One-ended sticks

Carl Barron 4Carl Barron seems to have managed – for the time being, at least – to make himself pretty much the only one-ended stick in town. Google is clogged, not to say obsessed, with him. Apart from some inane Q&A stuff on Ask.com, the only directly relevant alternative within easy reach is on a web-site put up some years ago by Rochester Area Right to Life.

So why have I persisted? Because – from the time I started reading the signs: “Follow Carl as he looks for things that may not actually be there” – I really wanted to write about one-ended sticks. (I am, as you might have guessed, intensely interested in things that may not actually be there.)

But please try and follow me as I briefly backtrack: Why is the Right to Life web-site relevant? Because it quotes one Thomas J Fitzgerald on the subject of bias in media writing.

Fitzgerald explains that the one-ended stick represents the political spectrum as thought of by the politically correct. “At the one and only end of the stick one finds the extremists. This will vary depending on the topic under discussion. Sometimes it is conservatives, sometimes it is Catholics, sometimes it is all Christians, sometimes it is pro-lifers. Everyone else is a moderate, and they are in the middle of the stick. Since there is no one left, the stick has no other end.”

It might have been nice to have provided a diagram, but I cannot actually visualise it – although I’m wondering if Escher might possibly have done something that would make my meaning clearer. 

So okay, I’m poking a stick at political correctness – as some folks believe is currently fashionable to do. But I’m doing so only in passing.

Incidentally: these days, “politically correct” does not mean you should not offend anyone; it means no one will be able to accuse you of having said anything wrong (WikiHow: How to Be Politically Correct).

Why are we talking about one-ended sticks? Everyone knows that every stick has two ends.

Years ago, my parish priest (Anglican) memorably pointed out to me something which has stayed with me: all fundamentalists believe the same thing – that they’re right, that they know the truth, and that everyone else is mistaken, misguided, or wrong. The same is roughly true of extremists, I’d say.

Following this perfectly logical line of reasoning, one can easily see why all those right-thinking-and-righteous extremists and fundamentalists are hogging the “right” end of the stick: none of them wants to be at the “wrong” end of it.

Suddenly, the ancient argument about how many angels can dance on the head of a pin starts to make sense.

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NOTES:

1/ Touted as Australia’s most popular comedian, Carl Barron is “An Aussie larrikin persona that has been polished to shine brighter than an opal” (NZ Herald, quoted on Scoop Independent News). He gave a performance of his new show, A One Ended Stick, in Wellington on Saturday night, at the Opera House. I didn’t go. 

2/ Thomas J Fitzgerald is Editor Emeritus of the newsletter of the Kingston Council of the Knights of Columbus. The Knights of Columbus is the world’s largest organization of Catholic men and their families. 

3/ “In modern usage, the terms PCpolitically correct, and political correctness are pejorative descriptors, whereas the term politically incorrect is used by opponents of PC as an implicitly positive self-description …” (Wikipedia: Political Correctness).

But wait … there’s myrrh!

But wait ... there's myrrh

But wait … there’s myrrh

The Christian holy day known as Epiphany “[commemorates] (at least in western tradition) the visit of the Magi and Jesus being revealed to the Gentiles” (from Finding a New Way Home) is celebrated on 6 January. According to timeanddate.com, “It commemorates the first two occasions on which Jesus’ divinity, according to Christian belief, was manifested: when the three kings visited infant Jesus in Bethlehem, and when John the Baptist baptized him in the River Jordan. The Roman Catholic and Protestant churches emphasize the visit of the Magi when they celebrate the Epiphany. The Eastern Orthodox churches focus on Jesus’ baptism.”

All history is redaction – ie, it re-frames and retells our “old, old story” in such a way as to please the current audience. The past is perpetually being re-examined and reinterpreted.

Recent memes appearing on Facebook – but not including this one from catholicmemes.com – have commented on what three wise women would have done. One version asserts that they would have “asked directions, arrived on time, helped deliver the baby, brought practical gifts, cleaned the stable, made a casserole … and there would be peace on earth.” (From mickiemuellerart.com)

I don’t think so! (Especially that last bit.)

Another version of the meme adds that “Three Wise Feminist Women would have … lobbied King Herod for gender equality.” In its lower right corner, the image carries the wording: Destroy the Joint. But, according to Helen Razer, “Destroy the Joint misses the point”.

My back is up, my hackles on end. If there is to be anything more than talk of gender equality, then it is blatantly obvious that the faults, shortcomings, and weaknesses of humankind will be owned (and owned up to) by all.

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.)

Original? … What’s that?

questionable?

questionable?

Do you realise that virtually every syllable you utter – and pretty much every word you write – is plagiarised (you got it from elsewhere without acknowledging your sources)?

Most of it you cobble together from formulas, habits, hearsay, automatic responses, gossip, and memes.

So much parrot-talk. So many malapropisms. So much bad grammar. And (worst of all) so many clichés!

You couldn’t be original if you tried.

Nothing personal.

Just saying.

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The image? Dunno … off the internet somewhere.

Nothing more than useful nonsense

Ludwig Wittgenstein by Ben Richards (1947)

Ludwig Wittgenstein by Ben Richards (1947)

Thus, even the philosophical achievements of the Tractatus itself are nothing more than useful nonsense; once appreciated, they are themselves to be discarded. The book concludes with the lone statement: “Whereof one cannot speak, thereof one must be silent.” (Tractatus 7) This is a stark message indeed, for it renders literally unspeakable so much of human life. As Wittgenstein’s friend and colleague Frank Ramsey put it, “What we can’t say we can’t say, and we can’t whistle it either.” It was this carefully-delineated sense of what a logical language can properly express that influenced members of the Vienna Circle in their formulation of the principles of logical positivism. Wittgenstein himself supposed that there was nothing left for philosophers to do. True to this conviction, he abandoned the discipline for nearly a decade. (Garth Kemerling

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The “spam queue” for this blog usually contains a high percentage of nonsense – including insincere and irrelevant compliments (often couched in broken English), or handfuls of disjunct excerpts nefariously grabbed from unrelated and unacknowledged sources – and including links to sites offering goods and services of no interest or value to me. 

Once in a while, I find the material interesting – such as this excerpt from what turned out to be (thank-you, Google) an essay by Garth Kemerling dealing with Ludwig Wittgenstein’s Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus on a site calling itself Philosophy Pages

The fundamental tendency of matter

Legion (cover)

Legion (cover)

The human brain, three pounds of tissue, held more than a hundred billion brain cells and five hundred trillion synaptic connections. It dreamed and wrote music and Einstein’s equations, it created the language and the geometry and engines that probed the stars, and it cradled a mother asleep through a storm while it woke her at the faintest cry from her child. A computer that could handle all of its functions would cover the surface of the earth.

The hundreds of millions of years of evolution from paramecium to man didn’t solve the mystery, thought Kinderman. The mystery was evolution itself. The fundamental tendency of matter was toward a total disorganization, toward a final state of utter randomness from which the universe would never recover. Each moment its connections were becoming unthreaded as it flung itself headlong into the void in a reckless scattering of itself, impatient for the death of its cooling suns. And yet here was evolution, Kinderman marvelled, a hurricane piling up straw into haystacks, bundles of ever-increasing complexity that denied the very nature of their stuff. Evolution was a theorem written on a leaf that was floating against the direction of the river. A Designer was at work. So what else? It’s as plain as can be. When a man hears hoofbeats in Central Park, he shouldn’t be looking around for zebras. (William Peter Blatty, in Legion [pp104-5]) 

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Originally published by Simon & Schuster in 1983, and subsequently turned into what Rinker calls “a more than satisfactory sequel … Exorcist III (which, mercifully, has nothing to do with Exorcist II: The Heretic).” Legion appeared in a Tor paperback edition in 2011 (Tom Doherty Associates, New York).

Ex nihilo omnia fiunt – everything from nothing

ensō

ensō

.

.

Everything is nothing with a twist. (Kurt Vonnegut, in Slaughterhouse Five)

On the surface, Kurt Vonnegut’s tricky little aphorism seems simple.

Mapping “zero” onto the “ensō” of Zen, the possibilities are endless.

I’m a fan of ex nihilo omnia fiunt … and I love this juicy brush-stroke.

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PS: I’ve no idea whose it is – the ensō, I mean. 

PPS: Using Google Images, I found the following link: http://www.jingshen.co.uk/index.html , but it doesn’t attribute the image.