Thomas Henry Huxley is on my flyers for the course this summer, an icon to draw attention from a distance. (1) It's a commanding profile, seen often in history and science texts. A supernormal stimulus, enlarged to 1/2 life size for crowded bulletin boards. It's also a supernormal stimulus for those fans of evolution and a known symbol for rebellion & excitement. I faded the image so that I can print course information over it. The image, even under gray blocks of type, prevails at a distance; closer up, the image fades and the type dominates.
There are other icons on computer screens. Some of them wiggle or make noises. Each of them elicits a distinct sequence of events when tickled by a pointer. Each of them a functional equivalent to a Psychological Adaptation.
Derek liked icons. It appeared that he may repeat some of the bipolar career of others in his family. He had pronounced mood shifts, some of which were attributable to his parole officer. Derek, since young, was been out late at night, teasing police officers to chase him. He got several traffic tickets per year for ignoring stop signs. He carried medication and sometimes other things in his backpack. There was a recurrent layer of grandiosity beneath all these things.
His largest problem was painting surfaces that didn't belong to him. (There's a thrill in "hitting spots" that are very public and physically difficult to reach. He, and other graffiti mavens, each have a sign; each of them marks territory with their style and symbol.) His grandiosity again betrayed him because "all the kids knew his work" and he assumed that none would betray him, that he was special.
The graffiti and much of his grandiosity went away with risperidone and he became somewhat boring. One evening he announced that he had decided, as manics often do, to skip his medication. Coincidentally, he opted to seek a job as a caterer, paying double his usual rate, and refused to walk the mile to work anymore. He was going to clubs again, staying up late, and flirting with more than the usual number of girls. He developed a mild obsession with an oriental girl he had met in the bathroom, apparently coed affairs at some of the clubs. She kept looking at him on the crowded dance floor and he was later determined to search high and low to find her. I urged him to restart the risperidone. It's only a few weeks until he's 18 and off of probation.
I ducked out of the office for a moment, leaving him alone. I returned 30 seconds later. One of my bright yellow Post-Its was on my writing surface, under the halogen lamp. "Live Life Nocturnally by Nite" filled the slip at 45 degrees to its borders. The green marker and yellow paper was an attractive mix; however, alarmist, boring, me pictured blank walls and spray cans.
My gosh, I empathize with his behavior. We probably share drives and Adaptations with the Lascaux artists. (2) I'm holding on to that Post-It, putting Tom Henry's picture where ever it might find a student for the summer, and putting things up on the Net.
1) "Healing the Moral Animal: Lessons from Evolution." Robert Wright, Russ Gardner, John Pearce, and I are teaching the week of July 20-24, 1998 for the 19th Cape Cod Institute. Register at www.cape.org/1998/
2) Things look better for Derek. He found time to work with a relative and decorated the restaurant for Christmas. His work was outstanding. We have also figured a way for his graffiti to pay him money, potentially a lot of money. (Wish I could share it!) Brian Goodwin says "Evolution (life) is about finding a place to be yourself." Go Derek.