Wednesday, July 11, 2007

The Gods and the Bees

Since coming to the harsh awareness that the myths of Mormonism no longer align with my constructs of ultimate reality, I have been struggling to redevelop meanings for some of the symbols I left behind. The most powerful of these was obviously "God".

I think God is a great support for some of the myths I continue to tell, such as the notion that, "the worth of souls is great in the eyes of God." But problems with theodicy and the (as far as I can tell) inseparability of the "soul" and our gray matter leave me unable to consider a micro-manager God. I've been leaning more towards pantheism, in fact. After all, if we were microscopic creatures studying a living brain, the behavior of neurons would appear completely deterministic, just like the world around us does. (I'm siding with Einstein here, not Bohrs.) Without the quale of being human, we would have no sense of the consciousness of our subject on a larger scale. As I see it, God could be like that, for the whole universe. Likewise, just as a human cannot select a particular neuron to manipulate in a "random" way, pantheistic God can't be manipulating our day-to-day lives. My only problem with this approach is that God then seems to be pointless to some extent.

I was drawn to thinking more about this recently after reading an article on swarm behavior. If you don't want to read it, here's the gist: swarms can solve problems that individual members never could. In essence, intelligence is additive in a universal sense. This clearly holds true for humans as well. Consider, for example, the manufacturing of a jet aircraft. Not the assembly, but the machining and forging of parts, mining of ores, fabrication of silicon wafers in the circuitry, generation of power required to run welding equipment, etc. The knowledge to build an an aircraft from "nothing" does not--could not--exist in a single person. There aren't even organizations with the complete knowledge, but rather groups of organizations that must act together in the simultaneous application of inter-individual knowledge. Yet airplanes are common sights in the sky. The same could even be said of much simpler things, such as ball-point pens. Perhaps we as humans are progressing towards divinity not as individuals, but as a species. I like this new idea, as it captures Zion and God in one idea--a collection of humans united in the pursuit of familial love create Zion and become, in a sense, God.

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Blogger Sister Mary Lisa said...

Well, that article was highly interesting and exciting. I totally understand what you're saying here.

Unfortunately for me, I just don't see men being willing to let go of the patriarchy that abounds (in society, in church, in government, etc.) ` even though it makes complete sense to abandon that and work together as a group with each individual conscious of himself and how he is doing his part to keep the group thriving.

Patriarchy serves the needs of half the group, not the needs of the whole, by insisting on half the group being leaders while the other half follows unquestioningly. I much prefer the swarm mentality. I for one know my home would be much more peaceful if no single person insisted on being in control (Hi, Honey!) and we all worked together to have a home we all enjoy and take pride in maintaining.

July 11, 2007 at 8:11 AM  
Blogger Ujlapana said...

Do you mean patriarchy or heirarchy? I don't see the US government or public businesses as patriarchal so much as heirarchal. Though typically filled with men, these men are not told that they are fit for their positions by virtue of their gender. The Church is an obivious patriarchy, where gender is a prerequisite for positions within the heirarchy. I'm just trying to clarify how you view society at large vs. the church.

Patriarchies in organizations do a poor job of serving anyone's needs, relative to a typical heirarchy. Men (in general) do not benefit as much as they would otherwise, by utilizing the best and the brightest at the top of the heirarchy, rather than 50% of the best and the brightest (males only). Patriarchies in a couple also distort the moral reasoning of the male--nobody is truly better off, in my opinion, than they would be in an equal partnership. In any case, women are clearly even worse off, but my point is merely that men shouldn't be clamoring for patriarchies either.

Flat structures are a fascinating idea in human organizations. Jeff Nielson, who got the boot from BYU for supporting gay marriage, has done a lot of research into flat organizations. I would be inclined to guess that they do a better job of picking the right place to go but take a lot longer to get there. Heirarchies move quickly, but you're much more likely to get completely lost.

In a sense, heirarchies may exist because of "swarm behavior" in humans. It's not like we all decide to build vast heirarchies--we just do what works for us as individuals, and that leads to a heirarchy. If you throw 5 random people at a problem, often a "leader" will emerge. Perhaps it's a function of such an extended period as a parent-dependent child--heirarchies just come "naturally." But perhaps we will reach a point where we completely out-evolve them as a species. (But probably not for a few more centuries.)

July 11, 2007 at 1:29 PM  
Blogger Sister Mary Lisa said...

Though typically filled with men, these men are not told that they are fit for their positions by virtue of their gender.

Well, I believe that society in the US does to some degree act out patriarchy within the heirarchy that has been established. Of course, this is changing somewhat since equal rights has been an issue in the last 50 years more than ever before.

Look at our parents. They grew up in a time when it was well understood that a woman's place was in the home, having babies and being homemakers, and all other professional, financial, and business matters were handled by the men. Both men and women were raised to fulfil their respective roles. Not only did tradition promote this, but the media played and still plays a huge role in maintaining this patriarchy in our subconscious.

In an upbringing like that, boys and men are treated as if they are entitled to deference by women, and women are expected to always defer. Therefore, men are treated with deference by women, generally. Just watch closely and you'll see women defering/catering to men in many ways even today. Women tend to apologize profusely for mistakes that most men would never dream of apologizing for after explaining why the mistake happened. Women are often expected to bring drinks to or do little things for male co-workers that other men would never dream of expecting or asking for from other male peers. This kind of thing comes naturally and is acceptable to women, stemming from years of observing our mothers and women around us and on TV, and most men accept it as natural as well. I don't mean ALL, but most.

Any female CEO would probably tell you that she sees the business world as a patriarchy which she had to fight against and be wary of all the way up the ladder. I would bet this is true for most if not all women in leadership in the business world, and possibly in the political world as well.

That is what I mean when I talk about the patriarchy that abounds in society, church, government. It's slowly turning around in government due to equal rights, but in society it's less progressive, and in church it's not progressive at all. Look at the ages of our top leaders there. Most of them grew up before the 50s, and they have very distinct opinions of what a woman's place is.

What do you think? Am I off the mark?

July 11, 2007 at 2:39 PM  
Blogger Ujlapana said...

I think you are right--celebrated feminine traits in our society (meekness, agreeability, physical weakness, etc.) are not in harmony with self-determination or power. As a result, women find themselves stuck between being "attractive" in the mainstream sense and "successful" in the mainstream sense. I agree that progress has been made, but that a greater shift is needed.

The reason I didn't say that society is patriarchal is that women who chose to forego "feminine" characteristics can achieve success. (That's a blanket statement, I know.) They suffer from labels such as "bitch on wheels" or "ball-buster," so they face negative reactions to their success; however, all of us face criticism for something from somebody. The door to CEO or President is not shut and locked if you're a woman--it just wasn't left swinging open like it was for the man before you.

Perhaps this is where the counter-culture of the church satisfies women. They can adopt the feminine traits of mainstream society and the "success" definition from the Church. (That definition is tailored specifically to women, of course; the male definition isn't all that different from the mainstream.) For example, instead of feeling guilty about being an SAHM (not the most glorified position in mainsteam society), they can feel celebrated. On the flip side, women who define success in their own way will probably find mainstream culture slightly restrictive and church culture intolerably so.

July 13, 2007 at 8:17 AM  
Blogger Sister Mary Lisa said...

I also think many women are satisfied with submissiveness. It can feel good to be "protected" and receive praise for willingness to serve and be all that he wants. It's scary to be independent and bold sometimes, and to reach out and grab what you want.

Unfortunately in the church, women are actively encouraged to remain as little girls. In most ways in church, a woman is treated exactly as the Young Women are treated. Not a big jump from 13 to 30.

So...back to the topic: The swarm idea is fascinating, and I totally look forward to the day when it creeps into human society for real. I think it'd be great.

July 13, 2007 at 1:15 PM  

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