The Angles on Angels

Please reblog this one to infinity. Not my post, but the ideas in it.  Please write vigorously of them in your own words.  Spread the peace bro’.  People need to know this, because whether you own life is surrounded by elegant opulence or decrepit refuse, in whatever state you live, you can derive hope on the order of a hundred-obamas (a quantum unit of hope).

The book you must grok is The Better Angles of Our Nature: The Decline of Violence in History and It’s Causes by Steven Pinker.  Pinker is like this MIT uber-geek.  But sort of scary rugged handsome with his wild curly greying hair.  He’s imposing when he speaks, but is usually very accurate in the way he interprets data and synthesizes information.  But don’t buy the book unless you enjoy slogging.

Better Angels (book)

It’s a rather intolerable book to read, it’ll give you bibliographical indigestion. But it won’t make you vomit.  I recommend searching Google or YouTube for any talk by Steven Pinker on his book, since there you’ll get all the information you need in 15 minutes without having to wade through his very dry and heavy book.   Seriously.  This is one important book that is a total bugger to read. (Mine, the soft-back, especially since the font is so small.)

Do you get title?  Violence has declined.  Declined do you hear!  The amazing thing about the statistics Pinker has compiled is the inevitable conclusions one cannot help drawing.  They are irrefutable.  Yet Pinker does his damnedest to beat us into submission with overwhelming evidence.  He needn’t have tried so hard, half his book is convincing enough for the most dour skeptic.  It’s like he need to convince himself first, so h goes to extremes.  But ultimately you have to love him for this.

It’s like he set out to prove that human civilization was about to erupt into an armageddon, but all the data he found only disproved his hypothesis and confirmed it’s antithesis.  Yes, he world is becoming a more peaceful place.  So much so that charts showing wars and death seem to die away to nothing in the late 20th century compared to all times earlier in history.

So why do people not realise this?  Why are most of us shocked by Pinker’s data and their obvious conclusions?  Pinker explains in the book, but the video lectures he gives are much more succinct.  Mainly it is modern media — newspapers, television, radio, blogs, Twitter — all of which report the worst in human affairs.

It’s little wonder Pinker’s book has not made huge waves.  A handful of philosophers and mystic in the latter half of the 19th century were saying similar things, and they were completely ignored. (And that was at a time where Pinker’s data says the world was about twice as dangerous and violent as it is now at the start of the second millennium.)  So are groups like the Bahá’í Faith.  utterly ignored.  What Pinker does is show us, with hard data, that these people have been right all along.  It’s something wonderful.  Yet when I tell people about this book and it’s main ideas, they say, “Oh, sounds like a good book.  Who’s the author again?”

It’s like they’re all blaisé about this read and want to know only if the author is New York Times best selling, or whatever.  The idea that is so stunning seems to just wash over my friends.  Maybe I do not have the best friends in the world?  At least my Bro’ understood (but then he’s a Bahá’í, so it was a bit anti-climatic telling him about it).

It’s a queer book too.  It made me cry to realise how beautiful humans are becoming. (OK, hyperbole, I admit.  I did not cry like a baby, but I did shed a few tears, the nice sort, when you feel all warm and astounded at the beauty of humanity despite all the horrific noise in the media.)  Yet there is nothing beautiful about Pinker’s writing.  It’s all hard data and facts.  I’m reading it and I’m, like, “Oh, come on dude!  Chill a bit will you, it’s ok to say that this is spiritually momentous, raw with peaceful tidings, glowing with brightness and hope!  You don’t have to pummel us with data.”

Then again, I think some people need the data.  Too many cynics in the world.  Some young teenagers grab a few semi-automatic weapons and launch a killing spree in their local school.  This is not the world Pinker seems to be living in.  That’s right.  It’s the hyperreality YOU are all living in, the one reported in the mainstream media.  That’s the unreal world.   These incredible acts of selfishness and violence are real enough, too real, but they are over-emphasised in the media.  Perhaps justly.  Without them being sensationalized people would be too forgiving of the pro-personal-weapons lobby groups, and the military, and the bullies everywhere who advocate violence as a solution to social problems. So maybe it’s not altogether bad to hype such horror stories in the media.  But human beings need balance and truth.  We also need hope.  We need to have a fair reflection of the world, especially with increasing globalisation.  Too much bad news is bad when it does not fairly reflect the morals and ethics of the vast majority of ordinary human beings.

So here is a selection of data.  First, we die less violently on average than at any time in history:


Second, in our justice systems (despite the USA inflating the stats) we put people to death less often,


Third, there is less rape and homocide, even going back thirty years the decline is precipitous. And this is one of those good times when precipitous decline was good.


And of course, the statistics most people cannot believe, but it’s all true: the decline of war among humans, war is falling below detectability in our modern history, and will perhaps in one hundred years be thought of as a bizarre aberration in the process of human civilization. People will be amazed in a thousand years form now, how war could have lasted so long in history.


So when you are next assaulted by reports of atrocities and inhuman cruelty in the media, just remember these statistics. Reality is not what it seems.   The hyperreality reported in the media and in movies and on the internet boosts the sensational and forgets the ordinary acts of kindness billions of humans engage in every day.



You Have to Be a Bit Stupid to be Good at Mathematics

This might be one of those posts that have no purpose because those who will read it already know and those who won’t read it will never need to know.  But since One Over Epsilon is principally written for my daughters, I have to let my brain spill out a bit here, since  I cannot predict what Kezia and Sylvie will find amusing or crazy about their Dad when they grow older (and they do enjoy crazy).

What I’m about to show you may seem miraculous.  If it does, then good!  You should be impressed.  One thing that distinguishes a normal human from a good mathematician is that the normal person sees such results as `obvious’ or `uninteresting and mundane’, whereas the good mathematician is so idiotic that these seemingly simple results and theorems appear miraculous and they find them irresistible to study and contemplate.

Infinite series are the big game here.  Finite sums are kind of boring, although occur all over the place in science and applied mathematics.  But it is with infinite sums (infinitely many terms in the sum, not necessarily an infinite valued total sum) that mathematics becomes richer and awesome in power.

Preliminary: you recall what a^2   means?  It is a^2= a\times a .  Similarly, a^3=a\times a\times a , and once more, a^4 = a\times a\times a\times a . And so on.   These are called powers of a .  The superscript is called the “exponent”.  Exponentiation of a number like “a ” here is thus just a big word for “repeated multiplication”.   I tell you this because in a second I’m going to show you how to sum infinitely many exponents of a number a , and I will do this without knowing the value of a .  I hope you are preliminarily impressed!

There are at least three truly astounding things about summing an infinite bunch of numbers.

(1). You can write the sum as a finite expression even when you do not know the numbers in the sum.  (This is not always possible, but it works for geometric series.)  Here’s what I mean,

Think of a number =a .  Then contemplate the infinite sum

1 + a + a^2 + a^3 + a^4 + \ldots

Even though you do not tell me the value of a , I can tell you precisely what the infinite sum is equal to, and my answer is that it equals


Pretty amazing huh?  But the cool thing is not simply knowing and appreciating this fact, the cool thing is to try to prove it yourself!  So go ahead.   You probably want to see an example, so here’s one with a=3

1 + 3 + 9 + 27 + \ldots = \dfrac{1}{1-3} = \dfrac{1}{-2} = -\dfrac{1}{2} = -1.5

Now that’s ridiculous! On the left we have an infinite sum of increasingly larger positive numbers which should diverge to +∞. On the right we equate this to negative one-half.  There’s gotta be something wrong here, right?

Actually, this is not a fallacy, nor pathological, it is a deep (and to you, no doubt mysterious) thing about diverging series. But I’m not going to tell you what it means, since that’d take way too long. I’ll just leave you with it as a tease.  (If you must know something of it, then just try thinking of a diverging infinite sum like this as a geometric process in two-dimensions, which the partial series sums of positive numbers is only a one-dimensional shadow of, so you cannot see the whole thing by just looking at the sum as it blows up, and if you could see the entire sum geometrically then you’d see how it can extend out to infinity and than wrap around to a small negative value.  How?  Because in 2D infinity is not the end of the line, in 2D space ∞  is a circle with infinite radius. Ok, that’s enough mystery for you to feed on for now.  Yes, that’s right,  mystery is important in mathematics, it’s where everything fresh and new springs from.  It’s far more important than all the known textbook results in the world.)

The normal high school teaching tells us the above formula for summing an infinite series is only valid when a< 1 . So, we really should have used a=\frac{1}{3} as an example, then I would not have exposed you to the mystery of the diverging infinite series that sums to a negative number. So here’s the simpler example,

1 + \frac{1}{3} + \frac{1}{9} + \frac{1}{27} + \ldots = \dfrac{1}{1-\frac{1}{3}} = \dfrac{1}{2/3} = \dfrac{3}{2}

So this infinite sum adds up to one-and-a half. And you can actually check this partially on a calculator. Just add up the first six or seven terms, and you’ll get close to 1.499, because the fractions in the sum are getting really small by the time you get to (1/3)^6 . (There’s no such hope for checking the previous divergent sum when a=3 in the same way, since your calculator can never “get all the way out to infinity” which is where the sum finally flips around to the negative 1/2 value.

I will try not to clutter this blog with formulae, even though it is full of mathematics (mathematics is language, not just formulae and Greek-Hindu-Arabic-Latin symbology).  But I have to show you a proof of the formula, since that’s where the beauty is found.

(2). You can prove the above result without summing the numbers.  All you need is to state a couple of properties that all methods of summation should obey.  This really blew my mind when I learned about it!  You can sum an infinite series like the one above without using any technique of computation, without using any summation method.  You gotta be crazy huh?

Here’s how:  you just ask yourself, “what should all proper summation methods (algorithms) have in common?”  And you might think of a couple of things:

(Rule A.) If “GS” is short for “General summation method”, and “S_x ” and “S_y ” are both themselves sums of numbers (possibly infinite sums) then we’d expect

\text{GS}( S_x + S_y ) = \text{GS}(S_x) + \text{GS}(S_y)

right?  That seems reasonable, since the computation of a sum of sums should equal the sum of the computations of the sums. Haha.  Really, I’m not trying to confuse you.  If I tell you this is all very simple then maybe you’ll relax.  The way to think about maths in a  relaxing manner is to remind yourself that whatever you think the meaning is, then it is probably what the meaning is, i.e., don’t sweat, you probably have the right idea even if you are not certain.  (Kids at school routinely confound this piece of wisdom!  But I think that’s only because previously they were told what to learn,  and were not told how to learn for themselves.)

BTW, it’s really deep and interesting that the above general property of summation is the only valid way to split sums.  If a sum is infinite then it is invalid to rearrange the terms wining (inside) the sum.  In fact, astoundingly (again!) it is also invalid to group (associate using brackets) parts of an infinite sum.  This is clear when you consider a pathological sum like,

1 - 1 + 1 - 1 + 1 - 1 + 1 - \ldots

If you rearrange the terms you can make it all=0, like this,

(1-1) + (1-1) + (1-1) + \ldots = 0 + 0 + 0 + \ldots

which is equal to zero, clearly, right?  But what if you write,

1 + (-1+1) + (-1+1) + (-1+1) + \ldots = 1 + 0 + 0 + 0 + \ldots

which is equal to one, clearly, right?   Both these computations cannot be true, or the universe will vanish in a puff of logic (Doug Adams).

The resolution of this paradox is simple:  you cannot using grouping to rearrange an infinite sum.  That is, associativity (i.e, bracketing terms together into sub-sums) is not a valid general summation rule, even though it is a perfectly good rule for finite sums.

(Rule B.)    Another good rule for any summation algorithm is, if “a ” is any number, “GS” a general summation procedure as before, and “S_x ” a (possibly infinite) sum of numbers as before, then

a \times GS(S_x) = GS( a \times S_x )

in other words, if after summing up, you then multiply the result by a number “a ” then this will be the same value as you get by using the summing procedure on the entire sum multiplied by a .

Now, almost insanely  beneficent, these two rules (a) and (b) are enough for us to compute exactly the infinite sum,

1 + a + a^2 + a^3 + a^4 + \ldots

Here’s how: say to yourself, let the sum of all these powers of a be “S “.  Then suppose we have found a general summation algorithm, which miraculously does the entire infinite sum in a finite span of time!  Yep, that’s right, in mathematics you are allowed to dream! Call this unknown procedure “GS”.

(The infinite sum above) S = \text{GS}(1 + a + a^2 + a^3 + a^4 + \ldots)

By Rule A. this must be

S = 1 + \text{GS}(a + a^2 + a^3 + a^4 + \ldots )

by Rule B we can then say,

S = 1 + a\text{GS}(1 + a + a^2 + a^3 + \ldots )

but this is exactly,

= 1 + a S

your content here we have used the unknown general procedure “GS” to get rid of infinitely many terms!  The rest is basic high school algebra,

\begin{array}{lrl} & S - aS &= 1 \\ \therefore \qquad & S(1-a) &= 1 \\ \therefore \qquad & S &= \dfrac{1}{1-a} \end{array}


Or as a mathematician would say, “Q.E.D”  (= “quo erat demonstradum” = “which is the thing we wanted to prove”.)

To save you the embarrassment I’ll respond for you.  So, “WTF!!!”   How is this possible?  Was there some trickery, some slight of mind?

Nope!  All the above maths is logically impeccable.  We truly have summed infinitely many unknown numbers using an unknown summation algorithm!

Please understand: there is no point in writing this post so that you can know go around city streets or wander desert wilderness to find someone and sum their infinite series for them.  What’s the point then?  It’s simple.  Just to blow your mind up a bit.  Expand it.  Inflate it.  But gently.  And to show you that mathematicians can see beauty too, just like an artist.

I mean, don’t you think what I’ve just described is wonderful?  Maybe I did not describe it very artistically or with pretty prose, but the abstract ideas are beautiful, are they not?

On the other hand, maybe you are like a normal person, and you think nothing above is surprising or miraculous, and it’s all pretty plain and mundane. If so, then that’ll be healthy, since you won’t then go through life thinking all sorts of weird shit is “astounding” and “miraculous” and “abstractly beautiful”, and you may even live your life with better obsessions, like looking after your children and eating heartily, and listening to nature, and enjoying your vacations instead of furiously trying to grok obscure mathematics formulae in your spare time.

So yeah, if you find mathematics hard, then it’s probably because you are not stupid enough.  (Half serious ’bout that!)

*       *       *

That was supposed to be the end of this post.  But there’s a paradox about teaching and education I thought about when writing it.  A satisfactory teacher can impart knowledge and wisdom to students by instruction.  A good teacher can infuse students with knowledge and wise sensibilities through mere example and good deeds, which is a graceful art because it also gives students a sense of freedom and independence—they hardly realise they are being “schooled”.  I do not agree with traditional schools, but this learning from example is the best kind of schooling.

Then there’s the paradox.  A great teacher does not teach at all, but instead just reveals the universe like an open book.  This is such a difficult art to perfect.  Most teachers (professionals that is), whom I know, simply cannot relinquish the need to instruct and display their knowledge and wisdom.  (The whole “teaching is a performance career” model.) I think there is too much ego involved in being a traditional teacher.   Also, if a teacher does not instruct and show that they have expert knowledge, there is a prejudice that their students will disrespect them.  But this is not true in my experience.  If you really have sound expert knowledge and a smattering of wisdom, then students will automatically see it, without you (the teacher) needing to demonstrate your powers. You just have to trust your students, and show them kindnesses.

So you should be wanting to just open the minds of your students, treat them humanely, allow them great freedom, and show, through the invisible force of quiet example, the wonders of the universe.  If you cannot do this then undeniably you are teaching the wrong subject (sorry to tell you that, but it’s only my humble opinion).

Be kind and gentle to all people.  But avoid the heart-breakers.  Treasure the companionship of the wise.  I did not invent these pearls, I borrowed them from a mystic seer who made all the laws of spirituality plain and crystal clear for all to see.


The “Life is a Form of Poetry” Conjecture

Sometimes your soul just needs to burst out and force your tongue or pen to release a great big floppy metaphor, like “Life is poetry”.  But when that happens I shudder and inwardly complain that we are losing meaning this way.  The metaphor is too expansive, lazy and fat.  It lacks great meaning precisely because it attempts greedily to construct too much meaning.

(Self-conscious warning:  what follows is like copy for The Big Bang Theory without the jokes.)

Then the kinder side of the mind wishes to reach out and sympathise with the sentiment. Receive it with mercy and forgiveness instead of the unforgiving steel balance of justice.  How?

The conjecture does not claim life is poetry, merely one form of poetry.

Form is different to essence.  So Life need not be taken as pure poetry which is, let’s face it, basically linguistic art.  If there is no linguistic aspect then it’s not really poetry.  If you relax the linguistic restriction on what we mean by “poetry” then it admits too much into the semantic sphere of it.  It becomes an intellectual blob, a blancmange for an excessively appetitive  mind.  But hey, having a large indulgent intellect is not a bad thing.  Better than being intellectually impoverished, and a lot less ugly than being physically greedy.

Seems to me however, the world is a better place when gentle constraints on meaning are understood.  We get differentiation and diversity and hence beauty and richness when constraints are sensitively applied. (Well, I think so.)

You can surely gain a lot (a lot of what?  I don’t know, … peace? calm? insight?  …  you choose!) by meditating and extending your mind to encompass all things into one idea.  This is a gross type of inner relaxation of constraint.  But I think it is a worthwhile meditative practice.    It is the principle behind one of the two styles of meditation.  The two forms of deep mediation go in opposite directions, yet they are related.  The One is mind-emptying, it is meditation with the goal of emptiness, cleansing, purifying, opening to all things by clearing away the chaos in one’s mind.  The Many is the style of mediation with the purpose of embracing all things, unity through acceptance of all, opening the mind to all things in one transcendent moment, seeing with inner sight the connectedness of all things.

The approach of the Many is what you get when relaxing all constraints.  All things flow into our mind (if you can allow them, which is not easy, and I would argue impossible, but one can aim for something approximating this form of nirvana with practise and continual attempted improvement in synthesis).  I’m guessing one of the techniques is what I’d call the Bruce Lee style of meditation—the “no technique technique”!  Which means, if you try to hard to open your mind to the universe then you fail and collapse into chaotic mental exhaustion.  Instead, I suppose, the idea is to relax and just let things flood into your mind.  Haha, maybe beforehand listen to Lennon’s Across the Universe, and recite a few “Jai guru deva ohm”‘s, or whatever works to open your mind.

You see how they are related?  Both meditative styles are mind-opening and have the goal of enlightenment or a state of nirvana, but approach this in diametrically opposite ways, one by clearing the mind, the other by filling the mind.  The end effect is remarkable similar.  Enlightenment (perhaps?).  Not easy whichever way you try.

The One style is often classified as Zen mediation.  The Many style is classified as Buddhist.  Since Zen is a form of Japanese style Buddhism, and Japanese culture has a strong element of elegant simplicity, while traditional Buddhism hails from India with all it’s complexity and colour and business, I think  this all  goes together quite nicely.  There are unifying themes and atoms of understanding to appreciate in these kids of meditation.

Anyway, let’s say the substance of strict poetry is linguistic art.  The spirit of poetry is the abstract definition of poetry.  And the form of poetry is the expression of this spirit in some objectively discernible way.  Thus, if we can manage a reasonable definition of the form of poetry then we cover the essence of the spirit of the art as well.

Refraining from being too literal, but to keep things sane, I will require that a “form of poetry” has,

  • Aesthetically pleasing or stimulating or evocative patterns: could be rhythm, could be meter, rhyme, and so forth.
  • Use of imagination—not computer generated (although a creative programmer could write software to generate poetry).
  • Evocative meaningful aspects, not just patterned symbol without meaning—the meaning is not necessarily literal but to be interpreted subjectively (usually).
  • Is related to strict linguistic poetry, but does not have to be in language, since form is not substance.

The imaginative quality is the one I struggle with.  Who’s to say our brain+mind is not a biological computer in essence.  Hey bro!  I’m one to say this a’ight!  Sure, I could be off-beat, do I have good justification?  Enough for feeding the souls of the rest of humanity?  Hmm, probably not.  But enough for anyone who thinks clearly with an open mind, I’d hope.

The way I explain it to my daughters is like this.  We know what a circle is, we can understand it.  However, there are no perfect circles in all the physical cosmos (at least not as far as we know, maybe fundamental particles are prefect little circles, but modern physics would say totally not so dude, they are rather chaotic messy vibrating membranes and strings, or ruptures in spacetime, far from perfect anythings!)  So you see, our mind comprehends something which is not physical.

The same is true when we contemplate transcendent numbers, like π and e.  These numbers have a clear abstract essence, yet they correspond to nothing any human can write down in physical form.  Try it!  You’ll fail.  every way you can thin of to express these numbers ultimately uses some sort of infinite process which cannot be physically completed.  So again, our mind conceive of things that cannot possibly be physical.  Therefore, the human mind accesses non-physical realms. (if you also perceive these things, and who’s to say you do? I’ll assume you can comprehend the abstract idea of a circle, if not then I’m awfully sorry for you, seriously).  It’s ultra-cool right?  At least a trillion megafonzies.

It is absolutely frame-altering to realise that cold hard mathematics gives us this appreciation that our mind cannot be physical stuff.    At least not in entirety.  Our biological brain is a complex physical system.  The mind is not.  Yet the two interact. The mind needs the brain as an essential intermediary between the realm of ideas and the objective physical universe within when we communicate with other sentient beings.  (Sentient beings are awesome. Yeah baby! The most awesome entities in the cosmos I reckon. Also some of the most dangerous!) And you can reject Cartesian Dualism and yet still not escape these indelible spiritual facts.

The interim conclusion?  Life is not strict poetry, since it is not linguistic in form.  Life is a superset of poetry, poetry a subset of life’s art.  But it is forgivable to use the grossly unconstrained relaxed metaphor that “Life is poetry”.  Us them sparingly is the lesson. And just please don’t interpret this final corollary literally, or you’ll have missed the whole point!  Life affords some humble vanity—stay slim and sexy in mind!


Love has to be the discriminant here

What separates a merely great artist from a genius?

The question is oft asked and answered.  My own impulsive muse on it today was stirred by the usual frustrations of doing art alongside science. (See the previous post The Lost Paragraphs Mystery.)

So here’s my penny thought: The great artists among us have no true love, or are missing a wonderful wise lover from their life.   They have a void which begs to be filled, aches for enrichment, and they can find no succour, save in their art.

Yes, apologies, I’m going to be both didactic and a tad polemic on this.

The genius artists among us have a devoted desired lover who in turn desires the artist.  They are the sort of completed personality who is so happy they are boring to study for most ambitious psychologists.

Why would such love be the discriminator between greatness and genius then?

The great artist has endless time to devote to their art, this is obvious.  They have no great lover in their life.  So their art is their love.  It occupies their attention.  It even tortures them since it is a mute lover, a difficult affair, an obsession they cannot give up and yet cannot find human comfort from within, not in the way a really wise and friendly human soul can promise.

I used to think it was a cliché that great artists had to “suffer in order to become great”. But now I see a wider, healthier, stauncher grain of truth to this, almost raising it to the level of truism.

Firstly, you have to know (for a fact?) that most Nobel Prize winners are not lucky.  They work damn hard, diligently, selflessly, in pursuit of … what? … noble goals?  hahaha.

Seriously now.  There might be one Nobel Prize awarded in the entire history of the ceremony that was gained by being struck by almighty luck. Pasteur’s accident which led to the discovery of penicillin was not even an instance of luck.  Pasteur had to work his guts out to study the germ cultures, and he made the mistake of contaminating the petri dish (apocryphal?  I’m not sure, just saying what I’ve heard) only because he was doing enough experiments to make the mistake.  You see, we can tell this part is high in truth-value because Pasteur noticed the mistake and was assiduous and curious enough to worry about it and to notice the killing off of the germ culture.  So dude!  He was the archetypal prepared mind dans l’extrême.

Although I’m biased by the thoughts of romantic love, and it’s claim on the human soul, it’s power when vainly sought, it’s riveting impulse and transcendence when found, it’s hurly roar of wind-sweeping affection and desire when in full living force,  that’s all I admit for now.  The rest of me concurs with the speculations in this blog entry.

The final speculation is that if an artist manages to stay true to their art, and produce works of greatness (in whatever field, and I include science and mathematics as art, as much as music, fine arts, poetry, writing, diplomacy, teaching, gardening, or what ever you consider your art to be) and simultaneously fall in deep romantic love with an incredible, other, real life, wickedly gorgeous, and sublime life-long partner, then this artist is a genius.

Why?  For the simple reason they have found an exquisite human lover, a soul-touching endearing partner in sensual communion, their conscious sweetness of the higher heavens, and yet still find time to produce great art!  Such a person, whether young or old, whether crippled or in their prime, whether rich or poor, is a genius in my view.

Happy the soul who’s lover is their art.  Make your soul mate your art. Let them be your authentic desire, your reality, your crimson passion. There is my pennies worth of advice for today my darling Kezia and Sylvie.


The Lost Paragraphs Mystery

How many of you have this sort of experience?  Not in your nightmares.  We’re talking for real. Bittersweet old real world.  Anticipating a yummy Christmas lunch and espresso/latté (gotta be specially made by yours truly, can’t take the café stuff these days, too insipid), I’m reading an OK Neil Gaiman novel on the loo this morning. Then I get this inspiration for a section of my novelette.  Don’t write while on the loo, not me. Prefer to partition some things ok!  There’s a clear invisible force field between doing one’s business and writing for pleasure.  Keep them clear and separate.  (hihihi).  OK, but the idea is important, or cool enough to hurry up and write before it fades from short term memory.   Maybe for once I feel stupid about the partitioning of psychologically Hausdorff separated little mental topologies in life.  Would like to reach for a pencil or pen and back of tissue paper, anything to just note down the seed of it.  No luck.  What’s more, there’s a philosophical theme I feel compelled to write in One Over Epsilon here.  Gotta do it, it’s a sweet sentiment.  Then something happens, and you can probably guess what, though non-specifically right?

Now here’s my specific “happening”. I wash hands and generally purify, as per habits, like to smell nice, and this delays,… what,… 5 mins at most.  No crisis yet right?  Then get back to desk and start typing.  But look, I’m a perfectionist and so I’m polishing off a mathematics derivation first.  Just want to make it easy to read.  Then the little disaster strikes.  I get called to lunch.  It’s family OK!  Hmmm, Christmas turkey.  Cranberry sauce (the good type). Some sparkling grape juice, and my two luscious daughters beaming smiles are on offer.  I try not to eat them all up.  Just the turkey and roast vegetables. I have to attend.  I’m frowning a bit.  But figure the idea is safe, got it stored. ” ‘s cool dude, won’t lose it,” I say to myself.  Famous last words for the morning.


Of All the Pop Songs

Unseen beauty is vast, a higher order of infinite than visible beauty.  Yet visible beauty is still infinite.  I do not mean just what eyes can see.  I mean all the senses.  Whatever can be sensed is, in this interpretation, classed as visible.  Also, if you want to interpret the unseen and the visible in a deeper way, then visible beauty can also be subjective qualia, like your inner impressions of a sweet poem, or your knowledge of some ancient ruins long since destroyed by entropy and human conflict, or your intuition that someone you have just met, a relative stranger, is some kind of saint.

With this more general sense of visible beauty now explained, what then is unseen beauty?  Well, is it not all the infinite beauty your mind is currently closed towards?  All the riches in the world of imagination that your petty or sorrowful soul will not allow you to perceive.  And all the mysteries of life that are veiled from your inner vision because you lack courage or faith to even admit they might be more real than all your flesh and blood.  Just the possibility.

So what is going on with my tortured soul that a dumb pop song can make me cry like a junkie who has just lost a cache of wonder drugs because he was too busy trying to get high from a batch of expired volatile organic hallucinogens that had decomposed ultravioletly into harmless water and aldehydes and light chain oils?  I say:  what is it?

OK, of all the dumb pop songs in all the freeview stations in all the frequencies in this city, why did that old Rolling Stones tune sink into my aural neuron slots, and then proceed to hum and buzz in wild feedback with my rusted emotional circuits that are in dire need of gentle feminine arousal? (Ruby Tuesday it was, sung in some surreal sounding young Latino(?) crooner voice in the movie Children of Men.)  Ain’t denying it got to me something acute-like, ’tis cool, can handle it.  Have been reasonably sensitively in-tune with my emotions lately.  “Lately” like for ten years of loveless marriage.  It hurts dude!  Remember it hurt if you read this back to yourself a few years from now Bij. I know, I know, you don’t want to hurt anyone else any more than they hurt you.  Heck though, we’re not all perfect.  Sometimes pain is unavoidable if justice is to be served. The better thing is that you work to ensure friends and former lovers are at least maximally unhurt.  The calculus of least affliction must be studied.   Law of minimum hurtfulness needs be applied.

Ah well.  Somewhere out there my true love waits… or not.   I am looking for you babe.  Like a delirious bee sensing the pollen all around yet who cannot yet taste the honey.  Don’t worry about this, I am searching with zeal.  When I find you you’ll know I’m the one, the way I will be yours, the way I will give, the ways I will tease and delight your senses, the manifold expressions of passion and rapture, the bliss of release and the fullness of anticipation will all be yours.


The little things that make a human divine

Was just searching the meanings behind names, for characters in my novelette.  It’s important (integral really) that what I write is careful, and the names are important symbolically.  (I certainly do not feel the same about real life — names in reality are unimportant for me, they are attachments to the past, and serve a fine purpose, but are not exceptionally relevant.)  However, when you start writing fiction you (might? … well it happened for me) get a sudden change in perspective on names.  It’s unlike the real social sphere.  In a sense, a writer of a novel is creating an imaginary universe.  They are it’s deity.  So quite amazingly (to me at first) it becomes a sensitive matter, a matter of deep ontology, to create characters with meaningful names, or cryptic names, or just names that have a special emotional resonance—for you, the writer.  They are your creatures, and you owe them some sort of benevolence and respect.  Yeah, yeah.  This is all a bit dopey and indulgent.  A writer is no deity, even in their own mind, in fact sometimes you feel the antithesis of a benevolent demigod for the universe you create. So what?  It’s how I  genuinely, and unselfconsciously connected to the story I’ve been aching to forge.

There’s a good website here and I came across Janani Dhinakaran’s blog, The Outsider’s Journey, and bang!  It just gave me the inspirational kick to start a blog so that I could ditch my overly introverted journal, and basically unseen F/B pages (which are not great reads anyway) to start a proper journal for my kids to (maybe someday) read.  “Oh boy!” I tell myself.  This could be hard to write, and harder to read.   But thanks Janani, whoever you are.  May we happily meet by random chance one day and not even know it, but feel the surge in life’s connected continuous fields (giving us a little buzz somehow) and re-radiate the mysterious happiness of the moment to all around us.

It did not take much effort on my part to have Janani make this divine little influence in my life.   Guess that’s what makes people all the more wonderful.  They can touch another’s soul without ever realizing it.  Now all  I need to do to thank her is get my novelette going faster and be true to the imagined humanity of the characters I have and will create. That’s all, pff!  ‘s not too much pressure being a fictional deity.

It was the tiniest impulse.  Maybe the tipping point was just her blog entry which did it?  Gazing at the stars was so important for me as a kid growing up in Aotearoa, I had my parents get extra windows installed in my bedroom, so I could watch the stars as I feel asleep. Pretty obvious resonance then huh?  But I’ve had loads of tremendously insightful and achingly gorgeous moments browsing the web, so why now?  Ahhhh, that’s a little secret I will not yet divulge.  Who really knows what one’s motives are though?  I’ve read research suggesting most people tell fictions to themselves, stories they believe, to explain their actions, which are (the psychologists tell us) very, very tenuously related to really what drives them.

Professor Sean Lane at LSU says that even being forced to repeatedly deny something has a weired psychological backfire effect—amazingly some people (which includes the mythical yet undeniably impactful “average person”) can be self-deceived into believing the lie in the denial.  Here’s a brief except from

To explain, Lane cited the “illusory truth effect,” the idea that hearing false information repeatedly will make it seem truthful, simply because it’s familiar. His study takes this idea in a new direction.

“They’re telling the truth, they’re denying, but later this thing seems familiar,” said Lane. “They’re confusing the familiarity of the repetition [with the truth], not realizing that those repeated denials are what makes it seem familiar 48 hours later.”

This means that telling the truth can actually lead to a false memory. A man who repeatedly denies being present at the scene of the crime, for example, might actually begin to imagine that scene — where it was, what it looked like, who was present — even if he was never there. It feels strangely familiar to him, and because the repeated denials have slipped from his memory, he can’t explain why.

False memory is a well-documented phenomenon, and Lane has researched it extensively throughout his career. In a courtroom, it can be disastrous. Through studies like this one, Lane offers forensic investigators a deeper insight into this bizarre behavior.

An accessible read on similar psychology is Daniel Goleman’s Vital Lies, Simple Truths: The Psychology of Self-Deception.  Try the NYTimes review of the book if you are in a hurry.

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My mind has it’s own theory, about why Janani’s blog inspired me, and I believe it to be sincere, since I haven’t thought much about it. I haven’t had time to repeat it to myself to believe it for banal psychological self-delusion reasons.  It’s just this first theme for this blog which popped into my head (or should I write “out of my head”?).

Ha!  Maybe this is all fiction.  Thing is, if it is, I don’t know it!