Tempora Labuntur

November 18, 2010

Tempora labuntur, tacitisque senescimus annis, et fugiunt freno non remorante dies.
      —Ovid, Fasti, VI, 771-772.[1]

Remember watery Kronos, that second-generation god,
a titan who devoured all his children, thus all of us,
at last dethroned by his sister-wife, Rhea, our mother.
She gave him a swaddled stone to swallow, not Zeus.
Him she hid until the deposition of one tyrant by another.

Thus the times were born, as antique ancestors say,
and the Ancient of Days became Old Father Time,
cloaked as fondly paternal, no longer voracious.
Bring on the Saturnalia!  Each spent year, reborn,
becomes the next year’s lease.  So goes the lie.
Tempora labuntur:  The times, they slide away.

In Sumer, two millennia gone before the Hellenes
had sense to name themselves and spin creation stories,
some wide-eyed scribes found comfort in the cyclical.
Does not the horizon’s circle surround me, and starry figures
process round to begin again each year upon their start?
Sumer is dust; yet I, as though become one of them, adore
that circle the Sumerians segmented into sixty parts times six.
Tempora labuntur:  The times, they slide away.

Sixty-minute clocks tame time to clicks and blinks,
but we malcontents zoned the earth, established times standard,
and fool ourselves with saving time and killing time.
As all you slaves, I pretend mastery over that shadow god,
King Kronos, at my side, always at the high noontide of now.
Calendars, schedules, almanacs, every time-mangling deception
dupes me into believing I superintend temporality by these tools.
Rather, revengeful time obsesses me even as Bartlett amply shows.
Tempora labuntur:  The times, they slide away.

What lies beyond the slinky toy of time, the ends of which
stretch inexorably backward, onward without discoverable horizons?
Have I not for too long tended fitfully to a time
that fulfills only its own tendency?
Tempora labuntur:  The times, they slide away.

I am become Tantalus, racked between history and mystery.
Time’s plethoric minutia dangle teasingly always beyond my grasp,
condemning me to never gather even the Stoic’s fruited truth?[2]
While at my feet, nothing endures but the rush of this riverine duration.
Tempora labuntur:  The times, they slide away.

[1]   The times slide away as we grow old with silent years; without a restraining bridle, the days escape.

[2] Veritatem dies aperit:  Time discovers the truth.—Seneca, De Ira, II, 22.

Copyright © 2008 by Roger Sween.

For some inward reason, most of my poems deal implicitly with time, but Tempora Labuntur is the most deliberate of them.  Dwelling on the common expression, “time flies,” when traced to its source, I found another meaning to tempora labuntur in Ovid’s Fasti, an extended poem on the holidays of the Roman calendar, that more suited my theme.

Tempora Labuntur first appeared on Helium in 2008, was posted in CeptsForm on Blogspot, 24 Feb. 2009, and moved to WordPress, 18 Nov. 2010.

For other poems by Roger Sween posted on this blog, see the list on My Poetry.

I welcome substantive comments on this blog.  Send personal comments to my email address.


November 14, 2010

My Own & As a Subject of Study

By the time I was a high school sophomore, we had world history.  I was then fifteen and discovered that while I loved history, Jimmy Dickinson was probably the only other one in our whole class of sixty people that had the same regard for it that I did.  They complained that history was boring, difficult, pointless, and stupid.  History did not do any good for anyone, they said. 

These attitudes surprised me, and I wondered at the vast difference between them and me: I found history exciting, far easier than geometry or almost anything else, pertinent and personal, and altogether enlightening.  What made the difference?

If memory serves, I did not differentiate between subjects in my early years.  Whatever I read seemed all connected, all aspects of the same mysterious need to know, all feeding the same imagination.  Whether myths and legends, Oz books, stories of King Arthur or Robin Hood, biographies of authors, chemists, or explorers, the Book of Knowledge (1949) that Dad bought for us Sween kids, they all collided together in my mind.  I think when we left self-contained classrooms, except for music or penmanship, and went to Junior High, discreet subjects emerged in the separated classrooms of seventh grade.

We had Miss Louella Watson for junior high social studies.  She seemed old to us, plain and always dressed in blue, but I suppose she was in her fifties then.  She could be stern, noted for running the silent detention room all those years.  I admired her teaching, especially of American History, even if I never did grasp why Andrew Jackson was her favorite president.  He seemed then as now always a roughshod spoiler to me.

She made history live for me and I reveled how different the stories of George Washington and Abraham Lincoln were in her class from the few incidents we had heard repeatedly in the elementary years.  I remember a test of hers in which she passed out pictures each with a number; we had sheets filled with the corresponding numbers.  Besides the appropriate number on our sheet, we identified the content of the picture – proclaiming the Declaration of Independence, Conestoga wagon, panning for gold, or whatever.  I think I did very well on that test; at least I enjoyed it.

Study halls were in the library, a mix of all upper grades in one room, depending on who did not have a class that hour.  Because of the large number of people, probably 50-60 at a time, we were under the control the monitor.  Chiefly you could not wander until the last 15-20 minutes unless to use the encyclopedias.  I was reading books in the Landmark Series in those days, rather introductory biographies and histories, but opening doors for me.  After I had read a book, I wanted to check it in the encyclopedia: I would go from Americana to Britannica to Colliers looking up the particular subject, related facts and cross references.  When allowed to leave our seats, other dashed for the magazines, and I went to the book stacks.

Mrs. Charlotte Whitney, the school librarian, had been the city’s public librarian when I was a younger child.  However, when widowed she went to the University of Minnesota in order to be licensed for the school.  Mrs. Lois Palmer succeeded her at the public library.  Both these women were friends of my mother and naturally took a close personal interest in me.  They were always willing to talk about what I had just read, what I thought, and then recommended relates books for me, held books for me, and in the case of the public library obtained interlibrary loan for me although in those days that service was specifically limited to adults.  Eventually, I was reading at an adult level and most of my book reading came from the public library or books I bought.

When I look back at it from later years, all that reading caused the turning point in my life.  Though I did not realize it at the time, I was learning more from reading than I was from any class.  The pivotal book became Gods, Graves and Scholars (1st ed., 1951), a book about the history of archaeology.  I had thought to be a scientist, possibly a chemist: Robert Boyle was my hero, and I had written a paper on him for Mr. Duane Armstead in the 7th grade.  However reading about the sciences was one glorious thing, actually doing science and math was messy and tedious.  Marek’s book helped me think through my real interests so that I gravitated from science to history via the temporary consideration of my life as an archaeologist.

I wanted to be a historian.  Of course, I had no idea what a historian did except write histories, but whatever it was, I wanted it.  I could not get enough of history.  From then onwards, I read almost exclusively histories, especially past history – the more antique the better – along with a slew of historical novels.  Waltari, Schoonover, and Shellabarger were my favorites, but also The Count of Monte Cristo, The Hunchback of Notre Dame, War and Peace and other novels with a historical setting. 

For fun, I was tracing the ancestry of Queen Elizabeth I, something that I dithered over for several years given that the resources I had were all secondary and limited.  Recently, a friend of mine from elementary through college years and after, remembered that in high school I knew the names of all the kings and queens of England from the time of the Norman Conquest to the present, both in order and by their successive relationships.  Well, we have our specialties; I could not claim the same affinity for the presidents of the United States.  It was not until I had American History from Dr. Erling Jorstad at St. Olaf that I experienced U.S. history as exciting as the days of yore.

About 1955, I had discovered Machiavelli’s The Prince (the Ricci/Vincent edition, 1954, in paperback)  available at the local drugstore.  This was the first book I read in which someone was doing something with historical knowledge and I began to write simultaneously the novel Frivovla the Well-Attended in which Prince Frivovla reads The Prince and develops a lifelong philosophy of basilaeism (of the duties of monarchy) which she exercises through various episodes of her life.

In 1957, I attended a Luther League assembly in Minneapolis and browsed the books being sold there.  I bought Now or Never: some reflections on the meaning of the fullness of time by Walter Charles Schnackenberg, who was then a professor of history at Pacific Lutheran College.  This 79 page booklet, selling for 50 cents, was number 4 of volume 1 in The Fullness Series, published by the International Young People’s Luther League.  When I look back at it now, I am astounded that in those days, the Evangelical Lutheran Church aimed this kind of literature aimed at teenage readers, despite the advanced concepts and German quotations.  I had never read or imagined anything like it.

Schnackenberg warns in his preface that this book covers a difficult topic in a manner that is difficult to accomplish.  Nevertheless, “this contribution seeks to lay out some working hypotheses on the approaches to the bastion of meaningful truth; it seeks to provoke discussion of relevant problems among interested Christians; it seeks to furnish for young people, directly or indirectly, a few signposts which will indicate where the battlefield is located, and to point out some weapons of the Christian faith which might be suitable in the struggle against disillusion and frustration as we find it in these times and these places.”  Whew!  I doubt that I knew at that time what “hypotheses” meant, but my practice for years had been to list every word I did not know and look them up.  Besides the vocabulary, I could not guess what all the fuss was about.  Weapons?  Disillusion?  These times?

Schnackenberg gave me a definition of history in the universal sense – all that has happened  – and of history in the professional sense – concern with the past of what has happened and its sequence to the present, but not with the future that is outside our knowledge.  Qualifications followed: not only is knowledge of history in its universality impossible, but human reduction of history into a subject of study is also necessarily limited.  Here comes the part that has stuck with me all these years.  History is the interpreted fragment of the discovered fragment of the recorded fragment of the selected fragment of the remembered fragment.  Of course, I know now that the remembered fragment is prone to error and partiality, depending on viewpoint.

From that reading, I humbled myself in the face of all history that I took as the study before me and as the universal of all the history of existence that loomed behind me. I did not call history discovery at that time, but daily discovery was my experience.  The larger part of Schnackenberg’s task in illuminating the “historical situation” puts history as the sequence in time within its eschatological and Christian contexts.  I believe that I accepted that explanation without fully realizing its import, but such an account moved me along to further consideration of the philosophy of history.

Enamored as I was of Nietzsche as a college freshman, I also read The Use and Abuse of History, translated by Adrian Collins (1957).  Nietzsche’s contrary views proved always startling and difficult to grasp so that I spent a lot of time with him that first year of college, even wrote a long paper on him to inform and resolve my thinking and to practice research based on sources.  Even then I was not sure of my own understanding.  However, clearly just as in Thus Spake Zarathustra where Nietzsche wants more out of life, in this essay on history, he wants more enlightenment, utility and impact out of history.  Nietzsche found the historicism of his day stultifying without transformative value.  “Only strong personalities can endure history; the weak are extinguished by it” (1957, p. 32).  Living up to Nietzsche’s visions proved quite a challenge.

Next came the call of Hegel’s Reason in History, translated by Robert S. Hartman (1953).  By reading Hegel, I came to a fuller understanding of the Nietzschean reaction.  Though Hegel declared that we must take history as it is, for him theory and theology overflowed that history  and the evolution of history as a process.  He had failed to compel me as Nietzsche had.  When I read Hegel’s statement “World history is the progress of the consciousness of freedom – a progress whose necessity we have to investigate” (1953, p.24), I thought, Yes, very well; I will continue to investigate.  I stopped reading Hegel at that point and began to investigate, continuing unto this day.

My classmates had not fallen into the adventurous discovery of history as I had.  No wonder: textbooks and teachers constituted their exposure to it.  I was on the path of intellectual exploration, a never-ending quest.  In existential terms, I understood history (universal) as our nature, a nature far more mysterious than could be grasped but the only study worth a lifetime of effort (learning as our profession), always unfolding, always new, refreshed.

Many years later, after I had quit employment, a new Commissioner came to head the Minnesota Department of Education in a Republican administration.  She professed a love of history and brought her old history books along with her into office.  At that time, history was one of the state curriculum standards under development.  As the controversies of what was valid played out in the standards revision, the Commissioner railed against revisionism in history.  For her, history was fixed, unarguable.  Too much Hegel, I thought; not enough Nietzsche.  Obviously, she never read Schnackenberg.


I welcome all comments to blog articles.  For personal comments to me, send to rogdesk@charter.net.

 Copyright © 2009 by Roger Sween.

 History first appeared in CeptsForm on Blogspot, 18 Dec. 2009, and moved to WordPress, 14 Nov. 2010.


November 14, 2010

Concepts and Concept Formation

 Where do we get our ideas?  How do we test and develop those ideas?  How do we share them?  What effect do ideas have; that is, what difference do they make?

These questions have stirred me for a long time.  Mother took me to the public library at an early age, and Dad read aloud to us four children.  These routines made me a dedicated reader from childhood, a habit I have not yet abandoned.  Reading and other experiences led me to bouts of imagination and questioning.  No doubt early discovery of myths and legends led me to wonder and speculate.  I asked questions that Dad answered, ‘There is no way to answer that.’  In his 70s, he asked me similar open-ended question.  When still young, I had learned to ponder, a trait typical of the very mature, who have lived through considerable history.

Though my first choice of profession was to be some kind of scientist, perhaps a chemist, I was never very good at the messy sciences.  I would rather read about biology, chemistry and physics  than do them.  I read Gods, Graves and Scholars (1951) when I was twelve years old, and suddenly archaeology appealed to me.  The possibility of discovering the long-lost past excited my imagination.  Subsequently, history, historical novels, and biography preoccupied me.  By the time I reached sixteen years, I knew I wanted to be a historian.  I majored in history at college, but the environment that I studied in turned me into a philosopher.  Why am I as I am?  Why are things as they are?

In time, the possibilities of employment forced on me a practicality.  History jobs were few.  I had taken a library education minor as work insurance, and that choice began my career in the information field for most of the next forty years.  By the time I became a university librarian and library educator in my twenties, I saw that my real work was in adult learning.  I identified myself as a lifetime learner; my first responsibilities provided for and fostered other people’s continuous learning.

My life as a reader provoked another thread, attention to writing.  The Kudor Preference Test (9th grade?) showed that the interests I favored aligned most closely with authors or real estate agents.  Another person in the class had the same results. Go figure!  Sure enough, I have been scribbling bits and pieces for years, trying novels, poetry and essays.  During the years I was a state-level library consultant, I wrote several extensive reports, planning documents, curriculums and policy pieces.  I am quick to respond to issues with letters to the newspaper and more extensive commentaries.

For several years, efforts to narrow my attention have focused on the following major interests:

  •       concept-formation
  •       informed conversation for community building and public participation
  •       information-seeking behavior
  •       information policy
  •       philosophy of adult learning
  •       self-directed learning
  •       role of books, reading, libraries in learning

In short, how do ideas originate, become adopted, evolve, and spread?

Thus concepts, their formation and examination are the subject of this blog.

Copyright © 2009 by Roger Sween.

I welcome comments; for personal comments directly to me send to rogdesk@charter.net.

Backgound first appeared in CeptsForm on Blogspot, 18 Jan. 2009, and moved to WordPress, 14 Nov. 2010.


November 14, 2010

28 August 2000

Dear Lynn,

Thank you for asking about my retirement so I can think about these things some more.  You know, I do not like the idea of retirement and do not use the word.  I tell people I have not retired, but that “I quit employment.”  They go blank, so it is better to tell them “I am a freelance writer.”

A friend told me one time, a few years ago, that on the average, a writer in the United States earns $1900 a year.  I don’t know what this means.  Possibly, there are an awful lot of people scribbling away, and they bring down the average; or, the business of earning one’s living by the pen is fraught with difficulty.  I believe both to be true, but especially the latter.

Although modern society supports a large segment of its society whose medium is reading, writing and thinking, and who pays them for it, my own experience is that it is not an easy thing to get into.  One has to be focused and willing to sacrifice to get there.  Biographies of artists, scientists, authors – intellectuals in general – are stories of drudgery and struggle against the odds.  Rare are the fortunate few who have places already made for them: more typical are the poets I’ve met who grumble that they support themselves at temp jobs while they squeeze out a few drops of poetry which may ultimately earn them a very few dollars.

We are a society of extremes: a small percentage produce best sellers and movie scripts that go for millions.  The vast majority are on the margins.  I’ve marveled that the typical press run is 1200 to 3,000 copies, the same as it was in the infancy of printing, five hundred years ago.  The main difference is that now there is a larger volume of published titles and in more areas of specificity.

My own path is that though I wanted to be a writer and be paid for thinking, I made choices that meant I was soon involved in other obligations that made the free-lancing life too risky.  Raising children and paying mortgages seems to override a lot of independence, creativity, and the time required to be productive.  And, of course, we humans occupy a range of different personality types.  I find myself unable to dash off anything but have to think about a topic or question for a long time and do a lot of re-writing before I gain satisfaction with what I have done.  Only then, can I set aside my self-criticism and with some ease go public.

Instead of freelancing as I might have wished, I occupied myself with several years of mulling my thoughts and experimenting with ideas under the promise that by planning-ahead I would some day come to the position to do what I always wanted to do.  That day has come.  I’m subsidizing my own future.  Whether I ever earn anything by reading, writing and thinking is no longer important for me – I don’t have to – reading deeply, thinking critically and writing creatively are the important things.  Still, nothing is automatic, and the last months have taught me the value of routine, forethought and self-discipline.

Perhaps, all I’ve said is too idiosyncratic.  Plenty of people are busy reviewing books, writing essays and magazine articles, consulting, and doing the other profitable things that revolve around reading, writing and thinking.  I’m glad to have had a library career, where I was always close to intellectual work, to the emergence and flow of new ideas and means of expressing them.  That’s where I had a chance to develop my learning and thinking skills.  Even though my everyday life for close to forty years was not always what I exactly wanted, I felt I was on the right track.

I still do.         

Take care,


Copyright © 2009 by Roger Sween.

This post stems from an actual letter, somewhat revised.  Retirement? first appeared in CeptsForm on Blogspot, 25 Jan. 2009, and moved to WordPress, 14 Nov. 2010.

I welcome all comments to blog articles.  For personal comments to me send to rogdesk@ charter.net.

My Solo

November 13, 2010

Discovering My Personality Type, 5. 

According to: John M. Oldham and Lois B. Morris, Personality self-portrait: why you think, work, love, and act the way you do.  Bantam Books, c1990.  438p. 

Oldham is one of the members of the American Psychiatric Association who worked on revisions of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (3rd ed., rev., 1987).  From the identification of those disorders, he and Morris identified thirteen normal personality-style categories from which disorders are the extreme aberration.  Although this method seems backwards, students of the human psyche have historically been interested in the ranges of behavior among personality types and the styles identified “are the common, utterly human, non-pathological versions of the extreme, disordered constellations identified in the DSM manual.

Between the optimum and disordered ends of a style, range various behaviors so that the dividing point between health and dysfunction fails exact definition.  Nevertheless, productive and satisfying lives exhibit flexibility over inflexibility, variety over repetition, and adaptability over the incapacity to cope.  Psychiatry focuses on the disorders.  This book focuses on the healthy styles so that individuals will know themselves and appreciate the ways that those of the other styles act and express themselves that are also healthy but different.

These thirteen styles are:

  1. Conscientious:  People of strong moral principal and absolute certainty who will not rest until the job is done right.
  2. Self-Confident:  People of a quality born of self-regard, self-respect, self-certainty, showing faith in oneself and a commitment to self-styled purpose.
  3. Dramatic:  People who are all heart, full of feeling and emotion which they can transform to a high art.
  4. Vigilant:  People of heightened awareness to their environment, looking for what is awry, to announce and denounce it.
  5. Mercurial:  People who want to experience life fully in whatever it brings.
  6. Devoted:  People who care about the identified team to whom they are loyal, considerate, and helpful.
  7. Solitary:  People who need no one but themselves, remarkably free from involvements and emotions that distract others, to discover on their own.
  8. Leisurely:  People who, apart from their responsibilities, seek to be themselves and do as they wish.
  9. Sensitive:  People who seek a world, small and familiar, where they find comfort, contentment and inspiration.
  10. Idiosyncratic:  People who, whether eccentrics or geniuses, live lives apart from the conventions that most others follow.
  11. Adventurous:  People who will take risks and long leaps where others are cautious or afraid.
  12. Self-Sacrificing:  People who put other’s needs first and live to serve them.
  13. Aggressive:  People who move instinctively by force of personality to command.

 These personality styles operate within six functioning domains.  Styles show their characteristics in the domains and various domains are key to each of the styles.  The domains are

  • Self:  How one sees, thinks, and feels about their own self, their place in the universe and among others.
  • Relationships:  How one regards other people as important to themselves.  This is a dominant factor in more than half of the styles.
  • Work:  How one regards what it is they do and how they about doing things, not just work but everything to which they give time.
  • Emotions:  Includes moods, feelings, and emotional states, the place people give to them in their lives and their intensity.
  • Self-Control:  How one governs themselves in meeting desires, temptations, and impulses before action.
  • Real World:  How one regards the world, its existence and nature, and what is real for them.

 Chapters define these terms and sizeable chapters on each style discuss the domains pertinent to each in turn along with characteristics, tips on dealing with others of the style in one’s own life, and exercises for making the most of the style.  Half the chapter treats the flip side of the normal style, the corresponding personality disorder.

A Personality Self-Portrait Questionnaire is the entry to identifying the styles operating in each life.  For 104 questions, one of three answers is possible: Yes, I agree; Maybe, I agree; No, I don’t agree.  The maybe responses are for questions where the individual agrees with one part but not another of the same question.  Through scoring, a self-portrait graph emerges.

For me, the Questionnaire produced the following results in order of importance.  Ranking for each style is the number out of the top possible number.


  •       Solitary:                 12 of 14                      
  •       Sensitive:               8 of 14
  •       Conscientious:    10 of 18
  •       Idiosyncratic:      8 of 18
  •       Self-Confidant      8 of 18


  •       Vigilant:                 4 of 14
  •       Aggresssive          2 of 16
  •       Self-Sacrificing    2 of 16
  •       Leisurely:              2 of 18
  •       Adventurous:     2 of 22
  •       Dramatic:             0 of 16
  •       Mercurial:           0 of 16

Resulting Personality Profile Functions in the Domains:

My dominant styles (as defined above) are I. Solitary (7), II. Sensitive (9), III. Conscientious (1), IV. Idiosyncratic (16), V. Self-Confident (2)I have noted those domains key to each style.  I also briefly quote characteristics of each style especially pertinent to me in each domain.

Sense of Self.

I. (Key) self contained; own best resource; psychological gain from self; prefers own company.

II. Know self when not exposed to others.

III. Self is work; sets high standards of responsibility; no desire for ease.

IV. (Key) Determines own world; willingly breaks with tradition.

V. (Key) Self-esteem; self as purposive, meaningful, source of enjoyment.

Emotional States.

I. (Key) Dispassionate; prefers to observe.

II. (Key) Security in world of own; life-long personal attachments.

III. Seeks calm and reserve.

IV. Intensity is aesthetic, intellectual joy of comprehension.

V. Optimistic.

Control Level.

I. Heightened self-control; desire to avoid pain, impulse or spontaneity.

II. Self-disciplined to shape behavior and keep to self.

III. Self-discipline through knowing and reasoning.

IV. Feelings are internalized.

V. Self-contol.

Relationships with Others.

I. Uninvolved; need distance and time alone.

II. (Key) A few people or one; knowing others well relieves anxiety.

III. Steadiness over intimacy and romance; loyal to those they value.

IV. Not defined by others; risks loneliness when cannot connect.

V. Work at.


I. Self-directed; desire for concentration; avoid conflict, politics, competition.

II. Work is the nest; work at home.

III. (Key) Where shines; extends to all hours, intense, focused, detailed; never retires.

IV. Does best in own niche; neither ambitious or competitive in traditional sense.

V. Cooperative; flexible, non-hierarchical; needs to be effective.


I. Privacy provides a pocket for endeavor.

II. Prefer home; look forward to return when away.

III. Choices are between right and wrong; grey areas mean unfinished thinking.

IV. (Key) Perceive differently from others; curious; speculative, original.

V. World in own image.

Necessarily, one should be wary of behaviors that each style might bring with it and how a more varied life might be possible or beneficial.  I, likely as others, appreciate those aspects of my life that comfort or please me the most in a self-reinforcing way.  For me the following bear watching.

As a Solitary (I) and Sensitive (II) where the danger is to cut oneself off from others, I like people in general but more so in the abstract and at a distance than face-to-face.  I crave friendship, but have high standards for it, and as a result have had few truly close and lasting friendships.  Close friends I have had in the past, who have died, still haunt my thoughts.  I work at keeping the friends I have but am not good at making new friends.  I have trouble expressing myself verbally because I have to be sure of the right words; therefore, I prefer writing to speaking.  Even though I know that social communication constitutes the bulk of conversation, I am no good at small talk.  Instead, I converse most easily with people I already know, especially when the connection enjoys long duration.  Often after an encounter with someone, I review what I said, and analyze all the things I could have said better.  The reading, thinking and writing life depends upon solitude and the desire to be productive in these endeavors further rev up the demand to be alone. 

Being Conscientious (III) risks also becoming obsessive-compulsive. I am far from that, except that I berate myself that I do not stick to one thing at a time until finished.  In other words, I am obsessive about not being obsessive.  When I cannot sleep, it is often because I review what I have said and done and mull over yet one more time how I could have done a better job of it in the first place.  I endeavor to narrow my focus, but find it difficult to give up long-standing interests or concerns over issues that were ever important to me in my lengthening past.  My long-term goal is to be free of all committees by the time I am seventy, but I still volunteer for new assignments that I regard to be of short duration.  I realize that I will never understand everything or anything, but keep on trying to figure things out and do my best.

I have always been Idiosyncratic (IV), I realize, having felt the difference of being different since I was a very young child.  Once at a birthday party for Dicky Connors – our mothers had been friends since being next-door neighbors as children – while the rest roistered in another room, I found refuge in a corner where I looked at his comic books.  I was about 5 years old.  Imagination became more vivid and preferable to actuality.  Then also, reading proved more expansive than experience, history demonstrated more pertinence than a transitory present, thinking arose precursory to doing.  Being so different bothered me for all my early years, but could not stop me from continuing on the same track.  At about age 16, I embraced my uniqueness.  Total alienation likely threatened.  At one point, I even thought about becoming a Trappist monk, thanks to the appeal of the reflective life.  Other people always rescued me, mostly at first caring relatives, games played with my siblings and in the neighborhood, classmates and other friends at school, Bible camp, Luther League, the prospect of college, and the widening circles of moving away from home.  Ultimately, I learned the prevalence of differences among people and the need to find one’s niche in association with others.  I could not participate, but astutely observe; I could not compete, but became a specialist in collaboration; I could not lead, except intellectually; I could not fight, except by argument (in the rhetorical or philosophical sense, that is not argumentative, but stating a position and defending it).

Fortunately, I learned to be Self-Confident (V), confident in the virtues of my own idiosyncrasies, without being schizotypal or narcissistic.  I do border on narcissism (self-absorption): I am reconciled with my identity to such an extent that I dearly prefer my roster of styles to other possibilities.  Clearly, I remain more in pursuit of understanding myself than of understanding and relating to others.  Even in creating fictional characters, try as I might to make the leads different, there is always too much of me in them that I cannot expunge.  In short, though other people interest me, especially those that provide models, I fascinate myself to a greater extent than others can command.  Perhaps what saves me from psychotic narcissism, is that I have become primarily a questioner of received ideas and beliefs, even those I have about myself.  I continuously ask myself, even about myself: Is this true and how do I know that?  I have learned to live with ambiguity at worst, provisional truth at best.

I wonder, also, about the styles on which I rank the lowest.  Does this mean these styles portend their own disorders.

Vigilant: Though very low in this ranking, I still exhibit this style’s characteristics, chiefly autonomy, caution in relationships, perceptiveness, self-defense in my own behalf, openness to criticism, and fidelity or loyalty.  I am far from being paranoid which I would consider a laughable state, were it not so pathetic.

Aggressive:  Since I am far from being feisty as Vigilants can be, I also long ago gave up any desire to be in charge or top dog.  (What a horrible expression!)  Though I have been the president or chair a few times of certain organizations, chiefly as Coordinator for nine years of the Minnesota Book Awards, basically as a facilitator.  I have more often been the secretary or administrative assistant where I saw the real power resides to get things clarified and on track.  I share no characteristics here, except the desire for order that to me is a matter of negotiated goals and standards, not rules.  As condescending as I can be, I do not enjoy power over others.

Yet, neither am I Self-Sacrificing.  Though I am willing to do a lot for the common good or the benefit of near and dear, I learned on the verge of adulthood that it is precisely the self, as the source of human worth, creativity and efficacy, that must not be sacrificed.  My sense of doing good for others as altruists do is tempered by thinking of it as doing good for all, including the self as part of the whole.  I share the characteristics Self-Sacrificing – generosity only to a certain extent, service as my arena of action, and consideration of others at least in being polite.  I accept others though I will always reach some level of judgment about them (the J in my INTJ typology).  I am humble as to my own lacks and willing to endure if the end is worth it, though I am not typically patient with the tedious, repetitious, or foolish.  Also with this style, I am naive in every individual encounter, however skeptical I may be about people collectively.

The Leisurely style is not all the word implies; they do their bit, but are not overzealous, and clearly want their own thing and their own time, as they deserve.  Though I share the right to be left alone, as a solitary requires, I recognize the obligations of being part of the whole.     But neither am I passive-aggressive, though I do have my explosions of resistance, mostly against what I see as stupidity.  I am willing to do my share.  And as I resign from all committees, I do so on the grounds that what I have left to do has benefit for others; besides at age 70, I have done my share of group work.

Neither am I Adventurous except about ideas.  Even then, I move from some hierarchy of thought to a sequential change in a specific principle, issue, or tactic.  I search for holism.  Although a nonconformist in some things, I am modest in most regards as to the conventions of everyday life.  My wardrobe alternates between black, gray, brown and blue as long is the blue is not too bright.  I have one red tie for Pentecost and other high holy days.  I fear being too wild or daring, a caution that has likely saved me from drugs and much other immorality.  I take risks in speaking out on unpopular issues, but believe that one of life’s objectives is to minimize risk.  Thus I am not anti-social, the extreme dysfunction of the Adventurous.  Rather than wallowing in the virtue of independence, I see humans as essentially inter-dependent.

The Dramatic are those that are “the life of the party.”  By now, you know that is not me.  I had a secretary for some years, who often accused me of being dull.  ‘I am,’ I said; ‘I am very boring.’  Whenever I showed up at work in a back suit and black topcoat, she would ask, ‘Where are you preaching today?’  I find the pursuit of fun a shallow one though remaining open to joy.  Yet, clearly I am as far from the Dramatic characteristics as I can be.  I do not repress my feelings, but I try to command them and allow them because of some originating and controlling reason.  I limit color, as I said, more for aesthetic reasons than personal ones.  I gave up on romance as traditionally understood, but see myself as a romantic as long as romanticism is the dramatization of ideas.  As to spontaneity, I have said that I can be spontaneous as long as I can plan ahead for it.  I flee from attention, except the attention to what I write, but then not too much. The idea of becoming famous and signing autographs would frighten me except that I think it highly unlikely.  Compliments are nice, but only in moderation; mostly I appreciate the awards I have received for long-time accomplishments even when those efforts have sunk into the duff of time.  I try to look presentable and am vain about body image, but with restraint.  I’d  rather be noted for what’s inside than outside.

Neither am I Mercurial.  I seek the even keel.  I can be intense about concentration, but live otherwise without passion, which I distrust.  ‘Are you having a good time?’ a friend once asked me at a party.  ‘Yes,’ I quietly answered; ‘Why do you ask?’  ‘Because,’ he said, ‘when you are having a good time or not having a good time, you act the same.’  I try to smile more, but am usually somber as I think things over.  It takes me awhile to assess exactly how I feel and then whether or not I should feel that way.  My heart is not on my sleeve, but in its chest cavity where it belongs.  You know already what I think of spontaneity and fun.  Though I sit at my computer at least six to eight hours a day, I remain active, but always after some end, trying to keep up a brisk pace.  I retain an open mind, especially about ideas, but cannot otherwise just experiment for the sake of discovery alone.

The study of personality remains a precarious endeavor.  I have looked for the scientific over the astrological, ennegramatic, personality tree or other speculations.  Still, I accept that we have a lot more to discover and learn and so it is necessary to keep searching.

My Solo is part 5 of a multi-part look at my personality based on various approaches.  See also My INTJ (1), My LifeKey (2) My Learning (3), My Thinking (4).

© 2009 by Roger Sween

I welcome substantive comment on the contents of this blog.  Personal comments may be made to my email address, given above.

Resulting Personality Profile Functions:

Domains I. Solitary II. Sensitive III. Conscientious IV. Idiosyncratic V. Self-Confident
Sense of Self Key: self-contained; own best resource; psychological gain from prefers own company know self when not exposed to others self is work; sets high standards of responsibility; no desire for ease Key:  determines own world; willingly breaks with tradition Key: self-esteem; self as purposive, meaningful, source of enjoyment
Emotional States Key: dispassionate; prefers to observe Key: security in world of own; life-long personal attachments seeks calm and reserve intensity is aesthetic, intellectual joy of comprehension optimistic
Control Level heightened self-control; desire to avoid pain, impulse or spontaneity self-disciplined to shape behavior and keep to self self-discipline through knowing and reasoning feelings are internalized self-control
Relationships with others uninvolved; need distance & time alone Key: a few people or one; knowing others well relieves anxiety steadiness over intimacy and romance; loyal to those they value not defined by others; risks loneliness when cannot connect work at
Work/Doing self-directed; desire for concentration; avoid conflict, politics, competition work is the nest; work at home Key: where shines; extends to all hours; intense, focused, detailed; never retires does best in own niche; neither  ambitious or competitive in traditional sense cooperative; flexible, non-hierarchical; needs to be effective
Real-World privacy provides a pocket for endeavor prefer home; look forward to return when away choices are between right and wrong; grey areas mean unfinished thinking Key: Perceive differently from others; curious; speculative; original world in own image

My Thinking

November 13, 2010

Discovering My Personality Type, 4.

According to: Allen F. Harrison and Robert M. Bramson, Styles of thinking: strategies for asking questions, making decisions and solving problems.  Doubleday: Anchor Press, c1982.  202p.  Index.  

Harrison and Bramson found that as behavioral scientists, consultants and teachers that people approach problems in identification and resolution by ways fundamentally different from one another.  Decisions follow from differing psychological bases as well.  Therefore, they have concentrated on the “styles of thinking” that people use to attack and deal with issues.

Much of their work is based on the studies of C. West Churchman (The Design of Inquiring Systems, 1971) in the analysis of his five identified modalities of thinking.  An inventory, developed by Harrison-Bramson, the InQ, offers five choices for each of 18 questions.  Respondents rank the choices from 5 (most like me) to 1 (least like me).  A scoring sheet calculates scores to each of the modes that translate to preferences in ways of asking questions and making decisions.  These preferences are:

  • Sythesist (11%): Look for perspectives that link otherwise contradictory views and produce a “best fit” solution.
  • Idealist (37%): Look for shared goals among a group or society as a whole and that commonality, when recognized, will bring people together.
  • Pragmatist (18%) Look for whatever works based upon experience with the immediate situation, here and now, in order to get on with the task.
  • Analyst (35%): Look through examination and application of theory for a scientifically verifiable best way that is rational, predictable and stable.
  • Realist (24%): Look for verifiable facts on which people can or ought to agree in order to fix things.

 In successive chapters, Harrison-Bramson, discuss each style as to its character, approach and methods or strategies for problem solving and decision-making.  Since combinations of styles are also possible, one chapter describes the Synthesist-Idealist, and so on.

 Harrison-Bramson aim at two objectives.  People can learn the differences in the styles so they appreciate better their differences with others and can learn to work with them.  People can also understand their own style more profoundly so that they can develop their strengths and know when they should correct, temper, or expand them by the processes of other styles.  Another whole chapter is devoted to very clearly presented ways to employ thinking processes in each of the styles.

Using InQ, I show a strong preference for the Idealist mode and a moderate preference for the Analyst mode.  I took the inventory at two different times with the same results as to style but slightly differing emphases.

Dates Synthesist Idealist Pragmatist Analyst Realist
June 2001 54 69 51 60 36
Sept. 2002 42 78 47 60 43

As an Idealist-Analyst (IA), the Synthesist mode comes in third but not high enough to score as a preference.  Generally, I have thought of myself as a synthesist, but this preference did not score distinctively high because I flee from conflict.  Synthesists are on the lookout for conflict, identifying and articulating conflicts in order to bring opposing views together.  Surprisingly, I scored higher as a Pragmatist than a Realist, through both were low.  Philosophically, I have had a low opinion of pragmatism, regarding it as a valueless and unexamined expediency.  But, this inventory showed on the first results an absolute neglect of the Realist position because I can only stand just so much minutia when they begin to crowd out principles from their deserved –  and for me – primary consideration.  The second time, scores showed a better balance and more attention to data at the further weakening of the Synthesist position.

Happily, I resonated with Harrison-Bramson’s characterization of the Idealist-Analyst combination as one who takes a broad, comprehensive view, and one who is a future-oriented planner.  The IA seeks to achieve high standards and aims using the best possible methods.  Therefore, the IA process takes time for examination and mulling over.

I see parallels in this inventory with Myers-Briggs where I am a strong INTJ.  Certainly, however, I am less of an analyst in the collection of data, due to my judging (J) preferences, than I am an idealist, being iNtuitive (N), my dominant preference.

My Thinking is part 4 of a multi-part look at my personality based on various approaches.  See also My INTJ (1), My LifeKey (2), My Learning (3), My Solo (5).

 © 2009 by Roger Sween

 My Thinking appeared in CeptsForm on Blogspot, 2009, and moved to WordPress, 13 Nov. 2010.

I welcome substantive comment on the contents of this blog.  Personal comments may be made to my email address, rogdesk@charter.net.

My Learning

November 13, 2010

Discovering My Personality Type, 3.

 According to: Gordon Lawrence, People types and tiger stripes: a practical guide to learning styles; 2nd edition.  Center for Applications of Psychological Type, Inc., c1984.  Appendix  A, “Introduction to Type,” by Isabel Briggs Myers, c1980.  101, A1-A14p.  

Following from the Myers-Briggs type indicator, Gordon discusses the relationship of types to learning in the school setting.  Though all types are valid, teachers have traditionally done a better job of relating to some types than others.  The variety of types in one classroom challenges teachers: the average breakdown of a random group of 35 students, as in a required class, is 7 IS, 3 IN, 18 ES, 7 EN.  A study by Myers of 500 students who had not finished 8th grade found that 99% of them were sensing types.  The bulk of the book consists of profiling types and recommending learning activities that various types will relate to, like, and thereby learn.

As an INTJ learner and teacher, how do I fare under Gordon?

My mother used to remark that I was a poor reader until third grade, and she credited Miss Efteland (later Mrs. Sandberg) for turning that poor performance around.  I puzzle over this difficulty because I grew up in an excellent reading environment.  My parents were readers and always had a lot of newspapers, magazines and books around.  Dad read to us almost daily, first the comic strips, but later poems, stories and eventually books.  After I could read myself, I listened intently off to the side as he read Kon Tiki (1950) and The Journals of Lewis and Clark (DeVoto; 1953) to my brother and me.

I remember being impressed in first grade by things that other children knew, such as the names of colors, and the way they took to the alphabet and words on the page.  I felt inadequate next to them in reading aloud sessions.  In the second grade, Miss Wilson sent me down from the Bluebirds to the Bears, and I knew I was in disgrace.  When in the third grade, policy allowed us the school library on a regular basis, and I could choose from a large pile of books put out on the table.  Reading became an enjoyment and exploration in which I leaped at the invitation to partake.  Besides, I could do it by myself, not out-loud and in public.

When I look at it now, those Dick and Jane readers were pedestrian where the biggest drama was Sally’s teddy bear disappearing as the family car containing it went up the grease rack.  The books I had access to in third grade were more the equivalent of my favorite radio shows – Let’s Pretend, the episodes on Buster Brown, or The Inner Sanctum.

Reading became my major way of learning, and I gradually discovered that I was in charge of my own learning.  Thanks to the books I read, I was ahead of the class in most subjects.  I scored high in the Iowa tests because if I knew the topic, I didn’t read the sample test text, I went direct to answering the questions.  Never studious in school – I was too busy reading – I never got grades as high as my two diligent sisters achieved.  My real downfall came with 10th grade.  I had signed up for all the college prep courses, and so many of them did not depend upon reading, but doing.  The math courses bothered me because there was no discussion of why things are the way they are.  I could abstract concepts from words, but the abstractions of geometry, algebra and trigonometry were pure and seemingly without referents.  I tried to imagine how a line could touch a circle at only one point that had no dimension and felt I was going mad.  Biology I got through thanks to Leonard Espeland, likely the best teacher I ever had, and Elizabeth Weber my lab partner.  But the hands-on aspects of chemistry and physics became as frustrating to me as mechanical drawing and shop.  I dreaded all the experiments that failed and the pressure to arrive at principles.  I wanted the principles first.  Couldn’t we just read about these things and discuss them.  INTJ!

I was a failure as a school librarian because I couldn’t figure out why almost everyone wanted to talk, flip through magazines, and not read as I had done in my own high school years.  Quickly I was off to academic librarianship and college teaching, then other types of library work, consultancy, and at the end graduate teaching.

One thing about teaching a foundations course in library and information science, which became my specialty, was that most of the students are INs or NTs, the same is I.  I am far more conscious of differences in learning now, and try to give students a lot of choices and opportunities to converse and question.  Still, clearly the approach is the overview, heavy on the reason why or the possibility of what might be.

My Learning is part 3 of a multi-part look at my personality based on various approaches.  See also My INTJ (1), My LifeKey  (2), My Thinking (4), My Solo (5).

© 2009 by Roger Sween

I welcome substantive comment on the contents of this blog.  Personal comments may be made to my email address, rogdesk@charter.net.

My Learning first appeared in CeptsForm on Blogspot, 2009, and moved to WordPress, 13 Nov. 2010.