Friday, December 30, 2011
Wednesday, December 21, 2011
Tuesday, December 20, 2011
Alan Lightman writes in “The Accidental Universe” in Harper’s that the existence of life is so incredibly improbable that there can be only two realistic explanations: Either there is a God who designed all this, or there exist many, many different universes, a vast majority of which are lifeless. Many physicists are gravitating to the latter theory. Our universe is just one of many. The universal laws of physics aren’t really universal. They are just the arbitrary arrangements that happen to prevail in our own little universe.
This is a wonderful example of binary thought---either you believe in a god who arranged the whole universe, or our universe is not improbable because it's a crap shoot. One or the other is true; that my friends is binary thought. The first is no explanation, but a cop-out, an intellectual crutch for we can't figure it out, but don't want to admit this. The second may be incoherent, -- when you run the numbers putting in an infinite, you often get a garbagey result, or so I have read.
Well, there may well be way more than two alternatives here -- but how about just a third, for now: Self Knowledge. Our ignorance is data we can empirically investigate. We can live on surmises if we are tender with the edges of our knowledge. It takes guts to be objective, and self-knowledge is the giraffe on the porch.
Friday, November 18, 2011
Tuesday, November 15, 2011
Saturday, November 5, 2011
Friday, November 4, 2011
Thursday, October 27, 2011
Here we read that a recently decrypted document from the 18th century turned out to be " a detailed description of a ritual from a secret society that apparently had a fascination with eye surgery and ophthalmology."
"Eye," see, jumped right out to one reader--what if the decryption in the text was meant to keep ideas from getting a mechanical agreement rather than the personal insight of one who has earned the knowledge, that is, seen something freshly for himself. That after all is what Jan meant by making fresh maps. You have to do this because even what you originally saw can become stale, and for those who hear about something, without seeing it for themselves, the illusion you understand something when you really do not, is tricky. HOW you see, is one aspect of self knowledge, and I wonder if the researchers involved in decypherment may not have taken a metaphor (symbol) for a literalness.
Also, HOW you see (that is how you know something) could be included in a study of the eyeball, under the "as above so below," maxim, wherein different levels of meaning have a parallel structure. Now these last are not the words of Jan Cox, and that maxim not one he relied on.
My curiosity was not discouraged when a different article mentioned this:
The rituals detailed in the document indicate the secret society had a fascination with eye surgery and ophthalmology, though it seems members of the secret society were not themselves eye doctors.
MY eyetalics in the above text. What if the text were crypted with the purpose of discouraging the causal 'oh I heard that before," -- or whatever the 18th century German equivalent sentiment, was? To point to the literal level of how the eyeball is constructed as least serves the pedagogical purpose of stressing that what you consider simple might actually have a complex level.
Then of course it may have been a secret society that had no idea what secret societies might actually mean by ' secret.' But perhaps that is a more modern phenomenon. The article mentioned "the rights of man," which requires more thought.
Perhaps even if the researchers finish decrypting the whole text, they will have missed the meaning.
Thursday, October 13, 2011
[The Big Bang] is a much more exciting story to many people than the tales which other people used to make up, when wondering about the universe we lived in on the back of a turtle or something like that. They were wonderful stories, but the truth is so much more remarkable. And, so, what's the wonder in physics to me is that it's revealed the truth is so remarkable.
Feynman's quote, coming from one of the finest minds of the 20th century, is a good chance to understand the limitations of so-called scientific thinking.
Those other people were the ancient Greeks, the ones who invented philosophy, and "the tales" that were made up were the attempts of empirical thinkers to understand the world we share. This last point was one made by Jan Cox, a leading 20th century thinker. This picture of a turtle in fact surpasses the big bang theory in it's explanatory power. Such is not typical of the Greek stories, but in fact, since Feynman picked this story, it lets me point to the characteristics of modern thinking.
The Greeks and those of their successors who were also committed to an empirical explanation of the world, put the turtle, that ground loving creature to whom birds were inconceivable, not at the base of the support of the world, but at the bottom of an explanatory structure to signal not just their knowledge but WHAT THEY DID NOT KNOW. Newton at the sea shore. And what was that picture of a globe on top of a turtle explaining: that what we see can be understood, can be investigated--that the physical world was to be puzzled over. That the appearance of the world needed an explanation. And the turtle in the picture, what is the turtle explaining,? That you need to keep asking questions, pushing beyond any answers, to arrive at even a tentative conclusion; the turtle represents what Jan Cox would phrase this way: use a comma, not a period, in your thoughts. The Greeks thought the turtle in a stack of realities would suffice to point to the unknown.
It is this realistic balance between the known and the unknown which has been lost by the physical scientists. Not by thinkers like Roger Penrose, -- but the main herd. They feel they are on the brink of a Theory of Everything, and they forget how many times their TOEs have been stubbed in the past. The modern mind cannot stomach the perspective that the truth is ---- partial. For what came before the Big Bang? What produced the Big Bang, ... okay ... What brought forth the multiverse[s]. The stout and brave empiricist does not pretend his answers are "true" in any imperial sense.
Wednesday, October 12, 2011
Sunday, September 11, 2011
Thursday, August 25, 2011
Tuesday, August 23, 2011
To sketch a wee corner of my interests here, Voltaire is supposed to be a philosopher, but his method of argument is to poke fun at the ideas of religious figures. Yesterday I pointed out that scientists need a devil, the fundamentalists, to keep their world steady. Today I found a quote which suggests I have over simplified things.
The quote is : 'What I write here is the account that I believe to be true. For the stories told by the Greeks are many, and in my opinion ridiculous.'
Sounds like Voltaire. But these are the words of Hecataeus, who wrote in the 5th century (born around 530 BC), and he is part of that movement described as the birth of human rationality, and centered on Miletus. In his words we see a forgetting which looks to be a unnoticed but fundamental mechanism of human progress. For those Greeks stories were a way to understand the world, with the tools at their disposal. (Jan made this point once about mythology.) But to Hecataeus, the myths are "ridiculous." This name calling is a kind of forgetting.
So perhaps what I took to be a means of intellectual domination, is actually, a part of that essential forgetting, which can be seen at various scales. If so, those scientists are just doing their job, and really one should have emphasized that more.
Monday, August 22, 2011
So we learn that people are in agony because of the emptiness of the universe. Empty because something that never existed, has gone. For some the truth, no matter what it turns out to be, is invigorating, but in Contact, the story is sketched that humanity aches for the loss of -- an illusion. We are assuming for the sake of this review, such is plausible.
We have, regardless of whether the book is more sensible than the movie, the unexamined suppostions of the world view of the average scientist, in this Hollywood production. I say unexamined because what is apparent in the movie is that science needs a devil. Now religion has been confused about the status of evil for millenia. That science needs a devil is a more interesting aspect of the modern world. And that devil, for science, is religious fundamentalism. And it has apparently never occurred to scientists that if they just ignored the representatives of that view, that maybe fundamentalism would fade away. But to ignore the fundamentalists would mean maybe, scientists seeing what they have in common with the fundamentalists. For these common factors, when compared to the direction of a Real Teacher, make science and religion alike in certain basic features. Science and religion you see, both, have to have this: religion and science both have to have a --story. Only a Real Teacher can imagine being just on the brink of a story, and being able to balance there. To be continued....
Monday, August 15, 2011
Saturday, August 13, 2011
Tuesday, August 2, 2011
Sunday, July 31, 2011
You don't believe
by William Blake
You don't believe — I won't attempt to make ye.
You are asleep — I won't attempt to wake ye.
Sleep on, sleep on, while in your pleasant dreams
Of reason you may drink of life's clear streams
Reason and Newton, they are quite two things,
For so the swallow and the sparrow sings.
Reason says 'Miracle', Newton says 'Doubt'.
Aye, that's the way to make all Nature out:
Doubt, doubt, and don't believe without experiment.
That is the very thing that Jesus meant
When he said: 'Only believe." Believe and try,
Try, try, and never mind the reason why.
Saturday, July 30, 2011
Thursday, July 21, 2011
Sunday, July 17, 2011
Monday, July 4, 2011
Thursday, June 30, 2011
Neuroscientists Find Famous Optical Illusion Surprisingly Potent
Newswise — Scientists have come up with new insight into the brain processes that cause the following optical illusion...
There follows in the article a link to a youtube video which clearly demonstrates this effect---after a certain kind of motion your brain continues to see that motion in things which are NOT actually moving. Aristotle noticed this "optical illusion."
Monday, June 27, 2011
Tuesday, June 21, 2011
Wednesday, June 15, 2011
Tuesday, June 14, 2011
Thursday, May 26, 2011
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"Mausoleum, noun. The final and funniest folly of the rich. -Ambrose Bierce, author and editor (1842-1914) "
My extension would fit---words are a kind of death----no one speaks aloud and is awake at that moment, not Jan Cox, not Gurdjieff, to say nothing of the cloud of wannabees who had one forkful of cake and think they are a pastry chef.
Wednesday, May 25, 2011
Saturday, May 21, 2011
Wednesday, May 18, 2011
Tuesday, May 17, 2011
Friday, April 29, 2011
women, generally speaking, know who the fathers of their children are.
Men, have our word for who the father is. Now is not the place to
explain why our word may not be enough to give men confidence about
the paternity of their offspring. But weddings function to maintain
faith in lineage. We have weddings for the same sentimental reasons
that tomcats kill kittens. A far more ancient motivation than any
individual could muster is at play here. And is it not lovely how life
whirls us around to the point that most people think weddings are for
the bride. Not really though. Now that we have DNA testing, perhaps we
won't need a ceremony, at which (crucially) guests attend, and vows
are repeated, vows about fidellity and so on. I guess the real
question is, is wedding cake obsolete? That idea, surely, is outrageous.
of course royalty all over, have a distinctive hand wave in their
relating to crowds. The wave is both acknowledging and distancing. I
am not quoting Jan here, I don't recall his commentary. But once you
start looking for the royal wave it is interesting and standard. There
is something bloodchilling about it's robotic self-satisfaction. The
royal wave views with satisfaction the herd's need for a leader.
And this morning at Britain's Buckingham Palace balcony, there was one
perfect royal wave---the youngest flower girl. Three years old, a
woman, and she had it perfectly. Surely it will show up in some video.
Kate doesn't quite have it yet, she wiggles her fingers too much.
William's wave also is a bit personal. That child's wave though---she
Thursday, April 28, 2011
Wednesday, April 27, 2011
Tuesday, April 26, 2011
Monday, April 25, 2011
Friday, April 22, 2011
Tuesday, April 19, 2011
In 1239, King Louis IX of France bought the Crown of Thorns (as worn by Jesus at the Crucifixion) from Venice for 135,000 livres – more than half the king’s annual budget. Venice had got it, and some other relics of Christ’s Passion such as the Holy Lance and the Holy Sponge, from the ruler of Byzantium as surety for a loan of 13,134 gold pieces. And when Louis had acquired all of these relics, he constructed the Sainte Chapelle in Paris – the most sumptuous building of its kind in Europe – to hold them.
The review mentions that one function of the relics was they encouraged folk to go on pilgrimages to view these wonders for themselves. Which gave me a perspective of the difference in the greater machinery of life, then, compared to now. In the 13th century roads were bad, horses were only for rich people, and I have read (elsewhere) that most people lived their whole lives within the sound of their own village church bells.
Saturday, April 9, 2011
Monday, April 4, 2011
of his thinking...which coincided with the disappearance of something else.
And now -- periodically -- he has the sensation of a loss of such significance that
he indeed feels as though he may be in danger of premature destruction, from which
he needs be saved.
Note: There is available, for all purely "human problems, a direct, uncomplicated cure –
the abandonment of the refusal to see what's going on in the human mind.
Tuesday, March 29, 2011
Saturday, March 26, 2011
if hacking them up will allow the killer back into a certain garden.
Nobody talks about the declining snake population, not even
scientists, yet it is part of the shrinking population of reptiles.
And we desperately need snakes. Without snakes rodents increase in
population, and the two legged types will buy poison to get rid of
what snakes will get rid of without polluting everybody's gardens and
rivers. Leave that wood pile alone. Keep some parts of your yard
unmowed. If you are personally afraid of snakes, keep a walking stick
to poke ahead in your path. Snakes only want to avoid your presence. I
will not mention keeping snakes confined as pets. Nobody that would
read my blogs would do something so contemptible.
And P.S. --just like mysticism is the skeleton of literature, snakes
are the skeleton of man's real awareness.
P.P.S--of course if you live in Belize, ie, already in the garden,
different guidelines might apply.
Thursday, March 24, 2011
it may be at the heart of a spiritual anthropology.
Most would not find this question interesting because they assume they
know what ignorance is. Here is the typical view of personal
ignorance. All mature persons at some point assume that ignorance is a
The idea that ignorance is a measurable commodity, or perhaps,
unquestioned, working assumption that ignorance is a measurable
commodity, explains a lot. From the pathetic, 'I have learned from my
mistakes,' to the spit in the wind, 'our reactors meet all the safety
requirements, ' a picture of operant assumptions about man's ignorance
can be sketched. The boxcar beyond the horizon is big enough to
contain all that we do not know, both as individuals or as a society,
is a metaphor of this working view of ignorance. Or---. If knowledge
is a gumball machine, then ignorance is just one of the gumballs that
is still heaped in the glass dome---that is the view of human
knowledge and ignorance prevalent in society, from university
presidents, to the bottom of the middle class.
Step back though---how could it be that ignorance is something one can
factor in? Does that not assume that we know what we say we do not.
And--Real Ignorance is extant. Real ignorance surrounds,
interpenetrates, and pricks out the horizon, of ---- our thoughts. The
man intent on figuring out wtf is going on, is given in this essay a
big hint, on how to proceed.
If one could examine, and test, one's own ignorance and ideas of it,
one would be on the path to ---someplace interesting.
Tuesday, March 22, 2011
Thursday, March 17, 2011
Tuesday, March 15, 2011
Saturday, March 12, 2011
Thursday, March 3, 2011
Wednesday, March 2, 2011
Tuesday, February 22, 2011
Thursday, February 17, 2011
Wednesday, February 16, 2011
Sunday, February 13, 2011
word which hints at the mechanics of reality, not just the beauty. You
might suggest verbalizable, but this does not suggest that which is
not verbalizable. The word that occurred to me is "knock-off." Jan Cox
expressed a comparable idea when he pointed out that without real gold,
there would be no market for counterfeits. The thought that the world we talk about is a knock-off suggests a reflective quality of words. At the same time knock-off suggests there is a world which is unmediated by thought.
Sunday, February 6, 2011
Tuesday, January 25, 2011
One trifling particular, truth, should have miss'd
For, spite of his fine theoretic positions,
Mankind is a science defies definitions.
In the make of that wonderful creature, call'd Man,
No two virtues, whatever relation they claim,
Nor even two different shades of the same,
Though like as was ever twin brother to brother,
Possessing the one shall imply you've the other.
Burns here is critiquing Alexander Pope (author of "The Proper Study of Mankind is Man")
I am not sure of the title of the poem this is excerpted from, so here is the citation:
The works of Robert Burns: with Dr. Currie's memoir of the poet, and an essay on his genius and character, Volume 1, 1843
page 101. (free at books.google.com)
Sunday, January 23, 2011
Tuesday, January 11, 2011
limn -- verb tr.:
1. To portray in words.
2. To draw or paint, especially in outline.
Via French, from Latin luminare (to illuminate), from lumen (light). Ultimately from the Indo-European root leuk- (light), which is also the source of words such as lunar, lunatic, light, lightning, lucid, illuminate, illustrate, translucent, lux, lynx, and lucubrate. Earliest documented use: 1440.
Monday, January 10, 2011
Friday, January 7, 2011
About the similarity of scientists and creationists, in a way it's an easy shot, they are both unsuspecting believers in the power of words. And they put their faith in the possibility of periods. Their hissing at each other is is the mechanical whirring of machines, who have no idea what is really going on.
Saturday, January 1, 2011
Why are Kings and Queens known just by their first names. Oh I know everybody (in the western world anyway) did without surnames til sometime around 1200. But that is never the whole story. Jan Cox pointed to the fact, that cause and effect are not even separable. There are always lots of perfectly good explanations for anything. Perhaps we need to shave the ideas of those scientists who refuse to even envisage this latter point.
Did Jane Austen save the world from Naziism. My point here, was, besides being cute, that there does seem to be a qualitative difference between French and English literature. What about German literature, apart from the fact I know nothing about German literature? But the English and French if you compare DIckens and Balzac, as representative of a national identity----have this difference, Dickens wants to sway your heart. Balzac wants to stab you with his pen. His deadly ACCURATE delineations would seem to leave no place for community. Then of course we need to connect Austen and Dickens, learn something more about German literature since it is perhaps too cheap to get the French in by pointing out how quickly they capitulated. My point being of course that these figures are representative. Need some work here.
Poor Jean Toomer. I was just reading that Henry Louis Gates is sorry for him because he (Toomer) passed for white. Toomer was a student of Gurdjieffs. Putting yourself in new situations and "acting" is a way to learn about yourself. Gates is way off here.
Anti-intellectualism. Is it more than the sleeping common condition of humanity? It seems like a particularly modern form of ugliness. Which since the mind has assumed to certain distinct ascendency in modern times, might be a factor.
Words---should do an essay on how they have a persuasiveness that is not noticed. Just by being spoken, words have a compelling quality. They for a brief second have their own validity just by being spoken.
How to explain in abstract scientific terms that you will never explain consciousness in words, because consciousness IS words, and to glimpse consciousness you need to get above it.