Thoughts on the “myth of the tough guy” – an attempt at manifesting American ideals???

(This is my 700th blog)

Over the years I have been mystified by a statement that seemed ‘odd’ to me.  This is the statement:

“Act like a man!”

I’ve always wondered what that meant . . .

Throughout the years I would even hear of more statements about the male that, to me, always seemed silly and asinine.  Some of these statements are:

“The male must be tough.”

“The male cannot cry or show emotions.”

“The male is aggressive and a fighter.”

“The male is domineering and wants to control things.”

I’ve always questioned statements such as these.  Something did not make sense about them . . . and they certainly didn’t seem to describe the male character, at least as I saw it.  Then, to add to that, there are all the ‘tough guy’ image in the movies and such . . . why are they so prevalent?  Not only that, they seemed to be describing a specific character of person, one which seemed unrealistic, and non-existent, to me.

What does it mean and where did it originate from?

Here are some thoughts I had on it:

THE ‘MYTH OF THE TOUGH GUY’

To me, this seems to be representative of “the myth of the tough guy”.   It seems to be an American thing, reflecting the American mentality based on American values.  Over the years, it created a specific image of the male with specific traits and qualities.  Not only that, this image was often looked at as an ideal and something to be emulated and practiced.  Despite this, it was something that seldom materialized or even appeared naturally in the male population.  In addition, it did not seem to describe the male at all, at least in my opinion.  In short, the ‘tough guy’ never seemed to be an “actual person” at all, though he was talked of as if he were, and there was no shortage of guys who tried to emulate it and become a ‘tough guy’.

Some of the traits that define the ‘tough guy’ are things like:

  • They can handle any crisis.
  • They are aggressive and willing to fight.
  • They play ‘king of the mountain’ and always try to be the leader.
  • They are always trying to outdo one another and are competitive and, ideally, always win.
  • They do things no one else can do.
  • They try to control everything.
  • They don’t need anyone or any help.
  • They work and get things done, often on their own.

These are only some of the manifestations of the ‘tough guy’ image.  Because of the myriad events in history, and the varied circumstances and multitude of conditions in the country, there became many variations of the ‘tough guy’ image that have developed over the years.  In some cases, the term ‘tough guy’ may not even fit this image at all.  I’m using it here as a “generic” term to describe a specific image of the male the U.S. created.  In its simplist form, one could describe this persona, in general, as a ‘tough-independent-who-can-handle-anything-do-all’ type of guy.  But, keep in mind that there are many versions of how this appeared.

NORTHEAST ORIGINS AND AMERICAN VALUES

I was always of the opinion that the ‘tough guy’ image originated from the northeastern part of the U.S. in particular.  It as if ‘set the stage’ for everything else that followed and created something like a ‘garden’ for everything else to grow.  Naturally, as things grew and developed, there developed many manifestations of it as a result of the varying conditions that would appear.

The reason why the northeast was so important is that it is the ‘original settlement’, so to speak, of the U.S. and, accordingly, was the seat of American values.  The south (the southeast, actually) was, in reality, a different world in itself as would become apparent in the Civil War.  It was in the northeast where the original ideas of the U.S. are the strongest and had origin and developed.  It is for this reason that it would create a ‘stamp of authority’ for all that would follow it.  In many ways, all the ‘tough guy’ images and variations that followed were supporting, at least in some way, the original ideals of the northeast which reflected American ideals.  As time went on we find that different events, conditions, historical realities, etc. tended to create myriad versions and aspects to the ‘tough guy’ image.  Some, even, contradict each other and conflict at times, as we saw in the Old West (see below).  This shows that the ‘tough guy’ image is not a single defined image but an image that changed and varied in response to conditions.  One could very well say that there are many different ‘schools of thought’ concerning the ‘tough guy’ that has developed throughout the years.

Some of the ideals of the northeast, which are rooted in American values, and which began the evolution of the ‘tough guy’, image include:

  • Idealism – the ‘worship’ of certain beliefs as something to aspire to
  • Individualism – that what a person does matters
  • Accomplishment – a person can achieve anything
  • Competition – of ‘putting down’ opposition and in winning
  • Freedom – that a person could do what they wanted and no one controlled them
  • Optimism – that everything will get better

These are all American values and are reflective of America’s beliefs.  By themselves they would not of created a ‘tough guy’ image.  For that to happen needed more was needed.  Several things that helped create it include:

  1. Practicing the values
  2. History
  3. Representation

1. PRACTICING THE VALUES

Being that these reflected American values it was only natural that their practice in everyday life would make an impact.  In fact, the practice of the values is what made them ‘real’ and ‘living’.  Without practice, the image would be empty.  As a result, many aspects of the ‘tough guy’ image originated from ‘real world’ situations and conditions and of things people did.

Some of the ways the practice of the values appeared are through these ways such as these:

  • The ‘working class hero’.  This generally entailed a belief that the working man is ‘king’.  As a result, they tended to glorify the working man, as if the whole world revolved around him and what he did.
  • The ‘tough business man’.  This, of course, referred to a successful business man, particularly if he did everything himself.
  • The Protestant work ethic.  This basically teaches that a person must “work themselves to death” and “endure anything”.  This was often glorified and worshipped as some great achievement.  I’ve seen many people practically kill themselves trying to cater to this value.
  • The ‘rebel’ after the world wars.  The image of a rebel became prevalent after both world wars.  The rebel tended to glorify America’s ideas of individualism and freedom.
  • New York and other congested cities.  It seems, to me, that New York, in particular, emulated much American ideals particularly in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s.   This is significant as it was very crowded and had a lot of people with its associated tension, competition, and continuous strife.  As a result of these, its as if congested cities began to emulate many American values as if to defend themselves from the crisis the city created.
  • Sports.  This includes playing and watching.  In general, the emphasis is primarily only in winning or who wins.  In some cases, this could almost be religious.
  • The ‘can do’ attitude.  This emphasizes values like accomplishment, achievement, work ethics, and optimism.

Many ‘tough guy’ traits have origin with these practiced values.  No doubt, their practicing made people it easy for people to identify with the ‘tough guy’ image and what it meant.

3. HISTORY

Naturally, historical situation was influential in the creation of the ‘tough guy’ image.  In many cases, a historical era created a unique ‘tough guy’ image.  In other cases, one era built upon previous era’s.  This is one reason why there are many variations of the ‘tough guy’ image.

The bourgeoisie

Though it may not seem immediately apparent but it appears that the ‘tough guy’ image has some origin in the bourgeoisie.  These are city people who tended to emulate noble ideals, often to the point of imitation.  I often speak of this tendency as the ‘pseudo-nobility’.  They particularly appeared in the 1700’s with the rise of the city merchant class who could afford to ‘imitate’ the nobility.  Pretty soon, it became a mark of prestige to act like that.  Accordingly, they tried to develop traits and qualities of the nobility. A particularly significant image of the ‘pseudo-nobility’ is the ‘knight’.  As time went on, America would take this image and change it somewhat.  In fact, in many ways, the ‘tough guy’ is nothing but an American version of a knight.  Some of the qualities of the knight the U.S. took include:

  • The image of a fighter.
  • The idea of accomplishment and achievement
  • The glorification of the individual.
  • The practice of values (the knight was supposed to practice Christian values).

Though this image does not look like the ‘tough guy’ it ‘set the stage’ for the development of the ‘tough guy’ image in America.  More was still needed . . .

The Northeast and the Old West

The realities of the northeast, with its high civilization and crowding, was very different compared with the Old West.  Many people of the northeast were very curious and even idolized the Old West as they began to hear stories of it and how different it was.  In fact, interest was so popular that Old West fiction became very popular (see below).   This eventually had great impact on the ‘tough guy’ image.

It appears to me that people in the northeast were frustrated with the problems of the city life.  The congestion, competition, conflicts, etc. made it hard for these ideals to materialize.  As a result, the image of the Old West gave an outlet for that frustration.  In fact, the frustration of fulfilling the ideals in the city made the Old West an ‘ideal place’ to imagine it.  In this way, the frustration created a need for an ‘image’.  It made it so that people were ‘ripe’ for something.  If this is the case, then it means that the ‘tough guy’ image is rooted not in the manifestation of the ideals but in their failure and subsequent frustration!

WWII and its aftermath

When WWII came it caused a great wave of nationalism.  During, and after, WWII the Old West fictional stories became increasingly in vogue as representations of American ideals.  The effect of this is that it created a “resurgence” of the themes and reinvigorated the ‘tough guy’ image and its general proliferation in general society.  Not only that, it appeared in many ways:  fiction, movies, television, and commercial products.   The ‘cowboy and Indian’ became commonplace name.  Even many boys would play cowboy and Indian in the backyard.

This era seemed to create the ‘lone just-cause tough guy’ image, typically.  Though there were many versions of this, the image of the cowboy was common and seemed prevalent in the 1950’s.

The cold war

With the cold war the image of a ‘tough guy’ to promote American values seemed to be strong.  We began to see it a lot in the movies especially.  It seems that once the cowboy ‘just-cause tough guy’ faded in the late 1950’s, especially, we see more and more images of ‘just-cause any man’ images appearing.  This would change in the late 1960’s.

From the late 1960’s, and into the 1970’s, there seem to be emphasis on the ‘lone rebel tough guy’ image.  This seemed particularly apparent as a result of the hippi movement and attacks on the Vietnam War and the new ‘rebelling against the establishment’ mentality.  As a result, into the 1970’s we start to see the ‘rebel against the system tough guy’ and the appearance of the ‘action man tough guy’ which became common in the 1980’s’.

The post cold war

With the fall of the cold war, the ‘tough guy’ image took a blow.  The nationalistic ideals were simply not there anymore.  This, in a way, made the ‘tough guy’ irrelevant.  As a result, what began to appear, in the 1990’s, is the ‘mindless violence tough guy’ image.  This, though, seemed to wear out after awhile.

Many images of the ‘tough guy’ in this era seems to be nothing but a remnant of the eras before us that is now carrying over to this era.  In other words, the post cold war era doesn’t seem to of created any new ‘tough guy’ image that I can see.

3. REPRESENTATION

For an image to be created it needs to have a form of representation.  One of the ways this happened is by the use of various forms of media.  That is to say, the various forms of media created a great power that, in actuality, made the image grow and develop.  Most certainly, without the media the ‘tough guy’ image probably would never of been created.  It did this in ways such as these:

  • It instilled the image in peoples minds
  • It exposed the image to many people
  • It popularized the image

Some influential forms of media that this include:

  • Old west fictions
  • The early movies
  • Television
  • Big budget movies
  • Superheroes

With media, such as these, a ‘medium of representation’ was created that basically created the ‘tough guy’ image.  Over time, this would create the representation of the ‘tough guy’ image as if it were a real and living person.

Old West fictions

The evolution of the ‘tough guy’ image seems to be begin when American values became more than values.  That is to say, they needed a representation to take them out of the mundane existence of everyday life, to put them as if on an altar to glorify.  In other words, something was needed to put them in symbolic form.  It appears that one of the first ways in which this began is in the fiction of the Old West which began in the early-mid 1800’s.

For many people in the northeast these fictions were not only fascinating  and exotic but struck a cord with nationalistic feeling by its representation of a ‘growing nation’, freedom, individualism, and such.  Accordingly, it is only natural that these nationalistic feelings would begin to be seen in Old West fiction.

They became very popular and, we must remember, they were directed toward the ‘city people’ of the northeast.  As a result of this, they were not very accurate depictions of life in the Old West but more like a fantasized image.  In this way, they actually became depictions of the ideals of the northeast demonstrated through the fictional stories of the Old West.  In this way, the ideals were seen as if a reality.  Like I said above, this need was probably because people were frustrated as a result of the city life and inability to fulfill ideals in the northeast.

A number of themes appeared in these stories that, at times, conflicted and contradicted with each other.  Two common ones are:

  1. The ‘forger of progress and civilization’ image.
  2. The ‘self-sufficient man’ image.

Often, these two were at odds with each other, and contradicted each other, creating a great irony in Old West fiction.  Generally, the ‘forger of progress and civilization’ image tended to destroy the ideals of the ‘self-sufficient man’ image who generally despised progress and civilization.  But both, in their own way, described aspects of American values.  In this way, we see two different aspects of the ‘tough guy’ image appearing.  In the former, the man is the one who, with his own hands oftentimes, creates progress and civilization out of a wasteland, a great achiever.  In the later, the man is the one who can live on his own without progress and civilization, in a wasteland, another type of achiever.  They are the same, in a way, but different.  In either case, the image of a man who achieves is made . . . catering to an ideal.  Not only that, each caters to specific American ideals.  As a result, both reflect American ideals but in different ways.  This is a good example of how many images of the ‘tough guy’ image appeared.

With the Old West fiction, it created many ‘larger than life’ characters and hero’s who displayed American ideals in a ‘pure’ and ‘outright’ way.  In this way, they sort of exaggerated the ideals and, at the same time, made them more ‘extreme’ creating these guys who could ‘do anything’.

Old West fiction shows the importance of media in the creation and development of the ‘tough guy’ image.  In fact, the media would play an instrumental, and critical element, in the creation of the ‘tough guy’ image.  Without it, no doubt, the ‘tough guy’ image would probably never of appeared at all, nor gained the force it did.  It appears that fiction started it all.

The early movies

When the movies began to appear, particularly in the 1920’s, it brought on an even greater media form of expression that surpassed the fiction of the 1800’s.  Moving pictures brought a new reality and form.

Interestingly, though, the Old West did not figure prominently.  It seems that the first real creation of the ‘tough guy’ image in the movies were the gangster movies.  The popularity of the gangsters in the movies, particularly in the 1930’s, appears to of contributed to the image of the ‘tough guy’.  There are times when I see a male ‘act out’ the ‘tough guy’ that it seems like I can see the gangster in it.  The gangster also seemed to create the first ‘rebel tough guy’.

Television

When the television appeared it brought in a whole new medium and audience to the ‘tough guy’ image.  Not only that, it brought it into the home.  It also made it so that the image was seen regularly and consistently, such as in TV series, advertisements, etc.  Through this medium much of these ideals were to spread to the general population.  Soon, practically everyone was exposed to it.

Big budget movies

With the 1960’s and 1970’s we see the coming of big budget movies, with famous actors, appear.  This touching a broader audience and in a bigger way than television.  Now, the ‘tough guy’ was dramatically seen in a big screen.  In addition, it extended the ‘tough guy’ image to many more genre’s such as science fiction, action, drama, etc. than had before been seen.  This made it even more prevalent.

With the success of these movies it became clear that the population wanted or, rather, needed a ‘tough guy’ image.  As a result, this image was repetitively produced by Hollywood for the masses and many ‘tough guy’ movies were to be created that goes on down to today.

Because of the time period these were created they tended to emphasize a more cold war ‘tough guy’, often entailing the idea of a ‘rebel’, man-versus-the-system, and other qualities following the hippi movement and the Vietnam war.

Superheroes

The superhero Comic Books exposed a lot of children to a form of the ‘tough guy’ image.  Initially these were only found in comic books but soon movies, and serials, would appear almost regularly.  With television series would appear, such as Batman.  These created a whole new idea of ‘tough guy’ which was primarily directed to little boys.  Much of these seem to be based on earlier images of ‘tough guys’ and conditions:

  • Some superheroes apparently have origins in the image of the Old West hero, a descendent of the Old West fiction.  A good example is Flash Gordon in the 1930’s.
  • The original Batman comic books appears to be influenced by the gangster era, a continuation of the gangster ‘tough guy’ movies from the 1930’s.  Being directed toward boys, Batman became the ‘tough guy’ who defeated gangster-like people in the early years.
  • Superman shows a strong big city influence, referring to the congested cities of the northeast.

With the wearing out of the ‘tough guy’ image after the cold war the superhero would be revived again to start a whole new genre of movies and comic books from the 1980’s on.  Interestingly, this era of superhero is known for being directed toward adults, creating an ‘adult super hero’.

THE IMAGE OF THE  ‘TOUGH GUY’ AND NATIONALISM

Overall, though, what we see is that the image of the ‘tough guy’ would be a medium for nationalism and American values.  Keep in mind that this was not the only medium or form of this expression.  It became one of many. Because of this many males would want to emulate and become a ‘tough guy’.  This would greatly influence the American male (see below).

ASPECTS OF THE MYTH IN THE TEACHING OF A NEW MALE IMAGE – AN AMERICAN FAILURE

In America, the ‘tough guy’ would play a very large role in the life of the American male.   Being that the ‘tough guy’ image reflected national ideals they were often taken seriously and as an ideal As a result, it became common for males to try to emulate it the best way possible.  Many would try to emulate ‘tough guy’ traits such as:

  • Being assertive
  • Being aggressive
  • Being in-control
  • Being able to handle anything

These created a condition that, in reality, became a burden upon most males and created great pressure to conform.  In the end, it actually became ‘too much’ for many males causing a general deterioration in the American male through the years.

The failed new male image

Though the ‘tough guy’ image reflected American ideals it actually created a distorted and unrealistic view of the male when taken ‘seriously’, which it often was.  We must remember that the ‘tough male’ image is primarily a media creation based on nationalistic ideals, not a human creation reflecting naturally appearing human traits and qualities.  In that way, the image is an ‘idealism’ not a ‘reality’.  This fact would soon become apparent as many males tried to reflect the traits of the ‘tough guy’.  Because of this, it becomes clear that the ‘tough guy’ image is not a representation of how males really are.  In fact, it seldom, if ever, really reflected the “actually existing” American male character at all.  In many cases, this image was ‘forced’ upon the male, often strictly, which shows that it is not reflective of the male or male traits.  In that way, it created a ‘false male image’, one which would slowly undermine the American male over time.

As mentioned above, this image became so prevalent that it created a pressure to conform to the image for many American males.  The reactions to this pressure appeared in a number of ways:

  • Being able to conform.
  • A continuous struggle to try and conform.
  • An inability to conform.
  • Alienation.

So we see that there are times when how well a male could conform to the ‘tough guy’ image would have great impact on his social relations and, eventually, his feelings about himself.  Because of this, the ‘tough guy’ image would have great impact on the American male.

Because of the pressure to conform many males tried to practice the traits of the ‘tough guy’, at least as they understood it.  Typically, though, it failed or backfired.   My own experience is that guys who tried to be a ‘tough guy’ tended to have qualities such as:

  • They often were viewed as an “idiot” or an “ass”.
  • They were difficult to associate with.
  • They think they must control everything.
  • They think they are above, and even better, than everyone else.
  • They are intimidating.
  • They became obnoxious and annoying.
  • They became overbearing.
  • They became arrogant.
  • They tended to have a large ego along with all the problems it creates.
  • They became ‘stressed out’ by the pressure of it all (I wrote an article on a similar theme called “Thoughts on the ‘uptight American’ – the price of individualism“).
  • They began to cater to the ‘success-cult’ and worshipped success, especially theirs (I wrote an article on this called Thoughts on the ‘success cult’“).
  • They became phony or superficial.

These all created a male that was, at least in my experience, difficult to associate with.  Their general tendency is to glorify ‘toughness’ and to ‘act it out’.  As a result, you’d see guys ‘acting it out’ with, what seemed to me, as artificial gestures and mannerisms.  They had a quality of ‘acting out what they’d like to be, not what they are’.  Some of their traits include:

  • They talk with a ‘forced’ low voice.
  • They seemed to stick their chest out.
  • They act tense with a tense face.
  • They are serious about it all.
  • They have a look as if they are going to kill you or something.
  • They act in an intimidating way and can be very ‘in-your-face’.
  • They could even use threats.
  • They are controlling.
  • They can become bullies.

To this day, many of these gestures still make me chuckle.  Watching these guys could be almost comical, like a big game of ‘who’s the more macho’.

But many males had difficulty fitting into this image (probably most).  Some reactions include:

  • Its made many males ‘in limbo’, so to speak, as they did not know where they stand in things.   It made many males turn away from society or not have much to do with it.  In other words, a males failure at the ‘tough guy’ image made many males go in other directions and began a general tendency of the male to turn away from society.  This tendency goes on even down to today, but often for other reasons as well (I wrote an article about something similar to this called “Thoughts on “failing” boys and males “dropping out”: “the male exodus” . . . another account of the fight against dehumanization???” if you’re interested).
  • It has caused many males to take a ‘back seat’ perspective in life.  They sort of ‘go with the flow’ and avoid attracting attention to themselves.  They don’t do anything dramatic either.  In effect, its caused many males to become ‘passive’ and without any ambition.  In some ways, the American male as if ‘faded away’.
  • Its made it so that many males have no desire to emulate American values.  In this way, the ‘tough guy’ actually backfired.  In causing this, it actually had destroyed the values it was supposed to emulate.

Stuff like this, in my opinion, has helped to bring a slow detioration in the male.  It did this by creating a number of conditions such as:

  • It forced a person to develop false traits.
  • No genuine traits were developed.
  • It created problems for the males who could not conform.
  • It affected many males social relations.
  • It affected many males feelings about themselves.
  • It created unrealistic expectations.
  • It made it so that participation with society was no longer appealing.

I tend to feel that the ‘myth of the tough male’ is one of the things that has brought down the male in America.

The degradation of boys

It seems, to me, that the ‘tough guy’ image tended to cause a general degradation of the boy over the years.  It did this a number of ways:

  • They tended to be looked down upon because they are not ‘tough guys’.
  • The boys were required to try to be a ‘tough guy’.  Often, they had to do things they did not want to do or were not good at.
  • Some boys were forced to be ‘tough guy’.  Often, this could get to the point of being abusive.
  • If they did not emulate ‘tough guy’ attitudes, nor develop them, they were often ridiculed.  I know this from personal experience.

The amount of pressure upon boys to fit the ‘tough guy’ image, I think, has not been fully acknowledged, in my opinion.

The Munchausen effect and battle trauma

The ‘tough guy’ image was used extensively in the training and ‘indoctrination’ of soldiers, especially since WWII.  No doubt, this is as a result of the nationalistic orientation of the military.  The soldier was taught to be ‘tough’ and invincible with a ‘do or die’ attitude and such.  A great many of these emulate the ‘tough guy’ image.

Unfortunately, this has created a problem for many males in the military:  a predisposition to battle trauma.  To put it simply, the ‘forcing’ of the ‘tough guy’ image on the American soldier has created a specific condition which I call the ‘Munchausen Effect’.  This is a condition where:

  1. Soldiers are taught to be something that they are not.
  2. This makes them develop a ‘false persona’ that the military teaches them (which has many ‘tough guy’ qualities).
  3. They are put under the stress of military crisis.
  4. The ‘false persona’ fails.
  5. They suffer from battle trauma.

In short, they appear to be OK until they are put in crisis, then the ‘false persona’ (‘tough guy’ image) comes crashing down with battle trauma as the result (I wrote an article on this called “Thoughts on the ‘Munchausen Effect’ and the military – the power and dilemma of illusion“).

In many ways, the failure of the soldiers ‘false persona’ display the basic failure of the ‘tough guy’ image in general.  It shows a number of points with the ‘tough guy’ image:

  • It shows that it is just an image.
  • It shows that it works while not under or stress or crisis.
  • When it works it appears to be OK and the male seems to emulate the countries values.
  • In actuality, it actually alienates the male deep down.  This becomes apparent after a crisis happens.

What this shows is the ‘tough guy’ image is just that . . . an image, an illusion.  It does not reflect the male at all.  In this way, it is much like the clothing a person wears, a superficial front.  This is one of the biggest failure of the ‘tough guy’ image.

The ‘pushing away’ of females

Since the ‘tough guy’ image is a male thing it tended to ‘push away’ girls from the males in general, often in an intimidating way.  In some cases, this was done in an aggressive and degrading way as I, myself, have observed.  Because the ‘tough guy’ tended to develop an ego, in many cases, anyone who did not have the ‘tough guy’ image (which includes females) were often belittled and ridiculed.  In this way, the ‘tough guy’ image actually created something like a rift or wall between the male and female.  It often created a male-as-opposed-to-female perspective that could be quite severe and strict.  In general, the ‘tough guy’ did not, in any way, act like a non-‘tough guy’, which includes females and even boys.   This often included a tendency to frown on emotions or any other perceived ‘weakness’.  In this way, one could say that a ‘tough guy snobbishness’ was created.

The new female ‘tough guy’

Recently, with the growing failure of the female hood in America, many females are trying to emulate the male ‘tough guy’ image almost as if its going to save them.  I was initially surprised at this as they, in general, were ‘pushed away’ by the ‘tough guy’ . . . now they want to be like them?  But many females are trying to develop it and act it out.  Because of this, we are now seeing the female follow in the failure of the male:  they are being destroyed by an image they think is good.  The question is how long will it take them before they find out the image is bad?

A ‘POPULAR IMAGE’

What all this shows is that the ‘tough guy image is an image, not a reality, and does not describe actual male traits.  Because of this, it is an illusion.  Anyone practicing it is, therefore, living a false image.  It is, after all, a manifestation of idealism and nothing but a representation.  In short, it is a ‘popular image’, something developed to satisfy a need for a popular image for the masses.  The failure of the ‘myth of the tough guy’ is really that people took it too seriously. 

From what I have seen very few farmers, or people in the back country, or even the Old West, naturally took to the ‘tough guy’ image or emulated it.  In other words, the ‘tough guy’ image is not rooted in any real character or person.  Because of this, it is not rooted in anything ‘real’.  As I said, it is based in a representation of values and idealism. 

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Copyright by Mike Michelsen

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Thoughts on “male suffocation” – the need for the male to be away from the female – a unique character trait in the male

There is something which I call ‘male suffocation’.  This is a term that I use when the male feels “suffocated” by the female.  In other words, it basically states that the males need to have time away from the female as well as to have his own ‘male space’.  This seems to be critical for male development and growth.  It is also something that seems unique in the male as nothing like this exists in the female.  Because of this, females are generally unaware of this situation and, as a result, will often behave in a way that actively causes suffocation.  The effects of suffocation can have drastic consequences causing, in some cases, an impairment of the male and his functioning in society.  In some cases, it can practically incapacitate the male turning him into something like a vegetable.  From my own personal experience and observation, I can see that this can be a serious problem.  Interestingly, its a problem seldom mentioned or, as far as I know, acknowledged.

I should point out that this, in no way, says that the female is to blame or that its a result of some ‘bad’ quality in the female.  ‘Male suffocation’ is just a naturally appearing phenomena, just like female over-emotional tendency for example, and is part of the way of things.  It describes a naturally appearing quality of the male character.

‘MALE SOCIETY’ AND ITS DISRUPTION

I first began to notice this phenomena when I noticed a particular quality in male behavior that was dramatically altered by the female presence.  I noticed it both in myself and other males.

‘Male society’

The ‘male society’ is an aspect of the male and only the male.  It reflects a side of his character.  In many ways, it can have a quality of a ‘whole other world’ to it set apart from the female and society.  It makes it so that the male tends to bounce from several different societies (such as ‘male society’, the ‘marriage society’,  ‘social society’, etc.) during the course of the day and not really realize it.  It is not far from the truth to say that ‘male society’ is a world unto itself.  It has qualities such as:

  • It is often like a club.
  • It often has defined images, symbols, and meanings in it.  Sometimes they are delineated and sometimes they are unconscious.
  • If it is large it is often organized, such as with definite leaders and such.
  • It is often hierarchial or, at least, everyone has a place in it.
  • It is often exclusive, entailing males, and sometimes only males of a certain character, relationship (such as ‘work buddies’), or association (such as a shared hobby).
  • It often entails a form of respect or love between its members.  This often appears as a comradery.

This creates a form of ‘society’ that is separate from greater society as well as other societies.  It also has quite a range.  It can go from a simple friendship between two guys to an organized system, like a government.  In fact, ‘male society’ is actually the basis of civilization all over the world.  All organized societies and social systems seem to have origin in the ‘male society’.

The female disruption of ‘male society’

The female presence tends to disrupt ‘male society’.   In fact, it can put it to a halt and hinder its functioning.  Its so powerful that the female doesn’t even have to do anything . . . they just have to be there in the room!  I, myself, have noticed that and seen it in myself.  Many times have I noticed the difference in male behaviour when a female is in the room compared to when a female is not in the room.   In general, when a female is not there the male is more ‘free’ and open and there’s more of an open expression of bond with other males.  As a result of its ‘hidden appearance’ from the female, the female often never see’s this.  Its because of this that I’ve always felt that, because the female never sees this side of the male, they are usually unaware that it exists.  Some females do know, though, as I’ve heard them mention it.  They will use expressions like “when he is with the boys” and such.  In general, they know only that they are different but they’re not generally not sure how.  This is one of the reasons why females often seem to know so little about the male character (which is not what many claim).  What they see is a ‘modified’ or ‘altered’ aspect of it, which is the male-in-the-presence-of-the-female side of them.  In actuality, this tends to be a restricted and limited image of the male.  In many cases, I tend to think that the male is more open and free in ‘male society’ than in the presence of females, even his own wife, even though his wife may think he is most open toward her.  I’ve always seen most males association with their wife as a slightly ‘modified’ aspect of their self which is only open and free in some respects.  There are some males, though, who are more open and free with their wives but I don’t think its as great as it may seem.

THE EFFECTS OF ‘MALE SUFFOCATION’

In general, the primary effect of ‘male suffocation’ is a halting or stopping of the male or, rather, an inactivity both mentally and physically.  Even my observation is that when females are permitted in ‘male space’ the males seem to, in some cases, become almost incapacitated.  This is not because females distract them, necessarily, but because a female is ‘there’ . . . just their presence is interfering.  Having a female in the room can greatly impact how males behave.  That shows how powerful it is.  I’ve even heard quite a few males state that when a female is there they can’t ‘do their job’ as effectively, or concentrate effectively.  I’ve even seen evidence of this, of how male job performance deteriates when a female is around.  As a result, the female presence is damaging in the work, and play, environment.  I’ve noticed this in myself as well.  As a general rule, I find I don’t like females there when we’re ‘doing something’.

Some of the effects of ‘male suffocation’ include:

  • Apathy.
  • A lack of initiative and drive.
  • A stunted growth and development if its over a long period of time.
  • They are not as effective in doing things.
  • They cease to be a ‘man’ or ‘male-like’.
  • A dislike or apprehension of the female.   I’ve found that, often, when a male dislikes females it is often associated with suffocation.  In other words, its not that they dislike females but they dislike the suffocation the female causes.
  • Being pussy-whipped or a ‘yes man’ to the female.
  • They become effeminate (and possibly turn into homosexuals if it is extensive – acquired homosexuality).

Because of these, the male can be greatly affected.  To be frank, many males are destroyed by the suffocation, though they don’t realize it.  In actuality, much of male life entails aspects of dealing with the suffocation.

‘MALE SUFFOCATION’ GOES BEYOND ‘MALE SOCIETY’

At first I thought that ‘male suffocation’ is primarily a reaction to the female presence in ‘male society’.  As I began to inquire further I began to see that there is another side to ‘male suffocation’.  The disruption of ‘male society’ is just a social manifestation of the phenomena.  In actuality, ‘male suffocation’ is felt individually and personally at the deepest level by the male.  This creates two forms of ‘male suffocation':

  1. ‘Personal male suffocation’.  This is primarily caused by a persons character and disposition.  Some males feel suffocated more easily than others, and for a wide variety of reasons.
  2. ‘Social male suffocation’.  This is the social manifestation of the disruption of ‘male society’.  As a result, its more a socially sensed generalized suffocation.  Despite this, the suffocation they feel socially is based on forms of ‘personal males suffocation’.

Many males, on a personal level, struggle with ‘male suffocation’.  Some of the more personal reactions include:

  1. Avoidance of the female.
  2. A contempt for the female.
  3. Harsh feelings toward the female if they have no choice but to be around them.

These reactions show the need of the male to have his time away from the female, to avoid the difficult feelings caused by suffocation.  In fact, many of the husbands jokes and jibes against his wife have origin in this sense of ‘suffocation’.  The many jokes about females, in general, also have origin in the suffocation.  In addition, many attacks toward the female, as well as poor views of the female, are often based in it.

CAUSES AND ORIGINS

There are a multitude of causes of the ‘male suffocation’, from purely female causes to purely male causes.  There is usually a combination of the two, with guys tending to lean to one side or the other, depending on their character.

Male causes and origins

There are a number of qualities in the male that cause this:

‘Mother separation dilemma’

Much of this phenomena is a result of a naturally appearing quality in the male.  It has origins with the male and his mother.  Unlike the female, the male must be ‘removed’ from the mother.  The female does not have this problem because they have the sense of the mother within them and, accordingly, feel a connection with the mother, which the male does not have.  In other words, the female is never ‘removed’ from the mother and they do not have to ‘break away’ from them.  The male, on the other hand, has to be removed from the mother.  This can cause great conflict for some males.  It causes a unique problem the male experiences:  the ‘mother separation dilemma’.

This dilemma is caused because the separation conflicts with a naturally appearing attachment to his mother.  In other words, it shows a deep rooted desire to be attached to his mother.  To put it another way, the male loves his mother too much to be removed from her.  This desire can be so strong that it can cause some reactions such as:

  • A feeling of being swallowed up by the female (who represents the mother).  This often creates a sense of ‘suffocation’, hence the name.
  • A feeling of losing ones self.  In effect, they want to ‘lose themselves in the mother’, often reflecting a desire to be an infant again.

These create the basic traits of the ‘mother separation dilemma’.  At the base of all these is a sense that the male tends to feel that he will lose who he is.  This is because these feelings are really based in feelings of when he was an infant.  In other words, these feelings tend to create a sense of regression in the male and this regression means he must lose who he is and has become.  So we see that the ‘mother separation dilemma’ is really a battle between the desire and need to maintain who he is and a desire to regress to an infant again so as to be attached to his mother again.  Generally, males want the attachment to the mother (or mother substitute such as a wife) but they don’t want the regression this desire creates in them as they will lose all that they are.  This creates a dilemma that probably exists, at least in some form, in every male.

In actuality, it seems that much of ‘male suffocation’ is an avoidance of wanting to regress, coming from the ‘mother separation dilemma’, for many males.  This is no doubt why many males will emphasize ‘being a man’ or doing ‘male things’.  By emphasizing a ‘man’ (as separate from a female) they actually as if avoid this desire to regress and lose who they are.  Its like they must choose:  one or the other.

The sexual element

Its no secret that the sexual element plays a big part with the male.  This is because, in some respects, the male is ‘suffocated’ by his own desire.  This is because he knows he cannot satisfy it.  He must ‘gulp it down’, so to speak.  Having a female in the room can literally stop all the males in their tracks and interfere with their concentration and performance.  It will also make them behave differently.  It can go so far that some of the males may start to argue and fight with another.  I’ve seen this first hand.  I’ve also felt its effects as well . . . it is nothing to look at lightly.  The female presence is a powerful force for the male!  This is because the sexual force is so powerful.

I tend to feel that the males in the U.S. have become somewhat apathetic and ‘pussy whipped’ because the female is “around too much”.  Not only that, the females are dressed, oftentimes, in a sexual or exposing way.  This makes it so that the males are continually being “enticed” but can do nothing about it.  As a result, the American male has to continually ‘gulp down’ his desire.  Its practically become a way of life.  As a result, the American male has become a ‘suffocated male’ as a result, showing many of the signs of ‘male suffocation':  apathy, becoming effeminate, ‘pussy whipped’, etc.  I tend to feel that this is far more serious than it may at first appear.  This is further complicated by the fact that its practically a crime, in this country, for the male to have his own place . . . everywhere he must ‘gulp down’ and everywhere he is suffocated.  In general, I feel it has had devastating effects.  In some respects, its probably very instrumental in why the American male has become like a ‘vegetable’ nowadays.

One of the things that have stunned me is how females seem to think that the male will not behave differently when they are around guys or that nothing will happen.  I’ve been continually stunned how females seem to never realize the effects of their presence on the male.  Many females don’t realize the power of the sexual force in the male.  They seem oblivious to it.  But the fact is that the sexual force is powerful and plays a great role in the association between the sexes.  After all these years I can see that there is a reason why the male and female have been segregated in all the societies the world over since earliest recorded times.

Difference in character

Because of the difference in character there are natural ‘clashes’ or inconsistencies between the sexes.   In actuality, it seems that the male character will often ‘clash’ with the female character when he is doing something productive, personal, or meaningful.   One of the effects of this is that its natural for society to segregate or separate the male and female activities.  This is one reason why females often have their ‘work’ to do and males have their ‘work’ to do and in which there is little association.  You put them together and nothing often gets done.

Not only that, it seems that the more informal the situation, the more problems there are between the sexes (unless they are married or intimate in some way).  The more formal, the less problems, which is probably why, all over the world, there are strict codes of behavior between male and female in their association. This shows that a lot of ‘etiquette’ and ‘codes of behavior’ are rooted in creating a ‘working association’ between the male and female hinting to the fact that, without them, problems are created.

Another interesting aspect is that, because of their different characters, the female is often like a fish-out-of-water in ‘male society’.  This makes it so that they stand out like a light.  They can become the ‘black sheep’ and are often targeted for ridicule or other things that different people in a group are often treated.  In so doing, they interfere with the male ‘comradary’ and cohesion in the group.  In effect, the female difference in character actually tends to breaks apart ‘male society’.  Regardless of how much they think they are ‘one of the boys’ the female will always be ‘separate’ in ‘male society’.

The ‘other mistresses’

The comradery and social hieararchial tendencies of the male tend to not have a place for females.  The fact is that the male tends to create bonds that does not entail the female.  There also develops a particular uniquely male “love” that exists between other males (and no, it is not homosexual) and their activities.  In some respects, it can be compared to a ‘mistress’.  In fact, it would not be a lie to say that most males have many ‘mistresses’.  In fact, the male actually has a spectrum of ‘other loves’ than does the female.  I sometimes speak of this as the ‘other mistresses’.  Its not uncommon for these to become a form of ‘love affair’ of a sort.  These ‘other mistresses’ include things such as:

  • A ‘bond’ with someone specific, such as a friend.
  • A group.
  • An activity.
  • A belief.

The fact is that things, such as these, can command more attention, concern, and love than does a female, wife, or lover.  As a result, ‘male society’ can entail deeper feelings and emotions than are given to a female.  Many can entail feeling of great emotion, attachment, devotion, and love that are the strongest in a males life.  This fact is largely unknown by females and would probably get many of them upset as many females like to think that they have the males deepest emotions which, to be frank, they usually don’t.

Female causes and origins

From what I have seen, the female generally does not make an active contribution to male suffocation.  That is, they don’t deliberately do anything to suffocate the male typically.  This is why many females are unaware of its effect.  But, the female character tends to cause a condition in which the female is continually threatening the male with suffocation.  This is because, the female character tends to need and ‘hang on’ to someone.  This can very easily have a suffocation quality on the male.  In fact, many males complaints about the female are of various versions of this ‘hanging on’.  Many of the jokes of marriage actually involve this issue.  As a result, it can have an impact on relationships and marriage.  It can make males complain of “bitching” or “nagging”, and that their wives are a “ball and chain”, as well as a frowning on romance and even a general contempt of the female.  Many female emotional and other demands are often perceived as a form of suffocation by the male, as well.

FEMALE REACTIONS TO ‘MALE SUFFOCATION’

I’ve seen a number of female reactions to ‘male suffocation':

  • Some females  will ‘threaten’ the male with some form of suffocation to get their way!  In other words, its often used as a form of manipulation.  Because of things like this it often makes some girls think they have power over the male.
  • Because ‘male suffocation’ makes males become removed from female society, it can make some girls envious.  Many girlfriends and wives will become jealous, even, because of the males ‘other life’ and his ‘other mistresses’.   They will see many males doing things, having associations, and achieving things that they don’t have or do.  This can get so bad that it can create what I call the ‘female envy culture’ where females make a life out of being envious of the male (I wrote an article on this called “Thoughts on the female and Victorian society – “being Victorian green” – the females envy of the male and the ‘female envy culture’“).  They will often want to be like a male, emulate males qualities, or even try to intrude into ‘male society’ in some way.  Recently, females have even used law and politics to do it too!
  • Some females will be understanding and give the male his space.  They will let their husband, for example, “go out with the boys” or have his special “man cave”.
  • Many females are oblivious to it and completely unaware of it.  Many females, it seems, are unaware of the ‘suffocation’ that they may cause.

ACTIVE FEMALE INTRUSION INTO ‘MALE SOCIETY’

The active intrusion on ‘male society’ in this society by females (nowadays, usually in the name of equality, and such, or as a result of the ‘female envy culture’) has had devastating effects on the male.  This is because ‘male society’ is intended to get away from the female.  Therefore, her presence destroys it and negates the whole thing.  And, because females are generally oblivious to ‘male suffocation’ they don’t realize what they are doing.

Overall, I would say that the female intrusion has a quality of making ‘male society’ less effective and even deteriorate or even destroying it.  In effect, the active intrusion of the female into ‘male society’ is actually creating a less human world for the male and is an unseen element in male dehumanization.  As mentioned above, the ‘suffocation’ causes apathy, stunted growth, and such.  Without the male having his ‘male space’ he is stopped in his tracks.  This, I think, is far more serious than it looks and is one of the many hidden crisis’ in this society.

THE AVOIDANCE OF ‘MALE SUFFOCATION’  

The suffocation is so powerful that it has made great impact on male/female relationships.  In many ways, one could say that the association between the sexes is very much influenced by the suffocation.  It makes a major impact on how male and female associate with one another.  Some of the ways this is done include:

  • The need for ‘controlled association’ between the sexes (etiquette, codes of behavior, etc.).
  • The need for the male to be away from the female and to have time away as a person.
  • The need for the male to have his ‘male society’ with other guys.
  • The need for the male to have his own activities.

This all encompass a need for various forms of a ‘niche’ for the male exclusively.  The formation of the ‘niche’ allows the male to his ‘male space’ away from the female.  This allows them to be away physically and mentally.  This ‘niche’ is seen in every society in the world since earliest times and has been there for a reason.

AFTERWORD

In many ways, ‘male suffocation’ shows that the male needs both worlds, of a life with the female and a life without a female, in order to grow properly and be a person.  In this way, the male actually lives in two worlds and has two separate lives.  Because these are two diametrically opposed they can create problems though.  As a result, ‘male suffocation’ requires conditions that allow for both of these worlds to exist side-by-side, such as a social condition that makes this possible.  This social condition has existed for centuries all over the world since earliest times.   Unfortunately, nowadays, this is being threatened causing a dilemma for males.

——–

Copyright by Mike Michelsen

Posted in Dehumanization and alienation, Modern life and society, Psychology and psychoanalysis, Society, The male and female | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Thoughts on ‘mental fabrications': intelligence, insight, “smarts”, and all that, with special emphasis on intelligence

Here’s a thought I had:

Recently, I was thinking about ‘intelligence’.  Because this term has been used too much, and in too many ways, I have begun to see it in a particular way.  In general, I see intelligence as having qualities such as:

  • Intelligence is a “seeing beyond things”.  It’s a way of seeing something that isn’t there.  In this way, it is almost magical and appears, at times, to be miraculous.  I tend to feel that it is more related to insight and intuition than “smarts” and being knowledgable, as is often done.  This, I feel, is one of the big differences between my interpretation and others.
  • Intelligence is a “creation of something out of nothing”.  This means that intelligence tends to build and make things.   This also gives intelligence a magical quality.  In some cases, it amounts to ‘pulling a rabbit out of a hat’.
  • Intelligence “causes a change”.   Unlike things like knowledge, intelligence tends to do something in one’s life.  In often leads to a growth of a person.  It also tends to make a person live better in life.
  • Intelligence is a “manifestation of a greater awareness”.   In other words, it isn’t just “because you took a class on it” or “read a book”.  It is primarily a result of greater awareness.
  • Intelligence “tends to lead to a greater world view”.  That is to say, it leads a person to a greater conception of life.  It also tends to create a more holistic way of looking at the world.
  • Intelligence is a “bringing together of ones self”.  What I mean by this, is that intelligence seems to make the self more whole and one.  Because of this, intelligence is often a means of growth and development.

So we see that intelligence is an ability a person has that makes one ‘function’ in the worldIn this way, intelligence is an ever dynamic and ever-changing phenomena.  This means that there is really no “end” to it but it goes and on in one’s life.

Intelligence is just a form of what I call ‘mental fabrications’.   These are ‘fabrications’ we create in our mind that help us to conceive of the world.  By this, I mean that ‘mental fabrications’ allows us to do things such as these:

  • Fabricate an image of the world.
  • It allows us to be able to use the world and the things in it.
  • It allows us to predict what will happen in the world, allowing us to plan for things.
  • It allows us to make the world meaningful.

These all contribute to create a condition of being able to live in the world, what can be described as a ‘livableness’.  As a result, one can see that ‘mental fabrications’ are critical for life and living.

There is something which I call the spectrum of ‘mental fabrications’.  These refer to the fact that there are many forms of ‘mental fabrications’, not just one form.  They as if blend together much like the colors in a rainbow.  If I were to try to describe some main attributes, or ‘colors’, of this spectrum, or rainbow, it would go something like this:

  • Intuition.  This is an innate ability to ‘sense’ or ‘understand’ things.  In general, intuition is not something ‘learned’ but seems to be an innate ability.  We all display it from time to time and it is a normal part of life.  Like any ability, though, some people can display it more strongly than others.
  • Insight.  This is the ability to see beyond what is immediately there.  In some ways, it’s a form of ‘foreseeing’ or an ability to see what will happen before it happens.  This allows us to design things, plan for things, and sense if something may have bad consequences.  In the same way, it can allow us to see if something is good before it is or even tell the meaning of things that happen.
  • Intelligence.  This is as I’ve described it in this article.
  • “Smarts”.   This the ability to put things together, almost like a jigsaw puzzle.  It allows us to take something and put in a useful design.  In this way, it is like a creation.
  • Knowledgeable.  This is knowing information or details about things.
  • Imitative.  This consists primarily in imitating things that other people have done in particular.  For example, in reading a book and ‘learning it’ we are primarily imitating what the author said in our minds.  Imitation is very much involved in the development and creation of the other ‘mental fabrication’ but, by itself, is very hampering.  Being too imitative restricts the other forms from developing.

The extremes of this range from ‘mystical’ (intuition) to ‘what is obvious’ (imitative).  As one can see, intelligence is “sort of in the middle”.  In this way, it is actually like a ‘blending of the extremes’ which is one of the reasons why it is so powerful, critical, and important.   Because of this,a person who is intelligent, in my opinion, is someone who ‘blends the two extremes’ and, accordingly, creates a holistic perception of things.  Intelligence makes them “stand in the middle” and, in so doing, they have the “best of both worlds”, that is, they have both extremes. 

Unfortunately, this society tends to take certain views that, in my opinion, tend to hinder the development of intelligence, at least as I am describing it here.  These includes things such as:

  • This society tends to consider someone intelligent who only has the three lower qualities.  This means the emphasis is on imitation, being knowledgeable, and in the ability to put things together.  This is only half the spectrum.
  • This society tends to be particularistic, only emphasizing certain things and abilities, and not in creating a holistic attitude and development.  We must ‘learn this’ and ‘learn that’.  Once we do that it is considered ‘enough’.  This particularistic attitude tends to only reflect social attitudes at the time, which determines what needs to be emphasized.  In other words, its a ‘seeking of social approval’.  Because of this, most of the seeking of any intelligence is, in actuality, nothing but a seeking of social approval.  In that way, its like an illusion . . . that is to say, not a true seeking of intelligence.
  • This society tends to use intelligence for money, social prestige, or some other menial or mundane thing.  For many people, intelligence is associated with these things.  This also gives intelligence an illusion . . . intelligence is only a means for something else.
  • This society also tends to look down upon the ‘mystical’ and insightful qualities which even further hampers intelligence by not allowing a more holistic viewpoint.  Avoiding these qualities tend to give intelligence a ‘mechanistic’ character.

Intelligence, because of its blending nature, is quite unique in the spectrum of ‘mental fabrication’.  All the other abilities entail a specific ability or quality.  Intelligence, on the other hand, requires more than just an ability or quality.  It requires additional traits such as:

  • The ability to put things together to create a holistic image.  This requires the ability to not only put things together, and make things make sense, but to ‘connect’ all the other ‘mental fabrications’ together.  In this way, intelligence becomes like a ‘head’ or ‘leader’ of the spectrum of ‘mental fabrications’.  In addition to this, intelligence requires the ability to make sense out of contradictory things.  My experience is that most people have a problem with ‘holistic interpretations’, of making a whole image out of many parts, especially when they are contradictory.
  • The development of other forms of ‘mental fabrications’.  Intelligence requires an ability to ‘expand’ into many other areas of the spectrum.  That is to say, many other qualities must be developed as well.  Typically, because of the wide range of qualities found in the spectrum, its only natural that most people will find that they have an ability in one area or another.  As a result, people will tend to focus on the area they are best at and tend to neglect the other areas.  This makes it so that most people tend to become specific and particular about the ‘mental fabrication’ they develop.  In order to fully develop intelligence, though, a person must go beyond this tendency, and develop many other traits in the spectrum.  This appears to be somewhat rare.

Many people are hampered in intelligence because they lack one or both qualities.  This quality I call ‘unachieved intelligence’.  One could say that the main hampering is a result of the ‘tendency to be specific’ that we all tend to do.  We all tend to focus or be specific about things like:

  • The abilities we develop.
  • The image or fabrications we create.

By doing this, we actually restrict ourselves and neglect or don’t develop other areas of the spectrum.  Overcoming the ‘tendency to be specific’, I feel, is far more difficult to do than one may think.  This is because it is very natural and normal thing to do.  Since intelligence requires the ability to go beyond this natural tendency, it shows some other interesting traits associated with it:

  • Intelligence requires a tendency to go beyond ones natural tendencies.  Because of this, intelligence has a quality of ‘going beyond ones self’.
  • This ‘going beyond ones self’, I think, takes far more courage than one may think.  This shows that intelligence is associated with courage. 
  • Because one must ‘go beyond ones self’ it often has a quality of ‘bordering on madness’ and, in some cases, ‘losing ones self’.  As a result, intelligence is associated with madness, eccentricity, ‘weirdness’, alienation, conflict, despair, and so on. 

Particularly as a result of the last trait, intelligence may actually end up harming a person.  I sometimes jokingly refer to this as the ‘anti-intelligence tendency’ as it tends to contradict or negate the purpose of intelligence.  This is one of the reasons why I have always felt that one must be careful with intelligence.  In other words, I tend to see that intelligence is something that must be ‘cultivated’, ‘grown’, and ‘looked after’, much like a garden.  This fact shows that there area actually ‘additional stages to intelligence’ that go beyond just ‘learning’ or ‘developing’.  In fact, one could say that intelligence grows in these stages:

  1. Having intelligence.  This refers to having the intelligence character trait.
  2. Discovering intelligence.  This refers to the discovering of the intelligence character trait, usually as a result of the normal course of living.
  3. Displaying intelligence.  This reflects a tendency to display or use intelligence in our lives.
  4. Developing intelligence.  This refers to an active development of the intelligence we have discovered.  Typically, this refers to a ‘learning’ or a ‘practicing’ of this ability.  Often, it is only a specific quality or ability as a result of the ‘tendency to be specific’.  For people who may go further it can become a source of problems as a result of the ‘going beyond themselves’ creating the ‘anti-intelligence tendency’.
  5. Cultivating intelligence.  This stage takes a person ‘beyond themselves’ and, therefore, bypasses the ‘anti-intelligence tendency’.  This requires a culture typically (see below).
  6. Integrated intelligence.  This is when cultivated intelligence is ‘blended’ with our personal intelligence.  In this way, it as if ‘goes full circle’.

It seems that people usually stop at developing intelligence, at least in this society.  They ‘learn’ and ‘practice’ and that’s it . . . and a few border on madness or become very weird and alienated in life.  One of the reasons for this is that cultivating intelligence requires a social element to exist.  This element tends to be absent in this society.  All the former stages tend to reflect personal tendencies and, as a result, are primarily personal in orientation.  Even when they are used for social ends, such as with an occupation, it is still rooted in ones personal qualities.  The only difference is that they are ‘harnessed’ for that function.  In actuality, cultivating intelligence tends to appear as a result of a culture.  In other words, the culture allows the ‘going beyond ones self’ tendency to continue.  It does this by permitting a person to ‘go beyond ones self by transferring to the culture’.  In this way, a person goes from their self, so to speak, to the culture.  This shows an interesting thing about the ‘anti-intelligence tendency’.  It shows that there is a point when a persons self has ‘ended’ . . . something more than the self is needed.  This is supplied by the culture.   The culture allows a ‘transferring’.  I speak of this effect as the ‘going beyond transfer’ One could also refer to this as an ‘extension of self’ as well.   When there is nothing to transfer or extend to, a person remains in their self causing the many problems associated with the ‘anti-intelligence tendency’In some respects, is like getting stuck in a hole unable to get out.   

This shows certain qualities about the self such as that the self is limited and that intelligence is not rooted in the self.   My experience is that most people think that things like intelligence are based in the self and sprout from it.  I generally think that they are really speaking of their ego and, therefore, are displaying an intellectual pride when they say this (that is, they are confusing their ego with their self).  Its my opinion that intelligence is actually rooted in one’s character, which can be described as an ‘overall manifestations of all of ones traits’.  In other words, it is ‘something one has’.  Many people display intelligence and don’t even know it nor integrate it into their self, which can be described as a sense of who one is.  Because of this, a person may not integrate the intelligence into their self showing that intelligence is not a part of the self.  Instead, intelligence is something that the self ‘acquires’ from ones character traits (assuming one has it).  We must keep in mind that each one of us has a number of character traits that we don’t know we have or that we have not integrated into our sense of self and who we are.  When this happens we tend to neglect this character trait.  This is often done with intelligence.

What this shows is that intelligence is ‘beyond the self’ and not inherently a part of it.  Because of this, when we only know intelligence in respect of the self then we only see a small aspect of it.  This can be described as the ‘intelligence-in-self aspect’ which is only a specific way of knowing of intelligence.

As a result, a way to develop intelligence is to bring on new aspects of intelligence which as if ‘open up’ other aspects of intelligence one normally would not see.  An important way to do this is with the use of culture.  In this way, the self is not used bringing up a whole other aspect of intelligence.  This can be described as ‘intelligence-in-culture aspect’.

Culture brings in new qualities involved with intelligence that the ‘intelligence-in-self aspect’ could not bring out.  Some of these include:

  • Authority.  There is a sense of a ‘greater power’ than ones self.
  • A greater perspective.  It makes one see that one is a small part of a bigger picture.
  • Direction.  Seeing ones self as part of a bigger picture tends to make a person feel that they have a place in that picture and a specific purpose . . . a direction.
  • Depth.  Seeing that there is life beyond ones self one see’s that there is ‘more’ than who one is creating a great sense of depth.
  • Support and belonging.  The culture creates a sense that one is safe and belong in one’s place in the world.
  • Seeing ones self as part of a group . . . a ‘group self’.  In some respects, one could call this ones ‘extended self’, of a self that is made up of a ‘self that is not ones self’.
  • Mysticism (if it is religious).  This often gives a greater dimension to intelligence and world perception.

Whats interesting is that many of these qualities do not describe intelligence at all but, rather, the development of ‘senses’.  The fact is that there is great importance in these ‘senses’.  This is because they ‘support’ intelligence’.  In fact, these supports are practically as important as intelligence itself, even though they display no qualities of intelligence at all. They as if buttress and keep intelligence in its place.  One could compare it to the structural steel work of a skyscraper.  It holds the building up but is not seen. I speak of this ‘senses’ as the ‘intelligence support senses’.  And so, what we see is that culture doesn’t necessarily increase intelligence but it supports it.  But, in supporting it, it allows it to grow and develop.  One of the interesting fact this reveals is that the self is limited in its ability to ‘support’ intelligence.  This is primarily because the self ‘uses’ intelligence like a tool.  Culture supports it.

One of the effects of the ‘support’ is that it often creates something like a ‘falling back’ or what seems like a ‘regression of intelligence’.  This is because, at this stage, we are no longer centered on our self but in the culture.  We as if ‘give our self up’ as a result.  This makes it so that we seem to lose hold of it all.  I sometimes speak of this as ‘regressive intelligence’.  When this happens the ‘power’ is ‘transferred’ from the self to the culture.  If one does not grow into the culture then one may stay in the ‘regressive intelligence’ state, which some people do.  But when one grows into the culture one moves out of the ‘regressive intelligence’ phase and continues on with a different intelligence for it has passed from the personal intelligence to cultural intelligence.  Because of this there is actually something like a ‘transition period’ for this to happen, the ‘personal to cultural transition’.  If one succeeds then one ‘goes beyond ones self’.

But, at this stage, though, there is a tendency to get ‘stuck’ just like with the ‘anti-intelligence tendency’.  Basically, we tend to become ‘handmaidens’ to the culture.  That will stop a person in their tracks as much as anything else.  What we do is tend to forget our own intelligence and adopt the culture as if it were a replacement.  This makes it so that we abandon our intelligence.  This is the ‘abandoning intelligence tendency’.  When this happens we as if become like ‘robots’ to the culture, repeating what it wants, viewing things the way it wants, etc.  In actuality, many people reach this point as a result of ‘formal education’ and going to the University oftentimes.

If one can go beyond the ‘abandoning intelligence tendency’ they tend to occasionally abandon the culture from time to time.  In some ways, they can appear to go against it.  In actuality, though, what they are doing is rediscovering their own personal intelligence.  As a result, they are reintegrating their own personal intelligence into themselves.  This is ‘integrated intelligence’.  In this way, we as if make a complete circle back to our personal intelligence.  In some cases, we may have to start to discover it all again.

In actuality, what happens is a continuous ‘circle of intelligence’:

personal intelligence-cultural intelligence-personal intelligence-cultural intelligence, etc.

This cycle goes on the rest of ones life (that is, if one develops ones intelligence).  We continually alternate between personal and cultural intelligence again and again in our life.

It seems, though, that most people get ‘hung up’ somewhere in the cycle.  That is to say, there are all sorts of places in the cycle that stops or hinders a person.  Some of these have been described above, such as the ‘anti-intelligence tendency, the ‘regressive intelligence’, and the ‘abandoning intelligence tendency’.   They can be described as the ‘intellectual hang ups’.  Because of this I tend to think that the big battles of intelligence is not in developing or learning intelligence but in overcoming the ‘intellectual hang ups’ that appear in the cycle.  This seems to get more prevalent as one gets older.  When one is younger one tends to be mostly developing and learning intelligence.   The ‘intellectual hang ups’ have not appeared yet.  As a result, overcoming the ‘intellectual hang ups’ is more of an adult thing.

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Copyright by Mike Michelsen

Posted in Culture, cultural loneliness, etc., Education and learning, Philosophy, Psychology and psychoanalysis | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

A dream about death – themes of contemplation

I had a dream involving contemplation:

I dreamt that I was walking around in a certain town on the sidewalk.  Between the sidewalk and a building I noticed what looked like a grave.  There was a sarcaphagus or coffin on a large slab of stone.  The slab of stone was wide enough for two sarcaphagus or coffins.  The one that was there, though, was on the left side.  I looked and noticed it was my grave.  I realized that I had died.  Some things happened and I ended up laying down on the right side, next to my sarcaphagus or coffin.  I remember a feeling of surrealness thinking that my body was in the sarcaphagus or coffin next to me.  While I was there it was if both the sarcaphagus or coffin and me were encased in a larger sarcaphagus or coffin.  Oddly, I was able to see through it and see what was outside.  I saw some people walk around.  Then this family came and looked at the grave next to me.  They had some stuff (perhaps some flowers?).  They didn’t know where to put it but I saw the mother say to one of the kids, “it’s OK, just put it on that grave”, which was my grave.  With this my grave was as if covered for a while.    Once they left I as if layed there casually watching things and people go by.

- This dream woke me up.  It wasn’t a nightmare nor did it frighten me in any way. I woke up and seemed to say almost automatically, “that’s contemplation!”, as if it reflected some sort of a revelation or something.  I knew that it was but didn’t quite know in what way.  I was tired and wanted to fall back to sleep but reminded myself to remember it.

The town, in this dream, originates from a statement I made a day or two earlier.  I said that I was thinking about going somewhere, getting a hotel, and hiking around the area for the weekend.  This way I would not be restricted by how far I could drive that day.  I’d have whole days to do things unstead of part of the day and I wouldn’t spend half the day preoccupied with driving.  One of the towns I thought of was Park City, in Utah, which this town resembled.

This dream refers to this idea of spending time in the middle of nature, with trees, birds, and bugs everywhere.  Being that spring is coming (this dream happened in February of 2014) I am looking forward to this (I guess an early spring fever).  The reason why this is so important is that it refers to being in solitude and by myself as well as contemplating.  In effect, its a reference to an anticipation of contemplation.  In so doing it shows some interesting themes associated with contemplation:

  • Death.  In all contemplation, I’ve found, there is a death.  This is seen in the coffin already there.
  • Another self.  Contemplation, to me, is the ‘awakening’ of another self.  Its this self that creates the power and insight of contemplation.  This is seen in the coffin and me laying next to it showing that these are describing my ‘two selves’.
  • Being removed from the world.  This is referred to my being covered by the flowers.
  • Looking at the world from a distance.  This is referred to by me watching people from within the sarcophagus.

Its interesting that this dream refers to symbolic representations of contemplation.  This, I think, shows the deep inner nature of contemplation which I love so much.-

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Copyright by Mike Michelsen

Posted in Contemplation, monastacism, shamanism, spirituality, prayer, and such, Dreams and their interpretation, Stuff involving me | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Some thoughts on Conceptionism

There is something which I call ‘Conceptionism’.  This a term that I use to refer to something that has always fascinated me:  how and why we, and all living creatures, conceive the world and reality.  What is it that makes us see reality and the world the way we do and create an ‘image’ or ‘conception’ of reality and the world?  In order to be in reality and the world, and to survive, we must have a conception of how the world works and what it consists of.  An ‘image’, of sorts, must be created within us that allows us to live in the world.  No living thing can live in the world “blind”, so to speak, and without any idea of the world in which it lives in.  In fact, I’ve often said that conception is one of the defining traits of a living creature or thing All living things show conception in one form or another.  Inanimate things, such as a rock, is just ‘there’ wherever it is, and does not require any conception of the world it is in to survive.

But a living creature needs a conception to survive.  Conception allows it to live in its world, to know it, to react to it, to defend itself in it, and to sustain itself in it.  As a result, conception is a reflection of the world it lives in, for which it was designed.  As a result, conception is a result of the design of the creature.  Therefore, conception is really a reflection of the ‘design’ of the living creature.  As a result, conception is ‘design specific’.  This condition of ‘design’ creates a number of conditions for the living creature:

  • A pre-established image of a ‘reality’.
  • The means to live in that pre-established ‘reality’.

These qualities make up the conception of the living thing.  Through conception, the shape, abilities, attributes, etc. of a living creature is created and, in so doing, a living thing living in a specific ‘reality’ is created.  Its conception must, therefore, reflect its design.

THE CREATION OF CONCEPTIONS

Conceptionism implies a certain set of conditions in its creation.  These are:

  1. The unknown reality-beyond-conception.  The full reality of existence is like a blackness to us and all living creatures.  It is controlled and moved by things no one can comprehend, nor will ever comprehend.  It is far more complicated (or simple perhaps?) than any one of us can possibly imagine.  As a result, all creatures live as if in a dark room, with a reality of existence that they cannot grasp.
  2. The ‘design’ of the living creature.  The ‘design’ sets the creature up for a specific reality and world.  In so doing, it allows the creature to be aware of, and know, of a small segment of existence, that in which it lives.  As a result, a fish is prepared to live in the sea, the bird to fly in the sky, and such.
  3. The ‘worldly flashlights’.    The ‘design’ of a creature gives it an ability to see in the blackness . . . ‘worldly flashlights’, so to speak.  These allow it to see in the darkness of existence.   These encompass things like senses, abilities, intuitions, and such.  But these ‘flashlights’ only see a small part of existence.  They consist of that part that is relevant to it as part of the design of the creature.  As a result, all creatures only see a partial image of existence . . . that part of existence the ‘worldly flashlights’ allow it to see.  No creature has the ability to see all of existence.
  4. ‘Conceptions’.   The ‘design’ of the living creature and ‘worldly flashlights’ create the conception of the creature.  It determines how it lives and what it does in the world.  It dictates the creatures ‘reality’ or ‘truth’.   Because of this, the ‘conceived world’ is the only world a creature knows or is aware of.  But, we must remember, the ‘conceived world’ is not the totality of existence.

These show certain facts:

  • That all creatures have a limited conception of the world.
  • The conception of the world is based on the ‘design’ and the ‘worldly flashlight’ of the creature.
  • We ‘live’ in the ‘conceived reality’ that nature has designed us for.  That is to say, we live in a world nature has already delineated and determined for us.  In effect, we do not “create” our world.

I should emphasize that I am not only viewing ‘conception’ from a human angle, but in all living creatures.  Each living creature lives in its own ‘conceived world’, which is a world only it conceives.  An ant lives in an ant ‘conceived world’, a bird lives in a bird ‘conceived world’, etc.  Because these creatures have the ‘design’ and ‘worldly flashlights’ to live and see in their specific world, it means that they live in the conception given to them, which is different than what other creatures conceive.  As a result, they see the world differently than other creatures creating a ‘creature-specific conception’. This makes it so that no two different type of creatures see the world the same.  This is because they are living, in effect, in two different realities.

I should point out that there is great power of the ‘design’ of the living creature and the ‘worldly flashlights’.  Through it life is lived.  Imagine if you had the ‘worldly flashlights’ of other creatures:  different senses, different instinctual tendencies, different abilities, different capabilities.  Your whole conception and image of the world would change.  You’d see things you didn’t know were there.  You’d have tendencies you never had.   A whole new reality would opened up to you.  In this way, conceptionism actually shows how little we know of the world.  But, since we cannot gain the ‘worldly flashlights’ of other creatures, it also show that we will NEVER know as well.

THREE FORMS OF CONCEPTIONS

There are, really, three forms of conceptions:

  1. Conception-by-design:  non variable conception.  This refers to innate qualities within the living creature.  It includes things like physical attributes, abilities, instincts, etc.  It generally implies a pre-defined and already established conception of the world.  As a result, it does not require a ‘brain’ or a ‘mind’.  This would include things like plant and bacteria.  In these, the physical design is its ‘design’ and its ‘conception’.  Typically, if you take a living creature out of its conception-by-design condition then it will die.
  2. Conception-by-experience:  variable conception.  These refer to conception of the world that originate from experiencing the world.  It entails something like a learning.  This requires things like a ‘brain’ to achieve.  This would include things like insects and fish.  These creatures generally participate and react with their world as part of their ‘design’ and ‘conception’.  These creatures generally cannot adapt to other conditions that is dictated by their conception-by-experience condition.
  3. Conception-by-character:  individualistic conception.  This refers to creation of conception by the individual character of the living thing.  This requires a larger ‘brain’ and a ‘mind’ to perform.  As near as I can tell, all the creatures that have conception-by-character are mammals which include human beings.  These creatures are able to adapt to a wide variety of conditions and are, therefore, the most versatile of creatures.  This is because they are able too develop very individualistic traits and qualities and can alter or change their conception.

These three forms create like a pyramid with three levels.  On the bottom level is conception-by-design, as all creatures have this form of conception.  Built upon this are a smaller group of creatures that are conception-by-experience (which also have conception-by-design).  Built upon conception-by-experience is even a smaller group that are conception-by-character (which also has conception-by-experience and conception-by-design), making this the smallest group.  The groups higher up the pyramid have the conception traits of the one below it.

These three forms also create a spectrum of conceptions, from incredibly simple and unaltering (conception-by-design) to incredibly complex with great ability to change (conception-by-character).  In actuality, neither is better than the other, necessarily.  That is to say, complex is not necessarily better than simple as you’d normally think.  The “best” conception is actually based on the ‘design’ of the creature and where the creature is living.  If a creature remains in the world for which it was designed then it is ‘perfect’, so to speak, in that world and may exist there for millions of years.  Many creatures fit this scenario.  What this shows is that some creatures develop a ‘conception perfection’, of having a perfect conception of the world they live in.  Amazingly, the great bulk of the creatures in the world live this way.  What’s even more amazing is that they are mostly from the more simpler forms of conceptions.  In other words, the creatures that are conception-by-character (the most versatile) are the least prevalent of the creatures.  This, in a way, suggests that the simplist form of conception is actually the “best” simply because there are more creatures living that way.

ON HOW CONCEPTION IS BASED IN ‘DESIGN’ AND NOT IN “KNOWING” THE WORLD

An interesting point is that, though the world is massive and has a reality that we will never know, and principles we will never conceive of, it actually takes very little “knowing” to live in the world.  In other words, “knowing” the world does not determine if you will be able to live in the world or not.  Most of the living creatures of the world only “know” what the ‘worldly flashlights’ allow them to “know”.  Some creatures don’t really “know” at all (such as bacteria), but yet they survive.  In fact, some of the known oldest creatures of the world have no “knowing” at all.

This has always stunned me as I always felt that, for a creature to survive in the world, it needs to “know” a lot of the world.  The evidence that I see is that a creature does not need to know.  Unstead, a creatures has to be DESIGNED for the little part of the world it lives in.  A fish on land will drown.  An elephant jumping off a cliff, and trying to fly, will fall to its death.  This shows that what a creature is designed for is everything, not how much it “knows” about the world and how it works.

But we could also say that design is a ‘form of knowing’.   In many ways, it’s an “innate knowing”.  When we speak of “knowing” we generally speak of an“acquired knowing”, usually of an intellectual sort.  But, we must remember, that “acquired knowing” is really nothing but an application of design that already exists.  In other words, “acquired knowing” is a part of the design of a creature.   It allows certain creatures to better adapt to the reality of the world they live in.  That is to say, “acquired knowing” allows for variability and is, therefore, a trait of the conception-by-character form.

 ON HOW CONCEPTION DOES NOT LEAD TO AN ‘ULTIMATE KNOWING’

Nature gives us the living creature the ‘worldly flashlights’ to conceive the world and its reality.  It has “assigned” each creature with specific ‘flashlights’.  As a result, the how and why nature ascribes the ‘wordly flashlights’ to each living creature is a major element in conceptionism.  Modern biology would ascribe it to evolution and the evolutionary process.  Though the point of view sounds good, and seems to make sense, I have had reason to question it (as I’ve written in an article in this blog called, “Thoughts on my doubt about evolution”).  In many ways, its at this point that the question becomes:  how far am I going to consider my “conception of conceptionism” through scientific eyes?  This is like a cross roads.  If I am scientific then I could easily ascribe it to evolution.  But, being that I’m not, I don’t.  This would show that the conception of conceptionism a person uses varies ones view of conceptionism.  Its a good example of how varied our conceptions are.  One person will say this and another will say that . . . which is right?  Both usually are and aren’t.  Such is the example of how we can never get the ‘full picture’ which means we can never create a complete conception of things.  It reveals the fact that conceptions are for a specific creature in a specific situation.  They are not generalized in any way.  This goes down even to the conception of each individual human being and how they interpret the world.  It shows that the idea of conceptionism is a way of conceiving the world from ones own reality and not a statement of ‘ultimate fact’ (as science tends to try to do).  A person who would agree would be someone with similar conceptionistic perspectives.  A person that does not have similar conceptionistic perspectives would disagree.  In a way, it just shows an example that we live in ‘different realities’ more than anything else.  This same situation is found with almost all ideas, philosophies, and beliefs.  The many disagreements, disputes, conflicts, etc. between different perspectives only show that we are all living in different realities.  As a result, none can profess to be the ‘ultimate’ explanation, meaning that there is no ‘ultimate truth’ but only the truth accepted by the person, which is based on their ‘personal reality’.  This shows how design of a creature extends even to our views of the world and our conception of how the world works.  Wherever we turn we see this fact:  Any conception is rooted in a specific reality.  In addition, we find that a conception out of its reality doesn’t work anymore.  This is one of the basic truths of conceptionism.  The term “fish out of water” (conception out of its reality) could apply to a fish out of water down to a person of one culture living in another culture they can’t relate to.  Once we are in a condition, physically or mentally, that does not fit our conception then our conception tends to fail.

‘CONCEPTION-OUT-OF-REALITY’ AND ‘CO-CONCEPTION LIVING’

When a living thing goes out of its conceived world, or something from a different conception invades its reality, then we have the condition of ‘conception-out-of-reality’.  When this happens the living creature becomes out of its conceived world, hence, out of its design framework.  There are a couple of ways this happens:

  • Environmental.  This is when a creature is put in an environment it isn’t designed for, such as a fish being out of water.
  • Other creatures.  This is when one creature ‘imposes’ itself onto another creature.  A good example of this is when one creature tries to eat another creature.  In this way, a creature imposes its ‘carnivore’ nature upon, say, a ‘herbivore’ nature causing a conflict.  For humanity, it could entail something like imposing a belief upon a people.

Conception-out-of-reality can do a number of things to a creature:

  • It can kill it.
  • It can weaken it, make it ill, or hinder it.
  • It can cause a form of confusion or disorientation.
  • It can cause a battle between conceptions (such as carnivore versus herbivore).

But conceptions aren’t always in conflict. Because many creatures live in different realities their conceptions generally do not collide with each other.  In some respects, the different conceptions of creatures are like lanes in a road:  as long as everyone stays in their lane there are no collisions and everything runs smoothly.  In some respects, the myriad forms of conceptions, found in all the different creatures, make the world of the living work smoothly.  It gives each creature a ‘place’ to be and live, unhindered by other creatures.  As a result, it shows the fact that creatures having a specific ‘design’, which limits their abilities and world, actually helps them to survive with other creatures.  In other words, the limited conception of creatures limit conflict and are, therefore, beneficial for life.  This is ‘co-conception living’ as it allows many conceptions to live together, without conflict, next to one another.  If it were not for this then there would probably be more conflict.

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Copyright by Mike Michelsen

Posted in Existence: Awareness, Beingness, Consciousness, Conceptionism, and such, Philosophy, Psychology and psychoanalysis, Science and technology | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Thoughts on the ‘mystical grandparent’ and other things associated with it

Recently, my Grandma died.  As I reflected on her a memory came to me about her that got onto some important things:

- I was in my late teens.  I was alone in the front of her house.  I may of been mowing the lawn, trimming her trees, or some other chore.  A relative happened to came over and asked me “Is Martha home?”  I said, “Who’s Martha?”  She replied, “Isn’t that the name of your Grandma?”  Stunned, I replied, “Grandma has a name?” -

I never knew Grandma had a name!  To me she was “Gramma”.  That was the name I knew her as . . . I knew of no other name.  This bewildered me.  You must remember that I was in my late teens when this happened.

Some years later I was even struck by the word “Grandma” which I had seen written down somewhere.  I realized that it wasn’t just a word or, rather, name.  I always saw it as “Gramma”.  I saw that I actually it consisted of two words:  “Grand” and “Ma”.  This stunned me yet again.

These interesting alterations of name made me realize that there was something more about the idea of a Grandparent than what I thought.  I began to find that I tended to view grandparent in a specific way.  I saw a Grandparent as more than a Grandparent.  To put it another way, the image of the Grandparent transcended the individual person.  This made it so that there were actually two “Grandparents”:

  1. The ‘actual Grandparent’.  This, of course, is them as an individual person.
  2. The ‘mystical Grandparent’.  This is a more profound sense of the Grandparent that transcends their person.

The best way to describe the sense of the ‘mystical Grandparent’, I think, is to describe how I often felt it.  When I was around my Grandparents I often had this ‘sense’.  There seemed to be ‘something’ that hovered over them and surrounded them like a cloak.  I could ‘feel’ it.  When I focused my mind on it I often had these images that came to me.  I as if saw other people.  I as if saw other times.  I as if saw other places.  There were even times that I could swear I could even hear horses and carts!  I knew this was a reference to my ancestors, the people who came before me.  I could as if “feel” them through my Grandparents.  In this way, it made the Grandparent sort of like a “doorway” to my ancestors.  In short, the Grandparent was not a Grandparent but all my Grandparents put together.  This is the ‘mystical Grandparent’.

Its interesting that I often remarked that it seemed as if my Grandparents have always been there there since the beginning of time.  That is to say, I felt as if my Grandparents were always existing, that they were always there like the sky and the earth.  No doubt this is because, in my life, they were always existing . . . they were always there since my earliest memories.  I’ve never known life without them.  The Grandparent seemed timeless and beyond time.  This, I found, gives the image of the Grandparent some of their greatest power.

I often liked to be around my Grandparents because I loved the sense the ‘mystical Grandparent’ gave me.  Now, as I look at it, I can see that it had great influence on me.  I feel that it was instrumental in my interest in history, culture, and the idea of being part of a people.  This sense gave me a sense of who I am and placed me in the world.  This made the Grandparent as more than just a person.  It made them ‘mystical’ and powerful and influential with a sense of who I am in the world.   This made the Grandparent have many special qualities, traits, and ‘senses’ such as:

  • A sense of ancestors – it placed me as being part of a family.
  • A sense of belonging to a people – it gave me belonging to a group of people and culture.
  • A connection with life – it connected me with reality.
  • A sense of continuance – it made me feel that I was a part of all creation.
  • A sense of eternity – it connected me with timelessness.

So we see that the actual Grandparent and ‘mystical Grandparent’ created like a spectrum:

the individual person—family—ancestors—creation—life—eternity

This makes it so that the sense of the image of the Grandparent ranged from a person to a deep religious sense making the Grandparent more than a Grandparent.  This sense varied.  Sometimes I couldn’t tell the difference between the actual Grandparent and the ‘mystical’ Grandparent and sometimes I could. 

THE ‘MYSTICAL GRANDPARENT’, RELIGION, AND CULTURE

Because of the ‘mystical Grandparent’ I began to feel that the image of the Grandparent is very much associated with religion.  Its probably no surprise that, in some cultures, they speak of ancestors as Grandparents with similar religious senses I described.  These are usually older smaller societies which is where it seems the most common. 

It seems that, as societies grow, the sense of the ‘mystical Grandparent’ starts to wain and finally disappears.  We no longer speak of Grandparents but of Father and Mother, which is more immediate and authoritative.  When this happens it seems that the sense of ancestors and eternity also fades.  This shows that the ‘mystical Grandparent’ is very much related with a form of world awareness particularly found in smaller primitive-like societies.  In this way, the ‘mystical Grandparent’ seems a basis for many religions in these types of societies.  One could even speak of ‘mystical Grandparent religions’ if one wants.

Typically, though, there is usually an absence of nature with the ‘mystical Grandparent’.  That is to say, its religious sense generally does not connect us with nature and the natural world.  This gives it a very “exclusively social” tendency.  It primarily tends to create a sense of family-people-life-eternity.  In other words, its an almost exclusively human spiritual sense, not a natural world spiritual sense.  In this way, it creates what can be described as a ‘people-oriented religious sense’ which develops a strong sense of spirituality and religion based on things like this:

  • Us as a people.
  • Our ancestors.
  • Our connection with our gods.

Because of its strong sense of people this point of view often creates a number of stances such as:

  • An ‘us-versus-nature’ stance.  In other words, it tends to not see humanity-in-the-midst-of-nature but a humanity-opposed-to-nature or humanity-removed-from-nature.  This may of helped to cause very abstract and human-removed-from-nature points of view such as found in science and intellectualism.  It may of also created the stance of not respecting nature or of seeing nature as inanimate.
  • An ‘us-versus-others’ stance.  This makes it so that ‘our people are against your people’.  In other words, there’s a strong sense of ‘your different’.  This creates a very strong tribal sense in people.  It creates a great belonging for the members of the tribe but if you are not part of the tribe you can be treated bad and even killed.  This tribal sense can get so bad that people thing that they are better than others in some way.  The worst form of this is the idea of being a ‘superior race’ or ‘superior people’.

These qualities are seen a lot in Norse/Germanic society, showing that Norse/Germanic culture is, no doubt, based in a ‘mystical Grandparent’ sense.  This may be why I ‘sensed’ it so strongly as well, as I am from Norse/Germanic descent and culture.  But what these show is that the ‘mystical Grandparent’ sense can greatly affect how one views nature, other people, and ones bond with other people in the tribe.

THE ‘MYSTICAL GRANDPARENT’ AND OLD AGE

It seems, to me, that the ‘mystical Grandparent’ is associated with the fear of old age.  I, myself, have said some interesting things about this over the years.  For example, I have said that when people get “too old” they “cease to be people”.  In other words, they don’t seem to be human anymore.  Its almost like there is a point where old people begin to ‘blur’ with the sense of the ancestors, so to speak.  This, I think, is a frightening sense as it refers to ‘leaving life’ or, rather, dying.  To put it another way, when this happens the ‘mystical Grandparent’ becomes too real . . . eternity is too real, timelessness is too real.  These things have become more than a ‘sense’.  In that way old people are perceived as ‘no longer being us’ but passing into eternity, like a doorway to eternity.  For many younger people, especially, that is scary.

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Copyright by Mike Michelsen

 

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Thoughts on the historical stages of Christian conversion in Western society and other things associated with it

While thinking one day I began to mention that there appears to be stages in the history of Christian conversion in western society.  It goes something like this:

  1. The pre-Christian world.  This, of course, is the pagan world.  During this time most people were living with beliefs, gods, and traditions that may of been there since their origins.  As a result, these pagan customs are very deeply ingrained into the peoples lives, way of life, world perception, and identity.  We may, perhaps, say there was a definite ‘pagan identity’ in the people.
  2. The conversion.  This is when the Christians converted, or tried to convert, the pagan people.  The way in which this was done could range from brutal to a matter of teaching people.  In general, though, I get the impression that most people were not all that ‘receptive’ to Christianity nor were all the people all that willing to ‘convert’.  This makes sense as it means to abandon ones beliefs and ways.  Because of this, there was a great ‘conversion resistance’.  This resistance generally made the Christians have to resort to great measures in order to guarantee conversion, such as emphasizing the torment of hell if they didn’t.
  3. The Christian climax.  With the growth of Christianity, its association with politics, and its partial success with the people, Christianity reached a climax for many centuries.  During this time it appears that Christianity “won”.  In actuality, though, it did not.  One could say that it “won” only in respect that it became associated with political and social power in the society.  Without this association there probably would never of been a Christian climax.  In other words, the “powers that be” became associated with Christianity thereby making it a force in society.  What this means is that the “power of Christianity” was not found in belief and conversion, as is generally claimed, but in its being used by the “powers of society” which gave it its power.   In this way, really, Christianity failed as a belief and a conversion creating what can be called a ‘conversion illusion’ . . . the conversion only ‘appeared’ to work.  The truth of this would become apparent in the later stages.
  4. The failing Christianity.  Despite its climax there was always the ‘conversion resistance’ from the very beginning.  This became more and more apparent after Christianity reached its climax.  Not only were there differing viewpoints about Christianity but Christianity, itself, began to split apart.  There began to appear Protestants, Calvinists, Anglicans, etc. with whole other points of views and belief systems.  In many ways, this is a sign that Christianity didn’t quite “convince” everyone (the ‘conversion illusion’).  As time went on, there even began to appear alternate viewpoints having nothing whatsoever to do with Christian belief and which opposed it, such as science.  With all this, Christianity, as a power, began to falter and fail.  In many ways, though, these alone did not necessarily bring on the failure of Christianity.  The real failure was when Christianity began to no longer be associated with power and society as a result of these new happenings.  Once this happened the base of Christian power failed.  This shows, again, that the “power of Christianity” was not in belief and conversion.  After this happened other points of view would appear that would push Christianity into the background and almost unseen.
  5. Post-Christianity.  Once Christianity failed it lost its power and influence but, being a part of our life for so many centuries, much of its influence is felt in many of our attitudes and points of view.  Many Christian points of view and beliefs continued on but without the belief, creating what I call ‘blind Christianity” (I wrote an article on this called “Thoughts on Blind Christianity – some effects of the post-Christian era“).  In general, the belief of Christianity is gone but its “customs” continue on in a variety of ways usually without any reference to Christianity at all.  People, for example, speak of “loving one another” (a basic teaching of Jesus), or in the importance of the “people” (humanity was called the “body of Christ”), there is a worship of knowledge (originating from having to learn as part of the conversion process), and such.  Very few people realize that many ideals and customs we have today actually originated in Christianity.

These stages show some interesting points:

  • It shows that conversions don’t work that well.  People don’t just ‘understand’ and ‘believe’ as is claimed.  In other words, preaching doesn’t automatically make a person believe.  It shows that it takes a lot more to believing than ‘understanding’ the belief system.
  • It shows that the real ‘power’ was not in peoples belief, conversion, or understanding but in social power, such as politics.  In other words, social power defined belief.
  • It shows that this social power, and not belief, was so powerful that it created stages or ‘phases’ in the history of Western society.  It determined things for centuries, in some cases, and affected how everyone thought and did things.
  • It shows that peoples ‘understanding’ or belief, by itself, isn’t as powerful as it seems nor is it as influential as we think.  It took more than a persons belief to create the “power of Christianity”.  In other words, a person’s belief isn’t the great power that it has been claimed.
  • It shows that forcing a foreign belief system into a society tends to split it in two or disrupt it.  From the very beginning of Christian conversion there has always been a ‘conversion resistance’ . . . some people just did not believe or convert.  Its always been there and, in the end, it won out.  In effect, the forcing of a foreign belief system caused a lot of tension and conflict in society which, in the end, helped Christianity fail.

Looking back on it now, Christianity was more like a foreign intrusion into Western society, an alien element that, though it did affect some things, it never could, or did, become fully integrated into the society.  In many ways, this set the stage for much of the behavior of Western society in these past some odd centuries as, since then, Western society has done that repetitively, not only to itself but with the rest of the world.  In so doing, Western society has spread the basic dilemma’s started by the Christian conversion to much of the world.  Now, much of the world is now dealing with the same issues the Christian conversion did to Western Europe many centuries ago.  Some big issues include:

  • Having foreign and alien things and beliefs forced upon them.
  • Being forced to change in some way.
  • Being disrupted or split apart.

In effect, the Christian conversion has started a number of social processes in Western society that continue to this day.  They have become ongoing systems because they have become an accepted part of social functioning.  They have been there for so long that they have become ‘normal’.  In some ways, one could compare them to ‘bad social habits’.  I speak of a social system that was started by a unique condition and which is continued because it has become ‘accepted’, even though the condition may no longer exist, as an ‘ongoing social process’.  Christianity has started such a social process.  In fact, its started a number of them. Some of these processes include:

  • The creation of a ‘system of disruption’.   In other words, a system that repeatedly disrupts the existing state of things and treats this disruption as ‘no big deal’.  This has appeared in many different ways, such as politically and socially.  Western society continues this process, both in the world and itself, to this very day. 
  • The creation of a ‘system of intrusion’.  This is a system that tends to intrudes upon areas that it otherwise would not intrude upon, such as peoples individual beliefs.  Christianity started a process of ‘accepting’ the monitoring and control of what people think, for example.
  • The creation of the ‘belief/way of life dilemma’.  What this means is that it has made is that we have to ‘understand’ things in order to believe.  In this way, belief is not based in a way of life, as usually happens, but by what we ‘think’.  In this way, Christianity has made belief center too much on our own understanding and belief.  This has made it so that any belief or understanding is ‘abstract’ and ‘intellectual’.   
  • The creation of the ‘individualistic dilemma’.  Because of the emphasis on what a persons understands (to determine that a belief is ‘right’, which is the basis of conversion) it has created a condition where there is too much emphasis on the individual.  In other words, it has made the individual the ‘center of the world’. 
  • The creation of an ‘authority/belief dilemma’.  As I said above, the ‘power of Christianity’ was actually rooted in social and political power, not on what a person believed.  But we are told that what we believe is what matters.  This discrepancy as  caused a basic dilemma of belief . . . where does the power of belief really fall?  In the post-Christian world, many people have found that personal belief has no power and that, because of the fall of social authority, there is no greater authority to determine belief either.  As a result, both social and personal authority have failed.  The result is a general ‘no-belief’ stance Along with this is a general sense that there is no authority causing a ‘no-authority’ stance.  This has basically created a large power vacuum and a sense of ‘something absent in society. 

As one can see, these themes are familiar themes in the post-Christian era.  In many ways, they dominate this later era.  These processes are being passed down to the younger generations, and the rest of the world, almost like an inheritance.  In some respect, it is the inheritance of the Christian conversion.

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Copyright by Mike Michelsen

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