Diary, 5/24 to 5/26/19

Copyright 2019 by Alan Carl Nicoll
All Rights Reserved

Science and Sanity

{5/24/19}  Weight 220.8.

Watched Alien vs. Predator this morning about 1:00 am.  There’s some nonsense involved, but otherwise it’s a good deal of fun, if you enjoy that sort of thing.  Which, of course, I do.  I’ve seen it before, however.  I went to bed early yesterday, so when I woke, I didn’t try very hard to get back to sleep, knowing that it wouldn’t happen.

Today, I made the mistake of buying taco-flavored potato chips at Food Maxx—a flavor I hadn’t seen before, so I sorta pigged out on those and cookies, then went to Barnes & Noble and had another big cookie (plus a stop at See’s).  I went to look at books on Excel in the hope that Excel can function as a graphic calculator.  Looks like it can’t, though of course Mr. Expert “I took a class in Excel” says, “Of course it can.”  But, alas, he has no clue what a graphic calculator might be good for.  So I suppose he’ll flounder around, ask somebody, etc., little knowing, asking, nor caring that I’ve been using Excel for more than twenty years.  I had to suffer through his “explaining” Excel to me.  But, after all, what are friends for?  He complained at one point that I was “crabby,” or something to that effect.  It’s more than possible that I’m “toxic” for him, and he for me.

He’s “training to become a shaman.”  I asked the purpose of this training, and he said it’s to help him understand the signs that he sees (flights of birds, words he comes across in daily life, etc.) and for healing.  Yeah, that’s great, guess I can throw away my Merck Manual.

Anyway, I didn’t get a book on Excel because I couldn’t find the kind of function I was looking for; nor, for once, did I find any other books to get.  I was briefly tempted by The Angry Therapist, but decided that it wasn’t very deep or original, a basic self-help book.

Do I need a self-help book?  Not especially, and hell, yes.  If I had any hope of finding miracles, I’d get one, but I don’t, having read (or skimmed, lately) about a hundred of the things.  Make that, the damned things.

No, I know that I don’t need a graphic calculator to learn calculus, etc.  But I might go for an Excel app to do the same thing, if there is such a thing.  I know there are programs like Mathematica that do stuff.  Meh.  I’m not sure how far I’ll go with trying to relearn calculus and differential equations and such, which I knew something about fifty years ago.  The idea is to “learn modern physics to put my philosophy on a firmer foundation.”  Sure.  It may be worth a try.  Because, after all, “The Common Good” was a bust.

 

{5/26/19}  Weight 221.8.  Yow.  Highest weight in about three weeks.

A dream:  browsing anonymously (see below), I did a Google search on my name.  The results were baffling and made no sense, as though I had not entered my name, but perhaps just a space.  That’s it.

Regarding “browsing anonymously,” I’ve heard that there is a way to start your browser (shift-click?) with it disconnected from all your usual history and identity, which presumably will result in a different response to searches.  I have not tested this.

Regarding the dream, I’ve seen before that it is always very difficult to dream-read, that is, to read in a dream.  In the above dream, I don’t think I actually read the search results, but rather, imagined that I was reading, but in fact had come to the baffling conclusion without having read at all, as though the uninterpretable results I got was what I expected, and I didn’t need to actually look at the results.

Reading Alfred Korzybski:  Science and Sanity, and being deeply impressed while recognizing that the writing is often very obscure, rarely crystal clear.  I was most impressed by the original writing through page thirty-seven, but after the many Prefaces; I express it that way because the first seven pages consist of quotes from other authors.  Now, I know a lot already about the terminology of “General Semantics,” which is the author’s name for his “Non-aristotelian system”; without that knowledge, I think that those pages would be almost unintelligible, but with that knowledge, the way the system fits together, each part reinforcing the others, seems both amazingly intricate and surpassingly clever, while at the same time, “never quite getting to the point.”  This is a very impressionistic and, I’m afraid, obscure impression, because I’m trying to imagine reading the book afresh, without the forty-five years of history of having this stuff in my head, years of using K’s insights to understand almost everything else.

What insights?  “The map is not the territory.”  “The word is not the thing.”  I might say, a general distrust of language and perhaps of my own understanding, my own ability to understand.  In a word, I might say that Korzybski helped form and reinforce the skepticism I’ve apparently had ever since that awful day, at age ten, that I “realized” that prayers are unheard by their intended audience.

In the very back of the book, after the Index, starting on page 799, is a set of quotes from about twenty-five persons, under sixteen headings and running to seven pages.  Page 799 is a bit odd; it starts like this:

SCIENCE AND SANITY

AN INTRODUCTION TO NON-ARISTOTELIAN
SYSTEMS AND GENERAL SEMANTICS

BY

ALFRED KORZYBSKI

(Author of Manhood of Humanity)

 

SCIENTIFIC OPINIONS ABOUT THE FIRST EDITION, 1933

At the bottom of the page is another sort of banner, saying, “International Non-Aristotelian Library / The Science Press, Lancaster, PA., U.S.A., Distributors,” where the slash is occupied by a large circular logo for the “International Non-Aristotelian Library.”  This is all quite impressive, or naïve, depending on your sophistication (or cynicism) about such things, I suppose.  It reminds me of my thinking of my bedroom, when I was a child, as “Nicoll Laboratories.”

Anyway, I wanted to include here the quote from Bertrand Russell on page 803, under the heading “10.  Mathematical Foundations and Logic.  Bertrand Russell, cables [sic] from London to the author:  ‘Your work is impressive and your erudition extraordinary.  Have not had time for thorough reading but think well of parts read.  Undoubtedly your theories demand serious consideration.’”  I cannot think of another person who so impresses me with his work, reputation, and erudition as Bertrand Russell, so this praise would have carried a lot of weight at the time, and indeed still does.

“Not had time for thorough reading” has been my experience also.  My two or three previous attempts to get through this book have all ended at about page 300 or sooner.  This is in addition to the ninety pages of Prefaces and Introductions.  The Introductions are not especially helpful, being as obscure as the rest of the book.  Page 300 is midway through the chapter titled “Mathematics and the Nervous System.”

So, this time I have read through page 92, having skipped about half of the Prefaces and Introductions, and I’ve taken some notes, mostly page references to highlight definitions.  These pages have been impressive, enlightening, and frustrating.  A key term, “semantic reaction,” is used often, is defined often, yet remains obscure.  Other of the many key terms have become clear with experience.

Extraordinary claims and outlandish predictions abound throughout, about the value and beneficial effects of the system.  Time has not been kind to either the claims or the predictions.

I can come to no simple conclusion about this book, unless it is this:  the book is stubborn, and requires stubborn readers, if any value is to be obtained from it.  And, alas, it cannot be taken at all times at face value.  I remain hopeful but skeptical; I have seen its value in my own life, but its failings are equally huge.

 

 

Copyright 2019 by Alan Carl Nicoll
All Rights Reserved

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