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"I am, and I think, therefore ... " Forum

"I am, and I think, therefore ... " Forum


This forum is for discussion of "Writing Descartes: I Am and I Can Think, Therefore ...". Like all Serendip forums, it is a place to learn from hearing what other people have to say and to contribute to other people's understandings by sharing your own. Join in, and let's see what we can make together.

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Trust
Name: Jeremy
Date: //2005-08-27 13:18:38 :
Link to this Comment: 15929

Felt like chiming in on this one.

I found Joe's horse story interesting with respect to comfort zones, more specifically the rabbits comfort zone. The mention that the presance of traveller decresed the rabbits comfort zone. Why would this be? could it be, that traveller and the rabbit belonged to a different collective than than Joe? if so, how does trust manifest itself within such a wordless language? Perhaps this is the same intuition that Joe was concerned with, that the rabbit may inadvertantly spook traveller, at the begining of Joe's wonderful story about the rabbit and traveller.


the generational dance: freedom and security
Name: Anne Dalke
Date: //2004-09-04 14:17:59 :
Link to this Comment: 10768

It was fun for me to read the recent generational dance between father ("fuzzy minded son of the '60s") and son ("who insists that its what is going on NOW and not then needs to be addressed")

--and to realize how insistently the keynote of that family drama has been iterated throughout these dialogues. Paul's comment that Jed's challenge ("The bugaboo of this generation is not authority", but instead "finding something relevant to accept") "hadn't arisen before (here at least)" surprised me. It has risen, and risen frequently. Questions about how we can find a place of certainty and stability that we can reliably trust form a very strong current among a number of the dialogues Paul has conducted with others (see, for example, Rachel Berman's concerns about lying and Wil Franklin's discussion of his need for faith. )

That theme has been even more insistent in the range of dialogues I've been conducting; I'm remembering here particularly not only

Have nibbled at--no, having wrestled very hard--with these questions all summer, I'm seeing now that I have (once again) set up a false opposition--or at least one that I can now see my way beyond. (Those tired old binaries again....). It's not (as Eric Fromm insisted long ago) a simple choice between safety and freedom that faces us, but rather (as I see now) a much more interactive/interdependent/facilitating sort of relationship, already clearly identified at least 3 times among these dialogues, in

How nice to have (for now!) a punch line, a springboard in which to trust.


Plenty of laughter, too
Name: Anne Dalke
Date: //2004-08-30 13:13:49 :
Link to this Comment: 10702

"Plenty of work to do." Plenty of laughter also.

There's another new conversation just up, about Re-Thinking "Being" in the Promised Land, in which I muse about the role "laughing" plays in making revolution; Rachel Berman adds her observations about the ways in which humor arises from/is dependent upon tragedy,

I feel that the proposition that humor is missing from the meditation may be an effort to hide from the "inherent tragedy" of the mediation itself.

and Paula Viterbo reminds us that "thinking was much more inclusive category" for Descartes that it is for us:

his soul (which thinks, feels, dreams) is who he is. If we substitute PG's "brain-rooted" unconscious for RD's soul, we may end up with similar entities. Even though one might rise more easily than the other...


Counter-entropy: What Anne Thinks
Name: Anne Dalke
Date: //2004-09-17 07:49:40 :
Link to this Comment: 10856

Have no idea what Anne thinks...

She thinks, given all her thinking out loud with herself and others in this space, that this is wierd.

She will try again, less bloggily, w/ a very particular focus this time-- using, in fact, a lens just (re) set by Elizabeth Catanese.

Elizabeth, I was quite struck by your observation that serendip is not a closed system but an open one. One of the major delights for me, of working on this site, has been to see how very open it is. This week, for instance, while my CSem on Storytelling was discussing the ways in which fairy tales represent sibling rivalries, we were visited in the on-line course forum by a sibling of one of our class members. A few years ago, while my Thinking Sex class was discussing "Sex in Law and Media," two Columbia University students stumbled across the site, were intrigued by some of the discourse offered, and asked to join in the discussion for a moment... Certainly one reason (as you suggest, Elizabeth) that Serendip will "not spontaneously destruct" or "fall in on itself" is that it is continually fed from the outside in these ways.

When you take another step, to suggest that this phenomen may be related to entropy, I am reminded of the discussion we had in The Story of Evolution about the way in which entropy contributes to local points of organization: the running-down of the whole system fuels the concentrated organization of particular parts. What an interesting way to think about Serendip!--both about the way in which it has grown, and can now be organized. Ann Dixon, its webmistress, has been working for a while now on various ways of tracing and representing the organism that is Serendip, now large enough that it can not be "contained" in any one particular brain, and so requires "maps" for orientation and guidance. See, for example, both Serendip's Site Map and a A Selected Index .

But even more interesting to me is the degree to which, in such a system, each of us must (as you say, Elizabeth) "compartmentalize," control, or "filter" our "sensory imput": "We are looking for order out there in so that we can better order what's inside." (There were similar conversations, in last spring's Brown Bag series on "Information, Meaning and Noise," about where individual responsibility lay in managing Information Overload: Turning it Off/Turning it On.) Ann has provided not only a couple of different ways in which Serendip might be understood to be "organized," but also an invitation to Create Your Own Search, make your own site map, organize it in accordance with your own interests. I've tried to do that myself, in a couple of different ways: a play about the Descartes exhibit (somewhat unwieldy to anyone outside my own brain) and in a chronological catalogue of my own contributions to it (more readable to others) .

But some of my most charged and interesting conversations here have been about the effect on others of the way I organize my own postings, about how "present" I am to my readers, how much "integrity" my essays have, when they are filled with links that interrupt the flow of reading, that invite (or seem to "force"?) readers to follow them...wherever they may go? How accountable am I for the tendrils such links bring with them, how accountable for the interruptions to my own arguments? How responsible are others for contructing their own "site maps," of deciding for themselves--not guided by me--which of these tendrils have interest to them, which of them they will follow?

It is precisely the opening-out-ness of such links, their refusal to be confined in a "closed system," that I most revel in in using the web. As you know, I don't much like boxes in particular, have a strong resistence to being "boxed in"--and so found myself not at all drawn into Sharon's most recent representation of what it looks (and feels?) like to be unassailable. What a surprise to find, when I walked into my office the other day, a serendipidous gift from another friend, of an alternative relation of self to the universe, a picture which represents to me what being on Serendip is like: here the self shapes the universe around one's own interests, becomes the "center" in one's own story....and yet the world remains so much larger than what any one of us can encompass. Counter- entropy, indeed.


self-hooks and sky-hooks
Name: Elizabeth
Date: //2004-09-17 11:29:17 :
Link to this Comment: 10857

Anne, not exactly sure what the "this" is- what you are thining is weird and what sense of the word, you mean. Bringing up the discussion of entropy again is weird? My thoughts on it in relation to open/closed systems? Explain more?

So, what made me giggle a little bit was looking at your "blog". Fascinating things in there which I'd never seen- a very interesting way of organizing thoughts but there was something about it that was kind of existential. Please know I am not making fun here, I'm very seriously observing.

In a forum such as this one person A talks to person B and more often than not there is somewhat of a direct correspondence between what person A and person B says... OR if we're NOT working with an A, B, A rhyme scheme, We're working with A, B, C, B... or something like this. The blog method of organization makes it look like, Anne talks to Anne, Anne responds to Anne but never directly- the gap between the correspondence of posts, seems slighly wider than on a forum with lots of people... Granted that blog is not a forum, more of a record I suppose. Although I am not familiar with the format and thus should not suppose.

Also thought it was funny that the headings are in red- makes it somewhat dramatic/menacing (red is stop sign color, red light indicates stop, red is blood, red is fragile rose petal about to fall, black is the deepest shade of red... (am being intentionally dramatic). I'm VERY fond of the color red. And also the various places where it says "welcome to..." "welcome" and then we only see traces of the others who have shaped the thoughts within the posts... never their voices directly (although some quoted directly) like parts of McBride students' papers. And we realize that we are only secondarily being welcomed- we're listening in on something that has already been.

Felt like I was listening in on an interior monologue. Of course, here I am responding to it... finding things interesting but that space... BUT with all the red and all and the welcomes that welcome people who have already been but not people listening in on the future...well... It reminded me of Sarte's play, No Exit.

Was pointed out to me that everyone's got a so much to say, everyone just wants to be heard so deeply so that no one's listening anymore, no one's really listening so that everyone's just talking to him/herself.

So I think the above is true and I also think that "self-talk" is interesting (although if one steps back and thinks about why we talk and who is listening and what they are listening to, one might start feeling lonely) I also think that Serendip DOES promote the connection between people, for example my conversations with all on this forum (have been fulfilling/important for my growth) and my continuing dialogue with Lucy and Sharon has become something I'm quite thankful for. Will never forget when Lucy said "she looked forward to contacting me directly"- some parts of our dialogue did go from public to private and that was exactly what needed to happen.

And I still think, although you built upon the part of me that spoke about serendip as an open system (the part that's the strongest right now) that there are inevitably some closed parts... that is cannot be entirely open and that is what makes it wonderful also.

As for closed systems, open systems, boxes... well, i think it's fascinating and i'm not sure we'll ever quite agree totally there. But what i do think would be interesting would be for you, Anne to remeber that you said this:

for me, the box (colored so brightly, brightly and w/ beauty; i revel in the intensity of these primary colors) clearly represents academic “knowledge,” the sort of “packaging” that shows up as disciplines like“biology” or “literary studies” or “anthropology,” while the globe is the multiple pleasing richnesses of the world. but i really don’t like the way this artist has figured the relationship between these two images. rather than “reading” what she’s drawn, i’d prefer to re-draw the picture/re-arrange the interaction between the parts. i’d get rid of the stand and its label, put the box and the globe on the same level, let the puzzle pieces flow back and forth between them, in order to “say” that the rich multiplicity of the world is what feeds our academic “packages,” but the sense those packages make of the world has the capacity for re-shaping it in turn...and on and on/round and round/back and forth it goes. (in the picture, as it’s currently drawn, gravity works against that back-and-forth process)....now: WOULDN’T i just like it a LOT if, before class ends in december, each of us could not just describe (as i just have), but actually DRAW our own figure of what “understanding” looks like....

Here you were re-working one of Sharon's box images but not being frustrated with the box. What's interesting to me, is that when I think of open systems, look at the counter image to Sharon's unassailed (the one with the figure outside in that big open space), I do not get frustrated and pull back and think... NO that is not the way it should be, I do not want to look at this image (as perhaps you do when you see box imagery?)

I very much like looking at images that don't speak to how I'm feeling at any given moment as well as ones that do. What I'm saying by all of this is that Anne, you are VERY open- I see you as embodying the notion of open system and I respect you very much for it, but I also think that maybe, you are somewhat closed to representations of systems which you see as being closed. You've found that that doesn't work for you, so you look away towards larger things- towards the big rainbow expanse of sky... but I think, if you looked closely within that rainbow you might find a woman sitting in a box, looking at all the colors around her... and if that happens, I think it would be best not to turn away. Just as you're there sitting looking at the bigger sky for a reason, she's there for a reason.

I think we all could benefit by taking longer looks at things that make us uncomfortable... for instance, in Sharon's box, you saw a woman who was looking entirely downward, hair over face etc...sad, confined and didn't see the face of the woman, that slight sliver at the top of the page, showing another possible reading: the woman's contentedness to be in that space.

In evolution class, Paul said he didn't believe in stories, that he listened to them, learned from them and used them when he found them useful... but that believing in stories would somehow limit the process of growth and change (very much a paraphrase)... and to that I responded that I believe in stories, wherever they are from... to believe in a story is to enter it as if I had written the story myself and it's only then that I can really know them, use them, understand them.

So as I continue to be somewhat agorophobic and you somewhat claustrophobic- I think what we should remember to keep doing is listening as hard as we possibly can to one another even if what the other is saying does not conform to who were are and what makes us comforatble. That's what we've been doing... I say it wouldn't hurt to do even more in that vien.

New thought: You wrote in your thought collection:

I've been working (in another vineyard nearby) on putting together a collection of essays on "Emergence." As part of this project, Doug Blank loaned me a copy of Hofstadter and Dennett's collection of essays, The Mind's I: Fantasies and Reflections on Self and Soul. There's a ton in this book which intersects w/, supports and (occasionally) pushes beyond the sense of the exploratory-stable self we have been trying to describe together. I want to quote (contribute) three passages here. The first, by Doug Hofstadter, suggests that it is actually our limitations which make each of us persistently US:
an object bears a very special and unique relationship to itself, which limits its ability to act upon itself in the way it can act on all other objects. A pencil cannot write on itself; a fly swatter cannot swat a fly sitting on its handle...a snake cannot eat itself; and so on. People cannot see their own faces...each of us is trapped inside a powerful systems with a unique point of view--and that power is also a guarantor of limitedness. And this vulnerability--this self-hook--may also be the source of the ineradicable sense of "I." (278)

I'm thinking about self-hook in relation to the distance i was talking about in blog v. forum... also the fascinating "sky hook" (that's Dennett idea also) that seems to be in Sharon's image "access" and then maybe the self-hook that I created in response in my "assailed by access"... in the imagetalk dialogue.

Am thinking very deeply about mirrors. More to say there... more will come of it with help of (your)... the infinite you... the you that means anyone and everyone's thoughts.







another dialogue ...
Name: Paul Grobstein
Date: //2004-09-14 14:09:10 :
Link to this Comment: 10839

the stuffness of the inside will always somehow be more overwhelming than the stuffness of the outside with some more thoughts about what works/doesn't work on Serendip/Descartes and why ...


further thinking: blogs and forums
Name: Anne Dalke
Date: //2004-09-18 16:48:09 :
Link to this Comment: 10862

I just meant, Elizabeth, that--given all the public thinking I do--it was "wierd" that Paul had no idea what Anne thinks. Thank you for taking so much thought trying to figure that out; I want to respond by highlighting (and revising!) a couple of your observations that I think may be of particular use, not just regarding my own thought processes, but in thinking-through how Serendip's forums may facilitate thinking more generally....

I've never had much interest in blogs, I think for the reasons you mention: they seem so entirely self-referential ("a closed system?"); they function as "interior monologues," "self-talk," performances of the self revising its own thinking by talking to itself. You identify that quality in my "mock" blog, when you observe me responding to me, although never directly (in part because this was a "faux" blog, with entries having been extracted from public forums). I far prefer the forums on Serendip, where the thinking of one person more clearly intersects with--and can ofttimes be seen as actively modifying--that of another. My preference, again, for open systems--because there's more to learn.

Just as interesting to me was the comparative reading you made between my readings of two paintings: Sharon's "Understanding Is..." and my more recent acquisition, "The View from Somewhere":

Let me offer an alternative comparative reading, one that makes me more consistent, less revisionary than yours suggests (not that I'm opposed to revision, just that I don't think that--in this case--I've moved as far as you imply). In the first painting, I saw the multiplicity of the world as being organized by already established cultural or disciplinary categories (the red squares might, say, be literary studies, the green ones social science, the blue science....). In reading the puzzle pieces as flowing two ways, I was both acknowledging the value of socially constructed categories, and the vital need to always be re-constructing them. In the second painting, the same "loop" still operates, but now the "squeezer" or "rectifier" or "organizer" of patterns is the self. Those colors descend to her, but they also arise from and go out from her...

And this, for me, really IS a representation of how I experience and what I like about Serendip's forums. They are for me less a place for making the sort of private connections that you have so valued making over the summer, and more a place for the sort of work that remains in the public square, where it can always be assailed and so revised....

Hm: guess I need a new painting, with two or more viewers, interacting and altering....? Some more colorful version of

For the "theory" of this image, see Story-Telling in (At Least) Three Dimensions. Might be interesting to see how--in light of your recent work on (sometimes obliquely reflecting) "mirrors"--it might also be revised.


fiuzzy lines
Name: Elizabeth
Date: //2004-09-20 00:27:25 :
Link to this Comment: 10875

Very good to know what was meant by "this is wierd" and actually I think that would be good to play with also (though I had fun with my not quite accurate conjectures). I do indeed think in spite of how public anyone goes on a forum or anywhere, no matter how much information one reveals or one tells to other, one cannot presume that another person will know how one feels about anything... in the end the only person that knows what one thinks is the self. This is especially true if one subscribes to the philosophy that anything outside of the self is story- often truthful, often authentic but always slightly removed.

And not to go back and forth in circles about our varying notions about boxes--am just about ready to call that explored enough for now... but I can't resist saying one more thing. If categories in an open system (to me synonymous with boxes in an open system) can be revised to be made more useful, so too can one revise places of safety and security so that they are more inclusive, less inclusive, more open, less open. There are many options for boxes, many models in the catalogue- This relates to what Lucy has said about what public is, there are many different ways of going public- different ways that are right for different situations, different people.

Boxes are not closed off ways of being they are simply tools... When it's raining I go inside or use an umbrella... when it's sunny I enjoy open space. I do not hate open space, I simply open myself up to choice. Lets say two people are building a cathedral :-) It starts to rain and thunder. (this is funny... sounds like i'm setting up a joke- that's just coincidental)... So two people are building a cathedral and it's raining and thundering. One stays outside because she likes the open air and doesn't want to delay the process of building. She is the outside builder. The outside builder looks disapprovingly at the builder who's gone inside at the first sign of thunder. The outside builder builds and builds and is content in the rain- she doesn't get struck by lightning as the inside builder has feared, she mearly makes external progress. Meanwhile the inside builder is waiting for the rain to stop and has been drawing up plans for an even faster and more beautiful way to build the cathedral. The rain stops and the inside builder goes outside...she is thrilled to see that the outside builder has made enough progress for the new plans to start being realized. The outside builder is happy for the new plans, is happy that the inside builder is back and the two continue building happily ever after. I suppose there are many ways to write that fairy tale- but I think it shows that there is perhpas a value to both closed systems and open systems
taking it further (and perhaps the story does not illustrate this) not only are the two necessary (closed and open systems) but neither of them really exist... or if they do, the line between them is a little fuzzy.

On a purely formal level I love the way the lines of the rainbow come towards the person in "open system woman" (that's what I've named that one) and the way the puzzle pieces move from box to orb in Sharon's understanding is... a good pairing! If the two images were a slide comparison on an art history exam, there'd be a lot to say :-)


Descartes' Blues
Name: Anne Dalke
Date: //2004-09-12 09:46:46 :
Link to this Comment: 10823

Since I'd tried my hand more than once @ turning Descartes into drama (actually, @ replacing him centerstage with Cyrano de Bergerac) I was drawn in particular to one the offerings @ the Fringe this weekend, Descartes' Blues, which was advertised as "a drama of desire....Rene's in love with three women, at war with his heart...." Or, as the guy sitting next to me in the theater last night said, "This play is saying something different. It's saying, 'I feel, therefore I am...'"

(Am not, by the way, particularly engaged by this binary; think Eric Raimy got us around it two months ago, with his query whether "thinking" is just internal sensory input? Maybe, we're just sensing ourselves when we think?)

Anyhow, back to the play...which was actually pretty curious, somewhat muddled in what it was saying and how it said it. But it was a kick for me to watch, both because of the way in which it danced around--and actualized--so many of the themes in this series of dialogues, and because of the way in which it invited the audience to consider the insistent back-and-forthing between Descartes' philosophy and his particular way of managing his life: each clearly shaped the other, w/ cause-and-effect (in the play @ least!) being clearly reciprocal.

In this regard, four scenes in particular caught my attention:


Imagetalk
Name: Sharon Burgmayer
Date: //2004-09-12 21:00:51 :
Link to this Comment: 10824

Is a picture worth a thousand words? Perhaps that was behind my idea to try an experiment: a conversation in images.


Earlier in this forum, the differences between communication mediated through words and by images, and our individual preferences for one or the other have been addressed in a series of postings. That discussion introduced me to Elizabeth Catanese, who expresses herself beautifully in words, but also in images. So I invited Elizabeth into this experiment of talking in images. Elizabeth and I invited along Lucy Kerman, who has found expression in music and who was intrigued to explore expression in visual media.


So here is the result of our experiment:
On Friendship and the Power to Change: A Conversation in Images
. Within this site you’ll find an introduction by Lucy that summarizes (in words!) how this project evolved, followed by a series of images that Elizabeth and I painted back and forth to each other. The enlarged versions of the paintings include excerpts from our (word) conversations about the process of expression in images and how we react both to the process of self-expression in images and to the interpretation of others’ like expression. Elizabeth, Lucy and I invite you to "listen in" to our imagtalk and share your reactions here in the forum.


The experiment isn’t over. More images will be added to the site as we “talk” more and we’re certainly curious to find out where the conversation will go next!


the elections ...
Name: Paul Grobstein
Date: //2004-11-04 16:54:24 :
Link to this Comment: 11359

Obviously, I do think the elections are relevant to what we're talking about here and vice versa, and so I'm glad to share thoughts here along those lines with others. But, at the same time, I think the elections have additional implications and meanings, and so deserve their own space/context where people not involved here might become involved as well. So, check out The Place of the US in the World Community, November 2004, leave some thoughts there as well, spread the word to others who might be feeling they need a place to share stories after the elections?

I just posted there, and not sure but maybe some of what I said is responsive to Em's question. Is along the lines of Lucy's "huge gap of understanding" and "need for public discourse", as well as Maria's "bit of distance between yourself and your gut reaction". One CAN have "morality" without "fixity. One could accept/expect that one's "morality" is USEFULLY informed/altered by interaction with people different than oneself.


the usefulness of tension and the privledge of tra
Name: Elizabeth
Date: //2004-09-04 10:26:03 :
Link to this Comment: 10765

In response to Anne's play, Paula said: “as it is, there’s too much stuff in there, no clear points to an outside audience, no tension in the story, necessary to keep people awake. It’s very difficult to write about
specialized themes in a way that is both meaningful and interesting.”

Was speaking with Rachel Simon about fragmentation as potential texture in fiction. In the course of this discussion she said that some students willnot write dialogue because they are concerned with theme and the ideas inside of a character’s head… theme should not necessarily placed above character… It is difficult to have fiction without dialogue…that dialogue lends vitality to the work- interaction strengthens. So if the tension that Paula said was missing in Anne's story was the tension between characters, there are some implications for the nature of thinking and being. Rachel (of the serendip dialogue) said that she liked the idea of the self as a character- I want to explore my ideas on that more… if we step outside of ourselves and begin to see and recreate ourselves as characters we begin to see and crave tension both within the self as the self reacts with others. If there needs to be tension to keep the reader awake, we need to experience tension to keep ourselves awake- extend awake to alive… we need tension to keep alive… extend alive to the notion of being… we need tension in order to “be” meaningfully. We "are" because we can find tension. Tension is a way of ordering things. Create tension in a story. Do interesting things with negative space to create visual tension and moments of visual release in an image. Humor is based on this tension- the bridge- the release…and in this sense it’s a necessary way of keeping ourselves alive.


In Shakespeare class last Tuesday, Prof. Kramer spoke of his interest in “the theater of the mind”. He said that he’s not interested in seeing Shakespeare performed anymore because what the mind can do with the play in its written form is much more expansive and different from what can be produced on stage- that stage presentations are boring to him. This is certainly not at all true for me at this point in my life- other creative visual interpretations only enhance the theatre of my mind. But that’s not the point. The point is the implication of “theater of the mind”… On a biological level the way we think must be based on some sort of tension and balance between chemicals etc. I actually have very little idea how one thinks- I have a romantic… sort of artistic (probably not accurate) view of that- things are kind of jumping around in there in bright yellow weaving in and out of cooler colored solid objects- that the inside of the mind is an active painting that’s constantly reworking itself. How does it really work? I'm not sure but I do think that it's based in balance/unbalance, tension/release.

Life is by its very nature active… It must thrive on tension. Tension creates a need for movement. It is a fundamental property of our human condition- this need to move… throughout time: it is a inevitable that we move as human beings- we cannot be static- the mind allows us to corroborate with the biologically inevitable forward motion which ultimately ends (some might argue) by ceasing to exist- There is no tension in death. (I also never liked the idea of “heaven” which I was told would involve as much ice cream as I wanted- all the time. Ice cream is not ice cream if you don’t ever have to whine or beg to get it, not get it all the time or in the more adult form worry about calories/ heath things. Remove all that and you get sugar and milk and eggs and a brief pleasurable sensation in the mouth.) Furthermore as long as we are alive and craving tension, we must also be craving interaction… one reason why web based discussion is so useful…

Rachel said “I am inclined to think that the greatest poets, thinkers, etc. HAD to experience tragedy (in some forms at least) in order to give way to beauty in whatever form”

Tragedy does somehow give way to beauty- what a good way to put it…

One can even create tragedy (or tension) in order to order life and thus to recreate it. If one “thinks” and has the resources to nurture thought and the mind, then tragedy can become useful. With mental engagement tragedy can indeed become privilege- it is built in tension which creates a roadblock of sorts- something in the path that the mind can “make sense of” or travel over in different ways- restructure or use in ways which will allow us to make decisions for the rest of life. Tragedy is horrible when the body/mind is experiencing it (in its “event” form) but even when it’s the most painful- give it to the mind and the mind is somehow nourished- that is, gets something if not immediately pleasurable, ultimately useful. Out of this can come a sort of intellectual product which is meaningful

Everyone processes the tragedies in their life- some more actively and consciously than others. That is, some use tragedy to make beauty/art- But I’d say that the best thinkers and poets and writers are not the ones who have necessarily experienced the MOST tragedy but who have known how to best use this tragedy as a springboard, to use this tragedy as a way to nourish the mind, to use the tragedy itself and the structure of that tragedy to communicate with others and ultimately the self.

Any scenario can be tried out in the mind… we have a culturally imposed and (in my opinion) perfectly valid moral obligation to be truthful to the other BUT we can try out all sort of “lies” within the self- make up tragedy, find comedy within it- restructure the ungraspable in our lives in order to make sense of it. I write and read fiction for the way in which it allows me to try out different possibilities for myself.

Here’s a passage from Carol Shield’s book Unless (the last book that she wrote before she died) which I found to be interesting and moving and which is pertinent “ Our sunny daughter Norah teased us with curious notions. Voices talking in her head, she said. All the time. But we understood at once that this meant nothing, only that she had become conscious of the lifelong dialogue that goes on in a person’s head, the longest conversation any of us has.” (144)

For me this dialogue, this longest conversation is
evidence of the mind working to create, then reinvent the self.

“we understood at once that this meant nothing…”

Complex, beautiful and tragic... this dialogue and what it represents is the closest thing to human purpose that I can think of. To me it means
everything.



self and society
Name: Paul Grobstein
Date: //2004-08-29 11:46:28 :
Link to this Comment: 10699

Pleased (of course) to have Elizabeth both getting and giving, finding "self" in interaction with others and sharing for whatever she may provide to other peoples' stories. Interesting issue is the extension of that, whether/how the evolution of selves relates to the evolution of societies/cultures. With Corey Shdaimah, a colleague in the Graduate School of Social Work and Social Research, a new dialogue on that theme: I draw on a sort of gut reaction and also on my experience interviewing legal services lawyers and clients and from what i see in the welfare and housing policy discourses. When we say that people have the potential to change (and is that the same thing as the power?) we do not take into account the structural conditions (and to extrapolate perhaps the biological parameters) within which change is possible


social systems
Name: Lucy Kerma
Date: //2004-08-29 14:37:31 :
Link to this Comment: 10700

Thanks to Corey and Paul for starting down such an interesting path. I found myself wondering what Corey’s clinical experience has been, and would be curious if she wanted to talk more about that. I suspect I am coming at this from a different angle, but let me share a response.

Like Paul, I don’t think of individual/social change is an either/or proposition (and I was interested to see dichotomies between both personal and political, and clinical vs policy, which I’m not sure I see either). I think of individuals as operating within systems, and of the whole as a continuum, where any change to one part will, inevitably, result in changes (big or small) to the others. So, we’re individuals, and also members of families, churches, schools, races, economic classes, neighborhoods, cities, nations, and in each of these there is not only the possibility but, indeed, the inevitably of change (since change of one sort or another is constant).

Believing in the inevitably of change encourages me, at least, to want to have some impact on the direction and nature of change. We can work at the individual level (therapy, education, mentoring, skills development, legal advice) or the broader level (school reform, housing development, job training programs, town watches, greening organizations, election work, peace work), wherever we feel comfortable and effective. Either way, there’s plenty of work to do.

I’m not sure I understood the discussion about acknowledging the possibility that individuals can purposely change, and how that relates to tackling larger structural social issues. To think that change has to start at the individual level, though, is a bit like suggesting that we can’t vote in national elections until we work out our relationships with our mothers (which we KNOW will never happen).

Final thought? “Cultures” don’t “sustain, rather than inhibit, a belief in personal ability to change” – individuals in cultures do.


where ARE we on "profound skepticism"?
Name: Paul Grobstein
Date: //2004-09-06 14:55:59 :
Link to this Comment: 10783

I stand corrected. Jed is indeed not the only one who is less than entirely comfortable with a complete "profound skepticism". Now that the question has been raised, it might in fact be worth doing a little cataloguing and analysis to see if we can figure out what the difference is (differences are?) between those who are comfortable and those who are not. The original essay was as much about what to do once one accepts the idea of profound skepticism as it was about the reasons to accept it, and we can't really go on to the second step without the first. One thing in the way is certainly a wish for safety/security, and that might indeed be dealt with by the "depriving EVERYTHING of the status of FINAL 'authority provides more 'balance' and 'security' ... argument". Question is are there other things in the way of step one, that need other responses?

My guess is that some discomfort about how to make sense of lying/tragedy/tension might be another reason to resist profound skepticism. For some it may suggest that one would be condemned to live permanently in darkness. That too has, it seems to me, been dealt with effectively ... "we can try out all sorts of "lies" within the self - make up tragedy, find comedy within it - restructure the ungraspable in our lives in order to make sense of it". My own version of this, perhaps appropriately from a talk on science and art:

"A world that can be painted darker can also be painted brighter"

On another track, profound skepticism might be resisted on the grounds that it discourages efforts to change, either individually or socially. But that too has, it seems to me, been dealt with: "Believing in the inevitability of change encourages me ... to want to have some impact on the direction and nature of change ... either at the individual level ... or at the broader level ... "

So, what's left? Or are we all ready to move on to step 2? Jed, you around here somewhere?


and now for something entirely (?) different ...
Name: Paul Grobstein
Date: //2004-09-06 15:25:33 :
Link to this Comment: 10786


Science, story telling, and profound skepticism?


Faust
Name: Lucy Kerma
Date: //2004-10-24 09:04:29 :
Link to this Comment: 11190

I also didn’t see “shredded and torn” in either “Once Upon A Time” or the “Conversation in Images.” And, like Paul, I responded to the “spaceness” of Elizabeth’s installation – I enjoyed the freedom to go from station to station, to go back and forth, to find my own sense of relation between the various parts, not a linear progression but more of a spiral (both in person and on-line). I was, though, more struck by all the holes than Paul seems to have been. If I had been photographing it, I would have spent more time going into the various openings.

How do we know if this is a “sex/gender” thing? There is no question that everything I do, I do “as” a woman. But is it “because” I am a woman? Is what I do reduce-able to my sex/gender variant? And is that more significant than other things about me – that I am, say, middle class, white, over-educated, western, an atheist, a mother, right-handed?

That said, there are obviously lots of factors in our different reactions to things, and sex/gender is certainly among them. This all reminds me of what was, for me, a defining moment in my undergraduate career. I took a Western History survey as a freshman – one of those “fall of the Roman Empire to WWII in 10 weeks” classes at Berkeley, with over 600 students. We were divided into small discussion sections with graduate students, and mine was on German literature. The graduate instructor – a woman – asked what became one of my central obsessions as an undergraduate and graduate student: could Faust have been a woman? Therein lies a whole world of questions, it seems to me, about identity and self-identification. I still don’t know the answer.


Treeness
Name: Jeremy Hol
Date: //2004-09-26 07:59:48 :
Link to this Comment: 10947

You are correct Paul,

It was the question "are things going on in the brain other than conscious and unconscious" that prompted me to participate. I often equate this to an idea left on a back burner. When the solution to a problem is not immediatly known, it seems a unseen process will factor and exchange possible solutions. Depending on whether on not this process comes up with something, an ureuka revelation may float to the surface of the conscious mind.

Also I find it most relevent that "time" a constuct of an engine is pointed out.
Good stuff.


eureka
Name: Lucy Kerma
Date: //2004-09-26 10:03:28 :
Link to this Comment: 10948

Exactly! This is actually one thing I was thinking when I posed that question about what else there is besides unconscious and conscious: that eureka moment, which is no longer the unconscious working out a problem but not yet the fully articulated (ie., with words) conscious expression of the solution: that moment of "knowing" without using words. What is wordless knowledge?


(Trying to) think our way out of a wet paper bag
Name: Anne Dalke
Date: //2004-09-26 10:42:02 :
Link to this Comment: 10949

Am deliberately altering the image here, from the box we're "closed in" or pushing "open" to that of something less stiff, less push-against-able: the wrinkled paper bag of this universe in which we find ourselves. More concretely, I want to bring into this space something Liz McCormack said during the brown bag discussion she led on Friday, something that just might help us get somewhere we haven't been yet able to go. Liz suggested that

we can transform the sort of writing anxiety that is disabling into something productive, by thinking of it as the expression of a tension. We are nervous about "making a commitment to one narrative" (when we connect the dots between A and B, for instance, we are not connecting C to D).

I hear this, in terms of the language about time being used above, as acknowledging the irreversibility of time's arrow--or, more precisely, the irreversibility of narrative's arrow: when we chose to tell one story, we are choosing not to tell another, and we are anxious about the consequences of having made that choice. We fear that we have closed off other stories, other options, other possibilities.

Margery Kempe's sense of the "eternal now" freed her from the constraints of the everyday (she was always disrupting dinner parties and church services in the here-and-now). But it also bound her to the compulsions of the past (Jesus's ever-present death) and the future (her location in the kingdom of heaven); The need of both Israelis and Palestineans to remember their past keeps them bound to re-enacting those wounds in the present (and--we fear--will do continue to do so in the future). I'm trying to think my way out of the box of both those constructions, both those perceptions of the relationship of time's various "location parameters," into a "paper bag of peace" in which we need not push so hard against either the past or the present or toward the future--in which we need not push so hard against one another, in which we need not try so hard, in particular, to correct one another's stories. I gave a talk last spring on Finding the Language of Peace which drew both on Susan Sontag's suggestion that

Perhaps too much value is assigned to memory, not enough to thinking. Remembering is an ethical act....To make peace is to forget. To reconcile, it is necesary that memory be faulty and limited. If the goal is having some space in which to live one's own life, then it is desireable that the account of specific injustices dissolve into a more general understanding that human beings everywhere do terrible things to one another...

and also Jerome Bruner's argument that to be in a viable culture is to be bound in a set of connecting stories, connecting even though the stories may not represent a consensus. Perhaps the the way straight through here has less to do with our various ways of managing the temporal relationship of "past" to "present" than to re-thinking the spatial dimension: our "baggy" openness to the accounts of others.

It seems to me that that is what happened on Friday afternoon; a fuller account of that conversation in Listening for Peace: The Israeli-Palestinian Struggle is now available on-line, where yet further storytelling, further points of view, the savoring of varieties of different "food," is also warmly welcome, as it is of course here.


"There is another world, and it is this one."
Name:
Date: //2004-09-23 22:19:14 :
Link to this Comment: 10939

Paul Eluard (a French surrealist, lyric poet): "There is another world, and it is this one."

Rather than work around....thought I'd try going straight THROUGH. I, too, began today in the Emergent Systems working group, where I found quite compelling Rob's history of "emergence" in a recognition of two "different things." I spent some time, too, weighing along with him the merits and limits of the varieties of ways that have been devised to bridge the gap between them.

But I ended the day in a very different space, a talk by Carolyn Dinshaw (BMC '78, Professor of English and Director of the Center for Gender and Sexuality @ NYU) called "How Soon is Now? The Times of Margery Kempe," which led me to question (the usefulness? the "truth"?) of this twoness of the world (however we identity the binary: mental/physical OR thinking/treeness OR conscious/unconscious OR metaphoric/metonymic OR....) Carolyn's talk focused on the very-disturbing-to-others experiences of the medieval mystic Margery Kempe, who lived passionately in the "eternal now." The everyday chronology of the those around her was continuously assaulted by this mystic who lived in and acted out of the "endlessness of the present," whose experiences problematized the presumption that body is located in sequential time and local space. To me, Dinshaw's most interesting move was her suggestion that Kempe's experience of temporality (as neither sequential nor causal) was shared by her 20th century editor, Hope Emily Allen, who felt herself not just contemporary with but corporeally coexistent with her Kempe. It was shared, too, by Dinshaw herself, who--when she returned to work in BMC's archives last year--found herself simultaneously occupying multiple temporalities: the present, her own undergraduate life on campus 20-some years ago, Hope Emily Allen's bodily absorption in the past, and Margery Kempe's extensive "now." The "fact of mysticism"--that we occupy multiple times and spaces simultaneously, became, by the end of Dinshaw's talk, also a "fact" of scholarship, in which one immerses oneself in the experiences of the past.

Dinshaw's talk put me strongly in mind of the discussions, during the Symposium on Time two years "ago," in which Cheryl Chen laid out two opposing pictures of the nature of time: the conventional tripartite (and uni-directional) view of past, present and future, vs. the "block universe" (or "reversible") view preferred by physicists: "a timescape with all past and future events located there together." Paul suggested then that we might understand these two pictures as the two different ways that consciousness (seeking sequence, causaulity) and the unconscious (experiencing a continuous present) handle time. But these are just (as I re-see them, "now," through Dinshaw-Allen-Kempe's lenses) just two sorts of PERCEPTION, not two sorts of THINGS.

Dinshaw's argument was that, in taking seriously Kempe's experience of the "eternal now," we might "queer" our own experiences of local, located, linear time.(To a priest who counseled restraint in her extreme devotional practices--"Jesus died a long time ago"--Margery Kempe replied, ""his death to me is as fresh as if he died today." ) Yet Dinshaw's multiple examples of asynchronous temporarilty--not only of Kempe, but of her editor and of Dinshaw herself, suggest that what might be "queer" is our academic (disciplinary?) insistance on sequentiality.

A very-long-way-about way of answering your query, Elizabeth: yes, I DO think we are less vulnerable when we are aware of what lies outside the box (see earlier discussion on this between the two Pauls). But being in the box or outside of it is not two different things; it is a matter of perception. And alterable.



Name: Lucy Kerma
Date: //2004-09-24 16:50:34 :
Link to this Comment: 10941

I confess I don’t quite understand Anne’s point, but if we’re going to reject reflexive binaries, we might as well reject the old linear time vs “eternal now” binary too. Does it have to be either/or? And, are we talking here about memory and imagination, or something more?

Wondering also if it is helpful to consider that whatever our experience “feels” like, there is still the possibility that something (else) may have “happened” in local, located, linear time. As a historian, I am not bothered by the idea that (some) things “happen” – and, by implication, other things do not happen, are not “true” in that sense. Nor does it bother me to think that there are (some) sequences to events. There are sequences in the natural world, aren’t there? Like, people have to be born before they can act in a certain historical context? Or, I may think I fought in the American Revolution, but it is probably not true? Or, to take a personal example: my brother died 10 years ago, and while it is certainly the case that “his death to me is as fresh as if he died today," that doesn’t change the date of his death.

The Kempe story reminds me of the old saying, “if wishes were horses, all beggars would ride.” Wishing something doesn’t make it true, however it feels.

(And yes, pace Freud, I know this whole issue of “truth” gets tricky on the psychological level.)

Going back to Paul’s posting, though: curious whether there are things going on in the brain other than conscious and unconscious. Is there anything more to be “accounted for” in the human mind? It’s all brain activity, I know, but are the conscious and unconscious so monolithic and specifically located that they are cleanly distinct, so to talk about conscious-or-unconscious is to tell the whole story?


anonymous
Name: Jeremy W H
Date: //2004-09-24 22:04:19 :
Link to this Comment: 10944

WOW!

I have always related a thought process to an engine. There was more, but it seems I have forgotten. Your enthusiasm is well recieved.

anonymous, inventor, engineer


time
Name: Paul Grobstein
Date: //2004-09-25 12:36:56 :
Link to this Comment: 10946

Interesting/significant? that the issue of how to conceive "time", as per the exchange between Anne and Lucy, arose quite powefully in a quite practical context yesterday during a Diversity discussion about "Listening for Peace: The Israeli/Palestinian Struggle" (see see this and following posting there). In that context, it matters a lot how seriously one takes the continuing existence of the past, and even more how much one is constrained in one's present behavior by one's "memory" of the past.


My guess is that the past is more or less "real" to different people, ie that different people's stories about themselves in the present have different degrees of dependence on/interrelatedness with their stories about the past . To put it differently, I think that not only "the past" but "time" itself is a story, an internal experience and not a thing "out there" about which one can be certain one has a correct description. From which it follows (for me at least) that there cannot be a "correct" characterization of the relation between the past and the present (eg sequential or co-existing) or of the importance of the past for the present. Its different for different people.


And potentially different for the same person at different times. How one experiences time is, I would guess, normally a matter of treeness, of unconscious organization. But, "one can think" and that in turn both influences (in combination with treeness) how one acts and potentially treeness itself. So if one becomes dissatisfied with how one acts because of a particular way of experiencing time, one can act otherwise and, in so doing, change the way of experiencing. Which may be useful in situations of "historical" antipathy.


Maybe this is a test case for further exploring the question are things going on in the brain other than conscious and unconscious?. I'd say yes. There is the unconscious ("treeness"), and the conscious ("thinking", in the broad sense we're using the term here) and .... the combination and dynamic interaction between the two (perhaps the "self" or, in other peoples' stories, the "soul"?). Perhaps its the combination/interaction that both generates "boxes" and provides the basis for getting outside of them (as per evolving conversation above)? And the character/quality of the interaction is in turn a significant component of how one feels about "oneself"?



Name: Anne Dalke
Date: //2004-09-23 07:41:51 :
Link to this Comment: 10926

Maybe. And maybe--as in your most recent painting--what I'm insisting on is the ability of the self to push open the walls of that box and step out onto the mountaintop:

I'm also noticing, Sharon, that the sides of the box which forms the final image of your Conversation in Images are transparent. Here, where the box is shoved open (and that woman is working very hard!) the box is opaque. She HAS to get it open in order to see. To me, she's actually stepping thereby OUT of vulnerability (not into it, as you figure it), into a vision of 360 degrees. She can see all 'round now, and is much safer thereby.


safe or not
Name: Elizabeth
Date: //2004-09-23 12:15:45 :
Link to this Comment: 10931

the woman should be stepping out of vulnerablity by steping out of the box.... but haven't you suggested, Anne that there is an equivalent amount of vulnerabilty both inside and outside of the box? (that we live in a wilderness wherever we are) In your perception, as I understand it, the box is the illusion, it really cannot protect, thus, one is vulnerable wherever one is- if this is true then the placement of the word vulnerablity in Sharon's painting would not in fact matter? The woman could be stepping anywhere and it wouldn't matter? Without offering judgement or counter-argument I'm genuinely interested in whether I understand what you think about this.


on another topic ....
Name: Paul Grobstein
Date: //2004-09-23 12:36:49 :
Link to this Comment: 10932

(Myself taking seriously "Please do not feel that you have to read the entire forum or "fit into" the flow of conversation to contribute here. Conversations in progress here will not be interrupted by your contribution ..." (see note), presuming others are following same principle, will work around me as necessary/inclined).

Very interesting/relevant talk by Rob Wozniak, author of Mind and Body: From Descartes to William James, and resulting discussion in the Emergence Working Group this morning. Some bits it brought to me mind:

The limitations of association/metonomy were clear to both Kant and William James, but both saw them primarily in the light of the need for some "a priori" organizing principles which were needed to provide a basis for effective associative organizations to subsequently emerge. Whether that is true in some broadly applicable sense remains to be determined. It is, in an important sense, the core question in the ongoing debate between classical and distributed network approaches to AI (with Doug representing the latter and me continuing to say one needs some starting structure to get anything interesting to emerge in any reasonable time). My guess is that it will turn out that James/Kant were right for human development (there are some "metaphors" built in based on genetic information). In broader terms, though, I would bet that Kant/James were wrong, ie that interactions reflecting spatial and temporal continguity have existed in the universe for billions of years and that causally significant "metaphoric" relations are a later development that built on that (as per "From the Active Inanimate to Stories to Agency ..."). To think otherwise would be to give the universe a "plan" from the outset. The metonymy and THEN metaphor pattern is, in temporal terms, the same one I'm insisting on here architecturally as "treeness" and THEN "thinking".

Obviously, I think one can avoid both the problems of Descartes' approach AND that of the associationists by

My own "story-telling" in progress. For whatever use it might be to others. And with thanks to Rob and others there and here for their inputs.


Closed system as represenation
Name: Elizabeth
Date: //2004-09-21 23:19:13 :
Link to this Comment: 10902

Ann, so nice to see Audrey here. How incredibly wonderful and so very cute! Interesting is the shadow in the mirror in addition to the baby in the mirror. Another direction to go, to bring this back to Decartes would be to think about a child's experience... what is she thinking when she looks in the mirror? Can children tell us something about being and thinking... in all our twists and turns this summer and beyond, have we gone here yet? Maybe. Why is she smiling, giggling? I ask this as a more philosophical question. Recognition of the fact that representations exist- joy at the comedy of being human. How great also, to hear more of the story behind the blogs... very clarifying.

Today Anne and I were talking about a possible visual representation for Serendip... and in doing so I've determined (for now) is that there is no true way to visually represent an open system. Closed systems are representations; they are inherently that way....closed system=representation...pictures, constructs. Even if one loathes boxes, I think that one would agree that they are a good representation for closed systems. So I continue to see them as sense making tools... these things defined by some as closed systems... i like the removed nature, I like the image-like quality of them- I think that maybe what also bothers me about open systems is a certain quality of abstraction. For example, if anything and everything is allowed in an open system then how can we zoom in and just focus- Ezra Pound said "Go in fear of abstractions". Maybe I want to say "Go in fear of open systems." Lack of specificity makes life to fuzzy... But to say that is also to say "Go in fear of closed systems." This one, I can tell, is going to be a little hard to explain. I'll try...

I think that when one puts the first stroke of paint on the canvas, one is building a closed system... when one writes the first line of poetry one is building a closed system...(don't get nervous yet, anne :-) I think that very momentary closing down in the act of painting/writing allows the viewer (who comes along later) a sense of agency... his or her mind can take the picture outside of the frame, relate the story to experience beyond its confines... just another way that closed and open systems work together. And of course, the mind creates both closed and open systems- The mind does it all.

Was pointed out to me that I am now trying to explain everything in terms of open and closed systems. To this I say- ummm... not sure what to say... there must be new ways to take this discussion, but also something ever compelling and unresolved about closed/open systems in my mind... in spite of my fuzzy lines post, and in spite of the fact that I want to let it go- I can't (just yet)...


to choose consciously or not?
Name: Sharon Burgmayer
Date: //2004-09-22 13:46:20 :
Link to this Comment: 10906

Elizabeth wrote “when one puts the first stroke of paint on the canvas, one is building a closed system.” , and that reminded me (and was maybe her inspiration?) of this passage from the book “Art and Fear” that is meaningful to both of us. A redacted version of the section is:



…”The artwork’s potential is never higher than in that magic moment when the first brushstroke is applied, the first chord struck. …A piece grows by becoming specific. The moment Herman Melville penned the opening line “Call me Ishmael.”, one actual story—Moby Dick—began to separate itself from a multitude of imaginable others. And so on through the successive 500 pages, each successive sentence in some way had to acknowledge and relate to all that preceded. ..”What’s so hard about that first sentence is that you’re stuck with it. Everything else is going to flow out of the sentence. And by the time you’ve laid down the first two sentences, your options are nearly gone.” It’s the same for all media: the first few brushstrokes to the blank canvas satisfy the requirements of many possible paintings, while the last few fit only that painting—they could go nowhere else.”



Thinking more about how the process of art-making …or forum writing … or teaching or … anything(?) must always accomplish the building of a closed system, as Elizabeth proposes above, it seems to me that it is at the moment we move an activity into the conscious, that a discrimination must occur. This thing is such and not that; this word and not that one, this color and not that one. To not discriminate, means all possibilities remain possible and that we go in no specific direction. All would remain a blur; Elizabeth said: “life is too fuzzy”. We need some boxes in order to exist as conscious beings—certainly to communicate between conscious beings. To refuse all possible “boxing” and all discrimination, such would be to never emerge from the unconscious, perhaps the loneliest state of all. Perhaps insanity itself. Perhaps the unconscious only open system … and once its mysterious structure and functioning are describable (if ever), it too will be this and not that, closed and defined.


Having written all this, I feel all this discussion of closed vs open systems isn’t really behind Anne’s natural aversion to boxes and closed systems; it must be something else.
May it’s the “limitation” aspect of closed? But necessarily to make a choice,to discriminate, is to limit. Maybe it’s limitations imposed by outside that are so undesirable to you, Anne?


Blogs and Mirrors
Name: Ann Dixon
Date: //2004-09-21 12:09:49 :
Link to this Comment: 10896

I was the creator of Anne's blog in the sense that I was playing with the new database technology behind the forums, and thought, wouldn't it be interesting to display all of a person's writings since 2001. I thought, wouldn't it be interesting to see Anne's, since she's written a book within the Serendip forums, a book not readily seen in any other way.

My choice was red, since I wanted something different than what is currently the default, lightyellow. And we had had a conversation where she said her favorite color was red. To me, the red is a screaming 5 alarm color, but I wanted to shape it to Anne's preferences, seeing as how she wasn't a party to the construction of the blog.

I don't think the blog is a "faux blog" just because it wasn't intended to be part of a blog. It has the qualities of many blogs -- many topics, somewhat disconnected, somewhat self referential, a clear individual "voice" broadcasting.

So in a different sense, Anne was the creator of Anne's blog, and I do think it is an authentic blog as a standalone page. You'll notice that it keeps updating even as we're conversing now!

Elizabeth, I've enjoyed the beginnings of Paul's interpretation of your exhibit (to be public later in the fall), and want to contribute an image of a mirror to your thinking:

This is 4 month old Audrey who "discovers" the baby in the mirror every single day.


Slants of Light
Name: Anne Dalke
Date: //2004-09-21 22:46:26 :
Link to this Comment: 10901

...in the end the only person that knows what one thinks is the self.

Not so sure about that, Elizabeth, as this site has repeatedly shown: there's a great deal the self thinks that the self does not know, a great deal the self knows that it does not think...Even (especially?) little Audrey, who sees herself in the mirror, with a shadow of herself exceeding herself....

But what still interests me the most, right now, is the ways in which we obliquely mirror, not ourselves back to ourselves, but ourselves back to one another, through the sorts of exchanges that are happening here. When a comment of mine is "mirrored" back to me, in an altered form, when I (often usefully) "mis"-understand what another says, or am mis-understood, I learn something I didn't know, I realize I've participated in making something I hadn't anticipated. I'd asked, above, for a new painting, with two or more viewers, interacting and altering--and then was particularly amused to realize that I already had several handy, in rooms closely adjacent to this one. The first was designed by Liz McCormack for an essay she and I co-wrote w/ Paul on Theorizing Interdisciplinarity:

The second (more accurate, because incorporating multiple points) was a diagram that Sharon Burgmayer uses for her inorganic course, what she called "a radical description of inorganic chemistry in all its glorious webbed form":

I'd actually used 'em both before, on a talk exploring, among other things, the teacher's role as sharer of information, facilitator of the awareness of interdependence, and pruner/cleaner-outer-of-over-crowded rhizomes....

It's that role which is of most interest to me right now, as I think about the growth and structure of the web in general, and of Serendip in particular. Paul's just designed, for a presentation to College athletes on Leadership in Action, a new graphic illustration of both brain structure and social organization which emphasizes the distinctive ability of the "leader" ("integrator"? "synthesizer"?) to facilitate information flow among team members. His image and explanation has gotten me wondering just how Serendip might best be figured (a figure which might help us think forward to the most appropriate structures for its increasing growth in the future...)

Do forums like these operate as effectively as they do precisely because they do NOT have facilitators, pruners, cleaner-outers, because they are NOT "threaded" or organized in accord with any one line of thinking, or any one brain? What continues to compel me about this space is its openness, its unruliness, the way (for instance) it can expand the discussion in a classroom, so what might be "competition" for limited air space (within the "closed system" of a 75-minute class?) becomes moot ("Orah's postings grew and grew..."), so that the friction between frequent talkers and more quiet thinkers (for instance) is put into abeyance....

And yet I know that Ann does spam clean-up regularly; I know also that she's trying various ways to organize and map this increasingly large site; and I see the ways in which Paul offers periodic summations of "where we are right now".... Is it such "mirrors," which refract and crystallize the multiple points of light bouncing around in this space, that enable further growth, new angles of refraction, new slants of light?



Name: Lucy Kerma
Date: //2004-11-03 12:21:59 :
Link to this Comment: 11334

I confess, as someone who was not present at the meeting Anne references, I am having some trouble understanding her point. What are “social stories” and what is the point about them? How is “culture” being used here? And what’s the relationship between “story telling” and the work we do in the world? Everyone exists within a number of different social contexts: from couples and families, to neighborhoods, towns, political parties, states, nations, etc., etc. Presumably we understand their significance and our relation to each of them a bit differently – is that “story telling”? And we can affect the direction they take in different ways, to different degrees. LOTS of groups work together to imagine alternatives to what is – lovers do, so do community groups, so do terrorists, so does the military. Nu? Is that the same thing as “group think”? Who’s the “we” in all this? Is there “one” theory about how this works, “one” story, or is it a matter of understanding the complexity of social organization and the place of individuals in that organization?

As for “story telling” as a cycle of observations-stories-myths-theories-facts-acts-observations: is this intended to be a description of how people come to think about things (we observe and then we think about it, which affects how we observe)? Or is the language of “story telling” standing in for something else?

Sorry: I clearly didn’t understand. But as I make sense of yesterday’s election, it seems to me more important than ever to aspire to conversations that are inclusive and transparent, and I am simply trying to push in that direction. Looking at the blue and red map of America, it is clear that there is a huge gap of understanding in this country. If ever there were a time for public discourse to come down to earth, it is now. I, for one, hope that the election didn’t decide “who we are by how we vote.”


on sex/gender, among other things
Name: Paul Grobstein
Date: //2004-10-23 18:02:13 :
Link to this Comment: 11186

Interesting. Lucy put the same question to me in the Elizabeth exhibit forum . And my reply (off line) was that I didn't have a sex/gender intent when I said "... a particular man ...". It was (so far as the thinking part of me knew/remembers) just a way of emphasizing "particularity", as in "I'm a particular person and other particular people may well see things in their own particular ways".

What makes it interesting is that, having written the words, I did pause and wonder whether they were significant (and even thought briefly about changing them) because I had a sense that as a man (of my particular sex/gender variant) there could indeed be things about Elizabeth's installation that I wasn't well "tuned" to and that others (of sexes/genders different from my own) might be responsive to than me.

For whatever its worth, I don't see "shredded and torn" in "Once Upon a Time ...". Or for that matter in "Conversation in Images", or in most surrealist work either. What I saw/responded to was "spaceness", "Where "spaceness" means, to me, the freedom to move this way and that, to change perspectives, as one's attention is drawn to one interesting thing or another."

Is my sex/gender particularly significant in what I (in particular) saw, and/or in what I didn't see? That, it seems to me, is an empirical question ... and maybe some useful empirical observations will emerge from some combination of things said here and in the Elizabeth forum.


Descartes goes poetical
Name: Anne Dalke
Date: //2004-10-25 15:41:30 :
Link to this Comment: 11215

As another form/direction of exploration, see Conversational Beginnings.


little post
Name: E
Date: //2004-10-26 02:28:20 :
Link to this Comment: 11226

thanks so much, all for your comments so far about my installation! i'm so grateful to you all... so interesting...

just wanted to add a little post about descartes going poetical...

From Anne's husband's poem...

"Language and life are regretably sequential, occasionally
struggling for a burst of light."

This is a great line which I do not fully understand... so female represents language and male represents life... and both struggle for enlightenment/ a little bit of understanding

or

a commentary about the poem itself. Language must come before life... so that the act of writing a poem is what gives something life... and this is somehow regretable. There has to be thinking before there is being and this prevents light/enlightenment/happy non-angry warmth...

or

it's regrettable that there can't be just life or just language... because then there would just be light and not just the occasional struggle for a light burst.

How is it that language and life both struggle for a burst of light and i'll ask again, is the poem applying that the particular man in the poem is life (or struggling to be so) and the woman language (or struggling to be so)? Or something else entirely.

Ambiguity there for me= delicious. but I'm absolutely certain someone will give an interpretation that makes more sense in relation to the greater context of the poem and to Descartes. Then i will not just have the pleasing taste of the poem on my toungue, i'll know how to digest it. Interesting that you cannot taste this sweetness and digest at the same time... (another being and thinking problem)

Anyone want to help with the interpretation?


The nexus point
Name: Jeremy
Date: //2004-10-26 20:46:52 :
Link to this Comment: 11229

I must admit the nexus point confounds me. Since this 'must be' the collective consciousness, of the conscious mind? Its, "is" the relation of the treeness interaction, survival instinct, subconscious articulated action that bypasses, the reflex? Nevertheless, the (forgive me) uncanny relevence to the star-trek reference, of the so-called nexus. Is this, an interchangable, state of mind? or place? how are the constructs of time, interchangable, with the effect, of an all and ever presant, "now" time contiuim. As I have tried to elude to before, good-stuff, I find this fasinating...


the day after (cont.)
Name: em
Date: //2004-11-03 15:55:34 :
Link to this Comment: 11339

just what is a fixed "morality"? paul, you saved my life earlier today and i needed to hear what you had to say, but i'm thinking that in some way, my politics are no less fixed than those who were in the 51% who voted for fundamentalism, according to your observations. how can i become better at listening to political stories besides my own? can we have an ideal set of moral values any more? i am thinking along the lines of last year's beauty symposium on beauty. we discussed the questions: how do we decide what's beautiful? how does our shared sense of what is aesthetically pleasing connect us in our common humanity? and today, by extension, i want to ask--how do we decide on what's moral? does it come down to the younger generations being concerned about health care and social programs and the older generations being concerned about the war and safety?? it can't just be the issues: what are the underlying moral values that are splitting us apart, and why can't we agree? i guess this posting is just another indication of how many questions this election leaves me with.



Name: maria
Date: //2004-11-03 18:22:39 :
Link to this Comment: 11345

I agree with Em that I have a somewhat fixed sense of morality, at least so far as I consistently have positive or negative emotional reactions to situations that I feel are moral or immoral but I think that the important thing is that one realize that the strength of those visceral reactions doesn't indicate how correct/accurate they are...We all have criteria by which we evaluate actions, both of oursevles and of others... I literally become sick to my stomach when I see scenes from "Birth of a Nation" but I'm sure that's how a lot of fundamentalist bible-belt-ers felt when they saw gay marriages on TV earlier this year. While I find it hard to equate seeing two people publicly declaring thier love and devotion to one another with Klansmen running amuck all over the south...both of those things have the power to incite the feeling/emotion "moral disgust" which seems to me to suggest that moral judgements, much like beauty, are not found in the object/event or in the viewer but in the interaction between the two. In terms of the plasticity (or lack thereof) of one's morality, this is from a REALLY interesting essay by Carl Zimmer on the use of MRI's to investigate how/why we make the moral judgements we do (you can find all of it at http://www.carlzimmer.com/articles/2004/articles_2004_Morality.html):

"Many of the world’s great conflicts may be rooted in neuronal differences, Greene says, which may explain why the conflicts seem so intractable. “We have people who are talking past each other, thinking the other people are either incredibly dumb or willfully blind to what’s right in front of them,” Greene says. “It’s not just that people disagree, it’s that they have a hard time imagining how anyone could disagree on this point that seems so obvious.” Some people wonder how anyone could possibly tolerate abortion. Others wonder how women could possibly go out in public without covering their faces. The answer may be that their brains simply don’t work the same: Genes, culture, and personal experience have wired their moral circuitry in different patterns.

Greene hopes that research on the brain’s moral circuitry may ultimately help resolve some of these seemingly irresolvable disputes. “When you have this understanding, you have a bit of distance between yourself and your gut reaction,” he says. “You may not abandon your core values, but it makes you a more reasonable person. Instead of saying, ’I am just right and you are just nuts,’ you say, ’This is what I care about, and we have a conflict of interest we have to work around.’”"


I think that most people want the same thing: happiness and security and they're willing to do whatever they think will get it for them...it doens't even really matter if the reality of what they're choosing (Bush, for example) actually benefits them, so long as they can tell themselves that it has the label "good". When it comes to voting re: the economy, multiple studies show that if the economy is generally considered to be doing "poorly," even people whose financial situation has remained the same OR IMPROVED will vote as though their personal situation is being negatively effected. So I suppose the challenge we face is this: how to teach people to critically and accurately assess what in fact makes them more "happy and safe" and to evaluate how well the platform of a given candidate/party meets those needs.


On a different note...
Name: Xenia Mori
Date: //2004-10-04 12:59:46 :
Link to this Comment: 11016

Dear Paul and others,
I don't know if its is because I am finding myself in academic limbo at the current time, or whether it's because I have reached a new decade in my life, but I can't find comfort in the simplicity of "I am, and I think, and I can change who I am." I agree with previous postings that feelings are important and fit into the way we "know" our world, that conscience and unconscience minds must meet, but where does learning and action come into play in your statement? Does change require action or just a change of thought?
Xenia


related material ...
Name: Paul Grobstein
Date: //2004-10-04 18:19:14 :
Link to this Comment: 11019

Cheryl Chen gave an interesting/relevant talk, "Perceptual Experience and Bodily Action", in the Philosophy Department seminar series last Wednesday. My story of her story (I'll see if I can get Cheryl to let us post the handout she provided) starts with the assertion that people (philosophers?) have been focusing too much recently on the role that "bodily action" plays in "perceptual experience" and more attention needs to be paid to the converse, to the role that "perceptual experience" plays in "bodily action". The bottom line is an argument that without perception there can be no "self-recognition", without "self-recognition" there can be no "egocentric beliefs", and without "egocentric beliefs" there can be no "intentional action".

Since the terms may not be clear to everyone, let me try a translation (recognizing all the hazards of that activity). I THINK all of Cheryl's terms refer to what Descartes called "thinking" (and we, following him, have been refering to here as "thinking"), ie to aspects of inner experience. "Perception" is the experience of, for example, seeing something. "Self-recognition" is the experience associated with treating onself as a discrete entity. "Egocentric beliefs" are the experiences of making sense of things in terms of their relationships to oneself. And "intentional action" is the experience of conceiving of the relationships among things (oneself included) as potentially other than they are and generating outputs to achieve some preferred set of relationships.

To put it differently, Cheryl's assertions are all assertions about the causal relationships among conscious processes, and should not be heard as assertions about unconscious processes or the relation between unconscious and conscious processes (except insofar as the latter are built on the foundation of the former). Trees can happily go on acting adaptively without any concern on our parts (or theirs) about whether they "perceive", recognize themselves, or have beliefs about themselves. So can we, to the extent that we act unconsciously.

In support of her assertions about the causal relations among aspects of consciousness, Cheryl considered some very interesting/clever imaginary situations. One involved gods who know everything there is to know about the world they are involved with, and are capable of acting in it, but have no sense of themselves in relation to it, ie they have no "point of view" (no "egocentric beliefs"). Cheryl's assertion was that such a "view from nowhere" precludes "intentional action". If one accepts that this is so (which would raise some related interesting questions not only about gods but also about some conceptions of science), the next question is the origin of egocentric beliefs. These, Cheryl asserts, depend on self-recognition which in turn depends on perception. Here a key part of the argument derives from thinking about "Wanda", a woman who is capable of beliefs but has no perceptual experiences and, in particular, no "body-ownership". Being incapable of feeling that she has control over her own body, she cannot have any egocentric beliefs and hence, like the gods, cannot exhibit intentional action.

There's lots of grist here (or, more accurately, there, in Cheryl's talk) and I don't want to inhibit anyone from chewing on any of them. Let me though add to the grist a bit. Many of the issues Cheryl raises are "empirical" as well as "philosophical". One doesn't, for example, need to simply wonder or argue about whether there can be "self-recognition" without perception; there are ways one can make observations that are relevant to the question. The same holds for the relationship between perception of the body and "body ownership", and between each of those and "egocentric beliefs", as well as between "egocentric beliefs" and "intentional action".

The other more general realm I want to open up is the relation between unconscious and conscious processes and, in particular, the possible significance of such relations for evaluating the appropriateness of presuming, as I think Cheryl does, that conscious processes are causally related in a sequential fashion. An alternate possibility is that various distinguishable aspects of conscious processing are not actually straightforwardly dependent on one another because each has its primary origin in the unconscious. The various conscious experiences, on this model, would simply be the surfacings in conscious processing of aspects of what is occuring in the unconscious, so that any subset of them could be removed with altering the others. Moreover different conscious experiences might take different forms in different individuals (eg "group recognition" instead of "self-recognition"?, a non-egocentric reference frame?).

I think Cheryl's recognition of distinctions between "self-identification", "egocentric beliefs", and "intentional action" (what I might call personal agency) is an important one and don't want to obscure it, but I'll bet there is more than one way to embody those in a material organization like the brain, more than one way they could emerge in the development of such an organization, and more than one set of concrete instantiations they could take.


two forms of education
Name: Anne Dalke
Date: //2004-11-03 23:35:39 :
Link to this Comment: 11350

Here's an offering from me and Annabella Wood; another way of figuring what Maria flags as our universal desire for happiness and security--in tension w/ the desire to have room to explore and make new things. We call it Two Forms of Education: A Table and invite your responses.


curious
Name: maria
Date: //2004-10-23 15:41:48 :
Link to this Comment: 11181

Am curious about why Paul chose to characterize his take on Elizabeth's installation as being "as seen by a particular man at a particular time." Why not "as seen by a particular individual/human/person"?


"It does open wounds"
Name: Anne Dalke
Date: //2004-10-23 17:14:11 :
Link to this Comment: 11182

"It is the photographs that give one the vivid realization of what actually took place. Words don't do it." (Donald Rumsfeld admitting that he knew about the abuses --and the photographs documenting the abuses--at Abu Ghraib)

I live (sort of) in English House, and over the summer, while I was upstairs in my second-floor office, writing (among other things) the various explorations and expansions which arose for me in response to Writing Descartes, Elizabeth was in the basement, assembling, dis-assembling and re-assembling the exhibit that premiered yesterday evening as Once Upon a Time is Now. I went down to visit the site a couple of times while it was in progress--one time Elizabeth was there, one time she was not; one time the room was locked, one time it was not (hm: which time is "now"?).

I told Elizabeth then what a strong comparative sense I had of myself upstairs, doing the work of the conscious mind (aka "thinking too much"), while she labored below giving expression to the unconscious. I had such a vivid experience of descending from my light-filled office into the darkness and dankness of that cellar space, with its exposed pipes and peeling walls--they are for me the very powerful and troubing location for the exhibit, and strongly condition my reception of it. The exhibit itself is for me one of fragments and holes and tears and tearings--hard to shape into a whole, hard to get hold of (and of course, each time I walk through it, each time I stand in a different place, it shape-shifts--especially the way those mirrors mirror different aspects of the room, of the self looking into them....)

Today--in response to the invitation to represent my own relationship to the exhibit--I realized that another strong element in my reaction to Elizabeth's work centers around my awareness of the difference between the medium I use upstairs and the one that Elizabeth's been working on below, the difference between words and images. To rise up from the chair, where I was sitting in front of the word-filled screen, to then move around in a basement filled with material objects, was for me strongly reminiscent of an earlier gallery tour to which Elizabeth also contributed: the on-line Conversation in Images. I found myself now, as then, wanting to turn my experience of those images into words, to "read" (and so control?) them.

That earlier exhibit had been a troubling one for me to view, filled (as it seemed to me) w/ images of wounding, of injury, of hurt. Reading, today, the October 2004 PMLA issue (which highlights the intersections of visual and verbal), I came across the words of Samuel Beckett who (according to one critic) "understood the longing for less insight more clearly than did any other twentieth-century artist." That was my desire, looking at that exhibit: to see less, to see less wounding, to be less wounded. It was like how Beckett described seeing--"a sudden visual grasp, a sudden shot of the eye. Just that." To see those images seemed to mean to take them into the body, and be hurt by them....

Another PMLA critic quipped that "The image may teach nothing, but it does open wounds." I do think these images teach something; they continue to teach me quite a bit (in large part, about my discomfort w/ parts, my preference for wholes!). The fragmentation is hard to see. It feels very much like a descent into the unconscious, into the work of the surreal, of the shredded and torn--and I have a very strong impulse, as I walk again among the various parts of the exhibit, to link them together, to make a story out of them that has clear beginning, middle and end...

and then to walk out of that basement, into the sunlight of the lawn.



Name: maria
Date: //2004-10-30 16:08:45 :
Link to this Comment: 11278

A line from Anne's posting ("to write the world is to make the world") caught my attention for a couple of reasons, but especially that it brought to the front of my mind an issue that I'd been mulling over last spring: "WHY do we have this urge to write?" At the time I came across a passage from Brodsky's essay 'Child of Civilization' that i loved:
"But apart from pure linguistic necessity, what makes one write is not so much a concern for one's perishable flesh as the urge to spare things of one's world- of one's personal civilization-one's own non-semantic continuum. Art is not a better, but an alternate experience; it is not an attempt to escape reality but the opposite, an attempt to animate it. It is the spirit seeking flesh but finding words." What I think might have some bearing here is this notion of "one's own non-semantic continuum" and I find myself trying to identify the realtionship between that and "wordless knowledge," especially in terms of Sharon's notion earlier in the forum of the self being "wordless knowldge"...possibly one could then think of the self as "one's own non-semantic continuum"?

At least for me, part of the appeal of writing is the power it brings to create the world you want, this was articulated well (I thought) by Szymborska in her "The Joy of Writing": "...the twinkling of an eye will take as long as I say, and will, if I wish, divide into tiny eternities, full of bullets stopped in mid flight. Not a thing will ever happen unless I say so. Without my blessing, not a leaf will fall...Is there then a world where I rule absolutely on fate?...An existence become endless at my bidding? The joy of writing. The power of preserving. Revenge of a mortal hand."


On asking not to be "spared"
Name: Anne Dalke
Date: //2004-10-31 21:37:48 :
Link to this Comment: 11293

So, Maria, I've spent the day mulling over (among other things) this evocative phrase you've given us, trying to plumb it, trying to get a grip on what it means to say that writing arises from "the urge to spare certain things of one's world...one's own non-semantic continuum." Yes, that does sound like Sharon's self as "wordless knowledge," but...

Something here just isn't computing for me; I'm seeing the self the way Lacan (just re-) taught me to see it, the way I have always experienced it: as reflective and aware, using language, being "semantic," participating in the Symbolic. Not "sparing" the world a record of oneself, but contributing the record of oneself to the ongoing record.

I went looking for Brodsky's essay on the web, and found instead the essay you'd written on Technology and the Written Word. Which put me in mind of a recent impressive assemblage/ summary of 10 years of "Serendip's experiences" in the realm of Education and Technology, which describes (in part; it's a complicated and layered site) the revolutionary effect of web-facilitated world-wide interchange, "making available to all human beings not only information/ideas/perspectives, but also experiences." Which are--or at least appear here as--semantic.

My own thoughts (still in process) which I'll share in a talk about Where Stories come From @ Swat on Thursday night, are that it is actually semantics which constructs the continuum: It is the meaning-making (which is story-telling) that makes connections between points in time which otherwise would stay unconnected. It is the meaning-making (which is story-telling) that may actually give us "time" as we understand it conventionally.

Emily Madsen wrote about this last semester, suggesting that @ "the moment of no language, there is no time" or (in your/Brodsky's terms here) "at the moment of no semantics, there is no continuum." A version of (one of the) queries being worked/worried just now in the working group on emergence: can you get time in the absence of consciousness?


group think
Name: Anne Dalke
Date: //2004-11-02 18:33:35 :
Link to this Comment: 11326

The Study Group of the Graduate Idea Forum had, this morning, a rollicking time with a selection of dialogues from Writing Descartes. We spent most of our time trying to figure out how to get from individual stories to collective ones, and we didn't (to my satisfaction, anyhow) actually make it across that great divide. But in the attempt to do so a number of (to me) useful fireworks/illuminations went off, and I want to record them here, for further building-on by others (either individually here or collectively when we gather again in a month).

What I remember, first, are these moments of clarity-in-language:

So far, so good. Then the wrangling about where social stories come from began. We agreed (I think) that the best group stories allow for flourishing of the widest range of individual ones, and that, analogously, the best individual stories, in the present, allow for the widest range of future ones (this is the same concept/same figure, drawn first spatially, then temporally). We also seemed to agree that But then we split: I'm talking about some of this later week, in a presentation about Where Stories Come From; this is a version of an earlier talk on Re-reading the Fairy Tale (of Science). The relevant figure here is one that elaborates stages of story telling, as a never-ending movement in which observations are shaped into stories which are abstracted (generalized) into myths which are interpreted (given alternative readings) as theories which are collectively agreed upon as "facts"--aka "acts," or consensus stories which we use to prod a renewed search for observations, which....(and round and round it goes....)

And the going 'round about is great fun. We haven't talked here about how much fun it is.


the day after ...
Name: Paul Grobstein
Date: //2004-11-03 11:55:26 :
Link to this Comment: 11333

Depressed and scared by yesterday's election results. So, some reflections, some "thinking" about what is/might be, related to, in style of, things here/elsewhere.

The vote yesterday was/is an important set of observations, about the United States and its population. The election offered what was probably the clearest and most meaningful set of choices that the American electorate has been offered in decades. And, it seems to me, there are two important conclusions that can be drawn from the observations

Bottom line (for me): the issues under discussion here are not "academic" or "philosophical", in the perjorative senses of those terms. They are matters with important and very real-life, down to earth, implications and consequences. One needs to be AND think AND act. To the extent that we feel important what is talked about here, it is essential that we do whatever we can/need to do to help others see the advantages for themselves are of a continual being/thinking/acting loop and acquire the skills and understandings necessary to do that effectively. Fundamentalism needs to be recognized and overcome (not "opposed" but responded to in meaningful, productive ways) in whatever guise it appears.

The United States has been slipping badly as a world representative of "liberal democracy" for some time now, and it may in the long run prove to be the case that other nations take over leadership in this regard. But the nearly 50% of us who voted for change are not a small population in the United States, and many of us already have a long-standing commitment to the kind of educational activity that is, in the long run, the only way to offset fundamentalism as a mind set. So, I for one will take the observations as further evidence of both the need for people to be doing what I do and the existence of other people (in the United States and elsewhere) to make common cause with in doing it.

There will, of course, be lots of efforts to tell a social/common story about the election observations, that they show that the fundamentalists have a "mandate", that the United States can no longer sustain a commitment to liberal democracy. Its important to keep in mind that no one is authorized to tell a social/common story for the United States (or any other social entity); that story is no more (and no less) than the complex resultant of all of the individual stories we each choose to tell (or not tell). So, in addition to my personal story, here's my version of a common story for the United States:

We are collectively aware, perhaps (and hopefully?) more now than at any point in recent history, that we are "in progress" in evolving and discovering ways to live satisfying lives together. We are NOT in consensus or agreement, even remotely, about what those are, and that is (probably, hopefully) a good thing rather than a bad one, since it suggests the need to discover/create new ways of being (ways other that what is or has yet been conceived). I, for one, will go on trying to conceive and realize forms of social organization that maximize each individual's ability to influence/evolve their own story. I hope this exploration, to which I am committed as an individual story writer, is of benefit in the larger exploration of which I am a part, and useful in the larger story of one or more of the communities of which I am also a part.


Can you "think, and not make thoughts your aim....
Name: Anne Dalke
Date: //2004-08-31 11:12:02 :
Link to this Comment: 10707

Elizabeth provided a "squeezed" (i.e. "simpler and clearer") redaction of her most recent assemblage of thoughts above. You'll find the more expanded version @ Where There is Gambling, There is Faith, where she evokes a line from Kipling's poem "If":

"If you can think and not make thoughts your aim"... if you can think without trying to think? If you can think without being concerned with thinking? That is to say, just be and allow thoughts to happen.... ?


antidote or cure
Name: Jeremy
Date: //2004-11-14 17:56:52 :
Link to this Comment: 11558

A concept that usually too me, has extraordinary significance, is that of an antidote, as referenced by Paul's previous link. The consequence of a cure? that is usually un-attainable, or/not, perhaps this is what we are attempting to identify with, in the eureka moment. Nevertheless at this level of insight, one-ness only matters, at least to the specifics of the potental solution, of the mathmatical conundrum, in question. My question is this, is fundamentallism the difference of such an abstract concept?

Oh boy, please dont be overly critical with this, just questioning why.


a new dialogue ...
Name: Paul Grobstein
Date: //2004-09-01 10:12:52 :
Link to this Comment: 10711

With an interesting new challenge, from a new generation? ... our problem is not in rejecting sources of authority ... but in finding something relevant to accept


Descartes goes political
Name: Anne Dalke
Date: //2004-10-25 10:36:32 :
Link to this Comment: 11207

I saw, in this weekend's New York Times' Week in Review coverage of the election, a keynote of the Writing Descartes forum writ large--or maybe I should just say writ political. The "parallel worlds" of the campaign were figured there by one poster labeled "you make me feel safe!" in contrast to another one emphasizing change (=a "fresh start"). As Roger Cohen (10/24/04) reports,

"Last week, [Kerry] made 'thinking' a theme of his rallies. Go on, think! Do not bow to a president 'banging away trying to scare you.' Fear, Mr. Kerry suggests, forces out thought, dampens inquiry, curbs curiosity. But thinking...can be laborious: it may lead to looking at both sides of questions...."


goldfish, philip larkin and such
Name: maria
Date: //2004-10-03 15:05:47 :
Link to this Comment: 11007


Hi Elizabeth! (and everyone else, obviously. though perhaps a more subdued "hi" without the exclamation point...only people who are "thrilled" at my postings get exclamation point greetings...) I was so glad to see that you responded and was interested by a variety of points you made/issues you brought up in your posting. Because I have the attention span of a hamster goldfish (I read somewhere that they have a memory of 3 seconds so every 3 seconds it's like "O! A Castle! O! A treasure chest! O! A Castle!" over and over...) I'm going to go backwards, starting with your comments on "I feel therefore I am," On a lot of levels I identify by what you mean, or at least what I think you mean, but I take a slightly different view of it, feelings are powerful and an amazing side effect of what we are as people...but I think that often because they are so overwhelming it's easy to mark them as being the "point" or the essence of what we are. I don't think there's an essense, one of the reasons that I liked Paul's revision was that it left room for the defining aspect of "being" to be multi-faceted and always changing rahter than the more restrictive "I think" or "I feel" or "I whatever" (can't really believe that I just used "whatever"...love the moments when you realize that the defining characteristics of your generation's vernacular are that it is vague and terrifyingly inarticulate in nature). But at the same time one my FAVORITE lines from Philip Larkin (though I have about 50 zillion favorites lines from Philip Larkin, who I might sometimes think I am except that the notion of being a grouchy dead engilsh librarian poet is just too disheartening to truly embrace, no matter how many nice little column-ish things get written about him in the New Yorker...) about the fear of death is "...this is what we fear--/no sight, no sound,/no touch or taste or smell,/nothing to think with,/nothing to love or link/ with,/the anaesthetic from/which none come round..." (Note: any misspellings are without doubt my fault. And incidentally, if anyone reading this is a philip larkin fan it would be hugely greatly appreciated if they could share thier thoughts on what IN THE NAME OF HELL is going on with attics and lakes in his later works.) But anyway, in that spirit I was intrigued by your mentioning of it. Okay, so next up is the issue of universal thoughts...Wiat, actually, I’m going to continue that in a posting later because my mother is coming for lunch and I HAVE to do something about my room which looks at this moment like a third world charity and it’s impossible to find the really important things like my desk…or the floor.


!
Name: Elizabeth
Date: //2004-10-03 18:15:19 :
Link to this Comment: 11010

Hi Maria! You are very funny. Very much enjoyed the goldfish description... Okay so not to take everything and try and relate it but I do wonder what Descartes would say to that- Would make life slightly more interesting, to be seeing things as if you'd never seen them before- Making art does that a little bit for me... Also found that a very amusing trait in the little Ellen DeGeneres fish in the movie Finding Nemo ;-) and the converse in the movie Groundhog Day... the situation whereby you change but the day/environment doesn't... (Groundhog day was made in 1993 according to what i just looked up that would have made me nine years old and yet I still remember it???)

Like what you're saying about "I feel therefore I am" Did feel strange to be going back to a thought that we've somehow moved so far beyond- yes, it's not that simple... none of the many statements that can be made with that linguistic construction are... the construction itself is one of the reasons why it's so fun to play around with, I think....

Like the Larkin quote about death... death as nothingness... yes- no thinking, no being, no feeling, no images- pretty scary. The human mind can invent alternatives though... stories like those in various religious texts, spirituality etc... Easy to create things to believe in...

Looking forward to continued thinking-


in search of self
Name: Sharon Burgmayer
Date: //2004-10-03 23:40:28 :
Link to this Comment: 11014

I tend to show up here in the forum when some idea posted triggers a connection to something I’ve been turning over in my mind (brain? conscious? unconscious?). Recently, I’ve been concerned with “self”. What is the self? More important to me, what is my “self’? Out of that mental place the following sequence tickled an “ah ha!” moment.


This time it was Lucy asking “whether there are things going on in the brain other than conscious and unconscious. Is there anything more to be “accounted for” in the human mind?”


To Lucy’s original question, I thought “Quality”. Apologies to my friends who must bear yet another one of my references to Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance. It was in that book that Quality—what we respond to as good—was at the junction of what was called romantic and classic thought, which correlates roughly to the unconscious and conscious. Quality was an experience, the experience of reality, where unconscious meets conscious.


Next Paul suggested “the combination and dynamic interaction between the two [unconscious and conscious][is] perhaps the "self" or, in other peoples' stories, the "soul"? … And the character/quality of the interaction is in turn a significant component of how one feels about "oneself"?” Subsequently Jeremy offered “When the solution to a problem is not immediately known, it seems an unseen process will factor and exchange possible solutions. Depending on whether on not this process comes up with something, an eureka revelation may float to the surface of the conscious mind.”


So when I integrated Paul’s and Jeremy’s bits, internally I said “Yes! That’s it!” Where I got to was this: Quality is the Self and Self is the Experience or Expression of fusing unconscious and conscious knowledge into a moment. The moment that mystics describe when all dualities dissolve, there is no subject, no object, all is One. The Self identifies the “solution that floated to the surface” as Quality, the one perfect “fit” between unconscious and conscious information. (I’ll nod to Paul’s concern about how the fit of eureka answers changes with time: Perfect at one moment, may be possibly not perfect later after new or more information is gathered by either unconscious or conscious.)


So Lucy shouted “eureka!” about that moment “which is no longer the unconscious working out a problem but not yet the fully articulated (ie., with words) conscious expression of the solution: that moment of "knowing" without using words.” Is that the moment of sensing one’s Self? And she asks: “What is wordless knowledge?”


Curious: could wordless knowledge be the Self?


Profound Belief...and Profound Assailability of Pi
Name: Anne Dalke
Date: //2004-07-19 23:17:12 :
Link to this Comment: 10437

So, Paul & Paul--

I just happened to be strolling by, overheard you guys talking, stopped to listen, happened to catch my name ...

PB said, "Anne last night mentioned the idea of 'profound belief'"...

and PG responded, "I'm not sure what Anne had in mind ...."

What I had in mind was I Believe, or: On Beyond Skepticism..., a meditation which proposes that the way to get maximum differentiation in thinking is to take the risk of actually believing (for a while) in someone else's story, really climbing into it. It offers a way, I think, to get beyond (what seems to be?) a standoff between PB's "belief" and PG's "skepticism": the constant interchange between them in which (for instance) believing in someone else's account could well unsettle your own...

Per PG: "'Believe' for present purposes... I agree is essential."
So too skepticism.
For present purposes.

While I'm here: a local example of the latter--
It's hard for me to get my head around the suggestion, above, that word-expressions are more likely than picture-expressions to construct a story that will both "mean" the same thing to teller and listener, AND enable more question-asking and more comparing-contrasting (how can both be possible?)

--and that word-pictures painted with the pen are thus more assailable than those painted with a brush...I don't see it. Maybe I need a concrete example to enable me to "picture" this difference?

In the Revising Stories class, where we used one of Sharon's pictures to initiate each week's discussion, they of course evoked a wide spectrum of responses among our students. Many of these surprised Sharon, because she had not thought of them--some of them ran directly counter to what she had thought--while painting. The first year we tried this experiment, listening to the students' stories actually led Sharon to revise her own, to reenvision the "puzzle pieces" in her painting as moving not in a single direction, but--more ambiguously--in both...

By the third time we had used Understanding Is to initiate class discussion, Sharon told our students that she was glad we had asked her to alter her original (which gave an answer to the question of what "understanding was"; we wanted the students to generate what the painting meant without the "spoiler" of having an answer, so had asked Sharon to remove it...). She was glad she'd done so, she said, because its experimental use in this course...eventually generated more paintings and more discussions in other courses.

In both these cases, interpretations (even/especially the interpretation of the artist) were both assailable and revisable as a result of the assault. Don't those examples suggest that the "assailability" of painting is as profound as that of words?

Maybe the more useful distinction is between those who offer their stories (in paint or word form) in the hopes of generating new ones by others (=offer them as assailable) and those who offer their stories in order to preserve them (=make them unassailable). Betcha both word-pictures and painted pictures can be either conservative or revolutionary. It's less the form that's important here than the expectation: are we seeking to know the truth of what we see/hear, or are we seeking to expand the range of interpretability?


looking for the story of origin
Name: Anne Dalke
Date: //2004-10-28 18:37:34 :
Link to this Comment: 11260

Elizabeth wrote, "Language must come before life... There has to be thinking before there is being ..."

That's what Descartes thought (I think). But the tenor of these conversations--and of others fed by them-- has been in the other direction: first being, then thinking. First biology, then culture. This week my CSem has been working through--and rejecting?--the idea of linguistic determinism (do our words limit what we can think?), and my Gender Studies course has been considering form (in the words of Loren Eiseley) as an "illusion of the time dimension...the eternal struggle of the immediate species against its dissolution into something other..."

Life comes before language,
being before the "word",
trees before there good stories with strong narratives....


Descartes goes clichedly biblical or...the egg cam
Name: Elizabeth
Date: //2004-10-29 00:36:51 :
Link to this Comment: 11265

In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. What has come into being in him was life, and the life was the light of all people. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it. (John 1:1-5)

Anne, has that indeed been what we have been thinking,world first than word, being then thinking? To read the word is to read the world...

I tend to think that the egg came first; so much more managable than the chicken, pure white, self contained... Who would want to start with a chicken? We might think that boxes/eggs (closed systems)... perhaps give way to open spaces... eggs which cannot move hatch chickens who can... words which cannot move create people who can. Or by reading words, one can begin to "be" more... first the material, self contained... gives way to some sort of infinite potential space when one is able to hatch, unleash, unlock...


to write the world is to make the world
Name: Anne Dalke
Date: //2004-10-29 21:44:10 :
Link to this Comment: 11269

The original of this post appears, w/ illustrations, in the "Once Upon a Time is Now" forum. It might be understood as an extended meditation on what what Jeremy calls "the nexus point":

It's been exactly a week now since Elizabeth's opening , a week for mulling over, a week of walking by that open door (en route to classes I teach in an adjacent room), peeking in, re-visiting, re-newing initial impressions of the "shredded and torn"...and a week in which (in preparation for a talk on Language I'll be giving @ Swarthmore) I've been (re) reading some of the work of Jacques Lacan , whose ideas about fragmentation and mirroring have helped me understand better some of my own reactions to Elizabeth's installation. I record those understandings here, in case/the hope that others might also find them useful (and do so with many thanks to Mary Klages, from whose good lecture notes I drew this summary):

Lacan described three phases of development: the Real, the Imaginary and the Symbolic. In the first stage, of the Real, the baby is just a blob driven by NEEDS, which can be satisfied; this is the psychic place of fullness and completeness. In the second stage, as the infant begins to form her own identity, she becomes aware of her separation from her mother, and develops DEMANDS for her recognition. This is when the mirror stage occurs: the baby experiences its body as fragmented, or in pieces--whatever part it sees is there just when it is seen, and disappears otherwise. But at some point, seeing itself in a mirror, the baby has the illusion that it is a whole person. Lacan calls this a misrecognition, a fantasy; which is why he terms this phase, of demand and mirroring, the realm of the Imaginary. (It's of considerable interest to me to realize, at this juncture, that my own first foray into Writing Descartes, We Are, and We CanTalk, Therefore... speaks about the need to see myself mirrored back by others, and the sense that without such mirroring I am not coherent.)

Anyhow: the experience of the Imaginary prepares the child to take up a position in the third stage, that of the Symbolic, in which she learns to use language to cross the gulf between the self and what she lacks, what she desires. For Lacan what is @ this point desired-- to be the center of the system (of language, of culture)--is definitionally not fulfillable.

So here's the Lacanian take on "Once Upon a Time is Now": while upstairs, at the computer, I'm immersed in the Symbolic, trying to use words to cross the (impossible-to-cross) gap between the real and the imaginary, down in the basement of English House is a representation of the mirror stage, a figuring, via the shards of mirrors, of our fragmented selves back to ourselves (as per Sanda's "the mirrors ...gave this sense of having different parts within you, different sides of you).

I don't think Lacan got the "whole picture," though. One piece of the picture he didn't get was the ways in which, in conversation with one another, we might go beyond this separation of Self and Other, not simply mirroring one another back to ourselves, but actually, in conversation (as at the opening?) making new things together. Another thing he didn't get--and this is the conclusion to a (possible) long-winded revision of Elizabeth's suggestion, above, that "to read the word is to read the world": to write the world is to make the world. There's more about this just now finding expression in the Working Group on Emergence, where the notion that consciousness brings the unconscious into existence begins to be articulated, as I think it may also be in Jeffrey Eugenides' novel Middlesex: "It's a different thing to be inside a body than outside. From outside, you can look, inspect, compare. From inside there is no comparison" (387).


"The Conception of an Idea in an Open System": Fro
Name: Anne Dalke
Date: //2004-09-28 21:44:13 :
Link to this Comment: 10984

Elizabeth Catanese just did a quick oil pastel sketch which I offer here as an excellent next image in the series begun above: see the movement from "The View from Somewhere" to "Getting Out of the Box" to (now, the new painting) "The Conception of an Idea in an Open System"?

In a nearby open system, extending from a conversation about Science's Audiences, there's currently a conversation bubbling which repeatedly addresses the range of ideas which these pictures more concisely image: the loopy action of building (temporary) structures for standing on and pushing against (referred to there as fiction-->fact-->fiction; known here as open-->closed-->open systems....)


a couple of issues...
Name: Maria Scot
Date: //2004-09-29 11:15:45 :
Link to this Comment: 10985


Am unsure how I feel about the notion of an idea being “conceived,” especially when it’s quite the ovum looking idea…am not opposed to that representation, at least I don’t think I am, but I know for a fact that conception of my ideas, whether they come from an open system or not, has nothing to do with my uterus. I think what I also wasn’t totally comfortable with was the passivity of the woman as she “conceived” this idea. In the drawing she’s lying on her back with her feet sort of bound by blue cord that leads off of the canvas/paper, suggesting that the control of her movement is separate from her, who/whatever is holding the other end of that string has that control. Additionally, unlike “Getting out of the box,” in which the woman labors to escape from her confinement, the woman in this image isn’t straining against the cords that bind her, but they ARE there and they are just as restrictive as if she were fighting them. Her hair blends into the ground, the blue cord that is wrapped around her feet anchors her to the ground on one end and the other gives power and control to some unseen entity off the page. I suppose what I had the most difficulty with was that the conception, the development or “gestation” (if you will) of the idea, is the active part of the development of the idea, but it is taking place (in a sort of Kahlo-esque manner) quite separately from the woman, she isn’t even looking at it (which, I suppose isn’t all that important since she doesn’t seem to have eyes). The (pink!) woman is inextricably linked to the ground/earth, she, at least it seems to me, might as well be flora or some other type of fruitful, flowering plant. I see in this image the visual representation of a lot of the fecund-female mother-earth stereotypes that I personally find troubling, especially the connection between sexuality/procreation and the generation of ideas and accomplishment.
I thought it was interesting that there was discussion as to whether the woman pushing out of the box was stepping into or out of vulnerability. In my mind one isn’t vulnerable or invulnerable; one simply exists with the possibility of entering those two states. I suppose what I’m saying is that I see getting out of the box as allowing one’s self the *option* of being vulnerable or invulnerable. This, I am sure, the woman in the picture will discover when she is done pushing away the box and realizes that she’s naked on a mountain. I guess I am never sure how to visually represent this sort of thing as “boxes” of all kinds exist only in our minds, yet they dictate our perceptions of the world and so any box that we need to break out of (and there are so many) is never pushed away so much as *seen through,* at which point it no longer impedes your ability to see new things, to think new thoughts, to acknowledge new possibilities…you get the idea.

On a TOTALLY different topic, back to Descartes, in fact, I thought it was sort of interesting that one of the my favorite authors, Graham Greene, wrote in the opening lines of his novel “A Burnt-Out Case” a slight revision of Descartes statement, “I feel discomfort, therefore I am alive.” I’ve always loved that line, but I didn’t think it had a huge amount to do with Paul’s revision of the statement until, well, until it was suggested to me that it DID in fact have something to do with the statement, so I went back and mucked around in the ideas for a while and decided that I agreed. I’d always identified with the statement because I tended to define things in terms of the…I don’t know how to phrase it, the potential negative impact their absence could have on me. For example I always judged how much someone mattered to me by how upset I’d be if they died (I was, uh, an intense and slightly morbid little kid.) But I’m wondering how other’s respond to Greene’s version of the line.


the third thing
Name: janina cho
Date: //2004-09-29 19:34:31 :
Link to this Comment: 10991

Anne, Paul, Elisabeth, Sharon et al,

I have followed your multiple trains of thinking, being, whatever together over the summer with such interest. Forgive me if I have missed it but - whose thinking or treeness is being discussed? Who 'owns' these states? Likewise, to whom does the conscious/ unconscious belong? Is it mine, yours, ours, everyone's, no-ones? Do we tap into it, press the switch, the current flows, the light shines? Depending on the wattage, we shine dimly or brightly, but the energy is there always? Is this sea of energy the third thing of eureka moments? (and what is the wattage- perhaps our personal baggage, personality etc).

I am fascinated by the limitation of the first line of writing, the first brushstroke of paint- that commitment to a particular story or picture- a 'closed' system. Is there a connection with 'writer's block'-a subsconscious fear of commitment? But in that commitment lies the discipline- to interpret the story in such a way as to overcome solipsism , make it understandable by others, enable communication, even perhaps facilitate interdisciplinarity. Or is it connected to the uncertainty of what, despite commitment, will evolve? So, is the system closed?


conscious/unconscious conversations
Name: Paul Grobstein
Date: //2004-09-30 18:47:53 :
Link to this Comment: 10998

Pleased to be a part, with LOTS of others, of something that Janina finds interesting. And do think that thinking about unconscious/conscious interactions can help to better understand "writer's block" (and that thinking about "writer's block" as well as "the first line of writing, the first brushstroke of painting" (ie, wordless knowledge), can help to better understand unconscious/conscious interactions).

In writing, or painting, one does of course become temporarily committed to a PARTICULAR story. If one, however, sees that as part of an ongoing process of contraction and subsequent expansion (see image of a still more less wrong story of evolution), then it is not "closed" but rather "compressed" and compressed precisely in order to promote subsequent expansion/openness. Recognizing that may help in some cases of "writer's block". My own guess though is that the most common cases of writer's block don't have to do so much with fear of cutting off possibilities as they do with a fear of "assailability". One is much less exposed to testing and attack in the thicket of possibilites and much more so in the open spaces associated with realizing a particular one of them. To put it differently, "writer's block" might have to do with a conscious reluctant to incorporate into a story something the unconscious offers as a component. But it might equally result from the unconscious declining to offer things because of anxiety about what might result from doing so

And, on the general theme of conscious/unconscious interactions, "Other Forms/Directions of Exploration" has a new addition, in a new "media", words used to create pictures (fiction? memoir? in any case, non-assailable writing?). Here's a fragment of Body/Mind, Unconscious/Conscious, Treeness/Thinking: A Story of Five Minutes

Feeling the hot cup of coffee warming her hands, sitting on a bench at the old main line rail station, smelling the dark pungent oil wafting off the wooden ties that secure the iron rails, Scout finds herself sighing. "Life requires padding," she muses. Unlike her Quaker ancestors and her Irish catholic forefathers, she believes that sweets and treats and sunny days are necessary to soften the harder edges of getting up each morning when, despite our most earnest efforts, the struggles of yesterday still lie on our doorstep like an incontinent dog that refuses to die and make room for the fearless puppy of our dreams.


a conversational search for comraderie
Name: Anne Dalke
Date: //2004-10-01 01:06:10 :
Link to this Comment: 11000

Our new visitor Janina asked, Is the system closed? There's another new conversation just up, between two moms exploring ways of teaching their (all of our?) children "how to get along":

Conceived with an awareness that life is not a closed system, Serendip is a website that explores the pleasures and productivity of uncertainty, by facilitating connections among ever-expanding numbers of contributors.


body-mind "problem"?
Name: Anne Dalke
Date: //2004-10-01 07:56:13 :
Link to this Comment: 11001

Here's a peculiar little illustration of the "body-mind" problem. When Elizabeth first gave me the painting of "The Conception of an Idea," when I photographed it, loaded it onto the web, called up the image into my posting about it, what I was seeing was just a box (of an "idea") swirling in space, CREATING the beautiful colorful in which it was floating. It wasn't until Elizabeth wrote me about her experience of creating the image, and mentioned that the box "rested on the woman's skin, something she holds but not something that holds her," it wasn't until Mariah likewise described the "ovum-looking idea," the "passivity of the woman as she 'conceived' this idea...lying on her back with her feet sort of bound" that I saw the woman in a painting that had been for me, until that moment, entirely abstract.

What would Descartes have made of THAT body-mind split?

What do you?


non-assailable writing?
Name: Anne Dalke
Date: //2004-10-01 15:20:15 :
Link to this Comment: 11002

One more (for Lucy), then I'll stop for a while.

I have a question for the author of A Five-Minute Story. When Paul announced the addition of your tale to the Descartes forum, he described it as a "new media": "non-assailable writing". I'm wondering what you think of that description? I have a particular reason for asking, and will try not to be (too) laborious in my explanation of "why."

The same morning that your story appeared on Serendip, we'd heard an overview, in the Emergent Systems group, of "The Emergence of 'Emergence' in the History of Psychology." Rob Wozniak ended that presentation with a "clarifying" example "from Mars" (yeah, only in this group....): if a Martian were wired up to your head, and could read all your brain states, it could learn to identify those which signaled your "feeling the hot cup of coffee warming your hands," but could never "know" what it FELT like to you to hold that cup. Rob described the gap between the report of a brain state and the experience of having it as "surplus meaning": what it FEELS like will always exceed the reductionist account of what's going on in your neural network: the Martian would know THAT you held the cup, but not WHAT your perception of doing so was like.

This example was of particular interest to me because I am a literary scholar, and we talk a lot in my field about the ways in which our theoretical accounts (or "reductions") of stories never encompass the whole, which always exceeds the grasp of any "interpretation." We do acknowledge the limits of our interpretations; but we also (contra Paul, above) think of all literary texts (like yours) as "assailable," as "interpretable."

So-- what's it feel like (alternatively: what's the brain state) over there, where the writing is done? Did you just give us a piece of "non-assailable" writing (which I've--perhaps--just "assailed")?

Anne


what Serendip is "about" ... on treeness and think
Name: Paul Grobstein
Date: //2004-10-01 16:50:31 :
Link to this Comment: 11003

Glad to have Anne's "(trial) description of what Serendip is all 'about'''. It is certainly sometimes useful to reflect on what a community finds itself doing and make up stories about that, just as it is useful for an individual to "think", make up stories about onself. There is of course, for both communities and individuals, also "treeness", the underlying ongoing interactions both internal and with the outside world, that are what the story is, always inadequately, "about". The stories, in both cases, are most useful when they promote further evolution of "treeness" but inevitably run the risk of cramping it instead.

There has certainly been, and I hope will continue to be, "ever-expanding numbers of contributors" to Serendip, as well as an originating and continuing commitment to "the pleasures and productivity of uncertainty" and to "facilitating interactions , as per, from the Serendip home page

Serendip is a gathering place for people who suspect that life's instructions are always ambiguous and incomplete. Originating in interactions among neurobiologists, computer scientists, business people, and educators, Serendip is both an expanding forum and a continually developing set of resources to explore and support intellectual and social change in education, in social organization... and in how one makes sense of life. And the parallels to child development are appropriate one's as well, as per, from About Serendip Born in the summer of 1994, Serendip was conceived as an interacting and developing system, not unlike a living organism. I resonate less though with "teaching ... 'how to get along'". My own child-rearing perspective is that what is most wonderful for me about children is being allowed to be a supportive part of their individual discoveries of "how to get along", in the course of which they show me things I would never have thought of/imagined myself. For me, the same holds for Serendip. And so, in both cases, I'm a little leery of "figuring them out" lest my story at any given time get in the way of their evolution.

I do think Serendip is less focused on "science" than it was at an earlier age (though, like any developing child, it still has, and will likely always have, characteristics which relate to its ancestry). And I do think reflections on Serendip by people who have contributed to it are a useful part of Serendip's evolution. But, as with an individiual life, I suspect the most important thing for Serendip's future development is not the story Serendip tells about itself (or others tell about it) but its treeness, all the things it is actually doing in the world that may or may not be apparent in the story any one person tells but are the "springboard" from which the next things somewhat unpredictably happen.. The "treeness" for Serendip consists largely of the diversity of its contributors, and so the risk for Serendip of too much "squeezing" is that a story (any story?) is welcoming to some new people but less so to others (in the present case, those who think life IS a "closed system"?). .

When I was a kid, I hated it when grownups asked me what I wanted to do or be. I was doing whatever it was I was doing at the time, and from that I would become whatever I became next. Sure, its sometimes useful to think about things and make a story about them, but the older I get the more certain I become that I wasn't too stupid when I was a kid. Maybe the same holds for Serendip? And holds as well for all of us involved with Serendip, each in our own ways, so anyone/everyone intrigued by Serendip in the present is invited to participate in shaping its future?


a (quite possibly inane) thought...
Name: Maria S-W
Date: //2004-10-03 09:43:28 :
Link to this Comment: 11004

I was struck by Paul’s statement that Serendip’s contribution to the world is “not the story Serendip tells about itself (or others tell about it) but its treeness, all the things it is actually doing in the world that may or may not be apparent in the story any one person tells but are the "springboard" from which the next things somewhat unpredictably happen.” The sentiment expressed in that statement reminded me of something I heard at a talk given by Dan Gottlieb. During the talk, he shared with the audience a story of a particularly trying time in his life when a friend came to see him and at some point during their conversation said “What you’re about is more important than who you are.” Since then I’d been thinking about the comment and trying to decide if I agreed, but when I started thinking about it in relation to “treeness,” with treeness in this case being “all the things it is actually doing in the world that may or may not be apparent in the story any one person tells” AND “what you’re about” it suddenly made more sense. I think that it’s a good thing to remember, at least for me (and those like me) who look in the mirror some days and literally cannot see anything but all the things they’ve done wrong. It’s the notion that even when I honestly cannot imagine that anything will ever be better off for the fact of my existence, that my existence is NOT solely defined by my experience of it. I wonder if that is how one can see the notion of treeness as liberating despite the fact that it highlights our vulnerability/mortality. The concept also affords us the opportunity to acknowledge the ever-changing impact of our lives and come away with a broader appreciation of “who we are.” Maybe that just holds true for me, but I thought I’d toss it out there for general consideration.



Name: Lucy Kerma
Date: //2004-10-03 10:10:22 :
Link to this Comment: 11005

I loved Lucy Darlington's Story in Five Minutes. For me, it was a wonderfully accurate depiction of how one talks to oneself -- a clear example, perhaps, of the conscious talking to the unconscious? It's the trick one learns in a good therapy, to be aware of the layers in one's reactions, and to be able to go back and forth within oneself, to locate the old feelings, soothe one's unhappy inner child, and choose to stay in the present. I don't know if this helps with Maria's question (her point may be more social than this), but to me the question of one's "existence" has to take into account all these different layers. I think some of the "point" of one's existence (if there is one) comes into focus through that inner dialogue.


feeling the most
Name: Elizabeth
Date: //2004-10-03 12:41:49 :
Link to this Comment: 11006

Going back through some of the great posts that i've wanted to in some way comment on...

Maria, was thrilled to hear your description of my image and what you saw in there and what did/didn't work for you within it. For me, creating, thinking, being (concieving) ideas... does feel somehow related to my uterus- I know that this probably sounds a bit crazy but the biological programing seems related to the mental programing. I work best if my mind and body are feeling connected...so perhaps making this connection, trying to write from the body as much as the mind is just my mind's invention, a way of getting myself to feel solid, happy, productive...

Also was completely intrigued by how what I was representing somehow became a cliche... the woman i drew... fecund earth, mother earth... passive woman?- The image does represent something different than what i've been doing... usually what i do involves boxes... the complete opposite... In my life right now, i rather like the idea of a certain loss of control, letting the blue chords take you if they want you then choosing based on what they give back when they take something from you (when one takes one gives also...there is no taking without giving also... even if what's given may seem negative)...and if you get hurt along the way- that's life... the woman is perhaps no better than the mountain that she's sitting ontop of or the blue color swirls around her and to think about that idea that what we are about (what we produce?) is most important... well then as long as we can keep the self relatively intacked enough to keep on being, then... maybe it's okay to let some things just happen... and maybe the blue chords don't want to assail, attack, whatever... Maybe they just want to play... and through this play can come a certain generativity.

Anyone who knows me from here or elsewhere will know that the thoughts in the above paragraph are so radically different than what I've expressed before/recently...so i'm expressing where i am now but saying that this is subject to change. well of course, everything is... feels better to assert that though.

I also loved Lucy Darlington's story... hadn't read it before the most recent post. Also like the premise... will add to it...Whenever i see a train passing i can't help but think of how many tons of metal there are speeding by and often think of myself being crushed by that metal... this is something which is quite strange but i can never seem to help myself... it's not what i want of course but it's always what i think, what scares me... anyway, to add to the story, the pure physicality and largeness of objects brings the stuffness of the outside right inside of me and halts the inner dialogue for a moment. I have very distinct moments of realizing that I am in addition to just thinking when these moments happen but the moments are very brief... I so often want to take a break from the story of my life constantly evolving and revising itself through what i see outside and how i filter it etc... Is it helpful to realize the connection between the two (the inner thoughts and the outside world) making the unconcious voice somewhat conscious?...well, i'm not really sure- sometimes its actually better to feel the shiver that comes deeply into me when i hear the train passing me and feel its vibrations- scary as that is, it's a whole lot less scary than when it's translated into thought... i.e. that train could kill me.

Sometimes art is helpful in making the mind stop thinking (or something close to that)... for instance i'll start off drawing something very representationally.... went through a period of time when i was drawing a single root from the ground for hours... all the details etc... just focusing on those... and clearing my mind of all else...i supressed my unconscious... the unconscious never REALLY left because i could see things in those roots when i was done (but i just supressed my awareness of it)...for the time being, it was gone... that's a lovely and powerful benefit to making art in this way... what i do now is not always like that... i'm very conscious of my unconscious at this point in the art that i do...

Maria- was quite moved by what you were saying about your mother, the fragility of the body... and the way that relationship relates to being/thinking. Didn't just find it interesting, found it emotionally compelling... certain thoughts by others do that- they are the lasting thoughts... are they the same thoughts for everyone? why was that emotionally compelling to me? are they only thoughts that one can find connections to in one's own life... or is there a certain universality to some thoughts...

there's the idea that we've thought about long ago on the forum... the "i feel therefore i am" idea... that doesn't apply but something of it does... to be is to feel things, physically, bodily things, drives, desires, deterioration and then there's the other thing, thinking which makes us conscious of all of these things and sometimes all thinking does is sends us to a greater awareness of the physical- our own mortality...when thinking leads back so directly to certain truths about being, well, that's the hard part- that's when i start feeling the most.


sundries ...
Name: Paul Grobstein
Date: //2004-09-28 16:21:24 :
Link to this Comment: 10981

A new participant/perspective (will leave it to others to expand on connections, if any, to current discussion in progress):

"I always saw not only the body, but the complex architecture that allows for our sense of consciousness, in a somewhat adversarial light... at best a rickety scaffolding that "we" sit atop, trying to keep steady, and at worst a time bomb against which we race our whole life, trying to get in the things that count before something falls apart". And pleased to have Jeremy drop by/join in. I'm disinclined to accept the adjective "correct" (as per Science as "Getting It Less Wrong", but very much resonate with the idea that things from the unconscious ("treeness") "may float to the surface of the conscious mind". For me they are "blue tabs" that slowly rise in a clear, apparently bottomless pool. I so described them several years ago to Sharon Burgmayer who did a painting of the story.

And do think that leads (sometimes) to a "eureka" moment and that moment is indeed an instance of the third thing, the interaction between unconscious and conscious. Is relevant that it is SOMETIMES a "eureka" moment. What floats up is sometimes something that "fits" something else (in the conscious?), and other times not. And still other times it seems to fit but proves not to over time. The interesting question (for me at least) is not why it may not prove to fit over time (ideas always get tested by subsequent experience) but what "fit" means at the eureka moment. There has to be some way that the products of "treeness" and those of 'thinking", despite their emerging from very different processes and having very different characters, can be associated with one another so as to determine "fit". Now THERE's an interesting neurobological problem.

I suspect there are clues to the forms and dynamics of exchange between the unconscious and the conscious in writing anxiety/tension too. If its only the conscious that can conceive things as other than they are then its only the conscious that could worry about having "closed off other stories, other options, other possibilities". So the "tension" might perhaps correspond to a blue tab surfacing that is inconsistent with some story that the conscious has and wants to preserve?


To Paul from Rene
Name: Rene Desca
Date: //2004-07-12 10:19:36 :
Link to this Comment: 10394

Dear Paul,
Thanks for your letter, but I have to say you are thinking way too much. Why not just unscrunch your brows, relax and "let it be," to quote one of your modern philosophers. You're too hung up on the content of what I wrote and missing the "process" dimension. It's not the thinking per se, in the sense of using our cognitive apparatus, that I was talking about. It's "consciously experiencing." I could just as easily -- with precisely the same meaning -- have said "I feel, therefore I am," "I smell therefore I am," I judge therefore I am, "I sense, therefore I am," I intuit, therefore I am," "I enjoy therefore I am." In fact I spelled this out quite explicitly in my "Principles of Philosphy," specifically in principle IX, "what thought is:" To quote myself,
"By the word thought I understand all that of which we are conscious as operating in us. And that is why not alone understanding, willing, imagining, but also feeling, are here the same thing as thought. For if I say I see, or I walk, I therefore am, and if by seeing and walking I mean the action of my eyes or my legs, which is the work of my body, my conclusion is not absolutely certain; because it may be that, as often happens in sleep, I think I see or I walk, although I never open my eyes or move from my place, and the same thing perhaps might occur if I had not a body at all. But if I mean only to talk of my sensation, or my consciously seeming to see or to walk, it becomes quite true because my assertion now refers only to my mind, which alone is concertined with my feeling or thinking that I see and I walk."
As for my much maligned dualism, you should really read the work of my friend, Elio Frattaroli, who points out (on p. 352 of his book, "Healing the Soul in the Age of the Brain") that "if you actually read Descartes's account of the process by which he arrived at his dualistic conclusion, it is pretty clear that he was thinking of body and soul not as fundamentally different kinds of thing, but as fundamentally different kinds of experience."
Now about that unconscious tree of yours: It's not so clear that "trees are." The only thing you can know for sure is that your experience of trees is. That's the point I was trying to make. And even if there is an absolute God's-eye view of reality from which it is clear that trees are whether anyone hears them being or not, you would probably consider it highly unlikely that a tree could know that it was, unless of course the brain is nowadays ridiculously over-rated as the center of knowing. Which as a true skeptic you should consider as a possibility and which in fact I believe it is. And believing it, I become aware of the being engaged in believing it. That would be I.
Thanks for thinking of me. Please keep those cards and letters coming.
Your pal,
Rene


On change
Name: Lucy Kerma
Date: //2004-07-12 11:20:34 :
Link to this Comment: 10395

In my own dialogue with Paul on this essay, which hasn't been posted yet, I was particularly intrigued by his sense of "self" and with his equation of "tree" with "unconscious." It's a typically provocative statement, but for me it makes the concept of unconscious less clear, rather than more. I think there is an important difference between "unconscious" and "not conscious": unconscious implies the existence of its opposite (conscious) -- two sides of the same mind, as it were -- while not conscious seems to me to better describe those things for which there is no possibility of consciousness.

I was also interested in Anneliese's comments about how emotional change happens. For anyone who has played in both the psychoanalyic and cognitive camps, I think there is generally the understanding that change can happen in any number of ways -- depends on the person, on the complexity of the issue, on the time of life. It is certainly possible through the articulation of unconscious assumptions to have that transformative "ah ha" experience that robs the unconscious of its power to control behavior. So too it is possible to chip away at things like destructive and anachronistic patterns of behavior or thinking -- (anachronistic in the sense that the energy comes more from old patterns of childhood experience than from a dispassionate reaction to an adult situation) -- through the willful and conscious application of what Paul is calling "thinking," to which I would add "using one's ability to examine assumptions, explore without prejudice or preconceptions, and then act accordingly." Change is an inevitable part of life, while changing in a particular direction (changing behavior, changing feelings) is slow and difficult -- that's why it is nice that there are a number of different ways to get at it.


I'm all with Anne, though, in the call to drop the obsession with dualism, those exhausting (and, to me, boring) "either/ors" that artifically overdefine and limit what are in fact complicated and ever-changing realities.
Lucy


new addition
Name: Paul Grobstein
Date: //2004-11-10 15:35:57 :
Link to this Comment: 11491


"I have made notes toward an article about the difficulties of "bridging discourse communities" on our campus (in politics, ideology, academic disciplines, faith, and gender), and this letter is going to help me think forward" .... Michael Heller, Department of English, Roanoke College


The third thing
Name: Lucy Kerma
Date: //2004-10-07 11:09:53 :
Link to this Comment: 11044

I don’t know if this is what Sharon has in mind, but when I think of the “third” thing in the social realm, I think of action, pure and simple, without self-consciousness. So, for the self, it can be that “ah ha” moment of “knowing.” In interpersonal terms, maybe it is when two people are fighting (or making love), carried along by emotion, without fully articulating or analyzing what is going on. In the social realm, I think of what happens with groups: a meeting where lots of people talk and new ideas are generated and new understandings reached, and everyone feels the excitement; or a march that turns into a riot without a single provocation or plan; or a group project to make something where everyone is focused on their respective tasks and there is the kind of momentum that binds everyone together in a common spirit. You’re so intent on “doing” it that you don’t notice exactly what you’re doing.

I think it is only after these “happenings” that we sit down and think, Whoa, what just happened? And then we start thinking and analyzing and, in Paul’s terms, making up a conscious “story” to explain the experience. If there is a “fuschia dot” around, that person may be the one who creates the public, shared story (which may propel it forward), but I suspect each member of the group will also have his or her own perspective and memory.


continuing the conversations ...
Name: Paul Grobstein
Date: //2004-07-18 13:06:45 :
Link to this Comment: 10434

The dialogue Lucy referred to is now on-line. Sorry about the delay. And accept that more work is needed on the issue of "unconscious" as opposed to "not conscious". I actually DO think that the two are more similar than most people suspect (ie that "trees" are NOT so different from our own "unconscious") but that's clearly an argument I need to somewhere spell out more explicitly if I expect to put any serious weight on it.

A response to Elio/Descartes is upcoming (hopefully as an addition to the "Dialogues".

A part of an email from Sharon (with her permission):

hmmm.. i noted how different the being/becoming page was from the rest of the conversation---no reply back from you. And _that_ made me think-- are images somehow less conducive to interaction? Is that another reason I prefer them? I'm still thinking about me an' words. I started reading The Mind Body Problem yesterday. A page I dog-earred said something that felt VERY familiar: "A good deal of my thinking goes on in images (from which certain people have inferred that i do not think), so that verbalization presents problems of translation."

Sharon has put her finger on what seem to me a very interesting and quite general set of issues. Are there differences between words and pictures as ways of thinking? Individually? Collectively? As ways of story sharing? Individually? Collectively? Perhaps relevant is that I didn't respond on being/becoming because that particular contribution of Sharon's seemed to me to represent something quite different from "dialogue" in the sense that I was using the term, not "better" or "worse", just different, in a way that didn't trigger the same kind of response from me.

Let me see if I can unpack that a bit, in a way that might relate to the more general questions. I tend, I guess, to think of "dialogue" as not just story sharing but as story comparing, with the intent on the part of all involved to test the usefulness of particular stories (both the ones they hear and the ones they tell). And for that purpose, stories need to be, to one extent or another, "assailable". They need to be in a form that facilitates comparison with and testing against other stories. My sense is that stories told in words are, in some way, more likely to be assailable than stories conveyed in pictures.

Pictures are in general, I think, better than words at conveying feelings, intuitions, and .... things that can't (yet?) be put into words. And they are, in general, better at eliciting feelings/intuitions/etc in others. And that's a very real, very important strength of pictures (as well as music, dance, and other non-verbal activities). But they are less good for "comparing". For one thing, there is no assurance that the feelings/intuitions/etc that one attempted to represent in the picture are the same ones that are triggered in the responder. For another, its not clear how one "compares" feelings/intuitions/etc. other than to say they are the same or different in different people.

That's where words come in (for me at least). Words are an effort (imperfect as it often is) to express feelings/intuitions/etc in a way that makes it more likely that a story will "mean" the same thing to both teller and listener, and in a way that makes it possible to break apart some of the unity of feelings/intuitions/etc in a way that makes it possible to ask questions about and compare/contrast different parts of the whole. One of course pays a price for this, the story is never as rich as the feelings/intuitions/etc but it is, on the other hand, more "assailable", more subject to common testing.

I am not at all challenging the value of pictures as a way to share things between people, and certainly not challenging the value of pictures as a way to encourage sharing of stories in general (Sharon's pictures have been, in this way, an important part of several courses, eg Telling and ReTelling Stories). What I am suggesting is that stories in words are more likely to have "assailability" and so facilitate story comparison.

What's particularly interesting about all this for me is that it suggests one doesn't want to privilege either the verbal or the non-verbal but rather to be constantly enhancing both capabilities together with the skills of moving back and forth between the two (see Story Telling in At Least Three Dimensions). And what further intrigues me is that I suspect the unconscious (our "treeness") never (almost never?) works verbally in any of us; it communicates with our internal "thinker"/"story teller" in pictures/feelings/intuitions. And its the business of the story teller to do the "squeezing" that makes of those the "assailable". Not only for communication with others but for communication internally (back to the "treeness") as well (see Making the Conscious Unconscious and Vice Versa.

Bottom line (for me at least). Pictures are important, both internally and externally. They are the "I am" part, the treeness part. And yes, they are a valuable part of interaction. But words are also important, again both internally and externally. They are what gives "assailability" (both externally and internally) and it is assailability that is essential for the kind of thinking that allows one to change what one is.


taking a bite of the apple
Name: Elizabeth
Date: //2004-07-20 02:03:03 :
Link to this Comment: 10438

How lovely to enter into this space. I was struck by Sharon B's paintings on being vs. becoming and respect and admire her work in general for the way in which it seems to connect with my "unconscious". I'll put that in quotation marks here and then leave it out of quotation marks from now on. It seems as though there has been some debate over the meaning of the word unconscious but for me, right now, it's quite apt. When I saw the being/becoming watercolors I just thought (or felt) "yes" without having to go any further. Those images don't need a complex story, do they? Is it because the words themselves written on the images are so charged (i.e. have so many connotations) or is it because the images themselves can tap into a big pool of collective unconsciousness or...non-verbal universal associativeness (my definition of collective unconscious)? The range of possible interpretation for the images would be increased without words but the emotional power wouldn't be, in my opinion. That's what I'm looking for, even in stories, things that make sense on a deeper level.

I have so much to say about image and story having just spent 3 weeks + on an art installation currently residing in English House Basement. The installation is called Once Upon a Time is Now: A True Story. The installation pieces are linked with orange yarn... a play on story and a way to link the pieces from one to another. In a recent e mail, Anne wrote that my piece was like "an installation version of [what] she does on the web" I was thrilled to read this and it's something which has made me really think about how much I value associative thinking... And thus....

I loved reading about the dialogue involving the extent to which Anne's links (or Serendip's links or any links) are alienating to the reader-participant and/or promote a closed system or too much niche displacement or alienation etc. I'd like to say that I've always been quite fond of Anne's links. But I'm also one to tell a story and get so lost in digression that I forget the point of the story, looking for a pair of shoes and inadvertently reading through every paper at the bottom of my closet etc... I've come to learn that in life (at least for me) the point is the digression. This maybe is less safe but trying to make it be any other way is just frustrating for me (a reason why some classes have been frustrating to me, classes in my past which have been overly product oriented) On Serendip, I often wander about and forget where I started or why I went on the site to begin with (usually there is an original intent) But I love this. It feeds my creative process... Lucy's really fascinating points have made me think about my creative process. I much prefer thinking in A, G, H, B, Z, A, B, G, A than A, B, C, D. Just a matter of preference, I think. BUT linear thinking (A, B, C, D) is ALSO somewhat associative isn't it? A has to remind someone of B, B of C etc. I'm not sure why I mention this. Maybe it's just to say that neither way is better than the other- maybe it's to say that I'm not entirely convinced about what I'm saying about both ways of thinking.

Although I can't pretend to "get" every link that I follow- I take what I like from the links. They're like portals into a past time, another person or group of people's minds... there is content which is sometimes ambiguous but none-the-less interesting... And I'm one for process rather than product. Let me say now, (before i do the digressing that I love and forget) that I'd love to get some sort of response to this although I fear I may have entered this part of the conversation a bit to late... I hope there is still energy for enlightening me more in terms of this line of thought.

Here are two things which I've been thinking about recently

1) from a book caled Trust the Process (one of many books of this nature on shelves in bookstores...) this one is by Shaun McNiff... "Creation is a basic life instinct for all of us."

2) Life is really just one big experiment, isn't it? (conversation with Gayle Samuels)

I just finished up work as a Teaching Assistant with Jody Cohen in the Writing for College program this summer. I watched the movie, The Stone Reader with the students. Many students were upset that Mark Moskowitz (he came and spoke to the students and at Haverford a few years ago too) didn't just look more directly for the writer that he was pursuing. Many of them felt that there was just too much- that he should have gotten to it sooner rather than discussing books with people, traveling all over the place etc. I was really surprised at the student's response ( I was sitting there being blown away and excited by his search) I eventually gathered from the students that one reason why students didn't like what Moskowitz was doing was that it took a lot of time to watch the film. Process takes a lot of time, a lot of looking backwards, a lot of independent thinking some connection making which has to happen by oneself.

Somehow, I think if those of us with Lot's wife tendencies can escape from being turned into pillars of salt, we might actually be somewhat skilled at forward looking things...because the future is quite related to the past... I'd like to think that those who know the past (or at least their past, their process) also know the future really well. It's easier to wrap one's mind around if one sees time as a man-made construct... something more circular than linear if anything- something more like the "being" watercolor.

Students also went down to see my installation. I hope to do some writing about my installation on Serendip but until then I'll just describe a component of the installation which seems related to what we're thinking about. I have a powerpoint presentation of still photos taken from a video of me (my hand) painting. The image was radically different at each step. I did splattering, some representational work, always layering and relayering. By the end I was going to paint the canvas white but the final image which emerged was a mirror. I left this there because it felt very right. By the end of painting any picture, all the artist really paints is a mirror for the viewer to look in. The viewer can only see him or herself, only has the stories that he or she brings to the painting.

Anyway, I had students and teachers respond to the work. (on the slideshow) and the painting (in its final step above it) Many people were angry that the actual paintings... the steps in the process did not exist in tangible form. One student said that this resembled the process of life... we work really hard on the layers (years/moments) of life when in fact the layers wind up getting covered over anyway. I wanted people to grapple with this idea of process, recorded or not...

I'm looking forward to getting more viewer responses to this component of the installation. Bringing me to places that I didn't know about. Illuminating my subconscious mind.

One final thing to add to this conversation and this is that there was one part of my installation which has elicited close to the same response from everyone who has looked at it. And I wonder about this in conjunction with what's being said about story and artwork. Sometimes the two (visual image and verbal story) are the same, no?

Anyway, I also have been struggling with the extent to which I should explain myself when I'm with people looking at my installation. I don't like doing it... because i'd like people to add to my stories and make their own without being influenced by any sort of "intent" but when I give in and use words... people are SO HAPPY... and relieved when I tell them that what they've said was indeed "in" the artwork... that has become somewhat of a response for me (telling people that what they saw was in the work)... What I don't say that everything is in all art... that anything can be drawn out...that any response is thrilling to me and none of them feel off to me... To me all there is is just paint and paper and scarves and glue and chests of drawers... and when the viewer comes and looks, then there is art. But maybe paradoxically, I've told some people to try and engage with the work on a purely aesthetic level. Because I love doing this type of looking. Looking at paint because it's paint ( overly Greenbergian at a time when I shouldn't be? I'm not sure) or looking at color and being moved without "thinking" anything.

These are things I'll continue to struggle with and would appreciate it if anyone wanted to add to the struggle.

Many thanks. Looking forward to continuing to look forward (and backward)



Name: Lucy Kerm
Date: //2004-07-20 09:17:56 :
Link to this Comment: 10439

How nice to have Elizabeth's comments and to be invited to continue exploring the difference between how we think and how we share our thoughts. I didn't mean, in my earlier responses to Anne, to suggest that web "links" are never interesting or useful. Of course, the web is wonderfully rich, "free and open" as Anne says, and of course there are times when references to essays or web sites are extraordinarily helpful and very much to the point. I was really just sharing my own experience that there is a particular style of referencing so many past discussions and personal exchanges, rather than simply talking in real time about a topic of immediate concern, has had the net effect of turning me (at least) away. It just doesn't work for me: I don't understand what is being said and I find the allusions to other intimacies to be excluding of those who didn't participate. It's not a matter of ethics but of effectiveness. Sure, you can leave the burden of understanding to the reader, and if they don't understand or just ignore half your text, too bad for them. But if your intent is to communicate to others, then I think part of the task -- and the joy -- is to learn how to do it effectively.


I actually don't think there is such a difference between "linear" and "asssociative" thinking. For anyone, I think, thinking point A will get you to B, G, J, and T at the same time, and you put your narrative together in some kind of sequential order that may or may not reflect the actual chronology of your thinking. The question for me is whether it is necessary (or interesting) for me to explain how I got to my point in order to share it effectively. Here I am talking. Is it really helpful for you to know what I had for breakfast? and what I read last night? and how a conversation I had (which you weren't part of) helped me get to this point? and if I tell you that I learned this from talking to someone you don't even know, does that help you hear me better? Do you have to understand how I think in order to understand what I am saying? It may help *me* understand myself, but why should that matter to you?

Elizabeth's points about "process" over "product" and "the point is the digression" are interesting. I'll all for process: it is fundamental to community building, which is never complete (never a "product" in that sense), is always evolving. And, to pick up on Paul's comments, I think there are lots of ways to create community, through words, pictures, music, touching, collective action ("doing" together is sometimes far more powerful than "talking" together).


responding to Lucy's response
Name: Elizabeth
Date: //2004-07-20 16:47:24 :
Link to this Comment: 10441

Lucy's response to my response is so helpful to me. I grately admire turtles and those who travel light. The ideas about associative thinking and effective communication are also interesting to me. I'm thinking now (after Lucy's comments) that maybe I don't mind hearing about a previous conversation and someone's friend's friend because I do a lot of it in my own writing/correspondence. And now I'm wondering, do people just skim my e mails, do people want me to get to the point? I think these are REALLY important questions for me to consider as I continue to write and (i hope someday) publish fiction. I DO want to communicate... I wonder how many people really like people who carry and express intellectual baggage and how many people are alienated by that. I think there are some of both out there...

I've been thinking about this in other ways too... I have so many books and even if I'm going somewhere for a couple of days I have to bring more than I'll possibly be able to read and refer to... And I hate getting rid of stuff... I actually like to pick more of it up from people's garbages if I think I can use it for art. This drives some members of my family crazy and I think, when I'm inhabiting my own space (without the voice of others telling me no) there may not be enough room for me in there. This is a real problem. But I am in some ways resistant to changing this part of myself because I get so much joy out of it. Conversely I tend to hold onto emotional baggage more than other people too... to reflect and look back on everything that hasn't gone quite right. I don't get a lot of joy out of this... but I do get a lot of writing out of this which is joy once removed.

Also, I was having a conversation with a student about writing. She really was writing because she wanted people to understand her as a writer, to see her in her work. I've been there... but it's important to realize that writing cannot be therapy, that while you are and must be writing for yourself, you are also performing a public act and people will like your writing for the way in which they can understand and connect with it... they may not be concerned about how Aunt Bette led you to think about Deviled eggs and how that led you to like a certain color paint and how that led you to try the paint out and how that led you to like the feel of paint and how that led you to want to be an artist... It might be more productive to say that you're an artist and start there...

But on the other hand I had a student who was writing about the Thumbelina myth and what she said to me about how she came to be writing about this (being called Thumbelina as a child and then thinking about females and jealousy) felt so rich to me that I encouraged her to write more about it in her essay. And I don't think this was wrong advice.

I think also, that part of my installation which I described before was also grappling with the other side of this question... I'm wondering, Lucy if you'd think it would be better just to show the painting at the last step, at the mirror phase? Is this what we should strive for? Being able to accept that we cannot hold onto the layers? to me this seems to be a much more existential question... it seems to go so far beyond just the way one communicates on the web.

With much gratitude for interesting insights! And for showing me some of the value of traveling light :-) Would like to meet you, Lucy... and some of the other people participating in this conversation whom I have not met.


Layers
Name: Lucy Kerma
Date: //2004-07-20 17:24:10 :
Link to this Comment: 10442

Elizabeth, the truth is, I don't think there are any rules. For me, it's a matter of what works. And what works is different for each situation. So, in academic work, the footnotes are often essential. And in some written dialogues, the background and the context are essential. In personal email conversations, sometimes the layers are exactly what you want to be talking about. And in some conversations, the point is -- to get to the point. In my experience, the wider you cast the net, the bigger you want the conversation to be and the more diverse you want the audience, the clearer you need to be. It's political: what's the best way to communicate, to be heard, to listen, to have an impact, to be affected, and how can you facilitate that, in each situation? It's a choice, each time, and it's up to you.

In art -- whether painting or peotry or music or performance art or -- that's a particular kind of communication and I think you say what you want to say, as deeply and complexly, with as many layers as you want, just as you want to say it. The art form that speaks most to me -- music -- is all about layers. That's what makes it so full of meaning.

I didn't mean for anyone -- Anne, Elizabeth -- to feel self-conscious about the way they write. I am just eager to talk substance and was sharing what made it difficult for me to understand the conversations.


identity/thinking/consciousness
Name: Elizabeth
Date: //2004-07-20 22:49:43 :
Link to this Comment: 10443

Lucy, I'm thrilled by having had the opportunity to be self-conscious. I think it fits with our persuits of consciousness! Excellent not to remain complacent and excellent to have been called to question the way that I am. So thanks! And also, what you said made me think that maybe these questions SHOULD be taken on a case by case basis. So this WAS just about links on the site and making it more accessible... Are you thinking that it would be good if there were more diversity on Serendip? I think that that could happen if it were simply advertised elsewhere on the web. Maybe it's just getting people onto the site. Maybe to the art sections first... it's a visually stimulated culture so maybe it would be good to allow the images to speak first. Would this be the goal? I'm thinking that these things may have been attempted already- that I'm entering into that conversation a bit too late also.

Anyway, music! wonderful. Layers which are sometimes elusive to me. Art is much more accessible to me than music, although I've had conversations with my mom's pianist friends about the extent to which people spend more time listening to music at a concert than looking at an image in an art museum. That is to say that listening to music at a concert starts passively... the music ENTERS into the ears and then the listener becomes engaged in whatever way... whereas going to an art museum, the viewer has to make an effort to engage with each picture...maybe the initial entering is harder? There were a lot of insights surrounding this and I wish I could remember them. Somehow music seems more immediately transcendent. What do you all think of this? At any rate, it's easier for me to see and appreciate visual art... although all of the arts are very related and it would be excellent if there were even more of an opportunity for them to cross paths. For instance, one of my students wrote a piece of memoir and included a CD with it... on the cd was a piece of music from a soundtrack that she wanted the reader to listen to while reading her work. The music really enhanced her work although I was, at first, skeptical.

Also along the lines of i am and i think therefore... i was thinking more about the extent to which identity is determined by that which we do... for example if my mom has spent a long time engaging her thought musically and now no longer does so, to what extent does she exist? I don't think that I am without what I do... I'm on the becoming rather than being path... I'll look on this site more to get some more insight about this but in the meantime, any response would be great. Or I'm up for discussing new ways of addressing other parts of any issues....

Lovely to be back on a forum :-)


lots of grist, lots of layers ...
Name: Paul Grobstein
Date: //2004-10-06 18:07:34 :
Link to this Comment: 11034

Cheryl's notes on "Perceptual Experience and Bodily Action" are now available. Is nice to have a "professional" around. Presume she will be welcomed/treated with the same respect/presumption of authority/expertise that the rest of us get around here.

Do indeed think we have both the individual and the social/poltical in play here. Along with issues of "change", "action", and "assailability". Some people write stories, others interpret them, and that's all to the good. I'm tempted (as always) to try and paint a story/picture that derives from/connects all of the bits/pieces/layers (and hope I too will be indulged with at least bemused patience). Key idea is that interacting parts make of wholes, which in turn become interacting parts that make up still larger wholes etc, and that there are some significant similarities between parts and their interactions at each successive level

So, lets start with the human brain (just for fun). Its got lots of parts, each of which is acting and changing based on the results of its actions (see second figure from a talk called "The Brain: Insights into Individuals and Complex Organization"). By virtue of this, each part comes to be a distinct and continually evolving representation of "what works" in its own distinct world. By sharing information about its own activity with other parts, there may come into existence (third figure) some degree of coordination among the various parts that might cause an external observer to identify a "whole"(a "tree"). But there is in fact nothing inside the system itself that is a representation of the "whole". In lieu of this, there is no way that the system as a whole can conceive itself as something other than it is, and so there is no ability of the system itself to direct its own change.

The system "acts", it "changes", and it "learns/represents", from the perspective of an external observer, but it has no experience of doing any of these things and no capability to evaluate or alter the directions of its own change. That is, I think, a fair representation of virtually all living things, including the unconscious part of ourselves. "Acting" and "changing" and "learning/representing" aren't in fact things we as humans have to wonder about. They just ARE, in us and everything else. Without them we wouldn't be here.

Now let's add an additional, somewhat different "part", the fuschia dot in the fourth figure. What gives this part its distinctiveness (among all the other distinctive parts) is that it receives information from all the other parts so it can come up with "stories" about the "whole" and, by sending information back to the other parts, it may influence them in ways that result in their behavior being altered (to one degree or another) by such stories. Given an architecture that supports a "story" of the whole, its not a huge step to "counterfactual stories", to an ability to generate a variety of candidate stories about the whole, and its then an even smaller step from that to a whole that can conceive itself as other than it is, evaluate the usefulness of particular stories, and so play some role in its own evolution . The fuschia dot is, needless to say, "consciousness" or "thinking".

Or is it? Maybe the fuschia dot is the coxswain in a rowing team, or the playmaker on a basketball team, or a genuinely able politician (of the sort that is notably rare these days) who listens to the people and comes up with a widely satisfying new story about what they are all about? Different layers, similar organizations? With an action/evaluation/change cycle occuring at all levels? And a similar need to avoid the temptations and perils of hierarchy at all levels?

Action/evaluation/change occurs in the unconscious, all the time. With consciousness comes "thinking", and the appearance/possibility/story that "thinking" can occur without acting. And it can. And it can even be useful to sometimes think while suspending action, to play with stories to see what new stories might emerge. This is where "assailability" comes from, and why assailability is useful. But, in the long run, the stories the conscious comes up with are significant if and only if they prove useful in action and in altering the unconscious (with either potentially preceding). At a social level, the division between "theory" and "practice" is much the same. There is benefit in "theory", in the testing of stories developed by one person or group of people against stories developed by others, but again, in the long run, theories are useful only insofar as they prove so in the individual and collective practices of human beings.

So ... what's this? Not, most assuredly, "wordless knowledge", but perhaps an expression of it in a way that has been (at least to some extent) usefully assailed by my conscious and is offered for further useful assailing by others? Individual? Yes. Social? Yes. Theory? Yes. Practice? I think so, hope so, but that depends on what it turns out I/others do with it. We'll see.


profoundly skeptical...about the one-way street?
Name: Anne Dalke
Date: //2004-10-06 19:31:18 :
Link to this Comment: 11035

in the long run, the stories the conscious comes up with are significant if and only if they prove useful in action and in altering the unconscious

after a summer (and fall) of celebrating the "new," and what produces the "new," that's exactly what i'm finding myself increasingly (profoundly!) skeptical about: that what is significant and useful is (only?) what brings about alteration. how 'bout we experiment w/ the notion that what is most significant is what remains the same, what lasts, what is repeatable, returnable-to, preservative, that the best stories are the old ones, the known ones, kept because they say what (eternally? profoundly?) IS, rather than pursuing always...that which eludes us?

Cheryl's recent rather poignant "supermarket example" (the shopper who pursues a trail of sugar, only to find that he was the one making the mess) comes to mind, as does Roland's comment a few months ago about "I can change who I am" : "There is something slightly teleological about this statement that I don't seem to like but I am not quite sure yet what it is. "

I think that I'm (somewhat puzzedly but suredly) feeling my way into what I don't like about it: its insistently unidirectional quality. A one-way street is not feeling to me a way (to return to the very first "writing") to very much expand the space for exploration and inquiry.


Dear Profoundly Skeptical
Name: Sharon Burgmayer
Date: //2004-10-07 00:19:44 :
Link to this Comment: 11038

Anne, you are now puzzled—sounding really worried, actually—about “valorizing change”. You suggest—your wish is?— to valorize constancy instead.

When I read your thoughts, as a scientist (sorry, can’t help it), this is what came to mind.

- Change is not an option, it IS. It is embedded in the physical world, ourselves included. Our brains included and so unavoidably, our conscious and unconscious (these are mentioned since they seem to figure as major players in this forum, especially).


- The “insistently unidirectional quality” of change—the one-way street—is related to the arrow of time, and is also not an option. It IS.


- Constancy and stasis suggest equilibrium in the physical world. And in biology, equilibrium is death.


So it doesn’t seem very useful to deny the one-way street of change. Nor to deny that change can and DOES result in good things.

If I might gently suggest…that your articulated discomfort, “what you don’t like about it”, might be the result of some dualistic thought sneaking in? Dualistic as in, ONLY either change OR that which persists is good? But certainly it must be so that we need BOTH change and some constancy and BOTH are good.


Paul, you successfully created a story to integrate the perspectives of individual, social groups, theory and practice. Now, may I challenge you—assail your story— to find in your new construct(s) a “place” for “the third thing”? The thing besides the unconscious and conscious? I’m especially curious what it might “look like” in the social realm.


offering
Name: Elizabeth
Date: //2004-10-07 00:34:29 :
Link to this Comment: 11040

Have not thoroughly read where we've been in the past few days but with the "I can enter anywhere" stipulation, I'll offer what i've been pondering recently. There is only one story and that is being human. That is, one can see it all as one story rather than multiple stories... but there's this thing we want... and that's uniqueness. Uniqueness is perhaps a single detail within the larger human story- what we want (this uniqueness) is part of the human story too. We want to travel in many directions and so we create and create and create and we tell and re-tell, we ponder open systems closed systems, being, thinking, assailablity, what's not assailable etc. And then we notice that things start to repeat themselves... Myths, for example, reveal this thing we name "truth"...

If we see the human story as a single canvas and we see ourselves as the colors on that canvas... truth is the moment when we, the colors, realize that we are sitting on the canvas in relation to other colors and that there is not a randomness to the story... Then we think, yes, we are related but we are certainly contributing something new... well yes, perhaps and no... The universe, large as it is, seems to me to never deviate from being a single canvas. We are not individual stories but part of a larger story...that moves

So my post ends here but here's why i'm thinking about this... I was writing in Nimbus Writers Group today... the prompt was to write something about a cafe- to describe that place... I got to one woman in some cafe....It's a freewrite... and i'm leaving in the details, even those which do not move things along at all... and seem quite wierd. Perhaps there is something in these too.

"This is my body, take this, all of you and eat it. Here is what I see. Looking on the outside i see a woman. She is sitting in a dark corner. She is not writing, she is staring forward and waiting. This waiting look must come from the fact that she is pregnant. Interpreted: the woman is waiting for a child...

She's always liked the feel of things. Fur and silk and rocks and rugs on the floor. She comes to this cafe because the vainilla coffee reminds her of her mother's perfume and how she used to hide in the closet in her mother's room and wait for her mother to wake up. It was the closet with the sink in it, where her mother kept this vainilla perfume. Every morning the child waited to be found. We all play hide and seek for the moment when we will be found. This is what we long for, what we need... Why else would we play? There is no game called Hide and hide. In addition to hiding, there is thinking... thinking allows us to make tracks, writing makes them permanent on the page... or semi-permanent (what is that?) Re-written again and again. The tragedy is that we want something else.

The woman thinks that there must be something else. Then realizes that the something else is that which forms inside of her. She has always had an unbelievably unnatural fascination with the idea of pregnancy. Perhaps she feels like there has always been something that she has been missing. Something she's trying to fill... like words across the page, this thing within her is... another version of the same story.


music, fish, and minotaurs
Name: em
Date: //2004-07-21 10:29:02 :
Link to this Comment: 10447

hey, e, i'm glad to be able to read about your art installation and hope that i can get a chance to "see" it however i need to see it sometime.
just wanted to add a few things to this discussion, stemming from my work as a musician and my recent conversations with anne:
1. last night, my quartet played a concert, and on the program were pieces by haydn, shostakovich, and brahms. our coach said to "play like [your] hair is on fire" during the shostakovich, give a light touch to the haydn, and make the brahms very deep and thick. these images and pictures were immensely helpful to me, making me think that maybe i am not so different from you as i thought, e, and that music and art are not distinctly passive or engaged but rather a very personal meld of the two?
2. i also enjoyed your discussion of non-linear thinking, which can be appled very directly to my life. i was telling anne how i would follow a trail of links in serendip to wherever they took me, the only thread that held me to a course (orange yarn?) the back button on my browser. and i told her i couldn't shake the feeling that this desultory way i had of maneuvering never brought me any closer to the minotaur at the center of the labyrinth. i could hear him roaring in the distance and thought i might find him sometime, but never quite made it. this relates also to your process rather than product, as it doesn't really bother me that i can't find the minotaur, in fact, i rather enjoy being lost and trying to figure things out.
3. the fish bit of the subject line relates to sharon's painting of being, which i told anne reminds me of a large and somewhat scary fish surging towards the bottom of the painting, ready to eat anything in its path. i am understanding my reading of this a bit better now (paintings always seem to evoke rather complex stories in me, e, perhaps because of my desire to know the tale behind everything. call me nosy...): a friend of mine is taking a seminar with peter elbow, who has been discussing belief and doubt. so much of what i do, and so much of who i am centers on my belief in one thing or the other ("i think i am, therefore i must be") that i am finding it is belief (and its accompanying doubts) that allow me the breathing space to live with that fish and not be as scared. does this make sense, e? i hope to see you soon.



Name: Lucy Kerma
Date: //2004-07-21 10:30:45 :
Link to this Comment: 10448

It is so nice to meet someone here -- perhaps some of this discussion is best taken off the forum. Elizabeth, I look forward to being in touch directly.

I think several of your points are of particular general relevance, though. The first has to do with the nature of Serendip. Should there be more diversity on Serendip and, if so, how can that be achieved -- by inviting more people here, or by adding to the kinds of conversations that are hosted? Does this dialogue series around Descartes suggest any directions? I actually think Serendip is already extraordinarily diverse, in its offerings and its audiences, and many people (myself included -- see www.40thst.org -- see, even *I* use links at times!) have found a way to match their kinds of conversations with the freedom that Serendip offers. Can it be more? I'm sure, and your thoughts about including more visual (and perhaps aural) exhibits (dialogues?) is an interesting one. Not to continue to beat a completely dead horse, but my original point with Anne was directed at this issue through the word-based exhibits, the forums and dialogues: is there a way to involve more people, more frequently, in these areas? Again (and then I am done with it), it's not about "links" and whether or not one wants to follow them, but rather whether there is a way that talking in the present tense can help engage people who have different experiences to bring to the conversation.

In my dialogue with Paul, we talked about the (or, one) "bottom line" of his essay being that people should think. So, how does a web site like Serendip get people to think?

I was also interested in your questions about identity, and about whether 'I am" is the same as "I do." And if in changing what "I do" you necessarily change what "I am." On some level, I guess, everything "I do" is both a reflection of and an influence on what "I am." But we "do" lots of things -- jobs, interests, hobbies, passions, relationships -- and how can any one thing determine the self? and is there really such a difference between being and becoming? Interesting questions: maybe Descartes has an idea about this one.


Em's post
Name: E
Date: //2004-07-21 22:39:09 :
Link to this Comment: 10450

Hi, Em!!! Was hoping that you'd pop up on the forum! Looking forward to talking with you more and seeing you. "Play like your hair is on fire"... Whoa! We should have a forum just based on that. That would be a cool performance art piece... if it looked like say the violinists were actually playing on fire... when i think of fire, I also think of pain because the fire couldn't just stay on your hair. Fire is dangerous. I also think of it as something transcendent-biblical or primal...music and the elements, the elements of music. I suppose I'll do the rest of my thinking about this off the forum. I'm looking forward to hearing you play again in the fall and was delighted to picture you playing.

I agree with you... we aren't that different...and maybe that goes with my other question which Lucy responded to... do you mean that "our art forms are not all that different?" or do you mean mean "we".. two individual people who exist independent of the multitude of things we do... are not different from each other?

I'm still struggling with the idea of image and narrative... I tell myself stories all the time and yet sometimes I can and like to engage with work on an aesthetic level and without story. Like seeing a painting or photograph and crying. No narrative needed there. Have you had this experience with music? I can count on one hand the number of times that I have seen and image and cried. On three fingers, to be more precise.

I found Sharon's imagery to be more calming than fish-like but I'm fascinated. Also by the idea of labyrinth and how it pertains to the mind.

We were going to do an excercise with the Writing for College students where they sat by the Bryn Mawr labryinth blindfolded and wrote in their journals. This was so that they could go inside and outside of their conciousness... there were other parts to this actvity as well about turning inward and looking outward.

I'm not sure what you're saying about belief and doubt and how they allow you to live with that which is scary. Could you explain more? Belief and doubt in what "the fish" represents? And why belief AND doubt. Actually I think I get you on a basic word level, but not on a conceptual level... I'm fascinated about this too... always hungry for more... thanks, Em (and Lucy!)

:-)


profoundly skeptical re: change
Name: Anne Dalke
Date: //2004-10-06 07:43:55 :
Link to this Comment: 11029

Yesterday, the Study Group of the Graduate Idea Forum met to discuss a selection of the Descartes dialogues. My "final" (yeah, right) question of the morning had to do with whether the profound skepticism advocated throughout this site might productively be applied (must, logically, be applied?) to the one claim that has seemed, so far, "unassailable": that all this activity is directed toward producing/accelerating change. What if we were profoundly skeptical toward the valorization of change? Toward even the claim that change IS? What if we experimented with living in the eternal now, not seeking progress or newness, flagging instead what endures, what is constant, what remains available amidst the change....? Letting Lucy's story just "be," for instance, not "changing" it by "assailing" or "interpreting" it....

One way to answer your question, Xenia, would be just to say that change happens (whether "thought" about or not). But here's another way of responding, I think....



Name: Lucy Kerma
Date: //2004-10-05 21:07:27 :
Link to this Comment: 11027

I find myself puzzling to connect Paul's "related material" to Sharon's, Xenia's, and Maria's recent comments, which resonated for me. My sense is that Paul -- and Sharon, too, I think -- are working at the micro, or individual, level, while Maria and Xenia are pushing beyond that to the macro, or social/political, realm. Perhaps we are circling around some common themes that can be addressed at either level: how do thoughts come into being (ie., become conscious) from the unconscious? and does this exist at the social level (not a "collective unconscious" but perhaps something that relates to group psychology in some way)? how does thinking create change, and in what sense is change "action" (or maybe, how does change "become" action)? and what's the relation between single brains, and the way they work, and groups of brains (ie., social organization)?

Xenia asks if "change requires action." I personally wouldn't use the word "requires," since I tend not to think in terms of imperatives, but I do think that change tends to lead to action -- where action can be a "change of thought" (or feeling), a change in personal behavior, or a change in social behavior that leads to larger social action.


assailable or not
Name: Lucy Darli
Date: //2004-10-05 21:19:15 :
Link to this Comment: 11028

Anne D

I am not really clear what unassailable, in the context of the 5 minute story, means. My "brain state" while writing was to follow my train of thought, so to speak, and the tributaries leading both in and out, that contributed to it.

About the martians; the experience that was being reported was certainly only one aspect of the whole. It was my conscious awareness of the physical, mental and emotional. I figure, by the time the martians get here and hook us up they will have devised a method of monitoring all activity, brain and otherwise and using my dna they will be able to morph themselves into me and tell the story more fully than I.

I've never been a fan of interpretation, probably because I am not very good at it. It used to infuriate me as a child, when my mother would read me poetry because I couldn't understand what was being said. I would complain that it would be a lot easier if people just said what they want me to know in a way that got the message across so that I wouldn't have to spend my time trying to guess. All that said, I am curious how one goes about interpreting something that is describing an event.

Okay, I'm jumping in here....



Name: Tom Young
Date: //2004-07-27 08:08:37 :
Link to this Comment: 10484

I have read your missive to Rene D. Thanks for putting me onto it. The two things that jumped out at me were your comments on consciousness ("Much of our lives reflects a whole host of things going on of which we are largely or totally unaware...") and what I took as your main point--that a solid foundation for acting is a necessary but temporary thing and that it might be more productive to abandon the quest for an enduring solid foundation (for inquiry) and consider embracing a profound skepticism so as to expand "the space for exploration and inquiry."

The point about consciousness took me back to Daniel Stern's latest book, "The Present Moment in Psychotherapy and Everyday Life." I don't dare try to summarize his thinking, except to note that he seems to be trying to expand his own (and our) appreciation of how much happens between people that is very important yet outside of awareness. (He's trying to free the notion of unconscious from Freud's dynamic unconscious--that which has been repressed--so as to focus on aspects of the present moment that remain outside of, but potentially available to, conscious awareness.)

On your main point, I may have more to discuss with you after I've had more time to ponder it, but my initial reaction was that I suspect our brains are wired in some kind of "both/and" fashion. We need a foundation for observation and reflection...but we also need to question and even abandon a current one for a better (albeit still transient) one. In any event, change and unpredictability seems to be at least as central as stability and predictability.


Plus ca change
Name: Lucy Kerma
Date: //2004-10-08 11:27:53 :
Link to this Comment: 11063

I don’t disagree with Anne that is it possible to experience oneself in multiple ways at the same time – to be an adult and feel one’s self as a child simultaneously, to be engaged in something even while “watching” oneself and others at the same time. I think that’s different from saying that when I FEEL like a child, I actually AM a child at that moment. I’m a great fan of time travel stories, but I don’t think this is so much an issue of time as of memory. Isn’t this really about the nature of the unconscious? (By the way, I think DuBois’s concept of “double consciousness” is also a very different thing: the “two-ness” he speaks of, of being an American and a Negro, is not about time but about race, politics and identity.)

In any case, I don’t see this as in opposition to the case of “experience-then-analyzing” that I was trying to describe. That was an effort to locate a different and more specific moment, that “third” place between the unconscious and conscious, of acting at a conscious but not fully articulated level. And, in response to Elizabeth’s question, in the cases of the fruitful meeting and the march-turned-riot, I was really just thinking about how people can have knowing experiences without thinking about them, whether the experience is generative (as with the meeting) or destructive (as with the riot).

Elizabeth writes: “Everyone participates but only some tell. Telling is an entirely different act from participating.” That seems to me an important political point, which raises the question of how we get to genuinely “shared stories.” Who gets to tell the story and how does it become shared? As much as Paul would like his “fuchsia dot” to exist outside of a hierarchy, I suspect the truth is there are often struggles about who gets to tell stories -- and that is essentially about power.

As for change: I’m content to let ‘em duke it out at a theoretical level, but the humanist empiricist in me thinks that evidence of change is pretty undeniable – either that, or Anne has found a potion that we would all like some of. Still, I’m surprised she didn’t invoke the obvious … “the more things change, the more they stay the same.”



Name: Anne Dalke
Date: //2004-10-08 01:11:32 :
Link to this Comment:
11058

Thank you, Elizabeth, for going and getting that cup of coffee...

and bringing back w/ you that free-written woman who "thinks that there must be something else." I very much like her (pregnant) image, and want to lay her alongside the descriptions, earlier in this forum, of the phenomenon of "experiencing," then "thinking and analyzing." I want to use her thinking-while-experiencing to evoke W.E.B. DuBois's notion of double consciousness, which occurs not sequentially, but simultaneously. This can entail "a wish for 2 contrary impulses--what we want and what IS--to be in alignment, and an awareness that they are not"; it can be, less agitatedly, the experience of being self-divided, "of being (say) 'in the flow,' in a conversation in a crowded room, then suddenly having an awareness of yourself as outside yourself, separated from the self who is still engaged, talking, eating... the frequent experience of being 'in more than one place @ most times,' of actually having (at least) two experiences @ once."

It seems important to me to evoke DuBois's concept here, now, because it allows us (or @ least me) to get around Sharon's charge, above, of "dualistically" replacing the valorizing of change w/ the valorization of constancy. I will happily revise the claim--made in one of my frequent bouts of sad uncertainty--about "what is most significant," but I want to insist that "scientific" claims that "the arrow of time...is not an option. It IS " (and so cannot be denied...) is to resist the counter-factual available to us all, at all times, of alternative accounts both of what "was" and "may be." I don't think it's either "wishful thinking" or a case of "denial" to entertain "counterfactual" conceptions of time (for instance) as described by the block universe, or the eternal now....

I'm giving a talk in tomorrow's brown bag series which begins with the tragedy of what "must come to pass" (an inevitability later mitigated by the inventions and fables of historians), and ends with the "startling undeniable fact" of "non-local" instantaneous influences--what "is," but is not yet tellable in the stories physicists know how to write. (I have to believe that) there ARE alternative options to what APPEARS (from a "uniquely"? too narrowly conceived? human-centered perspective?) undeniable.


group Self
Name: Sharon Burgmayer
Date: //2004-10-07 21:01:29 :
Link to this Comment: 11054

Group "action without self consciousness"; that's a nice parallel, Lucy, to the descriptions of Self I had tried out above. Your description of the "third thing" in the social realm also incorporated the idea of "wordless knowledge" originally coined by you.


Thinking about group dynamics in this way, especially the productive ones where "everyone feels the excitement", gave me what I think will be a very useful change in my perspective about groups and group efforts (about which I don't always harbor a positive sentiment!). The change is to see and appreciate a reverence for this group Self, in the same way that I feel a reverence for the Self (soul) of any individual.


Elizabeth, I loved your humans-as-colors-on-canvas metaphor!
Also your insight about each of us desiring uniqueness; certainly that resonates for me. Perhaps the experience of our uniqueness is yet another component of our experience of Self. (?) All this pre-occupation of Self on my part is maybe from the same place as e. wrote this from: "We all play hide and seek for the moment when we will be found. This is what we long for, what we need.."


where i am
Name: Elizabeth
Date: //2004-10-07 14:07:48 :
Link to this Comment: 11047

The memoirist/poet Mary Karr just said something about the way in which a text that gets written- a memoir becomes sort of a shared memory/history for a family. It's what people then remember.... (perhaps even if they have their own memories or perceptions)... I think I'm responding to the last paragraph of Lucy's last post by saying this?... or adding to say that some people are in charge of making things public (writers etc) and the way they choose to make things public somehow alters people's own perceptions, recollections, memories... etc. So that one person's story (the public figure) becomes other people's story? The most viable story... the one who can speak her story in the most understandable way is the one who gets to give voice to the story. This is the case even if the details of the other stories are different and perhaps should be incorporated... there's always one, or a group who tells the story... everyone participates but only some tell. Telling is an entirely different act from participating. Some hardly participate and tell a lot.

"a meeting where lots of people talk and new ideas are generated and new understandings reached, and everyone feels the excitement; or a march that turns into a riot without a single provocation or plan;"

These two seem so opposite, Lucy. I'm not sure what you mean... is it that when the understandings are reached, no one is knows why the understandings are being reached? That they are just happening spontaneously as a riot happens spontaneously? The energy that causes riots seems different from the energy that causes understandings... but maybe they are not different. Maybe this is not at all the point.

I feel like I've lost a bit of what we're all talking about and am trying to come back in...that somehow I'm no longer seeing the subject of the sentence...(but responding anyway) Kind of like I went to get a cup of coffee at a party and somehow came back confused about the conversation that I was engaged in for hours. Maybe the moral of the story is not to go and get a cup of coffee. Am hoping that when I go back and look at what i missed, I'll be able to come back... but if I can't, I'll mention that too- that observation, if made, will fit somewhere in this.


hunger pangs
Name: em
Date: //2004-07-22 14:33:11 :
Link to this Comment: 10467

belief and doubt-- i cannot have one without the other, because i can only feel comfortable in my belief if i have doubted it, questioned it, and found that i still believe it. in terms of being-- it kind of relates to my rephrasing of descartes's phrase-- because i believe i am, and because i have doubted that and questioned it, i do exist. because if i can question whether or not i am, than i truly must be, no? i guess some of this does just come down to semantics in the end, but it fascinates me nonetheless.
also, i have cried in response to music a handful of times. the most notable is shostakovich's holocaust quartet. and that was because i knew the story behind it (there is a part in one of the movements where the gestapo are knocking on the door, and you can hear it in the music with huge bone-crushing chords on all the instruments...). also, there are several songs that i've sung with people in the past or are connected with an important relationship in my life that make me cry as well, though again because of my connection to them and the stories attached to them. but that may be just me, in fact, i'm sure it's just me and everyone has different ways of processing music.
what were the paintings that made you cry, e, if you don't mind me asking?
and you are right-- what i mean now is, though we DO different things (painting, music) and same things (writing), those things are not us. we are distinct and separate from them, the same way you have no control over what someone thinks of a poem or short story or painting. we may use them to define us, but our core essence, our spirit, our self, is something that is not definable at the end of the day, something that not even science can encompass. i don't mean to sound hippy-dippy, but belief and doubt seem to really resonate for me in the realm of the sacred as well.


new dialogue
Name: Paul Grobstein
Date: //2004-07-23 17:34:01 :
Link to this Comment: 10470

Tickled to see the forum bubbling, lots of thoughts about things said here to get back to, and don't want to interrupt anything (see new note in red at the beginning of this forum if you haven't seen it yet). Just wanted to let everyone know there is a new dialogue contribution. Here's a taste (click to see the whole thing):

In the field of psychotherapy there is often polarization between those who believe that "feeling" is the starting point and those who believe thinking is the starting point. "I am and I can think" is a more dynamic and inclusive approach to considering a starting point


em's question
Name: Elizabeth
Date: //2004-07-24 16:29:01 :
Link to this Comment: 10471

Em's question was an important one for me. Made me realize that the "tear" response to paintings was not entirely without narrative connections(i.e. things going on in my life, things going on in the subtext of the works themselves etc.).I see these narrative connections in retrospect but maybe
there was something there (at least subconciously) while I was looking. There have been many pieces that have moved me profoundly and have elicited an emotional reponse from me but here are the three that I was counting on my fingers before. The ones that caused actual tears.

1) a collection of plastic soap shapes filled with relics and artifacts that belonged to people who had died of AIDS. It was the first art that I'd seen which people were allowed to "touch". It was in a local art exhibit when I was 12 or 13. There's a lot that I'm thinking about in retrospect about the significance or symbolizm of the format of this piece. And it was all about a type of visual narrative. But my emotional response wasn't all "sadness". It was also happening because something was happening to me then in terms of my engagement with art. I was excited and overwhelmed also.

2) One of Degas' bather series. The one in the collection of the Princeton art museum. One of the reasons why this moved me so much had to do with color and the fingerprints of the artist and also the position of the body in the image. I was responding to something that was incredibly beautiful to me at the time... and something that I wanted to emulate.

3) An untitled work by Franscesca Woodman, a photographer. If I'm trying to look at this from the lens of narrative and what might have caused the response, I might turn to parts of her biography. She killed herself at a very young age. But I know that when I saw that photograph, I knew nothing of the artist who took the photograph. Now I see her photographic investigation as something which has inspired mine-

Here are other artists that I have responded very strongly to and in an emotional way most recently.

1) Gerhard Richter
2) Anselm Kiefer
3) Ana Mendieta

Even though I've explained above some possible narrative connections, the "why" of my response to the above is also within me in ways that are difficult to articulate. They all reached out and grabbed me in a wonderful way that hurt because the grip was so powerful. They touched me on a level of concsiousness and unconsciousness. Really appreciate being made to think of my response to images! And appreciate Em's further thoughts/clarification about belief and doubt! :-)


I get it?!?!??
Name: Sharon Burgmayer
Date: //2004-07-25 14:04:33 :
Link to this Comment: 10474

I'm just back from a frolicking good time in Mexico and so I'm entering this conversation after it's well under way. I found lots and lots of useful stuff from everyone that evoked many ideas. Particularly, I found a spiritual kinship with artistry of Elizabeth and Emily! Apologies up front if this posting goes on too long!

I jumped in where the discussion veered over to compare images and words in thinking processes and in telling one's story. One thing in particular that Paul said above:
"Words are an effort ... to express feelings/intuitions/etc in a way that makes it more likely that a story will "mean" the same thing to both teller and listener, and in a way that makes it possible to break apart some of the unity of feelings/intuitions/etc in a way that makes it possible to ask questions about and compare/contrast different parts of the whole. One of course pays a price for this, the story is never as rich as the feelings/intuitions/etc but it is, on the other hand, more "assailable", more subject to common testing."
The phrase "to break apart some of the unity of feelings/intuitions" really struck a nerve. My gut response was "NO! I don't WANT to do that!" This elicited a new recognition within me about this whole story-telling exchange process: that I feel a deep resistance to "submit" to a dissection of my experience. The "price" of reducing the 'richness" of my story seems too high. I especially note my resistance to allowing an assailability of my story. This surely is a root source of my discomfort in word based story telling: I simply do not like to be assailed.

I next saw a connection— if perhaps subtle—between this response I just described and what Anne followed with. She countered Paul's thesis and denied that only words provide a route to assailability and used as an example to support her argument the event where I revised the painting "Understanding Is" to facilitate the class discussion. There is, I believe, a significant difference between how she observed this event and my response to it. The moment I changed the painting for use in the course, it ceased to be my art and my story—and consequently felt (painfully) distant from me. It was precisely an experience of "break(ing) apart the unity of ". True as she described, the eventual outcome was a revision of my own interpretation of my original work. Maybe revisions always require a bit of pain to happen? Anyway, I found Anne's suggestion that it isn't words vs images that determine assailabilty but "the more useful distinction is between those who offer their stories (in paint or word form) in the hopes of generating new ones by others (=offer them as assailable) and those who offer their stories in order to preserve them (=make them unassailable). Betcha both word-pictures and painted pictures can be either conservative or revolutionary."
Think I mainly create out of a "preserve them/conservatory" intent. Call it journaling by image. Hmmm, now there's an analogy: would one allow a revision of one's journal?

Then it was with true joy to encounter a kindred spirit in Elizabeth C. when she described her response to the being/becoming paintings: "When I saw the being/becoming watercolors I just thought (or felt) "yes" without having to go any further." Yes: yes! That is the experience I know and the response which I long to know is created in others by my painted images. It is that wordless connection of shared experience from which I enjoy the sense that "we think/FEEL alike and I know you"!! Perhaps that shared aspect is so comforting because one senses a "knowing" of one's murky unknowable unconscious, as Elizabeth wrote, because the images themselves can tap into a big pool of collective unconsciousness or...non-verbal universal associativeness (my definition of collective unconscious)? The range of possible interpretation for the images would be increased without words but the emotional power wouldn't be, in my opinion. That's what I'm looking for, even in stories, things that make sense on a deeper level." Yup, is EXACTLY what I too look for in my own painting and why I don't relish mucking up the experience with those words. And like Elizabeth—to let you know you have company?—I feel the same dislike of "walking" people through my paintings. True, partly it is due to a resistance (inhibition) of revealing the "me" that is in the paintings, but partly I do not want to get in the way of learning about the viewers by learning what they see in the painting.

I was surprised and pleased to see how Lucy beautifully could express that which drives my painting: LAYERS. She said: "In art ... I think you say what you want to say, as deeply and complexly, with as many layers as you want, just as you want to say it. The art form that speaks most to me -- music -- is all about layers. That's what makes it so full of meaning." Oh yes, for me it's all about the creation of inter-related layers—the more deeply embedded and overlaid the layers in the images, the more pleasing the painting for me. Lucy's reference to music as the art form most evocative for her made me consider my two very different experiences story-telling with music; that of performing vs listening. Performing is also creation, the pulling myself out of myself process so as to be exposed/shared with others. Images are with me here, too. I don't think I've used as vivid an image as "playing with hair on fire"! (that's a great one!). But once I used the image of the swinging side-to-side motion of my pot-bellied cat to generate the right rhythm and mood for a slow blues piece and, once for a sonata, I played from the association of each movement with each one of the students in my research group. As for listening to music, perhaps here I resemble El and Em because listening evokes stories, almost always as memories. I have to confess (?) that listening to music, whether live or recorded, instantly sends me into memory-land. Instead of listening to it musically, I'm guided directly and immediately into my ... unconscious(?). It takes a real deliberate conscious pull to point my thoughts to pay attention to the music in and of itself.

Elizabeth also helped me understand a bit better my own response to the link-laden forum pieces. Her comparison of digression vs more linear reading made me realize that I always approach words from an analytical, a ->b ->c ->d, etc, way. This is my scientific training, due to a major chunk of my life devoted to texts scientific rather otherwise (a sad statement perhaps, but alas, true). Hence, like Lucy (?), I AM driven to understand every link before ever attempting to translate my thoughts into words. "Driven", as in "compulsive", as in, if I haven't completely digested all precedents, I have not fully completed my "homework" to earn the privilege of making public my contribution. This may seem like a harsh, self-inflicted sentence, but in fact it accurately reflects the expected norm for publishing scientists. So, true to that form, before I wrote this posting, I read all the postings, made notes in a separate WORD file, then edited it all into (hopefully) some clarity.

To (finally) end this lengthy essay of myself in relation to your postings, I conclude that, indeed, it got me to THINK. To delineate and understand who I am. That surely is THE point of Serendip. And thanks folks for helping.


being/thinking
Name: Lucy Kerma
Date: //2004-07-25 15:12:59 :
Link to this Comment: 10475

I've been thinking a lot lately about people who "are" but who cannot "think" -- because of memory loss, or high anxiety, or deep depression. As is often the case in philosophy, perhaps the exception can add clarity to the rule. It seems to me that it is in the intersections of Paul's equation -- the step from "being" to "thinking," from "thinking" to "changing" and (because I see his equation as a spiral) from "changing" back to "being" -- that there is still a wealth of richness to be understood.


on music
Name: Lucy Kerma
Date: //2004-07-25 15:28:06 :
Link to this Comment: 10476

The whole discussion here about music and art may deserve its own separate dialogue, but I found Sharon's comments about music fascinating. When I play or listen to music, it doesn't inspire either stories or memories -- I just hear the music, the layers of it, its place in time, without language or images. It's exactly because the experience of it is so pure that it has such power for me. Rather like touch, which also doesn't evoke stories or memories but simply "is."


continuing ...
Name: Paul Grobstein
Date: //2004-07-27 18:19:49 :
Link to this Comment: 10491

Jody Cohen (education program) has joined the conversation via a new dialogue. A taste (click to see the whole thing) the maxim does speak to a way of thinking about classrooms that I like and 'believe in,' though had never articulated this way--actually, I think it's connected with why i've returned to/stayed with teaching to this point in my life. But ... And continuing elsewhere, some extensions into the social work/politics realm.


more elsewhere
Name: Anne Dalke
Date: //2004-07-27 19:32:31 :
Link to this Comment: 10494

...there's also more elsewhere on the practical-use value of "tinkering" with education,
on the interpretation of art,
on the necessary interchange between security and exploration, and
on niche displacement.
Multiple expanding circles of thinking here...
Thanks, René and Paul, for setting these waves in motion,
and to so many others for keeping them stirring....


further continuing ...
Name: Paul Grobstein
Date: //2004-07-28 07:59:48 :
Link to this Comment: 10499

Glad to have Rachel Grobstein and Chelsea Phillips on board. A taste of each, respectively (click on to get more of each, respectively) ...

To have the thought is to make it a part of one's self, but the words come from something other than the self; the thought is both a part of one and not one, suggesting that the self is neither static nor a self contained entity.

you should recognize the fallibility of your own ideas which have become the basis for this paper. It might dishearten the reader, but it is very illustrative of your point.


and on ....
Name: Paul Grobstein
Date: //2004-07-30 10:53:12 :
Link to this Comment: 10556

New dialogue with Rachel Berman ... How does the process of conceiving oneself as other relate to story telling and more importantly to delusions and lies brought up in your own stories as well as reaffirmations or conflicting stories of others?

And, for people interested in a somewhat more formal approach to thinking through "profound skepticism", see Beyond Reversibility and Computability and Consistency and Skepticism: Information?.


Rene speaks for himself (through a translator)
Name: Ann Dixon
Date: //2004-07-30 14:46:49 :
Link to this Comment: 10558

http://www.publicbookshelf.com/public_html/Outline_of_Great_Books_Volume_I/ithinkth_bga.html


Nu?
Name: Lucy Kerma
Date: //2004-07-30 17:14:53 :
Link to this Comment: 10559

Am I the only one who is wondering -- what next? It's an interesting place. There is this ever-increasing collection of self-contained conversations with Paul, while some other people are talking within themselves, or among themselves, about ... all sorts of things. What do we make of this? Is this a celebration of how many different thoughts one essay can inspire, a testament to how many people would like to engaged in conversation? Or is there anywhere to go with this beyond these dialogues? Do we want to do anything more?


On Lying/Not
Name: Anne Dalke
Date: //2004-08-02 08:06:31 :
Link to this Comment: 10563

This question is directed to Rachel B and Paul G, out of whose dialogue arises the claim that "one can be felt 'lied to' without another person in fact 'lying.'" This statement locates "lying" in a deliberate act of the storyteller, and seems to presume that she is only responsible/accountable for those aspects of herself of which she is aware. Certainly throughout this forum and elsewhere (perhaps most insistently in last fall's conversation about whether Psychoanalysis and Neuroscience could be Bedfellows), there has been quite a bit of testimony to the complexity and difficulty of knowing ourselves, particularly the aspect of ourselves that is unconscious (that is--at least per Hofstadter and Dennett, The Mind's Eye--not directly accessible). No storyteller is ever aware of all her motivations--so being "true to yourself" (or others?) may be as oxymoronic as unobserved information.

In fact, it is in part because of what I learned in the last two months of conversation about information--which, as I understand it now, is not an intrinsic property of anything, but is fundamentally relational--that I want to question (and would love to hear a response to the question of) whether the same thing mightn't well be "true" (okay, a more useful way of thinking about) lying: that it only occurs in relationship. One can lie to oneself, because unable to or refusing to attend to all (relevant) aspects of own's experience; one can lie to others. But the lie occurs not "in fact" in the intention of the storyteller, or in the reception of her decoder; it occurs in the nature and quality of the negotiation/transaction/interaction between them, which is far more relevant here than the matter either of what was "intended" or what was "perceived."

The other passage, Rachel and Paul, which I flagged in your dialogue was the observation that "'lying'..occurs only when one can't come up with a coherent story to tell...that comfortably encompasses all that one has to work with. "Again: out of what I learned in the information group comes a strong resistance to this formulation, and its assumption re: the possibility of "all," of completeness. I was raised to tell the truth, the whole truth (and was punished harshly when I didn't). It has been part of the maturation (encapsulated in my move from the rural south to the urban north) to learn that the injunction not to lie is based on a fairly simple construction of the world, one that acknowledges neither the outer or the inner complexities of life. Given the inability to have "complete knowledge," it's also an impossibility "not to lie," if lying means saying something that doesn't accurately report all that is. We all lie, in that sense, all the time. The question, for me (again, as above), is less whether lies are being intended or perceived, but what happens as a result of the exchange between speaker and listener: what the information is used for.


thinking about "I am, and I think ..."
Name: Paul Grobstein
Date: //2004-08-02 12:32:09 :
Link to this Comment: 10564

The thoughts are a little long for the forum, so I'm putting some excerpts here and made an interim report page where you can see the whole thing (happy to do the same for other long-winded sorts).

"What next?", Lucy wonders, "is there anywhere to go with this beyond these dialogues? Do we want to do anything more? ". And a related question from Anneliese in one of the 'logues (where there is also some discussion of possible answers):

I've been trying to put my finger on another aspect of these conversations that troubles me, and I think it has to do with not fully understanding their 'practical' use. Let me be VERY quick to say that I'm not of the opinion that something must be practically useful in order to be worthwhile. But that's not really the point, because I know that these dia-/trialogs are useful to others (as is so evident in the forum and elsewhere). To me, however, they still feel like an enlightened form of socializing, a pasttime. Perhaps, I thought, this is precisely because I am NOT at the center, i.e., I am not asking my own questions yet but merely responding to others'. Furthermore, I feel disoriented as to the overall thrust(s) of these multiply intersecting stories. What are some of the ongoing questions and persistent themes? What stories are people trying to get "less wrong" by sharing them with others? Needless to say, I don't have any answers to those questions. But I'm very glad they are being asked. The point of the Descartes' exhibit was (and continues to be) to see to what extent one could make use of the web to encourage/facilitate engaged, meaningful, and productive story-sharing. The exhibit itself is an exploration of the possibilities and problems of doing so, and is relevant, it seems to me, not only in the web context but well beyond it. Our culture is not particularly sophisticated at "engaged, meaningful, and productive story-sharing" in ANY realm (international politics, national politics, community organization, education, family life), and so the problems (the questions, the uncertainties) we run into here are relevant in lots of contexts (as also are any successes we achieve).

(paragraphs missing here, see interim report)

Along these lines, one last (for now) related thought, prompted by Anneliese's "I am NOT at the center". Despite having told the story that got this conversation started, I too am not at the center and no one else is either. Or, to put it differently,

The old idea was always that the stars were fixed to a crystal vault to stop them falling down. Today we have found the courage to let them soar through space without support ... And the earth is rolling cheerfully around the sun, and the fishwives, merchants, princes, and cardinals ... are rolling with it ... The universe has lost its centre overnight, and woken up to find it has countless centres. So that each one can now be seen as the centre, or none at all

Bertold Brecht, Life of Galileo

How's that for a "profound skepticism" sort of idea? That we have the confidence, in ourselves and in each other, to make something useful, something for which each of us is the center for ourselves and none of us the center for what we make together? Perhaps something useful precisely BECAUSE "each of us is the center for ourselves and none of us is the center for what we make together"?


"practicality issue resolves itself"
Name: Anne Dalke
Date: //2004-08-02 14:49:34 :
Link to this Comment: 10565

No, Luc, you're not the only one who's been wondering... what to make of all of this (none of which, I'd say, is @ "self-contained"; it all seems totally porous to me: the dialogues spilling over into the forums, which generate new dialogues in turn....) Anyhow, for one recent sequence of backing-and-forthing re: what's the point here, see A Serious Playground: The Practical Use-Value of Serendip's Web Forums, including Anneliese's good question-suggestion :

If Serendip is a space for trying out different stories, it occurs to me that I ought to take the initiative to find the story that interests or seems...useful to me. The practicality issue, I imagine, would then resolve itself?

What I'm seeing in this conversation, as well as throughout the site, is both the testament and celebration Lucy describes, but also, far more importantly: a fairly serious re-making--of ourselves and of the way we speak together (and hence--not to put too strong a point upon it--of the re-shaping of the world).


Next
Name: Lucy Kerma
Date: //2004-08-03 09:12:03 :
Link to this Comment: 10567

Let me push on this a bit, because I think Anneliese raised some very good questions and I'm not so sure that the "practicality" issue will just "resolve" itself by a simple assertion of one's own "story construction." I'm actually not sure what that means -- but it makes me wonder if it is all a matter of self interest: if telling a story fits my personal needs, does that justify it for (or make it relevant to) everyone else too? (full disclosure: I'm a sucker for questions about the "common good" and how that relates to self interest, individualism, etc). I continue to be interested that a number of people have commented that they don't understand or feel overwhelmed or "in over their heads" in a place that aspires to be -- the opposite of that. I think Paul's point is closer to the mark: there are things that work and don't work in "story sharing" and finding a way to do it effectively is a process of learning and understanding.

I appreciated Paul's thoughts, and like that the Descartes project was intended to "encourage/facilitate engaged, meaningful and productive story-sharing." I share his sense that little stories are as significant and inspiring as big ones. And glory in how different we are from each other. At the same time, I'm not convinced that in the simple sharing of individual stories we will, as Anne puts it, "remake" ourselves or the way we speak together. The emphasis for me has to be on the "together." I think Paul's point is that we have to *learn* how to share stories -- because we, individually and as a culture, are not good at communicating, at speaking directly and with empathy and generosity to each other. It's not just about speaking, but about speaking *to* someone. And I continue to think that taking seriously how we communicate -- and why we take the time to do it (back to that "practicality" question) -- is important.

Thanks, Paul: I can see that there are many "nexts." One is to keep at it. Another is to keep trying to figure out what the "it" is.


more on "story sharing"
Name: Paul Grobstein
Date: //2004-08-03 11:28:09 :
Link to this Comment: 10568

Think we're closing in on something important here (Lucy, Anne, Anneliese by proxy), maybe several somethings.

I like

"there are things that work and don't work in "story sharing" and finding a way to do it effectively is a process of learning and understanding" and think that learning process is indeed a large part of what the Descartes exhibit, and those of us involved with it, is all about. We are, all of us, poorly prepared in this area, and would, all of us, like to get better at it. There remains though the "why" question and, related, the "how" question.

For me, the two questions are related through a fantasy/dream of evolving a kind of world/culture in which some particular identifiable things that humans have repeatedly done to each other are clearly and generally recognized as painful/undesirable, and hence as things to be actively avoided in the future. The repeated "mistakes" I have in mind are all versions of the same thing: people (and groups of people) taking one thing or another as fixed and unchallengable, something to be asserted and defended. My feeling is that most of the atrocities of human history (to say nothing of the small pains humans inflict on each other all the time in their day to day lives) reflect this mode of function, and we are very much at risk of impending atrocities in the present because of it.

Its one thing to identify a problem, another (and essential) thing to conceive of a way to fix it. Is there an alternative to humans fighting each other because each thinks they are "right" and the other is "wrong"? I "think" there is: instead of finding particular things to take as fixed and unchallengeable, one can treat everything as a collection of usable "springboards", from which chooses one or a few as a basis for action in order to discover what happens next. The present, in these terms, is the door to the future rather than a defence of the past.

That's an "individual" perspective, but I think it has strong implications for the "common good" (and a "re-shaping of the world") as well. It suggests that every individual should be encouraged to be the continuing author of her/his own story, not only for what it does for themselves but also for what it provides as additional springboards for other people. It is not just "story-telling" that is important. It is "story-SHARING", with the clear implication that one tells stories not simply for onself but with an explicit attention to the social dimension. One offers stories for whatever use they may be in the continuing development of other peoples' stories, and one listens to stories with a willingness to have one's own story changed by them (perhaps even an enthusiasm for that). There is more involved than just "telling stories"; there is the essential "rubbing against" one another that is esential for both individual story development and the continuing evolution of a "collective human story ... from which no one feels estranged".

Bottom line ... (for the moment?). We all need to learn to get better at "story-sharing", where that means (the how? part) ...

As for the why? part ... to develop some skills of a sort that we can share with others to contribute to making the world a better place? (without, of course, knowing whether that will come to pass, to say nothing of exactly what form it would take if it did). To explore? To have fun? Maybe those are in some important sense all the same thing?



Name: Lucy Kerma
Date: //2004-08-03 17:38:31 :
Link to this Comment: 10587

I very much agree with this, particularly the "story sharing," the social dimension, but .... when people start talking about “re-shaping the world” or “making the world a better place,” I confess I get edgy. It sounds -- too easy, on the side of complacent. Of course I want to contribute to a culture and a world of greater understanding and empathy, of less violence, prejudice and alienation. I don’t think anyone would come out on the other side of that one. But I’m not sure what that really means in practice. As someone who works to change conditions in the inner city, I am very aware of how difficult it is to change even those things you have direct responsibility for, whether you are working at the personal level (talking one-on-one as a teacher or a social worker) or at the social/economic/political level (improving schools, creating job programs, increasing safety patrols, cleaning out blighted vacant lots).


A friend has characterized me as “objective oriented” and I suspect I tend more in that direction than some people who frequent these forums. I like to keep the conversation on the ground, and my contribution to this shared space – the “rubbing” I can do – will be to remind us that there’s a difference between “talking” about it and “doing” it, and to keep pushing for a simple, shared language -- a “yeah, that sounds nice but what does it MEAN?” For me, the focus is on what we can do *here*, understanding that change is a process and that we will learn as we do it, never believing that it is done.


I agree with the larger importance of the enterprise and share the dream of a better world – which for me is best achieved by working on the ground with the “how.” If Paul will forgive me, I see the task for myself as:

* sharing how I see and experience the world on any number of topics that concern me and may contribute to others;
* communicating directly and in the present tense;
* listening without defensiveness or prejudice, without needing resolutions to differences in perspective;
* allowing myself to be changed by what I hear.

And as to "why" -- yes, I think it’s all part of the same thing, of exploring, of having fun, of living fully.


one comment and two stories
Name: Sharon Burgmayer
Date: //2004-08-03 21:34:52 :
Link to this Comment: 10588

The last few entries from Lucy and Paul here caused some “ah ha” moments for me. In particular, holding out the notions that “we have to learn how to share stories”, because “there are things that work and don't work in story sharing and finding a way to do it effectively is a process of learning and understanding” made me feel relaxed and like I had found a comfortable place. I am in the camp that doesn’t always feel comfortable in the forums. There’s been a lot of discussion (see above and elsewhere) about why that may be the case for myself as well as for others. I see now that another piece of the discomfort came from my internal assumption that I should just know how to participate, just know how to tell my story, how to take something useful away from others. Having that assumption questioned has released its power: I can just try and get it “better” as I go along.


Lucy wrote about the importance of the audience in the story sharing: “It's not just about speaking, but about speaking *to* someone.” And, I’d like to extrapolate, it’s also about being heard and knowing that what was offered was absorbed by the people to whom it was directed, or here in the forums, by someone, anyone else. Maybe another critical piece of learning to tell our stories together is spending the time to digest what comes from the other.


…spending the time… just now, as I wrote that, I realized what the significance was of the first story I intended to tell.
Story #1. I was at the pool this afternoon, mulling over these ideas of learning to tell stories better and what that meant to me. I got distracted from my thoughts to listen in on a swimming lesson given by a teenage girl to a pre-school girl. The instructor was saying “slow down your arms so you can breathe better”. So you can breathe better: zing! that struck a neuron and felt very significant to my thinking about the forum comments…but at the time and I didn’t understand why. Now I see: it’s the importance of spending the time to digest, to breathe in the others’ stories.


Story #2. My first reading of Paul’s response to the question “what’s next?” and “what’s the point?”, where he emphasized that the point was the process of learning to do the process of story sharing—communicating openly—better and better, I was instantly reminded of part of a favorite book, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance. The author is discussing the ins and outs of “gumption traps”—those conditions, internal and external, that suck the gumption out of you—and how to avoid them.


Then he asks “Well, if I get around all those gumption traps, then will I have the thing licked?” The answer is, of course, no. You’ve got to live right too. It’s the way you live that predisposes you to avoid the traps and see the right facts. You want to know how to paint a perfect painting? It’s easy. Make yourself perfect and then paint naturally. The making of a painting or the fixing of a motorcycle isn’t separate from the rest of your existence. If you’re a sloppy thinker the six days of the week that you aren’t working on your machine, what can make you sharp on the seventh? It all goes together. … But if you try to be sharp on the seventh, maybe the next six days aren’t going to be quite as sloppy as the preceding six…The real cycle you’re working on is yourself.”

So what we can do here, in this forum, together? Is to sharpen our story telling and listening and self-changing skills and make that the way we live—here and elsewhere.


avoiding the gumption traps
Name: Anne Dalke
Date: //2004-08-04 13:53:36 :
Link to this Comment: 10589


co-existence
Name: Jeremy
Date: //2004-10-22 20:45:01 :
Link to this Comment: 11174

Upon thinking further about the relationship between the vine and the tree. By the way, this vine that I so ineptly described, is no ordinary vine, if you will. It's tendrils are of hard wood, like an inch in diameter. The tree is over 6ft tall. Yet the leaves of the vine, held by the re-intrigration of the tendrils, from tightly woven around the tree, sprout from the side, staying several feet below the top of the palm tree's leaves. Since the roots of both living entites, are intermingled at the base of the structure tree. perhaps my description of constriction, between the vine and the tree, was purely my interperation, which obviously discounts co-existence, and that could be the real, evolution. Perhaps this is why, such a place as this tree exists, gives me peace, my internal instinct is constantly reminding me of my learning curve. Yet I am instinctively optimistic, about about how I fit into the natural world.


Insides/outsides and revisions
Name: Paul Grobstein
Date: //2004-10-23 11:43:43 :
Link to this Comment: 11177

Interested in vines, trees, and "retractable cups" at several levels, for several different reasons. Do, for what its worth, think think trees (and vines) have more to say to and about us then we sometimes give them credit for AND that "people are different". At a practical level, both of the two assertions are significant, as is understanding both the similarities and the differences between trees and people as clearly as possible.

An interesting conceptual and graphical problem, how to understand/represent the relationships among the material, the self, and culture. Is important in lots of practical contexts, including situations where "sex" and "gender" are relevant. So, under the gun of talking about the possible relevance of biology to considerations of sex/gender, I tried to tell a useful (new?) story of those relationships. For those interested, see Does Biology Have Anything to Contribute to Thinking About Sex and Gender? (and the link to the second session from the end of that). Bottom line was that we ALWAYS deal in "social constructs", that the "social constructs" are the result of "thinking" (in the terms used here), and that one can use observations on other things (outside both "thinking" and "treeness", ie outside the brain) TOGETHER with "thinking" to interrogate and alter "social constructs".

To put it more generally (so it can be used practically in a variety of different circumstances), the thinker/story teller/"self" is the nexus, the pivot around which the "story" (individually and/or culturally constructed) is reflected into everything else and everything else is reflected into the story (this is what I was trying to illustrate in Being, Thinking, Story Telling: What It Is and How It Works, Reflectively; be sure to notice/use the links at the bottom of each of the two images or you'll miss the point; each image derives from the other). And since it is the nexus, it can be the agent of change both in the world and in oneself (in both treeness AND thinking).

There is a LOT of this in Elizabeth's "Once Upon a Time is Now" construction that opened yesterday with an appreciative and substantial crowd (as someone said, much better than most art openings). For those who couldn't be there, there's an on-line version at Once Upon a Time is Now. The exhibit gives some permance to a normally transient art form ("story"?) but also speaks to/illustrates/challenges? some other "cultural constructions" in ways we've been exploring here. It's Elizabeth's exhibit "as seen by a particular man at a particular time". Another example of story-teller as nexus point, this time the pivot between one story and a second one? Anyhow, be sure to visit the on-line version of Elizabeth's exhibit, and leave thoughts in the on-line forum there or here or both, as seems appropriate.


avoiding gumption traps--take 3
Name: Anne Dalke
Date: //2004-08-04 16:36:37 :
Link to this Comment: 10596

The emphasis for me has to be on the "together."

While we're fully disclosing: for me, too.
With a caveat I'm just beginning to get a-holt of.

Paul Burgmayer and I have been talking elsewhere about these matters--how much "I," how much "we," how much/how little both parties need to be invested in self-change/changing the other. Our "disseminative dialogue" is now accessible @ Dialogue and Dissemination: A Conversation about Change Continues. We're talking there about what Paul Grobstein, above, calls "the 'how' part: telling one's stories in a way that has the greatest likelihood of their being useful to others. A much-related discussion (with Sharon Burgmayer and Elizabeth Catanese) about the "assailability" of what we write and paint can also be found now @ Something Quite Different From Dialogue.

All versions of responses to Lucy's larger query re: what the "it" is for. Add and stir in Paul G's answer that it's to develop skills.to make the world a better place...to explore, to have fun....Maybe those are in some important sense all the same thing? Maybe. But are they the same/compatible (if so, how are they the same/compatible?) with/when the emphasis ...has to be on the "together"?

Gerry LeChance and I tried to work through this question a few weeks ago, in a dialogue about Traveling Beyond Fusion and Embeddedness. Don't think we quite cut through the knot. Various "stabs" @ the same dynamic also appeared recently in the GIF forum: see One more and then I'll stop; Double Consciousness, Redux and Internal Poles. Still seems to me (one of) the still-to-be resolved/ever-unresolved "next" challenges to work @, in this (seeming) evolution....

For instance: Lucy and I have come down very differently on the question of how much "baggage" it's useful to bring into these conversations. Lucy's set herself one task (among others) of communicating directly in the present tense; I've asked, contrari-wise, for space to speak out of the world as I experience it, a "block universe" where time is a manifold, all past experiences simultaneously present/available/useable/potentially shareable (perhaps this is time as the unconscious experiences it?).

There's actually a really interesting example of this tension (the need to speak from/about our histories vs. the need not to be required to take on/continually rehearse others'...) @ the 40th Street Community Forum . What I noticed there was the sharp disjunction between the description of community engagement as a "straightforward process"--"it starts with people who know a lot about the street, its history and its potential. We call them experts because they offer particular expertise"--and the instructions, in the on-line forum, to "Leave histories at the door."

As a former resident of West Philly, who knows something of the difficult history between Penn and the surrounding neighborhood, I appreciate the latter injunction. I danced a similar dance, along a similar tightrope, in a talk I gave earlier this summer on Teaching Peace, in which--following Susan Sontag's Regarding the Pain of Others-- I argued that "the language of peace encourages 'forgetfulness'":

People want to be able to visit--and refresh--their memories. Now many victim peoples want a memory museum, a temple that houses a comprehensive, chronologically organized, illustrated narrative of their sufferings....not much help if the task is to understand. Narratives can make us understand.....Perhaps too much value is assigned to memory, not enough to thinking. Remembering is an ethical act...there is simply too much injustice in the world....To make peace is to forget. To reconcile, it is necesary that memory be faulty and limited. If the goal is having some space in which to live one's own life, then it is desireable that the account of specific injustices dissolve into a more general understanding that human beings everywhere do terrible things to one another.

Here's my addition, then, to Sharon's invitation to avoid gumption traps: that we sharpen our story-sharing skills by recognizing that this interaction, in which each of us, of necessity, takes herself as her own center, is taking place in a universe where there is no center at all. Where particular injustices/senses of hurt feelings need be set aside to give all of us more space in which to live--and re-shape--our common life.


The Frog-Brain
Name: Jeremy
Date: //2005-06-11 06:30:22 :
Link to this Comment: 15326

to Judie McCoyd, comment 15293

"when simplified-"


BY-THE-WAY, just exactly, what is the so-called 'Nexus', as related too, a definition on topic, consistant with this thread. Because an answer in basic terms, might posibly understand your question to Paul?

Time must be relevent someway.

I am so glad, that I asked Questions here, its the same way I felt, the first post I ever made on this thread, Your enthusiasm IS well received, and gimme that apple core : )


Do Over
Name: Jeremy
Date: //2005-06-11 07:46:42 :
Link to this Comment: 15327

I have a hard time posting to this thread/forum. Since, when you type your comment, you cannot view the whole 'thread', as your typing a reply.


Nevertheless, in my futile attempts to overcome this siminngly inconvenence, I have decided too read thru the most current parts of the "thread" that I have been following as long as I have been. [since my first post]. then to hand write out notes on my replys to reference when typing in my comment.

Guess what?

in my above comment " when simplified- " is referenced there is something missing that should be in between-

to Judie McCoyd comment #15293

`insert~

ecatanes Elizabeth points out something relevant in comment 11090

'end insert-

"when simplified-"

that's it...


I still want to hear what you guy's call nexus(sp?)







Name: Paul Grobstein
Date: //2004-08-05 17:52:16 :
Link to this Comment: 10598

These thoughts are again a little long for the forum, so I'm again putting some excerpts here and made another interim report page where you can see the whole thing (happy, as before, to do the same for other long-winded sorts).

Pleased, not surprised, that others too see/hear "Bottom line ... (for the moment)" as a starting place ("springboard"?) rather than a last word.

So, here's the springboard re the "how" of "story-sharing" as it was originally phrased:

We all need to learn to get better at "story-sharing", where that means (the how? part) ...
  • making one's stories (little or big) available to other people
  • telling one's stories in a way that has the greatest likelihood of their being useful to others in their own story evolution
  • listening to stories in a way that has the greatest likelihood of causing changes in ones own
  • valuing, even encouraging, stories to "rub against" one another, believing in the worth of their differences (in the unknown that can/will be created by lots of interacting "centers").
  • and a few thoughts on how I would change/amplify given Lucy, Sharon, Anne, and few other things, including Dialogue and Dissemination ...

    Re 1: There's a terribly important social dimension as well as an individual dimension to this. What I had in mind originally was that individuals need to learn to overcome their reluctance to make their stories available (out of fears that they weren't "big" enough, or "well-formed" enough, or "well-INformed enough"). And I still think that's important, but the sense I'm now getting is that there is an additional equally important consideration: people are more likely/inclined to tell their stories if they feel they will be "seen/heard" in particular ways, and less likely to do so if they don't feel that they will be seen/heard in those particular ways (or seen/heard at all?).

    (stuff missing here, see another interim report page

    So let me offer another "springboard". To start, I think the social context (to which everyone contributes) should be one that

    invites ALL stories that people are able/willing to tell, irrespective of race, creed, gender/sexual orientation, etc AND independent of how the story does/doesn't fit into past/present conversations in this context or elsewhere (ie stories are invited irrespective of background, academic or otherwise, age, social status, etc, and independent of story telling "style" (more on this below)).

    (stuff missing here, see another interim report page

    While I don't think the social context can/should promise stories told will have particular effects on particular people, I think some other kinds of assurances are appropriate, desirable, even necessary (given our experiences here to date). I do think it is appropriate for the social context to assure story-tellers that there is no hidden motive in the story sharing process, other than the "rubbing against" which is its fundamental dynamic. This amounts to saying that everybody involved agrees that not only their own stories but also any more immediate objectives they have in telling them are potentially alterable through hearing the stories of others. I think it is also appropriate/desireable for the social context to assure story-tellers that listeners not only exist but are interested in/sympathetic to stories, which is to say they would like to hear stories other than their own and so will make use of them as best they can. So perhaps the social context should be one that

    assures that all stories will be treated with respect, ie valued for whatever uses they might have now or in the future, rather than being potentially dismissed out of hand in the present because of particular characteristics they are perceived to have (or not have). Listeners will look for whatever is valuable in a story rather than trying to find ways to invalidate the story as a whole.

    Re 2: It seems to me we have (so far) even more diversity on this issue than on what kind of "listening" is reasonably expected. BUT, maybe we could pick up on the last point of (1)? There are lots of different ways to tell stories (lots of different story telling "styles"). Some are more "natural" to some story tellers, others to others, and some are more attractive to some listeners, others to others. Maybe this is a place where we all need to have some confidence that differences among us are the the grist on which effective rubbing works? While reading, we will keep looking, regardless of style, for the valuable, and presume that each of our writing styles will evolve as part of our individual and collective learning to be better story-sharers?

    Re 3: This one seems to me still more or less intact, though I'm more than happy to add to it "without needing resolution to differences in perspective". In fact, I think that's essential to cement the idea that story-sharing is NOT an effort to get to a place of "consensus"; its a process that is fueled by difference and is endlessly generative. Its essential as well to give everybody the space to "breathe better". There's no rush to closure, hence plenty of time to learn/share.

    Re 4 I THINK "allowing myself to be changed" is inherent in "valuing, even encouraging, stories to "rub against one another". What the latter does though additionally is to acknowledge that the process itself may not always be comfortable/pleasant. There WILL be gratings and "senses of injustices/hurt feelings". In fact, the more people we succeed in bringing into a process of story-sharing the more frequent the "gratings" will be. And this may be, in the long run, the greatest challenge to be faced (not only here but for democratic systems in general). Can we choose, by thinking, to remake ourselves so that we can, in one way or another, get beyond "senses of injustice/hurt feelings", learn from the past without becoming locked in by it, perhaps even come to accept the occasional hurt feeling as a sign that the process itself is vibrant and healthy?

    Will not (of course) expect this iteration of a springboard to last any longer than the last one. But am definitely learning some things, as I did/am from the 40th Street project in which Serendip is involved. Thanks to everyone whose helped me to think more about these things. I hope/trust this iteration will also find some interested listeners/story generators.


    What the task is--and what its consequences are?
    Name: Anne Dalke
    Date: //2004-08-07 14:44:02 :
    Link to this Comment: 10611

    A couple of responses/extensions to the recent interim reflection about what's been going on here over the past month or so. Two things in particular struck me in Paul's second "springboard" on the "how" of story-sharing:

    all stories will be...valued for whatever uses they might have....Listeners will look for whatever is valuable in a story rather than trying to find ways to invalidate the story as a whole.

    To keep "looking for the valuable" seems to me another (more upbeat?) way of describing how to play what Peter Elbow calls "the believing game": the ability to "assent," to "sleep" for a while with "whatever idea comes down the pike." It's also another (less financially-inflected?) description of what Michael Polyani calls "the fudiciary transaction": "taking the time to really dwell in someone else's claim," or sit for a while w/ what makes you uncomfortable. (For more on this, see I Believe, or: On Beyond Skepticism...).

    The second-to-me-striking "interim" claim was that we need listen to one another's stories

    "without needing resolution to differences in perspective"....story-sharing is NOT an effort to get to a place of "consensus."

    Searching for (what is called in secular language) "consensus," or (in religious language) "the sense of the meeting," is key Quaker process. Lucy's observation that it helps to know what the task is got this Quaker thinking that our shared project in these mono-/dia-/polylogues/multiplicitous forum entries is actually not (as I said earlier, while repeatedly trying to avoid gumption traps) an attempt to find the language of peace, but rather a search for the various forms of language that will enable us to stay engaged with/learn from/discover--perhaps even make something entirely new?--together. Seems then that reaching "consensus" (or "peace") would actually halt the process.

    The trick then seems to be how we can open ourselves to the sort of internal change necessary for involvement in such a public project, without losing entirely the guidance of our individual gyroscopes. See a new dialogue with a Haverford philosophy student, Sam Dalke, who raises similar concerns about the effect, on us as individuals, of easy internet connections:

    Because our databases have become so broad and all- encompassing, no one stands alone in their thoughts....it is like we are all different cultures confined in the same Petri dish....It is my fear that we are becoming so similar, so alike that the differences... that define who we are are dying out.


    more on art-making and web-work
    Name: Anne Dalke
    Date: //2004-08-11 07:51:09 :
    Link to this Comment: 10613

    Two recent conversations further exploring the relationship of web-based conversations to creative work--

    Jody Cohen joined the on-ongoing discussion about "The Assailability of Art":

    I feel ... not 'responsible' for images in the way that I feel responsible for my words....I feel totally exploratory, have no 'training,' little sense of right or wrong other than some sort of truthfulness to that internal sense that expresses itself as an image....Do you think it's possible to retain this kind of beginner's experience?

    On a new page about collaborative work, Elizabeth Catanese voiced a similar concern:

    Serendip can be like an intellectual stimulant drug... it creates good experiences but can also be habit forming so that one forgets ...the wonderful slowness of not worrying about people looking...the beautiful loneliness of art.


    story-sharing
    Name: Anneliese
    Date: //2004-08-05 23:44:26 :
    Link to this Comment: 10604

    Firstly, a note re: the many centers/no centers comments: I did not mean to imply that any one person is ever an absolute center (and I love the image of "each of us [as] the center for ourselves and none of us the center for what we make together"). I was being quoted from a conversation with Anne, which in turn referenced her piece "Writing Sam," in which she envisions a progression from one to many to no centers as it might be represented on stage. In writing to her that "I am not at the center," I was expressing my feeling that I am still at the first stage of this progression, with the implicit understanding that I would eventually transcend the notion of centers altogether. (My, this does sound mystical!)

    Turning to Lucy's question about "self-interest": I agree that the focus should be on SHARING of stories, with the underlying assumption that the stories being told are "worth" sharing, i.e., they have the potential to be useful to others. This raises the question, What kinds of stories merit sharing? which depends, in part, on the person(s) with whom we share our stories (and, in turn, whose stories we receive)—good old relativity. It still seems important to me to ask what questions and themes we (individually and/or collectively) are interested in exploring...here's why:

    I spent the past 3 years working as part of a research team for Gay Becker, a medical anthropologist whose work is what you might call narrative-based. Part of my job was to (through in-depth, semi-structured interviews) collect illness narratives/stories and, once they had been transcribed, to help analyze them. I often conceived of this latter process as a kind of literary analysis: we looked for patterns, themes, paradigmatic as well as "atypical" cases, and we approached the data with pre-formulated questions but also an openness to new (sometimes better) questions that emerged from the stories we read. In addition to the ongoing general analysis ("coding"), every member on the research team had an individual project, a more focused line of inquiry, with the ultimate goal of writing a paper--a story--based on her findings. Of course these lines of inquiry had a great deal of overlap—-we were working with the same data set—-and when we got together to share our evolving individual projects in a group setting, we helped each other as storytellers precisely because each of us brought a unique perspective to the others' stories. Through these group meetings, we all had a basic familiarity with each others' projects and kept them in mind as we continued to analyze the interviews; between meetings, if I conducted or read an interview that seemed relevant to a colleague's project, I would send her a note or tell her about it directly (and vice versa). Having established some basic themes/questions in group discussions, we could direct our stories towards the person(s) to whom they would be most interesting/useful (sometimes this included one or two people, sometimes the entire team).

    To me, this little story illustrates one way to "encourage/facilitate engaged, meaningful and productive story-sharing," one that embraces "little" and "big stories" alike, and that is built on *telling to* versus just *speaking*. I wonder whether it might be useful in conceiving of new ways to faciliate story-sharing here?


    expanding ...
    Name: Paul Grobstein
    Date: //2004-08-12 15:14:20 :
    Link to this Comment: 10617

    New dialogue with Wil Franklin ...

    But now I find myself back on this circular argument. I am, because I know/registrar interactions/changes within and without myself, but I cannot "know"until I am/zero/a point of reference. This tautology leaves me with only one option, namely, to not doubt my existence, to not be skeptical, to have FAITH


    the how of community building
    Name: Lucy Kerma
    Date: //2004-08-06 11:38:22 :
    Link to this Comment: 10608

    I appreciated Sharon's and Anneliese's stories, and am encouraged, in turn, to offer one of my own. It was nice of Anne to mention the 40th St community forum and I would like to tell that story and clarify what I think she may have misunderstood. It's a little long so has been posted at The "How" of Community Building: Virtual and Concrete: I suggest there some lessons in that experience that may be relevant here.


    Breaking Down...Opening Up?
    Name: Anne Dalke
    Date: //2004-08-06 12:44:43 :
    Link to this Comment: 10610

    Struck by the juxtaposition of Lucy's "own personal rule": "to tell my own stories, not someone else's," with the story Anneliese shared about her recent work in narrative-based anthropology: the alternation between "group meetings" for ongoing general analysis, and the "more focused line of inquiry" being pursued in individual projects....

    ....seems just like what's been happening here--what I described above as totally porous: the dialogue spilling over into the forums, which generate new dialogues (and I see now, new monologues as well) in turn....

    For yet another example of such cross-generativity, drop in to see where another artist has just joined an earlier discussion about the Accessibility and Assailability of Pictures. Rachel Grobstein talks there about how painting can generate an interesting way of thinking about the breakdown between self and other.


    Re-Writing Descartes From an Emergent Perspective
    Name: Anne Dalke
    Date: //2004-08-12 17:04:51 :
    Link to this Comment: 10620

    Wil Franklin's a busy man. He's also contributed to a dialogue in which Descartes is "re-written" as a (non) emergent thinker

    : what is not doubtable is not the thing that thinks, the self, but that something happens when selves interact....Descartes falls short because he does not see how small interacting agents can engender complex properties and patterns on a new scale.


    cup
    Name: Jeremy
    Date: //2004-10-21 20:07:57 :
    Link to this Comment: 11169

    Very interesting Anne,

    Actually I was thinking more along the lines of what Maria said previously. In specific, the remark that others may state to her, "oh" you should be more femine. Obviously she is very comfortable with herself, hence her reaction "that's absurd". I think that, when we as indivduals experience thought on a higher level, such as at work, when we are being professionals, sex does not matter(nor-does-time). What im saying is, certian thought process are(at least to me)omnipotent... This is how as a male, that i can justify working with a female, as an equal... Basically to me, this interaction can be quite enjoyable.


    retractable cup
    Name: Anne Dalke
    Date: //2004-10-21 00:26:58 :
    Link to this Comment: 11155

    the pool has long been covered over for winter by the time I've weighed all necessary pros and cons pertaining to going for a swim.

    a vine plant...using the palm tree as a structure...converts iself into a tree...the struggle of life going on between these two living entity's makes me wonder....

    I myself have just come up w/ an image of a retractable cup to figure--maybe something 1/2-way between Jeremy's "struggle" and Elizabeth's slow icy "covering over"--the expandable-retractable-alterable activity of brain-in-world-in-brain....


    taking a final bite of the apple which remains on
    Name: Elizabeth
    Date: //2004-08-26 22:45:01 :
    Link to this Comment: 10689

    Just a quick response to Anne's page about gambling and faith. I thought about this once but (with time) my thoughts have become simpler and clearer. I think that a distinction should indeed be made between intellectual risk taking and other risk taking. Risking on sites like Serendip is risking in order to get someWHERE or to be engaged in the process of travel. Gambling is risking in order to get someTHING. Oddly, the sensations that happen during both processes can be similar... joy, adrenaline, guilt, fear... It does seem however, building on what Anne pointed out, that worthwhile risk is risk that is somewhat selfless and "unconditional"...It is risk that has the potential to help other people who are also traveling throughout this life and trying to make sense of it.

    This summer I've wavered a lot about my feelings about risk and about exposure of self. One thing that I've learned (with help from others) is that self-esteem is one issue in one's ability to handle risk... How willing are you to put yourself out there and be confident about what you have to say? How much do you need someone to say something back to you in order to feel okay about what you said? What is it that you are looking for when you reveal a part of the self? Most importantly, for me at least, was realizing that one DOES have control over the self and what one says- one does not have to give it ALL or risk it all in order to help build something wonderful. So I guess faith, for me, lies in developing a deep inner awareness about what to wager and why... trusting the self to decide that. And THAT'S different for every single person. It's hard to focus on the wonderful, larger out there without first knowing the more interior self. This comes through time and through practice with risk taking- a constant fluctuation between loss and gain...

    One cannot control the outcome of a risk. One cannot control what's out there but one can learn to develop a better grasp on what's inside. Should control be an issue? At this point I think that it needs to be. First and foremost "I" think therefore "I" am... nothing should be ego driven but the truth is that a whole lot of life begins with the self... One can absolutely work in an other centered way... but the starting point is knowing the self.

    Healthy risk is important throughout life... it leads to innovation, change. Serendip has been a tremendous pleasure for me, not only in that it's let me explore ideas in a large way (with fascinating people!) but also for the way it's allowed me to better understand and question who I am.

    Nice to see Orah's ideas on the forum (!) and good luck to all who are embarking on new ventures in the upcoming week.


    some more grist for conversation
    Name: Paul Grobstein
    Date: //2004-09-03 11:00:23 :
    Link to this Comment: 10740

    From Roland Stahl: I am just reading Allan Bloom's Closing of the American Mind ... In my mind, Allan Bloom like many other culture warriors on both sides of the conflict does not seem to understand the difference between his truth and the truth. His truth is a problem of practice. The truth is an epistemological problem.

    Since we just said that action requires temporary certainty, what is it that makes us certain?



    Name: orah
    Date: //2004-08-14 20:56:03 :
    Link to this Comment: 10634

    regretfully, i have not been keeping up with your wonderful minds this summer so i apologize in advance for the bump of irrelevancy that this posting with produce in the conversation, but the need to write (no, the crippling need for intellectual interaction) has built up in this fingers of mine and will release only here ...

    em : "I assume I'm going to grad school. I assume I'll be a professor and a writer and do well and make money when what I really want deep down is to find someone like me with whom I can build a family and live in peace. No stress, no huge paychecks, no need to do anything."

    i am bent by the power of habit to spew off the names, followed by quotes, of all the authors who write of a soul deep urge to fill this void: the natural state of aloneness in which every person finds herself. but, minds evolve and are molded (two months can have the affects of eternity) and instead i will say that in my experience i have found a divinity of sorts in human interaction. i'll tell you a secret that i have recently learned :

    why do i read ? why do i study ? why do i learn?

    Only so that i can interact with YOU. Why did i read Moby Dick ? i may say, so that i could revive the thoughts of a dead man in my mind, so he could live with me, (with personal hopes that someday one will do the same for me) so that i could breath movement and life into characters. but, no ... not really ... i read so i can talk with you. i read for the divine sensation, the divine manifestation in DISCUSSION. all i want is interaction. i wouldn't read, nor would i listen to music, nor would i study, nor would i be motivated to learn if i knew that i would not have the oppertunity to talk with you. Learning is NOT (solely) an individual process, or, i shall assert: the goal of learning is not to be in a solitary place. learning is a process we use so we can have the tools to fill and be filled by each other. ((i succum, only breifly to my spewing nature and think of Alanis Morissette: "And all I need now is intellectual intercourse A soul to dig the hole much deeper ... All I really want is some peace man A place to find a common ground ... All I really want is some comfort."))

    there is no peace, in my opinion, in a life dependant on the act of acheiving. where do we find peace ? there IS a peaceful silence after an arguement. yes? peace is found in the act of FULLY listening to each other. yes? there is a peace found in understanding and misunderstand ... maybe it is the recognition of the mutual act of being ? yes ... i like that.

    best to all.


    widening conversation ...
    Name: Paul Grobstein
    Date: //2004-08-15 10:32:05 :
    Link to this Comment: 10635

    Pleased Orah found her way here. No one needs an introduction but its worth mentioning that Orah, and Elizabeth and Em, were all active participants in a course last spring that played a significant role in the origins of this conversation. Like the 40th Street Forum, the course was an earlier and quite instructive exploration of how "one could make use of the web to encourage/facilitate engaged, meaningful, and productive story-sharing". Anyone interested in that aspect of what we're doing here might be interested in taking a look at the earlier conversations in both venues.

    In short, no "bump of irrelevancy". And along those lines, a new dialogue is available. A taste ...

    Why would I want to change who I am? Someone living in a rose garden wouldn't want to change.


    computers
    Name: Jeremy
    Date: //2004-10-28 17:03:54 :
    Link to this Comment: 11254

    Perhaps it would be best, if I elaborate exacty why I find all this so fasinating. The nexus point, the interaction of the conscious, subconscious and treeness. Perhaps I am misguided in my interperation here, but I see something very specific when I contemplate this. A Shift Buss Register, this is part of a central processing Kernal cluster architecture. The shift buss is simular to signal lights at an intersection, the cars are representive of binary information trains. However, it is a computers lack of 'human intelligence', that leads this example away. Wow...


    hide and seek
    Name: maria s-w
    Date: //2004-10-09 16:37:05 :
    Link to this Comment: 11076

    As is befitting an adolescent, I am fascinated by this "longing to be found" of which Elizabeth spoke and with which Sharon identified. I have always felt the opposite way. I’ve never wanted to be found, largely because the views that others take of me once they've "found" me often have so little to do with what I think I'm about. I never assume that I’ve “found” anybody, much less myself and I never cease to be horrified by the conclusions that are drawn about me by others and amazed at the versions of me that they've constructed. As Thomas Browne phrases it “…no man truly knows another. This I perceive in myself; for I am in the dark to all the world, and my nearest friends behold me but in a cloud. Those that know me but superficially think less of me than I do myself; those of my near acquaintance think more…” I recognize a lot of my own experiences in this passage by Browne, and while I understand the “longing to be found” that Elizabeth described (and am impressed by the articulate manner in which she expressed it), it doesn’t correspond to my own feelings. I don’t long to be found; rather, I long to stop feeling as though I need to hide in the first place.


    "I hid and you sook"
    Name: Anne Dalke
    Date: //2004-10-10 21:25:54 :
    Link to this Comment: 11080

    Looking to broaden the search space a little bit, this landscape we've lately been tracing and re-tracing so insistently ....

    I followed Mark Lord's mention of an early poem by Samuel Beckett called "Whoroscope," which is spoken "by" (and is "about"?) Rene Descartes. It took me quite a while to track down the poem--in the Department of Rare Books @ the University of Rochester Library--and even longer to work through and try to interpret it. When the Language group looked at some of Beckett's work a while ago, it was reported that "all of the excerpts had the flavor of a discussion occurring inside the writer's head," leading us to ask "who" was "involved in this type of internal dialog." The Briticanna discussion of Beckett is quite acute in answering that (now two-year-old) question:

    " Beckett raised the problem of the identity of the human self from, as it were, the inside....when I say 'I am writing,' I am talking about myself, one part of me describing what another part of me is doing. I am both the observer and the object I observe. Which of the two is the real 'I'?" ....[For Beckett, this] "elusive essence of the self...manifested itself as a constant stream of thought and of observations about the self....the starting point of Beckett's favourite philosopher, Descartes: 'I think; therefore, I am.' To catch the essence of being...Beckett tried to capture the essence of the stream of consciousness that is one's being. And what he found was a constantly receding chorus of observers, or storytellers, who, immediately on being observed, became, in turn, objects of observation by a new observer....As we cannot conceive of our consciousness not being there--'I cannot be conscious that I have ceased to exist'--therefore consciousness is at either side open-ended to infinity."

    "At either side open-ended to infinity"--what a wonderful re-articulation of Maria's description of herself as always exceeding any description of herself. Her longing not "to be found" also has a curious counter-echo in "Whoroscope," where Beckett evokes--amidst a VERY difficult-to-follow metonymic landscape--the "memory" of Descartes' (surely frustrated?) childhood play "with a little cross-eyed girl":

    "My squinty doaty!
    I hid and you sook...."

    See also my day as a fuchsia dot for a (related but less elusive) account of "sooking" and "finding"....


    I Am
    Name: Elizabeth
    Date: //2004-10-11 23:18:38 :
    Link to this Comment: 11082

    Very interested in Maria's thoughts and Beckett's as filtered through Anne. I do think that what Maria is talking about is labeling...and I think that Maria's position about hiding and seeking is somehow the more highly evolved position. There's something extremely paradoxical here. To name something, is to a certain extent to "find" it. Anne, when you and I were looking at the fuchsia dot in the diagram, we both agreed that there was something wrong if we were trying to look at it as a picture of serendip... indeed we threw out the idea that a picture of serendip could not be created. In trying to represent an equivalency the dot was still somehow on top. There's something about the dot that gets lost when we call it a fuchsia dot. The pure, uncapturable, unfindable (was Beckett trying to dwell in it via stream of consciousness?) is what seems to be more real and authentic and effective.

    But there's this other thing, this deep emotion, longing where the self gets tired of the self, where the self wants to really see what it's been up to with other people, where the self wants to feel the touch of another person. And sometimes, in order to get that, any given self will write a story of self or allow itself to be labeled. The label shows a certain defined connection with the other. Consider the following statements. I am president. I am wife. I am teacher. One thinks of different people relations when the mind gets these statements as clues... The world gets frustrating if everyone just goes around saying, I am. Even though that's the truth of the matter. We're all just "I ams" running around- doesn't matter if we're hiding, waiting to be found or right out there in the open.

    I do think that this has implications on a social level- that things can get done better when we are engaged in action, pure and simple, without self-consciousness. Lucy's third thing seems to me to be much like the layers of music that can be experienced without thinking about them, that "in the moment" moment in sports, the eureka moment, the moment of just seeing colors on canvas and not needing a story. Sometimes, when we're not hiding and we're just being, we can be better energy for the world. That is to say, we can get more stuff done when we don't think too hard. When we get rid of the constantly thinking story telling self things can start being about a larger world- change can start happening. Seems that Maria and Lucy have an extraordinary grasp on that. Am saying that it takes a certain strength of character to believe in oneself enough not to think "there must be something else", to let that something else be life, to turn the game around from hide and seek to seek and seek and seek and then just be and be and be.

    It's funny that as much as I write this I can't entirely convince myself of it. I know that the detriment of many tasks is a desire to have another find you- but I can't let go...Again and I again I play hide and seek. Isn't it the most beautiful thing to watch two little girls play the game- One is hiding in the coat closet and it's been minutes and the other is not finding her and so the one hiding says... "there's no way on this earth that you'll find me!" and the seeker hears the sound of her friend's voice and opens the door. Inspite of the clue that the one hiding has given to the seeker, the one hiding is still somewhat shocked that she's been found. So too is the seeker shocked that she's found her hidden friend. They laugh, then play again.

    There's something beautifully human about it. Maybe eureka moments are verging on the connection with higher energy...maybe they are in some sense better moments to strive for? But as exciting as they are- there is something (what?) in the human moments also, when one has not reached some sort of divine, exciting summit, but is struggling quite deeply and close to the ground.


    some art
    Name: Jeremy
    Date: //2004-10-12 22:36:05 :
    Link to this Comment: 11085

    I have some air-brush free-hand art that my brother created, but I cant figure-out how to attach a picture. I could take photograph easily enough the jpg file would not excced 50k. You may find this piece of artwork intriging. The reason i bring this up is because the piece was made in 2002 as-well.


    The Third Eye
    Name:
    Date: //2004-10-13 20:15:40 :
    Link to this Comment: 11086

    The reason I bring this peice of art up is because it features a third eye. The illustration features a portrait of a wolf, with an artistic background, versa a natural one. When I first saw, this piece of his (my brother's art) I immediatly asked him, Hey what is that eyeball doing in the background. Obviously the wolf has two eyes, that belong to each other, but how does the 'third eye' relate in the background? Are they somehow interacting with each other? nevertheless he just shrugged his shoulders, and replied "I dont know"... Then I proceeded to tell him I must have this piece of your art. At first he said NO (obviously it was very specical to him), then several days later he gave it to me.

    The third eye-ask for explaination no answer- The Treeness is the only explanation. Some things motivated through an Unconscious gesture, are not recognized in the conscious process.

    In my mind, and this is only my virtual hypothisis. 'The conscious is as the "surface" of a lake, or ocean'. when the ocean is calm it is easier to see what "floats" to the surface. Then the conscious mind 'diserns' wheither what floated up, is usefull, or should be disregarded. The unconscious is everything below the surface of this ocean, or boundry layer to the conscious mind. Yet, when the surface rages, it is harder to see what may be floating to the surface. Clearly when "the solution to a problem is not known" the conscious commands the unconscious to process and exchange the avaliable data. In time, the unconscious will in-fact generate something(the phrase sleep on it comes to mind) But the conscious mind determins wheither or not, the product is usefull. only after it is recognized floating on the surface.

    Sometimes when the solution is presented to us, it is much simpler than we anticipate. Of coarse, it is the eureaka moment, how else can it be so simple, and how do we recognize what is correct, with such certainty.


    some thoughts on the virtues of subjectivity
    Name: Maria S-W
    Date: //2004-10-13 22:23:18 :
    Link to this Comment: 11088

    (My apologies for the length of this posting, but I've been holed up in my dorm room with a hideous cold since last Friday, and have had way to much time to think about all this. Plus when it's just you, a nearly empty dorm, your Gaelic textbook and cough syrup needed every 4 hours, you're bound to get a little punchy...) In reading Elizabeth’s response I found myself caught on one sentence in particular: “When we get rid of the constantly thinking story telling self things can start being about a larger world- change can start happening.” There are some assumptions underlying that statement that don’t sit well with me, and I was wondering what everyone else made of them:


    -I disagree with the notion that it is through the suppression of our own “story telling selves” that we can best hear the stories of others.


    -I simply don’t think that we CAN shed our subjectivity/ “story telling selves” in the first place. Moreover, the suggestion that we OUGHT to attempt to silence our own stories seems (to me, at least) to echo the (in my mind futile) pursuit of objectivity that many feel is the only way to properly determine a course of action.


    -I think the act of effecting change requires that one have a “story telling self” present, because “change” is different from just general “action” in that it is purposeful, it hopes to alter the status quo and the desire to alter the status quo implies a dissatisfaction with the current state of things, it implies a preference…does that make sense? I’m not sure I’m being clear, but I think you can get my general meaning.



    The only way I know of making sense of the “bigger picture” is basically the antithesis of the approach that I described above (attempting to get to the “larger world” by “getting rid” of my “story telling self”). I function on the premise that it is NOT through the suppression/silencing of my own story that I can “hear” the stories of others and be “about a larger world;” rather, it is by thoroughly investigating and acknowledging the intricacies and idiosyncrasies of my own “narrative” that I can comprehend how it (and by extension how “I”) exist in the context off all the other narratives that make up the “larger world.”

    We can’t silence our story-telling selves…or at least I can’t. My story—what I want, what I hope for and what I think regarding the world around me—is what make me…ME, my frame of reference for interpreting the world . You can’t escape or “rise above” the lens of subjectivity through which you experience the world; rather, you have to identify and acknowledge the limitations of how you view the world. All of our experiences are the interaction of our “selves” with all the other “I am”s that make up the world. The value of interacting with those whose stories are so different from our own does not come from internalizing their narrative while silencing your own. The value is found in the interpretation of those interactions and the subsequent incorporation of the new observations/insights/perspectives into our own narratives.


    I feel strongly that "being about a larger world” is not about transcending our own stories; instead, it is about transcending the boundaries and prejudices that unavoidably accompany those stories. The distinction I’m trying to make here (and I’m not sure how successfully) it is not unlike the distinction I made several postings ago between PUSHING away the box and SEEING THROUGH the box in Sharon’s picture (though, now that I think about it, I’m not sure the distinction was any more clearly explained in that posting). I cannot and will not accept that it is through the silencing or the suppression (or “pushing away”) of my own story that I gain insight into the stories of others. Rather, it is my responsibility to work at making my story one that encourages others to share theirs in the hope that I can better understand the context in which I exist (it is the conviction that, as Ani Difranco put it, “there is strength in our differences and there is comfort where we overlap”). It is when we ARE ourselves without preventing anyone else from being THEMSELVES that we are not only “about” the “larger world” but in fact ARE the larger world. It is only then that I can know what the change I desire to effect is and, perhaps more importantly, understand the nature of the change as it takes place (what the ramifications are, the extent of it, how the change alters my own story.)


    I feel as though there are a lot of connections between what I've written here and the notes from Cheryl Chen's Lecture. I'm a little hesitant to invoke her arguments here point-by-point because I was not actaully at the lecture and would hate to mis-use or misrepresent her position, but basically I feel like her assertion that ego-centric beliefs are required for intentional action backs up my position that effecting change (change, in my view, being an intentional action because it is "explicable in terms of the agent's beliefs and desires") requires the presence of "the thinking story telling self" and it also grounds all of this back into the physical body of a person, or thier treeness, which is easy to lose track of when more abstract issues of self-identification are being discussed. (but I might be on the really very wrong track here, and if I am, then, um...just remember that I'm only 19 and that 19-year-olds have really dumb ideas sometimes...)


    treeness
    Name:
    Date: //2004-10-13 22:41:00 :
    Link to this Comment: 11089

    Very insightful, amazing. Hope that you feel better from your cold soon:)

    Jeremy


    on not thinking
    Name: Elizabeth
    Date: //2004-10-14 11:32:09 :
    Link to this Comment: 11090

    Jeremy, if we can't get that picture on the web will you e mail it to those interested? My e mail is ecatanes@brynmawr.edu The picture sounds fascinating and I'm very interested in your description of what it represents. Have you had a conversation with your brother about what it represents to him?

    I love your idea of the raging surface and how it can sort of block the unconscious from coming through. There are a lot of things that can cause that blockage. Sometimes creative things, like art and writing can make it come up faster... but then you have to use your consciousness, that raging surface in order to interpret what is there so purely. It's a shame. And also why an artist may not want to answer "what does this represent to you"... the representation simply is. Label it, one of the only choices... and something gets taken away.

    Maria, good thoughts... very insightful. Perhaps I'll go back to your post and mine and think more about what you assert. I too believe that storytelling is useful and that the conjunction of stories is useful and that subjectivity cannot be avoided. I think I was just saying that there can be a certain balance obtained- that maybe people get so caught up in storytelling that something else is ignored. I know that for me, my life story keeps getting more and more complex only because my ability to analyze it and see gets deeper. When you're reading a book, you have the option of putting it down, but when you're reading your life (which I do constantly)... putting it down is somewhat more difficult. I'm tired of stories, openness, trying to connect... Does this make sense? Perhaps this is the anti-Descartes moment. The yeah, so what if I don't want to think right now... I still exist! Has anyone ever felt this? I'll go back into your post later, Maria... good stuff in there.

    Yes, feel better!


    an addition
    Name: Paul Grobstein
    Date: //2004-10-15 09:41:01 :
    Link to this Comment: 11091

    Jeremy's brother's picture, as offered and described (and requested) is now available. Happy to make similar arrangements for other images since the relation between words and pictures is, it seems to me, still very much in play in this conversation.


    filling in the "anti-Descartes" moment
    Name: Anne Dalke
    Date: //2004-10-15 09:49:56 :
    Link to this Comment: 11092

    I want to pick up on (and I think connect) two "dots" from above: the first being Elizabeth's observation that there's something about the dot that gets lost when we call it a fuchsia dot, the second her calling attention to an "anti-Descartes" moment. I think her observation that it can be problematic to particularize an abstraction--taking an ideal figure of organizational structure (for instance) and then "filling it in" with individual particularity--is an important one: when an ideal structure is occupied (that is, put into practice) by particular individuals, who inevitably (and valuably--more thanks to Maria on on the virtues of subjectivity) bring their own angles of vision/insights...the ideal gets, well, altered: individual investments get put into play, power dynamics interrupt what is envisioned as "pure" role-enactment (one reason why my recent exercise in facilitation seemed to go so well: I occupied what Elizabeth called "the characteristic investment of the passerby": those without strong emotional attachments, whose functions are temporary but serve to keep things going--and was able to be effective precisely because I was NOT part of that ongoing play of power and personality).

    Saying that may mark another "anti-Descartes"moment, another questioning of the (actually Foucaultian) claim that "thinking is freedom in relation to what IS." I've been somewhat lost, over break, in a tome by the economist Amartya Sen called Rationality and Freedom--736 pages without one mention of Descartes! Anyhow....the book (somehow...nonetheless) works heavily the themes we've been working here, focusing especially on the limits of rational choice theory. There's one section in particular about the Darwinian view of progress that I thought might nudge on our conversation a little bit (by attending to some of its current "blindspots"?).

    Sen explains that--in line w/ the observations, above, about the relationship between individual particularity and larger efficient systems--"evolution is not much concerned with individual survival at all" (495). Good periodic reminder, that: an alteration of perspective beyond the aim of individual flourishing. But there's more: "in Darwinian thinking, the excellence of the species is judged by reproductive success--the power to survive and multiply and thus, collectively, to outnumber and outlive the competing groups...'fitness' [is] ...reflected by survival and reproductive success"(489). Looks like a neat criterion, Sen says, and certainly works in biology; question is just how cogent and persuasive is it in the realm of ideas. Do we really want to judge the quality of an idea by its successful spreading? It may not "fit" the era in which it arises--may be "outcompeted" by other stronger points of view....it is thereby not "excellent"? I understand the notion of "use value"--but I'm wondering if it can only be measured by actual use, actual propagation, in historical time....?

    There's one more piece to this; for me the real punch line is another, closely related point, one which brings us back to Elizabeth's "filled-in" fuchsia dot. Sen observes that " a worldview based on the Darwinian vision of progress can also be deeply limiting, because it concentrates on our characteristics rather than our lives, and focuses on adjusting ourselves rather than the world in which we live. These limits are particularly telling in the contemporary world given the prevalance of remediable deprivations" (500). It's no surprise to hear, from another social scientist, the strong echoes here of Corey's concerns that insisting on the viability of individual change will keep us from working on necessary structural changes on the social level.

    But what struck me particularly in this passage was another (to me new) notion: the way in which modeling the evolution of social systems on the admittedly LONG history of successful biological evocation seems to raise the specter of assimilation, of loss of individuality. An example: my daughter Lily is writing now from Senegal. Much of her correspondence has to do with queries about the necessity of assimilation: how much must she change her own behavior, in order to show respect for the culture and the people with whom she is now living? How free is she to live (as she always has lived) by her own internal gyroscope, instead of by social rules? How much guidance does the model of biological adaptiveness give her (us?) here? If Descartes represents (as I think he has come to represent in this forum) a philosophical application of biological evolution ("I think, and therefore I can change who I am...") wherein lies the difference (is there a difference?) between (biological) "adaptiveness" and (social) "assimilation"?


    Smiles
    Name: Jeremy
    Date: //2004-10-16 18:33:34 :
    Link to this Comment: 11098

    The last thing i want to see is this thread get stuck. On my best scientific guess, The surface of virtual lake or ocean, in the relation, to the conscious and unconscious(sub-conscious) mind's, boundry layer, The treeness i propose is the storm in the sky.


    body art and opening up assimilation
    Name: Elizabeth
    Date: //2004-10-16 22:42:46 :
    Link to this Comment: 11100

    fascinated by Jeremy's brother's wolf image. Love the green radiating quality in the background... see it as a good treeness bridge. Also fascinating to me in looking at the image (something I did not get with just the description of the image)... how very much and animal a wolf is. Not sure what to do with this but I guess it makes it doubly powerful- this mysterious quality of the image... is both animal-like and human like. Animals dwell in some sort of instinctual unconcious/subconsious state.

    Also, am fasinated by the body art component of this. And what it means to put imagery on the body? This image seemed wearable? Does your brother ever make anything this complex on someone's skin? It is fascinating on a variety of conceptual levels. Ways of painting/marking the body to express thought. A good fusion between being and thinking... expressing something of the mind, right onto the body. Jeremy, many thanks for this image contribution. Looking forward to the further thought it creates.

    wherein lies the difference (is there a difference?) between (biological) "adaptiveness" and (social) "assimilation"?

    more for me to think about Anne's very interesting/multilayered post... as for the question above... what i'm thinking is that social assimilation is a fusion between pure biological adaptiveness and individual, egocentic existence (by egocentric i just mean centered on the individual, the self... not with neg. connotations) In order to survive (even on a biological level, i think) Lily (for example?) has to use her self and her experience (egocentric element) to find out just how much she needs to assimilate. That needs more thought and clearer articulation. But, good minds here so maybe someone can do it for me.

    Another question would be why we as being and thinking entities assimilate in the first place. This is so complex. I don't think that any one person thinks that they are assimilating to help the viability of the collective... but maybe so that they can survive in that collective on the ego level... emotionally and on the biological level, physically. So everything has to happen on the individual level first. We filter first via individual, then collective?

    As for the spread of ideas and their viability... hmmm... well, I think this goes back to who gets to tell stories. The ideas that die out sometimes die out unfairly. So species can become extinct and one might think ideas also become extinct. But actually time can help with the assimilation of ideas. What we once thought was an extinct idea can come back and flourish long after the individuals who created the idea have died. Take for example Van Gogh and his art... very few "saw" it while he was living- people love it now. Sometimes ideas can't flourish because culture at any given moment can be toxic to the survival of these ideas (as a side note, if it's toxic to the ideas it's often toxic to the individual also)... then culture changes and the ideas sit nicely (unfortunately by this time the original thinkers are often dead). Assimilation seems a bit of a closed concept... survival, yes, that's good but to assimilate is to deny a certian multiplicitousness, diversity... that labeling-lumping thing inevitably happens.

    But again, who gets most air time? People most equipped with certain valued cultural currency... words, knowledge... those who express easily, convincingly (politicians one example)... but who is being talked to? Those with other opinions who may not express them in the same way, know how to express them in the culturally valued way, may have different values... so they are absorbing ideas which are not necessarily their own. "Not survival of the fittest but making the most people fit to survive." (in the head sound bite...not sure where the credit for that goes) I actually think if we can separate our thinking selves from our biological selves we can open up the word assimilation a bit and get more stories heard.



    Name: Paul Grobstein
    Date: //2004-10-17 18:49:58 :
    Link to this Comment: 11105

    "if we can separate our thinking selves from our biological selves we can open up the word assimilation a bit and get more stories heard"

    I like that. A lot. With perhaps some minor changes in wording to recognize that our "thinking selves" are actually PART of our "biological selves" (its all in the body and brain, with the "thinking" part sitting in there on top of the unconscious/treeness part) and that "separate" doesn't mean being alone in one or the other ("not communicating" or "not interacting") but rather "recognizing two different but mutually beneficial ways of doing things from which a new thing emerges that is pleasing to both".

    The aim IS, it seems to me, to to "get more stories heard". Because the richer the story environment, the more grist there is for any given story teller and so the more satisfying their stories become, for themselves and for others. And the more possible and satisfying collective story writing becomes as well. To make the richest story environment, one wants to encourage not assimilation but "multiplicitousness, diversity". And to do that, one needs to "think", not separately from "being" but interactively with it ("It is only then that I can know what the change I desire to effect is and, perhaps more importantly, understand the nature of the change as it takes place").

    And if one does that, one can stop worrying about "who gets to tell the story". Everyone gets to tell their own story, and any combinations of people (or of inside things) who want in addition to work together on joint stories can do that too. Since there can be as many stories as there is energy to create them (stories needn't "supplant" other stories) the more the merrier. There's no need for "assimilation" unless someone wants to assimilate.

    Yes, there is indeed some similarity to biological evolution in all of this. But one needs to be a little careful both about the biology and about the parallels or lack thereof to human and cultural change. One has to "think" to "assimilate" (ie one has to be capable of imagining a situation other than what is, perhaps being outside in the cold looking through the window into a warm house with a party going on inside, and then trying to achieve that insideness). In general, biological systems don't "assimilate", they CO-adapt. Populations of organisms change over time in reaction to what is going on around them but its neither thought about nor a one-way influence. Plants, for example, evolved (through treeness, not through thinking, a new way of interacting with things around them (photosynthesis) that in turn altered what was around not only them but everything else (increasing oxygen in the air)).

    The bottom line here, it seems to me, is that the specter of "assimilation" as a bad thing comes not from parallels to biological evolution but from "thinking". And it is best dealt with, it seems to me, either by thinking (and realizing that interactions always result in mutual co-evolution) or by not thinking (and hence not worrying, "if I don't want to think right now, I still exist"), or by using both to try out something new that might not have the problems that have been noticed in the past. Perhaps by looking through the third eye, "acting at a conscious but not fully articulated level", to see what happens?

    I trust my reputation as a proponent of thinking is sufficiently secure so that I don't have to defend my credentials here on that score. But perhaps it would also be helpful if I, precisely because my credentials are secure, say explicitly here that I also believe equally strongly that thinking has significant hazards, amongst which is creating problems for oneself that one is better off doing without. Trees adapt quite contentedly and successfully without worrying about whether they are or are not "assimilating". They also deal quite successfully with other trees, both bigger ones and smaller ones, without worrying about either their duties to or oppression by the "collective" or, for that matter, about "power". Maybe most significantly, they do fine without worrying about "individual, egocentric existence."

    Maybe there's a lesson there? Perhaps something along the lines of thinking, and an associated sense (at least for some of us) of an "individual, egocentric existence", is useful for all sorts of things but can be carried too far? Biological evolution involves not only the production of new variants but also their differential propagation into the future; some variants prove to be more generative of future variants and others less so. The evolutionary change is not at the individual level but at the population level and it is always one for which, as Elizabeth points out, the significance of particiular variants is not established at a fixed point in time but emerges over an extended period of time. Would it really be so terrible if the same held for culture? If individuals lived their lives offering stories to others and died without definitive evidence of their significance in the future? Perhaps, if we equate stories and their significance with "individual, egocentric existence". But how about if we enjoyed them for what they are? For their interaction with treeness? For the moments of pleasure they give us ... and the potential they have to generate new stories in others?


    gender, treeness and self-identification
    Name: Maria
    Date: //2004-10-20 09:45:29 :
    Link to this Comment: 11144

    This is sort of out of nowhere, but I was thinking about the body-identification that Cheryl Chen talked about in her notes and the book reading I went to two nights ago by Jennifer Boyle, a transsexual author who just put out a book on her experience from going from a boy to a girl (incidentally, she was really tall). Gender is an interesting issue for a number of reasons, but I was thinking mostly about how it is also a self-identification thing on so many different levels of treeness and they don’t always match up terribly well. One’s body/hormones etc can be identified as one gender while the “thinking self” identifies as another. Mostly what interested me was that part of being a transsexual, it seems to me, would be the desire to be identified by others the same way you identify yourself and to have your body physically resemble the gender that you feel you are. While I’ve never had issued with being female, I have heard since I was young the comment that I’m not “feminine” or “girly” which I’ve always thought was absurd. I mean, I’m female. I wake up every morning as a female and go through each day re-defining for myself (both consciously and unconsciously) what it means to be female and depending on what being female means for me on a particular day my behavior may or may not line up with what other people associate with being “feminine”…but that’s a problem of their definition being too restrictive, not of who I am (or how I am) being in some way “wrong”. During high school, in an attempt to see myself in the more limited manner that the world so clearly saw me, I did a series of different self portraits and in each set I appear very much a different female stereotype. After all was said and done I was somewhat ambivalent about the results (before I wrote this I pulled them out of my photo portfolio and I still am not totally sure what I think) but it’s been incredibly interesting to see how others react to the images. Some people recognize me, some people don’t, but only a handful of people have been able to identify what the images actually, in my opinion, are, that is not photos of me but photos of a certain “type” of female, so much that “type” that there is, in fact, no room left in the image for who I am as a person to exist.


    On leadership and trees
    Name: Lucy Kerma
    Date: //2004-10-20 10:21:43 :
    Link to this Comment: 11145

    A couple of stray thoughts, musing on these interesting strands. First, about that “fuchsia dot.” I understood Paul’s discussion about leadership differently from Anne. The model, as I saw it, places the leader squarely in and of the system: rather than being an outside facilitator or consultant, the leader (the “dot”) becomes effective precisely because it is part of the system, uniquely able to see how the whole can be more than the sum of the parts, from the inside. That’s how I understood Paul’s example of the conscious, working to integrate the unconscious inputs, as well as his “social” examples of the sports team member and the political leader. Maybe the issue is how to work effectively within the “play of power and personality” to diminish their impact – rather than simply brushing them aside. While we may wish that hierarchies don’t exist, it may be more helpful to acknowledge these sometimes uncomfortable realities and actively explore new ways to act.

    While I find the image of the “fuchsia dot” useful, I confess I am less comfortable with “treeness.” I see why the image of “treeness” is appealing, if only because it is so surprising. I understand the point that there is a category of things in us that is going on outside of our awareness. And I very much agree with Paul’s argument about trusting the “third eye” and letting go of the (at times compulsive and anxious) tendency to over-think.

    I wonder, though, if that image doesn’t tend to confuse and obscure some important differences between the unconscious and trees. Are my unresolved childhood issues really of the same order as, say, my fingernails, which grow with no attention from me? Isn’t it significant that some of those unresolved issues can usefully be brought to consciousness (and can thereby change my behavior), in a way that nail growth never can be? Seems to me one of the themes we have been exploring here is the very human path of unconscious to conscious, along with that third step, of wordless but conscious knowledge.

    I am also not convinced that the complexity of social interactions is adequately captured by the image of a forest of complacent trees that just stand there, not bothered by anything. I have yet to participate in a community meeting -- or, for that matter, an interpersonal relationship -- that has that character. Trees don’t (as far as I know) “deal contently” or “worry” – people do. Trees also don’t act – so, for example, they can’t protect themselves in the face of a forest fire, and so get burned up. But people are different, both because they can think (and bring unconscious thoughts to the surface) and because they can act. So perhaps one of the issues becomes how to use our distinctive human abilities to change – ourselves, our neighborhood, our world.


    Once Upon A Time
    Name: Elizabeth
    Date: //2004-10-20 12:15:57 :
    Link to this Comment: 11146

    Maria's thoughts about gender and representation made me think it might be relevant to include a link to a site about Cindy Sherman, an artist who works to negotiate similar issues. I'm currently working on a larger paper and project about self representation which includes Cindy Sherman as a central focus. I do think it's relevant to bring some of my thoughts to this discussion.

    Like Maria in high school, Cindy Sherman dressed (and dresses) herself up as other than she was/is and then takes pictures of herself in this way. Some critics see Sherman's work as profoundly renouncing stereotypes of feminitity by generalizing moments from film stills etc- making the moments of representation non-specific. Other people see her as playing into the woman as commodity, woman as representation by creating such photographs.

    I see this as being related to this notion of treeness and agency and action. One could see Sherman's endeavors as renouncing the representation of women as trees (to use terminology from this discussion)... asking people to see women not as sterotypes/commodities- advocating a rejoining of the thinking self with the fetishized, commodified, being self. Women in particular have in the past been seen as other than thinking entities... and, since, as Maria suggests there still exist comments such as "you are not feminine, girly enough"... there is still work that needs to be done. To what end? I think that this relates to assimilation as well. Trees don't tell stories; if women are being seen as trees, their stories aren't getting heard.

    I'm all for advocating connections; here's one way that I think would be helpful. Of course, the thinking that happens about childhood/the past/ interacting with others is quite different than fingernails growing without thought... but all of these things are happening in the same body. And one can learn from the fingernails (involuntary activity) in one's persuit of thinking/interaction so to speak. We don't have to think to breathe, for example...we can translate this on an emotional level..."today I will allow myself the chance to breathe emotionally and not let people get to me" In fact one can learn from the parts of culture that reduce things to binaries and that reduce things to treeness (am not suggesting a deep conection between thinking of things in binary terms and this idea of treeness, though that could be food for further thought)... we need to know why we do these things. Is it because we're tired, because we're bored, because we're in pain, because it's been done this way before? I think knowing about the just being and interacting without that much thinking would be helpful towards thinking.

    Also, people's ability and desire to analyze varies greatly. Everyone who participates in this forum seems to me to have a deep commitment to thought. A lot of people who exist in the world do not like analyzing, achieving high levels of knowledge, going places in the mind. This is often a choice also. Sometimes people who have made this choice (or have had this choice made for them) have a higher capacity to just be. Thinking, though in my opinion one of the most wonderful things there is, does complicate certain things which should be easy. It has been my experience (and here I am not at all generalizing or saying that its like this for others), that sometimes the more I know or am in an environment that advocates thinking so hard, the more difficult it is to allow opportunities for my unconscious to speak to me and to do things which would not otherwise need that much thought. Should I eat lunch or post on the forum? What does it mean to walk across the grass vs. on the sidewalk? If I write this in an e mail to a person, will they think that I'm thinking, what will they read into it? Thinking SOMETIMES takes me far away from being. In a metaphoric sense, I realize that the pool has long been covered over for winter by the time I've wieghed all necessary pros and cons pertaining to going for a swim.

    Reminding myself that I am a women is sometimes helpful towards the end of being. And realizing that I breathe is sometimes helpful and looking at tree leaves outside my window is sometimes helpful. And daydreaming is helpful. Having thoughts that are not outcome directed is also helpful. I can still do these things AND act AND make a difference. In my mind a question of balance.

    For more about being, thinking, feminity, identity... come to

    Once Upon A Time is Now: an art installation this friday, October 22nd English House Basement (Bryn Mawr College) 4:30-6:30 p.m. (event sposored by fem and gender studies, the center for science in society, the bryn mawr art club and many others)

    I worked on this project over the summer and I think it's very relevant to our discussion. Would love to see you there!!! There will be refreshments!


    begging indulgence ...
    Name: Paul Grobstein
    Date: //2004-10-20 12:28:18 :
    Link to this Comment: 11147

    A bit out of left field but, like all things, suspect it will in the long run get integrated into the flow of conversation somehow. Was inspired by the needs of a talk I gave yesterday to come up with a visual representation of world//culture/body/unconscious/thinking relationships and that in turn raised some interesting issues about the relationship between stories and stories about stories. From all of which, the following: http://serendip.brynmawr.edu/reflections/reflection1.html. Am still mulling relationships of this to current conversations, will come back to that, but wanted the new figures available for whatever use they may be to others.


    survival instinct's gone wild
    Name: Jeremy
    Date: //2004-10-20 14:02:07 :
    Link to this Comment: 11148

    I found the reference to the treenees not being aware of assimilation, quite most intreging. There is this place that I visit, in the fla everglades(big cypress swamp) I go to this place to find peace. Anyhow thinking about the treeness and assimilation I could not help but notice, in this place(it is sacred indian ground) A palm tree, being constricted by a vine type of plant using the plam tree as a structure, to convert itself(the vine plant) into a tree, the strugle of life, going on between these two living entity's makes me wonder, about our oun signifigance in the natural world.


    "Where There is Gambling, There is Faith"
    Name: Anne Dalke
    Date: //2004-08-21 17:41:19 :
    Link to this Comment: 10681

    For one Quaker's meditation on the role that "faith" plays in her willingess to take risks (and an invitation to describe your own grounds are for risk-taking) see "Where There is Gambling, There is Faith."


    risk
    Name: jeremy
    Date: //2004-11-23 14:15:38 :
    Link to this Comment: 11732

    I am reminded of the wisdom presented here by the previous comment 10689.
    "Taking a final bite of the apple which remains on the table"

    'One cannot control the outcome of risk.'

    In light of this thought, i'd like to toss something forward.

    "I think, therefore I am thinking..."



    Name: Elizabeth
    Date: //2004-11-23 17:47:02 :
    Link to this Comment: 11740

    "I think therefore I am thinking" The statement is slightly frustrating to me because it seems a bit like "I am a pencil therefore I am a pencil." Seems almost as though there's no where to go with it. Or that one would just go around in circles. However I do think that the difference between I think and I am thinking is interesting. So to be a thinking being means that one is always engaged in the present moment excercising one's capactity to think? As long as we define thinking broadly enough (up to and including not thinking ;-), i'll say sure...sounds good.

    Thanks, Jeremy for reminding us of the Descartes apple still on the table.


    thinking about imagining...something "backwards"
    Name: Anne Dalke
    Date: //2004-11-24 16:02:35 :
    Link to this Comment: 11768

    Just posted @ the Universe Bar, but with deep roots/relevance here:

    Does not everything depend upon our interpretation of the silence around us?

    So, have been chewing for a little while now on this (rhetorical?) question, want to record here the results of the mastication, for my own reference and perhaps for others to pick up the pieces, after a weekend spent chewing on other (more material?) matter....

    I started by digging into the novel which ends w/ this passage, Durrell's Justine, going back into the silences that precede the ending (the silence of an unanswered letter, the "huge" silence of a death....), realizing that what matters is less the silence than the wide range of interpretations we can make of it. Eventually I found myself (not surprisingly, in a novel which makes the city of Alexandria the figure of skepticism) meeting a descendent of Descartes who says of himself,

    "'I am a Jew, with all the Jew's bloodthirsty interest in the ratiocinative faculty. It is the clue to many of the weaknesses in my thinking, and which I am learning to balance up with the rest of me'....He was really using himself up, his inner self, in living....To the Cartesian proposition: 'I think therefore I am,' he opposed his own, which must have gone something like this: 'I imagine, therefore I belong and am free.'" (93)

    Trying to figure out the relationship here, between belonging and freedom--and how the use of the imagination may enable both--I realized that, for all the discussion, both in the Descartes and Universe forums, of being and thinking (of the need for "looping" between them, of the ways in which using one corrects for the excessive reliance on the other...) we've spoken very little of the power of the imagination. Now, maybe this is just splitting hairs (maybe "imagining" is just thinking of what hasn't yet been; maybe "imagining" is just being...?), but I have a hunch that I'm tracing out a bit of territory we haven't yet engaged, territory less located in sensory perception, freer of "real world" observations, than what we've been talking about so far, so I ask for a little indulgence while I play this out....

    At the beginning of next week, the study group of the Graduate Idea Forum is reading Arthur I. Miller's Einstein, Picasso: Space, Time, and the Beauty that Causes Havoc--a really remarkable account of ideas developed in common by artists and scientists at the beginning of the 20th century. What Miller argues is that Einstein and Picasso were alike in their discovery of "conception over perception." This enabled each to formulate new representations of reality (as Gertrude Stein said, they could see the "reality not of things seen but of things that exist").

    Following Boltzmann, both knew that "unclarities" derive from "not starting at once with hypothetical mental pictures but trying to link up with experience at the outset." Einstein was drawn, even as a child, to the things "deeply hidden...behind things" (the force that determined, for instance, the persistent direction of a compass needle); and Picasso came to make paintings "without subject, silences." What is striking to me here is the reliance of both these men on "visual imagery" that was not tethered to the visual world (="not trying to link up with experience at the outset"); they were able to create something profoundly new because they were not limited by appearances, by what they could see or sense. Or, in shorthand,

    They were.
    They could imagine (what was not/seen) and
    They could interpret what they imagined.

    This re-formulation of "I think, therefore I can change," relies on dictionary definitions of "imagine" --to form a mental image or concept of something non-existent or not present to the senses (from the Latin imago) and "interpret" --to explain/make out/bring out the meaning of something mysterious (from the Latin for explain or translate). But what seems key-- and perhaps a useful revision/extension/addition--is the sense of detachment from the observable, from the everyday.

    In their ability to to "withdraw from the 'merely personal' into worlds beyond appearances," Einstein and Picasso both resemble the narrator of Durrell's Justine, who describes his own "life-giving detachment": "I was like a dry-cell battery. Uncommitted, I was free to circulate in the world of men and women...." The title character of Durrell's novel, who operates not in the world of science or art, but in that of human relationships, has a similarly creative--if also destructive--effect: "But those she harmed most she made fruitful. She expelled people from their old selves. It was bound to hurt, and many mistook the nature of the pain she inflicted." She herself had a way of speaking of this, that may be particularly striking to the students in the Evolit course last spring, where we spoke so often of the difference between "clinging" and "drifting": "Damn the word [love]. I would like to spell it backwards as you say the Elizabethans did God. Call it evol and make it a part of 'evolution' or 'revolt.'"

    Cute, huh? Love spelled backwards is EVOL--and is (one) result of interpreting the silence/the unseen/the "invisible realities" which surround us all. A way of belonging, and of being free.


    revising Descartes: on being able to move
    Name: Anne Dalke
    Date: //2004-12-08 18:11:50 :
    Link to this Comment: 11914

    Some thoughts on Elizabeth's installation, on gender and creativity, w/ relevance here: see revisiting this space.


    a thought or two...
    Name: Bethany Ke
    Date: //2004-12-29 03:41:19 :
    Link to this Comment: 12006

    Hi everyone! I'm sorry, I feel bad joining the conversation so late... I've been watching it off and on since the beginning of this school year. I have missed a lot, it looks like. It's been a difficult semester, and I've just felt too drained to add anything worth sharing here, but I was hoping to jump in now, when I have a minute.
    Anyway, I was just reading, and thought of something that seemed like it might be some fun. As I was reading Jeremy's and Elizabeth's posts, about "I think, therefore I am thinking" (I think it was...), I too, thought, hmm, I don't quite like that. To me, that seems not like saying, "I am a pencil, therefore I am a pencil", but more like, "I sleep, therefore I am sleeping". Though I sometimes wish that were always true, it is not.
    If you reverse the statement to, "I am thinking, therefore I think", then I like it a lot better. I'm not sure if I'm just being nit-picky, which is very possible, or if this is actually a distinction worth looking at. It seems that the pattern is, generically, "I do do something, therefore I am doing that something" versus "I am something, therefore I am that thing" versus "I am doing something, therefore I do (or can) do that something". I guess these do all seem like obvious conclusions, but I am especially interested, of the three of them, in the distinction between the first and the last. Any thoughts?
    Also, I really like what Anne was talking about in one of her posts - about things being implicit or covert or hidden, but that we are still very aware of their existense, at least at times - that sometimes, in fact, things are best understood or best communicated in this manner. It reminds me of a book that I am trying to get through, that I have been trying to get through for quite some time, actually, in my spare time. It's called "The User Illusion", by Tor Norretranders, recommended to me by Paul. Specifically, I am reminded of the concept of information and exformation. Norretranders says that in every exchange of information, it is actually the exchange of exformation that is interesting, that is meaningful.
    "Exformation is perpendicular to information. Exformation is what is rejected en route, before expression. Exformation is about the mental work we do in order to make everything we want to say sayable. Exformation is the discarded information, everything we do not actually say but have in our heads when or before we say anything at all"..."The information content of a conversation is demonstrable, expressed, explicit. But the whole point of this explicitness is to refer to something else, something implicit, something unexpressed. Not just not present, but explicitly not present."
    I don't know if this rings any bells for you, but it's what I connected it to. It sort of seems like conversation is a thought-comparing game, or a mental-state-comparing game. This is where I am, where are you? And then we all think about it, and somehow or other, new things happen, new exformation forms, and then we transmit information to refer to that exformation, whatever it is that we experienced, we try to express it in some way, what we feel is the best way possible, to try and produce a similar state as the one we had in someone else, so that we're all on the same page, or at least in the same chapter.
    Could this have something to do with what's being talked about?


    Exformation is a word I did not know
    Name: Elizabeth
    Date: //2004-12-29 19:52:15 :
    Link to this Comment: 12011

    Bethany- Very good reworking of the sentence. I like "i am thinking, therefore I think". But, now that we've established this, what is the significance? This, I feel needs to be taken to the next level. It seems like a stepping stone to some greater thought or discovery.

    I LOVE the idea of exformation! I think the reason that information gets shared without the exformation has to do with boundaries and societal codes for interacting with one another. To maintain boundaries an individual must not give everything, must filter out more exformation. But the difficultly, i think, would be that the more exformation is filtered out, the less we can REALLY communicate. Talking is so difficult. Amazingly difficult. I know that I constantly censor myself. With writing I do not because I feel a greater sense of control- I have time to ponder what I give and what I do not.

    I also do two additional things which help me negotate the exformation/information problem. Which I love having a name for now... you are very cool, Bethany. Anyway, the first thing that I do is write fiction. With fiction- truthful exformation (and I think exformation, because it is more highly associated with the visceral or the unconscious must be more truthful) can get disguised as non-truth, as fiction. This removes the moral obligation to filter out the embarrasing or unacceptable or scary. Some writers do this more than others but in a great collection of essays called The Faith of a Writer, Joyce Carol Oates says that Writing is a transgressive act. There is something accessed. There is a certain filter removed. A reader, by absorbing the entire picture that the writer has developed, gets the exformation that he or she does not get in everyday life and which, I assume is something that is craved.

    The other thing I do is to make pictures. Here there are no words, therefore exformation can turn into information in highly subjective ways. The multiplicity of interpretation here fights against the limitations of giving information directly, from my mouth to your ears.

    I am not afraid of expressing myself in art as much as I am afraid of giving information through speech. I suppose I'm afraid of that vertical information- that it will slip out (it has) and will take me down with it. Vertical is more difficult because that the way gravity pulls. (perhaps anne would retell a compelling story about verticality?)I believe that exformation must work horizontally. I will check out this fascinating book and see if I have done any good creative misreading. The book sounds fascinating. Thanks, Bethany.


    an addition, and continuing ...
    Name: Paul Grobstein
    Date: //2005-01-13 10:48:35 :
    Link to this Comment: 12033


    Getting to a similar place from a different direction and in a different context? Have a look at an Advent sermon delivered at St. Thomas', an Episcopal church in Richmond, Virginia ...


    The Life of Faith is Not a Life Without Doubt


    Interesting as well in relation to some ongoing conversations here and elsewhere, as per from the sermon


    "It is not about being right. It's not about infallibility ... The darkness is real ... There are only guesses to guide us. But that is the way it is. Our faith is ... in the bold guesses we try to live by. It's all only a theory. The question is whether it leads anywhere."


    "The darkness is real" is a bit like "One cannot control the outcome of risk.". And those both in turn reminds me a bit of "A world that can be painted darker can also be painted brighter ... Ambiguity is fun ... life." Maybe "the way it is" is always, to one degree or another and in one way or another, uncertain - and it is uncertainty that is at the core of human experience, a thing that can be felt equally to be either dark and dangerous or bright and inviting? The choice (if one thinks about it) is which better "leads anywhere"?


    Glad to have Bethany's introduction of Norretrander's concept of "exformation" into the discussion. Is in many ways the same issue made concrete in the case ofl language (and art). We tend to presume that language/art are intended to "convey" something. But perhaps their real significance is not in what goes between two people but rather in what that which is conveyed evokes in the receiver?, ie language/art TOO has uncertainty at its core and could be seen as much as a process of discovery, of creating something not to produce a particular effect but rather in order to see what will happen? Do we really want to "REALLY communicate"? Maybe the "transgressive" is in letting other surprise us, and ourselves be surprised?


    "The core of human experience"
    Name: Jeremy
    Date: //2005-01-13 13:26:40 :
    Link to this Comment: 12034

    Right on Paul.

    'Exformation' This particularly strikes me as skipping a stone over the surface of a body of water. Although the stone reflects from the surface of the denser material whilst it maintains sufficant inerta, over a distance, if the weight/vector/equoliblrium of such a mass maintains constant energy potential, thus it is not possible. the stone submerges below the body of water, giving the individual the learning/curiousity to attempt longer distances thru some sort of angle of insodence?

    We attempt to predict how interaction, between our own individuality, with coelesance with others understanding, sometimes,,, we say nothing...

    Its Bethany's comparison to an angular disposition to your original question, that makes me feel its worth taking the time to experence, the notation of such a filtering system, I mean really how do we know? All I can say is that i am greatfull that someone taught me what mercy really, infact is. I only wish it were as simple as 90 degree's.


    A life of Faith is not without Doubt
    Name: Judie McCo
    Date: //2005-01-29 12:01:50 :
    Link to this Comment: 12305

    Having been a much more frequent contributor on the GIF side of Serendip, I feel compelled to add my 2 cents here in response to the sermon cited above.

    I've spent the last several years struggling with questions of faith in new ways. As the daughter of a Methodist minister (who went through a long period of not believeing in organized religion and now turning almost fundamentalist- him, not me), I grew up both steeped in Protestant knowledge, but also with a visceral awareness of the hypocrisy of many (if not most) believers. I nevertheless grew up to be very involved in my Presbyterian church because of its strong focus on helping in the coommunity (running a shelter, feeding the homeless, sending money for world wide help)- things that one can do best in larger groups of committed people. All of this has been done with ,I think (therfore I am?), some healthy skepticism about what faith is and what it inspires (and what function that inspiration has in helping the world), as well as skeptism about the nature of God.

    I resolved the faith issue for myself by finally deciding that the opposite of faith is not doubt, it is certainty. Faith, in my mind (very similar to Eaves' notion about faith as theory) is all about having doubts, and yet still carrying on with the positive directions that the faith may take us. Certainty, to me, is that opposite of faith- people I've met who are certain about the right-ness of their faith- cannot allow room for others to have other beliefs, cannot allow that believers of their own "faith" might have questions. These "certain faith" types seem to me to cut off positive directions that faith may flow. I've seldom seen "certain believers" working to create a more socially-just society themselves- they seem to be waiting for their notion of God to do it. In fact, I"ve generally seen a lot of negative judgement of others and retribution against those who differ from their beliefs.

    The whole God thing as theory has me even more intrigued. Maybe I've been over-socialized into belief in a higher order creator, or maybe I just need to create an entity that I can talk to to process stuff when no one else can give it the time, or maybe there truly is that of God in each person (as the Quakers believe)- no matter, for whatever reason, I've generally, on most days, believed there's a God out there (external to humans) and in here (inside each human). I've dealt- in the past- with the issue of why God does or does not intervene in human affairs by deciding that humans DO have free will (in relation to "God" if not in relation to the social structures that bind us) and that God generally does not intervene but uses the God-like quality in humans to reach out to help one another; likewise, the bad things that happen , I could usually blame on some direct or indirect version of human behavior- ie cancer and birth defects due to the way we humans poison our earth& bodies with toxins; violence worldwide due to the ways we compete and set up ("certain faith") boundaries against one another, etc. In each, the skeptical and observant person might have the ability to find a lesson about how to live more cooperatively with other humans- a lesson that the theroy/notion of God could support.

    So then came the tsunami. Where's the human, free will influence there? Where's the lesson? Nothing to find to blame for an awful thing except tectonic plate movements, that a theoretical omnipotent entity should be able to intervene and change. It has led to more of those doubts.

    Anyway, though this is seemingly different from many of the musing on this string, it seems to me that spiritual understandings are intimately connected with what we believe about our "Selves". They intimately affect whether we believe taking risks is a reasonable thing to do and whether skepticism (profound or otherwise ) is "allowed". I guess I even suspect that our spiritual leanings and understandings have influence on that sense of "yes" that several above discussed in terms of artwork (and which I also feel when I drive over a hill to see the sun shining just right on a tree rising over a sparkling body of water). I appreciate the posting of the sermon and will be interested in others' musing along these lines.


    Blinded
    Name: Jeremy
    Date: //2005-01-29 21:57:27 :
    Link to this Comment: 12316

    "but also with a viceral awareness of the hypocrisy of many(if not most) belivers".

    I must say that "again" the wisdom here is overwhelming". Yet, there must infact be tolerance, or freedom, for "all relegious beliefs" even thoes that worship the earth, as a catholic(confermed) I am yeilded by the gargoil. To me, when one posesses mercy, one posesses wisdom. I often equate Logic too, well I guess, a sermon.


    the opposite of faith ...
    Name: Paul Grobstein
    Date: //2005-01-30 09:45:17 :
    Link to this Comment: 12318

    Am attracted by the idea that "the opposite of faith is certainty", and would suggest one might parallel that with "the opposite of science is certainty" (cf Thinking About Science: Evolving Stories. In both cases, it seems to me, the key question is how one responds to "uncertainty". One way is by trying to deny feelings of uncertainty by appealing to the existence of some order beyond. The other is to embrace uncertainty as the "crack" that allows for human creation. Closely related is how vigorously one polices the crack, ie protects the existing story by preventing things from entering that might challenge it. Which, in turn, does indeed relate both to how profoundly one accepts skepticism and how much risk one is willing to take. The effective antidote to "the hypocrisy of ... believers" is a recognition that at any given time there exist multiple different useful stories and that one's own story writing can be enhanced by giving those of others access to the crack.


    As for the tsunami, it is indeed a good trigger for some serious thinking about various ways of telling stories having various "lessons". See Continuity and Catastrophe.


    Musings on uncertainty
    Name: Judie McCo
    Date: //2005-02-03 08:42:30 :
    Link to this Comment: 12465

    I have to agree that the opposite of faith AND science is certainty. After all, don't we social scientists explain that the social institutions of religion and science both fulfill the same societal function- to create meaning where things are seemingly out of control/ unexplainable? If we "KNOW" something, we certainly have no need for religion or science to explain anything to us.

    A classic social science treatise in the sociology of medicine by Renee Fox examined the socialization of medical students and asserted that they had to learn 2 things-1- the ability to care, but also be detached from patients(something that mirrors our social work socialization needs) and 2- the ability to tolerate uncertainty. Becker et al built on this and theorized 3 types of uncertainty that they deal with- 1- the uncertainty about whether they individually could learn all there was to learn in medicine, 2- the uncertainty of medicine itself (ie that medicine didn't know the answers to all medical questions) and 3- the uncertainty about, given any particular question, was it their own failing to not know the answer, or was it a failing that medicine did not yet know the answer.

    I go through all that (an old lecture from my days teaching med soc) because I think that it directs us once again to the idea of 3- and in looking at Paul's suggestions of certainty vs. acceptance of a "crack" of uncertainty where stories develop, I wonder if that crack has at least 2 roads within it- both a road where the individual feels free to make up his/her own explanatory story and a second where they still believe there is "a Truth" out there and that they just haven't managed to locate it. Is this really just the old Positivist vs. Constructionist dichotomy again? And again, sounding like a broken record, where is the third option of acknowledging that there are some "truths" (little t) out there that we utilize as part of the stories we construct, that therefore make them more believable. Intersted in people's thoughts.


    the inclined plane of morality
    Name: Anne Dalke
    Date: //2005-02-09 19:48:10 :
    Link to this Comment: 12723

    Related to Judie's queries, and perhaps an alternative to the "two roads" which aren't many enough for her...

    is a new offering on the Science and Spirit site, by Gautam Sen: The Inclined Plane of Morality.


    tempos
    Name: Jeremy
    Date: //2005-02-22 22:22:08 :
    Link to this Comment: 13143

    I just wanted to quote something here from "Touched with Fire" by Jamison.

    pg 125-

    about 9 sentences down, on the second paragraph, on that page. It goes something like this-

    It responds to the world with a wide range of emotional, perceptual, intellectuual, behavioral, and energy changes, and it creates around itself both the possibilities and chaos aforded by altered experiences and fluctuating tempos.

    MAN- i am trying to get thru that book, but it is tough. Im just going to flat out avoid comparing thinking, to that quote, for now.


    looking for extra roads ...
    Name: Paul Grobstein
    Date: //2005-02-24 21:55:33 :
    Link to this Comment: 13217

    Someone, somtime, is going to have to explain to me this fascination with threes: "the Bible's father/son/holy ghost, Freud's id/ego/superego, Paul McLeans "triune brain". I STILL think we need two but don't need more than two. The third thing is, in these terms, a true "emergent". It is what we observe to result from the interactions of the two, what results from exchanges along the bidirectional cables that join them. Since there isn't any there there, I'm less inclined to put things there".

    Do indeed think that medical students, among others, have to learn to deal with a variety of kinds of uncertainty (more than three, I suspect) and that this is a good concrete example of what we're talking about (would like to hear the lecture). But why hang onto "True" (which I don't know yet and feel guilty about not knowing yet) as an option? There is (1)"I can't be sure so I throw up my hands and quit" or (2)"I do the best I can with what I have", ie "depriving EVERYTHING of the status of FINAL "authority" gives one permission/room to (not actually paradoxically) make use of everything one has at any given time". At the risk of sounding like a broken record myself, isn't that enough for any (wo)man?

    Yep, Jamison's a good book. About thinking and the unconscious getting to know one another, learning to work together instead of in opposition ... creating in consequence "both the possibilities and the chaos"?



    Name: orah minde
    Date: //2005-03-07 09:50:15 :
    Link to this Comment: 13437

    thoughts on Descartes have brought me here ... i hope i do not stunt conversation ....
    Descartes set out in his meditations to seperate himself from all that is external to Mind. Pinned as a dualist, Descartes is remembered as talking about how Mind can exist seperate from Body (and visa versa). In the meditations he seperates himself to as much external-to-mind-matter as possible. HOWEVER, he soon realizes that in order to remain in life one MUST maintain Body (which is external to Mind) and to maintain Body one must be connected with other externals such as food and shelter. D.'s genious conclusion to the meditations is NOT that the mind can exist seperate from the body, but rather, a statement to what the unit of mind and body creates: the living SELF. ((6th med.))

    When mind exists seperate from body it exists in a closed system, in absolute self-contemplation, it is a whole universe in itself, there is no outside, there is no other. opposingly, a self is something that is contained, a self MUST be bodied, a self IS becuase it is not other, there are clear boundaries to the self (hence the vital "mingling" ((6th med)) of mind AND body).

    D. set out to get a CLEAR view of what is real, to see past all possible illusion, but, finally, realizes ((THIS realization, i think, is the genious of the mediations)) that to LIVE as a SELF is this vague mingling of MIND and that which is external to mind. life is the MINGLING of possible illusion and reality: fiction and non-fiction. D takes this step, i think, with more grace than most. to live means ungroundedness, lack of sure footing. in life we cannot hold tight to things, because anything could be illusion ... that's the nature of life. D accepts that.

    what, i wonder, are the implications of being a BODIED mind? The mind that exists outside of body (the mind that does not live, the universe-mind) has no externals, this mind does not have to define itself, does not even have a self, but is, rather, UNCENTERED energy. the bodied mind, opposingly, is CENTERED.

    the act of perception for a centered being pulls everything external into a relation with itself.

    so, relations between us centered beings, realations between selves, between people, ends up being a power struggle between each's gravity force, each's pull toward herself. what happens, i wonder, to one whose gravitational force is weak? what happens when one looses the centered self and is pulled ever-outward into others? does she, realizing what has happened, release herself from externals (like descartes)? one runs risk, then, of becoming unbodied, absolutely self-contemplative, pure Mind ...in the unending universe of pure mind everything outside disapears and the body dies and the self disapears ... i realize, here, that D.'s genious teaching is that Life requires BALANCE: balance between Mind and Body: equalibrium, or at least stasis in the power/gravity pull between selves.


    Bodiless minds in computers
    Name: Judie McCo
    Date: //2005-03-08 11:18:49 :
    Link to this Comment: 13439

    Orah's comments got me thinking about the ways that "minds" shed their embodied selves. I have recently been reading a lot about communications over the internet, particularly communications among people who do not know one another. While most of us are aware of the folks who pretend to be "other than who they are"- ie men petending to be teens; single folks pretending to be the opposite sex etc. there are many instances where internet communications not only allow one to try out alternative identities, but can even be healing. There's a woman who recently started publishing a lot about people with physical disabilities who correspond on posting and chat boards and feel incredibly 'freed to truly be who they are' precisely because they are no longer a mind embodied by a body that provokes discrediting and stigmatizing assumptions about them. It's intriguing to think about the ways computer communications provide a forum for being a different 'Self' than who one is when one is "bodied".

    I'm also intrigued by the questions about "weakness of self" at the end. As someone often accused of molding myself to the expectations of others (accusations which have some basis in reality), I question whether that is weakness of self, or overconsciousness of others' feelings and attempts to avoid hurting those feelings. Is that "weakness of self", or "negotiated living"? A number of us are currently reading Habits of the Heart- a book exploring the intersection of private and public life and the intersection of individualism and commitment to others/ community. There's a certain "weakness of self" that must occur to allow attention to social norms, other's thoughts and feelings etc.- and perhaps it really needs NOT to be all about the individual's commitment to their own desires if we want a more socially just and mutually caring society. Just more grist for the mill of thought....



    Name: orah minde
    Date: //2005-03-09 08:10:40 :
    Link to this Comment: 13443

    what, Judie's post makes me wonder, are the implications of the existance of a spcace where the notion of the self as a the bunble of past experience is absolutely negated (i.e. computer space)? where identity is very fluid, and not dependant at all on experience? ((funny: first thing i did when i saw that you responded to my post was to google you to find out exactly WHO i was talking with.)) what, in this space, makes up the self? is there a self in that space? or just simulation of self? role playing? does an actor in the act of mimicry ingest and possess something of the role she is playing? to play hamlet do i have to BECOME hamlet, or, at least let a part of him enter and posses? and if so, if in playing hamlet we become hamlet, if the world is becoming the stage, a place where the self can fully be an imitation of another self, where there is no unchanging, essential self, where ALL is fluid simulation, not only should we strive to be 'all that we can be' but we should strive to be ALL, there is no roof to raise, no limiting atmosphere, just entropy pulling us out and up ... entropy is unknoting the self ... we are becoming undone ... what are the effects of this on D's model of the self ... what happens when the mingling of mind and body becomes loose ... we move from life as we know it ... into the computer age, i guess. what happens when we do get up from the screen to get a bite to eat? who are we?


    ...but all this depends on my preconceived notion that there actually IS something stable, unchanging within that is the self? the idea that there is not a dependable, unchaning part of the self, i think, is scary ...
    but, i seem to present those ideas in a neg. light ...humm ...another angle: let's say this computer space is a a space that lets the self transcend the resume of experience. if the self is a bundle of experiences then the self can come to be known by someone who knows only what the person has experienced ... something tells me, though, that another's self can only become known if the one becoming known knows something of the self doing the knowing ... for some reason i think there needs to be an EXCHANGE when selves are becoming known. maybe?

    and one more angle:
    what, i wonder, are the implication of the seeming fact that most of those people you listed (i.e. men petending to be teens; single folks pretending to be the opposite sex etc.) seem to come to this unbodied place for very physical reasons? they don't seem fully to abandon the body ... quite the contrary.


    Abortion
    Name: JameS
    Date: //2005-03-09 09:24:44 :
    Link to this Comment: 13444

    Abortion is sick


    Rene Descartes
    Name: JameS
    Date: //2005-03-09 09:27:02 :
    Link to this Comment: 13445

    what does everyone think about him, are his views so outdated now, is he one of the grestest philsophers ever or are his views about as good as the Carolina Panthers


    a tad more Descartes and a bit of ishmael
    Name: orah
    Date: //2005-03-13 13:42:17 :
    Link to this Comment: 13472

    I have found Descartes' story to be quite useful for the past week. i've been thinking more about the implications of the mind-body mingling of the self. what happens when the absolutely inward movement of the mind is forced outward, protracted into body (outward movement) ... maybe a model of the conscious and unconscious can be mapped onto this interpratation of D ? the unconscience (mind, absolutely-self contemplative, a metaphysical id) struggling against the conscious (body, that which tells stories to fit the self into the outside world, to make sense of the self IN RELATION, freud's super-ego). this seems to be (to varying degrees) a violent landscape. no? the mind, the unconscious pulling always inward and the body, the conscious, pulling always outward. i guess the mind (unconscious) of the self always looses bc of its dependance (as self) on the body (i.e. the unconscious looses to consciousness). the mind (unconscious) seems to want to rule supreme, bloat beyond body, fully fill existance, but the body contains, requires relation (there is no relation if you are ALL: the desire of the unconscious).

    another way of thinking about it: we have thoughts, feelings etc. in order to connect those internal sensations outward, in order to convey them we must stuff them into containers (words). but, by nature, language attempts to universalize that which in absolutely internal, therefore, that which we are attempting to convey NEVER fits into the container, all the individuality of the original is lost. this is a painful severance. no? it's an amputation (without anesthesia) of sorts. feelings flayed in order to be fit. the only way that this is NOT a violent landscape is if we accept the theology, the linguistic theory, that The Word was in the beginning. is it useful to think of the mind (the unconscious) as that which is primarily violated in the act of articulation, coming into body? the self, therefore, is, in its original form, an unsettled place.

    and, finally, one more quick revelation, for literature lovers, and others: moby dick's famous opening line: "call me ishmael," i think, demonstrates (my interpratation of) Descartes' notion of becoming a self as the end (? start?) of a violence. if one reads the first paragraph of the first chapter of md one finds that the narrator, ishmael, writing in retrospect, has been a deeply depressed (suicidal) man. we may regard depression as a state in which either the mind (unconscious) takes too much control and sucks a self inward, dangerously far from any outward connection; or, we may regard depression as a state in which the body (the conscious) takes too much control, negating all inward movement, a constant bleeding outward ... either way, the war in ishmael's soul has become too violent, nearly catastrophically violent. md is about ishmael's movement from this depressed state. the ONE line in the book that is stated in the present (not 1850, but NOW), as conversation starter to the contemporary reader, is the first, "call me ishmael," i am a self, now. the following 400 pages are the story of how ishmael became ishmael. .... enjoy spring, everyone!


    beyond the bicameral....
    Name: Anne Dalke
    Date: //2005-03-16 22:26:11 :
    Link to this Comment: 13564

    Someone, somtime, is going to have to explain to me this fascination with threes.

    Well, you'll find one (actually several) explanation(s) @Threesology Research Journal Website: A Collection of subjects, examples, and ideas involving patterns-of-three.

    Three gets us out of the stuckness of the binary,
    out of the back-and-forth-with-no-other-alternative than one/two.

    Three gives us perspective, a third dimension.

    Three gets us out of mind vs. body,
    out of inward and outward,
    beyond equilibrium and stasis,
    invites transcendence of the resume of experience (nice words, Orah).



    Name: orah
    Date: //2005-03-18 01:34:46 :
    Link to this Comment: 13616

    emily, let's say, drops something big and heavy on her toe. her first reaction (quite strangely) is, "something big and heavy has just fallen on a toe." while, i suspect, the most common reaction to this would be, "ouch! something big and heavy has just fallen on MY toe!" i accept that the self is fundamentally bodied, but maybe we need a "threesology" philosophy to get us unstruck from the binary of the dynamic of possession between self and other (master and slave) ... or, maybe a spectrum philosophy to describe the connection of self and body, the body's possession of the self. this months national geographic's article on the mind talks about "plastic parts of the brain" meaning things that one can change about the brain. "'emotions is the least plastic part of the brain,' says ekman. but we can learn to manage our emotions better. for instance, the shorter the time between the onset of the emotion and when we become consciously aware of it- what Ekman calls the refractory period- the more likely we are to double-ckeck to see if the emotion is appropriate to the situation. One way to shorten the refractory period is to be aware of what triggers our various emotions." is my imaginary case of emily possible? what is her "refractory period?" ekman's model assumes that emotion is first instinct, but in emily's case the onset of the emotion seems to be secondary to the "double-checking," is it possible for a refractory period to be in the negative zone?

    virginia woolf writes of the androdgenous identiy produces the best/most creative writing ... we have found (no?) that the lucid place before sleep, or the lucidity of self and other in dreams can produce a genious metaphore. can this unconnection with self, this negative refractory period, this androgenous ability of the writer have very physical origins in the brain? a self/body connection that resembles that of someone is the lucid place bf dream ... falling heavy into dream ?


    3's
    Name: Jeremy
    Date: //2005-03-28 18:19:15 :
    Link to this Comment: 14104

    About the three's, I think it is our own fasination with the cubic world, that enables us to recognize the symetry of three. For example, any 3 dimentions can be defined within a cube. Yet cubes exist rarely, outside of our own thinking.


    3's
    Name: Jeremy
    Date: //2005-04-10 09:39:44 :
    Link to this Comment: 14404

    What I was vaguely refering too above is crystalization. Geometric formations often refer to crystaline structures. A great many things will in essence crystalize. Such as reviewing an experience and concieving how you better could have responded, at the time. Wheras at the time, you couldnt come back with the response, that/then you considered superior, after thinking about it some. By the way, I hate it when this happens.


    change
    Name: Jeremy
    Date: //2005-05-05 08:13:06 :
    Link to this Comment: 15046

    Since I have obiously gotton nowhere with my above comments. I would like to revert back to a previous dissagreement with a possiblity of- I think therefore I can change. Often thought processes are set in there ways, yet thru evolution there is change. Simular to crystalization, if something is left undisturbed to grow and incubate, perhaps it is undisturbing to the enviroment around it? How else can such a thing exist. I think the very relevant question of what should be allowed to exist, is relative to the growth of such a thing. how the three's are relative to such judgement is coincedental to the religous aspect in my opinion, its just simply more of a physics thing to me. in other words everything is relative and crystalization occurs regardless of constant change, yet constant change affects crystalization. At least in theory..

    (:



    Name: Paul Grobstein
    Date: //2005-05-06 07:52:31 :
    Link to this Comment: 15056

    I actually LIKE more dimensions (see Edwin Abbott's Flatland). The more dimensions, the more space to explore. But I'm still disinclined to throw in extra dimensions in particular cases where they don't seem necessary. Between any two points (ie in the space represented by dichotomies) there are still an infinite number of points, so one doesn't need additional dimensions simply to escape binary choices. And, as I sketched above for the brain, when you've got two dimensions with interactions between them it creates additional space. Throwing in extra dimensions in this case (and others) seems to me not only unnecessary but distracting. Some times one explores best by staying with the space one knows about and looking for the unexpected places inherent in it.

    Intrigued by crystallization and its relation to change and, perhaps, "weakness of self". I'm not sure I'd go so far as to argue about what "should be allowed to exist" but it does seem to me worth thinking about why some things that exist are more stable and others less stable. And about how this relates to "I am, and I can think, therefore I change who I am". I am inclined to think the norm (not only in physics but in general) is change and so what needs to be explained is not change but stability and, in particular, different instances of stability over different time courses. An example of the latter, of course, is crystals but a more immediately relevant example is "stories", both cultural ones and the ones we tell ourselves about ourselves. Its the latter, I suspect, that relate interestingly to "weakness of self". We CAN change, if we believe in the possibility of it, and put the needed time and energy into it. That's not to say that ALL changes are possible, nor that any given change is either easy or even possible. But some kind of change in ourselves, and in our stories of ourselves, is indeed possible, and our brains are organized to allow us to facilitate it.

    The same holds, of course, for cultural stories, with the added complexity that cultural stories tend to have even more inertia than individuals and their individual stories. Which makes it particularly important for individuals to have confidence in their own capacity for change if they are interested in influencing cultural stories. For a relevant current example, see Relativism and Fundamentalism. And join in conversation there on that particular case? While keeping the conversation going here on the more general one?


    Change and non-change
    Name: Judie McCo
    Date: //2005-05-12 19:12:50 :
    Link to this Comment: 15136

    I know I'm just reiterating the comments above- but I'm fascinated by the notion that crystalization only occurs (and causes a change) when there's no movement, no stirring- i.e. no "attempt to change" is what produces the change. Similarly, as a therapist working with people who say they want to change and spend money coming to me to try and help them change (lots of "stirring and effort"), there are many times that change is incredibly difficult, if not seemingly impossible.

    So what does it mean that change occurs without desire for it (in human relations too- one morning you wake up and you no longer feel as passionately about something/ someone as you had previously); and that change is resisted in the face of those who seemingly desire it (see, that old Freudian in me is still there- of course he would explain that the change is not really desired- hence "seemingly").

    Again, trying to consider various natural systems- once all the stirring and effort of conception is done- change just keeps occurring in an embryo/fetus with little effort overtly expended (which is definitely not the same as saying there's not lots of work the women put in just to hauling their new bodies around); yet, children with ADHD who want to "sit still and learn" find that , despite their efforts, they can't do either of those things.

    I begin to wonder if "reality" is that we love to build illusions of control and believe that we can "think and therefore change", but that the reality is that it is all much less in the control of anything and anyone than we love to believe. We create the illusion of control when (by accident) the thing we are trying to change actually changes- and if it doesn't, we just say it's a fluke or it wasn't getting enough effort , or we continue to insist that there's some quality of resistance within the thing we are attempting to change.



    Name: Lucy Kerma
    Date: //2005-05-13 17:39:49 :
    Link to this Comment: 15178

    My favorite episode of the TV show M*A*S*H involved a soldier, shell shocked, who turned up at the army hospital claiming to be Jesus Christ, son of God. There was no way, of course, to prove he wasn’t, and Father Mulcahey, the army chaplain, wasn’t taking any chances. So he asked the soldier, as he was leaving, whether it was true that God answered all prayers. “Yes,” said the soldier, “but sometimes the answer is no.”

    I think change is a bit like that. For me, change is continuous and inevitable in the way that time is continuous and inevitable: it happens, it is there. But sometimes it happens in ways we can’t see, or don’t intend, or don’t want. Can we “control” it? Certainly, in some ways. We can change a light bulb, change our minds, change our clothes. We can change the way we eat, change our exercise routine, change our smoking habits, even sometimes change our health. We can also change the way we fight, our careers, our partners. Lots of things are under our control. And other things aren’t. We may not be able to change the things that really scare us, or change our prejudices, or change our needs – or maybe we can, if we know ourselves and work hard and honestly understand our motivations. I think the point is just that there are no fixed points, no givens, no absolutes. I always think “profound skepticism” is such a negative way to characterize what is actually a positive: approaching life with freshness and optimism, where everything is possible and the sky’s the limit. Even if, in the end, it isn’t.


    being profoundly skeptical about profound skeptici
    Name: Anne Dalke
    Date: //2005-05-13 19:01:40 :
    Link to this Comment: 15180

    “profound skepticism” is such a negative way to characterize what is actually a positive

    "profound skeptism" is such an oxymoron:
    it evokes a "fundament," something "fundamental":
    (profound-- fr. profundus--fr. fundus, bottom)


    getting it less wrong, negativism, and fundamental
    Name: Paul Grobstein
    Date: //2005-05-14 10:25:53 :
    Link to this Comment: 15184

    Do understand/appreciate that "profound skepticism" strikes some people as unduly "negative". The phrase is actually, for the sake of the record, derivitive of "getting it less wrong", which most people also find too "negative". Things "that can be painted darker can also be painted brighter" and one might leave it at that (eg "actually a positive: approaching life with freshness and optimism, where everything is possible and the sky’s the limit. Even if, in the end, it isn’t.". But there is, I think, a deeper issue, related both to "children with ADHD who want to "sit still and learn" find that , despite their efforts, they can't do either of those things" and to "it evokes ... something 'fundamental'".

    There is a reason why the original phrase was "getting it less wrong" rather than "getting it more right". Quite simply, one can look around, see/feel what is "wrong" right now, and find a way to fix that, thereby getting "less wrong" (based on the criteria provided by "everything one has at any given time") . One cannot look around, see what is "right", and get closer to that because one has (if one lacks confidence in revealed words of any kind) no way of knowing what is "right".

    The distinction is an important one re philosophy of science but not at all abstruse in practice. Trying to get it "right" requires one either to accept some "revealed word" or to spend enormous amounts of time agonizing about what is the "right" thing to do. "Getting it less wrong" takes the pressure off (appropriately). Find something, anything, to make things less wrong, do it, and move on to the next challenge. Note the "anything" ... it may not be possible to get it less wrong in some particular way but, fortunately, there is no requirement to; the trick is to find something and there are always multiple somethings. Note also the "move on" ... its a continual process, not one that will be finished/completed with this (or any other) action.

    All this is intended to be understood in the phrase "profound skepticism" but that phrase is intended to add an additional important idea: that the definition of what is "less wrong" is itself not fixed but also challengeable and alterable. There is no "fundamental; see also nit-picking) there either, nor for that matter is there anything fundamental in the argument that people might want to consider adopting, for themselves, either "getting it less wrong" or "profound skepticism" as life strategies. They are both stories, ways of making sense of sundry experiences, offered by one person for whatever use they might be to others.

    Maybe that's the reason why the "negativism" of the two phrases doesn't bother me; indeed perhaps its the (unconscious) reason why I created phrases that have that feature to them. Underlying both is the intuition (summary of experiences?) that "Ambiguity and uncertainty are not ... the ripples of imperfect glass through which the brain tries to perceive reality. They are instead the fundamental "reality" by which the brain ... creates all of its paintings" and that "Without the story teller, there is no ambiguity or uncertainty ... and hence no capacity to go beyond ...".

    "the reality is that it is all much less in the control of anything and anyone than we love to believe" ... yep, that's my experience too. But its also my experience that it is in the noticing of that disparity between our stories of ourselves/the world and our current observations that we acquire and enhance such power as we have and are able to achieve. Maybe telling that story is not only an effective route to our own evolution but to helping the evolution of others as well? And maybe the "negativity" is an important part of it?



    Name: Anne Dalke
    Date: //2005-05-14 13:10:13 :
    Link to this Comment:
    15186

    I'm not having any trouble w/ the negativity.

    What I'm having trouble w/ is the increasingly insistent fundamentalism of both "profound (=profund) skepticism" and "fundamental reality." Something 'profound' and 'fundamental' is eluding me here: How can one, being profoundly skeptical, claim the "fundamental reality" of "ambiguity and uncertainty"? How can one claim profound skepticism without being skeptical about its profundity?

    I'm not quarreling w/ the usefulness of skepticism. But I am skeptical about the increasingly fundamental/foundational claim being staked for it here.


    denial
    Name: Paul Grobstein
    Date: //2005-05-14 18:02:57 :
    Link to this Comment: 15187

    "They are both stories, ways of making sense of sundry experiences, offered by one person for whatever use they might be to others."

    There is no fundamental/foundational claim being staked here. Nor was there in the paper from which the quotation was taken

    "I hope it is clear to the reader that, in accord with the overall message of this essay, it is not my aspiration to reach "conclusions" in the sense in which term is frequently understood. I have, from what I hope is a clearly described set of observations, painted a picture. I assert that it is indeed a picture that can legitimately be painted from the observations. I do not assert, as I've tried to make clear and as follows from the argument/painting itself, that it is the only such picture. To put it differently, I do not assert that the argument has any exclusive claim to being "true" nor the picture any exclusive claim to being "real"." Words are used in different ways in different contexts and sometimes heard in ways other than they are intended.


    unintended echoes
    Name: Anne Dalke
    Date: //2005-05-15 10:48:14 :
    Link to this Comment: 15190

    Words are …sometimes heard in ways other than they are intended.

    Words are ALWAYS heard in ways other than they are intended. As you’ve said many times, Paul, that’s where the learning happens, in recognizing that gap, reflecting on it, trying to bridge it:

    A story is told by the sender not to simply transmit the story but also, and equally importantly, to elicit information from/about the receiver, to find out what is otherwise unknowable by the sender: what ideas/thoughts/perspectives the receiver has about the general subject of the story.

    In the space between intention and reception, between telling the story and responding to it, lies a space for rethinking and revising. (“Give me fruitful error any time, full of seeds, bursting with its own corrections. You can keep your sterile truth for yourself.” Vifredo Pareto 1848-1923).

    I know there was no intention to stake a fundamental/foundational claim. But I also know (have also been taught by and with you, Paul) that most of what we say and do exceeds what we intend, and that when we listen--hear echoed back those resonances--we learn things we don’t already know we know. I have been hearing echoes of fundamentalism in the celebration of relativism, here and elsewhere; I've also been trying to see if there might be some seeds of relativism in fundamentalist claims, too, some space (whatever the intention) for common ground....


    Bell's Therom
    Name: Jeremy
    Date: //2005-05-30 15:27:12 :
    Link to this Comment: 15259

    bells therom explotes the possibilite that 'so called' information 'in physics speak' thavels faster than light. In theory, any type of microprocessor would have to account for this possibilte. Such as was explained as a filter at some point above in this thread.



    Name: Jeremy
    Date: //2005-05-30 15:33:06 :
    Link to this Comment: 15260

    "That's TRAVEL'S not thravels", sorry about that.


    Consciousness and Special Relativity?
    Name: Frank de s
    Date: //2005-06-03 18:39:35 :
    Link to this Comment: 15291

    The brain is an area of neurophysiology activity. Neurophysiology activity consists of electrochemical reaction. Thus at any given time, the brain state is defined by a subset of electrochemical reactions, derived from a large set of possible reactions. Consider the phenomenon of a conscious thought. As at any given time the brain physical state consists of a collection of electrochemical reactions (events), it can be inferred that they are collectively responsible for the conscious thought. This means that at least in part, simultaneous events are responsible for thought. In other words, thought creates a connection between simultaneous events. This is in contradiction to the consequences of special relativity, which states that the fastest connection between events is the speed of light and thus excludes the possibility of connection between simultaneous events.



    Consider the memorizing of; say, the value 5. This would necessarily involve more than I point in space as, say, if it is assumed a single electron records 5 by taking a particular potential. Then it by itself cannot define (or know) 5, as its magnitude would be defined only with respect to another datum or event defined as a unit potential, thus involving at least 2 simultaneous events.



    Consider the experience of vision. While we focus our attention on an object of vision, we are still aware of a back ground and thus, a whole collection of events. This would mean at least an equal collection of physical events in the brain are involved.



    Take the experience of listening to music. It would mean being aware of what went before. Like vision. it would probably mean that while our attention at any given time is focused at that point in time, it is aware of what went before and what is to follow. In other words, it spans the time axis.



    Many great composers have stated that they are able to hear their whole composition. Thus their acoustic experience is probably like the average person's visual experience. While focusing at a particular point in time of their composition, they are nevertheless aware of what went before and what is to come. The rest of the composition is like the background of a visual experience. Experiencing the composition in this way, they are able to traverse it in a similar fashion to which a painting is observed. In this sense, an average person in comparison can be seen as having tunnel hearing (like tunnel vision) when it comes to music, thus making it very difficult for him or her to reproduce or create new music.



    It can be seen that consciousness is a 4-D phenomenon. If it is a physically explainable phenomenon, such an explanation would involve EPR type effects and as such physical explanations at a quantum level will be involved.



    FOUNDATION OF ALL AXIOMS, THE AXIOMS OF CONSCIOUSNESS:



    Acquisition of knowledge by humanity is dependent on the consciousness of the individual. When a person makes an observation and comes to all understanding, this understanding is this person's subjective knowledge. If another person, on making a similar observation, arrives at a similar subjective understanding, this knowledge they share can be taken to be part of humanity's objective knowledge. Thus, all of humanity's objective knowledge is a subset of all of humanity's subjective knowledge; that is, there can be no objective knowledge that has not been some person's (dead or alive) subjective knowledge. Thus, an intrinsic assumption behind all of humanity's objective knowledge is the similarity of the axioms of consciousness of the individuals. With regard to the study of consciousness, if a person gives a description of consciousness that does not correspond to his/her subjective axioms of consciousness, then with it must also be given the transformation that reconstructs these axioms. If not, this description is but only a fairy tale. The following is a brief outline of some axioms of consciousness that point to consciousness involving an entity outside the space-time continuum:



    Consciousness consists of two distinct components, the observed U and the observer I. The observed U consist of all the events I is aware of. A vast majority of these occur simultaneously. Now if I were to be an entity within the space-time continuum, all of these events of U together with I would have to occur at one point in space-time. However, U is distributed over a definite region of space-time (region in brain). Thus, I is aware of a multitude of space-like separated events instantaneously. It is this awareness that necessitates I to be an entity outside the space-time continuum. With I taken as such, as explained in the reference, a very important axiom of consciousness, namely Free Will, falls in place.



    Einstein, on studying quantum mechanics, found it highly disturbing that it implied an instantaneous correlation between space-like separated events. Thus, he suggested the EPR experiments with the hope of falsifying quantum mechanics. I am sure if it had occurred to Einstein that he is instantaneously aware of space-like separated events, he would have concluded that he (I of consciousness) is an entity outside the space-time continuum.



    Reference: Consciousness and Special Relativity? IEEE Engineering in Medicine and Biology May/June 1996.



    Reptilian, Limbic and Cortex-ual brain
    Name: Judie McCo
    Date: //2005-06-05 07:35:27 :
    Link to this Comment: 15293

    The above comments got me thinking about two disparate events in my recent life. I'm currently reading "Don't think of an Elephant" by Lakoff- very interesting book on many levels, but a premise involves the idea that people approach political information through paradigms (he calls them frames) of which they have no conscious awareness- and that these frames determine how (and what) they take in as important and worthy of attention. It would seem these frame the axiomatic experience discussed above- they instantaneously frame understanding without having to be consciously processed.

    A further event- a workshop I attended on Friday- has me thinking about where that set of frames is "located"- whether space-time contingent or not. According to the presenter, there are 3 parts of the brain (Paul??) when simplified- the Cortex (conscious, sometimes rational, thought), the limbic brain (where emotion and sub conscious/ unconscious motivations/ understandings play out) and the reptilian brain (the body maintainence and sensate part). It sure seems to me that this implies that frames (able to overrule rational conscious thought according to Lakoff) must exist in the Limbic brain- and it further seems they must operate as instantaneously as the above implies since they manage to negate conscious rational thought about what might benefit an individual and to overrule it with adherence to the frame (Lakoff's example is people voting for economic policies that hurt themselves based on belief/ frame that the President has their best interests at heart). It seems to me that a further implication is that these frames operate more quickly than the overt cognitive information being "inputted" since they are able to overrule rational thought.

    Anyway, I"m no neurobiologist, but I was curious how this strikes people.


    The usefulness of (four-part?) disharmony
    Name: Anne Dalke
    Date: //2005-06-06 17:35:57 :
    Link to this Comment: 15298

    I was curious how this strikes people.

    This particular person is struck by Judie's attempt to subdivide the unconscious into "limbic" and "reptilian" parts. A similar division, between "unconscious" and "not conscious," appeared in this forum last summer, a preview, perhaps, of what Judie here distinguishes as "unconscious motivations" and "the body maintainence and sensate part," with the former capable of "overruling" both the latter and what is rational/produced by consciousness.

    What strikes me is that Freud similarly divided what we have been here calling consciousness into two similarly-warring parts:

    The tension between the harsh super-ego and the ego that is subjected to it...expresses itself as a need for punishment. Civilization obtains mastery over the individual's dangerous desire for aggression by setting up an agency within him to watch over it, like a garrison in a conquered city. (Civilization and Its Discontents, p. 79).

    So I'm wondering how far--or where--such bi-partite sub-divisions of the bi-partite brain take us. It seems that what is key, however we slice up the brain and its functions, is the existence of a tension, and the various structures we devise in order to meet our strong need to resolve that tension. I've been @ work this week on an essay about reader-response theory, and was interested to find Louise Rosenblatt writing in 1938,

    constructive thinking usually starts as a result of some conflict or discomfort....The tension contributes the impetus toward seeking some solution (Literature as Exploration, p. 267).

    Rosenblatt touts literary study--reflecting on one's emotional responses to texts--as paradigmatic for the life-skills of acting as a prelude to thinking, and thinking as a prelude to acting. Such literary experiences, she argues (following John Dewey) are the core of the kind of educational processes that democracy needs.

    Whatever the frog-brain is doing instinctively, it (we?) can learn to do otherwise--within limits. It's the existence of those limits--the boundaries to change--which intrigue me now.


    on letting go
    Name: Anne Dalke
    Date: //2005-06-13 18:45:08 :
    Link to this Comment: 15337

    Jeremy's been asking lately for a defintion of "nexus." When I trace the word back through this forum, the first mention--and definition-- I find is of the

    thinker/story teller/"self," the pivot around which the "story" is constructed,

    or what later is called

    each of us being the center for ourselves.

    I myself have been thinking over the weekend not about the center of the story, but about how I might learn to leave a story behind when it ceases to be useful to me. Over a year ago, drawing on Buddhist teachings, Jody Cohen wrote on this site that

    the notion of solid foundation is slippery and temporary, but... we can use these kind of like a springboard to push off into action and change...the springboard essentially drifts (disintegrates?) after we've interacted with it in this way.

    Thanks to Sharon Burgmayer, I'm reading now Karen Armstrong's biography of Buddha, and have just come across the striking parable about "letting go" of teachings, once they have done their job. Buddha

    once compared them to a raft, telling the story of a traveler who had come to a great expanwsee of water and desperately needed to get across. There was no bridge, no ferry, so he built a raft and rowed himself across the river. But then, the Buddha would ask his audience, what should the traveler do with the raft? Should he decide that because it had been so helpful to him, he should load it onto his back and lug it around with him where he went? Or should he simply moor it and continue his journey?

    A helpful story, as we think about education, and about the argument in this country between fundamentalists and relativists?: using what we need, then leaving it behind us, moving on, enabled, but not fettered, by what we have found useful in the past.


    "I think, therfore, am"
    Name: Frank
    Date: //2005-06-19 11:51:16 :
    Link to this Comment: 15355

    Are you satisfied with Descartes reasons for accepting the truth of the proposition "I think, therfore, I am" Why doesn't Descartes concern himself with this proposition rather than one like, "Idrink milk, therfore I am"?


    On letting go
    Name: Jeremy
    Date: //2005-06-21 21:21:32 :
    Link to this Comment: 15361

    7 day's earlier...

    I sit here tonite, mystified by Annes comment #15337. that I read yesterday. I am writing this on paper and plan to post later. possibly tomorrow, when i go home for lunch, from work.

    Anne Wow,(profound)

    Your explaination of the nexus "used here" as the centerpoint of a continious story. well it just provides such an exquisite possiblite for change, to the ending of such a story.

    From the middle perspective, one could possibly predict an outcome, therby allowing possible change to the ending of such a story.

    The definition of nexus that I have in my dictionary states- part of a group or thing. considering this, I propose, "I think therfore I am part of a nexus"


    Also very motivating, your amanuensis or the raft. this just works on so many levels. : )




    vulnerability as truth
    Name: Anne Dalke
    Date: //2005-06-26 18:25:53 :
    Link to this Comment: 15363

    Jeremy, I really like your proposal of I think therefore I am part of a nexus. Thinking for me, too, has always been very much a social activity. I think best in the midst of exchanging ideas with others.

    Speaking of which...it's been quite a while since any new dialogues have appeared in this expanding network of story sharings and alterations. You'll find another one up just now: a conversation between a Methodist and a Quaker about what happens in the nexus when we are working (in Tennyson's words) "without a conscience or an aim": is making ourselves vulnerable in that way a means of getting to some kind of "truth"?


    I agree
    Name: Jeremy
    Date: //2005-07-11 02:55:21 :
    Link to this Comment: 15377

    Vunerability of truth...

    I first heard about the book 'touched with fire' on this site. So I merrily marched off to my local book store to purchase a copy. Unfortunatly they did not have a copy in-stock. This really nice girl who helped me find that the book, was not in stock, she asked me, hey are you interested in another book by this auther? I said yes. It was 'an unquiet mind' I got that book an ordered the other.

    You know,

    I was very amazed, since I read thru a book, by Jamison 'An Unquiet Mind' sooo fluidly, I swear it only took me about 7 1/2 hours, topp's over three days. Its ironic for me, finding both of these books, since my inital search(on the internet)(what got me started) was actually for racing thought's, or an over active mind. Yet I found 'touched with fire' and serendip. But ended up with a copy of an unquiet mind from my local book store. I agree with Jamison- you can't truly understand the topic's unless you've experienced them... O well I still cant get past page 61 of 'touched with fire' perhaps I will have to find that special place (on vacation) to read. best to all


    I observe therefor
    Name: joseph bac
    Date: //2005-08-15 14:06:20 :
    Link to this Comment: 15892


    I live/work with horses. I have spent many hours contemplating the workings of the equine mind. How can a horse think without words? I know they do think. I have watched them solve problems, sometimes efforts that
    spanned days or weeks. Here is a story about that.

    Traveller is retired from the education business, he taught many people about life the universe and everything via horse riding. I bought him out of his indenture and he retired from general practice. His only job now is to teach me about LTUAE. A significant part of that takes place every evening at about sunset when Trav and I go for a walk. Sometimes I ride (bare back - he doesn't like saddles) mostly I walk with him.

    I tell him about my thoughts for the day, and he gathers data for a paper he is writing, VARABILITY IN THE GROUTH RATE AND EDIBILITY OF VARIOUS GRASSES AND HERBS IN SOUTHERN FLORIDA.

    There is an area of an acre or so near the barn where Traveller gets some of his best data. There are several kinds of grass, wild daises, thistles sometimes, fox grapes and a lot more. One evening in late June Traveller headed for this little meadow. As soon as he got there he put his head down and started a slow nibble step, nibble step, path across to meadow. We had only gone a short distance when I saw a little rabbit directly across the meadow right in Travellers path. This caused me a bit of cautious concern.

    Rabbits have a comfort zone, they will stay put untill you intrude into that zone. When you get too close they some times just hop away, but they also can bolt and depart at high speed.

    Horses spook at sudden motions, and tend to want to run if they see other horses, people, dogs or just about anything running. That is the way they are.

    My concern was that Traveller was not lifting his head. Usually a grazing horse lifts his head every few minuets to look around and check the bushes
    for wolves and stuff like that, then lowers his head an munches some more. I didn't know if he saw the rabbit or not, so I was getting ready to deal with a spooked horse if the rabbit suddenly bolted.

    That did not happen. Traveller kept an with the nibble step straight to the rabbit. When he got within about 4 feet the rabbit hopped a couple feet away and went back to his nibbling. Traveller did his nibble step , at about 4 feet the rabbit did a couple hops and back to his dinner. We spent the rest of our grazing that evening with Traveller in gentle pursuit of the rabbit.

    The next evening Traveller headed purposefully back to the little meadow, by this I mean he lead the way firmly letting me know that is where he wanted to go that evening. Again he put his head down and started with the nibble step thing. I looked accross the meadow and there was the little rabbit, in almost the exact place it been the previous day. This time however Traveller didn't head straight for the rabbit, instead he headed along the opposite side of the meadow. When he was about even with the
    rabbit he started to curve toward it. He didn't end actually headed toward the rabbit he was almost to it. This time the rabbit allowed a 2 foot distance. We where back to the gentle pursuit, but now with
    Travellers nose much closer.

    The following evening we were back to the meadow again. I looked for the rabbit and didn't see it. Traveller didn't either because he just walked into about the center of meadow with none of nibble step stuff. There is a tight little group of pine and cypress trees at the end of the meadow, we
    had walked right by them coming in. From the center Traveller and I could both see that the rabbit was on the other side of those trees. Traveller put his head down and started walking, he made a circle all the way around that bunch of trees about 15 feet from them. Then he started to spiral in, all this time with his head down to the ground not nibbling just walking with his nose almost touching the ground. The spiral brought him around the trees right to the rabbit.

    Traveller had his nose within inches of the rabbit. The rabbit started hopping away. Traveller walked faster the rabbit hopped faster I was at a jog to keep up. The rabbit ducked into some bushes and was gone. Traveller stopped at the bushes and stood there for a bit with his ears pricked forward looking for the rabbit. He finally decided it was gone and we went to grazing.

    For several weeks after that when we went out for our evening Traveller would look around for the rabbit if he saw it he would walk over near it and start nibbling on what ever was interesting. No sneaky creep up on the rabbit stuff. He never again tried to sniff the rabbit. The comfort zone for the rabbit was down to inches. The two of them grazed together staying close. One or the other would spot something interesting and wander over to check it out. Within a few minutes the other would follow. There didn't
    seem to be a leader just two friends having an evening snack together. A 1 pound rabbit , a 1300 pound quarter horse and my amused and delighted self.

    Every evening when we went out Traveller would look around for the rabbit if he found it he would join it and they would go on from there. If he didn't see it he would find a good spot an start he snack and the
    rabbit would show up after a bit. This went on every evening until some time in July when we got heavy rains that put the meadow and most of the rest of the good grazing areas under 4 to 6 inches of water. We haven't seen the rabbit since then although we look for him.

    That is the story. I have tried to describe what actually happened without doing too much interpretation.

    What I find interesting is Travellers attempts using different strategy each time to accomplish something. What was he trying to do? I think he just wanted to sniff the rabbit. I don't know if in the last little pursuit thing he got the sniff he wanted or he decided he really didn't
    want to scare the rabbit off but he quit trying to get that close. He found a friend and the rabbit did too.

    Several times I saw the rabbit when I wasn't with Traveller but could not get closer than 10 feet.
    With Traveller the rabbit would all most hop on my foot without him there I was not to be trusted.
    I wonder what the rabbit thought about the whole thing.

    Is it a valid question to ask "what did the rabbit think?", "what did Traveller think?" I have always believed it to be. Until I read Animals in Translation by Temple Grandin and Catherine Johnson and visited Dr Grandins web page I could not imagine how animals could think without words much less attempt to validate my belief that questioning their thoughts was a valid thing to do.

    In "The Territorial Imperitave" Robert Ardrey unites all animals with 4 basic drives or needs:
    1 survival of species 2 survival of the individual 3 enhancement of self 4 diversion.
    All animals share these basic needs with each species adopting different stratigies to meet them.

    Dr Grandin unites us by placing animal cognitive processes on a continuum with human cognitive processes. Her description of how she and animals perceive the world gives me a better understanding of how Traveller sees things compared to how I see things, he gets the unabridged version I get
    the Readers Digest version. He lives in a more complicated world than I do.

    I know from observing the horses that they experience the same emotions that I do and for very much the same reasons. I think that the rabbit does to.

    I think that horses and rabbits and most humans are people.

    I observe therefor I am.
    I offer you my observations and you accept what you can from them
    and offer yours for me to gain what i can,
    therefor we (a collective entity) are.


    I think
    Name: joseph bac
    Date: //2005-08-17 10:18:02 :
    Link to this Comment: 15896



    My first post sure turned into a mess, but I know what happened so I 'probably' will not
    make that kind of formatting mess again. More important is, I didn't say what I wanted to say.



    I wanted to get involved in the exchange between Judie McCoyd and Anne Dalke about mind.
    Judie about the limbic brain, reptilian brain division and Anne bringing up Freuds id, ego
    and super-ego. I don't find those concepts particularly useful.



    Michael Gelb in " How to Think Like DaVinci" describes a mind as a general manager
    "the conscious I" served by a group of specialized agents. The agents each deal with specific
    tasks. Medical science tells us that trauma to certain areas of the brain cause impairment to
    specific cognitive functions. Brain scans that monitor glucose metabolism while different
    tasks are done also indicates that localized areas of the brain are specific to particular
    functions.



    Gelb identifies , as I ember, 9 agents. He says that a meaningful measure of IQ should
    gage the performance of each of the agents. He also offers a list of mental calisthenics,
    pointing out that these agents like any other system in the body become stronger with use.



    This I find useful. It tells me that I can improve myself, and indicates how to go about it.
    It also seems to me to probably be correct. One of the things I find most interesting in
    biology is it all seems to be variations on a theme. Once Mother Nature finds a trick that works
    she just keeps on using it. Minor changes to accommodate different situations but the
    same theme. Once you work out how to connect the first agent to the stream of consciousness
    the next one is going to be mostly the same only the specialized part changes.



    The concept of agents also seems right because it can apply to all animals. Traveller probably
    doesn't have an agent for speech, if he does its 60 pound weakling. Horses only make about 6
    different sounds and have no discernable grammar. The sound most people associate with horses,
    the weenie seems to mean "I am right here where are you?".



    I can't believe that a whole new system for mental function 'mind' was developed for humans
    when every other system in our bodes is nearly identical to the systems found in animals.
    So any concept of mind that applies to humans should also apply to animals.



    An interesting example of just how sophisticated these agents are is language. When children
    are exposed to spoken language physical changes take place in the area of the brain that processes
    speech, the place where the speech agent lives. At a certain stage in their development children
    will generate words, particularly noticeable verbs. Commonly used verbs tend to be irregular
    the more common the more irregular ( to be ). It is not uncommon for a child to produce a word
    like bleeded, which would be correct if 'to bleed' was regular. Some how without specific instruction
    the speech agent has constructed a model for verb congregation.



    What does it say about us that 'to bleed' is an irregular verb??



    The ego and super-ego seem too connected to ethical and cultural values to be fundamental
    to how the mind works. If id, ego and super ego actually have any meaning I think they might
    be strategy that the agents of mind have adopted to deal with something like Robert Ardrey's
    four basic needs that are shared by all animals.



    does this seem at all plausible or useful ?


    On horses, trees, and ...
    Name: Paul Grobstein
    Date: //2005-08-17 18:06:47 :
    Link to this Comment: 15897

    Wonderful horse story, Joe. And follow-up thoughts as well. Don't worry about the "mess". I had no trouble reading either post. For the record, you can EITHER just write or copy/paste (leaving blank lines for paragraph breaks) or put in html tags for line and paragraph breaks. If you do the former, leave "Plain Text" selected in the posting window. If you do the latter, select "HTML". In either case, the posting program responds to all other html tags. In your last post you probably both left blank lines AND put in html tags; when you do that the posting program responds to both so you get an extra blank line. Remember you can always "preview for html" to see how things will look and then make corrections right in the posting window (previewing and correcting until you like it).


    I'm on your side re "id/ego/superego". Two systems, one unconscious, the other conscious seem to me enough. And I like too your (Gelb's?) multiple "agents" and "once you find how how to connect the first agent to the stream of consciousness the next one ...". And the "apply to all animals" (humans included). See the second to the last figure in The Bipartite Brain.


    I PARTICULARLY like your horse story though because it not only calls attention to "placing animal cognitive processes on a continuum with human cognitive processes" but because it also helps me to think more about not only humans and horses but also trees. The latter should, I think, ALSO be included in the continuum. The unconscious (in both humans AND horses, I suspect) is "cognitive" in the sense of consisting of "specialized agents" that "each deal with specific tasks". Humans add on top of that a "story teller", one that uses words. But I think you're right that "thinking" (ie story telling) doesn't in fact depend on language. So there are trees and humans .... and horses. And the key question, to which your story importantly relates, is how can one tell, without language, if another animal (including humans) "think"?


    Yep. Very useful. Glad you've stopped by.


    "catching the mood"
    Name: Anne Dalke
    Date: //2005-08-19 13:50:45 :
    Link to this Comment: 15902

    One reason I keep myself "posted" in this forum is that it continues to provide a "window" for me into new thoughts. I want to thank you, Joe, both for the useful observation that the ego and super-ego seem too connected to ethical and cultural values to be fundamental to how the mind works, and for your mention of the anthropological work of Robert Ardrey, whom I didn't know, but from whom I've since been learning some interesting things, both about "the territorial imperative,"

    the need all animals have to establish a space that serves basically two needs: center and boundary. The center is the place of family, nourishing, rest, etc. while the boundary is the limiting edge of that space....within the boundary, a territorial aggressiveness is portrayed, but when on the outside, a non-assertive, non-aggressive posture and action is assumed

    --and about the differences between how we and animals express those needs:

    we incorporate into our communication a sense of purpose absent...in the animal kingdom..."Never does the animal cry out with the motive of enlisting aid. The cry is simply an expression of mood, and the mood catches."


    My storie as it is
    Name: joseph bac
    Date: //2005-08-20 15:07:55 :
    Link to this Comment: 15911

    Anne thank you for the links to Joe Jones and Eldon Taylor's essays, they have provoked some new connectivity.

    as an aside Taylor's:
    ""Years ago I wrote a piece titled, "Sticks and Stones Will Break My Bones but Words Will Slice and Dice Me." The thrust of the article bared a penetrating observation: for most people words do more damage than things. It's not the sanitary word itself, Webster's definition, that's damaging or fearful, it's the emotive value attached to words.""

    Urges me to offer:


    It is my belief that no one of us
    was born with the right to say " You Must
    or I'll hurt you" to any other
    creature, animal or man.

    Monty Roberts in "Horse sense for People"


    I have tried to adopt this as a tool for evaluating behavior, most particularly my own, where hurt means any form of pain - physical, emotional, financial......

    my story du jour is that there is a story teller supported by agents that the story teller is unaware of. That the agents are associated with specific areas of the brain, and perform specific tasks. The agents most important development takes place during a specific time window and that the sequence of the development is important because of the way the agents interact with each other and the story teller. That is my story and I am sticking to it ---- for now.

    here are some of the reasons I think this to be the way it is.

    I have/am raising 4 children 2 human, 2 horse (my daughters are adults but I still feel engaged in their development). My daughters both became active in certain activities at about the same age. The same with the horses. An example: give any small child a coloring book and crayons and they will have a fine time scribbling all over, the book the table, what ever they can get the crayon to. At a certain age they start doing purposeful things with the crayon. Like coloring the pictures in the book. Drawing shapes, people and trees. I think that change in behavior indicates that the agent whose task is "visually creative things" has/is developing. If we know which agents are already developed/ing we can look for the significance of the timing. Maybe "visually creative things" was just waiting for "kinesthetic", or maybe something different. If we knew the relationships we could encourage activities that would strengthen the interactions.

    Another implication of this story is that even short intervals of poor nutrition in the time window of an agent can seriously reduce that agents potential, and that of ALL of the agents developing after it that need to interact with its function. A few weeks of inattention to a child's diet may leave us an affable neighbor instead if the brilliant story teller we could have had.

    I read a story in Psychology Today (???? perhaps) around 1970 about a 12 year old girl who was found living in a 12x18, shuttered room. She had never been out of the room. She was well cared for by her father as if she were a cherished pet. Well fed and healthy. But he had never spoken to her.
    Her eyes would not focus on anything farther away than 18 feet, because she had never seen anything further away than that. She of course could not speak.
    Child wellfare services took over her management. Over several years a number of therapists attempted to teacher her to speak. She learned to say a few words, and to understand what they meant. She never developed any concept of grammar. When she spoke she produced a list of key words in no particular order. She had no linguistic sense of past, present and future. The developmental window for her speech agent had apparently closed.

    This has probably all been worked out and well documented by people infinitely more qualified than my self. I have worried at the mind/brain concept, like a dog with a bone for years. This forum just provoked my story teller into a frenzy.

    Thank you for being here I have enjoyed it, and now have many new stories.


    Has Paul even read Descartes?
    Name: Nate
    Date: //2005-09-22 01:01:05 :
    Link to this Comment: 16262

    Paul have you even read Descartes? At the point where he said "i think, therefore I am" he couldn't have worried about whether trees think or exist because he still doubted his senses. it didn't matter that trees don't think, he wasn't saying that nothing existed that didn't think, he was only saying that if something thought then it did exist. And if you try to doubt thinking itself then what are you going to use to reach a conclusion?
    Cheers


    doubting thinking is allowed
    Name: Paul Grobstein
    Date: //2005-09-23 09:39:51 :
    Link to this Comment: 16274

    I agree that Descartes never intended to imply that things that don't think don't exist, only that he existed because he thinks. At the same time, I still think that many people, because of Descartes (among other things), become too focused on "thinking", and so tend to underestimate or devalue things (like trees) that don't think, as well as aspects of themselves (and other humans) that don't involve "thinking" in the sense Descartes mean it (internal deliberation).

    " if you try to doubt thinking itself then what are you going to use to reach a conclusion?" is a good question, and helps to make my point. Trees manage to do quite well in the world, for themselves and other things (us included) without "thinking". And we ourselves have a comparable ability to respond productively to things around us without "thinking" (ie unconsciously). I'm not, of course, arguing here that it is not sometimes ALSO productive to "think" but only that one CAN "doubt thinking" without losing all ability to act. One may not "reach a conclusion" without "thinking" but one can certainly act without doing so, and such actions may, like those of trees, sometimes be quite valuable ones, both for oneself and others. Even better, one can acknowledge that the unconscious is a distinct source of wisdom in its own right and use both it AND thinking as contributors to action.


    mind as a reticulum of temporally desparate functi
    Name: Joe Bach
    Date: //2005-09-25 12:50:25 :
    Link to this Comment: 16284

    Paul after reading Getting It Less Wrong, The Brain's Way:

    "the I-function sees is not "reality" but, even more importantly, that what it does see is the outcome of a prior process (of which it is not generally aware) in which multiple admissible possibilities (of which the I-function again is not generally aware) are reduced to a single observed picture."
    I was provoked to attempt to annotate the concept and produced this, which has merit only as a mind numbing exercise in HTML.



    The state of the I-function at time ts = I(ts)
    Where the subjective present instant ts = to-«t
    read F(«t) as process time of function F
    and F(ts) as subjective now local to the function F

    to is the time of stimulus in objective reality. Where objective reality may be the result of a physical universe or generated by "a neurobiologist using electrical stimuli to activate sensory neurons" or be subjectivly generated.
    «t is the increment of time required by "tacit brain processes" Tk to resolve a single "picture" from n possible pictures.
    if pk is the priority generated by Tk for each picture or for elements of a picture. Then let Pk = 1 if pk is the highest priority element, and Pk = 0 for all others.

    Sk=1 n is the sumation/summary from k=1 to n


    THEN:
    EQ-1:
    Iv(ts) = Sk=1 n Pk(ts) [Tk ( (I (ts-«tà)) , (Tk(ts- «tk)) , Vts) ]


    selects the highest proirity picture as the "Picture in the Head" for the I-function Iv(ts), and that the tacit process is a function of the state of the I-function( a little bit ago ) and the state of tacit process its' self (a little bit ago ) and on the Visual stimulus. The little bit agos are or can be different.
    The «tk can strongly effect priority. Important images will have very short «tk. For example an image similar to a snake will have a shorter «tk than a image similar to a stick. The snake interperation gets there first. I jump back and the snake turns into a stick. Happens around here. On the other hand some of the sticks that look like water moccasins are water moccasins, so having already jumped back I am ahead of the game.
    Tk is a continous function of time. There is always a picture selected. Not only is there not a hole in the middle there are no blank pictures or parts of pictures. The interperatation may not be the best one but there always is one.


    EQ-2:
    Is(ts) = SÉ = A,T,V··· Sk=1 n Pk(ts) [Tk ((I (ts- «tà)) , (Tk(ts- «tk)) , Éts) ]


    WHERE:
    A = audible T = tactil V = visual ····
    and Tk is probably like

    Tk = Sj=1 mCj [Uj ((I (ts- «tà)) , (Uj(us- «tj)) , Éts) ]
    where C is a non time bound convergence criteria

    Is(ts) Expresses all the sensory inputs to the I-function



    Internal cognitive functions expressed as:

    EQ-3:
    Ic(ts) = Si=1 lCi [Ui ((I (ts- «tà)) , (Ui(ts- «ti)) ) ]

    where I (ts - «tà) may represent a single event in time initiating Ui. Which proceeds as:
    Ci [Ui ( Ui(ts- «ti) ) ]
    untill it converges/(meets it critera) at which point its result is included in the I-function summary.

    A general discription of mind can be written as:

    I(ts)=S Is(ts) , Ic(ts)
    Which states that the subjective now of, the I-function is the summary of the temporaly imperative sensory interperations, and the nonimperative cognitive summary.


    Given: Ci [Ui ( Ui(ts- «ti) ) ] = S ( U1 (ts- «t1) ), ( U2 (ts- «t2) ), ( U3 (ts- «t3) ), ····

    When I set out to write this I was vexed that html didn't allow me a big sigma.
    After awhile I realised that summary was the concept I actualy needed. You can add apples, oranges, and bananas, you get fruit salad that is :
    fruit salad = S [apples, oranges, bannanas, ···· ]

    the point of this is:
    In Eq:2 the I-function is an input to Tk of all of the sensory functions. That is why you can, change the interperation of an ambigious picture, and then change it back. That is the reason you can listen to one of J.S. Bach's fugues three times and hear three different things.
    In Eq:3 the I-fuction is an input to all of the internal strictly cognitive functions. If this where not so there would be no orderly progression to the I-function.
    If I have a process that has the cognitive weight of the I-function that I am unaware of it must have access to the same resources in quality and quantity as the I-function, it must duplicate Eq:2 and Eq:3. Another way to look at it is; if there is such a process the I-function has access to only half of the avaliable cognetive resourses. Yet another view ; if you have the choice of staffing your office with two people with IQs of 50 or one person with an IQ of 100, for the same price, which would you choose? Which do you think evolution chose?
    A large brain is biologicaly very expensive, the increased risk in child birth, the burden of fragile slow to mature children, and the daily caloric requirement are all part of the price. Such an unconscious process would have to contribute a survival value equivelent to that of the I-function. I don't see the cost effectiveness and therefor doubt that any such thing exists. I think rather it is a concept psychologists use to explain otherwise unexplainable quirky human behavior. If it works for them I wish them the joy if it, but it doesn't seem to get me any place in trying to understand mind/brain and how it got that way.

    Every time I start shredding cabage Paul hands me a link to a Serendip page where the cabage is not only shredded but dressed and avaliable as cole slaw, so where do I find this done properly.


    "thoughts exist without a thinker"
    Name: Anne Dalke
    Date: //2005-09-25 17:59:27 :
    Link to this Comment: 16291

    Descartes... intended to imply...only that he existed because he thinks...

    You know, I've just realized that there might be a problem w/ this thought:

    that a thought--to be a thought--must lodge itself in a thinker....

    A long time ago...

    I tried to bring Buddha into this conversation.
    Having just begun Mark Epstein's Thoughts Without a Thinker
    (thanks again, Sharon), I want to try once more:

    The core question of Buddhist practice...is the psychological one of "Who am I?"....According to Buddhism, it is our fear at experiencing ourselves directly that creates suffering. If aspects of the person remain undigested...they become...black holes that create the defensive posture of the isolated self, unable to make satisfying contact with others or with the world....

    Descartes might have been helped along by this idea...?
    This forum might be helped along with this idea...?
    We are vehicles. Just carriers.

    Insight arises best, when the thinker's existence is no longer necessary....


    being
    Name: jb
    Date: //2005-09-25 22:11:33 :
    Link to this Comment: 16298

    if you are, you are,
    and you know that you are.
    if you are not, you are not,
    but know not that you are not.


    Mania
    Name: Jeremy
    Date: //2005-10-05 19:18:14 :
    Link to this Comment: 16459

    I often wonder how the mechanism of manias CAN and cannot be related to thought in itself. Anne makes some genuine connections with clear and consice thought related to the circular logic in eastern thought. In these instances of great wisdom, that are clearly dependant of thought, I wonder about the across the grain of thought, to instinct or a wordless knowledge. Wheras the tree's produce oxygen from co2 exhuasted from the bioshpere system that is clearly essential to there survial.

    When thinking about tradition and ART- often one has no clear cut explanation for technique. Yet the medium of art is variable that is not limited by parameter's, yet is as solid in determination of experience...

    I guess all these determinations are quantified in the wonderment of experience. Yet true artistic flair has no predictable consisency. Yet can be explicitly defined as a feeling without thought. such as an observer thinking about experiences. Yet there is a point of lack of self determined conclusion to protect, what could be learned, in addition of what we already think we know. Open minds not only acknowledge what they know but also, what they dont know that they dont know.

    Cheer's


    I think not...
    Name: Anne Dalke
    Date: //2005-10-05 20:23:55 :
    Link to this Comment: 16465

    Contra Jeremy's observation that Open minds not only acknowledge what they know but also, what they dont know that they dont know...

    consider this scene (from J. M. Coetzee, The Lives of Animals, p. 101, f.16):

    ...In a Dunkin' Donut shop, when the waitress asked him, "Do you want cream and sugar in that, Mr. Descartes?" he replied, "I think not"...

    and vanished.


    please help me
    Name:
    Date: //2005-10-26 13:50:21 :
    Link to this Comment: 16633

    i need to write an essay on how an author creates tension in a short story please send me ideas i dont know where to start. lebi(my name)


    haaaaaaaaaaaa
    Name:
    Date: //2005-10-26 13:54:56 :
    Link to this Comment: 16634

    there are many ways to find out who you are and what are you dont nessecisarily have to turn to religions


    Monkeys and then Human Beings...
    Name:
    Date: //2005-11-06 17:51:01 :
    Link to this Comment: 16830

    We're here because we're not "all there"?


    Z6
    Name: Jeremy
    Date: //2005-11-23 11:39:42 :
    Link to this Comment: 17155

    I found this most interesting link...

    http://ccat.sas.upenn.edu/bmcr/2001/2001-02-16.html

    It has to do with Aristole(sp?) and Z6... if the link dosent work do a search.

    i wonder if metaphysics relates to descartes.

    By the way, is there a preferred book version of Descartes? Im looking for an ISBN# that I can give to someone at the li-berry :) or book store. Id like to read what you folks here, recommend.

    Best too all- Happy holidays


    A tree?
    Name: ioan
    Date: //2005-11-24 08:21:02 :
    Link to this Comment: 17162

    What is a tree?


    The mind...the computer...the same?
    Name: The Thinke
    Date: //2005-12-27 22:24:50 :
    Link to this Comment: 17471

    I was sitting around today, reading and relaxing when this thought came to me. A computer and the human mind are very similar. They both contain a short and long term memory, process information, and can be overloaded. But can a mind, like a computer be modified? I could wipe the hard-drive of my Dell, but can I wipe someones mind? Could I add memory and download new information onto someone? By looking on the workings of the human mind as a computer, I feel we could advance ourselves to a whole new level. Sounds far fetched. But hasn't everyone at some point said, "now wouldn't that be nice."? Something to ponder...


    "Wiping the mind"
    Name: Judie McCo
    Date: //2005-12-29 11:41:53 :
    Link to this Comment: 17476

    Actually, the movie- Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind- takes on the theme of The Thinker above. One interesting latent consequence of having one's mind wiped (implied by the movie) is that one keeps making the same mistakes again since one can't learn from one's prior experience. Even more interesting, the movie allows for a process that only deletes some memories- not like a computer that gets wiped and loses everything (I had that happen to me last week and lost tremendous amounts of important , but unbacked up information- quite traumatic). Anyway, I suggest seing the movie if you haven't done so yet.


    thanks for the support Judie
    Name: The Thinke
    Date: //2006-01-03 01:50:52 :
    Link to this Comment: 17518

    What I was trying to say was what if we could figure out how the brain saves memories and then create artifical memory. We could add to a persons memories and even "üpload" information to the brain. This would be a quick way teaching people information. I don't think this type of technolgoy will exist for a very long time, but by saying never, you are destroying the chances of this or anythig radical of becoming reality.
    Something to ponder...


    Mind as computer?
    Name: atthisaddr
    Date: //2006-01-20 13:21:05 :
    Link to this Comment: 17704

    Augmentation of the human brain with computer memory, processing power and instant communication with others near or far sounds like it has - if you will, the potential for good and evil, or if you won't, potentially favorable aspects along with potentially unfavorable aspects.

    I like what are referred to as the imperfections of being a human being. It makes for a wild ride, an awareness of being alive, an animal that 'thinks', an animal that has to pay attention that I don't go off on a feral binge and wake up as a Christian Fundamentalist.

    What if I disagreed with the information that was downloaded into me? What if I disagreed with the knowledge downloaded into others, that greatly outnumbered me in society?

    I would feel much more comfortable with a voluntary interface, one that I could use as a tool, but never perceive or have a seamless unity that made me feel as though I were one with the machine. I'd always want that sense of separation.



    Name: d
    Date: //2006-01-22 23:50:15 :
    Link to this Comment: 17742

    I agree with the voluntary interface idea posted by "at this address". I think therefore I am ties one to a mechanistic function.

    I am comes from active voluntary interface within the process of thought. The American mind in the year 2006 is very comitted to the voluntary interface concept. I believe more people are seeking options to participate and opt for out at the whim of their own doing at this time in history than ever before in recorded history.

    Thinking can denote consciousness only. Active interface which is voluntary within the conscious realm of existence is all about choice which is the cornerstone of our democratice and individualistic society.

    As Descart never lived at a time in history where the will of the individual was a primary consideration, he did not speak to the use of voluntary interface as part of the field of thinking or being.


    I think therefore I know that I am!
    Name: Hari
    Date: //2006-01-24 02:20:45 :
    Link to this Comment: 17766

    Went thro' the thread on Descartes' 'I think therefore I am!'
    My interpretation of this statement is this way:
    How do I know that *I* exist ?
    It is because I think 'of' something, be it about things external to me or about myself. The point is that only if I think 'of' something, I get a 'sense of 'I'' (which does the thinking).

    The question might arise 'what about when we just perceive something outside?' without thinking ? Aren't we getting a 'sense of I' perceiving ?
    Well, if it is just a 'sensation' of something happening outside or inside us (including about the thinking we are doing), it is necessary but not sufficient to create the 'sense of I'.
    That's why, in sleep, when all the sense instruments shut down, there is no sense of I.
    But, when we dream, when our memory gets triggered, and 'reflected' in our awareness, we simultaneously get a 'sense of I'.
    I said sensation is necessary but not sufficient to create a 'sense of I'. The extra thing required here is 'perception'.
    How does a 'sensation' becomes 'perception'?
    When we try to make 'sense' of the sensation, relating to what we already know (memory), comparing and contrasting to the things known and 're-cognizing' what we saw, or registering it as a new experience(memory) which, according to me, is also part of 'thinking'!
    That's why, in experiences where we are focussed 'intensely on present moment', we 'lose ourselves' (such as playing a tennis match, going thro' a roller-coaster ride, being in a beach experiencing sea-side breeze etc); because we are so busy 'experiencing' that we trigger very little memory.
    Triggering memory is essential part of 'thinking'.

    I would like to make an analogy of this situation to a mirror here.
    We know that a mirror exists, because of its reflection of things external to itself!
    In a thoroughly dark space, where there is nothing to reflect, or in a uniformly lit space (with same color and intensity of light), we can't see the existence of a mirror.
    Similarly, the perceving entity (which we 'recognize' as I) can not be recognized unless there is something to 'reflect'.
    But, just because there is nothing to reflect, can we say that mirror doesn't exist? We can only say that when there is something reflected, I definitely know that mirror exists!
    I interpret Descartes statement in a similar way. When I think, I definitely know that I (the perceiving entity) exists!
    I don't think he implies that if something doesn't think, it doesn't exist.
    In logic, when we say,
    A implies B, it doesn't imply
    (not A) implies (not B), but it does imply
    (not B) implies (not A)
    In this case it means if there is no 'thinking entity', which I call as 'I', there is no thinking. Since there IS thinking, there is also thinking entity which is I.











    I am a figment of your imagination?
    Name: Roger Walk
    Date: //2006-08-03 00:05:11 :
    Link to this Comment: 20111

    If experiencing is only a thought then I am a figment of your imagination and you are talking to yourself. Hell, everything is part of your imagination and you are God; because you are the only one! Now that is positive thinking... One and the same are equal to themselves. And that which is equal to itself is the same and is repeated as itself. And if there were someone else then you could not be the same or equal to yourself; and that which is not the same is different; and it seems that it is wrong to be different; and that which does not repeat itself does so because it changes; and that which changes does not repeat itself because it is infinite. His-story repeats itself. And your feelings are irrational because those were meant for Eve. Too bad that she made a decision by thinking and was tricked into using free will by the devil.

    You do not experience with your head.....You experiencing as part of everything. And everything that experiences is made of energy. Therefore you experience as energy.
    You are experiencing what you are thinking. But thinking and experiencing are different; otherwise they might share the same name like causality. What ever happened to "effectiality".
    And in order to remember what you had experienced you had to be able to think. But in order to be able to have a thought one had to have had experienced something first. I shall give you a hint: thinking and experiencing are the same and different they are repeated and infinite. And one could not exist without the other.
    I am not against thinking; I am for listening. Listening is accomplished by using your sense experiences. And listening is not a thought. BEcause if you are thinking about saying something you are not listening to me. Therefore if you are thinking you are not in the present moment and are not part of everything that is experiencing. And you could not remember what you had experienced if you were thinking. Otherwise it might be possible to have too thoughts in the same time. Or be able to remember what you were thinking and remember what I was telling in the same time.


    Getting concrete?
    Name: Judie McCo
    Date: //2006-08-07 12:48:36 :
    Link to this Comment: 20134

    So it seems the conversation has moved to pretty abstract understandings of Descartes!

    I'm going to throw a concrete example in since it may have some interesting bearing on the thought/experience/ being/ energy conversation. First an aside to Roger- I certainly DO have more than one experience / thought at a time- sometimes even with multiple thoughts in concsciousness- as opposed to all the many sub-conscious thoughts that go on simultaneously all the time (ie Keep taking oxygen into your lungs; keep the old heart beating fairly rhythmically; let the peristalsis digest your food; oh, by the way, time to change loads of laundry around while you process the fact that the dogs are barking but it doesn't sound like one got loose- but I'm thinking about what I want to write to post on Serendiip- and the revise and resubmit still is sitting there-and I really need to get my son's tuition check written...you get my drift?).

    Anyway, thoughts, energy and experiences: I spent an evening with my father and many family and friends last evening. My father started to talk about how wonderful it is to have been part of singing the first performance of Handel's Messiah in Israel in 1972 with Singing City Choir. He was quite animated in talking about what he remembered. At that point, my mother and I looked at one another- she had been there doing that in 1972, but my father had not yet auditioned for the choir and in actuality, was home in the US taking care of my brother and me. Yet he believed he had the memories of being there; clearly felt energized by the symbolism and "experience" and seemed dramatically disappointed to have his "false memories" removed. So, he "thought" but was not "am" in his own experience. Or maybe the Thomas Theorum is more accurate than we know- if "Anything believed to be real is real in it's consequences", it may be possible that "real" memory traces are laid down when someone wholeheartedly believes something to be true (?) Delusions become even more frightening as symptoms at that point. Just thought I'd throw out some food for thought (pun intended).



    Name: Paul Grobstein
    Date: //2006-08-07 18:01:16 :
    Link to this Comment: 20135

    Nice concrete story. Yep, he "thought", and probably wasn't. To put it differently, his "thought" was different from your and your mother's "thought" which were the same. And so ... it is likely that your father's consciousness had an explanation for something in his unconscious that wasn't in fact created there by his being being in the choir in 1972.


    I can well understand "delusions" as "frightening". But, as you say, "anything we believe to be real is real in its consequences". And those needn't always be "bad", indeed can perhaps sometimes be quite positive? So maybe the lesson is .... its all "abstraction"? And that's not necessarily a bad/frightening thing? If we treat EVERYTHING with a grain of salt (or "passionate curiousity"?).


    the wicked little demon of "false memory"....?
    Name: Anne Dalke
    Date: //2006-08-08 17:16:42 :
    Link to this Comment: 20145

    Another way to make sense and make use of the concrete story Judie had to tell?

    Two years ago, I attended a brown bag session on History, Memory and the Brain; 1 1/2 years ago, the topic was revisited as a query: Whence Nostalgia and the Constraints on Stories?

    What I took home from both sessions was the strong idea that memories don't exist, in our brains, in a sort of "file" we can access; that we, rather, construct them out of neural traces....

    but this just seems to push the interesting questions back a couple of steps: why and how then do particular traces get accessed, why and how do particular memories get constructed? And--once the rubric "useful" replaces "accuracy" as the guide for "what works"--where is that judgment located, how and by whom does it get exercised? How individual, how local is it, how collective, how global? If I find it "useful" to deny that the Holocaust took place (because I can escape the guilt, or the reparations...)? If I find it "useful" to tell the story of the elections in a red and blue, rather than a purple map, because I want to exacerbate the polarities in this country...?

    The suggestion was made in one of the sessions that the process of selection is one of "distillation," of finding the places where the "memory," the "history," is shared by the largest number of people....But if the shared story is not useful to me...I'm "free" to re-write the history? Based on....? Are there any limits to my story? (If so), wherefrom do they come? Once we acknowledge the profound unrecoverability of the past and similar unpredictability of the future: where then lies the ability to recover any of the past (much less make predictions at all....)?

    Hm: I hear, amid all my questions, a concern not far different, perhaps, from Descartes' troubled notion of some wicked little demon, dreaming up our thoughts for us....


    octopi
    Name: Elizabeth
    Date: //2006-08-08 21:56:32 :
    Link to this Comment: 20146

    Very interesting stuff. I just have a little bit to add and that is that words have order and connotations which are inevitable but when I read all this, I just here such a strong privledging of the truth of being over thinking. Building on the idea of abstraction (via Judie/Paul)...as far as the mind goes, I think that Judie's father existed in that space more than or as much as her mother. Thoughts are real, memory/imagination is the way that we can "be" without taking our full flesh and blood with us. It's simply easier to know where the body is at any given moment--this is why we use the body as reference for truth. It's harder to know where the mind is. I don't feel like I'm less present when I'm dreaming (at night)...that's another type of reality without physical sensation but still just as "true"...Anything that has been constructed is real. Lets take for example, a sculpture of an octapus. If I sculpt it and put it on the table, I have used wood, my hands, a space. If I tell you about an octapus, I've used intangible building blocks (my mind, a memory, the sum of my past as it produces the connotation which exist in my future) but it nevertheless exists just as much as the wooden sculpture. Mistruths/lies are just as much contructions as the things some deam as truth...work and energy are expended to create them. What is created exists. In my mind this distinction matters somehow because it can help to evaluate morality and structure. I think that incorportaing more "is" into life and to get rid of a lot of "is not" would allow many people to "be" more in their minds, instead of dismissing the illogical constructions, the octopi on the table. If more time is spent not living than living, while living why are we so concerned with where we think we are and why can't we be where we cannot imagine we have been? And why does it bother us so much to hear about something that is against the way we "know" it to have been?

    I know for example, that at one point in my life, my grandfather used to lie to the girl who lived next door to us and say that he was a police officer. This was to get her to stop playing in the street (though her mother didn't mind that she was in the street)...but then the lie kept getting more and more elaborate until I couldn't take it anymore and couldn't be around it and didn't exactly want to set it straight either. Similarly, experiening someone with a form of memory loss or misremembering is anxiety producing but really what's happening is that the brain is creating a more "abstract" and less embodied sculpture of existence. I also don't know how to relax about that. An interesting state might be "I create by thinking and I create by being, I do not judge my creations made my thinking or my creations made my being, others create by thinking and by being, I do not judge them if their thoughts are not supported by their being."

    Well, anyway, I can't do any of that. But I'd like to be able to relax about it all.


    in quotes
    Name:
    Date: //2006-08-08 21:59:02 :
    Link to this Comment: 20147

    there are a lot of typos in that. i'll just correct that some of the my's in the thing in " "...should be "by's"...itself interesting.


    Thinkin is Daydreaming-me
    Name: Roger
    Date: //2006-08-18 08:43:51 :
    Link to this Comment: 20174

    Everything happens in the same time and that is why you believe that you can do everything in the same time. A time that is the same never changes; sorry to say but times change. One that experiences; experiences one thing after another; otherwise the time would never change; and the time would always stay the same. Therefore you could only think about one thing after another. Or you can think and then experience or experience and then think but can only remember doing one of them at a time. Otherwise you could have infinite thoughts all happenning in the same time and would be able to remember all of the thoughts that happened in the same time; this might be possible if a thought was infinite. A thought has a begining and a ending and therefore could not be infinite. And therefore a thought is not made of energy. Energy is infinte and therefore everything that is experiencing is made of energy. And that which is infinite has no beginning or ending. I disagree that everything experiencing is part of a single thought; because experiencing is not a thought. Otherwise you could remember everything that you were unaware of in the universe in one thought.

    Everything that is experiencing is experiencing in the same time. And if you are thinking about another time; are you in that other time? If you are thinking you could not be experiencing. If you were thinking you would be physically experiencing; and the physical and the emotional are not the same thing. Feeling is experiencing and energy is a feeling (God is love) and love is a feeling etc.... Some might think that you think with your mind...You think in the brain and therefore it is assumed that your mind is in your brain; and the brain is made of matter; but the mind and matter are not the same thing; matter is physical; and the opposite of matter is the MIND; and the opposite of the physical is the emotional; and therefore the mind is emotional and the matter is physical; therefore you experience with the mind. What is the matter with these people? It just keeps running through my mind...Common use your heads...The physical is not the same thing as the emotional. Therefore if you were thinking you could not remember what had happened while the physical was experiecing i.e., If your thinking about saying something your not listening to me, and if your thinking about what I said your not listening to what I am saying. Einstein said "that we experience using our sense experiences". Are our thoughts considered to be one of our senses?
    Remember what I said "that you are experiening what you are thinking. But that thinking and experiencing are also different things. For these two reasons conplications between thinking and experiencing have occured....Since feeling is experiencing; and you are experiencing what you are thinking; one might assume that you are feeling what you are thinking. In this case there would be no difference between the emotional (feeling or experience) and the thought (thinking). And if you are thinking you are not in the present time. And the present time is made of energy. And so if you are thinking you could not be made of energy and would not be made of feeling or would not be experiencing the present time. And in conclusion I would like to say that the physical is not made of energy. lol
    I think therefore I am should have been "I am experiencing what I am thinking" and then he should have added "experiencing is not a thought"


    Cogito Ergo Sum
    Name: Chachi
    Date: //2006-02-16 09:24:08 :
    Link to this Comment: 18154

    Descartes whole thing was that he existed becuase of the fact the he thought...he has this whole idea called the evil deceiver argument, where he thinks it is possible that trees don't really exist (like a Matrix, neo & trininty kind of thing

    at least thats what i took out of his Meditations on First Philosophy

    I may be wrong


    lie
    Name: Elizabeth
    Date: //2006-08-17 00:39:39 :
    Link to this Comment: 20171

    What wonderful thoughts. I'm all for dream appreciation. Dreams are a crucial and undervalued aspect of thinking and being. And what a great thought that no one seems to be not advocating thinking...there are parts of the forum where people are contemplating being over thinking or "pure experience" over thinking but I believe it's true that no one is saying "no thought".

    I've lied about dreams. I think that's part of the fun. If you recount a dream, it's usually so profound and colorful (literally sometimes but i mean 'colorful' metaphorically) and when the "thoughts" in the dream and its images are recalled, it becomes profoundly uninteresting. Dreams are crucial for growth. Lying is also crucial for growth. I was once talking to a good friend who said that even if you lie in therapy it can still "work" because the lies themselves are meaningful.

    I don't think that there is such a thing as a "lie"...maybe for beings that don't think there is something close to it but not for us. Everything is constructed or passes through the brain in some way, even "being" moments like eating or running and certainly sleeping. So we've also "thought" this thing called a "lie" to explain hurt for one part...hurt that's less tangible..that is to say emotional hurt which doesn't have to do with eating or sleeping. We've devised it for moral reasons (another construct) intended to keep social order and prevent us from killing one another (in part). And...lots of other stuff. We've invented "lie" like we've invented "trust"...these are all "ideas" "thoughts" "dreams"....it doesn't make them less legitimate or necessary or even wonderful but the weight that they take on can become overly profound and they can become like being itself rather than important constructs of being.

    Thanks to all for continuing to keep the forum going!


    Thinking = isness
    Name: Dutch Prie
    Date: //2006-08-15 18:21:58 :
    Link to this Comment: 20167

    Reading the first few dialogue entries, and then thinking about them, lead to a question of language function. Thought may well include feelings, assertions, all physical actions, and even responses to the elements (heat, cold, rain... I'm considering only responses to the mundane elements), but wouldn't it be a shame if all our words for these varied ways of experiencing life were to be distilled into the word "thinking?" "My foot thinks hurt," rather than, "My foot feels hurt?" "I think what the movie was about," rather than, "I understand what the movie was about?"

    Thinking, to me, is a skill requiring time set aside to practice it. It is an activity rather than something that happens to me. We all use idioms like, "...then this thought hit me," or, "I found myself thinking about..." but unlike feelings, dreams, and even beliefs-- states of mind that basically happen to us-- we do thought. I'll never know how others experience their minds, and granted, to some those idiomatic expressions of how thoughts just come along and light on our consceious might be a more literal expression than in others. Inspiration is real, of course, and sometimes we cannot account for how we arrived at a notion, but for the most part, thinking is an activity that we do.

    Everyone on this site obviously has a keen understanding that thought has consequence, and that the art or sport of thinking leads us through life. We all are aware that sometimes thinking out one of life's puzzles is difficult. No one in this running dialogue has suggested that thinking ought to cease, that it is a bad habit, that it has no place in society.

    Years ago I conducted Dream Appreciation Workshops, in which people would record their dreams in a notebook, bring them in, and read them to the group. We would then go around room one-at-a-time, and begin by saying, "If I'd had that dream..." and usually finish the sentence with expressing what concerns such a dream might have evoked, or how each individual would have interpreted it. After that, less constructed talk about each dream would take place.

    We acted on the assumption that a dream was produced by mind, like a film, to shown on the screen of sleep for the benefit of the mind. That benefit included elements of entertainment, evoking emotional responses, warnings, and all the things a filmmaker conveys through his art.

    One night, after leaving the workshop, I thought about one of the dreams that had been shared. I had a feeling that the person reporting it had embellished some of the details when writing it down. It seemed like a strange dishonest, fabricating dream images in order to... what? To make the dream seem more profound? To draw attention to themselves? To give it an ending when either it had none or had been forgotten upon waking?

    My thoughts led me from distrust and curiousity as to the dreamer's motives to a more interesting question. Is it possible to lie about a dream? If a dream is one's own mind creating a series of images, sounds and movement, for the benefit of the same mind, can a modification of it in the waking state, created by the same mind, really be considered dishonest?

    Thought seems different from other aspects of being alive. Unique like a dream is unique, yet part and parcel of the experience of living, not to be compartmentalized into a separate drawer, or given special reverence. We think about feelings more than we have feelings about our thoughts, most of us, most of the time, and maybe our dreams reverse the order, releasing feelings about the way we think about what we're going through. If so, it is impossible to tell a lie when recounting, "a dream I had."

    I'd like to read someone else's take on this question: Is it possible to lie about one's own dream?

    Also, if any small group of people in the same geographic space would like to experiment with forming a dream appreciation group, I'm available for advice on how to get started.


    interpretation of thinking
    Name:
    Date: //2006-05-11 05:22:12 :
    Link to this Comment: 19307

    The obvious interpretation of Decartes's quotes of "I think, therefore I am" is to have the most logical explanation of our own existence in this complex world through our own individual mind or brain. Ultiamtely and subjectively, how one would interpretate the quote depends on ones past experience, knowledge and religion. In essense, I believe that this quote possess an extremely strong implicit meaning as to how one should direct or guide himself or herself on a daily basis that can lead to the road of success and happiness, which is what all human being strive for. Many of the readers might criticize the fact that my subjective interpretation of the quote is superficial or is nonjustifiable through logical deduction. But it does serve a main important purpose, that is, it will be relevant and useful to all human beings as it had been useful to me for the past 2 years. (That was the time when I learn about the quote and came up with my own interpretation). "I think, therefore I am" simply should be interpreted as "believing in yourself". Given most circumstances, there are times when all of us faces many adversity and uncertainty towards the progression of life. When these situation arises, it will be useful to refer back to the quote and believe fully in yourself. The relevancy of the quote in relation to believing in yourself might not be transparantly visible to many individuals. A better manner to explain my subjective stand on this quote is to give an example of my past experience so as to reinforce my perspective. At this very moment, I'm in my fourth year of University and will graduate in December. During my second year of university, I was never a student who was dedicated to school and view university as important only due societal standard and the essentialness of that piece of paper to prove that you are a university graduate. During that second year, due to my lack of concentration during class and lack of determination for knowledge, I was put on academic probation. THen suddenly I realize that my life would be totally ruined if I do not applied myself and graduate, not just to be responsible to myself but also to the many individuals who had contributed greatly to my life, I certainly did not want to be a dissappointment. After discovering my incentive and motivation to work hard, I need to find a way to help me through the process. This is where the quote played an enormous part in my life. I'm majoring in Accounting, so just by thinking that I must and will be a Chartered Accountant every single day before I go to sleep, I was capable of applying that thinking into everyday activity and presenting myself as an individual and to the people around me as happy and successful. "I think I am a Charter Accountant, so therefore I am a Charter Accountant." A better way to put it - "I believe I am a Charter Accountant, so therefore I am a Charter Accountant."

    TO BE CONTINUE....


    thinking
    Name: Ansha Wedn
    Date: //2006-06-26 14:28:21 :
    Link to this Comment: 19598

    oh gods, here it is.
    "i think therefore i am"
    but what if you are not actually the one controlling your thoughts? the maicious demon that descartes mentioned could write your thoughts? he never talked about that? if you read the dark tower series by Stephen King, you will note that there are characters from other books of his that find out that they are characters from his books... what if we are like that? if, like was said, you cant trust thoughts? life is all just a little too hemingway for me, and so now i am doubting that my thoughts are even my own. how can one know? what logic can prove that our thoughts are not written? and then, how can we exist?
    if we cannot prove that we are the ones thinking, and not someone writing us thinking these things, we cannot prove that we exist! oh gods... am i crazy here? or does this make sense.


    Thinking VS Experiencing
    Name: Roger walk
    Date: //2006-07-25 10:54:51 :
    Link to this Comment: 20007

    I have so many examples to give but I shall only wet your lips. I have made many discoveries in my life. And I made them once I had realized that experiencing was not a thought. Descartes once said "I think therefore I am", I believe he only saw half the puzzle. The saying "I think therefore I am" means I exist because I think. You are experiencing what you are thinking; but it is only possible to remember one thing at a time including what your thinking. While one is thinking their bodies still exist physically; but the physcial body is unaware of what it is experiencing; and since it is unaware of what it is experiencing it would not be able to remember what it is unaware of. The physcical and the emotional are not the same thing. Your physical body exists while you are thinking but one could not be physical and emotional in the same time. Therefore while you are thinking you would be only physical and could not be emotionally feeling; otherwise the physical and the emothinal would be the same. Emotionally feeling is experiencing and everything that is experiencing is emotionally feeling: i.e., do you feel like eating? Do you get energy from eating? Energy is a feeling. Everything that is experiencing is made of energy. And therefore everything that is made of energy is feeling. Everything that is thinking is physical and is therefore depleting their body of feeling or energy.

    I don't like to give knowledge away for free but here is a clue:

    Experiencing and thinking are the same and different. Here is another clue they are opposite in the day as they are in the night.

    "Light is the moment, night is naught"-me

    "God is one
    God is love
    Love is a feeling
    Love is in everyone" -me


    back
    Name: E Catanese
    Date: //2006-07-28 17:44:35 :
    Link to this Comment: 20083

    I wonder if this is a loop backwards to a very early place in this forum but I read that thought controls things like metabolism and for every thought action there is a corresponding body action (however slight). If you think "my nose itches" you will probably scratch your nose. The feeling of hunger is a linked process of eating. Eating would not happen if hunger was not felt in the mind and then translated to the body. Even if something is just done "without thinking" there still must be some activity in the brain. Furthermore, the sun and the earth and nature somehow contribute to the way that we both think and feel. If it is sunny perhaps some internal processes are quickened. However, in dream space, when the body is at rest, there is not a connection between feeling and action. At least not in that immediate time frame. A dream might cause us to act once we wake up but aside from sleep walking...is there a corresponding body action? For example, can a dream cause the body to do something while in sleep? It is confounding to me that death is not "just body" or "just mind"...If life is an interaction between the two, death should be one or the other instead of neither (which my mind thinks that it is).

    The other thought I've had for a while is that I feel my thoughts in my head. This too seems silly but there is something to it. If I thought that thoughts came from my feet, would I feel my thinking there? Would the pictures of people and events that exist in my "memory" feel like they were in my stomach if I thought that thought came from my stomach? Or, is there really some physical sensation of thinking...I really feel that there is though I've met no one who feels the same way.

    I was also wondering where love comes from and whether it's really a fastener or something that allows for letting go or if its something that comes out of the complex interaction between mind and body...the whole premise of many religions is that there can be some greater love without corporeality. But I think that love can only be a product of the interaction between mind/body and/or a collection of mind and bodies. So the thought of love "beyond this world" exists but love itself "beyond this world" does not. I think that in its place is nothing which is indeed more profound a construct than any combination of "things". I think that what i'm looking for is simpler than perception.


    hmmmm
    Name: E Catanese
    Date: //2006-07-28 17:46:54 :
    Link to this Comment: 20084

    I wonder if this is a loop backwards to a very early place in this forum but I read that thought controls things like metabolism and for every thought action there is a corresponding body action (however slight). If you think "my nose itches" you will probably scratch your nose. The feeling of hunger is a linked process of eating. Eating would not happen if hunger was not felt in the mind and then translated to the body. Even if something is just done "without thinking" there still must be some activity in the brain. Furthermore, the sun and the earth and nature somehow contribute to the way that we both think and feel. If it is sunny perhaps some internal processes are quickened. However, in dream space, when the body is at rest, there is not a connection between feeling and action. At least not in that immediate time frame. A dream might cause us to act once we wake up but aside from sleep walking...is there a corresponding body action? For example, can a dream cause the body to do something while in sleep? It is confounding to me that death is not "just body" or "just mind"...If life is an interaction between the two, death should be one or the other instead of neither (which my mind thinks that it is).

    The other thought I've had for a while is that I feel my thoughts in my head. This too seems silly but there is something to it. If I thought that thoughts came from my feet, would I feel my thinking there? Would the pictures of people and events that exist in my "memory" feel like they were in my stomach if I thought that thought came from my stomach? Or, is there really some physical sensation of thinking...I really feel that there is though I've met no one who feels the same way.

    I was also wondering where love comes from and whether it's really a fastener or something that allows for letting go or if its something that comes out of the complex interaction between mind and body...the whole premise of many religions is that there can be some greater love without corporeality. But I think that love can only be a product of the interaction between mind/body and/or a collection of mind and bodies. So the thought of love "beyond this world" exists but love itself "beyond this world" does not. I think that in its place is nothing which is indeed more profound a construct than any combination of "things". I think that what i'm looking for is simpler than perception.



    Name:
    Date: //2006-07-29 14:21:13 :
    Link to this Comment: 20085

    testing


    proofs of existence
    Name: Ana Drobot
    Date: //2006-08-19 05:35:39 :
    Link to this Comment: 20178

    Interesting to question the validity of Descartes' equating thinking with existence. Of course we need proofs of existence, sometimes we ask ourselves what do we mean by feeling 'alive'? Is feeling alive the equivalent of living life to the fullest, i.e. experiencing adventures, extreme emotions, (foolish) danger? Is living having fun and partying? Is living doing something useful for this world and for the people around us? Is living thinking? But are we all philosophers by nature? I could only say that proofs of existence may vary from person to person, just as the experience of life and the way we see life is largely subjective...


    Descartes
    Name: Ana Drobot
    Date: //2006-08-20 11:43:04 :
    Link to this Comment: 20183

    I truly exist when I am conscious of myself, therefore I can conceive of myself as an "I." I truly am significant when I begin to reason, to question...



    Name: Elizabeth
    Date: //2006-08-20 20:38:29 :
    Link to this Comment: 20186

    I truly exist when I am less conscious of myself as an individual entity, when I exist as a part of a larger whole. (we think therefore...again) Thinking is wonderful but it doesn't have to do with being in any inherent way. It doesn't make me a person but rather the type of thought that exists in me distinguishes me from other people.

    I think therefore I need thought and a way to measure it. I think therefore I need thought to be "important". I am an American and I think means something different than...I am (from XYZ culture) and I think. I think therefore I am guilty. Feel free to go at what I've said with intellectual oil crayons.


    The thought and the spastic "I"
    Name: Ovidiu
    Date: //2006-08-23 14:17:20 :
    Link to this Comment: 20208

    Little Fly..
    Thy summers play,..
    My thoughtless hand..
    Has brush'd away.....

    Am not I..
    A fly like thee?..
    Or art not thou..
    A man like me?.....

    For I dance..
    And drink and sing..
    Till some blind hand..
    Shall brush my wing.....


    If thought is life..
    And strength and breath;
    And the want..
    of thought is death;......

    Then am I..
    A happy fly,..
    If I live,
    Or if I die.

    -- William Blake


    Beyond Descartes: Spinoza
    Name: Anne Dalke
    Date: //2006-08-23 15:56:37 :
    Link to this Comment: 20210

    I truly exist when I am less conscious of myself as an individual entity.

    That's what Spinoza thought, too.

    And I think that there are all sorts of (positive) political ramifications for thinking this-a-way....


    posted article faith/schoool
    Name: the homles
    Date: //2006-09-02 10:54:58 :
    Link to this Comment: 20246

    The Life of Faith is Not a Life Without Doubt...

    to comment ...
    sorry i cant type no disabled access from the streets to fix.
    the arguement of religion and school is sooo simple to solve.

    a class on comparive religion. none can complain all major religions discussed. pro/con
    your god and no god all there.
    done why cant our usa partially based on freedom of religious choice. figure out duh do it.
    everyone wins.

    mention too religions based on hate
    so we learn about hte kkk and those like them -hitler (the current white house) who abuse religion.


    question
    Name: yeknomamai
    Date: //2006-09-02 13:54:14 :
    Link to this Comment: 20248

    Would Descartes say that a mind is nessesary for a thing to move? For a rabbit to run must he have a mind, or is this automated extended motion?


    treeness
    Name: Jeremy
    Date: //2006-09-03 00:26:47 :
    Link to this Comment: 20249

    Hi All,

    Its Jeremy, havent been to this thread in a while. Here's what I think.

    "
    computers
    Name: Jeremy (j.w.holmes@att.net)
    Date: 10/28/2004 17:03
    Link to this Comment: 11254

    Perhaps it would be best, if I elaborate exacty why I find all this so fasinating. The nexus point, the interaction of the conscious, subconscious and treeness. Perhaps I am misguided in my interperation here, but I see something very specific when I contemplate this. A Shift Buss Register, this is part of a central processing Kernal cluster architecture. The shift buss is simular to signal lights at an intersection, the cars are representive of binary information trains. However, it is a computers lack of 'human intelligence', that leads this example away. Wow...



    a thought or two...
    Name: Bethany Keffala ()
    Date: 12/29/2004 03:41
    Link to this Comment: 12006

    Hi everyone! I'm sorry, I feel bad joining the conversation so late... I've been watching it off and on since the beginning of this school year. I have missed a lot, it looks like. It's been a difficult semester, and I've just felt too drained to add anything worth sharing here, but I was hoping to jump in now, when I have a minute.
    Anyway, I was just reading, and thought of something that seemed like it might be some fun. As I was reading Jeremy's and Elizabeth's posts, about "I think, therefore I am thinking" (I think it was...), I too, thought, hmm, I don't quite like that. To me, that seems not like saying, "I am a pencil, therefore I am a pencil", but more like, "I sleep, therefore I am sleeping". Though I sometimes wish that were always true, it is not.
    If you reverse the statement to, "I am thinking, therefore I think", then I like it a lot better. I'm not sure if I'm just being nit-picky, which is very possible, or if this is actually a distinction worth looking at. It seems that the pattern is, generically, "I do do something, therefore I am doing that something" versus "I am something, therefore I am that thing" versus "I am doing something, therefore I do (or can) do that something". I guess these do all seem like obvious conclusions, but I am especially interested, of the three of them, in the distinction between the first and the last. Any thoughts?
    Also, I really like what Anne was talking about in one of her posts - about things being implicit or covert or hidden, but that we are still very aware of their existense, at least at times - that sometimes, in fact, things are best understood or best communicated in this manner. It reminds me of a book that I am trying to get through, that I have been trying to get through for quite some time, actually, in my spare time. It's called "The User Illusion", by Tor Norretranders, recommended to me by Paul. Specifically, I am reminded of the concept of information and exformation. Norretranders says that in every exchange of information, it is actually the exchange of exformation that is interesting, that is meaningful.
    "Exformation is perpendicular to information. Exformation is what is rejected en route, before expression. Exformation is about the mental work we do in order to make everything we want to say sayable. Exformation is the discarded information, everything we do not actually say but have in our heads when or before we say anything at all"..."The information content of a conversation is demonstrable, expressed, explicit. But the whole point of this explicitness is to refer to something else, something implicit, something unexpressed. Not just not present, but explicitly not present."
    I don't know if this rings any bells for you, but it's what I connected it to. It sort of seems like conversation is a thought-comparing game, or a mental-state-comparing game. This is where I am, where are you? And then we all think about it, and somehow or other, new things happen, new exformation forms, and then we transmit information to refer to that exformation, whatever it is that we experienced, we try to express it in some way, what we feel is the best way possible, to try and produce a similar state as the one we had in someone else, so that we're all on the same page, or at least in the same chapter.
    Could this have something to do with what's being talked about?



    doubting thinking is allowed
    Name: Paul Grobstein (pgrobste@brynmawr.edu)
    Date: 09/23/2005 09:39
    Link to this Comment: 16274

    I agree that Descartes never intended to imply that things that don't think don't exist, only that he existed because he thinks. At the same time, I still think that many people, because of Descartes (among other things), become too focused on "thinking", and so tend to underestimate or devalue things (like trees) that don't think, as well as aspects of themselves (and other humans) that don't involve "thinking" in the sense Descartes mean it (internal deliberation).
    " if you try to doubt thinking itself then what are you going to use to reach a conclusion?" is a good question, and helps to make my point. Trees manage to do quite well in the world, for themselves and other things (us included) without "thinking". And we ourselves have a comparable ability to respond productively to things around us without "thinking" (ie unconsciously). I'm not, of course, arguing here that it is not sometimes ALSO productive to "think" but only that one CAN "doubt thinking" without losing all ability to act. One may not "reach a conclusion" without "thinking" but one can certainly act without doing so, and such actions may, like those of trees, sometimes be quite valuable ones, both for oneself and others. Even better, one can acknowledge that the unconscious is a distinct source of wisdom in its own right and use both it AND thinking as contributors to action. "



    Its to bad, that most of the recent posters have not taken the time to read this whole thread on -"I am, and I think, therefore..." forum- from the beginning thru. Even if you havent read Descartes, that would atleast help.

    Like I said before, Wow.... Its worth checking this forum out from time to time.

    By the way, the "Xinformatics forum"(last one on the forum list) would be most appropirate for some of the most recent computer related comments, in my humble opinion.

    Best to all
    Jeremy


    ways for a rabbit to move
    Name: Elizabeth
    Date: //2006-09-03 01:48:18 :
    Link to this Comment: 20251

    question
    Name: yeknomamai ()
    Date: 09/02/2006 13:54
    Link to this Comment: 20248

    Would Descartes say that a mind is nessesary for a thing to move? For a rabbit to run must he have a mind, or is this automated extended motion?


    In response to the above and w/ regard to trees doing quite well for themselves, I'd like to suggest several ways in which a thing might move.

    A rabbit is being chased by a human and moves forward so as to not get eaten.

    A preditor picks up a rabbit and carries it in its mouth for 6 miles before begining to chew.

    A leaf falls from a tree and the wind picks it up and carries it to another location.

    A bird eats a seed and its waste becomes a new tree which moves in wintertime when snow falls on its branches.

    Breath moves in and out of my chest (involuntarily)

    Blood flows in my veins.

    The earth rotates on its axis.

    No brain needed for these things to move. I don't know what Descartes would think but I'd say that no brain is needed for a thing to move. I'd say, however, that once a thing moves (and we become conscious of that motion) the human brain is bound to kick in.

    This seems to me to be the meeting place between "treeness" and "humanness"...I think (about) thought therefore I am like others who think about thought, I think (about) motion therefore I am like others who think about motion.




    Summery
    Name: Jeremy
    Date: //2006-09-04 23:43:21 :
    Link to this Comment: 20260

    -
    I felt this would make a nice condensed version, or atleast what I got from the thread.
    -
    "

    thinking about "I am, and I think ..."
    Name: Paul Grobstein (pgrobste@brynmawr.edu)
    Date: 08/02/2004 12:32
    Link to this Comment: 10564

    The thoughts are a little long for the forum, so I'm putting some excerpts here and made an interim report page where you can see the whole thing (happy to do the same for other long-winded sorts).
    "What next?", Lucy wonders, "is there anywhere to go with this beyond these dialogues? Do we want to do anything more? ". And a related question from Anneliese in one of the 'logues (where there is also some discussion of possible answers):
    I've been trying to put my finger on another aspect of these conversations that troubles me, and I think it has to do with not fully understanding their 'practical' use. Let me be VERY quick to say that I'm not of the opinion that something must be practically useful in order to be worthwhile. But that's not really the point, because I know that these dia-/trialogs are useful to others (as is so evident in the forum and elsewhere). To me, however, they still feel like an enlightened form of socializing, a pasttime. Perhaps, I thought, this is precisely because I am NOT at the center, i.e., I am not asking my own questions yet but merely responding to others'. Furthermore, I feel disoriented as to the overall thrust(s) of these multiply intersecting stories. What are some of the ongoing questions and persistent themes? What stories are people trying to get "less wrong" by sharing them with others?
    Needless to say, I don't have any answers to those questions. But I'm very glad they are being asked. The point of the Descartes' exhibit was (and continues to be) to see to what extent one could make use of the web to encourage/facilitate engaged, meaningful, and productive story-sharing. The exhibit itself is an exploration of the possibilities and problems of doing so, and is relevant, it seems to me, not only in the web context but well beyond it. Our culture is not particularly sophisticated at "engaged, meaningful, and productive story-sharing" in ANY realm (international politics, national politics, community organization, education, family life), and so the problems (the questions, the uncertainties) we run into here are relevant in lots of contexts (as also are any successes we achieve).
    (paragraphs missing here, see interim report)
    Along these lines, one last (for now) related thought, prompted by Anneliese's "I am NOT at the center". Despite having told the story that got this conversation started, I too am not at the center and no one else is either. Or, to put it differently,
    The old idea was always that the stars were fixed to a crystal vault to stop them falling down. Today we have found the courage to let them soar through space without support ... And the earth is rolling cheerfully around the sun, and the fishwives, merchants, princes, and cardinals ... are rolling with it ... The universe has lost its centre overnight, and woken up to find it has countless centres. So that each one can now be seen as the centre, or none at all
    Bertold Brecht, Life of Galileo
    How's that for a "profound skepticism" sort of idea? That we have the confidence, in ourselves and in each other, to make something useful, something for which each of us is the center for ourselves and none of us the center for what we make together? Perhaps something useful precisely BECAUSE "each of us is the center for ourselves and none of us is the center for what we make together"?
    "

    Descartes' Blues
    Name: Anne Dalke (adalke@brynmawr.edu)
    Date: 09/12/2004 09:46
    Link to this Comment: 10823
    Since I'd tried my hand more than once @ turning Descartes into drama (actually, @ replacing him centerstage with Cyrano de Bergerac) I was drawn in particular to one the offerings @ the Fringe this weekend, Descartes' Blues, which was advertised as "a drama of desire....Rene's in love with three women, at war with his heart...." Or, as the guy sitting next to me in the theater last night said, "This play is saying something different. It's saying, 'I feel, therefore I am...'"
    (Am not, by the way, particularly engaged by this binary; think Eric Raimy got us around it two months ago, with his query whether "thinking" is just internal sensory input? Maybe, we're just sensing ourselves when we think?)
    Anyhow, back to the play...which was actually pretty curious, somewhat muddled in what it was saying and how it said it. But it was a kick for me to watch, both because of the way in which it danced around--and actualized--so many of the themes in this series of dialogues, and because of the way in which it invited the audience to consider the insistent back-and-forthing between Descartes' philosophy and his particular way of managing his life: each clearly shaped the other, w/ cause-and-effect (in the play @ least!) being clearly reciprocal.
    In this regard, four scenes in particular caught my attention:
    Distraught @ the sudden death of his young daughter, Descartes assails himself for being a fool: his endless philosophizing has not in the least prepared him to deal w/ the loss of what is most precious to him.
    His mistress and correspondent have a conversation in which they acknowledge how jealous they are of one another; they compare what it meant to one of them to "possess Descartes' body--which he repeatedly reminded me was not his real self," and what it meant to other to have "the lively attention of his mind, but not the pleasure of his bodily company." Finding it difficult to love a man who so "danced in division," not just philosophically but personally, they beget themselves to a nunnery!
    In the play's penultimate scene, a fundamentalist Calvinist preacher brings Descartes to trial on charges of heresy; they are dropped after Descartes eloquently argues that the Thirty Years War (just ended) was caused by the dogmatism of the preacher and his ilk, that his own philosophy of profound doubt was the way to peace.
    In the final scene, set in the "Grand Salon of Peace" of Queen Christina of Sweden, Descartes performs some verses he has written about "the song of peace," and all present join him in singing it. It's a syrupy conclusion, pretty much unearned by the arc of the play. And yet? See the Language of Peace and elsewhere throughout this site, where the notion that "the language of war is the language of assertion, and the language of peace the language of questioning, which refuses the clarity of a single right answer," is repeatedly evoked.
    "

    time
    Name: Paul Grobstein (pgrobste@brynmawr.edu)
    Date: 09/25/2004 12:36
    Link to this Comment: 10946

    Interesting/significant? that the issue of how to conceive "time", as per the exchange between Anne and Lucy, arose quite powefully in a quite practical context yesterday during a Diversity discussion about "Listening for Peace: The Israeli/Palestinian Struggle" (see see this and following posting there). In that context, it matters a lot how seriously one takes the continuing existence of the past, and even more how much one is constrained in one's present behavior by one's "memory" of the past.

    My guess is that the past is more or less "real" to different people, ie that different people's stories about themselves in the present have different degrees of dependence on/interrelatedness with their stories about the past . To put it differently, I think that not only "the past" but "time" itself is a story, an internal experience and not a thing "out there" about which one can be certain one has a correct description. From which it follows (for me at least) that there cannot be a "correct" characterization of the relation between the past and the present (eg sequential or co-existing) or of the importance of the past for the present. Its different for different people.

    And potentially different for the same person at different times. How one experiences time is, I would guess, normally a matter of treeness, of unconscious organization. But, "one can think" and that in turn both influences (in combination with treeness) how one acts and potentially treeness itself. So if one becomes dissatisfied with how one acts because of a particular way of experiencing time, one can act otherwise and, in so doing, change the way of experiencing. Which may be useful in situations of "historical" antipathy.

    Maybe this is a test case for further exploring the question are things going on in the brain other than conscious and unconscious?. I'd say yes. There is the unconscious ("treeness"), and the conscious ("thinking", in the broad sense we're using the term here) and .... the combination and dynamic interaction between the two (perhaps the "self" or, in other peoples' stories, the "soul"?). Perhaps its the combination/interaction that both generates "boxes" and provides the basis for getting outside of them (as per evolving conversation above)? And the character/quality of the interaction is in turn a significant component of how one feels about "oneself"?



    eureka
    Name: Lucy Kerman ()
    Date: 09/26/2004 10:03
    Link to this Comment: 10948

    Exactly! This is actually one thing I was thinking when I posed that question about what else there is besides unconscious and conscious: that eureka moment, which is no longer the unconscious working out a problem but not yet the fully articulated (ie., with words) conscious expression of the solution: that moment of "knowing" without using words. What is wordless knowledge?
    "



    sundries ...
    Name: Paul Grobstein (pgrobste@brynmawr.edu)
    Date: 09/28/2004 16:21
    Link to this Comment: 10981
    A new participant/perspective (will leave it to others to expand on connections, if any, to current discussion in progress):
    "I always saw not only the body, but the complex architecture that allows for our sense of consciousness, in a somewhat adversarial light... at best a rickety scaffolding that "we" sit atop, trying to keep steady, and at worst a time bomb against which we race our whole life, trying to get in the things that count before something falls apart".
    And pleased to have Jeremy drop by/join in. I'm disinclined to accept the adjective "correct" (as per Science as "Getting It Less Wrong", but very much resonate with the idea that things from the unconscious ("treeness") "may float to the surface of the conscious mind". For me they are "blue tabs" that slowly rise in a clear, apparently bottomless pool. I so described them several years ago to Sharon Burgmayer who did a painting of the story.
    And do think that leads (sometimes) to a "eureka" moment and that moment is indeed an instance of the third thing, the interaction between unconscious and conscious. Is relevant that it is SOMETIMES a "eureka" moment. What floats up is sometimes something that "fits" something else (in the conscious?), and other times not. And still other times it seems to fit but proves not to over time. The interesting question (for me at least) is not why it may not prove to fit over time (ideas always get tested by subsequent experience) but what "fit" means at the eureka moment. There has to be some way that the products of "treeness" and those of 'thinking", despite their emerging from very different processes and having very different characters, can be associated with one another so as to determine "fit". Now THERE's an interesting neurobological problem.
    I suspect there are clues to the forms and dynamics of exchange between the unconscious and the conscious in writing anxiety/tension too. If its only the conscious that can conceive things as other than they are then its only the conscious that could worry about having "closed off other stories, other options, other possibilities". So the "tension" might perhaps correspond to a blue tab surfacing that is inconsistent with some story that the conscious has and wants to preserve?
    "



    filling in the "anti-Descartes" moment
    Name: Anne Dalke (adalke@brynmawr.edu)
    Date: 10/15/2004 09:49
    Link to this Comment: 11092
    I want to pick up on (and I think connect) two "dots" from above: the first being Elizabeth's observation that there's something about the dot that gets lost when we call it a fuchsia dot, the second her calling attention to an "anti-Descartes" moment. I think her observation that it can be problematic to particularize an abstraction--taking an ideal figure of organizational structure (for instance) and then "filling it in" with individual particularity--is an important one: when an ideal structure is occupied (that is, put into practice) by particular individuals, who inevitably (and valuably--more thanks to Maria on on the virtues of subjectivity) bring their own angles of vision/insights...the ideal gets, well, altered: individual investments get put into play, power dynamics interrupt what is envisioned as "pure" role-enactment (one reason why my recent exercise in facilitation seemed to go so well: I occupied what Elizabeth called "the characteristic investment of the passerby": those without strong emotional attachments, whose functions are temporary but serve to keep things going--and was able to be effective precisely because I was NOT part of that ongoing play of power and personality).
    Saying that may mark another "anti-Descartes"moment, another questioning of the (actually Foucaultian) claim that "thinking is freedom in relation to what IS." I've been somewhat lost, over break, in a tome by the economist Amartya Sen called Rationality and Freedom--736 pages without one mention of Descartes! Anyhow....the book (somehow...nonetheless) works heavily the themes we've been working here, focusing especially on the limits of rational choice theory. There's one section in particular about the Darwinian view of progress that I thought might nudge on our conversation a little bit (by attending to some of its current "blindspots"?).
    Sen explains that--in line w/ the observations, above, about the relationship between individual particularity and larger efficient systems--"evolution is not much concerned with individual survival at all" (495). Good periodic reminder, that: an alteration of perspective beyond the aim of individual flourishing. But there's more: "in Darwinian thinking, the excellence of the species is judged by reproductive success--the power to survive and multiply and thus, collectively, to outnumber and outlive the competing groups...'fitness' [is] ...reflected by survival and reproductive success"(489). Looks like a neat criterion, Sen says, and certainly works in biology; question is just how cogent and persuasive is it in the realm of ideas. Do we really want to judge the quality of an idea by its successful spreading? It may not "fit" the era in which it arises--may be "outcompeted" by other stronger points of view....it is thereby not "excellent"? I understand the notion of "use value"--but I'm wondering if it can only be measured by actual use, actual propagation, in historical time....?
    There's one more piece to this; for me the real punch line is another, closely related point, one which brings us back to Elizabeth's "filled-in" fuchsia dot. Sen observes that " a worldview based on the Darwinian vision of progress can also be deeply limiting, because it concentrates on our characteristics rather than our lives, and focuses on adjusting ourselves rather than the world in which we live. These limits are particularly telling in the contemporary world given the prevalance of remediable deprivations" (500). It's no surprise to hear, from another social scientist, the strong echoes here of Corey's concerns that insisting on the viability of individual change will keep us from working on necessary structural changes on the social level.
    But what struck me particularly in this passage was another (to me new) notion: the way in which modeling the evolution of social systems on the admittedly LONG history of successful biological evocation seems to raise the specter of assimilation, of loss of individuality. An example: my daughter Lily is writing now from Senegal. Much of her correspondence has to do with queries about the necessity of assimilation: how much must she change her own behavior, in order to show respect for the culture and the people with whom she is now living? How free is she to live (as she always has lived) by her own internal gyroscope, instead of by social rules? How much guidance does the model of biological adaptiveness give her (us?) here? If Descartes represents (as I think he has come to represent in this forum) a philosophical application of biological evolution ("I think, and therefore I can change who I am...") wherein lies the difference (is there a difference?) between (biological) "adaptiveness" and (social) "assimilation"?
    "

    change
    Name: Jeremy (j.w.holmes@att.net)
    Date: 05/05/2005 08:13
    Link to this Comment: 15046

    Since I have obiously gotton nowhere with my above comments. I would like to revert back to a previous dissagreement with a possiblity of- I think therefore I can change. Often thought processes are set in there ways, yet thru evolution there is change. Simular to crystalization, if something is left undisturbed to grow and incubate, perhaps it is undisturbing to the enviroment around it? How else can such a thing exist. I think the very relevant question of what should be allowed to exist, is relative to the growth of such a thing. how the three's are relative to such judgement is coincedental to the religous aspect in my opinion, its just simply more of a physics thing to me. in other words everything is relative and crystalization occurs regardless of constant change, yet constant change affects crystalization. At least in theory..

    (:
    "



    Name: Paul Grobstein (pgrobste@brynmawr.edu)
    Date: 05/06/2005 07:52
    Link to this Comment: 15056

    I actually LIKE more dimensions (see Edwin Abbott's Flatland). The more dimensions, the more space to explore. But I'm still disinclined to throw in extra dimensions in particular cases where they don't seem necessary. Between any two points (ie in the space represented by dichotomies) there are still an infinite number of points, so one doesn't need additional dimensions simply to escape binary choices. And, as I sketched above for the brain, when you've got two dimensions with interactions between them it creates additional space. Throwing in extra dimensions in this case (and others) seems to me not only unnecessary but distracting. Some times one explores best by staying with the space one knows about and looking for the unexpected places inherent in it.
    Intrigued by crystallization and its relation to change and, perhaps, "weakness of self". I'm not sure I'd go so far as to argue about what "should be allowed to exist" but it does seem to me worth thinking about why some things that exist are more stable and others less stable. And about how this relates to "I am, and I can think, therefore I change who I am". I am inclined to think the norm (not only in physics but in general) is change and so what needs to be explained is not change but stability and, in particular, different instances of stability over different time courses. An example of the latter, of course, is crystals but a more immediately relevant example is "stories", both cultural ones and the ones we tell ourselves about ourselves. Its the latter, I suspect, that relate interestingly to "weakness of self". We CAN change, if we believe in the possibility of it, and put the needed time and energy into it. That's not to say that ALL changes are possible, nor that any given change is either easy or even possible. But some kind of change in ourselves, and in our stories of ourselves, is indeed possible, and our brains are organized to allow us to facilitate it.


    "
    -
    Looking at it this way, this thread is very concentric. I am impressed with the logic of thought. Very impressed to say the least.
    -


    cogito ergo ...
    Name:
    Date: //2006-09-07 06:29:27 :
    Link to this Comment: 20297

    Is it possible that Descarte was an incorrigible punster?

    In the Christian bible, the true name of God is given only once.
    'I am', or, in Latin, 'sum'.

    Could Descarte have meant to imply, in a moment of deliberate ambiguity:
    "I think, therefore god [exists]"?

    Just a thought.

    Logicman.
    Cogito ergo non voluntus.


    Thought is physical
    Name: Roger
    Date: //2006-09-17 13:47:32 :
    Link to this Comment: 20449

    What you have believed so far: That there is thinking. That there is the physical. And that there is the experience.

    Something that I forgot to add. That when you think. You think in your brain. And your brain is physical. Therefore you are physical while you are thinking.
    Yogi's or Monks who sit on the tops of mountains and maintain the same body temperature or swallow poison or walk on fire have learned how to use the mind. The mind is not physical and so you could not think with your mind. Althought the thought is of the experience. And therefore in order for the mind to exist the phiysical or matter had to exist. When you are using your mind you are not thinking, you are experiencing. And experiencing is a feeling. Mind over matter means: experiencing over thinking.
    In order for you to experience one has to have a physical body. But in order for you to think one has to have had experienced something. But the physcial and the emotional are not the same thing. But one had to exist for the other to exist. One did not exist before the other. They were both created by God in the same time.



    Name: Jamie
    Date: //2006-09-22 13:18:42 :
    Link to this Comment: 20505

    Notes on Descartes' meditations

    Descartes 1

    All the things we may doubt

    All that we know comes from the senses, but by nature, our senses can be deceiving. While it may seem insane to doubt the reality of the corporeal things we observe with our senses including earth, sky, and even our own bodies, there is still not any absolute proof of what we perceive, because our senses may fool us. But non-corporeal truths such as concepts or ideas, for example, "two plus three equals five, or a square has but four sides" are true whether or not any corporeal thing exists, at least within the realm of this existence; that is if we exist at all.

    As humans we are on this world and placed in a condition of skepticism for all things. Who or what could have thought of such a world where the inhabitants thereof are captured by unconsciousness (sleep) on a regular basis. When we dream, we are often completely unaware of the reality of waking times, yet there are instances when our dreams seem every bit as real as the waking times. So, we believe that our dreams may deceive us, but why should we not accept that our wakefulness might deceive us as well?

    Then, the probability for us to be so imperfect as to be the constant victim of deception would require an external power at least in proportion to the power possessed by the cause of such a deception. Thus, there is nothing believed to be true which is impossible to doubt, where faith and doubt are merely two sides of the same coin. So, when we consider our own doubt then, we must doubt the truth of all things with equal vigor as we would doubt their falsity.

    Descartes 2

    Non-corporeal truths (of the mind) are more certain that the corporeal truths (sensed by the body).

    Even if deceived by our senses, in order to be deceived, we must still exist. Therefore, deceived as we may be, our existence is necessarily proven each time it is expressed or conceived by the mind (I think, therefore I am). A thinking thing is a thing that doubts, understands, conceives, affirms, denies, wills, refuses; that imagines also, and perceives.

    A piece of wax, for example, is a thing. Yet when placed by the fire, it melts. No thing has a constant shape, smell, color, figure, or size. All things are in a constant state of change.

    Modern atomic theory would even suggest more empty space than actual particles and constantly expanding or contracting. So, if you believe in an atomic theory, individual things therefore can have an infinite number of shapes or properties. Consequently any specific conceptions we have of things are still the product of the faculty of imagination.

    Yet, things cannot be what the mind alone perceives them to be, because even though in a constant state of change, it would be insane to suggest that every thing is imagination only. This is not a circular logic, rather it introduces the concept of extension, whereby extension means that things exist in space only as an extension of our perceptions. Yet empty space, which we perceive as nothing, is abhorrent to believe as something that exists. Thus this empty space is only an extension of those things that are contained in it and those things contained in it are extensions of our perceptions of what we perceive them to be. This state of extension is the existence of our corporeal (physical) world, as we perceive it. Yet the question remains, whether our perception is the least bit necessary in order for the corporeal world to exist, i.e. the age-old adage, "if a tree falls alone in the woods, will it make a noise?"

    So, if we can't even be sure of the existence of any corporeal things, even people we meet on the street, then, are simply extensions of the faculty of judgment alone, which is in the mind, and they are products of only what we believe we see with our eyes. Considering our world in the atomic theory, wave-matter theory, or really any theory in which you want to fathom your existence, it is now manifest that bodies themselves are not properly perceived by the senses nor by the faculty of imagination, but by the intellect alone; and since they are not really perceived by sight and touch, but only because they are understood or rightly comprehended by thought, nothing is more easily or clearly apprehended than that which we contrive with our own minds.

    But because it is vane and difficult to rid one's self of the concepts of reality that we have become accustomed, and lest we become convinced in our pride that it is our own self centered minds that are the cause of all existence, it will be desirable to tarry for some time at this stage, that, by long continued meditation, we may more deeply impress upon our memory this new knowledge. In other words, lets just stop and think about it for a moment, because a priori, we are thinking beings.

    Descartes 3

    God exists

    There are three basic or distinct types of ideas or classes of thought. They are volitions, affections, and judgments. Or you may call them desires, feelings, and conclusions if you wish, but they are just categories. But even within those categories of thought there are but two cause and effect relationships for thoughts. They are: one, that we are deceived by our thoughts (falsity and error); or two, that our thoughts do not deceive us (honesty and truth).

    As we have discussed above, some of these thoughts are reactions to the senses; in other words, before we even form our thoughts based on the senses, we could have already been deceived by our senses. Then there are the thoughts that are simply independent of the corporeal; in that the truth or falsity of our thoughts will not depend the least bit on the extension of our senses.

    Then let us consider some of these ideas that do not depend on any objects in a real world. Some appear be innate (ideas in and of themselves); others adventitious (not corporeal, but derived from the corporeal); and others to be made up entirely (factitious).

    Take for example the minds ability to count things. We know that the corporeal objects we choose to count are capable of deceiving us because there is no such thing as absolute precision in anything. Every physical or mechanical object we consider is subject to some tolerance for error. We just allow ourselves to accept a certain margin and call it good. Take for example, our one meter measuring stick. To us, one meter stick is just as good as the next, but if we really examined two different measuring sticks on a microscopic level, we would see that no two measuring sticks are ever exactly the same. Even if we could test the exact number of atoms in each of the measuring sticks, no two things can occupy the exact same space with the exact same temperatures and thus the constant state of expansion and contraction of molecules alone would not allow two supposedly identical one meter measuring sticks to precisely be identical; it is just close enough for us to dismiss all argument.

    But then there is also a non-corporeal aspect to counting, which is the mere subjective framework that our minds have created for the ordering process of counting. Take again for example, our one-meter measuring stick. Even though we cannot ascribe to our senses as to the precision of the stick, we can ascribe to the concept of its singularity. In other words, we can count it - and when we count, there is but one. No matter that it cannot ever be exactly one meter, it is none-the-less capable of being exactly one thing, one object, a singular instance in our minds to contemplate.

    Then the subjective idea of counting things is a type of idea which although indirectly derived from our senses, it does not actually depend on our senses. Counting therefore cannot deceive us within our own framework (unless of course there is a creator capable and willing to design this entire framework as a part of an elaborate deception). An understanding of the counting of quantities therefore falls under the category of an adventitious thought; i.e. we are given a concept of corporeal "things" through the extension of our senses and then our minds seek to place some order over the concept of quantity over the extension.

    Humans are thinking (conscious) things, that is, beings who doubt, affirm, deny, know a few things, and are ignorant of many; who love, hate, have a will, and who imagine likewise, and perceive. And if we have imagined that two and three make five, there is no denying or deceiving, because counting is but a conceived framework within those confines of our own imaginations. The exercise of counting then is not subject to the senses, only to our thinking minds.

    In our own minds, two and three make five. We can ask another person, and get the same; two and three make five. But then we might ask ourselves; could we be deceived even about the framework of our own imaginations? Or more importantly, who or what could possibly be capable of such an infinite deception that we could be wrong about the counting concept independently of our senses? Is there ever a possibility that two and three do not make five? And what power could exist that even the spirit of our own thinking mind could be so deceived.

    Yet if we are not deceived, what kind of power can take physical things which have no objective truth to them (i.e. no exactness, as discussed above) and then place order over those objects capable or making us perceive them as real objects. In order to consider either such deception or such majesty, then we must consider deity, or a power greater than the whole of our existence. And again, just as we strive to understand the truth of things, we must equally try to understand that which is false (what is cannot be produced by what is not). So, when we can seek to consider power and majesty of deity capable of designing the order of counting for our minds to discover, we might also consider how deity could have deceived us in our adventitious discovery.

    On the other hand, we must consider too that we are not deceived and the subjective counting of things existing per singuli (i.e. innate and true in and of itself, deity not included) is a possibility. To fathom such thoughts we must again return to conceptualization, or the possibilities of thinking and of the thinking mind.

    There are only four alternatives to the framework suggested above as to how the concept of quantity (counting) has come to be in our minds:

    1. There is a God and that power has ordered quantity as an instance for our minds to discover.

    2. There is no God, but the counting of quantities is a simple truth in and of itself.

    3. There is a God and deity has deceived us as to the order of quantities.

    4. There is no deity and the counting of quantities is but a simple falsehood.

    Some of our volitions (wants) can be denied by our existence, i.e. you can't always get what you want. However, some of our other volitions cannot be denied; in other words, we just make the choice and it happens. In our brains, for example, we simply choose to open our eyes and then it happens. The only way to deny that volition would be to poke out our eyes or otherwise seal them shut. But as long as we have eyes and a muscular skeletal system with nerves, we can open them.

    We then confront ourselves with the realization that counting holds true across from one individual to another. It doesn't matter whom or what taught us counting, they all taught us that two and three make five. Counting, therefore is not an idea of the mind alone, innate to us babes of the womb, but rather taught to us through our extensions. And through that confirmation from both our minds and of our extensions, that two and three make five, it is no longer just a part of our individual minds, but has been extended. This is to suggest that counting is both a subjective and an objective process, but we can continue to refocus this examination on just the subjective portions alone.

    Thus, because other persons can confirm our counting of things, three of the four alternatives for existence of deity can still exist, but as to the fourth alternative, that two and three do not make five, it has no purpose in this existence. If in some "land of nod" where two and three make something else, then let those citizens live in their own land, for we in our own exploration of these principles we have no need for another two and three here. So unless and until there is a chance for us to pass on to the next world, the next existence, we only have our reality to deal with here and the idea that two and three do not make five is simply "out of this world" and can therefore can be dismissed from this world without further ado. We just cast it out of our world just like that. It is one of those volitions that we all can simply partake in and we cast out any idea that two and three equal anything but five in this world, no matter who or what created it.

    Perhaps we should now seek to eliminate some of the other alternatives above. We have seen, for example, that two and three make five both in our minds and in our extension and the idea that two and three do not make five has been found repugnant to us and has been cast out. But to cast God out as a deceiver, we have not yet arrived, because a power capable of creating an order of quantity for counting is certainly also capable of deceiving us. So, we are still left wondering whether or not there is a God, yet also whether or not God has deceived us.

    So let us turn to the alternative that there is no God, i.e. there is no God and two and three make five inherently.

    Let us look outside of our windows on to the street below. And if you have a house with windows and there are people below, to the people we see passing by on the street, in the minds of those other persons who have no choice but to be a part of our extension now that we have looked at them, whether deceived or not; all of their extensions, whether the truth of two and three make five is truth created, truth per singuli, or even deception thrust upon us; to those people, now because of our realization of them; they have no choice but to be deprived of the simple "I think, therefore I am" proposition as discussed above, but rather are left with a "We think therefore we are" proposition, because we perceive them and they have no choice in that. And since our citizens of "Land of Nod" spoken of previously, have been cast out by us because two and three make five for us, then two and three make five for them as well. In every instance and for each of those persons walking down on the street, two and three make five.

    And now returning to our quest we are engaged, which is an attempt to rule out any of the four alternative frameworks above, to arrive lastly at the one correct and true status of things, the next step is to rule out is whether God can be a deceiver. It doesn't matter whether or not there is a God at this point except that if there is a God, we can rule out that God is a deceiver, at least as to this world.

    No matter the reasoning or purpose, two and three make five, so for any God who is a deceiver (perhaps we call him Lucifer) we have the same power to cast him out as we did other falsehoods. Back in the "Land of Nod" where two and three were of a different color, there was a wonderful place for Lucifer to exists. If he comes here to deceive us that two and three do not make five, we simply send him back to the Land of Nod, because as soon as we learn something absolutely to be a falsehood and not depending the least on our extensions, we then have the volition to cast it out. Therefore, despite our doubtful corporeal existence, our non-corporeal thought process allows us to command "Lucifer, you are dismissed, and God shall not be a deceiver!"

    Now it may have seemed just a game to us; that we even considered this counting process or thought that we could cast out error and deceit. But the ultimate goal in this discourse is of course to arrive at whether or not God exists. What then was the purpose of the above exercise in casting out error? The answer: it was simply to prove to ourselves in our status of doubt that we still do have the power to cast our error whenever it is incontrovertibly recognized. We can now use that power to move on to the bigger questions.

    Now we are left with but two alternatives: God exists, or God does not, but we have used the above exercise simply to cast our error. Now we should try to apply the same process with our last two alternatives. But we must be equally able to convince ourselves whether other people exist or not. Since we now know in this reality the true essence of quantity (counting of things), we have placed a great deal of our trust and reliance on our extensions, such as those people down on the street. It seems that it would be a simple exercise to merely trust our thoughts that another human being outside ourselves truly exists, yet knowing now that everything outside of our thoughts is merely extension, making an infallible declaration of those people's existence is really just quite as difficult as declaring that there is a God.

    We can look out our windows and indeed we can see the people down on the street, but as we said above, all corporeal things, even down to our very own physical existence is nothing but extension. What a step it would be to further declare absolutely that those extensions that we view are actually other souls that do also exist.

    But comfort can be found in the fact that we can prove to ourselves that at least one other true spirit in the universe outside ourselves does exist and the proof of that is that we did not know how to count as babes; that is, we had to be taught to count. Someone or something had to teach us through our extensions. Then once we learned, the concept of counting, i.e. the concept within itself, no longer required of our extensions in order to be true and without deception. Two and three make five. We are not alone and are not deceived in this, for we have cast out the error.

    Now we know for sure that at least one being outside ourselves exists because we have been taught one way or another, God or Man, but at least one of the two remaining alternatives is now true. Both cannot be false, we have cast out the idea that all could be false. But both could yet be shown to be true.

    So now back to whether or not there is a God. Which type of thought do we now turn to in order to answer this question? Will it be volition, affection, or a judgment? Volition has worked well for the action to cast out falsehoods and it was our judgment that gave us the power to do so. Now, it was also easy to use our volitions to open our own eyes. It was easy by judgment to cast upon falsehoods that we have allowed falsehoods to be cast out. But as to the truth or error of deity, is seems we cannot yet be sure and yet we drive on, because it is only in judgments that formal falsity, or falsity properly so called, can be met with.

    We have seen that if there is a God, that deity will not be a deceiver, but we have not established any power or volition within ourselves to be able to cast God out. Neither have we arrived at any judgment powerful enough to dismiss the possibility in our minds that the people on this earth may be without a God. We must decide which thought then to trust to take us to the next step. Our affections it seems have not yet been used and affections may well turn out to be what we need in order to decide. But on the other hand, affections do not seem to be useful at all in coming to incontrovertible conclusions.

    But as mankind can endeavor to obtain by degrees a more intimate and familiar knowledge of self and his affections, the knowledge of the opportunity for true companionship is no small thing when for many people, the possibility of isolation is truly one of the most feared of fears. It is no small thing therefore, to contemplate whether any being outside ourselves truly exists.

    Now using the same logic as having taken away two of the alternative frameworks above, if we attempt now to also cast God out of this world, we would also necessarily have to have the power to cast out the existence other people. And as to those people we see on the street, even though two and three make five, we know that someone or something has necessarily taught us that it is so. Either it was God who created the world and set the framework for the counting of things, or those frameworks simply existed and only those people on the streets of our extensions have been quite responsible for bringing the ability to our minds to count them.

    It seems we can either derive then that it is the people are who are real but God is not real; or another possibility is that God is real and the people are not real. Perhaps though, we might also consider both are real and both are necessary. Because we have already found it repugnant that we are lone beings in this world (someone or something had to teach us to count) if the people of our extensions are indeed on the street, then could we not be the extension of one or more of them? "I think, therefore I am" was previously proven as a postulate, yet it now seems that the "We think, therefore we are" is perhaps the more complete postulate from which to proceed here, even if we cannot yet derive for certain who the we is going to be.

    Until this point in our analysis, there has not been one iota of proof that we could ever use an affection to cast out error or to cast truth onto any of our ideas. And there seems to be no such power to allow us to use affection, such as hope or faith, with such power to decide unequivocally the truth of God or of his falsity. Faith and hope are but affections on the sides of the same coin, opposite of doubt and fear. Falsity also arises when our ideas represent what is nothing as if it were something.

    If we travel into the darkest cave on this earth and bring with us no candle, or at least having traveled into the cave with the candle and for a time we put the candle out once inside the cave, there will remain only darkness until someone or something will light the candle and/or bring light back into the cave. With this picture in mind, let us ask ourselves if we, like the candle, possess any power or means of the natural light required to cause ourselves to exist in this moment, and that same power to yet exist a moment afterward (relight the candle). Since we are merely thinking beings, if such a power resided in us, we should, without doubt, be conscious of it. For no power can bring something from nothing. Each cause must contain within it at least the capability of the creating its effect. So, we now know that we are dependent upon some power of being different from ourselves, as with the light, to turn have turned us on, i.e. created us as thinking beings, much in the same way that someone must light the candle in the cave in order for there to be light.

    Next, it is perfectly evident that there must also be at least as much reality in the cause as there is in its effect. Whatever in the end is realized as the cause of our existence, it must be like us a thinking being, because no effect can come from a cause that is incapable of producing the effect. And yet, the only cause capable of producing a thinking being such as ourselves must possess in itself the idea and all the perfections we have attributed to Deity.

    We might also ask whether this cause owes its origin and existence to itself, or to some other cause. For if this cause is self-existent, it follows then that this cause is God; for any cause that possesses the perfection of self-existence, it must likewise, without doubt, have the power of actually possessing every perfection of which it has. In other words, all the perfections conceived belong to God. But if we owe one causes existence to another cause, then we demand again, for a similar reason, whether this second cause exists of itself or through another being, until, from stage to stage, we at length arrive at an ultimate cause, which will be God. Therefore, let us re-convince ourselves of the certainty of the following statement and with purpose and conviction; let us reconvene to tell ourselves: we are not alone.

    Descartes 4, Truth and Error

    Although we have proven to ourselves the existence of a being outside ourselves that must have something to do with the cause of our creation, we have yet to even begin to understand the properties of that being. For while we have probably elevated that cause to some form of deity, we have not yet understood the nature of that perfection or of the qualities of such deity.

    Perfection is the opposite of nothingness and mankind is caught somewhere in between. God is perfect and does not deceive, but mankind is yet deceived and is often found in error. Our existence depends on God, yet error itself does not depend on God; hence, error does not come from God. In order for mankind to have fallen from God, mankind himself had to introduce the error.

    We think man's tendency to commit error is a defect and that man's ability to discern truth from error must be limited. Perhaps though, it is not man's ability to discern that is limited, but this defect is only due to the fact that error was introduced in the first place. That mankind had to be cast into the world for some purpose, which purpose yet remains perfect despite man's errors. Therefore, all things have their opposite and for perfection to exist, man must have fallen.

    This suggests that choice, or freedom of choice (which is discernment itself) is yet perfect because truth and error are but different sides of the same coin; which coin is discernment. Therefore, perfection can be found in the truth, which is discerned from error. Yet, perfection itself therefore does require discernment.

    Even though the perfect power of discernment may exist, that perfect power is not within mankind in general. However, we may choose to believe that men will simply not always use their perfect powers of discernment because that is their perfect choice. And that is not circular argument, but rather a simple statement of the fact that with an understanding of perfect choice, we realize that sometimes we will choose to use that power correctly and other times we will not.

    Then back to the existence of God, we must consider all God's creations, not just mankind, because our imperfections as individual beings may be made perfect by grouping the intelligences together. In other words, we can think of Deity as an all knowing individual, but we must also acknowledge that if all of the intelligences in the universe were taken together, they could also contain the complete intelligences of the universe.

    Where then do our errors come from? They arise only from our choice not to constrain ourselves, that we do not restrain free will. Our will to choose, offers such a great range of understanding, that will itself extends to things greater than our understanding. Freedom of choice in and of itself is indifferent. Free will itself is not susceptible to falling into error and sin by choosing the false and deceitful in place of the true and honest, evil instead of good. It is our use of free will that allows these errors to creep in. The use, or misuse, makes the faculty of will (the freedom of choice which we experience as our ability to discern) to be perhaps the greatest part of self that truly takes us beyond all the possible adventitious discoveries perceived through our extended senses.

    Although we then cannot be free from error, we can do what we must to arrive at the knowledge of truth; for we assuredly can reach for the truth if we only fix our attention sufficiently to those things we know to be true without any chance of deception. We must separate out those things which we conceive more confusedly and obscurely. So, let us list now some things we know for sure and then return to the meditation.

    1. We know that we exist, because we know we are thinking beings.

    2. We know that we are not alone.

    3. We know that God is not a deceiver.

    4. We know we have the choice to cast out deceit when we absolutely recognize it.

    5. That same freedom of choice allows us to fall into error and sin.

    6. We are not perfect, but retain the ability to never attempt to judge truth where it is not clearly known, therefore we have the ability for perfection line upon line.

    Since we are able to derive these things, it leads us to presume that we ourselves actually bear a certain image and similitude of Deity. We have a certain small glimpse into what the properties a perfect and majestic Deity may possess, but we can also focus the ability in our minds, or spirit if you will, for using our volitions, affections, and judgments for uncovering the truth or falsity of many things.

    Descartes 5, Properties of Material Things and the Properties of Deity

    When we seek to prove the existence of material things, we also seek to prove the existence of God. For if we find that material things exist then we must also find their cause to exist. And if their cause to exist turns out to be more than merely our own imaginations, then there must be another cause which is at least as capable as that effect, which is the entire reality of our universe. So, when we refer to that power which is the cause of the universe, we call that God, even if we have not yet determined the properties of such a Deity.

    As to the material things, material things in and of themselves neither teach us truth nor deceive us, yet we cannot exactly ascribe to their existence because they lack any exactness or precision. Yet they do exist even if not exactly and therefore any we discover, with the aid of our ideas and pure intellect, we recognize them as true things; and now we can say without reservation that all that is true is something. Thus, even if we do not yet know what that something is, we can still say that something exists without knowing all of its properties.

    Therefore, when we say material things, we may refer to the physical properties of the things or simply to the conceptual properties of the things. A polygon for example is an object made up of lines. A three sided polygon is called a triangle. Yet, what is a line where there is no exact measurement for it? And what is a triangle, which is made up of these non-exacting lines? While we may not produce any exactly measured triangle, just as in any of the non-corporeal ideas we have spoken of above, a triangle is yet a conceptual model for which absolute truth of the concept can be known, i.e. we can count the sides in our mind and when speaking of a triangle, always come to three when pertaining to the number of sides. We can shout out to the people down on the street, "how many sides to a triangle?" And despite, the reaction that they may think us crazy, if the answer comes, it will still be three.

    Thus we discern that the idea of a triangle is not totally factitious depending simply on our own thought to create it; but that it is the representation of a true and immutable natural object. Like the act of counting and all the precepts found in any pure mathematics, the concepts themselves we can hold to be true and that they exists even if their corporeal applications are less than sure.

    Then, like the triangle, let us also experiment to consider the properties of a Deity capable of creating the framework from which we imagine all these truths and fictions. If we think of God as a person, just like one of us - just like mankind has often chosen to consider God, we have not yet developed any means by which we can either eliminate or confirm that image for God.

    Because we normally conceive of God as one perfect being and perfection is something we are not capable of fully understanding, we must work forward through the framework created only line upon line towards our understanding of deity and to whose essence the idea of a God necessarily pertains.

    When we think of those properties pertaining to the essence of God, it seems impossible to conceive two or more gods of this kind because even if we could call upon and see more than one personage or entity, the infinite reality of our universe is one large infinite effect. The causation of such an effect may come in parts, but the whole of it can certainly be thought of as one encompassing causation; and it being supposed that one such God exists, we see that God must have existed from all eternity. Time is incapable of being an effect without a cause at least as capable of creating it. Thus, there are many properties of God which we can neither diminish nor change.

    Yet we know that if we release ourselves from trying to discern all the properties of Deity, we can know that God exists, God does not change, and that God does not Deceive. And just like the properties we know of the triangle (that the sum of its three angles is always equal to two right angles and that in a right triangle, the squares of the lengths of the two adjacent sides is equal to the square of the hypotenuse, and so on) we find that the truths of the properties are found to be more exacting in our minds (we are capable of proving them) than is the existence of any actual corporeal structure of the triangle. Likewise we can know of the existence of God without knowing all of God's corporeal properties - that is if God indeed does have any of those properties.

    In our existence (perhaps unlike in the Lang of Nod, or anywhere outside our existence that God may reside) time is an essential element in our ability for experience. For what is something that has no moment and what is a moment with no prelude or persistence? So, if time then is a necessary element to our existence, time is that framework from which we perceive of God, just as much as non-corporeal conceptual model for the triangle turns out to be the framework from which we perceive the corporeal triangle.

    Therefore, we can derive the same argument as for the existence of a triangle to the argument for the existence of God. The exacting of properties for God in our corporeal existence are not defined and therefore somewhat unattainable, yet the thought and idea of God as a perfect and majestic being capable of the time and space framework for causation of the universe is clear and undisputable. That is that the properties of God in our existence are as follows: God exists and the whole cause of God's existence is as infinite as its effects.

    Descartes 6, Existence of Material things and the distinctions of body and spirit

    As we said, we can easily imagine a triangle as a three-sided object. Even if we cannot completely quantify the lengths of any one side, it can still be imagined and therefore, in essence, it exists. Then if we try to imagine a chiliogon (the thousand-sided polygon) it is difficult even to precisely picture all thousand sides at one time. Does the concept of the chiliogon then become any less real than the concept of the triangle? We can imagine it by simply drawing our attention to the counting of sides. Thus, there is a difference between pure imagination and pure intellect. In order to picture the many sided polygon, we need the imagination, however, to simply count sides, we only require pure intellect.

    Even if we cannot fully trust our senses, those objects which we perceive with our senses in no way can all have been simply imagined by us. The mere characters of many of the corporeal objects, which we observe immediately, appear far too complex for us to have simply imagined them all by ourselves. Those corporeal objects then must have been caused by some other objects or some other entity and we may also suppose some sort of similarity between the cause of those objects and the objects themselves.

    So, at first glance it is easy to think of all corporeal objects as real, but afterward we may have our faith sapped when we remember that we are so often deceived by our senses. We look at something far away and perceive it to be something completely different than when we approach for a closer inspection. Sometimes even a person who has had an amputated arm or leg, experience the sensation of pain or itching in the limb that for them no longer exists.

    Thus we discern that the idea of a triangle is not totally factitious depending simply on our own thought to create it; but that it is the representation of a true and immutable natural object.

    Let us experiment then, to consider God as a person, just like one of us - just like mankind has often chosen to consider God.



    Because we normally conceive of God as one perfect being and perfection is something we are not capable of fully understanding, we must work forward only line upon line towards our understanding of deity and to whose essence the idea of a God necessarily pertains. It seems impossible to conceive two or more gods of this kind because even if we could call upon and see more than one personage, the infinite reality of our universe is one large effect with but one causation; and it being supposed that one such God exists, we see that He must have existed from all eternity. Time is incapable of being an effect without a cause at least as capable of creating it. Thus, there are many properties in God which we can neither diminish nor change.

    So, if we will now recall to our minds the things above, which we have held as true, because perceived by the senses, and the foundations upon which our belief in their truth rested; we will, have to examine the reasons we still doubt them. Just as we have used faith to arrive at this knowledge, we will also use knowledge to arrive back at our faith. Then we will know what we ought to believe and why.

    First, remember that we have perceptions and that there is no reason to either doubt or confirm the validity and extension of those perceptions, but we cannot doubt that within ourselves those perceptions exist. Thus, our perceptions are real, even if the things we perceive are not and those perceptions can cause us both pleasure or pain.

    If it was wholly within our own power to perceive them or not to perceive them, then surely we would avoid all pain. Yet, we experience both pleasure and pain. Therfore, we as beings exist in both a spiritual sense and a physical sense. The things we are, thinking beings, is not our bodies. Yet, our bodies are that which hold our beings. Our bodies and spirit are one in the same purpose, yet entirely different. It is this separation of body and spirit then that allows us to arrive at discernment of truth and error, lest if body and spirit were the same, all could just be a product of our own imaginations.

    The corporeal things of this world, then, are as real as the reality of this universe. There is nothing more real in this nature that the experiences we have of our own body and spirit. If we do not eat, we experience hunger. If we do not drink, we experience pain. These consequences we do not doubt, nor do we have reason to doubt. Cause and effect are true in and of themselves even if the corporeal aspects of those feelings remain at odds with our perceptions.

    If I taste something and it is bitter or if I then taste the same thing and the next time it turns sweet, doesn't there still remain the taste. The taste itself does still exist, no matter what my interpretation. Nature teaches us to shun what causes the sensation of pain, and to pursue what affords us the sensation of pleasure, but those things our senses perceive to which cause neither pleasure nor pain, we choose to ignore. They don't excite us in the least way and we as human beings are limited by our senses in our understanding. We are less than perfect and left to question why God would have made us so.

    So, then let us stop doubting. Faith is the believing of things which we have yet to perceive, but faith can also be simply the act of not doubting that which we have yet to prove false. Just as we consider the deception of our dreams, shouldn't we also consider that our waking times are most certainly at least a different state of consciousness. Isn't it unquestionable to us that we know the difference when we are awake?

    I think, therefore I am … and, we think, therefore we are. In this we are not alone. If God exists, then He is no deceiver and the material things that we perceive are real. To all those things we have discussed and which we can fully comprehend as truth and right, without equivocation, to all those things we are not deceived.


    Cultivation
    Name: Jeremy
    Date: //2006-09-23 00:24:01 :
    Link to this Comment: 20508

    As I have said before, I am impressed with the enthusiasm found here. I remember vaguely of someone here in the post referencing that since this is such a internet based forum, that it was not referenced in some other reference... etc.

    I wanted to give something back, as an inventor/engineer, well here's an internet link/ http address.


    http://www.fieldlines.com/story/2006/9/20/224359/532

    In this particular thread I am 'JW' ....

    Its a neat thread I interacted with it, just as I did with this one, granted its very technical. But the participants/contributors all seem to be compatable with the Iam, I think, Therfore- in my opinion. Just that the topic is constrained/slanted towards the technical end of things with a dynamic twist of-

    -If I hook this thing up is it going to burn out my modulator?-


    I believe its simple
    Name:
    Date: //2006-10-07 07:30:51 :
    Link to this Comment: 20633

    you are therefor you react

    all living things change energy based upon their contrasts to their enviorment

    if your body is heated or cooled physically the matter that is you will be affected directly regardless of your opinion yet whether you become tense or remain relaxed is a complete product of your concetual perception of that contrast

    Like being stuck out in the cold has never been proven to make people sick medically above hypothermic levels, yet some people exposed to cold whether will develope a head cold whereas others wont, this seems to imply that its not the cold air that makes you sick but they way in which your mind directs your body to relate to your personal identified observation of change based upon contrast, im sorry for going on so long

    but you think therefor you are? is that going to validate your search to identify yourself? perhaps you are therefor you think and all thought is relative to your observation of the contrasts between things relative to yourself

    all our senses and all that we may possibly perceive is based upon the enviorment where we evolved, ultraviolet light, microwave, visible light, all of them are the same where the different names serve only to draw distinction between the average affects of a general range of frequency that reacts to commonplace matter

    what im trying to get to is that more ultraviolet light has begun reach us down on earth and cells having never been exposed to this form of energy may react irratically, but if ultraviolet radiation had been reaching the earths surface throughout human evolution our eyes would have grown to perceive that uv light in the same way that we perceive visible light
    cold does not exist, only a lack of heat, the change in temp of one thing is completely relative to its contrast to another but visible light and heat are totally the samewhats different is your understanding of the way in which you perceive or contrast to this energy, different forms of life perceive different ranges of electromagnetic radiation, for instance to some animals like wolves infrared is visible, whereas to some other forms such as insects visibly perceive frequencies of energy we call ultraviolet
    cells in your eyes react to visible light and your brain unconciously draws distinctions between the contrasting frequencies whereas cells in your skin react to infrared radiation which causes their electrons to accelerate which you perceive as heat but heat and light are different forms of the same thing and are in fact the same, whats variable is the way in which you r body reacts to and observes different levels of energy
    thinking could best be described as conceptual reaction based upon your association of your observation contrasted to recognition of your retained experiences, thought is not a product of feelings, feelings are a product of considered experiences
    you think therefor you create distinctions yet what wouild be the lowest level of though? does bacteria think? one thing all life shares in common,it changes by reacting to its contrast to the world instead of chaning in contrast to the world, you yourself have the innate ability to change or transmute energy in more ways than you might believe, and youre doing it now all the time as does all life,
    like lao tzu said in the tao te ching, from one comes two from two comes three, from three comes all things in nature
    einstein, relativity, to observe the properties or contrasts between things it must be from a third objective point,
    so im just saying we are dangerously close to a debate over semantics or definition when you say thought where do you draw distinctions? our thoughts may be complex compared to a wolfs thought as is a wolfs complex compared to a lizard but the phrase "i think therefore i am" is incorrect and egotistical simply because you are regardless of your opinion of it, the same way two things that collide are relative only to eachover regardless of how you observe it oh well i dunno im rambling, enough said for now


    wow
    Name: Jeremy
    Date: //2006-10-12 20:25:36 :
    Link to this Comment: 20672

    Like I said once before, 'wow' ,If this isnt the stuff of philosospy Then I dont know what is. I feel good about participating in this forum. I wish a new topic on the forum list would materialize, that talks about "boundry's" and how they are relative to, I am, I think, therfore...


    Boundary Play
    Name: Elizabeth
    Date: //2006-10-14 00:40:15 :
    Link to this Comment: 20677

    Fun! I'll play. Dreams which come from the same place as thought create moments which are not within the same boundaries that we percieve exist in reality. It seems as though a wider set of events can occur and with less logic in dream space than in hours spent awake. So, physical reality and tangible actions seem to limit the set of possibilities that we think can happen when we are awake...for example most of us have probably decided that we are incapible of suddenly sprouting wings and flying...but in dreams, this is entirely possible. Maybe dreams fill in the mind's need to play in more complicated ways...that the physicality of existence rejects when our bodies seemingly CAN'T do things. Sometimes, new things are created because a person doesn't believe in that wide of gap between dream space and real space. For example, going on the moon and cellular phones were once "dream space" which became real space. I think we need boundaries to live but certainly not to think or within the act of thinking.



    Name: Will
    Date: //2006-10-28 08:15:55 :
    Link to this Comment: 20784

    With or without thought, I AM.


    Being/Becoming
    Name: Ken Gaynor
    Date: //2006-10-28 17:45:24 :
    Link to this Comment: 20788

    Just read comments given by Burgmayer-Grobstein and noticed that the 2 pictures shown by that author ('Being' and 'Becoming') are labeled in a fashion that cofuses me. The first, labeled 'Being', is of soft hues and generally indefinite shapes...like the beginnings of a series of thoughts or the start of a not-yet-defined course of action. The other picture is of well defined, much more intense hues in particular patterns.In this person's opinion, the order should be the other way around...general to specific. That's the common order of life...idea to definition, in my way of thinking.
    Ken Gaynor (kengaynor@yahoo.com)



    Name:
    Date: //2006-10-28 17:45:39 :
    Link to this Comment: 20789

    With or without thought I AM NOT.


    Boundry Play
    Name: Jeremy
    Date: //2006-10-29 03:26:41 :
    Link to this Comment: 20791

    I think comment #20677 is relevent...

    Only a basis for comparison could establish what a boundry actually is.

    "for example most of us have probably decided that we are incapible of suddenly sprouting wings and flying...but in dreams, this is entirely possible."

    To know the difference, might be, the third thing- the treeness.
    I decided that im in capable of sprouting wing's and flying. In my dreams I dont need wings to fly. In my dreams I just concentrate on the feeling of levitating. The next thing I percieve is myself in midair. Yet... If im not dreaming, I can live life, but only fly, in the care of machines that can carry me.

    "Maybe dreams fill in the mind's need to play in more complicated ways...that the physicality of existence rejects when our bodies seemingly CAN'T do things. Sometimes, new things are created because a person doesn't believe in that wide of gap between dream space and real space."

    "I think we need boundaries to live"

    "but certainly not to think"

    If my treeness teaches me that I cannot sprout wings and fly, I know this. Most likely because I try'd and failed many times, and the experiences re-enforced my beliefs. Yet somehow persistance afforded me new ideas. The same thing that teaches me something wont work, causes a different approach. The source of this raw material must be governed by a comparison mechanism that by itself, equals more than the sum of its parts.

    "or within the act of thinking."

    yes/No/maybe, this can lead to more complicated mechanisms to satisfy our own mind's need to play. Hence the whole field of aviation. Layered and as complex as it is, treenees is well defined as common practice. in other words to build an aeroplane, we do it such and such, a way.

    in this way, a system of comparison has seemingly allowed the mind to dream in real life.

    Excellent comment Elizabeth c.

    I like the idea of fun and play.



    the ObservING
    Name:
    Date: //2006-11-11 08:43:28 :
    Link to this Comment: 20958

    is THIS on topic?

    Bohr was NOT mistaken....
    "the referent of quantum mechanics is not reality..but what can be

    SAID(thought, non-existant misery-self)

    about it. Of course, a lot of people still disagree with that."


    The holy busine$$ will kill us.
    Watch CNN if you dont believe THAT.

    Thought on demand is not a problem.

    Are my clumps of words unrelated ??
    .
    .
    .
    the ObservING..........

    p.s.
    i havnt looked at other topics here.
    Point me to ON TOPIC places if need be.
    :-)
    meL
    .


    the ObservING
    Name:
    Date: //2006-11-11 08:54:01 :
    Link to this Comment: 20959

    i like the word ObservING.

    You cant deny THAT.
    That word can be shared.
    People can see PAST that word(the actual).
    Limitations are not a problem.

    Let THAT happen, not dragging
    the non-existant past forward.
    This also takes out the misery-self.

    The ObservING is a process...You-Me

    THAT is the Oneness that people
    talk about.

    i am not an xtian or anything else.
    i am not an atheist.
    .


    Raising an issue for discussion
    Name: John B. Me
    Date: //2006-11-13 17:52:14 :
    Link to this Comment: 20974

    It is my observation that there are two errors at the base of modern logic.

    The first is that geometry never fully incorporated the zero. Consider that points, lines and planes supposedly have a zero dimension. Well, 1x0=0. What they really have is a virtual dimension, not zero dimension. While a point can presumably be dimensionless, it is still a specific point of reference. The real zero for geometry would be empty space. It is the potential for any point, not a specific one. Also, three dimensions are a specific coordinate system, referenced by the zyx point, not space itself. Any number of coordinate systems, starting from any point, can be used to define the same space.

    The other issue concerns the nature of time. For one thing, time has two directions. The observer's arrow of time goes from past events to future events. On the other hand, these events go from being in the future to being in the past, so the arrow of time for the observed goes from the future to the past. To the hands of the clock, the face is going counterclockwise.

    If we were to build a clock-like device to characterize motion, it would have many hands, going in both directions and the cumulative action would cancel out in a general equilibrium. With the concept of time, most of these hands are combined into the face, with a few going in one direction as coordinates for the reference point. Time is a component of motion, not the basis for it. The three dimensional frame of reference is not moving along an additional dimension. This subjective coordinate system is interacting with other such frames.

    The unit of time goes from beginning to end, but the process of time is going toward the beginning of the next, leaving the old. The hour on the clock starts in the future and the hand passes from its beginning to its end and then moves on to the next, leaving the previous hour in the past. Days go from dawn to dusk, as the sun moves from east to west, but the reality is that the earth is rotating west to east and the sunlight is moving on to other time zones. Our individual lives are units of time going from beginning to end, while the process of living goes on to the next generation, shedding the old like dead skin. Compare it to a factory. The product moves from start to finish, but the production line is facing the other way, consuming raw material and expelling finished product. This relationship of the process and the unit is one of perspective. A unit at one level is a process at another and vice versa. What matters to the process isn't so much the end product, as it is the energy produced, in wages and profits, calories burned, etc, that propels the process forward, consuming more material.

    The reason time appears as a series of instants is because most motion is effectively at the speed of light and our mind is a process of consuming information and creating conceptual units, called thoughts, much like the factory produces products.

    Reality consists of energy recording information. As the amount of energy remains the same, old information is erased as new is recorded. Objective reality is the energy. Time is a function of the subjective information, as past and future do not physically exist because the energy to manifest them is currently tied up in the present. If another moment were to exist, it would require its own energy and so would not be on a continuum with our reality.

    Time is not so much a projection out from the present event, as it is a coming together of factors to define what is present. The past being those influences which define current order and the future is determined by the energy to motivate that order. When order is an open set, it absorbs fresh energy, defining it and adapting to it, so that the future is a continuation of the past. When order is a closed set, the energy accumulates elsewhere and the future becomes a reaction to the past. Evolution and revolution. Essentially it is an version of the top down order/bottom up process relationship of Complexity Theory. Compare order, complexity and chaos, to past, present and future.

    Even though we have come to understand there is no preferred frame of reference, when we define reality as three dimensional space, with this linear graph of motion, called time, as a fourth dimension, we are still using the perspective of the generic point as the basis for explaining reality, when a more objective description requires understanding how many such points interact.

    Temperature is another way of measuring motion, that of a level of activity against a prevailing scale. At the atomic level, this method begins to lose its conventional meaning, as individual atoms are moving along particular trajectories and at specific velocities, while at the human level, government statistics, for example, are a form of temperature reading of economic activity. To the individual, the linear connection between one moment and the next, as well as the whole mortality thing, is a fundamental reality, thus our assumption that time is the basis of motion, but to the larger group there is no preferred frame of reference. As politics is the process of organizing and refereeing competing perspectives, it is the concept of temperature, the level of activity and energy, that most clearly defines political activity. While particular movements have their own historical perspective, consideration of the past and concern for the future don't resonate across a fractured and fractious political landscape. In these terms we might understand our particular view of history may not be universally applicable and understanding others positions requires considering the situation from their perspective.


    sum cogito ergo novo
    Name: j bach
    Date: //2006-11-14 06:25:22 :
    Link to this Comment: 20975

    from distant stars burning bright
    streaming flux of ancient light
    a forth the proper compound find
    to flex a rod precisely right

    an impulse the general kind
    does this special cell unbind
    through twining paths of brain
    thusly does inform the mind

    new dendrites to axons strain
    engaging awesome sky refrain
    lux novo ergo cogito
    new self new wonder to contain

    by intuition stellar masses know
    deductions more dendrites grow
    enumerating thoughts that might
    sum cogito ergo novo


    'Scuse me ... but
    Name:
    Date: //2007-01-01 07:56:15 :
    Link to this Comment: 21366

    The article is a complete misunderstanding of cartesian thought. The take on the argument displayed, implies that, or is misleading to the effect that, he who so passionately spouts on about, 'I think, therefore I am' has in fact read no other sentence by Descartes, attended no lecture, read no commentary.

    For I he had he would surely know that the argument is something of the type.

    If pX then X
    pX
    Therefore X

    Where p shows a property possessed by X

    This is Descartes investigation. If he can find a property which the 'I' indubitably possess then He has proved that 'I' exists. And so he progresses is it indubitable that:
    I live in the world in which I appear to dwell. No
    I am corporeal. No
    My Prima Facie cognitive processes stem from my own self. No.
    But that there is something out there which is me which is aware of some cognitive happenings regardless of their origins. Yes that is indubitable.

    Think about it (pardon the reference. Descartes is right to say that, 'If I think,then I must exist,' and certainly I can think of no way to doubt that there is some level of mental functioning which is me. That, using Descartes possibly confusing language, any level of mental happening is the thinking which he is talking about, that is, I DO think. Therefore I DO exist.

    I hope this clears up any misunderstanding of the material in question. I came across this article in an attempt to reference a certain Cartesian passage for and essay which I was working upon. Needless to say that I was appalled at such a gross misunderstanding and so have attempted to set Descartes tumultuous grave back at rest.

    I thank you for your time


    Whew
    Name: Ian
    Date: //2007-02-04 20:39:13 :
    Link to this Comment: 21430

    "I think, therefore, I think I think. Therefore, I think I think I think. Therefore I think I think I think I think etc". This is parallel processing, I think.

    It is also the same as, "You think, that I think, that you think, that I think, that you think, etc. I think humans on average can go up to four times through the loop before losing it. A computer I guess can go as far as its processor allows.

    I find no other conclusion logical. I.e., "I think therefore I am", just does not compute to me (pun intended).

    ;)


    Discourse?
    Name:
    Date: //2007-02-21 17:40:32 :
    Link to this Comment: 21483

    Sorry for asking such a dumb question but Why is it a discourse ? does it have to do with his method being more of unlearning then learning?


    Forum Archived
    Name: Webmaster
    Date: //2007-04-26 12:28:30 :
    Link to this Comment: 21708

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    Name:
    Date: //2007-04-23 21:36:04 :
    Link to this Comment: 21698

    There are many times when I don't think, so does that mean that I am not (don't exist)? When meditating, some minds become blank and the only real brain activity is the subconscious keeping the body alive (breathing, circulation, etc.). Does this mean for that time that these people don't exist in a small way?