Michael Mendizza

Writer, Filmmaker

Social Is Sensory


Learning and Education, Parenting

This rude awakening came as quite a surprise, shocking really. The sun, moon, planets and every living thing does not revolve around me. Life is reciprocal. The more we naturally give to life, the more life nurtures and empowers us.

Dear friend and inspired mentor, Joseph Chilton Pearce speaks of parenting demanding this realization; giving over our self-as-center-ness to the joyous, though not always easy, service of others. We can look at the entire developmental process as a slow transition from me to we, from mine to ours or us.

Interesting how  the smaller, less energy and attention is invested in me, the larger, more expansive and intelligent what we no longer think of as me becomes. What the old ones call bonding and the hipsters call attachment, neither are very good, comes into play here. Instead of conceiving of bonding as attaching two separate things, consider that the experience bonding implies actually describes one’s state of being and therefore identity. The nature and quality of the bonded relationship defines one’s identity.

If that is me-me-me and the other, one’s identity and therefore core of being and movement in relationship is defined by me, pretty small. Joe describes how bonding is expansive, how the developmental process is one of expanding bonds, first with mother and father, family, hopefully but much less now than ever before with nature, the living world, neighborhood, tribe, culture, the planet, cosmos and ultimately spirit. At each developmental stage the center of one’s identity expands and with it the empathy and intelligence at least, that is what nature intends. Most, for painful reasons, get stuck. Ashley Montagu suggested that few continue to develop beyond high school. Many get stuck much earlier, toddler tantrums in a grown-up body.

Love, I reasoned many years ago, the natural pleasure based glue on which this expansive empathy and intelligence depends, is the only force strong enough to overcome the weight of self-centeredness me-as-the-center implies. One can’t be stuck in ‘me’ and love at the same time. Love implies transcending this really puny me-identity, letting it go for something much bigger. Loving Carly is transcendent.

And Carly Elizabeth demands a return to the senses. Social is sensory. This too implies a transformation in my identity. Here we are adulterated adults, preoccupied with all sorts of abstract ideas, memories, words, projections and the virtual realities these imply, what James W. Prescott, PhD, call cognitive processing, blabbering away talking to Carly as we change her diaper. How crazy is that? Walking home last evening an old woman was sitting on a bench lecturing to her dog that could care less, not understanding a word. We all do this all the time.

Our challenge of course, out of love and care for the other, is to abandon all the cool ideas we think we are and become extremely sensitive, attuned and responsive, that means give silent attention to what Carly or the dog is actually and communicate with touch, movement, resonate shared feeling and sensation. Do this and when the time comes for concrete and semantic language the empathic shared-meaning foundation will be strong and co-learning explosive.

James W. Prescott, PhD recently posted a historic essay where he describes how leading scientists were blinded to the sensory deprivation implications of their mother-infant separation research. Researchers denied that what they there were doing was sensory deprivation. From their position the research was social deprivation. Jim, having done sensory deprivation research for the military, appreciated immediately the profound and lasting developmental harm being inflicted on these mother deprived infant monkeys. He understood that during this very early and extremely sensitive developmental period that Social is Sensory, something every adult relating to very young infants would do well to remember, and remember and remember.

Carly reminded me of this today.

Michael Mendizza