Can we?

scrabble sculpture (03 Dec 2011)

scrabble sculpture (03 Dec 2011)

Can we? — quickly now!
— Can we just keep pretending
that nothing happened?

(07 May 2016)


The text here is something plucked indiscriminately, unresisted, out of my subconscious. “Reality is … a sum of all texts in various media, including action and thought” (Annette Lavers. 1982. Roland Barthes : Structuralism and After. London: Methuen & Co. [p171].

What would Barthes think of his Hermès scarf? – The New Yorker

“It is fair to say that there exists in our era a tragic discrepancy between the staggering richness of the visible world and the extreme poverty of our capacity to perceive it.”

word pond

” . . . world blindness, a disease described superbly by Robert Harrison in his book “Gardens: An Essay on the Human Condition”: “It is fair to say that there exists in our era a tragic discrepancy between the staggering richness of the visible world and the extreme poverty of our capacity to perceive it.” The cure, Barthes knew, can be found in the study of literature, photography, and other art forms, optimal training grounds for developing the kind of attention necessary to see what surrounds us.” – Christy Wampole

What would Barthes think of his Hermès scarf? – The New Yorker

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Kaizen – a change for the better

kaizen

kaizen

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.

The Japanese term “kaizen” translates loosely as improvement or change for the better, according to the web-site of Leclair Ryan, an American firm of legal advisors. In Porirua, however, Kaizen is the café at Pataka Art + Museum.

After visiting my father at Kemp Home, Titahi Bay (21 May 2015), I met my sister for lunch at the Kaizen. The beautiful Japanese garden adjoining the café added to our experience as we ate the best spanakopita we’ve tasted in a long time … and the coffee was great!

Incidentally, kai refers to food in the Māori language, and a pataka is a place to store treasures.

Pataka houses a fine collection of sculptures, including one of Michel Tuffery’s tin-can bulls (image below).

Outside the entrance, and elsewhere in the vicinity, heaps of white sandbags – needed after mass rainfall on 14 May resulted in extensive flooding in the area. (My camera could not resist.)

 

Reality: too obvious to be true

Banksy and Baudrillard

untitled (Banksy and Baudrillard) (detail)

Nothing is wholly obvious without becoming enigmatic. Reality itself is too obvious to be true. (Jean Baudrillard)

In hand, a bunch of diverse quotations, most of them having at least some bearing on the nature of reality. The Baudrillard piece seems to have appointed itself chief amongst them, but Einstein can be heard muttering in the background.

Not unexpectedly – given the two words, ‘obvious’ and ‘enigmatic’ – Google Images quickly finds a picture/text version of the Baudrillard quote. But more interesting by far, I think, is this Banksy art piece with which it is teamed up on the Particulate Matters blog.

Clearly, both Banksy and “cosmicdebris” (proprietor of Particulate Matters) are saying something about the teachings of the Christian Church – particularly, it seems, in relation to the indoctrination of children. Look elsewhere on the Particulate Matters blog and you will find links to other ‘indoctrination’ stories: for example, Monsanto indoctrinating kids at the zoo.

Actually, I’m inclined to suspect that indoctrination is integral to every aspect of living – and that everyone is routinely doing it and/or having it done to them. And it wouldn’t necessarily qualify as either brainwashing or catechism. Let’s put it more simply: we’re all inclined to push our ideas on others – and we call it marketing, persuasion, instruction, education, or teaching.

Be that all as it may, it is not really the main point of my post.

A few months ago, on |cross-ties| – the blog of “The Other” – there was a bit of back-and-forth about the nature of reality. A piece titled Taking a cycle trip led one reader to discuss Derrida’s ideas, noting that in language there is a gap between words and things. I would take this further, asserting that there is a gap between what we perceive and what is actually the case.

A similar gap yawns between the words of every witness and the occurrences they describe – what we thought we saw, the way it seems to us, what we believe to be true, and everything that is ‘obvious’. (And, by the way, since it’s that obvious, why can’t everyone see it our way?)

Ludwig Wittgenstein’s Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus begins with the proposition that “the world is everything that is the case” and ends by reminding us that “Whereof one cannot speak, thereof one must be silent.” Wittgenstein isn’t saying there’s stuff we can choose not to talk about; he’s actually pointing out that there are some things nobody can put into words.

Albert Einstein asserts that “Reality is merely an illusion, albeit a very persistent one.” Elsewhere, he declares, “The world as we have created it is a process of our thinking.” He is not saying that nothing is real; what he means is that everything we experience as real is invented. “The human mind has first to construct forms, independently, before we can find them in things.” (Albert Einstein Essays in Science (1934), p27)

The way science talks about reality and truth is sounding more and more like the words of the ancient religions. For example, Geshe Rabten Rinpoche, a notable teacher of Tibetan Buddhism, says: “The ultimate truth of all conventional truths is their being void of inherent existence. Conventional truths, ie empirical phenomena, exist dependently upon causal conditions, parts and imputation; they have absolutely no existence apart from these conditioning factors.”

But “Man prefers to believe what he prefers to be true,” wrote Francis Bacon (1560-1626). Called the creator of empiricism, “[Bacon] established and popularised inductive methodologies for scientific inquiry, often called the Baconian method, or simply the scientific method.” (GoodReads)

Ultimately, then, as Baudrillard says, whatever seems obvious is, in reality, the superficial manifestation of a profound mystery: the deeper you go into it, the less you are able to say about it.

In Poetry: This Death Is Incomplete (part one of an essay on poetry and death), Amy King talks about “spinning yarns to name things and claim power over them” – which, she reminds us, is not a new concept. In explication, King points us to Alice Notley’s The Book of Lies. The opening lines are especially apt: “Do you believe this stuff or is it a story? I believe every fucking word, but it is a story.”

__________

An ever-changing draft of this piece has been in my editor for months. There’s so much more I want to say, but it is long past time I got something posted. 

 

Breakfast discipline

toast soldiers

toast soldiers

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My soldiers are
tall and slim today, with the
marmalade spread thin.

I have taken care
to make the coffee quite strong
(no sugar, no milk).

__________

The image connects to a recipe (on Orgasmic Chef) for eggs and toast soldiers – even though I’m not especially keen on boiled eggs – because I liked the narrative style.

Image credit: I Knead You (a WordPress blog).

Telling stories

beginning middle end (18 July 2013)

beginning middle and end (18 July 2013)

The first day of December, the first Sunday in Advent, the first day of our southern hemisphere summer. And the first day after the end of National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo).

My participation in NaNoWriMo had me commit to writing – during the month of November – 50,000 words towards my new novel, the working title of which is “You Wouldn’t Dare!”

The truth is that I wrote about half of what I’d committed to. And about half of what I wrote might ultimately find itself inside the novel.

To me, the three big benefits of being involved were: 1/ the discipline of writing every day, 2/ training myself to write down anything and everything that came to mind, and 3/ I discovered things I wanted to write but didn’t dare write.

It was the middle of winter when the Sky Rialto poster (above) was pasted on the building next to where I live. I have now gained a new layer of understanding of those words. The sequence in which a story is told need not conform to any chronology. The sequence in which the story was written will certainly not do so.

A nice knock-down argument for you

.

There’s no trickery
here – no obfuscation.
(You might not get that.)

I’m doing just what
we all do: all our own words
have private meanings;

there’s no language
we can share – speech divides us
inevitably. .

__________

‘I don’t know what you mean by “glory”,’ Alice said.

Humpty Dumpty smiled contemptuously. ‘Of course you don’t – till I tell you. I meant “there’s a nice knock-down argument for you!”‘

‘But “glory” doesn’t mean “a nice knock-down argument”,’ Alice objected.

‘When I use a word,’ Humpty Dumpty said, in rather a scornful tone, ‘it means just what I choose it to mean – neither more nor less.’

(Through the Looking Glass, by Lewis Carroll)

The truth lies elsewhere

Epimenides-poetIn philosophy and logic, the liar paradox or liar’s paradox … is the statement “this sentence is false.” Trying to assign to this statement a classical binary truth value leads to a contradiction … (Wikipedia)

The Epimenides paradox (circa 600 BC) has been suggested as an example of the liar paradox, but they are not logically equivalent. The semi-mythical seer Epimenides, a Cretan, reportedly stated that “The Cretans are always liars.” (ibid)

St Paul, writing to Titus in Crete, reminds him: “One of themselves, even a prophet of their own, said, The Cretians are alway liars, evil beasts, slow bellies.” (Titus 1:12, KJV)

St Jerome, in a Homily on Psalm 115 (in protestant versions, Psalm 116), further compounds the issue:

I said in my alarm, “Every man is a liar!” [Psalm 116:11] The Hebrew text varies a little: I said in my alarm, “Every man is a lie!” for the meaning of the word ZECAM is lie. … There is no truth in our substance; there is only shadow and in a certain sense a lie – | I mean in our corporeal being, not in the soul. (The Homilies of Saint Jerome, Volume 1, pp293-4)

It is one thing to devise sentences that illustrate mathematical or logical principles. But “classical binary truth values” do not provide a complete understanding of the way things work – and that’s something a writer needs to learn.

Our lives are based on what is reasonable and common sense; truth is apt to be neither. (Christmas Humphreys)

Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing,
there is a field. I will meet you there. (Jalāl ad-Dīn Muhammad Rūmī)

Nothing but lies comes out of my mouth. There I’ve done it again. (I keep saying it’s a Zen saying, but I’ve not managed to find it anywhere since I first found it, many years ago.)