2010.01.08 01:00 - This is water

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    Wol Euler was guardian for this session.

    I was shovelling snow as Bert and Calvino arrived.

    Wol Euler: hello bert, happy new year
    Bertrum Quan: Happy New Year to you as well!
    Wol Euler: how's life?
    Bertrum Quan: Can't complain. What are you building? I also cannot see you at the moment.
    Wol Euler: heheh, shovelling snow :) Storm has added a new toy to the grounds
    Wol Euler: now "sit" on the topmost lump of snow
    Wol Euler grins.
    Wol Euler: hello calvino, nice arrival.
    Calvino Rabeni: Hows that Wol, did my script make me flip?
    Calvino Rabeni: Hi Bert, Wol
    Bertrum Quan: Good morning Calvino.
    Wol Euler: you arrived flying, like superman
    Calvino Rabeni: It is pretty random :)
    Bertrum Quan: Still can't see you, Wol. Just acloud.
    Calvino Rabeni: SL gets wierd sometimes - I TP home and then get into an involuntary drift for several minutes
    Bertrum Quan: That's better!
    Wol Euler: ctrl-alt-R -> rebake, makes your viewer upload your appearance to the servers again
    Wol Euler: I've seen that, Calvino, I think it's the same as happens sometimes when you cross the border of a laggy sim
    Wol Euler: and you keep on walking forever, down into the earth to the underground sea :)
    Calvino Rabeni: yes it is surreal when you go into the sea
    Calvino Rabeni: New outfit? Is it leather or latex?
    Wol Euler: yes, and it's latex
    Calvino Rabeni: ah
    Wol Euler: I was shopping with Agatha yesterday, we dared ourselves to wear this stuff to PaB today
    Calvino Rabeni: :) And how long was the dare period?
    Wol Euler: :)
    Wol Euler: well, we both change clothes regularly anyway, so ...


    Seriously, though. Calvino introduces a topic that sparks a great discussion. 

    Wol Euler: I suppose I should make an effort to be a good leader.
    Calvino Rabeni: (takes photo for the chat log)
    Wol Euler clears her throat. "Does anyone have anything to say about Play as Being's meditation practices, or their effect in your life?"
    Calvino Rabeni: Ahem
    Wol Euler listens attentively.
    Calvino Rabeni: No, but I have a book to ask you about
    Wol Euler: ah!
    Calvino Rabeni: "This Is Water"


    I'd mentioned this book to him a few weeks before Christmas, he was curious enough to have found and read it.

    Calvino Rabeni: My mother read it - and was not impressed
    Calvino Rabeni: (I thought it was OK)


    Calvino Rabeni: The comment was - do you really think people go around being irritated and annoyed all the time at other people in public, on the road, in the supermarket?
    Wol Euler: actually, yes I do
    Calvino Rabeni: So, it was a comment on the *presumptive* zeitgeist.
    Wol Euler: for certain values of "people" and "all the time"
    Wol Euler: road rage exists.
    Wol Euler: people who swear at others in the lineup at a supermarket certainly exist.
    Bertrum Quan: I haven't read the book. Can you talk about it a bit?
    Calvino Rabeni: Yes, but it was addressed at a population of college graduates
    Wol Euler: do we have to be like them? no. That is DFW's point


    Is our "default setting" to be an impatient jerk? If so, what is to be done? 

    Calvino Rabeni: And its implicit message is - everybody is normally, an impatient jerk
    Wol Euler: Bertrum, we are talking about a very short book called "This is water", a commencement address by the late and much-lamented David Foster Wallace
    Calvino Rabeni: OK, if I came up to you at a party out of the blue and said - "Glad to meet you - you know, you don't have to be a jerk all the time" - wouldn't that be negatively presumptuous?
    Wol Euler: yes, of course.
    Bertrum Quan: Thanks for the link.
    Calvino Rabeni: And if I said it to a huge group of people, ditto?
    Wol Euler: but commencement addresses are not parties, and students are used to people telling them what to do.
    Calvino Rabeni: It would be saying - well maybe YOU are not an ass, but most of the people around you probably ARE
    Calvino Rabeni: Solving a problem that doesn't necessarily exist


    I missed this statement in the heat of the moment. I disagree, in my opinion and observation the problem very definitely exists. Mindfulness, meditation and prayer (and the nine seconds) are tools to counter it; that they are needed, and that very similar tools have been developed in all cultures and at all times, is to me a strong indication that the inclination to "be a jerk" is real and pretty fundamental.

    Calvino Rabeni: I'm saying, it communicates a normative idea of human nature
    Wol Euler: mmmmmm yes
    Calvino Rabeni: If a newspaper article had the presumptive opinion that EVERYBODY has road rage, it would be similar
    Wol Euler: and then proposes that we can do something about that.
    Calvino Rabeni: Sure
    Wol Euler: and that our lives would be better for being aware that this "default setting" (as he calls it) exists, and that it is an option
    Wol Euler: I read that differently, though I can certainly see where you got your impression.
    Calvino Rabeni: Next question is, if you went around doing an empirical experiment, and trying to find out whether people normally felt so bent out of shape by their public encounters, what do you suppose would be discovered?
    Wol Euler: I thought DFW was saying "our default setting is to think we are the centre of the universe, and to be upset when life contradicts that."
    Wol Euler: hello pema
    Calvino Rabeni: And in the absence of the ability to do that, what information does it comunicate as a default assumption?

    Pema joins us. 

    Calvino Rabeni: Pema :)
    Pema Pera: Hi Wol, Bert, Calvino!
    Bertrum Quan: hi Pema
    Wol Euler: the same as Buddha and Ecclesiastes and Schopenhauer communicated (not to say that their statements made it "correct" either)
    Pema Pera: (can only stay briefly, between work and dinner)
    Wol Euler: that by assuming ourselves to be the most important thing in the universe, we set ourselves up for disappointment and suffering
    Calvino Rabeni: It struck me as a bit like a Christian going around saying "All Ye SInners"
    Wol Euler: thanks for dropping in. We are talking about "This is water" by David Foster Wallace
    Calvino Rabeni: Which seems OK on the steet corner as a kind of rant
    Calvino Rabeni: but not necessarily in a theater of public opinion, like a college
    Wol Euler: on the contrary, I can think of no better setting for this lesson than in a place where learning allegedly occurs :)
    Calvino Rabeni: The overall lesson - good
    Calvino Rabeni: The "don't be a jerk" - I have doubts about it
    Calvino Rabeni: It just seems patronizing
    Wol Euler: I should say in fairness, that I read this after reading and loving "Infinite Jest", so I bring a certain amount of trust and good-feeling to DFW
    Calvino Rabeni: See, I liked the book, other than that
    Wol Euler: my reaction might have been different had I read this first
    Calvino Rabeni: Fairly said
    Wol Euler: as for the "don't be a jerk", it is a traditional part of commencement speechifying
    Wol Euler: remind me, does he actually use those words?
    Wol Euler: (flipping through my copy)
    Calvino Rabeni: No, he doesn't, its implied in my opinion, in the supermarket scene
    Calvino Rabeni: (end of digression into ethical aspect of public speaking)
    Wol Euler: yes, ok, his description is slanted to make you despise them — while knowing yourself to have been there and done that too
    Calvino Rabeni is studying his fingernails



    During the pause I looked for the phrase that I had in mind as the essence of the book. 

    Wol Euler: page 120 "The really important kind of freedom involves attention, and awareness, and discipline, and effort, and being able to truly care about other people and to sacrifice for them, over and over, in myriad petty little unsexy ways, every day. That is real freedom."
    Wol Euler: when I remember "This is water", I think of that, not the supermarket scene
    Pema Pera: I just read http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/2008/sep/20/fiction -- presumably that's the gist of it? I wasn't familiar with it
    Calvino Rabeni: I'm wondering what an empirical study would show about this aspect of public intersubjectivity
    Wol Euler: yep, that's it
    Pema Pera: yes, just read that quote, Wol, sounds pretty good!
    Wol Euler: more than half of it actually :) It is a very short book
    Pema Pera: and utterly realistic
    Pema Pera: perhaps he talks like a younger brother of Stim? :-)
    Pema Pera: same message, a bit more in your face
    Wol Euler chuckles
    Wol Euler: page 130 "[The truth] is about making it to thirty, or maybe even fifty, without wanting to shoot yourself in the head."
    Wol Euler: which of course, sadly, DFW himself didn't.
    Calvino Rabeni: Yes, luckily
    Wol Euler: O.O
    Wol Euler: would you unpack your use of "luckily" please?
    Calvino Rabeni: I mean, it would have been much more ironic if he had killed himself in precicsely the fashion he foreshadowed in that book
    Wol Euler: ah, yes. Right.
    Calvino Rabeni: So I'm glad that he used a different method, - of course goes without saying, too bad he did it at all
    Wol Euler nods.

    Subjective and objective, and how we communicate our feeling. 

    Calvino Rabeni: What strikes me is the dearth of objective information about others subjective perceptions of the public sphere
    Calvino Rabeni: So for instance, someone can go around saying "it's a dog eat dog world", and that can't be contradicted
    Calvino Rabeni: Although it may not be at all accurate, it becomes part of the zeitgeist
    Wol Euler: except to say "that is your perception, I see it differently"
    Wol Euler: but there is no "proof" either way
    Calvino Rabeni: But that's a weak position, pragmatically
    Calvino Rabeni: No, evidence could in principle be provided
    Calvino Rabeni: That would be good enough to affect public opinion
    Pema Pera: each statement is a shadow, a projection of something, and never catching or really limits the something in any way
    Pema Pera: it does give *some* information
    Wol Euler ponders. Why is it that people who presume goodness are felt to be naive, and those who presume bad intentions are felt to be clever?
    Pema Pera: that's all
    Calvino Rabeni: Yes that's my point - it is a bias
    Wol Euler: well, we too can affect public opinion (we the non-dog-eat-doggers)
    Wol Euler: by broadcasting our view
    Pema Pera: Wol, I think the media likes to exaggerate, and perhaps it is easier to exaggerate the bad than the good :-)
    Wol Euler: or better still: by living it publicly
    Calvino Rabeni: I think it works between friends also
    Wol Euler: definitely
    Wol Euler: and strangers


    So I told them the story. 

    Wol Euler: I was on a train last winter that took six hours for a 90 minute journey
    Calvino Rabeni: If you have positive expectations of those you meet, they feel it, and vice versa, and it influences their perceived possibilities in some real way
    Pema Pera: dog reminds dog to stop eating for 9 seconds -- how about that headline? Should try in August!
    Wol Euler: everyone including me was getting annoyed and irritated: "why does this happen to me?"
    Wol Euler: "why did the world choose ME to do something bad to?"
    Pema Pera: :-)
    Wol Euler: I felt myself doing that, and decided that it was the wrong way to behave
    Calvino Rabeni: Another bias - that ME gets the worst of the deal compared to others
    Wol Euler: so I told myself that this was an adventure, and that I should relax into it and see what comes out
    Pema Pera: can you remember what triggered you to make that decision, Wol?
    Wol Euler: and without my actually saying anything, that attitude communicated itself to those around me, and we started a really good, calm, discussion
    Pema Pera: wow, that's great, Wol !
    Pema Pera: and yes, I've seen those things happen
    Pema Pera: doesn't take too much sometimes -- just the surprise smile can be enough
    Wol Euler: the trigger was listening to myself, to the words falling out of my mouth, and the inner observer sneered and said "you sound like a spoiled child"
    Calvino Rabeni: :)
    Pema Pera 's inner observer is envious of Wol's inner observer :)
    Wol Euler: it might have been better had my inner detached-and-peaceful observer said "that is not quite right, dear wol" but that isn't how it happened :)
    Pema Pera: hehehe
    Pema Pera: that might not have cut it, though
    Wol Euler: yeah
    Pema Pera: oops -- dinner time, sorry
    Wol Euler: enjoy! bon appetit
    Pema Pera: great conversation, lots to ponder about
    Pema Pera: thank you !!
    Calvino Rabeni: :) pema take care
    Bertrum Quan: Bye Pema


    After the pause, I returned to something Calvino had said. 

    Wol Euler: [1:40] Calvino Rabeni: If you have positive expectations of those you meet, they feel it, and vice versa, and it influences their perceived possibilities in some real way
    Wol Euler: yes, very true!
    Calvino Rabeni: I had a personal example of this today
    Bertrum Quan: Need to go as well. Enjoyed listening to the discussion!
    Wol Euler: bye bert, take care
    Calvino Rabeni: Good day, Bert.
    Bertrum Quan: Take care.
    Calvino Rabeni: The idea in action as it were
    Calvino Rabeni: (a fog congeals into a sleek mass of latex)


    My (brand-new and shiny Windows 7) computer crashes for the second time within an hour. I reboot and return to SL. 

    Wol Euler: I am so [several expletives deleted] sick of Windows.
    Wol Euler: anyway, I missed your example :(
    Calvino Rabeni: Control Q again?
    Calvino Rabeni: OK I paused
    Calvino Rabeni: The idea in action as it were
    Wol Euler: right
    Calvino Rabeni: I was walking a public street, and an old woman was approaching
    Calvino Rabeni: with a head scarf, kind of walking as an elder does
    Calvino Rabeni: And as I approached, I had a feeling of approaching a grouch
    Calvino Rabeni: but I checked myself as I didn't want to reflect that to this person
    Calvino Rabeni: SO I dropped the feelign
    Calvino Rabeni: And when she spoke, her voice suprised me with its quality
    Wol Euler smiles.
    Calvino Rabeni: which was quite resonant and lovely - a foreign voice
    Calvino Rabeni: And I almost had a feeling she might be a saint, or at least, have some wonderful depth
    Calvino Rabeni: But it felt like I could have showed her I thought she was a grouch
    Calvino Rabeni: It's pretty quick impressions that go between people
    Wol Euler: mmhmm, and she would have spoken differently or not at all
    Calvino Rabeni: exactly
    Calvino Rabeni: in a way, I set myself to get that resposne
    Wol Euler: yep, we make the world that we live in.
    Calvino Rabeni: To a greater degree that we think,
    Calvino Rabeni: partly by questioning the presumed privacy of our so calld subjective impressions
    Wol Euler: mmhmm
    Calvino Rabeni: OK, so would that go over with the college commencement crowd ? :)
    Wol Euler: heheheh
    Wol Euler: they might not yet have enough experience, or enough self-awareness, to see it
    Wol Euler: certainly I didn't know this when I was 22, or even 30
    Wol Euler: it took me many decades to stop being a jerk :)
    Calvino Rabeni: No doubt there are some in the college crowd who can see that kind of thing.
    Calvino Rabeni: I think about certain motivational speakers I have heard
    Calvino Rabeni: They often have a "be positive" message
    Calvino Rabeni: but the subtext varies

    My computer dies for the third time. Switch to my Mac, return. 

    Wol Euler: [rather inventive compound expletive deleted]
    Calvino Rabeni: Wol, can't you get a differen SL viewer?
    Wol Euler: to coin a phrase
    Wol Euler: I'm on my mac now
    Calvino Rabeni: Or maybe a protective keyboard macro setting?
    Calvino Rabeni: Alright


    Wol Euler: so, where were we?
    Calvino Rabeni: Calvino Rabeni: I think about certain motivational speakers I have heard
    Calvino Rabeni: They often have a "be positive" message
    Calvino Rabeni: but the subtext varies
    Calvino Rabeni: Sometimes it is "I will teach you how to not be a jerk"
    Calvino Rabeni: Sometimes its is "I assume you have great skill and will help you affirm it "
    Calvino Rabeni: Different presumption
    Wol Euler nods
    Calvino Rabeni: And in the case where there is the most discrepancy, you have some kind of cult leader
    Calvino Rabeni: Potentially
    Wol Euler: an interesting thought


    We pause for contemplation. 

    Calvino Rabeni: Change in topic, Wol? Your initiative :)
    Wol Euler shrugs. I see no need to change :)
    Calvino Rabeni: OK
    Wol Euler: but if you have a second topic, fire away
    Wol Euler: no wait, scrub that, I have to get to work.
    Calvino Rabeni: Thanks, talk later.
    Wol Euler: it was a great talk, calvino, thank you
    Calvino Rabeni: YW
    Calvino Rabeni: Have a good day
    Wol Euler: you too, see you later
    Wol Euler: get some sleep
    Calvino Rabeni: :)

    Viewing 1 of 1 comments: view all
    Originally written on 19:50, 09 Jan 2010
    This was a fine session, thanks especially to Wol and Calvino for sharing their insights about how our perceptual shape or approach affects those around us, whether by being uplifting or upsetting. I???d like to mention how the physical body mediates the shared message: when we are bent out of shape (to use a common English idiom) it literally affects the body???s internal form and external posture; but when we are in a higher state -- influencing perceived possibilities with a positive slant, to use Calvino???s terms, or with an attitude that communicates itself to those around us, to use Wol???s terms -- our body???s internal form and external posture express it as well. Yogic and contemplative practices improve our internal and external shape, even without our mental participation in the effort, and the result is a communicative sense of well-being. The obverse side of this reality is how a person bent out of shape can bring things down for those around them, via the same communicative capacity. In other words, our bodies are constantly receiving unspoken messages from those around us as to their uplifting or upsetting conditions, and our conscious and subconscious energies are always occupied to some degree in dealing with it.
    Posted 13:35, 9 Apr 2010
    Viewing 1 of 1 comments: view all
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