Recreating (and advancing) pk’s censored domains: Macroinformation.org & Knatz.com / Personal / Writing / Fiction / The Model / Notes /
@ K. c. 1996
The Model: The First Week: Afterward
One thing indisputable about The Model is that it is a short story. [Story one (of three), The First Week, is only 2,000 words, a couple of pages.] What I believe should be said about it is not. The story and its sequels are a nested series of jokes on matters of the most elemental importance, blended with a series of quotes, references, and tributes intended to be the more enjoyable as literature because they are none of them formally identified, no more than are the speakers of the lines.
After decades of the story having all too few readers and of the author finding all but the references to Genesis uncommented on, I am going to spell some of it out. Unfortunately, my first attempts at this Afterward were becoming unwieldy. The goal of this site is to share things with you in bite-sized pieces. So I’m breaking it up into categorized parts.
The Background [post, link coming] details the series of circumstances of the story’s inspiration and composition.
The significance of the story is almost all between the lines. It is a story of ideas, a mix in which some of the most important ideas are implicit. As with any story, you can read it as you will, making as much of it as it will bear, or as little as you are inclined.
The story gives an original treatment to a familiar cosmology. Most myth systems and all religions exhibit a cosmology. The Judeo/Christian tradition takes its myths literally. Others, notably the Hindu, do not. There existence is the dream of gods, those gods the dreams of some other gods. One of the basic jokes of The Model is its suggestion that our “reality,” isn’t even a dream of a god, but rather a student assignment: one graded with more criticism than enthusiasm. Our Creation isn’t the Creation, but an apprentice practice, possibly toward professional competence, but in the future. Our heaven and earth fit easily onto one of many work tables in a design lab. Our existence is a new detail in a cosmos where our and other existences are a few among possibilities we can’t see the edge of. Our Creator is simultaneously much less than advertised yet more than we’d ever dreamed of. (In a sequel our creation is modified to one with a Big Bang, but it still fits, at least initially, within an upper floor of a building in this meta-universe.)
A model is the central object of the story as it is of its sequels. The author hasn’t lived to notice much influence that the hitherto unpublished story has had, but he has lived to see modeling become the key metaphor for the cognitive sciences. Its metaphorical significance in the story cannot be overstated. I’ve moved my review on mental modelling to the Epistemology section of the Teaching Directory (and have added several others since).
Science seeks the simplest explanations in accordance with the facts. In contrast, cultures offer Byzantine revisions as our inherited explanations run into trouble with the facts. I’ve moved my summary of Occam’s Razor among the Epistemology modules of the Teaching directory. Part of what I meant by my comic misuse of this principle is suggested in the Background: here I’ll add that the story is purposively preposterous in its suggestion that it isn’t human cosmology which has always been wrong (the simplest explanation in accordance with the facts), but reality itself which keeps changing: right under our feet.
Another aspect to the story got a module called Survival: Social vs. Biological.
2000 03 03 I just digitized a folk song (Alan Lomax, editor) for use at my Macroinformation. I also see an application for it here. The chorus goes:
Oh, life is a toil
and love is a trouble,
Beauty will fade
and riches will flee,
Pleasures they dwindle
and prices they double,
And nothing is as I
would wish it to be.
The song as a whole is simply wonderful and I’ll put it below.
No one has ever charged my story with blasphemy to my face but I see the discomfort in the average eyes, I read between the lines of the publisher’s complimentary passes on publishing it: no one wants trouble. Except soldiers of truth. Including satirists. Our dilemma is: few are competent to locate real trouble and to distinguish it from chimeras of trouble. Satirists like Swift, Twain, Mencken … (and myself) may be mistaken in their diagnosis, but their efforts are courageous, not conformist. (Fish in a school feel safe: the predator can gobble them down in their safety.)
I ask the reader who’s just finished The First Week to ask himself what it is that’s being satirized. I offer the folk song as a comparative aid. Is it the universe of life and seasons and competing creatures that’s being satirized? Or the housewife’s wishes?
Life is a harmony between order and disorder. Life cannot exist in extreme order: a crystal (deliberately using Nobel Laureate Murray Gel-Mann’s example). Neither can life exist in extreme disorder: the interior of a star (to continue his example). Would the housewife prefer to be a diamond instead of a mortal creature? no need for a mate? no need for culture with its requirement for ironed shirts?
I say part of the macroinformation in this song is in the harmony between the life of the song itself and the failure to understand life explicit in the housewife’s wishes. I articulate a part of it; but I laughed with it long before I could perform the articulation.
Actually though my First Week is more complex than that. I am satirizing more than one thing. I am satirizing not god and the order of the universe but man’s dumb ideas about it. I am satirizing not a bronze age cosmology but a modern embrace of a bronze age cosmology. And there’s the rub. If, in 2000, God actually endorses the long-falsified cosmology set down by the Chaldean conquered Jews, and to demur is blasphemy, then yes, the story is blasphemous. I oppose that God and his false claims and errors. But if, as I believe, the god of order, Creaturic and Pleromic, is at one with the critical sentience that exposes the flaws in bad descriptions and tries to correct them, then no, the story is not blasphemous: it is an addition, a correction to the Bible. Fiction? Of course. But what in the Bible isn’t fiction? The better question is: how much of the fiction is “true.” Which necessitates the question: what kind of truth? How is it true? Are all truths of the same existential or logical type? I say not.
PS: Do you enjoy irony? How ironic is it that I myself thought I was defending the Bible at the time of composition? (And so I am: but no longer as a literal fundamentalist.) (How many others of us are not quite what we thought we were?)
2000 05 17 I add: I, like the overwhelming majority, was raised to believe that the universe was magical. That may well be the “natural” human belief. Meeting Bucky Fuller catalyzed my realization that I also believed, had come ever more to recognize, reliable order in the universe. If the universe operates by magic, then science is silly. Invariance, regularity … are illusions. The “truth” would be whatever the latest miracle has made it be. There would be no “evidence” of anything. Fossils and so forth could be just part of the miracle. Revelation would be no better than evidence. Why trust the magician? If God could make the universe then how could God not be able to remake the universe? If God could remake the universe, how could he not then be able again to remake it? to remake it a billion times a nanosecond? Whatever He told you a second ago, even if true then, could by now be false a “billion” times over.
Many of the jokes of The Model are on the author if you realize that his reason at the time of authorship was divided against itself. The way I see the story today is in those terms. The story pits reason against belief (giving both an honest chance). And may the better side win.
2002 12 09 I find this relevant quote in Robert Anton Wilson’s Prometheus Rising [p. 220]
If we confront the world without ideas we see only a muddle, the formless void that existed before “God” (intellect) started to create a universe (a system) in Genesis.
Which came first? Mind? or the universe? Man? or Mind?
Do our ideas of time, directionality, causality … make sense? Are they true?
2017 01 02 My son e-booked me Ursula K. Le Guin’s The Lath of Heaven. She has a dreamer changing reality with his dreams. (She also has the scientists denying that reality has changed!) I’ve also commented elsewhere that Heinlein’s Job has God changing reality. Back when I came upon an sf novel from long ago that did the same. Was that Heinlein too? I can’t recall, and write, and fight the mob too, not any longer.
Folk Song from Alan Lomax
One day I was walking,
I heard a complaining,
And saw an old woman
the picture of gloom.
She gazed at the mud
on her doorstep (’twas raining)
And this was her song
as she wielded her broom.
In March it is mud,
There are worms on the cherries
With grease and with grime
|The Model (a triptych of stories)||The First Week
The Second Week
The Third Week