RE: Why Europe is so Contrary

From: Lawrence DeBivort (
Date: Sun 24 Nov 2002 - 17:12:26 GMT

  • Next message: Grant Callaghan: "Addiction"

    Hi, Grant,

    Very interesting comments. I know what you mean about sports obsession. The son of a dear friend showed considerable promise in golf when he was a kid; the decision was made by the family to help him develop this skill and become a professional. Studies were neglected in favor of golf tournaments. he made it into a mediocre college despite a poor academic record, but couldn't make the golf team. Transferred to another mediocre college where he was promised a team position. The golf floundered, and he graduated with no skills. Took a job as a salesman. I went to his wedding a while back. A terrific kid, friendly, outgoing, but with few professional prospects. It struck me all as a great loss.

    We can become obsessed by lots of different things, and I think that some change takes place in the brain when it does. Do you remember one of the very first computer games? The cursor would move in jerky fashion about the screen. I got hooked and played throughout the night. Next day I picked up the newspaper and found that my eyes were moving across the page in the same jerky fashion. It took some hours for the phenomenon to disappear.

    Perhaps addictive behaviors are just some fancy variant on this notion of obsession?

    In a previous professional incarnation, I developed some cognitive tools to help people break addictive behaviors (smoking, alcohol, 'light' drugs, diet, etc) and phobias. We had very good success rates, compared to other techniques, but the thing that struck me was how hard it was to accomplish, even when the patient wanted to do so. Oddly enough, phobias turned out to be the quickest, easiest and most reliable pattern to break.

    I wonder if it might be possible to treat memes as addictive behaviors..... Hmmmmm.

    Thanks for the provocative thoughts....

    Cheers, Lawry

    > -----Original Message-----
    > From: []On Behalf
    > Of Grant Callaghan
    > Sent: Sunday, November 24, 2002 10:55 AM
    > To:
    > Subject: RE: Why Europe is so Contrary
    > Hi Lawry,
    > Play is the way children and adults practice the skills they need
    > to do more
    > serious work later in life. The only time I see a problem with
    > it is when
    > people get so wrapped up in it that it takes over their lives.
    > I'm reminded
    > of the football and other sports players who go to college on
    > scholarships
    > and devote so much of their time to sports they never learn
    > anything useful
    > outside of the sport they majored in. Of the thousands of young men and
    > women who graduate this way many are left being fit only to hold
    > low-level
    > jobs or live on welfare after they graduate. Only 30
    > professional football
    > teams with less than 50 players each offer something to the thousands of
    > wannabe stars on the gridiron.
    > The average life in sports is about four years. Then it's back
    > to real life
    > and, if they've not spent all their money on fun and getting high
    > in the off
    > season, they have a nice nest egg they can live on for a while. But the
    > ones who didn't make it or who got injured (about 80% to 90%
    > estimate) are
    > in a position of having to start over with no real goal in life.
    > It leads a
    > lot of people who could have been really good at something to
    > playing a kind
    > of mental solitare I call "If only ...".
    > The Chinese talk about people who get into the study of Taoism and get so
    > lost in it that it consumes their whole life. I think game
    > playing can be a
    > lot like that for the person who develops the skill to a point of
    > obsession.
    > Language and meme development, to my mind, are just skills built around
    > tools we've developed. We learn to use the tools in childhood and the
    > rewards for being really good at those skills lead us to doing it for a
    > living. But for those who are not good enough to compete on a
    > professional
    > level, a mind is wasted because society has no place and no use
    > for them.
    > Thus we get taxi-driving PhDs and waitresses who want to become
    > an actress.
    > Usually they're not really good at either calling.
    > Some of these may be the people who become terrorists, for
    > example. People
    > who are consumed with an idea and think they can change the world
    > by forcing
    > it on others. Playing at war eventually becomes an act of terror
    > and a life
    > devoted to running and hiding -- skills we started developing by
    > playing war
    > and hide and seek as children. I'm reminded of the Symbionese Liberation
    > Army here. All of these 50-something people going to jail now to pay for
    > the crimes they thought they left behind them. There's a similar
    > group in
    > Italy. This is one of the consequences of playing run amok. A
    > fantasy life
    > takes over someone's real life and the game becomes their reality.
    > On the other hand, you have guys like Tiger Woods who began
    > playing a game
    > at four years of age and took that game to heights that make him
    > the envy of
    > golfers around the world. He can indulge in his game for the rest of his
    > life and get paid for it. The ultimate game player's fantasy.
    > I find games interesting in themselves for the way they take life
    > and create
    > a practice field for it. By adding restrictions in the form of
    > rules, they
    > keep people from hurting each other while they practice at full tilt.
    > There's a lot of value to society in this activity, even when it
    > leaves some
    > people broken and destitute from being too narrowly focused on
    > one thing.
    > Chess teaches us to think, but if chess is all we ever think
    > about we lead
    > very narrow lives.
    > Well, enough of this mind wandering.
    > Cheers,
    > Grant
    > >
    > >Hi, Grant,
    > >
    > >Sorry I missed your initial posting on this. Too busy keeping the jibes
    > >flowing, I guess <smile>.
    > >
    > >I think you've described the play accurately. Our own memetic
    > case study.
    > >
    > >Oddly, though, there is an undertone of seriousness about it,
    > too. Joe is
    > >worried that people don't see the threat that he believes
    > surrounds him/us.
    > >I, and others, are worried that those who see the world as Joe does will
    > >lead the US to doing dangerous things in the world. In the same way that
    > >Indian princes (I am told) were instructed in chess as a way to learn war
    > >strategy, so we practice our memes here, knowing that there is a
    > world out
    > >there in which they may come to operate.
    > >
    > >Cheers,
    > >Lawry
    > >
    > >
    > > > > >When Joe and Lawry were trading jibes, each chose particular words
    > >and
    > > > >ideas
    > > > > >to achieve a specific set of goals. Some goals included
    > attempts at
    > > > > >dominance, the change of mind set in lurkers, attempts to
    > humiliate
    > >the
    > > > > >other party (part of dominance), attack and defense with word
    > > > play, and a
    > > > > >good time was had by all. It was the verbal equivalent of
    > a game of
    > > > >chess.
    > > > > >It was also a good example of how we use memes, transfer memes, and
    > > > > >contribute to the meme pool in general.
    > > >
    > >
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