Cats and Theories
a blog by coticheque
a blog by coticheque

Strange forms of life

Now he’s a bit more differentiated, a bit less an uncarved block, a bit less hidden in the fog.

It’s quite demeaning to think that your life may have been influenced by someone else, to think that other people left an impact so deep that your life had forever turned its course. Even though the idea of blaming others for your own misfortunes and assuming status of a victim is quite a widespread thing to do these days, it has never appealed to me – after all, what could potentially be appealing in delegating one’s own agency to external circumstances and someone else’s will? For the same reasons, I have always had a particular disdain for those schools of psychology that blame one’s parents for every trauma of their child, claiming that any slightest flaw in parents’ behaviour has an impact so damaging, that it leaves them forever to contemn, forever to blame.

Last week I stumbled across the following quote from Jordan Peterson, that challenged that belief:

‘Children can be damaged as much or more by a lack of incisive attention as they are by abuse, mental or physical. This is damage by omission, rather than commission, but it is no less severe and long-lasting. Children are damaged when their ‘mercifully’ inattentive parents fail to make them sharp and observant and awake and leave them, instead, in an unconscious and undifferentiated state. Children are damaged when those charged with their care, afraid of any conflict or upset, no longer dare to correct them, and leave them without guidance. I can recognize such children on the street. They are doughy and unfocused and vague. They are leaden and dull instead of golden and bright. They are uncarved blocks, trapped in a perpetual state of waiting-to-be.’

Ouch. The last sentence struck the nerve. This whole description sounded just way too familiar, way to accurate. The state of being undifferentiated, unconscious and vague. That was pretty much the default mode of my existence for the first 25 years of my life.

Just like too much control can cause trauma, neglect and the lack of actions can have an influence on someone’s development too. In one of the previous posts, I mentioned a non-verbal thinking as a strange cognitive feature I have to live and cope with. It seems that the theory of Peterson provides an explanation to the origins of this strange condition, which apparently stems from the childhood. Parents are supposed to talk to their children, fostering development of their critical thinking, which in turn teaches children to express themselves in words. This builds the verbal logical structure of the brain. Discussing what’s good and what’s bad, encouraging forming own opinions – that’s an even better strategy for parents wishing to raise their child as someone with a bright and sharp mind. Involvement of parents is not the only way to achieve this goal. It’s also established that socially best-adapted adults are the ones who were growing up together with their siblings, socializing daily with other children of their age.

Unfortunately, most children are raised alone these days, and it seems like not all parents are willing to invest effort into any stimulating and challenging activities, letting things flow as they are, letting children figure out the world on their own. On the one hand, the lack of involvement and supervision leaves one with unrestrained freedom, at least in the mental realm. On the other hand, a contrarian manifestation of freedom is the state of chaos. It’s hard to form a coherent conception of the world when you’re floating in the overwhelming domain of chaos with no possession of any tools that could potentially be used to organize or make sense out of it.

‘You’re so vague and so non-existent. You’re a denizen of chaos and the underworld. You’re going ten different places at the same time.’

I’ve always liked to say that I was raised by the Internet. It certainly had a bigger impact on my mental upbringing than any involvement from the parents’ side. Internet is a great refuge, but it’s also an abyss of abundance. If you’re growing up on the Internet, instead of steadily building a coherent world-view on the basis of some conceptual foundation, you’re constantly being bombarded by hundreds of incoherent random flows of information, thousands of opinions and ideas, one contradicting another. How on Earth are you supposed to form a critical judgement of your own, when every opinion comes with its certainty and a line of compelling argumentation. The multitude of countless interpretations becomes the norm. There’s no point of reference that can be taken as a starting point, there’s no stable ground to build a structure, framework or a foundation for the future development on.

Until the age of 25, it was almost impossible for me to express any strong opinion of my own, constantly keeping in mind dozens of viewpoints encountered throughout the years of being online. Every idea sounded like something that has a right to exist, relativism was the default mode of perception and interpretation. Then, luckily, by some miracle, I’ve managed to bootstrap myself out of this uncertain state of ultimate relativism. To step out of the fog. To undergo a revolution of Logos on a personal scale. In a world where it’s getting harder and harder to form an opinion due to abundance of facts and contradicting viewpoints, the luxury of feeling judgmental and opinionated on a certain topic feels like a blessing.

If I ever had to give advise to a younger audience of people who also happen to be brought up by inattentive parents, I would have certainly recommended seeking and getting involved into some other platforms allowing for discussions and debates from the earliest age. Even if it’s done through involvement into a local branch of the libertarian party, or defence of communism on online forums and anonymous image boards – it doesn’t even matter how arbitrary the opinions are, as long as you have something to stand by and to defend. Do it for the sake of developing critical judgment. The future benefits are immeasurable.

Anyway, back to the strange life-forms. When one critical part of a structure is missing, the organism naturally compensates it with an excess in something else. In absence of verbal tools for interpreting the world, my mind had to adapt by developing a strange search engine working on intuition that could retrieve random facts, ideas and pieces of information out of a database built out of the mess gathered together from unrestrained Internet exposure. Hence, the aversion towards speaking – raised in a domain of text, linear speech is simply not a natural way of thoughts’ expression. In other words, the confused mind managed to develop some mysterious tools running on intuition that would compensate for the lack of verbal and logical reasoning structures.

Is it a gift? I don’t know. Is it useful in the 21 century? Certainly. Imagine having an intuition manifesting itself through a subtle feeling of how something is supposed to ultimately look like, or feel like – whether it’s a text, digital product or a poem. Having such a conception, you have an unlimited power to draw together its parts, piece by piece, either from layers of your mind or from the Internet. It’s easy to retrieve the things you need when you can navigate in digital space as naturally as in your own mind, when the Internet becomes an organic extension of yourself. I think in the future we’ll witness this to become a natural state of integration between digital and organic realms, the fusion that the human interface will have no choice but to adapt to.

Perhaps, some of us had to adapt earlier. Perhaps, against our will.

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