Town Hall
21 Feb 2004
Ben's Seminar
Surprise (Part 1)

Ben:   ALL: Tonight is the first of two or three sessions on the subject of SURPRISE. More specifically, it will focus on the personal experience of being surprised. I have prepared three questions, and will give you enough time to respond to each question.

Ben:    QUESTION 1: Personal examples. What experience(s) come to mind when you say, "I was surprised when ... " ? Please describe each experience briefly. YOUR TURN

greyman:    I was surprised when the Challenger blew up on take-off. I was surprised when the Columbia blew up on re-entry.

Ben:    greyman: Yes, those were a couple of awful surprises.

Yopo:    *thinking* Uh... Most of my surprises revolve around human beings doing other than expected. It's usually only matters of human behavior that surprise me.

Ben:    Yopo: Yes, I am often astonished at things people say and do.

Yopo:    (*LOL* My typos always surprise me. What I see after I've posted is not what I thought I typed.)

alremkin:    #1). OK to talk of a recent surprise. I was surprised at how little control of myself I have. A few months ago someone at work angered me and I took a run at him. What it showed me was that I don't have the control of my emotions that I thought I did.

Ben:    alremkin: That's a good example. Thanks.

Yopo:    alremkin Yep. I wasn't excluding myself, either, when it comes to surprising and/or disappointing human behavior.

selki:    I was surprised recently to find out that my son's friend had a twin brother. I have known his friend since they were quite young, at least 11 years old, and I never knew he had a twin brother. I thought about how they began life together from conception, but learned they are so totally opposite.

Ben:    selki: Thank you.

rhiannon:    Sometimes I don't think anything will ever surprise me again ... that's not to say that I have no sense of wonder... but they are not quite the same...

Ben:    ALL: Since I had time to prepare for this and you didn't, I wrote up a couple of little stories of times when I was surprised. I'll post one for comments, and then the other.

Ben:    I was surprised when I learned where applesauce comes from. I was a little kid, and told my mother I wanted to cook something. She took an apple from the bowl on the table and said "Here's something you can cook." She showed me how to cut it up ["You're too little to use a sharp knife yet, but this is how we do it"]. She put the pieces in a little kettle with some water, set the kettle on the stove, and said "Let me know when it boils." [It takes a long time, but it's fun to watch.] After it boiled for awhile, she poured off the water, put the pieces on a plate, and said "Let it cool a little and then try a taste." I did, and I was surprised: "Applesauce!" Later, I thought I should have known that, from the word applesauce.

alremkin:    Hm, this just seems to be the surprise one feels when one learns the meaning of words and processes. While this one seems pretty conventional, I suppose it's not much different when we learn something profound. Learning is just a process.

Yopo:    I guess surprises are more frequent when you're a little kid, without much experience. All the pieces of the puzzle are brand new.

Ben:    Yopo: Yes, surprises are more frequent when you're a little kid ... but maybe they ought not be less frequent as we grow older. Just a thought.

alremkin:    Ben:  "Unless Ye become as little children..."

Ben:    alremkin: Thanks. I was trying to imply that point about learning, whether we learn something conventional or something profound.

greyman:    In a junior High School science class, we took a few popsickle sticks in a test tube, under a burner. The gas collected into another test tube popped when a match was lit under an open end. The wood gave off oxygen. That was a surprise.

Yopo:    When I was a kid, I was surprised just because a thing was new. Because I didn't know about it at all. But now, it takes something that upsets what I think I DO know.

Ben:    I was surprised when I learned that some worms bite. I picked up a fat grub-worm in our garden and was looking at it when it extended its head, opened its large pair of sideways jaws and chomped my finger. Ouch! I went and told my mother. She put some iodine on the bite and said, "Well, I guess you'll just have to learn which ones bite and which ones don't. If you catch a worm or a bug in a Mason Jar without touching it, I may be able to tell you if it bites or stings. Or you can learn it the hard way. Worm and bug bites hurt, but they aren't really poisonous, except for Black Widow spiders, scorpions and centipedes. I'll show you pictures of them in the encyclopedia so you'll know what they look like."

Yopo:    *G* I guess being bitten is always a surprise, or it wouldn't have happened in the first place.

selki:    I guess we can say that we learn by our surprises ...

Ben:    Yopo and selki: Yes.

alremkin:    OK this is an example of learning from the experience of others and learning something ourselves first hand. Certainly negative things are much better learned through the group experience rather than having to suffer the consequences of learning about everything first hand, but this also touches on faith in that we must have enough faith in those explaining things to us to believe them. Negative surprises can even be fatal while positive ones are enjoyable. I suppose there's also some reasoning involved whether we accept the teachings of others as well as faith.

Ben:    alremkin: Good expansion on the topic being discussed. Thanks.

selki:    Ben:  I was just thinking about how you learned where applesauce came from, and you said you should have known. But when we're kids, how can we know if we aren't taught, with or without the element of surprise? *s* As kids we have the pleasure of relishing our surprises and learning from them, but as adults sometimes surprise isn't something that we want to remember or enjoy.

Ben:    selki: I didn't whack myself because I thought I should have known about applesauce. I just thought I should have been able to figure it out for myself, from the name. Association like that is a way of learning.

selki:    Ben:  *s* Yes, learning by association. Do you think that we learn by association at different ages? I mean, at what stage in our childhood development do you think we learn by association?

Ben:    selki: We can learn by association at any time in our lives. With practice, we can get better at it.

Yopo:    We learn both specifics and generalities. Not only that some worms bite, but that maybe some OTHER things hide unsuspected stingers and teeth. That lesson might result either in wise caution or unreasonable fear.

Ben:    ALL: Did you notice how my mother taught me three ways to learn -- by personal experience ("the hard way"), by asking, or by reading?

Yopo:    It appears your mother knew the preventive measure for unreasonable fear...

Ben:    Yopo: Yes. It was only in retrospect, after I grew up, that I realized how good a teacher my mother was.

Ben:    ALL: OK, the next question may seem trivial or obvious, but it is an invitation to introspection.

Ben:    QUESTION 2: In the example(s) you gave, why were you surprised? YOUR TURN

alremkin:    #2). What I'd learned in my example was that I don't know as much about myself or have as much self control as I hoped I do.

Ben:    alremkin: Yes. I have learned that lesson about myself, several times. And that is why I don't want any more power than I already have.

alremkin:    Ben: I think that's a problem common to humanity. Consider the politician who enters politics idealistic hoping to change the world for the better, but then is exposed to things he didn't know or imagine and compromise occurs or even sell out. Yet someone has to attempt to control ... this is where one begins to appreciate the wisdom of the founding fathers with the ideas of separation of powers and checks and balances.

Ben:    alremkin: Yes. Another good expansion of the topic.

selki:    I was surprised because I had known Jesse's friend for so long and never knew he had a twin brother. I can't believe I would drive the one brother to school every day and never heard a word mentioned about the twin. *I know it's weird* We took the one on camping trips, etc, and oh, I'm not going to go on and on, I was just surprised. *L*

Yopo:    Not sure just how introspective I'm prepared to get tonight... Human behavior frequently surprises me, because I expect better of my fellow humans. Lots of people weren't brought up the way I was. I figured that out a long time ago. What continues to surprise me is the occasional disappointing behavior of those I suspect probably were. People who know better than to do a thing, but elect to do it anyway. I guess I continue to underestimate the powers of rationalization. Thereby setting myself up for surprises.

Ben:    Yopo: Good introspection. *S*

greyman:    I was surprised because I had bought into the idea that manned space flight was safe and well thought out. The second disaster was worse because all of the bugs were supposed to be sent to "ground".

Ben:    greyman: Clean statement. Thanks.

selki:    greyman: I live across the river from the launch pads. I would have to say the Challenger explosion was a surprise to me too, as well as the Columbia burning up on re-entry. I knew when they lost communication something terrible was happening. I watched that shuttle launch from the river that night.

greyman:    selki:  I have a dear friend who lives in Titusville. As a teenager he would gather with his friends to watch the Saturn's go up on the "Beach". His wife tragically died of a brain cancer. We were devastated and surprised.

Yopo:    Natural disasters, spectacular failures of technology... Such things have lost their power to surprise. They can still shock me with their consequences, of course, but that's not the same as being surprised.

Ben:    I was surprised by applesauce because I didn't expect the taste I experienced. If I had known or guessed that applesauce is cooked apples, I wouldn't have been surprised.

Ben:    I was surprised by the cutworm because I didn't expect it to bite. I thought all worms were like angleworms.

Ben:    ALL: The last question, which you don't really need to answer tonight, is another invitation to introspection and one of the most important questions in psychodynamics.

greyman:    psychodynamics 1. (used with a sing. or pl. verb) The interaction of various conscious and unconscious mental or emotional processes, especially as they influence personality, behavior, and attitudes. 2. (used with a sing. verb) The study of personality and behavior in terms of such processes.

Yopo:    Odd thing ... Except for Ben's applesauce, all of our examples of surprise seem to be a bit on the negative side of the equation. Wonder why that is?

Ben:    QUESTION 3: In the example(s) you gave, was the experience of being surprised pleasant or unpleasant or neither? And why did you feel that way about it? YOUR TURN

greyman:    Unpleasant, because it was a tragic loss. Underlined assumptions of "safe space flight" were violated.

Ben:    greyman: Yes. In some way, those tragic losses had the taste of betrayal...

Yopo:    Guess my general example of surprising human behavior, if rendered down to any number of specifics, would tend toward the unpleasant. Most surprises have involved some degree of disappointment or disillusionment. Which is not to say that I have a low opinion of human beings. It's just that good things from good people seems like it should be the norm.

Ben:    Learning about applesauce was a pleasant surprise, not only because I like the taste of applesauce, but also because I had already decided that I like to learn things.

Yopo:    *G* Give the man a bag of bruised apples, and he'll make applesauce...

Ben:    Learning about cutworms was an unpleasant surprise, but I decided it was good to know that some worms bite, even if I did learn it the hard way.

alremkin:    #3). Ah this one can answer both Yopo's and Ben's questions: At first I perceived my experience as negative and I suffered some consequences, but now with retrospect, I can see it as positive in that I've learned something important I didn't know. Hence, I have a greater awareness of my weaknesses and can hopefully better avoid problems in the future as well as have a keener appreciation of the need for continued sensitivity at all levels.

Ben:    alremkin: Good point. Excellent lesson learned from that experience.

Ben:    SUMMARY: We have all been surprised when something happened that we didn't expect. Therefore, the experience of being surprised depends on what we expect. A surprise can be pleasant or unpleasant or neither, depending on what we like or dislike. Therefore, the emotional reaction to being surprised is caused by our own internal, individual, personal values. Put briefly: surprise is a symptom of learning. The experience of being surprised depends on what we expect and what we value.

Ben:    ALL: This is the end of the hour. I invite your continued discussion of being surprised as a type of personal mental-emotional-spiritual experience. YOUR TURN

Ben:    Yopo: Your general example of surprising human behavior suggests that you (at least subconsciously) expect better behavior than that from human beings.

Yopo:    Yep, Ben, this is true. I haven't had children, but I've sometimes wondered how I would have brought them up if I had. My own upbringing involved a lot of emphasis on some basic stuff like truthfulness, fairness, respect, etc. It was a bit of a shock when I left the world of family and moved into the wider world. And the world has become a much rougher place since I first ventured out into it.

Ben:    Yopo: I am frequently surprised at how evil some people can be. And that type of surprise says something about my expectations and upbringing.  Conversely, I am often surprised and pleased to see the many good things people do, unadvertised and unknown except to the recipient.

alremkin:    Regarding human behavior and this discussion: I can see now that the idea of being able to turn from the negative to positive is the most important thing we can do. there have always been great people expounding great ideas, but at this time in human history it's of absolute importance to change from the negative to the positive as the planet's resources are at or near it's carrying point under the current lifestyle. Somehow It's up to us to find it within ourselves to end injustice and open to the love of God and all selves. Imho either we do it or the end time prophesies will come to be in their full affect. Not to make light of this, but perhaps we can have a kinder gentler apocalypse as we change from this outward separate way of living to Oneness.

Ben:    alremkin: I especially like your comment about the need for faith in the source of information -- a person, a teacher, a book, etc. IMO, that point is important.

alremkin:    Ben: As I see it faith followed leads to knowing. The problem is we all teeter from time to time so we can't continually advance. Consider if we always followed faith then eventually we would actually know. Recently I chose to re-read part of the story of David and Goliath and I found it refreshing how much faith David had and would love to see that now. If the discussion slows down and no one objects I could paste it into here.

Ben:    alremkin: In the examples I gave, the key ingredient in my learning was my faith in my mother. There were times when I didn't believe her, and therefore learned something the hard way, but as they say, that's another story.

Ben:    alremkin: Go ahead and post that passage of scripture -- as an example of surprise, or to compare and contrast David's faith in God with my faith in my mother.

alremkin:    In your case, you had verbal dialog with your mother, but in the case of David it appears that he went totally on faith although he did have a type of telepathic communication with God.

Ben:    alremkin: Yes, David's communication with God is a very important part of his behavior, not only as a boy, but also as an adult, including the time he didn't listen.

alremkin:    I guess it's our choice of separation to gain advantage that keeps us from following faith completely in our lives and that it's not realistic to think the world can actually change significantly for the better without Divine intervention.

alremkin:    1 Samuel Chapter 17 -- David and Goliath. [The whole chapter is too long to post here, but it is a great story and recommended reading.]

alremkin:   What I found interesting was that David didn't even consider the possibility that he might not be successful and was motivated to battle with a giant because of the giants disgraceful speaking of God. It was a surprise to everyone there that young David was able to kill Goliath in battle.

Ben:    alremkin: Well ! Yes, that chapter certainly is an example of surprise. Everyone was surprised except David. And it is a type of surprise that I will address in the next part of this seminar.

alremkin:    To me what stands out is the faith of David. For some reason I felt compelled to read that passage last week so I thought I should share it as a good example of faith.

Ben:   alremkin: Thank you. // ALL: This is the end of the second hour. I'll post the schedule for Part 2 (next Saturday at 10:00 pm) Good night.

alremkin:    Ben: Thank you. I hope to be here next week. Good night. God be with you.

Ben:    alremkin: You're welcome. Thank you. And may God also be with you. Good night.

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