This essay hopes to illumine the masses to concepts, types, powers and dangers of Paradigm. It is recommended that this blog be read chronologically.
A paradigm is defined as a model or pattern. For our purposes consider it a way of thinking about any given subject. A paradigm is a way to understand something through associative groups of ideas. So to change your mind is to change your paradigm. It’s not that simple of course, but it will be after your “Paradigm paradigm” is in place.
A paradigm, in our definition, isn’t decided upon, although conscious decision can influence it. Paradigms are built out of networks of associations. You might think you’ve decided that your favourite colour is blue, but it’s been decided for you by the mess of associations you have for the concept of “blue.” An example of an association could be a memory, or just a simple thought. Imagine that inside your brain there is a complicated three dimensional web of tiny blood vessels that connect to each other at millions upon millions of junctions. A junction could have many blood vessels coming in and out of it, or it might be dangling by itself at the end of one vessel.
In our metaphor, inside each of the junctions is a single idea, concept, thought, or memory. The complexity of the web develops as associations link junctions together. So, in the simplest scenario, the child understands that cookies taste yummy because some sensory junctions have connected the concepts of “cookie” to the concepts of “yummy.”
Or rather, Cookie = Yummy.
To change the child’s “Cookie Paradigm,” bake cookies out of something less delicious, say sourdough asparagus flavour. Now the child has difficulty accepting that this new “thing” is even a cookie at all. Perhaps, this new “thing” = Not Cookie, or Cookie = ?
Let’s look at another common paradigm, the idea of “Bed.” Be it an extravagant, luxurious set up at a five star hotel or a dirty horse blanket in the desert, bed is a concept that you began to understand before you can even remember. At first it was probably associated with sleep, comfort, warmth, perhaps even love as your parents may have read you stories, kissed you and tucked you in. Your associative group is made up of a few junctions. Within a few years, it is possible that bed might run a fresh line to a new junction, “punishment.”
Maybe you are sent to bed without dinner, or you feel that your “bedtime” is unfair. Later still in life the idea of “bed” will most likely become linked to many other junctions; Romance, sex, power, misery, laundry, whatever... You can see how the list can be as lengthy as the newly forming associations in your mind. (Incidentally, my metaphor isn’t too far from the physical truth of your brain, this is the way it actually works!)
By the time you are in your mid twenties your mind is essentially “made up.” (A little bit earlier than that for females.) That is not to say that you can’t make new junctions, in fact, very recent studies have shown that neuro-plasticity, or your brains’ ability to physically change remains healthy throughout most of your life. However, you are not going to make as many new associative connections in the remaining seventy or so years of your life as you did in the first twenty because the ‘forming’ brain is the most pliable.
Fret not, for you can take comfort in the fact that you are much more likely (in your wisdom) to recognise epiphaniacle experiences as new junctions are created or connected to create “A-ha!” moments. These moments of strong realisation, something almost all humans can relate to, are associative networks of ideas that are connecting into super highways of thought, built of blood flow and tiny discharges of electricity.
Let’s argue that in whatever world I live, the concepts of “bed” and “sex” are connected but the idea of prostitution is a complete unknown. In such a paradigm there is no link between “bed” and “income.” Then, one day through no fault of my own, I become aware of prostitution. Suddenly, I am able to link “bed” to “sex” to “income.” Perhaps I’ll become involved in prostitution in such a way that I am unable to think of “bed” in my old paradigm. It’s possible that, after the paradigm shift, and suffering the lifestyle of a typical prostitue, I will forever look at “bed” with negative feelings, and not at all remember the comfort or warmth of my earlier associations. I say, “This life stinks and I’m trapped in it.” Such is the nature and the power of paradigm shift. (This was a long term case example, a very similar effect could be achieved in one horrible evening of abuse.)
Now let’s imagine I latch onto prostitution with a lively vigour that will eventually lead me to become the Madame of the largest whorehouse in the world. I’ve had my scrapes and “paid my dues” much as the first prostitute did, but I never let anyone change my spirit and now I look at beds and see them as puffy white clouds taking my clients to Heaven. I am successful, healthy and happy. I happen to love sex, I’m good at it, I’m good at business, therefore “Bed” = “Success!”
The outlook of the first prostitute was exactly the same as the second ones’ at the beginning. They both just “became aware” that prostitution existed. They both decided it was for them. The first one had experiences that lead her to associate “bed” with “pain.” The second one had similar experiences that lead her to associate “bed” with “success.”
The difference being that the second one had an understanding of paradigms. Sure, she didn’t call it that, she just never let anyone ‘change her mind.’ She was going to be successful and she was. The first prostitute has no idea of paradigms. She lives in a reality where things happen to her. She has no control over her life. She had (unconsciously) decided that things were going to be bad in this life, and (surprise!) they are.
I use prostitutes in my explanation because they are an ancient idea that is still commonplace today and they bring morals into the equation. Let’s call the first one, the unsuccessful, unhappy one, “Britney.” And let’s name the second, successful whore, “Christina.” So far Britney has demonstrated Paradigm Ignorance, (or unconscious paradigms,) by not accepting responsibility for her positions, paradigm shift (the changing of mind or point of view) and used Assignee’s Prerogative to her disadvantage by attaching negativity.
Christina has illustrated Paradigm Cognition by her decision to not allow her mind-set to be faltered and by not assigning negativity to unpleasant associations she used ‘A.P.’ to her advantage. If you had to decide between them both, surely all would agree that by any standard Christina was a happier, more successful and more productive hooker.
Yeah, but, she’s still a hooker!
Exactly! So what? What do you think of that? Why? Why? Why? Why? Why are you deciding on that? Do you have to? Is you’re life going to be altered in some way if you just let the idea of prostitution be and use your ‘A.P.’ to assign no validity? Do you know any hookers, is your sister a whore? No, then what bloody difference does it make? Let it go...
This is not possible for the vast majority of humans because, for reasons that will come clear, we have to decide. How can we help but form an opinion? How can we truly know anything if we can’t have an opinion of it? To illustrate, in the preceding example of “bed” we were able to successfully join the concept to “income” through “prostitution.” This paradigm shift (the realisation of the concept of prostitution,) is a side effect of maturing, or rather becoming knowledgeable, that I call Paradigm Tarnishing.
It’s taken your positive connotations of “bed” and attached them to something you find uncomfortable. The effect is probably more recognisable in the common lessons of disappointing ilk, “Your parents lie. Your teacher is an idiot. Your cat ate it’s kittens.” The experiences happen without you knowing the how or why, once you are aware you’ll be able to do something to control your self. The connections of the junctions linking the simple concepts, prostitution = bed + sex + income are only the core of the association. On top of that are many other pathways to junctions varied by each individual and formed uniquely to build your paradigms.
I can only guess at what weird or wonderful things are rattling around in your head when you think of “bed.” (Incidentally, there is no Paradigm “Polishing”, the opposite of “Tarnishing” because Paradigm Cognition polishes approaches by default and attaching positive feelings to negative concepts is stupidly dangerous. It does, however, try to get presented to us constantly; “Minimizing Civilian Casualties...” “Friendly Fire....” “Near Miss.”)
One thing certainly experienced by modern humans is the urgent desire to form an opinion of any given subject, immediately and often in spite of not having any foreknowledge or understanding. If you wish to test the hypothesis just ask anyone what they think of anything. This enormous egocentric fault is demonstrated by our ability to work against our own best interests. It is also very likely to lead to our extinction.
So, I ask you now, think about your bed. Think back to all the beds you’ve had. Remember all the associations you have made with “bed.” What do you think about when I suggest you think about “bed?” I bet it’s quite a bit different from what you would think if I asked you to think about prostitution. The difference between the two is opinion formed, and strongly held. Think of it this way, your paradigms are built up of what you have learned through experience. They are not your opinions, they are what form your opinions, networks of associations.
The paradigms are meat and the opinions created are the gravy. With apologies to vegetarians, I’ve certainly experienced that gravy can make your meat better or worse. You probably have a healthy, “normal” paradigm where you think very banal thoughts about “bed.” It’s almost nothing, barely registers on the emotional radar. “Prostitution” on the other hand illicits a stronger response because there are morals attached and therefore more junctions involved. The cascading avalanche of interconnectivity leads to a stronger mental reaction. If the person holds powerful associations within their paradigm they may be physically manifest in discolouration, outbursts, violence, etc.
It’s complicated. I remember when I came to understand what I’ve explained to you thus far. It was a moment of empowerment. As Spalding Gray says in “Monster in a Box” (a filmed Monologue) “To name it is to claim it and to claim it is to take away it’s power.” Once I understood Paradigm, opinion, the physical work occurring in the brain much as I’ve described, I thought I was so much wiser than my friends. It turned out that this is the mere tip of the iceburg, wisdom runs faster than I can and my friends were happier than I was.
Nevertheless, it’s important that we understand the significance of the concept of Paradigms for three reasons: 1.) We can understand our opinions are formed by associations. 2.) We can examine the constructive associations of our opinions and measure their validity. 3.) We can reclaim identity through the formulation of our own, original opinions. (Authentic Self.) Let’s return to our original metaphor and discuss this final point to conclude.
If, shortly after my discovery of prostitution, I am asked “What do you think of it?” The best answer, rarely heard, is “Well I just found out about it didn’t I? Why don’t I get back to you after I’ve formed an opinion.” More likely I am to form an instantaneous opinion based on other peoples’ ideas, what I’ve learned, what I’ve heard, what your facial expression tells me I should think, or whatever I’ve got to work with inside my experience. So I shout out, “No! That’s disgusting and demeaning.” Yet, obviously we have prostitution. Some humans have looked at their bed/income association and found it appealing. It’s been around forever, so how can it be that I am so eagerly ready to denounce it? The point is, understanding something and forming an opinion of it are two separate functions.
As I have never known a prostitute, nor had any dealings with, nor even known anyone who’s had dealings with one, how can I possibly understand? I can’t, yet I form an opinion. It’s completely illogical and unjust. I have used other people’s opinions to set a paradigm for myself. (Granted, this paradigm will likely remain harmless, but can you see the danger?) Now I’m stuck with a paradigm I don’t even know I agree with, don’t know I can change and won’t know how it’s going to change me. Currently, almost everybody falls prey to this phenomenon, which is terrifying.
A paradigm should be a flexible entity, able to shift, grow, shrink, even disappear. If I was exercising my Assignee’s Prerogative I would say my “Prostitution Paradigm” is that they exist, I don’t have to bother with them, so I don’t. If I ever do, then I guess I will. This, in our current reality, is unnacceptable. Our paradigms must be known. How are we to know who you are if we can’t know what you think? Furthermore, due to the long rampant influx of generated opinion, our paradigms are the facts. Our opinions become the object.
We have become unable to separate our associations from our subjects. Our beds are this, our beds are that. Prostitution is this, prostitution is that. We must opinionate every experience because we have been indoctrinated to categorise everything, it is, in fact, just how we relate sociologically. Therefore, we don’t support the war but we support the troops. We abhor murder as executed by group A and tout group B heroes for doing the same thing. We drive home drunk and smash up our bumper sticker that reads “Support the war on drugs.”
We are unable to even recognise the double-think of our everyday life. Humans don’t bother to think. They just regurgitate what they’ve already decided and they're more than happy to bark out fabricated ideas without even contemplating the “why.” It doesn’t have to continue this way...
Honestly, that little word “why” is the key. Asking why leads to the places opinion is born. Asking why an opinion exists leads to measuring it’s value. Knowing the value will help you decide if it’s time to change your mind or attempt to change someone else's.