Sunday, January 10, 2010

496. A Very Old Poem? Prose Poem? Flash Fiction? Revived Entitled "The Dent" ::: Initial Meditations on Earned Versus Acquired Wealth-Inheritance

PDF for "The Dent" unclassifiable piece (poem? prose poem? flash fiction? meditation?) can be found here:

As I had been deeply "scrubbing my brain" when looking through and sorting images, several little "untidy" and "unfinished" ideas kept popping into my head. These little subliminalities that never seem to go away, even though it has been... what now... over four years since their initial occurrence?!

For example, this little poem / prose poem / piece of flash fiction / meditation... whatever!... entitled "The Dent," which documented a very awkward transaction between myself and another graduate student, once friend, now probably, just "profesional colleagues," during a geology field trip in northern California during the summer of 2005, which philosophically shook me all up to the nth degree.... I had a glimpse into the lives and worlds of fairly wealthy people who lived near by Stanford, and through my observations, and the painful "dent" experience above, I came to realize, that in my entire life, I will never ever desire to own anything or any object that is beyond its functional, practical worth. Because there is a lot of baggage that comes along with this additional illusory worth, baggage that is completely unnecessary and clutters up people's lives.

That summer was the time I began meditating on the properties of wealth--how "wealth" or the ownership of quality/quantity materials impacts individual psychology and perception of the world... and more often times than not, in very bizarre, skewed ways.... And I also started to understand the differences of psychology of individuals who (1) earn wealth through brain power and hard work, and (2) acquire wealth through familial inheritance. The value of money quickly, psychologically strays from a dollar equating to hard labor to a dollar equating to falling from the sky, with some kin baggage, terms and conditions.

When I was ten years old, I could say I went through this phase of "filling out forms and entry cards to win stuff," like vacations and cars and the like. Well, what else do you do when you're force to hang out at shopping malls for hours? My parents advised me to stop filling out the forms, and instilled the notion, "If you work hard, you will earn your rewards." I started living this philosophy all throughout high school... and even today, and sadly, I came to realize that much of the real world does not operate based on this philosophy... though it may be ideal in a fundamental level.... Though one day, I do believe that... I will earn a reward... for all this hard work in "environmental media." One day... I already have received small rewards.... I just have to continue my own little Myth of Sisyphus, Part 2.

Inheritance of wealth--money and resources--is not the only form of inheritance. For example, my participation in the university also involves "social inheritance," or the inheritance of contacts. What do they call it? Social capital? (how barbaric, inhumane! treating humans as an actual good and service). I grew up playing in the grassy fields by the geology building at UC Riverside. I was surrounded by professors who would pat my head when I was only three feet tall. I realize that this upbringing has given me an advantage in terms of instilling a "comfort level," a form of "homing behavior," at the university. The continual presence of my father and his research most likely has allowed me to persevere through three different graduate schools. Though my father has tremendously impacted my own road to life in terms of where I am at now, I still am very conscious of developing relationships with other academics through my own personal work and personal merit, rather than through the lens, frame of reference of my father. For example, when I entered the College of Creative Studies, I never told my advisor, Armand, that my father was an Earth Science professor. I wanted Armand and the faculty committee to judge me based on my own merit, rather than based on "oh, your father's a professor, therefore...." So... I've been walking a fine line in the university, and thankfully at UC Santa Barbara, I have largely carved my own "environmental media" niche and developed my own unique stance without people affiliating me as "Rich Minnich's kid."

I am coming to realize how I am opening some massive cans of worms on the ideas of WEALTH and INHERITANCE. Even touching upon the notions of LAMARCKIAN INHERITANCE and DARWINIAN INHERITANCE (thanks to modern research in genetics, I have come to realize that I can blame my parents a lot more for my physique and actions that I could otherwise :-). Below is a short paragraph examining the potential definitions of the word "Wealth," and why I am choosing not to use such a word since there are so many aspects to constructing wealth (getting into issues of The Peacock and the Bowerbird).

Why I Don't Use the Words "Wealth" and "Poverty" Using the words "wealth" and "poverty" can be overly vague and very deceiving. There are several dimensions to "wealth" just as there are several dimensions to the term "diversity." Four primary forms of wealth are "financial wealth," "physical wealth," "emotional/spiritual wealth," and "intellectual wealth." America may have the most "financial wealth" and potentially the most "physical wealth" in terms of access to resources and services, and overall ownership of coinage, but in terms of "spiritual/emotional wealth," the country sums up as a giant, empty black hole of self-destruction and depression. (Too many resources::: too difficult to maintain::: hire other people to do your grunt work::: disconnect from the "zen" of labor and the process of creating, maintaining resources) In other words, America may have the most GDP in the numbers, but we are far from having the highest GNH, or gross national happiness. Several peoples in Africa may not have the best access to resources or any currency at all, but they can be very soulful people, with a tremendous sense of community and hope (what about that arrogant one-laptop-per-child program?). In another sense, "physical wealth" can be contrasted with "intellectual wealth." A scraggly geologist may live in a small house with few resources to live off of, but he/she has a sense of mastery and ownership in the understanding the evolution of life on earth much greater than the suit-and-tie man or powder-puffed woman with a huge house and five cars. This acquisition of intellectual wealth can also fill holes of emotional depravity. And lastly, a human stranded on an island with a treasure chest of a million dollars and not a drop of water or morsel of food can still not survive, though he is "financially wealthy." In the film, Up the Yangtze, the main character ironically stated her family was the "poorest" of the region, but they were raising and self subsisting on the best line of crops along the Yangtze River. (Same situation with my grandfather's involvement of "bartering" during the Depression). Access, ownership, subsistence, and bartering of tangible, physical resources without being incorporated into a currency system is not necessarily included in economic analyses (these means of surviving are probably not included all together). So, whenever I see anyone using the words "rich" or "poor" countries, even "first world" and "third world" countries, I become quickly disgusted, coming to realize that the author has not really thought through what they were saying. Sources include the Economist and a slough of social commentary authors. (The Poem "More," The Peacock and the Bowerbird) (You also have to consider the properties of acquiring wealth: earned versus inherited. Issues of Darwinian versus Lamarckian inheritance)

It's strange to think that one tiny incident with a dent in a car four years back can dislodge a massive boulder in my mind and lead to a whole chain reaction of thoughts on the subject. Now very deep deep deep in my mind, I remember this BMW-graduate-student owner mentioned how she and her family learned "not to become attached to materials" when their house burned down over 15 years ago... a philosophy entirely contradicting her reactionary response to the dent in her car. Come on! I need some consistency here. But then again, who is consistent nowadays? Who says what they mean? Mean what they say? Say what they do? Do what they say? Even myself. Human. Default hypocrite, eh? Ya....

Inheritance of social regimes, social contacts explored in Professor's Daughter Syndrome Blog 336.


Victoria "Stokastika" said...

I own a Mercedez Benz not because I want a Mercedez Benz, but I must portray to my clients an image of success. An illusion of success. Runaway socioecological status signal (like with birds), and also with male sexual selection. Exaggeration of image versus the exaggeration of ownership to superfluousness, beyond functionality, finding aesthetic in functionality. The bird that Hector discussed in Argentinian folklore.

Victoria "Stokastika" said...

The peacock and the bowerbird, peacocks emphasize image and representation, bowerbirds symbolize functionality and actuality and organization.

Victoria "Stokastika" said...

Okay, so there are three main Blog entries on the issues of definition of wealth. Blog 496, Blog 474, and Blog 336. With discussions of four potential meanings of wealth: resource ownership, financial-monetary ownership, spiritual-emotional wealth, intellectual wealth (mental bower, order and wisdom), and intellectual wealth in terms of quantity over quality (information overload). I told Maria G. that I had an extremely hard time calling people "first class" "middle class" "lower class" or "working class" all it represents is how much money they earn and it doesn't embody any other aspect of their lifestyle and emotional-states (as Alexios was correlating happiness with voluntary simplicity, or less stuff, chosen less stuff, downsizers or downshifters).