Buzzing a Dose of Symmentropy

Consider life as a honey bee. While enjoying your morning buzz, you find that an orange tree burst into full blossom overnight. After a quick taste, you hurry back to the hive to share the news of this great treasure. Of course, you have no thumbs so writing a quick note, even if you could find a pencil, is quite impossible. You could take to a stump and deliver a great oration on the value of pollen to the hive, except that the shape of your mouth makes speaking or singing difficult. Your gifts are your legs, wings and wiggly abdomen with its potent stinger, so you take center hive in the honey comb and dance the message to the strains of the “Orange Blossom Special”.

Watch horses in a pasture move each other around based on the position of their ears, necks and hooves. Horse trainers call mustangs “loud” because they learned this complex body language in open spaces and needed to exaggerate the cues to be understood across distances. Ranch raised horses speak to each other with greater subtlety having learned the same skills in close quarters. Distinctive accents are not limited to humans raised in different parts of the world. Each animal tells its story in a silent dance of equine oration based on the way their mother taught them.

We have thumbs. We have tongues and a larynx. The limitations of the honey bee and the horse do not interfere with our ability to find different forms of expression for our ideas. While bees are limited to dancing the message of fresh pollen to harvest, our media of communication limits itself only by the boundaries of our imaginations. Some of us were raised in quiet homes where restraint and subtle words were the expectation, and others more resemble the mustang by sharing our stories boisterously. We provide far more information than a honey bee's dance, but we cannot escape the need to tell the story any more than the bee.

In the first Symmentropy in Small Doses, storytelling takes a lead role in organizing our experiences and reducing confusion by explaining our culture.

The first principle of symmentropy says that we use communication to manage what we know and what it means to us. For story Chip, it means that the basic skill for doing that management is storytelling.

Storytelling Machine
symmentropy storytelling mcgavin

The second Small Dose illustrated this point by comparing our experiences to a library of infinite capacity that we organize to tell the stories that reduce misunderstandings. In this small dose of symmentropy, the first two guidelines come together to marvel at human creativity and ingenuity in finding different media to express news, history, dreams and nightmares that are the sum of our living interactions. We tailor our storytelling techniques to create a narrative that can grow with the form of expression and achieve greater clarity through a variety of media formats.

Storytelling exists to manage cultural interactions for bees, horses and humans. Humans just have so many more tools to use to tell their stories. The posts leading up to this small dose of symmentropy include stories of different people using their personal strengths to organize and communicate their history. In the ever expanding balloon inside our personal library of a lifetime, the gears that keep our storytelling machine running are the media that we choose. Each medium has its own characteristics that allow us to become comfortable creating new stories from our perceptions and add a distinct flavor of their own.

Peary Street threw sand in those gears. The time I spent helping cleaning up my Mother's studio after the mud and slime of the water main break reminded me of the amount of self-censorship required of those growing up there. She had the technical skill and the space to create art, but she could not bring herself to tell her story. Her expectations for her children limited them to the same kind of closeted feelings. The fact that two of the seven founded a storytelling web site always left her confused. She could not imagine telling your personal anecdotes on a web site, so each conversation about it included her single question, “How much money will you make?”

This story would be so easy to tell if our mother's family had been reluctant to tell their stories or kept their feelings hidden, but the source of her guarded storytelling was not her mother and sisters. My grandmother never walked away from a moment when she could voice her opinion or tell her stories. In fact, she wrote poetry, not great literature, but she told her stories in verse. This post closes with two of her poems.

Stolen Moments

Stolen moments are the sweetest
Though I know it's wrong to steal
Your eyes did something to me
Then I felt your sweet appeal
You were promised to another
This I knew when first we met
So I stole those precious moments
Moments, that I can't forget


Sometime we stray
From the life we lead
Enticed by the beauty
Of land and sea

By a rose that flaunts
Its brilliant flower
Coaxed into bloom
By a summer shower

By planes that circle
The golden sun
Invented and flown
By brilliant minds

By giant ships
On the boundless sea
Created and built
By a craftsman's hand

By marvelous pictures
Of fabulous scenes
That float through the air
To our T.V. screen

We become enthralled
By intelligent men
Who strive in their life
For the dreams they have

By a moon that shines
From dusk till dawn
With a smiling face
For the twinkling stars

For all this magic
Our hearts respond
For the wondrous gifts
God bestowed on man

Julia Ann "Dolly" Daneker Haupt, 1986

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