The Unified Field (of Culture) Theory

A point of departure for a foray into the Unified Field of Culture Theory could be this: One cannot forsake a single aspect of a cultural system without at least subtly forsaking everything else within that system. In other words, no single element is entirely independent of the rest. In fact, there is no “single” element. To systematically banish something as seemingly innocuous as socks from your life will eventually call all of Western civilization into question, one blister at a time. If you’d like to test this, you can, of course, obtain faster results by removing other things. Try to avoid clocks for a day, and note how you feel. Remove all music from your life, and watch the landmarks of your existence shift position. Remove all hints of science from your writing, and see what you have left.

Of course, there are smaller scale ways to practice this awareness of cultural unity. When you go to a restaurant, notice how the quality and presentation of the food resembles the quality and presentation of the décor. I can just about guarantee that if there are price tags hanging from the art, the same attention has been given to the food; price and cost will have been the primary concern, with the culinary art serving as proprietary camouflage tossed over the underlying profit motive… with perhaps little more than the foundation of all Western civilization underlying that.

Though I have been calling this “The Unified Field of Culture Theory,” it’s fun and edifying to try to identify where the boundary between culture and nature exactly lies, in relation to the theory. Attempting to trace the influences on something as seemingly source specific as, say, higher rates of alcoholism in the upper Midwest, will lead you to points as divergent as seasonal weather patterns, ethnic immigration patterns, genetics, economics, and ingrained collective attitudes. But then, as you look more closely, they look less like divergent points than like points on the same line. They start seeming perfectly predictably coherent, the weather and geography of the region as closely linked to the homesick psychologies of immigrants as they are to the economies of natural resource extraction, and so the unified field seems to expand, to encompass realms generally considered outside the jurisdiction of culture. Perhaps this is another way of saying what I have said in an earlier post, that there is indeed wilderness in a coffee cup.

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