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Civil Energetics

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fractal drama [Nov. 21st, 2011|10:33 am]
Civil Energetics


Lately I've been playing some video games. The deep role playing games that tell a fairly large story- every character you see seems to have some kind of back story. With the Mass Effect games, you can even play some of that back story, as a side track to the main drama. It's kind of cool.

It's almost like a kind of fractal tree of narrative. The main thrust of the story is easy to describe: save the galaxy from the reaper threat. That's a pretty big one, and clearly the main thread that you are expected to attend to. But plenty of smaller threads also invite your attention: help a jellyfish critter practice freedom of religion, deliver a package to a destination, help out a former team mate, investigate cerebrus...

It reminds me of how I try to make sense of the 'real' world outside, and the way the media tries to shape that picture I have. If there's a story that threatens to get too big, too interesting, then I expect the main channels to find some other tiny facet that's suddenly very important. Celebrity lifestyles are always rich ground for that sort of thing if it's an otherwise slow news day.

Occupy wall street doesn't seem interested in taking up that bandwidth, except to ask bigger questions. If the infrastructure we use for solving problems can't be trusted, then that becomes a big problem to solve right there. Whether it's oil pollution, fracking wells, radiation fallout, or global warming, none of those things can be addressed with a political system so deeply crippled by money.

I like how George Lakoff puts it: Define your frame, don't let others do it for you.

When I think of my own shopping list for what needs to change, it could easily take on a fractal drama shape: the main trunk of the tree is learning how to live with each other on the planet in a way that can persist beyond the next economic downturn. Side branches from that have to do with communities- queer, poly, geeks, spiritualists - with something to teach the rest of the world, and finding our voices with each other. And way out here on my own little leaf of the branch of the tree, is how to get my own individual needs met when I don't yet really know how to communicate with the dominant species of this planet.

Thinking of it all as a fractal doesn't make the question any easier to frame- but I think it can avoid some trivial distraction. It's something to remember next time some instant celebrity comes on and tries to interest me in their personal life.