Friday, 6 September 2013

A poor weather writer

We've had a proper summer for a change. Though why we should call a succession of warm sunny days proper when a typical UK summer has few of these and far more of the damp slightly grizzly days that we've got today I don't know. Perhaps its just that they represent what we think summer should be rather than what we usually get. This is not to complain about the British weather which, as all proper weather should, changes from day to day and often hour to hour, but which I'm actually quite fond of. However, as someone who much prefers to be out than in, the good summer means I haven't spent much time in front of the keyboard and consequently this blog has been somewhat neglected.

This doesn't mean that I haven't had any ideas for blog posts, quite the contrary, its just that none of them have made it past the first few sentences of the unpublished phase. But one of the things that I have ended up thinking about is why we feel the urge to publish at all. Now you might argue that we're a social species and that most of our learning is done vicariously, by watching or listening to other people, and, at a group level, the urge to publish fits in with this rather well, but what's in it for the individual who does the writing? Fame, fortune, influence and status perhaps, but having never been too fussed about money, other than having just enough to not have to think about it too much, never having sought fame, at least not for its own sake, and having just about given up on influence or status, why do I still feel the urge to do it?

The one little introspective thought that I can bring to this puzzle is the nagging feeling that an idea that isn't shared is an idea that's been wasted. Of course, this doesn't mean subjecting everyone else to my own stream of consciousness, they've got their own to deal with, but it does mean making at least some effort to share any "new" conclusions. I say new here in the sense of new to me not new to the world. With the right search terms I expect I could find that someone else somewhere else had said, or is saying, just about the same sorts of things as I am, but not necessarily in the same order or in the same combinations.

A few years ago I got into meme theory, though in an interested by-standerly sort of way not as an academic. The basic idea is that cultural evolution follows similar sorts of rules to biological evolution. In his lovely book "On the origin of tepees" Jonnie Hughes explores these parallels but, whilst I can make sense of the biological urge to reproduce (those that don't have this urge leave few descendants) I never could quite get my head around why individuals had the urge to spread ideas. What biological advantage does this habit give? 

Having given myself something to think about, I've noticed that the sun is coming out again and the dog, a short haired whippet who likes it dry, needs walking (or rather I feel the need to walk the dog). Now if I'd been a proper writer, as opposed to someone simply fulfilling an as yet ill defined biological urge, I suspect that I wouldn't have let the good weather stop me for quite so long.

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