'd like to explore this idea that talking or listening are two ends of the stick of how respect is shown. Because I'm not so sure that this it true. Sometimes it's respectful to be the one who does all the talking - because the other person wants to listen! Sometimes it's respectful to interrupt - because if you don't, the other person will just keep talking indefinitely because they feel awkward that nobody is talking - or because they're used to being entertaining.

I think that what is respectful depends on the situation at hand - and that is different for different people in different subcultures.

I think that it's true that for there to be a relationship - someone has to be playing both parts of whatever each person believes the relationship to be. I'm not sure that listening is so much better than talking - I think they're equal, all things considered. Of course, if you listen, you end up getting a whole lot more than when you're the one who is talking, usually. So in the realm of giving and taking - the giver is supposed to be the more ethically valued one in our culture and the givee is supposed to be devalued because they're on the receiving end - but the situation needs the givee. So how is the listener, who is the givee, is deemed to be the less desirable one when it comes to talking? I don't quite understand how that came to be in our culture when giving and taking are defined the way they are.

People when they first show up at the Dialogue group aren't used the the fact that those of us in the dialogue are interested in what they had to say. Mostly people are only interested in when you're going to stop talking so they can talk, or at least, that's the situational competition of the real estate of time that is usually available. I guess people imagine that if you are not talking, you don't have anything to offer.

It's a circumstantial competition for the space to say something. We only have a few hours together, mostly, until people disappear for another month off into the woodwork. People react in different ways. Having all the attention of all the other people in the dialogue is a little strange for most people. Never having been in the circumstance where people wanted to hear what they had to say, they had a lot to say to everyone. Then as time would go on, the need for having things to say would die down sort of naturally.

It has always been an interesting process to watch in a newcomer who has made themselves a part of a Dialogue group. When and how do they speak up to offer something?

Monday, October 09, 2006

How To Train A Cat

FitsPeople often assume that cats as a species are not able to be trained and that they can only be relied on to do what comes instinctively. I've always been attracted to felines because they seemed to have independent minds, much as people do. I've found that if you think of training to be a medium of non-verbal communication by a series of ritualized actions, cats are imminently trainable companions.

The problem is that a person will have little success using certain training techniques with a cat that they are able to use with a dog, such as punishment or lecturing. Some people specialize in being able to use only certain techniques. If these do not work, the solution is to apply them longer, faster or more violently. If a certain strategy does not work, a more exaggerated version of it is likely to have a worse effect. But many people don't seem to understand this observation. Thus, they believe that training a cat is impossible. To be able to train a cat and not the other way 'round, you need to be more intelligent than the cat is!

Cats respond really well to what is known as "behavior trains." This means that if the cat is sitting somewhere and you pet it, it will be likely to associate these two experiences with each other. Soon you'll be finding the cat sitting in that certain spot to tempt you so you may come up and pet it.

A behavior train goes something like this; you see the cat on the end of the couch by the door and you pet it, it purrs. When it purrs, you give it a treat that you have hidden in your pocket; then you open the door and the cat gets to go outside. Pretty soon, you'll have a cat who wants to go outside or wants a treat, sitting on the couch purring and looking at you expectantly and sometimes meowing when you open to door to communicate that it's the treat she wants, and not going outside.

This is why cats can get obnoxious when you take out the can opener and open any can. They learn to associate the sound of the can opener with the arrival of the food in the dish for them. I've had a cat who was very intelligent and learned quickly that her rather loud meow was very effective at getting a reaction out of me. I quickly learned that if I only fed her at dinnertime, then I was less likely to ever be woke up out of a dead sleep at 4am by a cat who was impatient for me to get it together to hand out breakfast.
At one time in the past this same smart cat, (pictured here,) learned a very long train of unkitty-like behaviors. I had moved into an RV that was parked across and down the street from where she spent the daytime with her kitty family. At the end of the day, I would come and fetch her from the yard of that house and carry her into my RV where she ate and slept for the night with me. By putting her down further and further away from the RV, she learned to scoot behind two houses; to wait at the end of the drive for me to indicate it was OK to cross the busy street; and to run quickly across the street; waiting at the door of the RV for me to key it open so she could slip inside. I guess it added to the challenge that there were possible canines in the area who could interfere with her that I was sure to protect her from.

Also in the past I had a wonderful ragdoll Himalayan who loved to be spun on a barstool so fast that you had to put your foot on it to keep it from falling over. She purred the whole time, and got off of the stool like a drunk. I should have put her on Letterman or something then.

Any kitty stories that you have?