How the wheel turns: from 9/11 to 22/7
The empty threat from Irene

Can we have the silly season back, please?

Shocked out of holiday mode, and a general cutural innocence, by the worst terror attack in the country's modern history, it is perhaps not surprising that some Norwegians find themselves missing the summer's traditional silly season.

"I miss headlines about dangerous tics, murder snails and vegetable prices," said one influential commentator I ran into on my way into work the other morning.

"I want the headline news on the six o'clock news to be about a farmer's ruined cabbage field... I want the talk of town on warm summerdays in Oslo to be the  price of prawns...I want the men I'm struggling to get a grip on to be ordinary men, not psychotic killers," one blogger wrote on Monday.

Other bloggers have voiced similar sentiments.

It's not only the terror attacks on 22/7, though they have dominated the news ever since that day.

Norway's seen two fatal boating accidents in July too, and it's such a small country that even those affected lots and lots of people.

Not to speak of how such accidents always feel so meaningless and unnecessary.

But I'd never thought I'd see the day when people actually are begging for a return to the much derided silly season, though a part of me can undertand the sentiment.

Having said that, even thought headlines about fruit and vegetable prices was a sign of cultural decay when I grew up, I've since come to understand that these price fluctuations tell us a lot both about hyperlocal and international affarirs. 

"As above, so below," the mystics used to say.

I myself am no mystic but this summer has reminded me that even the focus and absence of a country's silly season can tell us a lot about a country and the state it's in: the small things in life - or the absence of them - often mirror the bigger ones.


Ha, ha

The trouble with your posts is that they send my thoughts ricocheting round Wikipedia, and 2 weeks later (or is it longer?) I still haven't assembled something coherent enough to be called a "comment". So in lieu of a constructive response, or a silly Private Eye cover, here's a blog of me reading your blog... (It's a one time thing, I promise.)

It was the Hermetic axiom which fired me off. I've known about it since I was a teenager (thanks, Mary Gentle); but it wasn't until you made me think about it again, that I realised the Hermeticists were talking about symmetry.

[[To a mathematician, symmetry is a "generalisation" of "mirroring", and describes any situation where something looks the same, despite a change taking place. So, for example, a shape that looks like its reflection has "mirror" symmetry. Or if a plot of the tone of each year's new stories looks identical--with the same frothy patch in August--then the news has a "Calendar symmetry" (well, a translation symmetry along the temporal axis).]]

Linking symmetry with the Hermeticists made me realise that lead spontaneously transforms into gold (well, some radioisotopes decay into mercury, which then decay into gold, which then decays in seconds into something else...). I'd never stopped to think about that before. I guess it's down to the SU(2) flavour symmetry of the weak nuclear force. But the alchemists were right: symmetry turns lead into gold. And that left me pondering how a universe which is itself deeply, deeply symmetric has led to sentient life which is also fine-tuned to spot symmetry. And so my thoughts tumbled on into metaphysics... (Could God be a symmetry?)

But anyway, it was a beautiful post. Like a little poem. (It even had me nodding along saying, "No, I'm not a mystic, either" - as if that was a completely and totally reasonable thing to contemplate.) But I have to disagree (a little) - I can't help thinking the world would be a much better place if the silly season went on all year round. ;)

a_spod: Amazing! Did this short post of mine really spur such a long train of thought?

I'm flattered.

Though I have to admit that I had forgotten that that saying was called the Hermetic axiom. As you, I learned about it as a teenager, it fascinated me immensly then - albeit as an abstract idea.

But for the last few years I've found myself thinking about it often, although foremostly while contemplating how microcosmos mirrors macrocosmos and vice versa.

And even then, the main reason this thought keeps hunting me is because I used to think I needed a Phd in just about everything that interested me in order to really understand the world (philosophy, physics, finance, psychology etc etc).

As I've grown wiser about the world and gotten to learn various industries from the inside, I've come to see that notion as a rather silly idea. I've more and more come to see that people are driven by the same things regardless of their vocation and position in the world - and as a result, what drives say politics and finance are fundamentally much the same.

In a really cynical mood I might even argue that a lot of the things that ail the world come down to people going to all sorts of bisarre lengths to avoid making difficult decisisons.

That's of course no reason not to study natural sciences, but certainly for not doing Phds in human and political sciences;-)

I wonder, if the silly season just went on and on, would't people just invent strife, conflict and a reason to bring back more dramatic headlines?

Also, there may be some explanation for that instinct for drama in Western culture as Western and Asian litterature is very different in this respect .. but on that note I better call it a night. My mind is much too tired for investigating that train of thought right now;-)

Yeah, essentially, that train of thought departed from your blog. My thoughts aren't composed entirely of words. And I don't tend to have short trains of thought. But you released the break. And that's why I come here. :)

And you've repaid me again with the insight that society is driven by "procrastination". It's not the whole story. But it's a useful model that I will deploy time and time again. (I have to say, though, that I still envy anyone who knows more than me. I WANNA KNOW IT ALL!)

Anyway, don't interpret silence (from me) as a lack of interest: so often I don't have time to wrestle an idea into words. Or, just as I sit down to do so, you publish another blog that's easier to comment on. (And I do like to comment on *other* people's blogs, too. ;-) Definitely, don't let your subconscious trick you into seeing a pattern in my comments, because there isn't one; I could say something about most of your posts, and when and where my comments appear is driven by my workload and other commitments.

You're right about the final point, though: people would invent strife. We even have a name for the pseudo-drama they invent: THE SILLY SEASON. "ZOMG! Have you seen the price of prawns?!!!!" :-P :-P :-P

(My point: there is a partial order on news stories, with those that involve people dying being bottom of the heap. I know nothing about Asian culture, so you're on your own there; but it would be interesting, if true.)

Thanks, a_spod - I appereciate that my ramblings here can have such an effect. See what makes me tick is intellectual mid-wifery – if what I write or do can spark new ideas, interesting debates or new, better and/ or more informed ways of doing or seeing things (and I do love being part of debates and conversations that can do that too). So thanks for the compliment:-) Sorry about my late reply - the wknd you wrote this was busy due to a friend being ill and me looking after her, then I've been ill etc. But this week my mind's finally starting to work properly again;-)

The comments to this entry are closed.