Sunday, February 27, 2011

The Nature of the Observer

What makes one observer a penetrating judge of people’s character when the assessment of the same person by another observer renders a characterization that completely misses the mark? Why is one investor instantly leery of the sales pitch of a con man while another investor is quite impressed by his sales pitch?

The answers to both questions lay in the nature of the observers. The first observer is an individualist: he knows himself well: he sees himself pretty much as he is, so he has nothing to prove, run from or deny in seeing others as they are.

The second, gullible observer is a joiner, only superficially in touch with his inner self. Because he knows himself not, his perceptual fog and self-deceptive, perceptual preconceiving carries over in how he misconceives people that he encounters.

In the group setting, the second, gullible observer will be far quicker to sense the mood, the mores, the clothes worn by, the fashions advertised and watchwords passed among the insiders. The first, isolated, outsider/beholder will miss most of these communicative flags, thus highlighting his apartness and tone deafness to social subtleties. In the world of illusions held and shared, there are subtle signals sent to tell the attentive, responding, second observer when to twist and turn, like two hundred starlings flying as one black cloud, without error or misstep.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Laurence A. Ramsey 1920 - 2011

 Dad died on January 30, 2011. He was over 90 years of age and died in his sleep in his own bed. He lived life on his own terms. He died on his own terms. He was fiercely independent and made us promise not to put him in a nursing home.
He was an intellectual and a farmer. He was what I referred to as a conservative hippie. He admired the capitalist system and spoke glowingly about other farmers that were efficient, competent and prosperous businessmen. Yet, he was an idealist and conservationist long before being green was the prevalent ideology of the ruling class. He had many delightful experiments and projects that likely had few practical implications, or profitable prospects. He was a most interesting man to visit with.
He admired the entrepreneurial sorts, but money was not his ultimate motivator. He occasionally talked about eking out a living.
He was the unheralded Pembina County version of the Renaissance Man. He was a brilliant horticulturist. He was a Class A rancher. He was an accomplished carpenter. He could do some foundry work. He was a fair plumber and electrician. He was very handy.
He enjoyed philosophy, birdwatching, some hunting, geology, local history and Indian artifacts. He was very intelligent and interested in everything.
He was hot-tempered. He was smart, very skilled, and knew it. He could be arrogant. He could be sarcastic. He had his favorites among the children. He could be sexist, but he made my adopted Korean children love him, because he really welcomed them as he did the other 8 Irish grandchildren.
He was a World War II vet. He was married to Helen O’Sullivan for over 63 years. He was a skilled, fastidious technician, a well respected civil engineer.
The village priest at Dad’s funeral said that Laurence struggled with faith. I disagree. Three years ago I asked him if he believed in God. Dad thought for a minute, and then replied, “There is so much order and regular process in the way the universe operates. That cannot be an accident. Someone set that up and guides it.” I believe that Dad was a Deist like I am.
Dad is resting is some level of heaven right now. He was very kind. He was proud of his family and protected them. He loved animals and they loved him. He cared for the sick and disabled as best he knew how.
 He had a kind heart, and I believe that moral goodness flows out of spiritual goodness, even were the kind person to proclaim himself to be an atheist.
Two anecdotes: in about 1985 (maybe earlier), it was winter and he was gone somewhere. He left careful, detailed instructions for feeding his cows. They were fed hay on the south side of the grove in the snow. They were not to be rushed. When done eating, they would lie down and chew their cuds for an hour, out of the prevailing winter winds, soaking up the sun. A little after noon, they would start drifting through the grove towards the heated water fountain to get their drink. I was to open the gate to allow them to get their drink. About four o’clock they would be fed hay again in the yard where they could then lie down and rest for the night out of the wind.
I fed them on the south side of the grove. I gave them one hour to eat. I then herded them into the yard. They got their drink and their afternoon feeding by two o’clock and then I was off to do something else off the farm. Most ranchers feed the way I did. Dad did not believe in pushing animals to meet one’s needs, goals or deadlines. He worked with them as they were and coaxed them along at their pace, the way that they wanted to muddle along.
Dad did not like to go against natural patterns and behaviors. I am much more human-centered, activistic, goal-driven. I am not process-centered like Dad was.
Another time I visited him in those years and spent a Saturday with him in the winter. He did not seem to have a dog at his farm site but he had a half-wild, huge tabby farm cat that had wandered in from the neighbors to be adopted and fed.  I watched in wonder for 3 or 4 hours as Dad worked around the yard. The bond between him and that tomcat was so strong that where ever he went, the cat would like down near by, moving and removing several times to stay near him. Dad was not even aware of the cat. No cat has ever followed me like that.
He was ambitious in his funny, artistic way. He ended up with about 700 acres of land, modest middle class farm machinery, and a large family.
His journey here is over now. The next phase for him has now begun. He is headed the right way. One day we will meet again.