Why Do I Bother?
Knatz.com / Personal / Overview / pk “Motives” /
Science posits identicality and interchangeability for physical particles. (Of course we don’t know such particles well enough to be sure.) (It’s people who don’t know the Chinese who think they all look alike.”) (Here, any other group is interchangeable for the Chinese.) In the world of life by contrast, as stated above, nothing is more common than uniqueness. [note}
At one level, I use this site to celebrate my uniqueness.
Why bother to celebrate something so common? Superficially, I can answer “because I want to.” Everyone was born: why celebrate your child’s birthday? Everyone living is alive: why celebrate anything? (With similar superficialtiy, I could answer: “because I can. I’m on-line, I’ve got the site, I write the code …”)
But at an entirely deeper level I answer:
Partly of what’s right, but mostly of what’s wrong with our society.
Fixable only if we first perceive it.
Why is Homer still considered to be such a great poet? Blind habit? Because the quality of his poetry, his meter, his diction, is so high? How could we tell? Few of us read ancient Greek. None of us can think or feel in it like his contemporaries. No: he’s great because what it’s about does translate [Link to be restored] to other cultures. He puts two heroes into stark contrast. Achilleus, born of immortals, dipped in invulverability but for his heel, achieves immortality in being wounded (surprise!) in that heel. Odysseus is offered immortaltiy and chooses mortality: he returns to his wife and to their old age together. As Prigogine points out, Homer’s total opus is about Time: magic time (nonexistent) versus common time (real time, the time of our common experience). (See The End of Certainty for how Prigogine contrasts the Time of equilibrium physics (unverifiable: imaginary, like magic) and non-equilibrium sciences (verifiable). Brand new. Just getting born. But clearly right. (Or at least less wrong than mankind has ever before experienced.)
Prigogine’s point harmonizes with my own thesis [Link to be restored] on Shakespeare’s sonnets: Shakespeare’s fair love and dark lady embody the Protagonist of medieval thought against its revived Antagonist. Catholic orthodoxy, taking the lead of Scholastic Realism, maintained that only God was real. The heretics who sired modern science dissented: how about you and me being real? How about what can be weighed and measured being real? Shakespeare modeled the fair love on the conventional idealism which Renaissance poetry inherited from Scholastic Realism, blond and unreachable. The poet’s ecstasies there are ideal, imaginary; his dark lady on the other hand he actually has orgasms with.
Moreover, Shakespeare parades our neuroses, the heirs of that war. Like any good Western Christian, the voice of the sonnets hates those biological ecstasies. The mind, associated in upright primates with the top, the brain, is godly; the other end is the wrong end, the bestial devil’s end. Bullshit philosophy fixed us good.
Why does Hamlet still move us? It’s not democratic … It’s Christian only in some of its sickest details … Because, as Alfred North Whitehead pointed out, it’s the first (and finest) modern play — Hamlet is an individual; ancient men were just examples of a caste. (Even Socrates defended his society’s ownership of him, and therefore, it’s right to dispose of him.)
Fact, fiction, or mix, why does the Passion of Jesus move even non-Christians? It’s about suffering. It’s about sacrifice.
(See also my recent Passion piece [Link to be restored].) Of many possible answers, I’ll develop only the response most relevant to my theme here:
Ancient of Days
It’s about justice turned on its head.
Because we see Jesus as a reformer, persecuted by the institutions most in need of reform. The arrogant priests couldn’t hear a new message from God. The arrogant governor couldn’t be bothered to uphold Roman Law if the priest of the local King who was bribing him wanted him to turn his back. The Law upheld lawlessness; the condemned criminal upheld virtue. What convicted him most clearly was his telling the truth:
How can a story that has everything backwards be so appealing? (See Description vs. Thing.)
Or is it that Jesus had things frontwards and the priests, landlords, and tax collectors had somehow turned things backwards?
In the Illiad, Homer takes a big myth and makes it bigger. In the Odyssey, he takes a big myth and brings it home, wades it in blood, and sits it at the hearth. Did Acilleus or Odysseus every really live? Probably. Jesus? Even more probably. Hamlet? It doesn’t matter. Whether or not the character in a story is factual is trivial compared to whether the character’s function is meaningful.
A story doesn’t have to be true to be truthful. If you use fiction for entertainment, fine. So do I. But diversion is the trivial half of its function.
(Here’s a sense of Medieval Scholastic “Realism” that I share: a descriptive fiction can be more importantly “real” than an ordinary historical being. E=mc2 is a formula: an abstraction. It has no weight, no measurements. But it’s real in that it describes reality. More efficiently than any previous book, play, or formula.)
I have selected a few examples of figures who don’t just stand tall, who aren’t just special or magical but also normal in some important way, and who don’t just stand:
They mark the fault lines of our thinking.
They’re the fulcrum. They offer us leverage.
Look not just for new territory: anyone an inch further along can crawl another inch further along; look for that patch of new territory that changes our perspective on the known territory. There’s a difference between discovering another star and discovering that there are other galaxies. Galileo discovering satellites around Jupiter changed our entire cosmology.
Did we take the lesson gladly? Did we thank him? Did we stand up and salute? Of course not. We punished the man but salute his long dead corpse. Freud was surrounded by doctors making “advances” in “medicine”: were Freud’s theories advances in medicine? Freud’s theories were pivotal in creating a whole new field related to medicine. He stood at a crux.
Any of us may reject any or all of Freud’s theories. But would we dare reject the whole new field? Even if we think the whole new field is 99% bull? It’s a crux whether we’ve gotten it right or not. Galileo’s new universe where the earth is not the only body to have satellites is far from co-extensive with the cosmologies we’ve developed since. But he was the ice breaker. Continuing to break ice is easy. And misleads us into believing that there are no other kinds of ice still to be broken.
Shakespeare’s sonnets position themselves first on one side, then the other, of the two greatest questions of the first half of the second millennium AD (The Church thought it had answered the question; history proves the questions to be with us still.) Prigogine shows Homer’s paired Times to bracket the most important question in the history of religion, philosophy, and science.
More such foundation [Link to be restored] I put in a separate file.
Above, I wrote that my first ambition was to be worthy of Jesus’ love. I recalled the shock, in Edmund Wilson’s phrase, of recognition I felt at first seeing the title, The Imitation of Christ. Section II of this autobiographical folder, once unmuddled and finished, will trace my discovery of science and reason and its occasioning my conversion [Link to be restored], from conventional Christianity and Americanism.
Does this mean that I abandoned my original ambition? Not at all. I merely had a superior revelation as to how to accomplish it. (Of course the Jesus I meant to imitate was getting revised and stripped down with new information, as was the God who encouraged me over the decades.)
All of the works I report here, all of my fiction, all of the essays and notes at this site have been dedicated to that end. To that end I have spent the best part of a lifetime developing my mind, my knowledge, my skills … so that like my Jesus, like Homer, like Shakespeare, like Ilya Prigogine, I, at least to the best of my ability, could stand at the crux of something momentous. Mark the fault lines of our thinking. Be a fulcrum, offer us leverage.
(You, in your Homeostasis, ignore me.)
Does my saying that I discovered reason prove me reasonable? Not at all. Does the improbabilty of anyone talking about reason actually being responsibly reasonable disprove my being reasonable? (Nope. The probability that my name is Smith is much higher than that my name is Knatz, but my name is Knatz, not Smith.) No: you’ll have to acquire some science, some knowledge, and some responsible reason yourself in order to have a prayer of judging it. [note]
Review the chronology of my works. Glance through the first story of my twenties. Consider my doctoral thesis on Meta-Oxymoron, my first adult work. Read my adulthood’s first finished story. Think of my founding FLEX with its search for the democratization of information: the pure, if unacknowledged, ancestor of the perverted-from-its-inception internet: an end-run around an irrelevant government and egregious education system. Consider again the writing since then.
2006 07 21
Surely the visitor needs no prompting from pk to realize that one should be wary of trusting anyone’s testimony regarding their motives. At the same time, don’t discount the possibility of their having a sane and honest view of themselves.
|pk Motives, Ambition, Accomplishments …||pk Overview|
@ K. 1998 04
Uniqueness: like peas in a pod
I should clarify: scientists assume the interchangeability of particles. They’re referring to the microscopic universe of Pleroma: protons and electrons. Even “merely physical” things in the macroscopic world are also unique. We refer to things being “as like as two peas in a pod.” Get out your microscope and look more closely. Ah, but peas are from the world of life, from the biosphere: the world of Creatura. Open a new box of pencils. Are they identical? For the purposes of writing they are: sharpen any one and get to work. But if you ignore their practical side and seek to identify them … again, get out your microscope … In this case, an ordinary magnifying glass may do.
The coincidence between my example and that of Count Alfred Korzybsky (Science and Sanity (1933) is deliberate.
2000 11 03 I made my point as a user of English (which I am), not as a mathematician (which I am not). But I am just reading a highly relevant and useful bit of prose on the subject by Stephen Jay Gould who is both a user of English and mathematically adept. See his Full House, NY, 1996, esp. Chap. 4, p. 45 ff.
His clarification of distinctions between mean, median, and mode is excellent and I intend to make further use of it elsewhere. Priceless is his expression of how our culture predisposes us to have everything backwards: seeing averages as a Platonic essence rather than recognizing diversity as the norm of life (and Plato as a disease).
code very complex, correcting, re-adding links …