Life: an entity which replicates itself with minute errors and whose offspring compete for further replication opportunities. It’s not a perfect definition, some things may fall into this category without being considered alive and others that should be in it may fall out. I’m thinking of viruses and eternal jellyfish as problematic examples. But I digress. The definition should be suitable for discussion purposes.
Gravity is a fundamental force of nature. It’s the most obvious force when you look at the heavens, but also in our day to day lives. This is a bit metaphoric and abstract, but if one were to ask what is the point of the universe, the apparent answer is to create Stellar objects (stars, dwarf stars, black holes, etc). Stars, and planets if NASA estimates are correct, are a common and direct result of gravity. They’re a given in our universe. If we want to say why the universe exists, it makes sense to look at the most common result of its forces; stars.
Terran life appears fragile, Life as defined above isn’t. Replication means when it’s possible to exist, it will become common. It will survive ice ages, meteorites and continental drifts. Life is a given in our universe. Not human life, not conscious life, but life as a concept. So when we explore places mildly hospitable, we will find life.
If we don’t, I’ll have to revise this conjecture. That’s the great thing about scientific philosophy, that’s a fine result.
If you want to learn about yourself (which really, you should), learn about other humans. Not from a textbook but from first hand observation of your peers. Go to your local watering hole; the bar, the coffee shop, the diner, or the park, but go by yourself. Bring a notebook, watch people and write. Don’t be a creep or anything, you don’t need to stare at people. Just be around it all. Immerse yourself in the thick soup of humanity around you. Hear the snippets of conversation and try to guess what is going on with people. Not in some crazy fantasy way, but in a legitimate, ‘what could their story be’ way.
Once you’ve done this for a while, try to take in the totality of it. All those people have their own stories, stretching back and forward in time. They have family and friends, hopes and fears. The same internal monologue bouncing around their skull. Everyone of them was a vulnerable, impressionable child once. The world was scary and alien and they had no agency to control it. The world acted upon them and they couldn’t protect themselves. That shaped them, for better or for worse.
Really feeling the magnitude of this, the complexity of so many human lives; it’s awe inspiring. They may focus on trivialities at times, but the mere fact of their existence is a testament to human achievement. Human society hasn’t been around very long, yet we’re somehow convinced it’s a given, that it’s always been this way and always will.
See how far these Apes in clothes have come in a sliver of cosmic time.
Become a people watcher.
Live music is something special (If that’s something new to you, then we need to be having a different conversation). There’s a particular aspect of it that I’d like to tease out and over analyse: the crowd dynamics. The mass of people in the audience becomes this kind of singular entity. The crowd and the band feed off each other in a cyclical loop. When people talk about a band having a really good stage presence, those are the musicians who know how to create this loop. I’m reminded of the looping emotional feedback you can get from sex, which is apt given the connection between popular music and sex. I briefly talked about this here, but not in much detail (hmm, maybe another post on it is warranted).
This is something fans of music have obviously known about. The ecstatic feedback loop is the core of many powerful emotions though. There’s many way to trigger it, it’s just that most people only see their own chosen method as “The” method. Connecting it to other ecstasies is finding the root. I’m not interested in making this some boring, purely analytical thing. What is important is to understand how we work. Like I said in Charades, knowing gives you power over yourself. It allows you to curb these underlying mental programs when their damaging or embrace them when they’re wonderful.
Crowd dynamics spread far beyond music. Political crowds are a good example, but often not executed properly. There’s gotta be some evolutionary reason that music/art can hit that resonant feedback thing easier than linguistics. A speaker must be truly great to achieve it whereas many musicians seem to be able to. Without the loop needed for that ecstasy it can just sound bland.
Religious speakers have certainly achieved it and I’m sure we can think of the more dangerous political figures who’ve done it. Which leads to the fact that ecstasy is not necessarily good. It’s powerful and emotional and wild. Like emotions, it’s neither good nor bad; it’s just us, human. Hence how wonderful music can feel. Hence how dangerous the mob can be.
When a crowd merges into a larger entity, it takes on something similar to what human psyche’s have. The crowd is the body, the higher order being existing somewhere in the space between. People not participating, yet still within the crowd are alien organisms. They can pull you out of the collective by their very presence. It’s the immune response of a collective organism to reject those that don’t conform. We’ve all seen the people at a concert too cool to dance. They’re thinking about their own ego, how they look as individuals, to partake in the ecstasy.
In music it’s merely an annoyance.
In politics it’s terrifying.
Of everything I’ve tried to write this has taken the longest. I’m on attempt number three, at least. It’s not for a lack of things to talk about, it’s more that expressing them clearly is challenging. The emotions that surround this topic are intense and almost everyone has dealt with some absolutist asshole, claiming their stance is the only right one. I’d like to ask you to read this and try your best to remove your own biases, especially if it’s a knee-jerk anger due to one of those aforementioned assholes.
Quick definitions to get out of the way. I’m using polyamory (hereafter, just poly) to describe any relationship that is romantic and/or emotionally intimate and involving more than two people. How you define emotionally intimate is up to you, there is no universal line. More than two can mean simultaneously, as in 3 people all in love with each other; or distinct, one person in love with two people with the other two not having any defined relationship with each other. Monogamy is exactly what I just said, but exclusively between two people. Continue reading