Sunday, January 22, 2012

Chronic Bastardism

An important distinction that I often speak of but generally fail to communicate is that between predisposed or predestined. Semantically, the distinction is similar to the one between likely and assuredly: might happen versus gonna happen. What makes the distinction important is that pretty much everything you believe is predestined, isn't.

To be clear, I'm not talking about the Calvinistic view of predestination, or in the vernacular, "God made me this way." I'm talking about aspects of who you are that you might qualify as "just the way I am" or "I'm someone who".

You see, there's very little about you that is immutable and most of you is highly mutable, like Michael Jackson's Black & White Music Video mutable. Yup, you can completely change the fabric of you.

You might object saying, "There's no way I can change my height from 5'2" to 6'4"!" or "Look, I could never play chess like Bobby Fischer." or "My disorder cannot be cured. It will be with me for life."

You might be right. However, I would ask you to consider four points.
  1. For millennia we humans have dismissed the things we don't know how to do as being impossible.

    It's only been the fools who didn't know something was impossible that changed the game.

  2. You'll always be able to find exceptions to pretty much anything. The question would be: what percentage of all things do the exceptions constitute?

  3. Speaking of exceptions that disprove the rule, another question would be: Are you throwing out that exception to prove a point or do you really want to go from 5'2" to 6'4"?

  4. Believing you can't get from point A to point B doesn't mean that you're stuck on point A. You can still get to points C, D or E.

Functional Difference
It might be helpful to consider the functional differences between predisposition and predestination.

Consider a child with autism. Most people would see his symptoms as predetermined. They may be the effects of something genetic, something environmental or both. There's not much you can do about them. They are what they are.

Another perspective would be:
There's no such thing as autism. Instead, there are sets of behaviors and responses to stimuli that we tend to classify as autistic. When people exhibit some subset of these behaviors and responses, we say that they have autism.

However, saying that they have autism is inaccurate since no one knows what causes the behaviors and responses. There is no autism per se, no identified causal entity, no clearly identified physical state; there's only a loosely-defined set behaviors and responses.

To say that someone has autism would be akin to saying that someone has pessimism or bastardism. It's to take set of behaviors and call it a syndrome or disorder. All we can really say is that some people seem predisposed to exhibit these behaviors and responses, and others don't.

You might be thinking that this is all semantic gobbledigook, but it's not. You see, if you see someone exhibiting a set of undesirable behaviors and responses as his simply being predisposed to them and not predestined to them, then you can do something about them. Moreover, you gain insight into what to do.

Chronic Bastardism
In some ways, autism, alcoholism, depression, anxiety and other collections of behaviors that we've dubbed as disorders are no different than right- and left-handedness.

Someone who is left-handed is so because early on her left was easiest to use; it provided the path of the least resistance. At first the disparity between left and right was small. However the more she used her left hand, the greater the disparity. Had she been unable to use her left hand for some period of time, she would have ended up right-handed. She was predisposed to use her left, not predestined.

In other words, predisposition is your path of least resistance. If you want to change something about you, you either increase resistance on one path (e.g., eye patches to help lazy-eye) or decrease resistance on other paths (e.g., practicing with your opposite hand.)

Some are predisposed to math and science, others to music and art. Some are predisposed to athleticism and agility, others to thought and analysis. Some are predisposed to social interaction, others to internal reflection.

So for the most part, who you are is the outcome of your having followed thousands of paths of least resistance. Changes to who you are have come at times when the resistance levels changed. Something blocked one path forcing you to choose another; as a result, you changed.

There are gazillions of things that you might consider to be not in your bailiwick, beyond your ken, or out of your reach.

They're not.

Happy Sunday,

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