How is knowledge spread and made compelling?

Our friend over at the Open Society blog republished one of our pieces. He “edited out some of the bit about right-left brains.” And we were fine with that, as we understood his reasons. He said that, “I think this sort of dichotomy causes more misunderstandings for the average person than it clarifies.” And, “in order to keep this piece accessible to everyone, it’s better not to get into ongoing technical neuroanatomy debates here.”

We have no dispute with his choice of editing. It was just information and we like to share information, but it wasn’t even a part of the central text of what had been written. Still, it was important in a general sense, as background knowledge and explanatory context. In another comment, he brought up scientific illiteracy and the sorry state of (un-)education in this country. And we couldn’t disagree with any of that. But we responded back with some lengthy comments clarifying our position.

It’s not my first instinct to edit myself, as might be apparent to anyone reading my blog. I’m not always known for my concision. The idea of changing what I write based on the presumed level of knowledge of prospective readers isn’t exactly my style, not that I don’t understand the purpose of doing so. It’s not as if I never consider how others might read what I write, something I always try to keep in mind. I do want to communicate well. I’m not here to merely talk to myself. But thinking about it made me more self-aware of what motivates me in wanting to communicate.

We’re talking about not only knowledge but, more importantly, understanding and meaning, what forms our sense of shared reality and informs our sense of shared purpose. It’s an interesting and worthy topic to discuss. By the way, we felt like speaking in the plural for the introduction here, but the comments below are in first-person singular. These are taken from the Open Society blog with some revision. So, we’re republishing our comments to the republishing of our post. It’s almost like a conversation.

Before we get to our comments below, let us share some personal experience. When we were young, we had regular conversations with our father. He would always listen, question, elicit further thoughts, and respond. But what he never did was talk down to us or simplify anything. He treated us as if we were intellectual equals, even though obviously that wasn’t the case. He was a professor who, when younger, had found learning easy and rarely studied. He had obvious proof his intellectual abilities. We, on the other hand, always struggled with a learning disability. Still, our father instilled in us a respect for knowledge and a love of learning.

That is how we strive to treat all others. We don’t know if that is a good policy for a blog. Maybe that explains why our readership is so small. One could interpret that as a failure to our approach. If so, we fail on our own terms. But we hope that, in our good intentions, we do manage to reach some people. No doubt we could reach a larger audience by following the example of the Open Society blog. That blog is a much more finished product than the bare-bones text on offer here. So, maybe all my idealism is moot. That is an amusing thought. Then again, Open Society has republished other posts by us. So that is some minor accomplishment. Maybe those edited versions are an improvement. I’ll leave that for others to decide

* * *

Sadly, you’re probably right that science education is so pathetically deficient in this country that discussion of even something so basic as the research on brain hemispheres likely “causes more misunderstandings for the average person than it clarifies.” I wish that weren’t true.

Still, I’d encourage others to look into the science on brain hemispheres. I’d note that the views of Iain McGilchrist (and Julian Jaynes, etc) have nothing to do with the layman’s interpretation. To be honest, there is no way to fully understand what’s going on here without some working knowledge in this area. But the basic idea comes across without any of the brain science. Maybe that is good enough for present purposes.

I’m not entirely opposed to making material more accessible in meeting people where they are at. But hopefully, this kind of knowledge will become more common over time. It is so fundamental that it should be taught in high school science classes. My aspiration for my blog is to inspire people to stretch their minds and learn what might at first seem difficult or strange, not that I always accomplish that feat. Instead, I’m likely to talk over people’s heads or simply bore them.

It can be hard to express to others why something seems so fascinating to me, why it’s important to go to the effort of making sense of it. I realize my mind doesn’t operate normally, to put it mildly. But even with my endless intellectual curiosity, I have to admit to struggling with the science at times (to be honest, a lot of the times). So, I sympathize with those who lose interest or get confused by all the differing and sometimes wrongheaded opinions about brain hemispheres or whatever.

* * *

Scientific illiteracy is a problem in the US. And it’s an open secret. I’ve seen plenty of discussion of it over the years. It would help if there was a better education system and not limited to college. Remember that three quarter of Americans don’t have any college education at all. That is why educational reform would need to start with grade school.

Still, I don’t know what is the main problem. I doubt the average American is quite as ignorant as they get treated, even if they aren’t well educated. For example, most Americans seem to have a basic grasp of the climate crisis and support a stronger government response. It’s not as if we had more science classes that we’d finally get politicians on board. The basic science is already understood, even by those politicians who deny it.

Saying the public is scientifically illiterate doesn’t necessarily tell us much about the problem. I was reading a book about the issue of climate change in one of the Scandinavian countries. They have a much better education system and more scientific literacy. But even there, the author said that it’s hard to have an honest public debate because thinking about it makes most people feel uncomfortable, depressed, and hopeless. So people mostly just don’t talk about it.

Part of it goes back to cognitive dissonance. Even when people have immense knowledge on a topic, there remains the dissociation and splintering. People can know all kinds of things and yet not know. The collective and often self-enforced silencing is powerful, as Derrick Jensen shows. The human mind operates largely on automatic. By the way, the science of brain hemispheres can explain some of why that is the case, a major focus of Jaynes’ work.

What we lack is not so much knowledge about the world as insight and understanding about our own nature. We have enough basic working knowledge already to solve or lessen all of the major problems, if we could only get out of our own way. That said, we can never have too much knowledge and improving education certainly couldn’t hurt. We’re going to need the full human potential of humanity to meet these challenges.

* * *

Here is a thought. What if underestimating the public is a self-fulfilling prophecy? Paralyzing cynicism can come in many forms. And I know I’m often guilty of this. It’s hard to feel hopeful. If anything, hope can even seem naive and wrongheaded. Some argue that we’re long past that point and now it’s time for grieving lost opportunities that are forever gone. But even if we resign ourselves to mere triage, that still requires some basic sense of faith in the future.

I’m not sure what I think or feel about all of this. But what does seem clear to me is that we Americans have never fallen into the problem of overestimating the public. Instead, we have a disempowered and disenfranchised population. What motivation is there for the public to seek further knowledge when the entire system powerfully fucks them and their loved ones over and over again? What would inspire people to seek out becoming better informed through formal education or otherwise?

Knowledge matters. But the larger context to that knowledge matters even more. I don’t know what that means in practical terms. I’m just thinking the public should be given more credit, not so easily let off the hook. Even when public ignorance appears justified based on a failed education system or a successful non-education system, maybe that is all the more reason to hold up a high standard of knowledge, a high ideal of intellectual curiosity, rather than talking down to people and dumbing down discussion.

That isn’t to say we shouldn’t try to communicate well in knowing our audience. On many topics, it’s true that general knowledge, even among the elite, is limited at best and misinformed at worst. But the worst part is how ignorance has been embraced in so many ways, as if one’s truth is simply a matter of belief. What if we stopped tolerating this willful ignorance and all the rationalizations that accompany it. We should look to the potential in people that remains there no matter how little has been expected of them. We should treat people as intellectually capable.

Education is always a work in progress. Still, the American public is more educated today than a century ago. The average IQ measured in the early 1900s would be, by today’s standards of IQ testing, functionally retarded and I mean that literally (increases in IQ largely measure abstract and critical thinking skills). Few Americans even had high school degrees until the Silent Generation. Society has advanced to a great degree in this area, if not as much as it should. I worry that we’ve become so jaded that we see failure as inevitable and so we keep lowering our standards, instead of raising them higher as something to aspire toward.

My grandfather dropped out of high school. You know what was one of his proudest accomplishments? Sending two of his kids to college. Now kids are being told that education doesn’t matter, that college is a waste of money. We stopped valuing education and that symbolizes a dark change to the public mood. To not value education is to denigrate knowledge itself. This isn’t limited to formal education, scientific literacy and otherwise. I failed to get much scientific knowledge in high school and I didn’t get a college degree. Even so, I was taught by my parents to value learning, especially self-directed learning, and to value curiosity. I’ve struggled to educate myself (and to undo my miseducation), but I was inspired to do so because the value of it had been internalized.

The deficiency in education doesn’t by itself explain the cause. It doesn’t explain why we accept it, why we treat mass ignorance as if it were an inevitability. Instead of seeing ignorance as a challenge, as a motivation toward seeking greater knowledge, American society has treated ignorance as the natural state of humanity or at least the natural state of the dirty masses, the permanent underclass within the Social Darwinian (pseudo-)meritocracy. In this worldview, most people don’t merely lack knowledge but lack any potential or worth, some combination of grunt workers and useless eaters. What could shift this toward another way of seeing humanity?

* * *

I was wondering where knowledge is truly lacking, where curiosity about a topic is lacking, and where it matters most. Climate change is one topic where I do think there is basic necessary level of knowledge, most people have a fair amount of interest in it, and it obviously is important. What’s going on with the climate change ‘debate’ has to do with powerful interests controlling the reigns of power. If politicians did what most Americans want, we’d already be investing money and doing research to a far greater degree.

Ignorance is not the problem in that case. But it’s different with other topics. I’ve noticed how lead toxicity and high inequality maybe do more fall victim to ignorance, in that for some reason they don’t get the same kind of attention, as they aren’t looming threats in the way is climate change. In one post, I called lead toxicity a hyperobject to describe its pervasive invisibility. Temperature can be felt and a storm can be watched, but lead in your air, water, and soil comes across as an abstraction since we have no way to concretely perceive it. Even the lead in your child’s brain shows no outward signs, other than the kid being slightly lower IQ and having some behavioral issues.

Nonetheless, I’m not sure that is a problem of knowledge. Would teaching about lead toxicity actually make it more viscerally real? Maybe not. That’s a tough one. If you asked most people, they probably already know about the dangers of lead toxicity in a general sense and they already know about specific places where there are high rates, but they probably don’t grasp how widespread this is in so many communities, especially toxicity in general such as with toxic dumps. I don’t know what would make it seem more real.

Lead, as tiny particles, doesn’t only hide in the environment but hides in the body where it wreaks havoc but slowly and in many small ways. Your kid gets into a fight and has trouble at school. The first thought most parents have is simple concern for treating the behavior and the hurt the child is expressing. It doesn’t usually occur that there might be something damaging their child’s brain, nervous system, etc. All the parent sees is the result of changes in their child’s behavior. Knowledge, on the personal level, may or may not help that parent. Lead toxicity is often a larger environmental problem. What is really needed is a change of public policy. That would require not only knowledge, as politicians probably already know of this problem, but some other force of political will in the larger society. But since it’s mostly poor people harmed, nothing is done.

It’s hard to know how knowledge by itself makes a difference. It’s not as if there haven’t been major pieces on lead toxicity published in the mainstream media, some of them quite in depth. But the reporting on this comes and goes. It’s quickly forgotten again, as if it were just some minor, isolated problem of no greater concern. There definitely is no moral panic about it. Other than a few parents in poor communities that live with most severe consequences, it isn’t even seen as a moral issue at all.

That is what seems lacking, a sense of moral outrage and moral responsibility. I guess that is where, in my own thinking, self-understanding comes in. Morality is a deeper issue. Some of these thinkers on the mind and brain (McGilchrist, Jaynes, etc) are directly touching upon what makes the heart of morality beat. It’s not about something like brain hemispheres understood in isolation but how that relates to consciousness and identity, relates to the voices we listen to and the authority they hold. And, yes, this requires understanding a bit of science. So, how do we make this knowledge accessible and compelling, how do we translate it into common experience?

Take the other example. What about high inequality? In a way, it’s a hot topic and has grabbed public attention with Thomas Picketty, Kate Pickett, and Richard Wilkinson. Everyone knows it’s a problem. Even those on the political right are increasingly acknowledging it, such as the recent book Alienated America by the conservative Timothy Carney who works for a right-wing think tank. The knowledge is sort of there and yet not really. Americans, in theory, have little tolerance for high inequality. The problem is that, as the data shows, most Americans simply don’t realize how bad it’s gotten. Our present inequality is magnitudes beyond what the majority thinks should be allowable. Yet we go on allowing it. More knowledge, in that case, definitely would matter. But without the moral imperative, the sense of value of that knowledge remains elusive.

As for brain hemispheres, I suppose that seems esoteric to the average person. Even most well-educated people don’t likely take it seriously. Should they? I don’t know. It seems important to me, but I’m biased as this is an area of personal interest. I can make an argument that this kind of thing might be among the most important knowledge, since it cuts to the core of every other problem. Understanding how our brain-mind works underlies understanding anything and everything else, and it would help to explain what is going so wrong with the world in general. Knowledge of the brain-mind is knowledge about what makes knowledge possible at all, in any area. I suspect that, as long as our self-knowledge is lacking, to that degree any attempt at solving problems will be impotent or at least severely crippled.

Would discussing more about brain hemispheres and related info in the public sphere help with the situation? Maybe or maybe not. But it seems like the type of thing we should be doing, in raising the level of discussion in general. Brain research might not be a good place to start with our priorities. If so, then we need to find how to promote greater psychological and neurocognitive understanding in some other way. This is why I’m always going on about Jaynes, even though he seems like an obscure thinker. In my opinion, he may be one of the most important thinkers in the 20th century and his theories might hold the key to the revolution of the mind that we so sorely need. Then again, I could be giving him too much praise. It’s just that I doubt the world would be worse off for having more knowledge of this variety, not just knowledge but profound insight.

All in all, it’s a tough situation. Even if Jaynes’ book was made required reading in every school, I don’t know that would translate to anything beneficial. It would have to be part of a larger public debate going on in society. Before that can happen, we will probably need to hit a crisis that reaches the level of catastrophe. Then moral panic will follow and, assuming we avoid the disaster of authoritarianism, we might finally be able to have some serious discussion across society about what matters most. I guess that goes back to the context of knowledge, that which transmutes mere info into meaning.

* * *

Here is an interesting question. How does knowledge become common knowledge? That relates to what I mentioned in another comment. How does knowledge become meaning? Or to put it another way: How does the abstract become concretely, viscerally, and personally real? A lot of knowledge has made this shift. So much of the kind of elite education that once would have been limited to aristocracy and monks has now become increasingly common. Not that long ago, most Americans were illiterate and had next to no education. Or consider, as I pointed out, how the skills of abstract and critical thinking (fluid intelligence) has increased drastically.

We can see this in practical ways. People in general have more basic knowledge about the world around them. When Japan attacked, most Americans had little concept of where Japan was. We like to think American’s grasp of geography is bad and it may be, but it used to be far worse. Now most people have enough knowledge to, with some comprehension, follow a talk or read an article on genetics, solar flares, ocean currents, etc. We’ve become a scientific-minded society where there is a basic familiarity. It comes naturally to think about the world in scientific terms, to such extent that we now worry about scientific reductionism. No one worried about society being overtaken by scientific reductionism centuries ago.

Along with this, modern people have become more psychologically-minded. We think in terms of consciousness and unconsciousness, motives and behavior, cognitive biases and mental illnesses, personality traits and functions, and on and on. We have so internalized psychological knowledge that we simply take it for reality now. It’s similar with sociology. The idea of race as a social construction was limited to the rarified work of a few anthropologists, but now this is a common understanding that is publicly debated. Even something as simple as socioeconomic classes was largely unknown in the past, as it wasn’t how most people thought. My mother didn’t realize she was part of a socioeconomic class until she went to college and was taught about it in a sociology class.

That is what I’m hoping for, in terms of brain research and consciousness studies. This kind of knowledge needs to get over the hurdle of academia and spread out into the public mind. This is already happening. Jaynes’ ideas influenced Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials which has been made into an HBO show. His ideas were directly discussed in another HBO show, Westworld, and caused a flurry of articles in the popular media. He also influenced Neal Stephenson in writing Snow Crash, also being made into a show, originally planned by Netflix but now picked up by HBO. I might take the superficial view of brain hemispheres as a positive sign. It means the knowledge is slowly spreading out into the general public. It’s an imperfect process and initially involves some misinformation, but that is how all knowledge spreads. It’s nothing new. For all the misinformation, the general public is far less ignorant about brain hemispheres than they were 50 years ago or a hundred years ago.

Along with the misinformation, genuine information is also becoming more common. This will eventually contribute to changing understandings and attitudes. Give it a generation or two and I’m willing to bet much of what McGilchrist is talking about will have made that transition into common knowledge in being incorporated into the average person’s general worldview. But it’s a process. And we can only promote that process by talking about it. That means confronting misinformation as it shows up, not avoiding the topic for fear of misinformation. Does that make sense?

Communication Failure, Again

I was in another debate with a feminist about rape. My last such discussion was a few months ago. It was equally frustrating this time. I really don’t like ideologues and I really don’t like political correctness, either from the left or the right.

It isn’t even about whether I agree with someone or not. In this case, I think I may have been more in agreement. But it is pointless because such a person wants to hide behind their beliefs and opinions, hide behind their righteousness indignation, and I suppose hide behind their sense of suffering and victimization.

Life sucks and there plenty of reasons to be angry. I understand that. It is easy to get defensive and polarized into a position. I also understand that. But all my attempts at understanding came to nothing, so it seemed.

It sure can be frustrating trying to talk to someone who is stuck in that mentality. The person I was dealing with never came around to understanding that we were probably completely in agreement, at least about the central issues at hand. She so much wanted to make me into an enemy that divisiveness and heated argument was the near inevitable endpoint.

I wish I was better at communicating in such situations.

Like Father, Not Like Son

Like Father, Not Like Son

Posted on Nov 30th, 2008 by Marmalade : Gaia Child Marmalade

I got annoyed at my dad during a phone conversation the other day.  I hung up on him which is the first time I’ve ever done that in my life.  And now I don’t even feel like talking to him at all.  My mom’s family is known for their ability to hold long-lasting grudges and I can almost feel that desire in me.  I’m willing to bet that I’m capable of it.

I don’t know if he was in a bad mood or what.  He was determined to be crtical about everything which in and of itself is something I can sympathize with, but what bothered me was that he was doing it in a self-righteous way (with an implication that my opinion was worth less than his).  He was arguing that there was only one truth and he so happened to be in possession of it. 

At first, I tried to point out the positives for sake of balance and then I tried to be conciliatory, but he just wouldn’t have it.  He wouldn’t leave it as simply a differences of perspectives… because, as a moral conservative, that smacks of moral relativism.  Someone has to be right and therefore everyone else must be wrong (Extraverted Thinking types I tell ya).

He was complaining about the lazy selfish kids these days (not like the good ol’ days when kids were obediant and submissive to authority… sure).  Basically, he was coming off as a bitter old man who has forgotten what it was like to be young.  He is a moral conservative and seems to think that Obama (who mobilized all those lazy selfish youngsters) is one of the first signs of the end of the world.  I’m the last to argue against the imperfections of this existence and the failings of human nature, but I’m not usually one of those that will try to pin it all on a specific group of people.

The thing is that he can be one of the nicest people.  He seems to genuinely like people and he is always helping others.  At the same time, he can be one of the most arrogantly judgmental people that I know.  He sees himself as a self-made man and arrogance is often the flaw of this type of person. 

He has had his struggles in life like everyone, but he has never known really hard times… such as involving racial prejudice, poverty, major illness, or long-term depression.  I don’t get the sense that he has a deep understanding of or compassion for the suffering of others which are the very things I value above all else.  This isn’t to say he isn’t compassionate.  He is a caring person in a patriarchal fatherly kind of way.  He cares about the poor as one who has never been poor, but he does care.  He goes to great effort to make a positive difference in the world.

His morality seems to be primarily based upon intellectual principles and a sense of social obligation.  He does have a more accepting side that is very much genuine, but his righteous side is never very far away.  It can actually bother me even more sometimes when I sense him trying to hide his righteous side.  If someone is going to feel judgmental towards me, they might as well just get it out in the open.

What I was thinking about is how people can have such contradictory sides of their personality.  I’m the same way.  I can be extremely compassionate and understanding, but there is another part of me that is severely misanthropic.  Despite or because of my understanding of suffering, I can simply get stuck in my suffering… even selfishly stuck.  My dad, because he isn’t overwhelmed by such an intimate knowledge of suffering, is much more able to actively help others. 

Theoretically, balance is always possible and to that extent desirable.  However, experience has shown me that this ideal of balance is rarely a reality.

I’m not in a morally superior position to judge my father.  I guess what my annoyance comes down to is that he wants to put himself above others as an example of superiority.  He wants to be admired and looked up to.  He has a side of him that feels quite the opposite of superior, but this is the side that he rarely shows.  I know that it bothers him that he feels his sons don’t respect him, but I’d respect him more if he’d let that more vulnerable side show more.  However, maybe that is the same as saying that I’d like him better if he was more like me.

From the perspective of the societal standard of morality, he is a much better man than I am.  He is a respectable professor and church leader.  He has high expectations that he strives hard to live up to.  He gives of himself constantly in that his life revolves around others.  He is one of those people who needs people to need him.  That is what our society values.  He is an admirable representative of our society’s aspirations.  He is the American ideal of ambiton (with its concomitant shadow of the advantages and privilege of being a middle class white male… which my dad would deny).

He is an Extraverted Thinking type which has been the ideal male personality type of our society.  He is a very well developed person in terms of his personality inclinations.  He even has come to sense the more Feeling side of life in his older age, but of course this gets subjugated to his dominant function of Extraverted Thinking.  His moral righteousness may even be an expression of his being in the grip of his inferior function of Introverted Feeling.  Our inferior function becomes stronger as we age which can both be good and bad.

I’m the opposite of him as my dominant function is Introverted Feeling.  My being raised by two Extraverted Thinking types has left a lasting impression on me.  I sense that a significant element of my depression is how much I’m drawn into the grip of my inferior Extraverted Thinking. 

Our weaknesses are simply the other side of our strengths.

The practical purpose of my thinking about this is the consideration of my relationship with my dad… what it could be and what I don’t want it to be.  If he was always as righteous as he was the other day, I very well might gladly refuse to speak to him for the rest of my life.  Fortunately, he rarely behaves in such an overtly righteous manner.  Most often he tries to be kind and friendly.  When he is in a good mood, which is more often than not, he enjoys being humorous and entertaining.

In the past, it seemed I was closer to him than my brothers.  I’ve tended to be forthright in speaking about my life to my parents whereas my brothers tend to keep the personal out of their relationships to them.  Nonetheless, my brothers get along with my dad better maybe because of that formality.  My brothers interact with him through more neutral subjects such as computers and finances.  I’m the only one who will debate with my dad about what he deeply values (we both love to debate), and I seem to be the one he feels the most comfortable with being honest about his opinions (which was what did happen during the recent phone conversation).  Even so, we’re usually both good at coming to a middle ground (which is what didn’t happen during the recent phone conversation).

My famly isn’t all seriousness.  My brothers and I learned our humor from our dad, and so humor is a major aspect of how we all relate.  However, its my oldest brother who has the most similar personality to my dad and also the most simlar of a sense of humor.  They’re both more congenially entertaining in their humor.  My humor, on the other hand, goes between the extremes of inanely silly and cynically dark.  My dad often uses his congenial nature to try to manipulate people… manipulate in a good-intentioned kind of way.  But, good intentions or not, I’m stubbornly resistant (a trait from my mom) to being anyone who tries to change me or my mood.  I’m what I am and that is just the way it is.

Because of all this, my dad is an extemely more likable person than I’d ever hope to be.  I’m not much of a people pleaser whereas my dad is the gregarious type who is the life of the party.  In his adult age, he has gained the confidence and popularity that he feels he lacked as a chld.  He is proud of his accomplishments and the person he has become.  He is very capable in what he does and he is very knowledgable.

I’ve learned a lot from him.  I too have become a knoledgable person in my own way.  And one aspect I’m superior to him is in my obsessive compulsion to see all sides to every situation… which he sees as moral relativism.  His knowledge is highly specialized and focused, but my knowledge is randomly wide-ranging and motivated by undirected curiosity.  I learned my rationality from him, but as an Extraverted Thinking type rationality comes more natural to him as being a well developed attribute of his everyday behavior.  His rationality is usually focused on practical matters of living a responsible life (even his humor has a tinge of social responsibility to it).  My rationality, because its more of a learned attribute and because its ruled by my Introversion, is more detached and neutral.  I don’t try to conform my rationality to any particular moral belief system as he does.

My dad and I live in very different worlds, and yet there is quite a bit that we share.  My base personality might be more of my mom’s contribution, but my dad has had an immense impression on me. 

He is the standard by which I feel judged in my failure to live up to his example, and he is the standard of our society that just doesn’t make sense to me personally.  He has all the proof on his side, the respectability, the “hard-earned” money.  He lives his moral ideals.  When he dies, there will be a long line of people wanting to make grand statements about what an admirable fellow he was. 

I have nothing tangible to show for my life besides who I am as an individual, but to him what matters is what you do and what you accomplish.  Its obvious from his perspective that his opinions are superior because the life he has lived is superior.  The proof is in the pudding. 

I’m sure he’ll want to reconcile, but I’ll always know his true opinions even when he hides them.  He wouldn’t judge me directly, but I represent what he sees as problematic in the world.  He wouldn’t say it that way to my face.  Still, those are the facts.  And that is what erupted the other day in that phone conversation.

I really don’t know how to relate to him.  If we weren’t father and son, there wouldn’t be much to base our relationship upon.  That seems to be the way family is.  The close friendships I seek are with people who aren’t like anyone in my family.  I get along with my family actually quite well, but family is what they are.  At one time, I almost had a friendship-like relationship with one of my brothers, but even that has mostly dissipated with his own family responsibilities and stresses.

My family is there for me in a distant kind of way.  If worst came to worst, they’d help me out.  But my life would have to be horribly bad before my family would intervene.  I’d have to be homeless or suicidal or something.  I mean what could they do?

For all my dad’s accomplishments, any good advice he could give me would most likely be worthless to me.  He cares about me as a father… in the way that being a father is a social obligation… but he doesn’t know me.  And I’m sure that I don’t really know him either.

As I get older, I start questioning who it is that I would turn to in times of need.  I’m starting to feel that I’d more likely turn to a friend than to family.  I have sincere doubts about the support my family can offer.  Then again, I have sincere doubts about the support anyone can offer anyone else.

Access_public Access: Public 3 Comments Print Post this!views (95)  

about 12 hours later

AB517 said

LMAO … I have no insight … let us be clear on that.
To doubt humans is human. 
Hey Marm.  Good to see ya.  I have been reading your stuff and I am sorry I have no responses. This one caught my eye.
I can not believe this would/could cause the rift Marm.  This sounds exactly like my relationship with my father.  He did not “know” me nor I he.  It is the way for most of us.  I loved my dad and he was the smartest bravest man I knew. 
I know as a father that I talk to my children at times as if they were property and I work on that.  They also do the same to me.  The statements of “kids today are ….” Is as old as humans themselves.   My niece and nephew are in their mid 30’s and have children.  I still have to stop myself from running up to them, picking them up, and kissing them like they are five.  They are people now … just regular ol’ people … with the same flaws I have … but boy I love them.
Some days we are not in the “mood” for them on exactly the same day they are not in the “mood” for us.  You have stated many nice things about him so focus on them and be vigilant of yourself.  I say these things on the bases of a “normal relationship” (what ever that means) between parents and children.
My sister gets hung up on “yeah, but how do you know”.  Nobody knows … ease up on the gas … to stop spinning the tires … pick a direction … and move.  Data collection is a tricky business, not enough leads to horrendous mistakes and taking to long ends up in nothing getting accomplished or so scattered it is meaningless.
Just because you ask advice does not mean you have to use it.  Do not feel bad that you can not turn to your family … that is ok … it is you that wishes you could.

Marmalade : Gaia Explorer

about 20 hours later

Marmalade said

I don’t normally think about who might be following blog.  I sorta remember telling you about this site.  I’m glad my blog was interesting enough for you to read even if you had nothing to add.

I can understand why this one caught your eye.  Its more personal than most of my blogs  I considered not posting it as its mostly just me venting.

Yeah, this by itself wasn’t the cause of the rift or the sense of rift.  It was just symbollic of our relationship.  I know its not anything unusual.  Its common among family, and its common in all kinds of relationships.  Its hard to remember people are just people.  I’m almost incapable of thinking of my father as anything other than as my father.  That is just who is to me.  Our roles in life become very clear in our close relationships.

I generally focus on the the ways we get along.  For the most part, we get along just fine.  I am grateful for all that I’ve learned from him.  He is a pretty good father.  I have no major complaints of how I was raised.

The difficulty I have is our roles get in the way.  I don’t really care about him as the role he plays  My interest in him is in the person who he is.  I usually enjoy relating to him even if it isn’t at the same level of a friendship.  I’m not sure if I act like a son, but I feel that he acts like a father.  He is a person who seems to like roles.  I don’t.  To him, its his duty to act as a father and so any discussion between us always has an inequality of power.  We can’t just talk. Often talks with him can feel like negotiations of our relationship.

Whatever… that is just the way it is.

By the way, I just tried to visit the Agnostic forum.  It seems no longer to exist or something.  Was it closed down?  If so, that is too bad.  It was a fairly nice group where discussions were mostly civil.

2 days later

AB517 said

Yeah it is down.  POOF … it was gone.
Do not negotiate, let him be him and you be you.  If he is locked into a role, so be it.  You can understand he is talking as if he is still your caregiver.  This puts you in a position where you understand him.  You do not have to agree with everything thing he says nor do you have to address every point.  To him you’re still his “young” son and, how I know you, I would think he loves you an awful lot.
Maybe he is not a touchy feely guy.  My dad was a WW2 paratrooper, he never changed a diaper.  He missed out, and so did I, but that does not diminish the respect and love for him.  He did the best he knew how.  I tell my kids now ‘Hey this is our first time being parents … we are learning and will make mistakes too”
It is good to talk to you again Ben.  I know you know this stuff already and you will move past it.