Friday, November 17, 2006

Neo Experience Necessary

What makes experiences worthwhile? This is not rhetorical... I think it is realization of the lessons learned.

Sometimes we turn to our elders, or those we view as wise, to share their experience with us. In point of fact, we are asking them to share their life-lessons.

Now, if they have learned nothing, their experience is useless to us, obviously.

On the other hand, lessons learned by others are invaluable, for one, it keeps us from making the same mistakes as they did! More importantly however, we can internalize their story with little or no cost, and a modicum of listening investment.

We do this all the time. What did you think of Marineland? Would you go to Turkey? What do you know about Toyotas? The questions go on. Our aim is to gather useful information for our possible use later on. The answers then become part of our own baggage of usable knowledge for decision-making.

When we do this, we couch the experience with our opinion of the person we are speaking with. The more trustworthy the person, the better we feel the information might be valuable. Also, if our tastes are similar, the more likely a person’s experience is likely to mimic our own. You wouldn’t ask someone who hates marine life to recommend Marineland in Niagra Falls as vacation spot, for instance.

Couching is key to gathering intelligence. The information gotten depends on the source of course, but our interpretation of a Ford-lover’s opinion on Toyotas for example, will be reinforced if the Ford-lover finds Toyota to be a good product, thereby overcoming his own prejudice. High praise indeed.

Also, the connoisseur is useful in the same way. The Ford-lover will likely have a complete and rounded knowledge of his beloved product. More than likely, he or she will be well aware of pitfalls unknown to the public at large.

So I’ve demonstrated that all information is good, depending how it is couched. A case can be made that the person is trying to snow you, in which instance, the trustworthiness needs to be questioned first, and then the information.

I now get to applicability.

One’s experience may or may not be applicable to our own situation. The real trick is to recognize when it is. The other person will give you a best guess based on observation and evaluation of your situation vs. their own. Often times, when we take another point of view our own situation becomes clearer. In effect, standing back from the problem to get a better overall view.

Then we must decide to apply only the parts that fit. Those parts that don’t, we simply discard.

For example, a situation that occurred recently had me giving advice about a situation very similar to one I had lived through a few years back. All the parameters were exactly the same, with different people of course. The problems that I was consulting on paralleled my own almost word for word. It’s like I was in a twilight zone. With flashbacks and everything.

So I shared my view of the situation through my experience, but none of the history of that experience. In a way, I bypassed the couching and I really shouldn’t have.

This finally brings us to the issue of trust that I mentioned above.

I said earlier that the lesson is only as good as the person giving it. No trust in that person will negate the lesson altogether, even before we get to couching and applicability.

Trust is a very strange concept. We trust almost everyone blindly! Case in point: we trust that the driver coming the other way isn’t going to cross the yellow line. This trust is borne of years of sampling that this one rule of the road is most always followed. Yet, it is still a person driving that other car.

Trust is then the constant and expected repetition of an action. It is conditioning.

It’s odd that we can say, with conviction: “I trust person so-and-so to fuck me over whenever they can.”

In effect trust isn’t necessarily a “good-thing”™, it is, rather, a consistent thing.

If a person is consistent in giving information that makes sense, and is a propos, we will internalize it and accept that it may be useful. By the way someone who is totally inconsistent will often be dismissed as insane, or not having a clue. Funny thing that.

Note that I am in no way debating that the information is factual, nor indeed true, but simply that it is useful to us, to reject or to accept as we see fit.

The mechanics of this concept has been a puzzle to me for many years. I’ve always wondered how a person of intelligence could come to believe utter nonsense, yet another disbelieve something that is, for all intents and purposes, factual beyond doubt.

If any element is missing or broken in my information triangle: couching, applicability and trust, then we have misdirected experience, or worse.

I saw a report on scientology on TV, and quite clearly the scientologist do not trust psychologists, or in fact the entire field of psychology. So the trust element is the issue. This is akin to car salesmen, who suffer from a prejudice, which was caused by years of similar experiences of consistently erroneous information. I’m not saying psychologists are like used-car salesmen, but obviously the scientologists do.

The other two points of the triangle: couching and applicability are much easier. In a sense, they are personal judgment and straightforward evaluation. The former opens the door, the latter slams it shut.

If I don’t listen to the report, I have already chosen not to couch anything at all. If I do listen, and “trust” that the report itself is fair, I have thus couched the information… then I return to applying, or not, the concepts, so it becomes my call again.

I have said before that some people cannot tell the difference between what they believe and what is fact. I now think this is too much trust in a given information on their part, but without due couching.

I have also said before that some people don’t know their ass from a hole in the ground. I think this is too much couching and not enough trust or applicability.

Anyway, this past week, NCIS debunked the non-apology philosophy. To quote the actress “I thought you had to be strong to apologize,” or words to that effect. So obviously the writers of the show read my previous blog on apologizing.

I used trust of the character Gibbs, couched the apology statement appropriately to my reality and wrote a blog on the “opposing” applicability.

And I now feel somewhat vindicated by the TV writers, fine people that they are.

I’m not sure I had any specific point or parting statement to make on this conjured triangle. And I’m not pretending that this triangle is neither exact nor complete.

‘twas nothing more than trying to gain perspective on the human mind.

And maybe that's the experience I wish to share with you.


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