Distillation

The experience itself has a small value, providing tidbits to recall later context for other experiences.

But raw experience cannot be shared effectively – the realtime essence of another consumes and overwhelms the viewer, requiring complete attention and subsumption into the experience of the other.

So there is value in compressing the experience for digestion by others and truthfully most of the real-time is low bandwidth.

One can have several different takes on this.

One is to focus on making the realtime higher bandwidth, to have more vigorous adventures, to have deeper and more moving moments and interactions, to be – in a sense – living a movie.

But this is too much for many.

Another is to consume compressed experiences, to read and listen to stories and process the concentrated essence of the lives of others.

Another option is to accept the low bandwidth nature of life.

Finally, a Zen option is to see that which already exists with in life and pay more attention to it, to perceive it in higher bandwidth.

Author: dweekly

I like to start things. :)

2 thoughts on “Distillation”

  1. Your Zen option, as it appears to me, is the perspective of the artist, one who observes the world around them with the greatest sensitivity possible. An artist, be they a painter or a poet, devotes observational energy towards a “high bandwidth” level of detail – recreating that texture, that emotion, that fine weaving of tropes. They see the world and experience a world in such a way that they may retain it in mind and can recreate it for another. So too does the philosopher and the writer for whom high bandwidth is not a luxury, but rather a requirement; a necessary application of their mind’s natural predilections. This can take on a movie-like quality as a wide variety of senses and interpretations combine to store ideas in a vibrant capacity.

    If you are, in your post, referring to the difficulty of distilling your experiences for use in a lecture, writing or other collection of observations for public consumption, I could respond with an entirely different line of commentary. To extend this idea of distilling your life, pursuing the high bandwidth experience, and sharing it with great friends is of particular interest to me at this moment. Finding others with whom this level of sharing are possible requires a compatibility of bandwidth, rather than of opinion (not that you suggest anything of the sort), in addition to communicative abilities to make this possible.

    While your commentary concerns itself mostly with experience, your post reminds me of Cicero, “On Friendship” in which he recounts his missing tact in criticizing Atticus’ epicurian philosophy, but that there was a sense that time, writing and the shared requirement of both being “good, virtuous men” was held in common. This, in addition to a long set of definitions, was necessary to any high quality interaction, as between good friends. A high bandwidth level of engagement with the world, the moving moments and interactions, exist within a high level political life and between friends. It is in this spirit that I extend your post from experience to augmenting another’s experience of life through sharing and debate.

    As Cicero paraphrases Laelus: “The amicable comparison and collision of thought and sentiment are certainly consistent with, and often conducive to the most friendly intimacy Friends are not infrequently the complements, rather than the likeness, of each other Cicero and Atticus were as close friends as Scipio and Laelius; but they were at many points exceedingly unlike.”

    High bandwidth requires work, but most things that are easy are also least valuable. Passive entertainment, where the subsumption of the viewer is intentional is often extended to men and women I meet who intend to dazzle with their expertise, who tip the inequality such that complementary debate is impossible. Where there is an inequality, one will subsume the other or both will settle for a low bandwidth level of interaction. These interactions are common and miss a great set of opportunities to learn and grow.

    It is my experience that most will settle for a low bandwidth level of experience and interaction if they are unaware that they could have more. It is hard for me to understand an acceptance of this as if the richness and vibrancy of higher bandwidth is assumed to be unavailable to them. As such I meet a lot of people who talk often of humility, of respecting one’s roots, trying not to offend, and not taking too many risks. I can only surmise, after asking many about this subject, that doing more would involve too much risk or talking about more would tempt impoliteness, or dare I say it, too much intimacy. The agreed upon low-bandwidth option is to focus on facts, details and professional or technical matters.

    If anything does the subsuming, low bandwidth technologies seem to make it easier and easier to remove risk. Risk involves putting long answers up to scrutiny, achieving intimacy with a stranger, saying something that someone may correct or spending time that could be devoted to one’s individual pursuits instead. Small pieces of information are easy to digest, share and may launch another on their own path of discovery; i.e. a good url. This removes, however, the difficult and time consuming joy of holding one’s ideas up to test, augmentation and, especially, humor. Small pieces of information can only accomplish small comparisons, i.e. short quips or unchased topics at a party. The rest is up to the individual, so the process of great sharing is lost and consequently, is all the more valuable when it is attained. These small pieces allow the individual to remain, sometimes lazily and selfishly, in their own heads, missing the opportunity of more.

    I would be interested to know how most of the real-time, as you say, can be low bandwidth, unless it is constantly divided up into small pieces. This is all the more common these days, and I often feel I am, with a few exceptions, fighting it singularly. I am often too reserved in person, self-moderating a mind flowing over with a high-bandwidth movie-like set of experiences. I try to fight this as best I can. It is better to release it in a fluid, balanced exchange so it may be augmented and tested. Again, this is too much for many, but those who learn of it often tell me they feel bettered by the experience. I know I am.

    On the whole I agree with you, though, that cultivating refinement in perception – to see more and experience more will give you a rich (high bandwidth) engagement with the world. Take this launching pad of a perspective and find it in others. No doubt you already do. Take this as encouragement that this is central to achieving the best of life’s possible experiences, those which are often truly transcendent.

    Distillation, while it may seem like a favor for others, it is a convenience with associated drawbacks. Many need encouragement, a safe place to say more, and people with this level of sensitivity are rare and should be encouraged wherever possible.

  2. Lauren,

    Thanks for the thoughtful response!

    In my opinion the artist does not recreate absolutely everything with complete fidelity. That would be as uninteresting as HD reality television. Instead, the artist notices things that we wouldn’t, recasts the scene from a perspective of what matters, and lets us see the world through new eyes. It is a voyage into the other mind that is exciting, not the differing collections of facts that they have received. In other words, we don’t want to see Paris through our own eyes – that is easily enough done – we want to see it as an Algerian prostitute sees it, or as a Senegalese seeking asylum. What do they see that we do not and how do they understand it differently? Can that inform our own perceptions of what’s going on?

    So it’s the distillation of this difference in what is being experienced and *how* the data is being digested that lies at the core of art (and, perhaps, science).

    It’s possible we mean different things by “high bandwidth” – in the sense that I meant it it’s “transmitting without filtering”, but I could see it being read as “having high signal-to-noise ratio”. Communicating intensely is a good thing. Communicating without filtering is (definitionally) a thoughtless act. The retina does not pass all signals pertaining to light back to the brain; in fact, the vast majority of information impingent on our eyes is immediately discarded. It is this act of picking out the important bits that makes our eyes helpful organs. Unprocessed, we’d be unable to effectively see or respond to sight as there’d just be too much information to sort through and make sense of.

    So I’d very much like to encourage those that see more and especially those that see differently to express themselves – and by focusing on the difference and distilling the essence of their experience it can be better and more widely understood.

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