Thursday, March 25, 2010

Considering Dilemma

Are you gaining the sense of considering as something very fundamental to Human experience yet? I'm not trying to build a formal system by the word consider, still, compared to words like conscious, mind, brain and the like, conceiving our salient human feature in terms of consideration, rises above the fray of debates over issues of how can a mind effect a brain and the like. After all, any of us who have pets will testify to their consciousness and personality; and as Matt brought out in his comment from the last post, we can witness their ability to "consider" (in a way- I would say).

My Golden Retriever named Sam for instance, loves these two things: meat, and having something in his mouth. (To this day, he won't drop his tennis ball on command without pained reluctance.) One day he came up to me on the deck with an old work glove in his mouth; he held it as a piece of luxury. I quickly grabbed a piece of salami and draped it over his snout (he does this amazing trick of holding, and on command he snatches the salami out of mid-air). There he was, sitting with his two loves and having to choose between them: the grimy glove in his mouth, and the salami on his snout. He froze. The only thing that did move, was his drool which streamed into a puddle before his feet. Having garnered sufficient entertainment value, I ripped the glove from his mouth. Sam instantly snatched the salami from mid air with his usual precision.

In terms of the conventional ways we've come to use the word consider, we would say that Sam froze in his "consideration" between two of his loves. Our conventional use of the word though, is a weather worn statue of its original stature; Sam weighed the glove and salami equally, but he couldn't truly transcend his literal being and "see from the place of the stars"- which is the experience the word Consider was originally coined to carry. I'm often impressed by the depth beneath common words when I look into their etymology....

Okay. We really don't know how it gets here, but our ability to consider I would argue, is what allows us to transcend our biological literalness. The thing is, for us to experience consideration in its fullness, we need environments that let such a muscle flex itself: we need environments that can exist as uncertain.

Think about it: to consider is to experience perhaps our core human feature; but if there were no uncertainty, how could consideration be experienced? Consideration and uncertainty, together form a system that gives rise to an environment where our very humanness is felt, and flexed, and found. And this is the rub: We love consideration as long as it doesn't get too beyond our comfortable perches, and we love uncertainty as long as we can still touch bottom: we like conversations with colleagues and the anticipation of Christmas mornings.

We can't just live with colleagues though, nor can we compress a real future into a morning. No matter how hard we try.... And try. And try.

So if we can't make society homogeneous, and we can't shrink a future to a depth in which we need only wade, what's our next option? We have to develop the ability to understand one another with the same care we understand our selves, and we have to learn to navigate deeper waters.

And with this context in mind, we can get into the ideas of John Ralston Saul- ideas that let us further into our Human Complexity.


  1. Mike, considering etymology:

    "The process of technological evolution culminates with the ability to achieve all the material values technologically possible and desirable by mental effort" wikipedia

    "McLuhan and Ong identify the sort of analytical intelligence tested for in IQ tests and demanded in western cultures with literacy. They propose that what we call intelligence is really sophisticated literacy, not a collection of innate, universal qualities of human thought. This is part of the hidden agenda of the word as written symbol; this is part of the subtle message of the medium."

  2. Alex- quite interesting; especially as we get into Saul's ideas. We'll have to keep this literacy idea before us. I'm looking forward to delving into the link!

  3. This post was very meticulous and calculated (in a good way), it's Matt approved!

    Taking a departure from my normal skepticism, I would like to employ the Eastern Yin/Yang symbol as a well know and apt metaphor for the balance,harmony and even existence for properties.

    Going beyond needed something to consider in order to have our considering will, without death (Cosmically and locally), life as we know it wouldn't exist, let alone be discussed.

    What I envision for our species is an existence with a range of acceptable and unacceptable properties based on empirical (and even some allegorical) evidence.
    To start this off, we should list what none of us could responsibly accept-I.E Mental or physical harm of children, withholding water or basic food to any individual etc...

    In conclusion, it's like I've told my daughter and others I've encountered, if you are not grateful for the rainy days, you are not really grateful to the sunny days.