The Frays, the Frowns, the Christmas Countdowns : )
Ebbs and Flows Work Magically — Day 6 of Countdown
I probably don’t have the storytelling ability, and you probably don’t have the time, to go through the somewhat disappointing evolution of cognitive science’s impact on society in the last ten years. Things took a sub-optimal turn that my optimism did not predispose me to foresee. BUT THEN, and maybe it’s partly my optimism again, a silver lining has started to appear.
‘Tis the season to be thinking silver and gold in fact. And I bet a lot of you are now thinking of Burl Ives in well-dressed-snowman form. I am. Now I’m also thinking of a very pretty song about how there’s always tomorrow, performed by Janice Orenstein in reindeer form (Clarice).
The song “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” goes back to the late forties, and it’s about sense of purpose, acceptance of diversity, and the ups and downs, the ebbs and flows, of being alive and flourishing. The 1964 movie multiplied each of those elements by ten.
A tangent here, but related. Smart sounding snark about all the songs, the show, the premise, the characters, is just a click and a couple of seconds away, and the same goes for every other story, analysis, narrative, expression, etc. We’re all always just a few seconds away from witty, dismissive, more-informed-than-thou insights.
I grew up in the 70’s on Mad Magazine, Cracked, and then National Lampoon. I mean, I get satire, sarcasm, and malicious absurdity. Somewhere we hit a tipping point that I think the moms always sensed was looming, kinda like when they know the playing is getting too rough.
But then a lot of moms were doing it in their own way. Sardonic came to signal sophistication, and it became another common form of endearing and subtly persuasive humor in shaping society’s tastes.
The nuclear fission, and then fallout, of early Postmodernism (which caught on from a philosophical theory about language and meaning) was in making anything and everything potentially ridiculous and wrong, usually for some form of profit, in image if not dollars like for the perpetuating publishers. I can’t think of a better tool for splitting people both among and within generations — but also for binding the various new small groups, nevermind the radioactivity.
So what’s this got to do with silver and with silver linings and Christmas countdowns? First, you probably remember that Yukon Cornelius did not find the gold he was after, but he did find silver. And he was very happy, and he had a sense of purpose, and his weird obsession did end up helping a lot of others, which made him feel good — all this without finding gold.
The silver I’m seeing in the evolution/de-evolution of popular cognitive awareness is that many of the things we humies used to do more of, or less of, or differently, are being recognized for their role in physical and mental wellness.
Gold would have been not adding cherry-picked neuroscience fun-facts to our particular political/philosophical positions and prescriptions. But I think silver is okay.
The silver is knowing, at least in the back of our minds, that there’s probably some perpetual but primitive, once-useful or useful-in-moderation, mechanism making us see and feel things a certain way. And we truly don’t want to be rid of it.
But someone’s probably using it for their purposes not ours. That someone might even be one of our selves. And we haven’t really needed cognitive science to tell us there’s more than one of us inside, but maybe it will help us remember better.
In the realest world of doing things, fixing things, growing things, cooking things, straining and winning, or straining and losing, and being happy with pretty nice silver, Postmodernism and profiteering opinion-manipulators don’t matter very much. And I think cognitive science is slowly and unintentionally (that’s how science is supposed to work) showing us why.
Bug Stu thinks so too. He also thinks we need to be wary of the Stralfian influence, especially in this season. Here’s his poem for Day 6 in his 13-day countdown.
Day 6 Christmas Cursory Rhyme for Our Curious Times
In seven days that day is here.
There’s tons to do but please don’t veer,
cuz Santa’s watching, or maybe the kids,
but no one needs those narrowed eyelids.
The Stralfs are lurking, and it brings them joy
to see the expressions you deploy
and default to anger— your mind’s their toy.