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Where did 'mid-life crisis' come from?

User Thread
 89yrs • M •
A CTL of 1 means that coberst is a contributing member of Captain Cynic.
Where did 'mid-life crisis' come from?
Where did 'mid-life crisis' come from?

Quickie from Wiki: 'Midlife crisis is a term coined in 1965 by Elliott Jaques and used in Western societies to describe a period of dramatic self-doubt that is felt by some individuals in the "middle years" of life, as a result of sensing the passing of youth and the imminence of old age. Sometimes, transitions experienced in these years, such as aging in general, menopause, the death of parents, or children leaving home, can trigger such a crisis. The result may be a desire to make significant changes in core aspects of day to day life or situation, such as in career, marriage, or romantic relationships.'

My American culture recognizes that 'life is a journey' and it frames this journey as one of material acquisition. He who dies with the most stuff wins; Bernie almost made it to the grave as a BIG winner in the eyes of my culture.

I reject many of my cultures acquisition values as being excessive; I think of my life as primarily a journey of self-actualization. My journey includes visiting the written works of great men and women in an effort to discover 'why we humans do the things we do and can we do better'. The American educational system disparages such values of disinterested enlightenment, i.e. enlightenment not directed at material acquisition; thus most Americans find such an idea to be alien. I suspect that applies to most Western democracies.

Marshall McLuhan has stated that all technology is an extension of a human faculty. The 'bomb is an extension of the fist' is a simple example. It is when I recognized that the Internet is an extension of the brain that I found his idea more sustainable. I think that we must treat his theory as being somewhat like a metaphor and not treat it too literally. Nevertheless I think it is a great insight and a useful tool for understanding human behavior.

Another example of this influence of technology upon human life would be in the matter of longevity. In the early 20th century life expectancy at birth was 30-40 years; today's life expectancy at birth, world wide, is 70 years. We might correctly say that life expectancy doubled in the last one hundred years.

What affect has this had upon our lives? I think that one might correctly say that this longevity has provided us with a period of 7-10 years that created an 'adolescence' period that never existed before and it provided a period in which we might associate with men's 'mid-life crises' that is so evident today. Also we have a period of 'retirement' that never existed before.

I have for four years browsed Internet discussion forums. I use McLuhan's insight to peer into the brain of the forum member and this is some of my observations.

We are lousy readers. To quantify the matter I am going to use a scale of reading ability ranging from 1 to 10, with '1' being barely literate and '10' being 30% comprehension of a difficult text after a first quick reading.

I would judge that the average reader is a '4'. The first time a form member reads a posted paragraph I guess that the forum member comprehends less than 10% of the meaning of the post. All evidence points to the conclusion that almost no member reads the post more than once.

In most cases my observation leads me to conclude that 90% of the time the reader does not comprehend the point of the paragraph.

Fibber McGee was a popular radio show in the forties and fifties and a standing joke was Fibber's closet. He would always open his hall closet and all sorts of things would come tumbling out. I would judge that most reader's brains are like Fibber's closet. Any word or phrase, in something the reader sees, triggers an opening of the brain's door and massive amounts of instant miscellaneous opinions come tumbling out.

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 71yrs • M •
A CTL of 1 means that NicOfTime is a contributing member of Captain Cynic.
Posts more than a couple paragraphs are usually counter-productive.

The only way you can tell whether a post has been read / understood is by the response. If that response doesn't fit into a certain window of reasonable interpretations, it's not unreasonable to conclude that someone hasn't read it or understood it.

At the same time, sometimes a post inspires a thought tangentially or abstractly related to the original post. Responding with that tangential inspiration does not always fit into the window of expected responses -- creating an erroneous conclusion that the original post wasn't understood.

Further, long posts usually contain a number of points. If one responds to one point without addressing all of them, has he read the whole post or not? Has he understood the main point, while possibly taking a contributing point to task?

As with most things, there's always room for error -- room on the part of the reader to erroneously interpret the essential point of a post, as well as room on the part of the author to erroneously conclude the original post was not understood.

But I agree with you -- most of us are pretty poor readers. Even those who are pretty good can be pretty poor. I make a lot of errors. And my awareness of that doesn't appear to make me immune to it.

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[  Edited by NicOfTime at   ]
 41yrs • M •
A CTL of 1 means that eye is a contributing member of Captain Cynic.
some thoughts about communication:

I think the average human speaks from a need to speak, and not from a need to be understood.

Again, speech and conversation with no regard to it's content gives us a whole lot more information about a person than the content of what s/he's saying. (i think it's more about topics than opinions)

But i do think most of our subjects are common subjects. and which form of language we use affects people's understanding more than the ideas themselves.
i do not deny that some abstraction in ideas is difficult to express, but I'm not focusing on this specific point at the moment.

i think fewer and simpler words are always easier to relate to.

common is a very valid term in terms of conversation mechanisms; as in using terms and references that might not be common to whom I'm speaking to will not get my point through.

Again, the art of communication is about the ability to adapt to the different knowledge diagrams that exist differently in everyone.

Again, confirming NicOfTime's thoughts on the subject.
more information will not be read unless the person is curious about the subject or initially curious about everything,
that is not enough without the ability to relate to the content of our messages.

My personal experience was that references are almost never commonly understood without interpretation, and almost never help us get our point through. Unless of course we are sure that the other person is knowledgeable of our references, or in other terms they are common knowledge to the public at hand.

I believe references lead to misinterpretations when misunderstood.
Of course if we are referencing something, we are not exactly referencing a few words, but a whole thought process that we understand and eventually got with the author to that realization.

Now a personal realization, since i never quote, is that if i don't refer to the theorem, no single person admits the theorem.
I find it entertaining
I'm a bit selfish in terms of sharing information.

Also English was my third language, so it might be just that

and no, i would not defend anyone who comments without full understanding of the post.

But i do think we should adapt our communication to our audience, in the end it's not something we do for ourselves, but for others (even if others listening is only a need for ourselves :: if we care about others understanding and not just hearing)

Oh, and about the mid life crisis thing.
I live by a quote which would be translated to:
"live everyday as if it's your last, live everyday as if you would live forever".

I think mid-life crisis came from routine along with a few other spices (or usually mild flavored things in our lives, things we do and we don't quiet understand why we do them)

Another thought which would be that death is no longer a common fact that we are reminded of everyday. which would lead us to postponing the thought of dying until eventually we are put face to face with it.

i think one of Man's biggest problem is denial.
Now in my initial culture, men (more than women) are "forced" into a lot of self-controlling thoughts, which lead to a whole lot more denial and/or deception in the end of it (no independent thinkers)
I think we spend all our childhood learning, and we spend all our adulthood un-learning what we doubted as we were kids and admitted without proper understanding (adolescence as well as childhood, as well as any age to be precise).

Again, i don't always understand how we never fully understand the choices we make or made. But i do believe that rethinking our decisions leads us to a less stressful life.

again a concept of belief is contradictory to the subject at hand

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"i think therefore i think i am"
 35yrs • M
A CTL of 1 means that ChrisD is a contributing member of Captain Cynic.
If the bomb is an extension of the fist, then internet forums would be an extension of the mouth?

It actually makes perfect sense that the most active forum posters are the lousiest readers. If the intent of most posters was to listen, wouldn't it be more prudent to read a book instead? Most people speak to fulfill some void in their lives, maybe to obtain a feeling of worth? After all, what can be obtained by voicing your opinions (and often stating them with certainty) other than admission into some sort of clique or group?

We all intuitively know this though. It is very rare for two people to enter into a discussion with the intent on uncovering the truth - more likely, and especially on topics woven into their core, it is a game of arrogance and pride which inevitably ends in anger and frustration.

I think it's safe to say that one should only speak as a requested or needed favor.

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"The truth will set you on fire"
 71yrs • M •
A CTL of 1 means that NicOfTime is a contributing member of Captain Cynic.
You make many good points there, Chris.

For me, this is a kind of real-time video game / reality show. I type things into little boxes, and messages appear. You know, kind of like one of those ol' Fortune Telling Magic 8-Balls, but on steroids -- with known intelligence behind the screen?

So it's a kind of entertainment. At least to me. But then, a lot of life is like a real-time, self-inventing video game / reality show to me. Seeing as how I don't play any other video games, I guess this one's good enough.

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 89yrs • M •
A CTL of 1 means that coberst is a contributing member of Captain Cynic.
Marshall McLuhan 'The High Priest of Pop-Culture' in the mid twentieth century was the first to announce the existence of the 'global village' and to express that 'we become what we behold'. McLuhan sought to understand and express the effects of technology on modern culture.

McLuhan was particularly interested in 'Technology as Extension of the Human Body'. An extension of our body and/or of our senses occurs when we extend the reach of our embodied mind beyond our natural limited means. As examples: the shovel is an extension of our hands and feet as we dig a trench, the spade is like our cupped hand as we remove dirt from a hole, a microscopy or telescope extends our vision to study smaller or larger dimensions.

Going further in this vein the auto is an extension of the foot. However there are negative results from all such extensions. 'Amputations' represent the unintended and un-reflected counterparts of such extensions.

'Every extension of mankind, especially technological extensions, has the effect of amputating or modifying some other extension... The extension of a technology like the automobile "amputates" the need for a highly developed walking culture, which in turn causes cities and countries to develop in different ways. The telephone extends the voice, but also amputates the art of penmanship gained through regular correspondence. These are a few examples, and almost everything we can think of is subject to similar observations...We have become people who regularly praise all extensions, and minimize all amputations. McLuhan believed that we do so at our own peril.' Quotations from 'Understanding Media' by Marshall McLuhan

McLuhan was concerned about man's willful blindness to the downside of technology. In his later years McLuhan developed a scientific basis for his thought around what he termed the tetrad. The tetrad is four laws, framed as questions, which give us a useful instrument for studying our culture.
What is does the technology extend?
What does it make obsolete?
What is gained?
"What does the technology reverse into if it is over-extended?"

McLuhan's gravestone carries the inscription 'The Truth Shall Make You Free." We do not have to like or even agree with everything that McLuhan said. However, we would be wise to remember that his was a life of great insight and it was dedicated to showing wo/man the truth about the world we live in, and especially the hidden consequences of the technologies we develop.

In the book 'The Birth and Death of Meaning' Earnest Becker provides us with a synthesis of the knowledge about the extensions of the human body that McLuhan spoke of and science certified through research.

Becker informs us that the 'self' is in the body but is not part of the body; it is symbolic and is not physical. 'The body is an object in the field of the self: it is one of the things we inhabit...A person literally projects or throws himself out of the body, and anywhere at all...A man's 'Me' is the sum total of all that he can call his, not only his body and his mind, but his clothes and house, his wife and children, [etc].' The human can be symbolically located wherever s/he thinks part of her really exists or belongs.

It is said that the more insecure we are the more important these symbolic extensions of the self become. When we invest undue value onto such matters as desecrating a piece of cloth that symbolizes our nation is an indication that our self-valuation has declined and this overvaluation of a symbol can help compensate that loss. We get a good feeling about own value by obtaining value in the pseudopod as the flag.

In conceiving our self as a container that overflows with various and important extensions that our technology provides us we might appear like a giant amoeba spread out over the land with a center in the self. These pseudopods are not just patriotic symbols and important things but include silly things such as a car or a neck tie. We can experience nervous breakdowns when others do not respect our particular objects of reverence.

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 71yrs • M •
A CTL of 1 means that NicOfTime is a contributing member of Captain Cynic.
Too subtle. Too abstract. Too nuanced.

It doesn't appear to me that most folks have any interest at all in "technology as an extension of self". They work, they sleep, they eat, they shower, they pay bills, they shop, they play. One generation becomes the next. Rinse, repeat.

Socrates: "The unexamined life is not worth living." Presumably, Socrates lived an "examined" life -- depriving him of the personal experience to qualify him to judge it.

I love technology -- at least as a matter of personal interest, devoid of any value judgment about it. I hate to see so much of what has made life worth living disappear. But no one can stop evolution. We can observe it and comment about it, and those comments of include value judgments about it that suggest ways to improve it. One day it will all be lost to the abyss of eternal anonymity.

Such is life. Enjoy yours while you can.

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Where did 'mid-life crisis' come from?
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