Friday, October 29, 2010

Twice Two Makes Five Is Sometimes a Very Charming Thing

"...nor is it necessary to furnish any detailed account of our author's political, religious, and philosophic axioms and systems, his paradoxes and his errors in logic: these have been so long and so exhaustively disputed over by contending factions that little is left for even the most assiduous gleaner in the field."

(Uncredited introduction from Rousseau's Confessions)

Why is it such a hobby of men (and the women who erroneously aspire to be like them) to categorize and argue over such things as paradoxes and "errors" in logic? To do so at such length to be described as "exhaustive?" To pick apart a work of art according to the "axioms and systems" of the author herself?

The most annoying thing about this hobby is that argue you may, but you will never resolve any of the disputes. Mainly because they are pointless, angels-on-pinheads types of questions asked only to have something to say. The "assiduous gleaner[s]" run along like rats in a dead tunnel, searching for more points of contention to please, appease, and mimic the just-as-contentious Super Rats (thanks, Holly) who taught them. I had to do it, to some extent, as a student of literature. I resented it almost as much as I resented my Maths professor encouraging me to read schmaltzy fiction about metaphysical girls and mathematical boys, thinking it would somehow convince me to change my major and be his little protege/sex slave.

I was good at it, just as I was good at Maths, though I hated both. Neither is fulfilling; neither is creative enough to be fascinating. The most common comment I received from my professors was praise for eschewing the obvious. (Ironic to have grown up into such a cliche, given my starry-eyed individualist beginnings.) But what I wrote about was obvious to me, probably because I didn't worry about paradoxes, logic, axioms, or systems. I worried about the writing, the images, the sensations erupting in my brain and body as I read. I relied on intuition. Back then I never second-guessed myself. I was so sure of what I knew and what I didn't.

These days I am weak. My brain and body, I often fear, have no more capacity for intuition or feeling. It's all been browbeaten out of me by the world's terrible addiction to precedent and dismissive criticism. As my newest old love, Fyodor, writes:
Notice the Logical brain is blue; the Creative brain is pink

"You, for instance, want to cure men of their old habits and reform their will in accordance with science and good sense. But how do you know, not only that it is possible, but also that it is desirable to reform man in that way? And what leads you to the conclusion that man's inclinations need reforming? In short, how do you know that such a reformation will be a benefit to man? And to go to the root of the matter, why are you so positively convinced that not to act against his real normal interests guaranteed by the conclusions of reason and arithmetic is certainly always advantageous for man and must always be a law for mankind? So far, you know, this is only your supposition. It may be the law of logic, but not the law of humanity."

I am often in arguments with men about the existence of a spirit or a soul or something in us which makes us alive, other than that which science and rampant LSD consumption have exposed to us. Darling Fyodor calls it consciousness, I think; in that he equates consciousness with something non-mathematical, something illogical, something which humans will not give up although it is the root cause of suffering. Whereas science and LSD are opposite sides of the same two-dimensional reality, consciousness is many-sided and encompasses things which will never fit into that narrow dichotomy.

"Consciousness, for instance, is infinitely superior to twice two makes four. Once you have mathematical certainty there is nothing left to do or to understand. There will be nothing left but to bottle up your five senses and plunge into contemplation."

This reminds me of Freud, who thought eventually science would pin down the actions and motivations of all people, rendering the world totally manageable, fixable, and of course, predictable. He wanted to boil humans down to their essences and find some logarithm that answers all the questions of existence. He failed to comprehend women because women more than men resisted this diminishment of self, or found it as worthless a pursuit as Dostevsky did. 

I have no wish to bottle up my five senses, to live underground, to retreat so far into theory that I can no longer create or destroy anything but am resigned merely to translating, ratlike gleaning. I hope it is not too late. If it is...I guess I'll take up cutting hair; still preferable to splitting hairs.

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