Reflection 206: Book Synopsis Part 4/5

March 1, 2011

Copyright © 2011

Here is the next installment of the synopsis of my upcoming book, KNOW THYSELF: Adventures in Getting to Know My Own Mind. –Steve Perrin

Chapter 10, Values. I wrote most of this chapter while waiting for my car to be fixed at my cousin’s garage. Sitting for five-and-a-half hours considering my drives and motivations, I came up with a list of personal values, which I generalize here. Like all animals, we are born with instincts that increase the probability of our personal survival. We don’t have to debate the getting of water or food, we just tend to is as part of our nature. Gerald M. Edelman locates such biological appetites—he calls them values—in the part of the mind we identify with, the self, the center of our animal existence that determines the perspective from which we look upon the fabulous world. In our earliest days, warmth, food, comfort, protection, sleep, companionship, and stimulation are paramount concerns shared by ourselves and our families and caregivers. At some point, work becomes an essential part of meeting our own needs, first as an assigned chore, then as daily employment. After puberty, sex is a given, and later, a growing sense of duty to the common welfare. These seem to be part of the workings of the external world, which in a way they are, but precisely because we make them such as integral parts of the lives we actually lead. Many world problems stem from friction between persons or groups bent on fulfilling their biological values in competition with one another. Obtaining such benefits cooperatively or complementarily are other options.

Chapter 11, Goals. One of the primary characteristics of personal consciousness is the setting of goals to be achieved in the future. I want to pay off my credit card debt, reduce my carbon emissions, lose weight, advance my career, raise a family, take a vacation. The self gives each of us a sense of what needs to be done, then we figure ways to prioritize our several goals and build a future for ourselves and our loved ones accordingly. Setting and then working toward achieving goals is writ large in human culture because it reflects an internal dynamic experienced personally by every member so that we make ourselves happen according to plan. To a large extent, we live by making and executing plans for tomorrow so our future becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy, more or less. What do I want to be when I grow up? Where do I want to be five years from now? How am I going to get there? What shall I cook for dinner? Such everyday concerns are the stuff of consciousness, making it possible for us to strive to live out our wants in stages matching our experience and capabilities in a given situation.

Chapter 12, Projects. I see projects advanced in conscious-ness as how we break all that we might be aware of down into manageable units we can deal with effectively. Projects marvelously focus my attention, screening out what is superfluous so I can concentrate on what needs to be done. To work on a project, we consider what materials and tools we need, what skills and assistance, where we are to do the work, at what rate, by what time, at what cost. Whether washing dishes, going to college, getting married, having children, or writing a book, we proceed step-by-step, putting first things first, then moving on to the next stage. A large part of the frontal lobe of the brain is devoted to planning and coordinating actions toward a desired end. The truly amazing thing is we can visualize a future for ourselves, figure out how to achieve it, then schedule our actions in such a way to make it happen. We just take it for granted we can do this, but only because our minds are built to accomplish such feats by building on earlier experience. We are not only reactive to situations but proactive in creating them. A great deal of our human genius is expressed in the situations through which we build a personal reality and a life for ourselves, one project at a time. Human relationships are a particular form of project dealing with how one person connects with another. In my experience, men are typically good at visualizing life in terms of projects to work on, women at establishing relationships within a supportive culture at the core of their separate lives. Working women live in both worlds.

Next post, the last portion of this synopsis of my new book on introspection dealing with chapters 13, Reality; 14, Conflict; 15, Power.

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