Monday, May 12, 2014

Dominguez, Sharayah Nicole R.                                                                                                                         
Group 11                        

The Life of Mammals Reaction Paper

The documentary “The Life of Mammals” (Social Climbers and Food for Thought) highlighted how we humans are not so different from our evolution brothers, the primates.

“Social Climbers” conveyed the correlation between intelligence and group size. First, this episode featured the opportunism and resourcefulness of apes by using their skills and intellect to adapt to survival situations. For example, howlers utilise their enlarged throat bones to scare off rivals while owl monkeys mostly hunt or scavenge at night. Individually, like humans, these apes combine their brains, specific talents, and environment in order to survive. More importantly, this episode emphasised the effectiveness of working together. For example, across species, a group of diverse primates was able to form a security alliance; watching each other’s backs in exchange for shared food. To me, this sends the message of how it isn’t enough to be individually intelligent or capable to get ahead in life. Instead, one must also rely on others to ensure a securer standing. Likewise, as systems become more complex, hierarchies are eventually formed, requiring even greater use of intellect and tact to keep up. Such could be seen from the Sri Lanka Temple monkeys and the cliff-side baboons. Almost similar to humans, they use political tactics such as forming allies via socialising, grooming, and even child-caring. From this, the documentary made the interesting point of how the bigger and more complex the group, the greater the necessity to develop one’s brain in order to survive established social and communicative hierarchies.

Meanwhile, “Food for Thought” illustrated how a particular problem, such as finding food, could lead to the development of large populations. Similar to the previous episode, the primates’ innovation, memory, imitation, and use of tools enabled them to solve their food problem. In addition, the need to adapt and evolve geographically, biologically, and socially was also attributed to the need for survival. For example, there were the bipedal chimps that had to cross bodies of water in search of food, the herding or migrating of cattle for better grazing lands, and eventually the development of hunter-gatherer societies. Once the basic survival needs have been met and larger groups have been formed, it is only then that societies have time to form cultures such as hunting rituals or the arts. Together with society’s general development is the advancement of technology. In this, the documentary stresses how technology development has enabled large societies such as ours to manipulate our environment for better survival conditions (e.g. grasslands in the middle of the desert, one-way ticket to colonising Mars).

That being said, the documentary leaves with a thought-provoking message of reversing the cycle: manipulating society instead of the environment. Personally, one can’t help but agree with such a statement. Too often, our society has become used to the lifestyle of simply replacing or abandoning things that are damaged instead of first making an effort to repair them. Earth has provided us with so much that we call it home. It’s worth repairing.

Dreams Documentary Reaction Paper

From as early as biblical times with the famous “Joseph the Dreamer” to recent blockbuster films such as Christopher Nolan’s “Inception”, dreams have always captivated our society. Arguably, what makes this subject so fascinating is our inability to fully grasp it. The documentary we’ve seen explores certain aspects of dreams – particularly its features and possible functions – by the end leaving us with a better understanding of this abstract subject.

First, the documentary suggested a number of interesting points regarding possible functions or reasons behind why dreams occur in the first place. Evidently, there’s the prominent theory of premonition, as suggested by the girl who consistently dreamt of a man’s silhouette before soon meeting her soul mate in real life. Similarly, the idea of dreams as predicting the future has been promoted by our own culture with superstitious beliefs behind dream meanings (e.g. teeth falling out means death). However, this theory of future prediction is less supported by the documentary. Instead, the more dominant argument seems to be the function of dreams as a sort of practicing arena for physical, mental, or emotional development. For example, running away from a beast enables your brain to strategise how to do so if it happens in real life, dreaming of being naked in public could suggest better acceptance of your self, and dreaming of a dead loved one could suggest obtaining closure from that loss. To me, this theory of dreams as a practicing arena seems to make more sense given that these would more likely result from our own memories and experiences compared to dreams as premonitions. That being said, there are still those downright disturbing dreams or nightmares that don’t seem to make any sense at all (e.g. woman with the red eyes); unfortunately, the documentary was not able to explore such dreams or possible causes in sufficient detail.

Second, the documentary also introduced a number of interesting dream features. There are the well-known aspects such as lucid and collective dreaming, as well as possible sleepwalking. It was, however, the first time I had ever heard of shared dreams and found the documentary’s example (a man rescuing his mom from a pit of snakes at the last moment) and my own group mates’ accounts (e.g. siblings punching each other) just as amusing. Likewise, the documentary unfortunately failed to explore these in more detail.

Overall, our attempts to interpret and give meaning to dreams simply highlight our need to understand and define everything. Indeed, there’s a whole branch dedicated to the study of dreams (oneirology), consequently classifying it as an official scientific subject. Nonetheless, the problem with dreams – arguably similar to psychology and sociology, or any social science for that matter – is that it works within the realm of our individual human minds. Unless we are able to develop a means of viewing, recording, and testing a dream as it is being dreamt, the subject of dreams is simply too abstract and subjective for it to be considered a pure science.

“A Beautiful Mind” Reaction Paper

Oscar Levant once said, “There’s a fine line between genius and insanity”. Indeed, I’ve always found it interesting that so many great minds of history – from varying areas of expertise such as Beethoven, Van Gogh, Hemingway, Newton, and now John Nash – have had some sort of disability. The film “A Beautiful Mind” certainly revolves around this ‘fine line’, at one point even suggesting that it is because of Nash’s mental state that he was able to make such important mathematical contributions. Likewise, recent studies have shown how certain mental illnesses decrease particular inhibitors. In this, certain stimuli a ‘regular’ person would normally reject is instead entertained by those inflicted with mental disorders (i.e. more open to more ideas, thus promoting creativity). Once again the film highlighted this possible causation and to me, sends the positive message of overcoming an originally perceived weakness and using it to one’s advantage.

Furthermore, it is interesting to note that there always seems to be some sort of compensation or pay-off for one’s talents. This could be internal or limited to one’s self (e.g. Phelp’s ADHD for his success in swimming) or it could be external and more to do with our environment such as the unappreciated geniuses of history (e.g. Semmelweis). It could be argued that internal pay-offs are a means of practically humbling or balancing out those of exceptional talents. For example, earlier on in the film Nash came off as rather over-confident, only to be tamed by his revealed schizophrenia and discovery that the things he once knew never even existed. Conversely, Nash’s external pay-off could be seen from how he wasn’t appropriately recognised until his senior years and was even ridiculed before then for his eccentricities. It could be inferred that as a society, it is crucial for us to be more open and accepting of supposedly ‘insane’ ideas and individuals given these may one day change what we consider reality or the norm.

Moreover, the film also highlights the intense pressure seemingly placed upon such great minds as Nash. For him, his sole purpose in life is to make a significant enough contribution, “Find a truly original idea... It is the only way I will ever matter”. Consequently, these geniuses are arguably prone to overthink everything. In turn, this could have the positive impact of leading to their groundbreaking discovery, such as Nash’s initial breakthrough from everyday experiences such as picking up a girl at a bar. Alternatively, too much thinking could similarly entail negative effects such as the stress that triggered Nash’s schizophrenic episodes. For me, this seems to suggest how sometimes it might be better to leave things as is; how ultimately, not all questions can be answered. Indeed, it is important to try and persevere, but just as important to know our limits.

Thus, the film left me with four main lessons: persevering despite one’s weakness and using it as a strength, the importance of humility, the need to be open and accepting of different ideas and individuals, and finally, learning to accept one’s limitations.


No comments:

Post a Comment