For the past two decades, I have been a student of Human Development. My interest is the human mind viewed from a developmental perspective.
As a special education teacher, I have worked with families and professionals in developing educational programs for students with profound physical and cognitive barriers to their own otherwise "typical" development.
I am now approaching my 65th year of life. I have too many projects on my "back burner" that may never reach completion.
The purpose of this Internet website is to create a sort of Rosetta Stone or key to my own life experiences and aspirations.
My foremost aspiration has always been to seek Truth and to attempt to live by what I have discovered. I have kept a personal record of these "discoveries" about Truth for over 40 years.
Somewhere in my personal papers, there are many journals in my own handwriting. These journals contain anecdotal data about Developmental Truth - one person's experience of seeking Truth.
I plan to share the contents of those journals here now and then. Look to this column for hyperlinks to the journals and to other examples of my writing.
A Developmental Approach to Understanding the Human Search for Truth
Imagine living in a cave with other cave dwellers thousands of years ago; perhaps tens of thousands of years ago. You are of the species Homo Sapiens. Around you and perhaps even in your own tribal group, are members of other species such as Neanderthal who have become partners with your tribe and with whom you procreate.
Your tribe has survived an Ice Age. The older members of your tribe tell stories about your ancestors who did not survive the hard times. From these tales, the tribe reaches consensus about the causes for the hardships it has faced and about the ways to avoid the hardships.
A communal set of understood values develops with the purpose of assuring the protection and the continuation of the tribe. These values might include such understandings as -
"Do not go hunting alone."
"Do not go to the waterhole alone."
"Make a weapon and be ready to use it."
"Be ready to fight against outside dangers."
But as the Fates would have it, you do not live in a safe world. There are many creatures outside the cave that could care less about your tribe's safety. It is only a matter of chance that members of your tribe do not fall victim to beasts of prey. Regardless of how close your tribe bands together, there will always be that time when one of your tribe succumbs and is killed and eaten by the beasts outside the cave.
You experience the pheonomenon of Death. Your tribe's oral traditions probably already contain stories that deal with understood communal attitudes about Death. Your elders tell these stories. They are a comfort to the young. They need not be tested or proven. For the tribe, these stories are The Truth.
There are however, other tribes in other caves with which your tribe has contact and with which your tribe shares a common history and (hopefully) even shares common values. These tribes may not yet perceive themselves as anything other than a confederacy of tribes. With the passage of time, with intermarriage between the tribes and with the sharing of common values, that confederacy will become a nation.
These commonly held values form the epistomological foundation for the primitive confederacy.
The Primitive Search
In the developmental approach to understanding the human search for Truth which I am discussing here, the experience of Death constitutes a developmental milestone. Personally, I experienced Death (an awareness of the inevitable end of life) at around the age of five.
My parents took me to an evening visitation for a deceased member of my extended family which took place in the home of the parents of the deceased. In this case, the deceased was a small child, younger than myself.
After the pleasantries of greeting family members in one room, we were led into an adjoining room where a casket had been placed containing the body of a young cousin. I had never seen that relative in life, and only understood that the child should have been as close to me as my other cousins.
The child had been positioned into a cherub-like pose and dressed in a pink "frilly" dress. The entirety of the small casket was draped with a pink gauze-like material.
Later that night, as I lay awake in my own bed, looking out at the starry sky, I suddenly felt fear - the fear of my own inevitable demise. I made an association between the stars and the famous presidents of which I knew.
I concluded that each star must be a George Washington or an Abe Lincoln. I said a prayer in my head, "Please God. Don't let me die. Don't let me die. (I am no president. I am only a little boy.)"
I suspect that my youthful experience of the Dead must be somehow archetypal; that nearly every human brain, in developing, must eventually become aware of its own finality. How we react individually and tribally to that awareness must constitute a basis for our Human seeking of the Truth.
When a human awareness of Death is factored into the primitive communal values of a tribe, the developing system might expand to include these understood values -
"Do not go hunting alone, and if you expect others to protect you from danger, be willing to protect others from danger."
"Do not go to the waterhole alone, and if you are tempted to go there alone, remember the entire time of being alone that you need others to protect you. So, when you are alone, be afraid! Be very afraid!"
"Make a weapon and be ready to use it. Engender it with powers that respect your own strengths and honors the strengths of others. Celebrate its value as a fetish."
"Be ready to fight against outside dangers, and thereby, be ready to die for others fighting with you. Be ready to give your life so that the tribe may survive. And when you give your life for the tribe, your tribe will honor you in its memory of you for as long as there is a tribe."
Even today, when we see flag-draped coffins lined up outside cargo jets on military tarmacs, we often repeat these ancient oaths of fealty to the memory of those who have died so that we might continue to live. This then must be a platform; a basis for a universal Truth of some kind.
Some might say that this Truth of Self-sacrifice has been a part of human life for so long, it has become an archetype - a part of our common developmental process; perhaps even an intelligence that is hard-wired into our being human.
But, is there a point at which this very ancient Truth becomes a barrier to future development in the Human Truth-seeking Process? Without his experiencing Death publicly and in humiliation, and without his theoretical self-sacrifice, would we have kept the memory of Jesus of Nazareth alive in our human consciousness?
Is there any extent to which we oursleves become a barrier to Human Truth-seeking when we attempt to live a life that emulates the self-sacrificial Truth we find in the exemplary life of Jeus of Nazareth?
Finally, is the Truth of Self-sacrifice some kind of ultimate value upon which to base all of the Human Truth-seeking process; is it a final and ultimate developmental milestone of some type?
- James M. Kemp AKA Pops Spedster
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