Diseases, feelings, ideas, attitudes ~ these can all spread through populations and ‘infect’ others. We’re already way too familiar with the COVID19 virus and how easy it is to become infected by it. Everyone on the planet – just about – is walking around with a mask on. But feelings? Ideas? Attitudes? These things can be contagious too? YES. They spread by word of mouth.
Last night, I happened to discover that one of my favorite movies was on TV – 2001: A Space Odyssey. I’ve always loved this film. I had forgotten how wild and freaky the worm hole is that Dave Bowman travels through at the end of the film. It’s a freaking trip – without the LSD. And it goes on and on and on like the Energizer Bunny. I don’t know if I’d have come out of that experience on the upside of okay, but he did – so it’s all good.
I learned something very interesting when the movie was over. The same network aired an interview between a couple of men I’ve never heard of. The man being interviewed was/is some Hollywood writer and director. He seemed to know all about this movie and the effects it had on the population. What he mentioned is that at first not many people cared for the movie. It was not, by any means, a blockbuster hit. And Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer was about to pull it from theatres across America when some Podunk theater somewhere in the United States (I forget now) said “Wait a minute. Something’s happening.”
It turns out that this theatre was in a college town and the college students were telling their friends to see the movie on acid – not because the movie was so brilliant, but because that worm hole that Dave travels through was literally a mind freak. I can only imagine watching that scene while on LSD. And folks started telling other folks about that scene and the news spread. People were going to the movie – on LSD – just because of that one scene and sales began to skyrocket. Keep in mind that the movie was released in 1968. Acid was a big deal then. The movie’s popularity rose and spread until, eventually, people were discussing the movie and that scene whether they’d seen it or not. They’d “heard” about it.
That sort of passing of information can be compared to how a virus spreads. The behavior here is identical. It starts off somewhere seemingly insignificant and through human interaction – it takes off like a rocket. This all brings to mind the idea that many of us feel like we’re so alone and sort of stuck inside our bodies, unable to share anything with anyone except through communication. But there are so many ways to communicate. And that’s all it takes, communication in one form or another, because we humans also have the capacity to empathize. Humans are just fascinating.
Malcom Gladwell pointed out this very process, of how and which things spread, in his book The Tipping Point. It’s very readable and I highly recommend it.