Monday, September 10, 2012

What a poor excuse for a chipmunk! “And you call yourself a robin?!”

A friend is finding heady, intoxicating freedom in absorbing Cheri Huber's "There Is Nothing Wrong With You".  I'm not surprised.  Garrison Keillor has pointed to Lutherans many times as examples of people emphasizing the sinfulness and erroneous ways we follow.  I used to think it was a Christian thing or a European thing to feel continuous shame or guilt or regret.  But then I began to suspect that it was a human thing.  

Humans know for a fact that effort counts.  I try to lift 190 lbs., but I can't.  Then, I try harder and I do it.  I note that I did it on the 2nd try so I had already used some up of my energy by then, but I still did it. That mental state of "trying harder" clearly mattered. Berskerkers in Viking battles or the Maori warriors in their famous Haka arousal before battle or athletic contest are examples of humans consciously letting themselves use their minds, bodies, emotions  and social tools to achieve a heightened state.  Since we know we possess such abilities, it is natural for we ourselves, or our parents, or our partners, or our teachers, or our coaches to urge us to try harder.  But more times than we want, not trying hard enough was not the problem.  It isn't always a trying-harder thing.  

For instance, research and experience are making clear that there several abilities that are typically called on in most classrooms that have not previously been recognized as such.  The books "A Mind at a Time" and "The Myth of Laziness" by Prof. Mel Levine at the University of North Carolina Medical School list sequencing (for example, events in a story one has listened to).  Levine, a pediatrician, sees at least these eight parts to skills that are called on in school:
Attention Control
Spatial Ordering
Sequential Ordering
Motor System
Higher Thinking
Social Thinking

In school or out, young or older, any of these systems may be stressed or damaged or incomplete or inaccessible.  

Since we don't really know the lives of other animals and since we are pretty sure they spend more of their time searching for food and hiding from enemies and predators, we are less likely to use the handy fall-back explanation of morality when thinking of them.  We can always tsk-tsk at the low, slovenly, lack of effort and dedication in those people who don't comply with the moral strictures we think are important.  I'm going to start calling the wildlife to a higher plane, too.

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