Thursday, February 28, 2013

Meet a demon

  The sun shines on the ringroad.  As Ballard said of spring in Shanghai, even the corpses look more perky.  Oh no, they are motorists.  Have you noticed, sethren, how the latest display of evolutionary fitness among British males is to sit in your BMW or van with the engine running and the headlights on, staring at a clipboard.  Thus the confusion with corpses, you’re never quite sure whether the internal combustion engine is being used as a suicide device or a space heater.  However, let us not wander off into aimless musing.  There is work to be done.
            Culture      praxis            map               concept         action           thing              demon
  All are composed of demons.  Most demons are composed of demons, which themselves are composed of demons, ad infinitum, though in the end more the infinity of a circle, innumerable, than of the number line.
Take engine, the one in the BMW or van just now.  It flicked on and off in your brain, doing its job but no more.  It registered, just, and was quickly lost in the flow, not to be recalled (Oi! Demon, you, yes you, the engine demon) until I brought it to your attention again. That flick was the flick of a demon, more or less instantaneous and instantly closed down, before the work space became cluttered.
  But now.
Babbage difference engine - Wiki
  What do we know?
  Again, engine.
  See, see, how it draws to itself clouds of other demons from all the engines of the metaverse.
V8, V12, Rolls Royce Merlin (the Spitfire engine) — how they swarm now, those demons — James Watt, The Rocket, Babbage’s difference engine,
  “And that two handed engine at the door
   Stands ready to strike once, and strike no more.”
  The engine of progress, “Engines of our ingenuity”, we’re motoring now.  Shakira says “Libido is the engine of the world”.  The actual engine of your own actual car. Okay, were you to have a car.
  Stop.  Enough. 
  Remember that first demon, engine?  It was just a flick in the brain.  But recall it to centre stage, give it free range, and you have a whole opera.
  Whether a demon is composed of other demons, or rather associated with them in the eighty to a hundred billion neurons in the human brain, with seven thousand connections each to other neurons, trillion upon trillion of connections, hundreds of trillions; we do not know.  Association seems to be a better way of putting it. Yes, yes, I was in grievous error. I take it back; demons are not composed of demons.  Each demon is unique.  That’s the whole bloody point.
  The sun is out.  You wish to go gadding about the town.  Poundland and Primark, your hedonism knows no bounds.  Off you go.  But now, you depart knowing in what manner a demon, that irreducible locus of difference, exists.  I hope.  Tomorrow, drawing ever nearer the truth, we shall ponder the place of demons in the metaverse, and how they associate with each other in their infinite multitude.  

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

A taxonomy

Etching, Encylcopaedia Britannica 1911
  I pause here.  I worry.  Will we ever nail a demon?  It is so very small.  It is perhaps like a bacterium before the days of microscopes.  We must perhaps search about and about.  There is a danger.
  An old friend found Nasruddin in the street, walking up and down disconsolately.  “What are you doing?” he asked.  “Looking for the key to my house,” said Nasruddin.  “You dropped it somewhere here?”  “No,” said Nasruddin, “I dropped it in my shed.”  “Then why are you looking for it out in the street?”  “Because here it is light.  In my shed is pitch dark, and I will never be able to find it.”
  So, sethren, we must first know where to look.
  If we were looking for an animal…
  “King Philip came over from Greece smiling.”  So says Jonnie Hughes, he of On the Origin of Tepees fame, though not fame enough for our purposes, for he spoke unto the gentiles, and they listened not, or not as deeply as one would have hoped.
  King Philip…  It’s an acronym.   Kingdom phylum class order family genus species.  Good God!  Did someone say Linnaeus.  No, ‘twas but the derisive fart of a departing bus.  But we are not dismayed.  Linnaeus it is.  His taxonomy of animals.  Beautifully ordered as a hierarchy, so each superordinate category contains all and only the categories next on down.
But culture is what we are examining, and in the light of culture, we on this island, and particularly you lot in the northern half of the next continent moving leftwards, are weird.  Let us look elsewhere, initially to the southern half of that continent, but more importantly to the major fraction of mankind who do not think as we do.
  Categories of animal:
(a)       belonging to the emperor, (b) embalmed, (c) tame, (d) sucking pigs, (e) sirens, (f) fabulous, (g) stray dogs, (h) included in the present classification, (i) frenzied, (j) innumerable, (k) drawn with a very fine camelhair brush, (l) et cetera, (m) having just broken the water pitcher, (n) that from a long way off look like flies.
  Now we’re talking, sethren. This is what that almost manic fan of all formulations Encyclopaedic, Jorge Luis Borges, attributes, through doctor Franz Kuhn, “to a certain Chinese encyclopaedia entitled 'Celestial Empire of benevolent Knowledge'.”
  Here we have a taxonomy in an entirely different style from that of the rational Linnaeus. Here things may be included in several categories, or none (depending on the place of (l) et cetera in the hierarchy which does not exist).
  Who could ask for more.
  So, for the analysis of culture I propose a taxonomy not Linnaean, not Borgean, but Jeroan.  And here, my dears, I lay it out on the grimy pavement before you.
  Brother Jero’s taxonomy of the Metaverse (or “The Jeronaean taxonomy”.)
  Culture      praxis            map               concept         action           thing              demon

  Take it away with you sethren.  Let me know what you think about it.  Tomorrow, we may catch a demon.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Where meaning is

  The weather?  Indeed it is an outrage, sether Albert, but there is no remedy.  The most powerful on earth, corporations and their functionary governments, even they are powerless to reverse the effects of sudden stratospheric warming, even if they cared, and why should they?  They are not standing in a layby on the Huddersfield ring road, looking for the truth.
  Which we are, sethren.  Enough of weather.
  We are still looking at demons, for demons are at the heart of the matter.  But before we nail a demon, there is a confusion to be tied up.  Language, words, all that stuff that vibrates through the air and the non-existent ether, all the stuff that is locked up in the dark in closed books or in the entrails of a Kindle or a laptop, and of which there is an abundant store in all our heads, or most of them; language is different from demons.  Language is merely coded allusion.  Note, sethren, I said allusion, not illusion, though it can be that too.  Language is a sort of signalling system, flashing lights, waving flags, between the little universes in our skulls, each our own ideoverse.  In prehistory, language was always instantaneous, but in time, writing could freeze it, or more truly petrify it, or paint it onto flat surfaces with ink, and nowadays language can travel through little electrical switches, on or off, 0 or 1, to be or not to be, in the beginning was the word, by the waters of Babylon, in the Dreamtime they wandered the earth, I entered the holy land of Kurukshetra.  All flag waving, a way of getting stuff from one of us to another.  “But what’s the stuff?” you cry out with one voice.   You cry out with one voice.  Thank you sether Pritchard-Achebe-Wajda, one voice will have to do.
  The stuff — is meaning.  Meaning.  I know, I know.  That way lies endless circularity.
  Let me approach it this way.
  Of course.  Of.  Course.  Each of these is a word.  The word of suggests a relationship.  The word course suggests some sort of progression, a cross country race, the journey of one's life, an associated but conditional something or other of a river.
  We could go on for a long time, but it’s the two words together that I’m looking at here.  Of course. It can suggest that:
  We all accept that x is axiomatic.
  The group I am about to refer to are in error (“Of course, some people think…)
  Most certainly.
  Certainly not (“Of course” said with a quizzical, ironic smile).
  What else can I say? (“Do you love me?”  “Of course.”)
  I do realise that reservations would be in order here (“Of course there is the Bayesian analysis to be taken into account.”) — No idea, sether Constance, it is possible to use words without having a clear understanding of what they mean.  Try reading some science journalists, let alone economists.
  Do you think I’m entirely stupid (“Of course I knew that.”
  Enough.  What this makes clear is that words and phrases do not have meanings.  What they do is to make connections, physical, material connections, through the ear, to a bit of the brain with a fancy name which is clearly interconnected with all the other bits of the brain in one way or another, and thence onwards to that infinite network where meaning exists.  I read only today that one human brain processes 300,000 petabytes of data a year.  I think that’s 300,000,000,000,000,000,000,000, but I was never so good at the counting, especially all those zeros.  A lot anyway.  Of course a lot of a lot will be repetitive; hello, sorry, excuse me, fuck off, that kind of thing, but even those have considerable amounts of meaning lurking behind their black and white exteriors.  So that infinite 4D network in the brain where meaning exists may have loops and recursiveness about it, but it’s still infinite.  And each infinite network of meaning, each ideoverse, is connected, physically connected, in any way we can possible understand physics, to every other infinite network of meaning, every other ideoverse, literally, physically connected (just check this; take these words as they get into your brain, electromagnetically through the eye, and check the physical continuity from the brain of Brother Jero.  If not, how else did Jero get there?).  And this continuum between each and every ideoverse (each one unique) and between all those ideoverses and the universe, we might call the metaverse, the space where all infnities of meaning exist.
  I just want to make it clear, sethren, that I am not labouring under a delusion here.  I am not proposing a metaphysical entity (nothing so disturbing, sether Albert).  I am merely suggesting that meaning is distributed, not to be found in one place, and that physical objects are part of the location of meaning, an actual chair, an actual Higgs boson, all are loci of meaning, demons fly out of them as well as into them (I name this pad, i-)
  Hunger, sethren, hunger calls you I see.  What is the meaning of horse?  Last week, scandal that the poor were fed on the slurry blasted from the noble beast’s guts and bones, and this week the beneficiaries of our pluto-fascist kleptocracy are eating the best cuts of Arabian Thoroughbred in the best restaurants of the metropolis.  Subway, is it?  Till tomorrow.  Tomorrow we will try to see a demon with the naked eye.

Friday, February 22, 2013

Behold, part of a letter I saw lying on Father Erasmus's desk:

  You probably didn’t, and were wise, watch Eddy Izzard insearch of his prehistoric roots on BBC1.  I did because I am a fan of Eddy; slightly less so now (Russell Brand would have been more astute); and the subject seemed vaguely interesting.  However, it proved interesting in quite an unexpected way.  The genetics expert who took a sample of Eddy’s spit and sent him straight back to some San hunter gatherers in their ANC-imposed reservation, appeared at first sight to be an actor in the role of an overenthusiastic scientist on a stage set of a lab.  However he, Professor Dr James Wilkinson of Edinburgh university, proved to be a perfectly respectable geneticist doing excellent work.  How come, then, that he appeared concomittantly to be not just acting in but a founding initiator of the kind of bollocks being propounded in the programme (for instance, I may have misheard, but I understood either the voiceover or him to say that the San split from the rest of H. sap 190,000 years ago.  If this is true, which seems unlikely, then how come they are ancestral to Izzard?)
  Delving a little further, I discovered that Wilson is an associate of Alistair Moffat in a business venture Britains [sic] DNA to whom you can send your spit and for a consideration be informed who your ancestors are.   All it’s necessary to know about Moffat can be read here.
  That people will pay to have their fantasies confirmed is up to them.  Richard Dawkins in The Tasmanian’s and Eve’s tales in The Ancestor’s Tale shows the vanity of such fantasies, though maybe they do no harm.  But the BBC peddling this garbage is unconscionable; quasi-scientific shite is meant to be the prerogative of Channel 4; and the James Naughtie connection is interesting.
  The BBC seems to be going two ways at once at the moment.  Stunning excellence, as in David Attenborough, Jim al-Khalili et al., and post-democratic lowest common denominator slop (as in slopping out) in News at Ten and Izzard meets his ancestors.  We watch with interest.
Should I report Father Erasmus to the Authorities?
Fra. Anonymos

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

The authorised version

Fra de Haviland has a point (a very small point, see The Point below).  The pristine, unblemished, word perfect and authorised version is indeed here.  But some idiot has to cry in the wilderness.

Res non entia

  So, we must gallop on, while there are still horses left.  Brother Jago de Haviland, who fancies himself as a beacon of the Enlightenment, has branded you, sethren, as a bus queue.  The man has, what do we say nowadays? the man has issues.  To do with health.  And what we used to call the mind.
  But can no longer.
  For, sethren, there is no such thing as the mind.  Not any more.  And for a very clear reason.  The reason being that it does not exist.
  Ask anybody what the mind is, then examine their answer.  It will be a res non entia, or at least a vapid circularity.  A bit like “meaning is what something means”.  Bollocks, to you and me.  What is the mind?  It is the place where I think.  The place where you think?  Does that mean there are other places just like the mind where you don’t think?  And what do you do in those places.  Sleep, you say.  So what is the name of the place where you sleep?  A bed, you say.  So is the mind a place like a bed?  No, you say, it is the place where where me is, where I am.  Bollocks, sether, and there’s no need to shout.  You are playing with grammar.  What you are referring to is the brain and the processes of the brain.  The brain is certainly a place, we know exactly where to look for it.  But the processes of the brain, vision, hearing, touch, self-awareness, consciousness, are continuous with the world and with the universe.  They are dispositions of energy, they are not a place.  So if the mind is not a place, what is it?  Ah, sether Pritchard-Achebe-Wajda (a recurrent identity, there goes you bus queue theory, “Fra” Jago), it is “our name for the things which go on in our heads”.
  Not bad, sether, not bad.  But it reeks of privilege still, the privilege which we organisms, Homo sapiens we call ourselves, adduce to ourselves.  It is a clumsy relic of immortality, of the delusion of a member of H sap as being something that was conceived as a discrete entity in the bosom of Jehovah or in the Essential Fire of the Universe or wherever the fuck, and once conceived kept that immutable integrity for all time, as if I Brother Jero was planned by God as Brother Jero, entered my poor mother’s womb as Brother Jero, was thence ejected nine months later as the same Brother Jero, walked the world as Brother Jero, and if I now sauntered out in front of that local construction waggon piloted at twenty or so miles an hour above the statutory speed limit by a Sun-reading and drug crazed zombie, would leave this earthly clay as Brother Jero, and journey, my existence still discrete, the integrity of my identity unbreached, to whatever further destinations a religion of your choice has marked out for me.  Whereas a study of my remains would quickly convince you that nothing but them, and maybe a few brief memories in a few fading hearts, was all of brother Jero that existed, and had ever existed, more likely to end up in MadamMeMe’sMagicMeatyBits than in heaven.  What would be left of my “Mind”?  Fuck all, sethren, absolutely fuck all.
  “Our name for the things which go on in our heads”.  Things certainly do go on in our heads.  We remember, we calculate, we dream; and even when not much seems to be happening in there at all, it is.  A million connections are being made and unmade, things are being linked that were not linked before.  Deliberate thought is a minute part of it.  You go to sleep with a problem, you wake up with the problem solved.  But when we are not asleep, what goes on is not in our heads, as if our heads were a sealed chamber.  What goes on in our heads is absolutely continuous with the universe of matter and energy, there is not a gap between our brains and the rest of universe bigger than a quark.  If that were not so, what would your “mind” be?  Without light, without sound, without touch or smell, without a nervous system, without anything.  A nothing.
  Whereas, sethren, the brain, connected to all these things, is a very lively place indeed.  A place where those loci of irreducible meaning can fly in from the world, those demons in their billions, can play, and reproduce, and mutate, and fly out again, as words, or in great companies as things, as the phone in your hand (for me?  How thoughtful), as the dinner you may be about to eat, as anything, anything at all, and everything, everything that is.
  And how can that be? I fail to hear you cry.  You shamble off.  The belly is as much part of the universe as the most distant galaxy, and they are both, among other things, demons.  Tomorrow, sethren.