Sunday, January 17, 2010

Diotima my mother

Today I spent some time with my mother. If you knew me, that might be more of a profound statement. In any event, she talked, and I listened. She talked about her life, her regrets, and how everything had sort of come full circle. Full circle. How so, I thought but did not say.

At my job we have this book, the title is something like "Mozart's Brain and the Fighter Pilot." I read the first few pages, but the title didn't stick with me nearly so well as the message inside about genius, intelligence, and practice. The book talked about the brain making connections, forming literal pathways of association that helped speed up recognition and response. So, in short, I guess the more one practices, the more prolific one becomes at a given action.

So how does rationalization work? Hindsight, they say, is 20/20, because after we've made the mistake, we can much better understand what we should have done. And even further removed from hindsight? After we've made several mistakes, and reached for their bright sides, recovered from the aftermath, and lived to tell someone listening about? Does it feed the impulse in us to believe deeply in the invisible?

Don't get my wrong, my mother is happy. Not happy like the child with the sucker with all the colors that's too big, but happy like an adult is happy: they smile just a little bit more than they sigh, and getting up most days isn't so hard. She's happy, but I wonder at how things "worked out" versus her randomly making the best of a pile of inexplicable situations, one after the other.

Maybe it's easier, to internalize some ameliorated version of ourselves that took those blows on the chin with some class and grace. Or is it for ourselves at all; maybe when we vocalize those things we've already acknowledged a bit of fiction-craft in regards to our own lives, a little tailoring and embellishment, but we also recognize a responsibility of us to add to the spirit of living, for those younger of us that still have living left to do.

1 comment:

  1. There's a pretty intense book about rationalization that you might be interested in reading. "Neuropath", by R. Scott Bakker.

    It suggests that our "decisions" are pre-determined by the state of our lower brain at the time and that there are actually no choices consciously being made.

    Our higher brain functions as a "rationalization engine" constantly generating excuses/reasons for why we do the things we do. The higher brain is constantly struggling to maintain an illusion of control over the lower brain.

    I think anyone who has experienced "failures of willpower" might recognize the sensation of the lower brain overriding the higher brain. What does your higher brain tell itself when this happens?

    Not sure how much I buy into it, but it was still a fascinating read.