Mission: to distinguish the physical universe from the perceived world
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|the physical universe||Bateson|
|the universe of life||Bateson|
|the perceived world||pk|
All is illusion.
All the world’s a stage.
Proverbs. The Sutras. A stance basic to many religions, meditative disciplines … The fourth statement we trace verbatim to Shakespeare’s Jacques in As You Like It. (It’s pretty funny: the actor who says the line is on a stage; the scenery pretends that the stage for the scene is a forest, set up for a dinner; philosophers are dressed as clowns, clowns are dressed as philosophers, girls are dressed as boys … (and the girls are played by boys); the diners in the forest are really nobles, the nobles are really usurpers …)
I want to throw some stuff together. I want to string it, scrapbook style: that is, I don’t want to worry about the best order: not yet. At some threshold I’ll reorder, rewrite: and the module will mature.
Sentiens: Stage Sense
Bateson divided the universe into Plemoa, the physical universe, and Creatura, the universe of life. I extend the division to distinguish Sentiens, the perceived world (with its fraternal twin, Pathologica). Bateson chastized us for the errors we make failing to distinguish Pleroma from Creatura: a dog is not a billiard ball: the billiard ball goes where you hit it, the dog, if you hit it, may turn and bite. I continue the distinction in a Batesonian way, begging us to distinguish Sentiens, the semiotic world, the world constructed by our senses, by our minds, constructed from information, some real, some imagined, some misperceived, some lied about … Pleroma is a system of energy and of things. Creatura is a system of self-replicating, regenerating, evolving complex energy/matter. Sentiens is a sum of perceptions, thoughts, symbols, ideas … maps, models, constructions.
Consider: You look at the night sky. You see lights in the sky. We call them, the ones that are regularly “there,” stars. They’re mostly local: only light-hours, light-years, light-decades … away. You look through a telescope, a big one. You see stars, galaxies. Most of those are much further away: indeed, some of them — we don’t know which ones — blew up: millions of years ago. The information for the nova (or the birth) simply hasn’t reached us yet. What we “see” is in a time cone. That cone is a small part relative to what we don’t see.
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Kick me in the rear if I don’t soon add some reflections on information cones. Lots of physicists, astronomers, lay persons know about light cones; who considers how finite, how funneled, our information is? We can’t see the whole universe and we can’t know everything. But our human information cone is culture-made.
You drive from New York to Chicago: what time is it? You fly from Miami to Tokyo: what time is it? You’re an astronaut in the Shuttle: what time is it?
You’re in your yard: what time is it? Step to the side, cross to the back forty. What time is it now? Once upon a time it was noon when the sun was over-head. Where is over-head when you’re on a curved planet rotating at an angle to its star? The planet is also revolving. All the angles change by the instant. “Over-head” will look different depending on your latitude: and on the “data.” Once upon a time you sent a telegraph from Hoboken to Brooklyn. The telegraph gets there in a split second: but your clock in Hoboken says it’s just before noon; the clock in Brooklyn may say that it’s just after noon. The sun was over-head in Brooklyn before it’s over-head in Hoboken.
You’re on the night side of the moon: you can’t see the sun at all. You’re in another star system: you haven’t seen the sun in generations: is there no noon? How do you set your clock? Is there any time? Of course there is: but it doesn’t relate naively to what your great great grandfather thought it was once upon a time in Hoboken. And you set your clock any way you decide on: after all, it’s your clock.
The missionary and the headhunter may have very different senses of the time of day and the time of year: even if the missionary has a watch: and they’re both looking at it at the same moment.
I walk into the movie. I stand in the back, over against the wall, to my right as I enter. The movie’s director, assembling the movie, sat in the first seat of the sixth row from the screen, left of the left aisle coming from the rear. The producer and the backer sat for the same session in the middle seats of the twelfth row, middle seating section. Let’s say that the section the director was reviewing was used as-is in the release: are you watching the same movie?
Einstein’s thinking was seminal to much of the above. A reader in 2004 is far more likely to follow it as sense than the smartest three guys in the Royal Academy of any century earlier than the Twentieth. But Einstein is almost incidental to what pk is thinking. The seminal thinkers for my drift are from semiotics, semantics, epistemology … and generalists … synthesizers: Bateson, Korzybski, Ogden, Eco … And I don’t know that any of them have gone where I’m trying to go. (Of those names, Eco is I believe still alive, and functioning. But is he reading it? If he’s reading it, is he paying attention?)
We objectify the world we perceive. We reify it: we think it’s real.
Once we’ve thought it, constructed it, modeled it, symbolized it — even if only within our own minds, then it is real. My emphasis is that it’s real in Sentiens, the world of our constructions. That world, as Korzybski, Bateson … bade us understand, is mental: symbolic: processed. It should not be confused with Pleroma: not if you want your thinking to be anything but vanity! illusion! Maya!
I watch the DVD. I know I’m not hearing all of the dialogue. The severity of my hearing loss is revealing itself past sixty-five. My eye sight hasn’t been the same since my mid-forties. I know I’m missing data. I spent some time with a pool shark in college. He was good. He showed me how to play a little. “Never play for money against an old man,” he advised me (ignoring my protestations that I didn’t gamble under any circumstances). “Even if they’re blind. They remember all the shots!” Well, you gotta see where the ball is. But, the point is I believe well taken. When I listen to Miles’ All Blues, even though I’m missing data, I remember the data. The CD reminds me of the data. What’s important is: I hear beaucoup macroinformation. My macroinformation for All Blues or In A Silent Way is likely to dwarf than of the young stud: or the old man who didn’t spend tens of thousands of hours listening to Miles since the 1950s, following him around through the media, seeing him in Harlem, in Birdland, at the Vanguard …
My mother had a severe hearing loss: since my childhood. She’d mishear everything. But then she’d insist that her mishearing was what you had said! Anyone can mishear, misspeak: think we said “Johnson” when we said “Johnston.” But how possible is it that when we intended to say “Kurosawa,” heard ourselves say Kurosawa, that we really said “Curaçao”: as the deaf person insists, as the illiterate insists?
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