health and fluency
Children race from class to playground, their shouts tumbling happily into the chaos like fireworks at carnival: "Crazy! Let's do it!" "Wicked! You're mental!" Our history seems like a comic strip to them - they follow their instincts to find leaders for themselves. Yet while they're focused on their experiences their schooling still absorbs them, their development and growth both framed in the environments this describes.
We gather information about our environment from our senses, and then synthesize the whole we come to perceive. No being can see past this. Children, born expecting their world to make sense, see only foundations around them. They build on these regardless, learning as best they can, in a lifelong recursion that begins at conception, relying on information that is limited as well as broadened by experience.
Like the floor of a cave in the darkness, felt as pressure from the head of a walking stick against the palm of our hand, reality is real yet we can only imagine it. Our sense of it, of our life and environment, is just a model we construct in our minds, formed from those elements we can recognize - those that have significance for us. Even though things are not as obvious as they might appear reality still makes sense - whether or not that is clear - it's just that all we have of it is our perception.
In order to survive, every being must communicate appropriately with an environment that is made up of not only inanimate entities but animate ones. As relationships have developed between these, societies have formed, and as these became more complex and interdependent, multi-cellular, modular, and symbiotic beings evolved. For social as well as individual needs, communication developed and languages evolved, reflecting inherited pre-conceptions and framing perception, good or bad, right or wrong, mad or not.
Communicating constantly and unavoidably - through non-verbal more than verbal language - each of us expresses a unique, nested set of cultures. The cultures of our family, community, school, profession, region, and state, aggregate into one that is singular, personal, and unique. Both our experiences and our learning - even those which concern language and culture - are frame d by the understanding that this provides. For every individual this cultural understanding makes sense of what they do and who they are.
As well as patterning our environment with constructions and artifacts, our culture patterns our perception. Through the paradigm it provides we have learnt how to anticipate and interpret the responses we receive from the world around us, and how to sustain our society by balancing the responses of candor and kindness. When we discover it is not universal, categories and patterns that seemed concrete evaporate and we find ourselves speechless, tourists or immigrants grateful of familiar company.
Every individual being engages with reality by sensing a world of essentially relative data. This random stream is filtered and translated into functional information through a unique, personal culture that expands outwards from that of our mothers. This provides a trellis, guiding the development of our psyche as it crystallizes around a genetic algorithm, each layer of experience meshing with those laid down before, building moment by moment, impartially incorporating new understanding as well as privation.
To successfully integrate with society, to obtain its protection and support, learning to communicate effectively is vital. Being shunned is often a death sentence. Infants are instinctively aware of this - as the insistence of their demands for conversation shows. Their drive to communicate readily overwhelms their other fears as well as their drives of hunger and thirst. We cry first, and then we suckle - all animals do. The pattern of expression we learn during ontogeny determines the quality of the conversations we have with the world around us. In later life, away from our family home, through this we must learn to negotiate meaning with those from cultures other than our own.
The survival of each being depends upon it making sense of its environments, external and internal, and appropriately communicating in them. Success in doing so determines not only biological well-being but also mental well-being - its meta-biological expression. The psyche, when understood as distinct from an ineffable soul, describes the fluency of our communication, and the success of our mental-wellbeing interventions is determined by their success in engaging with this.
From the UK House of Commons debate, 28 October 1943:
The Prime Minister (Mr. Churchill): ... On the night of 10th May, 1941, with one of the last bombs of the last serious raid, our House of Commons was destroyed by the violence of the enemy, and we have now to consider whether we should build it up again, and how, and when. We shape our buildings and afterwards our buildings shape us. Hansard, vol 393 cc403-73