I spent the last week of the holiday period yanking myself away from books, studying and the occasional video game to spend time with family.
*Insert exasperated sigh here*
Well, it wasn’t half bad. Maybe 1/4 bad. Not really bad though, more of an oddly…[searches for non-provocative word]…enlightening week of human interaction. As these things go, every family lunch was mired with an eclectic, or sometimes cacophonous mix of conversation. Ranging from the grandparents reminiscing about the war, reminiscing about England, or reminiscing about their travels around the world, to a casual debate on Islam or Uber.
Having been reading and studying the subject of complexity theory, (of which I will certainly write causeries and essays about), I naturally gravitated to view the whole thing as a complex system. Conversations, styles and tropes in arguments or speech, linking ideas or memories to the people being conversed with…these are a few thought fragments that buzzed through my mind throughout the week. Indeed, it was interesting on a socio-communal level to sit quietly at the dinner table, and imagine invisible lines connecting everyone on the table, defined by which member of the family had the most influence on a person’s opinions and actions. I won’t divulge my observations here, but nonetheless, the exercise was academically curious, to say the least.
One particular pattern of note, was the tense and content of family member’s speech. As I alluded to before, the grandparents naturally tended to use past tense as well as “I’s”, and “my [friend, mother, cousin etc…]” as objects in the sentence with which to populate its contents. Myself and the relatively younger step-siblings, on the other hand, often tended towards third-person, with an appropriate mix of past, present and future. Meanwhile my dad, and the other middle aged family members who joined for Christmas lunch, seemed to prefer the second person “you”. I wasn’t keeping score though.
The *really* interesting complex conversational interactions were when two or more modes of thinking interact, and often clash. One side may discuss an idea, whilst another will divulge a reminiscent memory to support an argument. Some may discuss an abstracted third person example whereas others would be thinking or talk about those of which they knew. The result was, as you can expect, mired frustration and/or an oblivious tendency to talk past one another.
This is not to say it wasn’t enjoyable. As the necessary social contexts require (ahem: the people in question likely reading this very blog), I must note that it was still an enjoyable, and worthwhile Christmas to spend with the folks and family. I personally think that using complex thinking to observe and interact in social contexts accentuates colours, of a sort, which otherwise would remain invisible had they not been considered.