Shared Weltanschauung?


Bubbles are beautiful. They reflect light, yet you can see through them. They are colorful and also translucent. They are created and contained by the pressure of the air and maintained by the strength of the structure of itself. The physical science of the bubble is that “it is the shape that minimizes ​the surface area of the structure, which makes it the shape that requires the least energy to achieve.” Scientifically, its beauty lies in the economy of its geometry. And then, it pops as fast as it was made and ceases to exist.

Once that structure *pops* one can always make a new bubble with soap, water, and a ring which gives you enough time to blow or pull some air through. The sight of a sphere or form floating, contained, yet free and angelic in its lightness, speaks to us from childhood and into adulthood as somehow connected to our own lives – as if we were also spherical in our being somehow. Maybe we see a reflection of the blue marble we live upon, the eyes in our heads, perhaps, in the very conception of ourselves in the sphere of the womb.

The above frame grab from Honey We Shrunk Ourselves (1997, Dir. Dean Cundey) presents an entirely different take on the bubble – that within the bubble is a horrifying containment. If one were to imagine sharing a single bubble with another being, you’d probably feel like the characters from that unfortunate straight-to-video film. You’d be sure that your existence together would last so briefly before the inevitable pop. You’d live in fear of each other’s movements, of each other’s voices, of each other’s slightest miscalculations, knowing that the structure that contains you both cannot by its very nature last long. You’d be hoping beyond hope that by the hand of Providence (forgive me this anachronism) your lives would be spared and you’d never have to share another moment like that with someone again. The film was a comedy but the situation isn’t funny.

This prolonged parable about you-and-the-bubble-from-the-outside being so dissimilar from us-and-the-bubble-from-the-inside is an attempt to visualize more completely an observation about differing world-views between oneself and others. While we can admire, lawfully explain, or observe other world-views, we don’t share our own Weltanschauung (Ger. “overall philosophy of life or worldview”) without running the risk of popping theirs. When we are fast becoming adults, first beginning to form a worldview, the risk and hazard that comes with searching for one is a necessity for our lives and its growth. We first seek in others what we wish for ourselves, usually by imitation. This feeds a strange void of dialogue between generations, political affiliations, religious dogmas, and ways of living because of the risk of difference when imitation ends and our own worldview develops. Regardless, we require challenges to keep from falling back into the hypnotic sleep which seems to blanket the planet, to become a little more awake and conscious of our behaviors and actions, and to maintain our worldview when we find ourselves in it. When it becomes our world, we define ourselves by it and with the others who inhabit it.

When we do share the same worldview with someone else, when we find ourselves in the bubble we’ve been admiring and seeking to experience, an alarming expectation arises: to continue to have consistent and reliable behaviors and reactions in order to keep one’s new bubble from popping. The tension which maintains the surface area of a shared worldview is also a tension which maintains the limits of its horizon. You can’t challenge the horizon – you accept its limitations, or, *pop* – it disappears. It becomes better to respond in-kind and make certain to yourself and to others which side of the bubble you’re on. Otherwise, argument, dissent, division – *pop*.

This parable is much too simplified and falls far short of the kind of synthesis of philosophical history/history of ideas which Peter Sloterdijk’s Spheres volumes addresses (one review at Huenemanniac). This brief parable-essay is trying to reach for something that keeps eluding this mind when thoughts are stretched over a topic or issue. My concern (to be transparent) is with the incompatibility of differing world-views as well as the difficulty of sharing a worldview with another. As a nation, it does not seem to me to be true that the facts of an event or person are anchored in the material knowns of the world. The laws without are not the laws within – that takes an extra step, a kind of world-maintenance. We can’t make a beautiful and good worldview and expect that once a person inhabits it they will do everything they can to maintain it. We are constantly challenging our horizons. Look at the history of the assembly of the Space Station or the recently completed solo trek across Antarctica by Colin O’Brady. Bubbles pop and new ones are formed – we ought to take comfort in this instead of fearing the inevitable loss of a structure that is only formed because it “requires the least energy to achieve.” A worldview that demands to be maintained neglects the fact that there are other bubbles, and other worlds, each with their singular, unknown interiors. Some as big as a globe or as numerous as sea foam.

This piece of writing pops because it also tries to make a bubble, to encapsulate some kind of idea or opinion about Weltanschauung, using the metaphor of bubbles to represent a person’s or a collective people’s conception of “worldview.” It tries to be the stroller in Grandville’s “Ring of Saturn” (1844), bridging one world to the next and the next. It gives the impression of worldview as fragile when they are in fact much stronger and are filled with much more than air. The causes and concerns that are shared in a worldview are not to be taken lightly. History proves this to be true – people battle or judge, die or execute, over a worldview…but it seems that since we live in a period that some call post-historical or post-truth, that we ought not to fear popping more of our world-views. Taken further, we could be our own worldview, with no need to *pop*.


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