Monday, January 20, 2014

Field Notes - Fantasy Play

At the age of 2 years 3 months, here are some of the things Anders has pretended:

-He got into bed, put the covers on and told me he was very tired and needed to rest. He grabbed a book and pretended to read for about 20 minutes while resting (practicing what Mom does when she feels tired)
-He spent about five minutes gathering a collection of tools and then told me the lamp was broken and he had to fix it. He spent about 20 minutes fixing the lamp, occasionally telling me he had the wrong tool and needed me to hand him a different one (Anders hands Papa the tools he needs while Papa fixes things)
-Anders pretended a tool was a train and drove it all over the bed
-Anders told me he was going on a trip on a plane and told me goodbye and he would be back (similar to interactions with Papa)
-Anders asked for money and a purse and put monty into the purse and told me he was going home over and over for about twenty minutes (the interaction he sees between me and our housekeeper)
-Anders made a large stack of lids and said he had made a big chicken house

*Note that he has never been exposed to fantasy, so this is all him, practicing real life and specifically real life that he has seen i.e. he has ridden on both trains and planes

Thursday, January 16, 2014

When to Stop Modeling and Start Coercing

Loved this blog post--

The "But what about the roads?!" question I get is, "But what if your child runs into the street?!!!" The short answer is: my son never tried to run into the street.

The longer answer is that it was really really hard for me to trust Anders around cars. But when he was about one and showed me that he was ready, that he understood cars, I decided to take a deep breath and see just how much I could trust him.

It started with him climbing from the edge of the sidewalk down to the street. We talked a lot about that transition from the curb where I felt like he was kind-of-safe to the gutter where I felt afraid about cars coming and not seeing him. My son showed me, over and over again, that when a car was coming he was just as scared as I was and wanted to be far from the curb on the sidewalk or in my arms. Anders showed me over and over that no matter how enthralled he was with leaves in the gutter, when he heard a car he would rush up to the sidewalk.

By trusting and waiting and watching, I learned that when there were no cars moving anywhere within hearing distance, Anders felt comfortable crossing the street without holding my hand. He would walk next to me, sometimes a few feet in front. Because I allowed him to do this I was able to learn that the minute Anders could hear a car, however far away, he would ask to be held. In parking lots he always asks to be held.

I learned that if we were at the park and Anders suddenly ran for the street, it was because he wanted a better view of something, like a train going by. I learned that even if it looked like was going to dash into the street, he wouldn't. He would stop at the curb. (Anders only ever did this twice though, once for a train and once for a dog.)

For the record I did remove him from the street coercively a few times but it was never about him and my trust in his judgement, it was always about where we were and crowds of people nearby watching and freaking out about the baby near the road.

Monday, January 13, 2014

Where Objectivism Meets NVC

I was asked to post about the connections I have made between what I read--how the ideas fit together to create a cohesive philosophy. I will do an entire lecture on this (a main idea essay) in the next year or two but in the meantime here is a summary:

Thus far all of the ideas I have come across for raising children, structuring society, government, making art, building buildings, relating to others and relating to self, religion, eating--everything I have researched "to the end" comes back to a clash between two world-systems: the system of freedom and the system of control.

Objectivism is part of the system of freedom and a lot of people are introduced to freedom through it. But Objectivism falls short when it comes to low self-esteem. As long as we are individuals of high-self-esteem and feel in our bones our right-to-life and our right-to-joy, we will make rational decisions and have joyful lives.

But is almost impossible to escape the American education and Hollywood indoctrination system with in-tact self-esteem. Our education system destroys our intrinsic selves so we have no idea how to make ourselves happy or what we want from life, we only know how to please others. Hollywood romanticizes making terrible decisions that will not lead to happiness but only momentary escape-from-pain.

So we make bad decisions and struggle with addictions (alcohol, sugar or television, whatever we do to escape from life rather than live it) and, as Objectivists, feel great shame because we want to be like Dagny and Hank--we want to be as rational as machines and we don't understand why we are not. And when we are being as "good as Dagny", why our only joy comes from self-approval and why, somehow, we cannot keep it up. After we have been good for too long, WHY would we want to be bad? Being good was supposed to raise our self-esteem!

The missing link is NVC.

Objectivism is a philosophy of freedom but written in the language of control. That is why it is simultaneously powerful and important but problematic and limiting. Objectivism is all about freedom--but written in war-language, in war-ideas. War does not lead to freedom. War does not lead to life. That is the other way the two world-systems can be described--the system of life and the system of death.

Objectivism was created by Ayn Rand while she thought in a language of control and lived in a world of control. Objectivism is the perfect introduction to freedom for many people because it communicates with them in the language they understand. But it cannot carry them over to the other world, the actual world of freedom. Moving to the world of freedom requires thinking in a whole new way.

Non-Violent Communication is the language of freedom. NVC is how Objectivists can talk to themselves about their addictions and not succumb to them. NVC is how Objectivists struggling with self-esteem can make "rational" choices for their lives anyway. NVC is how Objectivists and Communists can live with each other and not start a war. That is freedom. That is the world of life.

*I found this link by first reading almost everything Ayn Rand ever wrote and then reading almost everything Nathaniel Branden wrote. Branden knew the missing link had something to do with self-esteem so I followed that path--most high-achieving Americans believe in their ability to get stuff done, but not in their right to enjoy life (hence the miserable CEOs). I followed that path by studying the relationship between childhood and self-esteem. This lead me to the study of how we parent and our education system which, since they turned out to be so destructive to self-esteem, led me to the study of the history of childhood and the history of education. The study of history led me to the study of hunter-gatherers--some of them behave in such a way that made them sound like they had a very high belief in their own right to enjoy life and freedom so I started studying them extensively trying to pinpoint what Objectivism was missing. (Remember in school when we learned that Africans were imported as slaves rather than turning Native Americans into slaves? Native Americans, we were told, didn't make good slaves. Why? As it turns out, people who live and think in a world of freedom cannot be slaves, they cannot conceptualize that idea. They don't understand the idea of "have to". They're not lazy! They live in a different world, a world where it does not make any sense to do something unless one wants to--high self-esteem and a belief in one's right to joy.) How does one take freemen and turn them into citizens of a country? This led me to the study of myth and religion. Joseph Campbell explained a lot but all of it finally clicked when I started studying individual psychology and changing behavior--the Behaviorists versus Non Violent Communication, control and freedom, death and life.

*Here is a link to a blog post with a similar idea:

Friday, January 10, 2014

Facebook and a Conversation with my Two-Year-Old:

I use Facebook as a medium through which I share my "anthropological studies" of my son. I try to record our more interesting conversations verbatim and take videos of him just being him, not videos of me asking him to perform like a monkey. I find these things fascinating and have often wondered if I should share them here too--would the readers of this blog enjoy these real life examples of the philosophy they read about? If you would, feel free to friend-request me on Facebook!

Here is an example of what I posted on Facebook today--it reminded me of a post I wrote not long ago about how much more connected I feel to my son than children his age who tell me their are Batman and then run around trying to defeat bad guys. These are the kinds of things a two-year-old who is obsessed with reality ask--

[Last night, pitch black, Anders and Mama cuddle and talk about their day before going to sleep.]
Anders: Bees hungry?
Mama: Yes, I think so.
Anders: Bees like scrambled eggs?
Mama: I don't think so. You like scrambled eggs when you're hungry, but I think bees like the pollen in flowers and other sweet foods.
Anders: Bees fly. Bzzzzzz. Ducks fly. Fish fly?
Mama: No, fish don't fly. But they can jump very high.
Anders: Fish jump. Jumpin'! Jumpin' fly. Fish jump fly.
Mama: Yeah, fish do look like they're flying when they jump. You're thinking of the dolphins we saw today.
Anders: Chickens fly?
Mama: No they don't and it's tricky because they do have wings just like ducks and the other birds, but chickens can only glide a little bit; they can't fly.
Anders: Horses! Horses jump. Hooooorrrrsses! Horses floss?
Mama: Horses have teeth like us, but they don't floss. 
[Mama hears the heavy breathing of her toddler fast asleep.]

All Roads Lead to Rome

Anything I study "to the end" leads back to this idea of the competing worlds of freedom and control.

In Christopher Alexander's books on architecture he talks about the different world systems of A and B. He describes almost exactly what I describe when I talk about job-parenting and relationship-parenting only he is talking about building! He could be using the words job-building and relationship-building or a-world-of-control-inspiring architecture and a-world-of-freedom-inspiring architecture.

The other day I was in Venice and some dancing street performers drew a crowd. It occurred to me that if I had studied the history and social purposes of dance I would have again found the same story. This could be why I have always been drawn to folk dancing, the dancing of a community celebrating life, dancing that everyone does together, that everyone of all ages can do, that is done for the pure enjoyment of it. Folk dancing evolved into the competitive ballroom dancing of 100-years-ago, alienating many and creating a hierarchy of skill and talent among the rest. Today it's even crazier but at least everyone knows what it is: it's a battle. Today the hippest dancing is literally a competition, a dance battle, the search for the very very best. When one stands there one is not stuck with a feeling of "celebration" as one is struck when partaking in the folk dancing of a summer festival, one is stuck by feelings of aggression, power, anger... and ugliness. Or maybe that is just to me. These feelings that I feel watching this type of dancing are not beautiful to me.

Everything about the world we live in has been created by the children of control-parenting. I wonder what the children of Galt's Gulch would create, children who were intrinsically motivated and moved to do things for the joy of doing them. I don't idealize the past and I don't want to go back there. I look forward to seeing the art expressed by a new culture of people who know freedom and believe in their right to love life.

I am rereading one of my favorite books on this subject right now, The Romantic Manifesto by Ayn Rand. This may be my very favorite work of hers. In this book she explains why we like the art we like, the purpose of art and why we are instantly drawn or repulsed by certain things. It's a short, dense book and I highly recommend it!