Be wise. Be brave. Be tricky. (slithytove) wrote,
Be wise. Be brave. Be tricky.
slithytove

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Unique human activities

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<html> <head> <meta http-equiv="Content-Type" content="text/html; charset=windows-1252"> <meta name="GENERATOR" content="Microsoft FrontPage 4.0"> <meta name="ProgId" content="FrontPage.Editor.Document"> <title>miscellanea</title> </head> <body> <p><font = "Times New Roman" size = "3">I</font><font = "Times New Roman" size = "2">T'S</font> been said that there are only N unique plots in all literature, with disagreement on values for 'N'. <i>The Thirty-Six Dramatic Situations</i>, by Georges Polti, claims its title number. I've also heard '8', or '12'. Maybe it depends on whether you're a lumper or a splitter.</p> <p>I was wondering, could you reduce all human activities to a similarly small number, with many, many combinations and variations? What would the names for those activities be? To be on this list, an activity must have some unique quality, that is not just the sum of other activities on the list.</p> <p>Here's my list so far (in no particular order):</p> <ol> <li>Learning</li> <li>Working (productive activity that requires effort, but is done out of necessity rather than for enjoyment)</li> <li>Playing (may require effort, but done for enjoyment, not out of necessity)</li> <li>Conflict</li> <li>Taking pleasure for pleasure's sake (sex, <a href="http://www.outdoorjapan.com/section-onsen.html">onsen bathing</a>, passive enjoyment of art, film, music, etc.)</li> <li>In-group dynamics</li> <li>Creating</li> <li>Inactivity (sleep, rest, recovery from illness, etc.)</li> <li>Suffering (enduring pain of any kind, physical or emotional)</li> <li>Status-seeking activity</li> <li>Bodily functions driven by necessity rather than desire (urination, defecation, eating, breathing, etc. Doesn't include sex, which is not, strictly speaking, necessary to the individual, although there are times that it feels like it is.)</li> </ol> <p>Comments:</p> <p>People who 'work' may also 'create', but they don't have to. There seems to me to be a strong human urge to 'create' even things that are objectively useless, i.e., 'art'. That is, the act of creation is important, even if it serves no immediate necessary end. It's a fundamental human drive. I tried putting 'destruction' on the list, but I couldn't think of any destructive activities that weren't actually part of work, play, conflict, or other list members.</p> <p>'Learning' may involve 'work', but its aim is not immediate needs, but more general, longer term goals, or even just for its own sake.&nbsp;</p> <p>Play sometimes involves physical pleasure, but it doesn't need to. I think play is chiefly an intellectual or emotional need. Sex is sometimes described as play, but it's somehow fundamentally different from, say, snowboarding or RPG's. And there's very little 'play' in eating dinner. Beyond the age of 6, that is.</p> <p>There also seems to be an inescapable need for 'in-group dynamics'. It's been said that 70% of human conversation is <i>gossip</i>. It's been postulated that the reason for this is that gossip is the human equivalent of the grooming behavior of chimps and other apes. It somehow generates and maintains in-group bonds, which help maintain stable societies. Like 'creating' and 'learning' and 'playing', I think it's a fundamental human need.</p> <p>'Conflict' seems to be a essential part of human existence. Some people like it, most people don't, but we all seem to be drawn into conflict of one kind or another fairly frequently, and we are intensely interested in it. Proof of this is that it's an essential part of all the performing arts. No conflict, no plot. If your film or play is about human beings, it has to have conflict in it, of some sort. Individual sports (skiing, rockclimbing) may be 'play', but all team sports are ritualized conflict.</p> <p>Yes, I think 'status-seeking activity' may be as fundamental a human activity as 'play' or 'work'. Sometimes it involves conflict, sometimes it does not. The sports star surely plays well partly because he enjoys the game, but is probably also concerned whether he'll make the all-stars. This is related to 'in-group dynamics' but is not identical to it.</p> <p>I've been playing with these ideas for a day or so. It may just a useless exercise in lumping and splitting. I'm not sure it's not entirely arbitrary, an attempt to impose order on the realities of human behavior and human existence which are not ordered in this way at all. But I thought I'd throw it out and see if anyone else has any comments. </p> </body> </html>
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