Friday, June 06, 2008

First question, work and water.

Alison and Logan were here for a few days.

Logan experienced his first swim.

or possibly it is his second swim.
Which swim is his first might be purely subjective.
We humans tend to mark firsts.
We crawl, walk, grow teeth, tell lies, have sex, drink coffee, get jobs, fight, try drugs. Why is it that we tend to document the "firsts" of these nearly universal experiences?

Some things get recorded in scrapbooks or video or family albums.Others are quietly and permanently inked into our private memories.
Is this noting of 'firsts' a cultural thing, or a human thing?

I wonder.

It seems sometimes we humans go to a great deal of trouble deciding which thing was first. Sometimes people get into great arguments over which thing was first. Sometimes those arguments involve great numbers of people and result in a great deal of suffering.

Is this the human race?

What is the root of the word "race?"
How does it apply to being human and to being first?
Let me know what you find out. I'll be back. I must get back to making things.

I'm in that place where I'm mostly working if I'm not sleeping. And I'm not sleeping that much. And actually, I'm beginning to feel as though I'm working in my sleep too. Possibly I am. Insanity is sure to follow without a break. Good thing I'm taking one soon.

We're hosting a birthday party here on Sunday for Orion's friend Maximillian, whom we've affectionately dubbed "Maxitrillion."

We'll celebrate with a pool full of kids. It will look like kiddie soup. With noodles.


Holly said...

according to

The origin of the term ‘race’ is obscure. It may have derived from the Arabic râs, meaning ‘chief’, ‘head’, and ‘origin’. The word entered Europe between the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. Initially ‘race’ was understood to signify descent of an aristocratic breed. In particular it referred to the lineages of the Frankish kings. Later, Europeans used ‘race’ as one of the possible translations of the Latin natio or gens; until the eighteenth century it was interchangeable with terms such as ‘stock’ or ‘tribe’. All ethnicities, whether they were called ‘peoples’ or ‘races’ or ‘tribes’, were classified according to their political traditions, their geographical habitat, and climatic conditions. The European reference system of thought, being shaped by classical authors, was dominated by political paradigms and categories that paralleled natural and political phenomena. Only in the first decades of the nineteenth century did the term acquire its modern meaning. Implying that original difference is biologically founded, the concept presupposes the genealogical continuity of ‘racial’ traits that supposedly remain the same irrespective of environmental influences, and it includes the idea that there are correlations between outward physiognomy and mental capacity.

bored at work? me?

Rubius said...

I have grown to truly dislike the term 'race' except as it applies to biology. A 'race' is a group of creatures that can interbreed... since all humans interbreed the term of race, as it is most commonly used (meaning 'racial steriotypes), generally offends me. We can all breed together therefore we are all one race. I realize that has little to do with what you were saying Lisa.

Thanks Holly, for the info. Bored at work? who us?

lisa said...

right. I am indeed referring to the human race, which includes all of us, and possibly some apes.

holly: wow. silly humans! Everything about that seems to work against our current ideas about nature.

so what about race as in 'foot race?'

rubius: heh. I'm not bored. This IS my work...

Thanks! keep it coming. Back to toys and LED for me.

Aleta said...

Hi. I've been reading your blog for awhile -- feel the need to comment on this.

These are my thoughts on race and firsts:

Race: As Holly and Rubius have said "race" as it is used most in general discussion -- referring most frequently to skin color in humans -- is not really a biologically valid distinction. It is a social construct. It is a way to make clear separations among people. It is all about who is an us and who is a them.

"Race" used to mean "the human race" seems on the surface to be about unification rather than separations. "The whole human race." I would contend that this is still really about separation -- setting us apart from the other creatures on earth and the Klingons or whoever else we might meet out in the big dark universe.

"Firsts", on the other hand are (IMHO) all about coming together, unification, belonging. We earn our way into the various groups we are a part of by our firsts. The firsts that make up the conversations have to be firsts that are or could be shared among the group having the conversation. Firsts are all about belonging. My first steps, words, loves -- or rather the fact that I mark them -- shows where I fit in, where I have come from, where I am heading.

All human groups do not value the same sets of firsts. The first kill will matter to hunters but would not matter or would mean something entirely different in an urban environment. When, how and what counts as first sex varies widely in human societies.

Of course belonging can be as much about separation as unification, but it does not have to be. I like to imagine that people can have group identities that can be somewhat fluid and that does not rely on one group being above or below another.

I seem to be babbling. This is a very interesting topic for me.

Aleta said...

You would think with all that babbling above I could have at least touched on your main point -- the human "race" as a competition to be "first."

Today there is some sort of track and field competition being held at the university in my neighborhood. Small groups of young people are jogging past -- warming up. Cars full of supporters, often families, are parking up and down my street and walking toward the university to watch the competition.

Yes. It feel like I am watching "the human race" and one of the ways we enculturate our young into that race.

The firsts I discussed above are the sorts of first everyone can have, in theory anyway. The other sort of first only belongs to one. One person. One team. One group.

If I think about it in a certain way though both sorts of firsts can be edged with a bit of panic. Both can be about putting some sort of construct of meaning onto this race to the finish line, death, that we all find ourselves running.

Okay. I will shut up now. Thanks for you indulgence and for stimulating my mind on this topic.

lisa said...

aleta: Thanks for your thoughtful insight.

Thanks to all of you.

Now we are learning and thinking about the broader meanings of a little sort of thing---in this instance, trying to decide which swim was actually Logan's first--and how it applies to all of us, as members of this human family we belong to.

It makes us bigger inside than out.

Carl V. said...

I think the reason we all celebrate these first is because of the very fact that they are universal...each and every one is a rite of passage of sorts, be it a yard stick by which to compare ourselves to others, to ourselves, or to an idea in general about what milestone--be it booger-eating, that first swim, or the first groping attempts at physical contact with the opposite sex--should be achieved by what age. I don't think the recognizing and recording of firsts is a bad thing in and of itself. I think it bonds us all together in that we all do it. Like anything, it can be used or viewed inappropriately. Such is the nature of free will and the nature of one's perspective.

On another note, Logan is one cute kid! Mom and Grams should both be very proud. :)

lisa said...

Carl: yes. Nana (sheesh!) is extremely proud of them both. It's been very cool to watch Alison become a mother. She's doing an excellent job.

Carl V. said...

Nana...ha! I love all the various names for grandma and grandpa, they are all so very sweet and yet I realize that none of us wants to think we are old enough to be one!!!

Mary and I were talking at lunch yesterday about the fact that our recently turned 16 year old daughter could make us grandparents (in a perfect world) in the next 10 years. Hopefully no sooner than that. :)

lisa said...

Alison: You and Logan are beautiful. Thank you