How did the experiment go?

            The idea of spending time away from language is not a new one to me. It is the actual goal of my meditation practice. As it stands, today when I made a point to attempt to “log” my experience, I found myself in much the same position I usually do when I meditate. So let me start by telling you that the point, for me, in practicing meditation, is to quiet my mind. My goal is to have just one silent moment (and hopefully extend that moment with further training and practice). The “Mindfulness” (Be Here Now) sort of meditation I do is in line with my Stoic belief system (which is still a work in progress). When learning to meditate one attempts to create a near silence (there has been a non-stop dialogue in my mind as long as I can remember, I thought it was normal for a long time) by having only your breathing control/ awareness as “thought”, and the physical sensations are to be noticed but not responded to. The second part is really easy, making my mind quiet… 30 years of alcohol could not do that, or any of the other drugs I took, prescribed or otherwise. What still happens is I spend most of the time trying to let the words and thoughts go and try to return to “only breathing”. It is a struggle.

            I have also experimented with having a day or a week where I do not speak orally. As a truck driver it was easy to play like I could not speak, make an apologetic face and just hand over the paperwork, more on this later.

Did your sense of time change at all?

            When I meditate, even poorly, time does seem to “move” slower.

What were your emotions during the activity - did you notice a change from your normal baseline?

            I have been working to achieve this state of mind for years, I find it soothing. The quieter my mind is the less anxious, stressed, and generally “keyed-up” I am. Similarly, and motivationally as well, during the weeks that I spent out among people, working, but playing dumb (mute), my experience was that of less stress and less problems… But I do have specific social problems that have plagued my communication and interactions since before I can remember (Asperger’s Syndrome).

From our reading and your experiment: How do you think our use of language affect the way we think and behave? Work to make clear connections back to our course content.

            Language defines the world we experience, the greater the capacity the greater (fuller?) the experience. As an example, I have watched people learn to see a new color (variation) simply by showing them the difference between say purple, pink, and fuchsia simply by giving them the new word, Fuchsia, and showing examples of the other two. Then like a light turning on, suddenly they clearly see the difference and never mistake it again. By defining our world, language controls, or at least directs, our thoughts, actions, and responses by giving meaning to the marid things we interact with or are stimulated by.

            When the mind is cluttered with thoughts, words, a dialogue, it has a sort of over-loading effect. This increased stress, stress response, and overall tension. Coming to understand this back when I was 20-something I also finally came to understand the truth of the phrase “ignorance is bliss”. The more one knows, the more words one knows, the greater the ability to define (understand) a concept (thought, idea) the greater the understanding and therefore the greater the potential for stress response.

 

About the video:

“Man and His Culture”

What specific social norms or values did you see displayed in the video that have changed since the film was created?

            This was a fun little bit of nostalgia. A trip down memory lane as it were. Now while I am not quite so old as to have been around in ’54, I did pretty much do whatever I wanted growing up (with almost no supervision, only discipline) which included a lot of television. There were not a lot of “good” or positive examples in my youth and as a result, I tried to study people outside of my parent’s realm of associates, which was not as easy as you might hope. People think you are a strange child when you sit or stand around somewhere and just openly watch people, that kind of staring that only a young child with zero concept of “personal boundaries” can do, but when I was 5 and 8 years old. I started people-watching when I was 4, maybe 3 honestly, things were very, very confusing to me and I needed to understand. So, I ended up really getting into afternoon tv shows like “I Love Lucy”, “The Honeymooners”, “Leave It to Beaver” (can you imagine meeting a man that was named Beaver?), “The Andy Griffith Show”, all in rerun I watched for hours and hours and later when they were gone it was “Happy Days”, “Laverne & Sherly” (Schlemiel, Schlimazel, Hasenpfeffer incorporated!), “Welcome Back Kotter”, “The Jeffersons”, and one of my all-time favorites, “Good Times”. The latter of these were current but there was nothing but Saturday cartoons for 4,5,6, and 7-year-olds, So all week long, I watched reruns and learned, I thought, from Andy Griffith and Ricky Ricardo, how people were supposed to treat each other. “Leave it to Beaver” was like looking into an alien world. Everyone was kind, the mother was there and present, the father full of wisdom and love. The point here I suppose is that over the course of my life I have gotten to vicariously experience the evolution of American culture. Watching “Lassie” turn into “Little House on The Prairie”, watching “The Jeffersons” become “Blackish”, and that was just on the television…

            The things I noted while watching the movie “Man and His Culture” that stood out to me were small things such as the idea that “the individual will ignore every vehicle but one…”, yet today none of us would willingly leave our car unlocked downtown while we were working or shopping. I was amused when the video reminded me of the cyclical nature of life, and more specifically fashion. To think there was a time when wearing a long tie with one’s suit could be a source of ridicule because the preferred tie was the Bowtie. I believe even the youngest of my classmates will connect, unconsciously if nothing else, with “Nerds”. Pee-Wee Herman, Bill Nye (the science guy), even Sheldon Cooper (T.V. show “The Big Bang Theory”). As a former smoker I could not help but notice that gentlemen in the restaurant were smoking, a practice I never approved of even when I partook. Seeing a police officer forcibly remove a man from public view, for indecent exposure I assume, when I live in a world where I have seen a man riding a ten-speed bike in a thong and having lived in Daytona Beach, FL, I can honestly say that there are more than a few women that wear less on the beach that they do under their clothing on an average workday. The last thing I will mention, and I am not sure how this fits in exactly but I wonder how many others saw it and if the implication of it was clear. There is a scene where a mother is feeding her infant and two children are playing at feeding a doll on the flood nearby. The thing is, while I was always told to “wait your turn” these two were told to “share”, that in itself is somewhat interesting but what stands out to me is that a boy was being allowed to play with a doll in 1954. They would not have been in the late ‘70s. I can assure anyone that does not know, the ‘70s and ‘80s were extremely anti-homosexual. I heard children called names and have even seen people bully others over dolls, action figures were barely tolerated and those because they were 12-inch-tall G.I. Joe with guns and knives, and then there was He-Man, and we really sidestepped the whole issue when Transformers came out because that was playing with cars as much as with robots, neither of which were “dolls”. While we are on this specific point let me point out that any and all of the men in the movie could have easily been gay. There is no way to know because in 1954 you married anyways and had children too because that was what you did. Doing something else, especially openly, being ostracized and cast out of a town would have been better than what was likely to happen if you got caught committing sodomy. Today families have a man and a woman, two fathers, and/or two mothers, another thing not viewed in the film.

Why do you think social norms change over time? Try to give some specific examples.

            Politics, religion, and technology are the primary stimulators of change in society. Access to food (hunting or farming) and water have altered our behaviours tremendously. Before we could bring water to people in cities it was socially acceptable to be dirty and in dirty clothes but today you would be removed from a Denny’s (maybe) for the same. The church is starting to reach out to the gay community and trying to teach tolerance (without changing what they say happens after those same people die…) which, no matter how shallow, will increase tolerance in communities. There are also times when just plain numbers that can change what is and is not acceptable. Not to keep on the same example but the Stonewall Riots not only brought very much needed awareness to what Americans were doing to each other it gave birth to the tradition of the Pride Parade which brought out thousands and thousands of gay and lesbian Americans in communities across the country and gave then the voice to say, “we are people too” (which, I honestly am sickened that it was necessary at all… We are all just So Civilized…).