Mayer Spivack (1936 - 2011) is @MayerSpivack on Twitter. He was a consultant and advisor on organizational behavior, innovation, and learning, based near Boston, Massachusetts. He was also an artist working in a variety of media. All writing and artworks presented here are the original work and are the copyrighted property of Mayer Spivack. Nothing on this weblog is aggregated from other sources. Reasonable use involving copying with attribution, and limited sharing not for profit, are allowed. Your comments are invited. This blog is now maintained by his son, Nova Spivack. We look forward to hearing from you. Thank you for your interest.
Nan–Nan! Please listen! You’re just my older sister, You’re not my mother. You could not have prevented any of it so try not to blame yourself. It all just happened, things happen. Sometimes they are just a chain of unconnected events. Think about all the good—no, the great—stuff you have done, the stuff you have done for us, for me, try to think about that for a minute. For example—if it weren’t for you, because of you, me and the sibs would not have learned to love the small animals that live near the stream back at the old house. But you know that already—it has been one of your gifts to us all. You have never harmed any of us.
But there has been a kind of family secret that we need to get out from under, and I guess that it’s partly out now. You know some of it, and that’s the part your worrying over, and the others know some, but there is a part that only I know anything about. It has a bit to do with animals.
We now accept that voice activated computers have come of age. There are many applications of voice input that are used by people wishing to avoid using their keyboards. We read about direct brain control of the computer interface and have seen convincing demos of this in action as a prosthetic assist and as research effort. Soon that too will seem commonplace.
The profusion of technologies that offer novel ways for people to enter information into their computers will continue to amaze us. But will the keyboard ever disappear? I strongly doubt it.
Why would we not want to abandon a mechanical kluge, that is noisy, prone to repetitive stress injuries, ergonomically ridiculous in it’s qwerty modality, and slow? Even so, we writers will hang onto our keyboards with our aching fingers even as technical wizards and early adopters call us luddites.
We like our keyboards for the same reasons that we like musical instruments. They serve nearly identical purposes. Human language has deep roots. Early primate language was very likely a mixture of gesture and musical vocalizations. Imagine a lot of hand and finger waving with sounds that are part singing and part muttered intonations. Other species and evolutionary branches are much the same using body position, vibration, arching, puffing, color, and ritualized ‘dance’.
Penmanship and cursive writing served us well and fulfilled some of the same purposes for hundreds of years, just look at the fancy almost carved letter work in a handwritten document from the past several centuries. The visual text supported and illustrated the meaning of the text.
Almost every developed society has it’s own unique version of sign language for the deaf. These expressive languages are rich in meaning, art, and subtlety—and they are gesture languages. They are languages of the body, the arms, the hands and fingers, the face, eyes and mouth.
What does this collection of apparently unrelated examples tell us about keyboards? That they are a continuation of hand gestures and signing, they are in a way related to music and music making. When we type many of us ‘run’ a parallel soundtrack of the written language in our mind’s-ear as it appears on the screen. Nobody else can hear it, but it must sound right to us. This is an integral part of the creative process for writers like myself.
Is there much difference between my Mac Book Pro laptop keyboard and a pianist’s keyboard? My keyboard holds many aesthetic pleasures for me. It has a satisfying ‘feel’ that is rich in kinesthetic feedback to my fingers and hands. It is klicky and tub-thumpy. It makes satisfying sounds for my ears to use in judging if keys have been properly struck. It is warm to the touch and the keys are softly sculpted to cradle my fingertips. I usually don’t like other keyboards. Most importantly, when I use my keyboard in a writing project, I feel free. The freedom of expression that the keyboard offers to a trained touch-typist is a great pleasure. It is a freedom machine for the mind. There it is— what a good keyboard offers is pleasure in creating a musical and meaningful text. You can’t take that away from me.
The NYT has proven itself again and again during this Democratic race to be as conservative as anyone in the industry. The media ’s “molly coddling” of Senator Obama has been as rampant as the sexism towards Senator Clinton. To imply that Senator Obama is somehow a weak and helpless victim of a strong woman candidate, is ridiculous and astounding in this century. It is interesting that the fact that he was raised by a white mother and grandparent, while being abandoned by his African father has been played down in the media. Multicultural would be a more accurate description of Obama's background, not simply focusing on the ethnicity of his father. Isn’t that a rascist, as well as sexist position for the media to take about Senator Obama’s personal history? “Lack of luck and skill” is not the issue for Senator Clinton… The media has set the stage for this, and I am sad to say that the NYT has played a major role in perpetuating the sexism and 1950’s mentality towards a strong and extremely competent candidate for President of the United States.
This was first posted by L.H. Freedman on May 19th, 2008 @1:31 PM in the New York Times.
Many Americans, and especially the press and media, fear, talk about, and impugn strong confident women who enter the generally hardball realm (or kick-boxing ring) of political power. While we are all free to talk in any way we wish to, expressing ourselves in either healthy or unhealthy ways, the media and the press have a greater impact on government then the rest of us when they pronounce or broadcast prejudicial speech, sly winking innuendo and personal neurosis in place of balanced measured opinion and factual journalism.
The media therefore have an obligation to us all to hold their opinion and journalism to the highest possible standards. They cannot behave like a snickering high-school locker-room gang if they are to maintain credibility as the Fourth Estate. Some members of the press and media (and ourselves) would benefit us all if they had their heads examined.
I am not attempting to present a psychobiography of either Democratic candidate but instead to inspire all of us, especially individuals in the media, to examine and outgrow a few of our attitudes, fears and prejudices. Each of us manifests our own personal psychodynamics, and those effect how we might correctly judge or misjudge the characters of the candidates. In the interests of writing accurate reportage or making sound decisions each person in the media and press should strive to identify and separate our neurotic reactions, resentments and old childhood fears, particularly regarding powerful women, from the real issues of candidacy and presidential office.
As a lifelong Democrat and a retired psychotherapist I watch and listen to the debates between two fine Democratic candidates for nomination to the presidency with the fabled psychotherapist’s ‘third ear’.
My ‘third’ ear hears a great deal of intolerable, underhanded anti-female rhetoric, particularly from within the media. I also hear that both candidates are locked into a sorry three-way zero-sum battle with the press and with each other while the rest of us watch or cheer the fight. I hope that we can learn what our unconscious positions are, become more aware of them, question them, and that all might benefit from some self-searching for the benefit of the democratic and Democratic Party process.
This posting is another in what I now realize will be a longer series on the life-cycle and utility of communication channels. The first, posted on December 14, 2003 is entitled: Six Stages In The Life Cycle Of Communication Channels.Six Stages In The Life Cycle Of Communcation Channels Now in this current paper I will consider the special case of information propagation and dissemination for original, disruptive, or counterintuitive intellectual content.
The peer-review process filters undesirable qualities from publications within scientific and academic communities. It is generally intolerant of innovations, disruptive observations, and contributors whose work is nearly entirely original (with the exception of mathematics), yet these qualities are essential to a healthy intellectual environment.
Original workers take great risks, often remain isolated from their peers, and are typically shunned and disrespected by potential employers. They are lonely thinkers that crave colleagues and dialogue.
The web-log, or blog, is now the most accessible as well as the most rapid route to publication for these original minds, and it does offer some dialogue. But the blogosphere is a generally a chaotic and unreliable marketplace for information. It is more often used for agglomerating news, publishing news and commentary or accessing news, either personal or news of interest to the greater community, than as a portal for serious intellectual publication.
Publishing original material on a blog is risky because the contribution is automatically branded unreliable because the writers become known by the company that they keep, and that company is far too often intellectually messy and unreliable.
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Who is out there reading this work? I would like to know what interests you about the pieces you read on this weblog. What are you working on? Why have you searched out this Blog? Have you quoted these papers? if so why and where? Could you take a moment and leave a comment on the comments sections? Would you be so kind as to e-mail me some answers and perhaps share your own work with me? Writing a Blog is a bit like shouting into a canyon during a blizzard. Please send me an echo.
My library, wedged into cardboard boxes since a flood in the studio nearly a year ago, is at last released onto new shelves. Each book was acquired to answer, at a moment of question or desire, a need to telescopically reach beyond my own vision or understanding. Despite being carefully grouped and labeled in boxes they had become mysterious and weighty, not merely heavy. They stacked up like obligations that waited silently for more comfort, order restored, fresher air, light and freedom. And the relief of a reader.
In two days with an assistant who loves books they were released and placed in stacks. I have never been able to scan a conventional bookcase, as in the stacks of a library or bookstore without neck-twisting that made me have to leave unsatisfied. My bookstore and library ventures have never been leisurely browses but are either a dyslexic, efficient and purposeful mission, or a quick impulsive raid. So my own shelves carry their books flat, with the text on their spines arrayed so I can read them. Each shelf is a paragraph of ideas. Each book is an individual treasure. I have abandoned those I would not lend out or read again except for reference texts. In this small library their spines and my own are untwisted.
Touching and remembering these books whose contents have nourished my mind, the information having passed from their pages into my brain’s cells, was a neural re-gathering, a reunion of associations. Now that I am old enough to forget even my own thoughts unless typed-down immediately (I am intentionally filling magnetic memory as a prosthesis that will support failed biological memory later) there is more surprise and delight in the sight of an old familiar but forgotten book-cover, or the handwritten note of an author.
Books must be categorized but ideas should not. Neither books nor ideas fit easily into classifications, they merge into each other suggestively, breaking through the bookends. A book on child development is also a book about the sensory world of the classroom and it’s physical environment, but that may only be one of it’s syncretic connections to many other books. The whole library, mine, yours and worldwide, is a single networking of human ideas present and past, a record of what we are and who we are likely to become again. We do not know it’s whole value unless we keep re-reading.
Kurt Vonnegut died last week. There is now one less of us keeping a cocked eye on things in a loony world. His clear eyes, clouded from within by cataracts of sadness from seeing how things go, knew the world as a strange place.
What does the term syncretic mean, and what does it mean as used in the context of this writing? Here are some definitions loosely extracted from the Random House Dictionary of the English language. They give us the following understanding:
When first my consciousness surfaced this morning from the night-long swim through sleep, I directed my attention to remembering a photograph of a woman who has been traveling much too long, someone I love, whose photograph I have looked at often, and with serious consideration during the writing of these essays.
While these sentiments may be important to her and myself, they are also important to my subject. I have been motivated to regard this image, to find charming details, new discoveries, to memorize it. I know this photograph. I have searched it almost microscopically for meaning. I also know other photographs, for there are many photographs that I admire as art, that I have examined carefully. This one is not art, only a snapshot. Before opening my eyes I readied myself to observe the experience of remembering this photograph. It happens fast. First there is no photo, then as I become aware that I intend to remember it, it is there in memory. But what has “appeared”, and where is it? What kind of representation am I examining so earnestly? Can I actually see it “in my minds eye”?
Publishing a web-log has shifted some gears in my mind— from neutral into first gear. It has also put me in touch with an audience that I have not had in forty years. Even one serious reader can make that happen.
I think that no one can be a writer unless they first love reading wonderful writing by others. That is not a sufficient criterion by itself, but it does ensure an occasional artistic warmth and generosity among otherwise often crusty competitors. Necessary for the ‘natural’ or real writer is a compulsive need to remember and refine, by means of ‘writing it down’, thoughts that come in waves, often in storms of waves, threatening to swamp and drown one another in foamy confusion leaving nothing on the beach for the next day. Writing, my own included, is therefore narcissistically not very generous (that is not to imply it is un-generous), and self-inventing. What can save a sinner like me are intellectually and artistically generous friends who are fine writers and who will ungrudgingly read one’s work. So for the first time, when I write, I imagine the eye and mind of one who will read and comprehend, whereas before I always wrote into the abstracted impersonal void. I never imagined an audience. Maybe my writing will become simpler and more personal for this favor—and personal writing demands more courage than writing impersonally.
I am not Gregor Samsa, but as I awoke this morning from complicated dreams I found my chin and chest transformed into a bed for a black cat.
My chin and chest belong to cats at the beginning and end of the day. However, what made this morning unusual was that I had gone to sleep after reading the first half of the wonderful prose, recently published in The New Yorker, of Gabriel Garcia Marquez entitled “personal History, The Challenge” (Oct. 6 2003, pg. 100, [as in “One Hundred Years Of Solitude”—this, in the New Yorker, could not be accidental].
Marquez, in his fantastic and real meditations is always more accurate about human experience than most psychology, because as he states in his article, he… “realized that my two great defects were the two greatest defects possible: the clumsiness of my writing and my ignorance of the human heart.” And so he made a lifelong project to become infinitely graceful dancing in this mysterious fog that drifts only at the mind’s “heart”. I share his first “defect”, my only similarity with this great writer and thinker, and I am now revealing the extent of my struggle with the second. In the case of G. Marquez, both defects are corrected.
Definitions of the term syncretic loosely extracted from the Random House Dictionary of the English language give us the following understanding: “Syn-cre-tism...1. the attempted reconciliation or union of different or opposing principles, practices, or parties, as in philosophy or religion. 2. Gram. The merging, as by historical change in a language, of two or more categories in a specified environment into one...”
In a series of posts, beginning with this one, I will publish thoughts and essays on syncretic and associative learning that I call "Breaking Boundaries". This writing will explore how meaning and creative process germinate and bloom in the mind. I offer the proposition that syncretic association is a mental process essential to both art and science, and suggest that it is the means by which our associative minds seek meaning in a world of disorganized raw information. Until we have detected some order within the chaos of raw experience, and have begun to form patterns that are significant to our understanding of that experience, we have only made simple percepts that are without meaning. I am exploring how the detection of pattern and order—the finding-out of cognizable features (that may be inherent in the fractal ‘raw’ experience of nature)—are synonymous with the detection and invention of meaning, and how they, together, may constitute the organic process of our creativity.
The Alex Foundation- Home page Irene Pepperberg studies cognitive process, teaching and learning in birds. She is problably the most recognized researcher on avian cognition in the world. Alex, her now famous long-time research subject and 'collaborator' recently died at half his life expectancy. Now Wart and Griffin are her collaborators. They are saying and doing things we used to believe that only small children, great apes, and dolphins could do. Her brilliant work deserves better funding.
Tai Chi Chen style Taiji quan- Instruction Marin Spivack is a masterful Teacher of Tai Chi in Salem, Massachusetts; Chen style Instruction in authentic Taiji martial arts, Qi cultivation, Tai Chi DVD videos. Chen Zhaokui Martial Arts Research Association, North America. He is also a composer, a saxophonist, and he is my son.
Minding the Planet Nova is a cognitive scientist and high-tech entrepreneur working on technologies that overcome our information overload. He has founded companies and is now developing interactive internet software, TWINE, that we all need. His thinking covers a great range. He is my Son.
Marin Spivack & Milo Francis | Amie Street Marin Spivack is a Composer, virtuoso saxophonist, Teacher of Tai Chi in Salem, Massachusetts; Chen style Instruction in authentic Taiji martial arts, Qi cultivation, Tai Chi DVD videos. Chen Zhaokui Martial Arts Research Association, North America. He is my son.