Everything Is A Smaller Version of Everything Else

Posted on November 9, 2011 by

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by Anthony Dean-Harris

My grandfather used to say that everything in existence is based on the human body. Most folks thought he was being far too simplistic about things but the more I think about it, the more I realize he was pretty much right. There are many in my family who think quite highly of my grandfather’s ingenuity, raging curmudgeon, though, he was. The most basic element of his belief is the concept of input and output, but I realize that this is applicable in more ways than one. Largely, I hold the belief that the macro and micro sense of existence can help us better understand the world around us. Everything around us is a smaller or larger version of everything else. In order to understand something new, we must find some frame of reference. Scale is the simplest way of making that frame of reference.

A few weeks ago, I was at San Antonio’s HemisFair Park to take in the nuances of our own Occupy protest movement. While I was soaking up the moment and actually realizing that I wasn’t missing what was likely the most major protest movement of my generation (I’m underwhelmed), I couldn’t help but hear folks talk about how the protest was just now getting media attention. These people spoke as if the media has some sort of inherent bias for not giving this movement the coverage these protesters felt it so rightly deserved. However, I couldn’t help but think that this is just how media coverage works because the media is, in a sense, a representation of the popular zeitgeist.

I can feel you recoil, dear reader. “Say it isn’t so,” you say. But yes, the media is a larger version of our personal lens. Two months ago, people weren’t paying attention to the Occupy movement. It was new. Not everyone on an individual basis clamors to pay attention to every new thing on the scene. It doesn’t matter if that new thing is actually worthy of attention. Attention must be gathered. Attention must be earned. Sometimes, attention takes time. In much the same way this occurs on an individual basis, the same occurs when it comes to media coverage. When enough people in the right places feel this is important enough to notice, that’s when people start talking about it, writing about it, and trolling for b-roll.

Our overly-simplistic view of American macroeconomics is based on family income (although, when it’s time for a family to commit to austerity, first it cuts back, then it very quickly tries to find a way to get more money in the household). Our thinking about transit and transportation has as much to do with rivers as it does with the human bloodstream. And of course, there’s a reason why we refer to our bowels as plumbing (when the origin of the euphemism was clearly the other way around).

Sometimes the only way for us to understand the things we see is to think of it in a way we can understand it. My grandfather was a very practical man, so he thought of things in a practical way with a model he carried around everywhere– himself. I live my life as if set to music and structure my work around the essays I’ve read and television I’ve watched. If we are to learn continuously, we’ve got to make sense of it all. In that respect, sometimes things are going to be bigger versions of what we already know. Other times, it’ll be smaller. If we can’t relate to it, we probably toss that new information out. So really, maybe it’s just that everything that matters is a bigger or smaller version of everything else. Either way, that sort of makes sense, doesn’t it?

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