In defense of "rabbit holes"
My friends know that if they post something interesting to our group message, there's a good chance that I'll spend the next hour researching anything and everything about it, popping up later to flood the chat with a bunch of tangentially-related info. "Sorry, I fell down a rabbit hole," I usually say. Hopefully they don't decide to stop sharing interesting things, because I absolutely love this. I've (hopefully) gotten better at keeping my "rabbit hole" findings to my self (mostly). One of the reasons for my new "Friday Faves" is so I can share some of those weird knowledge detours.
Anyway, I wanted to talk about why a few interesting "rabbit hole" moments I've had recently, where something caught my eye or ear that ended up being weirdly related to something that I had recently learned.
First, last week's "Friday Fave" talked about the movements of the constellations and proper motion. One of the constellations called out in the article is the Pleiades:
The stars of some constellations are close together in space, and are gravitationally bound together, like the Pleiades. The Pleiades likely have been together, and will stay close together, for a few hundred million years. I think they are the oldest constellation.
I've definitely heard of the Pleiades before, but never truly studied it. Of course, I then went to the Wikipedia article to learn more about how the Pleiades is loosely bound by gravity. There's even a nifty animation of the proper motion of the constellation in the Wikipedia entry.
What I didn't expect, was to be in the shower, listening to the Red Hot Chili Peppers' song Can't Stop, which I've probably heard dozens of times by now, and the end of the last verse leaping out at me.
Your image in the dictionary
This life is more than ordinary
Can I get two, maybe even three of these?
Comin' from space to teach you of the Pleiades
Another common example is when you learn a new word, and then suddenly start noticing it everywhere — in books, articles and conversations. This is because your brain has deemed the word as important and is subconsciously looking for it.
Another example: I've been reading Magdalena Droste's Bauhaus. Early in the first chapter, as the groundwork for the founding of the school is described, the Wandervogel movement is described.
The young middle-classes organised themselves into the 'Wandervogel' movement. They discussed and practised vegetarianism, naturism and anti-alcoholism. Various agricultural communes and cooperatives were set up, albeit often soon to founder... Even [Walter] Gropius was to dream of his own 'estate' during the early years of the Bauhaus.1
According to Wikipedia, the Wandervogel was a youth group movement in Germany characterized by hiking in nature with musical instruments, reviving German folk songs, and emphasizing "freedom, self-responsibility, and the spirit of adventure". The Wandervogel does still exist in Germany today, as well as in Japan as a student club.
Over the weekend, I was browsing some of the works that came into the public domain this year on the Internet Archive. Scrolling through the article, I picked a book mostly at random, Lady Chatterley's Lover, despite the fact that romance novels really aren't my thing. I started the reading the first few pages on the Internet Archive, and early in the book, there's a detailed description of the main character's life as part of the Wandervogel.
They had been sent to Dresden at the age of fifteen, for music among other things... They lived freely among the students, they argued with the men over philosophical, sociological and artistic matters... And they tramped off into the forests with sturdy youths bearing guitars, twang-twang! They sang the Wandervogel songs, and they were free...2
This coincidence has helped me tie both things to the same time period. In my mind, Lady Chatterley's Lover seems much older than the Bauhaus, but knowing where both take place in relation to World War I helps me realize that these are contemporaries, and reading both will help me get a better sense of that time period (although I probably won't continue reading the novel).
Whether these are actually examples of the frequency illusion or something else, I absolutely love the mental ping of connecting seemingly unrelated topics. Having a background in the arts, it's fascinating to me when I can make connections between science and the arts. It's fueled an interest in Big History, which is the study of history from a multidisciplinary perspective. Big History might end up being one of my biggest rabbit hole creators, as it gives a broad overview of history that can facilitate deep dives into different topics. Hopefully I'll be able to talk more about Big History as I keep reading and learning more.
- Droste, Magdalena (2019). bauhaus. TASCHEN, (pp 22)
- Lawrence, D.H. (1928). Lady Chatterley's Lover. International Collectors Library, (pp 2-3). Retrieved from Internet Archive website: https://archive.org/details/ladychatterleysl0000unse_b7x0