Friday, December 31, 2010


Unfocused thoughts right now, about edge-walking and writing.
There are people far more qualified who don't write...and there are much better writers who don't have the experiences to share.

Bob Patterson, (who I haven't met) did a review on "Meditations on Violence" that got him thinking about the four years he worked with inmates- be sure to see the posts that follow the one linked. It all reads familiar. He describes it quite well. But he hated it and I loved it. His strategies and tactics sound very close to the way that I handled things... but for some reason I found the situations energizing. I loved being the good guy. I loved being relatively undamaged and able to walk in a sewer and stay clean.

E postulates that there is a subspecies who don't react to adrenaline and serotonin normally, people who heal faster and have denser bones and muscles than others and looser joints... maybe. I don't think I was born a meat-eater. I think it was an attitude that I learned to survive a very specific situation.

Nature/nurture, again. I usually fall heavily on the side of nurture for that one. Not because it is right or wrong, but because it is useful. Human adaptability is probably our most 'nature' aspect. If you need to do something to prevail or survive, you'll do it given half a chance. And like most organisms, humans are essentially lazy. The problem with 'nature' as a primary source of anything (that skills or personality or talents are inborn) is that our adaptable, lazy nature immediately sees the excuse value in that,

"I can be a jerk, it's just my nature." "I'm not really a slob, it's just my nature." On and on.
But force someone to respond as if everything was a choice and suddenly they make better choices. Not a lot of aggressive jerks at a firing range. Not a lot of slobs in Boot Camp.

As I said, unfocussed thoughts.
The year ends. It's just a number. The days keep coming.
Four events set up for February:
Granada Hills CA Feb 5th
Two day event in Providence RI Feb 12-13
Tentative San Francisco 2-day plus Conflict Communications Feb 19-20
Invited to be at a SD group teach in Seattle sponsored by John Darby February 26

Considering putting the blog entries in chronological order, cleaning up the grammar and adding a little content (like a few of my actual journal entries for some of the events) and creating an e-book for each year so far.


Jim said...

Nature vs nurture as a cop out for whatever, whether it's being overweight (yes, I almost certainly have a genetic tendency to be overweight, just look at my family -- but I also have a sweet tooth, and the ability to work out and to eat less, if I choose to...) or being an asshole is bullshit to me.

Nature v nurture as an explanation for differences in human reactions to different situations? That I'll buy. I'm a product of my life, for good and bad. How I respond to things has been shaped as much by my experiences and by what I saw in my parents and others I respected growing up as by any inborn traits.

What I read you saying, Rory, is something I agree with: Mental/emotional/psychological flexibility is probably the biggest thing that gives humanity a leg up on the universe to date. We aren't lemmings who automatically run off a cliff or dogs that go nuts if they're around a female in heat... We can adapt and overcome -- and people have done so in some of the most horrific situations imaginable, like the WWII concentration camps or the Japanese POW camps in WWII.

Josh Kruschke said...

I like what you say about choices. I found that if you gives someone an excuse they will use it.

Oh, and now you want to make the blog easier to read.

Happy New Year to you and the family.

BSM said...

Thanks for the note. I do look on those four years as very valuable. Lots of lessons for management and for self-defense.

Some people fit well into that environment -- it's like anything else I suppose. My mom worked over 40 years in a mental institution and absolutely loved it.

I think I touched on that in pt. 1 -- why some 10+ year correctional veterans looked un-phased while others looked scarred.

People are funny.

Maija said...

Rory -
Do you think that the intrinsic self is infinitely variable - is as plastic as you give it incentives to change?
I guess I believe that nurture plays an enormous part, but that the further you get from your personal nature, the greater the resistance to change becomes - the incentives necessary to adapt meet harder and harder resistance ....
So perhaps you could say that nature plays in at the edges of your potentiality, with nurture governing the space in between ....?
I also get the feeling that if you learn that the possibilities outside of yourself exist early enough in life, and that you can imagine them, and get some positive feedback as to your plasticity ... the easier it is to play with your 'nature' with less resistance at the edges .....

Rory said...

Hey Josh.
Bob- You have the best profile bio ever. What always made me sad about the job were the people that hated it but couldn't make the decision to leave.

Maija- I'd have to start with trying to find an intrinsic self. It's like the koan, what can you take away and ceae to be you? Then, yeah, comfort level with change can be encouraged (lots of experimentation with "Learned helplessness" to show that it can be discouraged). And I do believe that nature sets some limits.
But people can get acclimatized to a lot, so is resistance with change distance from nature? Approaching an edge? Seeking homeostasis?

I've been working on an idea, that self-defense might be an oxymoron, that covers some of this.

Anonymous said...

It's been said that some Native Americans , Navajos I think have no fear of heights, and they are seen doing construction work at really great heights.
this is nature not nurture. I can't fly in a commercial aeroplane, and this is nurture, a learned responce that I got many years ago, however I've been up in a small aircraft with a couple of other guys and we did some aerobatics and they were sick and scared...I wasn't, didn't bother me at all, loved the view , funny isn't it!!.how do we decide what it is?

Maija said...

OK - Curious now ... Self defense an oxymoron?
..... Because there is no 'self' to defend? Or what we think of as 'self' is not what we are defending? Or ....?

Looking forward to reading where you are going with this....

Jeff said...

huh -- I was just thinking this morning (while pondering how many entries I have to catch up on after being out of town for a few weeks), "this blog would be great as a book in itself".

+1 on that idea.