The metaphor of human life as a fabric, a woven thing, is a bit worn, if I might be allowed the pun. The Moirai of ancient Greese were not weavers but spinners, as one spun the thread, one measured, and one cut the thread of a life, leading to the idea that social life is something like a tapestry made up of many threads. It is hoary enough to be a cliché, really, but I nonetheless found myself dwelling on it after reading William Davies’ The Happiness Industry, which is about, among other things, the fact that our current capitalist moment makes people so unhappy that their lack of desire to work is causing corporations concern, hence the push to sell us various forms of happiness and well-being. Of course, this only makes matters worse, for a variety of reasons that Davies nails pretty well, and among the solutions he offers is that we talk to one another more, and listen, and argue, and not get everything through a branded media stream (which is hard, given that many of us speak and think using the terms and concepts of that stream to define ourselves). So, I have been thinking about the fact that I don’t consider myself a particularly social person, I really like my solitude, but I also recognize that what he is saying is dead on. I guess I am fairly social: I teach, I have parties, I go to parties, I speak to people in a more than perfunctory manner on the street, in shops, and so forth—but part of me wants to cling to the solitude as well. And I don’t think Davies is suggesting we lose that, at all, but rather that many of us feel very isolated, and need help, and talking to another person is the only best way to do that.
All of which led me to the life is a tapestry metaphor, but rather than each person being a thread, I imagined each thread as every experience a person has, because our experiences do not happen in isolation. Even someone alone in the woods who has an experience, then dies without communicating it, had the experience as an individual made up of countless other threads. And we exercise agency upon them, we are not passively being woven from different threads: we take what we experience and judge it, value it, change it, color the threads and make knots and so on. So: every person is made up of these threads of social experiences, is connected to every other person by those threads, and is altering the threads as they find them. If you pull back, then, from the tapestry, you can begin to make out forms, borders, delineations between person and person, where I and you, made up of separate strands, become different people. In other words, a person can be alone, but can never be apart from the rest of humanity. The fabric is social life, and our identities are imprinted upon it by the way we act upon those threads we come in contact with.
Ok, more of listening to all the CDs in my collection. So close to being done, it only took 9 years:
872) Tom Waits: The Early Years; 873) The Art of the Japanese Koto, Shakuhachi, and Shamisen: A Selection of Old and New Chamber Music; 874) Paul Simon: Graceland; 875) Vas: Feast of Silence; 876) Tony! Toni! Tone!: The Revival; 877) Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan and Party: Shahbaaz; 878) Lee Chabowski: Drinky-Poo; 879) Youssou N’Dour: Egypt; 880) Rosie Flores: Rockabilly Filly; 881) Soft Boys: Underwater Moonlight; 882) Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan and Party: The Last Prophet; 883) Professor Longhair: Crawfish Fiesta; 884) ZZ Top: Tres Hombres; 885) Shootyz Groove: Live Jive; 886) Mitch Woods and his Rocket 88’s: Mr. Boogie’s Back in Town; 887) Blue Meanies: Peace Love Groove; 888) DJ Shadow: The Private Press.