119: “Her Own Society” (Emily Dickinson)

The Soul selects her own Society –
Then – shuts the Door –
To her divine Majority –
Present no more –
                -Emily Dickinson

                My friends know so much that I don’t. One of them understands the intricacies of muscles, nerves, and fascia. (I, on the other hand, looked up “fascia” to make sure I was spelling it correctly). Another can explain the differences and similarities between Freud and Jung. Another can look at the oxygen isotopes in rocks to figure out what temperature the ocean was a long, long time ago. And all that has me thinking.
                I’d like to write a fantasy story where there are many worlds, worlds within worlds beside worlds, but you can only navigate the ones that you (to some extent) understand. The geography of each landscape would be based on connections within that understanding: the similarities between Freud and Jung, for instance, would become literal paths that you could walk, like passes through the mountains. In another world, the lay of the land would depend on the relationship between oxygen isotopes and heat. If you understood that, you could walk through this rock world. You could walk through the mountain. If you entered a world you didn’t understand, it would be worse than being lost. Here on earth, we use a magnetic field to determine north and south. It works pretty well. But in another world, your compass could work by complementary colors or musical scales or metal alloys. Enter a world you didn’t understand, and you wouldn’t know what bit of landscape sat next to what. You wouldn’t know what was up and what was down. You wouldn’t know where to set your feet.
                The idea’s rough. I’m still playing with it. But I like it because, like all true magical frameworks, I already feel like I’m walking through it. I feel like I’m living in different worlds: people are people, but we behave differently, value things differently, see things differently if we’re chefs in the kitchen or birders in the forest or athletes on the field. We use similar sounds, maybe even the same words, but we speak different languages. (I realized that when I first heard Professor Keller discuss the “motion” of a sculpture; a few days ago, someone tried to teach me a few steps of Irish dance, and they had to start by teaching me their words). On the one hand that’s obvious, but on the other hand, whenever I stay in one place for a little while, I start thinking that this world is the world. I start thinking that the values, worries, and habits I’ve taken up here are the only values, worries, and habits that are possible. I don’t mean to say that those values are wrong. (This isn’t an argument for moral relativity; courage could be courage, and still not be the only possibility). But here I stand, in one Society–and on the other side of the Door there are so many, many more. I think it’s nice to try to step through, every now and again.

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