Wednesday, August 13, 2008

The Economics of Time and the Metabolism of God

Not much time... the clock is ticking... but when is it not ticking? I guess we only notice the ticking when we don't have enough of it... or too much it. I don't know about you, but that's what school was like for me. I was bored out of my skull, which perversely causes time to slow to a crawl. How's that for a novel bobservation!

And writing these posts specifically requires timelessness. But at the same time, I suppose I wouldn't even bother to try if it weren't for the time constraint. As I may have mentioned before, this is one of the things that surprised me about having a child. We waited to do so until my life was pretty much over. The idea was to cram everything into one book (and one life), because that would be it. The end of Part One of my life. On to Part Two, in which there would be no time for reading, thinking, writing, etc. Which was fine with me. I was done. I said what I needed to say. Time for death and rebirth.

So it's come as a big surprise that I've been able to be so productive over these past three years, much more so than during all the years before. How does that work? Assuming that what I've written is of value -- which of course it may or may not be, depending on your point of view -- the value only emerged within the context of time scarcity. But this is apparently why it is possible for our lives to be meaningful: because they take place within time, and time is short.

Which is interesting when you think about it, because the materialist or existentialist take the exact same set of facts and (assuming they are self-consistent) come to the opposite conclusion: that because WE'RE ALL GONNA DIE!, it's all meaningless. But in my case, it was all much less meaningful when I lived in the illusion of eternity.

I guess the fundamental question is, why is slack precious? Like anything else, it is precious because it is scarce (even though it is simultaneously "eternal" and therefore unlimited). But even then, it is only valuable if you know what to do with it. I definitely had more slack prior to April 20, 2005, a day that will live in infancy. Only now do I realize that I really didn't know what to do with my slack, because there was too much of it. It was just like an economy in which money becomes less valuable because of inflation. The other day I heard that in Zimbabwe they now have a billion dollar bill. Thus, you can have a situation in which more and more buys less and less.

So there is no question that the fact of death is precisely what confers meaning on our lives. In fact, a moment's reflection will inform you that you couldn't even know you were alive in the absence of death, any more than you could have bodily existence in the absence of spatial boundaries. In other words, our bodies bind and define us in space, while our death binds and defines us in time. I remember once hearing Alan Watts make this point in a lecture, to the effect that if our life did not come to an end, it would be no different than if our height did not come to an end, and we grew to infinite size -- which is no size at all. As we were saying yesterday, existence is synonymous with definition, and to define is to give boundaries. Thus, God's first act is one of definition or separation of the upper waters from the lower waters. Good call, Moses!

Much of psychological growth entails the acquisition of boundaries. This is a fine example of a profound subject that will have no meaning for the materialist, for how can something immaterial (and probably illusory anyway) have a boundary? It's like placing a sharp line between the sky and a cloud. In reality there is no such border, no place where the empty sky ends and the cloud begins.

Nevertheless, psychological growth is founded upon the development of what we might call a semi-permeable membrane, only on the subjective plane. As you know by now, I wasn't paying attention in biology class, partly due to boredom, partly due to Suzie Campbell sitting at the adjacent desk, but I do remember that term: "semi-permeable membrane." In order for something to be alive, it obviously must have a boundary, or it will be indistinguishable from the environment. But at the same time, the membrane must allow for the passage of information and energy in and out.

There again, that's another subtle point. The very first living being created the ontological category of "inside." There was no "interior" to the cosmos until that very first itsy bitsy teeny tiny turned around on itself and said, like the Everly Brothers, "let it be me." (Not to get ahead of the story, but as it so happens there is an ontological interior that was necessarily prior to its appearance in time, AKA, God, or I AM; but we'll save that for later.)

Just so, in order to be a person and not just an anonymous performing flea in the mother of all Chinese fire drills, we must be psychologically distinct from the group. Just as our bodies are born into a physical environment with which we exchange food, water, and oxygen, we are also born into a psychological environment in which we exchange information and emotion, which are conveyed in a number of ways, including touch, sound (which transmits meaning even before we understand words), introjection, and projection (which are just two sides of the same phenomenon).

That latter concept -- projection -- is a critical one in developmental psychology, in that it is an artifact of our being "members of one another" on the psychic plane, just as our bodies are members of the same biosphere. Just as no body can declare independence from the biosphere without dying, no human being can declare independence from the "psychosphere" without undergoing a psychological death -- like, say the Joker. Again, I haven't seen the film, so I'm operating on second hand information, but it seems that he is radically separate from the human environment, a kind of psychopath on stilts.

Because that is what a psychopath is: a radical individualist who does not share any interior relationship with other human beings. What we call empathy is really the ability of one interior to know another and share in its joys and pain. A sociopath specifically lacks this faculty, which is why they can treat subjects like objects. They are truly undead which is an entirely distinct ontological category from life and death. The reason for this is that the undead person still must "metabolize" experience in order to go on being, but he will be unable to distinguish between life and death, good and evil, love and hate, lies and truth. It would be analogous to a living being that is unable to distinguish between food and feces. If that were the case, we would all be tenured.

One of my first academic papers was on the subject of dissipative structures (i.e., open systems that exchange matter, energy, and information with the environment) and their implications for human psychological development. I don't have time or space to get into details here, but to a certain extent, in my book I applied the same ideas to our relationship with God, or the Absolute, or O if you like. Here again, just as there is surely a material environment and a psychological environment, there is a sprititual environment. You all know it well, as it is characterized by such enduring phenomena as the sacred, the holy, the celestial light, the fullness of being, the presence of presence, the influx of grace, the mercy of Petey, etc.

Now, just as the possibility of human psychological development is dependent upon becoming an open system with "wise and loving" others, the possibility of human spiritual growth is entirely founded upon the ability to become an open system with that which transcends us, i.e., the Permanent Real. In the final analysis, this is the "way of the Raccoon," which is to say, to become an open system with O by any means necessary. To a certain extent -- and within intrinsic limits -- we all have to identify the means and method that are personal to us, or our "spiritual idiom." We all have to eat, but we don't eat the same things. You may like pepperoni on your pizza, while Dupree likes crawfish and burnt bacon.

Likewise, we all fall in love, but we all know how that works -- one person's deal of a lifetime is another's bargain bin castoff. It seems that our love has a specific idiom that clicks into place when we meet the right person. I felt that click on my very first date with Mrs. G in May of 1984. Somehow, that single "click" was loaded with all the implicatiosn that woytld take years to unpack. One of them is now crawling into my lap and prevebting me fgrom tyoibet]ng. why? becyanuese he has certain idiomatic needs that he would like for me to fulfill RIGHT NOW, since it is always RIGHT NOW for him, like he has ultimate slack but no slack at the same time.

There. He's watching Curious George now. Be a good little monkey!

Anyway, one doesn't "get married"; rather, one "makes a marriage" (through the resultant boundaries) in order to find out what it is, which will require time. Marriage is only a container, not its content.

I suppose we could go so far as to say that we need to discover a similar "click" on the spiritual plane -- to "fall in love," as it were, or create the boundaries that will allow us to find out "what God is." For many folks, they have what amounts to an "arranged marriage" with their religion. Sometimes this works out, while other times it ends in divorce and disillusionment.

So we're all looking for that nonspatial One with whom to settle down and sail hopefully foriver rafter, 'til we remerge with our wholly sea.

Well, he's back. End of slack. Beginning of meaning.

73 Comments:

Blogger Van said...

"...a day that will live in infancy."

Talking about sneak attacks into the vertical!

"The other day I heard that in Zimbabwe they now have a billion dollar bill."

Yeh... but they fixed it. Just took ten of the zerOs off. No problem.

Careful kids, Gov't economists at work. I'm sure obamama is studying hard.

8/13/2008 08:35:00 AM  
Anonymous Niggardly Phil said...

"Much of psychological growth entails the acquisition of boundaries."

I see in this humility - a finite being must recognize he is finite, and be open to the infinite. Maturity is being what you are, and I guess humility is much the same - being honest which is just seeing things as they are.

I'm stuttering again.

8/13/2008 08:59:00 AM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

Yes, the point is that we could not be finite unless we participated in the infinite, which I hope to explain in more detail as we proceed. But right now I'm late for work.

8/13/2008 09:01:00 AM  
Anonymous dloye said...

"I suppose we could go so far as to say that we need to discover that "click" on the spiritual plane -- to "fall in love," as it were. For many folks, they have what amounts to an "arranged marriage" with their religion. Sometimes this works out, while other times it ends in divorce and disillusionment."

I spent yesterday with my writer's group which often devolves into discussions of anti-theology, and I mostly sit and say nothing. Yesterday, contrariwise, I did speak some of my beliefs, and why the book one of my fellow writers is working on doesn't and won't speak to me. The thing that is so apparent in the group of mostly ex-catholics is that not only have they divorced the faith of their "arranged marriage," but they're still bitter at the loss.

Again many notes in this post to riff upon. Death gives life meaning, constraints make an art project interesting (a la architecture or quilting.) Boundary conditions are where we can find reality..... but I repeat your post. Thanks for being so productive with a morning head.

8/13/2008 09:29:00 AM  
Blogger Van said...

"Somehow, that single "click" was loaded with all the implicatiosn that would take years to unpack. One of them is now crawling into my lap and prevebting me fgrom tyoibet]ng. why? becyanuese he has certain idiomatic needs that he would like for me to fulfill RIGHT NOW, since it is always RIGHT now for him."

HO!

8/13/2008 09:35:00 AM  
Blogger Joan of Argghh! said...

Ah, this post is a productive meditation for me today.

dloye, your thoughts on constraint and creativity... much appreciated, too.

8/13/2008 09:38:00 AM  
Anonymous christopher said...

Thank you GBob.

Bringing boundaries and limits into the discussion is critical and I have struggled against the New Age "no limits, all is possible" kind of thinking for decades now.

There is a very different kind of freedom in transcended boundaries than can be in the "no boundaries" kind of thinking. It is not that the boundaries no longer exist, but that they can be surpassed under appropriate conditions, probably with the Grace of His power. I even had trouble with my mother (a minister in Unity School of Christianity but now passed on) over this area of discussion - and she was no slouch in spiritual matters.

For the purposes of dwelling on the planet and in ordinary relationships to all the others who dwell here, boundaries are essential and indeed illness results from too many cracks and breaks in these boundaries. Of course this is also true of too few openings in what indeed is the "semi-permeable membrane" of my life and yours.

It can be especially true that in the spiritual realm the boundaries are too closed. And of course what happened to me as I have written here in the past was a rupture in my spirit, a forcing into me from another space, God doing triage on my soul. And I was left with an aftermath, a task of reestablishing boundaries without losing access to this new openness.

That stage of my lifelong journey took several years, at least three.

8/13/2008 09:53:00 AM  
Blogger julie said...

"Well, he's back. End of slack. Beginning of meaning."

Pretty close to perfect, imho.

8/13/2008 09:57:00 AM  
Blogger Van said...

"As we were saying yesterday, existence is synonymous with definition, and to define is to give boundaries. Thus, God's first act is one of definition or separation of the upper waters from the lower waters. Good call, Moses!"

Also one of the things that alarmed the Greeks about irrational numbers that went on without end... without end! Unbounded! Scared the bejeebers out of them. They liked things clearly defined and stated. Same with Arete, or Virtue, clearly defined, and easily verified. You couldn't be a worthless slob and be a 'noble and spiritual soul'.

Another reason the moderns target the Greeks as the first to be expunged from any curriculum. And what with Virtue, from the Romans, meaning essentially ‘Manliness, strength in the face of adversity…’, ditto for them too (obamama scurries out of bldg). Two down, One to go in the Greco/Roman/Judeo-Christian team.

Who is that stepping up to bat...?

8/13/2008 10:31:00 AM  
Blogger julie said...

Funny thing about irrational numbers, though: even though they can extend into infinity, they are actually still bounded. No matter how long you stretch out the decimal points for Pi, it will never amount to 3.15. And some irrational numbers, expressed differently (viewed with a different lens, as it were), can be perfectly contained (such as .33333333..etc. expressed more simply and reasonably as 1/3). Not sure what my point is, but that's what sprang to mind, anyway.

8/13/2008 10:51:00 AM  
Anonymous petey said...

Prometheus unbound....

8/13/2008 10:58:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You've really managed to put into sharp relief what happened to me when I took a year of slack to write a book.

I couldn't get the project off the ground, but I sure took quite a few long walks, blissful naps, etc. I didn't sell a manuscript, so I went back to full time salary work. Now I'm more productive in the small pieces of time I manage to wrest free from my schedule.

There's no getting around the phenomenon without a quality called discipline, which I guess few have enough of to structure massive slack into a productive life.

8/13/2008 10:59:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well, I'm scratching around for something to attack. Days like this are hard for moonbats.

Someone please say something contentious or disrespectful about another group of people so we can get the ball rolling here.

8/13/2008 11:01:00 AM  
Blogger James said...

Bob,

You discussion of boundaries has a lot a meaning for me. I don't have enough of a personal boundary. I used to think it was an advantage, over-empathy can seem like mind-reading at times, but I has really hurt me in relationships. I never could know what was important for me or who I was. I tend to get lost in other people. I'm dealing with it now. You post provided not just a psychological justification for boundaries, but a spiritual one as well. What can I say, sometimes it seems like these posts are written for me. I'm on a journey, I don't know where I'm going, but amazingly whenever I feel lost suddenly there is a beacon. Grace is real, and for someone who has just come to religion that is a big deal.

8/13/2008 11:13:00 AM  
Blogger Van said...

Julie said "No matter how long you stretch out the decimal points for Pi, it will never amount to 3.15."

And some you can get around, such as .33333 by simply changing from base 10 to ... say base 9, then 1/3 is simply 3.

But the incomensurate ones keep going, and going and going... those are the ones that bugged them.

Sort of make me wonder, in a sci-fi speculative mood, if those ones... at such key joints of the geometric world... don't indicate some other unseen measurement, angle, dimension... not yet taken account of....

(Camera pans to Rod Serling standing behind the Cubes... "Picture this if you will... an unsuspecting computer geek makes an idle speculation, and finds around the next corner, that he's stepped into... the Twilight Zone" bwa... wa... wahhhh!)

8/13/2008 11:16:00 AM  
Anonymous christopher said...

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/08/080807144236.htm

Not only was the universe created "just right", now there is enough data on exoplanets orbiting other stars to build solar system creation models. It seems our solar system had to be formed "just right" too...or else life is impossible. Our system might be more rare than previously thought in recent years...

8/13/2008 11:22:00 AM  
Anonymous cousin Dupree said...

"Someone please say something contentious or disrespectful about another group of people so we can get the ball rolling here."

Chinese fire drill.

8/13/2008 11:23:00 AM  
Anonymous Pocahantas said...

Indian Giver!

8/13/2008 11:35:00 AM  
Anonymous Jose Jiminez said...

Mexican Standoff...

8/13/2008 11:36:00 AM  
Anonymous Putin said...

Russian Roulette

8/13/2008 11:38:00 AM  
Blogger Van said...

aninnymouse said "Someone please say something contentious or disrespectful about another group of people so we can get the ball rolling here."

I kind of thought I was when I said,
"And what with Virtue, from the Romans, meaning essentially ‘Manliness, strength in the face of adversity…’, ditto for them too (obamama scurries out of bldg). Two down, One to go in the Greco/Roman/Judeo-Christian team. "


... but maybe that required more attention and insight than the average aninnymouse can muster. Allow me to be more blatant:

Leftist punks are opposed to everything good and sensible and of value in Western Civilization. They are anti-west and anti-American in the shallowest core of their worthless beings, and have so destroyed their ability to even grasp the concept of capital "R" Reason, they are a danger to all mankind

That do the trick for you?

8/13/2008 11:41:00 AM  
Anonymous cousin Dupree said...

Mighty white of you all.

8/13/2008 11:41:00 AM  
Anonymous cousin Dupree said...

Palestinian ghetto blaster.

8/13/2008 11:42:00 AM  
Blogger Van said...

China lost face by using one face for the song of another.

(are we getting warm yet?)

8/13/2008 11:43:00 AM  
Blogger Van said...

China not only needed an Western Co. to create their fireworks show, but their own soiled air was too 'misty' to see the important parts of the display, that they had to use Western Tech to try and hide the fact, and attempt to make them look like they looked good.

(Warmer?)

8/13/2008 11:45:00 AM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

My brother-in-law -- who is Jewish -- says that when a building burns down in the garment district, they call it "Jewish lightning."

8/13/2008 11:46:00 AM  
Blogger Robin Starfish said...

In the final analysis, this is the "way of the Raccoon," which is to say, to become an open system with O by any means necessary. To a certain extent -- and within intrinsic limits -- we all have to identify the means and method that are personal to us, or our "spiritual idiom."

I'll say. Where else can Chinese, Indian, Mexican and WASP scouts explore in all directions, then meet around a little circular campfire to tell Tall Tales™ and eat pi and i scream for dessert.

All before grog o'clock.

8/13/2008 11:46:00 AM  
Anonymous shantisha said...

Anonymous said...
Well, I'm scratching around for something to attack.

How bout those crab lice in between your legs.

8/13/2008 11:48:00 AM  
Blogger Van said...

Leftists (of EVERY nationality, race, creed, gender, etc) are so stupid and inept, that if their muscle can't force something to work, they have to pay, bribe, mug, force someone who does have a brain (compliments of the West) to do it for them.

(I hope you're appreciating this)

8/13/2008 11:49:00 AM  
OpenID kaffepaus said...

Truly, how would you know what in life to value and hold as precious, if you knew life would last forever? All you set out to do today, you could eventually wait another hundred years to do. Boundaries must be what adds value to everything, even to freedom itself.

The boudaries of dear old planet Earth, the fact that we do not live in a flat world, must be what makes it possible for human life to grow in complexity and perhaps also for any evolution to take place? If not we would just "spread out" infinitly.


/Johan

8/13/2008 11:51:00 AM  
Blogger Van said...

Obamama:"We are the ones we've been waiting for!"

heh... heh... ha... bwa-ha-hah...AHH HA-HAH!!! BWA HA HA HA HAHHHHHH!!!!!!!!

8/13/2008 11:51:00 AM  
OpenID kaffepaus said...

"Someone please say something contentious or disrespectful about another group of people so we can get the ball rolling here."

The Swedish military "forces".

/Johan

8/13/2008 11:57:00 AM  
Blogger julie said...

Shantisha, looks like he's already scratchin em.

8/13/2008 11:58:00 AM  
Blogger julie said...

So back to irrational numbers, it's interesting that both Pi and the Golden Mean (aka "Phi"), being irreducible to simple fractions (I think - it's been a longish time since my math days) and touching on the infinite, as Van pointed out, have so much influence over natural formations. It's almost as though they themselves are a pre-existing boundary (or structure?) which makes existence as we know it possible. And going with what Johan said, boundaries paradoxically can mean greater freedom, not less freedom; for instance, if you bind yourself to Truth, you are limited, yet infinitely more free than if you embrace just anything.

So Pi and Phi, irrational numbers with infinite decimal places, can be viewed as forms of Absolute Truth.

(Am I making any sense? And if so, perhaps someone can explain it to me, because I'm starting to get confused...)

8/13/2008 12:16:00 PM  
Anonymous jethro Bodine said...

You folks is nuts. Pie are round. Cornbread are squared.

8/13/2008 12:18:00 PM  
Blogger NoMo said...

Weird. I'm finding this "esoteric stuff" incredibly practical. Hmmm, is something wrong with me?

What do I owe you, Bob?

Seriously, thanks.

8/13/2008 12:20:00 PM  
Anonymous petey said...

Due to the law of inverse analogy, nothing is as concrete as the esoteric (so long as you know what you're talking about), while nothing is as abstract as concrete scientism.

8/13/2008 12:23:00 PM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

Anyone who thinks they don't like modern jazz, try some of the amazon samples for today's pick in the sidebar, Soul Station by Hank Mobley. It's about as good as it gets, but also very swinging and accessible. Listen to Mobley's beautiful tone, the space between the piano notes, Art Blakey's swingin' beat... jazz perfection.

8/13/2008 12:29:00 PM  
Blogger julie said...

Audio samples
thirty seconds to express
that which is timeless

(well, when it's good, anyway!)

8/13/2008 12:43:00 PM  
Anonymous Granny said...

jethro Bodine said "You folks is nuts. Pie are round. Cornbread are squared."

"Ehh! Uncle Jed! dat dag burn lunk's been into the red kryptonite again!"

8/13/2008 12:44:00 PM  
Anonymous ximeze said...

Ever had a bad day at the office?

8/13/2008 12:49:00 PM  
Blogger Ray Ingles said...

Which is interesting when you think about it, because the materialist or existentialist take the exact same set of facts and (assuming they are self-consistent) come to the opposite conclusion: that because WE'RE ALL GONNA DIE!, it's all meaningless.

Actually, they usually take it to mean that since this life is all we get, every moment is intensely important and precious. Of course, that attitude was mocked here. Can't win either way, I guess.

(Don't worry, I shan't be posting too much for a while. I'm working on a 'free will report' for Van.)

8/13/2008 01:04:00 PM  
Anonymous christopher said...

Julie, those numbers, pi and phi are examples of infinity of the second order...

linear infinities are generated in sequence, like adding 1 to the last number to get the next. You get an infinite line.

planar infinities are defined by the sequence of numbers which never end and never repeat. Here in the list you get an infinite plane.

There is a third order easily generated, defined as the set of numbers generated out of non repeating planar infinite numbers, by taking the first digit out of one, the second digit out of the next, and so on, presumably generating a number that is also infinite but entirely new. There are any number of algorithms you could use to generate this third order of infinity out of the planar infinity. Though these numbers look the same as planar numbers they are not because of the extra step.

Planar infinities, like pi and phi are natural in that they are found in nature, or at least some are. You can generate others too by adding digits to the original digits of pi, for example. They are of the same order.

But this third order requires an operation that steps beyond the plane by operating on it. That is why there are three infinite orders easily found.

There is more to this, all beyond me. What I like is that even though there are at least three orders of infinity distinct from each other, in another way they are each unbounded and so identical just as we speak of what happens in lack of boundaries here.

But then this is also a property presumably of God. We say there is identity in God, that somehow God is Person, but that He is also without boundary, Allmighty, Everlasting, and so on.

8/13/2008 01:11:00 PM  
Blogger Van said...

Ray said "I'm working on a 'free will report' for Van"

sigh.

If you must.

:-O

8/13/2008 01:25:00 PM  
Anonymous cousin Dupree said...

Why would these atheist bastards not cheat? After all, since this life is all they get, every medal is intensely important and precious.

8/13/2008 01:31:00 PM  
Blogger erasmus said...

Julie says:

It's almost as though they themselves are a pre-existing boundary (or structure?) which makes existence as we know it possible....So Pi and Phi, irrational numbers with infinite decimal places, can be viewed as forms of Absolute Truth.

(Am I making any sense? And if so, perhaps someone can explain it to me, because I'm starting to get confused...)

I just view them as universal boundary conditions. I'm more fascinated by e than by pi myself.

I suspect that they are what forms the geometry (boundary conditions) of space time.

I also suspect that they only apply to this particular universe (assuming that this universe is not infinite and assuming that there are multiple universes).

I'm still curious to see what happens with "string theory".

From wikipedia:

"For instance, in superstring theory the extra dimensions of spacetime are sometimes conjectured to take the form of a 6-dimensional Calabi-Yau manifold."

Pi, e, and Phi may just be different curves on differnt portions of such a mathematical manifold.

Any math thoughts here Ray?

8/13/2008 01:39:00 PM  
Blogger Susannah said...

I'm with nomo, this discussion of boundaries has a very practical application for me right now. Thanks, Bob!

8/13/2008 01:42:00 PM  
Blogger erasmus said...

Ray says:

"(Don't worry, I shan't be posting too much for a while. I'm working on a 'free will report' for Van.)"

Are you going to put this on your website under "Free Will Report for Van" so that it can be easily found?

8/13/2008 01:43:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ray is correct about the existentialists. They do find death important and meaningful.

The nihilists are the ones that state "what boots it? we're all gonna die."

I am the scratch-moonbat looking for combat. The dissing that was done did not quite light my fire; I'm not sure why not. I appreciate the effort.

8/13/2008 01:52:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

What I really long for right now is an anti-woman rant. I feel like chewing up some chauvinists. Take a swing, Van?

8/13/2008 01:53:00 PM  
Blogger Susannah said...

I'm not surprised the moonbats have little to say about this post.

o.o (deer in headlights)

8/13/2008 01:54:00 PM  
Blogger Susannah said...

"I guess the fundamental question is, why is slack precious?"

Wow. Slack is what I'm missing lately, and it's as precious to the spirit as water is to the body.

Slack is available to anyone, but without the boundaries in place to define it, there is just an aimless wandering from one moment to the next, which is NOT slack (trust me). Those moments of wandering can be filled with all sorts of busy work or crisis management, or even what looks like productivity to the world, but they do nothing for the spirit.

8/13/2008 02:02:00 PM  
Blogger Van said...

aninnymouse said "I feel like chewing up some chauvinists. Take a swing, Van?"

Sure! er... hold on a sec, let me check with the missus first....
(wa wa mmm 'huh?' bwa glks 'ah... gotcha, thanks)

Ok, sorry 'ninny, she says you're either a butch or a fairy, either way she doesn't want me getting your blood on my hands.

Thanks anyway.

(I kinda like the way I worked a couple more gratuitous insults in there)

8/13/2008 02:16:00 PM  
Anonymous ... a friend from afar said...

Julie,

I'm not sure what my point is either, but a rather perplexing question about rational numbers sprung to my mind when I read your comments (something I studied long ago in an undergraduate analysis course):

What is the "length" of the set of rational number (call this set Q)?

To find the surprising answer, take any arbitrary length, call it eps. Next, order Q in any way you like (which can be done since it is a countably infinite set), so that Q = {q_1, q_2, ...}.

Then:

let q_1 be the center of an interval of length (1/2)*eps;
let q_2 be the center on an interval of length (1/4)*eps;
...
let q_n be the center on an interval of length (1/2^n)*eps.

From the properties of a geometric series:
1/2 + 1/4 + ... + 1/2^n + ... = 1

Thus, length(Q) <= (1/2)*eps + ... (1/2^n)*eps + ... = eps.

Since eps was arbitrarily chosen, we can make it as small as desirable. Hence, the "length" of the rational numbers is ZERO.

What makes this so puzzling to me is that the set of rational numbers is a dense subset of the real numbers. This means, among other things, that for any irrational number, p, and any interval, I_p, centered at p (no matter how infinitesimally small the interval), there is a rational number, r, contained within the interval I_p, thus approximating p. (In fact, there are infinitely many such rational numbers within I_p.)

Therefore, the fact that length(Q) = 0 is counterintuitive to me. I initially expected the length to be infinity.

To put a different spin on it, from the perspective of the real numbers, the rational numbers are everywhere but at the same time no-thing.

/sorry 'bout the excursion into mathematics :-)

8/13/2008 03:09:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Van, for God's sake, you really hurt my feelings with the butch or fairy comment. I'm not kidding. Why do you have to be mean?

Now I'm going to have to go sulk. Seriously, I'm done debating for today due to your insensitivity.

8/13/2008 03:11:00 PM  
Blogger julie said...

"the rational numbers are everywhere but at the same time no-thing."

And upon such no-things a cosmos is formed.

Yup, stranger than I can imagine.

8/13/2008 03:20:00 PM  
Blogger NoMo said...

Ray - It's free will, stupid.

8/13/2008 03:57:00 PM  
Blogger Susannah said...

Nomo, good stuff re: the Hound of Heaven!

8/13/2008 04:06:00 PM  
Blogger Susannah said...

OT: Amanda Witt posted a nice poem by EE Cummings (she explains the capitalization bit):

http://wittingshire.blogspot.com/2008/08/poem-sunday-cummings.html

8/13/2008 04:52:00 PM  
Blogger QP said...

Would you be willing to pray for China?

8/13/2008 05:28:00 PM  
Anonymous ... a friend from afar said...

Just to sharpen the analogy I'm getting at:

Materialists are like mathematicians with only a measuring stick at their disposal. They claim that only objects with positive, measurable length exist. Certainly, when examining the set of real numbers, for instance, they would stumble upon some useful sets: intervals, unions of intervals, etc.

But subsets like the rational numbers and Cantors sets give beauty and deeper meaning to any study of mathematics, but they have no length and, therefore, are not seen (a priori ruled out) by a middling measuring man. Those sets would be smugly dismissed and likened to spaghetti monsters or teacups spinning about orbit because they cannot be found with a ruler.

(Of course, strictly speaking, those sets could be deduced as complements of subsets which do have length, but that would require some ruler-boy stumbling upon neti-neti. However, if he presented his new mysterious subset to conference, the poor fellow would be laughed off the stage when his coll-queegs tried to measure it only to find nothing.)

8/13/2008 06:20:00 PM  
Anonymous ... a friend from afar said...

That should be "the Cantor set", although there are different varieties.

8/13/2008 06:33:00 PM  
Blogger julie said...

I'd never heard of Cantor sets. I wonder if it would be possible to apply the basic premise to a sphere, and if you could what would it look like? And what if it was set up so that each layer were inside the sphere instead of outside - what would happen in the middle?

8/13/2008 07:01:00 PM  
Blogger julie said...

Heh - in other news, Obama is apparently running for president of the world.

8/13/2008 07:04:00 PM  
Anonymous ... a friend from afar said...

Julie,

Yes, we can construct a spherical Cantor set. Off the top of my head, here's one way:

Let C = [0, 1] x [0, pi) x [0 , 2*pi) be a cube in three dimensions written as a Cartesian product of three intervals (don't worry about whether there's a parenthesis or bracket).

Then, construct Cantor sets (CS_1, CS_2, and CS_3) for each of the three intervals: [0, 1], [0, pi), and [0, 2*pi). Let CS_cube be a Cantor set for the cube, where CS_cube = CS_1 x CS_2 x CS_3.

Now, a cube is topologically equivalent to a sphere (if a cube were made of clay, we could use a hammer to re-form it as a sphere). Our cube, C, can be mapped to a unit sphere, S, using the spherical coordinate mapping. Call this transformation T, so that if c represents a point in the cube, then s = T(c) is the corresponding point in the sphere.

A Cantor set for the sphere is then simply T(CS_cube). That is, for each point in CS_cube, map it to the sphere using the spherical transformation.

It'd be interesting to write a computer program to visualize (an approximation of) it.

8/13/2008 08:07:00 PM  
Blogger Van said...

affa said "...if a cube were made of clay, we could use a hammer to re-form it as a sphere..."

... or if you've got a debit card, you could by tupperware toys... they've got those bals within balls within balls... seems easier. Just sayin'.

8/13/2008 08:56:00 PM  
Blogger julie said...

Less cathartic, though :)

8/13/2008 10:26:00 PM  
Blogger USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

Friend from afar-

Is that your phinal answer? :^)

8/14/2008 01:23:00 AM  
Blogger USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

Great post, Bob!
This is bound(ary) to set the captives free. :^)

8/14/2008 01:42:00 AM  
Blogger USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

Not to be rude, but I must catch some slackzzz, and my eyes ain't takin' no for an answer.

I sense that I've read this post before I read it.
It's just so, familiar...

Big help, too! Thanks Bob!
G'night all! :^)

8/14/2008 02:00:00 AM  
Blogger Joan of Argghh! said...

Friend said, Materialists are like mathematicians with only a measuring stick at their disposal. They claim that only objects with positive, measurable length exist.

Oh snap! that's beautiful!

I still like to ask the materialists to prove to me that Math exists.

But it's more fun to get them to prove that gravity exists, depending on which floor we're on.

8/14/2008 05:34:00 AM  
Anonymous Zophiel said...

Oh, Bob, great post -- couldn't comment yesterday since earning the paycheck had to take priority, buuut, I checked out that group you recommended the day before (Remembering Shakti), and I quite enjoyed it. I'm thinking that since my Dad's birthday is coming up, he might enjoy it as well (he's the one who introduced me to jazz all those years ago).

Oh, and no, no cogent comments for this post. Still pondering and digesting. . . ^__^

8/14/2008 07:36:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Speaking of time and the metabolism of god, the Goddess Kali is a voraciously hungry blood-thirsty bitch.

She eats ALL of her time-birthed biological offspring for breakfast.

8/14/2008 06:35:00 PM  

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