The Critical Mass of Story

Yesterday, a writer friend and I were discussing critical mass. At what point do we discover a lack of critical mass? Can we find our creative meaning without it? Is critical mass necessary to our own wellbeing and that of our endeavors? Can progress be realized without it?

In my mind, there is a correlation between being in tribe and the social dynamic of critical mass. We often imagine tribalism as backward, primitive, and even heathenish. And yet, we seek tribe. We seek community of belief and thought. We seek the social dynamic that compels us to participate in the rise of creative passion. We are lost without the sense of connection that gives us meaning. Without meaning, we become lost to wander and suffer.

Yet, it is our very sense of community and impending critical mass that pushes progress. Progress is the evolutionary crush forward –the leap into a better future.

All unifying theories and principles contain the seeds of their own demise. Yet, the very premise of critical mass maintains that enough adopters of an innovation in a social system means that the rate of adoption becomes self-sustaining. There are competing ideas here, but those same inconsistencies exist in nuclear physics from which the concept of critical mass was borrowed.

Critical mass is the smallest mass of fissionable material that will maintain a nuclear chain reaction. But, it is also the amount of mass needed to generate enough gravitational force to halt the expansion of the universe. It is both what is needed to begin and what is needed to end.

We live in a world of competing meanings. Duality defines our existence. We are equally defined by what we believe in as what we resist.

Language mediates the chaos and story helps us navigate the perils of social systems.

 

 

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