A story about emergence by Matthew Jarvis
In 2005 I was very lucky. I was able to travel to Barcelona in the summer for the Sonar festival. The festival is a four-day music festival that doesn’t stop day or night. I was sent as part of my job as a media lab director, investigating the art work which was on display and meeting the artists behind the work. I told my UK based mates I was going and, suddenly there was a wave of interest. I booked an apartment which held a few of us, but as I counted there were 28 people who had come from my home town of Sheffield. Word had spread, as there we were, all together dancing and nattering day and night.
At one point a small group of us split from the main group early in the morning after being up all night and we were laying by the docks discussing life and loves, an hour or so after the sun rose above us. We were all staring at the skies. One of the renegade collective started talking about how she could make out some forms in the skies from the clouds, in fact she mentioned she could see homosexuals making love! So we all looked, and it was so- up there in the skies there was a formation of cloud which looked like an art work by Tom of Finland or a shape of one of Robert Mapplethorpe’s photos.
Another friend pointed out another formulation, this one was more like a cartoon dwarf playing or dancing upon a large-breasted woman. I was lying there, and it started. Where ever I looked in the sky I could see sex! It was an image of the biggest orgy I could imagine, going long on into the horizon! It reminded my of those ‘magic-eye’ pictures, if you stare long enough you might see something, but this was different. This was induced by one friend building a particular theme or rule.
As we regrouped with the rest of the posse to enjoy more of the entertainment, we shared what had happened to us. It was a hot sunny day, however there were many disparate clouds in the sky. Our friends one by one and at different times, as they heard the story spent some time looking up to the clouds. I had expected them to see the same things, but they each came up with another story. They saw tractors, windmills, horses, houses, even what one said was god. Nothing as exciting as the ‘cloud-porn’ we had shared earlier in the day.
It was strange, it seemed to me that in a small group we shared our vision together, yet as a larger group we all saw completely individual stories. This was my first real memory of my encounter with emergence. One theme, a lot of random vapour and some sun burn, we all saw the same thing. However when this collective group gets bigger, we didn’t manage to share our visions, even though the rule and the subject are the same- the environment and our observations had changed.
Next time you are relaxing outdoors, wear some sun screen and take some time to watch the skies. Let your imagination run wild, you’ll be surprised at what emerges to you. It’s nice to share it, it can show how close you are with your friends and if you are on the same level. You never know what might come up with. Just be careful what you tell your psychologist.