Long Live the Collective

In the long history of humankind (and animal kind, too) those who learned to collaborate and improvise most effectively have prevailed."
— Charles Darwin (1809-1882)
Collectively So! Yourself is a Reflection of your Better Self - Another planksip Möbius

Collectively So! Yourself is a Reflection of your Better Self

Long Live the Collective

In the long history of humankind (and animal kind, too) those who learned to collaborate and improvise most effectively have prevailed."
— Charles Darwin (1809-1882)

Today's titled responsion is, "Long Live the Collective", and yet the call for collectivism shouldn't negate the need for individualism. Is this a contradiction?

Adaptation to the environment is the key to the survival of any species. So why are we so reluctant to change despite the evidence to the contrary. Our rational selves demand action and yet the tyranny of the majority is headed straight towards oblivion. Is it too late?

Charles Darwin - planksip
Charles Darwin’s proposition that all species of life have descended over time from common ancestors is now widely accepted, and considered a foundational concept in science.
What do Charles Darwin and Daniel Sanderson have in common? Find out on planksip.

Alright everybody - let’s do the Darwin.

It’s a little bit easier than doing the Macarena; however, it is most definitely not as simple as  doing the Locomotion. I would say, in terms of difficulty, it is of an equivalent level to doing the Dougie.

In many ways, the Darwin is the original Dougie.

Dig this, y’all:

The Dougie is much more than a mere set of basic movements, to be performed over today’s latest hits, for the sole purpose of providing a little lighthearted entertainment or eliciting some flimsy, fleeting appreciation. First and foremost, one cannot simply bust out the Dougie over just any piece of music; no, as the instructions clearly state, it is required that the beat be “super bumpin’” in order for the Dougie to be performed properly. In fact, this is pretty much the only requirement - in this respect, the Dougie is quite open to improvisatory techniques and can be amended to reflect the mood or “vibe” (to use, in my opinion, a more fitting and far more elegant term).

Furthermore, an essential prerequisite to the doing of the Dougie is the possession of a certain amount of swagger. It is not enough to simply know all of the right moves - anyone can look up some dance moves, practice them in front of the mirror a few times, and then saunter on over to the nearest nightclub with an attitude redolent of the Wehrmacht circa the summer of ‘41, frolicking along the Soviet border. What not everyone has, however, is swag. Style. Spunk. Juice.


Therein lies the central connection between the two moves: the necessity of having a well-established personality.

Personality, as they say, goes quite a long way. I know this to be true from my own experience growing up as a fat, oily, meaty-breasted, fashion-clueless young man. Were it not for my ability to redirect the attention away from my horrid looks towards my bountiful charm, I likely would not have survived the seventh grade, much less the subsequent ones. Fortunately for me (and unfortunately for the rest of you), this ability did not dissipate even after my looks eventually caught up and I began to scare away less people with my hideousness. As a result, I am now one dynamic son of a gun.

Good luck to the rest of you in this whole natural selection game. You’ll need it.

I kid, I kid.

Now might probably be a good time to draw a distinction between having a strong personality and having a big ego. The ego, as I have come to learn, is not your amigo. The ego is essentially that constantly chattering voice in your head that, in its insistence on directing your attention towards its various repetitive, looped thought patterns, keeps you from ever actually getting to know who you truly are. The ego is what keeps you tied to that story you have been told about yourself, and that you continue to reassure yourself is reflective of the reality you find yourself in due to the looming fear of having to one day face the fact that “reality” as it has been traditionally understood is nothing but an illusion and the “you” that your ego represents is nothing but an elaborate, extremely well-kept facade intended to prevent any further progress throughout your lifetime.

The ego is your “accomplishments”. The ego is your net worth. The ego is your complete lack of self-awareness. The ego is your enemy. Kill your ego (there are ways...see me after class if you would like to know more).

Your personality, however, can be an amazing thing (depending on what you base it on, of course). It can help you build real confidence - real, lasting self-esteem - due to the fact that it is rooted in who you truly are, not who you have been told you are. Your personality is something that is entirely of your creation. If your ego is the voice in your head, your personality is the response you give to that voice. Maybe it’s an attempt at reasoning; maybe it’s laughter. Regardless, it is based solely on what you conceive to be the best, most effective way of dealing with the fact that we are all going to die one day - or, as an adherent of Siddhartha Gautama would say, it is your conscious response to suffering.

Some people got it. Some people don’t. As a matter of fact, quite a lot of people don’t. These people have other things, though - things that people with a well-developed personality might not have. Maybe they are better at fixing leaky faucets, for instance. Maybe they are more skilled at budgeting. Perhaps their lack of a personality is made up for by the fact that they are able to hold down a steady job for more than a month or two without stealing all of the green tea bags from the kitchen when the custodian steps out for a cigarette.

Are these potentially all more useful notches to have on one’s belt than possessing a cool, hip personality?


Who’s to say? The jury is still out. Darwinism shall decide - and Darwinism, as has been demonstrated repeatedly, takes time to play out. It is a very long term game. In many ways, it is the longest term game there is (yes, even longer than playing chess against your Alzheimer’s inflicted grandfather, Max).

Ultimately, though, such a question is beside the point Charles Darwin set to make when he was writing On The Origin Of Species. Darwin did not believe that the societies most equipped to handle the harsh realities of natural selection and adapt to an ever-changing world would be composed of highly skilled individuals, competing in some sort of twisted death match of a dance competition. Darwin was of the opinion - the fact, he would insist - that those most equipped to survive are those most willing to improvise.

Improvisation, of course, is not at all a skill that can be learned alone. Improvisation requires, by its very nature, some element of unfamiliarity. But how can you introduce something unfamiliar to yourself? For you to introduce it to yourself, you would need to be familiar with it. And then you would not really be improvising; you would simply be practicing. Rehearsing. Which is fine - but it isn’t improvising.

Improvisation is raw. Improvisation is loose. Improvisation is profoundly personal. Most importantly, however: improvisation is fun. Probably the most fun humans are capable of having, as a matter of fact. Indeed, I cannot think of a moment that fills me with more joy than when I am put on the spot and forced to adapt to my circumstances - whether it is my roommate handing me a guitar the second I walk inside and demanding that I take the lead over his chord changes, or someone requesting that I write a two thousand word piece for them with no further instructions beyond “just make it interesting”.

This is the stuff I live for. It is what, I feel, equips us best for playing Darwin’s game. It sharpens the mind, nurtures the spirit, and forces the ego to go sit in the corner somewhere. It is one of the most humbling things that can happen to you; I have made it my aim to not let a single day go by without intentionally putting myself in a situation that would require improvisation.

My inspiration? The jazz that I have listened to, the stir fry that I have eaten, and the comedians that I have laughed the hardest at. All of these things have such an almost “effortless” quality to them - and this is because they all require a heavily improvisational approach. Also required for the successful exhibition of these acts are multiple people.

Imagine Miles Davis sitting by himself, puffing on his trumpet like a children’s birthday balloon. There would be no accolades, no Grammys, no international tours, no use of his name as a synonym for “cool”. Just noise complaints. A whole lot of noise complaints. Throw Tony Williams in the mix, though, then Ron Carter, and then top it off with a little Herbie Hancock, and what you are left with is nothing but brilliance. Sheer brilliance.

The same applies to cooking. There is a reason you will never walk into a respectable dining establishment and see a kitchen with only one person in it, scrubbing down all of the pots and pans, sterilizing all of the utensils, gathering all of the spices, chopping all of the onions, crying to himself (not because of the onions, but because of the loneliness), is because nobody would eat if that was the case. And then the restaurant would go out of business. And then that poor guy would really be shedding some serious tears.

Unless you are just cooking for yourself, you need to have at least one other person involved in the process. This is not necessarily solely for the purpose of speeding things up (although it certainly will accomplish such a feat should you desire it). It is to facilitate the creation of a meal that is far more delicious than it would have been if you had cooked it alone. It is to have someone around to say “hey, don’t put that much garlic in there” or “what if we put in lemon pepper and cayenne pepper?”. It is to provide a level of companionship to the very basic evolutionary act of preparing and eating a meal.

It is to make the whole thing, as George Clinton would say, “a joyful process”.

And then, of course, there is comedy. I don’t know about you, but the last thing I want to pay money to see is some dweeb in his mid thirties standing on a stage in some crusty bar telling me about how he always forgets to use his coupons at the grocery store because he usually ends up just robbing the joint blind, or a gorgeous woman lamenting her inability to remain in a consistent relationship due to the fact that she only dates the terminally ill.

You know, that sort of hackneyed, tired material that has probably been delivered thousands of times in thousands of questionable establishments throughout the continental United States (with maybe a gig or two in Anchorage or Dededo).

I want to see somebody put on the spot. I want to see them forced to put it all out there, to lay it all out on the line - without a net. Nothing to hold back due to the inherent inability to hold anything back. Riding the wave. Going with the flow. Letting go of whatever pre-planned ideas one came in with and allowing the collective energy to take over, sacrificing one’s soul for the greater good of laying down the grooviest groove, the tastiest last minute ingredient, or the funniest one-line quip that one’s core is capable of spitting out.

There is a word often tossed around among corporate types (which makes me hesitate to bust it out here, but it is simply too apt to avoid mentioning) to describe the phenomenon I have just outlined above. This word is synergy. Basically, what it means is that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. I believe that this is what is at the heart of improvisation. Keith Richards is not the world’s greatest guitar player; nor is Ron Wood. Mick Jagger ain’t exactly Sam Cooke. Charlie Watts can certainly hold down a beat, but he is far from the tightest drummer out there. And Bill Wyman...well, he’s not even in the band anymore.

Despite all of this, The Rolling Stones have managed to survive more than fifty years and continue to remain as relevant and on top of their game as ever (having seen them live recently, I can confirm this). Why is this?

Because of synergy.
¡Viva La Colectiva!

Charles Robert Darwin FRS was an eminent English naturalist, biologist and paleontologist, famous for his many contributions to the field of biology. His idea that all species of living things have descended from a common ancestor over time is now universally accepted and considered an established cornerstone in biology. It is estimated that over fifty percent of all vertebrates alive today evolved through the processes of Darwinian evolution through natural selection. The theory of natural selection has influenced the fields of paleontology, molecular biology, and ecology.

Charles Darwin was born at Southport, Derbyshire, England on August 19, 1809. He received his degree from Oxford University on March 4, 1859, and became a prominent member of the London Society of Naturalists. He spent a large part of his life as a prolific writer. His most well-known book was On the Origin of the Species, published in 1859. After this book was published, Darwin began to make contributions to biology and zoology with his publications, but his reputation in the scientific world was enhanced by the publication of The Origin of Species.

The popularity of Darwin's works and contributions to science are well documented. Today, Charles Darwin Day is celebrated worldwide to honor and recognize the work of this great scientist. His theories have influenced and continue to influence the fields of biology, zoology and paleontology. He was a major contributor to our understanding of genetics and helped to create the theory of evolution through natural selection.

Ergo the Ego

Never think that you're not good enough yourself. A man should never think that. People will take you very much at your own reckoning."
— Anthony Trollope (1815-1882)

The titled responsion says farewell to the limitations of one's self-identity.

What if you are not actually good enough? What if thinking that you are better than you are is self-delusional. I am not trying to be pessimistic here, but the reality requires some elaboration. Ergo is a play on the sound of, there goes. Ego is, well you can define that yourself! Expand away.

Anthony Trollope was a British writer and Civil servant of the late Victorian age. Among his most famous works are The Adventures of Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn, a play about two lovable characters who meet for the first time on the Mississippi River. These two characters, along with Huckleberry Finn's companion, Huck Finn, are the founding members of the legendary abolitionist movement in the United States. Among his other works are a series of short stories, collectively known as The Chronicles of Barchester, that revolves around the fictional county of Barchester in the late 19th century.

Anthony Trollope - planksip
Anthony Trollope was an English novelist of the Victorian era. He wrote novels on political, social, and gender issues, and other topical matters.
What do Anthony Trollope and other intellectual giants of the past have in common? Find out on planksip.

In addition to writing many books, Trollope wrote a play, The Castle, in which he portrayed the life of Sir Francis Bacon, a famous poet. Trollope's novels and plays have influenced writers and filmmakers, such as Stanley Kubrick and Quentin Tarantino. It also inspired the musical production, A Chorus Line, which was later made into a film starring Pierce Brosnan and Colin Firth. Trollope's work is still popular among modern day novelists, artists, and writers. It is a testament to his writing ability that he continued to write well into his later years.

Though he wrote throughout his life, it is Trollope's plays that are the best-loved. Trollope had a love of theatrical performance that carried over into his life in general, as his writing often had an influence on the way he acted in his own plays. His plays have been adapted into films, television programs, and video games. Among these adaptations are Oliver! The Adventures of Peter Rabbit, The Adventure of Charles Dickens, and The Adventure of Harry Lime.

Collectively So! Yourself is a Reflection of your Better Self - Another planksip Möbius

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