Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Are You An Alien? (Or Just Alien-ated?)

Recently I responded to an internet post about the U.S. economy. I don't do that very much anymore (for reasons that will shortly become obvious).

This time it seemed safe.

It wasn't.

My response was fairly bland, general and dispassionate (for me), citing a book I read recently about how industrial jobs have been slipping away from the U.S. for the past 30 years while the financial sector has grown enormously.

I wasn't saying industrial jobs should come back or that banks are evil or anything like that (although sometimes I do think both things), I was just stating what most people of most political persuasions see as basic statistical fact. As in, Ok, this is what's been happening here for awhile.

Within minutes someone showed up with an essay length post in which I was called a Lou Dobbs fanatic (I'm not even a fan!) and was told how wrong I am about everything and how misguided. Then, this person proceeded to make all the same points I just made along with suggestions for changes that would help the U.S. economy.

In other words, s/he was agreeing with me and attacking me at the same time.

That happens so much anymore on the internet that it's barely even interesting to mention it, but I thought I would mention it in this context because it strikes me how anxious we are to define ourselves by how we are different--or better still, opposed--to others, even when we aren't!

It's as if we need to find an area of opposition to exist as a unique human being, even when there isn't one.

Every time we define ourselves by what we are not (not a liberal! not a conservative! not poor! not rich! not sick! not lazy! not you!), we choose to disregard who and what we are. We choose to disregard our common experience as human creatures and our shared thoughts as persons among other persons in favor of standing out as a solitary, unique individual.

Recently I saw a PBS program about magic and psychology that made the point that in order to perceive an object or event, human beings don't just focus on that object or event and passively ignore what else is going on.

No, what human beings do reflexively in order to perceive is actively suppress the background in order to absorb and define the figure. This active suppression of the background is also the perceptual mechanism that allows a magician to perform illusions and sleights of hand.

The surprising fact is, magicians do much of what they do in plain sight. They understand that we're looking over there while unconsciously blocking out over here. So they do what they do over there, in plain sight, and we don't see it.

We can't help it. It's how we are made.

It's clear to me human beings do the same with who we think we are. We focus on what what we are in opposition to others, while actively suppressing everything else. We do this order to feel like a separate individual, which is a really big deal in our culture.

The result?

To some degree, we end up alienated from ourselves and others, and this perceived separateness becomes abrasive and dysfunctional, even painful.

Last but not least, consider this:

If a stage magician can learn to do things in plain sight without being seen by simply understanding human perception, what else might also understand human perception and lurk in the corners of consciousness we actively ignore?

These are my rambling thoughts on a Tuesday afternoon--shared on a blog I've been severely neglecting for some time, mostly due to a terrible case of writer's block and a sense of having no opinions whatsoever on anything at all.

Seriously, I'm detoxing from opinions and blah blah. I'm sick to death of even my own opinions and don't give a rat's ass about them anymore. I don't know anything and I don't think anything, but if I can shut up long enough, I do see the world as constantly amazing and stranger than fiction at every turn.

It's not a bad place to be, right now, that one. It feels like coming home. But I'll venture out again soon.

See you in space.


  1. I just added this blog to my new blog's Blogroll: http://nfaa.wordpress.com/

  2. Thanks Alexander! I'll update your link here too. :)

  3. You know I am tired of all the political pickering at times, that this week I just work on art, my book, and my sunset pictures. I would rather make a beautiful picture blog than read about what is going on in Wisconsin at the moment. Maybe that is not good, but I need a break from politics.

  4. I know what you mean. I've been detaching from the web and all the politics stuff a bit myself. Trying to keep this blog going though, and I'm also work on a creative project. Also, I was thinking of drawing cartoons again. Thanks for stopping by! :)