We are behavior machines. Observed from our POV, from inside us, our lives are oceanic and operatic, the deepest story we can know. Movies run their characters through madly overheated plots just to be able to tell us a story of comparable intensity to the experience of our inner lives. Opera utilizes extreme music that translates emotionally to the weight of a normal life being lived. Art is like having to shout to be heard at all. Our lives are magic bags, bigger inside than out.

As individuals, we arrive here loaded like treasure galleons with personality, attitude, and latent loves and hates. As babies, we appear to people around us as simple proto-adults, nearly homogenous: The site of a future human being. But our parents can see our hot and cold feelings, and see our patterns develop like old photographs.  A coherent narrative takes shape in the styles and passions we show as we grow. We develop through our own experiences, a bit, but not nearly as much as we reveal ourselves. What we already are, becomes visible. We ourselves are part of the audience for this uncovering, we stumble on hard facts of who we are like plot twists. These are the unexpected truths of growing. Our personal executive-style emerges from this dense core of individuality and we advance,  leaving a culminating trail of decisions like footprints in the snow. So our trajectory becomes clear, looking back, things we struggled over seem inevitable.

We are behavior machines. Observed from the outside our lives are small, cool, distant, and easily seen as a typical example of something or other. Depending on how far away the observer, we may be costars, bit players, or momentary extras. From a distance, our humanity may be reduced to a job title, demographic, stereotype, or even a faint speck from a drone camera.

We are behavior machines who change over time, we phase through preset chapters of change like a traveler reaching station after station on a railway line. The schedule of these stops is predictable and we can’t hurry the trip forward or slow it down. These phases are developmental phases of personality and behavior molting.

Passing through one gate we become toddlers, intense little personality politicians demanding to be heard on every issue. Another and we are gawky, serious tweeners exploring the edge of the social jungle. Then it’s time for romantic fucking, pair bonding, and starting families. Soon it will be time to gain weight and become cultural ballast. These are serial life roles individually but they impact society as voting blocks when acting in massed numbers. Progressive teenagers and conservative elders are as natural as Summer before Winter and this pattern is part of how human culture processes the tension force of change and continuity. The Winter conservatives haven’t gotten smart and figured out the real story, nor have the Summer progressives: They are both just embodying and expressing the temporal phased instructions of our running program.

We are behavior machines of past and future, stability, and reform. The constellation of our personality sets our openness to outsiders and change, or desire to block them. It establishes our defense of the rich or the poor. It calibrates the tension on our borders. Writ large, the effects can be global human storms. Small communities are simplicity magnets, attracting and holding few, and the same in simpler networks. They virtually define conservatism. Larger communities are complexity magnets: Their gravity attracts a broad range of different types that fuel their more complex economy and culture. They echo progressives.

We are behavior machines of gender and sexuality, we arrive already connected to the WiFi of sexual and gender identity; feeling “this is me” about being male or female, and straight or gay. Desire begins speaking like a compass needle and we become the expression of what we want, and what we don’t. These patterns are non-binary but finite and predictable. Extremely small numbers of truly neither this nor that sexuality occur. But instead of oppressing these statistical anomalies or holding them up as a new vision of what society SHOULD be, we should let everyone pursue happiness without fear of getting stomped. The current effort to ENFORCE non-binary gender roles in children seems as invasive, controlling, coercive, and tone-deaf as old-school homosexual conversion “therapy”.

We are behavior machines of a personality spectrum of narcissists and saints, of dull normal and brilliant obsession, of novelty and routine, cooperation, and resistance.

The statistical norms provide evidence of their own necessity. Our society apparently needs a constant quota of all these participants because that is what we give birth to year in and out. The percentages are consistent. To me, this means human communities have a recipe, a warp, and a woof that includes this. Look at this constant percentage like a chemical formula deconstructed, revealing the same ingredients and amounts everywhere all the time. Why mix the same ingredients in the same way? To create the same product. It looks like it’s supposed to be there.

We shape the community and the community shapes us in one fluid movement. Despite the feelings of loneliness and isolation that are so basic to the human heart, our nature is plural. Our singularity exists to interact. We are behavior machines that make each other and can never fully know even our entire story.

 

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