The lattice of language

Yamamoto Masao - 820


[Yamamoto]

From Linda Nochlin's 'A Life of Learning'


But how could you reasonably understand The Magic Mountain at age 12, one might reasonably ask? I understood everything; I skipped nothing. Everything in the book was of equal, passionate, undeviating interest. Yes, I understood everything, and better than I would if I read it today for the first time, because back then I knew nothing of life that would interfere with the pure literary matter, the transparent narrative provided by the text. In the absence of worldly experience -- of love, illness, of European history, of philosophy -- the text and the act of reading the text were all there were. Thus I understood, or rather, participated in Clavdia and Hans's love affair and its ironies far better than I would have if I had ever had love affairs of my own. I would have projected my own experience of love on to the text if I had ever loved; this way I understood it purely, without the corruption offered by a 'personal' view.

Oh, that's it -- as we amass our own stories -- stories of experience -- there is conflict, competition, confusion. When we read as young people, as fresh minds (and I do think that this freshness of reading can be maintained, sustained long past when one would think it possible) we are new pens re-writing the stories, finding the ideas, all on our own.. An act of creativity and construction not yet mixed up and disoriented by one's own experiences. As we grow older, amass memories, histories, tracts of retired and retiring cognition, we have to deal with those experiences -- lift the hefts in our hands as we work through some new tale. Logarithmic thinking -- not linear -- there is more space between 1 and 2 than there is between 1000 and 1001. There is more space between my reading of Watership Down at age 7 and my reading of Jane Eyre at age 10 than there is between the some 150 titles I've read, written about and recorded over the last 2 years.

We become palimpsests every time we read -- we rewrite and retell, layering and interleaving. Walking sheaves of paper. Long ago, when people wrote letters at all, they would conserve paper by writing crosswise -- cover two sides horizontally, then -- 90 degree tilt of the page and two more sides of writing. A veritable lattice of language.

How difficult it is to read innocently -- I didn't realize that until St. John's -- we shoulder an unseen burden -- not simply of opinion and prejudice and misconception -- we shoulder the burden of having experienced -- of having tales to tell. So to read innocently becomes more and more difficult the longer life runs forward -- logarithmically, not linearly. The more I experience, the greater my burden.

Burden here is not negative -- it's not a trudging, trodding process -- and I don't think that good reading comes from masquerading as a blank page. I do think that good reading must be something akin to weaving -- a craft in its own right. Every sentence that falls across my mind -- every word I turn over on my tongue -- they're all worked over -- into the same medium. Some are more noticeable -- the lines of force run through and connect with greater accuracy --

This isn't a matter of black or white -- this or that. I don't want to be a perpetual child, forever reading recklessly -- abandoned to the sheer joy of language -- its transports and its constructs. I want to revel still -- but I want logos as well -- I want to be an interpreter of my own active text --

I remember growing up in the Catholic church -- sunday school, confirmation classes, etc. I remember hearing about the miracles -- wafers of real flesh -- I have this strange grotesque image with me now, from those mornings in church halls -- I think of ingesting the Word -- the flesh of the word, of edible texts --

I think of words jumping off of pages to prick my mind with their hidden dangers -- of twisting, writhing phrases -- slicing relentlessly -- the nightmares of an interpreter, a translator. But to learn to read one's own mind -- one's own ever-changing, ever-mysterious self -- to come to some understanding of the process of living -- the process of life which is action, creation, and growth.

I'm back into small snips of paragraphs -- dashes -- when did I start using dashes so much? And I'm back with Orlando -- that passage I hold so dear -- a sort of Rosetta stone --

When this happened, Orlando heaved a sigh of relief, lit a cigarette, and puffed for a minute or two in silence. Then she called hesitatingly, as if the person she wanted might not be there, 'Orlando? For if there are (at a venture) seventy-six different times all ticking in the mind at once, how many different people are there not--Heaven help us--all having lodgment at one time or another in the human spirit? Some say two thousand and fifty-two. So that it is the most usual thing in the world for a person to call, directly they are alone, Orlando? (if that is one's name) meaning by that, Come, come! I'm sick to death of this particular self. I want another. Hence, the astonishing changes we see in our friends. But it is not altogether plain sailing, either, for though one may say, as Orlando said (being out in the country and needing another self presumably) Orlando? still the Orlando she needs may not come; these selves of which we are built up, one on top of another, as plates are piled on a waiter's hand, have attachments elsewhere, sympathies, little constitutions and rights of their own, call them what you will (and for many of these things there is no name) so that one will only come if it is raining, another in a room with green curtains, another when Mrs Jones is not there, another if you can promise it a glass of wine--and so on; for everybody can multiply from his own experience the different terms which his different selves have made with him--and some are too wildly ridiculous to be mentioned in print at all.

We tell our own tales, every day. Every day is homespun story. But we must also interact with other tales -- other ways of being, of having been.

The lattice of language

Yamamoto Masao - 820


[Yamamoto]

From Linda Nochlin's 'A Life of Learning'


But how could you reasonably understand The Magic Mountain at age 12, one might reasonably ask? I understood everything; I skipped nothing. Everything in the book was of equal, passionate, undeviating interest. Yes, I understood everything, and better than I would if I read it today for the first time, because back then I knew nothing of life that would interfere with the pure literary matter, the transparent narrative provided by the text. In the absence of worldly experience -- of love, illness, of European history, of philosophy -- the text and the act of reading the text were all there were. Thus I understood, or rather, participated in Clavdia and Hans's love affair and its ironies far better than I would have if I had ever had love affairs of my own. I would have projected my own experience of love on to the text if I had ever loved; this way I understood it purely, without the corruption offered by a 'personal' view.

Oh, that's it -- as we amass our own stories -- stories of experience -- there is conflict, competition, confusion. When we read as young people, as fresh minds (and I do think that this freshness of reading can be maintained, sustained long past when one would think it possible) we are new pens re-writing the stories, finding the ideas, all on our own.. An act of creativity and construction not yet mixed up and disoriented by one's own experiences. As we grow older, amass memories, histories, tracts of retired and retiring cognition, we have to deal with those experiences -- lift the hefts in our hands as we work through some new tale. Logarithmic thinking -- not linear -- there is more space between 1 and 2 than there is between 1000 and 1001. There is more space between my reading of Watership Down at age 7 and my reading of Jane Eyre at age 10 than there is between the some 150 titles I've read, written about and recorded over the last 2 years.

We become palimpsests every time we read -- we rewrite and retell, layering and interleaving. Walking sheaves of paper. Long ago, when people wrote letters at all, they would conserve paper by writing crosswise -- cover two sides horizontally, then -- 90 degree tilt of the page and two more sides of writing. A veritable lattice of language.

How difficult it is to read innocently -- I didn't realize that until St. John's -- we shoulder an unseen burden -- not simply of opinion and prejudice and misconception -- we shoulder the burden of having experienced -- of having tales to tell. So to read innocently becomes more and more difficult the longer life runs forward -- logarithmically, not linearly. The more I experience, the greater my burden.

Burden here is not negative -- it's not a trudging, trodding process -- and I don't think that good reading comes from masquerading as a blank page. I do think that good reading must be something akin to weaving -- a craft in its own right. Every sentence that falls across my mind -- every word I turn over on my tongue -- they're all worked over -- into the same medium. Some are more noticeable -- the lines of force run through and connect with greater accuracy --

This isn't a matter of black or white -- this or that. I don't want to be a perpetual child, forever reading recklessly -- abandoned to the sheer joy of language -- its transports and its constructs. I want to revel still -- but I want logos as well -- I want to be an interpreter of my own active text --

I remember growing up in the Catholic church -- sunday school, confirmation classes, etc. I remember hearing about the miracles -- wafers of real flesh -- I have this strange grotesque image with me now, from those mornings in church halls -- I think of ingesting the Word -- the flesh of the word, of edible texts --

I think of words jumping off of pages to prick my mind with their hidden dangers -- of twisting, writhing phrases -- slicing relentlessly -- the nightmares of an interpreter, a translator. But to learn to read one's own mind -- one's own ever-changing, ever-mysterious self -- to come to some understanding of the process of living -- the process of life which is action, creation, and growth.

I'm back into small snips of paragraphs -- dashes -- when did I start using dashes so much? And I'm back with Orlando -- that passage I hold so dear -- a sort of Rosetta stone --

When this happened, Orlando heaved a sigh of relief, lit a cigarette, and puffed for a minute or two in silence. Then she called hesitatingly, as if the person she wanted might not be there, 'Orlando? For if there are (at a venture) seventy-six different times all ticking in the mind at once, how many different people are there not--Heaven help us--all having lodgment at one time or another in the human spirit? Some say two thousand and fifty-two. So that it is the most usual thing in the world for a person to call, directly they are alone, Orlando? (if that is one's name) meaning by that, Come, come! I'm sick to death of this particular self. I want another. Hence, the astonishing changes we see in our friends. But it is not altogether plain sailing, either, for though one may say, as Orlando said (being out in the country and needing another self presumably) Orlando? still the Orlando she needs may not come; these selves of which we are built up, one on top of another, as plates are piled on a waiter's hand, have attachments elsewhere, sympathies, little constitutions and rights of their own, call them what you will (and for many of these things there is no name) so that one will only come if it is raining, another in a room with green curtains, another when Mrs Jones is not there, another if you can promise it a glass of wine--and so on; for everybody can multiply from his own experience the different terms which his different selves have made with him--and some are too wildly ridiculous to be mentioned in print at all.

We tell our own tales, every day. Every day is homespun story. But we must also interact with other tales -- other ways of being, of having been.

Confessions

elias hassos - fische



[Elias Hassos]

[because of this via that]

Where did I go for 8 months of my thinking life? Those months when posts had stopped -- trickled down to once a month? Well, I was here still -- sporadically, half-heartedly -- rousing myself at work from endless game strategizing and tabulating to think a few thoughts about the books I was still reading. There was never a complete dissipation, I never went under all the way -- but I definitely left.

I was so tired of keeping up -- that's the main memory -- tired of trying to compete for space and time -- tired of trying to iron out plans and budgets -- and plus I've always had a weakness for escapism.

So I escaped, last February, into a world I had looked at before but dismissed. I've always played video games -- fighting my brother for time with the controls when we were younger. I was a niche-player though -- only fantasy worlds [that's my guilty-pleasure fiction too -- fantasy worlds, not mysteries or historical biographies, etc]. Essentially, I was a Zelda fanatic -- lost in Hyrule -- I remember frenzied spring breaks playing the new N64 games -- 18 hours at a time, not eating much, sleeping only when my eyes stopped focusing.

Then came Fable [winter break, two weeks of madness]. And throughout the whole time there were the PC Warcraft games, though I felt more comfortable with a hand-held controller and preferred that to the mouse. I graduated from single-player, contained-world games last February -- I read about the expansion for World of Warcraft -- decided it would be a good diversion for the nights I stayed in -- I blasted out my video card that first frenzied night of adaptation --

That's such a striking feature of video games -- and of myself. I cannot stand unfamiliarity -- and so, immersed in a new world, with a new mythology, a new persona, new ways of acting, I must learn it all before I can proceed -- adapt to a new way of living. Those first few days (weeks with this game) they're monomaniacal. I mastered the world -- learning slowly to deal with the fact that this was an open world -- other players, some as awful as youTube commenters, some who became good friends and remain good friends.

But this is not an autobiography -- I can't even begin to understand how ensorcelled I was -- I became a 'seven-year sleeper' nestled in my new world, foreign practices, strange comforts (time flies when you're slaying boars -- ogres -- etc. Time flies when you're collecting gold, tokens, measuring yourself against imaginary standards.) Just like Hans with his rest-cures, the special chairs, special blankets -- the precise meals and routines. I gave way to the ease of my obsession -- for it was an obsession -- and it was an annihilation. And the ambition of it all! I graduated to the ambition of an imaginary world -- a world where performance statistics and reviews actually mattered -- a world like that of competitive swimming, which I had abandoned abruptly at the height of my career. I could feed on ambition again -- on the adrenaline rush of winning. That rush doesn't come from too many places -- winning, victory, the glory of sport, of domination and prevail.

Would it be strange to say I had grown accustomed to winning? I was a good athlete -- not spectacular, but a solid, improving NCAA Division-1 approved athlete. It's why I went to college -- or at least to one particular college. I was accustomed to competition -- and there is no thrill like the thrill of hard-won success. You train -- it hurts, sometimes like hell -- you agonize over the smallest slivers of time, the slightest turn of the forearm, a fraction of an inch at every kick, at every motion through the water -- and then, validation -- swimming is so satisfying -- on the day of the big championship you prepare, superstitiously -- you wait for your event -- warm up -- feel excited then blank -- I always sought to be blank before a race -- step up to the blocks, bend, grip, explode. My best races were the ones that had the bare minimum of thought. Lungs would burn, muscles numb -- on good races my whole spinal column would disappear into bank non-feeling, my breath would sink to my stomach and my head would be absolutely silent except for a simple count -- 1-2-stretch. Then the wall and the clock. Success measured by simple, precise time. No opinions, no second guesses -- once it was over, it was final. You either did it, or you did not.

If someone asked me what the happiest moment of my life was I wouldn't know how to answer or where to search in my memory. If someone asked me what my most glorious moment was, I would tell them exactly -- February 23rd, 2002 at sometime in the afternoon -- the moment I saw the magic numbers on the clock -- a moment of precise, irrefutable confirmation -- I was successful -- I had beaten time.

That kind of glory -- euphoric and unique -- I haven't found it anywhere else. It may be something that simply gets resigned to the annals of my personal history.

But I found a pretty close replacement in video games. Strange, right? Swimming and sport in general require a fusion of mind and body -- all the components of an existence working together. I mentioned that my best races were blank of thought -- that's not because I didn't think, but that I had thought so effectively up to that point (technique, strategy, training), that I could move beyond thought. That may sound like baloney, but that's what I remember -- clear and distinct. I would swim my best when I had moved beyond.

And video games don't ask for much physically -- I sat still and engaged -- and to be truthful, there's not much glory in beating a game by yourself in the basement. But -- add in the multiplayer element and the whole topography of the situation changes -- even for someone as habituated to individual glory as I am (swimming is not a team sport), I knew a team when I saw it. The hardest missions in my new world required 20 or more people -- they required vast scheduling (scheduling which spilt over to the real world), coordination, patience, skill. And when we were successful, and, more importantly, when I knew that I had been a valuable element to that success, I felt that familiar, lost rush of glory.

Anyway, I got addicted to glory all over again -- an easy sort of glory that only required a computer, a stable internet access, and hours upon hours of free time. So much easier than training for swimming. So I gave in -- and started researching and analysing statistics, playing with spreadsheets, giving my mind over to a different place entirely. I diminished in complexity -- single-faceted in many ways. A frisson of guilt followed me around -- shame at my dissipation. But the glory, and the mesmerizing compulsion of having to progress -- to move past artificial notches, artificial prolongations that I could rationally see through but could not conquer -- that kept me going.

That's what I was doing with my time from February of 2007 all the way through January of 2008 -- one full year given over. I came back though -- back from the edge of oblivion in many ways -- the internet access went, and with it the chance to play at the high level -- to be challenged. I had outgrown easy armchair gaming and wanted more -- wanted the glory -- so I quit, easy break, fifteen more dollars a month in my pocket. I had already started to thaw anyway -- living at home, new job, new plans, then the prospect of teaching at my alma mater -- it all worked to effect the transition. I still have my account -- lapsed, I saved my spreadsheets and stat meters -- I stay in touch with a few friends from that world. But now I mainly try to manage the deluge of activity from all those sides of me that had been blanketed --

So when my brother brings home Grand Theft Auto IV, plays dizzily through gorgeous summer evenings -- I know what's going on. I understand dissipation -- thirst for glory. It's not virtual glory, even if the world is virtual.

You can trick biology into feeling.

Confessions

elias hassos - fische



[Elias Hassos]

[because of this via that]

Where did I go for 8 months of my thinking life? Those months when posts had stopped -- trickled down to once a month? Well, I was here still -- sporadically, half-heartedly -- rousing myself at work from endless game strategizing and tabulating to think a few thoughts about the books I was still reading. There was never a complete dissipation, I never went under all the way -- but I definitely left.

I was so tired of keeping up -- that's the main memory -- tired of trying to compete for space and time -- tired of trying to iron out plans and budgets -- and plus I've always had a weakness for escapism.

So I escaped, last February, into a world I had looked at before but dismissed. I've always played video games -- fighting my brother for time with the controls when we were younger. I was a niche-player though -- only fantasy worlds [that's my guilty-pleasure fiction too -- fantasy worlds, not mysteries or historical biographies, etc]. Essentially, I was a Zelda fanatic -- lost in Hyrule -- I remember frenzied spring breaks playing the new N64 games -- 18 hours at a time, not eating much, sleeping only when my eyes stopped focusing.

Then came Fable [winter break, two weeks of madness]. And throughout the whole time there were the PC Warcraft games, though I felt more comfortable with a hand-held controller and preferred that to the mouse. I graduated from single-player, contained-world games last February -- I read about the expansion for World of Warcraft -- decided it would be a good diversion for the nights I stayed in -- I blasted out my video card that first frenzied night of adaptation --

That's such a striking feature of video games -- and of myself. I cannot stand unfamiliarity -- and so, immersed in a new world, with a new mythology, a new persona, new ways of acting, I must learn it all before I can proceed -- adapt to a new way of living. Those first few days (weeks with this game) they're monomaniacal. I mastered the world -- learning slowly to deal with the fact that this was an open world -- other players, some as awful as youTube commenters, some who became good friends and remain good friends.

But this is not an autobiography -- I can't even begin to understand how ensorcelled I was -- I became a 'seven-year sleeper' nestled in my new world, foreign practices, strange comforts (time flies when you're slaying boars -- ogres -- etc. Time flies when you're collecting gold, tokens, measuring yourself against imaginary standards.) Just like Hans with his rest-cures, the special chairs, special blankets -- the precise meals and routines. I gave way to the ease of my obsession -- for it was an obsession -- and it was an annihilation. And the ambition of it all! I graduated to the ambition of an imaginary world -- a world where performance statistics and reviews actually mattered -- a world like that of competitive swimming, which I had abandoned abruptly at the height of my career. I could feed on ambition again -- on the adrenaline rush of winning. That rush doesn't come from too many places -- winning, victory, the glory of sport, of domination and prevail.

Would it be strange to say I had grown accustomed to winning? I was a good athlete -- not spectacular, but a solid, improving NCAA Division-1 approved athlete. It's why I went to college -- or at least to one particular college. I was accustomed to competition -- and there is no thrill like the thrill of hard-won success. You train -- it hurts, sometimes like hell -- you agonize over the smallest slivers of time, the slightest turn of the forearm, a fraction of an inch at every kick, at every motion through the water -- and then, validation -- swimming is so satisfying -- on the day of the big championship you prepare, superstitiously -- you wait for your event -- warm up -- feel excited then blank -- I always sought to be blank before a race -- step up to the blocks, bend, grip, explode. My best races were the ones that had the bare minimum of thought. Lungs would burn, muscles numb -- on good races my whole spinal column would disappear into bank non-feeling, my breath would sink to my stomach and my head would be absolutely silent except for a simple count -- 1-2-stretch. Then the wall and the clock. Success measured by simple, precise time. No opinions, no second guesses -- once it was over, it was final. You either did it, or you did not.

If someone asked me what the happiest moment of my life was I wouldn't know how to answer or where to search in my memory. If someone asked me what my most glorious moment was, I would tell them exactly -- February 23rd, 2002 at sometime in the afternoon -- the moment I saw the magic numbers on the clock -- a moment of precise, irrefutable confirmation -- I was successful -- I had beaten time.

That kind of glory -- euphoric and unique -- I haven't found it anywhere else. It may be something that simply gets resigned to the annals of my personal history.

But I found a pretty close replacement in video games. Strange, right? Swimming and sport in general require a fusion of mind and body -- all the components of an existence working together. I mentioned that my best races were blank of thought -- that's not because I didn't think, but that I had thought so effectively up to that point (technique, strategy, training), that I could move beyond thought. That may sound like baloney, but that's what I remember -- clear and distinct. I would swim my best when I had moved beyond.

And video games don't ask for much physically -- I sat still and engaged -- and to be truthful, there's not much glory in beating a game by yourself in the basement. But -- add in the multiplayer element and the whole topography of the situation changes -- even for someone as habituated to individual glory as I am (swimming is not a team sport), I knew a team when I saw it. The hardest missions in my new world required 20 or more people -- they required vast scheduling (scheduling which spilt over to the real world), coordination, patience, skill. And when we were successful, and, more importantly, when I knew that I had been a valuable element to that success, I felt that familiar, lost rush of glory.

Anyway, I got addicted to glory all over again -- an easy sort of glory that only required a computer, a stable internet access, and hours upon hours of free time. So much easier than training for swimming. So I gave in -- and started researching and analysing statistics, playing with spreadsheets, giving my mind over to a different place entirely. I diminished in complexity -- single-faceted in many ways. A frisson of guilt followed me around -- shame at my dissipation. But the glory, and the mesmerizing compulsion of having to progress -- to move past artificial notches, artificial prolongations that I could rationally see through but could not conquer -- that kept me going.

That's what I was doing with my time from February of 2007 all the way through January of 2008 -- one full year given over. I came back though -- back from the edge of oblivion in many ways -- the internet access went, and with it the chance to play at the high level -- to be challenged. I had outgrown easy armchair gaming and wanted more -- wanted the glory -- so I quit, easy break, fifteen more dollars a month in my pocket. I had already started to thaw anyway -- living at home, new job, new plans, then the prospect of teaching at my alma mater -- it all worked to effect the transition. I still have my account -- lapsed, I saved my spreadsheets and stat meters -- I stay in touch with a few friends from that world. But now I mainly try to manage the deluge of activity from all those sides of me that had been blanketed --

So when my brother brings home Grand Theft Auto IV, plays dizzily through gorgeous summer evenings -- I know what's going on. I understand dissipation -- thirst for glory. It's not virtual glory, even if the world is virtual.

You can trick biology into feeling.

Views of Heaven - Magical...











Enjoy, Cheers Kate x.

Diabetes and other complaints....


Hi Folks,
< Have a laugh , translations freely available...

I was visiting my wee sister (youngest I mean 'cos we're both the same size - well nearly) anyway, back to business she was diagnozed with diabetes last year and is normally one for keeping to diets, taking pills when ya should and following Doctor's instructions etc. I wonder why it is that there is sooo much diabetes these days ( but I'll leave that for some other time ) back to my subject, my brain is losing cells by the minute here !
Shall I start again ? she has been keeping to her diet faithfully and according to all the hundreds of tests that she has had to endure in regard to the diabetes she was told - among other things that her cholesterol etc and everything was too high - OK so far ? Now she normally shops at Tesco down in the wilds of Dumfries and they had a 'special' on Lurpak Lighter Spreadable Butter ie. I think it was buy one - get one free. She being a good Scottish housewife bought a supply enough to last until the expiry date in other words. Around about the same time she was delivered of a beautiful bread maker and so she was taking advantage of lovely home made bread and gorgeous Pate at the same period of time (which had also been on special offer)....

We have partaken of the home made bread a couple of times when we visited and I can assure anybody that these bread makers are 'THE' most wonderful thing ever invented and I would, if there was a possibility of fairies at the bottom of our garden - or - if I had the services of a genie at my disposal , personally handcuff him to my kitchen sink and blackmail him into spiriting up a magical machine which could enlarge out teeny weeny Kitchen in order to make it about 4 feet bigger in order that I could have a bread maker of my very own . The only problem would be that by doing this my weight would rise by such an enormous amount that my dress size would jump from 18/20 up to 24/26 . I don't think I should punish our downstairs neighbours by them having to listen to me walking about in and around our flat across our very inadequately sound proofed floor and therefore above their heads..........

Oh! I never told you the punch line of my wee sister's latest visit to have her cholesterol tested after all her home made bread, pate and spreadable butter instead of using her usual 'Flora' non fattening ( low in all sort of fats etc.) Her cholesterol rate instead of rising, had been lowered by 2 points and is now 3.7 instead of the much higher figure... as well as that, she lost 6 lbs. in weight ! So there you are, go figure !!

I will halt this Epistle and now get the kettle on 'cos you have no idea how talking about food has helped my appetite.

Cheers and Love to All, Kate xxx.

Interlude: An Acoustical Illusion

yamamoto masao swans

[Yamamoto]


Dostoevsky -- Notes From the Underground:

Why, to tell long stories, showing how I have spoiled my life through morally rotting in my corner, through lack of fitting environment, through divorce from real life, and rankling spite in my underground world, would certainly not be interesting; a novel needs a hero, and all the traits for an anti-hero are EXPRESSLY gathered together here, and what matters most, it all produces an unpleasant impression, for we are all divorced from life, we are all cripples, every one of us, more or less. We are so divorced from it that we feel at once a sort of loathing for real life, and so cannot bear to be reminded of it. Why, we have come almost to looking upon real life as an effort, almost as hard work, and we are all privately agreed that it is better in books. And why do we fuss and fume sometimes? Why are we perverse and ask for something else? We don’t know what ourselves. It would be the worse for us if our petulant prayers were answered. Come, try, give any one of us, for instance, a little more independence, untie our hands, widen the spheres of our activity, relax the control and we ... yes, I assure you ... we should be begging to be under control again at once.

[...]

Why, we don’t even know what living means now, what it is, and what it is called? Leave us alone without books and we shall be lost and in confusion at once. We shall not know what to join on to, what to cling to, what to love and what to hate, what to respect and what to despise. We are oppressed at being men—men with a real individual body and blood, we are ashamed of it, we think it a disgrace and try to contrive to be some sort of impossible generalised man. We are stillborn, and for generations past have been begotten, not by living fathers, and that suits us better and better. We are developing a taste for it. Soon we shall contrive to be born somehow from an idea. But enough; I don’t want to write more from “Underground.”

Interlude: An Acoustical Illusion

yamamoto masao swans

[Yamamoto]


Dostoevsky -- Notes From the Underground:

Why, to tell long stories, showing how I have spoiled my life through morally rotting in my corner, through lack of fitting environment, through divorce from real life, and rankling spite in my underground world, would certainly not be interesting; a novel needs a hero, and all the traits for an anti-hero are EXPRESSLY gathered together here, and what matters most, it all produces an unpleasant impression, for we are all divorced from life, we are all cripples, every one of us, more or less. We are so divorced from it that we feel at once a sort of loathing for real life, and so cannot bear to be reminded of it. Why, we have come almost to looking upon real life as an effort, almost as hard work, and we are all privately agreed that it is better in books. And why do we fuss and fume sometimes? Why are we perverse and ask for something else? We don’t know what ourselves. It would be the worse for us if our petulant prayers were answered. Come, try, give any one of us, for instance, a little more independence, untie our hands, widen the spheres of our activity, relax the control and we ... yes, I assure you ... we should be begging to be under control again at once.

[...]

Why, we don’t even know what living means now, what it is, and what it is called? Leave us alone without books and we shall be lost and in confusion at once. We shall not know what to join on to, what to cling to, what to love and what to hate, what to respect and what to despise. We are oppressed at being men—men with a real individual body and blood, we are ashamed of it, we think it a disgrace and try to contrive to be some sort of impossible generalised man. We are stillborn, and for generations past have been begotten, not by living fathers, and that suits us better and better. We are developing a taste for it. Soon we shall contrive to be born somehow from an idea. But enough; I don’t want to write more from “Underground.”

Part iv: The infinite text

rappoport1


[Rappoport via Green Chair Press]
I'm not quite done with this one essay -- again, Marina Warner on Roger Caillois in Cabinet. She has also recalled the concept of the infinite text, something which has surfaced in many of my recent readings. She says:

Materialist mystics, among whom I count Caillois, do not search for self-knowledge, nor for foreknowledge of their destiny, the sirens' secret; but they emphatically investigate hidden meanings and scan the deepest horizons of time into infinity: the world turns into an inexhaustible book written in hieroglyphs.

This of course recalls Valéry, Blanchot, Barthes, etc -- basically everyone I've been reading these past few weeks -- it also recalls Levinas and another article by another Marina in this same issue of Cabinet [the tyranny of connections!]

________________________


To begin again [continually], I'll go back to Stephen Mitchelmore's piece on Blanchot's The Absent Voice from Spike magazine, diverging from there as needed.

Blanchot is quoted:

Upon the background noise constituted by our knowledge of the world’s daily course, which precedes, accompanies, and follows in us all knowledge, we cast forth, walking or sleeping, phrases that are punctuated by questions. Murmuring questions. What are they worth? What do they say? These are still more questions. (trans. Susan Hanson)
These murmuring questions are hardly unfamiliar, though I agree with Mitchelmore when he says that we spend much of our lives 'avoiding or sedating' them. After all, doesn't it require a great effort to seek out questions? To place pressure on those points -- seeing if they will yield up their secrets. And the murmuring can be tyrannical -- the questions mount up, threaten to cover and crush the unadulterated experience of the thing.

I was reading an article from the first edition of CONTEXT-- a piece by R.M. Berry called 'Reading Beckett's Fiction.' He says of Beckett's fictional works:
Their challenges are such that I can rise to them only at my most energetic and alert moments, in times or moods where my engagement with my world is at its peak.

I agree with this, especially about Beckett, but it also makes sense when one considers reading in general. It's so difficult to listen. It's so difficult to rise to the experience of reading -- when I'm not up to the task I do something a bit dangerous -- to borrow a phrase from Paul Chan, the artist who was recently featured in the New Yorker, I indulge in 'reckless reading.' Like drawing a net through the text, sifting through the ideas, the phrases, and capturing quickly those bright gems in the effluvium. I say it's dangerous because it's selfish and it's untethered. This sort of reading also quickly degenerates into artificial synthesis -- I determine what I find because I've asked only one question of what I am reading -- what will you say that will remind me of myself?

What's the alternative? I like what Mitchelmore says of Blanchot:

When he reviews a book, rather than judging it within a set external criteria, such as the persuasiveness of character or plot, or its relevance to the breaking news of the moment, he asks certain questions that emerge from the experience of reading the book itself.
This seems to me like good reading -- innocent but not naive -- energetic but not reckless.

So there are questions embedded within texts -- different for each reader? I suppose so. There are questions which seem especially personal -- questions which seem individually significant. There are questions posed by the context of reading or inherent in the chronology of reading [The questions I asked of Man Without Qualities were largely informed by the questions which seemed important in reading Magic Mountain; or, the questions I found in The Four Quartets were informed by To the Lighthouse, Process & Reality, La Recherche]. It's easy to feel numbed by this multitude -- overwhelmed -- not equal to the task.

I suppose that I long thought of reading as a largely passive experience. I selected a story, read it, often too quickly, often relying on a semi-photographic memory to recall huge chunks of text that had been swallowed whole. I escaped into reading, or let myself be moved or transported or whatehaveyou. Even when I acquired The Toolbox Necessary To Success in Reading English Literature I failed horribly in formal, systematic readings. Just as I failed to grasp the point of art history -- I far preferred the experience itself, though not realizing that at the time.

Reading became a way of understanding -- it became an adventure in ideas and creativity and human perception. I remember thinking years ago that I had hit upon something so wonderful -- reading was about bringing the infinite into the finite -- it was about translating a big, clumsy, difficult idea into particulars -- I eventually settled into thinking that reading was about exploring the instances of ideas and experience. A synthesis which resulted in a beautiful, separate creation -- equally difficult, equally challenging.

______________________


And all of that is a long way of saying that I understand, now, this desire for the infinite artwork -- for Pierre Menard's perpetual Quixote -- Beckett's untethered, unexemplary prose -- the artwork which is not an object to be walked around in a museum but rather an action in itself.
Beckett's first-person novels, those with dramatized narrators are not so much representations of actions as they are themselves actions. Perhaps we could call them enactments, or even performances ... [Berry's 'Reading Beckett's Fiction']
This seems like a start -- it explains the challenge posed by certain texts -- accomplished with varying degrees of success [for example, Cortazar's Hopscotch seems to try too hard to challenge the reader -- the scaffolding is too much in evidence]. Certain texts invite 'reckless reading' too -- Beckett is again a good example. His prose is so unremarkable at times -- Berry points to phrases in Molloy like: 'in the dark,' 'left cold,' 'no matter,' -- and sentences which rely upon their unremarkable points to insinuate a greater obscurity -- sentences like:

But that she should associate the four knocks with anything but money was something to be avoided at all costs.

I say that now, but after all what do I know now about then.


And my favorite:
But from time to time. From time to time. What tenderness in these little words, what savagery.

That's exactly what we find in Beckett's prose -- tenderness of comfort and familiarity, savagery of meaninglessness, of annihilation. Sentences spill into sentences, tenses don't add up, it's like the literary form of an optical illusion -- the one where the simple frame turns into a never-ending Möbius strip.

____________________________

I've gone on too long -- overwhelmed by connections which have perplexed my mind -- I try to dig myself out by writing little essays -- trying to make sense, to reveal something -- structure, connections, convergences. I still have more to say--

Part iv: The infinite text

rappoport1


[Rappoport via Green Chair Press]
I'm not quite done with this one essay -- again, Marina Warner on Roger Caillois in Cabinet. She has also recalled the concept of the infinite text, something which has surfaced in many of my recent readings. She says:

Materialist mystics, among whom I count Caillois, do not search for self-knowledge, nor for foreknowledge of their destiny, the sirens' secret; but they emphatically investigate hidden meanings and scan the deepest horizons of time into infinity: the world turns into an inexhaustible book written in hieroglyphs.

This of course recalls Valéry, Blanchot, Barthes, etc -- basically everyone I've been reading these past few weeks -- it also recalls Levinas and another article by another Marina in this same issue of Cabinet [the tyranny of connections!]

________________________


To begin again [continually], I'll go back to Stephen Mitchelmore's piece on Blanchot's The Absent Voice from Spike magazine, diverging from there as needed.

Blanchot is quoted:

Upon the background noise constituted by our knowledge of the world’s daily course, which precedes, accompanies, and follows in us all knowledge, we cast forth, walking or sleeping, phrases that are punctuated by questions. Murmuring questions. What are they worth? What do they say? These are still more questions. (trans. Susan Hanson)
These murmuring questions are hardly unfamiliar, though I agree with Mitchelmore when he says that we spend much of our lives 'avoiding or sedating' them. After all, doesn't it require a great effort to seek out questions? To place pressure on those points -- seeing if they will yield up their secrets. And the murmuring can be tyrannical -- the questions mount up, threaten to cover and crush the unadulterated experience of the thing.

I was reading an article from the first edition of CONTEXT-- a piece by R.M. Berry called 'Reading Beckett's Fiction.' He says of Beckett's fictional works:
Their challenges are such that I can rise to them only at my most energetic and alert moments, in times or moods where my engagement with my world is at its peak.

I agree with this, especially about Beckett, but it also makes sense when one considers reading in general. It's so difficult to listen. It's so difficult to rise to the experience of reading -- when I'm not up to the task I do something a bit dangerous -- to borrow a phrase from Paul Chan, the artist who was recently featured in the New Yorker, I indulge in 'reckless reading.' Like drawing a net through the text, sifting through the ideas, the phrases, and capturing quickly those bright gems in the effluvium. I say it's dangerous because it's selfish and it's untethered. This sort of reading also quickly degenerates into artificial synthesis -- I determine what I find because I've asked only one question of what I am reading -- what will you say that will remind me of myself?

What's the alternative? I like what Mitchelmore says of Blanchot:

When he reviews a book, rather than judging it within a set external criteria, such as the persuasiveness of character or plot, or its relevance to the breaking news of the moment, he asks certain questions that emerge from the experience of reading the book itself.
This seems to me like good reading -- innocent but not naive -- energetic but not reckless.

So there are questions embedded within texts -- different for each reader? I suppose so. There are questions which seem especially personal -- questions which seem individually significant. There are questions posed by the context of reading or inherent in the chronology of reading [The questions I asked of Man Without Qualities were largely informed by the questions which seemed important in reading Magic Mountain; or, the questions I found in The Four Quartets were informed by To the Lighthouse, Process & Reality, La Recherche]. It's easy to feel numbed by this multitude -- overwhelmed -- not equal to the task.

I suppose that I long thought of reading as a largely passive experience. I selected a story, read it, often too quickly, often relying on a semi-photographic memory to recall huge chunks of text that had been swallowed whole. I escaped into reading, or let myself be moved or transported or whatehaveyou. Even when I acquired The Toolbox Necessary To Success in Reading English Literature I failed horribly in formal, systematic readings. Just as I failed to grasp the point of art history -- I far preferred the experience itself, though not realizing that at the time.

Reading became a way of understanding -- it became an adventure in ideas and creativity and human perception. I remember thinking years ago that I had hit upon something so wonderful -- reading was about bringing the infinite into the finite -- it was about translating a big, clumsy, difficult idea into particulars -- I eventually settled into thinking that reading was about exploring the instances of ideas and experience. A synthesis which resulted in a beautiful, separate creation -- equally difficult, equally challenging.

______________________


And all of that is a long way of saying that I understand, now, this desire for the infinite artwork -- for Pierre Menard's perpetual Quixote -- Beckett's untethered, unexemplary prose -- the artwork which is not an object to be walked around in a museum but rather an action in itself.
Beckett's first-person novels, those with dramatized narrators are not so much representations of actions as they are themselves actions. Perhaps we could call them enactments, or even performances ... [Berry's 'Reading Beckett's Fiction']
This seems like a start -- it explains the challenge posed by certain texts -- accomplished with varying degrees of success [for example, Cortazar's Hopscotch seems to try too hard to challenge the reader -- the scaffolding is too much in evidence]. Certain texts invite 'reckless reading' too -- Beckett is again a good example. His prose is so unremarkable at times -- Berry points to phrases in Molloy like: 'in the dark,' 'left cold,' 'no matter,' -- and sentences which rely upon their unremarkable points to insinuate a greater obscurity -- sentences like:

But that she should associate the four knocks with anything but money was something to be avoided at all costs.

I say that now, but after all what do I know now about then.


And my favorite:
But from time to time. From time to time. What tenderness in these little words, what savagery.

That's exactly what we find in Beckett's prose -- tenderness of comfort and familiarity, savagery of meaninglessness, of annihilation. Sentences spill into sentences, tenses don't add up, it's like the literary form of an optical illusion -- the one where the simple frame turns into a never-ending Möbius strip.

____________________________

I've gone on too long -- overwhelmed by connections which have perplexed my mind -- I try to dig myself out by writing little essays -- trying to make sense, to reveal something -- structure, connections, convergences. I still have more to say--

Part iii: The geometry of reality

cdr 03-30

[CDR]


'The geometry of reality' -- I first wondered about this when I was reading Lobachevsky and learning that those chalkboard parallel lines I remembered from grade school did very different things when they were let alone. Though this is out of character, I wanted to recurrect some former, more polished and focused writing on the subject of geometry and uncertainty.

In the uncertainty whether the perpendicular AE is the only line which does not meet DC, we will assume that it may be possible that there are still other lines, for example AG, which do not cut DC, howsoever they be prolonged.

Lobachevsky discards Euclid's troublesome fifth postulate and proceeds to develop a system of geometry that not only omits an equivalent to Euclid’s fifth postulate, but actually denies the fifth postulate as a necessary rule for parallel lines. [As a reminder, Euclid's fifth postulate states: That, if a straight line falling on two straight lines make the interior angles on the same side less than two right angles, the two straight lines, if produced indefinitely, meet on that side on which are the angles less than the two right angles]. After acknowledging the uncertainty that comes with any line said to be produced indefinitely, Lobachevsky asserts a new way of determining parallels that can allow for greater accuracy and a more functional system of geometry.

Euclid’s elements of geometry are awe-inspiring for their elegance, accessibility, and structure. Each definition serves a purpose, each postulate and common notion is required for the definitions to work within the proofs, each proof relies necessarily on what has come before it; the pieces fit, the proofs are lucid, there is no equivocation. But even in the midst of this clarity there are some uncertainties amongst the otherwise self-evident proofs. His axioms begin with elements that seem to be defined by their metaphysical qualities, not by their function or cause in the physical world:

A point is that which has no parts

A line is a breadthless length

It takes some mental stretching to conceive of what is meant by these definitions, especially when one realizes that the point and the line are not objects of contemplation, but must be used in the construction of physical proofs and in other “real-world” applications.

In proposition 1.4 we are asked to imagine one given triangle being “applied” to a second given triangle, with the assumption that doing so will reveal that the triangles coincide and are thus congruent. But how does this application occur? Again we must stretch our mind to move a fixed geometrical element from its apparently static location to a different location.

This requirement in the proposition is difficult to accept; motion is something we reluctantly attribute to the figures composed of lines, not easily finding where motion is implied in Euclid’s definitions. His definitions seem to describe elements which remain fixed and unchanging; their qualities and nature are reliable, and thus there is no uncertainty in their application within a proof. There is no surprise maneuver of a line that we can imagine after reading only the definitions. Lines will be breadthless lengths, always and indefinitely, just as points will never have any parts. Nevertheless, the triangle is applied.
Proof 1.4 introduces a second uncertain element: the proof is only accomplished by introducing the reductio method and proving the impossibility of one claim to show the truth of its opposite. And while this is still a satisfying proof, it is significantly less satisfying than the preceding three proofs which progressed from definitions and common notions in a direct manner.

Why are these parts of Euclid’s proofs more difficult to accept than the clear definitions and directly constructed propositions? Geometry is supposed to provide us with a grammar by which we can speak of the natural world and all of the motions and bodies we find in it. The uncomfortable elements of proposition 1.4 comes from the need to manipulate in a functional way elements that seem to be too precise for this usage. I do not mean to say that Euclid’s elements are not useful in the natural world; there is, however, an initial surprise in the mind when the idea of applying one triangle to another is introduced, or when, in setting out to study geometry, one finds oneself face to face with a definition that seems more metaphysical than physical.

The elegance, reliability, and precision that are the greatest characteristics of Euclid’s geometry do not admit easily of anything uncertain. Since the greater part of his definitions and propositions strike us as self-evident and unarguable, the few places where we feel surprise at how the elements are used (and a consequent surprise at feeling surprised) stick out in sharper relief as conspicuously less certain. But any surprise the mind experiences in proposition 1.4 is quickly assuaged by a return to direct proof and clear constructions.

A parallel line, by Euclid’s definition, is the one, unique, non-cutting line which, when taken with its pair, will have its interior angles add up exactly to the sum of two right angles. These lines can be produced indefinitely and will remain always parallel; any other pair of lines that does not conform to this definition must meet at some point in their production. His definition of parallel lines is precise and admits no exception.

Lobachevsky’s geometry does not rush past uncertainty or surprise so quickly. Instead of accepting Euclid’s parallels, Lobachevsky takes his definition and finds not precision, but uncertainty. He asks whether we are entirely certain that there can be only one non-intersecting line. Could there not be another species of line, the non-intersecting, but non-parallel line? Instead of one unique, non-cutting line, we propose instead, one first, non-cutting line, the line which is the boundary or parallel line.

In theorem 16, Lobachevsky challenges Euclid’s fifth postulate, which defines parallel lines by the sum of their interior angles. He shows in this theorem that there are, in fact, three sorts of lines that can pass through a given point with respect to a given line, and that there are actually two first non-cutting lines, one on either side of the perpendicular to a given line. Thus, there are sides of parallelism; the angle of parallelism on one side of a perpendicular can be created on the other side to form two first non-cutting lines (two boundary lines which are at an angle less than two right angles to one another). This first non-cutting line on either side is the parallel, but there is an infinite amount of other non-cutting, non-parallel lines which go through the given point in the space outside the areas created by the sum angle of parallelism (“sum angle” being meant as the angles of parallelism taken together on the side of the boundary lines facing the given line, and again on the side of the construction corresponding to the prolongations of the two boundary lines).

In order to accommodate this potential plenum of non-cutting, non-parallel lines, Lobachevsky must assert that the angle of parallelism is not necessarily the exact sum of two right angles, but is instead a function of the length of the perpendicular between the two parallel lines. In the realm of “uncertainty,” we have hit upon something that is at least manageable, if not certain. So long as we can determine the distance of the perpendicular to a given line, we can determine the angle of parallelism, and thus find our parallel on each side, as well as the region of non-parallel, non-cutting lines.

This sort of ‘certainty’ will not result in one precise parallel line, as would be the case with Euclid’s definition, but in providing us with the possibility of other non-cutting, non-parallel lines, we actually have a smaller margin of error in our result [“error” being used as a line incorrectly identified as a parallel line, or an incorrect supposition that a certain line, if produced indefinitely, will never intersect its “parallel”]. Euclid’s definition allows us to be absolutely certain regarding one specific line, but leaves us susceptible to an enormous margin of error once we’re dealing with extreme magnitudes of production [we could be absolutely wrong about “parallel” lines which seem to contain interior angles that add up to two right angles, and since we cannot be there at the place where they would meet, we accept an incorrect supposition].

There are two certainties then; Euclid’s certainty is consistently developed, but Lobachevsky presents a different set of starting premises, with the promise to develop from them a breed of geometry as consistent as Euclid’s, though entirely different in nature. Lobachevsky doesn’t provide a proof-based system that is as palatable as Euclid’s, but rather a functional system, and one that is revealed to be a more accurate “grammar” for use in analyzing the natural world.

Part iii: The geometry of reality

cdr 03-30

[CDR]


'The geometry of reality' -- I first wondered about this when I was reading Lobachevsky and learning that those chalkboard parallel lines I remembered from grade school did very different things when they were let alone. Though this is out of character, I wanted to recurrect some former, more polished and focused writing on the subject of geometry and uncertainty.

In the uncertainty whether the perpendicular AE is the only line which does not meet DC, we will assume that it may be possible that there are still other lines, for example AG, which do not cut DC, howsoever they be prolonged.

Lobachevsky discards Euclid's troublesome fifth postulate and proceeds to develop a system of geometry that not only omits an equivalent to Euclid’s fifth postulate, but actually denies the fifth postulate as a necessary rule for parallel lines. [As a reminder, Euclid's fifth postulate states: That, if a straight line falling on two straight lines make the interior angles on the same side less than two right angles, the two straight lines, if produced indefinitely, meet on that side on which are the angles less than the two right angles]. After acknowledging the uncertainty that comes with any line said to be produced indefinitely, Lobachevsky asserts a new way of determining parallels that can allow for greater accuracy and a more functional system of geometry.

Euclid’s elements of geometry are awe-inspiring for their elegance, accessibility, and structure. Each definition serves a purpose, each postulate and common notion is required for the definitions to work within the proofs, each proof relies necessarily on what has come before it; the pieces fit, the proofs are lucid, there is no equivocation. But even in the midst of this clarity there are some uncertainties amongst the otherwise self-evident proofs. His axioms begin with elements that seem to be defined by their metaphysical qualities, not by their function or cause in the physical world:

A point is that which has no parts

A line is a breadthless length

It takes some mental stretching to conceive of what is meant by these definitions, especially when one realizes that the point and the line are not objects of contemplation, but must be used in the construction of physical proofs and in other “real-world” applications.

In proposition 1.4 we are asked to imagine one given triangle being “applied” to a second given triangle, with the assumption that doing so will reveal that the triangles coincide and are thus congruent. But how does this application occur? Again we must stretch our mind to move a fixed geometrical element from its apparently static location to a different location.

This requirement in the proposition is difficult to accept; motion is something we reluctantly attribute to the figures composed of lines, not easily finding where motion is implied in Euclid’s definitions. His definitions seem to describe elements which remain fixed and unchanging; their qualities and nature are reliable, and thus there is no uncertainty in their application within a proof. There is no surprise maneuver of a line that we can imagine after reading only the definitions. Lines will be breadthless lengths, always and indefinitely, just as points will never have any parts. Nevertheless, the triangle is applied.
Proof 1.4 introduces a second uncertain element: the proof is only accomplished by introducing the reductio method and proving the impossibility of one claim to show the truth of its opposite. And while this is still a satisfying proof, it is significantly less satisfying than the preceding three proofs which progressed from definitions and common notions in a direct manner.

Why are these parts of Euclid’s proofs more difficult to accept than the clear definitions and directly constructed propositions? Geometry is supposed to provide us with a grammar by which we can speak of the natural world and all of the motions and bodies we find in it. The uncomfortable elements of proposition 1.4 comes from the need to manipulate in a functional way elements that seem to be too precise for this usage. I do not mean to say that Euclid’s elements are not useful in the natural world; there is, however, an initial surprise in the mind when the idea of applying one triangle to another is introduced, or when, in setting out to study geometry, one finds oneself face to face with a definition that seems more metaphysical than physical.

The elegance, reliability, and precision that are the greatest characteristics of Euclid’s geometry do not admit easily of anything uncertain. Since the greater part of his definitions and propositions strike us as self-evident and unarguable, the few places where we feel surprise at how the elements are used (and a consequent surprise at feeling surprised) stick out in sharper relief as conspicuously less certain. But any surprise the mind experiences in proposition 1.4 is quickly assuaged by a return to direct proof and clear constructions.

A parallel line, by Euclid’s definition, is the one, unique, non-cutting line which, when taken with its pair, will have its interior angles add up exactly to the sum of two right angles. These lines can be produced indefinitely and will remain always parallel; any other pair of lines that does not conform to this definition must meet at some point in their production. His definition of parallel lines is precise and admits no exception.

Lobachevsky’s geometry does not rush past uncertainty or surprise so quickly. Instead of accepting Euclid’s parallels, Lobachevsky takes his definition and finds not precision, but uncertainty. He asks whether we are entirely certain that there can be only one non-intersecting line. Could there not be another species of line, the non-intersecting, but non-parallel line? Instead of one unique, non-cutting line, we propose instead, one first, non-cutting line, the line which is the boundary or parallel line.

In theorem 16, Lobachevsky challenges Euclid’s fifth postulate, which defines parallel lines by the sum of their interior angles. He shows in this theorem that there are, in fact, three sorts of lines that can pass through a given point with respect to a given line, and that there are actually two first non-cutting lines, one on either side of the perpendicular to a given line. Thus, there are sides of parallelism; the angle of parallelism on one side of a perpendicular can be created on the other side to form two first non-cutting lines (two boundary lines which are at an angle less than two right angles to one another). This first non-cutting line on either side is the parallel, but there is an infinite amount of other non-cutting, non-parallel lines which go through the given point in the space outside the areas created by the sum angle of parallelism (“sum angle” being meant as the angles of parallelism taken together on the side of the boundary lines facing the given line, and again on the side of the construction corresponding to the prolongations of the two boundary lines).

In order to accommodate this potential plenum of non-cutting, non-parallel lines, Lobachevsky must assert that the angle of parallelism is not necessarily the exact sum of two right angles, but is instead a function of the length of the perpendicular between the two parallel lines. In the realm of “uncertainty,” we have hit upon something that is at least manageable, if not certain. So long as we can determine the distance of the perpendicular to a given line, we can determine the angle of parallelism, and thus find our parallel on each side, as well as the region of non-parallel, non-cutting lines.

This sort of ‘certainty’ will not result in one precise parallel line, as would be the case with Euclid’s definition, but in providing us with the possibility of other non-cutting, non-parallel lines, we actually have a smaller margin of error in our result [“error” being used as a line incorrectly identified as a parallel line, or an incorrect supposition that a certain line, if produced indefinitely, will never intersect its “parallel”]. Euclid’s definition allows us to be absolutely certain regarding one specific line, but leaves us susceptible to an enormous margin of error once we’re dealing with extreme magnitudes of production [we could be absolutely wrong about “parallel” lines which seem to contain interior angles that add up to two right angles, and since we cannot be there at the place where they would meet, we accept an incorrect supposition].

There are two certainties then; Euclid’s certainty is consistently developed, but Lobachevsky presents a different set of starting premises, with the promise to develop from them a breed of geometry as consistent as Euclid’s, though entirely different in nature. Lobachevsky doesn’t provide a proof-based system that is as palatable as Euclid’s, but rather a functional system, and one that is revealed to be a more accurate “grammar” for use in analyzing the natural world.

Part ii: Lines of force

letrasetslip

[via Uppercase]


To continue with Warner's essay in Cabinet -- Caillois wanted to exalt perception, not the perceiver -- Warner tells us that his position is best described by Peter Galison as: a join epistemic project addressing the historically changing and mutually conditioning relation of 'inside' and 'outside' knowledge. I'm just trying to understand what that even means -- are we talking about some sort of hermeneutics of hermetics? Of understanding the spaces in between -- the absences and lacks and gaps?

Warner also mentions Valéry:

His [Caillois's] writing grows gradually ever closer to the precise observation, combined with lyrical delirium, that is found in the prose and poetry of Paul Valéry as well as the poetic phenomenology of Francis Ponge. Valéry, responding to the discovery of the electromagnetic field, had also found in material phenomena the proof of a secret, metaphysical order.'

His dialogue Eupalinos seems to me to be the most interesting illustration of this description. The passages of sheer rhetorical beauty, the questions about art and making and creation, the difficulty Socrates has in discerning whether his strange seashore-object is animal, vegetable, mineral, or indeterminable.

Maxwell's discovery of the electromagnetic field meant that there could now be proof of those 'lines of force' that had long been poeticized as 'magical thinking':

they posit some power that orders and patterns phenomena and freights them with significance, if only they could be rendered legible, scrutable; this order obeys a unifying energy in the cosmos, which aligns the particular incident or being with a general and universal order according to a correlation between microcosm and macrocosm.


This 'network of natural correspondences,' these 'invisible lattices of significant meaning,' that underlie all knowledge, all information, all perception -- they're so tantalizing! They speak to the desire to decipher and define and determine -- they speak to the prolongation of understanding, the process of wonder. I can't decide if I assent to them or if they're but another illusion of our code-happy minds [note the influence of Powers' story].
Valéry was especially taken with this discovery:

in Maxwell's revelation of invisible 'lines of force,' Valéry recognized a key metaphor for the role of imagination in poetic vision, which could also allow phenomena that cannot be directly perceived to come into being and combine together as objects of mental contemplation. For Valéry, this work needed an understanding of mathematics: he wanted to perform in poetry a kind of linguistic algebra that would render intelligible the elusive and impalpable geometry of reality.

That last phrase reminds me of a larger diversion -- but to that in a moment.

Caillois was much taken with the stones of this world -- in them he saw the text of natural creation -- an indelible record of the world's history. Just as Valéry wondered over the seashell -- in both Eupalinos and in 'Man and the Seashell,' Caillois wonders at the power and significance of nature's simple creations. Warner quotes his Pierres:

They provide moreover, taken on the spot and at a certain instant of its development, an irreversible cut made into the fabric of the universe. Like fossil imprints, this mark, this trace, is not only an effigy, but the thing itself stabilized by a miracle, which attests to itself and to the hidden laws of our shared formation where the whole of nature was borne along.

Caillois wanted to uncover the invisible order -- the network of connections and convergences that would illumine the present. At least that's what this essay seems to say. I'll admit I hadn't even heard of the fellow before reading this. But Pierres sounds interesting, and he is clearly concerned with creativity, wonder, nature, etc.

Warner has an interesting conclusion which ties in with what I spoke of in the first part of this series. She says:

Oddly, this perception offered by stones returns us to ancient metaphorical visions of the cosmos; in Ovid's Metamorphoses, inroganic and organic life, stone and flesh, do not stand as opposite poles but flow and fuse along the continuum uniting all things. Valéry 's impulse is to find a literary analogue operating with language for the new physics' vision of nature doesn't disrupt poetry's endeavor or twist it from a long-established orbit. The search for metaphor can march with the experimental method of science, as Roger Caillois the manist believed -- and practiced in his writing and his thought.

Part ii: Lines of force

letrasetslip

[via Uppercase]


To continue with Warner's essay in Cabinet -- Caillois wanted to exalt perception, not the perceiver -- Warner tells us that his position is best described by Peter Galison as: a join epistemic project addressing the historically changing and mutually conditioning relation of 'inside' and 'outside' knowledge. I'm just trying to understand what that even means -- are we talking about some sort of hermeneutics of hermetics? Of understanding the spaces in between -- the absences and lacks and gaps?

Warner also mentions Valéry:

His [Caillois's] writing grows gradually ever closer to the precise observation, combined with lyrical delirium, that is found in the prose and poetry of Paul Valéry as well as the poetic phenomenology of Francis Ponge. Valéry, responding to the discovery of the electromagnetic field, had also found in material phenomena the proof of a secret, metaphysical order.'

His dialogue Eupalinos seems to me to be the most interesting illustration of this description. The passages of sheer rhetorical beauty, the questions about art and making and creation, the difficulty Socrates has in discerning whether his strange seashore-object is animal, vegetable, mineral, or indeterminable.

Maxwell's discovery of the electromagnetic field meant that there could now be proof of those 'lines of force' that had long been poeticized as 'magical thinking':

they posit some power that orders and patterns phenomena and freights them with significance, if only they could be rendered legible, scrutable; this order obeys a unifying energy in the cosmos, which aligns the particular incident or being with a general and universal order according to a correlation between microcosm and macrocosm.


This 'network of natural correspondences,' these 'invisible lattices of significant meaning,' that underlie all knowledge, all information, all perception -- they're so tantalizing! They speak to the desire to decipher and define and determine -- they speak to the prolongation of understanding, the process of wonder. I can't decide if I assent to them or if they're but another illusion of our code-happy minds [note the influence of Powers' story].
Valéry was especially taken with this discovery:

in Maxwell's revelation of invisible 'lines of force,' Valéry recognized a key metaphor for the role of imagination in poetic vision, which could also allow phenomena that cannot be directly perceived to come into being and combine together as objects of mental contemplation. For Valéry, this work needed an understanding of mathematics: he wanted to perform in poetry a kind of linguistic algebra that would render intelligible the elusive and impalpable geometry of reality.

That last phrase reminds me of a larger diversion -- but to that in a moment.

Caillois was much taken with the stones of this world -- in them he saw the text of natural creation -- an indelible record of the world's history. Just as Valéry wondered over the seashell -- in both Eupalinos and in 'Man and the Seashell,' Caillois wonders at the power and significance of nature's simple creations. Warner quotes his Pierres:

They provide moreover, taken on the spot and at a certain instant of its development, an irreversible cut made into the fabric of the universe. Like fossil imprints, this mark, this trace, is not only an effigy, but the thing itself stabilized by a miracle, which attests to itself and to the hidden laws of our shared formation where the whole of nature was borne along.

Caillois wanted to uncover the invisible order -- the network of connections and convergences that would illumine the present. At least that's what this essay seems to say. I'll admit I hadn't even heard of the fellow before reading this. But Pierres sounds interesting, and he is clearly concerned with creativity, wonder, nature, etc.

Warner has an interesting conclusion which ties in with what I spoke of in the first part of this series. She says:

Oddly, this perception offered by stones returns us to ancient metaphorical visions of the cosmos; in Ovid's Metamorphoses, inroganic and organic life, stone and flesh, do not stand as opposite poles but flow and fuse along the continuum uniting all things. Valéry 's impulse is to find a literary analogue operating with language for the new physics' vision of nature doesn't disrupt poetry's endeavor or twist it from a long-established orbit. The search for metaphor can march with the experimental method of science, as Roger Caillois the manist believed -- and practiced in his writing and his thought.

Collected and Converging: Part i: Let there be two streams

selena_kimball1

[Selena Kimball via wrongdistance]


Where to begin? There have been many unwritten bits lately and I'm trying to make sense of them, beginning perhaps with a basic copying out -- transcription with the hopes of translation and transformation.

I'd like to perhaps create a set of 'likely stories' -- if one were to make connections, this is what would appear. If one were to allow things to converge, this is the intersection. For the mind makes connections, deep and swift -- it makes them of nature and of instinct, and sometimes tyrannically.

I imagine that this will begin messily -- a tangle -- but I hope for things to work out in the end.

I've been reading a lot about being a reader -- and about what a writer is not, what a critic is and is not, what an artist does and does not do. In the process, a few things have been clarified, some have been toppled, and most have been confused. I am, per usual, swimming in questions. Uncertainty and certainty -- I re-read a short paper I had written on Euclid and Lobachevsky and found these problems again relevant. The less power the artist has, the more the responsibility of the audience, the reader.

So to begin, I first started reading Blanchot because of the rejuvenation of writing about him on the web -- a rejuvenation due to the anniversary of the May 1968 events. I found Stephen Mitchelmore's piece on Blanchot's The Absent Voice from Spike magazine. This is from before -- 2002 -- but it was a good introduction for me. I found echoes of Cassirer -- questions of speech, and then noticing and naming -- the momentous deities which assert their significance and their originary qualities. I'll get back to Blanchot and where he led me in a bit --

To diverge (in the hopes of convergence?) I had also found Cassirer in Marina Warner's essay in the latest issue of
Cabinet -- 'The Writing of Stones.' She writes of Roger Caillois who said,

I want the irrational to be continuously overdetermined, like the structure of coral; it must combine into one single system everything that until now has been systematically excluded by a mode of reason that is still incomplete.


Caillois was very interested in the attitudes of the mind -- shamanism and manism -- modes of perception and consequently modes of communication and language. Caillois was also very taken with the astounding scientific revelations of his time. Just as his precursors were enamored by 'the potential of new scientific instruments -- not least magic lanterns, camera obscuras, and microscopes.' Warner elaborates:

In his letter to Breton, Caillois insisted on the marvellousness in science: he remonstrated that the newly discovered theories of the atom had collapsed all earlier thinking about nature; here was a 'form of the Marvellous' that absolutely required a new philosophy (writing in 1934 he was being prescient).

This in turn makes me think of Whitehead -- just the other day someone described him to me as the only metaphysical philosopher who seriously tried to deal with quantum mechanics in his philosophy. It also calls to mind the ongoing web debate about Gottschall's article on the 'rehabilitation' of the Humanities.


In copying out some passages from The Gold Bug Variations, I found this (for a second time):

What he had done, how had he chosen to spend his energies, really was science. A way of looking, reverencing. And the purpose of all science, like living, which amounts to the same thing, was not the accumulation of gnostic power, fixing formulas for the names of God, stockpiling brutal efficiency, accomplishing the sadistic myth of progress. The purpose of science was to revive and cultivate a perpetual state of wonder. For nothing deserved wonder so much as our capacity to feel it.

Science and the humanities are artificially divided, are they not? Both proceed from wonder, double back, grow exasperated, grow clever, grow desperate and end up confused and wondering. In many ways it seems foolish to speak of what they 'ought' to do when it seems that in trying to discover the 'ought tos' we end up throwing restriction and obligation out and returning to exasperated but informed wonder.

But what about Bacon? Who could forget his introduction to the New Organon -- so chilling when I first read it:


Now my method, though hard to practice, is easy to explain; and it is this. I propose to establish progressive stages of certainty. [...]

Be it remembered then that I am far from wishing to interfere with the philosophy which now flourishes, or with any other philosophy more correct and complete than this which has been or may hereafter be propounded. For I do not object to the use of this received philosophy, or others like it, for supplying matter for disputations or ornaments for discourse — for the professor's lecture and for the business of life. Nay, more, I declare openly that for these uses the philosophy which I bring forward will not be much available. It does not lie in the way. It cannot be caught up in passage. It does not flatter the understanding by conformity with preconceived notions. Nor will it come down to the apprehension of the vulgar except by its utility and effects.

Let there be therefore (and may it be for the benefit of both) two streams and two dispensations of knowledge, and in like manner two tribes or kindreds of students in philosophy — tribes not hostile or alien to each other, but bound together by mutual services; let there in short be one method for the cultivation, another for the invention, of knowledge.

And for those who prefer the former, either from hurry or from considerations of business or for want of mental power to take in and embrace the other (which must needs be most men's case), I wish that they may succeed to their desire in what they are about, and obtain what they are pursuing. But if there be any man who, not content to rest in and use the knowledge which has already been discovered, aspires to penetrate further; to overcome, not an adversary in argument, but nature in action; to seek, not pretty and probable conjectures, but certain and demonstrable knowledge — I invite all such to join themselves, as true sons of knowledge, with me, that passing by the outer courts of nature, which numbers have trodden, we may find a way at length into her inner chambers.

Still chilling -- the emphasis above is mine but when i first read it, especially that final sentence, the emphasis seemed writ large in my mind as a prescient warning. I suppose the danger is that it seems so innocent at first, like the fool poised on the precipice -- one foot squarely planted, one foot ready to plunge headlong.

Warner writes:

It does not follow that the scientific spirit of empirical inquiry runs against dreaming, and Breton was wrong to think Caillois's investigative methods opposed wonder. Material mysticism led Caillois back to magical thinking, which he expanded further than the Surrealist interest in change and coincidence as he probed for insights into the order of things.

I think the trouble comes with systematization and also with ambition. Someone asked me not long ago what i thought of ambition. I said that I wasn't quite sure but that I thought that so long as it could be harnessed or informed by humility -- and then trailed off realizing that I was no longer speaking of ambition. I think it's definitely something worthy of consideration -- how does one understand a text, how does one learn about the world without violence? Or at least disruption. Can wonder retain its innocence or is that a figment of naive imagination? Ideas and programs and projects always begin with optimism and enthusiasm, the question is whether that can be retained, and if it should be retained.

I'll pause here --