What possibilities are there in improving information retention and making meaningful connections between concepts that don’t involve traditional learning methods? These methods may even employ tactile/symbol/sound/image combinations that exist largely outside of language, or restructure language to behave in a completely different way?
Why bother studying this one?
It is clear that traditional ways of trying to memorize, retain and put together useful information are not working for me. I can read the news for hours at a time, and make a concerted effort to recall names, places, events, etc. and recall very little of it.
Possible ways to attack the problem:
build connections that may not be the most meaningful, but are, nevertheless connections that mimic connections in the brain
build a top-down hierarchy of rules regarding what is or isn’t important to me, and attempt to classify in a taxonomy different pieces of information so that I can clearly retain “how they fit”
The problem with the first approach is that it provides no bigger picture for how or why something is important, and the problem with the second approach is that it will inevitably discriminate what is retained and what isn’t.
What will happen to the better parts of Western Culture? This requires me to necessarily declare what is good and what isn’t, but this is for me and future civilizations that I think will appreciate what was good or what wasn’t in a similar fashion. For example, John Coltrane was good, Lil Wayne was not. The primary differentiator is the artist’s desire to work with their art for its own sake vs. using art as a means to obtain a certain kind of lifestyle. Was it wrong of our society to be set up in such a way at that time and place so that John Coltrane could never become as rich as Lil Wayne? Would John Coltrane have made less interesting music if he could see a clear path to becoming a multi-millionaire by producing uninspired garbage intended for short-term consumption and gratification?
These are secondary questions, and the more pertinent question is the first one asked. It is my opinion that there were plenty of highly commercialized (mostly white) jazz musicians capitalizing on a certain sound that they knew their audiences were comfortable with, and the very fact that they did have access to a money and power structure that Coltrane didn’t is what made their music forgettable while his is not.
However, what I would like to explore is more tied to the Western world as it began with Constantine, with the premise that Christianity as an underpinning gave our culture the stability it needed to evolve into the highly materialistic, humanist one of today. Plenty of empires came and went where the role of religion was minimized or non-existent. Christians conquering the New World were as barbarous in their slaughter as Genghis Kahn, but they brought something that enabled their conquests to have a longer shelf life.
Once the U.S. and Western Europe have become eclipsed by China and other burgeoning superpowers in the East and Latin America, will our greatest achievements live beyond mere technology and catchphrases that the new conquerors have already adapted? Or, will no other superpowers arise, and the fate of the global population is already too closely tied to ours–and, we will see a complete collapse in civilizations after major wars and plagues, with it taking another thousand years or so for us to rise again out of the dark ages?
Or, while applying a strictly fundamentalist approach to the future, will much of our culture simply be swept aside by a God who is not especially impressed with it? Perhaps God doesn’t see a need to preserve classical texts and Rennaissance art, and finds most Western literature and art to be nothing more than glorified pornography. What does that say about me if I am still in love with manmade things that do not please God?
How do I get to know myself after having spent a lifetime believing too many myths (most but not all of them self-created) about myself?
I must persist no matter what, but I must persist honestly.
I can’t keep believing that I will one day live in an overpriced condo near Central Park if I am incapable of convincing any employer that I am able to move just one step up in the Sales and Marketing food chain.
I can’t keep thinking that I will one day soon reawaken my creative imagination and come up with a great startup idea, or that the part of my brain that was somewhat good at math and physics is just going to “snap out of it” one morning.
I can’t keep pretending that I am going to wake up one morning after reading a lot of news in Spanish (and understanding 30% of it) that I will wake up one morning and be fluent.
I have to be persistent and focused at the things that I know how to do, like write and think and read and occasionally make art. I have to be aggressive about trying to retain more of the information and concepts I consume online, but I also have to be less inclined to let myself go on autopilot and simply surf the news.
I still admire the idea that I have a wealth of subconscious ability and knowledge that is going unused, but I also have to work with reality.
Since I do not have the intellectual or social skills that I thought I would have by this age, I must begin to work more diligently and focused on studying deeply how other people have faced the same problems that I face.
Mythmaking itself is not to be completely derided, because everyone does it to get by–but it should be studied carefully and understood as such when it is happening.
I must study how to always be vigilant around lapsing into my states of whiny self entitlement, and constantly be of a mind that I am really the one in charge of certain aspects of myself.
It’s like I’ve spent a lifetime blaming outside forces for things that I should have taken personal responsibility for, and pretending that I am in control of certain things that I am not.
Each morning, I should get up and ask: what about me could I change today?
What are some things that humans would be capable of doing in a perfect world, but they have resigned themselves to believing they can’t them because science (or the status quo) says they can’t?
Psychic things — faith healing, mindreading, clairvoyance, psychokinesis, remote viewing, astral travel, interstellar travel, time travel, teleportation, alchemy (in a general sense, being able to produce one element from another easily and cheaply)
World Peace (or conversely and perversely, each human has his or her own world in which they are completely in command of all other humans)
Most of these would seem to require a Faustian bargain of some kind.
But what about more superficial things, like regrowing hair and keeping it from growing gray? Or, extending one’s prime of life period out by a few hundred years — not necessarily with any expectation of true immortality…
Or, what about the things that humans keep thinking are right around the corner for science to discover and develop, but they never happen — cheap abundant energy, a cure for cancer, a way to grow humans outside the womb, interstellar space travel, a way to create completely new ecosystems from chemicals in a lab that rise up to have the same complexity as the one here on earth?
Along the above lines, dive into all of the complex systems in the human organism and the ecosystems here on earth. Attempt to map out an understanding by which all manner of great complexity and human intelligence could have simply evolved by way of godless, cosmic accidents. Take the atheist’s logic to its natural extremes. How do people re-organize when the rule of law breaks down and no more moral underpinnings from religion exist? How much will be accomplished in the way of human achievements if people are constantly fighting for survival? Or, alternatively, what will it look like if humans develop a “fail safe” method for governing themselves in which computers correct their mistakes and everyone is born with a chip pre-grown into them? Will the concept of free will be able to survive–and if not, what would that mean for the so-called humans in this kind of world?
What is the importance of the written word? Does it still hold a potential to have the same kind of power that people once thought it did? Back when few were literate and the written word seemed like magick, this belief was often accompanied by an idea that words written a certain way or repeated a certain way had the power to transform the soul or even the material world.
I for one have slowly given up on this notion, just because I’ve tried for so long to use written words exclusively to transform me.
It could be, though, that I am simply not structuring my thoughts correctly.
Nostalgia. I long at times very painfully for pasts both real and imagined. Sometimes the feeling is almost unbearable, especially when the seasons change into spring or fall. Does this feeling have any value? Should it be completely eradicated and suppressed with a hyper-realistic sense of the here and now, or should it be cultivated to the point where I can completely convince myself that I have escaped to another world?
Friendship. A constant review of past friendships reveals that most of these relationships would never have gotten to the point of being friendships if I had been fully aware of things that I believe or don’t, and if I’d been as critical then of people as I am now. Also, I think I am more in touch with my “true self,” which is somebody who would have scared off most of these past friends.
So, what makes some people so successful at establishing friendships with other people who they know are not necessarily aligned with them very closely in deep ways?
Is friendship in an honest pure sense even attainable? Are people always going to believe that the other person, namely myself, is seeking ulterior motives for the friendship? Am I too demanding and exacting about who my friends should be? Am I too impatient with those who would otherwise become my friends? Do I keep too much of myself hidden from others?
Fatherhood. Was I ready for it? Is this going to be half as great as everyone says it is? If the relationship ends up like the one I have with my dad, then what am I left with? Do I have the energy left to go another twenty years working these random office jobs so that my son will have enough money to keep up with other middle class kids? Will the world remain reasonably stable so that ISIS or Zombies aren’t outside our door in the 2020s?
More importantly, what does fatherhood mean in terms of allowing me to provide another human being with an oral instruction manual and does it give me any karma points for the afterlife?
Meditations on identity. Will I ever completely identify with one group of people on this earth? Everyone I meet now, and everyone I learn about through various media, seems to be not quite “my people.” If I were sent back as a female, would I thrive more? Or, have I learned enough important lessons as a male that I need to keep going in this direction, and my next life will be crisper and more focused? Can I ever completely identify with Christianity?
Mentors — where are they and where were they? I’ve never had a real mentor–someone who thought I was worth the time to take aside and teach a thing or two. Of course, my father taught me a lot of things, and my aunt and uncle beat some social graces into my head that I was lacking–but, a mentor in the classic sense of there being an older person at the office who really was wiser and smarter and more successful than me, and saw my potential and wanted to help me achieve something great — that kind of mentor has never come along. Perhaps I am overly optimistic about the opportunities that other people receive. It could be that most people do not ever get any sort of mentors, and that the ratio of successful people who had mentors to those that didn’t isn’t significant enough to make them seem truly worthwhile.
However, I can attest to the fact that when I am reading a writer who is full of real and not hackneyed wisdom, I can feel myself growing as a human being. Thomas Merton was one such writer who provided this to me until I read his diary where he had the affair with the nurse. I wish I could find another writer like that. Even Tony Robbins kind of seemed like that for awhile, but he is a little too over the top with the focus on being successful on the material plane. Most of the New Agey folks like Eckhart Tolle seem too much like they are trying too hard to write for a certain kind of audience that is primed to be in a state of constant expectation of insights that are just around the corner, and they tend to rehash a lot of ideas that have appeared elsewhere.
I would like to find someone who feels more like a down-to-earth friend without coming across as a complete countrified bumpkin.
The value of information as an openly traded, free-market economy within one’s own head. Not the market of ideas in the outside world, but the market of information that you trade in yourself each day. Which things did you learn matter the most? What happens if you assign a value to them, and look at things you learned and retained vs. things learned and forgotten as a kind of economic tradeoff scenario?
A society that embraces art, literature and music made up until 1960. Not the schmaltzy pop stuff, but fine art and music by classical composers. Culture that was deemed highbrow by great institutions of learning. But, this is not an elitest society, per se, but an attempt to reclaim some of the finer things of Western culture, as well as promote the finer things crafted by other cultures. It is not exclusive by economic class, race, sex, etc., but simply extolls the virtues of great craftsmanship. There is clearly a difference between opera and pop rock music, at least for those that can hear it. It is NOT just a matter of what I like vs. what you like but the INTENT of the people making the music and the TIME and EFFORT put into their work.
A decade-by-decade analysis of the last 100 years, from 1910 – 2010. What was the “meaning” of each decade? What did we gain or lose in our collective memory with each passing decade? What did each generation give to or take from us?
The 1940s was the most important decade. WWII and the technological advances that it accelerated are responsible for almost every facet of our lives. The intertwining of shifting cultural norms and rapidly changing technology go hand in hand. People who consume mass market media are now in some ways better informed about the world around them, but they are also rendered stupid by so much black box technology and vast government/corporate machinery that seems to be completely out of their control.
The continuum of history, family, foundations. The destruction of institutions leads to primitive things plus chaos. Each generation tries to reinvent anew things of art and literature by destroying or rejecting all that came before them. Or, they try to assimilate everything indiscriminately.
What the 1960s destroyed and built anew — was it more valuable for the future of humanity than what was completely lost in the process?
A descent into tribalism removes certain aspects of civilization and our heritage that we enjoy and take for granted, but a strict adherence to institutions of the past yields dogmatic thinking at best and cargo cult mentalities at worst.
Many times over, I myself have rejected everything I know in an attempt to start anew. Sometimes I yield promising, fresh results and other times I bring forth chaos. The older I get, the less inclined I am to reject everything completely. Or, I only do it temporarily, and the rebuilt house contains many of the same motifs that were there before.
The older I get, the more I dislike the way recent generations have chosen to revise history and make past legends and heroes out to be monsters. They are respectful of other cultures spatially, but temporally they cannot see their own past culture as something relatively different. For example, someone of the 1950s is rejected for being too racist or sexist, but someone living in a tribal culture that marries off young girls is simply following cultural norms relative to their own cultural millieu.
My generation and the generation that followed it have been born into a time and place of relative abundance. We are among the 1% wealthiest when you consider all of human history worldwide. Even some of our lower middle class can probably fall into this category. We seek incremental changes because we know enough about what happens when you rock the boat too much–you lose your head.
We don’t even know what we would demand of big government or big corporations if we could hold them hostage and have them meet our every demand. More for us and less for those who are really wealthy? Less for us and more for the 3 billion or so people who live in starvation? Less for us and more for the environment? More for us and even less for the developing world who are ecologically doing to their countries what we have done?
There are, of course, win-win situations that don’t leave some people with less at the expense of others. It is also possible that if everyone got more, we would eventually all be left with nothing.
Perhaps I am too old now to even care about socially-sweeping changes. Changes that happen to large numbers of people due to the violent or benign activities of a few. Perhaps I am only interested in carrying out a complete revolution in my own heart and head, to the point where I am certain I will die a completely improved person from the soul that arrived inside my little baby body some decades ago.
But, I do find that I am not happy unless I am part of some kind of group activity, where I am helping a group of more than a few humans accomplish something. My happiest moments are when I am certain that I am definitely helping others change for the better, and usually I am happier when I am working with a larger group of people instead of the 1-1 tutoring/mentoring experience.