Theresa O’Connor

Worlds Colliding

People have an amazing ability to create and internalize rules from their observations. This is one of the key parts in learning language. But this is more generally a key part in the learning process, and the vast majority of the material that we generate in this manner is never consciously explored thereafter.

Semi-coherent (emphasis on ‘semi’) rambling follows

This is one of the reasons that Seinfeld was such a funny show. A lot of the humor revolved around these internalized but heretofore-never-voiced rules. Seinfeld frequently made these rules explicit, often resulting in the realization that the model of the world the rule embodies is absurd.

Consider the episode in which George’s fiancee started hanging out with his friends. This just shouldn’t be an issue, but it really threw his life for a loop. His worlds were colliding. Basically, he had this utterly compartmentalized view of the world, with his friends-world separate and distinct from his romance-world. He based his behavior at any given time in part on which of these worlds was in play. So when the worlds started to merge, he couldn’t reconcile the romance-George with the friends-George. We laugh at George’s troubles in part because we identify with them. At least, I know that to some extent I identify with the feeling. It’s like a mini-instrumentality.

So Jamie (relevant mental category: non-Boston-Objecti-person) is visiting Boston and hanging out with the BON crew (relevant mental category: Boston-people, mixed with some pre-Reason-friend-people), and from afar I feel that my worlds are colliding. Unlike George, I don’t try to maintain hugely different self-images, so this isn’t traumatic or anything like that, but it is interesting and vaguely strange.

(Now, these mental categories for people aren’t mutually-exclusive or jointly-exhaustive; some are orthogonal in some respects but not others. Most people fall into more than one. Also, they’re not actively or consciously maintained; I think this sort of thing is something our brains do pretty well without highest-level intervention. I’m just making up terms for each category that comes up as I write this.)

Some other examples of situations that trigger this sort of feeling:

So, here’s the part of Jamie’s journal that triggered the strange train of thought that lead me here:

It is kinda interesting to see people you’ve only seen in one element in another. Seeing the same people at the Enlightenment conference was a really different experience from knowing them at TOC and online. Seeing some of the TOC people here is pretty much the same but so much more relaxed.

Meeting online friends is much more different[…]

I feel like I should be back home, showing Jamie around and stuff. Introducing him to Hawver & Will. It feels really strange that he met Hawver without Bill or I introducing the two of them.

Hmm. As usual, I don’t remember where I was going with this. So that’s it for now.