How many times during the course of your life have you created a social or personal reality or embraced one created by others? By this I am not referring to an imaginary playmate or fantasy job or such but, rather, to a reality or fact based on mutual agreement or assent.
Sound crazy? It isn’t. The imminent philosopher John Searle actually devoted part of a whole book to the thesis that there are 2 kinds of facts: Those that are facts no matter who observes them, and then there are those that only need people’s agreement or assent to them. A fossil ammonite, for instance, is a physical object that remains a fossil ammonite no matter who looks at it or holds it. A church group’s claim that an archangel hovered over their last meeting is a mental reality to those who perceived it but cannot be demonstrated to those who do not share this perception/belief-based perspective (The same can be said of some treatments and diagnostic techniques in the world of complementary-alternative medicine).
Ideally, such perception/belief based “facts” should enrich, uplift, solve a problem/resolve a dilemma or otherwise improve your life as well as that of others or at least not cause or inflict irredeemable (irreversible) loss or harm to those who do not embrace these.
One example I routinely employ to illustrate this is drawn from my own life: Throughout my younger days and well into my middle years I fancied having a daughter but did not (Busyness & distractions and not biological constraints laid waste to realizing this). As I inched into my 40s family and friends would sometimes ask if I had a “plan B” such as adopting a daughter or being a foster parent to a little girl. Given the fact I traveled to projects and assignments a great deal I did not consider this a prudent course of action. However, being a somewhat creative soul I would tell those who asked that, “The best remedy to a closed conventional door may be something novel. I’ll watch and see what presents itself” (I had no idea how prophetic these words would prove-to-be).
In 1999 my peripatetic path took me to Japan where I began teaching ESL courses to university students at, Teikyo kagaku daigaku (photo below – building housing my classroom) which in English is Teikyo University of Science & Technology (Later on I taught at a variety of private schools, corporations and even did some one-on-one tutoring). During the course of my tenure at TKU I was loaned to Asia University (North Tokyo) for a few weeks to teach intensive, advanced TOEIC exam prep classes.
Among the things most ESL instructors get around to asking their students is, “What is your dearest dream in life?” While hanging out with my students after class on one particular September day, I had the tables turned on me insofar as they insisted I tell them what “my dearest dream in life is”. I thought for a moment and then said “Well, to have a daughter”. All the young women gathered about me let out a collective “Oooo” and then something very unexpected happened: One of the seniors, Kazumi Shimodate, pushed her way through the crowd and loudly proclaimed, “I want to be your daughter!”. My first thought was “I wonder if Japanese jails have libraries with English language books?!” I then came up with what I thought was a foolproof method of “defusing” what initially struck me as a rather delicate situation: I told Kazumi that I would be honored to have her as my daughter — but in order to “make this so” she needed to get her parent’s permission. I figured this would be the end of the matter though what happened next would prove just how clever and resourceful this young lady was! To whit: Kazumi took a videotape of one of my 2 hour teaching sessions home to her folks. Now, mind you, neither her father — who owns 2 businesses in Saitama –nor her homemaker Mum — understood or spoke a word of English (And I was teaching in English — speaking slowly, yes — peppered with Japanese words and phrases for effect or to clarify a point). Long story short: Kazumi’s folks sat and watch the entire 2 hour tape! Then, her father turned to her and said, “Yes, absolutely — you can make Anthony-sensei (Dr. Anthony) your American father”. The next day Kazumi shared what her father had “decreed” and, with this, my “daughter dilemma” had been resolved. Long story short, Kazumi and I have been father and daughter in our hearts and conduct towards each other ever since.
And no, what Kazumi and I did was far removed from anything remotely Japanese. Alien to it actually. However, virtually every single Japanese soul who heard our story and watched us interact was smitten; that is, they found something incredibly charming in our having created or forged something as factual and real to us as any family relationship could be.
This father-daughter relationship by mutual assent and declaration has been a most fruitful one. Among the many blessings it has accorded me, my Nihonjin musume (Japanese daughter) got married and in 2011 presented me with a magomusume (My granddaughter, Wakana) and, in 2014, a magomusuko (My grandson, Yoshito). I’ve posted many photos of Kazumi and my grandchildren at http://www.pinterest.com/choctawdoc/watachi-wa-nihonjin-musume-magomusume-etc/.
Now, having shared how a “manufactured fact” blessed me and many others, I would ask: If you are not busy explorimenting (my term) with such life affirming & enriching reality-spinning, why not?
© 2015 by Dr. Anthony G. Payne. All rights reserved.
RESOURCES & OTHER HELPS
There may be a lot more to you than you think ► extended being: http://extendbeing.weebly.com/
A list of Choctaw Doc’s “recommended books” ► https://biotheorist.wordpress.com/2011/06/19/mind-expansion-books-well-worth-adding-to-your-summer-reading-list/ (Critical thinking, psychology, spirituality included!)
This Broadway hit gets a solid film treatment by director Norman Jewison, but that can’t make up for the weaknesses of the script (which were as true onstage as they are here). Jane Fonda plays a chain-smoking shrink sent to a convent to do a psychological evaluation of a novice (Meg Tilly) who gave birth to a baby and then killed it in her little room. Was it a virgin birth? A miracle? And what of the bloody stigmata that seem to spontaneously appear on her hands? Fonda also finds herself clashing with the Mother Superior (Anne Bancroft) over the line between faith and science. But writer John Pielmeier can’t flesh this out beyond an idea; in the end, the solution is a disappointingly earthbound one that even the strong acting in this film can’t elevate.
OK, so the film isn’t flawless and has garnered more than its fair share of “1 or 2 thumbs down”. With this said, I like this flick. Why so? In-a-word it lays in the fact Agnes the novice nun somehow manages to interact with the world thorough a lens of innocence. That is, the unjaded aspects of her being for the most part dominate her day-to-day existence and how she perceives life and those around her.
Hollywood nonsense, you say? I might have agreed with you if this were early 1999. But not afterwards. What changed for me? I spent more than four years in Japan living and teaching classes of Japanese young people from pre-school through doctoral level plus many corporate classes filled with adult working professionals. What I discovered was that virtually all the young folks were, well, in some ways “Agnes of God” like. Mind you, I was aware that there were exceptions and many expats I shared sake and chat with were quick to point out their bad experiences with pretty jaded Japanese characters. But on-the-whole even they agreed most Japanese people they had encountered while teaching and in society at-large exhibited less of the cynicism and sheer nastiness that appeared commonplace back in the US and the West in general (Some of these expats came from the UK, New Zealand and Australia).
My then girlfriend and later (2001) wife thought I was seeing her people through rose colored glasses. This changed once we moved from Japan to southern California in early 2003. Having left being the corporate world in Japan (18 years work for a major multinational corporation in Tokyo), she pursued her long held dream of becoming a marriage and family therapist. This journey took her through the MS in Counseling program at Cal State Fullerton (she graduated with honors) and internships at a number of places including the Salvation Army residential program in Anaheim. While doing an internship at MiraCosta College in Oceanside, she happened to counsel a number of Japanese students who had come to the US in order to obtain specific educational credentials in an English language environment. What she discovered — and made a point of mentioning to me — is that her Japanese charges were very “unjaded” compared to the American students she counseled. Maybe my glasses were not so rose-colored after all.
At the very least, there seems to be at least a modicum of real world evidence that my original observation was spot on: The Japanese were and are on-a-whole less jaded (“more innocent”) than Americans.
Were Americans less jaded in the past? It seemed that way to me when I was a youngster. TV and movies in the late 1950s into the 1960s tended to reflect a certain un-worldliness (Less cynical, less nasty). This began to go out the window with the advance of the sexual revolution, Vietnam and all that entailed, and the general rejection of authority and conventional ways among many young folks of that era (including moi).
Can we ever recapture what we lost short of embarking on a 2nd childhood (individually and collectively)? Is the genie out of the bottle for good? Is there any way to truly be “as wise as serpents and as gentle as doves” (Rabbi Yehoshua’s admonition). Good questions, I think. We American Indians (Choctaws) have a saying that goes like this: “The dog you feed the most becomes biggest”. By this token if we as Americans feed ourselves on jaded & cynical things such as pornography, greed, pride, and other vices then the dogs that will steer our sled (lives) will be these vices. On the other hand, if we feed virtues and starve vices, well, we just might find ourselves less jaded and “wicked”. And while we may not become a nation of “Agnes of God” characters or even Japanese-like, we could inch a little closer to it.
Copyright 2013 by Dr. Anthony G. Payne. All rights reserved.