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.


Reading List

The [widget] the [wadget] and Boff

The Book of the Dun Cow

Foundations of Tibetan Mysticism

Star Maker

Sylvie and Bruno Concluded


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)


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.


Analytic Philosophy Fetishizes Clarity

When you fetishize something you get excited and entranced by it and credit that thing for being exciting and entrancing — you abstract from the human context that makes it exciting and entrancing.  The sexual fetishist gets turned on by a woman’s knee and thinks his erotic life revolves around knees. He ignores that an actual human woman is showing him her knee because she is attracted to him and wants him to be attracted to her.  The currency fetishist heaps up gold because he is excited by gold and doesn’t realize that gold is only important as a medium of exchange – -a way for human beings to let other human beings know what we find valuable.  The religious fetishist worships the wall in Jerusalem and doesn’t realize this wall is important because human beings express their desire for a fresh start at a meaningful life by building a temple and convening there, and this wall once belonged to the temple.

In philosophy we sometimes get excited and entranced by intellectual clarity.  We like the idea of saying sentences that are very clear and connecting those sentences into arguments that seem to prove things.  We fetishize clarity and argumentative rigor.  Rigor and clarity and argument are fine things when they help us get clear about something that is a confusion or a lie or a self-mystification.  But on their own they are nothing, just a symbol of liberation without the liberation.  Clear for one purpose is muddy for another.  My guide to how to hook up my t.v. does not say what color my t.v. is, but it is not for that reason vague or mysterious at all.

The trouble with fetishizing clarity is once you fetishize clarity, what tool is left for you to make yourself unconfused and unmystified?

If the salt shall lose its savor, how shall you salt it?


Only the Invisible Can Be Seen

My older brother once pointed out to me an interesting point that I can’t help but feel too often either goes unnoticed or perhaps simply unremarked upon.  That is, if we speak plainly, only that which is invisible can be seen.  Open your eyes and you are plunged neck deep into a world of ghosts and dragons, although now baptized with new monikers: money and clothes, obligations and amusements, spirits terrifying, enticing, cute and ineluctable.  Not one of these is visible in the strict sense, and if you are going to use language clearly and not as a tool of self-bewitchment when you open your eyes the world plunges arms deep into your brain as well, pulling out scarfs like a magician from his assistant’s ear.  Proud man does his level best best to close eyes ears heart and soul to this divine invasion and lounge upon a bed of the literal, but the ghosts and dragons always wake him up.


Downloading from the Pleroma, Downloading from the Plethora

A lot of people have asked how you can distinguish between downloading from the Pleroma — the cosmic super-abundance or fullness of all that is, and the Plethora — the inconceivably fractal multiplicity of all the distinct things there are.  As more or less everybody knows these days, the cosmic attributes and the personal attributes exist in a dialectical synthesis, like the vinegar and oil in a whipped vinaigrette dressing, and our continual interaction with both is what keeps them from separating.  That said, it is a safe bet to proceed by the tried-and-true method of coinciding opposites.  So, obviously, if you want to download the Fullness, make yourself empty, and if you want to become an expression of the ultimate variegated multiplicity, make yourself simple.  At the moment of achieving (or better, failing to achieve) emptiness there comes a rushing up as of mighty waters into the imagination and your speech will become not your own. You will be unable to remember even a single word!  And the things you find your mouth saying (or fingers typing!) will be a jet of water from a deep well — the  Pleroma.  Similarly at the moment you have become entirely unified and like a single point you will suddenly find yourself saying a million different things, and these are all from the Plethora.

Where else?