July 27, 2009

Self similar and out of sight

Ringo playing bongos, Paul and someone else in the glass

When my friend John started going to the Bronx High School of Science, he was surprised to find that it contained the same cliques that his former, neighborhood school had had-- the jocks, the geeks, etc. He figured that because the student body consisted of all the geeks taken from other schools, he would only find geeks there. But no-- and when he got to know the school's Chess Team, the geeks among geeks, he saw that they paralleled the same divisions.

Humans and human groupings always seem to break down into the same archetypes, and this also seems to happen at all levels of granularity, from national character to impulses within an individual.

We are Fractal Sheep, Paul Spinrad

The post isn't very long, and the good stuff is mostly extracted above, but I like it a lot. I like it because I lean toward the society of the mind, but also because of the social aspects of the above, the similar iterations at all scales of the same types and conflicts. Think of The Beatles: the cute one, the quiet one, the smart one, the funny one.

Of course, those labels were too glib, they were all cute, quiet, smart and funny, but everyone gets labeled in a group, and everyone ends up playing a role or two. The self is socially constructed, which is why solitude has traditionally been a tool to break it, either as punishment or spiritual discipline.

From another angle, the perceptions others have of you are obviously the reality of how you're perceived. If the people who know you think that you're a jerk, then you're a jerk, and only a change in your behavior is likely to alter that perception to any significant degree among any significant number of people. And I write this as someone who has often, and with good cause, been seen as a jerk.

Plants have many qualities, but we tend to focus on only one or two for even species of considerable interest, defining them solely in those terms. The reality of all plants - and by extension, all animals, including [naturally] all humans - is far richer than perceived by even the most patient and generous observer. But somehow that doesn't seem to matter.

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