Pass the Mustard

Wooaa…What is this?

It’s weird and it moves and it’s strange and it moves when I want it to and woaa… I might be the one moving it.  What is it.  I can see it.  I can’t hear it or can I.  I can feel it sort of.  It doesn’t smell right now…but it’s still strange.  If I can move it I wonder if I can…

A child relatively new in this world is in a constant state of exploration.  Their brains are developing rapidly and their attempts to “understand” the world in which they exist is often done with all the senses.  Sight, Sound, Smell, Touch, and Taste.  The baby is attempting to ‘Grok’ its hand.  And it could be said that the act of coming to an understanding reaches a climax at the point when the child places the strange thing into its mouth.  Here the child can simultaneously see that it is attached to its arm, hear the sound of saliva against skin, catch smells of whatever it last held, feel the intricacy of the thing against its teeth and lips, and finally taste that which the child may one day call a hand.

There is something important about fully engaging as many senses as possible with anything that you are trying to understand.  The Martian concept of ‘Grokking’ as presented by Robert Heinlein takes the concept of understanding to another level and perhaps connects with the childish draw to engage all of your senses in the effort.  To fully understand another individual and all of their experiences in the Martian tradition requires that after an individual dies “his friends eat what he no longer has any use for, ‘grokking’ him, as mike would say and praising his virtues as they spread the mustard”

I am not recommending cannibalism on any level or for any reason.  Rather simply reflecting on the interesting correlation between our childish fascination with putting things in our mouth as we try to make sense of them and Heinlein’s depiction of a Martian tradition to accomplish the same thing after an individual’s ‘corporate’ life has come to an end.  The both share an engagement of all our senses in an attempt to reach ‘fullness’ or come to a complete understanding.  As we augment our intellect and reality with technology are we unable to fully engage our senses and does that limit the understanding we can reach?

2 thoughts on “Pass the Mustard

  1. Did you ever wish you had smellovision? The mention of it in the reading triggered memories of myself as a kid dreaming up ways of delivering the smells of the food network (I was a strange kid…) to me while I was watching Good Eats (http://www.foodnetwork.com/good-eats/index.html). I had the same feeling that I was being deprived of an essential part of the experience. There was all of this delicious looking food, but I was not going to be able to eat it or smell it unless I made it for myself (which has a merit all its own). I think it would have a significant impact though if I could have smelled it. Then I would another point of reference to judge the competency of my own cooking from. However, the flip side of this coin is that without television I would not have been able to watch the show in the first place. Perhaps you are thinking of a different condition where technology takes the place of “real” experiences and actually serves to narrow our experience rather than expand us, but I could also see this problem differently. Now that we have access to a new form of communication, we compare it to our “real” experiences and they are inherently seen in a negative position because they aren’t as good (real), but really they are additive to our experience and will only continue to get better (hopefully).

    • I inwardly smiled at the mention of smellovision as I remembered a childhood trip to Disney world where there was a ‘3-D show‘ that sprayed water in your face and used some sort of basic smellovision. I remember being blown away by the experience and not quite being able to figure out what had just happened. So many of my senses had been engaged that I was unsure where the line between show and real world lie.
      You bring up the very dilemma that I am trying to explore. As technology becomes more pervasive does it start to take the place of “real” experiences? Let’s define “real” as face to face interaction with another living creature. The value of this definition of “real” could be debated but for this case let’s run with it. To interact with a piece of technology or screen do you need to disengage with your “real” surroundings? Research seems to point at the fact that true multitasking is impossible. Do we as a society start to willing choose an interaction with a screen over those real surroundings? And why and in what circumstances might we choose that option?
      “Now that we have access to a new form of communication, we compare it to our “real” experiences and they are inherently seen in a negative position because they aren’t as good (real), but really they are additive to our experience and will only continue to get better (hopefully).”
      I’m a little unclear about your use of the word “they” in this last sentence but I think you are trying to point out that the new form of communication has the potential to add to our experience or augment “Reality” as we have defined it. Cell phones allow us to arrange meetings with friends, access the unlimited knowledge database almost anywhere, and stay in touch with a distant family member.
      As we use text messages to continuously plan and modify those plans we are now almost required to be connected to be sure said plans have not changed last minute. It seems like something about giving someone’s “Word” is shifting as it becomes an assumption that we are always connected and accessible.
      I’m not sure that many can argue that Google is not making an impact on how we search for information. It’s a great tool and I’m not sure how I would do research or even write this message without it but it is also interrupting conversations when the couple conversing reaches an edge of their mutual understanding. Instead of reveling in the unknown for a time the instantaneous reaction is to Google it. I wonder if there is a shallowness to the information we are letting interrupt our “real” interactions?
      I also love that I can stay in touch with my family who live 400+ miles away but I am fortunate enough to have parents who understand when I choose not to immediately reply to their messages. I speak with many people who still feel tethered to their parents even though they are living on their own at college. With young children being given cell phones these days I wonder if there is a change in the maturation process that had happened once you were allowed to go exploring on your own. If your parents are always tethered to you through a device in your pocket does it change how you behave in situations and does it have an impact on an individual developmentally?
      I realize that technology is adding to our experience. My question is how you measure a “better” experience and why you include a reservation in parentheses at the end of your comment.

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