Pack mentality

Today I am taking some stuff from one computer graphics program I’ve been writing and bringing it into another computer graphics program. My plan all along has been to put them together, but it was a lot easier to create them in separate pieces – each in its own workshop, at it were – and then assemble them together later.

The first program is a demo of how to get an interactive animated character to figure out where to place its feet when walking around in a virtual world. The second program is a demo of how those feet should actually move through the air between footsteps – how to lift a foot off the ground, land again, bend the toes, add more or less “spring” to the step, walk on tiptoe, and so on.

To do this I need to separate out the “demo part” of the code in the first program from the core stuff that does the actual work. By “demo part” I mean that part of the program responsible for displaying things on the screen in nice shapes and colors, as well as the sliders, buttons, and all the other widgets that let you play around with the program. Those parts of the code are important – like the the steering wheel and body and tires of your car – but I don’t really need to take anything with me except the engine and transmission.

It occurs to me, thinking about what I am doing, that essentially I am packing up for a trip. I need to figure out what is essential to take with me – what won’t already be available where I am going – and to avoid lugging around too much other stuff that’s hard to pack and that I can probably find anyway at my destination.

And so for the first time in my life I understand that the notion of “packing up stuff to take with you” is not really situated in the real physical world – that is just one example of where this notion shows up. Rather, it is situated in the mind – in our human brains. We create the concept of packing, because that’s the way our minds work, and then we impose this concept onto the physical world around us.

Things like wallets and duffel bags and toiletry cases are not primarily physical objects. Such things certainly exist in the physical world, but only because we have willed them into existence. Rather, they are primarily extensions of a way of thinking that is already there inside each individual human brain, and that is shared between all human brains.

Obviously we are not the only species that has such constructs in our brains. Squirrels and bees and dogs and countless other species share this proclivity for bundling stuff up and taking it from here to there. But we humans do it in a particularly elaborate and generative way, like everything we do.

And so, after writing this, I will continue my packing, preparing to take the eerily non-physical journey from one folder of my computer to another – between two of my little workshops, both of which just happen to be virtual. If distance is measured by the effort of travel – by how much you need to pack – one could say this is a somewhat longish journey, but far from the longest I have taken.

I am left with the thought that this mental pattern is probably found in a lot more places than we realize – in romantic relationships, literary discussions, business understandings and family ties. There are the various “places we live or visit” and the “stuff we need to pack up so we can take it with us”.

And now, back to work. I need to pack my toothbrush, but not my bathroom….

One Response to “Pack mentality”

  1. karlfr says:

    The working set. I’ve noticed this pattern in death, too. When someone dies, your mind doesn’t really accept it at first. Later, though, when you mentally “pack up their things”, that’s when it all comes crashing down.

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