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The Wrong World The Wrong World
by Jan Sand
2022-09-19 07:03:53
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There is an old story of a scientist who invented a machine to transfer consciousness. When his apparatus was complete he had no convenient subject but spotted a centipede on the floor and scooped it up and dropped it into the receiver section. He then put on the headset to dispatch his consciousness. He pressed the activation switch and suddenly discovered himself looking up at his immobile body.

concio0001_400"Hurray!" he thought, "It works." Then he tried to move the centipede into the light beam that would reverse the process. He moved the first foot and then found he couldn't figure which other foot to move. The story leaves him immobile, frozen in place. He never gets to figure out which other foot to move to get back into himself.

The story lays out one of the basic problems that has plagued the world since people congregated in herds. It is extremely difficult, if not impossible, to understand what the world looks like from the point of view of another living being. We can make accommodations and somehow assume that the other being is us just moved over there where it is but that is merely a superficial special transformation. Being someone else is a very special rare gift sometimes available to imaginative writers who can in some instances not only put the reader into another's situation but put him into someone else's mind.

Centipedes and probably other arthropods are a difficult case but even other creatures closer to us physiologically represent difficulties that might be beyond possibility to overcome. What would it be like to be a sparrow? To be perfectly comfortable sitting on the edge of a roof of a skyscraper and then easily pushing off into emptiness. To have no qualms floating hundreds of feet up in the air with nothing but your body to deal with it. Perhaps skydivers can do this but I doubt anybody could tell me how it feels. Anymore than someone could tell me how vanilla tastes or I could tell someone blind from birth what a surface covered with red and blue polka dots on a black background looks like. Language has severe limitations.

But we can move our focus much, much closer to ourselves and still find ourselves in incomprehensible difficulties. How many men and women who have lived together for years merely stop trying to get across to each other their intense emotional feelings about each other? "I love you", or "I hate you" are impossibly blunt linguistic instruments to carry across what is really going on in their heads. Silence is frequently the applied remedy to disastrous effects.

And the difficulties of parents, of teachers, in dealing with children and totally misunderstanding them and how they think is a commonplace. The essential capability in education is to understand what goes on in students' minds and the widespread failures in the US to make children literate bespeaks of the lacks of educators to penetrate the minds of children and present to them the worlds of imagination and wonder that lies in books.

But it is in the much more crucial area of law that the worlds that lie within each mind most frequently fail to connect to the world of social commerce. The remedy for an individual who directs his efforts against rather than along with the behaviors that make society viable has been, for thousands of years, to subject a convicted person to one form or another of brutality. This does work in some instances but the rates of return to criminal behavior once a convict has served his term are extremely high.

It's a cruel joke on the procedure that the prison has proven a better educational institute for more sophisticated criminal action than an introduction to civil behavior. The restrictions that a released convict encounters on re-entering society are frequently so daunting that further criminal behavior becomes the only future path and thus ensures a quick return to prison. At present time the USA is incarcerating more people than any other country in the world and this has proved not only to be a very expensive procedure but building prisons has become a growth industry which is proving difficult to maintain.

The same callous mindset is prevalent in the US prison in Cuba and other US prisons throughout the world devoted to what is assumed to be terrorists. Recent reports from people who interviewed top Nazis to gain information at Nuremberg indicated that they were much more successful in friendly approaches such as playing chess to stimulate conversation to elicit valid information than through the type of brutality used in current prisons which mostly results in useless lies.

Despite the slogans, what is necessary is not love but understanding. Sometimes love results. Sometimes it proves impossible. It is vitally necessary to know.

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