SPIRITUAL SOAP: Weird & Güd - An Archetype a Day Keeps Dystopia Away
Let's Stay Together, and other collectivist hits.
Before we were The Black Sheep, we were a newsletter named Spiritual Soap. Please enjoy this article from our history!
I enjoy research too much and I’m a shameless critic. Weird & Güd is the conjoining of those misanthropic qualities into something useful: recommendations and fascinations neatly packaged together for you every week, some hermit-ism required after all.
We take for granted how truly weird it is that a person in Norway, a person in Japan, and you in wherever you are can all follow the same fashion trends or love the same music. What happened to geographical barriers? What happened to culture?
Most of the differences between us today are borne of previous eras where separation was the standard. The great paradox of multi-culturalism is that it destroys what it loves — a truly integrated society becomes a homogenized society. It’s division that births diversity. Beauty ideals have always existed and overlapped across cultures, but in the age of the internet, where Instagram promotes what’s popular to users worldwide, one beauty standard rises to rule us all.
Trends don’t keep well on the long voyages that would’ve transported them in past centuries; I need to see the same thing as instantly as you to form a similar understanding as you. The distance between us creates culture. Yet, the world is no longer a massive game of telephone where myths and customs mutate as they travel the slow lines of connection. Today we’re all constantly connected and there’s no wait time on information; you and I both experience the news together like neighbors complaining about local construction.
We’re neighbors in Marshall McLuhan’s 1960 prediction — a global village.
Ours is a brand-new world of all-at-once-ness.
“Time” has ceased, “space” has vanished. We now live in a “global village”…a simultaneous happening. Information pours upon us, instantaneously and continuously. As soon as information is acquired, it is very rapidly replaced by still newer information.
— McLuhan, The Medium is the Massage
Our dormant tribal roots have been awakened. We’re residents of a global village, where we condemn a murder in a small town 2,000 miles away the day it occurs and watch day-by-day as a genocide progresses in a land we’ll never visit.
In a hyper-connected world, everything happens in our neighborhood.
McLuhan believed neo-tribalism bubbles up in this environment designed for the collective. Whereas books were an individual experience, a process that occurs within our mind alone, the digital world is a collective experience, and in the case of social media, one that depends on the masses to function. As we move away from the divided societies that resulted from a print-dominated world and into a digitally-dominated world, our interconnectedness revives the anxieties of our collectivist past.
“…Terror is the normal state of any oral society, for in it everything affects everything all the time…”
— Marshall McLuhan
Our modern world of hyper-connectivity comes with new challenges we still deny. McLuhan emphasized that our previous, individualized print-culture was no better or worse than today’s collectivized electric-culture, it’s simply different. What he did warn against was underestimating what living in a world with “superimposed co-existence” would beget.
Just as in our micro-tribes of the past, what affects one of us now affects us all.
Is it any surprise a resurgence in collectivism, with its emphasis on personal sacrifice for the good of the group, has surfaced even in countries with a history of only individualism? Our technology has transformed us all into tribes, once again (seemingly) dependent on group cohesion for survival.
A global village presents a modern problem — how do you practice collectivism on a global scale without treating the inevitable differences among us like survival threats?
By Jenna Barton
Whether you like it or not, we’re all citizens of this new global village. Without pulling an Agafia and making a hermit’s effort at returning to a print-dominated world, you’re part of this experiment. McLuhan predicted the internet, our global village, almost 30 years before its existence. Despite the tech-dystopia atmosphere his work evokes, McLuhan didn’t think our global village had to be a grey society of homogeneity and groupthink. He believed that technology itself had no inherent moral direction; whether we see dystopia or utopia in our global village is up to us.
Perhaps the next phase of human existence is joining our individualist developments with our tribalist past. Whether we recreate the enforced conformity of collectivism’s worst or learn to retain the lessons of individualism while respecting our interconnectedness is the evolutionary task before us.
Take ownership of your role in this new, global village and we just might escape our past.
Carl Jung’s is not an easy philosophy to explain. He gets a lot of grief for the un-testability and mysticism that runs throughout his theories. Yet, there are some things that require a little wonder to be appreciated.
One of the “Religion: 0, Atheists: 1” arguments against the supernatural is the repeated stories and figures that span cultures, countries, and eras. Jesus is just a reboot of Buddha’s story and Christmas is just a re-branded pagan holiday. This gotcha observation is so rushed to debunk that it suffers from a lack of curiosity that Jung didn’t.
Maybe Jesus isn’t magic, but isn’t the more interesting question why these stories and symbols recur throughout time and place? Maybe religion is a power monger’s plot to control the masses, but even so, why not take a little creative liberty once in 5,000 years? Both Hinduism and Christianity contain virgin births, resurrections, and special mountains. Both Christianity and Buddhism contain temptations and betrayals. These religions wouldn’t even get past an undergrad lit course’s TA.
Luckily, Jung had a more interesting explanation than conspiracies or plagiarism.
Religion: an extremely elaborate worldwide scheme for getting kids to eat their broccoli.
Focusing on the differences between our religions rather than the commonalities is an ancient trap. Rather than dismiss repetition in the most important stories throughout history, Jung believed it was a symptom of a phenomenon even larger than religion itself. It’s the repetition that tells us the most important story — the story of a universal human experience.
Though religion is a source of division, the same weapon we use against each other is ultimately the proof of our connectedness.
Jung believed the events, symbols, and figures that recurred in our religions and beyond them were archetypes, manifestations of our shared experience. It’s these archetypes that help us relate to each other and make art possible. A story without recognizable aspects like a hero, a pursuit of meaning, a struggle between light and darkness, between order and chaos, might as well have been written by moths.
Not an author.
You and a moth have no common experience. If you could speak to one, there would be nothing shared between you to even begin that conversation — not interests, thinking patterns, nor social conventions. While highlighting our differences helps us understand who we are, our commonalities are far more crucial than our differences.
Test the importance of our commonalities next time you’re at a grocery store. No one really cares whether you wear a neon yellow jumpsuit or buy 100 cans of sardines, but insist on shopping while walking on all fours and you’ll likely be on your way to an asylum within 30 minutes.
All in the Mind series by Ariee
“Same-same….but different.” Yes, I have lost all credibility.
The symptoms of our connectedness are borne of what Jung called the collective unconscious. This is one of those parts of Jungian theory that make scientific method crusaders nauseous. There’s no way (yet) to prove a shared, unconscious experience in all humans, but Jung didn’t let the limits of science limit him.
The beauty of the collective unconscious is its universality. It argues that every human, regardless of culture or caste, shares a similar earthly experience, resulting in an inalienable connectedness. This was no quaint, kumbaya philosophy, but a recognition of the communal experience of life that all humans share.
No matter how much you despise your neighbor, they too were born, fear destruction, and march steadily towards death.
Armand Rassenfosse, 1919.
Manifesting achetypal imagery that no moth could.
Don’t mistake the collective unconscious as a vote for collectivism overall, though. The process Jung believed people must undergo to grow was called individuation by no coincidence. Though the collective unconscious puts value on our shared humanity, it’s the balance between that collective and your own personal consciousness that Jung believed contains your success.
Jung’s theory of the collective unconscious doesn’t need a spiritual commitment to be appreciated. At it’s most basic, it serves as a poetic reminder.
The very things we hold as evidence of our separateness are often just symbols of our connectedness in new paint.
I hope this makes your week a little weirder and a little güder. Now go forth, be weird, and above all, be güd.
I sit alone at a desk biting my nails to bring you every edition of Spiritual Soap. Is it worth it? Don’t tell me, show me.