Saturday, February 19, 2011

Patterns and Memory

Once a pattern is established and repeated, it becomes easier to repeat, generally. I'm thinking of a skill, particularly, like playing an instrument. Perhaps you've tried to play the guitar at some point in your life. A "C" chord seems impossible to someone who tries to grab it for the first time. You've got to bend your fingers around this long neck and then make sure that, once you're pressing down with the flesh of your finger tip that you don't mute out some of the open strings. It is difficult!

And yet.

If you try to grab this chord a few times, for, let's say, 15 minutes, every day, or every other day, you'll find it easier and easier to remember (instead of placing one finger down, then the other, then the last, you might put them all down at once), until grabbing a "C" chord (at least in the first position on open strings) is relatively easy. You'll want to find other chords then, and maybe learn to play a "D" chord. Eventually, you'll be able to switch between the two chords effortlessly. It's funny how this process works, mostly because what at first might seem a dramatic feat can be relatively easy after a few tries (and mistakes).

I think this dynamic colors our worlds on a daily basis. It means that we should be sensitive to those people and things we are impressed with, and be careful to compare the object of our affections with someone or something that has similar exposure to a particular pattern, so that we can tell how much innate skill is involved, if that's what we're going for. If what we're going for is to be impressed, then we don't have to worry about it too much.

But, what I really wanted to write about was the ease and difficulty involved in tasks based simply on one's knowledge or exposure to the task before-hand. Some things might be really really hard because they are similarly foreign, and other things very easy because they are familiar. So, take heart, non-drinkers among you, that you can learn to not drink successfully, but at first you'll feel like a kid learning a new language. With time, and exposure to many different types of venues, it can become a second skin that interacts on its own for you, just like booze used to be.

Basically, what I'm saying, is that you don't have to be "all in" to every social interaction you have, all the time. It is a mistake I've made in my own thinking about how to interact with people. It actually helps if I dial down my sincerety when I interact with people, and think about what is easiest to respond to, re: conversation, for instance.  People generally want to have a nice smooth flowing talk, if they want to talk.  They don't want to have to spell out their needs in a formulaic way that is excessively administrative.  They want to, in short, provide code words for longer more complete packages of needs.  Anyway, it has helped me (particularly at work, but also in my personal life) to realize that many people are patterned around certain conversational diagrams that make sense to them, and that getting something done, or successfully navigating a social scene (etc.), involves less interaction and more strategy on my part.  Not all of my thoughts on are always on display, no matter how loud they are inside.

It is a basic idea, but because I'm just learning how to do it, I'm a little slow.

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