Thematic Abstraction

(this page is defunct)

A thematic abstraction, or a theme, is something like a time period and an associated culture, like The Swinging Sixties, or the culture of the English eighteenth century landed aristocracy, or the emotional pull of going into a old village church, or the idea of driving a convertible car in the middle of summer down a palm tree avenue next to a beach in Florida or somewhere. Basically any collection of ideas and events associated with a particular time period and place. This can be local to one person, e.g. the times when they lived in a certain house or worked a certain job. It could be a particular place, and if, returning to that place, you were reminded of the place because it smelled the same way, you might have strong emotions related to that theme. Call a thematic abstraction that is associated with certain physicalities the glow of those physicalities.

Each person will have so many of these themes. They might carry them through their life. I have a 'space age' theme that I probably got from watching Star Trek: The Next Generation. It's associated with seeing the spinning globe of the earth, and the idea of the transition from an earth-confined species to a starfaring one.

This idea is related to mythical interpretation in some hazy way that I'm not sure about. I call it an 'abstraction' because I don't think nostalgia, say, has any external truth associated with it, the way that the signals from balance organs in your ear are associated with an external truth of gravity, or the way that recognition of another person is associated with the proposition of the other person having a soul. It's an abstraction that is created because we're incapable of processing with a view to action the complex collection of experience we experience throughout life. Objectively, it's absurd that you should view someone a friend because you've associated with them a certain number of times (I would say as a minimum so many times that you can't easily know exactly how many times). The feeling of friendship seems to come from nowhere.

Even though the emotions associated with the themes are arbitrary and irrational, I think that they have to relate to deeper principles, that are weakly associated with what we associate them with. I say this because I want to work out what the principles are, and to do this I have to believe that my feelings aren't completely meaningless.


I'm interested in how people come to feel the way they do about themes. There are billions of friendships, and thousands of cultural affiliations, but these will be manifestations of just a few principles of human nature; which are themselves reflections of still deeper eternal principles.

For example, Star Trek. Wouldn't be cool to be able to travel the galaxy, visiting a myriad of different beautiful planets, each with their own special qualities? Wouldn't it be great to be a space merchant, carrying wares from one place to another, doing your own engineering work on your spacecraft? Now actually any emotion I get by going down these lines could come from more accessible circumstances. I invoke the futuristic glow of twenty-fourth century Earth by shaving, wearing clean clothes, carrying a mobile phone, and drinking whiskey out of a glass made from a pink glass-like substance (I don't have one of those though). Instead of different planets - think different political territories. Call this process of changing the themes one associates with physicalities and the emotions one associates with themes reconceptualization. Reconceptualization is something we should all engage in from time to time.

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