Reality is a Funny Thing

» Reality is a funny thing. [ « I've always wanted to begin an entry that way. =) ]

T. S. Eliot, who has been called "arguably the most important English-language poet of the 20th century" said » "Genuine poetry can communicate before it is understood."

I lied in my ad. I hate Wallace Stevens.Most would agree, I think. Certainly I have found this to be true, myself.

Heck, from a certain perspective, unconscious 'cognition' is the very essence of poetry. Certainly good poetry.

Thomas seems to suggest there is such a thing as 'ungenuine' poetry.

However, the more intriguing question here, is » HOW this is done. Or maybe even » how is this even possible? [ Geeks always wanna know HOW shit works. ]

The poet's secret. Maybe they dont even know.

Have a gander, for example, at a little poem by Wallace Stevens (1879-1955 .. taken from Notes Toward a Supreme Fiction, published 1942) .. which I found perfectly centered on a page at the beginning of a biographical novel about Tolstoy's last year (1910). See here:

There was muddy center before we breathed.
There was a myth before the myth began,
Venerable and articulate and complete.

From this the poem springs: that we live in a place
That is not our own and, much more, not ourselves
And hard it is in spite of blazoned days.

Wallace has also been known to say » "Reality is a product of the most august imagination." THAT is a big sentence .. which I happened to find [ NOT so perfectly centered ] at the beginning of a book titled » Proust was a Neuroscientist.

» Who is Wallace Stevens?

I have never heard of Wallace Stevens before (I dont think) .. and all of a sudden he's popping up (consecutively, no less) ..

.. as the author of words that convey concepts which have been specially selected by an author to foreshadow an entire text. Seems like such an unlikely coincidence.

Perhaps Wallace knows something that I need to learn. Cuz his poem seems to 'affect' me .. tho I'm not sure why.

Perhaps a better way to say this would be » it speaks to me. But what is it speaking?

Or maybe he is just a poet whose time has come. Maybe he was ahead of his time. Most poets are ahead of their time .. antennae of the race.

In the 'Proust' title I have found many head-bending concepts. And that is the point .. as referred to by Mr. Stevens .. about the Nature of Reality [NoR].

Our perception of reality, he implies, is based on us .. cuz we are the ones with » imagination .. and therefore a necessary condition / ingredient / component of observed events .. and therefore 'reality'.

So .. reality. It's a funny thing, dawg.

Just watch a Conservative Republican debate with a Liberal Democrat about the nature of 'reality' .. and you will see what I mean. Each one is CERTAIN the other is dishonest, evil or downright insane. How can that be?

When both parties, it would certainly seem, are listening to the same candidates say the same things .. sitting there in the same audience .. listening to the same debate. I find this remarkable.

I dont want to delve very far into the concepts presented in this title. But any time you start to consider consciousness and the nature-of-reality .. as experienced by we humans .. it becomes something of a mind-warp ..

.. seeing how/that a large part of consciousness [ ALL of it? ] is derived from and dependent upon (consists of) ELECTRICAL SIGNALS .. firing in different parts the brain at different times, in different sequences ..

.. in virtually unlimited, but measurable ways (electrically speaking).

» Dr. J Robert Oppenheimer (1904-1967) | Father of the Atomic BombEars to Hear

In other words, the mind does the seeing. Not the eyes. The mind does the hearing, not the ears.

And it is VERY interesting to see what happens when you CONTRAST ..

.. the results you get when considering the soul and human perception in the 'context' (in light of) of the findings of science/physics .. and vice versa ..

.. by which I mean .. considering the findings of Science in the context of the Soul .. we, us, humans .. what we see / perceive.

Talk about head bending. I have much to say about insights here, tho my thoughts arent yet clear enough. But it has to do with an interesting contrast.

Contrast makes it easier to see things. Things that have to do with the way (how) we define reality.

In order for our notion of reality to be congruent with our experience of it .. it becomes necessary for us to make certain assumptions. But sometimes these assumptions imply/assert certain concepts ..

.. which come with their own set of problems .. that we'd rather not deal with right now. (Such as the case with Einstein & Oppenheimer.)

Skipping over a vast steppe of logic and supporting evidence .. we arrive at the following unsettling inference » the physical world (as we EXPERIENCE it) is merely an ILLUSION.

So ... now what? Let's say that the physical world REALLY IS (merely an illusion). What now?

I see two suggestions:

  1. explore the Inner world (.. just like Eastern religions espouse) .. cuz that's all you/we would have left
  2. seek peace, quiet, tranquility .. so as to better accomplish #1 above

UPDATE - Okay .. I went back and re-read the preceding section .. and it is clear that this topic is difficult to discuss in abstract terms. But getting specific would take time I had not committed to.

But I have gone back and updated today's entry .. to include more detail regarding this nascent insight .. regarding 'connections' .. making new connections.

Posted near the end. Tho you should probably wait until you get there. Cuz those ideas are (admittedly) not very developed. But I figure, while I'm on the topic, why not? Seems like the time is right to mention them .. raw as they might be.

You cant miss the section when you get to it. It is the one that talks about 'connections' .. while comparing and contrasting the mind/brain with the internet/hyperlink.

And the implications (.. for the species) of that similarity. Very nice head torque. Might wanna go wash off your mouth-guard. =)

» Thinking about Thoughts and the Exhilarating Dizzy of Recursive Consciousness

Anyway .. whenever I really get to "thinking about thoughts" .. and find myself at the place where the mind becomes aware of itself ..

.. I find myself getting this cool intellectually dizzy effect .. like a dog chasing its tail .. the mind chasing one thought which is racing after the other .. at the speed of light. Very cool. Yoga for the brain.

The gist of the 'Proust the Neuroscientist' book (© 2007, by Jonah Lehrer) is » artists of the 19th and early 20th century (painters, writers, composers, etc.) ANTICIPATED DISCOVERIES about the mind in "tangible, concrete" ways that modern Neuroscience is only now beginning to re-discover today.

Albert Einstein (1879-1955) Patron Saint of Rebellious Children EverywhereNot that the soul doesnt need science, but rather that science can learn from the soul. When you think about it, it kinda becomes » "Duh" .. as in 'obviously'. But still a very cool duh. =)

Because beyond Jonah's point of mutual appreciation .. between the communities of science and art .. there lies the concept of reality itself. And if I keep this up much longer, I may fall out of my chair. =)

No article which properly discusses head-torquing concepts associated with our [ state-of-the-art ] understanding of REALITY .. would be complete .. without including this particular quote [ from Einstein, at t=27:00 ] »

"The distinction between the PAST and the PRESENT and the FUTURE is .. merely an illusion .. no matter how persistent."

[ worth re-reading. einstein is such a trip. ]

That is what the entire video is about.


A tangential thought .. regarding the perception-of-time [.. which may graze your consciousness-of-reality in a pleasant way] » All stars eventually explode and die. Therefore OUR sun .. will eventually explode and die.

So eventually .. we would need to find a way out. =) Any ideas? Or should we leave that to our kids? Or is it unlikely we will even make it that far? </caution>

» Jonah Lehrer, Bob Dylan & the Reality of Creativity

Uh .. I wasnt planning to address this point, about Jonah Lehrer, but I feel (rather strongly) that it needs to be made.

Jonah Lehrer ImagineA few months ago Jonah Lehrer was involved in a journalistic scandal. He attributed some quotes (a single quote?) to Bob Dylan ..

.. in his new book titled Imagine, How Creativity Works .. words that Dylan never said. Jonah just made them up.

Some guy (a biographer?) who knows more about Dylan than Dylan knows about himself noticed the quotes and began to (try to) validate them .. which turned into a big to-do.

No doubt Jonah feels like shit. Giant poopies. But if he would only read Epstein's biography (of Dylan) he would see that Dylan did a similar thing himself .. by fabricating his entire life story .. when he arrived in New York City as a boyish looking 19-year old (1961).

Dylan's parents had reluctantly let their son take a hiatus from college, but they gave him ONE YEAR .. to find the success he sought. They never imagined that their son would become "the Voice of His Generation". So .. he was naturally in a hurry. =)

I attribute a good chunk of Dylan's success to that little factoid. The "Hell-of College" waited patiently as his ever-present motivation.

And it took him a while to hitch-hike to New York City from Minnesota in the middle of the winter .. in a blizzard. Wearing a thin leather jacket.

So he was in no mood for small talk. =)

I'm talking about the article that came out right before Dylan's first gig at Carnegie. I forget the name of the magazine, but it nearly crushed Dylan. In other words, my sense is .. if it were up to Dylan .. that mighta been the end of him. The end of his singing career .. or at least, as the Voice of His Generation.

But [ .. and HERE'S the point Jonah needs to get .. drumroll, please ] » NOBODY CARED. Nobody gave a flying happy banana split about the stupid story. Why?

••• today's entry continues here below •••

» The Artist's Dedication to his Art / Gift

Because it was NOT ABOUT DYLAN .. but rather » his art. [The gift.] And if there is one man on the planet who folks will say is TRUE TO THEIR ART, committed to his art, dedicated to his art .. it's Dylan (.. sometimes to his detriment). [ Yes, there are many others. ]

Dont think my eyebrows didnt pop up when I had read how Dylan put his guitar back in its case and walked away from Ed Sullivan .. cuz Ed and his boys thought maybe Dylan oughta sing another song. A different song.

The Ballad of Bob Dylan: A PortraitBack then, a spot on "the Ed Sullivan show" was synonymous with commercial success. So nobody walked off on Ed.

The book makes it sound like he didnt think twice.

"Say what, Ed? You must have me confused with some other singer. Adios, amigos. I got more important shit to do. Because anything authentic is better than this."

Uh, I was not planning to discuss Dylan today, either .. but what the hey. I seem to be going some where.

Then .. at the height of his commercial success, Dylan took a vacation. A SIX-YEAR vacation. wtf? Nobody did that.

One cannot talk about the subject of Creativity in a serious way (I've learned) without talking about Dylan.

There is a video of an interview with Dylan .. where you will hear him say (something very close to), "I thought I was in a place, creatively, that no one had been in before - ever!"

In another place, you can hear him say, "I was writing _x_ number of songs a week. I didnt want to go to sleep, afraid I might miss one."

Those last two quotes are from memory. But they struck me. So I thought about them. But especially notice the word » ever. He said, "ever."

So .. I have not read Jonah's new scandalous book yet .. but I am not surprised he talks about Dylan.

» Friedrich NietzscheAll Too Human

So, Jonah .. unless Dylan gets on the horn and calls you himself and chews you out for misrepresenting him (.. which he won't) .. you need to move on .. and keep producing / creating ..

.. and yes, your next title needs to kick serious ass. So take your time and go for the gusto. Throw down. Thrown down with the big boys.

Because I, myself could give a rat's tail about the quotes. Nobody died, right? Nobody was tortured as a result?

To be honest, it just makes me wanna read the book all the more. Certainly it seems to be selling well. Long waiting list at the local library, too.

[ 20 holds on 8 copies of the text, and 15 holds on 3 copies of the audio book. ]

Yes, apologize, certainly (.. which it seems like you have already done) and tighten up your journalistic standards .. but when you're done feeling like krap .. get back to work. Cuz you do good work .. that is hard to find anywhere else. Be true to yourself. [ That's what I tell my son. ]

You are not the first person to do stupid shit .. and you won't be the last. Welcome to the human race. The imperfect .. in pursuit of perfection. So let me add my voice .. in defense of Jonah Lehrer.

I'm sure Dylan will talk to you now .. probably even invite you out to the ranch. Only two other people have ever been there, from what I hear.

Speaking of quotes .. here's one you might enjoy [ via copy-n-paste ] sourced / lifted / pulled / taken directly from the Nobel site ala Steinbeck:

"The writer is delegated to declare and to celebrate man's proven capacity for greatness of heart and spirit - for gallantry in defeat - for courage, compassion and love. In the endless war against weakness and despair, these are the bright rally-flags of hope and of emulation.

I hold that a writer who does not passionately believe in the perfectibility of man, has no dedication nor any membership in literature."

I actually feel better .. now that I said that about Jonah. That's been bugging me for months .. as tho the Great God Himself has been on my case. Seems it needed to be said.

Like I said, I wasnt planning on going there today. And now that I got *that* off my chest .. let's move on. =)

The cool thing about web documents .. is that HTML allows you to LINK DIRECTLY to your sources .. so that readers can SEE FOR THEMSELVES whether (or not) your sources are worth a shit (accurate & valid). And regulars know how I am ALL OVER that.

The similarity between the brain (as detailed by Jonah and his pals in Neuroscience) and the Internet/Web .. is » CONNECTIONS.

  1. Read this sentence slowly » The ability of the brain to make new connections .. [ among geneticaly-defined pre-existing structures .. called neurons & neural integrated circuits ] is the #1 thing that allows us big-brained humans .. to go beyond ourselves.

    This ability-to-make-new-connections (amid pre-existing structures) is therefore the MOST OUTSTANDING thing about the brain (.. according to neuroscientists).

  2. The Internet and the hyperlink let us connect one thought/idea/concept to another .. just like the brain does. [ Now, reread that part about "going beyond" ourselves and look for the lightbulb. ]

The implications of that little idea could become a book itself. It's huge .. in a poetic kind of way .. like, uh .. I almost want to say "Connect" three times slowly as I click my heels together.

Cuz nobody knows where we're going .. but that's how we're getting there. We the species. 'Humans' is what they call us. The 'thinking' ones .. with the big brains.

Whatever [ or how-ever ] you happen to define the species .. this is how we're gonna get to where we're going. Scared? =)

Where will these "new connections" take us? Cuz, if you're reading this right now, you're making new connections. Proceed at your own risk.

[ Notice that the hyperlink allows you to color or imbue a word or phrase with meaning (semantics) .. BEYOND that which is typically considered dictionay-spec. (Worth rereading.) ]

» Direction of the Species

Might wanna buckle up .. and bite down on the mouth-guard. Could get bumpy.

Cognitive development has defined both the trajectory and the velocity of the development of our civilization .. of our very species. Always has. So, uh .. it seems unlikely the pattern would change any time soon.

Seems like there is always some kind of problem to work out .. on any new venture. But that's what Geeks are good at » solving problems.

Of all the artists that Jonah covers (8 of them, including 5 writers, a painter, a composer and a chef) .. the ONLY influence they shared .. was » the SCIENCE OF THEIR TIME. [ « Last sentence worth re-reading. ]

Now .. I dont know if you noticed. But I am very much into Science & Technology (« science applied practically). And the science that defines OUR day .. is » digital technology.

That's what really interests me. Also neuroscience .. as far as the two are able to reflect and reveal characterstics of one another.

[ Previously, my geeky interests involved the technology associated with extracting energy from the atom. ]

And like many of Jonah's artists, I also write. So dont think I havent been keeping a lookout for clues into the reality of our future. Looking in nooks-n-crannies. Peeking under rocks.

Nuclear Energy / Power & Neutrons

Notice that my previous foray into the world of Technology .. took me into the world of nuclear power .. to extract scary amounts of energy from the atom (Uranium) .. by splitting it (.. into roughly two equal halves).

The *real* magic however, comes from the seemingly insignificant ancillary fact .. that each fissioning Uranium atom RELEASES 2-to-3 neutrons. [ Very accurate statistical models exist. ]

And it is the little *neutron* .. that is responsible for fission in the first place .. seeing that each Uranium atom becomes UNSTABLE after absorbing a neutron (.. which then fissions, or "splits" quickly .. much less than 1 second later).

Neutrons. They're what make the chain-reaction possible.

Reactors control the chain reaction to control reactor power. Bombs, on the other hand, tend to maximize the neutron population / flux (.. uncontrolled). 

So .. in a way .. it's all about neutrons.

» Creativity & the Power of Change

Also note that I am very much into creativity .. in my own way, of course .. having come from an industry not know for its esteem of the creative process. People dont want you getting very creative with a reactor. =)

Operating a nuclear plant is about followng procedures. "Verbatim compliance" is what they call it. Zero room for creativity. In that respect, the nuclear industry sits as far away from the land of creativity as possible (.. given most commercial endeavors).

But most would admit that a reactor is very powerful. Scary powerful. [ Sit beside a reactor while it is operating (called a "power entry") .. and you'll see what I mean. =) ]

And with that power in mind, note that .. every time I create a new hyperlink, you could say that I am » making a new connection amid pre-existing structures. (Tho, unlike the brain, these structures are not genetically defined.)

Think about it .. as traditional print media continues to decline. Meanwhile people, in ever increasing numbers, get their information from digital sources. Change.

[ While writing about creativity today, I can feel myself .. my writing muscles .. leaning toward a creative posture.

This is surprising .. cuz it feels like it's doing it ON ITS OWN .. as tho I am exploring the territory more closely and experimenting along the way.

Normally I prefer a more polished approach. ]

Speaking of polished approaches and creavtivity .. I actually learned a surprising number of things about Creativity from » this biography [ Life, by Keith Richards ] .. especially toward the middle parts of the book. Very-well crafted piece of work. Not a single word out of place.

You can feel the love that went into it .. not only from the author [ a legendary bad boy ] but also from the writer (.. a close friend of the author).

It takes a lot of work to craft something so finely .. word-smithing the raw material so that it comes out just so. Similar to the behind-the-scenes work that goes into a meal so scrumptious .. that you can tell it has been prepared with love.

You can only craft something so finely when it is a labor of love.

Socrates» Socrates, Gutenberg, and Pattern Recognition

One could argue that the impact of the CHANGE coming from our invention and implementation of digital technology .. will EXCEED that which we saw with the printing press [ 1440 ] ..

.. and rival that which our species experienced when we started to implement the technology of reading .. dated » "a few thousand years ago". Uh .. to me, a 'few' is two or three. So .. 500 B.C. We're talking Socrates. Plato. Aristotle.

[ Writing itself was invented 5,000 years ago .. they say. ]

A change to rival the one our species saw with the implementation of reading. Seems astounding that someone could even suggest such a thing. Tho .. when you look .. you can see the stars lining up.

The #1 most outstanding characteristic / advantage of the brain that enables our species to GO BEYOND ourselves .. happens to be remarkably similar to the one that helps define the internet / web / digital technology / 21st century communications. Pattern recognition.

And there are some very smarts hombres who have picked up the ball and are heading in interesting directions .. limited by nothing .. but their imagination.

Note that the implementaton of reading did not occur overnight. By comparison, digital technology has been like wildfire. More thoughts I have .. but at least you have a feel for where they are heading.

» Effects of the Non-linear Aspect of Digital Technology

I also feel (vaguely, but deeply) that the fact that digital technology is NON-LINEAR .. will play a significant part of our developmental narrative. I'm talking from intuition here .. relative to the linear way we read / experience a traditional book/novel.

Sometimes I think that our kids are forming new neural connections as a result of digital technology .. but that our schools have not yet adapted their methods to take advantage of these powerful new circuits.

The result? Kids are bored in school. Their minds arent stimulated, engaged.

I heard that the state-budget-crisis has governments looking to lay off all teachers .. and replacing them with a DVD inserted into a big TV mounted at the front of each classroom.

"See ya in 50 minutes, kids. I need to go start the DVD for the class next door. Billy, you're the biggest, so you're in charge. Everybody listen to Billy. That goes especially for you, Nick. Are you chewing gum? Spit that out in the trash right now. You know the rules."

I shouldnt wrap this section without mentioning that digital technology comes with its own set of languages .. each with its own focus and strength. Wish I knew more about such languages, but I am learning (.. slowly but surely).

Japanese maple» First Day of Autumn - 7:49 AM PDT

Anyway, those are a few random Rad thoughts today (.. and a couple that were NOT so random).

I really just wanted to wish you a happy first-day-of-autumn (or spring, for those of you living south of the equator).

14:49 Universal Coordinated .. if my math is correct .. that would be » 7:49 AM here on the West coast. 10:49 for those of you back East ..

.. is the exact time / moment when the sun crosses the equator on its annual trek south .. to the Tropic of Capricorn .. bringing spring and summer with it.

Autumn is my favorite season. Always has been. I grew up in Connecticut .. where people came from everywhere .. to see the leaves change color.

I like the way the days stay warm but the nights get chilly. And how the cooler air seems to clear the head.

I read somewhere that the human brain operates most efficiently at 55 degrees F, that's 13 C. It can be difficult to think very clearly when it's 95 degrees out .. like it was here last week.

The end. ■

UPDATE - Here's a coincidence I find interesting. Wallace Stevens lived the last 40 years of his life in Connecticut. That's the place where he wrote the bulk of his poetry. Reality is a product of what? (You know what Einstein said about imagination.)

For more along these lines, here's a Google search preconfigured for the query » reality, and another for » creativity, here's one for » jonah lehrer and » bob dylan, another for » neuroscience

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This page contains a single entry by Rad published on September 22, 2012 9:22 AM.

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