Thursday, September 24, 2015

Heider and Simmel video

Sometimes real life hands me a blog post.

Don't worry. I'm not going to into another one of my frank, a-bit-too-revealing accounts of my struggles with depression or troubles at home. From now on, I'm going to try to keep those to a bare minimum. No, when I say "real life," I mean something I've personally encountered in the course of the day that isn't from an online article. I am currently teaching a course on the Ancient Greeks and Romans. We are reading The Odyssey, that scorbutic sea tale of danger, obstacles, tribulations, and revenge. A lecturer showed us this video in an effort to illustrate how storytelling is hardwired into human beings, as demonstrated by the early Greeks as well as others.

It's called the Heider and Simmel animation. What did you see in it? Besides geometric shapes? Did you think the shapes were doing something to one another? Bullying? Being mean? Another interpretation altogether, perhaps? The purpose of the animation was to demonstrate that in order to understand something, we humans will create a narrative. More than likely, you've attached story to what you've just seen. That is, in part, how we communicate and how we learn.

Filing out of the auditorium in a sea full of college sophomores in their uniform of flip flops and sweatpants, I somehow felt better about myself as a writer. That video...and the lecturer...reminded me that I am actively engaged in a noble undertaking. It's perhaps older than we realize and is one of the more fundamental attributes of being human.

One of the very few I would like to keep.

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