Through the Prism

After passing through the prism, each refraction contains some pure essence of the light, but only an incomplete part. We will always experience some aspect of reality, of the Truth, but only from our perspectives as they are colored by who and where we are. Others will know a different color and none will see the whole, complete light. These are my musings from my particular refraction.

5.02.2017

We Need Storytelling to Capture That Kind of Complexity, That Kind of Incomprehensibility


I really like what this writer has to say. I had a somewhat similar moment in my college experience, when I went from my naturally analytical bent toward science to literature.

When I was a senior and investigating schools, I thought I might do something related to physics and engineering. Yet I didn't want to be too obsessed with the mechanical, and considered bio-engineering at one point. The labs I saw on school visits just seemed too sterile and removed from life, though, so I ultimately decided to be pragmatic; the first two years will be the same general classes no matter where I go, I reasoned, so I'll save money by living at home and getting those classes out of the way at the local community college. The advisor I landed wasn't much help, so I enrolled in classes that reflected what I was used to in high school--some math, some literature, some science, etc.--and after two years I found I had earned a degree.

Unfortunately, I still didn't know what I wanted to be when I grew up. So I took a semester off from school to work, which was enough to convince me to make my mind up about a major and get back at it. After much hair pulling, I finally decided I would study wildlife biology with the intent of becoming a park ranger or something similar. I enrolled in another round of courses at the community college for the spring semester with the plan of transferring to one of our state universities the next fall.

That was the plan. The first day of classes, though, I had to come up with a new one. The first session of my Chemistry II class, which I was taking as a requisite of my newly chosen major, reminded me how much I had hated my Chemistry I class. It met once a week for three hours. I spent the first hour-and-a-half stewing and reflecting, then made an uncharacteristically impulsive decision. At the break, I walked over to the admission office and unenrolled from the class. Just like that, I was no longer going to study wildlife biology.

So. There I was, in need of a new plan. The chemistry class had been my only practical one for the semester--I had enrolled in other things that sounded fun so I was a full-time student, but it had been the only one with a purposeful endpoint. Still, I started looking at the other courses I was taking. One was Shakespeare and another was the Oral Interpretation of Literature. That's what had sounded most interesting and engaging to me out of everything on offer. With a little thought, the common theme became apparent to me, and I realized more than anything what I enjoyed doing was reading and talking about books. And that's when I knew I was meant to be an English major.

From The Atlantic:
'Life Keeps Changing': Why Stories, Not Science, Explain the World

Jennifer Percy: The lessons my father taught me as a child all revolved around science. . . .

Still, I found the brutal immensity of the universe frightening. My brother and I, like many kids, were shaped by poking through the books we had at home, and we had just two kinds: physics books and Stephen King books. Both were terrifying. So we had to choose what kind of fear we liked best—the terror of the universe or the terror of the clown that lives in the sewer and is going to kill you. I think my brother chose Stephen King and I chose Stephen Hawking.

I pursued a career in science, and in college, I studied physics. I worked with those guys that make Mars Rovers and understand the properties of crystals and who ride in the Vomit Comet over the Gulf of Mexico, imagining themselves space-bound. But I was unhappy.

The language of science was unsatisfying to me. “The most incomprehensible thing about the universe is that it’s comprehensible,” Einstein said. But I don’t think human relationships are ever fully comprehensible. They can clarify for small, beautiful moments, but then they change. Unlike a scientific experiment with rigorous, controlled parameters, our lives are boundless and shifting. And there’s never an end to the story. We need more than science—we need storytelling to capture that kind of complexity, that kind of incomprehensibility. . . .

The language of physics didn’t help me bridge that gap. There was an emptiness that physics couldn’t help me dispel. Stories could, though. Talking to people wasn’t enough, but if I could visit a world, and be held there in its arms, then I could invite others inside and maybe they could be held there too.
Really? The first word you put on a monument with that particular shape is "erected?"

And, while I was especially interested in this article as a parent, I think the advice applies to most everyone in most every circumstance.
No Spanking, No Time-Out, No Problems

A child psychologist argues punishment is a waste of time when trying to eliminate problem behavior. Try this instead.

So you're really desperate. You shout, you try to reason, you think you're a wonderful parent. You think that you're just the greatest parent in the world. You sit down and say, “No, we don't stab your sister, she's the only sister you have and if you stab her, she won't be alive much longer.” It's always good to do that with your child, to reason, because it changes how they think, it changes how they problem solve. It develops their IQ, but it's not good for changing behavior.

So it's good to do that, but apparently it doesn't change behavior. And once that fails, and we know it fails, because parents have this wonderful expression, sadly, “If I've told you once, I've told you a thousand times.” What the research shows is that telling an instruction does not change human behavior very well. . . .

For example, there's probably not a cigarette smoker on the planet who would say, “What?! Smoking is bad for me, why didn't you tell me that?” Telling people, it can help, but it usually doesn't change much behavior.

Parents might start out reasoning, but they're likely to escalate to something a little bit more, like shouting, touching, firmly dragging their child, even if they're well-intentioned. The way to get rid of a child's negative behavior is not to do the punishment. Even a wonderful punishment, gentle punishment like time-out, or reasoning, those don't work. . . .

What it amounts to is an area of research that's called applied behavior analysis, and what it focuses on are three things to change behavior: What comes before the behavior, how you craft the behavior, and then what you do at the end. . . .

So what comes before the behavior?

One is gentle instructions, and another one is choice. For example, "Sally, put on your,”— have a nice, gentle tone of voice. Tone of voice dictates whether you're going to get compliance or not. "Sarah, put on the green coat or the red sweater. We're going to go out, okay?" Choice among humans increases the likelihood of compliance. And choice isn't important, it's the appearance of choice that's important. Having real choice is not the issue, humans don't feel too strongly about that, but having the feeling that you have a choice makes a difference. . . .

And now the behavior itself. When you get compliance, if that's the behavior you want, now you go over and praise it ... very effusively, and you have to say what you're praising exactly. . . .

The basic fundamental approach is, what is going on before the behavior that you can do to change it? Can you get repeated practice trials? Can you lock it in with praise? What happens is that parents think of discipline as punishing, and in fact, that's not the way to change behavior. . . .

So how do we get rid of teen attitude? We call it positive opposites: Whenever you want to get rid of something, what is it that you want in its place? Because getting rid of it is not going to do it. . . .
Now, how to apply that to myself in addition to my children?

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