Let’s get our subject clear by defining the term.
- Meme: an element of a culture or system of behavior that may be considered to be passed from one individual to another by nongenetic means, especially imitation.
- Meme: a humorous image, video, piece of text, etc., that is copied (often with slight variations) and spread rapidly by Internet users.
Memes didn’t begin with Richard Dawkins, Dawkins didn’t raise them and release them into the wild, Dawkins pointed out the existence of memes: He coined the term and the concept. The word meme ITSELF is a meme that spread quickly and burrowed into our collective intellectual DNA. Memes are often described as viral, but why?
Viruses are self replicating genetic mechanisms which are not alive. They must find living cells to highjack and use their machinery to replicate themselves. Imagine a computer virus as a script instructing itself: “Look for places to copy yourself and copy yourself to them. Loop.” Likewise a meme must find a living and communicating host to live and replicate. Memes are contagious human ideas and behaviors. Left at that level of definition it’s too broad. We need to understand the roles they play in the ecosystem of human behavior and establish a taxonomic ranking of types.
The universality of memeing is obvious. We share things on purpose and even joyfully. “Look at this!” It’s innate to share ideas and to mirror behavior. From an evolutionary perspective it makes sense as a way of enhancing survival (hey this plant is good to eat!) both for yourself and someone you likely shared genes with. But just as important, Memeing is critical to defining the cultural “self” of human groups. Every group of people unconsciously begin mirroring each other and a context and a style evolve, mapping out a behavioral grid. We’re very good at catching on to these invisible but obvious rules and sort of domesticating our own style to fit in. The group systematically begins developing stories and injokes that reinforce the culture in miniature. It also starts to establish a dominance scale, cliques, gossip and social outcasts. When we are face to face, this mirroring and blending of styles is at its most intimate and powerful. Teenagers often agonize as they struggle with this new matrix of social complexity, and in this we can see our own exposed heart and how very much it matters. A good bit of comedy involves violating or mistaking these social rules. These are social/behavioral memes but there are many kinds. Continue reading
Or: Why it’s sometimes OK to hate your neighbor.
The apparent flatness and hard edges of the world we see masks a strange, fluid, flickering dimension between humans. There is no accurate measurement of this dimension except perhaps for our ability to imagine it. Since it isn’t our nature to imagine things this way it takes a little effort.
Please imagine an odd idea; imagine that:
Interaction is embodiment
Imagine that people who engage in any way become a corporate organism for that period. These virtual organisms can flash into existence and straight out again with a speed like subatomic particles in a cloud chamber.
Begin: “Hey, is the Courthouse this way?” “Yeah, just a couple more blocks!” And we’re done. Imagine that exchange as a very short lived individual, existing like a burst of flame.
But two other beings might meet up and eventually celebrate 70 years of marriage, and they were a sort of organism too. In marriage we have some beliefs about this corporate organism that run very deep. “One flesh”. It’s a pretty weird sounding idea to sanctify but it’s honored by religious people and atheists alike. Completely secular people get married with every intention of honoring a mystical contract that defines them as a dual entity. That’s because this idea is deeper than science or religion, it’s core human. This composite organism is the couple’s life together… and I mean IT IS the time and energy they share.
Families also have a special status as a kind of group self. When you think of your own family, you can easily feel the very real lines of connection flowing between you like living tissue and often pulling and kinking in uncomfortable ways. We know that we somehow OVERLAP and that this is one of the most important things about us. Our loves and friends and families are a kind of Venn diagram. But the center of the Venn is you. Subjectivity and individual experience define this thing. Continue reading
Someday please tell me your take on our current political thing. But I don’t want you to feel pursued. When you feel like it.
MAR 16TH, 10:00PM
What are you thinking about this political moment? Come on, you can do it. Tell me what this looks like from your side of things.
OK, tell me about Michael Flynn. Did Trump know about his connections to Turkey and Russia? Did Pence? And how quickly and thoroughly should this whole attack on our sytem be whitewashed and forgotten? 🙂 😐 😐 Unless of course her emails are still the big story here…
This is exactly why FB is such a waste of time for talking politics; instead of reasoned discussion, it encourages snarky bumper stickers. Interesting to see that you apparently seem to think that Comey was out there with his Calabash pipe and magnifying glass investigating Trump himself. In the real world, of course, the investigations continue and have produced new subpoenas for Flynn’s associates since Comey was fired. Not to mention the simultaneous congressional investigation. Continue reading
Victorian scientific illustrations …amplified(?) a bit.
Bodies, bones and the occasional careworn organ.