Sunday, April 20, 2014

Are You Reflective?

My friend, a traveller and a poet, wrote me this:  "We just got back from Savannah and the Okefenokee Swamp (three alligators).

I replied, "Did the swamp make you thoughtful?  Do alligators inspire poetry?"

Or did you enjoy the face-to-face encounter with wilderness - without having to transform it into something else?

Direct unmediated experience is valuable in and of itself.  Direct unmediated experience is life itself.

By unmediated, I mean without an intermediary -- no computer, no Twitter, no camera, no interpreter or guide, no priest or minister to stand between ourselves and the infinite. No words.

Many experiences are thrilling without reflection.  For me, these include fireworks, baseball games, everyday bicycling, the Great Wall of China, the Grand Canyon, shooting stars, eclipses, earthquakes, and vistas beyond description.  The experience itself can be entirely consuming and requires no reflection to be enjoyed.
Note:  All these experiences can also be sources of reflection. For example, how much did the fireworks display cost?  Is the cost from taxpayer money?  Could that money be better spent training people or feeding people?  How do the fireworks affect the environment?
The questions themselves can be interrogated.  What is their point of view?  How does the availability of certain words in a language make only some modes of asking available?  As Paulo Freire says, "Language is never neutral." 
I imagine, though, most people watch fireworks with gratitude, without questions.
Other experiences are enriched by the thoughtfulness that flows from them.  Best of all there would be several people sharing their thoughtfulness.

For me, unless an art experience is itself transcendent (filling me with joy or cathartic grief), I prefer a post-experience discussion.

So I asked, "What did the alligators inspire in you?"

My step-father, Berko Devor (of blessed memory) used to say, "Our lives should be 70% experience and 30% reflection.  If those percentages are reversed, you would be a very boring person."

I suspect my life is 70% reflection and 30% experience.  I argued that reflection itself is experience, but he disagreed.

What is your experience/reflection ratio?

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