Bare Christmas for Children (p. 948)
Associations impact our lives on very primal levels. Think of the word "toy," and you'll most likely think "child." But if children are not the only ones to use objects solely for enjoyment, why does the word association exist? Because toys generally occupy such a large proportion of their lives, the two concepts associate. However, when concepts associate, they also dissociate from other concepts, so if the association is not precise and founded, we create a slippery slope.
Associations are a part of our natural pattern-seeking skill set, because they are an attempt to categorize the world based on likeness. Likeness is a qualifier which pertains to both subjects and objects, but that does not mean when dealing with object-likenesses, the endeavor is cut-and-dry. Object-associations can be very socially entailed, thus bleeding into the subject category. This does not make object likenesses subjective in the sense that their associations are only understandable to the person doing the object association, but that the association has effects that transcend the physical association. We see this all the time. Buy a lot of workout equipment and put it in a designed area for working out, not only are those objects categorically associated, but they infer a mentality of physical health.
Practicing associations helps clean up and distinguish the boundaries of the category, not to insulate from variation and adaption, but to be clear what actually belongs. In terms of associating "toy" with "child," we can tell there is an established basis for the association because children indeed use toys, however the category is not exclusive to children because adults also use toys. The associative process was not practiced enough to become clear and precise with what actually belonged inside the category, thus adults were kept out of the association even though they fit the criteria as well as children. Thus, poorly practiced associations become fallacious dissociations.
Being fallaciously dissociative with objects has effects in the subject-world, however those effects are generally centered on the object. So if I install a home gym for some kind of fuel-saving tax credit and not to work out, the equipment is still properly associated with each other, however my financial ulterior motives sever the connection to actual physical health, essentially misusing the equipment. I correctly associated the equipment with each other, though fallaciously dissociated myself from the purpose of the equipment.
In the subject-world, associations are paramount. We are who we associate with, and develop more meaning and understanding the clearer we are with our associations. As I stated before, in order to associate we need to acknowledge a category to associate the criteria within. In the subject-world, we interact across a myriad categories every day. As a concrete example, when we stop for gas, we fill up and leave, we don't hang around and play board games. Our likeness is not merely an empty tank, but a desire to refill that tank because we value transportation. Each time we stop to fill up, we become briefly a part of an in-group, sharing a subject-likeness.
Our purely relational lives have no concrete points of reference like gyms or gas stations, though are no less associative. Because they lack concrete markers, establishing clear categories of association are much more difficult. We err frequently, producing disproportionate associations like "toys" and "children." Establishing our associations in our relational lives entails identifying likenesses for what they are, not what we want them to be or merely the most convenient classification. If we choose the latter, we become fallaciously dissociative because we sacrifice reality for the ideal, putting people into a category as we deem fit, rather than in accordance with their terms, or actual reality. Our subject associations not only represent our mentality and how we think, but also what we value, because establishing associations, or categorical likenesses, is such a primal function of action and interaction. Albeit associations can indeed be misled and perverted, our associative facult both subjects and objects--aka categorizing--is directly tied to the way we think and interact with reality, and cannot be treated as an independent thought-function. It literally determines who we are because it guides how we think, so if we find ourselves dissociating or not allowing new stimuli into our criteria for likeness-development, we have more than a thinking problem. We have a being problem.
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