Children of the Mind

I finished up listening to Jordan Peterson lecture on Jung last night. He spent two lectures taking apart the movie The Lion King and analyzing it for archetype and Jungian symbolism. It’s a great lecture if you have two or three hours where your hands are busy but your brain isn’t. As a matter of fact, the podcast recently has been all psychology and philosophy including a several-part analysis of Pinocchio. As a writer, I highly recommend all of them. Not that I’m going to self-consciously insert any of this into my work. However, it’s fascinating, it helps understand not only how the human mind ticks, but it helps with understanding how narrative factors in.

One of the comments Peterson made about Jung involved looking at the night sky and projecting fantasies into it. Which made me stop and think about science fiction and the enduring popularity of a genre. In some ways, we do project our fantasies into outer space. Especially in the last few decades, as the thrill and drama of the space race gave way to the increasingly risk-averse culture that seemed to make real space exploration an ever more distant possibility. And then, the doors to the stars creaked open again, pushed by the crews of the Dragon. Is it any wonder our imaginations are fired?

I don’t remember where I picked up the concept of the Children of the Mind. I’ve been listening to a lot of people while my brain needed stimulation. (can you die of boredom? I’m sure not, but I’m a lot more sympathetic to my kids whining about being bored after the last few months). I like the concept, a whole lot. I have children of the body as I just referenced. Four of them, more than replacement capacity, and they are pretty awesome people. Only one left at home, and poor Little Man misses having siblings to play with. Which means the curmudgeon and I spend a lot more time with him. Which has led to discovering that the kid has a sharp brain (none of my kids are below average intelligence. Do they choose to use it? Not always.) and a willingness to debate in something approaching a logical manner. Which we have been honing, because logic is…

Not always useful. I was reading a book meant to teach analytical, logical thought processes. In the introductory chapters, the author points out that in hunter-gatherer times, logical thought would have been a downright handicap. When something moves in your peripheral vision, you move in the other direction reflexively, and fast. You don’t stand there and analyze what it might have been, because you’ll wind up with no children, of the body or the mind. Hence, humanity has been selected and adapted toward instinctive reactions, and away from ratiocination.

It wasn’t until the rise of civilization that children of the mind could be borne. Safely clustered, where men would be able to fend off the predators that lurked in the night, the rise of the storyteller at the night’s fire began. With that, came the kernel that has grown into the modern age, where the fruits of his labors in teaching those who listened are now borne forth as novels, philosophy, in strange shapes like ebooks and podcasts and movies and even books would have amazed that man so long ago. But it’s a lineage that can trace back, as the children of his mind taught many others themselves and so on. We see this with great teachers and their students. I’m not talking about the shallow, brief relationship of the elementary school, or really any modern schools. You just don’t have the time or energy to mentor when you have a class of 30 small children, or 300 in a lecture hall. Which means that, again, this relationship of germinating ideas in another’s brain has shifted.

Me? If I had to say who my progenitors in writing were, I’d point at Sarah Hoyt and Dave Freer. They encouraged my early work, and more than anything, pointed me in the right directions, gave me some impetus to finish work and make it public, and supported me when I was a writing ball of insecurities. I don’t think I write like either of them (I could be wrong) but they mentored me and that made me what I am today. I wouldn’t be here without them, and I don’t mean just writing at the Mad Genius Club. I’d never have tried to write a novel, let alone have ten of those little monsters. The really weird thing? I have folks who come asking me for help and answers to questions now. I’m still a ball of insecurities. I’ll answer what I can, but I’m *flails* just me.

12 comments

  1. The concept that a low technology, low margin environment favors instinctual over logical reactions is a popular one, but I think it’s largely held by people who live in a high technology, high margin world.

    In a crisis situation it is imperative to react quickly, yes, but it is also imperative to act logically. Reacting to movement by running away may be an instinctive reaction, but it’s also one that will get you killed if what you spotted was a predator that can run faster than you can. Acting on impulse rather than first thinking things through is, I submit, a luxury that only people who live in a safe environment can afford.

    Human beings survive danger by thinking logically and understanding the root causes of the danger. Instinct won’t help you when the wolves attack, what you need is a fortified position, and when the pack charges it’s too late to start building a fence. You need to understand that there are wolves in the woods, know their habits and capabilities, and take countermeasures before you see and hear and smell them.

    I expect that idea that so-called primitive man was able to survive by fast reflexes and instinctive reactions is just more of the modern self-congratulating tendency to equate being relatively pampered with being smarter than our forbearers.

    1. Indeed, to my mind the threshold of civilization is the point where the species developed the ability to override that animal instinct.

    2. Agree. I don’t think we, as a species are any smarter than we were five thousand years ago. If anything, we know less about surviving because so much of the hard work has been done for us.

  2. Another problem with schools as they are today is that one-on-one mentorship and encouragement are very, very risky. We teachers are warned again and again not to favor any student, even former students still in the school, and to gently discourage students who want more discussion than just tutoring and class assistance. The legal liability if someone else takes “intellectual fostering” as “favoritism and worse” is too great. *SIGH* I’ve had students I would love to mentor, encourage, take as intellectual protegés, but it is too dangerous.

    1. I hadn’t thought of this, but I can see it now that you bring it up. It’s a tragedy. I know I could have used some wise guidance while I was in college, but didn’t really get much. I was fortunate to have an advisor who did some mentoring as well.

    2. Which is a durn shame and ultimately destructive, as who knows what we thereby lose?

      My fondest memories from an excellent school system (where I’d hazard kids who hated school were a rarity) are all of teachers not only willing but eager to go that extra mile for any student either in difficulty with the subject, or especially interested in it.

  3. Children of the Mind showed up inSFnal circles in the sequels to Enders Game. I’m having a Professor Kirke moment and assuming he got it from Plato. But I’m probably wrong about that.

    Be careful with listening to Mr. Peterson with half your brain in neutral: He’s a materialist magician.

  4. N.B. Children of the mind include the Lascaux (sp?) cave paintings, the songs and the memory stories told to help through the early Spring starving time, and the way getting that wolf cub to do what you want.

    You know I love artists and writers like pancakes, but the progenitors of those children of the mind include the proto engineers and natural historians.

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