Wednesday, February 03, 2016


Browning and Cut Bank cheerleaders

Yesterday I ran a few errands in beautiful downtown Valier (two blocks away — I’m in the "suburbs" down the street) and saw that everything was more deserted than usual.  In fact, my neighbors are missing.  Finally I got the idea: it’s the state high school basketball championship playoffs.  It’s something like a religion and everyone who is able will attend.  In spite of concussions, exploded knees, lost class time and stigmatized mascots, it is obsessive and key to the identity of Montana towns.

In terms of planetary culture, it sure beats a killing war.  In terms of urban contemporary technological culture, it is relevant to tragic forced transitions from one cultural group to another and to our dispiriting attempt to find meaning as individuals, “bowling alone”.  So here I am, reaching back to seminary basics to figure it out and find terminology.  I just found a reference in the Jared Diamond book I’m slowly reading.  He speaks of “effervescence,” which I creatively decided means the liveliness, the joy, the freely released energy of a group.  

I wasn’t too far wrong, but at first I didn’t connect it to Emile Durkheim, who supplied an alternative explanation of religion that isn’t a matter of pretending the reality of a big humanoid in the sky.  Here’s the unidentified author in Wikipedia, who frankly admitted he (it’s always a he) needs some help from a sociologist.  A few tags are all we need for now.

Tribal effervescence

Collective effervescence is the basis for Émile Durkheim's theory of religion as laid out in his 1912 volume Elementary Forms of Religious Life. Durkheim argues that the universal religious dichotomy of profane and sacred results from the lives of these tribe members: most of their life is spent performing menial tasks such as hunting and gathering. These tasks are profane. The rare occasions on which the entire tribe gathers together becomes sacred, and the high energy level associated with these events gets directed onto physical objects or people which then become sacred.
The force is thus associated with the totem which is the symbol of the clan, mentioned by Durkheim in his study of "elementary forms" of religion in Aboriginal societies. Because it provides the tribe's name, the symbol is present during the gathering of the clan. Its presence during these scenes, the totem comes to represent both the scene and the strong emotional felt, thus becoming a collective representation of the group.

In some cultures, men dance solo in the context of a group.

For Durkheim, religion is a fundamentally social phenomenon. The beliefs and practices of the sacred are a method of social organization.” 

And now “Wiki-Anonymous” links this to thoughts that neurological research would support.  “Recent research has operationalized collective effervescence as the alignment of physiological states, showing that exciting collective rituals can lead to the synchronization of heartbeats between practitioners as well as spectators.”  So when the couch potato's team wins, he leaps in the air, shouting. It's even better in the grandstand where they're synchronized.  This phenomenon is called by physiologists, “limbic resonance.”

Limbic resonance is the theory that the capacity for sharing deep emotional states arises from the limbic system of the brain.  These states include the dopamine circuit promoted feelings of empathic harmony, and the norepinephrine circuit originated emotional states of fear, anxiety and anger.”

The concept was advanced in the book A General Theory of Love (2000) [3 authors: Lewis, Amini and Lannon], and is one of three interrelated concepts central to the book's premise: that our brain chemistry and nervous systems are measurably affected by those closest to us (limbic resonance); that our systems synchronize with one another in a way that has profound implications for personality and lifelong emotional health (limbic regulation); and that these set patterns can be modified through therapeutic practice (limbic revision).”

“In other words, it refers to the capacity for empathy and non-verbal connection that is present in mammals, and that forms the basis of our social connections as well as the foundation for various modes of therapy and healing. . . our nervous systems are not self-contained, but rather demonstrably attuned to those around us with whom we share a close connection." . . . "Within the effulgence of their new brain, mammals developed a capacity we call 'limbic resonance' — a symphony of mutual exchange and internal adaptation whereby two mammals become attuned to each other's inner states.”  

Just in time for Valentine’s Day!  And if there were any rodents out there running around on the prairie on Ground Hog’s Day, they didn’t give a rip about the sun.  They were looking for “limbic resonance” so they can screw and then go back to the burrow to gestate for six weeks.

Limbic resonance is sorta Dionysian.

Limbic resonance is also referred to as "empathic resonance”. . .Other studies cited examine the link between mirror neurons (activated during such mimicking activity) and the limbic system" . . . : "Mirror neurone areas seem to monitor this interdependence, this intimacy, this sense of collective agency that comes out of social interactions and that is tightly linked to the ability to form empathic resonance.”

“Limbic resonance and limbic regulation are also referred to as "mood contagion" or "emotional contagion" . . . Jack Kornfield echoes the musical metaphor of the original definition of "limbic resonance" . . . correlates these findings of Western psychology with the tenets of Buddhism: "Each time we meet another human being and honor their dignity, we help those around us. Their hearts resonate with ours in exactly the same way the strings of an unplucked violin vibrate with the sounds of a violin played nearby. Western psychology has documented this phenomenon of 'mood contagion' or limbic resonance. If a person filled with panic or hatred walks into a room, we feel it immediately, and unless we are very mindful, that person's negative state will begin to overtake our own. When a joyfully expressive person walks into a room, we can feel that state as well.”  “

Enough with the quotes, though every politician with any charisma knows these ideas and is using them, esp. Trump.  Everyone enjoys an absurd and enraged party animal millionaire, even if he has a toupee instead of a lampshade on his head.  Let’s hope they don’t want him for president.

Originally I was looking for an explanation of social effervescence because I had been banned from a social group I love -- on grounds that I “took all the air out of the room.”  Flat beer.  I finally understood the reason I wasn’t any fun because I started explaining everything and that I was way too serious about everything and that I didn’t really fit in the first place.  My report card said “conscientious” but it might as well have said “non-carbonated.”  Not very sugary either.  These are supposed to be good for you, but who cares?

Well, I do, if they are grounds for dismissal.  And I do recognize them — I have left groups myself on grounds that their conscientiousness became bullying and their lack of fun and wit made them grinding.  Too much virtue can kill love.  Passion is effervescent — uplifting — but devotion can be a trap.

At the heart of oppression is the conviction that there is only one way, one focus, and every individual must pledge allegiance to it for the good of the group which, if you don’t put the group’s beliefs ahead of your own, will at least exclude you and maybe kill you.  The bullying and suicide problems of today’s youngsters in the USA come from the return of forced dependence on the group fostered by today’s school, government, insurance, and media dictates.  

It is a loss of effervescence.  Love is replaced by force.  No one can force you to actually be a Valentine who has personal limbic resonance.  They can just psych you into buying stuff.

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