Foundations of culture in the human mindIdea is to mind, as virus is to body?
People toss around the terms "viral" and "meme"
on websites, blogs and in conversation, and we understand what is meant by them.
On the internet, going viral means everybody is watching or reading something, and a meme is an iconic image someone creates. However, did you know that the roots of viral and meme dig into the cognitive and evolutionary sciences
is the science that explores brain viruses, memes, and cultural evolution, and many sciences discuss this theme. Yes, a real science, and an important one that helps us to understand how culture and society evolve over time, while it also explains how a tune can get stuck in your mind for an entire day or week.
You must first accept the fact that cultures evolve over time
in a way that is analogous to, but not the same as, genetic evolution. It seems obvious that cultures evolve. After all, we are not still riding around in horse and buggy, nor do we live in caves. Our culture has evolved and progressed towards homes and vehicles.
As time passes, cultures retain certain traits and lose others. This is why we have iPods, but no longer have out-houses. Cultures progress, adapt, change, and evolve. Although the foundation of the science of memetics lies in Charles Darwin and natural selection, he did not develop the concept. Charles Darwin did so well in getting us started with biological evolution
, but he did not want to confuse cultural evolution with genetic evolution. Only recently, in 1976, Richard Dawkins
brought cultural evolution out of the closet in his book The Selfish Gene
. He believed that it was time to seriously consider how and what evolves in culture.
He found cultural similar to genetic evolution
, but he lacked the words to talk about it. This was groundbreaking science, and the language itself had not been developed to discuss the science of memetics.
In his book, Dawkins humorously discusses the need for words to talk about cultures evolving.
He called genes replicators because that is their sole purpose – to replicate and reproduce. When he turned to culture, he considered what replicators reproduce, compared to the way genes reproduce in the body:
We need a name for the new replicator, a noun that conveys the idea of a unit of cultural transmission, or a unit of imitation. "Mimeme" comes from a suitable Greek root, but I want a monosyllable that sounds a bit like "gene." I hope my classicist friends will forgive me if I abbreviate mimeme to meme. (192)
Life is what happens when you are bloggingMindfulness is not as complicated as it seems.
I am most alive and mindful
when I am stringing words together on thin threads in a blog post. This is not an experience unique to me - you have felt it, haven't you? If you are an authentic writer, then you have. Not all the time maybe, but sometimes.
The feeling in those moments is paradoxical. The heightened awareness is painful
as we experience the pleasure of it. Our minds are generally not in the habit of focusing on the solely on the present. In fact, the brain resists it, preferring to multitask.
So, writing is painful because it pushes your mind to an intensified focus on the present. Your brain prefers to think about the past and future,
but writing pins you to the page in the present. The pleasure and pain are closely connected, or are they the same? In blogging, the pain and pleasure are one in the moment, and yet are separate from you
Mindful awareness has shown me that stillness, the deeper space inside oneself that is away from all of the emotions, the peaceful space that watches. I try to bring mindfulness to all I do, and the present moment is always my priority.
Mindfulness has helped me enjoy the creative impulse rather than try to block it with tension and a compulsion to be brilliant. It has helped show me that simply waking up in the morning, and being alive, is a wonderful gift.
Mindfulness separates you from the pain and pleasure of writing. Pain and pleasure both distract the mind, so the ideal place to be when writing is in a state of awareness where you are disconnected from emotion. You know it's there, but you do not focus on it.
Hope and happiness for my faithful readers
If you read my blog regularly,which I'm sure you do, I tend to focus on the hardships in life and writing. I struggled yesterday to write a post on depression and work. Depression is something I deal with daily, but I realized when I came across the idea to "take a break" that I needed one.
I write from the heart and mind, and so it is painful for me. If you are a true writer you are probably in a similar situation. Writing about important issues is taxing. But, writing isn't always painful, and I overgeneralize when I place too much emphasis on the negatives and the aches.
Whatever the cause of pain might be, I realized that writing can be many things, including enjoyable. Yes, downright fun. Maybe not always, but you can have fun at times regardless of your approach to blogging.
Life should be filled with fun, and blogging is no exception.
The surprising benefits of play
In writing my post yesterday, I became conscious of my emotions and actions. I was surprised to find that I focus on the negative so much when the benefits of fun are solidly proven.
Play is the highest form of research.
The greatest minds advocate the need for play in innovation and ingenuity. Einstein came up with some of his greatest breakthroughs by playing mind games or mental experiments. For example, he imagined flying past earth on a rocket at the speed of light in order to think about what might happen.
A basic reason for having fun while writing is that great minds praise it.
What do most Nobel Laureates, innovative entrepreneurs, artists and performers, well-adjusted children, happy couples and families, and the most successfully adapted mammals have in common? They play enthusiastically throughout their lives.
Stuart Brown, Institute of Play
It's useful to explore why fun is productive because it sounds counter-intuitive. Fun and play have more than just a few benefits in the workplace:
- We learn effectively.
- We engage our creativity.
- We are challenged and taxed.
- We pass time free of stress.
- We are able to calm and focus ourselves.
- We learn cooperation and team work.
- We practice our endurance.
- We become accustomed to having spectators watch us.
- We experiment with both cooperation and competition.
- We experience the health benefits of happiness and joy.
The psychological and physiological benefits are clear. The trick is to work the fun and happiness into your blog.
That state of the racial divide in the U.S.
Race has been a source of tension since the colonization of America
, but all must admit that conditions in the United States are much improved since the damage that began with Columbus in 1492.
However, some question how much progress has been made since the March on Washington 50 years ago. Tensions, prejudices, and injustices still exist. The Pew Research Social and Demographic Trends Project conducted studies on our perceptions of current circumstances. On August 22, 2013, they published the following slide representation of the data they collected, titled "50 Years After the March on Washington, Many Racial Divides Remain.
The informative presentation reveals mixed results, suggesting we have come a long way but have not yet arrived.
Participate in the voting
There is nothing to fill out here other than the two clicks you see. Take a moment to think about the slide presentation compared to your own perceptions. Please respond with the answer that comes closest to your own feelings. Return to the poll later to view the results. Your participation is much appreciated.
The importance of this study is that it reveals progress appears continuing
, even though we may not be at the level of complete equality. Certainly the fact that we have an African American President illustrates a dramatic change from 50 years ago. Hopefully, a continued examination of the status of race in the United States will lead to further progress and tolerance. You will also enjoy: Sharing Tools:
The difficulty of optimism
Optimism eludes me this morning as I look out my window and see fall already intruding on my brief summer here in Rexburg, ID. I find it challenging to enjoy the winter and hope for the spring, when eight months of cold awaits me.
Optimists would see the beauty in the reds, yellows, and oranges of autumn, but I only see the death of cells and life.
But the trees aren't dying, merely going through a cycle, and perhaps optimism lies in seeing the cycles of life. The seasons are a metaphor of optimism, the green promise of future rejuvenation masked in temporarily in red. If you can see the world through this lens, it actually changes your body and brain.
Optimism is a positive or hopeful outlook for the future, and it is connected with your stress levels in interesting ways. Specifically, optimism affects the level of the stress hormones in your body that can reek havoc on your health.
The neuroscience of optimism and stress
Humans have known of a connection for ages, but only recently are neuroscientists discovering what about optimism affects our bodies and why. PsychCentral
reported yesterday on new findings out of Concordia University that reveal how optimism and pessimism each affect our ability to manage stress effectively. The key actually lies in the stability
of cortisol, the stress hormone, not as much in the level or intensity.
Are men governed by primitive ancestral notions of beauty?
Which represents beauty? Answer: both.
The idea that the male can in this age impose binary standards of beauty is absurd.
An idea prevalent in our society is that men determine what is beautiful in women. Because of evolutionary instincts drive us towards females are powerfully connected to reproduction: The top image depicts the evolved human female as slender, fit, and healthy (supposedly) for reproduction.
Which image above would men pick as the best mate? It's hard to say. In reality, both women could successfully give birth to children. So what determines beauty in women?
Many contend that men do: men determine what makes a beautiful woman. This morning I read at "Captain Capitalism,"
whose website title alone made me leery:
Men determine what is beautiful in women. Just as it is women that determine what is "hot" or "sexy" in men.
The key issue seems to be that men accept this binary reality whereas women (primarily in the form of reality denying feminists) don't. They wish to change it.
The captain captures the rationale of the mainstream media, and probably of the majority of men in the population. "Men determine what is beautiful in women" is so absurd that I would not address it, if it were not such a widely held an opinion.
Key to his argument are what he calls binary "realities." This needs some explanation. Binaries are two opposing concepts that humans are prone to categorize the world into. For example, some binaries are white and black, good and evil, pure and polluted, etc.
This writer's error is in referring to "binary reality" because binaries are not reality, and are almost always false. Spectrums always exist between the two extremes. With the example of black and white, there are infinite shades of gray in between the two poles. Because of this, binaries can be hurtful to the majority of the population that is neither good nor evil, but somewhere in between.
The captain sets up a ignorant binaries and simply labels them reality. So, women are sexy or ugly and men are handsome or homely in his scheme. Men determine the nature of women, and women define the positive qualities of men.
The captain also lumps all men in a binary group - we are men and therefore must be on board with the captain. We agree with him or we are not men. Black and white, male and female, fat and thin, never capture the full story of variation and individuality in between the extreme poles.
If the captain intends to say that superficial women and shallow men determine the nature of "sexy," then he is accurate in a sense - for his faction of culturally backward men, governed by mass media images of hollow women objects. The automatons in this group select the ideal stereotypical Barbie or Ken mate, maybe because of an evolutionary predisposition, but perhaps not.
Innovation and creativity in business The creative path: Exploration and innovation.
Innovation and creative thinking are the buzz words driving business and enterprise in segments of the economy that prosper. The innovation leads to the prosperity, and facilitating this becomes the primary role of C-level officers in startups and corporations.
Although innovation means the generation of new and productive ideas, the concept itself, of course, is far from new. Innovation has pushed human beings in evolution for at leasts 50,000 years, inspiring our ancestors to create tools, develop agriculture, and promote industry. Humans first used wedges as tools along the banks of the Nile thousands of years ago, and the wheel came soon after.
One might argue that these initial advances are as important to human innovation as are the creativity of Apple, Google, Facebook, and Amazon. We are here now because of the many generations that have built upon innovation, the great evolved creative mind of the human being.
Because creativity builds on the past, I explore here quotes from thinkers that tap into the essence of innovation, so that you can apply the ideas to your creative work. Don’t think for a second that innovation in industry popped up a year or two ago. Great thinkers have contemplated it’s various aspects over the years.
Global state of the male unionYoung Indian female (not the victim).
You know that I have a fond feeling toward our brothers and sisters of revolution in India, and I desire close ties with them. In pointing to flaws in this piece, I point to a human depravity, rather than a specifically Indian one, but my plea is to all males to find our higher selves. Incidents of gang rape are becoming a disturbing precedent, where innocent victims of the highest order of humans, women, are abused and tortured beyond the imaginable.
My mind cringes to think of recent horror stories, too terrible to handle in detail. The New Delhi incident entered the news again in March, when one of the suspects in the gang rape and murder of the young woman hung himself in his jail cell.
I’m Marco Werman. This is The World. Since it happened in December, we’ve been actively following developments on the show in India surrounding the gang rape and murder of a young woman on a New Delhi bus. Well, today a new and disturbing twist in the ongoing trial of the defendants in that case. The alleged ringleader of the men on that bus was found dead in his prison cell. The authorities say 33-year-old Ram Singh committed suicide by hanging himself with a handmade rope. Singh was being tried along with four other men on charges of rape, murder, and abduction.
What do India and her flag represent to her women?
Singh was the alleged man who led a crew of human demons in the gang rape and torture of a young girl, a 23 year old student on a public bus in New Delhi.
No less than six men tortured her and a friend, beating them for hours, including bludgeons from iron rods. Openly on a bus driving around the city, they raped and tortured them only to toss them out on the curbside, December 16, 2012. The one woman died after two weeks of suffering unthinkable injuries.
Meditation may not be what you think
Holding your finger and thumb in closed position, chanting, and the lotus pose are the least important aspects of meditation, but they are the images that come to mind. The internet is full of images suggesting the same idea - meditation is ritual and metaphysical.
Meditation can be a spiritual ritual, but it's more effective to treat it as a practical physical and mental tool. Still the picture persists.
A brief Google Search for images revealed thousands similar to the one below. When you think in your mind of meditation, you envision this, right? Why?
The perfect image of what meditation usually is not.
Pop-culture told you that this is meditation, all about appearance and nothing about the inside of the skull. For me, this image is silly and cliche, masking and mocking a tool that can be a real force.
The picture would better capture meditation if it were blank. The meditation is what you do not see within the woman's subjective experience. The hokey Buddhist statuary, the expensive yoga mat and pad, and what the hell? Is that a canoe in the background? The woman is a vision of expensive discomfort rather than peace. This is Ikea and McDonald's yoga.
Towards clarity in meditation
Traditionally, meditation has been elevated to a plain that is not useful. Listen to Voltaire's flowery phrases about the practice:
Meditation is the dissolution of thoughts in Eternal awareness or Pure consciousness without objectification, knowing without thinking, merging finitude in infinity.
Blah, blah, blah. Voltaire sounds metaphysical and elitist. Voltaire believes he can capture the magic of mental processes in words, and while he is excellent, he misses the mark. I don't worry about connecting with infinity, the universe, or anything but myself.
No, Merriam-Webster's definition of meditation is sufficiently simple
(one might even cut post-colon):
to focus one's thoughts on: reflect on or ponder over.
The essence of meditation
Meditation refers to what you do with your mind - focus and clarify. You can meditate standing up, drawing a picture, exercising, and pondering - no yoga mat or incense needed. Focusing your mind in a particularly profitable way makes the core of meditation.
Keys to neuroscience and creativity
When I was in the second grade, Mike, a chubby and kind friend, was in my class, and we were asked to draw a picture of a tree. With pencil in hand, I quickly drew two sticks for the trunk and a squiggly circle for the treetop. That was my level of creativity: make the most basic image of a thing that is still holds enough power to remind viewers vaguely of a tree.
Mike took forever, and I watched him over his shoulder. He wasn't drawing a blob tree, but a tall pine tree with exquisitely detailed branches. "You're a freaking artist" I told him. He responded that he just liked to draw.
This was an essential difference because I did not enjoy drawing, I liked to write. Perhaps, with practice, I could have drawn a pine tree equal to Mike's realistic picture, but I didn't care to. And, I believed that the drawing must be easier for Mike because he had a natural gift.
My point in this piece is that we all have the cognitive ability to create and innovate, and by learning more about the brain, we become more skilled. We practice and nurture our skills.
For those interested in improving their creative capacities, it's helpful to know what is going on in the brain that makes creativity and interpretation possible. There are all kinds of definitions of creativity, but the one that concerns me the most as having the potential to empower us is the neurological explanation which scientist have learned much about in the last decade. The drawing below points to areas we will be discussing.
Shows the visual cortex, where visual information first arrives, and the pathways to processing.
The recent article "What Neuroscience Teaches Us About Creativity"
by Tanner Christensen provides useful information for understanding creativity in the brain. He interviewed Joel Chan
, a PhD student in Cognitive Psychology at the University of Pittsburgh. Chan started with this on creativity in the brain:
The science of creativity is arguably still in its infancy, despite there being volumes of research on it since the 1950’s, in part due to the strong presence of folk psychology, and the difficulty in wrangling it scientifically.
One of the problems with research in creativity is that we already hold preconceived notions, so accepting new science is challenging. I exhibited this in my interaction with Mike in the second grade: I believed that art was a natural gift, easy for Mike, tough for me. The truth is that we are all naturally gifted as human beings to be creative, even though the kinds of creativity are different.
Another problem is that, even though it has been studied for a while, a lot remains to be done to understand precisely what goes on in the brain.