Re: The sex-death continuum

Ton Maas (
Thu, 9 Apr 1998 12:58:36 +0200

Message-Id: <v03102803b1525409b84c@[]>
In-Reply-To: <>
Date: Thu, 9 Apr 1998 12:58:36 +0200
From: Ton Maas <>
Subject: Re: The sex-death continuum

Bob Grimes wrote:
>subsequent reprogramming (re-education, psychotherapy, etc.)
>necessary to
>"rewire" the associative network into a more healthy and
>supportive network as the fundamental identifications were
>replaced, I
>used to equate with teaching someone who had spoken English
>all their life
>to "dream in Spanish."

Once again a wonderfully insightful contribution! Made me think of the
too-often unnoticed "safety valves" in (un)conscious communicative
processes. Take as an example the "neurotic" attitude to child rearing many
contemporary parents show: "Please tell me what's the good thing to do with
my baby because I'm afraid of screwing up big-time and cause irreparable
damage". There is a curious correllation between this neurosis and the
proliferation of childcare books, each with its own preference, emphasis or
worse. From an anthropological viewpoint it is quite easy to see how this
whole "problem" has been inflated over time, causing subsequent generations
of parents to be increasingly insecure about their parenting habits, while
at the same time it is an anthropologically observable fact that children
_do_ manage to survive various styles of care and rearing. Apparently the
self-corrective mechanisms involved are much more reliable than we tend to
give them credit for. A comparison with sexual reproduction may be in
order. As we are mainly focusing on the genetic dimension of that now, we
tend to overlook the archaic processes of embryology, which in a way secure
the passing of the embryo through a series of "correct" steps in order to
be born. The wisdom implicit in the writings of "dissident" biologists such
as Lamarck and D'Arcy Thompson points at aeons-old mechanisms which make it
_very_ difficult for genetic "whims" to produce organisms with, say, three
eyes or five limbs (although six digits is somehow less of a problem). In
any natural communicative domain (all natural languages) we can clearly
observe redundancy at work, again as a built-in safety device to ensure
adequate compatibility between individuals and subsystems. It is amusing to
see how information-technocrats usually dream up low-to-no-redundant
schemes, which they expect to be less "inefficient", thereby leaving them
virtually unprotected to errors and other unpredictabilities. My mentor
used to say that development is always a balancing act between rigor and
imagination, and that the tragedy of our civilization is that it grossly
favors imagination over rigor (overvaluates "creativity"), with madness
being the sociocultural outcome.


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