Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Beholding Tucson

Some recurrent but still strange cycle is happening. It comes when my personal reading swirls with the outer world blurring distinctions and there’s such a force that one wonders if it’s all coming apart.  The disaster at Tucson bubbles rage and despair from the hot core of the earth, and the Origin of Stories probes the epic Odysseus for clues as to how our evolution may bring cooperation out of the chaos or war and revenge.  Outside my window, the red-breasted woodpecker takes the water of life from the snow-capped posts.

The spiral of wisdom promises that peace advances when the individual attempts the marriage of opposites, that the center will hold, that compassion leads to solace.  So I soak in the winter’s harmony where the dusky oak leaves bring that austere beauty of sepia over the stark snow-white and the cold grey skies.  I listen to the passages for guidance in teaching about peace and justice.  Boyd writes:
Odysseus himself has a larger view than any other mortal within the Odyssey, a fact that reflects both his intelligence and his role as exemplar and upholder of his society’s values.  Whenever about to make an important move, he almost invariably stops and reflects: is this the right choice, practically and “morally,” in terms of the gods’ approval?  High-level inhibition within the prefrontal cortex is essential to the human capacity to live by moral codes subtler than other animals’ social emotions allow, even though these emotions also underpin human morality.  But people vary in their impulsivity and self-control, and poor self-inhibitors often find themselves eventually inhibited by others, as the suitors are at last by Odysseus: Weak motivational inhibition is thought to underlie the aggressive problems of conduct disorder . . . and psychopaths . . .” (p. 310)

Boyd organizes his text into two books: I. Evolution, Art, & Fiction.  II. From Zeus to Seuss.  His tracing of science’s story of the evolution of cognition and social psychology blends into the edgy interstice with narrative, play, and religion.  I choose to study this text because I believe it contributes to my work in the interweaving of oral and digital story.  When we compose, we trace pathways for searchers of meaning, purpose, relationship, living and dying.  In the epic, “Odysseus’ actions solve the problem of cooperation as well as possible, given the emotions and the institutions prevailing in his world; yet Homer lets us sense that the problem is not really solved—as, of course, it is still not solved for us” (p. 317).  The stories we tell, and those we allow others to tell, forge our fragile way.  When we model and when we respond to the narratives about us, this advance of our capacity and enactment of cooperative living must rise in prominence.

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