Friday, December 19, 2014

a careful transformation of self...

Last night I dreamed of my sister Ann who died about 15 months ago of multiple systems atrophy, an awful disease. Ann was involved in arts and crafts her whole life, and in my dream offered to show me a new way of welding dissimilar metals. She thought it might be something I would be interested in writing about as it would be of use to other artists.

I thought at first in terms of some kind of flux that would allow the bond. We walked down a long corridor, opened a small door and took out two small packets of paper like those a homeopathic physician might use to offer his or her medicines. One contained a powder and the other a small live caterpillar, which were to be taken for transformation. Not all that is to be accomplished in the arts is through transformation of the material. Some requires the transformation of the artist.

Yesterday I invited my 6th grade students to play with Froebel's Gift number 7. I was curious what they would come up with. One girl wouldn't let me see what she had designed until it was finished. If you can't guess what it is, read carefully. In the photo below, my student insisted that I share what she had made via iPhone with her mother. Such is a child's pride at the time of transformation.

There are indeed many processes requiring both skill and transformation of the mind and heart of the artist.

The following is repeated from an earlier blog post and concerns the transformation of humanity in our earlier years. Were caterpillars required?

Six ways in which segments can be rotated for use as
tools and weapons. The stippled areas represent adhesive.
Mary Marzke sent me links to an article by Lyn Wadley on the use of adhesives to attach stone to wood in the making of shafted tools, weapons and instruments. Wadleys's work was published in Current Anthropology, and illustrates the intellect involved as early man crafted tools to enable his survival. Evidently, there was enough adhesive remaining on some crafted pieces of stone from 70,000 years ago to reformulate the means through which they were attached and through which the adhesive was made. This work pushes forward by 40,000 years, the earlier speculation by V.G. Childe and others that the handle came as late as 30,000 years ago.
Compound adhesives were made in southern Africa at least 70,000 years ago, where they were used to attach similarly shaped stone segments to hafts. Mental rotation, a capacity implying advanced working‐memory capacity, was required to place the segments in various positions to create novel weapons and tools. The compound glues used to fix the segments to shafts are made from disparate ingredients, using an irreversible process. The steps required for compound‐adhesive manufacture demonstrate multitasking and the use of abstraction and recursion. As is the case in recursive language, the artisan needed to hold in mind what was previously done in order to carry out what was still needed. Cognitive fluidity enabled people to do and think several things at the same time, for example, mix glue from disparate ingredients, mentally rotate segments, talk, and maintain fire temperature. Thus, there is a case for attributing advanced mental abilities to people who lived 70,000 years ago in Africa without necessarily invoking symbolic behavior.
There is no concrete evidence that man's development came as a result of language alone, but there is evidence that the making of things took a leading role in the development of man. There is a growing body of evidence that making the tools for our survival and the increased size of the human frontal lobe were parallel developments. You can find Lyn Wadley's article Compound‐Adhesive Manufacture as a Behavioral Proxy for Complex Cognition in the Middle Stone Age here. In order to understand all this and write this paper, Wadley had to make the adhesive from materials found in the natural environment and then replicate the methods for attachment, demonstrating again that you won't really learn all that much about real things by just yakking. "Her main research interest is ancient cognition and her experimental archaeology is geared towards understanding the mental architecture required for various behaviors."

In order to better understand your own mental architecture,

Make, fix and create...

1 comment:

  1. Martin9:11 AM

    Why do you specify "man" and "his" survival rather than talk about humans in general and their survival? As you note in your post, language isn't everything; still, it matters.