Wednesday, October 31, 2012

from whence surplus?

i had a long conversation last night about that whole concept of overskudsmennesker (surplus people) and underskudsmennesker (deficit people) that i believe i've mentioned here before. those words are so wonderful and packed with meaning in danish, meaning that's not contained in the literal translation, nor in any more metaphorical one i can come up with. even tho' we lack a word for it, i know you know people in both categories.

overskudsmennesker are largely positive. they have time for things. they are creative and their actions reflect both an open mind and a big heart. they're able to see situations from all sides. they are good at having an overview. when someone presents an idea, they run with it and expand on it, instead of shutting it down or making fun of it.

underskudsmennesker, as you might imagine, are the opposite. they have something negative to say about everything. they aren't open to new ideas and they often are critical naysayers in the face of other people's ideas. they're the ones who you'll hear say, "we tried that before and it didn't work." they are often utterly unable to see a situation from another perspective.

i know i show traits of both at times, because i don't think that anyone is ever always on top of things. we all go up and down, depending on our energy levels. but i've come to think that once again, whether you are generally in surplus has a lot to do with social capital (i know, i'm always bringing it back to that, but i think bourdieu was right). do your background, education, upbringing and situation equip you to deal positively with the world or not? do they enable you to see the big picture? i think for many, the answer is no and it means they wallow in their own perspective and their own negativity, never lifting their head above the horizon to really look at things. never having the surplus to do so.

i don't mean to say that you have to be educated to be happy (tho' somewhere inside i probably do believe that to an extent), but that you need to be equipped with a broad way of looking at things in order to see situations for what they are and not get bogged down in some minute and unimportant detail. one that drains your energy and the energy of those around you.

another thing i've noticed is that when you have many passionate people involved in something, those passions will clash and result in a disturbing draining of energy that leaves everyone feeling like an underskudsmennesker, at least at that moment. great passions are energy dynamos, but that means that they are also energy drains. and sometimes we're so caught up in them we can't see that we crossed the line from surplus to deficit.


will said...

A tweak about your reference to education. I'm assuming by education you're referring to high school and college educations.

Today's flaw, and it is a large one is, high school budgets are stripped down bare (voters continually say 'no' to increasing taxes to pay for education) resulting in stripped down classes - thus curriculums suffer and classes become plainer (simpler).

The not-to-long-ago liberals arts degrees has also been pounded to extinction.

In its place are the technical type programs. Classes of software-hardware engineering and computer science.

I doubt there's much of the old "well-rounded education" in today's "get a degree-get a job" educational world.

stephanie said...

You've sent my mind spinning this morning, in a good way.

Part of me wonders if some of the ability to see the big picture, to think more objectively and less personally, is a trait that some people naturally have. Not that you couldn't learn it and train yourself, but it seems like some people just come by it more naturally than others. Some people can easily see different views of the same situation and others can't. And I've know kids that have this ability, before they even have a chance at serious education.

Confidence in yourself has a lot to do with it, too, I think. I'm not sure if I'm going to express it correctly, but I see people that lack confidence or are insecure being the more likely to shoot down ideas, make fun of ideas or be negative about things. If something has been attempted before and failed, they don't want to try it again for fear it does work and it's just the fact that perhaps when THEY executed it, it didn't work.

Negative people want to feel negative. Their situations will ALWAYS be the worst. Their lives will ALWAYS be the toughest. No matter what. People that want more for themselves, to live the fullest life possible understand that they have to get beyond themselves in order to gain more enjoyment from life. (I don't know if that makes sense.)

Anyhow, this is super interesting to think about. Thanks for posting this. I shall continue to roll this around in my head.

Sarah said...

Your commenter above references high school/college education but I think the learning you're talking about happens, or at least begins, much earlier than that. I have a five-year-old, and one of the things that she is really working on right now is figuring out which things are worth getting upset about, how to roll with the punches in the case of minor setbacks, being able to see when a setback is in fact minor (because of being aware of the big picture) etc. It's very much a learned skill and it's challenging to teach! (Not that I am some paragon of a surplus person, but I can see the importance of these skills.

Anonymous said...

my mom is a "underskudsmennesker" its taken me 50 years to not expect her to suport a single thing.
hard for a "overskudsmennesker " to accept i guess.

so for me its not environment its internal.
and doesn't seem genetic dad's because not much better.

you seem a overskudsmennesker. i'm glad i found your blog!