Fugues

Bonding, for Better or Worse

Episode Summary

Why do we help strangers? And why do we love revenge stories so much?  The same thing that connects those questions connects us all - bonding. There’s an invisible line between groups of people - it can be a thin dotted line between acquaintances, a steel girder between mother and child, or a series of chain links between millions of people in the same country. In Part 2 of this series on fate and biology, we identify the brain chemical that plays a central role in how we bond, and explore why certain group behaviors are inevitable. 

Episode Notes

Written and produced by Gabriel Berezin.

Original music and sound design by Kirk Schoenherr and additional music by Grant Zubritsky.

Opening and closing music by Monuments - featuring Grant Zubritsky (bass), Robby Sinclair (drums) and Bryan Murray (saxophone), Gabriel Berezin (guitar).

Editorial assistance by Melissa "Monty" Montan.

Logo design by Justin Montan.

Follow Fugues on Twitter and Instagram.

Help us out - rate and comment on iTunes!

Further reading:

Episode Transcription

American life can be separated into two camps -  Mr Rogers or Sesame Street.

For me it’s two words : big bird. 

What character in Mr Rogers’ universe could possibly compete with Big Bird?

Also, did Mr Rogers ever have any catchy songs with legitimately good funk music, 

and totally psychedelic animation that makes counting to twelve,

feel like you’re at a Sly and the Family Stone concert?

No, he sang boring songs, with puppets whose mouths didn’t even move.

Plus, if I’m being honest, the way he spoke...it was creepy for me as a kid.

There I said it, I’m sorry...

But, and I feel like I”m not alone in this, as an adult, I’ve changed camps to Mr. Rogers.

I watched the recent documentary 

Won’t You Be My Neighbor, about his life and career,

 At Nitehawk Cinema in Brooklyn with my dad, and was offered an ultimatum numerous times:


Cry publicly 

or crap my pants trying not to.

By now, you’ve heard the following quote, it’s been memified and butchered a thousand times, but it sums up humanity’s best quality:

“My mother always used to say during any kind of catastrophe, "Look for the helpers. You will always find the helpers.”

Part 1 of this Fugues series on fate and biology was about the brain cocktail that takes the reigns during a conflict, and makes physical violence basically inevitable.

The star of Part 2, today’s episode, is a brain chemical that compels inevitable behaviors based on feelings of bonding.  

Most of us are motivated by a yearning to feel connection with other people.  Sometimes we do good things in service of this and sometimes, not so good.

So let’s start with the happy stuff:

helping strangers.

And if this is your first episode, when i refer to a fugue, 

it’s really the story of a moment, 

and one thing I do in this podcast is a post-fugue analysis, 

My co-host and I deconstruct what was happening in my brain and mind during the fugue, 

His very deep voice pipes in from time to time during other parts of the episode too.

So...that’s who that is.

So now that you know, let’s get to the first fugue of this episode, which is called:

“How Jesus Opens a Bag of Chips” 

--

During an otherwise forgettable day in early 2019, I was headed south on the G train towards Brooklyn Heights.

Like most frequent subway riders, anything happening around you becomes either:

live reality tv, 

or nothing, 

you just ignore it.  

teenagers doing stripper moves on subway poles -  

a white guy with dreads singing No Woman No Cry, but The Mumford & Sons version

Someone eating half a chicken, chucking chicken bones on the floor 

Or some asshole clipping their fingernails

I try to spend most of my subway time in the “ignore” camp, 

Smartphones make it easy to create a protective bubble around yourself,

I was reading something, while music was playing full blast in my ears. 

A few seats away, an older woman snapped me out of my phone fugue.

She had a bunch of Whole Foods grocery bags at her feet, 

and a bag of bougie potato chips in her hands.

But she was struggling to open them. 


So as I watched her make a few attempts without success, 

I weighed intervening.

I enjoy a good deed. 

But I wondered if it would be socially awkward to approach a stranger on the subway, with an unclear gesture.

Then I realized, 

who’s going to object to a random act of kindness? 

Plus there was something about her struggle that made it look like...a cry for help.

So I gave up my seat 

Walked towards her

and asked if I could offer some assistance

And she looked up at me, smiling, possibly relieved, 

and immediately handed them over without hesitation. 

I figured this would take a second, at best.

But the bag was made of some kind of flexible iron, 

And my face was turning reddish purple,

pulling at the seam with just about all of my strength.

I still had confidence I could do it with brute force, 

but worried that if I succeeded the chips would explode all over both of us. 

Plus there was the added pressure of an audience of onlookers now, so I had to get this right.

I paused the strong man strategy, 

examined the top of the bag, 

And found that tiny little seam, clearly indicating where to tear, 

And then, like magic, 

I opened them without effort

and handed them back to her.

There was a look of genuine appreciation in her eyes,

and then she immediately dug into the chips 

and offered me some.

[SUBWAY SOUNDS FADE OUT - TRIUMPHANT ETHEREAL SUPERMAN MUSIC FADES IN]

As she did…

 the fluorescent lights in the subway car dimmed, and a warm, sharply contoured golden light emanated from my chest and encircled my entire body, 

and then that light connected to her chest, 

and encircled her body, 

and we both levitated (her still eating her potato chips),

until our heads tapped the steel ceiling of the subway car.

And as our hands reached out to each other. 

I told her:

[SLOWLY WITH ABSURD REVERB] 

“No   thank you ma’am, please, enjoy your chips...I love you”

From the ceiling of the car I surveyed the faces of the onlookers for an eternal second,

And as I looked upon my fellow riders, 

they erupted in thunderous applause. 

Then I floated back to my seat,

wondering if this was how Jesus felt when HE 

[ETHEREAL MUSIC ENDS ABRUPTLY, NO MUSIC OR SOUND]

opened a bag of potato chips for the less fortunate. 

[NBA JAMS PFA MUSIC]

POST-FUGUES ANALYSIS

Gabe: Hello and welcome to this episode’s first post-Fugue  analysis, I’m your host, Gabriel Berezin

IV: and I’m Gabe’s inner voice, but with less hubris

Gabe: What’s that supposed to mean?

IV: For the last time, you’re not Jesus Christ.

Gabe: Well, thanks for keeping me honest. 

So we talked about some of the brain’s mood chemicals Part 1, is the same stuff at play during my chip-bag-opening, holy moment?

IV: not quite, that joy you experienced came from oxytocin. 

Gabe: the super addictive pain medication?

IV: no, the super addictive bonding chemical. You’re thinking of OxyContin. 

Gabe: oh. oxyTOCIN. 

IV: Yeah, this is the mood chemical released during any kind of bonding. 

[SUSTAINED SYNTH BLISS]

Gabe: So it’s active for people in love, or...making love?

IV: stop it

Gabe: Makin...whoopee...

IV: I’m ignoring you, It’s not oxytocin alone, on the rocks. Depending on the context, it’s a specific cocktail.

Gabe: what else?

IV: for your fugue just now, it’s oxytocin for bonding and dopamine for reward. Can’t beat that drink.

Gabe: (to bartender) Garcon, one please,

 Oh and make that two for me and   my imaginary friend.

IV: oh my god, stop

Gabe I’ve read that oxytocin is released during childbirth and breastfeeding too. 

Is that true?

IV: yup. First and strongest bond of your life.

Gabe: (sips straw) so why did  I get an oxytocin rush? 

I opened a bag of chips, i didn’t breastfeed the lady.

IV: (exasperated) - you know i see the same images you do when you say that stuff, right?

Gabe: sorry, sorry...

IV: oxytocin isn’t just released during contact between a mother and child, or between…

Gabe: lovers?

IV: (pained pause). It can come out just from reading a text from a loved one.

Gabe: so it’s another kind of high, courtesy of your natural brain chemicals.

IV: Yeah, it’s one of the best highs you can get, 

and it reinforces what the PHDs call prosocial behavior. 

Gabe: Fancy.  What’s that mean?

IV: It means behaving cooperatively, selflessly, 

Gabe: (clicks tongue on teeth, silently) aw...

IV: shaddup...it also means volunteering, sharing resources.

Gabe: So we really are driven to help people. 

IV: yeah, you sure seem to enjoy it you little kumbaya mother fucker.

Gabe: well I think it’s pretty common.

IV: yeah, i get why people chase it, it’s a long-lasting, warm glow.

Gabe: kind of nice to know that… good deeds can be as inevitable as the bad ones.

IV: yeah, i dunno, a lot of philosophers and scientists have speculated that it’s actually selfish in a way because really you’re just chasing that high you experienced.

Gabe: c’mon don’t ruin this for me. I mean, if that’s selfish-

IV: yeah, you could do a lot worse.

Gabe: so helping that woman created a bond.

IV: you temporarily made a team of two.

Gabe: and that’s where the oxytocin rush came from.

IV: yup.

Gabe: mmm (basking in warm glow still)

[MUSIC]

IV: i hate to burst your bubble, but it’s not all

(sings it) “won’t you be my neighbor” with this cocktail.

Gabe: . . . don’t ever stop singing by the way, but why not?

IV: go tell your next Fugue…

Gabe: (disappointed) Okay, stick around for Fugue number two.

IV: (singing) It’s a beautiful day in the neighborhood, a beautiful day for a neighbor..

[NBA JAMS PFA MUSIC]

INTERSTITIAL:

Howdy neighbor, usually Inner Voice does these little reminders, but he’s...kind of a dick.  We’re hoping to grow our audience for Fugues and the best way to do that is to run up the ratings and comments on iTunes.

If you’re still listening and enjoying this episode and felt compelled to...help, there’s a link the show notes that should make it pretty easy to rate and comment.  

Hopefully there’s a nice little  oxytocin rush in there for ya.

Okay, thanks for listening so far, back to the show...

--

Do you know why the city of Philadelphia greased their light posts with Crisco before  their football team played in the 2018 Superbowl?  

IV: aw come on more sports?

Gabe: just like part 1, no one needs any prior sports knowledge

IV: is this a sports podcast now?

Gabe: go away…

They didn’t know if the Eagles would beat the NE patriots

but they did know one thing for sure:

That if they did win, people would drink a ton,

and set things on fire.  

Get a bunch of people together, at night, all loving each other,

celebrating the same thing, 

high on dopamine, oxytocin and booze 

- someone has to attempt scaling a light post putting their own life and other lives,

in danger.

Because we seem to inevitably revel in destruction while we celebrate things.

[PAUSE]

So this episode’s second fugue speaks to the...Dark Side of the Bond. 

This one’s called “Revenge of the Minutemen”

-

[TEAM PUMP UP MUSIC - 

REF: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DnWt7_GMOM8

OR MORE LIKELY THE ANTS MARCHING SONG?]

When I was 15 years old, i was playing in a Massachusetts league soccer game - 

It was the snawbby Lexington kids vs South Boston, 

and we were on their turf.

For most of the game, my heart wasn’t really in it.

Every so often when i was a kid, i was haunted by a bit of nihilism during sports, 

Which was my inner voice’s fault:

IV: (defeated) what’s the point of all this? Who cares is if I kick this stupid ball? 

Then someone booted the ball way behind their defense

And an opportunity for a goal presented itself 

So I snapped out of my “nothing else matters” fugue,

And across 20 yards of green-brown grass,

I started sprinted towards the ball, 

But so did their remaining defender,

from the exact opposite direction.  

Funny thing when you’re 15, 

Running not only doesn’t hurt, it feels good

So we were really hauling ass at each other.

It would be a photo finish on who got there first,

And by a hair, i won, taking a desperation shot at the goal. 

I didn’t see if it was close to scoring 

because just as I kicked the ball, 

the southie kid kicked my ankle,

and broke it in two places.

There was so much pain i don’t actually remember it, 

But i rolled around, grasping my leg,

and screaming every swear I could think of,

While the Southie player, 

along with two of his teammates,

 stood over me 

and laughed.

That bit of taunting didn’t go over well with the guys on my team.

I was carried to the sidelines

Toughing it out, 

had the obligatory line of high fives 

as my team huddled around me for a minute or two, 

and then the game went on

Then I noticed. 

A few of the scrappier guys on my team,

sitting cross-legged, 

in a circle, 

shin pads and cleats on

pointing a finger at, 

and noting the jersey number of the Southie player who just broke my leg, 

and they built a revenge plan in the grass.

A few minutes later, 

I watched one of my guys chase that southie kid down and blatantly take him out and everyone went batshit crazy, 

like the little  Lord-of-the-Flies Massholes we were.

And I laced my fingers behind my head, 

as a warm, pain-killing glow of Lexington pride washed over me.

 --

Gabe: Welcome back to the post-Fugue analysis of this episode’s second fugue, “Revenge of the Minutemen,” I’m your host, Gabriel Berezin.

IV: And I’m Gabe’s disembodied inner voice.

Gabe: there’s some big mental phenomena at play here, but what’s your hot take, inner voicey?

IV: Well, Inigo Montoya, i see you enjoy revenge lust as much as the next guy.

Gabe: it wasn’t my revenge, I didn’t take the guy out!

IV: no but you cheered.

Gabe: yeah.

IV: hey, I’m not judging you, I cheered too.

Gabe: those southie guys didn’t exactly have remorse for what happened.

IV: No, didn’t seem that way.  It got me thinking back to your first fugue.

Gabe: my potato chips Come to Jesus story?

IV: yeah, that feeling you had with that lady, that “rainbow connection” that raised you off the ground or however you described it...

Gabe: oxytocin again, right?

IV: yup, same chemical. But this time oxytocin created a bigger invisible bond - between you, and all of the members of your soccer team.  

Gabe: more of a chain link between us all.

IV: sure.

Gabe: so that same “love chemical” binds whole teams together too.

IV: yeah, the academics call this in-group / out-group. 

Gabe: okay that sounds like a fancy way of saying “teams.”

IV: yeah, pretty much, it’s any group of people bonded by an idea, a geography, a belief, or a mission of some kind.

Gabe: thanks for making it less about sportsballs.

IV:  In lab settings, just a nasal spray of oxytocin will make people more trusting and cooperative with in-group members, and this tends to- 

Gabe: (self-satisfied) ooooo, nope.

IV: what?

Gabe: actually  that study’s been debunked, they couldn’t replicate the findings...

IV: well fuck me…that’s kinda messing with my confidence.

Gabe: well, now you know how I feel all the time.

IV: wow, i kinda get it now.

Gabe: good, maybe you’ll go...easier on me…? 

IV: doubt it. 

Gabe: yeah me too.

IV: so back to in group / out group. 

Gabe: I was just reminded of Football teams huddled in a circle, chanting and shouting before a game, or baseball players doing long choreographed high five rituals. 

IV: and don’t forget the pre-battle rally speeches.

Gabe: oh yeah, Braveheart

[they’ll never take our freedom, cheering]

IV: yeah.

Gabe: or Al Pacino’s speech in Any Given Sunday. 

“We’ll die as individuals”

IV: um hmm..

Gabe: orrrr...the rallying cry of Bill Pullman, as president of the united states, in “Independence Day.”

[Today is your independence day]

IV: The fictional players and soldiers in those movies and the viewers of those movies -    all flooded with oxytocin.

Gabe: making them high off the idea of “US”

IV:  “vs them.”

Gabe: Can’t have an “us” without “them.”

IV: nope. That invisible chain that links a team

is everyone’s shared experience of that oxytocin bonding high

Gabe: so that team bond is what compelled my guys to build a revenge plan. 

IV: Even if your teammates didn’t particularly like you-

Gabe: (defensive) they liked me.

IV: debatable, but even if they didn’t, 

retaliation was basically a foregone conclusion, 

especially given the severity of your injury.

Gabe: so it’s like that bonding high increases the likelihood of that bloodlust high in Part 1. 

(whispers) link to Part 1 in the the show notes

IV: yes. That high makes it far more likely to root for, carry out, and celebrate, bodily harm to other people .

Gabe: it’s almost like it stamps out your own morality. 

IV: for anyone outside your team, yeah, 

you can’t quite tell you’re doing something wrong, because it feels so good doing it.

Gabe: and most sports fans root for retaliation.

IV: yeah, it’s a twisted form of justice

Gabe: entertaining justice.

IV: for you it is.

Gabe: it totally is...we’ll be right back to talk about why we can’t help but identify enemies.

INTERSTITIAL

IV: Hey, Gabe’s Inner Voice here again, anyone looking for a cohost on a different podcast?

Gabe: Excuse me?

IV: nothing!  Got any podcast-loving friends looking for a weird new show that’s not about... murder, send em a link to Fugues, let em know what you think.

Thanks for listening and hit me up at fuguespod@gmail.com if you’re looking for a guest host 

(get me out of here)

K, bye for now!

--

Gabe: welcome back to the Fugues postgame, I’m your host, Gabriel Berezin

IV: And I’m your co-host, the guy that thinks sports are stupid and pointless.

Gabe: (pause) yeah…(faked) sports are dumb...

IV: shut up, you love sports...

Gabe: hey...don’t hate the player…

IV: hate the jerseys

Gabe: I don’t think that’s how the saying goes…

IV: no but the jerseys make the “us vs them” divisions impossible to ignore.

Gabe: We just can’t help throwing feces at each other can we.

IV: What?

Gabe: ya know monkeys throwing...nevermind.

IV: In their book The Power of Us, PHDs, Jay Van Bavel and Dominic Packer, spent some time exploring why paying close attention to the difference between your group and another group is a survival instinct.

Gabe: You don’t want to be in the wrong gang, is that it?

IV: Right, you could get ejected. 

Gabe: Is that such a big deal though?

IV: for a human it is, we don’t do well by ourselves.  

Our survival rate plummets without a group. 

Gabe: And you gotta make sure you’re in the right one.

IV: Yeah, if you get caught in a  group, they might kill you before a predator or starvation does.

Gabe: So Jay and Dominic are saying it’s an evolutionary advantage to make distinctions,

between us and them.

IV: yup, it’s buried now in our survival instincts.

Gabe: At this point in our history, 

where everyone is connected by technology, 

shouldn’t being a human be the universal team we all identify with?

IV: It really is kumbaya and drum circles with you, should we all hold hands now?

Gabe: maybe!

IV: It’s a nice thought, but we just love a common enemy too much.

Gabe: well let’s make one up then.

IV: not like you’re the first to think of that.

Gabe: oh…  

IV: the most recent version of The Watchmen on HBO uses this plot point, 

you also called out Independence Day for the most obvious example. 

Gabe: I still love Independance Day

IV: Oh yeah, What about the sequel?

Gabe: (innocently) ...there’s a sequel?

IV: Yeah, remember? Will Smith wouldn’t sign on because I assume the script was trash-

Gabe: Shush now, that’s unimportant.  

But the original is… so rewatchable, 

all the nations and races rallying together to fight ugly, totally irredeemable aliens.

IV: Yeah, that’s why it’s the #1 Sunday afternoon hangover movie, 

it’s so satisfying to watch humanity finally align, and beat the slimy, very easy to identify, bad guys.

Gabe: exactly! So...wait, what’s your beef with sports then?

IV: because it’s against other humans...anything that emulates battle, reinforces the idea that it’s..good to fight.

Gabe: right.

IV: and everyone has to wear uniforms.  

Gabe: So… 

IV: So the second you put your team’s jersey on,

you’re an enemy to the visiting team. 

And we teach this at a very young age.  

which makes an already very divisive race,

even more so.

Gabe: well, we teach sportsmanship too.

IV: uh huh, how’s that going…

Gabe: I dunno

IV: okay, why don’t you google “parents freak out over little league games” and see what comes up.

Gabe: ya know, you’re really being a buzzkill today.

IV: truth hurts, man...

Gabe: we’ll be back to talk about where storytelling fits into all this.

INTERSTITIAL

IV: Hey Listeners, Gabe’s inner voice here, he’s letting me out of my cage a lot for this episode.  

Had to call out this great sketch by British comedy duo, Mitchell and Webb about Nazis wondering if maybe they’re the “bad guys” 


Check it out in the shownotes.  

--

Gabe: Welcome back to the Post fugues Analysis, me and Inner Voice have one more thing to discuss - why are group identities so strong?

IV: Well, we have to look back at the evolutionary advantage that allowed Homo Sapiens to wipe out the-

Gabe: Homo Sap-you mean...us.

IV: Yeah, us -that allowed us to wipe the other human species off the face of the planet 50 thousand(ish) years ago.

Gabe: Like Neanderthals?

IV: Yeah, Neanderthals had no shot of co-existing with us.

Gabe: What was the evolutionary advantage, more...aggression?

IV: eh, Neanderthals were aggressive too, and physically stronger than us.

Gabe: So what’s the difference?

IV: Power in numbers for one.  

Homo Sapiens formed much bigger groups than their competitors.

Gabe: Because we were smarter?

IV: sort of, in his book, Sapiens, yoo-vul hr-aa-ree shares how we built much larger group identities

 because of one, simple, cognitive shift…

(pause)

Gabe: ...well.

IV: fictions

Gabe: fictions…really?

IV: yeah

Gabe: that feels like a stretch. 

IV: it shouldn’t. All we do is make up stories. 

Think of it this way, 

Homo Sapiens refer to things that don’t exist in the physical world.

Gabe: okay, yeah...

IV: like anything we can’t see, can’t touch,  taste, smell, or hear.

Gabe: so we made bigger group identities by...imagining things?

IV: that’s right, tens of thousands of years ago, 

most Neanderthals were more likely to say:

“Hey Thog, deer over there, let’s chase it and eat it.”

Gabe: okay 

IV: but homo sapiens imagined fictions - 

They may chase that same deer, 

but early Sapiens were telling stories about it, 

to themselves, to each other. 

if they did catch it and kill it, 

they would thank the deer’s spirit for sacrificing its life, 

or thank one of their gods for giving them the gift of sustenance,

Depending on their cultural beliefs. 

Gabe: so were they aware they were just telling...stories.

IV: no, those stories are their reality. 

They accepted those stories as fact.  

Gabe: They?  I mean, this is us...now as much as it was then...isn’t it?

IV: yeah I’d say so. 

Gabe: So we believe these stories...collectively.

IV: yes, it is our shared reality, which creates our shared identity.  

Gabe: Okay so if we all believe in the same deer spirit, or teams, or gods, we’re bonded by a superficial identity like - “oh you’re a christian, I’m a christian too, we’re the same”

IV: yeah, you’re a Manchester United fan, so am I, let me buy you a drink!

Gabe: so that shared identity means that by default we’re not adversaries. 

IV: right, you’re not competing.  

And that means that homo sapiens could form groups of hundreds of thousands, or even millions of people, all in the same in-group.

Neanderthals couldn’t do that.

Gabe: why not?

IV: cuz they didn’t have a catchy narrative to unite the smaller factions, 

it seems their brains just weren’t built that way. 

Gabe: so is this just religion and sports?

IV: no, dummy, homo sapiens can make up any fiction, 

and form group identities around it. 

Like towns, cities, states, companies, currencies

Gabe: oh, okay, like whole nations. Like...the United States of America is just a big group identity. 

IV: Exactly.  They’re all...made up.  

We basically imagined these things into reality.  

Gabe: okay...So what’s this got to with my childhood soccer team?

IV: Neanderthals had a simple group identity, they were part of a traveling band of about 100 or so people, finding shelter and food sources.

Gabe: So that was pretty rooted in the physical world around them.

IV: Yes, but the homo sapiens on your Lexington soccer team,

and the homo sapiens on the South Boston soccer team 

have totally made-up group identities

Gabe: And those identities bonded each team like a band of brothers.

IV: playing a made up sport, that basically emulates war.

Gabe: So this tendency to believe in myths...

IV: creates made-up divisions, like regional soccer teams, 

which reinforce group identity.

Gabe: bonded by the brain chemical, oxytocin.

IV: yup, all while following the tradition of wearing decorated sports jerseys.

Gabe: that make it easy to identify the “other” team.

IV: and a story that says “my town is better than your town, and you just injured a player of ours.”

Gabe: which makes revenge, in the narrative of each Lexington soccer team member’s mind,

both justified-

IV: and inevitable. 

--

When I first learned about oxytocin, I couldn’t imagine a dark side to it. It’s just...love and loyalty. 

When I held my nephew Brady for the first time, about a week after he was born, 

I remember thinking: 

“whoa I would literally take a bullet for this kid,” 

and despite the fact that he’s a teenager now, I still feel that way...  

A bullet to the leg maybe.

But when it comes to teams, there always has to be an...OTHER. 

Our small differences in group identities have inevitably led to violence throughout history. 

And not only that, 

we love celebrating the bloodshed.

Another excerpt in the book Sapiens, Yuvel Hrari talks about the St Bartholomew’s Day Massacre,

where 16th century French Catholics attacked French Protestants whose group identities differed on slight variations of how they interpreted Christ’s love.

In 24 hours upwards of 10 thousand Protestants were killed in the name of this difference. 

The pope over in Italy was so...happy with this outcome that he commissioned new panels, depicting this historical slaughter in a special room of the Vatican.

Nice. 

But being the storytellers our brains are, we have to have an us and a them, which usually boils down to good guys and bad guys, 

which determines who we help and who we destroy. 

This old trope is not doing us any favors.  

--

Anyway, I don’t pretend to have a solution for any of this but I will say there is one thing that gives me hope:

NYC beaches. 

During a humid summer Saturday, most New Yorkers have a simple commonality - 

We feel sweaty and gross, 

and we want to be by an ocean.

On any NYC beach, you’ve got every type of person there:

Every race, every body type, every age, every gender.  

People covered in tats and piercings, hacidic jews, huge families in literal tents, interracial couples, gay couples, the solo hipster, the topless women, the crying children.  

And somehow we’re all fine.  

In the 20+ years I’ve been going, I’ve literally never noticed a conflict.

In fact, while I was at Rockaway Beach last summer, an 8 year old boy was separated from his mother, 

and a lifeguard was ushering him around the surf to find her. 

The kid was trying to keep it together, but he was clearly distressed.  

People were lining up to help, 

and the helpers drew no lines in the sand around superficial distinctions.  

IV: remove play on words

Gabe: too late

It was as if we were all kids, 

imagining being separated from our mothers. 

Just humans having empathy for another human.

So when you’re worried about the divisions of humanity, 

book a trip to New York 

and...go to the beach, 

And maybe dream up evil aliens attacking the beach goers,

 so we can have a common enemy. 

In large groups or in small groups, it’s hard for individuals to resist their own brain programming, 

and it can make many outcomes seem unavoidable. 

But it doesn’t have to be this way.

That’s why in part 3 of this series, I’ll be joined by Joe Smarro, 

Joe’s a police officer featured in the 2019 HBO Documentary,

Ernie and Joe: Crisis Cops. 

The documentary follows Joe on the job, helping people in mental and emotional distress, 

and training first responders to de-escalate conflict, 

so that bad things don’t happen to people that are often

in the midst of the most harrowing moments of their lives. 

Joe disrupting those so-called inevitable outcomes during police interactions.  

--

Thanks for listening to part two of this series on Fate and Biology.

Some quick things to share that you can find in the show notes. 

There’s a link to Part one of this series, about the brain’s Molotov cocktail 

And a link to the iTunes version of this episode, where you can help by leaving a rating or comment, 

sharing YOUR inner voice’s thoughts on this podcast 

(hopefully yours is nicer than mine)

Oxytocin is pretty well studied in the context of friendship, motherhood, love, team bonding. 

So there is some research there if you want to dig deeper.

There are also links to Sapiens, which is on just about everyone’s top 10 must-read lists, 

and The Power of Us by Jay Van Bavel and Dominic Packer (which, as I record this, is not actually out yet, but you can pre-order it now - it really feels like essential reading these days, I can’t recommend it enough.)

There’s also a link to a podcast episode I produced for my former company, The NeuroLeadership Institute, about a chance meeting between my brother Josh and an Uber driver, Kendrick that shows what it looks like to lend a helping hand to a stranger, and how that gesture can have a butterfly effect.

Oh and definitely check the Mitchell and Webb sketch on nazis that my pal, inner voicey mentioned.

--

Fugues is written and produced by me, Gabriel Berezin.

The brilliant music and sound design comes courtesy of Grant Zubritsky and Kirk Shaynehair.

And the patient and insightful editing comes from  Monty Montan,

And the Fugues logo design is by her brother, Justin Montan. 

I’m still waiting for Jessica Montan to create Fugues-branded mugs,


Part three of this series is up next.

Until then, 

see you in the next fugue...