Connect 4

Once upon a time, back when TLC actually was about LEARNING stuff (rather than ‘reality’ programming focused on people who are willing to live their lives in front of the camera and/or shows that follow women as they buy wedding dresses and plan ostentatious parties) there used to be this show…

Connections² and Connections³ were shown on TLC in North America in 1994 and 1997, based on the original 1978 series from the BBC.  The Man Who Makes the Connections is James Burke.

He.  Is.  Awesome.

As a science historian and broadcaster he linked science and world events and demonstrated the continuity and development of humans and all those cool things that we’ve managed to create.  All these things are interconnected, and through historical reenactments, working models and James’ inimitable and enthusiastic delivery every episode both illuminated and reassured.

James maintained that the world as we now know it is a web of interconnected events that drive history and innovation.  These seemingly, at first glance, isolated events- that happened for reasons of religion, curiosity, profit or power- led us to where we are now, with the technology we have and the promise of more to come in the future.

His examples demonstrated that those who started the chain- with the singular event enacted for their particular benefit- could not possibly have seen forward to the place where a simple act might lead.  Time and progress work in inexplicable ways.  In demonstrating this, James suggested that we, likewise, have no real way of predicting where technology might end up.  There are many possible factors- shifts, synergistic interactions and random innovations- as we move through the loops and whorls of time.

As history progresses the potential for connections increases, which causes the processes of innovation to accelerate.  New technology comes at us faster and faster- becoming de rigueur for a moment and then rapidly thrown into obsolescence.  It’s hard for the regular people (people who aren’t James Burke) to keep up.  Which is why we need to be as awake and aware of the connections and the changes as we can- or risk being left far behind.

I love James Burke.  He’s a man after my own heart (I tend to see links between things that may be less than obvious).  All is connected- no vacuums hereabouts- and our history, scientific and otherwise, is what has led us to this very point in time and space.  The whole ‘science historian’ thing is very groovy.  My youthful love affair with science sort of petered out after my OSCOTT club days at the Science Centre.  James revivified it.  And reminded us that human history is the story of our creativity (not always good creative- but creative nonetheless)- in the arts and the sciences.

Between the original Connections and Connections², he presented another series- The Day the Universe Changed (1985), which focused on the philosophical reactions to scientific change in western civilization. The perfect melding of the scientific and the metaphysical innovations of the western world.

At the end of that series he postulated that computer technology and innovations in communication would permit the instantaneous exchange of ideas.  As I write this on my laptop after finishing the day’s email replies and having had a chat with a friend on the Facebook, I have to admit that he was pretty bang on predicting the trajectory of computer innovations and their effect on the way we interact with one another.

He’s spooky.  Spooky smart and spooky engaging.  You can find him on YouTube.  Watch him.

Anyhoo.

I got all reminisce-y about my old buddy James because I’ve had ‘connections’ on the brain this week.  Since I haven’t yet succumbed to the lure of Doktor Snake in the whole job searching thing (but only just barely), I’ve been attempting to ‘work my networks’ and search for ways of maximizing existing connections.

It really is a small world- and a small town (largest city in Canada notwithstanding- it’s really a village)- so I’ve been attempting to get into the six degrees of Kevin Bacon frame of mind in an attempt to find referrals and leads.

Connections.

And synergy.  From the Greek for ‘working together’.

Hoping that some solid synergy will lead to some synchronicity.  I’ll take all the meaningful, if seemingly unrelated, connectivity I can get at this point.

A connecting principle,
Linked to the invisible
Almost imperceptible
Something inexpressible.
Science insusceptible
Logic so inflexible
Causally connectible
Yet nothing is invincible.

I am a Police fan from waaaaay back. Been there, still have the cheesy buttons/tour t-shirts.  They were my favourite band for many moons and still rank way up there among the oft-repeated tunes on the Shuffle Daemon.  Even the huge egos and childish spats didn’t detract from their greatness.

I rarely travel far for concerts anymore, but the reunion tour a few years back more than warranted the road trip to Montreal.  (Especially since Sting’s kid’s band opened the show- Fiction Plane.  Solid band)  They rocked.  Hard.  And Sting didn’t even bring out the damn mandolin.

My love and hero worship of the band aside, they have a couple of songs that are all about the connections- random or orchestrated- that have been on my mind lately.

The album Synchronicity was bittersweet.  It was the brilliant swansong that marked the end of the Police.  It is one of those albums that I listened to all the way through.  Repeatedly.  It wasn’t a concept album, but the songs/stories remain linked in my memories and the two Synchronicitys (Synchronicities?) made an impact long before I really understood the complexities of the word.

Years of study- that included Jungian theories about religion- and the definition as it appears in the Wikipedia (‘the experience of two or more events as meaningfully related, whereas they are unlikely to be causally related. The subject sees it as a meaningful coincidence, although the events need not be exactly simultaneous in time. The concept does not question, or compete with, the notion of causality.  Instead, it maintains that just as events may be connected by a causal line, they may also be connected by meaning. A grouping of events by meaning need not have an explanation in terms of cause and effect’)– clarified the subject somewhat.

S1 describes it as a ‘connecting principle’.

(This is good.  Need the connecting right about now.  And there have been subtle connections happening- like the correspondence/collision of two of my recent posts the other day).

S1 also references Spiritus Mundi– W.B. Yeats’ ‘spirit of the world’- the belief that all human minds are linked to a single vast intelligence that causes universal symbols to pop up in each individual’s consciousness (also very gnostic and very Jungian- Bythos and archetypes- loving these connections).

Yeats mentions this prophecy-providing principle in The Second Coming, his post-WW1 poem that uses imagery of the Christian Apocalypse to describe the confusion of the years following the War.  The vision he experienced was not one of comfort- not the ‘second coming’ of Christ in glory, but a ‘rough beast’ slouching ‘toward Bethlehem to be born.’

As things fall apart (‘the centre cannot hold’), the beast awakens after a 2000 year slumber and returns to a world that has lost its innocence.

I love Yeats.  I’ve mentioned that a couple of times before.  His words, like James Burke’s, remain timeless and uncannily prophetic- based as they were in a particular context of time and place. 

(Not unlike the biblical prophets- who spoke about their own times in the same way- but that’s a discussion for another day)

That which has been done- and learned and employed- cannot be undone.  The lost innocence of which Yeats spoke included the advent of such things as chemical warfare- something that proved increasingly ineffectual over the course of WW1 as soldiers were schooled to carry gas masks- and so became a weapon that was later used against civilian populations.  This lead to the establishment of the Geneva Protocol which banned the use (but not the stockpiling) of chemical weapons.  And that little bit of history served as the justification/imperative that almost lead to an American retaliatory attack in Syria a few weeks back.

Connections.

S1 and S2 are linked by this Yeats-based idea of synchronicity- the concept that the events in one part of the world (Europe) set in motion events that are happening elsewhere (the second coming/reckoning with the beast).

S2- my personal fave- suggests that the mundanity and daily drudgery of the suburban life is somehow connected with a disturbance in ‘a dark Scottish loch’.  The realities of life (in the 80s) causes the Loch Ness Monster to rise from the lake and creep up to that unsuspecting cottage on the shore.

Yeats spoke about the chaos after a war unlike any other in history.  S2 told of social anomie in the pursuit of the material at the expense of things of substance and real import.

Can’t say that the Police (or Sting, anyway) aren’t book smart.

The connections are there.  All around us.  We may not see the causality yet we can sense the synchronicity.

James Burke knows.  Yeats knew.  The Police definitely are aware.  Even I can feel it in the air this week.

Gotta get it working for me, is all.

But right now I really have to get back to the packing.

Happy weekend everyone.

Nessie found a new vocation- surely I can too…