Leader vs. intermediary;
altar of worship vs. common table;
God in our midst vs. God in the East ;
Jenny Geddes alleged cry;
and deck chairs on the Titanic with poetry by Yeats:
this is a feast of serious thinking!
There are enough separate discussion threads to keep us going for a year.
Monthly Archives: February 2009
Evolution and the Ideomorph
This exchange of view was perched atop an equally ‘stimulating’ piece citing this same theory as an element underpinning the gender-wage gap in our culture. Feminists are fond of pointing rather exclusively to the ‘glass ceiling’ that exists for women. The ‘enlightened’, young (female) psychologist / columnist was suggesting that accomplished women actually select themselves out of the wage market (taking with them their significant incomes and abilities, thereby dragging down not only the ‘female average earnings’ but also removing a particularly promising group of employed and employable folk) by choosing as partners, males like unto themselves: bright, upwardly mobile, high achieving, etc., etc… In short, this process of modified ‘natural selection’ (to attach the usual Darwinian terminology) skews the number of top female candidates, leaving the males in play.
To illustrate her point, she cites the case of Michelle and Barack Obama. A mere three years before his election, Michelle was reportedly earning in the $300,000 (USD) range annually. Expected 2009 income: $0. The implication of course is that the Obama’s are representative of a significant group of similar couples, all studiously engaged in the process of pulling the female earning potential out of the market, leaving their male counterparts to boost the average male numbers. Maybe yes; maybe no. Unfortunately the theory is, how shall I put this, yet to be tested. While not a devil’s ‘advocate’ per se, I’m at least a promising protégé.
An occurrence that old Charles D seemed to struggle to account for was not only the appearance of but the apparent thriving of anomalies – those quirky right turns in the methodical, relentless march of evolution from which sprang, quite suddenly, spontaneously, and without apparent genetic forebears, completely new (and sometimes desirable) directions, homo erectus being a prime example. The fossil record, after several millennia of plod along one, well worn trail, seemed to lurch (in evolutionary terms) rather abruptly along a new path. I would maintain that the Obama ‘match’ might better be viewed as one of those desirable hiccups and far from sufficiently representative to account for anything as far reaching and ubiquitous as the wage gap across genders. I’d put Mr. Obama himself (perhaps prematurely – hopefully not) in the category of the Winston Churchill’s, the Lester B. Pearson’s, the Pierre Elliott Trudeau’s, the JFK’s – politicians to be sure; but certainly not leaders born out of the existing genetic political pool, nor the ‘expected’ progeny of the existing ‘political parentage’. I’m not sure if the term in the title is original (I highly doubt it) – but it certainly works in just these situations. The aforementioned are ideomorphs, one-offs as it were, unique forms (to consider the etymology of my makey-uppy term) that pop out of centre field (if the metaphors may be mixed) and not from the predominant, primordial ooze of the political landscape.
Nicola and I got to discussing, at the same breakfast time ‘round table’, just such anomalies in the slightly lowered profiles of our own families; triggered in no small measure by content of an extended family history, provided Nicola some ten years ago and detailing three centuries of paternal genealogy and more particularly some of the extended writings of a grandfather. Her mother is fond of saying: “just where did you come from?” – reference the values, style, integrity, attention to detail, and so on that not only characterize her daughter (and make her, I believe in mother’s view, something of a rebellious handful) , but set her at some considerable distance from the value systems detailed in a family history of high-achieving, but decidedly ethically challenged progenitors.
I, like most borne out of a scientific training, subscribe quite heartily to Darwinian ideas. Creationist science is not only deemed bunkum, but is positively oxymoronic – with the emphasis on the final three syllables. I am left, nonetheless, in some awe of individuals that strike a unique path, that eschew the proscribed direction – whether it be swinging from trees with a penchant for walking on one’s knuckles or simply donning the party (be it political or familial) colours and espousing the expected and predictable rhetoric. In a tradition within our household, certain festivals and other ‘Hallmark days’ are marked with homage paid each other, most often in form of a haiku. Following is a variation on just such an acknowledgment of the ‘ideomorph’ I am honoured to be partnered with:
One’s weed, one’s wonder –
Captain Karma Comes A Callin’
And so as I fired up the snow blower on what, to all appearances was not a particularly auspicious, winter morning, I was not really prepared to entertain such a guest. Two, three inches at most; should be able to blast through this in top gear and get in before the coffee cools. Driveway, done. City walkway – all the way to the corner (self-absorbed slugs who drop their citizenly duty, take note), done. A little polish off of our own sidewalk . . . Oops, just about dropped the ball on that one! Toss the newspaper safely out of the way onto the front porch; mark that extension cord, frozen in place ‘til Spring – and WHANG!
Blue smoke, usually the exclusive province of the machine itself, redoubled as its owner added to the column. Nothing stops a blower in its tracks like a good, hefty, mid-week edition of the Globe & Mail. Momentarily at a loss, I poke my head around to the business end and confirm that, yep, a little tattered and twisted but otherwise wedged in tact was Wednesday’s best (bearing out my fear that I’d carefully rescued yesterday’s paper) mid-maw as it were.
Years of anger management (teaching, not taking – thank you very much!) reminded me to belly breathe, hit the ‘pause button’ (as if that would get the *&%@! Globe out of the blower!), put an optimistic construction on events (‘could have been the extension cord’ seemed a bit limp at this point). And thus, as the mailman (and it was a man) strode up the driveway with his sunny greeting of how much he appreciated a clean path, I responded in kind with an “it’s the least I can do” – and went back to work with the sledge, crow bar, and sotto voce curses. It was some time before my mind (and the smoke) cleared sufficient to register that just maybe that wasn’t the mail man after all. Maybe that was CK in a mad bomber hat (the guy is a master of disguise).
Now the parallel tale, of course, is the Lenten theme at St. James this year. Let me get this right: something about consumerism, loving the planet, caring for our non-renewable resources. For some time, heeding the refrain that the church website is such a wonderful tool for communicating with the parish, for sharing life at St. James with those that can’t attend on a regular basis (Hmmm?), for keeping folks current with bulletin and community news, coming events and music lists (well, those will come, I just know it), the scribe and faithful sidekick have connived and plotted, pushed and (digitally) published this little vehicle in every way possible to save a tree here and a pinch of Xerox powder there. But alas, the drafts of drafts, the photocopies of photocopies, the pink, purple, and puce ‘eye catching inserts’, the printed reminders to check the website for details – just keep a rollin’ off the press. The direct emails, weekly updates, the attempts at ‘reverse marketing’ (“if you want to receive a hard copy of . . .”) have fallen on deaf ears. Ah, but Captain Karma hears!
Feeling ever the hypocrite, I recall my rants about inserts, flyers, ad mail, and unsolicited newsprint – dropped disdainfully into the recycle bin between the mail box and the house, unread, unwanted, resented; as I pull a shred of “Leafs lose another one” out of the blower’s rotors. As I untwist the plastic wrapper from the drive shaft, I cast mind back to the (now hollow) advocacy to ‘read online’; the barely controlled telephone exchanges with the London Free Press, censuring them for delivering ‘complimentary copies’ of their ‘illiterate rag’ to our house. Tentatively tweaking the clutch to expel the final few remnants of Rex’s column onto my neighbour’s snow bank, I shudder to remember the carefully lettered warnings taped to mail box cautioning anyone who might challenge to “save a tree – leave no junk mail here!”. How many times does the message need to be delivered? How much clearer can CK be? P-R-A-C-T-I-C-E W-H-A-T Y-O-U P-R-E-A-C-H. Come to think of it, that’s kinda catchy – even has that kind of churchy feel to it. Hmm. Wonder if there’s an application of that up on the hill. Or do we have to wait for a visit from CK? Wonder what the liturgical equivalent is of a Globe stuffed up your rotor?