The Squirrel of Judgement

March 2, 2017

Sometimes one of those viral images on Facebook is just too good not to promote and I love this one. It popped up when I was working in New York on the role of art in social change but even without that it would have caught my attention. A brief google search shows no clear origin although there might be a link to the addition of a happy squirrel card to the Tarot deck. I have thought it might be linked to William James and pragmatism. He saw pragmatism as a method of “‘method for settling metaphysical disputes that might otherwise be interminable” and the one he addresses in that paper involves a human witness, a squirrel and a tree. If anyone knows please tell me! I can’t find an occurrence before October 2016 so I think its recent.

It does allow me to address the importance of art and aesthetics in meaning making. Some of this links to the importance of abstraction/art to human language and innovation. By shifting to a level of abstraction we can make novel and unusual connections between things. We all have our personal preferences. I use different types of music in background when I am writing articles and the type of music influences the writing style. The ability of opera to transcend the mundane provides not only an escape from the humdrum, but a place, or space, where I can think in a different way. Poetry triggers different linguistic forms which in turn allows new concepts. The simple act of drawing a framework (such as Cynefin) and talking about it has on several occasions produced new ideas and ways of working.

I could go on, but the need for abstraction in humans may have had accidental origins but it has major evolutionary advantage. If we reduce education to the acquisition of STEM capability without associated education in the humanities and the arts is foolish, ironically it will also reduce inventiveness and originality in the STEM skills. Why train kids to code? By the time they grow up most of that work will be done by AI systems. My headmaster taught us how to use punch card machines on the same evidence as people are now arguing for coding skills. But the physical environment and art are critical to cognitive development in the formative years, especially under two where personally I would ban all computers and limit television.

Without art we are dumbed down brutes so lets respect the squirrel, but ideally go red not grey ….

7 responses to “The Squirrel of Judgement”

  1. Tom Racine says:

    Viral images are the best! Man, I wish I’d put my information on this goofy little squirrel! I’m the guy who created it in September of 2016, completely on a whim. I was taking the train to work in San Diego, and I saw some picture of a squirrel with his little arms crossed go by my Facebook feed. I thought it was funny…he totally looked like he was judging the viewer. I got to the office and immediately searched for that image, but couldn’t find it. But, I DID find the one above, and it worked even better in my head. As a cartoonist and video guy and a life long freelancer, my whole life has been about finding time and motivation to create art and seek the next project, both personally and professionally. The term “Squirrel of Judgement” came to mind, and I wrote the caption and put it out there on my Facebook as a complete joke, thinking three people would giggle at it that I knew. By that afternoon, I was getting messages from all over that they were seeing him show up everywhere, and all I could think was “Great…the ONE thing I fail to put my URL or “@” infomation on, and it goes viral!” Ah, well…I love that he’s got a cool little life out there on the net, and that his judging gaze is maybe motivating people! (On a similar random social media note, the only reason I found THIS blog today was someone posted it on my Facebook page pointing out the squirrel! Amazing!)

  2. Art, music, the physical environment, rules as abstraction, and the development of culture. Interesting. You know of Burning Man?

  3. Adì says:

    I should have it. I’ll look for it and will come back to you on this one

  4. Your post suggests a number of things that are so important to me: art, systems, education transformation, mythology and revering connections over depth. I was inspired to take up digital art in order to express the magic I’ve found in the complexity of all this, as simply as I could. The Heart Tree fractal is the icon I work with to honour the beauty and meaning that emerges from complexity.

  5. tonyjoyce says:

    I think this is an example of the everybody is different variety. I find background music rather distracting when writing, though it could be I just haven’t found the right groove. On the other hand, one of my most influential high school courses taught adding machines, typing and speed reading; a set of skills that led me into computer programming instead of computer hardware. The pragmatic answer to our different experiences may be that it is more rewarding to teach broad scope vice deep specialties.

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