Posts Tagged ‘psychology’

From the Editor’s Perch…

September 19, 2013

Japanese Gardener1

Want a Better Character? / Find a Good Japanese Gardener

 

            I’m not a big fan of “If it bleeds, it leads,” psychology.

Perhaps it’s lazy thinking.  Or perhaps it’s a lack of information.  Or perhaps it’s a lack of imagination.  But it seems to me, people often rush to grasp at the largest, most traumatic historical event for explanations of the creating force behind, for an example, something like character.

To my thinking, people grow much too slowly to be influenced largely by extreme events.  We are more like trees.  A storm might break us, or topple us, or shear off a few branches – but short of that, it hasn’t changed the trees nature much.  What changes and creates our natures are slow, consistent events over a long period of time.  Perhaps this is because I’ve never witnessed a person’s character changed radically by one event – though I’ve heard stories of such.  We’ve all heard every sort of story!  But I have witnessed a bonsai, and studied somewhat their creation by the patient Japanese gardener.  And I’ve observed people.

Japanese Gardener5

What I have witnessed – as far as people are concerned – is the power of Operant Conditioning, (as I remember them calling it in my day.)   (Perhaps they still do.)  Behavioral Modification was quite the rage when I was in school.  And while it may not be in the forefront of thought today – just because something isn’t in the news, doesn’t mean it isn’t happening.  Little by little and bit by bit, it seems to me, is how our character is formed and grown.

Japanese Gardener3

One of my favorite stories of my student days was of the students in a psychology lecture who would look down every time the psychology professor turned from the blackboard to address them – eventually causing the professor to avoid looking towards his audience altogether.  Of course the lecture subject was Operant Conditioning.

Which brings to mind a most fascinating fact regarding Behavioral Modification:  It doesn’t matter whether the subject knows that their behavior is being ‘modified’.

            A favorite story when I was on the medical wards was of the doctors doing their rounds for the Pain Clinic.  Studies had shown that when the patient spoke about his discomfort, it actually increased the level of the patient’s perceived pain.  So these doctors and interns, when visiting their patients on rounds, after asking the patient how they were doing that day – would turn to look away whenever the patient spoke about their pain.  This went on a couple days with one patient, until he finally broke off in mid-complaint to shout, “I know what you sonofabitches are doing.  Whenever I talk about how much I hurt, you all turn to look out the goddamned window!”

 

Being a dad is a fascinating business.  One of the oddest things I’ve witnessed, after a couple years of being in the job – is that your child will begin to act and do as you do.  (Sometimes bringing you up a little short, for example, as when they lick their fingers at the table.)  And even teenagers, I’ve noticed, will modify their own behavior – even if it’s in a way they wouldn’t particularly choose.  I’ve come to think that most parenting books could be greatly truncated, if they only advised the parents to ‘become’ whatever they want their child to ‘be’.  Apparently a powerful figure, (like a parent), thrives within a powerful aura of behavioral mandates, to which those around are minute by minute bent into submission.

 

Which brings me to the takeaway of this essay.  There are a lot of books out there explaining how to become something we currently are not; how to change ourselves.  But, it would seem that one of the best ways of ‘improving ourselves’ would be to place ourselves in a situation which bends us to be as we would like to become – especially if our own ‘will’ and ‘discipline’ is not the strongest, or if we are just lazy.  Find a good Japanese gardener.

Japanese Gardener4

 

I can’t think of a simpler way of creating who we would wish to be, than clustering around people who we admire.

Isn’t this just what kids do?

Photos pulled from Google Images

Advertisements

From the Editor’s Perch…

July 21, 2013

Editor:  Certainly there is a lot more that could be said, but sometimes I just get the urge to whine.

HOmeless1

Why Being Creative May Not Serve You Well

 

In a cartoon by playwright/cartoonist Mark Krause ( http://markrause.com/category/10000p/ ) a practical character asks the ‘creative’ playwright character why they don’t bring all the creativity they use in their playwrighting to advance their life, and to make money?

Indeed!  Why isn’t every poor artist using their superior creativity to better their lot?

Well, with age I’ve learned that there are often, if not ‘good’ reasons for things being as they are, there are at least significant reasons for things as they are.

Usually, the urging to be creative comes from the media gurus and not our workplace.  In fact, it seems the media gurus are pitching their advice as a corrective to the workplace, to fight ‘business as usual’.  Just as the Lord, in driving Jonah onto the boat, prevented fishing as usual.

homeless2

Creative people are seen as a Jonah to practical endeavor – that is, making money.

Why?

Well, gaze across an artist’s life and maybe get an inkling.

The word ‘success’ is derived from root words which mean outcome or result.  Most people are practical and want results.  They seek an outcome.  Artists generally want an epiphany.

I remember watching the Olympics one year and listening to the story of a swimmer who missed being on the past Olympic team by four tenths of a second.  So he trained for another four years shaving off those four tenths of a second and made his Olympic team.  His feat was celebrated world-wide.  This is how practical people are.  This is how they think.  This is what they admire.  A great compliment among practical people is to be called a ‘machine’.  In David Mamet’s play, Glengarry Glenn Ross, Shelly, the Machine, Levine is the top salesman.  Nothing stops his production.  Shelly Levine is successful.  Success is the practical person’s epiphany.

 

For all of the contracts, legalisms and paperwork involved, the basis for nearly all living is trust.

We trust that the sun will come up tomorrow.  We trust that the money we have saved will be there tomorrow.  We trust that our husband/wife will be there tomorrow.  We trust that we will be here tomorrow.  We trust that we’ve learned enough to try what we attempt.  We trust our family.  We trust our friends.  And trust is not established immediately.  Trust is a commodity earned over time through repetitive, consistent behavior.  A good worker earns our trust.  A good dog earns our trust.  A good car earns our trust.  A tried and true method gains our trust. Good artists work repetitively and consistently, but their behavior is anything but.  And whereas they might be honest as the day is long, their behavior and speech and actions are often unpredictable.  Even the quality of their output is unpredictable.  Artists generate distrust.

 

Artists often make the mistake of thinking that once they are successful, they will be respected by their practical relations, friends and acquaintances; as they imagine that success must be the coin of the realm for practical people.  But that’s not quite it.  According to Wikipedia, It takes just one-tenth of a second for us to judge someone and make our first impression…”  Then, of course it only takes another one-tenth of a second for us to form our second impression, and so forth…   Hence, the birth of the ‘elevator pitch’.  That is, it has been said that in the business world, in order to attract a person’s attention and backing, you must be able to condense who you are and what it is you do (and include direct benefits to them!) into a pitch that you can give your fellow passenger in the time it takes an elevator to travel from the lobby to whatever floor your acquaintance is headed.  Now imagine an artist delivering such a pitch.  Does building security enter the picture?

Even quite successful creative types have harbored this dream of achieving general acceptance and respect and have been dismayed.  Saul Bellow watched his sister sleep through his Nobel speech.  The great American poet Wallace Stevens hid his poet’s identity throughout his career as an executive for an insurance company in Hartford, Conneticut.  Blind Lemon Jefferson froze to death on the streets of Chicago.  “Douglas Engelbart set the computer world on fire in December 1968.  Standing in a San Francisco conference hall filled with the nation’s top computer experts…  Engelbart demonstrated such innovations as word processing, video conferencing, and desktop windows – 13 years before the debut of the first IBM personal computer.  He also showed how a mouse, which he’d invented four years earlier, could be used to control a computer.  … In one hour, he defined the era of modern computing.” (“The Week” 7.19.13)   “He never became rich or a household name… and in later years struggled to get funding for his research.”

Artists do not reach unknown ends by using trusted routes.  Artists run on faithArtists like trying things.  Practical people like succeeding at things more.  Practical people try things when the method tried has been shown to work.  Artists evade this dictum because where you go determines where you end up, and artists are “epiphany junkies”.  They want to go somewhere new.

The bad news is that success is payment for consistent, bankable results.  So, a livelihood, comraderie and respect are often part of the artist’s elusive dream.  Creativity will probably always have an air of desperation about it.  And people will probably always shun the creative individual.

homeless3

Photos taken  from Google Image


%d bloggers like this: