I Wonder

Recreating (and advancing) pk’s censored domains:
Knatz.com / Teaching / Scholarship /
@ K. 2008 07 26

Years ago I added a pk Questions file, but that was satire, irony, sarcasm … I’m long overdue to have a real pk Questions file: things I wonder but don’t have any good answers for yet. If you believe you can responsibly answer any of my wonderments, please, by all means, let me know.

Ant Graveyard

It’s a huge question: Is our experience typical or rare? Scientists assume that the physics here is the physics there, that Galileo’s experiments in Italy in the Seventeenth Century would hold in New York in the Twenty-first Century and on Aldeberan in the Thirtieth Century … If you can die then maybe I also can die. If I can fall in love, then perhaps you too … Et cetera.
Conversely: if I haven’t seen a flying saucer, then maybe you also have not seen a flying saucer: no matter what you say.

None of it’s clear. We make assumptions. It’s amazing we’re ever right about anything at all.

2013 11 22 I’ve been reviewing this and that philosophical principle recently, trying to hold in my head what philosopher A means by term X while philosopher B meant Y by the same term (that I mean Z by!) And I’m reminded of a very Wittgensteinian point that had been made since before Wittgenstein: gather marbles into a dish, count them. Say there are eleven. Turn away, go on vacation: how do you know how many marbles are in the dish?
Believing that we can know phenomena by our senses already involves a string of assumptions; believing that reality holds still while we turn away involves yet a new string of assumptions.

(I’m also reminded of Stanislaw Lem’s marvelous question: How do we know the entire universe in’t one electron moving very very fast?)

Note further: not only is it only very very intelligent people who worry about such things, it’s only very very intelligent people who can follow a statement of the problem.

As I watched my son grow from toddlerhood toward boyhood, everybody was reading and seeing James Bond. James Bond was always running into soon-naked girls in the books and already almost-naked girls in the movies. The beauties, Ursula with her marvelous bikini-snatch, told him about blackwidow spiders eating their husbands: and praying mantis brides who bite their mate’s head off. When I was a kid it was Tarzan novels and Tarzan movies that filled empty young heads with PT Ripley, Believe It, You Dolt, “facts” about nature red in tooth and claw. Or maybe it was the kid who told me about his Tarzan novels, and who loaned me his Tarzan novels, who told me about the “elephant graveyard.” All elephants went to some place in Africa to die. And all the ivory hunters were forever looking for the elephant graveyard, where great ivory tusks would just litter the ground.
If the bad guys in the Tarzan novels had a lust to be rich, to find dead elephants’ tusks on the ground, to sell them, and be rich, I didn’t. I wasn’t a bad guy: I hoped. Not yet, I wasn’t. I never wondered where this elephants graveyard was: and when I saw a documentary purporting to show just such a thing, it was very disappointing: there were no graves, just bones. The elephants weren’t burying themselves in graves, they were just lying down, and dying. Perfectly natural.

And that was the end of that: until just recently. My late beloved Catherine invited me into her home. Then she gave me love, her money, a car, her house itself … I took good care of her, and loved her too, and then she died. Now I live alone in that house. My house is forever her house: Catherine’s house.

In it, just to the left from the front door, is a Formica counter. It’s old. It’s been chipping recently. And for some time now I’ve noticed circles of dark specks forming on the formica. I wipe them up, they reappear.

First I dusted and hand-vac’d the ceiling overhead. Circles of dark specks continued to appear. Finally I noticed that the littered areas were much larger, more frequent, and much more speckled, once I’d sprayed fresh poison for ants inside and out. Ah ha. I took a close look at my “dust grains” and saw that they were ant corpses: tiny ants: like baby sugar ants. There were no corpses of bull ants. There were no big red ants. Tiny black ants.

So. Why do they gather on my fading, yellowing, old once-almost-white formica?
I’ve never heard of this phenomenon. Have you? Is my experience local? I don’t think I’m seeing flying saucers.

This is potentially a scrapbook, any number of other wonders could be strung.

2013 11 22 Catherine, bless her, died in 2004. I fell in love with Jan in 2009. Here in 2013 she’s been having my house renovated for me: that formica counter has been replaced, half the house is new: new walls, new windows … (And I’ve helped her a great deal with her house, and grounds.)

Now I invite you to wonder something: Why does God, or god, or fate, or the universe watch after me? Why was the US allowed to put me in school, surround me with supervising morons, put me in jail, sabotage my writing, sabotage my ability to make a living, but now make sure I don’t quite starve, now make sure I’m not totally impoverished? And generally see to it that I have wonderful women to love? women who care for me?


About pk

Seems to me that some modicum of honesty is requisite to intelligence. If we look in the mirror and see not kleptocrats but Christians, we’re still in the same old trouble.
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