Something Happened! With a capital “S.”
For the first time in forever, a reading caught my attention — by surprise, nonetheless.
In a nutshell, last Sunday afternoon I came across a blog via a repost, indirectly. I read one article, then one thing led to another, and then it was evening and I had read most of the guy’s writings. I was wide awake, with So 👏 Many 👏 Questions.
To clarify, neither the topics of the author’s writings nor the person caught the most of my interest. That may still come. Perhaps. Probably?
It was all about the methodology and, to some extent, his style.
See, this author — David R McIver — explicates.
Through this blog, the reader learns that David practices therapeutic introspective writing.
One can learn there about emotions. One can also learn about one’s own reactions to one’s emotions. One then can also learn about how to manage, respect, value, control or change one’s reactions to one’s emotions. One also learns about relationships; their importance; how to build them; how to maintain them; how to recognize blind spots in one’s own interactions with others. One can learn about growth; about introspection; about self perception and self worth; about ambition. The topics are too numerous, and too broad, to outline effectively.
All this is achieved with words, and then more words, then words again. Care is taken in writing to separate beliefs, or matters of the head, from aliefs which are matters of the heart. Rare words and newly minted words are carefully strewn in. The articles, alternating between short and expansive, also alternating between incidentally topical experience reports and generalizing fundamental analyses, combine elaborate, precise, carefully weighted and oh so efficacious explications.
The text is intricate yet enticing. Complex yet elucidating. Intimately personal yet generally insightful.
And thus I found, serendipitously, a growing artifact that proves that writing as a medium for thought can be used both as an instrument of personal growth and a tool to teach and to share.
For several years, I had been bullied into believing that written thoughts were an evolutionary dead-end for the purpose of communication and education. I feel so vindicated and, since Sunday, vigorously energized. A dusty, rusty light bulb has switched back on.
There is a story I have wanted to share for many, many years (at least fifteen, maybe more). I had wanted to tell it in the third person, even though I am the living subject, to detach the subject matter from the storyteller. Unfortunately, I never learned how to turn myself into a third person while keeping a straight face. I needed proof that the story was generalizable. With a proof in hand, the story can now be told.
I shared it as follows with multiple friends already this week. David, let me embark you as unsuspecting passenger on this vessel, even though we don’t actually know each other.
“So, there’s this guy who writes on the internet. An old school blog, not one optimized for fame controversy or internet karma points.
The guy writes about what he learns about himself. He writes about his becoming an independent thinker, about how to function as a well-adjusted adult. He writes about his experiments, mistakes, failures and lessons learned. He writes about his discovery and exploration of feelings, how feelings guide inter-personal and self- exploration and how one can use one’s model of self to optimize one’s learning from experiences.
He writes and details with words all these topics where ‘normal’ people would otherwise develop an intuitive, instinctive and likely subconscious understanding as they grow up. He brings into words what nobody would ever had told him otherwise.
And the writing is then left to float on a public medium, for the odd chance it will be picked up by an interested reader. The author’s upside in this process (therapeutic writing, introspection, whatever) has been cashed out at the moment of publication, and everything that happens afterwards—namely, the texts finding an audience—can be seen as a contribution to the public domain. Sharing is caring.”
Why would readers care? The topics and experiences are highly personal and probably not directly reusable. Stressed and hasty adults usually skim their online findings and only retain knowledge of immediate applicability. In that style of reading, what room is there for thoughtful and verbose introspection?
Here’s a thought. Before the adult becomes stressed and hasty, somewhere these days around 25 years old, there was a younger person who was deeply insecure; anxious about their future, the uncertainty of not knowing who they are and the violence of power dynamics that younger folk experience in the dense, mismatched circles they are mandated to attend; and, of relevance here, avid to learn how to overcome this adversity.
Yet, neither school teachers nor parents are willing or able to teach this.
It is expected that whatever needs to be learned will be absorbed by social osmosis. And that whatever cannot be learned will need to be coped with. This is utterly inefficient and, in this age, utterly irresponsible.
I am glad that there are authors on the internet who write about stuff that younger people are, from experience, interested to learn. It creates the opportunity to learn faster and more comprehensively than what chance alone would allow.
Let me elaborate.
Every time mankind had to build something big, where there was an endeavor requiring the involvement of a large group over large time periods, the first thing to happen was to develop a language to talk about what needs to be done.
Want to build a large pyramid? Need first some words to talk about stacking stones, straight lines, logistics and human resources.
Want to build a sea ship? Need first some words to talk about cutting wood, cutting woods in particular shapes, buoyancy, navigation, and again logistics and human resources.
You get the point. Technically, language growth co-evolved with civilization growth, one emulating the other, but the point remains: big things happen when there are words available to organize them.
And these days we have a couple of big things to organize. Things that did not exist fifty years ago.
We need to organize society across the internet. We need to organize wealth redistribution and environmentalism across sovereign borders. We need to coordinate worldwide health initiatives when intensive travel accelerates contamination rates beyond the reaction capacity of local government.
All this is a lot of work. To make it possible, we can’t waste time waging wars; nor waste energy engaging in casual xenophobia. We urgently need folk to learn how to get along peacefully, to nurture respect, trust and, ultimately, collaboration.
And this learning how to get along is the thing that’s sorely missing from schools, parental work, classical literature and everything that mass produced media strive for.
Which brings us to the proximate “big thing” that needs to happen first: enable humans everywhere to learn how to fend for themselves while forming healthy communities that span current artificial borders.
However, it’s not been done before. We can’t simply write down what has been done before so they can pick it up. No, instead, they will have to figure it out among themselves. But that can’t work if they can’t talk effectively to each other.
Babel, tower, yada, yada.
Where we can help, is give them the words.
Teach them how to bring their experiences and their learnings into words, so they can share them with others and learn from each other’s experiences. Teach them how to organize critical thought about what they observe about the world, but also about what they observe of themselves; and their reaction to their surroundings. Teach them about how to conceptualize the systems that structure the human mind and emotions, and how to tell others how they can exploit these systems to accelerate growth or protection from mishaps.
And again, we can’t just “give” them the words. Words cannot be offered on a platter to be discovered and adopted, without context.
Giving words, in effect developing a language, that is done by shaping it into original stories. By having two or more people share their experience with similar new words and then juxtaposing, comparing or opposing. It is the play of mutual uses of languages that pushes it into evolving.
In this case, it is the play of mutual uses of languages to talk about one’s growth as a person, about one’s understanding of patterns of thoughts and feelings, that will help develop the language that will let humanity avoid fruitless infighting and instead focus on collaborating more effectively.
Additionally, there may be something to be said about pushing language through different channels to reinforce its strength. For example, I find it easier to relate to a personal story when the author tells it with their literal own voice (spoken, for example in a video recording), than when it is written.
I am optimistic; I expect it to naturally happen. If my past experience is anything to go by, this story’s David will be found talking to large gathered crowds before long.
Yet, strength in language development necessitates a solid foundation, and the written form is, in my opinion, the essential starting point.
Sunday night was restless: I had so many questions — what do I know and how do I know it? How to share? Was any of my past writing compromised when I temporarily lost faith in the value of written thought? How to find sparring partners? How to create a safe environment where I can experiment and refine my systems?
It’s daunting, but it gives me purpose. How refreshing.