Covered Eyes.

I was having a cup of coffee at the Whole Foods Cafe yesterday, sitting, facing the door, watching the people. Scanning. Scanning. Having emotional reactions to a business interaction that was transpiring between a man and a woman at a club table to my right. A Black couple walked in. I caught eyes with the woman. Instantly, she expressed a negative reaction, an almost imperceptible flinch that held in it what felt to me like some response to a perceived racism in that momentary glance. Her partner, without looking at her at anytime during this moment, instantly responded to her with an almost imperceptible comfort gesture, openess and a slight turning toward her, without breaking a step, as they continued on their way through the cafe into the store.

I was jarred. I was disturbed. I was emotionally shocked. I felt guilty. I wondered whether I had expressed something in that moment or whether she had an expectation upon that glance, which was simply reflected back.

I continued to people-watch, as I considered what had just happened. A white man, 35?, came through the door. He was tense, business-like. We locked eyes. His eyes glazed. He closed me out, deliberately ignored me. A sharp, little anger there, but passing, as he continued about his business. After that, I didn’t pay any attention to or notice him.

I felt vindicated. Apart from my internal reaction to that public business meeting, I was just sitting there, relaxed, next to the fireplace, looking at people, with no particular intent.

Life is a feedback loop, with stimulus-response usually contingent upon each other. We can see it in environmental science, the mother-child relationship, and quantum physics.

Conscious effort has to be made in ourselves to to allow the best interpretation of intent on the part of others.

This sounds ho-hum and easy, but, if we are smart, we are confronted with those opportunities, constantly, everyday and, often, it is not easy.

There is a long history of racial expectation ingrained in our DNA. Consciously changing our thoughts, our actions, our reactions is the only way to change the feedback loop between individuals, and eventually, groups of people, such as “races”.

There would be a sort of comfort, if we could go out each day with covered eyes.

7 Comments

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  2. Robert M. vidaver
    It is good to have your input. You have presented a gallery of ideas to view and enjoy.
    It was never my intention to be identified with anything political. I just looked about and perceived a vast range of stimuli. To almost infinite degree much of it was pleasurable, much was not. The challenge of making sense of all this grew into one of those great pleasures. I see myself living like a detective in the midst of wondrous experiences. My pleasure is that of clarifying in the most rational sense how “it” happens. So we analyze the clues. Assign to them probabilities of truth, and list the most probable explanations. With this “chart” in mind all kinds of interesting “trips” can be traveled – taking us to all kinds of marvelous “idea” places. Should we choose to physically travel to these places they have the greatest probability of being found to be “real”. In short, I like that which truly works (best). When building anything, a good engineer wants all the ingredients to support, not weaken the project.
    I have tasted adventure of many sorts. When the challenge is that of “nature” one is interacting with relatively clear sets of options. When the challenge is that of interacting “appropriately” with our fellow man, the variables are vastly more complex. Man is immensely imaginative in developing passionate ranges of subjectivity. Nature tends to be seen as objective. We can agree more easily on how to engineer it to our purposes. Bad judgment is usually revealed quickly. But human nature is the prime ingredient in social structures. Instead of “us” dealing with an “it”, the problem becomes that of us dealing with us. Subjective passions interfere with all phases of our efforts. Subjectivity interferes with our knowing the true nature of the prime building material – ourselves. It alters the goals, and affects the processes by which we reify such goals.
    The best tool we can use against the ills of subjective distortion is that of the scientific method – objectivity. In a sense, this allows (or causes) “us” to become for analytic purposes an “it”. This way we can avoid those passions that obscure the truth of things. This doesn’t mean that we should not be passionate. It is for both good and for ill that people love to love their passions. (The fewer) Passions that serve objectivity tend to serve us well. (The majority of) Passions that obscure objectivity tend to serve us poorly or destructively.
    Charles Murray is outstanding as a mind capable of quantifying objectively the ranges of human endeavor. It is Interesting that you should mention his recent book, “Coming Apart”. I just finished it. As with most of his book concepts, it is profoundly well supported by empirical evidence. As an example of passions obscuring objectivity I noticed that he stated in its credits that some of those who helped in this project did not want to be listed by name because an association with him would be harmful to their relations in their academic community (I assume that this is mostly linked to his history of presenting psychometric evidence that different races vary in their average aptitudes). Apparently, for many in the academic community, protecting a (cherished) point of view is more important than welcoming an honest test and adjusting to objective truthfulness. This is the antithesis of the scientific method. Academic passions that obscure objectivity – this anti-education by educators bodes additional trouble for future generations.
    Murray makes the case that the many disparities growing between the rich and poor is a significant cause for concern. I guess that our government’s good intentions have made it possible for too many to become their lesser selves. When government or social mores make it easier for many, many will take it easy. This also deprives them of a key means whereby people acquire justifiable meaning. The legal and social “gift” of responsibility encourages most to strive harder thereby accruing all the rewards of pride and independence (society as a whole benefits by their discipline and productivity).
    And consider the current claim that an income “gap” is necessarily harmful. Murray calls the current extremes in income “unseemly”, but I do not see exactly why a Bill Gates, by becoming immensely wealthy, harms in any way those who do not. In fact, I can list a great many ways whereby those who remain (far) behind have benefitted (immensely) precisely because he stretched the extremes (his success). Who or what dictated that man should be forced to equalize the distribution of goods? From what Devine source did this idea come from? Perhaps more important, does a belief (faith) in such a dictate improve, or diminish mans’ capability to experience longer, healthier, more inspired lives?
    Another top philosopher and economist (and octogenarian) has addressed the unfortunate influence of those who love to claim more certitude for their ideas than all the honest evidence would allow. Why and how this happens is presented lucidly by Thomas Sowell in his highly recommended book, “Intellectuals and Society”.
    Like Murray, my empirical chart tells me that those who structured our exceptional constitution were unusually wise in their understandings about human nature. There is much emanating from this document that “works best” in the full sense of the concept. Changes to its meanings (or as Obama once exalted, “We are five days away from fundamentally changing the United States of America!”) indicate that we have likely chosen something that works less well (or is outright destructive).
    So, others will define me. By trying to be a good detective, I just go with the best evidence – that which is most tested with all the honest tools that can be applied.

  3. Reply to Don Spencer: Welcome fellow octogenarian-to-be. I understand from deadal2207 that you’re an enlightened conservative. Welcome again. We very much need a countervoice to our liberal meanderings, derived, I fear, more out of a l930’s worldview than any true vision of today’s realpolitic. It feels like the world is rushing inexorably into the future without purpose, akin to/ William Greider’s description of capitalism in his book “One World, Ready or Not” as a gigantic machine, hundred’s of feet high and miles long grinding aimlessly along eating up the landscape with nobody at the controls. All of which makes your participation all the more important. You’ve built real things with your hands and mind, solid creations fashioned according to plan which fulfilled the function intended for them–boat, schooling, family. A 42 foot ketch which got you to foreign shores, to Hawaii, is so very different from the liberal dream. AS deadal2207 is the first to say, and I agree, our liberal theology of the 50’s and 60’ls failed. I don’t know why, but just look at today’ls governmental gridlock and the expanding disparity between rich and Poor America. What went awry? Or is it just the natural evolution of history like the movement of tectonic plates–inexorable unavoidable, even necessary in mankind’s evolution from hunter-gatherer to future man? Anyhow, all of us will enjoy and profit from you views, Don. Lastly, I’d recommend Charles Murray’ls book Coming Apart: The State of White America, exactlt because it’s a powerful warning of coming disaster offered by an acknowledged conservative spokesman.

  4. Good remarks by Don::
    .According to the N.Y.Times and the Huffington Post, Justices Alito,Sotomayor and Thomas were invited back to the Yale Law School to an event in their honor.Both Sotomayor and Thomas acknowledged being intimidated by the aura of eastern elite liberalism which they attributed to the law school.Using the retrospectocope suggested in “the microcosm concept”,we can use the organizational view introduced into the U.S. by Ken Rice and Margaret Rioch, to see that each developed a counter role.Justice Alito stayed in the only role appropriate to the situation, that of student, and was ultimately rewarded by the system.Justice Sotomayor recognizes the counter role of “the tough Latina” and is careful to keep that role from intruding into her decisions. It is not at all clear that Justice Thomas has either identified his counter role or is able to divorce it from his decisions. Justice Alito is able to remain who he was(for better or worse) unapologetically.

  5. An Introduction and a Request:
    It is probable that within this Octogenarian treasure of skilled and experienced minds there can be found many forms of helpful wisdom.
    I look forward to the sharing of observations and hearing more from you about our best guesses as to their meanings and projections.
    Let me provide a brief introduction. I am two years short of the octogenarian category. (I respect my elders but a well-supported argument is respected no matter its source.) I grew up living on a Southern California beach and enjoyed its wealth of distractions, but through all of them there remained a core of wonder. My parents were honest and loving. My father was blue collar and an energetic contractor. My mother was a talented, money-making artist and housewife. They were smart, but not intellectual. Life was appreciated and they supported and provided well for their children’s interests. My brother (Harvard, Stanford, U.S.C.) became a top engineer. I chose to follow my mother’s example and became an artist with a MFA from Otis in Los Angeles. The “wonder” part that pervaded all these years was enriched with a BA from UCLA with a minor in the social sciences and elective classes as diverse as kinesiology and physics (Dr. Edward Teller taught an inspired introductory semester). Life experiences beyond formal education include Army Reserves (basic at Fort Ord), working for an art service, owning my own business, marriage with two daughters, teaching for a decade at a local college, five years building a 42 foot sail boat and several years sailing that ketch with my teen age daughters and wife to primitive and elegant harbors of Mexico, Hawaii and California. I have designed and built for personal use several homes and commercial too. The “arts” of painting and sculpture are blended throughout. Those interests are now seen to be (valuable) instruments playing within a larger orchestration. The wonder of it all leads one to seek the best understanding of it all. “Most truthful” is the criteria I have chosen for the meaning of “best” understanding. We want powerful feelings that enhance, not hinder good science.
    There are a number of issues that I will eventually present for your analytic perspectives.
    Have you noticed that people love to love their feelings? Brilliant minds can passionately battle to the death against opposing policies which are embraced by equally passionate and equally brilliant minds. Let me start with this short attempt to clarify my thoughts about the fundamental nature of passions and sentiments (personal and group), their appropriateness – or not.
    What comes first, the feeling or the belief? Beyond the most basic levels of inborn emotions there must be belief or beliefs out of which grow those sentiments we call alienation, or any number of emotional responses pro or con that can be imagined. In a recent appearance at Yale University, Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas acknowledged having a youthful attitude problem because he now recognizes that what he once believed was true about “Yale” happened to be skewed, or incomplete. I think that an overriding problem every person has, regardless his or her brilliance or dimness, is that of cultivating emotional stances that are most appropriate to every experience. Our fellow humans are complex enough that “appropriate” social interaction is subject to myriad contexts as our neighbors are imaginative in their cultivation of sentiments. No one is brilliant enough to know all the variables that shape our neighbors’ attitudes (and their attitudes about our attitudes). Within our “tribe” we can most often find agreement, but that doesn’t mean that our culture has avoided the cultivation of (hidden) dysfunctions (dysfunctional relative to unknown truths that will eventually impact on life).
    Because our sentiments expand while riding on our beliefs, it follows that our first priority would be that of striving to believe only that which is most probably true. Then, at least one’s growth of feelings will have this foundation allowing for the measure of appropriateness.
    As a youth I used to fearlessly run to my neighbors’ houses and yell for my friends to come out and play. In a way, that is the spirit of what I am doing. None of us actually know how much we do not know. Come out and share the adventure.
    Don Spencer

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