Growing out of heavy metal bands there is now, and has been since the late 1980s, a darker, more ideological musical genre of "Black Metal." Black Metal is often anti-Christian, Satanic and generally rather bleak. The above image is from the cover of an album of Dutch "Black Ambient" band. Black Ambient is an even bleaker offshoot of Black Metal, without even the aggressive vocal energy.
A couple of tropes that are frequently found in Black music (Black Metal and Black Ambient) are bleeding and goats. The name of the band, Aderlating, to which this cover art belongs means "blood-letting." Another, Finnish, Black Metal band is called "Impaled Nazerene" where, apparently, the "impaled" refers to the use of a stake to kill a vampire. In other words it seems that the Finnish band is seeing some equivalence between Jesus the Nazerene and a vampire, or blood-sucker, and presumably a reciprocal desire to make the blood-sucker bleed.
There may be a just little, metaphorical, truth in this. Jesus in those who have faith in him, becomes the cranial interlocutor to whom one narrates oneself, as one as one is transformed from the animal, complete with blood, that one once was, into merely the bloodless hero of a self-narrative (see e.g. Dennet, 1992). Contra the anti-Christian ethos of Black Metal however, it seems to me that Jesus is an attempt to cure a disease that was present prior to his arrival. From the age of two or three, as soon as we find ourselves able to represent our "selves", or even our actions (c.f. the lonely Bonobo, Kanzi), we enjoy cognising ourselves from the point of view of an aldernator. That is to say we enjoy our self-representations so much that we suck our own blood, or eat ourselves, in the sense that we de-animate ourselves or make ourselves narratival. At the same time, due to the silent, self-sacrificial nature of Jesus - especially if imagined on the cross for instance - the internalization of the Christian interlocutor may well in fact, on the contrary, silence self-speech, and thereby re-animate. Indeed, as may be seen in the Eucharist, Christians believe themselves to be be reanimated through the receipt of Christ's blood, or indeed eating his body.
Another trope common to Black Metal is the goat. The aforementioned band, Impaled Nazarene, always includes at least one song about a goat, or goats, in each of its albums. Goats are thought to be popular in this genre due to their association with the devil. Goats are generally argued (at least according to wikipedia) to be associated with the devil due to the horniness, in both the sexual and literal sense, of male goats, as exemplified by the somewhat obscene lyrics of one goat song.
It also occurs to me that both goats and the "Black Emperor" pictured above may have a similarity with first person views.
Notice the back light rays and the large size of the Black Emperor's nose which is rather goaty. From a McDermottian (McDermot, 1996) first-person-made-third-person, perspective it could be said that there is a big nosed Black Emperor at our "temple's gate," or perceived entrance to our mind.
The use of the goat to represent Satan may in part also be due to the size of Goat's noses and the spread of their eyes. From a first person perspective I have a giant nose and eyes wide enough to encompass the earth. My first person perspective of myself is also perhaps the closest I get to becoming aware of that animal, with blood, that I once was. I wonder if I narrate myself to my first person view of myself, which I may be dimly aware of as a person.
This possibility, that my blood is being sucked, or I am being "eaten" by a giant, in the above sense, may explain the long tradition, and current popularity, in the form of Attack on Titan, of the related giant attacks little humans trope. My favourite is probably still this image, painted by my mother, where I realise that I had expressed the central idea of this post in a comment four years ago.
I also like the way in which the Black Emperor, above, appears to be wearing some sort of headdress or wig. This makes him look a little effeminate. Much of the anger of this musical genre seems to me to stem from the fact that its proponents are dimly aware that they have something feminine inside themselves, a prospect that most more full blooded men find enraging. I find myself to be less angry than ashamed.
The darkness of the eyes of the Black Emperor combined with the rays, which suggest back-lighting, remind me of the way in which, as I look out of the utter darkness of my goaty face, past those giant noses at the light, I wonder if the light is not in fact that which is doing the looking. The light may be behind the cavern of my eyes, not in front of them. If only I could wipe the mirror clean. Silence.
Dennett, D. C. (1992). The self as a center of narrative gravity. Self and consciousness: Multiple perspectives. cogprints.org/266/1/selfctr.htm
McDermott, Le Roy D. (1996) "Self-Representation in Upper Paleolithic Female Figurines." Current Anthropology 37. no. 2 (April 1996): 227-275. faculty.ucmo.edu/ldm4683/1.htm#
In a Youtube video Richard Dawkins answered questions about evolution from Reddit users.
At 8:13"What are the three most important questions in biology?" He is asked and responds with questions, at least two of which biology is unlikely ever to answer, and are often considered the domain of religion
1) How does consciousness evolve and what is consciousness?
He has not a clue but religion is out the window. Does he even address the issue? Soul, self, mind, consciousness, and conscience are all right at the top of the religious agenda and yet biology has little to say. His friends Dan and Sam appear to explain conscience away, as a sort of mistake. Are they Buddhists? Do they labour under the mistake even as they denounce it? Doesn't that worry them? Dawkins has consciousness, but he does not know what it is, and he is going to die fairly soon. For his own sake and world's I would like him to take up this question rather than attempting to eradicate religion.
2) How did life itself evolve, what was the origin of the first self replicating molecule?
Again, he has no idea about origins, or rather apparent breaks in the continuum of the natural world but has ditched God as barbaric ignorance. Does evolution even explain the origin of the species, that is to say of discrete species in the plural?
The Abramaic religions appeal to the divine logos, the Buddhist claim it is a mistake (there are no divisions, the world is one and alive), and Shintoists think it has something to do with sex, which brings us to
3) Why do we have sex?
In view of the fact that consciousness is argued to be dependent upon otherness, and that sex may be the original discontinuity in the natural world, the answer to this question might be linked to the first two questions but for some reason the editors fade this question out. This is the one question biologists might be able to answer. But first, do we have sex? How many sexes? Is sex a continuum or discrete? Where do we have sex; is it a biological construct or a mental one?
Dawkins seems to disprove himself, or be unaware of how sexy he is, from about 8:43, in answer to the next question, where he demonstrates that different mammals share the same genes and form a family tree.
Like Dawkins, I see horses and cats, humans and rats as different. The Bible explains this difference: Adam and God named creatures and through the intervention or admixing of the Logos, presto the species have existed as different ever since. The species are different to me, and they are different to Dawkins who can kill rats but not humans (as we shall see, the important thing is not whether he can kill them or not). And yet Darwin is speachlesss in the face of this difference. Worse still, evolution (Dawkins at 8:46 in this video) demonstrates that there is no difference, there are no species, the species are all part of the same family. There is only a continua. What happened to it?
I see that this is called "Darwin's dilemma: Why do species exist?" Ha! Darwin wrote a book of 500 pages called "The Origin of the Species" and ends up asking "Why do species exist?!" In Darwin's words
"First, why, if species have descended from other species by fine gradations, do we not everywhere see innumerable transitional forms? Why is not all nature in confusion, instead of the species being, as we see them, well defined?"
This is the question to which the Bible would provide an answer.
The fact we experience the world in a discrete speciated way needs to be explained. The Biblical explanation may not satisfy everyone but it appears to be a theory that words have really got inside us, animate us; words have become living. Dawkins' friend Dennet eveng goes so far as to claim that we, our selves, are words, and not biology at all. How does biology explain this?
I see that recent biological debate on speciation identifies (or conflates) species with reproductive isolates. In other words, a species is different from another species if the members cannot or do not mate. It seems we live in a very sexual world where the boundaries are decided upon the possibility and acuality of sexual activity. First of all, does this really explain the percieved diversity? I see that there are morphologically similar flies that do not mate due to different behaviour. They look like they should be able to mate to us, but not to each other. Is the origin of the species in the mojo of their members? And that there are others where the males will mate with those from the "other species" but the females will not. Are these two species or one? Is it the mojo of the males that matters? Often in practice it would seem that female mojo is more imporant, since, for example, "male wolves take advantage of their greater size in order to mate with female coyotes, while female wolves and male coyotes do not mate," and we generally view wolves and coyotes as seperate species. Species are seperate if the ladies aren't turned on.
Do I fail therefore to see the original continua, the "blooming buzzing confusion," the light, because I have a dirty, female mind? This is beginning to sound like the Bible. Biology may be getting there -- to the explanation of the origin of the species -- but the direction it is heading is decidedly queer, in an auto-erotic, and weird to the point of being religious, way.
I see that many of his detractors charge Dawkins with being in some sense "gay". I mean no disrespect but merely to draw his attention to the theory (Derrida, 1987, 1976) that we remain speciated -- viewing the world through the lens of language -- due to the fact that we are always sending ourselves, or a woman we simulate withing ourselves, love letters.
Derrida, J. (1987). The post card: From Socrates to Freud and beyond (p. 218). Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
Derrida, J. (1976). Of Grammatology. 1967. Trans. Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins UP, 247-72.
Speaking of foundations, I am reminded of mules and other hybrids that can't mate.
My most popular post is about the motherly female assissin that I have in my mind. But I could not explain why my imaginary friend should be an assissin. Upon consideration of Graham Swift's novel, The Light of Day, it seems to me that I have the answer. I think I had my cranial (m)other kill my father as explained in my review (with spoilers) of the book the cover of which is pictured above.
On the face of it, Graham Swift's novel, "The Light of Day" is the story of a typical Western, detective, speaking, as if to himself, in a hard-boiled way, relating how and why he came to be sending letters to a woman in prison, because he allowed her to commit a murder, and how he hopes that she will be released, into the light of day. There is also a back story regarding how the detective's father had a mistress, like the imprisoned woman's husband. It is one of several novels by the same author in which a protagonist visits someone who cannot communicate and is in some sort of confinement.
Read alongside Lacanian Freud and Derrida's "The Postcard," this novel expresses an apocalyptic vision of why we have a narrative self at all, and explains the proliferation of imprisoned or otherwise controlled murderous women (Nikita, Leon, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, Alias, Doll House, Dark Angel etc).
Freud sets the scene in Totem and Taboo. He says that we have a super-ego, dad-in-our-head, due to some ancient patricide that continues to be reinacted. Where Freud is a little weak in my view is in his explanation of how this patricide leads to the internalisation of a father or anyone at all. According to Freud, the band of brother's feel remorse, love for the father they have lost, and they need the father to keep society in order. What Freud may be missing is that we may have had our crainial, imaginary mother pull the trigger, or wield the knife.
Lacan is more specific on the involvement of "(m)other". In the Lacanian version, it is the mother than cuts the mother-child bond. Lacan claims that mothers explain to their children that mummy must go and sleep with daddy. "I must go and sleep with daddy now," they say and turn out the lights. Mothers explain to their children, the censure, the No and name of the father. The "Non de Pere", Lacan quips. Now the super-ego or part of it is the representative of the father, the bearer of the fathers name and sanction, the (m)other.
But this still does not explain the current popularity of female assassins nor really why mother - representing daddy - might end up in the child's head.
Children can see what is going on. Their love, though as bright as the sun (indeed as yet without a narrative self, they are the sun) loses out to that of daddy, the jaded salary transporter. Often times daddy is just going through the motions. Sometimes he will even have a mistress. So, in the fantasy world of the Western child, they have an accomplice. Mummy takes out a knife and guts daddy. Then, still bloodied, and fragile, their cranial assassin, they imagine, will come and sleep with them them in the dungeon of their minds. This explains the fascination with female assassins and why some of them, including Lisbeth Salander, kill a father; Lisbeth kills her own in the second book.
This aspect of the fantasy adds violence to the sex. Perhaps if one were only having a homo-autoerotic relationship with oneself, as Derrida seems to express in "The Post Card" (Derrida, 1987) then perhaps we would wise up. But under this interpretation we have got a fantasy going where we not only turn ourselves on, but turn other people off. At the very least, as Lacan says, we had her do the deed and cut us loose from the father, but in our imagination, at least according to me, she 'sides' with us. As a result, generally speaking this, partricidal fantasy is far too horrible to thought or expressed, so mother #2 has to be kept hidden, in a place where we continue to send her hard-boiled love letters, hoping and not hoping (because we enjoy the correspondence), that one day, she will come out into the light of day.
What am I talking about? Ha. That is the point. Why am I talking at all? Why do I keep talking to myself? A lot, if not all, of Western philosophy attempts to answer this question, or, ignoring it, bases their conclusions (I think therefore I am) upon the assumption that speaking to oneself, in ones head, is not a really weird, sick thing to be doing.
I find it very difficult to answer this question. My opinion is that there is no rational answer. There is no reason why we should, or do, talk to ourselves. The reason why we self speak is emotional, libininal or rational only from the point of view of evolution.
We can tell ourselves nothing. Our self speach is not an expression of chimerical "ideas". It is not practice for speaking to other people. It is not will, not causitive. But we do it.
Our self speach has macroscopic but but not microscopic effects. We think that we "will" with our self speach, and make decisions, but Nisbett, and Libett show us that we do not. On the other hand the macroscopic effect is real. The fact that we self-speak, and believe erroneously in its microscopic efficacy, stabilizes us, moralises us, makes us more pro social. Our practice of self-speach makes us stable, social animals, with great evolutionary benefits.
The reason why I keep talking to myself is because on the one hand, it keeps me social, and on ther other hand because is a form of masturbation or self-love. There are no cognitive benefits. It is also not "will" as decision making pneuma. It is not carried out as a practice or rehersal - though some times it may be. It is carried out because it is felt to be fun. It turns us on. It is a self comforting. Our addicition to self-comforting, makes us pro-social.
Derrida, J. (1987). The Post Card: From Socrates to Freud and Beyond. (A. Bass, Trans.) (First Edition). University Of Chicago Press.
Freud, S. (1913). Totem and taboo. (A. A. Brill, Trans.). New York: Moffat, Yard and Company. Retrieved from en.wikisource.org/wiki/Totem_and_Taboo
Lacan, J. (1993). The Psychoses. The Seminar of Jacques Lacan. Book III 1955–1956. Edited by Jacques-Alain Miller. Translated by Russell Grigg. London: Routledge.
I think that the structure of my self is rather like that of "The Girl with a Dragon Tattoo" (Trailer,Trailer #2). I think I contain a fantasy of a controlled, hollow, abused Lisbeth/Nikita woman who works as the medium, or intermediary for a man with super-sight, who is trying to be a detective. The most horrible thing about the structure is that since these roles take place inside me (no wonder Lisbeth looks pissed off), it is also auto-erotic transsexualism, and then some. For this reason I think that the super duo of Lisbeth and Cal Lighthouse in the above photo, are generally accompanied by a sex criminal in many of the detective series in which detectives and their intermediaries feature. [Why is it that about 10 million Americans watch sex criminals get their come-uppance a week on one series, Law and Order: Special Victims Unit, alone?]
First to recap, there are many US mystery series featuring men, and more frequently recently women, who are in contact with supernatural phenomena (The Dead Zone, The Listener, , The X-Files, Seeing Things, The Medium, Tru Calling, Ghost Whisperer), of women that act as intermediaries for men whose power of perception is almost supernatural (Lie to Me, Monk, The Mentalist, Millenium, The X-Files), and there are recently an increasing number of Nikita type violent, abused, hollow women controlled by men (Nikita, Nikita, Dark Angel, Alias, Dollhouse, etc). Many of these heroes kill or put greedy, especially sexually greedy, criminals behind bars.
In the USA there are many more types of television series. Here in Japan, these three genres stand out as being particularly well represented. I am of the opinion that these genres are well represented because they are the most popular in the US, rather than their being particularly popular in Japan.
The reason why I think that these television series may have something to do with the structure of myself is because I have seen them both. The structure of myself was far more horrifying and icky that even the nasties scenes in The Girl with a Dragon Tatoo, so I will try and be theoretical first.
The Self in Social Psychology
Factoring in William James, George Herbert Mead explains how the human self is formed, from three parts: the I or consciousness, the me, the idea we have of ourselves with whom we identify, and the internalised "generalised other" from which perspective we see the "me."
The first and second of these elements (consciousness, and my idea of me) are fairly easy to confirm. Mead's "generalised other" (Freud's "super ego", Bakhtin's "super adressee", Lacan's "Other," Adam Smith's "Invisible hand" and "impartial observer") is much more contraversial.
That there is consciousness, even if I can say nothing about it, seems pretty clear. When I am awake there is not nothing. When I dream, the lights come on as it were. I may be able to say very little about this "great blooming, buzzing confusion,” but I feel that I can not deny it. Generally speaking I am more inclined to think of consciousness as the world, or evidence of the world -- the lights, sounds, hot and cold -- but at the same time perhaps, especially but not only, as a child, "consciousness"may also be said to be who "I" really am.
And at the same time I have notions of who I am very separate from consciousness - a bald old Englishman living in Japan, which a certain age, family, house, and face. That is "me."
What is the "generalised other," and where is it hiding?
First of all Mead argues that in order to gain an idea who "me" is then I need to take an objective view point upon myself. Mead argues that unless we are carrying a mirror, or permanently in front of an audience, our ability to gain an objective idea of ourselves depends upon our ability to express who we are in language and understand our language from the point of view of other listeners.This ability to hear ones own self-referential, self addressed language, such as "I am bald" as said to myself, and to know when one has not said the truth, allows us to form a linguistic model of who we are. Language, Mead presumes, provides us with a mirror of internalised other. Mead argues, as do Hermans and Kempen (who base their analysis on the Bakhtin's linguistics), that we are always speaking to others in our heads. People talk to their friends, their family, their workmates, and all those that they are likely to meet, in their heads all the time. And we are able to judge when these our imaginary friends would not agree with what we are saying. In the complete absence of any audience, real or imagined, I could claim that "I have loads of hair", or anything, even that "I am Elvis Presley," and it would not matter because there would be no one there to disagree with me. But since we do speak to others even if they are imaginary others, we imagine our audience's understanding of our words, their reaction, and know when we are speaking bullshit.
But while many of us may accept that we often imagine that we are speaking to, or thinking to other people, what of the *generalised* other. As far as I am aware Mead only explains the need for a generalised as a cognitive requirement. If we see ourselves only from the viewpoints of our friends, then we will see ourselves as rather nicer than we are from the point of view of our enemies. If we see ourselves from the point of view of our enemies, we see ourselves rather more negatively than our friends see us, and rather more negatively than we in fact are, because presumably we are that person at the intersection of these various viewpoints rather than as understood from any one subjective position.
So far so good. We may be able to accept that we address ourselves to a variety of imaginary friends. And that unless we understand our self speech from the point of view of a view from an objective, generalised position then we will not have an ongoing objective understanding of ourselves. However this explanation would not prevent us from "generalising" after the fact, or "off line". In other words we might model the understanding of our friends and family, our detractors and various people in the street, and perform some sort of averaging only afterward. Is it clear that we need to model a generalised other, in real time?
Bakhtin argues that even as we are speaking to real or imaginary friends and all manner of second person addressees, we also imagine that there is another person listening to what we have to say, since otherwise our meaning would be limited by the understanding of our real or imagined listener. Being so limited to specific others (be they real or imagined) would be, he argues, hellish. We would be trapped in web of relationships unable to be anyone but that which our others understand us to be. To escape from this hell, which is other people, we continually model a super-addressee which corresponds I believe to Mead's generalized other.
Bakhtin's "hell" starts to sound more persuasive but all the same, phenomenologically where is the generalized other in my head? I can feel myself simulating my friends. Why can't I feel myself simulating a generalised other?
I think that theists may find the answer to this question very easy. Theists typically feel that they are addressing a generalised other, who sees them from an objective viewpoint, in the form of their God. Of course for a theist it is not a question of simulating a generalised listener, but rather that there is one, and as such perhaps theists are always conscious of the meaning of their words, truthfully and honestly in the understanding of an ever present "impartial spectator." This latter term was that used by the economist (of Lutheran upbringing) Adam Smith. This is all very well for theists but, when I am not dabbling in theism, and even when I do, I do not find myself aware, or strikingly aware, of a God as generalised other, impartial spectator, or super-addressee. If this super-addressee was felt ever present, then for instance, would there be so many atheists and agnostics, and would they be so militant in their denial of God? If a super-addressee were clearly ever present in our psyche then the atheists among us would be more likely to say "Oh, yeah, that. (S)he is only my simulation of a generalised other, not any supernatural being." Calling that entity God or a mental simulation would become almost a question of nomenclature. It seems to me however that most atheists are not aware of any such "super-addressee," listening in on their thoughts, modelled by themselves, far less directly and supernaturally bugging their brain.
To Bakhtin's "hell", and Mead's need for objective self awareness, I think that there are a couple of other reasons why we need a generalised other and why it should be something that we are commonly unaware of it.
First of all applying Arimasa Mori's cultural theory, it may become clear that a generalised other is a requirement for my identification with my "me". That we should identify (and it is not clear what "identify" means) which any idea or conception that we have of ourselves is strange. Why would anyone identify with a self-concept if they are aware that it is a conceptualisation?
This kind of question has been asked for instance by philosophers and psychologists in the field of narrative psychology. It is clear that we do narrate ourselves, do think to and narrate ourselves, about who we are and what we are doing, but why should we, or do we, identify with that which is described in the narrative? Why does our self-cognition not remain on the level of self-hypothesis, a fiction about ourselves that may or not be correct. Why do we believe in that our self0narration, or the me therein described is ourselves? Or why do we believe that there is a underlying, ongoing entity that conforms to some static linguistic cognition of self?
Arimasa Mori argues the way in which first person pronouns and first person self-representations depend on the second person of Japanese speech - that there is no "third person" (Mori's word for the generalised other), results in an absence of self on ongoing and independent self among Japanese. IF being is to be understood, and self-understanding is dependent upon other understanding, then in the radical absence of others would, not our ability to identify with an ongoing independent self be switching on and off. Hence, if we believe in an ongoing self independent of social situation, then this may imply the presumed presence of a "third person perspective."
Here ends my attempt at theoretical analysis.
Finally, while the connection is somewhat tenuous, the structure of the television series outlined above remind me of my experience of the structure of my self, which fell apart and became visible about a quarter of a century ago when I felt (and I think I did) go mad. I have written this before, but I think that it is a good idea to write it again.
My experience was momentary and my memory is not as good as it used to be, but I still find it instructive. I think that I should have tried harder to share the experience with other people. The reason why I have not blogged or otherwise written about the experience is because I found the experience particularly disgusting. As I said above, and this is the first part of the analogy between "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo" and the structure of myself, they both appeared to have very harrowing elements. The movie was stressful, but watching the movie was a walk in the park by comparison to my experience of the parts of myself. After that fleeting experience 25 years aog, I found myself traumatised for about 6 months afterwards, and indeed for the rest of my life. Here I am an old man, still talking about an experience I had when I was about 22. And at the same time, the reason why I am still talking about the experience was because it was, and to an extent remains, so difficult, so disgusting as to make it difficult to talk about.
Of course, my experience may have been of only the structure of my particular self, but as I see these often extremely violent, and sexually twisted television series and movies proliferate I wonder if, at last, my experience was more universalisable than I had initially thought. I thought I was just simply a mad **** at the time. But here lies, the most important thing about what I have to say: it is possible that the self appears to be a unity to most people, and its structure indivisible, and invisible, because that structure is, or would be, to most people, so utterly disgusting. Far more so than the worst scenes in "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo."
So here is my experience again. I find it easiest to explain my experience with the analogy of a ventriloquist since in retrospect it seems very similar. When my self fell apart, into its parts, I felt that I was experiencing a ventriloquism act with the following parts: (1) an enormous consciousness of proportion so vast as to be other-worldly (2) a listening persona (2) A speaking persona.
I felt the enormous consciousness, for a flash of an instant, to be my true self. It seemed that this enormous consciousness was engaging in something similar to a ventriloquism act in that he was throwing his voice and pretending to hear that voice from the perspective of a third person.
When looking at a ventriloquist's stage act we can forget that ventriloquists are pretending to be two people. ventriloquists fabulate two people. We notice that they are "throwing their voice" and giving their dummy a life of its own. We may forget however, even as we are watching a ventriloquist, that the real stage performer is usually pretending to be not only the dummy, but also pretending to be another persona by putting on feigned belief in the dummy, and fabulating or feigning a character that listens to and banters with the dummy's remarks.
The experience thus far can largely be understood by reference to one of Nina Conti's ventriloquism acts, where she makes it clear that one need not use a dummy to perform ventriloquism, and even suggests that the dummy-less-dummy or voice, is as real as the listener.
And so it was with my experience. It was *not* that I became aware of the "dummy". The "dummy" or rather just my interior narrative was myself, the self that I generally (these days and then) thought myself to be. I heard myself speak/think in much the same way as I always speak/think. The difference was that I suddenly realised who I was speaking to and why. I became aware of the act that the massive ventriloquists putting on, the listener that feigns interest. The worst part about it was the act that I was performing, for myself, "in my head", was auto-erotic, transsexual, and then some -- it was also incestuous.
"The Girl with a Dragon Tattoo," stopped short of portraying real incest and of course the incest that I discovered in my head (my soul/psyche/self) was not real. Lisbeth was a ward of the state and she was raped by her guardian. The Lisbeth-gardian parent-child relationship was in name only, but their sex was real. I found that I was chatting up a woman, not unlike a Listbeth or Nikita, that I was simulated in my head who was clearly based upon my own mother. I was cross-dressing as it were mentally and feigning a female listener to my self-narrative. While this listener never spoke, her (my) unspoken reaction to my self speak was clearly sympathetic, loving, in a mother-child and at the same time romantic way. I felt like the murderer in the famous Hitchcock movie, Psycho except that instead of dressing up as my mother, I was creating her in my brain.
The enormous consciousness that was witnessing the whole event was entirely aware of what was going on and he was disgusted, with me the speaker that I guess he was also inventing. Somehow, strangely, in that experience the blame fell on the narratival voice (me) despite the fact that, presumably, it was the consciousness that was pulling all the strings, and behind all the parts. Nonetheless that enormity was disgusted and angry with the nasty little voice and the hollow woman that he had in his mind.
That was most of my experience. Does my experience have anything other than one warped individual, or does it bear any similarity with the structure of the programs I am analysing, other than the fact that popular television series often have sexually twisted antagonists?
The greatest similarity for me between my experience and the television series is not the detectives but the women as mediums, intermediaries and Nikitas. The woman that I was fabulating, as my internal listener, was disgusting only because she turned out to be myself. I loved that fantasy with an expectant longing brighter and purer than the sun. It was only when she turned out to be myself that the passion and purity of my love, precisely because it was felt to be so passionate and pure, that the whole thing became so disgusting. My internal doll, my cranial perfect woman, had a distinct similarity to the characters portrayed in my previous blog posts -- to the Lisbeth's and Nikita's of modern fiction. It may help a little, perhaps, that I remembered my mother as a young woman as a rather spiky, depressive, and in some senses dark individual. The important point is not the reality but how I fabulated my mother. I think to a large extent I fabulated her as a Nikita, killa, wild, abused, fighting girl. In my experienced I realised that my listener was a fantasy and in that sense, hollow, programmed, a sort of doll, or robot, or alias, like many of the Nikita types that are seen on TV.
It seems to me that I have identified in my experience of 1/4 of a century ago, a sort of sex criminal and a hollow, programmed intermediary of a Nikita type figure.
Finally what of the super-sighed genius "Monk," or "Patrick Jane." To an extent the giant person that I discovered was a bit like that, the all seeing consciousness, the supernatural being (supernatural only in so far as he was not a voice-puppet) upon which Nikita was superimposed upon as a mask, that Nikita acted as a "Medium" for that entity which Nikita hid, just as she alone saw.
So I wonder if anyone else has a psyche as disgusting as mine, or whether I am just seeing coincidences where there aren't any.
Having reread it seems to me that there is no way that I am going to persuade anyone that my self-structure is anything but an anomaly unless I give more reasons as to why it should be universal for theoretical reasons and or by seeking links between the genres of video that I am analysing.
There are several things that do not match up.
My female fantasy listened rather than spoke, but the female Medium or intermediary is often the spokesperson for the super or supernatural male.
The sex-criminal in my self-fantasy was felt to by speech (made human) or perhaps my giant consciousness self. The criminals in US television series do not necessarily speak, the Monk-like all seeing consciousness like detectives do not involve themselves in sex at all.
The other thing is, that my experience of the breakdown of myself was accompanied by my realisation that I was gay. I assumed therefore that non-gay persons would have different persona in their selves. I thought that heterosexual men might be modelling their father rather than their young, Nikita-like fantasy mother. The fact that I felt myself to be gay at the time I had my falling apart experience may reduce the applicability of the structure that I became aware of. I am not sure how.
The take-home conclusion of this post is, imho, we watch so many TV series about hollowed out abused girls, who are mediums and intermediaries for super savant males, that kill sex criminals because The Truth is in Here.
I have had another idea about why the woman is a murderer based upon Graham Swift's novel "The Light of Day," another book in this genre. Obvious really.
Images are copyright their respective copyright holders. Please please comment below or contact me via nihonbunka.com to have my remove any of these images.
Nah, This is it folks. My best.
The biggest problem with drawing this parallel is that Amaterasu is worshipped whereas Eve, generally, is not.
However I think perhaps that Eve' is a prototype for Jesus, and that is why he was always calling himself "ab Adam" ("of Adam", usually translated as "the son of man"), because like Eve, and Amaterasu, he is something in made from the hearts of humans. He represents a cure for the cranial Dutch wife disease - sin - that we may suffer from (speaking for myself).
There are structural similarities between the Bible and the Kojiki particularly between Izanagi and Lilith, and less so - but more interestingly - between Amaterasu and Eve.
In the myth of Lilith (in the Alphabet of ben Sirach) Lilith was Adam's first wife, who refused to lie beneath him and left him. Adam complained to Elohim who sent three angels to try and bring her back. They fail.
In the Kojiki, Izanami was Izanagi's wife, and Susano's mother-in-a-sense. She left Izanagi and also left Susano crying bitterly. Susano complained to his God father Izanami that he could not meet his mother. But Izanami had already tried and failed to get her back himself.
The reason why Lilith could not come back from the Red Sea (which seems to function as a sort of underworld, as does the sea in later myths in the Kojiki) is because she had had sex with the demon of the underworld. (The underworld in the Nihonshoki is written "Yellow Spring.")
The reason why Izanami could not come back from the underworld is because she had eaten food of the underworld's hearth. "I have eaten at the hearth of YÖMÏ." (Unlike Lilith Izanami expresses a desire to return, and goes to discuss the possibility with the gods of Yellow-Spring)
Izanami kills a thousand humans or children a day, while Izanagi builds 1500 birthing houses.
100 of Lilith's children are killed a day, and in revenge Lilith goes out to kill human children and does so if they do not have an amulet bearing the names of the three saints sent to bring her back.
So, Lilith is a primal mother and killer of children who lives in the underworld who used to be married to Adam, who was "man and woman" and made in god's image.
Izanami is a primal mother and killer of people (the reference to birthing huts suggests children too) who lives in the underworld, who used to be married to god.
Importantly, with important ramifications, in both the Kojiki and the Bible a male hero finds a replacement for this primal female (Lilith? and Izanami) that he wanted. This is the bit in which I am most interested in
Adam wants a "help meet" "as before" (Lilith?) and finds it in Eve, who is made from a side (chamber) (not rib!) of Adam himself. He is overjoyed to see this flesh of his flesh, and eventually, makes babies with her, a part of himself.
Susano wants to meet Izanmi but instead goes off to meet his sister, Amaterasu (lit heaven shining) the Goddess of the Sun and the Mirror, which now stands in Ise Shrine, the most sacred of all Shinto symbols.
When Amaterasu hears the sound of her warrior god brother, Susono, coming, she
1) Does up her hair in a masculine way
2) Puts on male clothes and weapons
3) Shouts like a male
4) Stands next to the 'central well of heaven'
5) Stamp her feet till she sinks into the ground up to her thighs.
It was this latter detail (5), which all the Japanese interpreters shrug their shoulders at, which gave the game away. Amaterasu is no more no less than her mirror: the well at the centre of the heaven. The "well" is a reflective surface which Susano is overjoyed to see, and makes babies with, himself.
Amaterasu is a side of Susano, a reflected side, and replacement for Izami.
Eve is a side of Adam, and a replacement for Lilith.
Eve and Amaterasu are two comforters, 'help meets' provided for the heroes of creation myths.
Lilith and Izanami were the frightful, murderous, underworld women that these women replace.
Lilith may be associated with birds e.g. the "Night Howler" which is another translation of her name. One of the few possible (but now doubted) representations of her shows her with birds feet.
Izanami and Izanagi look to a bird for advice on how to mate in the Nihonshoki.
And, apart from inanimate things and Gods associated with the landscape, one god before giving birth to the fire god that killed her, Izanami gave birth to a bird: The heavenly bird vessel.
What is the significance of birds?
My guess is, that birds are one of the few other creatures that are monogamous, and so many creation myths start with couples, which is strange bearing in mind that monogamy
is probably fairly new.
Eve is said to be the origin of monogamy.
So, bearing in mind that Derrida argues that we continue to have a relationship with an aler ego, or "a side of ourselves" by "hearing ourselves speak", and in doing so create our sense of self, and that the motivation for doing this is 'auto-erotic,' i.e. cranial sexting with oneself creates the illusion of self (see Derrida's book "The Postcard"), and perhaps also the belief in a soul mate, then I would go for a fairly straightforward interpretation of the Kojiki's"bog lance" and the brine that drips off it, both lance and brine remain metaphors for penis and semen to this day afaik. Figuratively, self-love created the world. Or the world came into being when it started to 'love' itself. The first thing that "they" made was "Onogoro" - self stiffening - Island.
[The breach of the taboo or proscription (looking at Izanami's naked body, Adam and Eve seeing that they are naked) and the origin of death, and the covering of birth/sex with a parturition hut or fig leaf, takes place between the original partners (Izanami and Izanagi) rather than between Elohim and the original's replacement (Eve) but there are strong structural similarities between these 'two broken proscription myths'. ]
The Drake Equation is, supposedly, the mathematical response to Enrico Fermi's question "Where is everybody?" posed with regard to extraterrestrial life.
Apparently Fermi blurted out the question,"Where is everybody? in 1950" One of those many present writes "the result of his question was general laughter because of the strange fact that in spite of Fermi’s question coming from the clear blue, everybody around the table seemed to understand at once that he was talking about extraterrestrial life." Picture if you will, a group of white males sitting in a room after lunch. One of them blurts out "Where is everybody" and they know, the question refers to others that should be there: extra-terrestials. That is the context of the question.
The idea is that considering the vast number of planets even in our own galazy, it seems surprising that there are no UFOs, or at least more channels on the TV or radio, some of them alien. 11 years later another white male, Francis Drake formulated answer to Fermi's question in the following way: The Drake Equation (I am using capitals to denote superscripts)
N = R x Fp x Ne x Fl x Fi x Fc x L
N = the number of civilizations in our galaxy with which radio-communication might be possible (i.e. which are on our current past light cone);
R = the average rate of star formation in our galaxy
Fp = the fraction of those stars that have planets
Ne = the average number of planets that can potentially support life per star that has planets
Fl = the fraction of planets that could support life that actually develop life at some point
Fi = the fraction of planets with life that actually go on to develop intelligent life (civilizations)
Fc = the fraction of civilizations that develop a technology that releases detectable signs of their existence into space
L = the length of time for which such civilizations release detectable signals into space
Before I begin the solution to this equation, it is pertinent to consider holism and its relation to paradoxes in general. Holism is the notion that things seemingly distant, the macroscopic and the microscopic, the universe and a grain of sand, are in fact intimately related. This is no where more true than in the consideration of paradoxes. For example, as mentioned previously, how is that a cosmically insignificant life form, the human species ("an evolutionary blip away from goats," and bananas) should know the speed limit of the universe. This appears to be paradoxical. The solution provided by reframing the question. As argued previously, and by Ersnt Mach, the basic stuff of the universe is that which we can sense. Our fastest sense is that of vision. Hence, the paradox presented by Einstien's observations regarding light - coupled with our radical insignificance - can be rephrased as "Why can't we see anything faster than which we can see?" The paradox disappears.
This s one way of responding to the Fermi paradox: aliens are in the dark matter that has recently been found to make up most of the universe. This answer is not without persuasive power. Perhaps we are blind to all the aliens that swarm around us due to the fact that we are only able to percieve a small part of the manifold universe. The majority of the universe is dark. We may have only a the smallest fraction of a slit eyed view of its muchness. Aliens are in our midst but like bats, we are unable to see them. The realisation that our universe is the unverse of our very limited senses provides a specific theory to explain our seeming solitude.
While this specific theory is fairly persuasive, it invites the question as to why those aliens do not attempt to communicate with us in media that they may be unaware of. Now that we have become aware of dark matter, and dark energy, how long will it be before we attempt to perturb these realms to send out "Where is every body" messages?
It will be argued here that what the Drake equation is really measuring is not the number of 'intelligent life forms', but rather the number of life forms that are obsessed with transmitting and receiving signs. In other words, the Drake Equation expresses the probability of logocentric life forms.
Fi or fraction of planets with life that develop "intelligence" like Fc the proportion of intelligent life forms that form civilisations-transmit-signals, and the final number of theorised hits "N," the number of radio signals that we should be able to hear are all a function of the tendency to transmit and receive signs.
I t can easily be argued that ants, dolphins, swallows, beavers and leopards, and the vast array of 'aliens' which surround us, are intelligent but unlike us they don't have an obsession with transmitting signs. The Drake equation is first and formost an equation about the chances of another sign transmitting life form.
Since it is really an equation about the need to constantly transmit and receive signs) this has implications for the maths. What is it about this tendency to transmit, emit signs, and receive signs, that might make the final product "N" low?
1) Since the Drake equation is about the probability of sign-emitters, this raises media and encoding questions, and the "Humans are not listening properly（My emphasis. This listening is not literal but refers to the receipt and decoding of signs so note that even some of the solutions to Fermi's paradox are phrased in semiotic terms) hypothesis becomes more plausible.
2) "Fi" the number of life forms that are obsessed with transmitting and receiving signs simply is low. We can see that on earth. There is nothing "more evolved" about humans. All the '8.7 million' (BBC) currently present species have adapted to their environment enough to be able to survive here, so there is nothing more or less evolved about any of them. And of the many species, only one, or a subset of one of them -- Westerners -- seems really into transmitting and receiving signs. That makes the number very low. For all we know the universe is teeming with "animals" some which have been around for billions of years, but none have them have caught the signing bug - none have become addicted to the weird practice of sending and receiving signs. Perhaps signing is a really weird thing to be addicted to.
3) It has been postulated that "technological advance" (it is not clear to me what this is) leads to self-annihilation. The persuasive side of this argument is that technology gives rise to power, to the means of self-destruction. But technological power also increases the ability to prevent self-destruction -- that is the reason it evolves or is developed -- so this argument on its own is not convincing. Which leads me to
3a) Does "an obsession with signing' lead to self-annihilation? The obsession that humans have to continually make and receive signs, starting with hearing themselves talk (think), through beaming each other radio and television programs, until finally sending out radio signals in the absence of a listener are all much of a muchness. This tendency to sign may be related to a chronic, radical solitude (enter Marquez). I.e. we talk to ourselves, write novels, beam each other radio and TV, and signals into space because we are so very lonely. "Signing" may thus mean "Signing our loneliness," so the Drake equation may be about the probably of chronically lonely species. Does chronic loneliness tend towards self-annihilation? The possibility that logo-centric life forms do self-annihilate may be argued to be supported by the predictions of "Armageddon" promoted by the logo-centric "book" religions.
4) Another answer is more positive and simple. Life, or lumps of anything, that send signals due to their chronic loneliness are surely those that also formulate Drake equations - which mathematically model the extent to which they are alone if not lonely. If so, then the Drake equation, or the Fermi-paradox may itself be the "Great Filter" since, asking the question it provides the paradoxical, and yet self-defining - we are the lonely ones - stimulus, that causes these lonely signing life forms to examine themselves, realise their loneliness and stop signing, especially in the absence of a listener.
Márquez, G. G. (2003). One hundred years of solitude. Harper Collins. The end (spoiler). “He began to decipher the instant that he was living, deciphering it as he lived it, prophesying himself in the act of deciphering the last page of the parchments, as if he were looking into a speaking mirror...Before reaching the final line, however, he had already understood that he would never leave that room, for it was foreseen that [Macondo] would be wiped out by the wind and exiled from the memory of men at the precise moment Aureliano . . . would finish deciphering the parchments, and that everything written on them was unrepeatable since time immemorial and forever more, because races condemned to one hundred years of solitude did not have a second opportunity on earth."
The above image is copyright Danielle Futselaar, on the drake Equation wikipedia page, seems to me to symbolize the way in which the equation models not 'intelligence,' or 'civilisation' but 'blowing bubbles' - being caught up in a fantasy.
For some time physicists have been perplexed by the purported fact that the "constants" of the universe seemed to have been "fine tuned" or fortuitously be "just right" for the development of conscious life. The name of this principle should therefore be "the conscious life principle," but since we are the only conscious life that we know of, the human or "Anthropic Principle" will do.
Physicists seem to disagree regarding how fortuitous it is that the universe should be "just right" for allowing human life to evolve. If any of the "physical constants" had been even slightly different, then there could have been no life, and importantly *no one to have seen, the universe at all*. For some, the latter consideration provides an answer to the conundrum. It is only because the universe did provide the circumstances necessary for the evolution of life that we are here saying "wasn't that fortunate! Aren't we lucky?!"
Nevertheless, this seems to suggest that there might have been, or indeed there are or were, other universes that did not provide the "just right" circumstances - and indeed some physicists argue this - otherwise it can seem very fortuitous that the one and only universe should happen to be the one with constants that are just right to allow us to exist. The fact that we needed to get lucky to be able to ask the question, "how lucky am I" does not in itself change the odds, just as a lottery winner is no more or less lucky whether she considers her odds before or after the lottery draw.
So did we get really really lucky? Is there a multiverse, with billions of dead unverses? Or was there a cosmic evolution of universes, eventually producing this one!? Or perhaps, is there a God, "fine tuning," after all?
Leaving aside questions as to how likely it is that a close relative of the fruit fly should be able to frame the constants of the universe, the first question we need to ask is what are these "constants"? Some say that there are 13, but concentrating on two two of the most famous -- the speed of light (c), and the Planck constant, the minimum amount of energy of a photo, or according to Susskind the size of the pixels (remember, the universe is in fact 2 dimensional the number of dimensions is another constant) of the universe -- we see that the fortuitousness of both of these "constants" disappears. It can be explained in another "batty" way.
If the the stuff of the universe is, as Mach argued, the sensations and particularly our visual sense, then it is far from surprising that the speed limit of the universe should be the speed of the media of the sense of vision, or that the "pixels" of the universe should be of the minimum energy of a particle of light. It should surprise us not even a little bit, because it is implied by what "the universe" is: the universe is a theory about our sensations. That we can not see faster than we can see, nor smaller than we can see are not fortuitous, but tautologies. I strongly suspect, and believe, that the other "constants," are the result of the limitations of our senses too.
Consciousness is not something that is fortuitous, it is the foundation from which which physics starts. It is physics that needs to be explained - how its constants derive from our limitations - rather than consciousness which is a, the, given.
Yuji Nakanishi, professor of Tourism at Rikkyou University, points out that “Japanese tend to associate tourism with historical landmarks, but foreigners are interested in people’s lives and their lifestyles,” he said. “Places like the fish market were never really considered a tourist site until quite recently, so both sides are really confused (Tanikawa, 2009).”
"A shop owner told me in an interview: ‘Tourists from China and Japan: here in the morning full of them, but they arrive, ﬁve minutes, and run away; they have their own schedule, take a picture and hurry; they don’t stay longer; they have ten minutes to see the church, twenty to see the museum, ten to go in another place.’ These tourists are seemingly not interested in cultural heritage but in collecting the icons of that culture." (Parmeggiani et al., 2010, p110)
Japanese tourists do different things. How should we make sense of them?
Japanese travel to places for symbols where they themselves provide the sights from the imagination or bodily via auto-photography, whereas Western tourists go places for sights which they interpret and narrate in their thoughts and words. The purpose in each case, of going all that way to experience otherness, is to return to an experience of self undiluted by other.
A few days ago in the village near our beach house, a rainy day, a group of Japanese tourists went from community centre to Buddhist temple, to road side shrine, collecting stamps as part of one of those uniquely Japanese "stamp rallies." No one came to the beach in front of our house. The panoramic view of inland sea, with gulls and fishing boats and its setting sun was of no interest to them. Likewise, this jaded old Westerner can not think of a more boring, more pointless tourism experience than a traipsing around a grey landscape collecting the blotchy red imprints left by a set of rubber stamps.
As Urry (2002) famously argues, Western tourism is about going to see something. This form of tourism has a very long tradition. The picture above left is from a stained glass window in Canterbury Cathedral, England (Wells, 2002, p127, Crown Copyright NMR), the destination of Medieval Christian pilgrimage. Wells, and more famously the anthropologist Victor Turner (Turner & Turner, 1995) have argued that there is a visual bias to Christian pilgrimage, or that the destination of Christian pilgrimage is a located image, such as stained glass, a sacred image or icon.
That the Japanese word for tourism, Kankou is often glossed as "seeing the sights" persuades us that Japanese tourist too are interested in going to see. In fact the would "Kankou" originates n the Tao-Te-Ching which argues that rulers should travel to other countries so as to gain information on how better to rule their own. The passage which introduces the word "kankou" is a recommendation not to travellers but to hosts to " indicate (shiimesu) the （high）lights of your country." Even on a literal reading, "Kankou" (Japanese tourism) is about going to places where things are explained (note 0).
The stamp rally has its origins in the proof of visitation required of Japanese pilgrims during the Tokugawa period (Graburn, 1983; Reader, 2005), but before that Japanese accumulated pieces of paper stamped with sacred symbols for more than one thousand years. The religious act of Shinto, far more than prayer, is a form of pilgrimage, shrine-visiting, mairi or moude, a movement of the worshipper. And at the shrine, before amulets and sacred stamped pieces of card were distributed symbols: first branches of trees and stones, later stamped pieces of paper. The destinations provided the names. The destinations were the named places, the "meisho". But did Japanese pilgrimage destinations provide the sights?
Not only in the stamp rally but in many forms of Japanese tourism is the sight strangely eschewed. I can remember my disappointment when taken to the the ancient seat of regional government at Dazaifu to find only an empty field. Japanese tourists visit castle towns, such as the most famous, Hagi, where there is NO CASTLE TO BE SEEN! They visit ruins ('of identity' see Hudson, 1999; Plutschow, 1981) such as that visited by Matsuo Basho, where there is NOTHING to be SEEN at all. Hudson, citing Plutschow (1981, p22) argues that, "Basho' choice of ato (ruin) was itself derived from the medieval Japanese tradition of travel diaries, wherein the significance of a place was determined by its history - its location in time, rather than by geography."
Traditionally shrines, the destination Japanese par excellence contained a prototypical meibutsu, the God-body (goshintai) of the shrine that might be a mirror, sword, jewel, or sacred stone but it was *forbidden to see this item*. The goshintai was situated symbolically . It was wrapped up in layer upon layer of cloth, box, inner shrine, out shrine and shrine walls (Hendry, 1995; Pilgrim, 1986; Bachnik & Quinn, 1994) partly to ensure that it was never seen at all. Shrines have the structure of an onion. The visitor may never become aware that there is anything at their centre, other than the fact that the visitor knows that something is there, symbolically. After all, shrines are the prototypical, great and famous, named place (meisho).
According to an informant, a Japanese tour guide, the vast majority of Japanese tourists visiting Ise Shrine today, visit the woods around the shrine, see at most its outer walls, and the souvenir shop, and the car park. Japanese tourists have thronged to Ise for centuries (especially inspired by stories of sacred symbols falling from the sky (fudaori), but without special appointment they do not see the shrine itself, much less the holy of hollies, the mirror of the sun goddess, the goshintai, prototypical named-thing (meibutsu) at its centre. Even those that do have special dispensation to enter the outer walls of Ise Shrine will be faced with that which Guichard-Anguis (2007) describes as the biggest difference between pilgrimage to Ise compared with that in Europe; the shrine building itself will have been rebuilt within the last twenty years. Even though Japanese are noted for their fondness of historical attractions, not only do they go to visit empty sites or 'ruins', the Japanese rebuild even the old sites and buildings anew. This is not just in the case of Ise Shrine but also in the case of Japanese homes, and Castles such as Osaka castle, as bewailed by XYZ.
The fact that sights are not so important as named significance may also explain the lack of attention to the maintenance of visual "authenticity," even in places such as Tokyo. Tomomitsu-Tomasson (2005) a research student in sociology, expresses her disappointment at arriving in Kyoto with a quote from Kerr's damning portrait of the dark side of Japan (2002).
“How must Kyoto appear to one who has never visited here? Passersby clad in kimono going to and fro along quiet narrow streets between temples, rows of houses with black wooden lattices, glimpsed over tiled roofs the mountains covered with cherry blossoms, streams trickling at one’s feet….the traveler’s expectations must be high – until the moment when he alights from the Bullet train. He leaves the station, catches his first sight of Kyoto Tower, and from there on it is all shattered dreams. Kyoto Hotel cuts off the view of the Higashiyama hills, and big signs on cheap clothing stores hide Mount Daimonji.Red; vending machines are lined up in front of the temples. It’s the same miserable scenery you see everywhere in Japan, and the same people oblivious to it all” (Professor Tayama Reishi direct quote) (Kerr 2001:164/65). in Tomomitsu-Tomasson (2005), p 4.
In my new home town of Yamaguchi I have written about how sad it is that less is done to maintain traditional urban architecture such as in Tatekouji Street, since it is this type of sight, that is the essence of a tourist attraction and destination. That Japanese are happy to visit Kyoto and Yamaguchi without demanding visual authenticity is again a result of their relative lack of interest in the visual dimension of tourist destinations.
Finally, it just seems to me that the Japanese are not so interested in views. The fact that I continue to live in an more recently purchases house with excellent views, or that I have a panoramic view from the window where I now write drives this home. I feel considerable empathy with the words of the Blondie song, "All I want is a room with a view," and seek to live in places which command a view. In Japan, however it is said that "high places attract smoke and stupid people," and while the high places may be elevated social positions, I think that it may also apply to the more literal interpretation. Perhaps part of my preference for views is my stupid desire to look down on things and other people.
Why do Japanese go to these symbolically significant named-places places, rather to interpret visual sites?
It seems to me that the answer can be found in theories of the Western, and Japanese self.
Here I should have a long introduction to (cross cultural psychology)
Origins in Triandis' Hofestede' collectivism
Markus and Kitayama turn around
Heine rejection of the need for self regard
Oyserman/Takano/Yamagishi attacks on collectivism
Hong YY and more so, Nisbett/Masuda cognitive turn
Kim and Non-Linguistic thought, and in her second paper on that topic on self expression, the non-linguistic self
And then ask what, phenomenologically is the self in the West and Japan like? What is it like to have an independent self? What is felt to be self? What is felt to be not self? How can one have a "interdependent self" what does hat feel like? What phenomena are felt to be self in that situation?
And then me (ha!)
For the Westerner, the self is the self narrative. Tourists of the MacCannelian or Cullerian kind visit and play ethnographer or semiologist (MacCannell, 1976; Culler, 1988) regarding the sights that they see. The Western tourists provides the narrative because they are narrative and the sight is the otherness which they attempt to interpret. To these tourists the things that they see are signs but they are signs which have the structure of an alibi (Culler, 1988; Barthes,1972), signing off to a meaning which the tourist, in their phonetic inner narrative, provides. The Western tourists may take of photo of the sight, or better still purchase a photo upon the reverse of which she will narrate herself in this location. The Western tourist goes to see and say. Like ethnologists or anthropologists they use the phenomenological technique of bracketing away preconceptions (the more other unusual, opaque to the interpretations that they have to hand that a sight is the more that task is performed for them) and then they make pronouncement upon the sights that they see. This transcendental meditation employed by Western Anthropologists and Tourists alike, can be described in the following way,
From this new transcendental standpoint Husserl maintained that the manifold stream of contingent world-objects could be perceived in a new way, giving 'a new kind of experience: transcendental experience'. The transcendental ego because a 'disinterested onlooker' whose only motive is neutrally to describe 'what he sees, purely as seen, as what is seen and seen in such and such a manner' (Rayment-Pickard, 2003)
Japanese tourists on the other hand do not go to provide symbols about sights, but to provide sights or images regarding symbolic locations. The symbolic sites visited by Japanese tourists, the named places, the named things, do not have the structure of the alibi (see Hansen, 1993) but are the signs themselves. That Japanese tourists go to places with literary, historical, named significant, that they vistic symbolic geographies as been ascribed (as all things Japanese always are) to their "groupism," and also, in the face of Westernisation, to their nostalgic desire to return to their historical routes, to their self. This latter interpretation hits the mark I think because the Japanese self is a space (Kanjin; Hamaguchi, 1997) , a primordial space (Nishida 1993; Watsuji 1979; see Mochizuki, 2006) a mirror (Kurozumi). When the self is a space, then the concept of travel presents inherent difficulties. How can space travel? I argue that the Japanese tourists' interest in historical, literary, or otherwise famous named-places, and named-things is because it is not the place but the name that they are visiting. The Japanese travel to places precisely because they are "encrusted with renown," (Culler); and are all the more happy if as at shrines, or ruins, their is nothing to see because it is in the space of their mind that they provide the images to go with the otherness of the symbols that they are visiting. Indeed in a sense they do see that holy of holies, the mirror of the sun goddess in the internal space that is the Japanese mind.
Lacan argues that the self is at the presumed intersection of linguistic self signification -self narration, and visual self reflection, mirrorings and imagingings. Neither the symbolic nor the imaginary can say or see itself. The word can not enunciate the enunciated even in time since it is always delayed, defered (Derrida, 1998), never the person that it was what the attempt was started. Husserl's "living present" is always already gone. Likewise, the minds eye is unable to see itself. It requires the admixture of an other, the image of oneself, the name of oneself for each to enable the self to wrap around upon itself and self itself into self hood. This admixture is to be kept to a minimum. The self image in the West is external, when identified a sign of vanity or 'narcissism'. The word or symbol in Japan is external, and when internalised an impurity of mind (See Kim, 2002).
In either case, these essential impurities or 'supplements,' which are both required to complete and are additional to self(Derrida, 1998) are washed away in the experience of tourism when the Western and Japanese tourist meets the other as image or symbol respectively. The transcendental meditation for the Japanese tourist, at the British Museum, at the Named Place ruin of a famous castle, at the walls of Ise Shrine, becomes a interested visualiser of the place hidden in time, behind those walls. Souzou ga fukuramu. Images spring to mind. And even as the "Kankou" they shut their eyes to the world (Hitomi wo Tojiru) and call to mind the glory of the place they are visiting and in that experience, see themselves as the visual space, place or soul, that they believe themselves to be.
If either the Western tourist leaves something of himself it narratival. He signs a guest book. He narrates himself on a postcard (postcards are not sold for writing upon in Japan but only as packs, as symbolic souvenirs).
The Japanese tourist on the other hand provides the images, not just in her own mind, but also in the form of auto-photography so central to the tourism experience in Japan.
These differences have important implications for the tourist industries catering to Western and Japanese tourists.
When serving Japanese tourists it is important to provide the names, the narrative the guidebooks (which Japanese tourists themselves prepare in relative abundance), the words. They must also be provided the opportunity to provide images: above all to to imagine, and also to photograph themselves. Tourist destinations that do not have words related to them (iware no nai) are not of interest. Japanese tourist travel all the way to the lake district in the North of England, ignoring the beauty of the Powys hills completely, because the former have no literature - no words associated with them. They avoid the markets of London concentrating on the British museum and tower since the latter are redolent with renown. Japanese tourism providers need to counter the ocular turn of contemporary tourism theory and as the Japanese policy paper at the start of the ”tourism-oriented country" advocates a return to the original meaning of Kankou, or rather the provision of Kankou, which is not merely in the gaze directed, but in the of indication of facts, of nominal, symbolic entities.
"When promoting tourism it is therefore essential to return to this [etymological] origin of tourism, and create revolution in the very notion of tourism. The origin of tourism is not just looking at famous places and scenery, or seeing the sights, in regard to the the things that the local population feel happy about, to the things that the inhabitants of a certain land feel proud of and "indicating these highlights." (note 1)
Those especially in Japan however, who are catering to Western tourists should be aware that a place does not need to have a name for the Western tourist to want to visit it. In fact it helps if (other than the "markers" to find it) the destination is un-named "authentic" since the Western visitor provides the words. He is the words that he provides. These ethnographic, phenomenological tourists want to narrate, pronounce, theorise (what I am now doing) about the things that they see and in so doing they (I make myself shiver) have a transcendental experience of who they are, the words that drift across the universe of 'exterior' visual phenomena. Give us a view, any view, something to speak about, a picture and postcard, a picture postcard, above all give us something to see and some means by which they can narrate and we will be happy. There are such opportunities in every Japanese village not only the famous ones. Western tourist go to see spaces and places, and there is (or should be) much more for them to see. Alas at present, or until recently, the Japanese presume that their visitors are also Japanese and "indicate the highlights" (Kankou) or show the Named-places only. Very recently, there is a trend to promote regional tourism resources which do not have a name, this geographical tourism (shock!) had to be given a neologism "jitabi," since the very concept of simply going to see a place was alien to the Japanese.
Finally the above theoretical position resolves the problem how tourists can be going in search of authenticity (MacCannell, 1986) even in blatantly inauthentic "post tourism" (Urry, 2002) sites: on tour we bring ourselves to confront the other of the self, we find our self in maximal authenticity.
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The [relevant passage] of the Tao Te Ching reads "*Indicating* [Shimesu, Kanagmiru] the lights of the country are good to use as hospitality for a king". where country mean the localities of contemporary China, and "lights" [highlights] refer to the superior or special things of that locality. (my translation, my emphasis, and my comments in brackets).
観光立国の推進に当たっては、まずはこうした「観光の原点」に立ち返ること、つまり「観光」概念の革新が必要になる。観光の原点は、ただ単に名所や風景などの「光を見る」ことだけではなく、一つの地域に住む人々がその地に住むことに誇りをもつことができ、幸せを感じられることによって、その地域が「光を示す」ことにある。 「国の光を観る」 −観光の原点−
I think that the primordial space of the Japanese self (Nishida's ba), or the "climate" (Wasuji's fudo) can best be understood from a Western perspective as the "Field of Vision" (Mach, 1897). The visual field pictured in Mach's self portrait is usually seen, if existing at all, as being a form of barrier ("veil" "tain" or "hymen") between self and the world. To the Japanese this field, this primordial space, however, is the pure experience of self (Nishida, Zen no kenkyuu), as self-inseparable-from-spatial-other. This Japanese self is however separate from the world of symbols but, Japanese need the admixture of symbol, the name, their own name, for the Japanese child to believe that the their body houses this ephemeral mirror. In Japan it is precisely the linguistic which is public (Nakashima, 1997) and space, place and vision which as private as it gets. Taking a balanced view, neither images nor language are more private than the other, both requiring an other to have meaning, but it took Westerners almost two millenia to realise that language is meaningless if private (Wittgenstein, 1973).
Maybe it was because I had been reading Nietzsche (e.g. 1889) since I was 14, that when my high-school physics teacher told me that nothing could go faster than the speed of light, I suspected something was amiss. It was less the very fact that the universe should have a speed limit, a little fishy in itself, but that we, humans, should have sense apparatus to detect that which travels at the this speed limit seemed utterly absurd as discussed before.
Echoing Nietzsche, Dawkins says "The human race is just a chemical scum on a moderate-sized planet, orbiting around a very average star in the outer suburb of one among a hundred billion galaxies." But Dawkins uses our insignificance to reject the anthropic principle, "We are so insignificant that I can't believe the whole universe exists for our benefit." Dawkins seems to have missed the possibility that "the universe" is not "for our benefit" but that the universe is human, as we once were.
Ernst Mach (1897) suggested that that the stuff of the universe is our sensations particularly our visual field. He tended to draw his visual field with one eye shut. I have superimposed two of his visual field drawings above.
As mentioned before there has been recent theoretical research that suggests that the universe is flat: the holographic principle and there is currently experimental research under way at the Fermi Lab in the USA to test whether we are living in a hologram, and three dimensionality is an emergent property. If it should be discovered that the universe is in fact two dimensional, or perhaps made up of two two dimensional planes (my prediction), then how else are we going to explain this other than by appealing to a Machian, or Buddhist, sensationalism in the sense of a "consciousness only" theory?
Upon consideration of the Fermi experiment, I also took time to Google "oval universe" and find that there is research to show that the universe is ellipsoid! Physicists are puzzled (Cea, 2014)!
Mach was not entirely accurate in his drawings of his visual field. Not only should there be two noses, but also the visual field, or at least mine, is wider than it is tall. It is an ellipsoid. It also has no edge (Hartle & Hawking, 1983; Hartle, Hawking, & Hertog, 2008).
Cea, P. (2014). The Ellipsoidal Universe in the Planck Satellite Era. arXiv:1401.5627 [astro-Ph, Physics:gr-Qc]. Retrieved from arxiv.org/abs/1401.5627
Hartle, J. B., & Hawking, S. W. (1983). Wave function of the universe. Physical Review D, 28(12), 2960. Retrieved from journals.aps.org/prd/abstract/10.1103/PhysRevD.28.2960 Hartle, J. B., Hawking, S. W., & Hertog, T. (2008). No-boundary measure of the universe. Physical Review Letters, 100(20), 201301. Retrieved from journals.aps.org/prl/abstract/10.1103/PhysRevLett.100.201301
Mach, E. (1897). Contributions to the Analysis of the Sensations. (C. M. Williams, Trans.). The Open court publishing company. Retrieved from www.archive.org/details/contributionsto00machgoog
Nietzsche, F. (1889). Twilight of the Idols. Wordsworth Classics.
Following from an analysis of what happens when a object travels through the event horizon of a black hole, its is mathematically demonstrable that the size of the black hole increases in proportion to the square of the mass of the object rather than the cube. The information contained within the mass is spread out on the surface of the black hole indicating that black holes -- and indeed the whole universe -- is in some sense two dimensional. Leonard Susskind claims that like black holes, the universe (including "this room") is two dimensional only appearing three dimensional, like a hologram.
From the wikipedia page (see end)
"The holographic principle states that the entropy of ordinary mass (not just black holes) is also proportional to surface area and not volume; that volume itself is illusory and the universe is really a hologram which is isomorphic to the information "inscribed" on the surface of its boundary.
This is very strange. How can this be? Is there any reasonable, rational way in which the two dimensionality of the universe can be explained? Did the 'big bang' take place between massive plates of dark matter? Bearing in mind the limitations of our sensory apparatus, the discovery of added dimensions seems more, rationally plausible than the realisation that the universe is of fewer dimensions than previously thought - only two spacial dimensions, plus time. Something very strange is going on.
But this "strangeness" of the universe discovered by the latest physics theorists is not a first. Einstein theorised that the speed of light is a cosmic speed limit. That the cosmic speed limit should be the speed of our fastest sense seems very fortuitous for an organism whose fastest sense organ depends on the movement of the same.
Even without reading Nietzsche, or Mach, the discoveries that universe is limited by the speed of light, and two dimensional "like a picture" must suggest that there is another more simple, all-too-human, explanation: the "real world," of science is just a theory, words, signs, maths, about human experience.
This is the situation proposed by Ernst Mach, who influenced Einstein profoundly. The development of his theory of relativity was inspired by Mach, as he himself admitted in letters, but with regard to a human, experiential explanation for his 'speed limit', he kept his cards to his chest. Einstein admitted that the theory of relativity was influenced by Hume (another sensation-alist) and Mach, but he did not let the 'sensational' cat out of the bag: if, as Mach suggests, the universe is nothing more than a theory about our sensations (some call them "qualia," Mach used the term, "visual field") then what is implied?
What can we say about our visual field? Surprising little. The 'qualia" that my visual field seems to comprise are unnameable. From consideration of the colour blind, "red" is the agreement that I have with others, not the suchness that I experience.
My visual field is that Jamesian "blooming buzzing thing" or the "chaos" (mu) of Buddhists. Its properties are beyond a ken horizon, that is to say, partly in the Scottish vernacular, in plain sight and beyond my ken.
Westerners have tended to believe that the visual experience, the visual field, is merely a "veil" behind which is a rational universe of "things in themselves." If the fundamental stuff of the universe is this - we can all see it - circle of light, inside our heads, minds, or pressed up against our noses then there are implications,
Contra Buddhist, I think that we can say a little (very little) about our sensations. One is that it is bright, light. And hence Einstein's realization.
Another is that our visual field is made up of two dimensional information superimposed. At least one Buddhist philosopher (Nishida, see Heisig) is purported to say that pure experience is three dimensional. This is not my experience. If I return to the purity of my experience all I have is a big round mirror of brightness made up of of the presumed juxtaposition of two circles of light.
If sensation, the visual field, is the stuff of the universe, then is it surprising that, against all reason, the universe is two dimensional?
If the "universe," the Konigsbergian "real world" is nothing more than a theory about this visual field then it should surprise no one that the universe turns out to be in, improved, theory and in fact, two dimensional.
Game, set, Mach!
Top image from the wikipedia page on the Holographic Principle
Leonard Susskind on the Holographic Principle (see second half for claims that the universe is 2D)
Bottom two images are of his "visual field" by Ernst Mach.
We live on a planet which is infinitesimally small, and we came into existence but a blip in the life of earth ago, and share half of our DNA with bananas, and about 75% with mice.
And yet these mice claim to know the speed limit of the universe. Quite by coincidence, the fastest speed of the universe happens to be the speed of the fastest sense of these mice. How likely is that?
Einstein was influenced by Ernst Mach who argued that the stuff of the universe is the perceptions that we have. The speed limit that Einstein found was that of the perceived universe, the universe as experienced and understood by, and in, our minds.
The psychoanalytic tradition of Freud and Lacan argue that there are stages in the development of the self the first of which is "narcissistic". The child first 'finds' or rather mistakes, and creates, itself as self objects such as its mirror reflection, they argue. Freud sticks with the Greek myth and suggests this is motivated by narcissistic self-love. Lacan (1977) argues that we need to mis-recognise ourselves in our mirror image in order to achieve motor coordination.
Both Lacan and Freud then suggest that the this dyad is, and must be supplemented by a third term, the superego or Other. If not in Freud, then explicitly in Lacan, the supplementary other is linguistic. Rather that toil in the hell of fragmentary dyads where we are dependent upon reflecting surfaces and the faces of others in whom our nascent self is reflected, we learn to narrate ourselves, to echo ourselves, and in this narrative is life (Hebrew, "Eve").
Incidently, in a deconstruction of the tradition of Freud and Lacan, Brenkman (1976) points out that the negative view of image (as shown by Narcissus' stupidity in the central panel above) and more positive view of lingustic mirrors, is shared by the myth of Narcissus where Narcissus is complimented by a linguistic mirror in the form of the loving, living Echo (middle panel right, appears' in the myth only as an echo of Narcissus' words). In ancient Greece there was no wedding.
I have not been able to see any clear indication that the biblical Eve has anything linguistic about her, yet, other than references to Derrida's theory of signs, but it does seem clear that the creation in Genesis takes place in two stages.
God creates humans , as man and woman from earth who he calls Adam:
AV Gn 5:2 Male and female created he them; and blessed them, and called their name Adam, in the day when they were created.
And then God creates for them a supplementary Eve, "a helper, like as one before", out of their "one side (chamber)".
So there are two stages, in the Bible too. There are humans (adam) #1 who do not have a helper. And there are humans (adam #2), that are now wedded to Eve ("life"), their "helper-as-before-them".
And it is also seems clear to me that the Biblical version of the first of these stages, adam #1, is very visual.
Gn 1:26-27 . And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth. So God created man in his [own] image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them.
The word used for image (Hebrew tzlm) seems to reserved *for visual images*. It is later used to describe all those "graven images" that God hates and destroys.
So does Genesis describe God making a mistake of the type described by Freud and Lacan? Did Elohim make a graven image of himself: adam #1? Did God have a beard!?
I suggest not, and a different type of image. The right hand pane above (used without permission) is adapted from an adaptation of Ernst Mach's visual field, by Professor Robert Pepperell: "The view of the self as part of the world, iPad painting
2011 (After Ernst Mach)" and rounded later version "As Seen' (After Mach), iPad drawing, 2012."
This is also, I think, the self that Nishida, at the end of phenomenological process of bracketing off all that can be doubted, describes as being "absolutely contradictory self," self as place, self as geography, self as "earth." I think we have found adam #1, the proto and post human. But where is he?
As I was flicking around the bible for examples of "image" and "likeness," I came across this quote from the book of Isaiah, where God's dislike of visual images is being stated again, together with the reason.
AV Isa 40:18-22 . To whom then will ye liken God? or what likeness will ye compare unto him? The workman melteth a graven image, and the goldsmith spreadeth it over with gold, and casteth silver chains.He that [is] so impoverished that he hath no oblation chooseth a tree [that] will not rot; he seeketh unto him a cunning workman to prepare a graven image, [that] shall not be moved.
Have ye not known? have ye not heard? hath it not been told you from the beginning? have ye not understood from the foundations of the earth?
[It is] he that sitteth upon the circle of the earth, and the inhabitants thereof [are] as grasshoppers; that stretcheth out the heavens as a curtain, and spreadeth them out as a tent to dwell in:
The bit I especially like is the last bit.
"[It is] he that sitteth upon the circle of the earth, and the inhabitants thereof [are] as grasshoppers"
The "circle" has been argued to imply that the Biblical earth is round, but I think that Isaiah (and Blake. Mach, and Pepperell too) was talking about a different circle.
I think that it is important to note that the circle is not 'in my head.' Or at least to be very wary of saying so. I can look at myself, and my head, in a mirror on the other other side of my room. I am one of the grasshoppers.
There is some suggestion (McDermott, 1996) that proto-humans, or paleolithic ones, had a first person view of self such as that portrayed in the picture above right.
Something else other than what I consider to be "me" seems emphasised when looking at the view with both eyes open. I do not have two noses.
Brenkman, John. "Narcissus in the Text." The Georgia Review 30.2 (1976): 293-327.
Lacan, J. (1977). The mirror stage. Écrits: A selection, 1-7.
McDermott, L. R. (1996). Self-representation in Upper Paleolithic female figurines. Current Anthropology, 37(2), 227–275. Retrieved from www.ucmo.edu/art/facstaff/documents/Self-Representationin...
Pepperell, R. (2003). The Posthuman Condition: Consciousness Beyond the Brain, 3ª.
The oldest depiction of the human form is perhaps the Venus in the The Salle du Fond, the deepest of the Chauvet Cave chambers, discovered in 1994, thought to date to approximately 30,000 years ago. As argued by Jean Clottes, this "Venus" shows proportions typical of Venus figurines from the palaeolithic period (see bottom row of black and white images).
If so, then as argued by Dr. McDermott (1996), the picture may be a "selfie", or auto-portraiture. The image may have large hips and thighs and feet trailing away to nothing due to the perspective of a drawing from a first person view. But why has this Venus been incorporated into the pictures of animals on either side? Was this an attempt to conceal cave-man porn?
At a stretch, the way in which the Venus is also a view of animals, in that it has been incorporated into the drawings of animals (added later) at either side, it may be argued to be representing the philosophical claim found in Enrst Mach (1897) and Nishida that first-person views are, in extremis, of both self and the world. Nishida calls “pure experience” the “radically contradictory self,” since it is both self and the world. Mach (1902) writes "Not the things, the bodies, but colours, sounds, pressures, times (what we usually call sensations) are the true elements of the world [and presumably, as sensations of “me” the first person also]." [my addition] Nietzsche once wrote, I believe, that wherever you point (hora!) one can only point at oneself.
I hear that there are other Venus type friezes in amongst the legs of animals in caves in Rocaux as well, it might be expressing the same intuition: the identify of world and self. But why is there a connection between world and female self? Could the self, the world be female!?
In this connection, recently I came across the following Aztec creation myth from www.crystalinks.com/aztecreation.html
Quetzalcoatl, the light one, and Tezcatlipoca, the dark one, looked down from their place in the sky and saw only water below. A gigantic goddess floated upon the waters, eating everything with her many mouths.
The two gods saw that whatever they created was eaten by this monster. They knew they must stop her, so they transformed themselves into two huge serpents and descended into the water. One of them grabbed the goddess by the arms while the other grabbed her around the legs, and before she could resist they pulled until she broke apart.
Her head and shoulders became the earth and the lower part of her body the sky.
The other gods were angry at what the two had done and decided, as compensation for her dismemberment, to allow her to provide the necessities for people to survive; so from her hair they created trees, grass, and flowers; caves, fountains, and wells from her eyes; rivers from her mouth; hills and valleys from her nose; and mountains from her shoulders.
Still the goddess was often unhappy and the people could hear her crying in the night. They knew she wept because of her thirst for human blood, and that she would not provide food from the soil until she drank.
So the gift of human hearts is given her. She who provides sustenance for human lives demands human lives for her own sustenance. So it has always been; so it will ever be.
Thanks to David B. (and CP a little) for the inspiration for the above post.
Mach, E. (1897). Contributions to the Analysis of the Sensations. (C. M. Williams, Trans.). The Open court publishing company. Retrieved from www.archive.org/details/contributionsto00machgoog
McDermott, L. R. (1996). Self-representation in Upper Paleolithic female figurines. Current Anthropology, 37(2), 227–275. Retrieved from www.ucmo.edu/art/facstaff/documents/Self-Representationin...
Scholars are surprisingly unsure as to why there is language at all. One okay, easy-read but fairly in-depth book about this is Jean-Louis Dessailes' (2007) "Why we talk: The Evolutionary Origins of Language."
The author argues that for a long time that hunter gatherers had language, without much in the way of technological or social advance, so it is difficult to see the adaptive advantage of having language. Greater social cohesion, catching free-riders, negotiation, and (the author's answer) the ability to brag politically, are some possibilities. The latter possibility, arises out of the authors observations that of all the supposed unique characteristics of human language, the one that genuinely remains is that we spend a lot of our time telling interesting stories, like we are saving up interesting, temporally separate pieces of information to brag to other people about later. This ability to brag can, like peacock feathers, be converted to social power. Dessailes theory of the evolution of language is thus very similar to that of Geoffrey Miller (2011) who argues that the origin of the, very large, human brain is similar to that of peacock feathers, since, in Dawkin's summary, "being clever is sexy" at 1 minute 35 second into this video.
All these answers, are to greater or lesser extent pragmatic, rather than illusory. My own answer is be adapted from Derrida's thoughts on self-speech, as "auto-affection". Another way of saying "auto-affection" is, as I think that Derrida makes fairly clear in his chapter on Rousseau in "of Grammatology", 'mental masturbation:' the fabulation of an other or dyad within the psyche so that one can enjoy the release of libidinal energy. This is a pretty distasteful theory, and I think that is partly why it enjoys little popularity or even straightforward exposition - Derrida is very cryptic about what he is talking about.
Language - symbolic (not iconic or indexical, see Pierce, 1894) signs - allows humans to represent themselves in a way that is arbitrary, depending upon a social system, not upon any similarity or physical connection between the sign and whatever it refers refer to. Symbols can leave the constraints of the environment. This Cousins argues (2012) allows us to think up new symbols, new ways of seeing and using things, and promotes social, technological advance.
Remember however that it is claimed by Dessailes that language was not accompanied by much technological advance from its birth in the palaeolithic. The age of language is argued to be, by Chomsky in this video, 100,000 to 200,000 years ago, long before the neolithic/agricultural revolution of about 12,000 years ago. That is for at least about 90,000 years or 90% of its history, we and our pre-human ancestors were using language, and making cave paintings, and seemed to have become religious as attested by the fact that we were burying our dead, but we were not doing a lot in the way of practical technological advance. This point is contentious. Other archaeologists claim that there was a continuous chain of social innovation, so the link between language and social innovation (Cousins, 2012) may well be correct.
The non-iconic, non-indexical nature of symbols, also means that they are "iterable" (Derrida) or repeatable, quotable, as such function in the complete absence of the author (Derrida), and further we can and need to understand them in communication, from the point of view of a real or internalised other (Mead). This ability to present ourselves objectively to ourselves may have all sorts of cognitive, or communicative advantages, but it also has imho a much more emotional, rather iccky, psychological advantage. Words as symbols, are like little mirrors; or self-addressed postcards (Derrida). They are a little bit of ourselves that we set apart from ourselves, that we see as if from the outside. Unlike sculpture which in the palaeolithic can and often does provide a first person perspective of self (McDermott, 1996), language, like mirrors, by the way it functions as part of social code, always provides a view from the other.
Returning to Dessailes book, he recounts that experimenters have been attempting to get primates to speak for a long time with quite a lot of success with some Chimps and with massive success with a particular bono bono called Kanzi.
The only primate to have evolved (autonomously learnt) to speak like a human is a bono bono (close relative of a chimpanzee) called Kanzi.
Here I quote from Dessailes book
“When Matata weaned Kanzi and had to be separated from him tor a time so as to be bred again, he was left alone. The research team thought they might be able to try teaching him what they had failed to teach Matata, though he had never shown an interest in her keyboard, except to push keys at random. But his behaviour once he was separated from his mother, upset this plan: as soon as he was left to himself, he spontaneously started to touch keys on the keyboard, not at random or in response to a prompt, but in a way that announced his own actions. For example, he would touch the lexigram for apple, then go an fetch an apple. This proved that not only did he know the meaning of the symbols on the keyboard, unlike Matata, but that he had learned them quite spontaneously. This observation was, to say the least unexpected.” p62
Wow! There it is. The evolutionary origin of language. I repeat that in large part this experiments succeed in not only teaching, but creating the situation where language almost spontaneously, *evolved in the lab*! I think that they should have paid more attention to the characteristics of Kanzi's language:
1) It was self descriptive - a self narrative.
2) It occurred in isolation, recently separated when the speaker was probably lonely.
3) It was therefore in a sense self directed, or perhaps spoken off to someone that Kanzi imagined might be listening/watching, or as Mead argues understood from the point of view of an other - in this case his mother Matata.
4) It was to a large extent Ex Post, after the even. Kanzi was predicting that which he had already decided to do, as demonstrated to be the case in humans too by the work of Libet and more forcefully Soon et al.. In this way language appears to be causative when really it only creates this impression since it is "postdicting" predicting the past.
This is I think the advantage of language for the individual. It supplies the myth of a dyad, "presence", presence of the meaning of the words, which can only be achieved by the presence of others. Language is usually seen as a communicative or cognitive tool, and through it being able to see ourselves from the point of view of the other, a cognitive advantage. However, language allows us to be a narcissistic in a linguistic mirror, and through self-narrative, provide us with the illusion that we are never alone.
The origin of language in this auto-effective, self comforting behaviour, is not so preposterous when one considerer that the sage author of this book argues that language was originally for showing off to others, bragging, politically. Nor is it so strange when compared with the theory of Geoffrey Miller regarding the human brain: "being clever is sexy." In the theoretical absence of an environmentally adaptive, pragmatic advantage of language to the speaker, these white, modern, male authors propose that the listener (presumably a female) is duped. As even today, the 'WEIRD' (Heine, 2010) self-enhancer appears to dupe those around him, when in fact the merits of his so doing are intra-psychic: he dupes himself. Kanzi, likewise, is bragging to himself, being attractive, even sexy, to himself, and enjoying the resultant "auto-affection," enough to do so without any reward from the experimenters.
The advantage for the species is however pragmatic. That individuals from any species play this game, that they become split, narcissists in this way, results in state where all members are possessed or infested with the ghost of their parents. This state is useful when it is remembered, that since Dawkins, we realise that the unit of evolution is the unity of replication - the gene - and not the individual, which is merely a 'vehicle' for the gene. The behaviour of individuals needs to bent to the demands of a social, familial, or above all, genetic level. When the complexity of the individual vehicle reaches a level where the objectives of the gene and the individual are at odds, then all that genes and evolution can do (other than to regress to species with more socially dependent individuals) is offer the individuals illusions. When there is conflict, genuine conflict, then no truth, only attractive illusions, can be offered.
I am arguing thus that the advent of language facilitated morality, its advantage to the species, because it provided, to the individual, a form of proto-porn.
The earlier part of this blog post, and asking the question 'why do we have language at all, was inspired by Steven Cousins, who has his own answer.
Cousins, S. D. (2012). A semiotic approach to mind and culture. Culture & Psychology, 18(2), 149–166. doi:10.1177/1354067X11434834
Derrida, J. (1998). Of grammatology. (G. C. Spivak, Trans.). JHU Press.
Derrida, J. (1987). The Post Card: From Socrates to Freud and Beyond. (A. Bass, Trans.) (First Edition.). University Of Chicago Press.
Dessalles, J.-L. (2007). Why we talk: The evolutionary origins of language. Oxford University Press. Retrieved from http://books.google.co.jp/books?hl=en&lr=&id=VW_v_9AGLKUC&oi=fnd&pg=PR5&dq=The+Evolutionary+Origins+of+Language&ots=4ISep5M-RJ&sig=Wugyqxqs5dB-5WzAzeSu-HFYBMo
Henrich, J., Heine, S. J., & Norenzayan, A. (2010). Most people are not WEIRD. Nature, 466(7302), 29–29.
Libet, B. (1999). Do we have free will? Journal of Consciousness Studies, 6(8-9), 47–57. Retrieved from www.centenary.edu/attachments/philosophy/aizawa/courses/i...
McDermott, L. R. (1996). Self-representation in Upper Paleolithic female figurines. Current Anthropology, 37(2), 227–275.
Miller, G. (2011). The mating mind: How sexual choice shaped the evolution of human nature. Random House Digital, Inc. Retrieved from http://books.google.co.jp/books?hl=en&lr=&id=QG-8PbZb4csC&oi=fnd&pg=PA25&dq=geoffrey+miller+evolution&ots=W6VHpczgXj&sig=5ncu0gsOv1iJ6nchuqEZzqznOSs
Mead, G. H. (1967). Mind, self, and society: From the standpoint of a social behaviorist (Vol. 1). The University of Chicago Press. （It is only the vocal gesture that is fitted for this fort of communication, because it is only the vocal gesture to which one responds or tends to respond as another person tends to respond to it. p 67）
Peirce, C. S. (1894). What is a sign? Theorizing communication: readings across traditions, 177. Retrieved from http://www.semioticadelprogetto.it/download/CSP%20-%20What%20is%20a%20sign.pdf
Savage-Rumbaugh, E. S., & Lewin, R. (1994). Kanzi: The ape at the brink of the human mind. Wiley. Retrieved from http://agris.fao.org/agris-search/search/display.do?f=1995/US/US95125.xml;US9533108
Soon, C. S., Brass, M., Heinze, H. J., & Haynes, J. D. (2008). Unconscious determinants of free decisions in the human brain. Nature neuroscience, 11(5), 543-545. projects.ecfs.org/pchurch/ATBiology/Papers2012/unconsciou...
The tragedy that i believe Jared Loughner caused was and remains abhorrent. I am not a doctor but from all accounts, and my impression of his videos, his face and above all his actions, I believe him to be insane.
However, it seems to me that Jared Loughner’s use of the analogy between gold-standard and fiat currencies, and language may be useful for explaining Derrida’s term "differance".
Derrida is well known for being particularly obscure and perhaps even more so than Loughner.
Derrida criticises the Western philosophy of the sign, which in Saussure for instance, consists of signifier and signified, the latter being an idea.
The Saussurian model is fairly straightforward. I have an idea. I choose an appropriate signifier, such as the word “choose,” and I write it here. You then read my word choose and somehow replicate or at least understand the idea that I wanted to express.
Derrida claimed that this duality of the sign is merely a belief. Despite being one of the most radical critics of Western dualism, Derrida seemed to intimate that it may be an essential belief. He insists that nevertheless dualism does not conform to the reality of the situation. So rather than simply claiming that the world is not dual, that there is no other realm of ideas, of “signifieds” (Saussure) or irreels, (Husserl), that there are no transcendental entities, nor Platonic forms, Derrida rather attempts to explain how the belief in these entities came about, and how in Western philosophy the belief in their existence is maintained.
At the same time Derrida does to an extent present a new model of the sign. In place of the idea, Derrida argued I think that signification is always a standing in place of something else. Signs are essentially iterable - they can be repeated. And they can by repeated in other words, perhaps as other things. Signs function because they can be exchanged for other signs (and perhaps images, memories). Thus rather than there being a “difference” between the signifier and the ideal signified, there is a “differal” or “differance,” a predicted chain of one thing standing-for something else standing for something else.
I don’t know if I have understood Derrida at all correctly but this latter notion of “differance” seemed particularly opaque.
However, it seems to me that Loughner’s analogy between fiat currency and language presents a simple way of explaining the “differance” that Derrida espouses. Loughner seemed to express disappointment that there was no gold standard for language, nothing upon which words are based.
Herein lies the analogy. Economists point out that we suffer from a money illusion, presuming that currency has an intrinsic value, but in fact fiat currencies do not have an intrinsic value but gain their value from an anticipated exchange value, or purchasing power. Similarly, we tend to believe that our words gain their meaning and value by being pegged to ideas, in the treasury of the mind (and if shared, “the mind of god”) but in fact our language is a fiat language backed up only by the expectation of future exchanges . It is not something different, a gold standard, an irreel standard, an idea, but differance, an anticipation of exchange that gives both our words, and our currency value.
I am not sure how to cite Loughner, or even whether I should. However, if this is the sort of analogy he was attempting to make then I find it a persuasive and explicative one.
There reason why Derrida tends to come out in favour of dualism even as he deconstructs it may be because he recognises himself as part of the system. In "Voice and Phenomena" he argues that the prime motivation for believing in dualism and the idea, is that one of these ideas, that one might debunk, is the one corresponding to "I" when spoken to oneself: oneself.
Should anyone object to the above please let me know.
President Obama recently spoke of protecting American goods, (AP, 2012) including from copyright theft overseas. The US has reason to be concerned. While Asia is often described as the factory of the world, north American companies such as Microsoft, Apple and Intel come up with many of the worlds most saleable ideas. North Americans, and Westerners in general, identify with their self-speech. Their bodies, and the material world in general, come in a poor second.
Making things is not something that Western culture has ever aspired to do. Making, or coining, ideas is however, something that Westerners strive to do well and are indeed very good at. Software, laws, logical architectures, theories, sales systems such as that of iTunes and MacDonald's are all made in the USA.
One of the problem with ideas is that they are easily copied. Not only that but other nations may have different attitudes to the copying "ideas". North Americans, identified as they are with their words, believe that words are free, unconstrained and unique. The symbolic field, the playground of the Western soul, is believed to be infinite, so each symbolic coinage is thought to be an act of creation.
More prosaic attitudes towards symbols see their world as a finite space with only so many permutations and combinations.
An examples of a finite symbolic space is that of domain names. The act of "inventing" a domain name and registering it is not necessarily creative. One might simply attempt to register all three letter domains and then sell them to the highest bidder. Westerners too are aware that coinages in the field of domain names are not so creative as to warrant full copyright protection and allow business with prior use of a letter sequence (e.g. the BBC) to recapture that domain name from any would be "domain name inventor." But what of other symbolic inventions? Examples of controversial patents include "1-Click Ordering" patented by Amazon. Is the ability to order a product using one click an invention, or is the attempt to patent merely a claim made upon an obvious permutation of a symbolic space, like an attempt to patent a domain name or word.
Attitudes towards patents of "intellectual property" or "symbolic inventions" will depend upon appraisal of the endeavour required to either "invent" or merely be the first to claim that set of symbols. Temporal priority is different to creativity and the extent to which each is involved is open to disagreement. To one person a patent may be an attempt to protect creative endeavour from subsequent theft, to another the same patent may appear to be a form of symbolic colonialism, akin to claiming "terra nullis" merely by setting foot upon it. Cultures may agree that simple priority -- being first -- is not enough unless it one is also creative at the same time but whether a particular creative act is seen as creative or merely going through the permutations in a finite field shows considerable cultural variability.
The Western view is partially clouded. Westerners see their "ideas," as being more ephemeral, and less merely the permutation of a finite set of symbols, than they really are and this logocentric bias is going to lead to conflict. I think that some nations, particularly the Chinese and Japanese, may also have a bias to see symbols are more limiting and finite than they really are but this only from experience. Either way, I am scared we are going to see copyright wars.
Associated Press. (2012) "APNewsBreak: Obama to Protect US Goods Globally." Downloaded from http://abcnews.go.com/Business/wireStory/ap-exclusive-obama-protect-us-goods-globally-15437740
I may have blogged about the Meanging Maintenance Model before but here it is again.
Steven Heine is a leading cultural psychologist and professor at the University of British Columbia. In recent years he has branched out, or homed in, on the question of why people have culture in the first place.
His recent research concerns his "Meaning Maintenance Model" (MMM). MMM is in part an off-shoot of Terror Management Theory (TMT), a large area of research in social psychology, which focuses on the way that people react to thoughts of their own death. Thoughts of death, say TMT theorists, arouse in people a feeling of terror that they attempt to assuage, or "manage", by belief in "symbolic immortality". That is to say that when we are reminded of our death, we assuage our terror by attempting to believe that symbolically, our acts, values, importance, and culture are eternal. Heine takes this theory and turns it on its head, claiming, that it is not death that we are terrified of, but meaningless: situations in which we are unable to fit our experience into a meaningful framework, when we are unable to symbolise them.
While Steven Heine has aroused the ire of TMT theorists (eagre to maintain that it really is death that we fear), and represents a new paradigm in social psychology, the theory that humans essentially seek meaning, are homo-innuedus, is not entirely new as Heine himself points out.
Vicktor E. Frankl wrote books entitled "The Will to Meaning" and "Man's Search for Meaning". There is at least one Neitzche aphorism along the same lines. Anthropologists too have proposed that the need-for-meaning is a fundamental cause of human behaviour. Sir James Frazer proposed that people believe in gods and the supernatural since such belief is preferable to not being able to provide a meangingful explanation for natural events. Edmund Leach, in Rethinking Anthropology and, in greather detail, Mary Douglas in Purity and Danger, explain the horror of things taboo, with particular reference to foods that are forbidden in the bible, as being directed towards those things that do not fit into cultural category systems. Crabs are bad, taboo, horrible, because they are sea animals that have legs (the definition of land animals) and Pigs are likewise since they are animals that have fingers like humans (who are not "animals"). Leach even argues that treakle and other glutinous substances arouse feelings of disgust because they are difficult to classify, as solids or as liquids. I have a friend who has a fear of custard.
Returning to death, it seems clear that at times people do not fear their own demise, such as in the case of "Kamikaze" (tokkoutai) pilots, suicide bombers and people that go into battle with little hope of surviving, since according to MMM, to them their actions are meaningful. Likewise I have heard it said of a rock climber who falling from a rockface to find the crampons that held his rope to the cliff give way, and in that instant presuming he was "a goner" felt a calm resignation but when subsequent crampons did not give way, causing the rock climber to bounce and swing at the end of his rope, to thrown not into death but uncertainty, suddenly felt again, great fear. There is a youtube video of a skydiver that found his parachute would not open and said after failing to release his secondary parachute, fairly calmly, "I'm dead. bye!" According to MMM, his fear would have worst when he found himself alive (he survived) after he hit blackberry bushes.
Recently I was reading the book of the experience of a Dr. Brook, who had severe throat cancer, who recounts the fear or anxiety that he felt above all in the face of medical uncertainty. Perhaps, being told "you are going to die" is less fearful than "you may well die" which is less fearful than "I am not sure if you are going to die" and less fearful still than the unspoken message from a doctor who does not even admit to uncertainty, representing an uncertainty about which the patient cannot even be certain about.
So, is the fear of meaninglessness our greatest fear? It would, to me and according to the theory, be nice to think so. But, fearfully, I wonder why is that people read absurd literature such as that of Ionesco or Kafka? I was a great fan of absurd literature in my youth. And returning to culture, why is that people, from explorers to tourists, go on expeditions, or travels, into the unknown, into cultures which they do not understand? Sometimes we like, we seek, meaninglessness.
Perhaps all these 'pleasure cruises into the unknown' are motivated by that which motivates nightmares. Freud, of pleasure principle fame, proposed that we see nightmares --surely not pleasurable, in the short term at least -- through the desire to repeat, and through repitition, conquer our fear. If so then perhaps people have
nightmares (and read Kafka, and go to far away cultures as tourists) to prepare themselves, ourselves, and thus feel less afraid of the thing that we really fear - meaninglessness.
The "logic of the supplement" is a really bad name for how some things can have an important role as a foil, scapegoat, sacrificee, or supplement, and be both of lesser and central importance at the same time.
Consider a supplement to a book. It is the bit on the end, extraneous to the main part of the book (and thus of lesser importance) but at the same time may complete the book and by completing the book, be of prime importance. Or again, a vitamin "supplement" is something that is an addition to ones normal diet, that may at the same time contain vitamins, and minerals and the most important thing that the makers of the "supplement" say we should eat. Or again, there are things that are sacrificed, or made into scapegoats that are at once of lesser importance/value and of prime value. Consider the Jews in Nazi Germany. They were treated as animals, far beneath the "Aryans" but at the same time, by making a scapegoat of the Jews, the Nazis were able to rally the Germans together in the face of the common "enemy within." It coule be argued that the Jews, as victims and scapegoats, were the impurity that made the pure Aryan race possible.
In his commentary on Plato's Pharmacon, Derrida claims that writing, or visual symbols are a supplement in that sense in the West and that Western philosophers often make use of writing (or perhaps the visually meaningful) as a scapegoat. I find Derrida's writing very opaque but I do feel that the visually significant, and the visual, or corporeal is used as the "supplement" to the symbolic in the Western tradition. Western philosophers since plato, point to some visual/corporeal istance and say well it is lucky that we have language, and the meaning that we can trust. The the visually symbolic acts as a scapegoat, victim that purifies the symbolic, linguistic. Some examples...Austin claims that some linguistic statements are "speech acts." Such as "I promise," or "I bet" is not only speech, it is also an act. The speech act is a piece of dirty speech, that involves itself in the world of things. And after going on about these "speech acts" for a while, Austin then claims, but of course, there is some speech which is not an act, is simply referential. Thus he purifies language and its ability to refer to things without acting upon them in any way, by using example of speech which is also an act, caught up in the phenominal world. Similarly, Plato, speaks of writing as a supplement to phonetic language which is imperfect in being caught up in the visual world, less so phonemes, and even less so speech in the mind which is pure, not written, purely linguistic and not like that dirty corporeal writing stuff. In my view, all statements are acts in a sense. All symbols contain a little corporeality. But by setting up an example of an extremely corporeal example Western philosophers can return to their veneration of language. Derrida likewise, goes on about how easy it would be for all of "res extensio" (that which is extended, that which can be seen) to be a dream and after going on and on about how all this visual stuff could be an illusion, he returns to langauge and his cogito as if it is purified from being a mirage, despite the fact that he may be dreaming in gibberish. I think herefore I am, may be "flutch brenden under cellophone."
In Lacan too, the mirror image of the self, acts as a supplement, and essential lesser part to the self narrative of the linguistic self proper. The image of self, is essential, and it is only at the intersection of linguistic and visual self reference that we have a self at all. But it is the lesser part, the part of self which which one should not identify, which language saves us from. The image is like the twist in the mobius strip. It allows language to return upon itself, refer to something that is the sorce of the language, refer almost to itself. The self image is the veneer that proves that the truth is going on inside.
In a manner of speaking, I am a bit of a scientologist with a small "s," in that I am kind of religious, but also I am scientist. Or I am a scientist but also I am kind of religious. I am not sure what my religion is. I am interested in more than one religion. I try to understand what religions have to say from my sciency perspective. I have spent a lot of time trying to understand what Christianity has to say, and perhaps even more time trying to make a sciency sense out of Shinto mythology. I like to think that there is truth in what Christians have to say (about people rising from the dead for instance) and what Shinto has to say (about the world being created by gods, for instance). That is hard work!
Recently I have been having a look at what Scientology has to say, particularly the more extraordinary claims of Scientology, the ones that some people like to make fun out of, about Xemu, and aliens being blown up.
Before I write about the really weird parts of Scientology, the first thing I like about Scientology is the self-analysis part of it. This comes before all the weird "space opera" (sic).
Scientologists, seem to like to get to grips with all the things that they do not like to get to grips with! That is to say, that usually there are a lot of things that we do not like to remember, and as a consequence we do not remember. Things that we are embarrassed about, things that we are ashamed of, things that make us cringe, things that make us well up with emotion. We have, in common parlance, hang-ups. We have things about which we have been criticised, actions that we do not like to admit, desires that do no like to admit to, desires that we do not know why we have, fears that we do not face, etc. From what little I know about scientology, in the early stages, initiates are encouraged to confront and examine this hidden things. They use skin conductivity as a measure of stressful hidden-ness. In other words, if I hook you up to a conductivity measuring device and ask you "We did you last hate your father" or "When did you last masturbate" or "What is your shame" or I have no idea but there are things that we don't like to talk about. We don't even know what they are ourselves. But if you are hooked up to a skin conductivity meter then there will sometimes be an indication of when the question has hit a nerve. That is to say that the meter will show when the question is one that we have difficulty facing up to. And why the hell not? Why don't we face up to everything? Why can't we speak about all these things and confess them, describe them, and leave them behind? When one faces ones fears and shames and complexes, they tend to turn to dust. Scientologists, I believe, encourage people to face up to everything. And to, in common parlance, "get over it". When I went for a personality test in Edinburgh about 22 years ago one of their members told me that they adress the fears and complexes of their members in pairs at a distances of a few inches. Imagine if someone got right in your face and talked, criticised, asked for answers to all your complexes at a distance of only a few inches. "So you have a small penis, what of it?" "you are a bald ageing twat", "You write drivel on the internet," "You are a filanderer, why?" etc.
Perhaps that is all there is to scientology in a way? I have no idea. Perhaps all they do is to un-supress people? Free people, force people to confront, all their sweaty emotions, experiences, complexes, hang-ups. Is there a person that you have ever met that can confront themselves fully? I am not that person. I am not sure whether or not such a procedure would benefit myself or not, but I have sympathy with the endeavour. To be honest, I tend to "audit" people that I meet. I am in love with self-revelation. I like that sweaty feeling in myself and others, because I believe that it can be overcome.
Leaving that aside. I am not sure if Scientologist really do address their "complexes" or not, what of the space opera? This is really weird. There are places on the internet where one can hear of a sort of "mythology" about Xenu, about aliens being blown up, and then attachig themselves to others. And about how we live in a world where peole are infested with aliens. I am not a expert on Scientoogy but the concept that we have been invaded by aliens is one that my sciency mind does not object to quite as much as it is common to do so.
Okay so that was a long preamble. What I really meant to write about is the Xenu, aliens bit. I see the story as a sort of mythology. L Ron Hubbard was, or may have been, a modern mythologist.
I want to add some more preamble. What scientology needs, its seems to me, or indeed what any religion with a mythology needs, is a theory of mythology, or a theory about language. A semiotics? Not sure. Anyway, on the face of it mythologies are generally whacked, crazy, stupid. "So a giant guy made the world in 6 days?" "So a primal couple gave birth to the world?!" Yada yada. It sounds really silly. People, like me, of a sciency persuasion, are of course inclined to think that these stories, mythologies are so much primitive trash. So, is there any way of saving mythologies? Well, I have a couple of ideas. One is more wishwashy than the other.
The first, the wishy washier one, is to say that there is a problem with language: that language is not up to describing the way the world is. Saying that is easy. But when saying that in the language which you are trying to say is limited leads to enevitable contradictions. These contradictions are enough to make readers tell you to take a hike. But Wittgenstien in one of his coloured books used some good metaphors. He talked about simplified languages, more simple than the one he, and I, are using. Imagine if you are a soldier. Soldiers, according to the films I see on TV, use hand signals such as fist to say things like "advance" or "whatch out to your left" or "try and out-flank the enemy." Now imagine that there are a group of soldiers in a war, say Vietnam, and they are advancing on what they believe to be a group of Vietcong. Then one of the hand-signalling soldiers realises that that are in fact advancing upon a group of Belgian tourists who have got lost in the jungle. That hand-signalling soldier does not have the hand-signals to say what is going on. He only has the signals for "advance,(a fist)" "crawl,(a level palm)," "out-flank(a two fingered pointing motion, say)." But then one of the soldiers realises that he is walking towards a group of Belgian holiday makers, who are trying to light a barbeque. How does he signal this fact to his comrades? Well, I guess he might try and use really strange signals. Signals, like a three fingered pointing, punching, palming, wave that his comrades would say "Hey, this guy is, from the point of view of our code, making no sense." Perhaps mythologies, such as people rising from the dead, or a couple of gods giving birth to the world, or a Xenu space opera, are all similarly the result of someone trying to use a language that is limited to describe a situation that goes beyong the limits of that language.
Secondly, I have thought about parables. "Parables" as in the ones that prophets in the Bible like to use. One time there was a prophet that met a king that was stealing someones wife. Instead of saying "You are stealing someones wife and that is bad," instead he told a story about a sheperd that had a lot of sheep but all the same stole sheep from another shepard that only had a few. The story he told, the parable he told, was an irreality. There was no sheperd stealing sheep. But in order to convey what he wanted to convey he had to use a irreal story. Why is that sometimes a parable, a metaphoric story, works better than a straight forward explanation of things? It seems to me that when you are trying to explain NOT what is, but what is not, what the listener has not seen, a mistake on the part of the listener, it helps to use a NON real story. If the prophet had said "You are taking someone else's wife" then the king may have said "Yeah, sure. What of it?" and his REAL story would have had no effect. But by talking about a story that is not real, he managed to get the king to see the mistake that he king was making. I wonder if mythologies may be like parables. Stories that are about IRREALITIES that make us see the mistakes that we are making. Normal stories are about the world. Parable stories (parabolic stories?) are about the mistakes, the world that we are not seeing.
So, however one understands mythology, whatever theory of mythology that one takes, it seems to me that really weird stories, i.e. mythologies, such as the story of Xemu, may be communicative even if they sound like BS.
Finally, returning to the weird mythology of Scientology. L Ron Hubbard said (1) that we are infested with aliens from the deep distant past. And (2) that we need to get rid of these aliens. Well, it seems to me that a lot of "scientists" also say that we, humans, are infested with aliens. That is to say that several psychologists argue that have 'others' within the self. Freud says that we have created a "super ego," based in some way upon our father or our idea or fatherhood, within ourselves. Jung says that we have an animus, that is somehow like a group of elders, guys, that populate our heads. Jamese Herbert Mead says that we create within ourselves a "generalised other" from an amalgam of the view points of ourselves that other people have. Hermans and Kempen (in their book "the dialogical self") argue taht this other is a multi-faceted, that we have relationships with a variety of others, fathers, mothers, friends, that we model within ourselves. All these so called "scientific" theories, by more-or-less respected scientists say that there are others within the self. Also, all these scientists do not recommend that we get rid of the others. Why not? They argue that the self, the self that we have, is dependent upon the internalisation of these others.
Buddhists recommend that people get rid of their "selves." Alas Buddhists do not talk too much about what is required of getting rid of the self. As far as I am aware, there is not all that much talk within Buddhism of "in order to get rid of your (false) self you must get rid of the others." But again afaik there is some talk within Buddhism of this sort of "other-ridding" endeavour.
I listened to a L Ron Hubbard speech about Xenu on the Internet. Towards the end he spoke about how he did not (seem to)approve of Christianity in a way, in that it perpetuated fractured, or "crucified" veiws of the self. All of the "Scientists" mentioned above, (not the Buddhists though) are from the Christian tradition. It seems to me that within Christendom, it is seen as normal and preferable to remain fractured, to keep those others in the self. (BTW I am conscious of the fact that I am using the word "self" to refer to two very different things).
Anyway, I can see sense in the call to "get rid of aliens within the self," from a Buddhist perspective at least. In that respect, the space opera, the mythology of Scientology makes a little bit of sense to me.
Finally, okay, why not just use Freud, Mead, Lacan, Hermans and Kempen, to talk about the others that are within the self? I am not sure. But perhaps the stories that these "scientists" tell do not make the situation sound weird enough. Reading Mead (Mead is pretty down to earth sort of guy) it sounds all so common place and normal and rational that one should have a "generalised other" inside oneself. Perhaps the advantage of telling people that they are infested with aliens is that (like a parable) it drives home the idea that we, the listeners, should be doing something about it: we should be trying to get rid of them.
I am reading a book in Japanese by Takano Youtarou called something like "The mystery of the mirror." In the book the author attempts to explain why reflections in mirros are right left reversed, and not up down reversed. He starts by summarising a lot of other explanations of why this phenomena occurs.
Then he says that there are two things going on. But before I say what he says is going on I will mention my own take, because I want to be able to say "I have told you so", and because I think that my take will be similar, and I want to see how similar it is, and because I think that I will say something a little different. I do think that mirrors are mysterious in a way, but more because I think that humans are mysterious or rather in error about themselves, ourselves. I am a sort of Buddhist. I think that there is a mistake going on in human consciousness, and perhaps mirrors are one way of getting to the nub of the human error.
Anway.... What about images in mirrors? Are they right left reversed, but not up and down reversed? Takano stress that mirrors are mysterious because they are right left, but not up down, reversed. First of all... 1) I have trouble ditinguishing my right and my left. When I am told to turn left or right, the first thing I do is look at my wrists, and see which side my watch is on and I know that is the left side, so I know which way to turn. I am not sure why I find it so difficult to tell which is right and left but I know I do. 2) I don't find the right left thing in mirrors very notable. It is almost like I feel it is obvious (even though I am sure that the author is right, it is mysterious). 3) I think that we don't really feel a "reversal" all the time. If I were to ask a hundred people, what appears strangely right left reversed in mirrors, then I think that there would be two answers that come up a lot. 3.1) The guy in the mirror (me) is wearing his watch on the other hand. 3.2) Writing is reversed in the mirror - mirror writing. at the same time, (3 continued) when I look at other things (other than myself and writing), e.g. a mirror showing what is behind me, I don't really feel that it is reversed. It looks quite normal, and unreversed. If it were displayed the other way around I would be inclined to think it strange.
The reversal feeling seems particularly strong for myself and writing but not for other things. So, it seems to me that writing and me body are particularly similar in having a reversal feeling about them. Going back to Takano Youtarou's book, I was surprised to find that he says that the secret to unravelling the mystery of the mirror is to realise that there are two things going on: one is when viewing oneself, another is when view letters (or rather these are the two examples that he uses). "Eh?" I thought. I have read a little bit futher, where he goes on to explain the first of the two mysteries, regarding viewing onself, and here I agree...He says that when viewing oneself ones right hand is on ones right in the mirror, and ones left hand is on ones left in the mirror but from the point of view of the "the guy in the mirror" it is reversed. This reversal he calls a bodily frame of reference. If we take the bodily frame of reference of the "guy in the mirror" then things might be assumed to be reversed, but they are not. Hmm...To be honest I thought that was the important point, and in a sense the only point. So I am not sure how he is going to say that letters are different. On the contrary it seems to me that letters and oneself are very simlar, as mentioned above. Letters and oneself are similar in that it is particularly these things that appear reversed. He says further, that unlike our bodies, letters are *really* reversed in the mirror. A "[" in a mirror looks like "]" so this is a more real reversal, than the right-left reversal that we feel occurs because we take the frame of reference of "the guy in the mirror." Okay the above is really as far as I have got in his book. First of all, with regard to myself in mirrors, It seems to me that I am up down reversed too.
Takano makes it clear that the mystery of the mirror is that we are right left reversed but not up down reversed. This was the first thing that I objected to in his book. The cover of his book shows a picture of someone standing on a mirror. The feet of the person standing on the mirror are toward the top of the book. Especially bearing that in mind, it seems strange to me that he should say that we are not up down reversed. It seems to me that whether I am standing on a mirror or not, when I look down toward my feet, at my torso and legs, my feet are toward the top of my visual field and my chest is towards the top of my visual field. I see a "Y" shape. When I look at at my torso and legs in a mirror, I see an upside down "Y" shape. This may not at first be obvious. This is the Y shape that I see when I look down at myself.
And this is the reverse Y shape that I see when I look at myself in a mirror. I am not quite this fat. The width at the top is due to perspective (in the previous image)!
When I look down at myself, I see something branching out toward the top of my visual field.
When I look in the mirror toward my legs, I see my legs branching out at the bottom of my visual field. Hence it seems to me that my view of myself in the mirror is reversed in the up-down axis as well as the right left axis. Having said that, I do not feel myself to be up-down reversed in a mirror. But then again, I do not feel myself to be right left reversed in a mirror either (perhaps because of my inability to tell left from right). Anyway, it seems to me that mirrors reverse me at least in the updown direction too.
Then when Takno says that letters are really reversed in the mirror I also have a problem. What does Takano mean by a letter? if you think of a letter on a page, then yes, letters in a mirror do seem reversed. But I have a three year old son that plays with plastic letter shapes. It seems to me that if you put plastic letter shapes in front of a mirror then they are not reversed at all. This is because one sees the rear of the plastic letters. An interesting thing about letters is that the usually, apart from the three year old's letter toys, usually only exist on planar surfaces of an opaque page. In order to make normal, written on a page, letters appear in a mirror, one has to turn the opaque surface around to point at the mirror. In turning the opaque surface around, one is reversing the letters. If on the other hand you write the letters on a piece of glass, or on the mirror itself then the letters are not reversed. A mirror is usually a piece of glass in front of a thin film of reflective surface (the "tain" of the mirror).
If you write on a mirror, the letters are not reversed. If you write on a page and then turn the page around then the letters are going to appear reversed because you have turned them around. Perhaps this is what Takano means by the assertion that the mystery of the mirror is different when applied to letters and ourselves. Perhaps he is right. All the same, it seems to me that the reason why we feel mirror letters are reversed is for the same reason that we feel our bodies are reversed: that we are positing a guy in the mirror. That is as about as far as I have got in my observations.
There are several theories of the human psyche that posit the existences of an other with the self.
Sigmund Freud says that we have a superego that is an internalisation of out father.
Jacques Lacan says that we have an Other (capital "O") that is, somehow, language perhaps but evolves out of our (m)other. Mother? I find Lacan pretty opaque.
Mikhail Bakhtin writes about a super-addressee, a someone that is always addressed as even we communicate to others.
James Mead (by far the most common sensical of this bunch, but still not easy to grasp) says that we have, or I guess simulate, a general perspective on ourselves.
Christians believe that there is a God that is omnipresent even to our own minds I presume.
Hermans and Kempen are saying a similar thing to Mead except they feel that the various imaginary listeners that we internalise may not form a generalised other, but rather that we have dialogical encounters with a great many simulated friends.
Markus and Kitayama argue that the the self is interdependent, at least for the Japanese, with others, and our relationship with them, helping to form self.
I am not sure if it can be called a theory, but the founder of Scientology, LRH, spoke "Space Opera" about aliens invading the earth and human bodies. I have heard a recording of his jovial drawl, and amused approving sounds from his audience. I think that he must have been being allegorical. If so the notion that our bodies are in some sense invaded by aliens finds expression in the psychological theories above.
How about in fiction? In Star Trek there is a sort of pizza thing that attaches itself to people. I think that it attached itself to Dr. Spock. Dr. Spock was able to free himself of the parasitic, controlling, cranial pizza by flying towards a sun. In some episodes of Dr. Who there were some spiders that attached themselves to the backs of humans that they then controlled. Another "Dr. Who" book which starts at a point in time when the Daleks are in control the world. The Daleks add a sort of hat or collar to humans by which they can control them. The "Dr. Who" book starts by recounting how a particular human kills himself in order that he is no longer a slave to the Daleks. In the Manga Paracyte (Kizeichuu), an alien rubber monster invades a young man's hand.
In Thus Spake Zarathustra, Nietzche speaks of a dwarf sitting on his shoulder. Numerous pirates have a parrot on their shoulder, for some reason. In Beyond the Pleasure Dome, the dwarf giant duo Master Blaster has the dwarf Master, sitting on the giant, Blaster's shoulders.
But I think that in most cases, stories can be out intra psychic others without specifically mentioning any penetration of the skull, or people sitting on other people's shoulders. The characters penetrate the story, and the story enters the viewers, and readers minds. In other words movies simply about people and their relationships can be re-enactments of the relationship that we have with ourselves.
This post was inspired by the short film "Happiness Tends to Infinity," (recommended) by Yinka Selley.
I met an engineer in a design room in the Stanmore branch of Marconi Defence systems, a missile company at which I worked. The design room was a Porta Cabin and the interior decor rather bleak. The engineer sat behind one of those drawing boards equipped with a mechanical set-square-come-ruler-thing.
He moved it adroitly, across plans for missiles, I presume. Prior to working for Marconi, he had been in the Navy and had travelled the world. He had a different equation of happiness, which was based on one of Newton’s’ laws, the second I think. Newton's second law is often expressed as
or force equals mass times acceleration.
Of these the engineer equated force with happiness and velocity with materialistic states of being including health, and acceleration with changes in these states. I am not sure if how mass figured in the equation but perhaps it has something to do with attachment - the number of people with whom one shares things being a major, but not determining factor. The above equation can be rewritten as
Force = mass x (velocity2 - velocity1)/time
Which may be substituted for
Happiness = attachment x (state1 - state2)/time
In other words people feel happiness when they are “getting there”, but not when they have got there. Or that that states - such as being rich, being healthy, or whatever - do not himself or herself cause happiness or unhappiness. Happiness cannot be stored or accumulated. The engineer’s equation seemed quite plausible, at the time.
Bearing in mind that life tends to draw an arc, which ends in death, while on the rise our achievements bring us happiness as long as we do not achieve them, and in the longer term at least for the second part the general trend is down. Given a steady state, or one which is not changing much,
Happiness/Sadness = attachment * (state1 - state2)/time
If state1 = state2 then Happiness = 0
The engineer recommended marriage (this was the topic of our conversation, and how he had ended up in Stanmore) as a way of introducing waves (up and downs) into ones life, without which there would be no happiness, so he claimed.
Interestingly, this equation is almost the reverse of that proposed by Yinka Selley.
This does not mean that either is incorrect.
On the contrary, perhaps zero and infinity meet! In my limited experience of Buddhism the reduction of attachment is said to result in being ultimately free from suffering. This is pretty darn good. And sometimes accompanied by rapture. And, attachment and anticipation are clearly linked. I am not sure how.... perhaps attachment is anticipation frozen, or the attempt.
Recently in the fields of cosmology and philosophy there are a lot of scientists and philosophers getting revved up about the anthropic argument.
The anthropic arguement (or rather arguements, since there are many of them) start from the assertion that the universe seems to be "finely tuned" for human life. In otherwords, had any of the 20 or so contstants of the physical universe been very slightly different, then there would not have been the conditions for life.
There are a number of papers on the Internet that describe the ways in which the universe appears to be finely tuned, this excellent site introduces most of them indetail and this excellent summary covers the main ones.
Scientists and theologians give a number of explanations as to the reason for this apparent fine tuning.
In the physics and cosmology community there has been a tendency to explain the lucky chance of fine tuning through the assertion that this universe is only one of very many universes, perhaps an infinite number. And in most of the others life did not arise. We should not however be surprised, they argue, that there was one universe in which there exists the conditions for life. The assertion that there are an infinite number of universes raises problems of its own. But, nonetheless, "the multiverse," hypothesis tends to be the response of the scientific community.
On the other hand, a great number of Christian theologians, are very pleasantly surprised by the recognititon of "fine tuning," and use it as proof that they were right all along. This paper, by a Dr Hugh Ross, a Christian, describes 16 ways in which the Universe was fine tuned to be a "fit habitat" for us to exist. Dr. Ross claims that the only way that this coincidence could have happened is if there were a divine intelligence at work creating a universe tuned to our needs.
Another way of refuting the fortutious-ness of the universe is to describe it in terms of "an observer effect." In other words, had the universe not been such as to support observers, then there would not have been anyone around observe the universe and note upon, or be thankful for the lucky chance. Hence, in a sense, some argue, the universe could not have been any other way. The majority of the scientific community however, reject this arguement asserting that there could have been universes that did not become aware of their own existance by nurturing life. Hence, it is argued, it remains fortuitous that this universe is one which is observed.
Nonetheless, arguement in support of some sort of observer effect is quite strong. The fact that that the universe is fine tuned to our needs sure has something to do with the fact that we are the ones that is observing it. But what?
It seems quite possible to explain the fine tuning of the universe based upon the Buddhist assertions that the universe is illusory. Another way of putting this is to assert a Strong Athropic Principle, as a Strong Observation Effect: the universe is the product of observation, it is an observable world.
According to my understanding of the Buddhist world view, what we call "the universe" is described as being an illusion, due to the fact that it is "relative", or an anthropic interpretation of something more complex. Thus what we call "the universe" exists ony as one point of view and is not itself the ultimate reality. Hence, the answer as to why the universe is finely tuned would then become a direct product of the strong observer effect; we are observing an observable universe because "the universe" is an observation.
Mathematically, perhaps, is rather similar to the "multiple universe," answer to why the universe appears to be finely tuned, except that instead of proposing that there are many other universes existing lifelessly elsewhere, those other universe exist here all around us as aspects of the same ultimate reality that we cannot observe. Under this interpretation, that which we call "The universe" becomes, not one real possible world among many, but our "observational world," our "interpretation of", our "handle upon," a reality which is far more complex. Since our universe is only an observation, and not the ultimate reality, there is nothing in the slightest surprising about the fact that it is observable.
I find the Anthropic Arguement quite shocking because it seems to me to signal the end of science as we know it. Most scientists like to believe that they are unvieling being. And in a sense they are. But the existance of fortutious coincidences should encourage them to belive that their unvieling processes is radically bounded by the nature of human powers of observation, and that the universe they hae in their hands at the moment is only a theory about the universe and not "the real thing".
Very few people are aware of the relativity of their view of the world, so this is not only the problem of scientists, of course.
As mentioned in a previous entry, science started to puzzle me when I was told that nothing could travel faster than the speed of light. This seemed to be particularly fortuitous since light happens to be the medium of our fastest sense.
Science purports to tell us about the universe, about the whole of everything in all its possibilities. It thus seemed very strange to me that the universe in entirity should have a speed limit. Even if electro-magnetic waves can not travel faster than a certain speed surely there should be other waves, or things that move with a non-wave-like motion, perhaps with an "arfdarf" motion, should be able to move faster than light. Or even if matter cannot travel faster than like then shouldn't there be some "smatter," with an entirely different composition, that can travel faster than the speed of light. One would think that in the universe, there should be possibilities for a lot more than the theory of relativity allows.
I am purposefully using nonsense words, like "arfdarf" and "smatter" since I wish to refer to things that we have not yet, and perhaps even cannot ever observe, or concieve of. If science is describing the whole of everything, then the rules it proposes should be big enough to cope with things that are beyond our understanding. But science insists that the fastest speed that *anything* can travel is the speed of light. Does this sound plausible?
The fact that we have an organ for sensing the fastest thing in the universe seems is a little strange. Dogs may rely on their sense of smell, bats upon sonar, but humans rely on a sense organ that uses the fastest medium in the universe. I am not sure what evolution will hold in store for the human race over the coming eons, but it would seem that in terms of our choice of sense medium, we are at the pinnacle of the possible.
This strikes me as being rather fortuitous. It also raises another possibility. Is it not possible that, rather than assuming that light travelling at the speed limit of the universe, we may instead postulate that light only travells at the speed limit of the universe that we may select. Perhaps there are lots of things that travel faster than light but we are simply not able to sense them. Not so fast....
Einstein's equations are both predictive and applied. The theory of relativity predicted the existance of compacted "neutron stars" at the end of their life. These were first observed in 1967, more than 50 years after Einstien put pen to paper. And Einstein's equations were used in the making of the atomic bombs that killed so many inhabitants of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The theory of relativity is not one which can simply be shrugged off because the theory stands as a foundation of who we understand the universe.
Imagine Einstein was a Bat
Imagine the cosmology of a bat, assuming that the bat is blind, and that it is using sound waves to judge the distances between itself and the nearest objects in its universe. The bat is of course unable to see light.
Since (let us assume at least) bats are unable to sense anything that moves faster than sound, bullets and other things that travel faster than sound, must be difficult for bats to comprehend. The bat scientists might postulate that their brethren are liable to spontaneously explode when in the presence of human's with steel sticks.
Or perhaps not? Would they realise that some things travel faster than the speed of sound? That would depend upon how they understood their universe, whether or not they understood it in a "batty" way.
A "batty way" of seeing the world is one which is based upon a sonar screen view of the world, where being sonar-detectable has conditioned the way that matter, time and space and velocity is understood. In this batty world view, matter, that which exists, would be defined in terms of its sonar-detectability. This is not to say that everything in their world shows up on the sonar screen. If the bats bumped into sheets of silk that do not reflect sound then the bats may presume that there are somethings that are sonar transparent. But these "sound-transparent" things will be understood upon the metaphor of other objects that do appear on the sonar screen. Other things, such as the colours of the setting sun, things that Bats will never become aware of, will not be given existance in their batty science. In other words, in a batty sceince, their understanding of space and matter would be governed by being detectable by sonar, and sonar-detectability will have got in at the ground floor of their world view.
We are told that, when Einstein was 16, in 1895, he asked himself a question which was to lead to the discovery of relativity.
"If I pursue a beam of light with the velocity c I should observe such a beam of light as a spatially oscillatory electromagnetic field at rest. However, there seems to be no such thing, whether on the basis of experience or according to [the theory of electricity and magnetism]. From the very beginning it appeared to me intuitively clear that, judged from the standpoint of such an observer, everything would have to happen according to the same laws as for an observer who, relative to the earth, was at rest. For how, otherwise, should the first observer know, i.e.. be able to determine, that he is in a state of uniform motion?"
If we look carefully at this statement we can see that, while Einstein mentions field theory in passing it is not field theory that is the basis for his initial observations. The thrust of the arguement is based upon intuitive assessment of the conditions for observation, experience, and determinability.
Einstien's argument can be re-written from the point of view of a bat. If a bat flying at the speed of sound where to attempt to 'look' at the sound he were flying alongside, he would like Einstein say "there is no such thing," "on the basis of experience." Again, for the bat also, it would appear "intuitively clear that everying would have to happen according to the same laws as for a bat who was at rest. For how else would the nearly supersonic bat know, *i.e. be able to determine,* that he is flying so fast." As we can see, for the bat and for Einstien, the possibility of going at speed depends upon the determinability of that speed. And for determinability, both the bat and Einstein can only appeal to their best methods of determining.
This is not a problem faced only by bats and Einstien. Einstien certainly did not create the problem. We all understand the world in terms of how we observer it. Einstien became aware of the fact observability was getting in at the ground floor of our understanding of space and time. Once we realise that our "space" is a light observable space, then it becomes apparent that some strange things will have to happen to objects that fly at close to the speed of the medium (light, sound) that is defining space, and speed itself. At speeds close to the medium that was used to define space and speed, then there will enevitably be the sort of bending of mass and time as described by Einstien.
But what I would like to assert is that this bending takes place in the "observable world" of the observer, because it the direct result of an observation effect. "The universe" being defined by Einstien and modern scientists is an observable world, or a humans' eye view.
That being the case then, we can ask "what would happen if we move a bat (or Einstien) faster than the speed of sound (or light)?" While it is very difficult to move at anything like the speed of light, it would be quite easy to move the poor unsuspecting bat at speeds seven times that of sound. The bat, of course, would not be able to tell what is happening to him. It might even seem to the bat as if time stood still, or the bat is flying back in time, as it caught up with sounds that had flown off into the distance. To the bat, it would be a very mind expanding experience, that will not make sense to the bat. However the bat would make it to familiar places fast.
I do not think that it will ever be possible to accerate humans to speeds anything close to that of the speed of light. However if Einstien's theory is an observational effect then by comparison with the bat, in theory at least "hyperspace" is perhaps possible.
I read years later that Einstien knew he was batty. He gained inspiration for his theory of relativity from Ernst Mach, of Headless picture fame, who said (in his "the science of Mechanics) "Nature is composed of sensations as its elements.... Sensations are not signs of things; but, on the contrary, a thing is a thought-symbol for a compound sensation of relative fixedness. Properly speaking the world is not composed of "things" as its elements, but of colors, tones, pressures, spaces, times, in short what we ordinarily call individual sensations." (p. 579)
I.e. Einstien was aware that nothing goes faster light not because there is any speed limit of any kind, but because nothing goes faster than sensations, because that is what the world is. The world that does not faster than light is the world of sensations, it is our batty, human world.
It also occurs to me now, in 2012, that if special relativity is a batty, "sensational" effect then there should be some apparent retrocausality around. Consider the world of bats. Occasionally bats get shot by bullets traveling faster that sound. In the disucssion above I suggested that bats might "postulate that their brethren are liable to spontaneously explode when in the presence of human's with steel sticks," but they would also sonar the movement of the gun, and hear the bang as it goes off, *after* one of their brethren has been blow away. I.e. from a bat's point of view, there appears to be retrocausality, effects preceeding causes. On this batty "sensational" view of relativity, one would expect there to be some retrocausility occuring in our world too. Why isn't there more "spooky action at a distance"?
It could be that retrocausal events are rare, just as bullets are rare in the world of bats. Or that there are retrocausal events but we are not noticing them, believing the events to be independent. Or it could be that we really are lucky enough to be able to percieve the fastest stuff in the universe, but that strikes me as being as implausible as the existence of god. Indeed a "sensational" theory of special relativity, in the absense of retrocausality, might even be used as a proof of the existance of god. If special relativity is based on the limits of our senses, and there are no retrocausal events occuring, then we really are at the limit, seeing the whole of the universe. Man would be the measure of all things. That we, an evolutionary blink away from goats, should be so lucky almost suggests divine intervention! My money is on the existence of superluminal hidden variables, such as "pilot waves."
That Einstien read Mach:
The above quote from Mach
Related Books and Articles
Albert Einstein "Relativity: The special and General Theory"
David M. Harrison "Special Theory of Relativity" (a superb introduction)
Thomas Nagel What is it like to be a bat? [From The Philosophical Review LXXXIII, 4 (October 1974): 435-50.]
Sadly this article does not address relativity but it does address the problem of explaining things that are beyond the listener's power to observe.
While I am fan of science there are some things about the scientific outlook that I find rather absurd or arrogant. I call this the following the arguement from humility. It is not my own. I first read about it in more than one aphorism of Friedrich Nietzsche.
(I) Science generally upholds a principle of non-contradition.
(II) Science demonstrates to us that humans are *uttterly* insignificant when compared to the universe. Science demonstrates we are in our size, our similarity to other things numerous, the time we have existed, and the fortuitousness of our existance, *utterly* insignificant.
Spatially, science tells us that we are extremely small. If the solar system were scaled down to the size of a house, then the earth would be much smaller than a grain of sand. But, we are told the solar system is itself a spec within the galaxy and the galaxy but a spec within the universe.
Temporally, we are also, apparently tiny in terms of the length of human history to date. If the life of the world were compressed to 24 hours then the arrivale of humans would occur three seconds before midnight. Compared to the age of the world the life of any individual human is of course fleeting in the extreme. It is no surprise then that the world view of youngers (the basic tenets of science are taught at schools) and the world view of the ancient Greeks, are not so different from the world view held by scientists.
In terms of our uniqueness, we share 97% of the same genetic material with an earthworm, more than 99% with other mammals and about 50% with a banana.
In terms of our fortuitousness, we are, science tells us, the product of chance.
We are of a level of utter insignificance that, science shows us, boggles the mind. We are, science tells us, a virus that lives fleetingly upon cosmic dust. For all intents and purposes, we are dust.
(III) However, Science claims that this dust, that we are, knows a lot about the universe. That for instance we know the limits of the universe (the fastest speed "c", the smallest mass). Or that we dust that we are can conject about the origins and end of the universe.
Oh, let us laugh loud and strong! Such, preposterous vanity!
How could anything as small as the human pretent to understand something so vast as the universe? How could anything so short lived as the human pretent to understand the universe? Even though we don't believe that earthworms, cats, or even monkeys understand the universe, we are prepared to believe that we know the limits of the universe. While it is difficult to see how chance could have evolved something as complex as the eye, Dawkin explains how this could have been acheived in this recent book "Climbing Mount Improbable." However Dawkin is convincing with his explanation of the evolution of the eye, can he be so convincing with regard to the theory of evolution, or the theory of relativity. How could chance have created a mechanism that would understand creation?
It is true that sciences has acheived a lot. We have learnt to fly, make nice electronic gadgets, life enhancing medical equipment and some awesome bombs. However these achievements are only such as to allow us to double or triple our life expectancy, move around our speck of dust quite quickly or destroy ourselves still more quickly.
But that we have framed the universe in our equations, that we have understood it substance, its beginnings, is limits, it mechanisms, this "achievement" is reaching far beyond our time and place.
In my own field, that of psychology, we are shown the extent to which humans are inclined to overestimate themselves. It is called "self-enhancement," and it is so pronounced that only the those that are clinically depressed are inclined to understand themselves correctly.
Rather than assume that some cosmic bacteria has understood the whole of everything, it seems much more plausible to me to assume that this is a vain misapprehension.
This is not to say that science teaches us nothing. But that we should interpret the limits that it teaches us as being limits upon our world, the world that we can understand, the world that we observer, the world that we experience, the world that we mistake for the real thing.
Recently I played a game called "Scrabble Brand Sentence Cube Game," a Scrabble (r) spin-off provided by Selchow and Righter in the early sententies.
The game consists of 21 dice on the faces of which are printed short common words, such as "man," "leg," "walk," "kiss." The object of the game is to make sentences, which may be interlocking, within a given period of time (approximately 3 minutes) as timed by an egg timer.
Mis-reading the rules, and failing to note the bonus of 50 per sentences longer than 7 words, I presumed that the longer the sentence the merrier. And I did find it quite merry. Here are some of the sentences that I came up with:
"Baby saw how they live off a young beast and it is too bad his old lady did kiss, bare" (using 20 of the 21 dice)
"How bare a heart may he let love, my boy ran on up her new live work, not any cold felt" (using all 21 of the dice)
My, who is Japanese, wife managed
"They who time his old foot smell, laugh and ran out with a big part which felt new." (Using 18 of the dice)
Now, the thing is that while as a game, the "Scrabble Sentence Cube Game"
is not one I would recommend, I found making the largely non-sensical sentences to be particularly amusing - I laughed heartily - and even cathartic.
Now there is a certain sexual element to the above sentences that might, in a particularly inhibited mind, give rise to laughter. But it seemed to me that it was merely the ability to place words in grammatically correct but largely non-sensical order that caused my merriment.
Drawing on Freud's view of cause of laugher as the controlled return of the repressed, what repressed libinal drive might account for laughter at the ability to create nonsense?
From a Lacanain point of view, perhaps nonsense (the shaggy dog story?
the absurd?) may present the ultimate in comedy since it threatens what he calls the prohibition of the father. According the Lacan, the father prohbits not only that we give up our desire to be (re) united with our mother, but also that we confine ourselves, or even create ourselves, within the bounds, or topos, of language. After that moment that the father banishes us to the world of language, I am as I think myself, in language.
In this light, perhaps, the "Scrabble Sentence Cube Game" plays out the boundaries of the signified, and allows the return of something primally repressed: that we are, in , bounded by language and continually hopping from one signifier to another.
Or perhaps, simply, I simply have a purile sense of humour? There must be others like me. I recommend the Scrabble Sentence Cube Game to all those that are feeling a bit uptight and generally repressed.
Do you believe in Buddhism? It sounds reasonable enough to me. I thought the other day that I ought explain Buddhism more. It is the sort of thing that needs explaining, cause there are so many people, even Japanese people or tibet people that probably think that Buddhism is a lot of codswollop.
Buddshism, I was taught, diverged from Hinduism when it taught that there is no self. The taught that the self is god. Or that the self is the world. "I am food, I am food," "I am the eater of food," "I am the navel of the universe." And if this doesn't sound unrealistic enough, the Buddhist came along and said that they did not believe in the self either. There is nothing, the void, chaos, or perhaps buddha nature.
This sounds very strange. How could anyone believe such a wacko thing? There is nothing? Or why is there supposed to there is some sort of ancient Indian lingering around here?
Buddhism is not so strange. First and foremost, Buddhism is just humble. The main thing that Buddhism is saying is that, however we view the world, our understanding of the world resembles real world as it is very little indeed. Our perception of the world, me, this keyboard, the room, my wife, our dog, all laid out in space, with three or four dimensions? This conception of the world, in the mind of a large bacillus, bears so little resemblance to the world "as it really is," that it is a joke. The real world...Nothing so prosaic as the bottle humands that we see in the first film in the Wachowski brothers trilogy. Perhaps "reality" has four thousand three hundred and five and a half dimensions, or it is a speck of trifle under the fingernail of a giant whose world exists as a spect of trifle. Perhaps time runs forwards and backwards, or perhaps it runs in both directions, or not at all. Perhaps there are many different types of time, or perhaps there are many different types of "many-ness," of mulitiplicity. Perhaps, just sticking to the dimensions, there are several oogle ways of their being plurality and the "number of dimensions" is very plural in all of them. What of thingness? Or space? These lumps of stuff that I presume spread out in field of light? This speck of a thing that is me, this microbe, presumes that my model of reality has anything to do with the real thing? Jest not!
But it all seems so real. There is me, and there is the keyboard. There is space and there is time. It should be noted that while I go about my day to day business being fairly confident about all this stuff being here, I am pretty much at a loss to what all these things really are. Space? Well space is space. But time? What is that when it is at home? And me? I have no idea what I am. Or rather I do. I have this "model." I think I am me.
Buddhism says it is all cobblers and tells us to flush our minds of the junk. Here I perhaps part company with the Buddhists. They are really sure that when one flushes ones mind of the myths of person hood and thingness, space and time, then one sees the truth, the absolute. It seems to me that this is very unlikely. By switching off my mind I may get as close to the world as is possible it still seems that it is a long way away.
Indeed perhaps the void Nirvana is just as far from the world as this state of caught-up-in-the-illusion ignorances is. After all my powers of conceptualisation are the best that I have. But then again, I don't think that Buddhism denies that. One does not switch off ones mind exactly but one sees it for what it is. Usually I do not do this. Normally I believe in the maps that I am making and think I am one of the symbols that I have created on my map.
Should one ever meet the map maker then I personally do not think that presto one will have seen all and known everything. One will not, as Plato claimed, have seen the froms which our symbols replicate. But on the contrary one will have seen the chaos that we are are trying to make sense out of. Seeing the chaos is probably a very enlightening thing. I am that much of a Buddhist. It is the ulitmate in Socratic Wisdom. If you get in a cave and or chant for long enough then you may get a glimpse, in a flash of inspiration, of the wierd enormity of the blamange that you are tring to make sense out of.
Whatever happens, I am very likely to be wrong about what the world is at the moment.
It seems to me that the purposes, that the greater part of school education is
geared towards, is dumbing down or (more politely) "socialisation" and that
students that are heavily dd-ed or socialised, get certain rewards, such as
"good jobs," big cars and and desirable partners.
Now then, there may be some particularly hard nosed students that are able to
accept that the "content" of what they are is relevant only as 'pumping iron for
the brain,' so that then can prove how much they can brutalise themselves
(or "train their mind"). However, most students want to believe that the learning
content is useful, *not* just in the sense of being a means to get grades, jobs,
and cars etc.
Hence educators are faced with a dilemma.
Leaving aside purist attempts to be Rudolf Stiener, swimming teachers, heavily
vocationally oriented teachers and some language teachers; there are some teachers
that are in the lucky position of imparting content that is useful to students but I
would say that they are in the vast minority. Most of us are in the business of
Accepting this fact, the dilemma for me is, in order to get students to study
it seems necessary to *lie*. In order to help them to get all those consumer
rewards (that most of them want), praise, and good grades, it seems necessary
to lie, at least by omission, and encourage students to believe that the content
they are learning will actually be useful to them.
This dilemma was brought home to me recently after auditing the class of a
"very good", motivating teacher teacher. As well as having an excellent command
of his subject, he also told his students how much he loved the subject and how
much he wanted them to gain the same enjoyment that he gained from it.
The students were very enthused and grade-wise, he gets very good results.
1) The small percentage of students likely to use and enjoy the content of
what he was teaching are those that are like him, going to be teachers.
2) For most of the students the content is likely to be utterly useless to
However, by convincing the students that the content is useful/fun-to-non-teachers,
he achieves what many educators, his superiors, and the students themselves
view as good results. However, I don't think he was lying. He and many "good
educators" seem to be oblivious to the fact that what they are teaching is only of
use to people like themselves. They seem to be thinking "I am using and enjoying
this, so the students can too," without considering the different circumstances that
students are likely to face. My guess is that they are able to block the lives of
their students from their minds, partly deliberately, and partly
What I am wondering is, is there a teaching theory or ethic, that recognises this
dilemma, and looks at it full in the face.
I know of one: Esoteric Buddhism. It starts with the premise that it is necessary
to teach pupils not-the-whole-truth, saving the the-whole-truth for later since
fresh students would give up if you hit them with the big whammy at the beginning.
I really feel that there is a need for a theory of "esoteric education."
In the extreme, an Esoteric theory of education might encourage teachers to tell
their students that what they are learning is dreadfully important and so encourage
them to study. Then finally, it might recommend that teachers get together with
students, after the exams, and say "This was all pap, but you are going to go to
an Ivy League school, and get fat pay checks, so let us celebrate." Doing this
might be better than never telling them the whole-truth, in the manner of the "good
teacher" mentioned above.
It might be argued that it is valuable, for the students, to never be told the truth
of the inutility of what they are learning. Or that there is some sort of valuable
epifany to be had when the penny drops and the student realises that the content
of his or her studies had little utility other than to teachers. Even so, even if this
is a theory book that should be kept out of reach of children, for educators at least.
Finally, on a more positive note, perhaps it is possible to have what I would call
a theory of mythical education, where students too would be encouraged to engage
in the process of equivocation, and make their own dreams and myths.
In this, more democratic approach, teachers would be encouraged to give
students the techniques for learning, consistent with constructivist, "student centered"
principles, including the ability to equivocate for themselves.
For example, consider the case of someone teaching French to a group of students
that have little opportunity to use it. The teacher may
1) Overemphasise the opportunities to use and enjoy French blindly (the "good,
2) Overemphasise the opportunities to use and enjoy French, as a lie
3) Tell the students the boring truth about the lack oppotunities to speak French,
that there are innumerable opportunities, but they are very unlikely to be realised.
Then instruct the students in ways of overemphasising the likelihood of these
opportunities materialising for themselves. There is nothing particularly insidious
about this. It is sometimes called "Image training," and the techniques are varied.
Just hanging a poster depicting France on ones wall, reading something about
France, seeing some French films. All these things may be encouraged by
"conventional" teachers, and this mythical education only puts a new spin on them.
E.g. the purpose of as making a penpal abroad is not "to practice French" (the
amount of practice will in fact be miniscule) but create the sentiment, the expectation,
the myth that one will have the opportunity to practice French. The purpose of
this education would be to provide students with the mythmaking skills required
to enable the students to dumb themselves down, in the recognition that his is
what they really want to do.
This sort of theory needs to be founded on a philosophy which recognises the
*utility* and healthiness of non-truth. I am thinking of Lacan's view of the mature self
(as misrecognition) and Neitzsche's appraisal of truth
Friedrich Neitsche 1876 The Birth of Tradegy
What nationality is Neil Diamond? I am not sure. But he made a lot of good songs. One of them is "Forever in Blue Jeans."
Forever In Blue Jeans is a nice song by Neil Diamond about a guy, with a deep voice saying that he would much rather be poor all his life (wearing bluejeans) if he can have his women by him, "by the fire," with the "sound of her sighs." Please have a listen to the song. I like the opening lines:
Yeah, Neil, we don't need money eh? If we can just have a singing, dancing, walking, woman around then who needs that money stuff? Who needs the car, the house, the company (longer list)? Who wants to become a beetle?
Yeah, you bet Neil! I would like to do a bit of sex in front of a fire without having to pay! Are you kidding Neil? You sound as if you are being radical! You jest surely!
When I was young I believed him. I believed that it was simply a matter of choosing the "forever in blue jeans" option. As if I had that choice! So young, so naive! I walked through the streets of London, where I grew up, gazing at all those massive buildings (that someone owns), at all those Jaguar cars and shop windows and thought, in images, "I would live in a ditch with my darling."
Forget Neil young! I did not even want jeans! Jeans! What luxury! Give me a crust of bread, a place out of the wind and a partner, I will dance and make believe. I will play and play forever.
Little did I know that I wanted a female partner. Little did I know that I wanted into her panties. Little did I know that in order to get her panties off "by the fire" that I would have to earn, not as much as Neil Diamond, but more than the price of some second hand Levis.
I was not the only one to be bemused. The song "Marelene on the Wall" by a very intelligent American Suzanne Vega, is about a woman that "gives away the goods too soon," and does not talk about it later. What did Suzanne have to talk about? Why did she feel that her lovers are "soldiers" that "butcher" her? I think that Suzanne made a gallant attempt to not take part in the game.
A lot of Western women are not aware that they have to be prostitues. They don't have to be prostitues. But if they are not prostitutes then their children will get less education than those children whose mothers do prositute themselves. Again, if women are not prostitutes, and choose to work, then they are sure to meet the abuse and the severe brutalising competition of all those men that are working to pay their lovable prostitue back home. Suzanne was very brave, but she is changing. Get on down Suzanne!
You know the story of Adam and Eve? What did that apple eating mean? Why should finding out that you are naked have such dire consequences (death)?
This seems to be something that has been hidden since the beginning of the world. So I am not sure how to begin. The message, in nutshell, is that, a woman found some food and her sexuality, or her sexuality and some food. Or in other words, for humans, "apples is sex" and "sex is apples". So, what does this mean?
Here it is - the truth unfolds here at Jblog at last!
Men pay women (some money or apples) to get their kit off.
You knew? Well I guess we all knew. There is no big deal. But I think that the ramifications are massive. Indeed, that is all there is to it! That is all there is to life, art philosophy and religion! The bible? Kafka? Plato? They are all about the same thing. It is as simple as that!
It could have been the other way around. Women like sex too, but perhaps men like it a bit more frequently. If men had been smart and said "no way lady" then we could have been the ones that, like lions, get our food brought to us in merely as thanks for being male. But as it happens, Eve and a lot of other female humans can get fed by taking their kit off. "Kit" means clothes. Women get paid for their sex.
The long and short of this is that women have the option of being, and a most of them take it up, prostitutes. And so they are well advised to do, under the present circumstances, since this is the way of the world.
I am not saying that that it would be likely or preferable, but I happen to think that it could have been the other way around. That things ended up in this way is largely luck. Men ended up paying women for their sex organs. Or in a different way, men pay with their muscles and mind for the sex organs of women. And women pay with their sex organs for the muscles and minds of men.
The conclusion? The truth is that I am not sure that this is the meaning of The Myth of the Fall. But it seems to me that it is a damn good myth; that means that it is meaningful. And I think that the meaning is lingering around this neck of the woods; the myth has something to do with the disovery of sex, the concealment of sex, and the arrival of a new hithertoo forbidden source of food. It also means that we will die. Strange that. I think that it may also mean that we live! More on this later.