To Live the Good Life?

14 09 2010

“Questions of politics, Professor Sandel suggested, are not simply a matter of governing the system of distribution, but are connected to what it means to live a ‘good life.’ ”

What do you believe that means, and who deserves to live it, or if it’s not a question of earning it, it, who has the power to live it? Do you?
Would you say living the good life flows from good works, good fortune, right-thinking, perhaps all or none of the above?

From the conversation at Half-Fish, Half-Black Homeschool Princess?
“It makes a difference who you are — and whoever gets to create your character.. . . homeschool princesses better be careful what we wish for and who gets to grant it.”:

In an elite school movie not really about school or wealth as the good life, yet definitely about CLASS, Sara stands up against her soul-impoverished schoolmarmish oppressor and shouts with conviction: “We’re ALL princesses, every girl is! Didn’t your father ever tell you that??”

Capt. Crewe: You can be anything you want to be, my love, as long as you believe.

Sara Crewe: What do you believe?

Capt. Crewe: I believe that you are… and always will be… my little princess.

For the Love of God, Bless Harry Potter and My Home Sweet Home!

. . . to be more clear but less precise. . .I should say we love movies about learning to define yourself and your own creative power in the world, instead of any organized institution (church or school) conspiring with society to standardize and subjugate individuals, the better to keep them under control -–
Dance movies are especially good at this, it seems to me:

Strictly Ballroom
Shall We Dance?

Nance and I discovered the author at He’s the “bad barrel” expert we studied, trying to understand the Lucifer Effect in homeschool and online groups, as soon as even normal, nice individuals are emboldened to gang up and purposely dominate other humans — how irrational and unhealthy that kind of power over others is, for everyone involved.

I read about the Milgram shock experiments in school, but I really made the research part of my own power of story when I read it as an unschooling mom in a wonderful, very personal power of story (not technical and some even say, full of lies!) book by Lauren Slater called Opening Skinner’s Box. One of Skinner’s daughters attacks the author rather oddly here. I think the controversy just makes the whole story more complex and fascinating.

Whatever the incontrovertible facts about Skinner “caging” his baby daughter might be, they are far from “the whole truth” and the meaning of these stories. I don’t think either one of these grown women is anyone other than a unique individual with her OWN story about the meaning of Skinnerian psychology.

One is in fact both psychologist and psychiatric patient, the other woman is neither. The second woman’s claim to credibility is that she was “there” — too young to remember or understand at the time though. Like Harry Potter as a baby, her meanings have to be pieced together from the accounts of others self-serving or not, and some meanings can never be known for sure.

(Not that I confuse fictional and real characters but OTOH see Stephen Foster and Uncle Ben.)

Some say the good life means pleasing their god, submitting oneself selflessly — following all the church, school and work rules and hoping to earn church, school and work rewards in turn. The rules are clear and justice always done, no moral relativism or investments that don’t pay off.

But those same rules say only the House is perfect. Believers who play by all the House rules play a game rigged to insure they fail repeatedly, need painful reminders and remediation throughout life and yet most nevertheless die with crushing debt unredeemed. Living the good life, really?

I think the Milgram lessons and this Lucifer Effect from Zimbardo’s new book apply directly to society’s struggles to make compulsory Institutional School [much less Church as Governing Authority] something it cannot be — healthy for living creatures!

Not believable as the good life. Amen.



2 responses

14 09 2010

From Stanley Fishing for Evolution of Faith Specimens”:

His argument didn’t do much for me, but there were hundreds of rather intelligent and provocative comments, among which was:

The society of man is an imperfect, ongoing scientific experiment. Man has “evolved’ systems of religions since the onset of civilization, ‘progressing’ from worship of animals and the various naturally occurring entities, i.e. the sun, the moon and the stars, through polytheism to monotheism. . . .The danger of modern religion is that, through ignorance or dogma, it presupposes man at the present is in its final form, i.e. an act of perfection by an almighty god. . .

Maybe theism itself will evolve as it has in older cultures than ours (Buddhism, say) toward a more spiritual (as in not physical or literal) collective wisdom.
[note – here I use “decadent” as cultural historian Jacques Barzun does, to mean fully played out, game about to be over.]

“The peoples of the West offered the world a set of ideas and
institutions not found earlier or elsewhere. . . it has been a unity combined
with enormous diversity. Borrowing widely from other lands, thriving on dissent and originality, the West has been the mongrel civilization par excellence. But . . .now these purposes, carried out to their utmost possibility, are bringing about its demise.

This ending is shown by the deadlocks of out times: for and against nationalism, for and against individualism, for and against the high
arts, for and against strict morals and religious beliefs.

The now-full-blown individual wields a panoply of rights, including
the right to do ‘his own thing’ without hindrance from authority. . . and of course it requires more and more limitations in order to prevent my right from infringing yours.”

Maybe human spirituality is evolving [for the next cultural era] as we discover and accept truths not through patriarchal personification and studying “authoritative” writings spelled out for our dutiful performance on demand, but through an “unschooled” direct personal connection to each other, and to the universe as a system? Maybe that’s what the Don Beck-Ken Wilber cultural “meme” dynamics mean to express?

Not trying to sound all lofty and New Agey, but personally I’d rather interpret power of story with blue versus green memes, than try to make sense of religious wars by poring over holy prophecy as written by men to be beaten into women and children.

18 11 2010
Power of Story Can Change the World « Cocking A Snook!

[…] . . we love movies about learning to define yourself and your own creative power in the world, instead of any organized institution (church or school) conspiring with society to standardize and […]

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