Wednesday, July 16, 2014

PAPER, verse 2

Millions of generations of trees have disintegrated into the forest floor.  The forest neither mourns nor remembers a single twig.

And you can bet that no lightning bolt ever hesitated over the beauty of a tree.  No termite ever knew a moment's remorse.  Nope, trees are destined for fertilizer and nothing more.

Yet recently (meaning over the past few thousand years) a select group of trees has been rescued from anonymity and given identity, as paper.

Through their role as paper, trees are able to achieve a discrete meaning.  Sometimes they qualify for a handsome leather binding with the name of their meaning stamped in an elegant font.  Sometimes they absorb a puddle of watercolor to make a stain of transcendent beauty.  Paper might even be enshrined in libraries and museums where conservators and archivists rush to protect it against its old enemies from the forest: fire, insects and decay.

Still, paper shouldn't get too cocky.  Conservators may do their best to keep paper immortal but in the end, the forest floor always triumphs (over both paper and conservators). 

Trees in the forest don't count as art because they have no frame.   (There's only one thing that all Art has in common: a frame that separates it from the perceiver.  The frame may be metal or wood or it may be purely conceptual, but it is an essential  perimeter that defines where the art ends and the rest of the world begins.) 

Trees and Monet both process sunlight, but trees process it in ways Monet only wishes he could.  Trees draw energy from sunshine through photosynthesis; their chlorophyll absorbs light from the red and blue portions of the spectrum but proudly reflects green for that lovely verdant canopy that the the sun illuminates like stain glass, and which Monet tries to replicate with his pigments.  Trees also use some of the same chemicals from the earth that Monet employed to make his paints; the only difference is that Monet must spread his chemicals on a palette, while a tree sucks the chemicals up through its roots, into its veins like ichor.   Artists remain stuck outside the frame of conscious perception,  imitating nature with graven images while trees work their miracles.

Monet stuck outside the frame, looking in

So which is the better fate, the paper or the tree?  Which is the preferable side of the frame?  Paper enjoys an identity and an extended life span, but our most optimistic notion of "permanence" is so fleeting, and our grandest concept of "significance" is so insubstantial, a tree might not be blamed for considering the path of paper to be a false path.  Is it better to to participate in beauty as art on paper rather than as a tree in the forest?  Paper with a momentary identity is still destined to rendezvous with anonymous trees on the forest floor.  What does that brief moment of purpose and consciousness gain us, besides awareness that our moment will be brief? 

As humans, we are stuck outside that frame of conscious perception until such day as we return to the great sea of indistinguishable carbon atoms.  But we consult paper as a helpful vehicle for inching up to the edge to see what we can.


lotusgreen said...

I love paper.

kev ferrara said...

Is impressionism really so token and broke
That we should log out on poetic synthesis?
Did Monet really pine to be so fucking oak,
he morning wooded for photosynthesis?

Why, when artists don't merely imitate nature,
except to practice tree forms, bushes, and vapor?

Rather the point to evoke by suggestion
Through the medium of pictorial exegesis
One’s experience of nature’s procession
merged with our feelings, call it poesis.

kev ferrara said...

And mightn’t it be possible yet
That some unborn’s PHD dissertation
Provides a ready chemical formula
For indefinite pulp preservation?
Bequeathing to our future children or siblings
And to Von Daniken’s galactic aboriginals
Who might care to peruse Shakespeare’s scribblings
A rack of his first folio originals.

And maybe the future won’t know immortality
As something that budget bequests shun.
So we’ll look back on “To be”
As a strong prod indeed
Which made “Not to be” out of the question.

kev ferrara said...

And finally there’s the framing of art
As that which falls in a frame
How do I frame this philosophically
As something resembling sane?
Isn’t a tree framed by air?
Isn’t a forest rimmed by plane?
Isn’t everything labeled already situated
In some cleared away conceptual lane?

Indeed, it is only harmony of thought that coheres
And self bounds a signifying extent.
So the reason trees aren’t art, my friend
is ‘cause how they look to any of us isn’t meant.

Tom said...

Sorry David
Of topic, but that Monet painting is wonderful. Cover up the orange in the foreground with your thumb and see how it brings the blue of the sky to life.

MORAN said...

Fuckin awesome way of seeing things.

lotusgreen said...

Tom -- Great insight.

David Apatoff said...

Lotusgreen-- moi aussi.

Tom-- Agreed. It would have been easy to skew my argument by contrasting a bad painting with a beautiful tree. Instead, I picked Monet because he is generally viewed as a high point in the artistic treatment of light. I didn't intend to offer easy choices here, but rather discuss the paradox we continue to live with.

MORAN-- Thanks, I think.

seth laster said...

in an alternate universe a tree just posted a comment on whether it is better a human be living their life free in nature, or to be cut up and have their skin and body turned into art.

David Apatoff said...

Kev Ferrara-- I made a half hearted attempt at a limerick response but there was just too much to jam into it, so please excuse the prose.

Plenty of commenters here have deliberated over how human beings acquire our artistic values-- our sense of harmony, balance, design, etc.. The consensus (with which Hegel and I both agree) seems to be that our values have to come from nature. (After all, there is nowhere else!) So even accepting that art consists of these attributes "merged with our feelings," there is a substantial overlap between what nature does and what the artists strives to do.

Bierstadt or Moran might properly say, "I have merged mother nature's Grand Canyon with my feelings," but if you put their paintings next to the original, I don't think there's any doubt which is more worthy of our reverence and awe. Their poesis may be dandy, and I'd even agree that the Grand Canyon wasn't "meant" so it doesn't technically qualify as art, but that just means that the painter is once removed from the primacy of experience (or a "keyhole peeper," as I've suggested here before). There's a difference between saying that art is the best we can do as conscious, self-aware human beings, and saying that art is the best there is, including nature.

As a side point, even if there was a pill to make people immortal, and we invented a way to escape to another planet before the earth is hit by a huge asteroid or blown up in a thermonuclear war, I fear the long term calculus doesn't change. If astrophysicists are correct, the universe will continue to expand to the place where it is incapable of sustaining any form of life. There would be no hiding place from that, and no medical solution.

Seth Laster-- in the alternate universe where trees are asking those questions, it seems to me they have already lost the game. They'd have to be conscious, self-aware entities already sharing all of our human dichotomies (reality / illusion, mind / spirit, reason / emotion, etc.) to ask such questions. By that time, they're stuck appreciating art rather than living it (the "keyhole peepers" referenced in my response to Kev Ferrara, above).

Laurence John said...

David: "As humans, we are stuck outside that frame of conscious perception..."

"Artists remain stuck outside the frame of conscious perception..."

"...but that just means that the painter is once removed from the primacy of experience..."

no; an artist looking at nature is experiencing reality directly, without a 'frame'. they are not stuck outside anything.

it's only when the work of art is finished - and viewed on its own - that the 'frame' exists, and the work of art is 'once removed' from experience.

kev ferrara said...

Find me the source of my dreams
Somewhere out there in reality
Surely most comes from pastiching
But from whence comes order/ideality?

So this consensus you hurriedly sent us
May have authorial authors to tempt us.
But it is the work of the mind
That finds meaning in kind
And makes color appear to the senses.

If the criteria is awe and reverence
Then surely nature takes precedence
Until we develop a bomb
That turns life into ‘Nam
And we’ll all remember so fondly our decadence.

A pill to make life last forever
Will add eons to the science endeavor
So it seems to be quite Myopic
To predict a death so entropic
When we’ve barely gotten a chance to be clever

Richard Brehler said...


Sean Farrell said...

Laurence John, thanks for noting the unusual statements. It's also true that art is a new experience in itself, even with the frame.

Is conscious perception involuntary or voluntary? Is it receptive, passive, active or reactive? You have attributed it to a tree and to atoms. You seem to be suggesting a pantheism in which humans are hopelessly disconnected from its godhead, totality.

On a nature show, a male zebra places itself at risk as the herd moved on, waiting on its offspring while the little thing mourned the loss of its mother. It's assumed the animal is in direct experience, yet it knows being a father to its colt, it knows its own from the herd and even puts itself at risk to save its own. The zebra was aware the herd had moved on, looking back and prodding the colt to come hither. That is, it endured a threatening conflict by waiting for the little one.

Human nature which seeks “direct experience” is in conflict with itself, because by its nature it is social as well as individual. Such is the trouble with many human desires which seek things on its own individual terms without recognizing the fullness of its own nature.

Paper is real, art is real, bonds are real as the limits of our human nature are real and each is as much apart of reality as anything else.

A civilized act is one of restraint because even in restraint it is disturbing that which already exists. Such concern for what exists is the difference between the civilized person and the presumptuous one or the revolutionary, who is reckless and has little concern for what is, or consequence. Art by its nature is a civilized act.

Knocking on a door before entering a room is very much the same thing as standing in awe of a favorite painting, or the Grand Canyon. It is an act of respect for what is.

David Apatoff said...

Laurence John-- Well, let's consider the point. Do you think that humans experience nature as "directly" as a tree does, or a dog does? It seems to me that we perceive nature from a greater distance because our self-consciousness-- our awareness of our own mortality, our uncertainty about the "truth" of what our five senses tell us, and our struggle for meaning from what we think we know-- distances us from the primacy of experience. That's the estrangement I was trying to describe, and I think it's common to all human beings, not just artists (although it obviously haunts some people more than others).

So in a way, I would argue that humans are always looking at nature through a "frame" of perception, not just "when the work of art is finished." Artists seem to be the ones who choose to record the frames they perceive.

Niels Bohr, describing quantum mechanics, said, "Everything we call real is made of things that cannot be regarded as real." Dogs on the other hand, have none of this baggage-- they put complete trust in their nose, never lay awake at night pondering their destiny, and their orgasms are probably as good as humans'.

Kev Ferrara-- you can say that the formulation of aesthetic standards is "the work of the mind," but I think it's a tough sell that it all sprang, sua sponte from the mind without any feedstock from nature to work on. Hegel thought that our experience is the "only imaginable point of departure" but you seem to be saying that we never really departed, that our taste and standards and artistic values were already hard wired in our brains from the start. If that's the case, how does one explain the evolution of taste over a lifetime?

Richard Brehler-- Many thanks.

kev ferrara said...

No beauty without order detected, verily
Through a metaphysical facility
Nothing hard wired from birth, necessarily
Except this abstractionist ability

Our experience notes new orders
Deeper than sensation or violence
Maybe this is due to a newfound vocabulary.
Or maybe we’ve learned to prefer silence.

Sean Farrell said...

“What does that brief moment of purpose and consciousness gain us, besides awareness that our moment will be brief?”

The classic existential crisis of meaning and loss of hope wrapped up in a single sentence.

Young people commit suicide all the time as they face what they see as daunting obstacles and you think such words are truthful and responsible to the spirit of life?

The zebra story trumps the dog's perceptions. Life has bonds and they have meaning and the meaning of such goes beyond simple metabolism, the receptivity by and reaction to the senses.

Life is a kind of spirit and energy and hope is part of it and without hope the energy flags and this is evident in sport. Professional sports teams employ full time psychology coaches to concentrate entirely on such spirit.

Each thing, including our social dimensions has a unique nature and merit if we are willing to hang in there and struggle to understand them and we never stop learning about them. Each moment has profound beauty and meaning if we bring respect and humility to life. Life is embodied spirit and it is worth it.

Laurence John said...

David: "Do you think that humans experience nature as "directly" as a tree does, or a dog does?"

i think the 'directness' is equivalent with dogs, but we're engaged with more besides (intellectual / conceptual problems).

for instance, while i'm writing this i'm aware of the feel of the keys under my fingers, the light level in the room, the sound of a passing car, the weight of my own body on the chair etc... i'm just not preoccupied with those sensations. if i begin to feel hungry i won't sit here thinking 'what does this sensation mean?'... i'll just go and get some food. so i think we can underestimate just how much direct, unconscious 'doing' we're involved in all the time.

i think a tree or plant 'awareness' is about as low a level of awareness as you could get, which is why i think it's silly to suggest that a tree is 'participating in beauty'.
a tree is only 'participating in beauty' if we decide it is. i don't believe is has any 'direct experience' of beauty.

Sean Farrell said...

David, forgive me, I didn't mean to beat anyone up. You may have just been having a bad day. But when I see someone put a sign on a bridge that says, Go Ahead and Jump, It Doesn't Make a Difference, I felt compelled to add a sign which says, Ignore That Sign, You are Worth More Than You Think You Are and You Will Get Through This.

The philosopher may seek to reduce life to his subject and the scientist desires to reduce consciousness to material, so eliminating all that unscientific messy stuff, (thank you Kev). The presumptuous believer wants the gifts of heaven without understanding his own sins, or without serving heaven. The hedonist wants continuous union with the pleasures of sentience. Each lacks the humility to understand that their conflict is their own desire to have it all on their own terms, which is in conflict with the complexity of being human.

Union with sentience is an extraordinary experience, the efficiency and energy of it, but it's not the fullness of our nature, which is capable of even more exquisite unity when we accept our human faults in the complexity of which is too big be subject to us.

David Apatoff said...

Sean Farrell-- I don't think I'd say that "humans are hopelessly disconnected" from nature, but there is a pretty darn good case that we have one foot in each camp, and that our foot outside of nature may be responsible for much of the "frame" through which we look back and view nature.

There are some types of behavior that I'd guess are the result of unconscious instinct (dogs following their noses) and some types of behavior that might be explained in more than one way (for example, the zebra father staying with his child could be altruistic love by a sensitive, aware parent or it could be the purely natural self-preservational instinct that has all animals parents fending off predators of the next generation.) But there is also self-conscious behavior that could not be explained by animal instinct. Do zebras struggle to heal the divide between faith and reason, between reality and illusion, between true and false? Do they have religion? Do they make art? Zebras and humans might both risk their lives to protect their children, but have you ever heard of a zebra willfully ending his life out of guilt or shame, or out of despair over the existential void? Humans do.

Finally, I'm not sure I understand the point about putting a sign on a bridge that says, Go ahead and jump. Are you suggesting that this post says that?

John C. said...

There does live a tree with an imagination fantastic
Her roots and limbs are alive and elastic
Nightmares she has none,
Except for just one:
Shoppers choosing paper over plastic.

Sean Farrell said...

David, thanks for your response. I read the quote at the end of the post to be that our consciousness adds up to very little over the long term, which is quite bleak.

Yes, humans are complex and do things animals can't, such as give in to despair as you mention. It's true that people sometimes do things by impulse with catastrophic results too.

If we start by accepting reality, we then can work with it instead of against it; instead of trying to recreate it, as the examples of the philosopher, etc. attempted to do, which was to reduce reality to a manageable size and have jurisdiction over it.

Faith is in conflict with reason when we lack the humility to accept reality, our size relationship with reality.

The transcendentalist becomes as aware of the person of faith that the world is a reality larger than themselves and humility is essential to cope with that fact. Without humility, fear acts out to create a reality that conforms to its often distorted desires for safety, just any desire seeks to create a reality in conformity to itself.

The same inability to accept our humanity accounts for attempts to correct it, with a hammer, hammer and sickle, reward and punishment, programming, computer chips and annoying seat belts that forever beep at one.

Being human is complicated and our are customs too. For example, for a long time I thought I was a single person who got married. But after a long enough time I understood I was a married person who was no longer single. Some human concepts may be as refined and edifying as the immediacy of sentience is invigorating. Sometimes the frame fits well with what it frames and each is a source of life.
Thank you again.

Richard said...

"If astrophysicists are correct, the universe will continue to expand to the place where it is incapable of sustaining any form of life. There would be no hiding place from that"

Except that the problems of fine-tuning suggest two things;

Firstly, given that the statistical probability of living in a universe that would allow for physical matter at all, let alone coherent sentient beings, is infinitesimally small, yet we are in one such a universe, it is probable that we are resident to one universe in an infinite quantity of random universes in a metaverse. (Not to mention that that makes the math work.)

Secondly, the period in which conscious beings will exist in our own universe is infinitely small, since you have a timeless void before there is matter, followed by a limited time-line in which there is physical matter, and then an infinite period of heat-death afterwards. The fact we are currently experiencing that sweet-spot in which there are people, and even less likely, that the are us, despite that the chances of it being now as opposed to before or later approaches zero, suggests that all moments are concurrently experienced. If there is a moment that is experienced, it will always be experienced.

Those two positions lead us to a third, rather strange, position. That unless there is a greater being/force/event to stop these processes in some way--

It follows logically that if there is an infinite amount of truly random universes, there will be an infinite amount of random universes that roll the dice such that consciousnesses indistinguishable from you and I exist.

Since any single pattern of cognition should appear given an infinite amount of rolls of the universal dice, for any mental state a moment prior to our death in one universe, there should be a corresponding living mental state indistinguishable from it in another universe.

Since experiment two suggests we can only experience ourselves living, and that we will always experience those moments, we will infinitely experience every single moment from an infinite amount of distinct lives in which we live forever unless this system is acted on in some way by an outside force.

kev ferrara said...


I’m trying to figure out why there are intermittent globs of tapioca pudding on your summary of Science Daily theoretical physics articles. Are you, perchance, eating tapioca with your mouth open as you write?

Anonymous said...

I believe that's yer own shitty genetic material all over yer monitor that you're seeing there.

kev ferrara said...

Ugh. I forgot that kids have summers off.

AleŇ° said...

Norman Adams died this month, I don't remember him being mentioned around here. Fawcett supposedly considered him to be the Babe Ruth of illustration. Cant find much of his work, but his wildlife art on the internet has some Fawcett's detailed stylistic feel to it.

etc, etc said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
etc, etc said...

Well, since we're on the topics of paper and metaphysics, I have a story to share.

Not long after graduating college I went to work in the purchasing department of a wholesale art publisher and distributor. Since I bought kraft paper by the truckloads, I was frequently in contact with a salesman from a paper manufacturer. He was an older man and he had a gruff voice that was in comedic contrast to his personality, which was very nice and even sweet. He would call me in the mornings and growl out, "top of the morning to you!". He took me out to lunch a couple of times. He was Irish Catholic and he would speak about Jesus in very reverent terms. He eventually was underbid by another company and there was no choice but to reward the sales to the lower bidder. He was very upset. I never got to speak with him again and he passed away a few months later.

A couple of years later I went to work for another company. I had forgotten all about the paper salesman until I met another employee at my new job. He was an older black man, and he had that same gruff voice and pleasant and charming disposition as the paper salesman. It reminded me of him, and over the next few days I would think about him often.

One morning at work in the cafeteria I was eating breakfast and thinking about the paper salesman. It was very fond memories of him, and I regretted the way things had happened, but I thought, oh well, I'm sure he is resting well in heaven. I looked up and saw the old black man approaching.

Suddenly a strange thought entered my mind. Strange because unlike my normal thoughts that are contemplative and tentative, this thought was firmly declarative and somehow I recognized it as authoritative. The thought said, "He is going to say 'top of the morning to you'". The old black man walked up to me with a big smile and said, "top of the morning to you!".

It was the most wonderfully surreal experience I've ever had. Multiverses and bubble universes simply do not compare.

Richard said...

Serendipity is an amazing experience. I have a number of tattoos celebrating my own experiences of it.

Richard said...

Sorry, synchronicity

etc, etc said...


If it were not for the premonition, I would take no issue with either the serendipity or synchronicity labels. But as far as I'm concerned, the premonition elevated things to the level of the supernatural.

kev ferrara said...

I had a very strange day once where I seemed to be tuned in to the world in a way that was beyond the natural. So I can personally vouch for such experiences. I have tried over the years to find rational explanations for the long string of accurate premonitions and guesses I made that day. Part of it must have been this feeling of utter openness I was experiencing at the time, which surely helped me to be hyper sensitive to clues and hints without being really conscious or intense about it. Some of my experiences defy explanation still, but there are a number of tricks from "mentalists" which I have since learned about that I may have been doing subconsciously. And that is also a possibility for your "top of the morning" comment, Mr. Etc.

It turns out that, in certain congenial situations, one may telegraph what one wants or expects someone to say or think... through subliminal means. (Subliminal suggestion, subtle hinting). The target of these subliminal suggestions may not even know they are receiving instruction from you. Just as you may not know you are telegraphing this information. If you are aware that you are subtly telegraphing, you are Derren Brown. If you are unaware that you are telegraphing suggestive information, you might assume either you have psychic powers, or the person who is telling you what you wanted them to tell you does. But it may simply be subliminal suggestion at work.

Richard said...

Etc, I don't think the term synchronicity denotes whether or not an extreme coincidence is chance or something more.

I'm of the opinion that is how god communicates. Anything else would require breaking the internal physical laws of the universe which the deity seems hesitant to do.

Richard said...

(Or unable to do.)

Laurence John said...


Sean Farrell said...

Your story is fascinating because of the authoritative nature of the interior statement which was unlike your own tentative and contemplative nature, but I assume was in your own voice. The authoritative otherness of the nature of the sentence followed your interior statement regarding the supernatural condition of the man which was then followed by an external affirmation. Whatever happened, the sequence did follow an understandable course. A reasonable person may assume that the implausibility of one negates the implausibility of the other, but to accept your story as you tell it offers little actual reason to dismiss what you said. Thanks for sharing the story.

As per paper and art, a few months back I bought a Cintique and felt annihilated. It felt dead next to drawing with a pencil on paper. I went into a kind of “It's a Wonderful Life” funk when after about a week I got a call from a total stranger from a thousand miles away thanking me for something I had written on a blog a long while back.

Once the simple possibilities like coincidence, or actual signals are eliminated, the unexplainable in these types of things leads a person to one of two larger possibilities. Even if thought is of some physical nature which people can sense or pick up like a wireless telephone, does such fully explain a given situation? If not, then what assumptions preclude other possibilities and what does anyone actually know about such assumptions? If nothing else, a new openness is born.

   Here's a post with a bit of comic relief regarding design in our post paper age.

I never heard of  Norman Adams before, but the tinted pencil work is very similar to the look of early 1950s Fawcett illustration, thanks.

Sean Farrell said...

Sorry.... the implausibility of one confirms, implies the implausibility of the other.

etc, etc said...


I could understand body language eliciting or provoking some kind of response, but not a specific, expected, verbal response of anything beyond "good morning". All I know is it certainly happened, and since I was not before nor have been since able to effect such a thing, I see no choice but to attribute it to an external cause or force, even though the phenomenon occurred within me.

kev ferrara said...

Well, let's say you saw this fellow coming and something about him, something about his manner, led you to believe that he was the kind of gentleman who might say "top of the morning." The idea that he might be such a fellow, and the fact that it was morning, prompted you to look at this guy in a way that was more eager and friendly than usual. So you tipped your head up to him, slightly, in expectation, nearly imperceptibly, raised your eyebrows, both of which are a signal for "up" or "top." This fellow, it turns out, was the kind of guy who might say "top of the morning" as you correctly, and quite luckily, guessed, but he also has other greetings in his social skill set. But because you looked at him kind of eagerly (more innocently, and friendly-like, recollecting a more innocent time) and you tipped your head and eyebrows slightly up to him, this subconsciously caused him to choose his more cheerily old school greeting. And this combination of good guesswork, tone, and signalling got you your "top of the morning."

I remember during college orientation sitting at a cafeteria table with a group of people from my orientation group. There was a thin, khaki-sweater-in-September-wearing, tightly held, dweeby guy two seats to my right. I was leading a garrulous conversation about being able to read people and know things about them without being told. Somebody challenged me to prove such a thing was possible with the people at the table now. And I looked over at the dweeby guy and said, "You look like the kind of guy who was forced to take piano lessons as a kid. But then quit as soon as you hit 13." Well this guy bolted up from his chair and accused me, essentially, of being a witch or a spy. But the reality was, I got a lot lucky on the guess. And, frankly, this guy really looked like the kind of guy who was forced to take piano lessons, meanwhile nobody else at the table was giving anything else nearly so strong. And, truth be told, I was forced to take piano lessons at an early age and so were a heck of a lot of other kids, so it wasn't exactly like I guess he was related to Abraham Lincoln and had a mole on his pinky toe.

Sean Farrell said...

It's possible that Etc., Etc. lives in Boston, because the Irish in Ireland don't say “top of the morning”, but Irish Americans who strongly associate themselves with being Irish do and there are a lot of such people in Boston. Some in New York too, but never met one that used the term.

Such mysteries involve the psyche and sense and there's a tendency for reasonable people to assign them a title and category such as self induced, self healing etc. and shelve them. After all people tend to believe a lot of things like getting 20% returns on their money without risk, so it's wise to be skeptical.

One purpose of reason is to discern the true from what isn't, but to toss all aside as of some probability is to overlook some valuable things

If a man goes to Lourdes and regains his ability to walk, the healing may be pronounced inexplicable, and a skeptic may assign it as self healing. Yet it still holds value for the skeptic as the man possessed four qualities that demand interest. He was open to and accepted the possibility of and desire to be healed. The fourth quality is a belief or desire to believe in the author of possibilities.

The skeptic should be able to connect through reason, an affinity between the beneficial goods of openness, a desire to be healed and the possibility of healing with an author of possibility, even if he sees the man's belief as the only acting agent.

What also gets overlooked is that the person seeking a cure has usually exhausted all personal efforts of will and medical options and is well aware of the slim chances of a healing, so there is a kind of resignation of individual will in this hope and that's a paradoxical and complicated concept to the assumed self healing.

In etc., etc.'s story the mystery involved the sequence of four subjects, himself commenting on the deceased, an interjecting thought professing the comment to come and the comment itself. Explanations may be ascribed to the story, but the message of the unusual internal and external event was meant for and had meaning but for one person. The message seemed to say, that a man who lived for heaven found himself there.

We may wonder at the strange matter of improbability and possibility, but if there is something controversial in a good man finding a heavenly end, it is not by reason that it is controversial, but by the impossibility or disbelief
of it.

kev ferrara said...

Oops. It never occurred to me that etc, etc's anecdote was about a dead friend speaking to him through a vessel. I thought it was about his moment of psychic powers or mind reading that made him correctly guess that the man coming up to him was going to say "top of the morning" to him.

I don't find supernatural explanations for uncanny events to be controversial. I merely find them presumptive. Whereas just about any YouTube clip of Derren Brown performing will demonstrate the reality of the effectiveness of subliminal suggestion and "cold reading."

Also, I see a clear distinction between meaning that is experiential and meaning that requires interpretation. Etc, etc's event would have the same experiential meaning for a Christian, a self-proclaimed psychic, a reincarnationist, and a physicalist (had each experienced the same sequence of events.) But their interpretations would all be different.

Sean Farrell said...

Thank you Kev.
I think etc., etc. referred to his experience of the premonition as elevating the moment to the supernatural for him and you are expressing the possibility that such was projected, fair enough.

The point I was trying to make by bringing in a couple different events where signals weren't a factor is that those who stand with improbability also indulge in presumption and overlook important details as a matter of their own habit.

It is the ordinary which engages in the search for adrenaline or the extraordinary. The supernatural brings openness, possibility and significance to the ordinary. It does so by redressing the habit of self in most polite and unexpected ways.

I'm not trying to speak for Etc.,Etc. but I think this is part of what he had experienced, that something changed the way he saw the world in a most polite and unexpected way and yes, his comment on the deceased was part of the significance of the story for him.

Earlier, David said we have one foot in each camp and this is true, because we must have prudence and possibility. The idiocy of being gullible and the deadliness of being cynical are areas humans tend to fall into all the time and the error of each is in thinking they see it all.

Sean Farrell said...

PS: I will check out Derren Brown,

Richard said...

In other words the fractal nature of matter also applies to mind, if mind is but an emergence from matter, where seemingly unlikely patterns develop because of underlying rules of the system, where our instincts, operating on incomplete heuristics assume pure randomness where that isn't the case.

I think that's undeniable, but I also wouldn't hesitate to ascribe an entity behind such fractality.

Richard said...

That is to say a complex order (an emerging fractal order) should be no less convincing towards a teleological argument than should a simple order, any more than should a microprocessor be less evidence of an electrical engineer than an alarm clock.

kev ferrara said...


Undeniable? How about wildly incomplete and misleading?

Our instincts, "operating on incomplete heuristics" assume intent where the is none, as well as "pure randomness" where there is intentional causation. We also misanalyze patterns all the time, or overanalyze, or poorly analyze, or mistakenly bring in our personal assumption and interpretations where they don't belong... and we have very little by way of determining whether any our assumptions have any merit. Which is why empiricism is so crucial to having sane thoughts.

I must say, your recent use of "in other words" and "that is to say" and "suggests that" are getting frightening, because what follows is generally coming out of the blue. If you have some logic to how you are composing your thoughts or to what you are concluding, you aren't articulating it anywhere but in the recesses of your own mind.

And, as to your convoluted attempt last post to assert that both simple and complex self-organizing physical phenomena necessitates the existence of a cosmic director; you kinda missed the point of self-organizing according to the dictates of interacting physical laws entirely.

As well, you are again presumptively assigning your own interpretation to an event that exists just as well apart from your attempt to characterize it. The universe has happened. And that's about all there is we can be sure about. The rest is guess.

Sean Farrell said...

Yes Kev, the universe happened and also the bleak vision that the universe is going to end is also going to happen, as mentioned on the post. But the empiricism of it is not as objective as it appears because life is still some kind of aberration of material. Material by itself lacks life and life remains a thing that scientists continue to go to great lengths to try and explain in material terms.

Empiricism also lacks objectivity because it can only objectify things in material terms, when we know human life acts according to nonmaterial things, such as our sense of fear, peace, hope, hopelessness, openness, cynicism, possibility, impossibility, etc. There are also dimensions to development and how people deal with their own questions and conflicts which are subject to many factors, including their basic world view.

You know all this but unfortunately, there is no empirical thought one can back oneself into to avoid the mysteries which persist in the messy ways thoughts and things happen, just as it can't be assumed that we are separated from a pure consciousness by our conflicts and human self consciousness.

There is this persistence for authority which people keep seeking and there's no real explanation for it, this wrestling for self justification or perhaps a unifying force. If I said, the supernatural brings openness, possibility and significance to the ordinary, one might argue I could just as well have said, openness, possibility and significance in the ordinary leads to the supernatural, because in the end, we are seeking to reconnect with our lost innocence, but to do so we must come to terms with this search for authority which so motivates us.

Sean Farrell said...

A different angle.
Many people, perhaps most people have experienced moments of interior beauty which left a noticeable sense of loss as the moment slipped away. Such beautiful experiences have authority and that's why one remembers them often for a lifetime, even though they may have lasted but what seemed like a few seconds and in a way caused a sense more curious than of great importance at the time.

We may assume such is ours, though we long for a repetition of the moments. Or some try to find a way of tapping into it, by recreating the sense of openness we may have experienced in such a moment, but to little avail because the authority of the beauty isn't understood. Such beauty is the authority which people seek, but they don't associate authority with beauty and so miss the connection, though they are seeking by and for the authority of its beauty.

That something could come upon a person and have such an effect as to make them forget their conflicts and leave such a sense of unity is testimony to its authority, even as often is, such may have lasted but seconds.

Recognizing the authority of such beauty, or the beauty of such a sublime authority is overlooked as as life goes back to normal, but that's what they were, moments of profound beauty which by their profound beauty possessed a profound authority.

Such is the subject of the psalms, the gospels, Edith Stein, Simone Weil, Hubert Zan Zeller and countless others and yet few artists consider a beauty which has the authority to hold one spellbound. In fact, many today are embarrassed by the poets and artists who spoke of beauty in such a way. Many of those who are embarrassed believe they possess in themselves something more precious than that elusive beauty that can stop a person in their tracks and make them feel love and loved.

The modern person interprets beauty as an indulgence which is why it is often reduced to decoration or some subject status below their own authority and so it offers no insights into the everyday conflicts which seem at odds with the pervasive unity and authority of beauty, or the beautiful authority itself.

kev ferrara said...


That the universe is going to end is a prediction not a surety. We are only about 150 years into the era of science. The idea that in that short span of time we have figured out all the answers, or even a small percentage of the answers, is silly. We don't know nothing yet. Everything we currently know can be overturned, and probably will be.

I agree there is a mass mania for the illusion of security which is dangerous indeed. Particularly as it emboldens and empowers mediocre government bureaucrats with delusions of heroism.

I believe the romantic take on beauty is accurate, that it is the recognition of meaning under an aesthetic guise, which subsumes the classical idea that beauty is the recognition of ideality/mathematical order under an aesthetic guise. I think the modern world has been stripped of an understanding of beauty because the materialist "intellectuals" who man the turrets of culture, are such disappointed, unhappy and confused people, that they have crimped their sensitivity to the sublime and the meaningful, becoming hyper articulate meat heads bent on the destruction of the good.

Sean Farrell said...

Thank you Kev. Well said.

These are fantastic subjects which go on and on with great benefits.