Clive Thompson’s September Wired article, “The New Literacy,” had me thinking several things.

The article describes an academic’s conclusion that there is a writing renaissance going on with astonishing increases in writing by students as they use communications technologies.  It has been believed by many that texting and social media are deprecating communication.  Professor Andrea Lunsford concluded the opposite.  New technologies are encouraging the young to share experiences by writing.

Several things come to mind.

First, texting is acquiring a number of unique conventions that are beginning to approach a different language.  I don’t speak text.  This is a function of my peer group, my age and the fact that I’m at my computer three-fourths of my waking hours.  Perhaps text is approaching another language as its conventions proliferate.  If that is the case, then maybe this is a good thing as regards the inculcation of flexibility of mind.  As youth text, they encourage an ability to experience the world through an alternative perspective.

Second, the day will come when voice translators advance to offer an effortless ability to take our spoken words and transform them into written text.  Gifted youth will find they can profoundly proliferate their productions by …

Performance I

November 18, 2009 | Leave a Comment

Category: Autism, Autism Features, Play, Society


Bill Wallauer is a videographer, a colleague of Jane Goodall.  Click here to read Bill’s observations of chimpanzees behaving in ways that are fascinating to consider.  Bill observes males displaying at waterfalls and in thunderstorms as individuals and groups transition into the sexual-display mode of communication.  Jane Goodall wrote a famous passage describing these events.

“All at once Evered charged forward, leapt up to seize one of the hanging vines, and swung out over the stream in the spray-drenched wind.  A moment later Freud joined him.  The two leapt from one liana to the next, swinging into space, until it seemed the slender stems must snap or be torn from their lofty moorings.  Frodo charged along the edge of the stream, hurling rock after rock now ahead, now to the side, his coat glistening with spray.  For ten minutes the three performed their wild displays while Fifi and her younger offspring watched from one of the tall fig trees by the stream.  Were the chimpanzees expressing feelings of awe such as those which, in early man, surely gave rise to primitive religions, worship of the elements?”  (Jane Goodall Through a Window (Boston:  Houghlin Mifflin, 1990) pp. 241-242.)

I found Bill’s …

The Genetic Dance

November 17, 2009 | 1 Comment

Category: 10-Myth and Story, Art, Ontogeny, Play

I have been playing with the idea that genetics guides ontogeny, that how our genes inform an individual’s unfolding has far more to do with how music is made than with how a computer is programmed.  Once again, I’m finding these ideas emerging in my dreams.

Two nights ago, while dreaming, I was seeking to understand the mathematics of words, searching for the equations in language, wondering how music connects them both.  In the dream, the answer felt to be related to evolution.  The answer emerged.  The answer is the price of homemade baked goods at the farmer’s market. (I don’t know what that means.}

Scientists are stumped by how few genes there are in the human gnome.  Some less somatically sophisticated species display a far larger library of genes.  Having a complete gnome is not leading to deep insight as regards our disabilities, diseases, talents or evolution.  Over and over again, difficult-to-understand genetic riddles are ascribed to not-yet-understood, multiple gene effects.

Consider this.  By understanding music, we can understand how genetics works.  This is because the human connection to music is a direct reflection and result of the ontogenetic processes created by our genetic algorithm.

Genes engender a growing …

We live in a society that believes that it is pragmatic to presuppose that consciousness is contingent upon evolutionary conditions that led to its emergence.  Self awareness occurred by chance.  Academics, of course, embrace the claim that consciousness is unique.  But because it is not measurable and seems connected to humans only, it has been concluded in many sciences that it can be usefully ignored.  The autistic provide an ability to notice.

Over the course of human self examination there have been relatively few that have differentiated between the two most obvious kinds of consciousness that exist.  There is aware and self aware.  There is conscious and self conscious.  There is being present and there is the awareness that you are present.  This is a significant distinction because it can be suggested that the first kind of consciousness, presence, is not just a feature of human consciousness but a feature of that which is alive.  To be present to the fact that you are present seems peculiarly human.  We can call this split consciousness.  This is unique insofar as this ability for a single consciousness to experience a split evidently creates facility with being two places at once, being in …

30s, 60s, 00s

November 13, 2009 | Leave a Comment

Category: Activism, Art, Society, Web

In the United States, there have been three powerful democratization surges in the last 100 years.  Each featured an experience by participants of feeling part of something larger than themselves.  It continues to astonish me how the one we are experiencing now is almost invisible to folks I know.

In the 1930s, working people were provided a voice and power to affect their lives in positive ways.  The commons emerged as a political power as people were able to realize that the process of focusing on shared resources provided a new way of viewing influence.  Democratization was viewed as a feature of the commons.

In the 1960s, democratization acquired an almost spiritual dimension as peace and new interpersonal-communication protocols became integral to understanding how the commons operated.  Integration and feminization transformed the idea of how working together worked.  I felt part of something larger than myself.

Over the last 20 years, there has been growing a third wave of commitment to the commons.  Far more subtle than the other two waves, its influence has been exponentially more powerful.  Perhaps it makes no sense to separate them; they are all part of the same process.  The process features a horizontalization of …

I’d been studying Asperger’s and autism in connection to human evolution for maybe ten years before it dawned on me, after reading Michael Fitzgerald’s Autism and Creativity, that Asperger’s was a feature of my childhood.  As I was growing up, people seemed opaque to me.  I was in speech therapy almost all those years.  I had a strange sense of humor.  I was astonishingly gullible.  My closest friend was a boy that I later realized had Asperger’s.  He was also a math genius and a musician.  I was a collector and an artist.

Over time, it grew clearer to me what other people were thinking and feeling, particularly regarding how they were relating to me.  My obsessions grew integrated with my goals.  I became far less split or self conflicted.

The split that I experienced had perhaps less to do with my Asperger’s tendencies than with a childhood characterized by extreme stress.  But, I’m not sure.

People with autism aren’t generally understood to display classic personality splits featuring conflicts with self, self deprecation or a deep feeling of personal responsibility for what is wrong.  That split would suggest a developed theory of mind, with a mind in conflict, assigning …

Town Hall Meeting

November 11, 2009 | Leave a Comment

Category: Activism, Society

At the end of this last August, Marcia and I attended a Jan Schakowsky town meeting at Niles High School.  There were almost 2,000 present.  Most of those folks were in the auditorium where the event was held, and many were outside holding signs and banners.  The focus was the proposed health care legislation.

Marcia meets with Schakowsky fairly often as the leader of the North Shore Coalition for Peace, Justice and the Environment.  A couple years ago, Jan was at our home for a meeting regarding Iraq, Iran and Israel where one of our group brought up Blackwater establishing itself in Illinois.  At that time, Jan was not familiar with Blackwater’s presence in the state.  Not long after that, Jan emerged to become an important congressional opponent of military contractors, Blackwater in particular.

Schakowsky is a strong supporter of Israel.  My fellow activists and organizers strongly oppose Schakowsky’s support of Israel’s conservative governments, and they also oppose West Bank settlers, Gaza atrocities and the way Israeli government policies treat Palestinians.  Our contact with Schakowsky is characterized by agreement with some of her positions and opposition to her support of Israel.

The meeting in the auditorium in August was attended …


November 10, 2009 | 4 Comments

Category: 10-Unconscious, Unconscious

I grew up in a household with literally no religion.  My father was agnostic, my mom sort of Jewish.  She’s since been Unitarian and Catholic.  Almost 20 years ago I was dating a woman who had been raised Catholic, who was converting to Judaism, while my mother was converting from Judaism to Catholicism.  How Jewish was I raised?  Just now I had to go to Google to figure out how to spell “Judaism.”  I had the “a” and “i” reversed.

Nevertheless, I was raised according to one of the most basic tenets of Western society, that the unconscious maintains an agenda separate from that of the conscious mind, one that often conflicts with conscious goals and aspirations.  I was raised a Freudian.  High percentages of my father’s income went toward my parents’ and their children’s psychoanalysis and psychotherapy.  We did not go to temple.  We went to therapists.

I am almost 57.  In high school, I was in therapy with a Rogerian for 2.5 years.  In Florida, I was the client of an eclectic psychoanalyst for six years.  He studied with many of the New Age luminaries at Esalon in California.  Chicago has connected me with another eclectic practitioner for …

Light moves at a speed of 186,000 miles per second.  Speed as a concept is also integral to biology.  I hypothesize that the speed with which information passes between the two cerebral hemispheres impacts consciousness, behavior and personality.  And, whereas the basic unit of speed in physics is the kilometer or mile, in biology that unit is a generation.  Though maybe not.

Bernard Crespi has written a paper, Psychosis and Autism as Diametrical Disorders of the Social Brain, which focuses on several neurological features as influential in the etiology of particular diseases and conditions.  Corpus callosum size (the corpus callosum is the primary brain bridge between the two cerebral hemispheres) and anomalous dominance (differing cerebral hemisphere sizes) are two of those features, aspects of cerebral lateralization.  I would consider that corpus callosum size not only influences the ease and speed of information transfer, but that corpus callosum size influences the experience of self awareness or split consciousness.

There are correlations between degrees of cerebral lateralization, how much the two cerebral hemispheres vary, and conditions characterized by maturational delay (autism, Asperger’s, stuttering).  Degrees of handedness are influenced by this variable.  Other diseases and conditions are associated with right cerebral hemispheres …

Identity and Time

November 6, 2009 | 1 Comment

Category: Biology, Ontogeny

Where you draw the line between individual and species or individual and society has a lot to do with our ability to understand ourselves and evolution.  This line is not an arbitrary line but characterizes what we perceive as the primary unit.  As humans, we maintain individual self awareness and so view the world as composed of those units that create the foundation of the structure of our world.

Dawkins and his colleagues have played with the gene as the foundation unit and have come up with some interesting conjectures.  Though I disagree with many Neo-Darwinians that behave compelled to believe that the level of the gene is the only important level of selection, I agree that there is usefulness in taking a gene perspective.  What interests me now is not just the Neo-Darwinist perspective, or even the Gould position that evolution occurs in numerous levels, including gene, individual, species, groups and larger systems.  The idea that is playing with me at this time is that using units to explore evolution strips the process of the dynamic hidden at its core.

I’m feeling that just as in physics, in biology, by assuming that there are patterns that play across the …

Primal Melody

November 5, 2009 | Leave a Comment

Category: Biology, Ontogeny

It interests me how Einstein perceived the relationship between speed and time by identifying with the kind of Doppler effect that he imagined to occur when a light beam left a train station, compelling two different rates of time.  He then capitalized on this exercise of imagination by conceptualizing it as equations, music of the spheres.

I’ve been playing with a concept that I’m feeling integrates a lot of the various patterns I’ve been observing and exploring over the last 12 years.  It is as follows… If heterochrony is the study of the rates and timing of maturation, with testosterone levels impacting rate and estrogen levels controlling timing, then those environmental or social structure adjustments that influence levels of testosterone and estrogen determine the speed, timing, features and direction of evolution.

This is a description of the influence of time on biology.  Maturation is usually understood to be associated with the stage-like development of an individual.  Maturation in an individual is also an unfolding of the maturational record of all preceding individuals in the lineage of life on earth.  I’m not just describing Haeckel’s recapitulation, but the back and forth play of waves of both neoteny and acceleration, waves paradoxically …

An aspect of neoteny just struck me that has never crossed my mind before.  It perhaps suggests a basic principle in evolution.  I’m not sure.

Two days ago, I posted a piece exploring a paradox of recapitulation that focuses on an odd possibility.  When a species is in an accelerated phase and withdraws adult features backward over generations to eventually appear in the infants of descendants, adults may exhibit features of ancient forebears.  If the species lineage had in the past gone through a similar cycle, then that genetic inheritance would have been available, emerging when a similar hormonal disposition became engaged.

Haeckel may have been focused on that very dynamic as he obsessed on recapitulation as a source of new behavioral and physical characteristics.  What strikes me now is that though recapitulation (acceleration) is not considered at this time as a relevant description of evolutionary process, it does seem to be half of a process that results in a seemingly natural biological dynamic that not only withdraws species backward through ontogeny to conception but at the same time carries forward or prolongs features of this planet’s earliest species forward into adults.

There are two waves or currents moving through …

Orchestral Theory

November 3, 2009 | Leave a Comment

Category: Biology

Rate and timing may be the foundation concepts that tie together the many scales of experience.  Assigning testosterone to rate and estrogen to timing may serve to explain how evolution and societal transformation unfold.  The nineteenth and early twentieth century attention to four-fold parallelisms–biology, society, ontogeny and personal experience–may all be testosterone and estrogen informed via the engine of heterochronic theory.

I came to these studies originally by offering attention to the possibility that human evolution was driven by women’s choices.  With the recent revelation that estrogen may control the timing of maturation rates, it becomes possible that biological evolution in general may be built upon a foundation of testosterone controlling rate and estrogen managing timing.

I’d prefer to call this orchestral evolution rather than heterochronic theory, noting the power of estrogen, in the position of conductor, to control the timing of the unfolding of the production.

A question that has crossed my mind is:  If rate and timing are the foundation principles, and testosterone and estrogen are the particular ways these principles have manifested at the scales of evolution closest to the levels at which we identify, then what might be the levers of influence at other scales of …

There is an idea I’ve been wrestling with for several years that I don’t think is going to get resolved by putting it into words, but I still want to describe the conundrum.

Alpheus Hyatt was a contemporary of Darwin. In Hyatt’s view, all species transformations could be explained by acceleration, with the apparent withdrawal or reversion into former stages, neoteny or paedomorphosis, being explained by a natural reemergence of early ontogenetic stages very late in an accelerated process, an exhibition that might be compared to senility in human development.

I’ve hypothesized that humans and many other species evolve over time by delaying and accelerating maturation (influenced by higher and lower levels of testosterone and estrogen).  Both the environment and sexual selection informed by social structure can influence these hormone levels.  Imagine a roller coaster or a snake’s wavering path revealing periods of time in a species’ transformation that evidence relatively high male testosterone, for example, and relatively low male testosterone.  Over time we might observe several peaks of high testosterone, reflected, we might hypothesize, by far more male-against-male control of procreation competition and shorter life spans with higher mortality.

Let’s hypothesize that humans have followed something like this meandering …

There are the interpretations of evolution that emphasize mutation.  Evolutionary developmental biologists are exploring ways life may be evolving that are unrelated to mutation, pathways influenced by the environment.  My work concentrates on how the rates and timing of maturation are influenced by hormones, with sexual selection or environmental changes transforming individuals and then species over time.

In the river analogy that preceded this piece, there is no explanation for how a species might leave the groove provided by the trajectories set up by maturational delay and acceleration.  This river chatters, making music as it flows downstream.  What might be the music of evolution?

A species could evolve over time, prolonging infant features into adult descendants, and then it could reverse that trend by withdrawing adult features into descendant infants.  Then repeat.  It would seem, like a teeter totter, that over great periods of time there would be no real movement, just variation between two polarities.

Indeed, in some cases this may be what occurs.  Nevertheless, unique variations keep emerging, species that have never been observed.

Some reasons for this come to mind.  What might these reasons sound like?

Species don’t just prolong infant features to adult descendants.  Aspects of …

I’ve been playing with the idea of the Mississippi as a metaphor for a species’ life when it comes to understanding neoteny and acceleration.  It’s not a perfect fit, but it is an interesting one.

Imagine the Mississippi as representing changes in a species over time.  At the source, Itasca in Minnesota, clear water emerges from beneath the earth in a pristine environment featuring wildlife and virgin forest.  At first a trickle, the stream picks up speed and breadth, finally leaving the protected environment of the park.

The river grows wider as it meanders south.  Houses and, later, towns appear beside it.  Soon, industry emerges, and before too long, boats carrying the product of industry share river space with tourists and local boaters.

At the other end of the river, New Orleans, the river is girdled by cities on both sides, massive commercial and industrial activity and almost a million people.  Cities like Baton Rouge offer single corporate sites square miles in size, using the Mississippi as an opportunity for profit.

Driving down and up the Mississippi with my son, I am sensitive to the ways he is different and the same as I, as I am similar yet vary …


October 28, 2009 | Leave a Comment

Category: Society

This last August, my son, Elia, and I drove down, then up, the Mississippi, taking photographs for our respective projects.  Elia feels attracted to decaying industry.  He gathers images of nature’s return inside factories and old structures.  I was taking shots of various abstract forms to be used in the neoteny video, the section describing how neoteny operates at different scales.  At night, Elia worked on the music for the video, using his Mac.  We were driving a rented car.  Elia wouldn’t reach 25 until the following month, so I was doing all the driving.

About half the time we took the slow roads that went through small towns, lingering around old river cities to take photos.  We stopped in Chartersburg, Memphis, Vicksburg, Baton Rouge, New Orleans and Hannibal, Missouri, in that order.  A theme that quickly emerged was that in most sizable Mississippi cities there is gambling.  Elia got that out of his system early on.  This was the first time in his life he’d been in a casino.

On the way back up, on a Sunday in the middle of August, it emerged that Obama had concluded that he didn’t think he had the votes to get a …

In the late 1960s and early 70s, I explored the work of Carlos Castaneda and Eric Berne as they explored the impact of internal dialog.  Castaneda sought to follow his guide, Don Juan, who gave advice to experience attention or perception without words.  Berne offered, in fascinating detail, the content of the internal dialogs we create.

Whereas Castaneda offered no dialog as an option, Berne preferred that we know what we are saying.

Eric Berne’s work focused on personal mythology, the stories we tell ourselves that we are so deeply, personally committed to that we neglect to inform ourselves that these stories represent choices we have made.  We seem to prefer the belief that we are not in control of the beliefs we embrace, leaving ourselves with stories that invest our lives with perspectives that determine our experience.

In addition to these dialogs and the content of the stories that we tell, there is the way we tell ourselves these stories.  Tone, timbre, intonation pattern, volume, emotional valence, vocabulary and even grammar contribute to the noncontent impact of an internal communication.  We manage our experience by describing the world in fashions that encourage particular interpretations and conclusions.  For example, if …

Recoil Embrace

October 26, 2009 | Leave a Comment

Category: Auto-Biography

I’m not sure how old I was when I recognized that the person I was seeing or talking with was, or had been, damaged.  I differentiated between those that were “normal” and those exhibiting the existence of deep distress.  I recoiled from suffering.

It would be a while before I’d realize that these were brothers and sisters, folks whose insides felt familiar.  My compulsion to withdraw from these people was directly related to my being able to so easily see in them what I strove to not experience in myself or reveal to others.

At the same time I wanted to understand these darkest places inside a human.  Mental illness was familiar to me.  Close relatives had committed suicide, had been institutionalized and had exhibited deeply awry frames of reference.  While I strove to avoid contact with people I met that were intimate with this darkness, I drew it, studied it, read about it and wrote about it.  This was when I was in high school.

In the 1960s and early 1970s, I often hitchhiked around the country.  Road culture was filled with both an intoxicating optimism and the physically and mentally awry.  Traveling around the country by car, I …

Spiraling Round

October 23, 2009 | Leave a Comment

Category: Biology, Society

I’ve been reading The Selfish Genius by Fern Elsdon-Baker.  The book feels like both a window into contemporary evolutionary biological theorist societal culture and a support of my feelings regarding Neo-Darwinism.  There are lots of fascinating historical tidbits.

One piece of the historical narrative I’ve found deeply interesting is the relationship between professionals and amateurs while the polarity between atheism and spirituality are in play.  In Darwin’s day, Thomas Huxley, Darwin’s bulldog, led the movement to place supporters of Darwin’s theory of natural selection in important positions in universities.  At the same time, he was bullying his way into establishing a professional, merit-based science community as opposed to science controlled by moneyed elites with leisure time.  Connected to this transition was the emergence of professional scientists with an atheistic point of view.

In the mid to late nineteenth century, there were several theories of evolution combating to explain patterns observed in nature.  Wallace contacted Darwin in 1858 with Wallace’s version of the theory of natural selection.  Darwin at that time had been working on three different dynamics of evolution.  Darwin had not discovered a way to integrate natural selection, sexual selection and Lamarckian selection, what Darwin called “pangenesis.”  He shelved …

This August, I drove with my wife and son from Chicago to St. Louis to visit our first grandchild on his first birthday.  Nils is the son of Marcia’s daughter, Katie, and her husband, Dave.  It’s a five-hour drive.  We left at a little after 6:30 a.m.

I’m a big fan of the long-distance drive.  I went to college in Florida and frequently drove straight through from Chicago.  The experience was often accompanied by an altered state characterized by elation and a making of connections.  When my son, Elia, went to college in Asheville, North Carolina, I adored the ten round trips each year bringing him down or picking him up.  I often made the 10.5 hour trip with one stop.

On this St. Louis trip, I was concentrated on the collection of patterns or shapes for the video Elia and I were about to start.  In the video, I will narrate an explanation of neotenous human evolution while connecting that to social evolution and evolution in larger scales.  Accompanying the narration will be Elia’s music and photographs, and videos and images from other sources.  Before the trip to St. Louis, I collected from free-content CDs maybe 100 images, sorted …

I like paradoxes.  When I was in college, freshman year, a professor gave us an assignment of creating our own psychological model.  We were studying theorists that followed Freud.

Disappearing into the assignment, I came out the other side with a theory of psychology based on a succession of paradoxes.  I would later read Viktor Frankl’s work that would share several features of the model I’d put together.  The premise I was working with was that healing was located somewhere in the neighborhood of those things which don’t seem capable of being understood.  Embracing that which we can’t seem to understand, we can relieve ourselves of the burden of feeling compelled to find an answer.  My theory listed several paradoxes as examples.

Over the last few years, I’ve drifted in an opposite direction.  The theory emerging in this blog suggests a psychological model, particularly as it explores the nature and causes of autism, yet it is a model with both biological and transpersonal roots.  It is a model deeply influenced by the work of Milton H. Erickson, the hypnotherapist, as his work was interpreted by Richard Bandler and John Grinder.  Ken Wilber’s integration of human developmental states, personality disorders and …

Zen of Sales

October 20, 2009 | 1 Comment

Category: Society

Late in 1979, I published as greeting cards ten watercolor paintings that I’d created, metaphors for states of mind and relationship.  Several were exploring humanistic psychology models of personality transformation.  I relied upon the work of Rogers, Maslow, Pearls, and Janov as I was designing islands, continents and journeys across these seas and landscapes as ways to describe how humans change.

I found a sales rep in the Chicago Merchandise Mart to sell the cards.  In January 1980, impatient to see results, I walked from store to store in the Chicago winter.  I averaged about one sale per day, placing my line of greeting cards in stores.  I had no training as a salesman, but I was earnest and clearly willing to do whatever was necessary to make the sale (negotiate price, get them display materials).  Recycled Paper Products (RPP) was just taking off and the contemporary greeting card business was being born.  I was in the right time in the right place to make a living.  I was having trouble paying bills as a free lance illustrator.

Up to the late 1970s, there were three main greeting card companies in the U.S.:  American Greetings, Gibson and Hallmark.  RPP, largely …

Seeking Wonder

October 19, 2009 | Leave a Comment

Category: Biology, Play

There are several ways that children play.  They imitate adults, using costume or pantomime to reproduce a different time and place.  They engage in games that seek to achieve competition or cooperation goals.  Children will initiate or participate in an activity that engages the senses in a fashion that feels good and seems interesting, such as dancing, looking through a telescope and making music.  Children also like to play with scale.

Shifting scale is often engaged in while exploring the other three forms of play:  mimicking, games and pattern exploration.  A child might imagine that he or she is in a spaceship while cruising through a room.  Flashing by light fixtures, the child imagines passing galaxies.  Marching soldier figures through forests of grass blades, the child might also see himself or herself as a giant above the battlefield.  A child might invent a game with specific scenarios that game pieces represent.  Playing dress up, a child might imagine that he or she is grown.

Much play presupposes an ability to be two places at one or two times at once.  Not all play.  Early play simply involves an exploration of the senses, the mechanics of the body and the mirroring …

“In a 5-year longitudinal study, we examined the effect of disrupting the neonatal activity of the pituitary–testicular axis on the sexual development of male rhesus monkeys.  Animals in a social group under natural lighting conditions were treated with a GnRH antagonist (antide), antide and androgen, or both vehicles, from birth until 4 months of age.  In antide-treated neonates, serum LH and testosterone were near or below the limits of detection throughout the neonatal period.  Antide + androgen-treated neonates had subnormal serum LH, but above normal testosterone concentrations during the treatment period.  From 6 to 36 months of age, serum LH and testosterone were near or below the limits of detection.  Ten of 12 control animals reached puberty during the breeding season of their 4th year, compared with five of 10 antide- and three of eight antide + androgen-treated animals.  Although matriline rank was balanced across treatment groups at birth, a disruption within the social group during year 2 resulted in a marginally lower social ranking of the two treated groups compared with the controls.  More high (78%) than low (22%) ranking animals reached puberty during year 4.  During the breeding season of that year, serum LH, testosterone and testicular volume …