Sunday, February 13, 2011

Getting a grip on love.

A pre-Valentines day musing.

First we know that human beings are not as rational as we like to think and love is one of those areas that defies rational analysis. I make no claims of being all that rational myself. My own interest is what I call the Wisdom of the Hands. So I want to invite you to take a “hand-centric” view of love in order to attempt to get a much better grip on what love is all about.

So, what do the hands tell us?

We perform in excess of ten thousand discrete hand operations each day with little or no conscious attention applied to their use. There are very good reasons for this. If each thing our hands did required deliberation, we would be less efficient in what we do. As one grows in skill in performing difficult tasks, the conscious attention required for that task is reduced allowing for further development and refinement of technique. This was demonstrated recently in research involving pianists of varying skill levels performing finger manipulations while being observed in an MRI machine. Pianists of greater skill performed more complex finger manipulations with less observable brain activity than those of having lesser skill, leading researchers to speculate that brain plasticity and well practiced skill had enabled more highly efficient neural pathways to be established.

According to the law of chaos and the concept of entropy, nature tends from order to disorder in isolated systems. You can visualize this in action as a kind of centrifugal force. As things move farther from center and become more complex over time, they tend to get out of hand, less ordered and more chaotic. A friend of mine years ago had described love as the opposite of centrifugal force. It drew things together and made connections between them and brought them into order and relationship. So I would like to suggest that love is the opposing force to entropy and decay. It brings order from chaos and forms the human bulwark against entropy. Love may start with a feeling of emptiness or longing for completion, but at some point it requires that we reach out, touch and act consciously in service to others in opposition to entropy. That may in time, and with skill and practice actually restructure the brain toward greater love.

I want to make a Valentines day invitation. Pay greater attention to your hands. Adopt a hand-centric view. Do not leave them dangling. We associate love as being a brain and heart thing requiring deliberations back and forth and an impulse to fall into something inexplicable. But while the heart is looking for love, the hands are constantly finding it and making it.

In the meantime, the whole standardized testing scheme in American Schools is evidently based on some pretty fishy wishful thinking and exaggerated stats. Michelle Rhee, maven of standardized testing based school reform has come under scrutiny for misrepresenting her own actual classroom performance. Rhee faces renewed scrutiny over depiction of students' progress when she taught. While her students did improve, it was not like the miracle she claimed for herself and her kids as she jockeyed her way into a position of national leadership in education. If we come to a more progressive understanding of what kids really need to succeed, our schools and our children's lives will improve immensely.

Reader, Randall Henson sent this link to an article in the New York Times, When Factories Vanish, So Can Innovators-By Louis Uchitelle.
According to Susan Houseman, a senior economist at the W.E. Upjohn Institute in Kalamazoo, Mich,
“The big debate today is whether we can continue to be competitive in R&D when we are not making the stuff that we innovate.” Houseman states, “I think not; the two can’t be separated.”
The hands, as stated by Jacob Bronowski, are the cutting edge of the mind. Restrain the hands, stagnate the intellect, shut down creativity. Still, some of us can make, fix, and create. Do it. Teach it. Set a living example for your kids.

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