I’ve just made a batch of mocha cappucinno. Instead of using the last batch of espresso roast that I have I am using the royal vinter roast which I have lots of. The milk is frothed and I add a mixture of two parts hot chocolate, one part baking chocolate to the mix, with a dash of vanilla extract (fake, its cheaper). When I was at Cafe Aroma’s new digs in the Valley River Center, I eyed a container of Mexican Chocolate (used in their Mexican Mochas) greedily. {Homer Simpson voice} ‘mmmmm…. mochas’.

King Diamond just came over my yahoo radio station. I dig King Diamond. It might be classified as death metal, but I beg to differ. It is more neo-classical metal than death by a very far stretch. I really love neoclassical heavy metal and bands from Norway, Sweden, and the like are generally much better in this regard. Helloween shows riffs of neoclassic design in their earlier guitars. And of course there is my absolute favorite guitarist… Yngwie Malmsteen. Listening to Yngwie’s intsrumental, example… Krakatau, one can hear the many different modes and scales that he uses. It was becoming cognizant of this that developed my appreciation for jazz (though I still cant stand the jazz genre of the likes of Boney James or Kenny G, even if Kenny was a part of Starbucks founding).

Thinking along the lines of music, I remember my shift at the cabinet plant. One of the jobs was standing there, catching panels off of the edge banding machine. I sang to myself often, or would let songs play out through my head. Having a lot of time, I went through a lot of songs. I noticed that when I played Beethoven’s 9th in my head (generally the beginning of the 1st movement, middle of the third, or the near entire fourth movement) that I could hear only “groups” of melody. One things about Beethoven that I learned in music class at a community college in Irvine, Ca, is that Beethoven was a master at orchestration, and listening to his fourth symphony one can hear a typical example. What does it mean to immerse one’s self into a melody. A sort of hazing of the hears, defocusing on one thing and sinking into the melody. I bring this now because the question that came to my mind was one dealing with perception, memory, recall, all, or none. I let the symphony play in my mind as though I had on headphones. But if I tried to focus the tiniest bit onto one instrument, such as the flutes in the grand sweeping passages of the third movement, the rest of the voices diminished. To bring them back into my awareness I had to let the flutes voice diminish. It was as though I only had fifty points to assign to voices in the symphony and bringing up any one diminished the totals of the others. What I settled for was a general low level mental repeating of the symphony. I could follow it in my mind, but it wasn’t crisp, because I had to listen to all of the parts to appreciate a Beethoven symphony. Not like a piano adagio by Mozart where I can happily listen to the piano in my mind and actually have no mental recording of the voices of the other instruments. I cannot pick an instrument in Mozarts Eine Kliene Nachtmusik and let that voice play out. I hear mostly only the strings. Wheras with Beethoven, one must pay attention to the different voices because they all weave in and out of the melody.

Billie Holliday is on the radio right now. My window affords me wonderful bits of the eastern sky. The horizon is a light purple with dark shades beneath and blue shades above. Billie Holliday has left the stage and Whitesnake is singing “Judgement Day”.

I walked to the post office box and put my paycheck in. It will be late getting back to me by the 5th. Doesn’t matter… I don’t have enough for rent on that day anyway. I got a call from one of the creditors that I owe. It started out like a typical conversation but by the time we ended the conversation, I could hear the empathy in her voice and she wished me luck. Bless her heart.

I’ve corresponded with some people in Oxford. They all mirror what I suspected. Oxford is enlightened for Mississippi… but it is a very far cry from Eugene’s atmosphere. Walking along the street today with a copy of Trees of the Pacific Northwest (I was attempting to identify some of my neibhorhood trees) I felt love for my adopted home. The sidewalk, the people inside of the restaurant that I passed by, the butte at both ends of the street I was on, the odd little shop across the corner of Cafe Paradiso, the independant theatre across the street from another coffee shop. I love this little town.

I stopped in the corner grocery store to get milk and eggs. As I was walking by a table I glanced at a table where a woman was bent over photocopied journal pages. I stopped and backed up and read the title above the abstract, something to do with sleep. She was attractive but it was the paper that drew me. I can’t remember exactly what I said first, but something to the effect of how great to read that stuff. She was in a psychology class and in three short sentences I managed to get into an involved conversation with her on memes. I gave her some reference books to check out and also broke down the memetic theory in everyday language for her. She seemed really interested and I was really interested in talking about it. It was wonderful. Get me to talking about this sort of stuff and look out! I paid for my eggs and milk and left.

While making my mocha I contemplated on the short discussion with her. I had tried to put the ideas into everyday terms for her. I remembered the week earlier when I was at the cabinet manufacturer and was taking a break. A guy asked what book I was reading and when I told him what it was, he asked what it was, and I explained and he asked more questions. I had to back up and outline some basic premises before I could get to the theory. I do not say this with an elitist mind or a smarter than thou mind. On the contrary. When I would give analogies to explain a thought to the guy he picked up on the meaning easily and offered some insightful questions. I can remember two things bearing on this. One is the often logical equation given to support a philosophical argument in the Philosophy Cafe. I can use only the most basic of such arguments as my math skills are horrible (I’ve been checking out some online algebra tutorials recently though). I do believe, however, that we can become so fixated on a formula, that we forget the reference. Another is my dad’s instant opposition to my earliest and mistaken perception of the butterfly effect in chaos theory.

Now, back to my point. As I walked home with my milk and eggs, I contemplated the role of memes in the development of brains, culture, language, religion… and the apt description of a virus of the mind (although it was directed more of an insult toward religion, but still the dynamics are the same). A virus. Hmmm. I have a friend, wrightbooks who, although not as gullible as before, continues to spread internet memes. I don’t fault her for it for I see the intent as of well wishing and keeping bridges built with her friends and family. Thats part of what makes her special. But I can recall instances in the past where she sent hoaxes on computer super viruses, women rights, urban myths, all cleverly disguised internet chainletters. Everyone has seen them, send this letter to five friends if you believe that….. If we have destructive memes at loose on our society, they are destructive along other memes. Taking good or bad out of the equation we see that some memes are highly successful at reproduction, spreading, and others are not. Given a memetic view one can understand the flag waving craze that swept the nation, the proliferation of racism in the South, and political ideaologies that keep timber companies at work. One of my favorite lines from “A Beautiful Mind” is when his future wife, then a student, opens a window and asks the construction workers to leave and Nash says that in multivariable equations there are often more than one correct answer. This is a problem in discussing politics with people because in many people the answer is seen as only one road. Environmentalists generally see only end product, timber company execs one thing. It takes an enormous amount of energy to investigate a complex mathematical equation when the valuables you are using are numbers. Take the same interactions and plug in “hatred of clearcuts” instead of the value of “7” and “love of hunting” for the value of 829, “desire for money” for 56, “good image” for 12, 18, and 3/4… and so forth. It takes an incredibly insane amount of mental energy to work out all of the variables in the equation of a single ecological/gender/social/worker issue. For this insight I give homage to my training in the Marines to follow the many pathed logic circuit diagrams for the F/A-18 . It was a mental exercise to figure out where the voltage was under one condition, much less over changing conditions (which fighter jets in combat tend to do).

Now the thought that crossed my mind while walking home with my milk, eggs, and book, is again back to memes. There is a great distinction between environmentalists in Houston, Texas and environmentalists in Eugene, Oregon. At first I wasn’t exactly clear as to the cause. Was it the political environment? It wasn’t the emotional one, for there are empassioned people everywhere and if I had to guess I’d guess the Oregon environmentalists to be more passionate about their environmentalism than their Houston counterparts. Or were they? Reading into the history of the timber battles in Oregon it is like the green belt along highways that hide the clearcut. Yes, recycling is everywhere in Eugene, but it isn’t a very good system at all and it seems more like lip service than actual problem solving. Environmentalists here are incredibly flaky whereas in Houston they aren’t. A roomful of environmentalists I underwent a media training day with look, act, talk, and think much differently than a roomful of environmentalists in Eugene where we discussed opposing the W.E.P. But what is the distinction? It cannot be one of intelligence for those in the Eugene room are very intelligent. What is it?

I believe that one must take a step back from the debate itself and approach things from a memetic perspective. Given the environment certain memes spread better than others. I remember jokes about Eugene before I left Houston where it was the law to own a tie-dye t-shirt. In this environment it is more likely that a pro environmental meme reproduce than not, but what does this environment say about other things? The memes which have taken root cut out the survival of other memes because they seem to be opposing the established ones. When I told the room of greens that I was indeed a capitalist, what would be a rational result? If we look at this logically then the preferred result should have been one of acceptance and enquiring what it was about green ideas that I liked, and if one capitalist liked those ideas, then it could spread over the rest of the country. Okay, that probably didn’t make sense. Suppose that you are a member of the green army and you have a person from the enemy yellow army with you and he tells you that he still loves his yellow country, but likes your green army. Wow! What is it that makes you want to join the green army? We can use it to recruit the rest of the yellow army to join the green and then there’d be no more war! But nope, instead it was the opposite.

But I stray. The point is that the environmental disposition here is really reproducing memes and not any sort of free-willed rational logical choice on the consequences of actions or in depth understanding of one’s place in the world. It is a cultural phenomenon and as such it is best understood via memes. Several factors act to impact the spread of memes. Living in a community where one can move around on a bicycle is a good environment for the many memes of the wandering activists around here. Yet I’d bet dollars to donuts that if you took all the local hippie environmentalists here and sprinkled them evenly around Houston, that over time their individual behaviors would nolonger conform to their Eugene patterns, that the memes would die out and new ones replaced.

All of this was a very brief thought as I walked the two blocks home, it was the background noise to the real conscious thought that entered my mind. If all of this can be looked as as a “mental virus”, might we develop another virus to impact it? A well created virus that fits in well with its environment spreads quickly, check Marxism during the industrial revolution. Take those same ideas and put them 200 years earlier and I’d guess that nothing would happen at all. I remember a quote, something about “an ideas whos time has come”. It is memes.

John Coltrane plays “Sunday” and boy is he swinging! Alright, song is over and Lords of Acid come on.

And what does all of this have to do with another? In reading “Radical Ecology” the author she says that some traditions of change in the past were haltered by the “elitist” views of some. She says that the best is to keep the dialogue down with the people… in open dialogue. That is what comes to my mind when I recall talking about psychology at the cabinet plant. I had brought it down to the common level in common terms. As such it was now open to debate and investigation. The same is needed for everything, police actions, environment, energy usage, social problems. It is okay for people to specialize in different fields, example, to be an expert in the burial traditions of a particular culture in a particular region. But I believe that for the society it is imperitive that these things be brought back out of the academic halls and to the common people in their language. I recall Will Durant (I think that is his name) and his book “The History of Philosophy” (I lost is last year on a bus) when he taught a philosophy class to blue collar workers in, where was it… Pittsburgh? These people have no notion of what philosophy was and they’d likely not benefit at all from a university style class. But Durant gave the class as it was relevant to them, in their language. This no doubt had an impact on memes (in fact spreading memes also, memes which were more ideally suited to the blue collar environment).

The question in my mind was, it is one thing to oppose a clearcut because of the memeplex of a hippie culture, but transposing those reasons to another memeplex, from a hippie culture to a white collar worker culture fails. It isn’t a question of validity, for all the validity that is needed by Joe Dreadlock is utterly miserable to the validity needed by Bob Cubicle. Putting a poster animal up as a reason to block a development is more suited to Suzie Yuppie as a reason to oppose a development that would harm an ecological area, wheras it’s a nice reason to be sure, but not an essential one to Gary Tree who sees the possum as just as valuable to a region as the fuzzy little creature on the post cards. (Paul Okenfold’s “The Word” is on… I dig this song!)

The pathways of thought are wide and varied. Many roads have I to travel in my mind tonight. Ecopsychology, I believe, must take seriously the import of the theory of memes and its practicioners must, simply MUST, bring their fruitful and interesting conversations and journal articles out to the public and incorporate a memetic influence. It isn’t that we must build a better mousetrap, but that we must make it look fashionable… and fashion is in fact the spreading of memes.


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