Down the rabbit hole with no spoon by Rick Tufnell

In the 1999 action blockbuster The Matrix, Morpheus asks these seemingly simple questions “What is real? How do you define real?” As students of anthropology these questions intrigue because it is our job to observe and analyze people and their culture. Yet, in order to do this we as observers have to answer those very questions.
Morpheus continues by offering an explanation of sorts saying “If you’re talking about what you can feel, what you can smell, what you can taste and see, then ‘real’ is simply electrical signals interpreted by your brain.” For now let us center on the experiences that we observe in the people we watch. If a young man must pass a test of manhood to be earn his place as adult, and the young man invites us to observe him as he slays the beast. Did we experience the rite of passage as our subject did, or was our experience different? Was it a lesser experience, was it less real?
Later in the film Neo, meets spoon boy; a bald headed young man that appears to be bending a spoon with nothing more than the sheer force of his will. He offers the spoon to Neo and this conversation ensues.
“Spoon boy: Do not try and bend the spoon. That’s impossible. Instead… only try to realize the truth.
Neo: What truth?
Spoon boy: There is no spoon.
Neo: There is no spoon?
Spoon boy: Then you’ll see, that it is not the spoon that bends, it is only yourself.”
So I guess it does not matter what is real or how we define real, all that matters is that we find the truth. The truth is something that can only be understood by going through our journeys both as people and as observers of people. It is in these times that we can really free ourselves from that which holds us back.
Remember these parting words from Morpheus as you decide whether to seek the truth or not. “This is your last chance. After this, there is no turning back. You take the blue pill – the story ends, you wake up in your bed and believe whatever you want to believe. You take the red pill – you stay in Wonderland and I show you how deep the rabbit-hole goes.”

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References
All quotes taken from The Matrix and provided by
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0133093/quotes

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“The Persistence of Memory”

 

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Alright, this goes back a little from what we’ve recently been reading about in class, but in chapter six of A Good Book, In Theory by Alan Sears & James Carins, Sears & Carins discuss the concept of time. As the world became more industrialized, and technology advances, there becomes a stronger and stronger reliance on “clock-time”.  The clock literally runs our lives now. We watch this mechanical object as it breaks down time into literally measurable moments and marks them for us. As you sit in the classroom of a long lecture, or you anxiously await the end of your shift at work, your eyes drift to the clock, marking every second that more often than not, seems to move excruciatingly slow. This idea of “clock-time” is socially constructed. As our societies have advanced, we’ve become more reliant on a way to mark and measure time.

In order to understand the concept of time, we have to be able to apply it to history. This is where the concept of historical imagination comes into play. “We begin with the simplest idea: we cannot know the future,” (Sears & Carins, 144). We cannot know the future. Let that resonate with you for a moment. Got it? Alright, so, if we cannot know future, then we must rely on the past to predict what may or may not happen in the future. We go on everyday planning out tomorrow and the next day and the next until we’ve planned out our entire week. But we cannot know that that week is actually going to happen. In the movie, The Vow, a young woman, Paige, ends up in a tragic car accident from which she suffers injuries to her brain. As most patients who suffer brain injuries, she’s kept in a medically induced coma until her doctors see improvement and healing in her brain. When Paige is woken up out of her coma, she’s woken to a world she doesn’t know. Her concept of the present and her recent past is gone. There is a man in the hospital room with her when she wakes up, along with another woman. The man, she finds out, is her husband, Leo. Her memories of roughly the past five to ten years of her life are gone. As the film goes on, Paige tries to put together the pieces of her recent past to see if her memories will come back. She even makes a timeline of some photographs, describing a decent amount of the pictures as being “in the lost years”.

“Our understanding of society and of our own lives is necessarily retrospective. We look back from the present, which is the latest moment in the process of development. We can understand the world around us only by asking how it got to be this way,” (Sears & Carins, 147). Throughout the film, Paige continuously asks questions about her recent past, and the things that she cannot remember. By doing this, she is trying to find ground to stand on in the world she is living in, but does not recall. Children, and adults alike, do this very same thing, often without more than a moment’s thought. As we go throughout our day, we don’t consistently ask, “How did that chair get there?”, “Where did ‘x’ come from?” unless we’re analyzing a new area (or just doing some strange math problems). We know that these things are there and/or that these things happen, because they have been there or have happened in the past, so we understand these things to be a sort of constant. A young child, however, doesn’t have a vast knowledge of history (personal or social), so they continually ask the adults and older children around them questions who’s answers may seem obvious. As such, they are the prime example of how we understand our world only by asking how it got to be this way.

Tying this all together now, we understand time, and life within time, only through the society in which we live. Our concept of time in America is not the same as it is for someone living in a country in Southeast Asia. Our society, our culture, sets up the framework for our understanding of the past, the present, and the future. It is through our memories, our teachings, and our social interactions that we are able to understand time in the way that we do. We know the past is the past because we are told that it has happened before the moment we are currently residing in . However, as Sears & Carins put it “…the past is the present.” We are living off of the events that have happened in order to form a prediction, of the future. Time then, is a method to our madness, if you will.

 

Note: The above image is of Salvador Dali’s “The Persistence of Memory”. I found the image rather fitting when talking about time, historical imagination, and the past. It reminded me of the concept of time, not just because of the clocks, but because the clocks are seemingly melting. My mind interpreted that image of clocks melting as “Time is slipping away”. Memory is more than essential to being able to understand time. Without memories, it would be rather difficult to sort out what is the present, what is the past, and what the future may hold. Which reminds me a lot of those with dementia and Alzheimers, which is a topic for a later day. Also, the title of the piece seemed rather suiting as well (and I have only borrowed it for this blog post).

Post one Sara Jozefowski

Chapter four of Sears and Cairins talks about the different ways people perceive reality and how it affects life. I think that the perception of reality is something that is really good for people to look at because it is something that varies person to person. There are even different levels of perceptional difference that we may not think of, like city to city, state to state, and in different countries. Country to country seems like an obvious example to me. This is an assumption that I realized I had while I was starting to write this statement. I think people’s perceptions have to vary when they live in different parts of the world. But I had to stop and think about my assumption. For example I have traveled outside of America and faced reality differences first hand. For example when I traveled to Germany I thought it would be okay to sit outside a building while my friend went shopping, I quickly learned through peoples responses that doing that definitely was not socially acceptable there, which was a bit of culture shock for me. Another reason I felt that the different view of reality was a normal thing for people to know is because I study Anthropology. Once I stop to think about it, I know many people who rarely think of other countries reality views being different. Those who live here may not realize that there is a difference in our perceptions of reality at all. Now I am going to narrow our perspective down to state level. I am sure we all know the disputes that occur between people from Wisconsin and people from Illinois. This issue does not make sense. I have talked to people from both states who have assumptions that people from the other state are slow or purposely singling them out for different reasons. But why is this? The states are in the same region the thing that separates them is an imaginary border line. There must be however something creating the tensions between people in states. I think one of the things is our perception. I have had to deal with a pharmacist who I had always thought hated me but I could not figure out why. Over time I realized that there were allot of people from Illinois that come to the stores I worked at, and they moved extremely fast paced and would say something if they thought you were moving slow.  I knew that the pharmacist was from Illinois so once I learned to move at a faster pace to there no longer seemed to be tensions. It is my theory that the difference could be because people are used to moving faster in our neighbor state so to us some can seem rude, however if we look at things differently we probably seem slow and sluggish to them. This is just an assumption that I am making. People might not move at a much faster pace but besides sports teams it is the only connection I can make to the ridiculous dispute between the two states. There is also the perception of cities and country areas. Many people from areas like Union Groove and Raymond see Racine as ghetto and dangerous. Since I went to school in Racine and had experiences in the city I do not see it the same way. I see it as a place where some people have less money and as a result sometimes some get a little run down. There are also areas in Racine where it is obviously kept up better. On the other end, people can see people from the country as ignorant and rude. When you look at their lives not everyone is rich but the difference between the people is the type of work they do and the lifestyle they live. So the different types of work in these areas creates there different views and can cause issues. These places are different from each other and people’s different life experiences have shaped how people look at the world. Although people may not live in extremely different geographic or climate regions slight variations in there conscious reality changes how they look at the world so those people who do not live far from one another may not like the other group’s way of life.

Sara Jozefowski

I’m Going Mental For Anthropology

It seems that anthropology looks at the norms of different societies, but I haven’t seen them look at the abnormal things in societies, such as mental disorders. I am pretty sure that other cultures have mental disorders and clearly deal with them in different ways. Through my classes in psychology we have not only talked about how different tests are designed to help find people with disorders, but also understand the degree of the disorder in both the United State and many other cultures. Although, I highly doubt that they have made a test compatible for a culture such as, I don’t know, the Nuer. I know that any tests that have been created will not work for smaller cultures like the Nuer because they focus on the general population in major societies.

            I know that in “Engaging Anthropological Theory”, by Mark Moberg, he talked about the wonderful Freud and how they took a look at his Oedipus complex based theory.  Moberg also talks about transference and projection and other things like that; but, what I am looking at is mental disorders such as schizophrenia or borderline personality disorder. I know that a good amount of them can be transferred through genetics, but I’m sure that these smaller cultures can’t escape some of the disorders. If they could, I am pretty sure that psychologists and anthropologists would jump on how to effectively rid these people from having these disorders. I know that a lot of mental disorders are triggered by stressful events and traumatic experiences, but I just haven’t seen them addressing these symptoms in other cultures in any of the books we have read so far.

            I wondered what people would do if any of these cultures did have someone in their village with a mental disorder? Would they try to faith heal them, exercise or banish them from their village. I know that in the film we watched in class they had a scene where they believed someone to be possessed by a dead relative. I couldn’t help but think: did this person had something wrong with them or did a confirmation bias occur. Oh, if you don’t know what a confirmation bias is, it is when people will favor their beliefs until it becomes their reality even if everyone else views it as wrong (side note: I wonder if a confirmation bias happens a lot in anthropology as it does in other areas).  It is interesting to see how misunderstood people with mental disorders are treated in our society, but at the same time fascinating to see how other cultures view them.

            If you don’t know what some of the major mental disorders are, they include: schizophrenia, border-line personality, bipolar, and character disorders (which include eating disorders, anxiety, OCD, etc.).  If you would like to know more about these disorders, please comment on this post and I can try to explain them to you.

Back to the main point, my question is: do other smaller cultures, such as the Neur, experience any of these disorders? Since I am new to anthropology I am very curious to hear what everyone else thinks about this topic.

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Phenomenology, Memories & Friendship

Phenomenology, Memories & Friendship

Alright, I ask for your pardons as I am not the greatest at actually creating a meaningful form of feedback.

In reading Chapter four of Sears and Carins, I was rather fascinated by Phenomenology. For anyone who is reading this blog, and therefore this blog post, who is not in our Theory class, “Phenomenology… focuses on the examination of consciousness,” (Sears & Carins, 87). That is to say that our brains work in a miraculous way to sort out everything we see, everything we experience everyday of our lives. As we live and breathe in every conscious moment, our brains work very similarly to a computer, filing what we see, what we hear, what we smell, what we taste, etc., into not only meaningful sets of information but into what we know to be memories. Without consciousness, our daily lives would be filled with sets upon sets of data that, without meaningful coding, are just that, strings of data. Phenomenology is a bit like reading binary and being able to apply meaning to all of the various sets of numbers.

Now, to explain the photo above. While I am not the greatest with traditional media, (for those non art-savvy people, that means things like painting and drawing with your own hand) I have a bit of a niche for photography. The photo above was from a visit to Chicago’s infamous Millennium Park. Millennium Park is a place that makes me realize just how influential phenomenology is on our daily lives. As a repeat offender of sight-seeing, exploring and drinking in the culture of Chicago, my first visit to Millennium Park occurred merely a few years ago. The first time you walk through this art extravaganza, you’re bombarded with dozens of different shapes, colors, and sizes of the different pieces. All around you are the sounds of busy tourists, young children, traffic, blaring sirens, smells of flowers and food. But yet, consciousness allows us to put certain sounds, sights, and scents into different levels of foreground (important) and background (less important).

During my visit to Millennium Park, I was with a group of friends, whom I could only claim to be my friends through the concept of intersubjectivity. Intersubjectivity is the concept that we assume that others see the world in essentially the same way that we do, (Sears & Carins, 90). By assuming that others see the world in essentially the same way that we do, we are able to interact with them and seemingly understand them. In my experience with others, the more we seem to understand one another the stronger the bond formed between them, thusly the lead to what we commonly know as friendship.

Tying this all together, Phenomenology is the study of consciousness. Why is this important in Anthropological Theory? Simply because consciousness is social. Consciousness allows us to categorize, file, and store sets of informative data all around us, including our interactions with other people. However, we only interact and relate to other people on the assumed basis that we have a similar understanding to the world that we live in, this is intersubjectivity. That’s all I’ve got for you folks. I hope I didn’t bore you to tears. :3

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Eye Contact: A Breeching Experiment

Eye Contact: A Breeching Experiment

“It’s not polite to stare.” is a fairly common phrase we hear. It makes people feel uncomfortable. But why? Why do we have to feel uncomfortable that someone is ACTUALLY paying close attention to what we’re saying? Don’t we think it’s rude if they don’t look at us when we were talking?
Trying not keep eye contact in conversation is a subconscious thing now. If someone is talking to me, I look away every few seconds without asking why and never wondering why no one ever asked if I was thinking about something else instead of the person in front of me.
These thoughts have been around for awhile and when I read about breeching experiments in Sears & Cairns book (Chpt. 4) I realized what an awesome experiment constant eye-contact would be! We have assumptions on what is appropriate to do in a conversation and what is not.
I stared (hardcore) at my sister while she was explaining an assignment to me. Initially she hadn’t noticed because she had been looking away periodically as she was talking. However, while I responded to her, her breaks in eye contact became much more frequent and lasted longer. Finally she asked what I had been looking at, touching her face and glancing behind her. She looked a bit out of sorts. I asked her if “this” (referring to the staring) was weird. She shrugged and simply said, “It’s not polite to stare.”
Later I had asked her why the staring was weird. It made her self-conscious but she wasn’t exactly sure why. She had never put much thought into because it was just something she (and many other people, she noted) had always done.
“Unexamined assumptions~!”

Dream World

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In chapter 3 of Sears and Cairns, they write about perceptions. One of the sections of the chapter talks about dreams and how they impact reality. On pages 100-101, Sears and Cairns talk about Walter Benjamin and his idea of a “collective dream-world.” My first thought was of the Matrix where reality is just a dream and the real reality deals with an underground society trying to fight the government, or something along those lines. However, the more I thought about it, the more it actually began to make sense and I could understand how it applies to the real world. People can go through life just expecting things to get better in the world, or for change to happen, without them having to do anything. This would be the “dream-world” that Benjamin talks about. After they “wake up,” they finally see how they have to be the ones to step up and do something about the state of things. If they want a better world, they have to be the ones to work for it.

The picture I drew is pretty straightforward. The girl is dreaming about normal life as she knows it, nothing too exciting going on. When she opens her eyes, she realizes that she had believed it was okay to just go through life doing nothing, but now she must take action. By being active in the world, she is able to see how things really are and she can fight for what she believes in. The cape, for me, is a symbol for taking action, like superheroes do.

Benjamin describes the dream as being a collective one, so everyone is in the same dream and they will wake up at the same time. However, I think people can have their own “dream-world.” Making personal decisions to finally step out of routine and doing something, even if it is just a small decision, is like waking up to the real world. Life as a student can be like living in a dream sometimes. Get up, go to class, go to work, and go to bed so the same thing can happen the very next day. By doing something as small as even deciding on a major or going for a new job interview can wake someone up to reality and see how they can change their own life for the better.