Various thoughts on the “Victorian” era – “modernism”, apprehension, war, mass communication, and conflict of ideas

Here are some thoughts I had:


I tend to view that we are still in the “Victorian” era.  Perhaps the term “Victorian” isn’t the best word but I continue to use it as it makes it clear that this era is a continuation of the former era (the 1800’s and 1900’s).  I suppose a person could call it the “modern” era, if one wished, as its also true but, in this article, I will continue to call it the “Victorian” era.  I also don’t like the term “modern” as it seems too “generic” and has too many other connotations.

I would say that there are, so far, two phases in the “Victorian” era:

  1. The classical or royal phase of Victorianismabout 1820 to about the 1970’s.  During this time the image of royalty and nobility were dominant themes.  There is much emphasis on manners, social hierarchy, and such.  It was also very much dominated by British culture and society.
  2. The mass or mob phase of Victorianism – about 1970’s to todayDuring this time mass society is a dominant theme.  As a result, there is great emphasis on mass communication, commercialism, etc.  It is dominated by the U.S. but this seems to be waning in the early 2010’s.

Keep in mind that these are just phases of a larger era.  What defines and unifies these two phases, and creates the “Victorian” era, could be described as a particular point of view and belief system, the creation of a specific idea . . .

The “Victorian” idea:  “modernism”

The “Victorian” idea could also be called “modernism”.  One of the reasons why I like to use the term “Victorian” is because of this association between “Victorian” and “modernism”.  Since “modernism” is still active, and it was created during the “Victorian” era, we are really still in the same era as the Victorians of the 1800’s, but just in a different phase of it.  As a result, I tend to view that the “Victorian” era will end when “modernism” ends.  In some sense, they are too intimately bound to be separated.

There are three phases in the progression of “modernism” so far:

  1. 1800’s  – the idea of “modernism” is created and defined
  2. 1900’s  – “modernism” is realized
  3. 2000’s – “modernism” dominates and controls

The “Victorian” era, then, is really the creation and realizing of the idea of “modernism” and is, accordingly, intimately bound with it.

Most people tend to emphasize the prevalence of machines or scientific ideas as the trait of a “modernism”.  There is some truth to this but I tend to look at it from a greater distance.  To me, the “modernism” point of view is just a new version of an older idea.  In short, “modernism” is really based in an old idea but stated in a different way.  This old idea is really Christianity which dominated Europe for centuries and made a great impact on European thinking.  Being based in Christianity shows that “modernism” isn’t as modern or as new as it sounds or professes to be.

One could say that “modernism” is, in actuality, the creation of a new Christian world, but without the religion, and in the cast of Greek ideas that developed during the period of time known as the Enlightment in Europe (in particular, the 1700’s) as well as the social and political problems that were prevalent during that time.  Many of these problems, interestingly, are caused by overpopulation.  Is it any wonder that, as “modernism” developed, it would cater to and focus on the the masses or mob of people?  Isn’t it any wonder that this would define the later phase of the “Victorian” era?  In my opinion, that’s no coincidence.

So we see that “modernism” is based in four main things:

  1. Christianity – this laid the foundation and set the tone
  2. Science and logic – from Greek philosophy
  3. Democracy – from Greek political thinking
  4. The social and political effects of overpopulation in the 1700’s this gave it a reality and purpose

One thing that this points out is the fact that “modernism”, though it was created and realized in the “Victorian” era, actually reflects the social and political conditions of the era that preceded it (the 1700’s) and is, in actuality, an attempt to solve those problems.  In this way, one could probably say that “modernism” is really a form of thinking that primarily reflects 1700’s reality.  Because of this, “modernism” tends to take points of view that were common then and apply them to current situations.  I often call this tendency “forcing the interpretation”.  Some examples include:

  • That people are oppressed by governments, etc.
  • That we are all struggling for freedom.
  • That life is miserable.
  • That everything is solved by intellectual thought and science.
  • That the solution to problems is something new or some form of reform (reflecting the success of the new scientific thinking over older Christian thinking).

Since these are not constant and all pervasive conditions, and tend to be automatic assumptions of “modernism”, it shows that “modernism” tends to assume certain conditions and realities that are often not existing.  This is why I jokingly say that “modernism is stuck in the 1700’s” which is said in irony as “modernism” tends to professes that it is up-to-date or modern.  Actually, its not as up-to-date as it seems.  In actuality, “modernism” has this tendency to actually be somewhat detached from current existing conditions oftentimes.  As a result, it tends to an idealism over real-world reality.  That is to say, there is a lot of “pie in the sky” thinking with “modernism”.  Oftentimes, what it considers up-to-date, or modern, is the latest thing that IT created, not the real-world reality.  This point of view I’ve seen with some of the so-called Millennials.  They think they are “more modern” over, say, the older generation because they have the latest apps!  But all they are doing is catering to the latest gizmo’s and gadgets that “modernism” has created.  This reflects the idea that “a person is up-to-date, or modern, only if they cater to what the modern world has created”.  But we must remember that there is a whole world beyond what “modernism” has created . . . and this is conspicuously absent!  As a result of this mentality, “modernism” as if creates a point of view where it is a “world unto itself” detached and removed from real-world reality.  Its because of this detached mentality that I’ve often said that we need to move out of the “modernism” way of thinking and a new “up-to-date” and real-world direction that isn’t so rooted in past conditions and realities and “pie in the sky” thinking.

Being that the “Victorian idea” of “modernism” is really a continuation of Christianity it displays similar traits to Christianity, such as:

  • The belief in a specific “doctrine” that must be adhered to (the doctrine of science, democracy, etc.)
  • A sense of self-righteous cause.
  • The idea that it will save humanity.  
  • A tendency to fanaticism.
  • A missionary attitude, they the world must be converted to “modernism” and it will be saved by it.

All these would be seen in the “Victorian” idea of “modernism”.  They would give it its cause, its direction, and its impetus.  I tend to think that the underlying “Christian cause” is what actually motivates “modernism”, in actuality.  One reason for this is the fact that Christianity has been such a powerful influence in Europe for so long.  In many ways, there isn’t any power in anything new . . . its unproven . . . and so the new “modernism” needed the authority and power of existing and firm Christian ideals to rest on.  Without the authority of the “Christian cause’ I think “modernism” would of been powerless.


Interestingly, the conditions of the “Victorian” era have created a unique form of apprehension, which can turn into a fear.  Because of this, “modernism” tends to be associated with an apprehension and it permeates much of its history.  This apprehension is often referred to in roundabout, and simplistic, ways such as the “fear of change” or “fear of the new” but I think there is a little bit more to it than what those simple explanations state.  It seems, to me, that this apprehension has origin in things such as:

  • Its a post war society.  Victorian society was right after the Napoleonic Wars and had all the tension, turmoil, and anguish that follows post war societies.
  • The coming of many new inventions, conditions, and realities.  The new steam engines, locomotives, chemicals, etc. that appeared caused an apprehension.
  • Things were happening too fast.  Many people didn’t have time to get used to or adapt to things.
  • An uncertainty about what will happen.  With all the new things that were appearing no one knew what to expect . . . good? . . . bad? . . . who knows?
  • The Christian idea of sin which caused a doubt about ourselves and what we’re doing.  The Christian idea that humanity is evil-natured did not make all the new things that were being created necessarily look good.

This apprehension, I think, has had great impact on the “Victorian” era far more than it may, at first, seem.  Much of this apprehension, though, was not overtly stated or felt.  In this way, it as if cast a shadow over this era.

As time went on, various things would greatly aggravate this apprehension and even turn it into fear.  This is particularly so with the realization of the many negative sides that “modernism” created such as:

  • The increasingly deadly and efficient weapons of war.
  • The more efficient controlling means of governments, organizations, and society.
  • The damage to culture and belief.
  • The damage to the environment.
  • The changes to society.
  • The fall of a sense of the individual.

But, for many people, this apprehension as if “hangs over them like a dark cloud” and never goes away, regardless of what happens.  In other words, apprehension is a trait of the “Victorian” era and hangs over it like a dark cloud.  This is as much true today as in the 1800’s.


It seems, to me, that a significant aspect of the “Victorian” era is that it is a “post idealistic-cause war” society.  I mean that it follows the French Revolution/Napoleonic Wars.  Though these are two different events they are intimately bound and are part of a greater complex of events.  In the end, they had dramatic effect on Europe in the late 1700’s and early 1800’s.  They as if sucked Europe into it and set a tone for the “Victorian” era and the development of “modernism”.  In fact, I think I would go on to say that they had a large hand in the creation of the “Victorian” era and may, perhaps, be largely responsible for its eventual form, direction, as well as the creation of “modernism”.  There are a number of reasons for this:

  • The themes that the French Revolution and Napoleonic Wars created were extensive and on many different levels
  • Many of its ideals were very much based in the ideas of the Enlightment, such as science and democracy
  • It became associated with a high cause (freedom, progress, nationalism, etc.) which is why I call it an “idealistic-cause” war
  • It was somewhat traumatic and horrifying
  • It was highly publicized because of better mass communication

These made the issues around the French Revolution/Napoleonic Wars a more European affair and exposed certain themes (such as those of the Enlightment) to more of the European population.  It also made the social and political problems of Europe more “real”, so to speak, and the threat of war “at ones door”, so to speak, for many people.  These threats as if hung over the early-mid part of the 1800’s, in particular and influenced much of the thinking at that time.

Interestingly, it seems to me that we are seeing similar conditions between the post French Revolution/Napoleonic Wars and the 2010’s.  This suggests, then, that we are in a similar “post idealistic-cause war” society situation.  I am speaking of the WWII/Cold War/War on Terror wars which, in a way, is like a long complex with each war being a phase.  Like the French Revolution and Napoleonic Wars they were also associated with high idealistic cause (that is, they weren’t just wars that came and went).  They are largely an American complex, reflecting wars the U.S. was involved with.  It is this complex which probably started the second mass or mob phase of Victorianism as I’ve described above.  After the War on Terror ended it seemed, at least to me, that there was a big “lull” or “absence” in the society.  I knew what this meant . . . the “great cause” was gone.   This “great cause” actually ended in the early 1990’s, when the cold war ended, but the War on Terror as if revived it for a time.  When it ended it was gone.  This has left something like a big absence in American society, in my opinion.  The U.S., it seems to me, is struggling with it.  For example, it seems to me that it figures prominently in the last Presidential election of 2016.  It motivated Trump’s slogan, “Make America great again” and it has motivated much of the endless and ridiculous nonsense, hysteria, and accusations from the media and the general population of this country about this election.  Its very important to point out that the large part of the nonsense originates from the media and people . . . that’s significant.  It shows that the country, as a whole, is struggling with this absence and loss of the “great cause”.

Some of the conditions that are seen in both the French Revolution/Napoleonic Wars and WWII/Cold War/ War on Terror wars include:

  • A post war trauma condition.  The country is as if “shocked” by the war, both socially and economically.
  • A war-based idealistic cause.  This can get to the point of a religion.  This is not surprising as, in both cases, this idealism is actually rooted in Christian belief.  I wouldn’t be surprised if  these war-based ideals are a “descendant” of the Crusades and its crusading war spirit.
  • An improvement in some economic classes, usually the middle class.
  • The arrival of new things, inventions, organization, and such.
  • An uncertainty about the future.
  • An absence or breakdown of defined and accepted beliefs in the society.  This often appears as an absence or breakdown in traditional, cultural, or religious beliefs.  This absence, it seems, is often replaced by the war-based idealistic cause.  This gives the idealistic cause even more power and influence in the society.  It also creates a “great absence” when the idealistic cause is lost after the wars.  This is probably why the U.S. is suffering so much when the “great cause” vanished.
  • The prevalence of mass communication.  This starts off with printed things like newspapers, magazines, and such and now has progressed to electronic forms, such as radio, TV, internet, and social media.
  • A strong sense of self-consciousness as well as a world-consciousness .  People become more aware of themselves and the world as separate entities.  This becomes more marked and distinguished.

In effect, these are some of the traits of the “post idealistic-cause war” society.

Unlike the French Revolution/Napoleonic War situation we are not seeing anything new being created after the WWII/Cold War/War on Terror wars but, rather, an intensification of the “newest modernism”, so to speak.  In a way, its causing us to dig deeper into “modernism”.  In that way, we could say that the French Revolution/Napoleonic Wars created the “Victorian” era and “modernism” but the WWII/Cold War/War on Terror wars are intensifying them or, to probably be more precise, they are further enslaving us in “modernism”.  

Because they seem to involve similar conditions it appears that both situations have caused unique and similar reactions in people.  This is because I tend to believe that the “post idealistic-cause war” society is unique and does not display common traits seen in most post-war societies.  I tend to think it is primarily because of these qualities:

  • The high idealistic cause
  • Mass communication

These make the wars more “accessible” to more of the population thereby giving it a more extensive and influential role.  The high idealistic cause makes them believe and mass communication makes it known.  As a result, it hits deeper in the society, and on a different level, than does normally happen.  Because of this, it displays different reactions than in a normal post-war society.  Interestingly, it appears that it has caused different reactions in the male and female, reflecting their different characters . . .

The male reaction

The male reaction seems primarily one of disorientation.  This tends to cause a number of tendencies such as:

  • They blindly follow.
  • There is a feeling of contempt.
  • A sense of indifference.
  • A tendency to apathy.
  • A lack of belief.
  • A lack of unity.

Some of the things that seem to cause these include:

  • The cause is gone and this leaves a big absence in the male.  That is to say, without the cause its as if there is nothing left . . . life afterwords is empty.  If there happens to be any continuing of the cause it becomes passive.  That is to say, it becomes an “idea” and not something “real” . . . it loses its “oomph”.
  • Its almost as if the male has been “spent” by the “post idealistic-cause war” and needs to take a rest. I sometimes think that this is similar to some forms of battle trauma in a way, at least for some males.  This seems to suggest that even though the male is not in the war he feels as if he is in it and, accordingly, suffers from its effects, so to speak.  We could speak of this, perhaps, as a ‘bystander battle trauma’.  If one looks at the after effects of two recent wars – the Vietnam War and the War on Terror – one can see that in each case many males became sort of stagnant or apathetic in the years following the war.  Both of these were highly publicized making many males feel a part of it, just by watching the news.  In other words, mass communication often leads to a ‘bystander battle trauma’, one is traumatized by knowing about it and being made to feel involved as a result!  In other words, the more the war is publicized the more ‘bystander battle trauma’ there is and the more toll it takes on a person.  When it ends one is somewhat “exhausted” by it all.
  • There is a stress caused by the war, because of its tensions, worries, etc.  This often goes by unnoticed in most males, and remains in the back of their mind.  It can come out, sometimes, in displays of anger or contempt or being upset with the government, for example.
  • It seems that the bigger the sense of high cause the worst the problems appear when the war is over.  As the saying goes, “the higher they are the harder they fall”.  This seems to show that there is a relationship between high cause and problems . . . the higher the cause the worst the problems.

One of the things these show is that males generally tend to be affected by war, even though they are not in it.  Knowing that a war is taking place often creates a sense of a cause, a unity, a belonging, and a purpose in the male population.  During times a war there is often a sense of “banding together” with the males.  Because of this, many things can get done during wartime as happened, for example, during the Cold War.  When the war is over, and the “great cause” is gone, the males lose that “banding together” sense, become disoriented, and often as if wander around aimlessly in life.  This seems to of happened after the French Revolution/Napoleonic Wars and the WWII/Cold War/War on terror wars . . . males seemed somewhat disoriented afterwords.  Each seems to have different effects though:

French Revolution/Napoleonic Wars.  After the war there was a disorientation in the males.  Also, a great contempt for society and the government was common.  But many males put an effort to find some sort of an orientation afterwords.

WWII/Cold War/War on Terror.  The idealistic cause was very strong.  It was exaggerated by the more efficient mass communication that appeared during that time.  This has caused more disorientation in the males once the wars ended.  In addition, males are doing little, if any, effort to regain an orientation.  The male has as if “come to a stop”.

The female reaction

The female reaction is primarily one of “quiet fear”.  This is something many of them don’t even recognize consciously but yet influences much of their behavior.  Some of the reactions include:

  • They become a slave to social ideals.  They as if wrap themselves up in social ideals, as if it were a warm blanket.  It protects them.
  • They use law, politics, and such as if it were a weapon.
  • They use law, politics, and such as a shield.
  • They try to become like men.
  • They develop a victim mentality.
  • They view the world as threatening them in some way.
  • They become accusatory.
  • They become oversensitive and overreactive.

Its as if the female is defending and protecting themselves from the fear associated with war.  This fear seems to as if eat away at many females.  In short, females feel frightened and helpless as a result of the war.

Typically, the females tend to neither care about the cause or purpose of the war, though they may say otherwise.  It seems that the higher and grander the cause the more frightened and helpless they seem to feel.  As a result of all this, the general character of the female has become one of a frightened and helpless person since the Napoleonic Wars, or so it seems to me.  The later conditions of the “Victorian” era, including the wars, social problems, etc., would only intensify it.  As a result of this fear, much of the female life often has these qualities in it:

  • Defending themselves against the fear (such as saying that everything violates their rights).
  • An attempt at attacking the fear (such as claiming that society is trying to oppress them).
  • Neurotic tendencies as a result of helplessness or inability to resolve the fear (such as conjuring up abuse when there is none).

Much of this is primarily caused by an awareness of war caused by mass communication even though they are unaffected. Unlike the male they have no interest in the cause and are not directly involved nor see themselves as directly involved.  As a result, their primary involvement, and source of fear, is because of mass communication.


Mass communication became widespread during the 1800’s and has only grown since.  In this way, one could call the “Victorian” era the “news era” if one wants.  But, as we’ve seen above, both the male and female reactions show influence of mass communication and how it plays a big role in their reaction to war.  But the effects of mass communication also extends to other things as well, such as social problems, murders, controversies, gossip, and other things one hears in the news.  In short, with mass communication one is, in a sense, “exposed” to the problems happening in the world even though you only see it or read it.  Once “exposed” one reacts somewhat similar to if one is actually there, even if its only in the back of ones mind.  In this way, mass communication makes it so that the worlds problems becomes our problems, even though they don’t even affect us.

In a way, it shows that mass communication has a far greater impact than it may seem.  It doesn’t just “inform”.  As I said above, one reacts to what one is “exposed” to.  As a result, it can cause things like:

  • Fear
  • Distress
  • Mental issues
  • Helplessness
  • Anxiety
  • Worry
  • Uncertainty
  • Stress
  • Anger

Whats most important is that these problems come from knowing, not experiencing!  This means that many problems do not, in actuality, exist . . . they only exist in peoples minds based on the dictates of what the mass communication dishes out.  I think its safe to say that many problems during the “Victorian” era are probably a result of mass communication and don’t really exist.  Perhaps we could call these “phantom problems”?  I think this is far more prevalent than it seems.  In fact, I think most problems don’t exist, nor are they as bad as they seem, making the “Victorian” era the “era of phantom problems”, all because of the prevalence of mass communication.

Females, especially, seem to be affected by mass communication.  In fact, I often have said that “mass communication is destroying the female”.  Basically, mass communication has created a sense of “vulnerability” in females, of being “exposed” to the problems of the world.  The more the females cater to mass communication the more the females feel “exposed” and suffer problems as a result.  With the growth of mass communication, nowadays, this has only intensified.

This feeling of being “exposed” has caused many females to feel things such as:

  • Insecure
  • Vulnerable
  • Over reactive
  • Threatened 
  • Inadequate
  • Oppressed
  • Frightened

Some of the things these cause are:

  • A horrible “victim mentality”.
  • A poor view of themselves and what a female is.
  • A slavish attitude.
  • A loss of “personhood”.
  • A tendency to “take on other peoples problems as if its their own”.
  • A tendency to create problems that don’t exist.

These seem to be common traits with the “Victorian” era female.

Ironically, mass communication as if pulls females into it . . . they are attracted to it (just look at females and their cell phones!).  In this way, the effect of mass communication on females is that it attracts them and undermines them.


The effect of the “Victorian” idea, and “modernism”, would be to cause a great variety of conditions, realities, and situations.  One effect of this is a conflict of ideas.  It would create a world of opposing ideas, ideals, and points of view that plague the era.  Some common types of ideas include:

  • Those that are for “modernism”.
  • Those that are against “modernism”.
  • Those with alternate views.
  • Those that blindly follow along.
  • Those that don’t know what to think.
  • Those that are frustrated by it all.
  • Those that rebel against it all.

These create many different points of view and perspectives during this era.  In some respects, its caused something like an “idea war”, a continual fighting about which idea is right.  This, of course, has never been solved.  In this way, ideas have taken on a quality of an enigma in the “Victorian” era.  Basically, any idea is right only if its said in the midst of other people who believe in the same thing.  This has caused “groups” in the society where people tend to congregate with people who have similar ideas.  As long as they stay in their “group” their ideas are right and they see no conflict or dispute.  I think that if people truly mingled with everyone else there would be more conflicts between people.

Because of all these points of view no one, it seems, is really to fully and adequately describe “modernism” and its effects.  It all depends on where you stand and what point of view you take.  One person would say this, another would say that.  This would cause conflicts of points of view about “modernism”, such as the “optimism versus pessimism” dispute.  Because of this, how the “Victorian” era, and “modernism”, is interpreted depends on the point of view of the person making it.

The conflict of ideas would cause an instability and uncertainty of its own.   Perhaps, in many ways, this instability and uncertainty would eat away at the era.  There becomes an inability to resolve the conflict of opposing ideas.  Because of stuff like this, the conflict of ideas has sort of undermined ideas over time devaluing their meaning, worth, and authority.

Not only that, the “Victorian” era would slowly undermine itself with its own ideas.  The era began with defined beliefs, ideals, and morals and would slowly end in a more nihilistic condition, a belief in nothing, and too many ideas and points of views.  All this because of the conflicts of ideas and the effects of “modernism”.


My feelings toward the “Victorian” era, and the effects of “modernism”, is that there is both good and bad in it.  It is neither a tragedy nor a utopia.  Despite all of its good, it has done extensive damage and caused great tragedies, some of the worst in history.  This fact must be acknowledged.  It makes me apprehensive about it all.  This causes me to question everything “modern”, regardless of its appearing good or not.  In short, I’m not convinced that “modernism” is a solution nor do I believe that it should be viewed as the way of the future.  In other words, I don’t see a utopia in “modernism” or the “Victorian” era, even though it has done some good, nor do I see it as an answer.  It seems, to me, that we need a new direction.

Copyright by Mike Michelsen

Posted in Battle trauma, Britain and British things, Christianity, Christian conversion, Post-Christianity, and Christian influence, Historical stuff, Mass communication: media, social media, and the news, Modern life and society, Science and technology, The male and female, The military and war, The U.S. and American society, Victorianism and Victorian society | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Thoughts on the expressions: “mother nature” and “the birds and bee’s” – aspects of the Victorian symbolism of springtime

Here’s a thought I had:

I have often heard two expressions that has always made me wonder of their origin:

  •  “Mother nature”
  • “The birds and the bee’s”

It seems, to me, that both of these have origin in the Victorian era (1800’s).  They primarily reflect a movement that was popular at the time:  Romanticism.  This movement put great emphasis on romance and love and was very popular during the Victorian era. This movement also used a lot of poetry and poetic expression.  Because of this, there was great use of poetic words and expressions to express romance and love.  These two expressions seem to be a reflection of that poetic tendency.

Both of these expressions seem to originate from a common symbol that was used during the Victorian era: springtime.  The symbol of springtime would have many different associations:

Springtime as symbol of a mother

It is in spring that “things are born” and “come alive”.   Spring gives birth to the “life of summer”, so to speak.  As a result, springtime is often associated with the idea that “nature becomes a mother” or, rather, the “motherly trait in nature”.  In this way, the expression “mother nature” is really a reference to springtime.

I should point out that this only refers to when the motherly aspect of nature manifests itself.  It does not state that nature is a mother, and its certainly not referring to nature as being something like a goddess, as I’ve heard some people suggest, nor is it a remnant of a pagan “mother nature goddess”.  I know of nowhere, in any culture, where all of nature is viewed as a mother or a goddess.  In all cultures, that I know of, the “motherly” qualities of nature are generally viewed as something specific in nature, happening at certain times and certain conditions, not as something all pervasive.  Its really no different here.  In this way, spring is, in a sense, the “time of the mother quality in nature”.

I get the impression that, by the late 1800’s and early 1900’s, “mother nature” became an almost “generic” word for springtime.  It seems that it may of become widespread by the use of advertisements and other popular media.  As time went on, though, the romantic movement slowly weakened and much of the symbolic associations associated with springtime (including those described below) became forgotten.  It seems that the world wars, in particular, have contributed a great deal to the forgetting of these associations.  No doubt this is because the world wars destroyed and opposed the idea and themes of romanticism, and its symbol of springtime, and leaning to a more dark and grim sense.  Because of things like this, “mother nature” would lose the original symbolic associations.  As time went on, and these associations disappeared, it would slowly become a “generic” word for nature in general.

Springtime as a symbol for love and romance

It is during springtime that things “come alive” . . . flowers bloom, birds chirp, and so forth.  Love and romance tends to evoke similar feelings of “coming alive” and, as a result, are commonly associated with springtime.  Its really no surprise, then, that springtime would become associated with love and romance.  Not only that, the inevitable result of love and romance is motherhood.  Even recently a friend of mine made this statement:  “isn’t springtime mating season?”

Springtime as a symbol of sex

Because springtime is associated with the appearance of flowers, bugs, nice weather, and such this would become associated with springtime’s association with love and romance. Over the years, this association caused an expression to develop:  “the birds and the bee’s”. Its a reference to how, during springtime, the birds and the bee’s appear and do their thing.  What’s interesting about this is that it became associated with a particular aspect of love and romance, namely, sex.  As a result, to tell a kid about “the birds and the bee’s” became a poetical and “polite” way of speaking to them about sex.  It originates from the association of springtime – when birds and bee’s flourish – with love and romance which is, of course, associated with sex.

Springtime as optimism and love of life

Since springtime is the time when things “come alive” it became associated with great optimism for nature and life.  As a result, its often a reference to a generalized love one may feel, such as the love of nature or life, that is not necessarily romantic or love-based.  This optimism also made it associated with a great joy and of “feeling good” about things.

Springtime as a symbol of an awakening

Since things “come alive” during springtime it is associated with an “awakening”.  I, myself, tend to say that I “come alive” in spring and “wake up” out of the slumber of winter.

Associations and theme

What’s particularly interesting is that these all reveal an association between a number of things with an underlying theme.  These seem to be made unconsciously.  That is to say, people didn’t come up with these associations logically. Even though many of these expressions are said individually, and seem separate and distinct, when you put them all together there is a single theme that can be seen.

So we see the expressions “mother nature” and “the birds and the bee’s” describe an interesting symbology to springtime which is also associated with other themes as well:

  • Life in general.
  • The life that appears at springtime (birds, bee’s, flowers, etc.).
  • Optimism and a love of life.
  • An awakening to life.
  • Romantic feelings.
  • Birth.
  • Motherhood.
  • Sex.

All these different associations, though different, point to a specific theme.  In short, they all reveal that the theme of springtime refers to a “the birth of life and in creating life”.  In so doing, it tends to refer to the “joy of life” as well.  The Victorian romantic movement seems to of made great emphasis of these themes and in many different ways and creating many poetic descriptions to illustrate it, as those I have described above.

Much of the world, at least to some extent, seems to of made similar associations with springtime though, perhaps, on a much milder or in more specific perspective.  In some respects, the Victorian romantic movement was different from the rest of the world as it has qualities that is more like a worship of nature that was almost religious in orientation but was actually non-religious in orientation, sort of a half religious worship.  In addition, it seems that they tended to see a broader view in its symbology than most of the world.

Copyright by Mike Michelsen

Posted in Historical stuff, Mythology, Other stuff, Victorianism and Victorian society | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Innocent obsessions


A short story by Mike Michelsen

“I swear it was all harmless,” the man cried out, tears streaming down his red water-soaked face.  “I wasn’t trying to do anything bad . . . oh God, please believe me!”

The Police Officer takes one last look at the man handcuffed to the chair.  Tears continued to stream down his face as he slowly brought his head down toward the table eventually letting his head drop the last few inches with a resounding ‘thud’.

Turning away as he closed the door, the Police Officer couldn’t help but let an expression of contempt come across his face.

“What do you think?” came a voice from the other side of the hall.

Startled, the Police Officer quickly jerked in the Sergeants direction, and looked at him quizzically.

“Its most unusual . . . I mean, I think I know what happened but its most unusual.  In all my years . . . ”

The Police Officer began to walk down the hallway, the Sergeant following behind.

Turning into the cafeteria they both quietly walk to the coffee machine as if by habit.

“Here, let my buy you a cup!” the Sergeant cries out.  The Police Officer grabs a cup and lets the Sergeant pour his cup, then turning and pouring his own cup.  They both then wander through the labyrinth of people to find an open table where they both sat down quietly.

“Well?” the Sergeant asks.

“Hmm . . . well?”

“People say the man is insane or angry or both . . . didn’t he lose a lot of money gambling?  The psychologist said he lost so much that he began to feel resentful and had to take it out on people.  This, he said, coupled with an insecure character.”

“Yeah, yeah, but its just too simple.  It sounds good, I agree, but from what I’m seeing there is a little bit more.  Insane? . . . Angry? . . . Hmm.  I mean, he didn’t talk that way.  I just don’t get that impression.”

“Why, what do you think?”

“To be frank, the picture that has formed in my head is quite interesting and does not fit what everyone else says.  Its still unclear.”

“What’s the picture that you’re seeing?  Maybe if you talk about it the picture will become more clear?  Besides, I’m curious.”

“First to all, everybody wants cliche’s and simple explanations.  You know . . . he’s insane . . . he’s unstable . . . these explanations seem so simplistic to me.  They also want dramatic and grand explanations . . . he hates . . . he’s angry . . . he’s so and so.  My experience is that there is so much more to what causes people to do things like this.  Its not just a simple ‘this or that’ type of deal.  Its a bit more complicated.”

“Yeah,” the Sergeant agree’s.

“He said it started after he bought a Glock handgun.  He had never had a handgun, or any gun for that matter, before.  His brother was the first to buy a handgun and asked him to go to the gun range with him.  When I talked to his brother earlier today, he said that he was hoping that it would help him with his gambling addiction, which he had been suffering from for some time.  You know, it might divert his attention in other directions.”

“It definately diverted it!”

“After shooting it a few times he says he had to have one.  He says he was fascinated by it.  Some days later he bought his Glock.”

“A lot of people enjoy shooting but I don’t still don’t see how that leads to what he did.”

“Yeah . . . I get the impression that he started out like everyone else.  Like many other people, he was having fun and enjoying himself.  He enjoyed to go shooting and was on his way to be a competent target shooter.  He even said that, later, he considered getting in a target shooting competition but, after watching some people shoot, he said he felt he wasn’t good enough.  He felt that there was no way he could possibly compete with these other people.”

“Are you saying that he was upset  because he couldn’t compete?”

“No, not at all.  He was dejected and quit shooting for a while.  Instead, he went back to gambling.  Then, one day after winning at craps, he thought, if he could win by shooting craps he could win at shooting his gun and maybe win in a competition.  I get the impression that winning is important to him.  He went to the shooting range and practiced.  He went every weekend for some months.  His shooting improved.  And then, one day while shooting, a thought went through his head . . . of shooting a person.  He wondered what it would be like to shoot a person.  Every time he shot this thought came through his head.”

“I’m sure that many people have had that thought before, even I have, especially as a policeman.”

“That’s probably true . . . the thought has come to me before too.  Of course, for me it was different.  I wondered if I could do it if I had to . . . could I really shoot down a criminal?  I think a lot of policemen think of that but his was different.”

“Do you mean that he secretly wanted to kill someone?  Some people harbor a secret unconscious desire to kill that can come out in the right conditions.  Sometimes people are pushed to this point.  I think that was the psychologist said, that when he lost the twenty thousand dollars gambling, or whatever it was, he as if snapped.”

“I don’t think so.  I don’t get the impression that he wanted to kill anyone or that he snapped.  I think it was that sense of morbid curiosity that comes out in some people about death and killing.  I think everyone wonders about this, at least to some extent but that doesn’t mean they want to kill people.  I certainly didn’t see any desire to kill, or a hatred, or an anger in him.  At first he said the thought was mild.  He said it was as if in the back of his mind, but it was often there when he went shooting.”

“That doesn’t sound like much.  You’re telling me that this was all a thought in the back of his mind?”

“You know, in a way it was.  It was never in the forefront of his mind.  It always remained in the background as if in a fog, unclear and vague.”

“That’s what motivated him?”

“Well, you’ve only heard a small part of the story.  It remained in the back of his mind.  He continued to shoot, off and on, for some months but his gambling increased.  As his gambling increased his shooting decreased.  Over time he sank more and more into gambling . . . he simply couldn’t stop.”

“I had heard he had gambled a total of about one hundred and ten thousand dollars away.”

“Something like that . . . he didn’t even know for sure.  He lost his car, his house, and even his wife.  Even after all this he didn’t snap or show signs of instability, as people would think.  His brother said that he was calm and collected during this time and showed a desire to improve.  Eventually, his brother and ex-wife decided to help him get into rehab.  He was in this for about a year.  He seemed to improve.  While he was in rehab he would occasionally go shooting with his brother.  His brother was impressed by his improvement.  During this time, he didn’t gamble and seemed to of been cured.  As near as I can tell everyone felt his gambling problem was over.”

“I don’t know . . . that doesn’t sound like a violent person to me.”

“It isn’t!  This is not about a violent person nor is it about violence.  That’s what no one understands.  Its actually a problem that eventually happened to involve violence, not as a motive or drive but incidentally, as if by accident.”

“You’re telling me that there is no violent tendencies in this case?  I find that hard to believe.”

“I had a difficult understanding too, at least at first, but as I looked at it as a whole it all started to make sense.”

“So this is a case of a non-violent violent person . . . I wonder how the courts will view that?”

“Who knows?  More than likely he will be viewed in a sinister way.  Something tells me that he is not going to any understanding.”

“And the media . . . I wonder how they will portray it?  It can’t be good.”

“All I know is what I heard from him.  One day, he went shopping in one of those mini-marts.  There were a few slot machines in the corner.  He felt that it wouldn’t hurt to put some money in.  He said he ended up being there for about two hours . . . lost several hundred bucks.”

“So he got hooked again?”

“Eventually . . . that is, over time.  It didn’t come at once.  It was bit by bit and, several months later, he was gambling daily.”

“Didn’t anyone notice?  They could of got him back to rehab.  Maybe his brother . . .”

“No, no!  He gambled secretly.  No one knew, not even his brother.  At least, his brother claims that he never suspected it.  He said that from what he saw of his brother he seemed cured.  He was stunned to find that he was gambling so much.”

“Yeah, when people hide their addiction then its always a bad sign . . .”

“And so it is.  It did get bad.  It seemed to consume him, dominate him.  He became a slave to his addiction to gambling.  Soon he was selling all that he had, his car, various belongings, his new house.  Thousands and thousands he gambled away.  He made some, lost some.  This went on for months.  He says that he still doesn’t know how he survived during that time.”

“It still amazes me that people can get that out of control.”

“Then one day, he realized all his money was drained.  There was nothing left to gamble.  He claims that he felt as if he was uprooted and detached from life.  The world seemed to be a million miles away even though it was right there in front of him.  He felt as if there was a big wall between the world and him, as if nothing connected him with life.  He said it was a horrible feeling, one of the worst in his life.”

“I guess that makes sense.”

“And then he was rummaging through the small amount of possessions he had and found his gun.  At first he didn’t think anything of it except that, maybe he could sell it to get some money but later in the day the thought came to him, of shooting and the thought of shooting people flashed through his mind.  He said that it was still a thought in the back of his mind and he didn’t think much about it.  Luckily, he was able to get some money from his brother and some relatives.  They would give him the money on condition that he didn’t gamble it away and use it to get back on his feet.  He agreed and did just that.  He got an apartment, bought an old car, got a job stocking shelves and seemed to be on his way to recovery.  He started to feel good about himself and thought about going shooting with his brother again . . . he enjoyed it so much.  They did go shooting and had a good time.  He loved to shoot so much that he started to go to the shooting range on his own everyday.  Soon he was using all his money to go buy ammunition.  Then he thought about getting another gun, a pistol.  Then he wanted a rifle.  Then he wanted an assault rifle.  After about a year and a half he had four hand guns, three rifles, and four assault rifles.  He went shooting again and again.  First at the range, then out in the desert.  He said that it was in the desert, all by himself, that he began to really think about shooting people, even to the point of making cardboard cutouts of people to shoot at.  He said that the idea consumed him.  He couldn’t wait to go out to the desert and shoot those cardboard images.  He thought it was ‘therapeutic’ and it seemed to help him calm down.  It was his way of venting I guess.  When he went back home after shooting he said he was calm and relaxed.  Not only that, he found that if he felt nervous or stressed he’d just go out shooting and it would relax him.  Shooting eventually became a big part of his life.”

“So shooting just overwhelmed him one day?”

“No, not exactly.  Personally, I think it was, as he said, ‘therapeutic’ and it did help him and probably would of continued to do so but something happened.  One day, he happened to pass the casino and had to go to the bathroom so he walked in.  He saw the gambling table.  He thought it wouldn’t be a big deal if he gambled a few bucks.  But, soon, it went into the hundreds, then thousands of dollars.  He went back for several days thinking he would win the money back.  Eventually, he lost it all again and he felt dejected, a failure.  I think this was the turning point.  Back at his place he looked at what was left of his possessions and wondered what to do.  A thought came to his mind, to sell the guns.  He went to the closet and pulled them out.  He grabbed an assault rifle and held it in his hand.  He says that it felt good in his hands.  He felt in control.  He wanted to go shooting.  There he was in control . . . he could hit the targets.  He lifted it up as if to point at a target.  He pretended to fire.  Then he pretended to fire again and again.  It gave him such joy and relief, but there was something missing.  He said to himself, ‘I’m not shooting at anything . . . I got to shoot something.’  The next thing he knew he was putting the ammunition in a backpack and grabbing three of his assault rifles.  As he was walking out the door and down the hall he realized that he could not go to the desert as he now had no car.  The next thing he knew he was walking up the stairway.  Up and up he went to the roof.  He looked out over the ledge to all the people in the streets.  He told me that he had to start shooting at the targets.  It was the only way to feel good and to feel in control.  After all, he said, it was ‘therapeutic’.  He told me that, at that time, he thought it would help him.  He also told me that it never occurred to him that these are real people.  He said that, as he was shooting, he felt that he was shooting those cardboard images.”

“So he was not motivated out of a desire to kill?”

“That’s how it seems.  He chuckled when he told me that, when he first heard the sirens of the police cars coming, he actually looked around wondering what was going on.  He thought that an accident had happened somewhere.  He even stopped shooting and walked around the perimeter of the roof to see if he could find it.”

“That was the delay the police talked about when they arrived?”

“Yes.  He saw all the police cars parked down the street and assumed there was a robbery or something that he couldn’t see.  Eventually, he looked down and saw more of the ‘cardboard figures’ – that was the expression he told me – and started shooting.  He said he felt such a relief as he shot, as if a great weight was being lifted off his shoulders.  He said he didn’t want it to stop and he could of done it forever.  I remember what he said, ‘the control I felt when the cardboard figures fell . . . I was somebody and in control of my life.  You can’t buy that with money’.”

“But he was stopped, thank God.”

“What was it, thirteen minutes?  Wasn’t that how long it lasted from his first shot to when they stormed the roof?”

“It may of been eighteen.”

“The police eventually made it to the roof and opened the door and walked right out . . .”

“You mean, he didn’t even lock it or barricade it?”

“You got to remember that, in his mind, he was shooting cardboard images, not massacring people.  He never dreamed the police would come up.  And that’s exactly what he said too.  When he heard the door slam open it startled him so much that he dropped his assault rifle.  He looked up and saw about thirty police officers aiming their gun at him telling him to put his hands up.”

“They said that he was startled and said, what was it . . .?”

“He said, ‘What is this all about?’ as if he hadn’t done anything.”

“Officer Ruskin’s said that, as they approached him and threw him on the ground, handcuffed and searched him, he was yelling ‘What’s going on? What’s going on?’ and ‘You have the wrong guy’.   He even said, ‘I didn’t do anything’.  He said that he acted as if he was completely innocent, as if he hadn’t hurt a fly.  He seemed oblivious to it all.”

“That’s basically what he said to me as well.  He was stunned by it and felt the police had the wrong person.  In his eye, at least at that moment, he hadn’t done anything wrong.  To use his words, ‘I was only shooting cardboard images, what’s wrong with that?’  He even told me that, as they were walking him away, he was thinking about a lawsuit and fantasizing about all the money he might get and then he could go gambling again.”

“The man’s out of his mind.”

“Its unlike anything I’ve seen before.  The man seemed rational and sane.  His story didn’t seem insane to me, of a mad man.  Do you know what I think?”

“What?  If he’s not gone mad than what is he?”

“To me, it looks as if we’re dealing with a man who has a problem with obsession.  He’s not mad or insane, he just has a minor mental problem that many people have.  The difference, in this case, is that it went in an unusual,  dramatic, and eventually violent direction.”

“What?  Are you saying that this is a minor problem?  It doesn’t seem minor to me.  A lot of people were killed.”

“You must remember that you’re looking at things after the event happened and, because the event was dramatic you are assuming that the cause is dramatic.  I don’t think it is.  I think he is suffering from a common problem that many people have.  It looks like an obsession.  He got this idea in his head that he had to do something and he had to do it.  First it was gambling.  Second it was shooting.  The difference is that it went in the wrong direction and proved dramatic in the end.  This normally doesn’t happen with this type of problem.”

“It sure seems like there has to be more to it than that.”

“Again, you’re looking at the after effects.  I think the man has an obsession problem.  That’s what this is all about.  It first made its appearance as a gambling addiction.  He went to rehab and tried to stop it but this only as if suppressed it.  Shooting offered another outlet for this obsession.  Its as if the obsession had to come out in any way it could.  In addition, I think shooting became something like a form of venting, of life’s frustrations and the problems his obsession and gambling caused.”

“Your saying that one obsession was replaced by another?”

“Yes, that’s what it seems.  Shooting became the alternate obsession to gambling.  If he had remained a gambling addict none of this would probably of happened.  He even said that shooting was much like gambling.  Every hit was a win and, like gambling, he wanted more and more.  When he lost all his money, and couldn’t gamble anymore, it only spurned the shooting obsession.  Shooting was the only way to win and he needed that.  He eventually went on top of the roof and the rest is history.”

“That’s an interesting story.  Do you think its true?”

“I don’t know.  That’s what I got out of it after talking to him for how long? . . . three, no, four hours.  I’m no expert but that’s what it seems to me.  This whole thing has wiped me out.”

The Police Officer leaned back on his chair and rubbed his eyes, let out a big sigh, and stared emptily into his empty coffee cup.


This story was inspired by some conversations I had with a number of people about the motive for the man who did the mass shooting in Las Vegas on October 1, 2017.  Most people, it seems, wanted all these dramatic explanations, that he was insane, that he was angry because he a lost a lot of money, etc.  I said that this could be true but that, in any case, one must leave open the possibility of the unexpected, or the situation that you’d never think of.  Not everything fits the dramatic image you envision.  I also pointed out that, in some cases, things aren’t as sinister as you’d think they are.  That is, people don’t do violence because they are “angry” or “been abused as a child” and such.  Sometimes, bad things originate from simple everyday things that, for some reason, get out of control and just happen to go down the wrong road.

I wanted to write a story reflecting these qualities and this story came to mind.  I was going to write it as a descriptive story but didn’t want to, as it would take too much time.  I didn’t feel like writing a whole complicated story on it.  I also thought it would be different to do it in a different style, of two guys discussing a case and a policeman stating his opinion about it.

Copyright by Mike Michelsen

Posted in Psychology and psychoanalysis, Short Stories | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Thoughts on the ‘progression of expression’ – aspects of creativity

In a recent conversation I said some interesting things:

I spoke of what I called the ‘progression of expression’.  I first used this point of view as I watched how artists worked when I was younger.  Both me, my brother, and a friend of mine were involved in art so I saw a lot of this.  Later I would find that this point of view also worked in many other forms of expressions, including things like learning and knowledge, intelligence, hobbies, crafts, interpretations of the world, etc.

I should point out that these progressions refers to various forms of creativity.  In other words, the expression I speak of is through creativity.  I generally define creativity as “making something out of nothing”.  My observation, though, is that this is far more rare than it seems . . . “making something out of nothing” isn’t as easy as it sounds.


This progression makes something like a spectrum:

  1. A “copyist” orientation
  2. A style-based orientation
  3. A personal/style orientation
  4. A personal orientation
  5. A creative orientation

1 – A “copyist” orientation

A “copyist” is someone who primarily copies or duplicates existing things.  In this way, they “stand on the shoulders” of other people.  In many cases, all they are doing is “duplicating” something that already exists.  In some respects, its nothing more than imitation.

My observation is that most of what people do is “copy” things.  Many people mistake it for creativity and often consider it “new”, even though its a copy.  A lot of art, knowledge, and so-called intelligence is of this form, believe it or not.

This form, though it appears creative, actually has little creativity involved with it.

2 –  A style-based orientation

Something that is style-based means that any creativity is based on an established style or way of doing something.  In this way, any creativity is based on applying that style, it is under the “control” or dictated by the style.  In this way, all they are doing is something like an “applied style”.  An artist may draw, for example, in the “Marvel style” or “Disney style”, a psychologist may be a “Freudian” or “behaviorist”, etc.

Interestingly, a lot of education is nothing but learning a “style of thinking”.  Once this style is learned or “copied” in ones mind, one uses it as a basis of interpretation.  A medical doctor, for example, will learn to interpret symptoms according to the style the style established by the medical school or hospital, and so on.  Most education, learning, or knowledge is nothing but a form of style one adopts. 

3 – A personal/style orientation

In this orientation people tend to mix an established style with their own personal qualities.  Style is used but its used as a form or medium of personal expression.  In many ways, the person takes a style and “tweaks” it to give it a “personal stamp”.  Typically, it still has qualities of the style but its a little “different”.  This, really, is where creativity starts to truly appear as there are qualities coming from the person.

4 – A personal orientation

In this orientation people create things on a personal basis, reflecting personal tendencies, inclinations, and abilities.  Because its more personal it tends to be unique and “uncommon”.  Because of this, it tends to reflect themselves and may or may not be “appealing” to other people.  As a result, a lot of personal creativity tends to go by unnoticed. 

There seems to be two forms of the personal orientation:

  1. It originates from a style but the personal element as if “usurps” the style making it more personal and unique.
  2. It originates from within the person.

The end result of it all is that it creates a purely personal style.  Accordingly, it is a personal form of expression of the person.

5 – A creative orientation

In this orientation a person purely creates “out of nowhere”.  There is no copying, imitating, and no style.  In some cases, there isn’t any personal style.  In fact, there seems to be two forms:

  1. It comes from within the person, reflecting personal qualities.  This would be like a Van Gogh painting what they felt inside in the form they wanted, for example.
  2. It comes from without the person, often reflecting a condition, reality, or way of life.  This would be like a person in a primitive tribe who paints pictures on a stone wall reflecting spirits or beings that effect his tribe.

To me, to truly be creative means that it originates from without the person, that it is beyond the person.  When a person is this way, I call it “inspiration”.

Its not uncommon that a person often discovers things in this orientation.  This shows its “creative” quality, as things are made or “come out”.  This is creativity in its purist form.  Its not just “made” its “discovered”.

This form tends to be sporadic and occasional.  In other words, it is not something that remains constant.  A person may, for example, be creative for a period of time and then it stops.  Another person may do something creative one day then do something creative the next week.  And another person may not be creative at all.  It seems, to me, that creativity is a reflection of character.  You cannot learn it.  Learning how to do things, though, may develop it and bring it out.  Despite this, it still cannot be learned . . . “if its not in a person then it does not come out”.

This form is not something that you can will to happen . . . “it comes when it comes”.  Many people, who have a streak of creativity, often fall into despair when it fades and they cannot will it to happen again, though they may try again and again.  This can cause particular problems if a person makes a living off of their creativity.  In fact, making a living off of creativity poses particular problems . . . it can’t really be relied upon to be there all the time.  Many people have suffered as a result of this.


These progressions are like a spectrum, with “copyist” on one end and the creative orientation on the other.  Each end of the spectrum reflects unique qualities that are usually opposed to each other:

  • The “copyist” orientation creates familiarity.  The creative orientation is unfamiliar.
  • The “copyist” orientation creates sameness.  The creative orientation causes variety.
  • The “copyist” orientation creates security.  The creative orientation often causes apprehension.
  • The “copyist” orientation tends to be accepted.  The creative orientation tends to not be not accepted.
  • The “copyist” orientation tends to be easy.  The creative orientation tends to be hard.
  • The “copyist” orientation tends to be common.  The creative orientation tends to be uncommon.
  • The “copyist” orientation tends to be social-based.  The creative orientation tends to be personal.

In these ways, we see that the “copyist” style tends to be accepted and has the support of society.  The creative orientation tends to be unique and is not necessarily accepted by society.  What this shows is that what is often called creativity is really nothing but doing things in a socially accepted way.  In other words, a lot of creativity is not creativity at all.

It also shows some interesting aspects of creativity:

  • It is unfamiliar
  • It is not necessarily accepted
  • It is personal
  • It is hard to achieve and establish

In other words, creativity is not the dramatic, impactful, and fancy thing its often portrayed to be.  Its also not as impactful as you’d think.  In fact, my observation is that creativity is often ignored and not acknowledged.  In addition, it is often shunned, suppressed, or prevented from happening.


I call American society the “imitative society”.  This more or less says that we are becoming nothing but a bunch of “copyists” in this society.  In other words, there is a lack of creativity here.  In my opinion, the prevalence of education, schooling, media, internet, books, etc. is probably largely at fault for the decrease in the creative orientation and an increase in the “copyist” mentality.  Even as I talk to people I can see that all most people do is “copy”, imitate, and do what is popular or accepted.  I see an absence of creative tendencies and mentality nowadays.

Copyright by Mike Michelsen

Posted in Education and learning, Imitation and the problems it creates, Inspiration, free association, and intuition, Life in general, Psychology and psychoanalysis | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Thoughts on how ‘connectivity’ is more important than understanding, knowledge, and truth

Here’s a thought I had:

In the West we are taught that understanding and knowledge are what’s important.  Its what you know, what you understand, etc.  Its as if that’s all that matters.  That is to say, everything is viewed in the context of some form of thought or idea.  When you understand the idea, then it becomes everything, almost as if it were god.  Its as if there’s nothing more to do once you understand it . . . its what life is all about.  As a result, this becomes the focus and orientation in life.  In short, life becomes nothing but the pursuit of an intellectual “truth” which means, of course, that we must know everything under the sun.

To me this point of view seems very empty and shallow.  This is primarily because it is based in word-based things . . . the explanation, and knowing the explanation, becomes the focus . . . its ALL based in words and ideas. I found this over-emphasis on word-based things, such as concepts and ideas, very unfulfilling and unsatisfying.  To me, it seems lacking.  It seems that there must be something “more” to things.  It became clear that what “more” means is going beyond word-based things.  This means that I must seek something beyond concepts and ideas.  Over time, it became clear that what I was seeking is what I began to call ‘connectivity’.  This refers to a deep-seated sense of having a “connection” or “association” with something.  In this way, ‘connectivity’ makes me feel as if I am a part of something and it is a part of me.  This sense takes more than words and idea.  I found that it goes way beyond that and hits into more deeper aspect of ones self.

There are many forms of the “something” that we are “connecting” to.  Some of these include:

  • Life
  • The world
  • Our self
  • An activity
  • An awareness
  • A knowing

So we see that ‘connectivity’ is made up of many things with many forms.  In fact, we could probably say that ‘connectivity’ is a conglomeration of many elements and forms.  That’s its power and what makes its effect so extensive and varied.

In reality, it seems to me, that life is nothing but trying to achieve ‘connectivity’ in its many forms.  In this way, we could call achieving ‘connectivity’ the “great education”.  We could also call ‘connectivity’ the “great truth” of life.  In fact, I would even go on to say that a person does not really “live” until a ‘connectivity’ is achieved.  What does this mean?  It means that ‘connectivity’ is a big part of life to such an extent that it makes up life . . . it is life.  One could very well say that “life is nothing but a continual seeking and maintaining of a ‘connectivity’ with things and life itself”.  To narrow things down to concepts, ideas, concepts, and word-based things is like narrowing life down to a small thing.

Word-based things, though, can create a ‘connectivity’ of sorts.  I often speak of this as ‘relevance’ (see my article “Thoughts on my saying: Truth is relevance”).  This form of ‘connectivity’, being word-based, tends to have minimal impact and tends to be shallow.     Despite this, it can be very influential and can lead a person to a greater ‘connectivity’.  It has a tendency, though, to ‘dress up’ ‘connectivity’ with all this jargon and ideas which can be quite deceptive.  When it does this extensively we tend to forget ‘connectivity’.  With this we can see that there is a tendency where word-based things like ideas tend to make us forget ‘connectivity’ altogether.  As a result, they lose a “sense of life” which causes many problems for people.  In my opinion, the forgetting of ‘connectivity’ is one of the common causes for despair and unhappiness in people.  This is quite prevalent as, in this knowledge and word-based society, there is an all too easy tendency to forget ‘connectivity’.  To complicate this further, when people despair and become unhappy there is a tendency for them to look to word-based things as the solution . . . they want to “understand” what’s going on.  But the problem is that this is what caused the problem to begin with!  The solution they are seeking is actually the cause of the problem.  Because of this, some of the “secrets” of life, at least in my opinion, is to do things such:

  • Do not get too involved with word-based things.  Don’t get too wrapped up in having to understand and know things. 
  • Try to not think or use words too much.
  • Look beyond words and ideas, into the “sense” of life.
  • Focus more on experiences and doing.
  • Be more spontaneous.

The point of all this is to not use excessively, not to rely too heavily on, or become dependent on word-based things.  In short, treat word-based things as a tool in life, not the end or motive of life.  In my opinion, words, concepts, ideas, etc. are not a whole lot of different than a hammer or a pencil and should be treated similarly.

‘Connectivity’ is not made up of just one thing.  It is actually made up of a combination of things:

  • Doing . . . an “active association” – this refers to experience, of doing things
  • Framework . . . an “image” – this refers to an image of the world and how it works and how one fits in it
  • Relevance . . . a “meaning” – this refers to that quality that gives value to things
  • Intuition . . . a “sense” – this refers to that quality of insight that attaches ones self to the world

All these work together to create a sense of ‘connectivity’.  One can see that knowing and understanding – with is part of “framework” – only plays a small role in the matter.  It takes all these things to truly make ‘connectivity’.  One could probably say that the effect of these is that it creates a sense that one has, of being-in-the-world.  One finds oneself as an active participant in the world and with meaning.  It is predominately a sense that is interior, wordless, and without conception.  It is something that just “is”.  This naturally makes it hard to “grasp”.  In a way, the inability to “grasp” it makes ‘connectivity’ an enigma, something we never can quite “get”.  It makes it something we continually seek but never quite find.  This is not a failing but something that is good for in having to continually seek ‘connectivity’ we are, in actually, continually seeking life.  This seeking makes life.

In this way, one could say that “truth” is only found in ‘connectivity’.  This would mean that it is not found in knowing or facts.  Really, once you “know” something what use is it?  OK, so it satisfies your intellectual curiosity . . . now what?  Does it really impact you that much?  Knowing, by itself, seems useless and pointless . . . it needs a whole lot more.

Interestingly, since ‘connectivity’ is primarily a sense it means that “truth” is, in actuality, a sense.  It is not knowing.  It is not an idea.  It is not a statement.  This means that “truth” is not really found in knowing or explaining things.  It is beyond that.  It is wordless.  It is an awareness, the awareness of the sense.

This awareness of the sense requires a number of things such as:

  1. A person must be open to it
  2. A person must be receptive to it

I think that many people never find ‘connectivity’ because they lack one or both of these qualities.  In addition, with a person who relies too much on word-based things there is a tendency where the words as if become a wall preventing these two things from appearing.  In short, being word-based actually hinders ones awareness of the sense.  This is why one doesn’t want to get too involved a word-based orientation.  It shows that there are really two phases in ‘connectivity’:

  1. The sense
  2. The reaction

The sense is the beginning and origin, but the sense tends to instigate a reaction almost automatically.  This is because the sense, by itself, is just a sense and is as if incomplete.  It needs something more.  In some ways, the sense requires a reaction . . . it demands it.  The reaction as if completes the sense.  Its has a quality much like a cause and effect.

The reaction appears in a number of ways, such as:

  • A belief
  • Ideas and conceptions
  • Behavior and actions
  • Emotions
  • Awareness

As one can see, these reactions as if give the sense a validity in the world and in life.   Without the reaction the sense is as if “hanging there” doing nothing.  This shows the need for reaction and why the sense instigates it.  Because of this, the reaction makes up a lot of the “matter” of life.  In other words, most of life actually consists of the reaction and not the sense.  Because of this, we tend to view “life” as these reactions and, accordingly, emphasize them.  One of effect of this, though, is that tendency to forget the sense.  In forgetting the sense ‘connectivity’ is no longer whole and basically fails . .  . everything is now about the reaction and living in the reaction.  We then become lost in the reactions.  When we lose the sense, and ‘connectivity’ is lost, we tend to feel detached and removed from life.  As a result, we often have to remind ourselves of the sense from time to time.  People often do this naturally, at least in some way, but it often can appear in involved and complicated ways.  Some ways the sense is reestablished include:

  • A spirituality
  • Having to “get away”, such as on vacation
  • Various ways of forgetting ones self, even including using alcohol
  • Ways of “getting back to nature”
  • Doing things that one enjoys

In ways, such as these, many people will have, at least, a “sense of the sense”.

Forgetting the sense, in a way, is a tragedy but we all do it. Sadly, a lot of the loss of the sense and ‘connectivity’ is a result of the very thing we think is so good:  intelligence, ideas, knowing, and other word-based fabrications.  These things are important, in their place, but too much has adverse effects.  This is why I often speak of the need to “manage word-based fabrications” and to learn to not get too carried away with them and to not let them make us lose contact with life.

Copyright by Mike Michelsen

Posted in Existence, Awareness, Beingness, Consciousness, Conceptionism, and such, Life in general, Philosophy, Psychology and psychoanalysis | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Thoughts on the “realism versus idealism dispute”

Recently, I was in a conversation and said some interesting things.  I don’t know if its true or not but here’s the thought:

It seems, to me, that the U.S. is going through something like a “social dispute”.  Basically, there has developed a division in the U.S.  It has split into two camps that are opposed to each other.  These are philosophies that are not compatible and even contradict each other.  I called it the “realism versus idealism dispute”.  As it appears to me at this time, these seem to be increasingly opposed to each other.


Idealism is based in basing life on an image of “an ideal world”, of an image of “how life should be”.  It is primarily a “pie in the sky” thinking.  In general, they are trying to fit things into a pre-conceived image which they like and find appealing.  In other words, life is forced to fit into an image . . . the ideal.  In some sense, they are trying to make the world fit into a mold.  As a result, they are trying to force things to be a certain way.  A good example is something I saw the other day.  I saw a sign, apparently advertising for some girl group which had the name “GIRL” then said something like “G – go-getter , I Independent, R – ????, L – leader”.  You can see what they are doing.  They are using the letters for the word “girl” to force or fit the female so she fits American ideals, which were created by males.  In actuality, these traits don’t really reflect the female character.  In this way, they are trying to make the female fit into an image that appeals to them even though it doesn’t reflect them.  This is a good example of how idealism actually promotes an alienation in some situations. It shows how the “pie in the sky” thinking tends to create a detached and alienated situation that is removed from the real world situation.   As a result, their viewpoints often tends to become impractical.  The idealists image is not generally sufficient to live by and tends to fail as a result.  It may work for a while but it eventually fails.  In other words, idealism tends to have a life span and is not long-lasting.

The great strength of idealism is in the fact that it “sounds good” and, in that way, is satisfying.  In fact, idealists tend to as if wrap themselves up in the “pie in the sky” ideal as if it were a warm blanket.  In this way, idealism has a quality that it makes the idealists feel secure and safe.

Idealism often gets wound up with “high cause” and self-righteous attitudes.  They often think their ideal is the “answer” and the “ultimate”.  This, it seems to me, is an attitude that comes from Christianity.  Basically, “Christ as an answer” turns into “the ideal is the answer”.

Because of this self-righteous attitude many idealists tends to become upset when it begins to fail and it can affect them in a number of ways:

  • It is devastating for them.
  • They go through denial
  • They act like the world is against them.
  • They act like the world is falling apart.
  • They have to find some means to defend their ideal, even to the point of criminalizing and villainizing people.

It seems, to me, that we are seeing these very attitudes displayed in this society by the idealists.

I associate the idealism that we are seeing now with the idealism that appeared after WWII as a result of the glorification of the U.S.  The victory of WWII, by the U.S., and the technological achievements and economic progress that followed it, made it appear as if “America is the way to be” and that “the American way is the right way”.  This became a great matter of pride and still is for some.  It created a great idealism of American values and principles as well as its political and legal viewpoints.  Many idealists use this as a basis of their ideal.  In this way, the idealism that we are seeing really refers to an “ideal American world” where all the American values work.  As a result, many idealists think that they are representative of American values and principles. 

In addition to that, their emphasis is on the ideal and do not look elsewhere.  In this way, idealists tend to have an attitude of “looking at life through a tube”.  They tend to be narrow in their conception of things and limited in their views of a “solution”.

Here are some of the qualities we see with idealism:

  • A glorification of American values.  These include things like equality, democracy and an emphasis on things like individualism and achievement.
  • They are rooted in the “glory days of the past”.  In general, an ideal is something the past created.  As a result, in glorifying the ideal they glorify the past.
  • They are not progressive and do not look to the future.  The looking to an ideal tends to make them not “forward looking” . . . they are “ideal looking”.
  • They tend to be blind, and not cautious, often not looking at the big picture.  Because they are “ideal looking” they tend to look at life through a tube and, as a result, they don’t get the big picture.  This tends to give them a blind quality and display no caution.
  • It has a “voice” in the media.  This tends to give idealism a particular power and presence in the society.  The media seems to be idealist in orientation . . . they are reporting what wants to be heard.  This is often social ideals.  As a result, they tend to state, promote, and reflect the ideal.
  • It is self-righteous.  As I said above, idealist tend to take on a “high and mighty” attitude, as if they are the “answer”.
  • It tends to be a point of view popular with females.
  • It tends to be a point of view popular with liberals.


Realism is a point of view that emphasizes a confronting the world as-it-is.  It does not follow or promote an image of an “ideal world” nor does it try to force things to fit an “ideal image”.  As a result, realism tends to be somewhat spontaneous and reactionary.  Because of this, realism lacks security and safety.  This often creates, in realism, an attitude of caution.  In this way, realism tends to look at things more deeply and, in so doing, tends to be more implanted in the situation.

Being spontaneous to conditions realism often can be blunt, violent, and forceful.  This scares many people, particularly idealist who want the comfort of an ideal.  Often, one does not know what will happen with a realism.  But what we do see is that realism is often very creative.  Idealism, on the other hand, tends to be uncreative and stagnant as its rooted in a constant ideal.

The great power of realism is that it is based in the world and in confronting it.  As a result, it creates a real-world perspective.  But, often, the real-world is not pretty, is unpleasant, and can be terrifying.  As a result, realism is often hard for many people to handle.  In fact, my observation is that most people who cater to realism tend to take a realism point of view but with a “dash” of idealism to soften it.

Realism tends to need a number of things in order to work effectively:

  • Leadership
  • A plan
  • A direction

Without these, realism is as if lost and is ineffective.  In these ways, realism needs some organization to deal with the world.  In a way, a realism without organization is not a realism at all . . . it is just an idea.

Generally, realism will develop a plan and direction and will develop a system to coordinate it.  Its not uncommon that the system created by realism can become so powerful and overbearing that it begins to strangle people and society.

Realism tends to have qualities such as these at this time:

  • It is a point of view based in confronting the world.
  • It can be a harsh, violent, or difficult point of view to handle.
  • It is progressive in character.
  • It is spontaneous and reactive.
  • It tends to take a cautious perspective and point of view.
  • It needs organization.  It needs leadership, plan, or direction.
  • It currently has no “voice”.  Realism seems to gain its “voice” in a social structure, tradition, culture, etc.  These are all things that have deteriorated since WWII.  As a result, realism does not have firm “voice” in society.
  • It tends to be popular with males.
  • It tends to be popular with conservatives.


We are now facing an uncertain future, of a situation in which we do not know what to expect.  In short, there is anxiety in the future.  This, it seems to me, has a great impact on this dispute and has probably played a large part in its creation.  Its influenced each side:

Idealism – As I said above, idealists tend to “wrap themselves up in the ideal” to make them feel secure.  In this way, the ideal protects them from the anxiety and uncertainty of the future.  This seems to suggest that they are frightened deep down.  It also shows how idealists are holding onto the ideal to combat their fear of the future.  Overall, idealism tends to emphasize the past without regard to the future

Realism – This point of view is based in the world and, accordingly, will be more accepting of the unknown and uncertain future.  The problem is that it doesn’t know how to do it. In this way, realism is better equipped to deal with the future but it has no plan.


There is an aspect of this dispute where it seems to revolve around the difficulty in letting go of “American glory” and moving on to a “new world”.  In this way, it is reflective of an awareness of a post-American world by many Americans.  This is primarily an attitude of the idealists which means that they basically don’t want America to change.  Harking back to “American glory”, and its ideals, makes idealists feel safe and secure.

This point of view isn’t all seen with idealists.  There are some realists, though, who tend to emphasize “American glory”.  Realists primarily tend to emphasize “American glory” as a basis of how to do things and progress.  In other words, they use it as a “model” for the future.  This, it seems, is primarily because it is something to be “relied upon”.  In my opinion, though, it is just a realists version of how the idealists don’t want America change.  In both cases, the past is looked upon for the future.

What this shows is that “American glory”, and the success of America in the past, has become something as a hindrance to the future.  Both are only wanting to “replicate” America’s success in the past.  The future, in my opinion, needs something else.


As I said above, idealism, being based in an image, tends to work only for a short period of time.  I tend to think that American idealism is largely failing.  One reason for this is that this idealism is rooted in the post WWII world and the conditions of that time.  That era has long past.  As we move further and further away from that time that form of idealism is increasingly becoming removed from the times.  Personally, I think that a lot of American idealism is failing and many people are struggling with this fact.  In fact, I’d even go on to say that the “realism versus idealism dispute” is very much based in the idealists not wanting to let go of their idealism and ideals.


At this time, realism has no “voice” in society nor is it organized.  This means that realism is impaired.  It almost seems as if realism is waiting for a “voice” and organization to appear so it can manifest itself.  I would even go on to say that a large part of the “realism versus idealism dispute” is that realism cannot develop a “voice” or organization to manifest itself.  

My conversations with people seem to show that most males, anyways, reflect the perspective of realism.  This shows that realism seems to be a growing attitude and point of view.  It is appearing without a “voice” and without organization showing, in my opinion, that the times are “calling out” for realism.  Its appearing naturally and because of need.  This, I think, is very revealing.


I tend to feel that, of these two points of view, idealism is something of a hindrance even to the point of being a threat.  I think this for a number of reasons:

  • It is alienated from the real world
  • Its trying to fit things in a preconceived image
  • It is not reacting to the conditions
  • Its too high and mighty
  • It is not progressive

Realism, though, has some problems:

  • It has no leadership
  • It has no direction
  • It has no plan
  • It has no defined philosophy

In other words, we don’t know what to expect from realism at this time.  Despite this, realism seems to be the wisest path for the times.  Idealism will only keep us in the past and, in a way, keep us from confronting the uncertain future.  Considering the situation of today we need a more practical real-world perspective in order to move on.  Idealism, with all its high cause and self-righteousness, simply does not offer that.


Copyright by Mike Michelsen

Posted in Historical stuff, Modern life and society, Philosophy, Society, The U.S. and American society | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Thoughts on the dilemma of interpretation

Here’s a thought I had:

It seems, to me, that there is increasingly becoming problems of interpretation of things.  By “interpretation” I refer to giving an explanation or meaning to things and events.  In other words, interpretation is the “making sense” of things.

I tend to think that the problem of interpretation is a somewhat serious problem as unity in interpretation is unity as a people.  In short, the less we interpret alike the more divided we become.  It seems to me that what we need most, nowadays, is unity as a people and the problem of interpretation is only going to add to that.

Interpretation is important for a number of reasons, such as:

  • It gives meaning to things
  • It provides unity
  • It is a means for authority

Science, which often professes “truth”, is largely failing as an interpretation as has religion.  The proliferation of interpretations, as a result of social media and such, are only contributing to the problem.  The fact is that almost any interpretation can be dis-proven or an alternate interpretation can be found.  Its almost like any interpretation is becoming redundant and useless.


It seems that much of so-called science is not science at all.  To me, the bulk of science is doing nothing but reflect what I call the “popular interpretation of information”.  What this means is that what is considered “truth” is often nothing but a reflection of the popular interpretation at the time.  Because of this, the “truth” changes from time to time.  Its not science, its “popular interpretation”.  I sometimes speak of this as “pretend science”.

Not only that, each new interpretation almost always is supported by studies and apparent scientific “proof” to support it.  This shows that what constitutes “proof” is a matter of interpretation, not science.  In short, what and how you consider something as “proof” depends on how you want to look at it.  If you accept it as “proof” then it becomes “true”.  The effect of this is that the “interpretation becomes the proof”.  This is why everyone has “proof” of their “truth”.  This, of course, is not “real science” but its generally claimed to be and most people seem to accept it as such.

All this is a reflection of how a person wants to interpret the “facts” or “findings” of research and studies.  What this means, basically, is that science is not as scientific as it may appear and is professed.  It seems to me that the question, nowadays, is no longer in scientific method, tests, research, or studies but in the question of how all this information is interpreted.

It seems, to me, that the only “real science” is found in some chemistry and physics.  Everything else, really, is largely dependent on interpretation.   I consider it as “real science” because it has these qualities:

  • Testing is done in a controlled environment
  • It can be measured
  • It can be replicated

Most fields of knowledge do not display these qualities.  In fact, in many fields of “science” none of them can be demonstrated.  In this way, we see that “real science” is a limited area of knowledge.

Schools of thought

A lot of science, and knowledge in general, have become a matter of “schools of thought”.  This, really, refers to different ways to interpret information.  It shows how some people interpret one thing one way and another thing another way.  This is even seen in some areas of chemistry and physics.  It runs rampant in the more “vague” fields like psychology and economics.  And, of course, every school of thought has its “proof”.

The fact that there are schools of thought show these things:

  • Science does not come up with the “ultimate answer”.
  • There is a problem of interpretation.
  • That how one interpretes plays a significant role.
  • That there are differences in interpretation.

It all shows that science is not as “sure” as it claims.


It seems, at least to me, that a lot of “pretend science”, and knowledge in general, is what I have begun to call “I and I”.  This means “Inquiry and Interpretation”.  This is a process that entails the seeking of a “missing element”.  In other words, its a seeking for something that isn’t obviously there.

There are a number of forms of how this “missing element” may appear:

  • As information or a “knowing”
  • A way or style 
  • An awareness
  • A transformation of some form

Science is generally trying to find the former.  The other forms are seen in other forms of knowledge.

We must remember that discovering the “missing element” is not the end of the matter as it still has to be interpreted.  This points out that inquiry tends to give information or “known things” but it does not, by itself, interpret them.  That’s a whole other process.  Sometimes, though, they are so closely related that one quickly blends into the other.  My experience, though, is that there are usually these two distinct stages.  Because of this, there is an ability for each.


Inquiry is the means or method of looking at something.  To be more precise, it means looking at something with a missing element with the intent of finding that missing element.  In this way, it is looking at something with a purpose.  This tends to make a person look deeper into things, to find out what’s “behind” it or to discover what one cannot see.  As a result, inquiry has a “peering into” quality.

Inquiry often takes this format:

  1. A missing element – a need, question, or unknown which needs a solution
  2. The “means”  – a way of coming up with the solution
  3. Realization – understanding the solution

An interesting point is that a person must be aware that something is missing as well as the realization of the solution.  This shows that inquiry is very much based in a “sense”.  This reveals that a lot of inquiry is not something one “chooses” . . . it comes from necessity.  This “sense” can be unconscious or conscious.  That is to say, it does not have to be overtly conscious.  In many cases, people inquire without consciously knowing the reason why.  This is a very interesting point.  In the same way, a person finds a solution consciously or unconsciously.  In other words, a person may find the solution without knowing it!  I think this happens a lot more than one would think.

The realization appears a number of ways:

  1. Intuitive
  2. Experiential
  3. A process or method

Most inquiry, in my opinion entail all forms, in one way or another.  The more of a “sense” it is the more intuitive and experiential it is.  The more abstract it becomes the more it becomes a process or method.

I’ve seen a lot of people who think a process or method is what makes it “science”.  What they are saying is that “procedure makes science” which I don’t believe is true.  Its like saying that anything done with a procedure makes it “true”.  Many forms of inquiry, all over the world, involve means of a process, method, or procedure but its not the same as science, nor does it make it “true”, nor does it come out with the same solution.  This means, more or less, that “procedure does not automatically make it science”.

There is, oftentimes, a skill in inquiry.  I tend to think that many people don’t know how to inquire.  As a result, its often haphazard and erroneous.  In fact, I often feel that many people they do what can be called a “pseudo-inquiry”.  Some of the ways this appears include:

  • They basically repeat what others come up with as if they came up with it.  This is often what “learning” is . . . they discover what another person discovered.  In short, learning about it is their discovery!
  • They casually look at things and do not look at things deeply or seriously.  Things are given a “quick glance”.
  • They easily jump to conclusions or solutions.  This is often done without great thought.
  • They expect instant or easy answers to appear as if out of nowhere.
  • They base things on “first impressions”.  In short, there is no inquiry.

The result of this is an often quick and shallow solution.  In many cases, though, this is enough but in other cases it is horribly inadequate.  Some inquiry needs to be deeper and entail more to it.  This is why, I suppose, that inquiry, in its many forms, often becomes a “specialty”.  There develops people like philosophers, people who experiment, and such who take inquiry more seriously.

In addition, there seems to develop, in many societies, people with an “inquiring character”.  They have qualities such as:

  • They spend a lot of time inquiring
  • They use their experience  help them inquire in the future
  • They do a lot of reflection and thought on what they do

My experience is that they may or not have a defined process or method in how they work.  The best “inquiring character” are people who do this naturally, as part of their natural tendencies.   That is to say, they don’t do it because something like school, or their job, teaches them to do it or makes them do it.  A school or job can help the “inquiring character” develop in some people, though, as it can give a means or framework for it to develop.  But if a person does not have the natural inclination and are taught to do it then it often becomes mechanistic and they soon rely on process or method.  In some cases, this is done almost exclusively.  They “pose a question” and then use a process or method to find an answer.

Inquiry comes up with material but the material needs to be interpreted . . .


In my opinion, the manner of interpretation has nothing to do with science or “truth” as some great abstract concept.  That is to say, interpretation is not to create some great “concept” or “idea” as if it were written in stone.  It seems, to me, that interpretation revolves around what I call “relevance”.  This is the quality that makes things important to you and your condition.  In many was, relevance determines the direction, path, and truth of interpretation. 

Relevance primarily consists of taking “bits and pieces”, coming from the inquiry, and making a sense out of them that fits you and your situation.  But, in so doing, we discard other things or not even notice them altogether.  In this way, relevance only uses a small portion of what is there before you.  As a result, other people, with a different relevance, will see those things you missed and come to other conclusions.  In other words, interpretation is taking various facts and information and organizing it into a manner which makes it relevant to whoever is interpreting it.  Its because of this quality of relevance that makes everyone come to different conclusions even though they are looking at the same thing.  Science, and scientific method, also reflects this quality of relevance.  This is because science is taking facts and fitting it into a form that fits the relevance established by the condition of science.  In so doing, it also takes “bits and pieces” from the big picture.

Examples of things that affect interpretation include:

  • The person.  A lot of interpretation must be relevant to the person and have meaning to that person.  If it doesn’t then it has no value.  In this way, a person often gives value to what is relevant.  
  • The society The social culture, situation, etc. often determine what is relevant and, accordingly, how things are interpreted.  Society often determines what is relevant.
  • A condition.  Various conditions, or situations, often determine what is and what is not relevant or the way in which it is relevant.  For example, a newly discovered medical fact may be relevant, in different ways, to business (who may use it to market a new product), a medical specialist (who may see more into its meaning), or a general practitioner (who will use it to guide diagnosis or give advice), or an individual person (who may use it to be live more healthy).  Conditions often determine the way things are relevant.  

So we can see that the relevancy of interpretation rests on many different qualities.  The above qualities vary from place to place, person to person, and typically change through time.  In this way, relevancy is ever-varied and ever-changing.  Since interpretation is a matter of relevancy it means that interpretation is also ever-varied and ever-changing.  This means there will never be a “one” interpretation because there is simple no “one” condition of relevancy.  In other words, always expect that there will be different interpretations in any situation.

There are a number of qualities needed in interpretation:

  • The “information”.  This is the “facts” that need to be interpreted.  They are like building blocks that must be put together in a specific way.  This “putting together” is the interpretation.  In actuality, the “information” used in an interpretation is actually made up of “bits and pieces” coming from all the “information”.   We only use the “information” that is relevant to our condition.  
  • The background of the interpretation.  Any interpretation is based on a person, or persons, who have an already existing “background”, such as a culture, previous education, established attitudes, experience, etc.  These form the foundation for any interpretation.  Because of this, any interpretation a person, or persons, make is automatically somewhat biased due to their specific background.  As a result, there is, in reality, no such thing as an unbiased interpretation.  This basically means that the claim that “scientific truth” as not being biased is not correct, for example.
  • The motive of the interpretation.  The purpose, or reason, of the interpretation determines what is important and often determines the overall scheme of the interpretation.  In fact, the motive is often what makes things relevant.  In this way, we see another tendency of bias in interpretation for the motive dictates the relevancy and form of the interpretation of the “facts”.  This is not surprising as no one, as far as I have seen, interprets information without a motive.  To go even further, my observation is that even the noting of specific “information” is based on motive.  That is to say, when there is no motive things are not noticed as “information” and, accordingly, they are not noticed or acknowledged.  This is why many things go unnoticed in life . . . there’s just no meaning in it.  Once it has meaning we notice it.
  • An interpretation accepted as “truth”.  In life, we make many interpretations ranging from “vague” to “definite”.  Many of these are not “taken to heart” but are as if “hanging there”.  Perhaps we could call these “floating interpretations”?  But there is a point when these “floating interpretations” are considered “true”. Once this is made the interpretation becomes a “definite interpretation”.  As a result, the how and why one makes it “definite” is very influential in interpretation.  In many cases, it is dictated by the motive . . . once it seems to satisfy the motive it is now established as “definite”.

Oftentimes, many people have an already established point of view that is the background or basis of their interpretation.  In fact, in many cases, the interpretation is nothing but this established point of view restated in the “guise” of new “information”.   In this way, their interpretation is nothing but the established point of view restated in a new way.  This is often gives a similarity in interpretations by a culture, people, belief, etc. and why one can often tell where certain interpretations come from.

As with inquiry, interpreting takes a skill.  I tend to feel that interpretation takes an artistic ability, and is often comparable to something like poetry or art.  This means that skill in interpretation is probably seen less in people than in inquiry.


Nowadays, we’re seeing many problems with interpretation:

Too many ways to interpret

Nowadays, there are too many points of views and, accordingly, too many interpretations.  You can get a group of 10 people looking at the same thing and you’ll get 10 answers, all which “make sense”.  Some of the thing that have caused this include:

  • The breakdown of culture
  • The breakdown of belief
  • The influence of various forms of media (news, social media, etc.)
  • The opening up of the “world”

These really describe two qualities:

  1. The fall of our traditional-based interpretation
  2. The influx of other different interpretations

In these ways, interpretations are becoming undermined and usurped.  Nothing, really, is maintaining a constancy in interpretation that has any form of authority.

Media-based interpretation

The rise of media has created a new form of ‘pseudo-interpretation’.  Sadly, this media-based interpretation is starting to usurp a lot of traditional and practical interpretation in the world.  It is very lacking, though, and is not sufficient to offer wise and adequate interpretations.  This is because it has qualities such as:

  • It creates what seems like a unity by its prevalence
  • It is based in mass mentality
  • It attracts people by its “dazzlement”
  • It tends to lack a relevancy
  • It does not fit all conditions
  • It tends to offer a single explanation
  • It lacks common everyday sense

An effect of these is that it creates an illusionary “one explanation” for everything which it actually does not do.  Its like trying to paint the world out in one picture.  In some respects, media-based interpretation is worse than science in trying to create a “one explanation”.  This is primarily because of its ability to attract and “dazzle” people.  It appears, to me, to be comparable to a form of  “brain washing”.

I should point out that there are various forms that this media-based interpretation appears:

  • Commercialism
  • Various forms of entertainment
  • Social media
  • News
  • Education and schooling

Through things, such as these, the media-based interpretation makes its influence.  One see’s an absence of things like these:

  • A way of life
  • Religion
  • A belief system
  • Social structure
  • Morality

Things, like the above, are typically the primary source of interpretation in the world since the beginning of time and, with the media-based interpretation, they are absent.  This, I think, is a significant point.  In my opinion, what is happening is that we are basically exchanging genuine pearls for cheap plastic pearls because they are more easily produced.

The fragile condition of “unity of interpretation”

A culture, society, or people tends to create a “unity of interpretation”.  This unity tends to create an image of “ultimate truth” in that culture as everyone interprets the same way.  In this way,  the power of “unity of interpretation” is not in “truth” but in unity.  It is what holds many cultures, societies, and peoples together.  This unity creates security and belonging.

Unfortunately, this “unity of interpretation” is quite fragile.  Several things can easily upset it:

  • Some form of breakdown (such as social, religious, belief, political, etc.)
  • The intrusion of other interpretations (such as by foreign influence, new ideas, takeover, etc.

Any one of these can cause a loss of “unity of interpretation” that could even lead to the breakdown and fall of the whole society.  The “unity of interpretation” is a very precarious, fragile, and touchy situation.  Its easily disrupted and destroyed.  This is what we are seeing in the world today.

Overdoing research

In my opinion, research in many fields are becoming “overdone”, as I always say.   Some things have been looked at so many times that it has gotten to the point that it is nothing but “beating a dead horse”.  Everything nowadays is looked at from the same background, the same basic information, the same education, and the same point of view.   They often come to the same conclusions that can even be predictable.  There are really too many people doing research nowadays.  I wouldn’t be surprised that, in some cases, thousands of people are researching the same subject.  Over the years it could be 10’s of thousands and maybe even millions of people who are researching the same exact subject.  All these people looking at the same thing.  Just recently, I was at Dinosaur Land in Vernal, Utah, where I posed these questions:  “How many people does it take for a new theory to be developed?  How many hours of work is required for a new theory to develop?”  For any new theory to develop god only knows how many people look at it and the hours that is consumed by this must be massive.  I wondered if all the time, manpower, and expense to do this was worth it.  To make matters worse, most of these new theories are nothing but speculation anyways and it has no real impact on life, only people interested in dinosaurs.  Is all this really worth it?

I tend to feel that, in most fields, there is nothing much to discover anymore.  Most of it is “beating a dead horse”, as I said above.  Despite this, people are still doing research.  I sometimes speak of this as “forced research”.  Things that cause this include:

  • There are too many people doing research
  • People need to do research to pass a class or get a degree
  • Its part of their job
  • The success of science and the modern world has made research an ideal and so it keeps going on and on

In many of these we see that what motivates research is based on monetary and social causes.  We can ask this question:  “Is need motivating the research?”  In truth, I don’t think that need motivates many cases of research.

Because of ‘forced research’, a lot of research and studies are taking on qualities such as:

  • It actually states nothing . . . its a bungle of words
  • It glorifies details
  • It creates a pseudo-knowledge (such as the how everything originates with the aliens)
  • It creates endless different points of view 
  • Its a repetition of something earlier
  • It becomes a matter of “splitting hairs”
  • Its nothing more than an opinion that’s passed off as a discovery

The net result of all this is that many “new discoveries” are not the discoveries they seem to be.  In fact, many are not discoveries at all.  This has become particularly prevalent in the 21st century, in my opinion.


It seems, to me, that the issue is not about interpretation but, rather, the authority behind it.  As a result of this, the problem of interpretation is really a problem with authority.  Interpretation is really only a means for authority to manifest itself.  Without authority there is no interpretation.  In fact, the importance of authority in interpretation has been referred to above with “relevance”.  What is relevance but the demonstration of authority?  When something is relevant it has authority . . . that’s what makes it relevant.

In addition, the interpretation issues seems to be greatly influenced by the Christian conversion.  To make a long story short, Christianity is based in conversion which required people to have to reinterpret how they viewed the world according to Christian lines.  This was not done easily and people weren’t all that willing to change their views.  One of the ways people were converted to change their interpretation of the world is that it was done in the name of authority – God – which gave the new interpretation great authority.  This establishes a strong connection between interpretation and authority in western society.  In this way, the Christian conversion had great impact on the the interpretation issue.

When the Protestant Reformation came it caused a new interpretation which conflicted with the Catholic version, and its authority.  This caused further breakdowns in Christianity that, in effect, undermined Christianity and broke it down.  It still hasn’t recovered.

After the breakdown of Christianity science came in and offered itself as the “ultimate truth”.  Science has failed to maintain itself as a solution in the popular mind (that is, it works if you are scientifically minded but not everyday people).  Since science has broken down we’re back to where we started with the breakdown caused by the Protestant Reformation.

What seems to be filling the gap caused by a failed authority are the various forms of media accentuated by the opening up of the world.  This has created the “media-based interpretation” talked about above.  At the time, at least for some people, it seems to be a sufficient substitute for the failure of religion and science and authority in general.  But it, too, will fail in the end.  Sometimes, it seems as if we are all scrambling to find some authority deep down.  We can find substitutes, which are short lived, but can’t find any that’s long-lasting.


In many ways, interpretation is an artistic expression of ones self, as a people or individually.  It is through interpretation that one “paints an explanation”.  In this way, we see that interpretation is not a “truth” but an expression of ones self and ones association with the world, often laid out in an artistic meaningful way.  We could call this the “interpretive expression” quality of interpretation.  This fact has largely been forgotten by western society who tends to take the “ultimate” interpretation viewpoint founded by Christianity and its preaching of the great “truth”.  My observation, though, is that most peoples interpretation of things is a form of expression, and one that is, or can be, very artistic in form.  It is not a matter of it being “right” or “wrong”.  Instead, it is more whether it displays these qualities:

  • It expresses themselves
  • It expresses their conditions
  • It expresses their quality or style

It is things, such as these, that make an interpretation “right”.  Who cares if it is supported by scientific fact or other peoples point of view or beliefs?

Because of this artistic quality, interpretation has qualities such as:

  • A style.  This refers to a specific form or way in which it appears.  This tends to make it different for different people.
  • A unique meaning.  Each interpretative expression has a unique meaning to whoever expresses it.  That is to say, an interpretation is an expression of qualities found in a specific people or person and, therefore, are not “generic”.  This makes any interpretive expression unique, particular, and specific.
  • A “personal stamp”.  A deeper interpretation means that it has a deeper meaning to ones self.  This makes the interpretive expression more “personal” and meaningful that goes beyond the overt more “official” meaning.

Because of these qualities, its quite obvious that variations in interpretation are inevitable.  In other words, there will never be a “one” or “ultimate” interpretation.  Christianity tended to believe that it was professing the “one truth”.  This attitude carried over into science.  It has then carried on down to popular opinion and point of view as a general attitude in western society, knowledge, and science.  As a result, many people in western society tend to think that any knowledge they accept is automatically “ultimate”.  This attitude, in my opinion, has caused a lot of confusion, misinterpretation, and misguided acts by western society.

Much of the life of primitive people is in this realm of “interpretive expression”.  Their religion, way of life, beliefs, traditions, etc. are very much rooted in this orientation and gives it its unique quality.  But this expressive quality is something western society could never quite understand.  This is primarily because of the more “ultimate truth” orientation of western society which has made them forget this expressive quality.  In some respects, western society has become impaired because of the loss of this expressive quality.


All this seems to suggest, at least to me, that interpretation is not the critical issue nor is it as definitive as its made out as.  In other words, the fact that there are so many interpretations that “work” suggests that interpretation isn’t that important.  Over the years we have become very bogged down and lost in the “truth” of any interpretation, focusing only on its “truth” and nothing else.  This has, in a way, led us off the track in life.  I can remember, when I was a kid, the obsessive concern over the “truth” of interpretation was.  This obsession always mystified me but I, too, began to take that orientation just because everyone else did.  Over the years, though, I began to feel that there was something wrong with it and that it was not the correct orientation.  I now believe this to be the case.


I can see some unique problems with knowledge and research in the 21st century.   These include:

  • A “cheapness” has appeared in knowledge.
  • Things are becoming “overdone”.
  • There are too many points of view
  • A problem of unity.

The net result of this is a loss in authority and meaning.  In some sense, knowledge is becoming “babble”, an endless this, that, and the other thing that has no real value or meaning.

A new reformation???

I often wonder if we may see a breakdown in knowledge similar to what happened in Christianity after the Protestant Reformation (1500’s).  When this happened we saw a number of things that appeared in the following two centuries (1600-1700’s):

  1. Loss – A doubt, a disbelief, or failed belief
  2. Breakup – The existing belief was dashed into many forms
  3. Replacement– Something new appears to fill the void of absent belief

More than likely, if something similar happens we will probably see the same traits.  Already, I can see these traits in society now.  Unlike the Protestant Reformation, where this happened rather suddenly, I would think that it is going to be more slow moving.  It may be so slow moving, in fact, that it may not even be noticeable.

Whether that’s true or not I cannot say.

Copyright by Mike Michelsen

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