"Like the study of science and art, accounts of historical events can be intrinsically fascinating. But they have a wider significance. I believe that people are better able to chart their life course and make life decisions when they know how others have dealt with pressures and dilemmas---historically, contemporaneously, and in works of art. And only equipped with such understanding can we participate knowledgeably in contemporary discussions (and decisions) about the culpability of various individuals and countries in the Second World War. Only with such understanding can we ponder the responsibilty of human beings everywhere to counter current efforts at genocide in Rwanda and the former Yugoslavia to bring the perpetrators to justice."
"...we humans are the kinds of animals who learn chiefly by observing others---what they value, what they spurn, how they conduct themselves from day to day, and especially, what they do when they believe that no one is looking."
----Howard Gardner, from The Disciplined Mind, published in 1999

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Dancing with Sir Isaac; or, Maintaining Equilibrium in a New Year

"Make problem behaviors irrelevant: Developers of the plan should identify those situations (stimulus conditions) that set the occasion for problem behaviors and organize the environment to reduce the likelihood that these conditions are encountered....Making the problem behavior irrelevant typically involves structural changes: altering the physical settings, enriching the environment, improving the activities or curriculum, increasing predictability and choice options available to the person.

Make problem behaviors inefficient: The efficiency of a behavior refers to the combined effects if (a) the physical effort required for a person to perform the behavior, (b) the number of times the person must perform the behavior before he or she is reinforced...and (c) the time delay between the first problem behavior and the reinforcement...When feasible, the support plan should define an alternative, socially appropriate, and more efficient way for the person to achieve the same reward. "


--- O'Neill, Horner, Albin, Sprague, Storey, Newton;
Functional Assessment and Program Development for Problem Behavior: A Practical Handbook, Second Edition

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p=mv

---Sir Isaac Newton

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B1/ B1+B2 = R1/R1 +R2
(proportion of responses = proportion of reinforcement)
---The Matching Law , Richard Hernnstein

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...Physician, heal thyself.
---The Bible, Luke 4:23



Dear reader, I do thank you for joining me this past year. You have helped me so very much with this thing called language, this thing that is one of the most social of behaviors. You are most excellent teachers, all; I wish for you the good stuff of your best hopes and dreams in 2008.
You know, when I was a girl growing up, New Year's Eve and Easter were always ever more exciting for me than Christmas, more than Valentine's Day or birthdays. New Year's Eve and Easter, these were the holidays that truly seemed holy: out of nothing, something comes.
That to me, was always the Good Stuff, something not to be taken lightly for sure.
But I must share with you before this new year is any older something that happened this year that very much affected me in the same sleight-of-hand manner. Hopefully this will answer my dear friend Artist's question that she posed to me in
this post closing my writing about violence for the month of October.

Dear reader, it is difficult to explain how one can move beyond violence.

I often think about the urban legend that says that the sounds of the eruption of Vesuvius were recorded, Edison-style, on the clay that was being built up upon the potter's wheels of that day: spinning on the wheel, taking the voice of the hands, but ultimately overwritten by doom and petrified. Once impressed and solidified in such a manner, such a pot could only repeat those sounds; there would be no way to retrieve the sounds of the potter's hands before it.

If you looked at the pot as a vehicle for sound, then you would have no choice but to accept its record. If you cannot accept its terrible record in your possession, than you would have to change the record by destroying the pot: it could be broken into shards, the shards ground up and made into slip, some cycle of creation and destruction begun anew. All in all, a most inefficient way to address the situation---at least for me, dear reader.

Or you could look at the pot as a vessel; when you see the pot this way, you change it. When you see the pot this way you change yourself. All in all, a most efficient way to address the situation---at least for me, dear reader.

I was in the habit of googling X. I had done so mostly for concerns of safety. I wanted to know that BG and I had that buffer zone that physical distance gives. Sometime in the summer, I retrieved hits that I had never before seen in association with X. When I opened these links, I saw that they were conversations from an internet discussion group. In some, X was a participant; in others, X was the topic of conversation. The common thread in each and every discussion was the absolute social isolation of X. He was completely isolated from the others, and frenetically, vehemently oppositional, hostile: at every turn, his attempts to establish himself by aggression and vitriol landed him in an even more derisive position with the others. Just as suddenly as he sprung up, he was suddenly quiet.

I cannot tell you what it was to me to read all the invective hurled by him and hurled at him. It broke my heart. It was deeply distressing that such a being could still be caught in such patterns of suffering---and this was, when it all came down to it, the biological father of my BG. I felt incredibly saddened. I began crying for no reason while doing dishes, while walking from my car across the parking lot into the grocery store. It took a little bit of time to accept that feeling. Not long after, it lessened: in its place, I felt confused. Uncomfortable. Off balance. Out-of-kilter.

Where did it come from, this compassion? I had abandoned attempts at any concepts of forgiveness towards X, truly I had. You can't get blood out of a turnip, they say. You can't get that out of neroli, I said. And yet it came anyway.

Truly, without my experience with X, without that Vesuvian destruction that altered my record, that song that would play if anyone would apply pressure with the right instrument---without that, I would not be able to understand what it feels like to be in another place, another world, separate from everyone else you are my world and I should be yours, he says as he tightens the ties that bind, nor would I be able to appreciate difficulty in using language to communicate from that place. I would not be able to accept physical aggression on the job as calmly as one who has never experienced it. I would not be able to see behavior as communication as clearly as I do today.

I would not be able to understand the beauty of looking at something in a different way, in a way that looks for inherent goodness, rather than its flaws.
I would not be able to understand the chain of reactions that occur, the momentum one can achieve, when one chooses to look at something one way rather than the other way: yes to this, no to that.
I may be marked, but I won't replay the sounds of violence.
I've got capacity to be what is useful, and therefore, good: perhaps even beautiful.
And that's the good stuff: something from nothing, dear reader.
Hey Rocky! Watch me pull a rabbit out of my hat!
Again?
That's what new years are made of.
I wish the best of this one for you.

9 comments:

Pravs said...

Happy new year to you and your family ! wishing you the best and let our friendship grow as days go by :)

The Artist formerly Known as Purpleworms (!) said...

It was an answer well worth waiting for.

Have a wonderful new year at your new job.

I think you will do well. I believe our environment changes us and our own clay is (in my opinion) never fully hardened. I think each vessel plays slightly differently under different circulmstances. There are permenant etchings, but we also see the vessel differently every encounter.

Linda said...

Happy New Year to you and your family, Neroli dear! Wishing you all things bright and beautiful in 2008 :)

Diane O'Connor said...

What a beautiful entry and what a gift to be able to consciously make a choice to think about things the way you think about them. You're definately ahead of the game.

Pelicano said...

How very true Neroli! I hadn't considered that: to survive, being able to read that silent language well got us through. For me it is a blessing, mostly. A double-edged sword though, and after the initial shock I found it best to install movable blinds surrounding said vessel; and then a post-it note for its opposite: I can also radiate.

neroli said...

Dear Pravs, thank you, my friend---my feelings exactly for you!

Dear Artist, I am glad that you were patient for your answer---of course, you have much to add to it: I love thinking about different ways of playing those same grooves! (I think I'll need all the help I can get these first few weeks of the new year ;)

Dear Linda, thank you! Coming from one as bright and beautiful as yourself, it means a lot!

Dear Diane, as always, thank you for your kindness and generousity of how you see things!

My dear Pel, I love this word, this thinking about radiation!
As always, my friend, you inform me in wonderful ways.
And double-edged swords? I'm trying to master the art of that old saying that goes "it's all in how you slice it." Or is it "dice it?!?" :)

Pelicano said...

Are you mincing my words Neroli? :-D

Anita said...

You have such a wonderful way of looking back...and to the future. I always come away from here with a new way of seeing things...

Happy New Year, Neroli.

neroli said...

Of course not, dear Pel---no more than I would make a "cutting" remark :-D !

Dear Anita, as do you for me and all your readers/devotees...please keep my spot reserved at that lovely Mad Party of yours.
We can't wait to see what the New Year will bring ;)!