A person is an ecosystem of moods

A reading note on “Convergence in Chorus Architecture,” by Dare Segun Falowo

“Convergence in Chorus Architecture” (a novelette in Dominion: An Anthology of Speculative Fiction From Africa and the African Diaspora) by Dare Segun Falowo is currently my favourite work of African speculative fiction.

Trust me when I say that this story defies description, but here is the best summary I can provide: one day, a village is kidnapped and sent very, very far away. A youth named Akanbi attempts to save them.

Obatala’s hand came down and touched Akanbi’s cheek. Akanbi looked into the orisha’s face and saw himself. He saw himself on a coal-black eshinemi, galloping across a sky full of stars, streaking the air gold.

…The orisha’s fingers on his cheek had put him into a stillness that unmoored him. He felt himself possible again.

“He felt himself possible again.” I keep returning to this.

This is an incredible way to describe the feeling when despair lessens its grip on you.

To feel oneself possible again.

The implication here is that you are more verb than noun. Not a static thing, but an event (?), an unfolding series of possibilities and potentials. That who you are at any moment is like a polaroid snapshot of a thing unfurling over time.

I can’t stop thinking about this. There is something deeply loving and ennobling about this.

I am possible.

Possible again.

Something about the words reminds you that at one point you were an idea between two people that was, quite literally, conceived. You were a space of pure possibility. And while you might have lost your way a bit, that potential never left you.

“He felt himself possible again” also puts you in mind of related expressions which, if you consider them a moment, are actually a little strange.

To gather oneself.

To pick oneself back up.

To hold yourself together.

To put oneself back together.

Here again, this idea that you are never one thing, you are…an ecosystem of minds (I meant to type ecosystem of moods) / a loose constellation of “you-objects” that sometimes get away from You, that you must sometimes “gather” again into a shape that can act. If you fail to perform this act of accretion You quite literally “fall apart.”

From What Is an Individual? Biology Seeks Clues in Information Theory:

When it comes to defining biological individuals, we tend to rely on what we can observe and measure. Cells are bounded by membranes, animals by their skin; we can sequence DNA and demarcate genes in those sequences. Above all, our definitions privilege the organism and the characteristics associated with it: an entity that’s physically separated from its environment, that has DNA and can replicate, that is subject to natural selection.

But that is not the only way to view living things — nor is it always the best way.
…At the core of that working definition was the idea that an individual should not be considered in spatial terms but in temporal ones: as something that persists stably but dynamically through time. “It’s a different way of thinking about individuals,” said Mitchell, who was not involved in the work. “As kind of a verb, instead of a noun.”
…Krakauer and Flack, in collaboration with colleagues such as Nihat Ay of the Max Planck Institute for Mathematics in the Sciences, realized that they’d need to turn to information theory to formalize their principle of the individual “as kind of a verb.” To them, an individual was an aggregate that “preserved a measure of temporal integrity,” propagating a close-to-maximal amount of information forward in time.

A new nodes from my Roam on the idea of people as an ecosystem of moods.

If you’re looking to read an example of Dare Segun Falowo’s work, I enjoyed this short story on his blog. This long interview with Strange Horizons is also a good introduction to him.

(If you enjoy my writing and want to support my personal research projects, the best way is to buy me a book!)