@ K. 2001 05 21
What’s true of our perception of geography has application in our perception of concepts as well. A majority will respond immediately that a “robin” is a “bird”: only a minority, if any, will respond immediately that an “ostrich” is a bird. Given a moments reflection we all know that both robins and ostriches are birds, but the robin is at the core of the concept; the ostrich is toward its border.
Gregory Bateson tells the story of an experiment where dogs were punished or rewarded depending on their ability to distinguish various ellipses from a circle. The testers rounded the ellipse ever more till the dog couldn’t distinguish. The dog bit the tester. Good dog. Absolutely right response. As Bateson pointed out: a threshold had been crossed where discernment was replaced by guessing. The testers didn’t announce the new rules or conditions. The threshold was crossed silently.
Think with me of this familiar political application. I saw a billboard this afternoon announcing that life begins at conception. That’s not a fact, but a political bone of contention being palmed off as a “fact.” The rhetoric of the billboard presented it as such. The majority Protestant view has for some time been that life begins at birth. Look through a microscope at sperm flailing in the semen. Aren’t they alive? Run tests on the not yet fertilized egg: isn’t it alive as well? How can it be said that life begins either at conception or at birth? How can it be said in the Twenty-first Century that life begins? Maybe it began, but long before our time, the details lost.
2004 02 03
(Turn on PBS. Before long you’ll hear some scientist telling you as a fact that life “began” three-some billion years ago.
There’s atoms and empty space.
All else is opinion.
(pk adds that “atoms” and “empty” and “space” are also mental constructs: also “opinions.”)
We have evidence, good evidence, that life existed three-some billion years ago; we have no evidence but our ignorance that it began three-some billion years ago. We are evidence that there is life on earth; but we have no evidence whatsoever when life began. Indeed, we have nothing besides our sense of possibility that it began.) (Yes, I dare to suggest: what if life is older than the earth?) (What if life is older than the universe?!?!)
Anyway, do you see the relationship to the subject of this module? At twelve, at thirty, any human being will agree that you’re alive. You’re at the center, the core, of what we understand “life” to be. Birth is one threshold widely recognized. Conception is a different, earlier threshold, less widely recognized. “Thirty” is like a “robin.” Birth is like a bluejay. Conception is like an ostrich. We can see that the fetus lives, but not as readily as we can see that the thirty year old lives. Seeing that the semen lives is less general than seeing that the ostrich is a bird. But the semen lives just the same.
Now notice that center, border, edge in conceptual matters are even more plastic than their counterparts in geography. The earth may once have had one single continent. Over the eons the continents have been drifting. Alcatraz is moving north with respect to San Francisco. In some number of eons it may move south again. At some point in the future some major part of “North America” may be south of some major part of “Antarctica.” But for now, the majority of the one sentient species that we’re familiar with — ourselves — thinks of the continents as “fixed.” The majority of Christians may think that God’s nature is fixed, not evolved, not evolving. The idea that there’s such a thing as Christianity is, like a robin, at the core of Christianity. You want doubt? You want complexity? Multiple views? Look at the edges.
And remember: what’s at the edge one day can be at the center another. And visa versa. When the storm upends the ship and the ship breaks in half, the old middle is a new end.
2004 02 03
I just removed the notice from the original draft of this module that came at this point saying that the file is still under construction. (What isn’t?) For upwards of five years I’ve returned to upgrade the coding, the change the layout, to check the spelling, to add this or that sidebar, insert this or that thought or example … Man, am I overdue to talk about the “center.”
Someday I’ll reorder the module into a constellation of files. For the moment I want to chalk this on the blackboard:
You are as much the center of the universe as is anything else
Man used to think she was the (ahem) purpose of (ahem) creation. Man used to think the earth was the center of the universe. Man used to think he was the center of the earth. Rome was the center of the “world.” “So was Peking. So was an Aztec pyramid. So was the pyramid of Khufu. Man even used to think (still thinks) that she knows what she’s saying. …
Nearly everything man thinks is laughably infantile, egocentric, anthropomorphic, chauvinist …
Is thinking that the sun is the center of the universe much better? Is even truth that the sun is the center of this solar system? Isn’t it rather one of two foci? Isn’t the solar system more likely to be an ellipse than a “circle”?
We think “circles” because the Greeks thought circles and we study the Greeks and Romans by preference: flattering ourselves by doing so, stunting our minds with plane geometry, blinding our minds to fractal complexity. The Greeks didn’t know shit about ellipses and neither did the Romans: and unless you’re thinking about the ellipse multi-dimensionally, you’re still stunted.
Faulkner imagined Benjy’s narration in The Sound and the Fury in terms of Benjy as the center of his experience: riding in the carriage, the tree branch came … then it went away. Now we may see that that view is as good as any other.
(This also relates to psychology: The normal person sees himself as the protagonist of all events: Here I am at cousin Bessie’s wedding. Bessie thinks she’s the star. Uncle Gully thinks his daughter’s day is really his day. The groom knows that it’s best to indulge the silly females this once: for the rest of her life Bessie will be his chattel: his cook, his whore, his maid, his breeder … See? It’s all really for him. Me sitting there, it’s like a movie: Bogie, Bacall … Julia Roberts … they’re really there to entertain me. I’m the star. (Janet Jackson is there to finally show me her goddam tit!)
You think this is crazy? How crazy is a God who thinks he’s the only one? A solipsist! That’s as stupid as Bessie’s groom! (But that’s just a joke: and not altogether fair: the Jews’ god only claims to have no superiors (in the world of the abstract, how would one know?); it’s the Muslim’s Allah who’s the solipsist (or the Muslims who are solipsist worshippers).)
2006 01 31 I’ve talked about living around the edges, hiding around the edges … How this science report?: Scientists have found blood stem cells hiding out in the edges of bone marrow, and said on Monday their finding could help ease lifesaving stem cell transplants for diseases such as cancer. (See article.)
Janet and her goddam tit at the Superbowl: How much time has passed? How many people have held the media accountable for lying: Janet had on a nipple clip, she was not barebreasted: she wore what show-whotes wore: she’s a show girl! What the hell do we want.
Well the kleptocrats who supervise nature still have it all their way: https://www.yahoo.com/style/parent-calls-the-cops-on-teen-boys-showing-support-180832106.html
Highschool girl called on the carpet for supposed bralessness. She says not only did her tits not show, but to be sure she was wearing pasties: her nipples were covered.
Do all governments hate nature? Do all people enslaved by coercive schooling yield their human rights to the nazis? We certainly do: we don’t even know what our heroes are: only the “heroes” selected for us by the media.