Saturday, May 15, 2010

Socializing as Trance State

Last night I was out at a small social event. Several of the people there I knew, most of them I didn't. And it struck me, hardly for the first time, how people socializing at such an event give the impression of verging on an altered state of consciousness.

Watch them socializing, talking, flirting, chatting, laughing. Look at how they seem to be beside themselves, as if channeling something or someone else. As if they're not quite present to themselves, taken out of themselves, almost in a state of ecstasy or (in the ancient Greek) ekstasis. Ekstasis: "to be or stand outside oneself, a removal to elsewhere."

Yeah, watch people socializing, and you may notice how they seem almost to be in a trance.

Same physical signs as a trance state: lips parted and full, eyes shining but vacant with heavy lids, skin flushed and ruddy, head held back at a characteristic tilt. Speech often more echoic than expressive, with a characteristic lilt and syllabic segmentation, repetitive, shuttling rapidly between languor and giddy near-hysteria. No, I'm not a physical anthropologist or anything. But if you know what to look for, the signs are plain as day.

I'm not entirely joking. Watch next time you're at a social event. See if the people around you, as they get more and more animated, seem to be kiting along almost in a trance state, as if they're not quite themselves, no longer standing with both feet firmly planted within ordinary consciousness.

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