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The most prolific source of memes?

Malcolm Redfellow

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As Dylan Thomas wrote (and he's a source for funeral and other events), and Richard Walter Jenkins memorably orated
To begin at the beginning:
where the colon is an important signifier. And Richards seem to proliferate in this thought-chain. Perhaps, in themselves, they constitute a "meme".

The conceit of a "meme" began, precisely, in 1976 with the publication of Richard Dawkins' The Selfish Gene. He argues that the very nature of life on Earth is our earthly chemistry, and
on one fundamental principle. This is the law that all life evolves by the differential survival of replicating entities. The gene, the DNA molecule, happens to be the replicating entity that prevails on our own planet.
He continues:
do we have to go to distant worlds to find other kinds of replicator and other, consequent, kinds of evolution? I think that a new kind of replicator has recently emerged on this very planet. It is staring us in the face. It is still in its infancy, still drifting clumsily about in its primeval soup, but already it is achieving evolutionary change at a rate that leaves the old gene panting far behind.

The new soup is the soup of human culture. We need a name for the new replicator, a noun that conveys the idea of a unit of cultural transmission, or a unit of imitation. 'Mimeme' comes from a suitable Greek root, but I want a monosyllable that sounds a bit like 'gene'. I hope my classicist friends will forgive me if I abbreviate mimeme to meme. If it is any consolation, it could alternatively be thought of as being related to 'memory', or to the French word meme. It should be pronounced to rhyme with 'cream'.

Examples of memes are tunes, ideas, catch-phrases, clothes fashions, ways of making pots or of building arches. Just as genes propagate themselves in the gene pool by leaping from body to body via sperms or eggs, so memes propagate themselves in the meme pool by leaping from brain to brain via a process which, in the broad sense, can be called imitation. If a scientist hears, or reads about, a good idea, he passes it on to his colleagues and students. He mentions it in his articles and his lectures. If the idea catches on, it can be said to propagate itself, spreading from brain to brain.
We can all conceive of how "memes" spread, and evolve (and thereby mutate).

Joe Fox (Tom Hanks, in You've Got Mail) has this:
"The Godfather" is the I Ching. "The Godfather" is the sum of all wisdom. "The Godfather" is the answer to any question. What should I pack for my summer vacation? "Leave the gun, take the cannoli." What day of the week is it? "Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Wednesday."
What lies behind this inchoate chain of near-thought? I woke up, I muttered (after the example of Arthur Dent): This must be Thursday. I never could get the hang of Thursdays. Thus I recognise today was put-out-the-bins day. But which bins? — a decision/choice necessary every blasted week, helped by a calendar from the local council.

Once awake, the Lady in My Life has taken all the towels (Geddit?) from the bathroom to be washed, and I don't realise this until I reach from under the shower for one ...

See where this is going?

I find much of my life is governed by Hitchhiker (which post-dates The Selfish Gene by just a couple of meme-isa years). One of my earliest vacation employments was in a wholesale chemists, making up orders. I had to sign every completed chitty with my work-number — which, of course, was 42.

So what source provided more memes, in their time, than Dylan Thomas, or Douglas Adams, or rock lyrics or [whoever]?

Here I am, brain the size of a planet and they ask me to take you down to the bridge. Call that job satisfaction? 'Cos I don't."
 


Who is John Galt?

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Can't understand why this thread hasn't got more attention.
Memes rule and sometimes ruin most of our lives in one shape or another.
 

Accidental sock

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twokidsmanybruises

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Insert your own witticism below...

 

Who is John Galt?

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In his book: "Sapiens", Yuval Noah Harari has some interesting things to say about memes, although he doesn't use the word.
He refers to the invention of memes as the first Cognitive Revolution.
Before it, about 70,000 ago we were just another bunch of erect apes subject to the "slings and arrows of outrageous fortune"
Essentially it meant learning how to tell lies and, more importantly getting others to believe in that lie.
The best modern example of the lie is, perhaps, the invention of the limited company.
It has done more to increase wealth, invention and prosperity than almost anything else in the modern era.
And yet it's a construct that doesn't exist in nature and therefore an invention and a lie.
Because of this lie and the willingness of western civilisation to believe in it and observe its morays, we can perform the modern equivalent of a woolly mammoth hunt every day we get up.
 

twokidsmanybruises

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In his book: "Sapiens", Yuval Noah Harari has some interesting things to say about memes, although he doesn't use the word.
He refers to the invention of memes as the first Cognitive Revolution.
Before it, about 70,000 ago we were just another bunch of erect apes subject to the "slings and arrows of outrageous fortune"
Essentially it meant learning how to tell lies and, more importantly getting others to believe in that lie.
The best modern example of the lie is, perhaps, the invention of the limited company.
It has done more to increase wealth, invention and prosperity than almost anything else in the modern era.
And yet it's a construct that doesn't exist in nature and therefore an invention and a lie.
Because of this lie and the willingness of western civilisation to believe in it and observe its morays, we can perform the modern equivalent of a woolly mammoth hunt every day we get up.
+1 But if I was being fancy, I'd swop out the word "lie" for "myth" or "narrative". Calling a spade a spade, "story is the best word".

Agreed to an extent, but we're too contrary a species only to create stories just for wealth, invention and prosperity. some of our stories hinder the three areas mentioned, yet we still propagate those stories.

Humans are not very good with objective and empirical fact, computers are.

We turn everything into narratives, little stories.
 

Malcolm Redfellow

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+1 But if I was being fancy, I'd swop out the word "lie" for "myth" or "narrative". Calling a spade a spade, "story is the best word"...

We turn everything into narratives, little stories.
And then, like every other artefact from pre-historic clay pots, via the magnificent Chrysler Building, to multiple reinventions of Smaug, we decorate them:


Thus, happily inventing all kinds of semiologies, whereby otherwise-unemployables (like me) can be kept in modest comfort by interpreting such devices.
 

statsman

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To quote Dylan Thomas again:


Now
Say nay,
Man dry man,
Dry lover mine
The deadrock base and blow the flowered anchor,
Should he, for centre sake, hop in the dust,
Forsake, the fool, the hardiness of anger.
Which, I'm sure you'll all agree, says it all.
 

Malcolm Redfellow

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To quote Dylan Thomas again:

Which, I'm sure you'll all agree, says it all.
Not quite fair? The rest of that frothing concoction is strewn with erotic insinuations — and explicit sinuations [*]. The only way I can cope with stuff like that is by playing verbal ducks-and-drakes with it: skim the surface and hope to plop in somewhere credible.

When, once — blind leading the blind, I had to "teach" Thomas's 1952 selection, there were many times when I invoked the classic Robert Browning anecdote.


The Great Man, now advanced in years, was approached by an ardent young admirer, seeking explication of a fragment.

The Great Man pondered, then opined: "Madame, when I wrote that, only God Almighty and Robert Browning knew what it meant. Now the Almighty is unique in that knowledge."

Now I'm more at the stage of:
Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.
[*] No quibbling, please: perfectly good term. OED: The act or fact of winding about, or pursuing a winding course.
 

statsman

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Not quite fair? The rest of that frothing concoction is strewn with erotic insinuations — and explicit sinuations [*]. The only way I can cope with stuff like that is by playing verbal ducks-and-drakes with it: skim the surface and hope to plop in somewhere credible.

When, once — blind leading the blind, I had to "teach" Thomas's 1952 selection, there were many times when I invoked the classic Robert Browning anecdote.


The Great Man, now advanced in years, was approached by an ardent young admirer, seeking explication of a fragment.

The Great Man pondered, then opined: "Madame, when I wrote that, only God Almighty and Robert Browning knew what it meant. Now the Almighty is unique in that knowledge."

Now I'm more at the stage of:


[*] No quibbling, please: perfectly good term. OED: The act or fact of winding about, or pursuing a winding course.
I do like the story (possibly legend) of the student who asked TS Eliot “please, sir, what do you mean by the line, ‘Lady, three white leopards sat under a juniper tree’?” To which Eliot answered, “I mean, ‘Lady, three white leopards sat under a juniper tree.’”
 

Malcolm Redfellow

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I do like the story (possibly legend) of the student who asked TS Eliot “please, sir, what do you mean by the line, ‘Lady, three white leopards sat under a juniper tree’?” To which Eliot answered, “I mean, ‘Lady, three white leopards sat under a juniper tree.’”
The context of that story (and I see we are deep into the implications and nature of "story") goes like this:

Stephen Spender, who was a friend of Old Toilets (anag.), is the source of the anecdote (which in itself is something of a lit. crit. meme).

According to Spender, a group of devout Roman Catholics had been studying Ash Wednesday (as, presumably, the epitome of a "conversion" poem), under the tutelage of Father Martin D’Arcy — I would induce from that, the event might well have been at Campion Hall, Oxford. D'Arcy brought the poet himself to attend a seminar, where the question and answer were made.

When this one appeared as a prescribed text on A-level syllabuses, I had to rely on B.C.Southam for a steer, and there we get another reference to the Spender story:
line 42 juniper-tree: cf: the Biblical story of Elijah. Jezebel threatened him with death. He went into the wilderness and under the shade of a juniper-tree prayed that God would take his life. Instead, God sent him food (see I Kings xix, 1-8).

leopards: leopards are named as God's agents of destruction in Jeremiah v, 6 and Hosea xiii, 7. The entire line is much speculated about. When, in 1929, Eliot was asked what it meant, he simply answered 'I mean' and then recited the line with our comment.
All of which could be covered by Who is John Galt?'s comment at post #2 above.

And all of that (not excluding Jezebel) might make a bit more sense if it is seen in the prior context of Eliot's marital problems with Vivienne, and his need to find "place" — hence, his taking of British citizenship and the conversion to High Anglicanism.
 

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