PERSONAL REALITY AS CARICATURE

A caricature is a rendered image showing the features of its subject in a simplified or exaggerated way.

The “rendered image” here refers to both what we experience any moment in consciousness, our experientials – & –  the “reality/world” providing “context/meaning” to our experiences.

As in a caricature of a person’s physical appearance, in our momentary experiences, or our “reality/world”, much of the information is missing and what does exist is exaggerated (given more significance) – not necessarily humorously.

Although being conceptually/rationally well aware, for many decades, of the limitations of both my experientials and my context (even so greatly  expanded as my nuet-as-context has become), intuitively/emotionally I am a naive realist – my environment is “out there” and my body “here”, and I live in an environment of varied entities and with reports of a wider reality I read about or view – as being there for me to witness should I go there.

Recently, listening to one audio book and reading another book I am beginning to have intuitional/emotional misgivings about the reality of my world. What I didn’t know, and wasn’t aware of, that great absence of significant knowledge, shocks and embarrasses me.

It alerts my attention when I realize that this is the situation for every human person, although there is a great diversity in the Magnitude/Scope/Complexity of individual realities.

The primary impact on me is to humble. It causes me to re assess my use of Positive Ignorance as distinct from Innocence. Not to avoid using this significant distinction, but to examine the impact of the vast holes in our knowledge that are smoothly covered over (confabulated) by our minds demanding coherence and closure.

THE TWO BOOKS

THE UPRIGHT THINKERS

The book is The Upright Thinkers by Leonard Mlodinow. Other than having a strong physicist bias, it is a very revealing history of science, with a special focus on the evolution of cultural contexts that accompanied the discovery of new knowledge and hypotheses. This feature was exciting to find, as it fit well with my own thinking, and I was pleased to find such a rich resource. But, as I read about Galileo and Newton I discovered that my knowledge of them was a caricature. My knowledge of both their persons and their thoughts & discoveries were over simplified and distorted. And I consider myself knowledgeable about the history and philosophy of science!

Over the years, as I read biographies of scientists, I realized that they were far more complex beings than I had imagined. That deeper insight into specific scientists was rewarding; but expected – I had not previously attended to the whole lives of these persons. But, with Galileo and Newton, it wasn’t just their personal stories that were new. I had learned previously that Newton probed his eye with knitting needles to experiment with visual perception. I knew that persons with special talents were also eccentric.

What was special was the interweaving of knowledge and context. How Galileo had written about the idea that Newton used in his first law. That Halley introduced Galileo’s concepts to Newton (more on Halley, later). That Hooke had first proposed the decline of force from source as to the inverse of the square of the distance relation. Newton wove concepts in ways to change context. The time was ripe for a major context change. Halley, with his own funds, published Newton – which went viral and reality was never the same. It wasn’t Newton’s Laws that were significant; it was that UNIVERSAL Scientific Laws that could lead to quantitative exploration EMERGED – clearly, for the first time. Newton drove the stake in Aristotle’s heart. This is but one instance in the many millennial history of the emergence of human thinking and changing contexts. And here, I’ve been the one crowing about context, only to discover how far behind I was.

 
FOUNDING GARDNERS

The audio book is  Founding Gardeners by Andrea Wulf. I engaged this book after being fascinated by her more recent publication, Chasing Venus. In retrospect, Chasing Venus should have alerted me to my reality holes, but it was a narration of adventure and research expeditions, of which I have read a few.  It did surprise me that I had never learned about this. I was/am disappointed that Wulf never talked about how timing the passage of Venus over the Sun enabled them to compute the actual size of the solar system. I hadn’t known that after Newton/Kepler/Tycho/Galileo we knew the relative distances of the planets from the Sun; BUT we had no knowledge of the actual scale or size of the solar system.  Haley (again) had written before dying a proposal for a research expedition to measure the next occultation of Venus – when Halley would have been 104 years.  These events occur in pairs, about ten years apart, and then with gaps of hundreds of years. Wulf tells the fantastic story of an “international” effort to set up observations sites (during the 7 years war between Britain and France). What was new to me was the strong attraction SCIENCE had for the cultures and leaders of that time.

Founding Gardeners documents the intense interest (almost obsession) Washington, Franklin, Adams, Jefferson, and Madison had about gardening, both as a personal, physical activity and as a creative enterprise. While Washington was waiting in Manhattan as the large English fleet filled the harbors, he wrote the manager of his garden at Mt. Vernon detailing what to do. Jefferson did the same from Europe during his many stays there. I finally comprehend the war between the Federalists and Republicans as between agrarian and urban reality contexts, gardeners vs businessmen. The significance of this tale to this essay is my discovery that my knowledge of the Revolutionary War and the founding of the USA was blatant caricature.

This caricature was imposed on me by my schooling and the history books I read. True, I never studied those happenings to any depth; never reading a book focused on them. My school learning of history was bits and pieces, of propaganda.  I had read and viewed many items of those times, but only isolated factors. I never, and still don’t, comprehend why the revolution was successful and how the squabbling states were able to unite into a nation. It is hard to imagine this resulting from the mix of rancorous conventions and backroom agreements. For example, the site for the capital, not in an urban area as was demanded by the Federalists, but in the boonies was traded by the Republicans for the Banking System favorable for the urban industrialists – a backroom deal of great import. The deception and shit we experience today existed among our “founding fathers”. This “story” wasn’t “new”, but I lacked much of the details. What was shocking was that I realized I was grossly innocent about the early history of the USA, in spite of my “education”. I wasn’t “ignorant” about the founding of the USA, not knowing that I didn’t know, but oblivious of my lack of knowledge. I had been fed a caricature, and swallowed it whole.

The last chapter of Founding Gardeners provided support from some of my insights reading The Upright Thinkers. Quotes were presented by the founding fathers about the balance of nature, ecology, human destruction of natural balance, conservation, projected collapse – concepts the author claimed are attributed to have been first expressed many decades later. This supports my distinction between knowledge and context. Persons intimately engaged with other living systems, as do avid gardeners, intuit the context – as we have impressive appeals from many indigenous peoples about the destruction of nature. Those without that context didn’t perceive their significant statements with the same importance and meaning. Even today, many persons have contexts that won’t permit fully comprehending reports about ecology or climate change.

Final note: from this book I consider the Lewis and Clark expedition on par with the Apollo Mission.

At this writing I am in transition. Nuet is doing its thing, and Larry waits. This is but one of many shiftings underway with nuet, and with the declining cognitive competencies of Larry.

I “see” (why the visual metaphors, always) this issue reinforcing my call for UPLIFT. Humankind is sinking into silos of caricature reality. Donald Trump and the other warped Tea Party dwarfs is one sample. Suicide bombers and child soldiers are another. Obama and Putin are but two foci in a chaotic dance upon which we attempt to project cognitive order. The 2016 elections is both a media smokescreen and a competition of coups. Few are negotiating in a consensual frame. Worlds Collide. Dialog is possible only in silos, and even then there are difficulties.

UPLIFT is a radical proposal to systemically penetrate this “world of multiple silos”, and attract persons (one-by-one) into a OLLO [Organizing-for Learning=&=Learning-for-Organizing] “program/process/system” that will converge their “worlds” to a common meta-context sufficient for viable personal/social/societal change (Societal Metamorphosis).

Author: nuet

01/24/1935. BS-physics RPI 1956; MS-physics UofChicago 1958; PhD-physics Yale 1965; PhD-Edu Psy Uof MInnesota 1970. Auroral Research Byrd Station, Antarctica 11/1960-02/1962. MINNEMAST curriculum dev 1964-68. Woodstock. faculty Pima Community College, Tucson 1974-1997. Transdisciplinary scientist, philosopher, educator, futurist, activist. PC user since 1982. "Wife". daughter, 2 grandsons. 5 dogs & 7 cats. Lacks mental imagery in all sensory domains.

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