Wednesday, 23 November 2011

Sex, memory, people and meaning

Have you ever heard the expression 'more than one way to skin a cat'? It means there is more than one way of doing something. People accept the meaning of this saying without question. Take music for example; people cover other peoples songs, and sometimes they do a better job, even the person who wrote the song has to accept this point. So what about electronics? Sure enough there are lots of ways to achieve the same basic function, some more elegant than others. Quite often with these things it is a case of trial and error, trying different things until you're happy you have it right.

An interesting related topic is how words can have two or more meanings, or how words can change to have very personal meanings. Look at the word 'sex'; it can be used to denote gender, or to refer to the act of procreation. But it goes much deeper than that, for example how often is sex really an act of procreation? It can simply be an act of love, making love if you like, or it can simply be 'fucking', a simple pleasure seeking exercise. From there though it can take on further personal meanings, for example what does your sex mean to you, to be a man or a woman, biologically? The truth is that your sex probably has less meaning to you than your gender, which roughly means all the things associated socially and culturally with the sex roles we all play.

But what about sex as an act? Does sex mean the same thing to me which it does to you? Someone who has had negative sexual experiences may well begin to view sex negatively. Another person may view sex positively, but pursue it in a negative way, and so on.

We can all accept the constant duality of meaning of words, or phrases. Many people find great pleasure in considering the different meaning given to words in different context and social settings. Where a lot of people start to struggle is when they consider other people: we all like to compartmentalize, to fit things in to categories, its how we organize our world, how we make sense of it. When lots of people apply the same meanings to lots of the same 'things' then you have social order, a society, whether its local, national, regional or global by sharing meaning we share the world. Because we think this way we like to stick people in these little compartments in our minds, and this is very helpful to think about and mentally keep track of the huge variety of people we meet; we know where to 'look' to find the information about a given person or situation. For example you know how to behave at the doctor because of all the information we have stored up about doctors. However, this way of thinking is not without its draw backs, it can lead to stereotyping and prejudices. Individuals get stuck in compartments in our minds. Consider that man at work, he is tough, strong, and always making jokes, thats how you know him, and thats what he portrays. If he's going through a divorce chances are he may try and maintain his 'normal' self, never giving you reason to challenge your perception of him, so you may never know that inside he is broken. If however there was a large change in his behavior you may challenge you perception of him, ask if he's OK, sit and talk to him for an hour, after which you may categorise him slightly differently.

Another example: you see your mum as mum, if she meets a new man it is very hard for you to see her as a lover, but to him thats exactly how he perceives her.

It is important to constantly re evaluate the world around us, don't be cognitively lazy, look for those subtle changes in people, be aware of the way you perceive people, and remember, the way you perceive them, never mind how well you know them, is NOT all they are.

posted from Bloggeroid

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