Diigo Links

Friday, August 27, 2004

"Death needs Time for what it kills to grow in." -William S. Burroughs

Reading in this week's "The Weekend Australian - Review" - the one with Nick Cave on the front - Aug 21-22 2004, I came accross Luke Slattery's article on memory - Delete Memory Option. I didn't quite make it to the end, so I'm not sure what it's actually about, but a quote he invoked struck me as blogworthy. It's a quote from Milan Kundera's 1978 Novel The Book of Laughter and Forgetting. The book itself is about a communist-era war hero who falls afoul of the ruling reigime, get's executed and then gets erased from history. The quote is;
"The struggle of man against power is the struggle of memory against forgetting"

What struck me about this quote was how essential it is. Like the Burroughs quote (that's been with me since about 1992) it uses words in as their Platonic form. Man is anyman, power is an entity, and both memory and forgetting are external agents of battle in man's struggle. When I saw these words I immediatly thought of consciousness. Consciousness is the same struggle - the struggle of a persistence against a fleeting moment. How long is a moment? How much of the context of a recent past do we need to bring into the present to give it meaning? (according to experiment, when you're reading it's about 15 letters either side of word you're focussing on)

It also brought to mind a debate I've been watching this week between the prominent cosmophysisitological giants - Lee Smolin and Lenny Susskin on edge.org. Now, this is going to sound a little trippy-dippy, but go with me, I'm on my way somewhere else. Smolin is arguing that
black holes give rise to new universes. We can't see inside black holes, so nobody can really disprove him. Susskind says that black holes probably don't create new universes, but eternal expansion probably does (eternal expansion being the constant, and apperently accelerating expansion, of space and time). It's not easy to disprove his ideas either.

A bit of Smollin's theory is based on the idea that stuff goes into black holes, but doesn't come back out - it's lost forever to us on this side. Susskind takes pleasure in pointing out that even smart people like Stephen Hawking are now saying that's not quite true, it's not exactly lost. Smolin's retort is that even though it's not quite true, it's not quite false either - enough is lost to us to establish new realms "on the other side".

So if any of this pans out to be actual, and provable, it'll be a physical metaphore to the idea that Milan Kundera was getting at; the struggle of the universe against power is the struggle of memory against forgetting (CP violation - why is there a lot of matter, but not much anti-matter?)

John Saffron is a filmmaker/personality de celeb in Australia. He participated (and I think won) a race around the world making short films - or something like that. I wasn't watching at the time. More recently he moved on to host "John Saffron's Music Jamboree" which was great! And now he's hosting "John Saffron vs. God", a cynic's journy through comparitive religions. It's hard going and consistantly heretical, but not without point and purpose. John struck me with his closing notes the other night (said with a pronounced lisp and cracking voice of Peter Brady in the "Time to Change" episode):
"Face it, you're not smart enough to be an atheist. So, until next time, go to hell."
Not smart enough to be an atheist?! That's brilliant!

He's suggesting that an atheist is someone who takes nothing on faith; someone who doesn't rely on faith. This requires you to be a totalogist (cosmologist, physicist, biologist, etc. etc.) and that's something that nobody is. I don't agree with him, but I have been questioning my ability to explain myself to, say, a five, ten, or eighty year old - to someone other than myself.

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