Symbolism and minding the store
20050215-6 by James E. D. Cline (Jim)
The Artist’s Way's "Morning Pages" are intended to clear out the night's cobwebs with its stream of thought’s writings, mostly junk. Yet sometimes the writing has a different quality, producing something possibly worth sharing with others; this is one of those.
My faculty for generalizing into a simplified model and then working from that model instead of the far more complex and time-consuming-to-observe physical reality is clearly also widely done by others involved in other subject matters. Maybe it is the brain, itself a moldable model of the body and the time varying environs the body operates within. The accumulation of, and distribution of that accumulation, life experiences and people's generalized groupings of them, become models of generalized reality that abstracted get copied into others' brains, learning from the mistakes and successes of others, that the individual can build life's model founded upon that provided by others.
The educational system is one such means, yet also are rumor processes, like the rumor that some soap is better than another brand of soap, or that some person is bad and another good in some specific ways; the recipients of the rumors then treat the soaps or the specified people as if they did have the rumored characteristics, rarely bothering to do "reality checking", life's resources being limited.
People have a small number of items they can deal with in one lump, I recall reading even back in 1950's, which was seven items for the average person; this was also the number of people maximum in a group that was effective, 6 or 8 people I think. This limit was said related to the number of senses people had, trying to explain the observed phenomenon. Yet the English alphabet has 26 letters plus many more variants and punctuation symbols, numbers zero through nine additional. Older civilizations' written languages have even more symbols in their sets, even Japanese has both a left brain and right-brain abstract symbol system, one a pictographic, I've heard. All using way more than seven symbols. Supposedly people function quite differently in groups of 8 or fewer people than in groups of 9 or more people; so is the latter mode similar to when using symbol systems greater than 8, such as English alphanumerics? The spoken equivalents are vowels and consonants and inflections; the number of vowels are less than the "7" threshold, note, they being the sustainable carrier waves of the communication signal. "a, e, i, o, u, and sometimes y" are the vowels 5 or 6. Modifying the transitions between vowels becomes the larger set of consonants; inflectives as used in English carry emotional modifiers. Words become even larger sets of semi-unique symbols; "Basic English" has some 600 words, I heard. This is far beyond the number "7", as are the number of words in a dictionary, very many thousands of uniquely specific "symbols", all put into ever more complex contexts to form sentences, paragraphs, news articles and technical papers, each a unique representative symbol of some large more complex thing, such as a physical object or physical event. Reading a news article, the reader can mentally model the event in their own mind, and deal with that abstract model as if it were the real thing experienced by themselves. Accuracy and meaningfulness affect appropriateness of the changes to the person's behavior resulting. Early records were of keeping track of the grain and livestock paid as taxes to rulers; maps symbolized the physical paths one would take to go from any one place to any other on the map. (PS: the old saying that one must first know where one is on the map, before it is useful to show how to get to one's goal location, seems to have potential for very wide application as right-brain competency gets added into the educational system; the processes by which one locates their place on all kinds of "maps.") Nouns specified physical items such as a tree or a chair; verbs specified actions, adjectives and adverbs modifiers of the basics, etc., more abstractions of reality. Yet the reality of one individual was not quite the reality of a different person; viewpoint affected abstracted reality. And the abstractions can be distanced from any physical reality, such as in fiction novels or cartoon movies.
Economic systems, governances, are based on abstractions, e.g. "Communism" changed ruler-ship king's taxes instead into a pooled resource base for all to draw from, but suffered from lack of reward for higher achievements, and the basic efficiency a human sinks into subsistence mode with minimum work output, and when population stops producing well, resources don't get created, and system collapses. The "Free Enterprise" opponent economic system to "Communism" simply is the opposite, has the intent of work hard to get rewarded more, corporate leadership deciding who does good and doling out the rewards; even the group-mutual-benefit functions of government gets given to businesspeople, theory is that if it makes for good business, profit results and it expands. Road construction & maintenance, educational systems, retirement security, all would be transferred to faceless unaccountable "businessmen" who can't even be voted out of position thereby, a sweet setup for maximum corruption and growing destitution of the "working class", and resulting decline of country's productivity function; same result as "Communism's" economics. Perhaps that is expectable with simply taking the opposite side of one’s opponent, and running with that; it is really the same old thing that goes to the same old place, being only half. We really need to look at the whole map, to correctly choose the optimum path.
Economic’s focus is on money. "Money" is another abstraction, a symbol, a placeholder for something "real." It is an abstract barter, where one trades part of what one has, in exchange for what one needs. Money is similar to "energy" which is defined as the capacity to do work. One's exchangeables in barter, get exchanged into money abstract equivalents; from there the money equivalents can get re-exchanged for "real" items like food and shelter. So one abstracts much of life into how to get most money from what one has got. Another set of processes of abstract-to-concrete converts money into physical realities one desires.
Money supposedly is the foundation-stone of "business", managers direct to maximize the "bottom line" profit magnitude, regardless of how the product choice affects civilization as a whole. So how to have bottom-line profit guidance of civilization overall, in which we all must live and function, when, as it is said "the clerks are minding the cash registers and selling everything like mad, but who is minding the store?"