The Living Symbol

I checked into a hotel and there were two maids, one, Denise turned out the light and danced, one, Polly turned on the light and played the guitar. When I checked out the manager asked me if I knew who they were? No, I said. They were the gods Dionysus and Apollo.

The manager asked me if I knew what turning the light off was. I said: is it concealing? And he asked me: do you know what turn on the light was? And I said: is it revealing? And he said, no, or Not Really. Because in my hotel the fact that lights turn on and off at all is a symbol, and both turning the light on and turning it off conceal and reveal equally, or, rather, they are a symbol.

And he asked: do you know what the hotel is? And I said: it is my life? And he said yes. And he asked: do you know who I am? And I said: are you my creator? And he said: no. I am not your creator. You are not my creation. But the relationship between you and me symbolizes something.

What is it that it symbolizes, I asked him?

He said: the relationship between you and me is not here to symbolize something, but the word “symbol” is here to communicate from me to you something about the relationship of me and you.

Do you want to try it again?

I woke up from my dream. Polly was turning the light on and off. Denise was dancing. Each moment of her dance seemed to separate her from the stream of time into an image, and to separate me from the stream of time into an image. It seemed to, but it didn’t, because the vibrations of her guitar knit them together with my heartbeat into a single stream of experience. My skin prickled and my hair stood on end.

I pulled the curtain aside. Although it was nighttime the flashes of lightning lit up the city below brighter than day. In the pelting rain and wind the people were running through the streets without umbrellas and without hats. It was too far away for me to understand what they were feeling and my eyes overflowed with tears and my throat spasmed in sobs. I closed my eyes and sank to my knees, taking one of Polly’s hands in my left and one of Denise’s in my right.

When I stood up I felt strong.

I was strong.

Blind and confused and wounded, I grew from strength to strength.


Map of the World

Human beings are on an island in the vastness of empty space.

The human brain is a small organ in a large body.

Maybe. But..what counts as “vast”? What counts as “large”?

When we make a map we make the quantities in the map represent quantities in the world. It is up to us how to do it. Space does not come with a metric. There are many possible metrics.

If we take as the metric complexity, each human brain has as many neurons as there are stars as are in the milky way galaxy, and each neuron has 100,000 synapses. Factor in the feedback loops which we have not even begun to comprehend and the human brain is by far the most complex object we know about.

Map not bare size but complexity and the known universe is a fringe around the Earth.

The body is a fringe around the brain. Froth on the wave.

Look at our lives through the complexity map, because the complexity of the brain is much more important to our lives than the brute size of Saturn.

Even the brain of a cicada is more important than Saturn.

(Not to knock Saturn).

It is from that vast terra incognita that the destructions and creations issue forth. The ones that we dodge and parry like bullfighters.