"Everything in the universe has rhythm. Everything dances." (MAYA ANGELOU)
"Rhythm and harmony find their way into the inward places of the soul." (PLATO)
A remarkable one day conference this month in Leeds Beckett University explored the extended power of rhythm, synchrony and flow. Its power to heal and improve wellbeing in the context of disorder and disharmony. And its power to inspire and illuminate in the context of creativity and the imagination.
A panel of world leading experts and practitioners from diverse corners of academia and the creative arts came together to share their unique insights from their remarkable work on this vital topic. Abstracts can be downloaded HERE.
Image Credit: A girl is dancing with long scarves tied to her waist. Coloured lithograph. Credit: Wellcome Collection
In his 2016 book, Homo Deus, Harari speaks of where the differences lie between the imaginative capacities of humans and non-human animals. One aspect is that while animals and humans experience 'objective reality' (e.g., trees) and 'subjective reality' (e.g., feeling pain), only humans experience 'intersubjective realities' (e.g., human rights, corporations, money). The latter are also referred to as fictional realities. And he uses the term 'entities' in describing what is generated within the intersubjective sphere - a term usually reserved for that which exists.
"Intersubjective entities depend on communication among many humans rather than on the beliefs and feelings of individual humans." (page 168)
"We want to believe that our lives have some objective meaning, and that our sacrifices matter to something beyond the stories in our head. Yet in truth the lives of most people have meaning only within the network of stories they tell one another." (page 170)
"Meaning is created when many people weave together a common network of stories." (page 170)
"People constantly reinforce each other's beliefs in a self perpetuating loop. Each round of mutual confirmation tightens the web of meaning further, until you have little choice but to believe what everyone else believes." (page 170-171)
So how can one tell reality from fiction? "How do you know if an entity is real? Very simple - just ask yourself, 'Can it suffer?'" (page 206)
Fiction cannot experience suffering.
Harari posits that the limitations of imagination in animals are such that they may imagine only what exists in the world. "Animals are confined to the objective realm and use their communication systems merely to describe reality. Sapiens use language to create completely new realities." (page 175)
Harari also points out the central influence of language, and writing in particular, in the creation of the intersubjective.
"Writing ... facilitated the appearance of powerful fictional entities that organized millions of people and reshaped the reality ... Simultaneously, writing also made it easier for humans to believe in the existence of such fictional entities, because it habituated people to experiencing reality through the mediation of abstract symbols." (page 190)
"Written language may have been conceived as a modest way of describing reality, but it gradually became a powerful way to reshape reality." (page 194)
There is no question that this remarkable book is doing the very same to the minds of its readers. For it too reshapes our experience of reality.
This is ...
an entirely unstructured & zany exploration of all things that are or could be relevant to understanding the human imagination.