Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Ethical Lying - and you thought you'd heard it all! (2.20.09)

I'm going to start reading Haruki Murakami.  That's because I just read this speech of his, which is simply outstanding.  Go ahead and read it all for yourself.  Or let these few excerpts below entice you to want to read more.

Initially, Marukami begins by admitting he's in the business of lying professionally - as a novelist.  And he explains how the making up of lies, through fiction, shines a light on the truth:
Namely, that by telling skillful lies -- which is to say, by making up fictions that appear to be true -- the novelist can bring a truth out to a new location and shine a new light on it. In most cases, it is virtually impossible to grasp a truth in its original form and depict it accurately. This is why we try to grab its tail by luring the truth from its hiding place, transferring it to a fictional location, and replacing it with a fictional form. In order to accomplish this, however, we first have to clarify where the truth lies within us. This is an important qualification for making up good lies.
He then goes through an explanation of why he decided to travel to Jerusalem to accept a literary prize, despite the recent invasion of Gaza.  And he goes on to explain the importance of one fragile person up against a seemingly impenetrable system:
Each of us is, more or less, an egg. Each of us is a unique, irreplaceable soul enclosed in a fragile shell. This is true of me, and it is true of each of you. And each of us, to a greater or lesser degree, is confronting a high, solid wall. The wall has a name: it is "the System." The System is supposed to protect us, but sometimes it takes on a life of its own, and then it begins to kill us and cause us to kill others -- coldly, efficiently, systematically. 
I have only one reason to write novels, and that is to bring the dignity of the individual soul to the surface and shine a light upon it. The purpose of a story is to sound an alarm, to keep a light trained on the System in order to prevent it from tangling our souls in its web and demeaning them. I fully believe it is the novelist's job to keep trying to clarify the uniqueness of each individual soul by writing stories -- stories of life and death, stories of love, stories that make people cry and quake with fear and shake with laughter. This is why we go on, day after day, concocting fictions with utter seriousness.
I find his words so illuminating, so edifying, so ultimately hopeful;  I find in him a kindred spirit:
We are all human beings, individuals transcending nationality and race and religion, fragile eggs faced with a solid wall called the System. To all appearances, we have no hope of winning. The wall is too high, too strong -- and too cold. If we have any hope of victory at all, it will have to come from our believing in the utter uniqueness and irreplaceability of our own and others' souls and from the warmth we gain by joining souls together.

Take a moment to think about this. Each of us possesses a tangible, living soul. The System has no such thing. We must not allow the System to exploit us. We must not allow the System to take on a life of its own. The System did not make us: We made the System. That is all I have to say to you.
My thanks to SL, who found this and passed it on.



Gees. Mark Twain and Malory got me into my current Arthur series. There is a freedom that is indescribable in this.
Read an essay by Twain if you wish to write an essay. He lies all the way through it and you know this without researching the time, place, characters. He will do a line like:
The good man kept a good house, with good children, and maintained a good business. He did not drink alcoholic beverages, but nobody held it against him.
Or he will do an essay on Onanism--how he ever got it published--and have the pope involved behaviorally.
Malory, much more serious and maybe it is because he is writing in a stinking prison cell, is 'relating' what took place a thousand years prior by translating a Freysnche Booke. How the hell does he know what was taking place a thousand years before.
And my mind, I go to one of your links and here are books by your author and I catch Norweigean Wood. One of my favorite songs that I have not thought about for years. Talk about mind control.
I get to have Arthur declare that one day soon illegal immigration, NAFTA, and terrorism will be things of the past. Well if Cheney says we only give up some liberties TEMPORARILY during our war against terrorism, Hell temporary means a couple of thousand years.
Now you have found a real author. And he has enough guts to go to the ME and talk like that?
People are shot in that area of the world for saying what he is saying. Speaking about children and innocents being bombed?
Everybody should play a little with fiction. Q was talking about that on my blog today. As a child all the siblings took on persona(s).
See TheraP, every time you post you make me think.
There is no doubt, dd, that you are engaged in a similar quest with your writing. Yes, so often you expose different topics - simply by pointing out how odd it seems if you think about it from the vantage point of centuries. You have such latitude in your stories. And again, the comments also allow for extending the thoughts and issues.
Very powerful speech! Can't wait to read his novels!
Read an essay by Twain if you wish to write an essay. He lies all the way through it and you know this without researching the time, place, characters. He will do a line like: The good man kept a good house, with good children, and maintained a good business. He did not drink alcoholic beverages, but nobody held it against him.
Or he will do an essay on Onanism--how he ever got it published--and have the pope involved behaviorally.
I missed the one on er, onanism.
I liked every essay I have read by Mr. Clemmons so far. His essays on Adam and Eve were rather, er, life enhancing.
I have onanism in my book sitting right here. Adam and eve knocked my socks off when I was a kid.
She goes out in the woods and comes back with it.
I think it may be a fish.

No it is not a fish. I threw it in the water and it sunk and boy was she mad at me.
I cannot believe it. She found another one. I could search those woods for an eternity and not find one and she found two!!!

This guy is briliant!
And I meant that with two "l"'s, brilliant.
Brilliant and with heart and soul! What could be better?
I accidentally clicked rec'd for this blog. I'm very sorry about that! I've promised myself not to check that way on my own blog... but it happened again. :(
That is ok TheraP. I was going to rec you twice anyway. hahahhaahah
Thank you, dd. That's like an indulgence and I am very appreciative of your kind words. :)
I've read some essays by Kurt Vonnegut with similar sentiments about fiction writing. He was pretty good at taking shots at The System, too.
If you can find the links, please post them here.
The value of fiction as a source of elucidation depends on the ability of the reader to perform the inverse translation correctly. That is, the author translates from fact into fiction, but the reader must make the, or a, correct inverse translation.
And it also tends to assume that the translation is commutative. That is, even given an ideal reader who can translate the fictional narrative back into factual equivalence, not all such double translations take you back to the same truth. Not all transformations are exactly invertible, just as two wrongs often don't make a right.
When shining a light on truth, it's important to distinguish the truth from its shadow.
eds, you just gave me a headache.
I knew if I waited long enough, someone would come up with a suitable response.
Megwich, dear flowerchild!
Or did my prose remind you that you had a headache?! At least it wasn't Sartre's Nausea!!
I thought of Plato's Allegory of the Cave, in re the shadow of truth... and hereby wish for you to have only a shadow of a headache by now.

I'm positive I didn't have the headache before I read your comment. I did shine the light of truth on it though, just in case. Now I'm seeing spots, too.
You owe me two aspirin.
In the interests of science and Obama politics (based on facts), I'd like to run the experiment over again several times!
Would you care to shed some light on your headache -- Anything in particular seem to be the causal factor in you becoming suddenly aware of the latent headache you had?

Peace be with you.
ack! Get back in yer egg!
Well, eds, your gonna have to run those experiments on your own because the batteries in my truth flashlight died and I am lost in the dark in Allegory Cave and a headache is now the least of my problems. Ahhhhhhh! What was that slimy thing I just touched? Ahhhhhhh! Something just slithered over the toe of my boot, eds.
Never mind the aspirin. Send 4 D-cells and a pea shooter.
At least you're wearing boots and your headache is relatively minor, right?
I just stomped on the slimy slithery thing with my trusty boots. I think. It's still dark here in the cave, but at least I don't hear anything moving anymore. Nevermind the pea shooter.
What headache?
The fictional one, the one which illustrated something important, I suppose!
eds, we just wrote some fiction here on this thread, you and I, and it supported both your comment and my fictional headache.
Fiction coming from fact does depend upon the knowledge of the reader to drive the story. Those readers who have knowledge of Sartre or Plato can easily make internal references when they find them among the pages of a novel.
But, most readers of fiction don't know everything in the whole wide world and that is why fiction must also be created out of the wilderness of imagination and the blanks must be filled in with lies. The story must flow and maintain its entertainment value and not divert the reader's attention away to some other entertainment because there goes the novelist's advance on his/her next collection of ethical lies, children go hungry and the car gets repo'd..
My point....and yes, I have one....a lying sack of poo fiction writer needs to know their readership or they should not give up their day job.
Lacking a day job, I'm frustrated at the closing premise! :-)
I suppose there is a line somewhere between pandering and enlightening, when it comes to the use of fact or fiction. Name-dropping sometimes works, sometimes fails, either way. When it fails to first order, it might succeed to second order, say if a person looks up the name and quickly makes the implicit connection which failed initially.
The larger question of interest to me is the issue raised by "ethical lying". Murakami is clearly talking about novels, overt fiction. And his use of "lie" in that context is a bit suspect, perhaps he's lying when he calls his fictions lies. But this is mostly a politics blog, so we might translate his fictional fictions to the realm of political reality, a sort of inverse map to what he presents (as I read it, he maps real stuff into fiction where he can more easily evoke understandings which could not easily be evoked without fiction). That is, we can use fiction as the starting point, translate that into factual discourse, and then maybe having had some appreciation (learned something or enjoyed something) go back to fiction.
In the modern era of Infotainment, we see two clear purposes, Information and Entertainment, at work. Sometimes they work together, sometimes they conflict. Using the idea of mapping in a slightly twisted fashion, we can note transformations between Information and Entertainment. What cannot be "sold" easily on a strictly informative basis might get the message across if mapped as entertainment. For instance.

user-pic work nights, eds?
It is enuf for now, but this was fun. Maybe another blog will come along about lying writers and we can reopen the conversation. :o)
See ya round the bend...!~~
eds your comment has many truths. I was not laughing at you. I was laughing at Flower because I got caught in long philosophical discussions with Obey today and yesterday.
Your comment is complicated. And it posits an extremely fine mind and a talented hand for writing. Joyce or Shaw.
So I apologize. I may sound like the NY Post but I mean it. People were making jokes about me and Obey also. lite hearted.
Yes, you posted in re flower!
I never know from laughter whether I'm being laughed with, laughed at, or just getting my ego worked up about being laughed aside!
I think I misread this entire thread. But what is new? I was in that chat room last nite and she tells me you and her were just funnin. It was the comment from TheraP--bless you or whatever--that threw me.
I am glad everything is ok. Enough blather for you this morning?

dd, I can't speak for eds, but I had fun exchanging comments with him. :o)
That chat room?
I don't know if that's a fiction or a fact!! Is there some ancillary chat room which complements TPM threads?
I did find TheraP's late interjection a bit odd, but decided to let it, um, lie. So to speak.
Yeah they use Lingr and Frizzletoad has the link on his blog yesterday. If you have problems, tell me I will find it.
Found the blog and the link. Probably won't go there soon but might check it out, thanks!
Does the truth ever lie with the lamb?
eds, you're confused by one of my comments to you. I must admit the comment I'm responding to makes more sense this morning than when I first read it. I find your comments often so elusive - it's unclear where you're going with them. A kind of disembodiment to them in a way, which is at times disturbing. Thus, I wished you peace. And I still wish you peace. And I wish you were more forthcoming and less elusive.
More forthcoming... in what sense? Are you lost in the truth of my words, or trying to tease me for my ability to speak truth?
I cannot clarify what you do not show to be unclear. I cannot explain what you do not show to be misunderstood by you. If I speak the truth, how can I be more forthcoming without writing fiction, ethically or otherwise?
When you offer peace, are you feeling troubled by my words?
Perhaps you, TheraP, could be more forthcoming both to demonstrate what 'forthcoming' would mean here, and to give me something to work with should further truth be called for.
I guess not.
Each of us is, more or less, an egg.
So.... the egg really DOES come first?
Seriously, Thera, my friend, I have seen too many broken peoples. It needs to stop.
Amen. Amen.
A chicken is just the way an egg makes another egg.
(And since there must have been a proto-not-quite-chicken, yes, the egg came first.)
That whole chicken and egg conundrum is really just a creationist dodge to divert attention from the evolution of reptiles into birds.
You mean dinosaurs, reptiles are distinct.
Indeed. They always seem to be GOP, for one thing.
Grab truth by the tale…
What’s with all these walls lately? On Wall Street, we're flying like Mighty Mouse men and women into the realm of who says what and is it true? My old teacher used to say writing fiction was “Lies in the service of Truth.” Don’t know if the quote was his or not but I remember the just gist of it. Hitting the wall and bouncing back if possible not only over there where the bombs fall but here, where the shops are closing and folks still in the stores are keeping their heads down and hoping they don’t get canned tomorrow. It matters how we extrapolate, i.e. infer experience, and sometimes not, too. Like, “to estimate a value that falls outside a range of known values” and within our all too human values I mean the Global Economic System. So, like extending a curve on a graph we sometimes have to grab truth by the tale and head for the wall.

Being a reader, and not a writer, of fiction, I had noticed that certain truths can be told in fiction that are obscured in other mediums. However, I had never thought about it the way presented by Murakami.
I am inspired to both read his work ... and maybe take a shot at writing some fiction as well.
Its funny to read this comment. This is a bit out of the blue, but I never thanked you for turning me on to the Frank Herbert books. (you taught sociology classes back when you were working on your PHD, and I was a student its a small world). I learned a lot.
Saladin, small world indeed! That was a while back, and I continue teaching. Thank you.
Life is such a contradiction.
Just look around and all you see is a mess. People killing each other everywhere you look. We witness the most outrageous acts being committed against people because of their ethnicity, gender or religion. This has no rhyme or reason. Anyone who thinks we are rational beings is totally lacking objectivity.
Even Obama, though he may be well intentioned, has thus far refused to accept that our financial sector has totally screwed all of us. Unless that, and so much else, is rectified, we can rest assured that the mess will reman.
Equality is a nice idea but making it a reality is inherently beyond our grasp. It is really hard to learn that all our excesses have no value and in the end serve no purpose.
We are so silly. We espouse to promote a system of equality when in fact we have a system that in practice does just the opposite. Our reality is we aren't equal. That we have laws seeking that end is a joke and those persons who make the laws chuckle at our expense every day.
I have to laugh at the expressed idea of our nation moving toward being a socialist state. A greater untruth has never been spoken. Just look at the fact that people have been increasingly deprived of the independent ability to feed, clothe and shelter themselves. That's all you need to know to understand the extent to which we have been lied to.
Equality is inherently socialist in nature. And you can't fail to grasp that the rich and politically powerful, in true fact, want no part of either. Why else do you think the rich and politically powerful have arguably and collectively stolen us blind and nothing at all has happened?
As history sadly informs us, only blood in the streets is able to rectify this. I really don't want to see that but sooner or later somebody will press the reset button. It's inevitable.
Life is such a contradiction.
"Blood in the streets" is one option, but only one, but it comes at a price that seems to conclusively illustrate the definition of insanity: trying the same solutions, again and again, even when they've been proven not to work, and expecting different results...or words to that effect.
Another, better option when many are downtrodden is the energizing, ultimately mobilizing power derived from "laughing in the face of adversity." Eyes shine, pulses race and hope begins to seem possible.
See, for starters, the video of Tim Minchin that Loki put up on his/her blog:

It is the least desirable. However it represents the lowest common denominator that is readily understood by most people. In any case, when things get that bad it is often the only solution left.
Thanks for this! I'm a big fan. Loved Hard-Boiled wonderland. It's one of those books where the world he creates with its atmosphere of horror, repulsiveness and hilarity just stick in your memory forever. And very little usually tends to stick in my cerebral siv. (can't remember the story, for instance).
loved this from the speech:
"Between a high, solid wall and an egg that breaks against it, I will always stand on the side of the egg."
I do not write fiction but I have had friends who do. I have found writing fiction is like prayer. I get on my knees and ask a question and, somehow, I get an answer.
Imagine two fictional characters, a man and a woman, with no description, like two stick people drawn on a piece of paper. Then ask yourself “Is the woman tall or short.” When you have an answer then ask any other question about them you like. Now you have begun your novel.
The question is “Who answers your questions?”

Larry, you always so thought-provoking! What a great question!
And it reminds me of a quote from Doris Lessing's Nobel lecture:
Read the whole thing if you have time, because it relates to this blog. But the quote below relates to Larry's comment:
Writers are often asked, How do you write? With a wordprocessor? an electric typewriter? a quill? longhand? But the essential question is, "Have you found a space, that empty space, which should surround you when you write?" Into that space, which is like a form of listening, of attention, will come the words, the words your characters will speak, ideas - inspiration. If a writer cannot find this space, then poems and stories may be stillborn.
When writers talk to each other, what they discuss is always to do with this imaginative space, this other time. "Have you found it? Are you holding it fast?"
This inner space is what Larry means. And then Larry's question: To what or whom does this space connect? Where do the answers come from?
That is the all-important question in life.
Oh, Larry, how did I deserve you???
from Works of Love S. Kierkegaard 1847
“Where is its source and its wellspring? Where is the secret place from which it issues? Truly, that place is hidden, or it is in secret. There is a place in the heart of man; from this place issues the life of love, for “out of the heart are the issues of life.” But you cannot see this place; however far you penetrate, the source withdraws in distance and secrecy… so love dwells in secret, or is hidden in the heart.”
Exquisite. Amen.
J. Lawrence, you asked "Who answers your questions?" Well, according to some around TPM, there is No One out there answering you. What happened is that billions of years ago the primordial mud got heated up by lightening and turned into soup. That soup then cooked pieces of carbon into life and, eventually, a fish crawled out, turned into a lizard, then turned into an ape and that ape turned into you. And, believe it or not, they don't call that whole story a story of fiction. Can you believe that?
there is No One out there answering you
out there?
Out where?
Larry said: somehow I get an answer.
inner space
I am not so arrogant as to have any answer to your question. Of course I have considered that question in great detail. My declared minor in the university was Theology (Roman Catholic). I left the organized debate behind long ago. In fact I left organized religion long ago. It was the only way I could preserve my spirituality.
Perhaps I can offer this from a lyric of a popular song:
If God had a name, what would it be
And would you call it to his face
If you were faced with him in all his glory
What would you ask if you had just one question..
What if God was one of us
Just a slob like one of us
Just a stranger on the bus
Trying to make his way home

I've been thinking a lot about your comment above, Larry. And it's my conviction, and I know I'm not alone in thinking this, that true spirituality grows beyond institutions, that it breaks those bounds - and must do so - or it shrivels and dies in some kind of pietism or legalism I suppose. At the same time institutions want to stamp out true spirituality because it represents a threat to the institution. You see that with mystics over and over throughout history. And you see a kind of tug within institutions between a more spirit-led and a more authoritarian type of leadership.
For myself I maintain an ethical fiction of being RC - I feel I'm part of a true stream - but a hidden one - and as a part of that stream, I feel free to "minister" (through volunteering at a local hospital) in ways that would be deemed heretical. Quietly, without any fanfare, I offer people what the church would deny some of them - forgiveness, communion. (This is not the majority of persons I visit, but it happens enough so that I know I doing something beneficial, even though "wrong" in the eyes of the hierarchy. It's an interesting line I'm straddling. There aren't many ways for a woman to do this kind of subversive RC ministry. I suspect it happens more often than we know of.)
The nice thing about being born Catholic is that nobody checks up on you after a certain point. You can make use of the tradition as a ladder, as I've written elsewhere, but at a certain point the ladder ends - but you must keep climbing still. Perhaps you know exactly what I mean. All traditions "meet" (I think) once you leave the ladder. "Meet" in the sense that all climbers are working toward the same vanishing point. (hard to describe of course, since it's an inner meeting point - as in TS Eliot, the last line I quoted "The voice of this Calling" - not sure if you've read the whole poem; I've read it countless times - and I love the way he weaves in mysticism.)
I don’t mind so much that Jesus was not actually the son of god. Well maybe I do since I was one hell of an altar boy and if things were what they seem I’d be sitting in clover right now. I am content that he was a kindly and generous soul who somehow managed to end up being read to me from an early age. He led me toward my spirituality and for that I am eternally, albeit mortaly, gratefull. It was through The Church that I learned the value of good works and that lesson has stayed with me since. Like Teresa of Avila as a child all I wanted to be was a saint. More like Quixote I took it all too seriously and when god moved from fact to fiction, I continued the struggle. And I guess I don’t mind. As Rilke says “Everything that is serious is difficult. And everything is serious.”
"Son_of _God" - who knows what those words mean? If you read carefully, especially some early writers like Ephraem, an amazing poet from northwest Iraq in the 4th century, we're all "sons of God" or potentially so. (others wrote about that too of course, but I kind of like Ephaem, because he was more "eastern" in thinking, and I personally think the marrying of Greek philosophy with the Jesus tradition was not really helpful in many ways. Led to imperial Rome for one thing...)
But the real issue, Larry, is being an altar boy. Now... that was the big shock of my childhood! That I could not be an altar boy! And that I could never be a priest! So maybe somebody could psychoanalyze me and call it "penis envy" or "priest envy" or altar-boy envy (though I did do a stint as acolyte with the Episcopalians and that was highly satisfying! shhh... don't tell the pope!)
There's a part of you that's always an altar boy. And a part of me that's never been one. And that, right there, is the wall I was up against!
There. Got that off my chest! :)
And that part of me is? I know, I know, the knees. Listen every former altar boy goes through his adult life with the scars from his service. There are the stiff joints from all that genuflecting. Then there is the need to keep the secret that as young men they wore dresses. Having been an altar boy is not a great confirmation of one’s masculinity. If it weren’t for the fact that only boys can perform these duties then I shudder to think of the constellation of neuroses that would plague we few, we proud, we BOYS. I could go on but… And that other thing. Well that’s just god’s way of saying “Thank you for your service.”
You've given me a new perspective here! But actually, you're lucky it was just knees. As you know, some altar boys were given "other duties" which were immoral. Maybe they did that on their knees too. Very sad. And outrageous!
Ok, I'm glad I didn't do that!
TheraP - I'm rereading through the thread, and I've got a little niggling nabob in my head about A 'protect the egg against the system' theory of writing. I couldn't find the right words, and then I remembered this from Faulkner's Nobel talk, from another time, but still so relevant:
"Our tragedy today is a general and universal physical fear so long sustained by now that we can even bear it. There are no longer problems of the spirit. There is only one question: When will I be blown up? Because of this, the young man or woman writing today has forgotten the problems of the human heart in conflict with itself which alone can make good writing because only that is worth writing about, worth the agony and the sweat. He must learn them again. He must teach himself that the basest of all things is to be afraid: and, teaching himself that, forget it forever, leaving no room in his workshop for anything but the old verities and truths of the heart, the universal truths lacking which any story is ephemeral and doomed--love and honor and pity and pride and compassion and sacrifice. Until he does so, he labors under a curse. He writes not of love but of lust, of defeats in which nobody loses anything of value, and victories without hope and worst of all, without pity or compassion. His griefs grieve on no universal bones, leaving no scars. He writes not of the heart but of the glands."
- This has something to do with what I like about TPM. It's focused on the politics, on the 'system', on breaking through that wall of system-atic subterfuge, but so much of what is written - TheraP, DD, Q, (and others who I haven't gotten around to - does that in such a roundabout fashion. Sometimes the focus has to be taken off the wall and turned toward the little egg, and put that wall at a certain distance; it's hard to see up close.
I can't get this right. I'm sure someone else can around here...
Obey, sometimes you write just beyond my grasp. Then again, you too seem to have found your ability to express yourself (above) as ultimately beyond your grasp as well - amusingly at the same time as you find some of the rest of us bumping up against the same nearly impenetrable wall - not just of a "system" but of our own limits. And I wonder if we're all "circling" truths which are ultimately inexpressible in words. Though if we're lucky, from to time we may have an experience where we know "something" so profoundly that we are changed by that experience, bumped up to some new level of awareness.
I wrote a blog back in December that maybe pertains:
We have to keep trying. But we will also keep not-succeeding at the same time. And it reminds me of words of T.S. Eliot, which I'm searching for here, at this particularly beautiful site:
... Go, go, go, said the bird: human kind
Cannot bear very much reality.

Words move, music moves
Only in time; but that which is only living
Can only die. Words, after speech, reach
Into the silence. Only by the form, the pattern,
Can words or music reach
The stillness, as a Chinese jar still
Moves perpetually in its stillness.
Not the stillness of the violin, while the note lasts,
Not that only, but the co-existence,
Or say that the end precedes the beginning,
And the end and the beginning were always there
Before the beginning and after the end.
And all is always now. Words strain,
Crack and sometimes break, under the burden,
Under the tension, slip, slide, perish,
Decay with imprecision, will not stay in place,
Will not stay still.
Shrieking voices
Scolding, mocking, or merely chattering,
Always assail them. The Word in the desert
Is most attacked by voices of temptation,
The crying shadow in the funeral dance,
The loud lament of the disconsolate chimera.
That was a way of putting it—not very satisfactory:
A periphrastic study in a worn-out poetical fashion,
Leaving one still with the intolerable wrestle
With words and meanings.
The poetry does not matter.
It was not (to start again) what one had expected.
What was to be the value of the long looked forward to,
Long hoped for calm, the autumnal serenity
And the wisdom of age? Had they deceived us
Or deceived themselves, the quiet-voiced elders,
Bequeathing us merely a receipt for deceit?
The serenity only a deliberate hebetude,
The wisdom only the knowledge of dead secrets
Useless in the darkness into which they peered
Or from which they turned their eyes. There is, it seems to us,
At best, only a limited value
In the knowledge derived from experience.
The knowledge imposes a pattern, and falsifies,
For the pattern is new in every moment

And every moment is a new and shocking
Valuation of all we have been. We are only undeceived
Of that which, deceiving, could no longer harm.
In the middle, not only in the middle of the way
But all the way, in a dark wood, in a bramble,
On the edge of a grimpen, where is no secure foothold,
And menaced by monsters, fancy lights,
Risking enchantment. Do not let me hear
Of the wisdom of old men, but rather of their folly,
Their fear of fear and frenzy, their fear of possession,
Of belonging to another, or to others, or to God.
The only wisdom we can hope to acquire
Is the wisdom of humility: humility is endless.
Trying to use words, and every attempt
Is a wholly new start, and a different kind of failure
Because one has only learnt to get the better of words
For the thing one no longer has to say, or the way in which
One is no longer disposed to say it.
And so each venture
Is a new beginning, a raid on the inarticulate
With shabby equipment always deteriorating
In the general mess of imprecision of feeling,
Undisciplined squads of emotion. And what there is to conquer
By strength and submission, has already been discovered
Once or twice, or several times, by men whom one cannot hope
To emulate—but there is no competition—
There is only the fight to recover what has been lost
And found and lost again and again: and now, under conditions
That seem unpropitious. But perhaps neither gain nor loss.
For us, there is only the trying. The rest is not our business.
With the drawing of this Love and the voice of this
We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time.

hahah! Thanks for the consolation, Thera. I was beginning to feel I was failing the Turing test miserably today...
I am but a pug of little perpicacity. And much too slow for you mighty minds. I shall try harder, and wait for my little personal god to speak to me. He's just mumbling stuff I don't understand for now. Maybe he feels by DD yesterday calling him just a hallucination. :-)
Lovely poem!
We are all engaged in the same struggle. The inability to stretch our minds to comprehend or express. We're all slow. But we're trying!
Keep speaking! Fear not. It's the trying that matters. (keep throwing out the thoughts! till some stick on the wall!)
I'm forever being astounded by TPMers! You're already one of us - too late to turn back now! (It's like an expedition in the Himalayas - we need every able mind to keep climbing!)
And I wonder if we're all "circling" truths which are ultimately inexpressible in words. Though if we're lucky, from to time we may have an experience where we know "something" so profoundly that we are changed by that experience, bumped up to some new level of awareness.
Orbits, and I don't mean eyeballs! People seek truth and usually give up in favor of other ways to pass time. So they end up "circling" deeper truth.
In re your second sentence: Paradigm shifts or perhaps more psychologically, personal archetype transformation similar to what is labelled "epiphany".
He who speaks does not know. He who knows does not speak.
Sometimes true.
Words strain,
Crack and sometimes break, under the burden,
Under the tension, slip, slide, perish,
Decay with imprecision, will not stay in place,
Will not stay still. Shrieking voices
Scolding, mocking, or merely chattering,
Always assail them. The Word in the desert
Is most attacked by voices of temptation,
The crying shadow in the funeral dance,
The loud lament of the disconsolate chimera.
I dunno TheraP. I could have just copied your entire essay/poem. If there is no risk, there is no prize. But you know that. You stick your neck out everyday. You love the hunt.
Good for you.
dd, that is all TS Eliot. Go back and follow the link and enjoy the whole poem.
It's true I may stick my neck out. Maybe even every day. But sometimes, I like to quote people who have said what I'm thinking far better than I could ever express it!
Peace, my friend!
(Thanks for that spectacular citation and for your insightful comment.)
I think someone else can answer your question but he is dead. Fortunately he wrote it down and, wouldn’t you know, it was in a fictional novel, “The Ingenious Nobleman Don Quixote de La Mancha.” Forget for a moment if you can that it is “a classic,” that it is a hilarious comedy, that it is a treasury of wonderful vignettes, that there are different literary interpretations of the novel from different ages. And put aside for a moment the modern meme of “absurdity” as it is applied to the Don. What remains is the central question that Cervantes was asking in his fiction.
Was Don Quixote insane? Or more broadly, “Is it insane to live your inner life in public?” Cervantes lived in a time when the system circumscribed in great specificity how a person must act in public to confirm their “sanity.” Then, as now, physical security was provided by the collective adherence to the rules of the established order. Then, as now, to act as an individual, to be heterodox, was to threaten the coherence of the established order which in turn was seen to threaten everyone’s security. Sound familiar?
Today when we say “insane” we refer to a medical condition or disease. Before this “insane” meant being outside of conventional norms of behavior, a moral failure. Before that it meant literaly the Latin “unclean,” to suffer an imbalance of the humors. But the oldest meaning can be found with the Greeks. For them the word meant to miss the mark, to be wrong. The seer Cassandra, worrying about the “sanity” of her prophecies about the fate that awaits Troy, says: “"Have I missed the mark, or, like a true archer, do I strike my quarry? Or am I prophet of lies, a babbler from door to door?" [Aeschylus, Agamemnon 1194.]
It seems that always the pressure to conform has kept our inner selves from entering the public discourse, except, as TheraP has shown us, when we engage in “ethical lying.”
Despite the fact that the fundamental understanding of mind ( psyche ) has completely changed in the time since Cervantes, Don Quixote still entertains and absorbs us with his struggle. What is the almost “universal” thread in the story? I think it may be that what is constant is “the human condition.” No matter what construction one overlays upon human experience, the experience is the same. Cervantes captures a part of that experience in the struggle of Quixote.
“Where you see ideal things, I see what is --
human, alas, all-too-human. I know man better.”
F. Nietzsche Ecce Homo

Just came back with a vague idea of something sensible to say, and as so often, things have been taken to a completely different plane, well above my head. Now I have to think again. Ok a couple of points. (update, I just finished and realized this gets very long and boring. Apologies)
Being a bit puggish, I'll start with a bit of good-natured ankle-biting: the Greek term in question is hamartia, which to me just means 'mistake' (it's the same term as Aristotle uses in talking of the Tragic hero's 'flaw'. But that, to me, is also the wrong translation - again it should just be 'error' - leading to a lot of funny misconceptions of what Tragedy is). They had another term which to me is roughly equivalent to our insanity or madness, and that is 'mania'. But that is aside from your main point.
Sorry if I start with the small stuff, but I'm a pebble-head, so I keep my questions small and my answers pretty square. Which leads to the kinds of worries Eliot points to - a kind of generalized Heisenberg principle. On these vast questions, all I can do is nibble around the edges, and hopefully say something a bit useful. There are three kinds of 'errors' - those that are socially accepted ("sorry, I miscalculated the bill"), those that face a social sanction ("sorry, I'm late but I was too lazy to get up this morning" - "well that just isn't good enough, go to the corner!"), and those that just lie outside even the bounds of social 'sanction'. They are three ways of being 'wrong' in some sense.
The first kind are those that lie within the bounds of social norms that account for the limits of our human reasoning and practical abilities, and are not regarded as our fault. There are those - the second sort - that we understand as part of human nature, our 'flaws', but flaws that we as individuals stand responsible for, that we are blamed by society for, and so punished for. Then there are the last kind, those that cannot be explained by reference 'flaws' in our nature, nor simple calculating errors. They lie outside the bounds of reason in two ways. In one way they lie outside reason because they involve an agent's actions that are not based on reasons - which even weak-willed behavior or irrational feelings are. There aren't any beliefs or desire the agent is acting on the basis of. And in another sense, we from the outside cannot understand that behavior, we can't reason or explain it within the framework of our understanding of human nature.
Quixote is an interesting case because he straddles precisely these two criteria for 'what lies beyond the bounds' (i.e. insanity). From the inside, as it were, he is guided by reasons in all that he does; his desires are odd and his beliefs mistaken, but 'it makes sense'. From the 'outside', his actions are so odd, and his reasons are so odd, that they don't even lie within the realm of society's conception of what counts as human action. We cease to see and treat individuals acting in this way as fully-fledged 'persons' - they become natural phenomena. We do not get angry at the insane, we do not hold them responsible, for their actions are determined, not by themselves, but by whatever is going on - i.e. malfunctioning - in his brain.
And here I have a problem. The 'individualist' assumption is that Quixote is right - WE are the authority about what WE feel, want and believe (laying aside for now questions of the sub-conscious). The outside world has no say on the matter. WE stand here as fully autonomous beings - beings that guide themselves by their own internal 'laws' (those being whatever values, commitments, and theoretical reasoning). Obviously society has a way - often seen as a pernicious way - of insinuating itself into our private personal 'legislative' processes, but these forces are to be resisted; we stand there as a little fragile egg against the insurmountable forces of such social subversion of our autonomy. And THIS kind of view of our relationship to 'the system', where that just is society, is something I find deeply wrong. There is something deeply wrong about the whole picture of the individual soul as an egg with a fragile shell. To me the shell is neither fragile, nor is it meant to be a kind of protective cover.
Now I don't want to sustain some radically opposed view - the primacy of community over the individual. The truth is somewhere in the middle. There is a place, an important place, for us to raise arms against the less visible and more visible social subversion of our autonomy. A lot of what happens here at TPM - to which I pitch in my little part - is part of that effort. But I don't believe in this ultimate mythical autonomy - this private inner self - hiding under a shell. And I do not believe in this monolithic Other - the system. There is no such thing. There are social power structures and struggles, but that is the domain of superficial politics, not the deeper enterprise Murakami and co. are embarked on. The short version of my view is that we are Essentially interdependent, we cannot reason alone, we cannot have any meaningful emotional life in isolation, and so we cannot have any structure of values and commitments that go up to make our 'inner selves'. A silly superficial example is, well, what we are all doing here. Without this ping-pong of ideas, i would lack any conception of what touch I have with reality. MY touch with reality depends on my contact with others. There is a fine fiction by Michel Tournier (forget the title) on the mental life of Robinson Crusoe - and its fascinating, though somewhat nightmarish.
This is getting much too long, and I've chewed off way too much, and I haven't even gotten to the main issue of the Good Lie. But all this background stuff is important. To me, Faulkner's point isn't to focus exclusively on our inner lives, to the exclusion of the Other. It's got to do with avoiding the effects of fear, terror, resentment, outrage, the effects of leading us to objectify this threat from outside - the System - and losing sight of ourselves. It's the dichotomy that's the problem; and that's why I say opposing the Egg to the Wall is misleading - and not in a good way.
That was tiring... hope it makes some sense.
I think I have become a lover of posts that pass their 24 hour mark. A Dead Thread kinda guy. (And no, don't forgive that pun - I wouldn't.) This chat puts a genuine smile on my face. So to all, thanks for that.
For 30 years, I've lived on the road. Never gotten to live within 1,000 miles of my true "home." This kind of life forces me, every year, to choose which books to keep and carry. My poet? Eliot. My philosopher? Nietzsche. So... as you might guess, this thread makes me smile. Just for that.
The egg & the wall. The inner self and the public. Fear and fruitful lies. Naturally, I'd like to claim that I am the Eggman, and let it be. (Ouch.)
Ok. Lemme try this. What if there are two external worlds, and two eggs in each of us. Sounds silly perhaps, but in times of real historical trauma, that's not unheard of. What if there is one world crumbling, and one rising? The egg representing the crumbling world is one which is largely false, dying, rotting. Untrue to itself somehow, or bad for us. And another egg with potential to hatch, grow, and build, reproduce, flesh out a newer world. Two dreams, one being born, one dying. Both within us.
How live then?
Within myself, I decided at some point to ... work for the New Egg. And a New World for it. I have the best credentials one could have, to operate the Wall, the Old World. Ones that get me into rooms to speak with some Very Rotten Eggs. PM's and Princes, CEO's and Editors.
On the other hand, I am a Good Egg. I work to build a New World, New Dream. (Even though I know it will have its Wall'ish tendencies. It's own rot.)
Now. Do I cloak? Disguise? Live a lie? Mask?
Or tell the truth? Tell the personal detail? Speak my dreams?
What I have chosen to do is... to create. Both/And. Truth and Lies. Fiction, Non-Fiction. Cloak and Reveal. Reveal a Cloak.
And - painful oddity here - I found I needed to do this with both groups. The officially Rotten ones, and the ones somewhat Busier being Born. Why? Well, many of those hurling rocks at the Wall turn out to be, IMO, bullshit artists.
Eggs aren't meant to be smashed against Walls. That part's easy. But neither are they meant to hatch and then simply turn to throwing rocks at the old Wall. Or to sit there contemplating their genius and better nature. I believe we're at the end of an age, a 400+ year long age. And that we need to give birth to what's in our damned eggs, and swiftly, or we may not get that many more turns. Kill enough eggs, and you get no new chickens. But then.... to grow those little chickies up into the next generation. And build a New World for them. Sometimes, even reusing the stones once part of the old Wall.
So to some degree, I spend time tossing Eggs through gaps in the Wall. To some degree, building the New World. Some, on raising the Eggs up. Some, fighting to make sure they aren't crushed. And some, sorting this all out, and laughing at my own confusion.
I think we all do this, some mix of this, and especially in THIS time.
Which is where JLH's personal and public worlds, interest me. The only way I've found, to live with this situation, of double yolked eggs and double walls and worlds, is to wear masks, and reveal, Russian Dolls perhaps. Refuse labels, never quite fit. Which has been interesting, albeit exhausting. If I am invited to meet a Prime Minister, I wear jeans and T-shirts. If I hang with my friends, my official credentials and work in the Old World always keep me sliiiiightly apart.
There have been many surprises on this path. The seeming rottenest of Eggs, Directors of the Wall, will sometimes reveal... their own tender Other Egg. And want, and even be willing to act, to further that end. I don't want to tip the balance too far here. I find everyone a mix, yes. But there are levels and degrees.
And also, a cost, whichever way I turn. A member of perhaps an entire Generation which is... between.
Which brings me to..... not the writing of fiction, and the fruitful/creative lie there. But the living of one.
Not just the reading or the writing of a story. But living one. Creating one. A story, or a history. Depending on how you want to look at it.
And how confusing & garbled was that, Dear Quinn? Dreadfully so, Dear Bad-Egged Self. But don't worry, it'll be your turn next, oh my Double-Yolker. ;-)
Wonderful!!! And I disagree violently. lol. Or I'd like to, but I think we're talking about two different things in different ways. I've been talking about place in literature for the bounds of the self - insanity - while exemplifying the latter grandly in my ramblings. Q, you are talking about the bounds of the self - where you're talking about the border where I/Me transact with the outside world - in a sane and practical manner. The latter is clearer, more convincing, and useful.
What i was trying to drive at eventually was that the role of literature is not to defend and protect the soul from the demeaning effects of the System. for one thing a lot of great literature - Maupassant's Bel Ami comes to mind - is about the lack of dignity of individual souls, the bad eggs out there, contributing to (not victimized by) the evils of society. It's not literature's role to save our souls from the System either. Some literature does that well, but a lot should not and does not care about any such entity. Good literature should just get at the truth of our relationship to society - i.e. the human condition in general.
In defence and continuity of my rambling train of thought, I shall now talk about something completely different. I've wanted to stick this in somewhere: it's a parable, not on quite the level of Q and DD's stuff, but it's something I've long loved. So if you have time and inclination over the weekend take a look. It's a piece called the Planet without Laughter - by Ray Smullyan, which is evocative enough a title without me saying much more about it. hope you/someone likes it. Smullyan is someone I know from his formal academic writing, but he has a wonderful mind.
What a great link! Takes me right to Eco's Name of the Rose.
And some other essay I read years ago. It will come to me later.
I think I got distracted too in my response. Because I was reading it as related to persons, so philosophy, rather than literature.
Isn't this fun? :-)
A quick thought -
a piece of half-hearted or half-assed (depending on where you think this is coming from) jujitsu on your idea. If your public self is the fiction, then I'm assuming you're assuming your private self is the fact/reality which the fiction issues from or perhaps exists in service of. But how do you know it isn't the reverse? Your inner self is a convenient fiction whereas the champagne-sipping-jean-wearing-social-trapeze-artist thingy is just who you are. (aHA! he says with all the conviction of inspector Cluzeau)
- oh and you forgot your third egg - the one which doesn't care either way but just wants its wine and women...
no, no, no!
2 eggs is plenty enough for anyone!
LOL! ♪ ♫ ♪
Your comment reminds me a bit of Marcus Aurelius. You write as if you don’t expect to ever see Rome but you labor in its service anyway. I’m with you on that. But just as one must imagine Sysiphus happy, the stoic is also in pursuit of happiness. And who better to explain that to us the our old friend FWN:
“There is a cheerfulness peculiar to the Stoic: he experiences it whenever he feels hemmed in by the formalities he himself has prescribed for his conduct; he then enjoys the sensation of himself as dominator. “

I gotta brush up on my Nietzsche. Great quote. Where's it from?
Sorry I had to look for it. I found it on the second floor in the hallway. You see I wallpapered my house in the complete works of Nietzsche. Anyway the second floor hallway is mostly “The Genealogy of Morals.” This is aphorism 251, right next to the bathroom.
Thanks for this! didn't mean for you to have to go look for it.
Love Nietzsche. Had to work on his Diogenes Laertius notes way back, and there are some real pearls in there!! don't know his philosophy so well, but it seemed like high powered Aristotelian, much better written. I can feel there might be a debate waiting to happen some day on that.
This was really enjoyable, though hard on the brain... hahah
I loved that comment, quinn! Totally love it! I buy it entirely! It's paradoxical enough to be true.
What an amazing thread!
As Nietzsche profession was Philology I am ever happy to engage a sidebar discussion of the meaning of a word. I chose the citation from Aeschylus because it is the earliest appearance of “hamartia” in Greek literature. It is of course written as a line of dialogue and its meaning at that time was the very ordinary notion of an archer “missing” his target. A century later Aristotle found it useful in his discussion of the nature of Tragedy. By that time it indeed did mean “mistake” or “error” in the general sense and that is how we understand Aristotle’s usage as he explains his notion of the structure of tragedic literature. I am pleased that our exchange has reached this depth of thought but the medium does not allow either of us the opportunity to do it justice. My point, admittedly too briefly stated, was that, before our modern science of Psychology, the notion of “insanity” had nothing to do with pathology and everything to do with the maintenance of “good order.” I tried desperately to find an on-line link to a most useful article by David A. Boruchoff titled “On the place of madness, deviance, and eccentricity in Don Quijote.” It is available but only to various subscriptions.” All I can do is tease you with a fractured extract:
“To understand the concept of madness present in Don Quijote de la Mancha, one must examine the discourse, topography and institutions with which it found expression in traditional culture, since it was the impression of ill-being or "in-sanity," rather than a finding of dementia or psychosis in clinical terms, that defined the madman for Cervantes and his contemporaries. Consigned to the frontier between the walls of the medieval city and the perils of the world beyond, the madman could neither flee the society that refused him, nor participate as an equal in its activities. His precarious circumstance at the margin is inherent in the duality of his image, making his condition as a pariah one with the scorn to which he is therefore subject. In this way, the study of madness illuminates the status of all those who could not or did not conform to the expectations of an ethos grounded in a collective concept of human relations…
With a similar belief in conformity, the ancient Greeks called the incursion of sin hamartia, taking this term from the science of archery, where it means to miss the mark. Tragedy's heroes are said, therefore, to suffer hamartia, rather than peripeteia alone-a sudden or calamitous change of fortune-, when their errors displace them from the path of happiness to that of disgrace and ill repute. Were it not for this process of dislocation, which Aristotle calls the "Discovery of transgression," tragedy could not instill fear and pity in the spectator, and thus oblige him to weigh the consequence of his own thoughts and actions…
Fortified by the ideal of unity, a similar system of value is present in the equation of difference with heterodoxy and schism in Christian theology, and in the institutions with which medieval society sought to combat dissidence and individualism in general…”
I find much similarity in Imperial Spain and modern America, and nothing is more similar than the lust for orthodoxy. I am old enough to have personally know “Beatniks” in San Francisco in the 50’s. These were the first people I ever met who were insane in this classical sense, Ginsberg’s “best minds of my generation.”

JLH. Good stuff. Between the walls and the world beyond.
My band of the 80's was the Replacements. A comment in an interview with their lead singer, Paul Westerberg, has stuck with me for years. Their "anthem" (and certainly mine) was "Unsatisfied." Westerberg is both brilliant, and well-read. But the band were utter chaos - drunken, and deeply self-destructive. In the interview, a reporter made a snooty comment that, "Surely you meant dissatisfied, not unsatisfied. I don't think 'unsatisfied' is even a word."
Westerberg responds, "I guess that makes me unliterate."
Beyond the fact that Westerberg even throws a 'dissatisfied' into his howl (which the reporter hadn't noticed), and that unsatisfied is a word (albeit one my own and many other English teachers tried to stamp out) - what amused me was replacing the prefix "il" with "un." Since then, I've extended the practice, and of course, "unsane" became a particular favourite.
I like it because it simply strips away much of the baggage of "insane," such as dementia. "Unsane" leaves more questions open. Is it a mistake, fate, an act of rebellion, madness, the shadow-side of a great virtue, genius? I don't know.
And of course, "Jesus rides beside me, he never buys any smokes," is the greatest unsane lyric of all time. ;-)
I am glad I've managed to badger you into saying a bit more! Thanks for the Boruchoff reference; I never got much further than Foucault down this alley, and was told by people I trust not to trust him too much on the historical facts.
Yes, I think we've rather hijacked Thera's thread, taking it off to these side-bar discussions, but I tend to think these niggling philological issues have their importance. I should try to convince Marshall to set up a TPM section devoted to taking on the philology System, or Big Philo as I like to call it. hahah. [just dusted off my LSJ Greek lexicon and they Really are misleading on hamartia. unbelievable.]
So why is it important? Now, you seem to me to agree about the meaning of hamartia. But Boruchoff seems to take the misleading moral interpretation and run with it in the wrong direction. Tragedy is not a 'discovery of transgression' - it's a discovery of a mistake, one with horrifying consequences. It's not an 'incursion of sin' or anything so banal that constitutes the tragic downfall - it's something that goes well beyond our little rudimentary modern moral framework. Which is what makes these texts so interesting.
And if you run with it like Boruchoff does, then you end up with these highly reductive understandings of what is going on (and was in Antiquity) in that weird frontier-land between the worlds of psychopathology or empirical/folk psychology more generally, and that of socially constructed norms of conformity (the border between insanity and unsanity). And the problem is that these post-modernish 'theories' tend to trickle down into popular discourse in the form of these 'man against the System' perspectives on what is happening. We had the beatniks - Greece had that loony hobo flasher Diogenes, and both eventually had the System kneeling at their feet.
If I go on, I'm going to start sounding weird ('start'?!, you wonder...). So I'll stop, but these are the kinds of issues I have to grapple with at my day job, so I find them interesting and compelling, and also important. But for reasons that are hard to spell out in shorthand.
Anyway, I shall now waddle off and read this Boruchoff fellow. Thanks again.
No need to badger. I just needed a little time to construct a worthy reply. Actually you are a voice from my internal dialogue. I guess there are (at least) two eggs in my basket but I only claim 1 for tax purposes. Please don’t tell nurse Rachet.
Don't tell DD you're hearing voices - he'll think you're a Shaman, or something. (see below if you missed this stuff...)
If this is a hijacked thread, give me more of them!
Your description of insanity fits the western tradition. But not the eastern. Not even many other non-western societies. In many traditions what we would term insanity, they would term "possession" by a god or goddess. And the person we would view as deviant, for these other societies has a special place.
There is a very fine line between madness and creativity, between insanity and mysticism. It's not easy, sometimes, to tell the difference. Since what is "socially acceptable" varies from situation to situation, culture to culture.
Just had to throw that in. To stir the pot even more!

I want more on this! please.
And now to your larger point which you expressed very well.
I think you are circling the problem. Perhaps I can lead you to the center. The social contract as a pragmatism is in no way innimical to the individual. But when this pragmatism asserts itself as an orthodoxy then the individual, the authentic self, is threatened. The story of Western Civilization is all about organizing life around orthodoxies. From the ancient Greeks to the Enlightenment, the whole conversation was about what constituted the finest set of iron rules. Then a little over a century ago, it was discovered that humans have a way of being aware that is not located in “the mind.” Rather it is found somewhere else which we loosely term our “psychology.” Actually it had to be discovered because the intellectual constructions that explained this “mind” collapsed, but I don’t want to get all Kant and Hume on you here.
There are only a few seminal writers for this psychology. Nietzsche and Kierkegaard are two of them. Surrounding them are a host of authors from various disciplines who have engaged in heavily metaphorical descriptions of this new notion of self and its conditions. This egg that we are speaking of here is as good a metaphor as any. An egg is all about potential, about becoming, about change. We hope the egg will mature into a well formed realization of its destiny but nothing is certain for the individual egg. For practical purposes of categorization we can say that a chicken egg tends toward becoming a chicken, a cat egg tends toward cat-ness and a human egg toward human-ness. However in our modern world we also understand that each egg has a unique awareness of itself being a chicken or a cat or a human.
Quixote was not satisfied with merely acting like a knight errand. He wanted to “be” a knight and for that he had to do knightly things. Everyone laughed at his behavior because for them it was sufficient to act like a knight to be one. They had no concept of the inner struggle to become something. They were in fact completely cynical about the sharade, what Kundera calls “the grand parade,” that was the public life. One must keep an eye to fashion and follow it carefully. To try to be an authentic source of the values of honor and decency threatened the central authorities who were not the forgiving sort.
The novel ends with Quixote on his deathbed thinking that he failed in his attempt to become a knight. The irony is that he had become a knight and had done so by his actions. In this way Cervantes presents, perhaps for the first time in literature, the suggestion that humans are all about becoming, and that being is the result of actions, not nature.
Most of our modern institutions are anacronysms. They are based on an understanding of the human condition that can no longer be sustained. We are only at the beginning of the process of leaving behind the midieval constructions of society and commerce. This public world that we create is merely the nest. It is not the egg. The egg knows itself and that is enough for it to have potential and to therefore be the most valuable thing. And Marukami would have us look inward to find this truth, not outward to some new abstraction of the mind.
And thanks again for an inspiring discussion.

This is wonderful stuff! Still digesting it. But this is how I see how our little debate stands. If I'm going to put labels on us, you are, on the broader philosophical picture, a historical progressivist whereas I am a historical neo-conservative. (ACK! Must do something about these labels, because now I'm not looking so good. lol.)
Basically I'm much more impressed by what the Ancients had in terms of self-understanding, whereas you are much more hopeful about where we stand now and the direction we are headed. At least when I see where our so-called soft sciences stand, we've got a long way to go, and we've lost the map...
Love the notion of 'unsane' as well. Do we know who originally coined it? Otherwise if I use it, I shall just co-refer you and Quinn...
I love "unsane" as well. I have to meditate on it.
I'm not sure I've ever originated anything - I magpie my way through life. Westerberg either said it, or at least triggered it in me.
Just googling it now for fun, you get 160,000 references to a late 80's band with that name, pretty brutal. Plus people using it as an online name. Here's Evonne the storyteller, on the Memoirs of a Mad Bookseller site, in 2004, explaining, "Being unsane is just as easy as being eleven again."
Which sums it up better than I ever could. ;-) So let it be Westerberg the Replacement's or Evonne the Mad Bookseller's. Seems right somehow.
to be an authentic source
That's it in an "eggshell" (fits better than nutshell here)
Reading your comment, Larry, felt to me like being at the "creation." Like the scene from C.S. Lewis's Chronicles of Narnia where Aslan is singing a world into being. I love that scene. That image.
And when you talked about Quixote as trying "to be an authentic source." Wow! That simply reinforced it for me.
I think you've put your finger on it.
There's something holy about your comment.
For me.

I'm responding first without reading quinn. As if I had happened upon your comment before quinn did, dear pug. And I want to thank you for nibbling around the edges as you have. You're addressing "freedom" I think - and the fact that freedom has limits. I've been thinking a lot about that and intend to put up a blog asking that question - but in a different way than you phrased it.
You are right, of course. In the abstract.
One of the reasons I blog here, rather than setting up my "very own blog" - as some trolls have suggested I should - is because I want the back and forth we have here. I want the community. I appreciate that we are all thinking out loud together - that there is a record of that, that others are simply viewing what we write and that some are jumping into the fray. I like a "fray" where we can disagree politely, but where one person, as you have, can nibble around the edges or go for the heart of the matter, while still trying to move us forward, get us thinking more deeply or more carefully.
The writer above comes from an Asian culture, where there is far more pressure on an individual to conform. We come from a culture where there is, I believe, too much latitude (as a fiction, really - and not an ethical one) to ride roughshod over others - and where in some ways this has been codified - as in "corporate personhood" (a concept I abhor!). So I cut him slack. And I find his argument compelling, particularly given the circumstances, presenting a lecture in Jerusalem to accept an award from people who have lately killed many civilians, who had no way of fleeing. So he went and lectured them on the sacredness of individual persons and of every person.
At the same time I totally understand your point that we are not "eggs" - it's not a good analogy, except in terms of how he views the "wall." And both of them, I would assert, are really "ethical lies" he's using - even though he says he's speaking "the truth."
I haven't looked at Wittgenstein in a long time. Likely quinn could a better job of this. But Wittgenstein meditated (my view of what he did) at length about how we're stuck with "language" and how language shapes our thinking and prevents us in some ways from either thinking outside the box or being able to verbalize when we do actually think outside the box.
I can't take this much further right now. But, as with quinn, I love a "dead thread" - that still has life in it!!
Ok, now a further thought, based on specificity, rather than abstraction. The RC Church as a wall. (believe me, you're up against it!) See my comments above (especially paragraphs 2 and 3).
A zombie thread! oh nooo!!! lol
Thera - all your points well taken. I wasn't trashing Murakami. As I said I love the guy. But if you take the localized point he was making to the Israelis and generalize it, you get a certain narrow moral conception of the purpose literature serves - an ongoing ode to the nobility of the human soul - which is one of those things that tends to raise my hackles. Already talking about a 'purpose' tends to do that actually.
But One of the things it does - and this brings in your friend Ludwig - is expand the limits of language. And he was roughly right when he said the limits of our world was the limits of language. There is nothing there beyond what we can describe. And literature has this odd dual nature - it's both expressive and descriptive at the same time - that sort of bootstraps us up into newer and richer worlds.
Anyhow, that is my two-cent theory of the day...
Yes, now that I see you were speaking of literature (and not being), I completely agree with your point. Indeed, I have one brother-in-law (among many!) who is an artist, but has become so solipsistic that his art no longer communicates - except with himself. I find it empty. And it's interesting that his "message" is supposed to be the "lone pilgrim" - something like carrying our novelist friend's ideas to their utter dead end.

Ok, great blogs this week. From all around. But I have to give you the Dayly Knightly Award for paragraphs of the day; given to all of you from all of me.
On the other hand, I always thought a good lie was a woman, about 44, five foot five, dark hair shapely....ok that is enough.
I always loved the dichotomy of El Cid/Don Quixote.
Always. Someone told be Cervantes wrote more than any other single human being.
If there were some inner truth or truths, the question immediately arises: Compared to what?
And as far as reality. Levi Straus (The anthropologist not his cousin the jean man) would say La Concrete, e La Concrete, e La Concrete.
Forgive my spelling.
If there are things above the heavens and beneath the seas that were never dreamt of in 'your' philosophy, how could all 'truths' arise in an individual.
You claim to be unsophisticated (in Greek unwise)
but I even less so. There are levels of reality for me. The old onion. After you start playing with others in a place like this, 'masks' are taken off. Assuming we are not in some poopy pants argument.
Somebody like you gets me to a 'place' I have not been for awhile. Q takes takes me to another 'place' as does TheraP.
Yours is one of the most interesting essays I have read in three months. And It will be easy to come back to because it is TheraP's.
And interestingly, at least to me, is that conclusions are irrelevant in these discussions.
Is not that interesting? If, in a similar essay, someone ended with "and that is why George W. Bush is a hero."
I would never read that essay again!!!haahahahahha
My drunken old man used to yell at the black and white, BORE-ASS.
See you have me in my complete bore-ass capacity.
I remember back in grade school we had Religious studies where we talked about what God was. A little girl came right out and said God was an onion. We all laughed at her, and thought she was insane and/or stupid. And maybe she was, but the line stuck. And the more I think about it, it's one of the more profound things I've heard.
signing off.
Hum. Ogres are like onions, too.

Really one of my favorite fractured fairy tales of all time.
Really, dd???? You've given me the coveted award? The one we all vie for and die for here at TPM? Even though I hardly wrote an essay? But mostly only quoted?
Or was you comment meant for another?
Oh TheraP, you have another one with 100 comments, people keep logging on to it, and your comments with the comments generated from Larry & Q & Obey.
You are the best, you bring out the best.
Hey - cool it people. There are children present! ... or at least people under 95. lol.
Congratulations Thera! You deserve it!! My head is smoking with what I'm learning here. (though if you keep that behavior up, we're all going to start worrying about our great and mighty Judge DD getting skewed by a little my-side-bias...)
She's a good egg all right. And we are just the franchisees. She is the real Colonel Saunders.
Which would make you... Larry Sanders? ;-)
Which makes me glad because being the son of Colonel Saunders I could be an altar boy which she couldn't. But don't tell her I said that.
She is the real Colonel Saunders.
*Runs screaming from the blogyard*
See, I knew this was gonna upset bwak! Bwak, we'll have to find another metaphor. This one is not an ethical lie. It is an unethical lie.
Please, Larry, find us another, better, more ethical lie!
{{{{soothing bwak's feathers}}}}
I'm sorry I keep interfering with your fascinating discussion, but my infamous
chicken radar has been going off like gangbusters.
(cluckles contentedly.)
I love it! There can be no interference in the ecology (quinn's word) of our quest.

How about flamingoes? I can see us here as a bunch of flamingoes, walking around with our backward hinged legs, heads under water and butts in the air. Then one of us raises our head, says something only other flamingoes would even pretend to understand, and then put our head back under water.
And we can still talk about the eggs without upsetting bwak. The old saying “Mad as a wet hen” is meant as a warning. Besides I can’t sleep with all the noise coming from the chicken coop. It makes it impossible for me to concentrate on diagramming Quinn’s sentences.

It was a dark and stormy night, not only was Larry-the-alter-boy unable to say his nightly prayers due to excessive knee-scaring, but an obnoxious cacophony was emanating from the chicken coop making it exceedingly difficult to figure out his sentence diagraming homework from Professor Quinn; and Larry was very, VERY frustrated--when suddenly--a bolt of lightning struck the coop, the lovely smell of a summer BBQ pervaded his senses, and he began to write brilliantly.
Quick, send that over to ww!!!
LOL!!! they've really got to put rec'd buttons on these comments!
After eating Larry felt he had the energy to return to his exegetical examination of Quinn’s comments. As he looked down upon the carefully hand printed copies of Quinn’s writing a look of horror swept across his face. He had accidentally dripped bar-b-que sauce on some of the pages, obscuring some of Quinn’s words, his references, even whole sections. Where was that paragraph on trans-metaphysical dualism – “Oh no I used it to wipe my fingers” he cried. And the whole section that Quinn wrote on revisionist backsliding, the one that Larry knew he had disagreed with and on which he had carefully noted each of his discontents in red ink. Oh no, the red ink was the same color as the bar-b-que sauce. Now he could not tell which were his objections and which were mere accidents.
All of this threw him into a fit of despair. He ran out of the house cursing his fate. The chickens who had survived the lightening bolt observed these matters with great satisfaction.
She who bwaks last bwaks best.

ROTFLOL!!!! Yes! ♪ ♫ ♪
Oh, wow! A new art form emerges! Ethical lying group style!
(assorted bwakling and cluckling)
(Hands Larry a towel and a warm bowl of lemon water)
I am no psychologist, historian, philosopher, philologist or neuroscientist. My studies and reading would most politely be described as "multi-disciplinary." What I have are some working "take" on a few of these questions, and just want to play with a couple of them for a moment, if I can.
1. Since I was very young, I have seen the mind-soul-person as "multi'ed." Multiple persons/parts, perhaps seen each in a room, all (hopefully) within the same mansion. Some are clearly more linked to particular ages of our lives. Some, closer to raw beasts, unable to speak. Some, more obviously "aspects" of ourselves. Perhaps, with a main voice, or one who tends to all the others. But no 100% control possible, or desirable. There is no easy, systematic way I've found to speak of these, much less map this as a "concept." (Concept - ha!)
The idea that we can map this, however, makes me smile. Yes yes, we're going to draw this up in 2-D! In black and white! It's just THAT simple. Not. (Give me 11-D, Ultraviolet & Time Travel, and perhaps we've got a shot.)
The only takeaway from this image is that we are all "multi." These aspects speak with each other, interact, grow and swell and shrink and work in tandem and so on.
2. The world, its technologies and geographies and sciences, have now thrown up this thing the Internet - and computers, and communications, etc. What I find interesting here is that the multis have found ways to breathe. Yes, there were methods of doing this before, but to some degree, everyone works here now. Plays here now. This world touches every nation, has all sorts of entertainment, information, communication, you name it.
But what we see is that people have multiple windows open, almost all the time. They have even pushed to represent this explicitly, with avatars and such. Not to go too too hog wild on it, or say it is THE thing, but the expression of our multi-natures here strikes me as a major thing. And that we would actively work, millions of people, around the world, to CREATE THE TOOLS TO EXPRESS THIS AND CONNECT TO OTHERS THIS WAY, this strikes me as important.
Especially when compared to purer "industrial" times, when multi-beings also existed, but perhaps seen more as a train, a dozen boxcars, with our different aspects and social modes tightly shackled, or at least socially pushed to stay in line - God forbid one of these cars should tumble off the tracks. I could be a white, male, Baptist, farming, Leaf fan but would be shunned should I support the Habs.
3. The external world, economies and polities and societies, seems to me be struggling with this. National borders and patriotisms become odd things in such a time. Giant corporations attempt to pitch us, then pitch different market segments and nationalities... but also to get at these different selves, especially the more raw ones. The ones more composed of instincts and impulses and fears. They do reasonably well for themselves doing this, and we praise them for eroding old barriers and boxes, but what they are creating strikes me as likely to end up devouring them.
So, with all this in motion, our world may look more homogenous on the outside, but even within a single suburban home, the kid in the basement is wearing sweatpants, and typing wild things. See that same neighbourhood through this infrared (or ultraviolet) - and there's more diversity, more dissonance, than first appeared.
4. One of the reasons I loved Nietzsche was his whole "perspectivist" schtick (or call it what you will.) My mental take-away was of the dancing archer, who would fire an arrow into some giant lumbering beast, then dance away to another position, and fire from there. No one position is the be-all and end-all (and if people wish to argue about relativism and such they can, though I have little interest.) But as a strategy - I believe it to be unmatched. Guerilla, in some sense. Suited for our age. Say anything, and I can hit it from 38 directions. If you try to take a concrete, 100%-founded stand... claim it as an absolute... you're doomed. Erect a keep, and you're done. The point was not that any one of the positions the "critic" was firing from could itself be made into a tower. But that no matter how solid a position was - and many are quite solid, and we work from them - it is not impregnable. No monolithic structures can stand.
Some enjoyed stretching this view out to relativism, or spend their lives deconstructing everything. I had little interest in that, other than tuning in from time to time, as they went after some particular tower.
What I moved to was seeing an ecology. A world at least as complex as a rainforest. Our mind an ecology, our economy an ecology, and so on.
This "take" strikes me as ultimately more useful than the many-roomed mansion, but for us, right here right now, in transition, our sense of just what an ecology IS, is ITSELF so thin, so primitive, so mechanical, that in the end - it became more useful to speak just about the house and the rooms.
And in the wider social world, this gives me the freedom to build some things up, tear some down. To plant, tend, uproot, connect, etc. To think and express and be, different ways. It is FAR from anything I would want to "defend" in any heavy-duty conceptual or philosophical way. All I know is that, to some useful degree, I've found it freeing.
Now, you might wish to rebut all this with the words of the Great Man himself, "Freedom's just another word for nuthin' left to lose." To which I say... "Merton man. Bah." Cheers all. ;-)
There's a "play" aspect to this ecology image. I think that's what you're getting at. In play we don't take an impregnable stand. You can shoot the basket from many points. But in our game, you don't even have to stay in bounds or be confined to a team. Or 3 dimensions.
I like the idea of ecology also because it presumes a system - and I'd vote for a very flexible system, an open system, with enough structure (language provides enough and common courtesy) to prevent chaos - to allow for a functioning system - in all these dimensions.
Total aside: (Ever try to read Gurdjieff? He talks about multiple dimensions and I tried to unhinge my brain enough to imagine them. It's worth it just to try. Like my reaction to Berkley: "The elevator is only here because I think it's here." Fall of Soph year of college.)
Great man, Merton. I think of Thomas Merton. He died of electrocution. What a way for a mystic to go!
My brain is now shot for the day. So nothing intelligent here. Just an anecdote which complements your comments about our mental ecology as individuals. I work in one of those interdisciplinary centers, and our top neuroscientist is a big honcho - been in Nature, NYT, CNN, the whole shebang. One hell of a brain. A few months ago he comes up to my group to help him out on a new project he's got. He wants to find the Self in the brain. I was going to laugh out loud, but, well, I guess this is my personal little wall (i like to keep my job). And so I tried to lay out the problems (rather, lunacy) of this idea. But it's hard to do, and in trying, You come out looking confused rather than convincing. So instead my team went away and came back with about ten different models of the Self, and for each of them about three or four different experimental paradigms. Hoping that he would 'see the light'. But instead he just kind of picked a few (seemingly at random), tweaked them, and started running those, after which he'll do his statistical magic and see which bits of the brain have some vague correlated levels of activity. This is the state of our scientific knowledge of ourselves.
There is no monolithic question of the Self, and all you can do, or need to do, is have particular models for very particular questions about it. And there is no matter of fact about which model is right. Different ones work for different issues and work more or less well. And some different ones work for one and the same issue. And there's no right or wrong. So that's a kind of perspectivalism right there.

My brain is shot too. I can't keep up with the geniuses here! I'm only now heading over to that link you provided upstream. :)
Obey: In my humble opinion, the distance you have traveled in this thread toward "self" -- even beyond concepts and models of self -- is absolutely amazing. And admirable. I probably sound pedantic. But that is not what I think, or feel. What I think and feel is that you are one of us, in that each of us is engaged in a quest. A quest that is reflected in DD's fractured tales, or TheraP's challenges, or Quinn's mutliple takes... and now, your shift.
I admire your flexibility, because it comes at the price of all we thought we knew, before.
'shift' Moi...? lol. When my minds change, I change the facts! just kidding. Not sure what shift you have in mind, but i certainly have been learning a lot along the way - both from the little talking god in my head and from all of you.
There is really no 'price' in it for me. I learned a long time ago that I know pretty much nothing, so there is very little I am not prepared to learn.
We Are the Others, Nous Avon les Autres, Pardon my French.
Guess I bounced rather too quickly, regarding the leap ole jolly made. Whither thy voice, Jungin? Where did we go? Many melted into other dream backgrounds long ago but return in cyberspace. Yes I will admit I am just visiting from the sixties, but in other ways. At first redoubted by my own therapy, yet struggling to stay on the horse with plain English, too late, alas! I returned today to find our Knight DD and many others defending the thought realm. But I digress from the premise which is yes, Strider. We eco each other. Thanks.

I love it! There can be no interference in the ecology (quinn's word) of our quest.
That was meant for bwak!
I don't know where to direct you, other than anthropology. Here are some quick links via googling, though for some it's a stretch. Looks like it has a lot to do with status. It can raise the status of some people, women for example. Also has to do with personality, with freedom to "break the rules" because the rules change, I think, between regular behavior and spiritual behavior:
Maybe you could contact some anthropologists? I'm not sure I know how to find this literature.

I take it this is for me. Thanks!!
sorry, still don't know what field you're in (you seem to know EVERYTHING). But on a slightly related topic, you might like this
Hacking is (was?) one of the finest philosophers out there. And very interdisciplinary. There is a whole literature out there on the idea of our whole mental life as social construct, much of which I don't buy. But this limited study of socially constructed insanity is very good.
Yes, sorry that did not end up in the right place!!!
I'm a psychologist. therapist. but mostly retired from that now. using my skills to "analyze" society, I guess.
I will check out your link. Still waiting to read the rest of your Smullyan link.
TPM is such a great site! Especially now that troll infestation seems to have been mostly eradicated. Now we can really work!
I take it this is for me. Thanks!!
sorry, still don't know what field you're in (you seem to know EVERYTHING). But on a slightly related topic, you might like this
Hacking is (was?) one of the finest philosophers out there. And very interdisciplinary. There is a whole literature out there on the idea of our whole mental life as social construct, much of which I don't buy. But this limited study of socially constructed insanity is very good.
Another thought. Often "mental illness" is a normal response to an abnormal situation.
Stop doing this to my brain!!!?! Or I'll go nuts with abnormal question overload. lol
Ok. Just thought I'd give you a bit more info on my background. I was actually my undergraduate work was actually in language/literature and philosophy. Then I taught young children and used Piaget as my best help - he viewed intellectual development in terms of growing up like little scientists, making sense of the world through assimilation and accomodation. During that time I kept my sanity by reading a lot of philosophy and spirituality - as my fellow teachers were, by and large, not very intellectual, and the kids were, of course, kids. Then I did a Master's in Counseling (when Mr. TheraP finally got near to his Ph.D. and took a full time job). Then on to Clinical Psych - which I managed to do on no more than those couple of psych courses I had to take to teach! (well, that, and some good GRE scores)
Like most of us here, I've got a very eclectic background. Anthropology I haven't studied since college, but I was always interested in how religion fits within culture and how personality plays into that.
Wow, what a life!
I'll look out for anything that might interest you in the Religion and personality field. If you've already dug into this, pardon the obvious suggestions: E.R. Dodds (though it's aged a bit), Philippe Borgeaud (esp. the stuff on panic) and Walter Burkert (love and science) for the Greeks and john Scheid for the Romans (holds that 'impersonal-ritual' view of religious practice).
I've been working on shame and guilt lately if you have any special suggestions from the psych realm... (don't ask my field, I don't even know anymore. hahah!)
Shame and guilt. Big issues. That were long neglected.
Crucial issues. Here are some books, possibly dated now:
Morrison: Shame, The Underside of Narcissism
Lewis: Shame, The Exposed Self
Nathanson: Shame and Pride, Affect, Sex, and the Birth of the Self
Miller: Shame in Context
That should keep you going. Wish you were nearby, as I'd glad loan them. But I be you can get hold of them - or others.
Thanks for this.
"In an insane world, the sane man must appear to be insane". - Capt. James T. Kirk, Star Trek episode 87. BTW - Great thread all!
Once again, Kirk is The Man. Like his fellow Canuck, Ian Hacking (referenced above by Obey.) Hacking is a damned smart guy, who wanders Philosophy, History, Sociology, Psychology and more, and comes out with some good stuff. I donno about you, but I love seeing books with titles like his - "Rewriting the Soul: Multiple Personality and the Sciences of Memory (1995)" and "Mad Travellers: Reflections on the Reality of Transient Mental Illness (1998.)" Agree with it or not, you know you're in for a trip.
Truth is, some of the Philosophy I enjoyed most was the Philosophy of Science - and the History of Science. I found it important because so many of us (certainly myself) just don't know enough science, and so we end up bowing to its model of how things "should" be done. And then trying to replicate its "method" when we come at social and psychological issues. Which, I would argue, is... madness. And not of the good kind.
People like Paul Feyerabend (another hero) spent time pointing out that actual, real, historical science is/was not pursued through a fixed "method." Its methods change over time, people create and use different tools, and the best scientists did this perhaps most of all. {If memory serves, Feyerabend came up with some of this stuff while working with David Bohm, for those of you who know him. Also, DO note that Feyerabend was a complete bastard to colleagues, which is half the fun, and had NO problem writing things he knew to be untrue, just to wind them up. Oh. Plus he won the Iron Cross fighting for the Nazis on the Eastern Front, got shot and it hit the spine, and walked with a cane for the rest of his life - but that's another story.}
Beyond the reality of multiple scientific methods - he pointed out that theories never make all the facts "fit," and that complete consistency would have ruled out huge scientific advances, from Galileo on. Feyerabend's book, "Against Method," is one of the most enjoyable, anarchistic reads imaginable, and he used to just make me laugh because you could see him deliberately twisting some hotshot's tail - he just didn't care if he had to eventually retract what he'd said.
His central thrust was driven by the fact that he actually LOVED real science - but that the jokers who surrounded it were like pretty much any other priesthood. He felt we needed MANY approaches or methods, that nothing should ever be permanently or completely ruled out (even astrology and witch doctors), and that our mental image of a logical or scientific meat-grinder, churning out link after link of fact-to-fact-to-fact, all bound in the skin of some theory, was just... rubbish.
{And obviously, he was one of Nietzsche's children, and many others said what PF said, or did the hard historical slogging to show us how particular scientific episodes happened, etc.}
After reading this, maybe you can understand why certain unnamed writers here at TPM got under my skin, with their pose of stripping emotions from "facts," pretending that somehow they were simply and objectively and scientifically piling factual brick upon factual brick. Not only were the arguments often bunkum, but the whole ideal - that they could manage this, as though it was"science" - was shot full of holes. The worst sorts of true believers and high priests.
So even though I would have been horrified at age 20 if you told me decades later I'd admit to enjoying the Philosophy of Science, I found it great fun - and incredibly useful in thinking about myth and religion, innovation and growth, the nature of change. Tackling public policy, once tis had all permeated my mind, became immensely easier.
If you haven't splashed about in Feyerabend, Hacking, Rorty, Kuhn or the grand man Nietzsche himself, and you find yourself bored on some desert island, I'd recommend turning up your Best of The Replacements, and opening a page or three. ;-)
Here's a quick Wiki on Nietzsche and Perspectivism.
And some bullet points on Feyerabend.
And yes, I do know that they were both crazy, foul-mouthed, partial, thieves etc. To which my only reply is... So? ;-)
Lovely! A little Richard Feynman piece "Cargo Cult Science" you probably know, but just in case
Sums up what I'm seeing every goddamn day...!!
And that's just the superficial problem. There's a serious change that needs to happen in the basic methodology, for many of the reasons you mention.
Cargo Cult! That's what this financial mess was!!!
I know that wasn't your point. But wow, what else was it?
It's a damn global disease - zombie science. It's everywhere. Mindless number-crunching. Everyone learns a basic input-output model, apply it, and haven't got a clue what they are doing. It's very bizarre.
Piaget derived all his theories of cognition from watching his own children (I think he had 3). Then he would devise little experiments, little tasks, to see how children's thinking, spontaneously, over time, changed. I learned to think that way when teaching children. Where are they? What are they thinking? How to understand what they were thinking if they got a wrong math answer, for example. We used to have lots of discussions about things. I'd get them thinking. We even did moral dilemmas and I'd let them talk about how they'd solve problems like that.
Perspectivisim is what I think of as "constructivism," individuals constructing meaning, construing it for themselves.
In terms of science, so many things "work" that we still don't really understand. I'm thinking of acupuncture for example. And I've often thought about quantum theory, how all the quanta in the universe leap at the same moment, though you cannot predict the moment or the direction of the leap. Nevertheless, that to me means that something is connecting everything and communicating with everything to the smallest iota. And I've thought that while they've never been able to "prove" mental telepathy, they're likely going about it the wrong way - trying to
"control" it - whereas I think "it" controls us!
Just some random thoughts here. And wow, what a privilege to be part of this "system" at TPM - which is generating so much interesting conversation. This is science, I think!
Ya mon, you said a mouthful there. The history of science is littered with groundbreaking work that was dismissed by the scientific orthodoxy. Gregor Mendel comes to mind, having done his famous breeding experiments in the 1840s, (I think), and had them promptly dismissed when the high-priest of the day, (von Nageli), dismissed his work, after, (as has been charged), skimming Mendel's paper, or perhaps not reading it at all. Mendel's work was rediscovered in the early 1900s and its' importance finally recognized. Counter this fact with the fact that at the same time Mendel was being rediscovered, the best scientific minds in the world couldn´t tell you where babies came from. Much of this same´'priesthood' believed that science was nearly at an end, due to their great understanding of the world.
One of my favorite scientific breakthroughs came in the mid 1800s as well when the theory of ice age glaciation had stalled due to an inability to scientifically account for periodic ice ages. Eventually a James Croll of Anderson University in Glasgow, submitted a paper suggesting how variations in Earth's orbit could precipitate significant fluctuations in global temperatures. There was some surprise when it was revealed that Croll was not an academic at the university, but rather a janitor, who had availed himself of the library there to study various and sundry subjects.
Thanks for the reading list Q. I'll check some of it out.
"And yes, I do know that they were both crazy, foul-mouthed, partial, thieves etc. To which my only reply is... So? ;-) "
Spoken like a true fan of that Stilson boy and the rest of the band!
Stinson.... :-(
I'm just ramblin', Peegarillo. Just finished an absolutely punishing few weeks long writing job, and am staggering out of the rubble. Uglee.
Anyhoo at stages like this, the brain circuits fire fairly randomly, and the "let's make sense of this shit" filter seems to have become plugged with gunk from the work process.
Just needed to blow a bit of carbon out. Anyway, some more good history of science stories from you all. And the 'Mats link!
Must now crawl through ciggie ashes, over coffee stained carpet, and through and pizza boxes... to nearest fire hydrant. Attach hose, turn on, and insert through door. Get house cleaned.
Or so Brain tells me. Must obey. ;-)
While sympathizing with the work imperative -- me, too, and also -- imho, you've really got to get over that Cheney "So." Please.
99.9% of what you think and write resonates to the core of Everything -- defining, describing, hypothesizing about what is, should or even could be. In other words, everything that is important, everything that is the essence of rethinking, reshaping, reconsidering what actually matters....
"SO." Could you, please, belay the "so"? (Granted, nobody asked for my opinion; and why should what I think matter at all?)
Never mind. Speaking as one who is "unsane," I do want to thank you for your recognition of multiplicity, on so many levels. Multiple persona, per person; mutiple takes, per puzzle. Mutliple solutions, rather than a dualistic either/or.
I fervently believe that progress can be made in imagining variations on a theme, or on a tangent. The more scenarios/solutions we imagine, the more possibilities there are for viable solutions.
"So." Thanks for your multiple views.
I'm sorry, that "so" of Cheney's struck as something not even Python could match. The most powerful man in the world, apparently elected "democratically," confronted by the opposed views of his nation, asked directly, on television, and he replies
And then... that nation does not go after him with pitchforks. The Great & the Good stay firmly seated in their deck-chairs. Life goes on.
My absurdity meter just redlined and broke at that point. I HAD to laugh. Still am. How could I top it? What sin could I possibly commit that was large enough to compare with Cheney's? I can't. Shouldn't I be able to wash them all away with So(ap?) How many petty crooks would have the guts to tell the Judge, "So?"
People will mark the end of that era in their own ways, odd ways. That was the moment for me. I couldn't top the joke, the sin, the bravado or the inhumanity. Cheney wins. We let him win. We can talk Obama all we want, but birds come home to roost. To have put that man, there, for 8 years, well... we got a lot of birds comin'.
I want it on a placard. For when people march on Washington. For when they go after the bankers. And when the mighty tremble, and complain they're being unfairly treated, and ouch that damned pitchfork, there's really only one response needed. So?
And sometimes, in my more bitter moments, when I await the knock on the door, telling me that indeed, things DO seem to be in a jam, and it's "all hands on deck," I won't have to fall back on anything as hackneyed as "I told you so, now piss off."
Cheney's the word. "So?"
And yes, then I wake up, and am somewhat less bitter, almost human, in fact. ;-)

I forgot all about that too. Can't you see Adolf Hitler at some news conference in 1946 and the NYT asks him:
There have been reports of some 6 million Jews missing and another four to six million catholics and Gypsies,and now there is information that they were all intentionally killed, without trial, without charges being brought.
Mine Fuhrer responds: Soooooooo? (You know, with a tilt of the head and a half smile, the half that works)
Ah dicky c's inhumanity to man.
Just catching up with this now (yes, I know this thread is dead, but I just can't let go... lol). What REALLY bothered me about that interview (was it that little annoying bearded munchkin), was the fucking obsequious little twit who sat there and took this crap on behalf of the nation. 'But' - he whines - 'I think it's a fair question...'. Any journalist with an ounce of respect for himself and his job would have ripped that smug fuck's head off. The guy's a public SERVANT for §*%&(/%ç*! sake.
Sorry, untypical early morning rant...
A random anecdote about Goedel (maybe apocryphal, i don't know). A grad student comes in after a year working on a proof for X, thinks he's found it, putting the 100 page proof on Goedel's desk. Goedel looks at the pile of paper and says the proof isn't right. The student says 'you haven't even looked at it'. Goedel says, when you find the proof for X it'll be no more than 3 pages. A year later the student comes back, with the right proof, in 3 pages.
I don't know why i like that anecdote. Something to do with science well done needing a certain kind of wisdom, a direct perception of what the road to a solution is going to look like.
Simplicity. That's why I maintain that unless any economic solution (or problem) can be expressed succintly, I'm not gonna trust it!
One last comment on this (and then, yes, I shall let go and mourn this wonderful thread...). Simplicity is only a small part of it. A lot of science gets very complex - some of these proofs have to be 100 pages long. and that's not their fault - its the world's. I see this in all fields. It's rather that science is almost a part of aesthetics: our scientific sense is an aesthetic sense. (yes it's that old Keats line I'm sick of hearing). I see a lot of theories get accepted mostly because they are beautiful, even if the evidence isn't all there yet. And some people - like this Godel - have an uncanny aesthetic sense, a sense of the shape a solution has to take even if they don't know what that solution is.
And what we have now is this vast industry of people who have no sense of a solution even after they have found it. Its just meaningless but publishable statistical gibberish.
And with that I shall go off and do my useless two-dimensional mind models. :0)

No comments: