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Too Much Ambiguity

It’s pretty cool when a single speech can mean two different things. The oracles liked to do this. For example “To war you shall go. You shall return. Never by war shall you perish” also meant “To war you shall go. You shall return never. By war shall you perish.”

There are stories that admit of more than one interpretation. For example, The Lady or the Tiger, ends on a cliffhanger. We don’t know whether the spurned princess is sending her lover to her rival and life, or death in the jaws of the tiger. The story ends — what do you think? Alan Moore performs a similar feat with his story “What Ever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow?”

And evocative allegories and fables can give you even larger sets of possible interpretations.

“Alas”, said the mouse, “the whole world is growing smaller every day. At the beginning it was so big that I was afraid, I kept running and running, and I was glad when I saw walls far away to the right and left, but these long walls have narrowed so quickly that I am in the last chamber already, and there in the corner stands the trap that I am running into.”

“You only need to change your direction,” said the cat, and ate it up

Who is the cat and who is the mouse in Kafka’s fable? Is the cat death? Authority? Guilt? Our own true self? God? All we know is he says to the poor mouse who finds the possibilities of life closing in on his head “You have only to change your direction!” and eats him up.

There’s something better, or as I said cooler, about a sentence or a story that admits of a finite set of interpretations where that set is greater than one, as opposed to the sentence or story that admits of a single interpretation. That leads one to wonder though if there is a limit. Wouldn’t the best story be one that admitted of a maximally large set of interpretations? “Mumbo wails” for example where Mumbo could be anybody and the reason he wails could be anything, giving something like a thousand times a thousand interpretations?

Or even better maybe the best story would be a blank page offering us the ability to imagine literally anything was written on it? Or our actual lives which we can apply as many stories to as methods of interpretation as have ever been told? For each of us our life would be the maximally ambiguous story, capable of being resolved in infinite ways.

I think though the answer to that is pretty clear — that would be too much ambiguity.

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Reading List

The [widget] the [wadget] and Boff

The Book of the Dun Cow

Foundations of Tibetan Mysticism

Star Maker

Sylvie and Bruno Concluded

Oblomov

Natural Magic

Book About Video and Cybernetics I Found in Grand Army Plaza Library in 1978 (don’t remember the name)

Fads and Fallacies in the Name of Science

City (by Clifford D. Simak)

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The Best Model of a Street is the Street Itself

People used to believe that the way we knew how to walk down a street was to have a tiny model of the street in our mind, and a tiny model of our body in our mind. Then we would use the tiny body to walk down the tiny street and then transfer that to our bones and muscles and walk down the street.

Then people became smarter and realized — wait. If we know how to make the tiny person walk down the street in our mind, why don’t we just walk down the street? Why do we need a tiny model of the street in our mind? We have the street itself. How could there be a better model of a street than the street itself?

Similarly people used to think that when you fell in love with a person it was because you recognized that that person was a second self and you extended your self-love to that person. “Oh Jane!” thought Joe “I love you like I love myself!” Jane for Joe is an image of Joe, embodied in the form of another. Joe for Jane presumably is the same, a refuge from the foreignness and inimicality of the world — a harbor of self in a world made of others.

It’s time for people to get smart about love as they have previously gotten smart about streets! If Joe knows how to love anything he knows how to love someone else. If Joe were unable to love he would be unable to love himself.

People think the present is in love with the future and that the present contains a model of the future. Both ideas are wrong. The future is in love with the present, and that’s why it gives birth to it, through making love with the past. The future knows the present and kisses it without an intermediary. It is not hidden behind a veil of thoughts, but meets it skin to skin.

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Pretty Good Psychic

Lesly, Kaila, and Anthony went to a psychic at Kaila’s tenth birthday party and asked her (her name was Midia Simba D’Obadi) to predict the age of their deaths. “Okay” said Midia Simba D’Obadi after collecting a dollar from each child’s hand. “You, Lesly will die when you are twenty. You Kaila will die when you are a hundred. And you Anthony will die when you are six hundred.” “Cool.” said Anthony. “Weird.” said Kaila. “Fuck.” said Lesly.

Kaila became a thrill seeker thinking that she was guaranteed a hundred years and plummeted off El Capitan at the age of twenty-eight, destroying her brain. Anthony died of a heart attack at sixtty-one. At the age of sixty-five Lesly went in search of the psychic Midia.

“I have a bone to pick with you. Your predictions were all false.”

“My predictions are never false.” said the psychic Madame Midia Simba D’Obadi.

“Yes they are. Anthony died at sixty-one. You said he’d live to six hundred.”

“Oh that. He invented the Anthony Smith protocol for organizing files in C++. It will be the industry standard for two hundred years and continue with his name on it for another four hundred at which point humanity will become one with intelligent stars and everybody will stop using C++.”

“Okay. But what about Kaila? You said she’d live to a hundred.”

“She is alive!” said the psychic. “She’s just brain dead. Swish!”

“Okay.” said Lesly. “But look you bummed me out all through my teens cause I thought I would die and I didn’t. I’m sixty one. You said I’d die when I was twenty. It made me moody.”

“That’s cause in the middle of the night when you were twenty you got bit by a vampire and died and since then have been undead.” said Madame D’Obadi.

“Okay. That’s pretty good.” said the vampire.

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Atoo-Kalish, the Powerful, and Holy King

A lot of people who acknowledge the power of Atoo-Kalish don’t accept that he is holy, but on this topic I am going to have to disagree. Powerful he is, but I have seen him cry real tears because a seven year old girl’s art project on the Conquistadors was ruined in the rain, and take time out of his schedule reviewing the troops to take her to an art supply store and help her make a new one. He is very tender with the imperial cows, speaks kindly and carefully, and is dilligent not to go to sleep having spoken words of anger unrectified. In fact on this last point I once saw him bestride his gingham destrier and ride through the rain twenty parasangs to apologize to his minister of exchequer for upbraiding him in the man’s own home, and the minister actually was at fault. Atoo-Kalish is an embodiment of the star Polaris and after he sloughs this mortal form returns to that celestial abode to drink with Eternity.

I, for one, do not begrudge him.

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