How do we create borders for our understanding of the world around us?
How do we, simply, create the understanding, the concepts with which we grasp things? In what different ways do we do it? How big are these differences between us?
Big philosophical questions, which can’t be thoroughly treated in a blogpost.
But I am looking for some differences which are especially visible and important today.
I think mainly about the computer revolution, but in the discussion about alternative realities these are also relevant issues.
How do people draw lines around phenomena that hit them, from private or other sources? How do I do it myself?
Many have a pretty unconscious relation to how they think, what system they inhabit, what ways of thinking shape their ways of thinking.
Everybody has a view on the world, on life, whether it is to a great extent self-made or to a great extent leans on other sources, on what someone else has thought out.
For people with academic education or upbringing, or interests, it is normal to talk about things you read and discuss what it means, and what it means to you. Some also have a personal philosophical position.
There are other ways of thinking, not least purely practical ways – also including “how do I achieve the one or the other goal.”
It is not an unusual position to start the whole thing, a personal philosophy, with “to survive, a human needs to eat” then maybe money, and next maybe…how do you get them.
I don’t really know very much more about normal roads from this, further into “practical” philosophies, practical, popular ways of thinking. They are probably also mixed with other systems, also from academic sources.
Everybody have some fixed notions, some looser ones. Some seem to have a very simple basic system which cannot be altered, they never change their opinion on certain issues, they only change what they do.
Or maybe I was just the wrong person to adjust or comment on the view of the people I met.
Reactions may, of course, come for many reasons.
But I believe everybody may have issues like that, and some are blocked on more basic points than others, maybe.
Perhaps I am wrong in making these categories too sharp, maybe the different ways of thinking only apply to different fields or have varying functions for different people.
This, I think, is most certainly the case, but it is sometimes a question how relevant your thoughts are for politics or societal matters if they are largely formed by some other work with a remote connection to it. It is a really difficult point for democracy, because you can’t just rule someone out of the debate, that’s against the whole idea of society, of democracy.
But the task of judging competence, relevance of an argument today…
Is there a good reason to be stubborn? You never know quite what you run into when you talk to someone, sometimes hang-ups, sometimes basic truths. One must consider.
If you have only little schooling on a field, but still opinions and some knowledge, you may be more sensitive towards derision and ridicule made about what you hold to be holy truths.
Sometimes those truths are actually holy, more or less, maybe you shouldn’t give them away, but with a diploma in your pocket and the finished work that goes with it, it is easier to be sure of yourself and not be offended by nonsense, and you may also easier have the ability to consider any objection and simply any point made, even if it is coarsely formulated. It may be easier to discuss with people outside your field when you feel safe.
It is also easier to discuss, because you have access to concepts and the habit of discussing them.
If you really lack education, sometimes your confidence is so small that you don’t have the courage to say anything, and what you might have to say won’t be heard. The respect – especially for formal education – may be so huge that you eradicate your own mind, almost, when you meet these things.
People with this type of attitude may have real trouble in being heard in many environments, and are, I believe, also often misunderstood.
It is also many times difficult to make a connection between educated and uneducated thought, precisely because you have to be so careful not to offend or straight out crush people’s arguments. It may be the case both ways, maybe depending on who is “in charge”.
If you have got too much flattery for your knowledge for no reason or for not good enough reasons, your self-confidence may be totally unrealistic. I sometimes wonder, with some politicians, whether they are of this type or the former.
Too many also have too much respect for the political positions, or other titles, famous names.
Even a member of parliament had in my mind status and deserved in my head really too much respect, until I interviewed one of them once. I was not really impressed by the knowledge he had.
But his private attitudes, the person, did not shock me at all. Many see politicians, usually the ones they disagree with, as bad people, which I often find strange. Their politics, or part of it, may be stupid and stubborn, but more rarely the person, I think, privately.
Many believe pretty straightforward what they see on the TV screen or the Internet, this is life, this is reality.
This is a problem.
Maybe you can sometimes see something of a politician’s personality on the screen, but remember that it is all directed, made into a piece of news, what you see is what the journalist or the desk feel is interesting. It is only a few seconds or minutes taken out of days and weeks and years of presence on the political stage, whether the more negative or more positive side is highlighted.
Seeing people from the gallery in parliament tells you a good bit more, even if you are not as close as the corridors.
Some politicians seem just as straightforward as their voters, and some are not. Still too many comments are on the simple side.
I think if you grew up or live in a professional environment, you act professionally and play your role, not out of dishonesty, which some think, but because you know what the job itself, and the position, demands, and relate to that.
If you don’t know this kind of environment, you don’t know this, that one is normally playing a role, you may believe that the minister thinks like yourself. As I said, it is not necessarily dishonest to be a professional if you use it in the right way, you just have one or a few extra links between yourself and what you do, what comes out when you are at work.
I am used to leaving my private life pretty much at home when I work, and instead bring principles of conduct, interest in the work itself, and of course friendliness and presence, but not all the time private presence and feelings.
And when it comes to “reading” the “simple” ones as they speak, I feel that the professionals often read into his or her words just as much of his or her professional attitude – which simply isn’t there – he or she probably knows nothing about it, what you see is maybe in some other sense what you get, or they talk simply from another world.
But if you constantly ask them professional questions and expect them to be answered professionally, in the end they learn the language and behave like one, but is still a straightforward amateur with rough thoughts in their head. You just don’t see it or hear it, unless you are the same type yourself, maybe.
The problem of communication across the lines of real professionals and real amateurs creates a lot of trouble.
I would also start with checking this as a possibly important thing, if my job was to find out why the bureaucracy is still growing. It does here, under a more or less populist government. The number of public employees grows a lot, even if the far-right and moderate politicians want the opposite.
When it comes to lightweight statements in public life, you still have to check what they say, whether there is something in it or not.
This is a problem, because their stubbornness and ignorance sometimes make them say and propose and now do things that can takes years to find out the real truth in.
Their unfamiliarity with the system also creates language problems. If you are used to thinking in abstract terms, and used to know how the system works, simply used to…using the system, you sometimes don’t understand what they are getting at. It may be that they try to do something real, but you don’t always know what, because discussions have been going on for too long, with too many questions and answers on a faulty fundament. You may have missed an initial point, which in its turn does not belong where it ends up.
Comments from the side is often not entirely wrong, but many are given too much weight, they should be more thoroughly sorted out and interpreted before they turn a whole discussion in a wrong direction.
Of course, some arguments are nonsense all along, but to consider what’s what also includes the task of finding out what is important both in different walks of life, and for the system itself.
Comments come from sometimes very different and today totally unfamiliar positions.
I believe, even if I should take care not to generalize too much, that many problems could have been more easily solved, without turning a system or even the system more or less upside down. Sometimes maybe the biggest problem was that no one listened to “unqualified” critics simply because of their way of speaking, and a small problem, or a problem which could be solved, grew into something which couldn’t be handled.
I believe it happens.
Or the one side cannot understand the importance of something for the other side.
That certainly goes both ways, “beneath” and “above” the line, as I say.
The Internet and the world of computers – as we use them today – I feel have a strong element of abstraction, in the sense that it creates a distance towards reality. It is after all a screen we are talking about, which we spend so much time on and in. Our minds may well conceive it in the end as real, unconsciously.
I try to give my kids an understanding of fiction and abstraction, also because it is part of my education and work (I am also a musician and a piano teacher), but in a sense I don’t really think they need more practical experience with these things, they have so much hands-on experience from a wee age of these things, I am sure they know intuitively a lot more about it than me.
What they need is real life experience, more of it, I am talking hiking, washing up with your hands, not machine, making wooden things by hand, cooking – the kind of practical problem solving, using your body to do it.
I normally talk a lot, by Norwegian standards at least, with the kids also, which I consider a very “real” experience for them, also because it means a lot to me. I am not so remote with them, I think.
But they need more practical, physical experiences to counter the hours looking into the screen.
The computer is also in one sense pretty much a practical or technical world in my opinion, after all, it is a machine.
But you move very few muscles, and if you are lazy you solve few problems too. For a non-practically, non-technically interested it is also really a different world. One-sidedness can be a problem in any field, and the distance that technically thinking contains and technically doing contains, creates trouble for me.
I mean, we are more or less (some of us think too much) relying on normal machines for physical tasks. The new problem is that thinking is automatized and engineered.
I don’t know if you can say it goes further than the first industrial revolution, but it certainly goes far.
I am kind of happy that my kids have to learn to write by hand.
I met a conductor on the local train who found it comic that you should have to open the window, by hand, to get the temperature down. Seriously, there is a ventilation system here, and it should work, shouldn’t it??
Anything that connects you to yourself, the world, other people, is useful, especially when you grow up. Art, musical experiences, as I say, practical work, sports.
Actually it depends also on the attitude and contact of the one who teaches you and shows it to you, even with computers, I have to admit, in spite of my scepticism.
If they know the way to the ground through their activity, you can learn it, and what you get if you’re lucky is the ability to trust yourself and your own judgment, and hopefully from there you can learn the ability to communicate with others and judge their statements and opinions and doings.
Practical people need to consider that there is remoteness and there is presence also in the intellectual worlds, and the intellectuals or intellectually inclined need to consider that also practical people think, in their own practical ways too.
To make these two worlds communicate is a major task, especially today. Of course, not everybody is only one or the other, luckily, maybe no one 100%, but there is certainly a polarisation going on these days.
There is a lot of good things in everyday popular culture, much presence, for instance. If you talk about everyday habits there is normally an honesty and clear notions which may make it clear who you are and what is said, but the link to educated knowledge is not always clear or there at all.
Especially in the media today this is of course a problem. But remember that on both sides of this border there are people who actually connect to the “other side”, and of course, actually, everybody is a mix of thinking and doing.
In arts and music these things mix to the extent that it often gives no meaning to split them up. The problems of communicating across these lines, which often follow class lines, maybe reach a peak when there is a lot of social movement up or down, which I thoroughly believe is the case today. And up rather than down.
One of the abilities that art has, books, music, whatever, is to answer or help you answer yourself, the question “Who am I?” or even “What should I do?” – and not only once and for all, but frequently, if you seek these experiences. It can talk to you about new things you experience as life moves forward. Or when it comes to a halt, it can sometimes help you come past an obstacle.
I am not a big sports fan, but I believe it may have more or less the same properties – every activity that brings you close to yourself in a deeper sense, more or less any activity which really means something to you, could probably and will probably sometimes have such effects.
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In modern art, the idea that everything is art has provoked many who only want to see beautiful things, from the past or present.
I frequently want to see and listen to beautiful things from the past and the present myself, but for one thing they are never only beautiful, they also contain problems and sometimes violent elements.
I also find it not such a bad idea that you can take ideas from art and put it into any part of your life, of anybody’s life. The art of living, life as an art form, sounds like it could be liberating if you use it sensibly and the things fit you.
Of course, sometimes an exhibition is more sociology than aesthetics, but if it has interesting content and is meant to be like that, who cares?
Actually, it is also only a way of saying something that can be said of many fields, maybe all major ones, whichever they may be. Everything is art, sports, etc.
One should perhaps limit this way of thinking too at some point. All the talk of creativity in business life…most of it is about how to make money, or about administration, which I think has not and should not have too much to do with art. I don’t know, at least I feel that the border between real creativity and the simplification of routines seems often not quite in order.
Privately, I find art experiences useful, sometimes challenging, even sometimes too challenging. There are things I avoid, but maybe just in certain periods.
There is also probably a limit to how thin you can brew a pot of tea, how far you can stretch a method or theme in art, but before you scream out slogans against artists, consider the art of sushi, yeah, finely cut fish, exactly, where the shape of the piece of fish is basically the art, there is no mixing of ingredients in this.
It is supposed to affect the taste, I think. At least the experience of the food.
The blending of tastes does of course exist in other parts of the Japanese kitchen, and in other things that you eat with the sushi pieces, but not in the art of cutting itself, which takes you years to learn.
Consider also the many types of green tea, which I would suspect to create pretty different sensations in the mouth of say a Norwegian and a Chinese.
When it comes to “giving the mind a ride”, as some modernists state as one aim of modernism or of art, I also think you can maybe reach a limit – if you loosen up everything, in the end you will need to fasten some things.
I myself write a lot of music which solves problems and land on a calm and usually reasonably happy note, but without avoiding the problems, I hope. Without them the content of the music would be sparse.
Sometimes maybe the protesters against art are the ones who could need that ride once in a while.
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I wanted to say something more about the Internet.
The property of limitlessness in the Internet exists also in the social side of it, meaning for instance that contact with other people does not have real or physical borders, only the ones you create in your mind or create in your mind and represent on the screen.
This demands new things of us, and we must be in the total beginning of a sensible use of this technology.
Normally when people leave the room they leave, but in Cyberspace this is only partly true.
You also don’t always know what is the case, whether they are still “there” or not.
This whole universe seems sometimes dangerous or possibly creating chaos, you start comparing it to the collective subconscious or other concepts of unsure or varying content, a common Sargasso Sea where everybody’s souls and thoughts are contained and in movement.
We’re all in the same bath tub.
There is a lot of work and energy put into security in this universe, but in a world which seems so far pretty chaotic.
To define or draw the lines around such things as privacy or your own personal borders has both judicial and psychological sides which are far from properly defined.
The merry enthusiasm that sometimes flows from the professional computer people does not always calm my nerves. Too many voices seem unconscious of or uninterested in these problems. I like the freedom the new reality gives, in a way, but so far not quite the mess of it all.
Addiction is also a problem, partly because so much is streamlined according to the habits of the computer field or computer science itself. I am not sure whether the strategy of digitalising more or less the whole society was so smart, the way it has been done here in Norway.
It is demanding for society, and also costs us money, not least buying the machines and the “solutions”, a process which does not stop.
There is also a problem here, in Norway, that there hardly exists a common public ground for debates and information anymore – news, actually – which means that irresponsible governments can rush things through parliament, things which need either to be stopped or changed through discussion, and they are passed almost unseen and unheard and are implemented almost or totally without people knowing it.
The people. Us.
The fact? that visuality, to sort things by their visual properties, is closer to a practical way of thinking than a thinking in theoretical concepts, is also a thought which could need consideration.