Imagine you’re heading to a campsite to hang out with your friends for the weekend. On the drive you hear “Hey Jude” by the Beatles and “You Can’t Always Get What You Want” by the Rolling Stones on the radio.
Later, sitting around the campfire, munching s’mores and sipping beers, you start strumming your guitar and humming “Hey Jude… you can’t always get what you want…” mashing the two songs together.
Everyone laughs and gets into the spirit. Soon it becomes the “meme” of the campout.
The next morning everyone is still singing and joking around with it. When Ben complains that the breakfast coffee is thin and watery, Hannah sings, “Heyyyyy Ben…you can’t…always get…what you wa–ant.”
Later you decide to record this “mash up” and put it on TikTok. It goes viral. One hundred thousand plays. Then other people start making parodies and duets and it goes around the world.
Guess what… your silly mashup song is like a virus, and not just in the obvious way of “going viral.”
Here’s what I mean…
If you ask most virologists if a virus laying on a kitchen table is alive, they will reply NO. Why isn’t it alive? Because it just sits there. It could stay there for a thousand years and not move. It doesn’t reproduce, it doesn’t consume resources, and it doesn’t excrete waste. It’s just an assemblage of genetic material in an encapsulation of proteins.
But once a virus is in somebody, is it alive? Yes… we certainly treat it as living. The experience of the past three years should make that obvious to anyone.
Back to music. If you have a CD with “Hey Jude” on it, is the song alive?
The CD is not alive.
The speaker playing the song is not alive.
The song is just a collection of vibrations coming from your speakers.
But once the song gets inside your head, does it become alive?
Yes. It makes you dance or cry. It transforms your mood. It mixes around in your brain with all the other thoughts in there. They change it. It changes them. It changes you. It changes culture. It changes conversations. It alters relationships. It attracts people to concerts.
It is alive. When a song is written about something, we say it has been immortalized. As Carl Jung said, “People don’t possess ideas. Ideas possess people.”
And… who wrote that mash up medley of “Hey Jude/You Can’t Always Get What You Want”?
Did the song “Hey Jude” write it?
Did the song “You Can’t Always Get What You Want” write it?
Of course not. You did. And what did you do? You took parts of two “viruses,” mixed them together, made a new virus and infected the world with it. Something not alive entered you, then became alive; it changed you and you changed it.
Stay tuned for Part 2.
And click here to read my recently published peer-reviewed paper on this fascinating subject.
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