Wednesday, February 19, 2014

I wouldn't have seen it if I hadn't believed it

Nope, that's not me being especially clever, that's an actual quote by Canadian Marshall McLuhan.

In my currently overly-stressed, physically limited, non-writing state*, I find I haven't had the attention span to read much of anything. I've never been a big tv watcher, but lately I have been watching a number of documentaries online through MV Group.

Documentaries, like any information source, are interesting, not only for the actual information, but the lens the information is being filtered through. I'm not just talking about political/educational/environmental/etc agendas, but how our growing knowledge, as a humans species, changes how we process and present 'facts' and 'theories'.

I have talked about this before, but in a different context... how I enjoy reading books written in the past, mainly because of how the ideas of the time are considered horribly wrong/racist/sexist/etc in todays society... Bram Stoker's 'Dracula' is my favourite fiction example, and a series of books about world mythology, written by Oxford/Harvard/Yale/etc professors in the early 1900's is my favourite non-fiction example.

After being down with a bad cold for the past couple of days, I watched several documentary series created over a span of 20 years... from 1994 to present.

The 1994 one was especially interesting, a series called 'Ape Man' about human evolution, and the McLuhan quote came up in relation to how people viewed Neanderthals/etc during the last century, especially in the aftermath of the first and second world wars.**

The quote is quite brilliant when you think about it. We're so used to hearing it written the other way around, "I wouldn't have believed it if I hadn't seen it", as a testament to our western-world scientific view of the world around us, that we forget that our perspective when we view something is pre-coloured by our past experiences and beliefs. Our senses are not reliable... this has been proved numerous times in numerous ways.

And no, I'm not going to nerd-out on you, I promise.

Oddly enough, the quote took me away from science/etc and reminded me of another quote I had to Google to get the wording right since it's been... hmmm, probably 10+ years since I heard it:

I hear you say, “How unlucky that this should happen to me!” Not at all! Say instead, “How lucky that I am not broken by what has happened and am not afraid of what is about to happen. The same blow might have struck anyone, but not many would have absorbed it without capitulation or complaint.”
– Marcus Aurelius: The Emperor’s Handbook

For a more complete look at the quote, go here, or Google it yourself :)

I've talked many times before about trying to see silver linings, of looking for the good in the bad, of not dwelling on what's gone wrong, but on what's gone right, and yes, I think this also falls into the category of not seeing something unless you first believe it.

A long-time writing buddy and I exchanged a couple emails about my arm problems, and several of his own physical set-backs, and he said something similar to a previous post of mine about being able to mine bad situations, like injuries, for story material.

Attitude is just another lens through which to see the world. You'll only see bad things if you believe you've got bad luck, or are somehow being persecuted/held back by other people's beliefs/actions/etc.

If you keep chasing the elusive notion of 'happiness', if you're always focused on what you don't have, all that's going to happen is you throw away the good things you do have, because you'll never be satisfied, never take pride in what you've already got, or hold it in any value.

It's the equivalent of having a tapeworm... constantly devouring without being satiated or absorbing proper nutrition. You will be a cancer, not only on yourself, but on those around you.

And that's not healthy, in any aspect of life.

For dreams, especially, too. Chasing that goal on the horizon is awesome, but you still have to rest, you have to eat, you have to drink, you have to enjoy the journey and take pride in the miles walked, in the oases discovered, and in the companions at your side.

Sure, I'm waiting right now, not doing a whole heck of a lot while I'm healing, but I'm also trying to keep hoping, while at the same time, not putting too much pressure on myself, which would certainly cause me to re-injure my arm/back.

I know that means I'm not able to be online a lot lately, but continuing the flash fiction exercises on Fridays is one of the small happy things I'm holding onto right now.

Thank you to those few people who are playing along with me. You are bright stars in my sky :)

*No need to restate what's going on, I'm sure.

** My tastes are eclectic: Another series was on the status/conservation/extinction of big cats in Africa, and another was on animal brains/senses/problem-solving capabilities/etc. I also watched several travel documentaries, ones on specific animal species/areas of the world, the history of how 'murder' became such a popular British entertainment genre, frozen tombs of Mongolia, Dolly (the first cloned sheep), pet food, etc

The one called 'The Disunited States of Canada' is super interesting if you've ever wondered why many Canadians have such a strong, long-held dislike towards Ontario & Quebec.

I think the main reason being, there are 308 seats in the House of Commons, Ontario has 106 of them, Quebec has 75, so these two provinces have a stranglehold on Canadian politics, and will (obviously) never vote to give equal votes/seats to the other provinces. The rest of the Canadian provinces feel they are being treated as second-class citizens since, even if every other province is united in their position, they will be defeated by what Ontario & Quebec want... every single time.

And, like with any documentary, I certainly don't agree with all the individual views expressed... Seems they found an interesting 'range' of people to talk to.

Oh, and today's my big sister's birthday! ...although I know she doesn't read, or even know about my blog... but who cares!


  1. Powerful, Ms. Monkey. Indeed, like in the Psyche and Eros myth (my favorite, and I'm a fan of them all), believing *is* seeing. Nowhere is that more tangible, more undeniable, than in the emotional world, in relationships, especially in that relationship we so often neglect: the one with ourselves. You said it best: chasing the notion of happiness, assuming it's far away, not here, not even close, is the worst mistake. Talk about not seeing the forest for the trees (or is it the trees for the forest? whatever).

    I'm sorry I haven't joined a Friday Flash Bash lately; I've been up to my eyeballs in the A-to-Z challenge stuff (I'm helping out this year--yay [I think] me!) and helping to spread the word about that wonderful project I'm part of with the Australian publisher... pretty sure I saw a comment of yours on a post about this on my blog. Anyway--no more excuses. I'll join in this Friday. Promise :)

    Guilie @ Guilie @ Quiet Laughter

    1. Haha, I really wasn't trying to guilt you into joining ;) You've been up to some exciting things lately.

      The A-Z Challenge is coming soon, right? I've seen a few people posting about it, and was planning to join this year... but alas... tis not to be.

  2. This post was over my head but then I can't manage to keep much in my head. I'm a bit overwhelmed with what I ought to do what I must do and what I wish to do. Just get better please :D

    1. could have also just not made a whole heck of a lot of sense ;) I was writing it while feverish...

  3. I'm always fascinated by the sheer fallibility of the senses and our brains at understanding the world. We have a lot of senses, and most of them work on a passive level, and then our brain processes whatever it deems important using algorithms that made sense on the serengeti. And yet we can discuss that the universe is over 13 billion years old or attempt to wrap our heads poorly around quantum mechanics and string theories and how gravity might not actually originate in 'our' universe. What we're capable of given the limits of our senses and the fact that our brains are functionally lying to us pretty much all the time is damn impressive. The thing is -- the thing is that it's damn hard not to think about the limits of senses, our neutered understanding of reality and not get a little new agey about all of it, for good or ill. Attitude gets interesting in this as well -- just because one sees the best in others, for example, doesn't mean it is actually present. One can get a lot of story mileage from that alone.

    As a fun fact:most societies invent/discover colours in the same order. (radiolab covers it well here and this can pose a lot of fun questions in world building on other worlds, for example. A linguist did a long-term study on his own daughter using colours, telling her the colours of things. But never mentioned the sky. When they asked their daughter what colour the sky was, she couldn't name one.

    (I nerded out for you :) I pretty much begin every story I have that involved Weird Stuff and 'why aren't people aware OF this?' from the basis that we are, functionally, not aware of all that much, and extrapolate out from that) Seeing is believing, believing can also be seeing. Snarkily, one can say that seeing is where believing stops since it isn't needed anymore.)

    ... I should stop now. Yes.

    1. Haha, personally, I know I swing wildly from optimistic to cynic. I think I try to see the best in situations, not necessarily the best in people... I'm probably more a realist when people are involved ;) Customer service will do that to ya ;)

      The thing with being optimistic when it comes to circumstances is, you can never predict whether something is going to succeed or fail, but what you can do is position yourself to make the most of what happens... and, I think if all you're looking at is the situation falling down around you, you're not looking up ahead to see the branch you could leap, grasp, and save yourself...

      One line from that 'Ape Man' documentary series (that I can't remember word for word, so cut me some slack...) is that evolution isn't about big changes on the way to becoming something 'better', it's thousands of tiny changes that deal with the challenges of the moment. Like the classic example of moths in newly sooty Industrial Revolution London... the dark moths didn't survive because they were somehow becoming superior to the light moths... they just coincidentally had better camouflage on the soot-covered buildings and weren't eaten as fast as the light coloured moths.

      NEVER STOP!!! ...who else do I nerd-out about Weird Stuff with?

    2. Hah, yeah. The basic HS understanding of evolution is a damn dangerous thing to have, I think. You get people going evolution == chaos and that it tends toward progress, which is very much a Darwinian (aka Victorian :)) idea, rather than, say a reality. Also, I think, it is to some extent a holdover of the notion of some Power guiding evolution toward certain ends.

    3. I wrote, and deleted, six comments in a row... then remembered my policy to keep hot-button topics like religion off the internet ;)

    4. Hah! Point :) I tend not to, mostly because I think it kills discourse on them, but I definitely get the desire. I was mostly riffing off the fact that darwin's basic notions of evolution can be linked directly to the victorian mindset and beliefs that come with it. That the understanding of evolution moved beyond them counts as part of how we can use language in crazy and abstract ways -- and counts against some of the pessimism regarding our senses and their limits, I think.


Type me out a line of Shakespeare or a line of nonsense. Dumb-blonde-jokes & Irish jokes will make me laugh myself silly :)