If I got anything of value out of my college education, it came from a sociology class I took as an elective. Not from the class material directly, but the professor, who was very wise and should have been teaching someplace like Harvard or something. He didn’t think that I was crazy for thinking of reality as a much over-rated social convention. In fact, he thought I was pretty sociologically smart, and he pointed me towards a couple books that scientificalized and expanded on the things I already thought. Suddenly instead of being a square peg in the round hole of the psychology program, I was round. I was so round I was the hole.
When I learn things that I already think I tend to forget the specifics. Cause, really, it’s just what I already know. So I don’t remember anything specific about what I learned, I just came away from it with a knowledge that what I think is legitimatized by the world of social academia. Itâ€™s certainly possible that Iâ€™m really far off of what the world of social academia really says, but I donâ€™t remember it that way.
We all have premises that underlie our most basic understandings of ourselves and our worlds. Sometimes they make sense, sometimes they don’t, and most of the time we don’t even know about them. Example? Plucked from Yahoo! News:
A bus driver threatens to throw a woman off the bus because she is too sexy. The bus company tells the media “…he did the right thing. A bus driver cannot be distracted because it’s a danger to the safety of all the passengers.”
Hopefully this sounds crazy to you. But if you adopt the premises that women should not dress that way anyway, and that women are responsible for men’s attraction and subsequent behavior, it makes perfect sense.
Here’s another one grabbed from the top of Yahoo! News:
Normal, right? But there are premises involved. First that $40 million constitutes a fortune. Second that the money should cast a spell on him. Third, more generally, that money does cast spells on people. Maybe these premises are true in our present reality. If people do act that way though, is it because it is that way or because they’ve been told it’s that way?
Letâ€™s get even more subtle. I read about this study once. They took a bunch of mothers of newborn babies, and they showed them a video of a little baby dressed in a blue outfit playing with a jack in the box. When the jack popped out of the box, the baby yelled and kicked and screamed. The researchers asked the mothers what the baby was feeling, and the mothers said, “Oh the little baby boy is mad!”
Then they took another group of mothers of newborn babies and showed them a video of the same baby doing the same thing dressed in a little pink outfit. They asked the mothers what the baby was feeling, and the mothers said, “Aw, the poor little girl is scared.”
You know what this means? From babyhood we’re taught to understand our feelings by other peopleâ€™s reactions. When you yelled and cried as a baby and your parents held you and said, “Awww, poor baby, it’s okay, don’t be scared” you learned that what you were feeling was fear and that comfort was the appropriate response (hopefully, your brain also learned to use this experience as a kind of baseline to give you the ability to calm yourself as an adult). Or if when you yelled and cried your parents laughed and said, “Look how mad he is! He’s such a little man!” you learned that what you were feeling was anger and was rather admirable.
As an adult, you still experience these emotions in the way they were framed for you as a baby. So this is a very basic premise, that a certain feeling equals fear or trauma or needing to be held or anger or proof of your manhood.
The premises that I grew up with were pretty fucked up, so I’ve done my best to re-examine them. I can’t really change them, but I can re-learn them from myself, the woods, books, and people.
People are rather un-reliable. I can’t really control how they’re going to affect my premises. Often it’s good, but if it’s bad there’s not really much I can do about it (except to examine it consciously). More often, though, it’s not good or bad: it just is. Like when I hang out with my traveling stripper friends talking about clubs all over the world and I start thinking about how much money I could be saving and I want to travel and dance forever. Or when I hang out with social worker people and start thinking about all the things I could be doing, am maybe even obligated to be doing, for people. Or when I chat on anti-civ message boards and start thinking about all the things I could be doing in that arena. All these situations give me premises on which I could base my life. If it weren’t for moving around so much and constantly removing myself from and examining these premises, I probably would base my life on whichever one I happened to be most exposed to.
I’m not saying that any of them are bad, good, true, or false. I am saying I don’t know. What I do believe is that our premises should be examined, and that the premises that you base your whole life on should be based on what you love. Love your family? Take care of them, but examine your taking care premise. Love salmon? Save them from their pending extinction. Love the river? Spend your life loving it.
Another thing I know is that premises that come from the woods are true, because the woods and the river are the realest, truest things in the world. So I go to the woods and wait for new premises to come, and wait for them to get strong enough to survive our culture.
Except that I’m not in the woods. I’ve been in a strip club for the last 14 days straight (I think. I’m really shitty at keeping track of time). I think my premises are starting to get a little out of hand.
So, tomorrow (which is today because of my backwards schedule – it’s actually almost 6am) I’m off to the woods for some good premises.