Consciousness imbues the mundane with the miraculous. Take rock and roll wrestling.
I was struck today, while watching rock and roll wrestling, that one of the boons of consciousness is the capacity to impart depth and meaning to activities that are intrinsically meaningless. The principle way we do this is through the stories we tell ourselves about the world around us.
Narrative is one critical form of human thinking failure (link to past post). But is also a source of meaning in life.
In the book, Flow: the psychology of optimal experience, psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, describes a series of studies in which people experience extreme hardship and transform their lives rather than have them crushed and destroyed by the experience.
The examples of people with extreme handicaps were collected by Professor Fausto Massimini of the psychology department of the University of Milan. One study found that paraplegics, generally young people who lost the use of their limbs as a result of an accident, described the experience as both the most negative and most positive experience of their life. For instance:
Lucio, one of the members of this group, was a twenty-year-old happy-go-lucky gas station attendant when a motorcycle accident paralysed him below the waist. He had previously liked playing rugby and listening to music, but basically he remembers his life as purposeless and uneventful…Upon recovery from the tragedy he enrolled in college, graduated in languages, and now works as a freelance tax consultant. Both study and work are intense sources of flow; so are fishing and shooting with a bow and arrow. He is currently a regional archery champion – competing from a wheelchair.
(This example is cited from Flow, page 194). In the same pages, Csikszentmihalyi describes how people can transform negative events :
The integrity of the self depends on the ability to take neutral or destructive events and turn them into positive ones. Getting fired could be a godsend, if one took the opportunity to find something else to do that was more in tune with one’s desires.
It is not the event, but the interpretation of the event that determines whether it is good or bad. The story we tell ourselves.
Now, back to rock and roll wrestling.
Wrestlemania (and I am sure you already know) has been described by its supporters as the grandest stage on earth. When I watched it for the first time today, I was struck by how vivid the characters are, how extreme they are, and how they create tension and excitement in what is so clearly a staged event. Awesome.
I dug around the inter-webs and found this write up that highlights the narrative tension of the spectacle. Melanie, the Editor in Chief of this site, wrote the following describing a regular week in Wrestlemania:
With all of the Divas now in the ring, it’s time to get this bad boy started as former BFFs, Eve and Kelly face off first. The two Divas lock up as Eve takes early control, backing K2 into the ropes and kneeing her in the midsection. Eve whips Kelly into the ropes but Kelly slides through her legs and manages to flip Eve onto her back using her arms. Nice move! Kelly follows up with a hurricanrana and a pin attempt but Eve kicks out.
Eve comes back firing with shots to Kelly and whips her into the corner as the crowd chants “Hoeski”. Eve misses a clothesline in the corner and Kelly takes advantage, smashing Eve’s head into the turnbuckle several times. Kelly riles up the crowd now for her patented handspring elbow but Eve wisely holds up her knees, driving them into K2′s back. Eve goes up top for a moonsault but Kelly manages to get to her feet and cuts Eve off, knocking her down to the mat. Kelly tags in Maria and the pair hit a double stinkface on Eve. Maria then realises why she shouldn’t have worn white, as Eve’s make-up leaves a questionable stain on the butt area of her pants.
As the referee restores order by seeing Kelly back to her corner, Beth hits Maria with a cheap shot, kicking her in her injured ribs. Eve has the advantage now, laying into an injured Maria. As Eve distracts the referee, Beth again hits a cheap shot on Maria. Eve then applies a nice body-scissors, applying pressure to Maria’s injured ribs. The crowd, however, is still not happy about the way the opening contest ended, chanting, “Daniel Bryan” and “YES! YES! YES!”
The review continues in a similar vein for quite a while. A couple of things to note:
- There is such a thing as a moonsault, stinkface, and a ‘booty pop standing moonsault.’
- There are referees involved in this. Although it appears they only have a limited level of involvement.
- This was a pay per view event. Presumably people actually paid to view the event. It really does take all sorts.
Without the capacity to transform the menial into the sublime, humans would be little more than earthworms. Creatures with no purpose but to transform the fruits of the earth through our beings and return them, little changed. Taking the dross that is our life and making meaning from it may be no more than a mental affection, but it makes all the difference in the world.
Creating a meaningful narrative of your life is a sign of good mental health. Having said that, believing the narrative of rock and roll wrestling might negate that!