Is Knowledge and Rationality a Highway or a Roadblock?

English: Picture was shot in July. Ada Feed & ...

English: Picture was shot in July. Ada Feed & Seed is located at the junction of highway 200 & 9. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Maybe it depends where you want to go, if and how you decide to change course along the journey, and if it matters if you travel the route you planned or just that the trip was meaningful and fulfilled a purpose.

About ten years ago I had  this conversation with my computer geek husband, “What do you think about video on the internet?  Wouldn’t it be cool to share videos and be able to watch films online?”

“Not possible,” he  surmised.  “It would be too slow.”

More recent conversation about a research study that demonstrated false memories could be physically implanted in mice –

Me:  I’m surprised the conspiracy theorists missed this one, so focused on imagined or unlikely scenarios that they miss the bulls-eye.  Doesn’t this have dangerous potential if applied to human subjects?

Him:  Nah, it’ll be twenty years at least before they reach that stage.

Me (not out loud)  Haven’t we had this conversation before somewhere?

I am completely ignorant (by choice) in the technology area and find it dull and even distasteful.  My husband and kids aren’t thrilled when I ask questions or for help on what they consider simple computer issues.  “Mooom, why don’t you just take a course and learn to use your computer?”  “Because I don’t want to and I would rather you just do it for me.”  They say there is no such thing as a stupid question, but that is not the case when a techno-illiterate by doctrine is left awash in a sea of the techno-fluent as the language and knowledge body evolves and expands daily.  I do have some basic knowledge in the area of medical sciences, but have shunned the more detailed and technical (here’s that bad word again) stuff.  I only took the required science and math courses in college, while hubby has an undergraduate science degree and much experience in this field also.

I recall my college anatomy class, where I thought I had hit the jackpot as I spotted a frog specimen that appeared nearly twice the size of the others.  I jockeyed for position and grabbed this one for myself before anyone could get it, sure that a larger frog would make it easier to find the organs.  What a shock to open up froggy and discover she was pregnant, black, stinky eggs spilling out everywhere covering and displacing the organs.  Trying to clean her up did no good, as I wouldn’t be able to describe this altered anatomy correctly.  I ended up borrowing my neighbor’s frog to complete the assignments.

So, a person ignorant of the limitations and parameters according to prevailing belief could imagine the possibility (without understanding the specifics of how it could be accomplished) of future progress, while one with greater education and training sees a brick wall ahead and doesn’t bother to try to find ways around, over or through.  It seems men and women who have set off major creative innovations either didn’t have anyone tell them it couldn’t work or decided not to listen.

I’ve discovered that there is something resident that rises up within me whenever I hear something like, “Impossible; it can’t be done.”  That is just the impetus I need to figure out a way to do it, just to prove them wrong and engage in a challenge.  Interesting, that at times it has turned out that the, “impossible,” wasn’t even based in real information, but instead on a false supposition assumed correct because it had been passed down from an authoritative source.

Last year No. 2 son was preparing to take his AP (advanced placement) exams.  Mommy bear marched into the student services and announced that baby bear required an accommodation.  My son is a young man on the spectrum and has been diagnosed with dysgraphia, which means he has difficulty with handwriting due to small muscle control and hand-eye coordination issues.  He had an accommodation to take all school related tests that required essay writing on a computer.  I was told by several staff members that I would not be able to get this relief from the testing agency and they had never heard of anyone who received this accommodation.  The counselor also informed me that my son was capable of writing legibly, if minimally so.  I even spoke with his AP instructors who told me they had my son hand pen the essay portion of the practice pre-test to prepare him.  I asked, “Well, what if a student had cerebral palsy and couldn’t even hold a pencil?”  “That would be different,” she replied.  “This is not the case with your son.”

Okay, so this made me mad.  I discussed it with my husband, and he was prepared to plunk down the $400 to file a lawsuit under ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) against the testing agency if necessary.  We were fired up, but our battle plans were not required.

The problem was, that although my son could write in a manner that was barely legible, when he wrote by hand rather than via keyboard he was forced to put so much energy and effort into forming the letters that he was unable to focus on the content of the writing.  This had been demonstrated both in formal testing and in my own observations.  My first step was to visit the website of the testing agency, and I clicked on accommodations.  Dysgraphia was listed as a disability with the allowed accommodation being the use of a keyboard for the essay portion of the test.  Bingo.  All I needed to do was provide documentation of testing that validated my son’s disability, and he received the allowance without any trouble.  I even called over to the testing agency and was assisted politely and assured that there would be no problems.  The school sent over the required evidence, and all was fine.  This also allowed my son the same accommodation on his SATs.  The staff naysayers were dumbfounded, “I never heard of anyone getting this before.”  Sometimes a person can quit way too early.

I believe courage widens the road, while fear and cowardice narrow it or lead one to pass the right exit or get off on the wrong one.  We had a family friend who realized that his place of employment was less than acceptable.  It looked like some questionable activities were occurring, and the atmosphere was negative and depressing; an environment of crude, amoral chain smokers.  This friend knew he was taking a risk in leaving, that the company leadership wouldn’t hesitate to retaliate if they felt threatened or dishonored.  But following discussion with his wife, he secured more hours at a well paid part-time gig and politely gave his notice, graciously thanking the supervisors and staff for the “wonderful,” training experience.  This individual is now CEO of his own successful firm and well-respected in his profession.  But what if he had taken the route of fear instead?  I suspect he might have grown resentful, bitter and depressed like the other employees and perhaps tempted or forced to compromise or even caught up in legal troubles due to the company ethics.  His health likely would have suffered, as well as his career future.

One area of deception is that foolishness and presumption can masquerade as courage.  Foolishness may lead one to an open road, but nobody bothered to check the tires or oil; the brakes are thin and there is only a quarter tank of gas and no navigation system.  In a class I took in Behavior Psychology, one student asked, “What is the most dangerous emotion?”  I expected the answer to be anger, hatred, bitterness or the like.  I was surprised to hear the professor say, “The most dangerous emotion, based upon my research, is overconfidence, megalomania, as it appears to be the most destructive and wreck the  most havoc.

Can one employ the knowledge one has effectively without allowing one’s current understanding to act as a barrier to greater knowledge and understanding?  Is it beneficial to believe something that is not true if this accomplishes the intended purpose?

Back more than twenty years ago, following my husband’s completion of graduate school and getting his first “real,” job and renting a home, he began to become anxious that we would have a family.  I had refused to even entertain the idea of having a baby while he was still in school, and insisted on health insurance, his full-time employment and a home.  Okay, I agreed to flex on the home, as we were renting a house in a nice neighborhood even though we were unable to purchase one yet in pricey SoCal.  So now the pressure was on.  I wasn’t against the idea of having children, but I had my qualms.  And darling was concerned that my age (early thirties) might prove problematic if we kept waiting.  I was concerned that any children I had might inherit the negative personality traits I saw in my family members, and as I didn’t have a happy childhood or effective role models on how to parent, I was conflicted.

The prevailing viewpoint at the time was behaviorism; that is, how a child turns out depends upon the parenting and environment.  I asked a couple different professionals who assured me that if I was a loving and dedicated parent, my children would do well.  The monster under the bed, that I might end up with a child who resembled persons I had moved 3,000 miles to escape seemed banished for good.  Now, my kids did not turn into these people, but there were some frightening moments; like the one where No. one son spoke the exact same phrase my dad had used and he had never heard this from anyone and had only seen my dad three times in his life.  He was speaking critically (I thought overly so) of his younger brother, and I called him on it.  The response, “It’s constructive criticism.”  That was traumatic.  I informed No. one son that this was exactly what my abusively critical father used to say when countered. Hopefully, he will be sensitive enough to not do that again.  Actually, I was so happy today to hear younger brother tell me he was going to call his older brother and ask for his advice.  Wonderful, I thought, as this would encourage my  older son to feel protective toward his sibling and respected in being asked for advice, so he wouldn’t feel the need to point out his younger brother’s failings. I’ve seen other inherited negative traits from both sides of the family. But we have survived, as with the job comes the wisdom and strength.  Well, some of it anyway.  I am so thankful I couldn’t look ahead and see some things that have gone down, as perhaps I would have made much different decisions, not knowing I would somehow be able to cope with uncertainty.  Maybe there is a sweet blindness that allows anyone to even take a step forward, foolishly confident that they won’t fall over the side of a cliff or into a hidden ditch, when at times we do.

Some people possess nice, mediocre DNA.  Our families consist of some members who are brilliant, creative and highly talented, as well as many who are marginally or seriously mentally ill; some, of course are, “all of the above,” as well as those with defects of character, and I can’t discern what mix of genetics, environment and personal choice is the culprit. Perhaps built into the eternal covenant was the natural selection that allowed the hyper-vigilant, neurotic, rigidly stubborn and paranoid to survive slaughter, persecution, treachery and assimilation in ways that their complacent, easy-going, trusting and optimistic brethren couldn’t.  I do believe that heaven holds out the wisdom and strength to get us where we need to go if we are willing.

My conclusion is that creativity is harnessed insanity.  Some do a good job of harnessing it; some don’t.  For me, I think it is like jumping into the pool, and I am not a very skilled swimmer.  When I get tired, or the water gets too murky or deep for me, I climb out, knowing I can always get back in.  Maybe  next time I will stay in longer and dive deeper?  Maybe it is not just a pool, but a pool between two worlds, like Narnia.  I like the world of journalism because it is solid, stable and real, while the world of creative thinking and writing is nebulous and ambiguous.  Perhaps the shadow is more solid, and the firm and clear is temporary and illusory.

I don't feel comfortable in
 a world of irrationality;
 it feels unsafe as it is 
too chaotic for my tastes. 
 But a world of only rationality 
lacks color, warmth 
and meaning;
 it is hard, unyielding
 and resistantly cold. 
 A cold that cannot be 
warmed.  
 
Perhaps surety and 
appointed sages are
 a safety net
 for some in the
 world beyond the natural senses,
 and for many, 
it is a short tether 
 to the mother ship.  
 
I don't want to snap the tether and
 go hurtling out into the depths of space, 
but I would like to extend the tether
 and venture out without fear. 
 In him we 
live and move and have our being, 
but perhaps we fail to live to the extent
 we can and 
our movement is limited and 
our being is diminished. 

 Maybe I don't even need 
 the protection of the space suit,
 for the unexplored 
 is a realm 
where I was designed 
 to dwell and I just need 
to learn how to breathe 
in this I know 
divine protection for the core of 
myself that is beyond, 
and if it is dangerous
 to my flesh, so be it.
  When my flesh is gone, 
I will not die;
 I will be more alive. 
Now I am becoming,
What I will be.
All my days,
Before they emerged.

Time and space
Constrain my body
Still I can touch
Eternity in my heart.

 

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