NATURE VS. NURTURE – DOES HARDSHIP MAKE YOU STRONGER? – Marilyn Armstrong

Fandango’s Provocative Question #20

Kelly Clarkson song leverages something originally attributed to Friedrich Nietzsche, who said, “That which does not kill us, makes us stronger.” That quote is attributed to the German philosopher, Friedrich Nietzsche.

Anyway, the song got Fandango thinking about the validity of Nietzsche’s notion, so here is this week’s provocative question:

I have always hated being told: “That which doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.”

The people who spout it are usually people who have never experienced anything harder than a long walk with a foot blister. I particularly resent people who add “God” to the expression because if there’s one thing that could give me a strong anti-God point of view, the idea that he does this sort of thing as a kind of  “video game with us as the playing figures” is disgusting.

Does hardship make you stronger? Tougher? Or merely meaner? Does it make you more able to deal with the rough parts of your journey from birth to burial — or does it just turn you mean, angry, and depressive?

Depending on the person, his DNA, and natural “state,” perhaps it does all of the above in varying degrees. Certainly coddling children and making sure they never have to cope with the bumps and dings of “real” life won’t make them stronger.

I think it’s healthy to allow children to deal with reality as they mature because sooner or later, you won’t be there to fend off “the bad stuff.” So letting kids handle at least some of the difficult aspects of life helps them grow up and more importantly, helps them understand what it means to not be protected from everything. It’s always difficult to know when to let it go, let a child stand up for him or herself — or to take a hand in the matter. I suspect one ought to at least consult the kid about it. Some of them have strong feelings on the subject.

But that’s talking about intelligent, involved parents who are not desperately poor, lurking on the edge (or middle) of criminality, abuse, or worse.

So let’s roll this back a bit:
“Do abused children grow stronger?”

My answer? Sometimes, but let’s not count on it. Many abused kids grow up to be abusive parents and criminals. Others become psychiatrists, physicians, lawyers, police officers, or other caretakers. Or writers, artists, and teachers.

We make choices. We live by the choices we make.

The argument over “nature vs. nurture” in child development has been going on as long as I’ve been alive and has probably been going on since anyone had a family and could argue about it.

I used to be all about nurture, but watching children grow — the three in my terribly dysfunctional family, my son in mine, and his daughter in his … I’m inclining more towards a 60-40 nature-nurture split. Before Owen was a week old, he could push himself up on his arms and look around the room. I remember the doctor saying “Oh, this one is going to run you ragged!”

He didn’t run me ragged. He ran himself ragged. These days, kids with that kind of energy are instantly put on drugs because teachers want placid students. They don’t want energetic boys who need activity, not all day stuck behind a desk.

Does being DRUGGED from first grade make you stronger? I think it turns you into a druggie always looking for a better pill to solve your problems. Not to diminish the role Big Pharma has in the current mess, parents who allow themselves to be bullied into drugging their kids from first grade on shouldn’t be surprised if their kid grows up still looking for the right drug to fix everything.

There’s more than one person at whom we can point our fingers.

2010

I grew up in a family of three children with a child-molesting, abusive father — and a mother who simply could not believe things were as bad as they seemed. My brother built a life, but I don’t think he ever stopped being angry. His childhood had been torn away and the pain never left. But he managed to have a marriage that lasted from when he was 20 until he died.

My sister got mired in drugs and vanished into a world of chaos and I don’t even know what else. I haven’t seen her for years and no longer know if she is alive. I’m assuming if she had died, someone would have called me. The last time she was hospitalized, they found me, so I’m sure they’ll find me again if they need to.

2012

And then there’s me. I was probably the tough one. After growing up with my father, I was never afraid of anyone. I was probably just a little bit hostile in my earlier years, mellowing out somewhat as time has marched on. There are still a lot of areas regarding men and especially ANGRY men that push all of my buttons at the same time and I have a temper that I’ve spent a lifetime holding in check.

I worked hard and I don’t think anyone ever referred to me as “easy-going.” Did childhood make me tough? Or would I have been tough anyway?

I was always determined to do my own thing. Unlike many of my peers, parental pressure — really, any kind of bullying — has had little effect on me. On the other hand, coaxing, suggestions, and a fine editor have done wonders. I listen when people have good ideas. I’m always ready to try things a new way.

I think I was born this way.

I think if my mother had tried coddling me I’d have been out the door and miles away before she could call me home. I was also extremely responsible at a very early age. I recognized danger, didn’t do things that would get me killed or hurt anyone. I could (did) babysit for my sister when I was six and no one thought that odd because my brother was older, but I was more responsible.

So this is one of those “maybe yes and maybe not” answers. Nature — DNA and the way our particular helix is designed has more to do with how we turn out than parenting. But other things — manners, taste, and interests — come from our environment. Kids brought up with books read books. Kids whose mothers drag them to art museums learn to love art.

Energy, determination, will-power, and talent are gifts. What we do with them are 50-50 culture and DNA.

Now, let the arguments begin!

PROVOCATIVE QUESTION: WHAT ABOUT PREDESTINATION? – Marilyn Armstrong

This week’s provocative question is a spinoff of a question that Melanie (Sparks From a Combustible Mind) asked in her last Share Your World post.

That question from Melanie got me thinking about fate and predestination. So here’s this week’s provocative question.

I’m not entirely sure what “predestination” means. By this do you mean a rigid “ending” that you can’t change, no matter what? Because I don’t believe in that.

I think we end up where we are supposed to be. I don’t think it’s a rigid, unchanging finish. I think it is flexible and will change depending on the choices we make. But there’s a likely place we will probably land.

I don’t believe in a frozen, unbending future. More like a conclusion based on our intelligence, status, birthplace, education … and the things to which we are attracted and choose along our path as well as the kind of people to whom we are attracted.

This is how I like to describe it.

Life is like a bus trip, except you don’t know where you are going and you can’t drive the bus. No ticket, no map.

You will meet other travelers on the bus. Some will be your friends and maybe lovers and mates. They enter the bus at various stops and get off where they must. You may not be happy about it.

The bus will sometimes stop and give you the chance to visit and enjoy the scenery, but eventually, you’ll have to get back on the bus.

You still won’t have any idea where the bus is going and you still can’t drive. Sometimes, the road will be very rough and treacherous. Other times, the road will be smooth and the scenery beautiful. When all is smooth and lovely, you may think you’ve got everything under control.

You will never have everything under control. You never know when the bus will take a sudden turn or for that matter, drive off a bridge.

Life will take you where it takes you.

I don’t know what, if anything, God has to do with it. Maybe something. Maybe nothing. I have no idea. But if prayer makes you feel better, I say go for it. Because whatever makes you feel better — especially if it costs nothing — is worth doing.

ARE YOUR VALUES WORTH A SONG AND A MOVIE? – Marilyn Armstrong

Fandango’s Provocative Question #18


And the question is one that has bothered me in the past and will probably continue to nag at me.


“When you learn about highly regarded artists being accused of inappropriate sexual behavior, especially with minors, can you separate the artists from their art, or would you refuse to listen to, watch, or read the artists’ works?”


NOTE: I expand this to include all varieties of hatred and bigotry.

The easy answer and the one that requires the least amount of effort is that we separate the artist and his/her art. This is simply because it requires \no sacrifice from you. None at all — not even giving up listening to some music or a few movies.

There are more issues involved than whether or not you like the way the guy sings, acts, paints, or writes. There are values you claim as your own at stake.

I can’t — won’t — watch movies with Mel Gibson. Or with massacres of Native Americans. Or including blackface or other racially derogatory material. Garry used to ignore it (which I never understood), but he can’t anymore. At the very least, he fast forwards through those sections … or doesn’t watch the movie.

Many –especially modern — artists have been nasty people. Rapists and pedophiles. Racists. Bigots of the first water.

An awful lot more artists are fine or at least normal people. Everyone in the music business or Hollywood is not a sexual predator, racist, anti-Semite, or pedophile. If you extract the bad ones, there are plenty of movies and music remaining to which you can listen and view without compromising your supposed principles.

At what point do the values you claim to have actually matter enough to make a minor dent in your viewing or listening life? Seriously. You claim to be an honorable person, but rather than giving up listening to one child rapist’s music, you’ll “forgive him” because he’s such a great artist? Is he really that great? Or are your values that cheap?

At some point, if you have a set of values in which you believe, are you prepared to give up anything to live up to those values? You listen to their music and you watch their movies … and they make money from this. You are supporting them while deploring them.

Photo: Marilyn Armstrong

Your values don’t mean much if you are unwilling to make any sacrifice — and this is a pretty small sacrifice — for them.

I have come to a point in life where the things I value are more important to me that a song or movie. #metoo isn’t just a saying . You either support it or you don’t. You are either willing to make some kind of actual change in your life — and this is a pretty small one — to support it or you don’t support it.

I don’t think giving up watching a few movies or listening to some songs is such a huge sacrifice. In fact, it’s not much and costs nothing. If I’m not willing to do that, then my values don’t mean anything.

REMEMBERED OR FORGOTTEN? FANDANGO’S PROVOCATIVE QUESTION – Marilyn Armstrong

True or Lost? – Fandango’s Provocative Question #17

From Fandango:

This week’s provocative question came to mind when my son asked me a question. He wanted to know where we lived when I sold my motorcycle, and I couldn’t remember whether it was in New Jersey or Pennsylvania. I tried and tried, but came up empty. I couldn’t even recall the last time I rode it.

So, I decided to ask a question about human memory, which has been shown to be incredibly unreliable. With that in mind, here is this week’s provocative question:


“How do you know which of your memories are genuine and which have been altered over time or even made up?”

I have forgotten a lot of things. Not important things for the most part, but small things that (I assume) were not critical to life and survival. I don’t remember every day of my life in Israel, but I remember the important pieces. When I see movies or documentaries with pictures, often a lost memory comes bubbling to the surface.

Sometimes, I see pictures from New York and remember that at some point, I ate in that restaurant or took pictures under that bridge in Central Park. I have a very visual memory.

1948

I don’t think I have any “false” memories. I either remember or I’ve forgotten it. A forgotten memory can sometimes be brought back by a friend who was there, although it’s not unusual for me to look at them and say “Really? I don’t remember any of that.” And I don’t. There are organizations I belonged to I’ve completely forgotten and there are a couple of years of elementary school I don’t remember.

1952

I remember my friends — the real ones that mattered to me as opposed to acquaintances. I remember my entire family, some better than others, probably because I spent more memorable time with them.

What I’m missing is gone. My remembering isn’t altered, made up, or rose-covered. Just entirely missing.

Where I grew up

I do not know if this is typical or it’s just me.

When I forget something, I really forget it. I forget who was there with me, who I met, what I did. I forget I was ever there at all.

My childhood is very patchy, but that’s likely a form of dissociation. I was an abused kid. We lose the worst parts of that period and, as one shrink put it: “What you remember is bad enough. No need to stir up the stuff you don’t remember. It may come back to you over the years, but if not … I think you should not stir that pot.”

I haven’t stirred that pot. I don’t think I’d find anything I want to know in its mix.

SIZE MATTERS, ESPECIALLY IF YOU’RE GODZILLA – Marilyn Armstrong

Fandango’s Provocative Question #13
“Do you believe that size matters? Please explain your response.”

Yes, it does.
No, it doesn’t.

It matters from a health perspective because not being heavy is healthier than carrying too much weight. You also look better in fashionable clothing. If you have arthritis, bad hips, or a damaged back, less is more.

That’s all the difference it makes. Being fat doesn’t make you a slob, disgusting or any of the words people use to describe fat people. No one is fat from simply overeating. You also need the right genetic structure. I have been so thin it was frightening and I have also been very heavy.

I look better in-between. My brain didn’t change when I gained weight or lost it. The last gain was because of all the medication they gave me when I had cancer that knocked my metabolism through the floor. Now I’m losing a little weight again, so maybe it’s “coming up” again. I don’t worry about it anymore.

When this was taken, I weighed 93 pounds. An XXS was too big for me. I wore a size zero and it was loose. It was not an attractive look.

I wear a lot of loose clothing that will fit me whether I’m fat or thin or whatever. Garry proposed to me when I was at my heaviest after which I lost a lot of weight and then gradually gained more, then lost a lot and then a lot more … and then so much that I was hospitalized. At which point, they removed most of my innards because of the ulcers that were eating my stomach and my small intestines.

So I can’t eat much at all because I don’t have a stomach, despite which I’ve put on 25 pounds and it certainly isn’t from overeating. It’s because I have no metabolism.

Big? Little? The difference? My back feels better when I weigh less. Everything else is the same.

PROVOCATIVE QUESTION 10: THE CHOICES WE MAKE – Marilyn Armstrong

Fandango’s Provocative Question #10

This week’s provocative question is about the choices we make and the actions we take.


“What is more important to you, doing the right thing or doing things right?”

To me, these are unrelated questions.

Doing things right is a work kind of question. Doing the right thing is a moral choice. One course of action doesn’t replace the other.

You can do both or neither, depending on the circumstance, but I honestly can’t imagine a situation where doing things right would make doing the right thing impossible.

I literally can’t imagine that as a choice. When would that kind of event occur? Under what circumstances?

PROVOCATIVE QUESTIONS – NUMBER NINE … Marilyn Armstrong

Fandango’s Provocative Question #9

And the question is: 

“As a blogger, do you enjoy ‘virtual relationships’? Do you consider them to be real?”

If you don’t like virtual relationships, you probably shouldn’t be blogging. Blogging is about writing, photography, art … what you are into. But as much as it’s about art — whatever your version of art is — it’s also about the people with whom you develop relationships. Online.

Are they real? Many of my online relationships feel more real than my “real” relationships. I spend more time with online friends than with real live friends. If it weren’t for the distances involved — in some cases literally the other side of the world — I’d be there for coffee or whatever in the morning.

When one of my “online friends” goes missing, I worry. Many of us are pretty senior, so when we go missing, everyone worries about injury or even death. Then we need to track that person down, which is why anonymous bloggers are terrifying for those of us who actually care about the people. If they go missing, we have no way to get any information.

Anonymous is also a hard person to get close to. Just saying.


As for the other question: 

“What are you struggling with the most right now?”

In equal measure, money, health, and what is left of the ecology of the world. Which is all wrapped up in current politics. In our hateful politics where hatred, arrogance, and cruelty is our biggest and best weapon.

Money and health are personal issues. They concern most retired people of a certain age, but the politic horrors we are going through? They are stupid, unnecessary … and they make everyone’s life just a little — or a lot — worse.

I don’t know how I wandered into this nightmare country that is supposedly mine. I don’t recognize this world. I don’t recognize this government. I don’t understand how Americans can allow such horrors to be supported by their government. Whatever this is, it’s not freedom. It’s wrong on every level.

It’s entirely possible I don’t want to understand.

I’m also stressed for time, but all things considered, it’s a minor issue.

FPQ
FPQ