Saturday, April 08, 2023

ChatGPT, Unmoved Mover, and Ultimate Principle

I recently tried out ChatGPT by asking it to compose dialogues between a Thomist and a Confucian. Its approach to this sort of dialogue-writing is clunkheadedly unimaginative -- regardless of prompt, almost every dialogue begins with the Confucian introducing the topic, then the Thomist agreeing or occasionally disagreeing and saying, "From a Thomistic perspective", or else with the roles switched, and then the dialogue ends with them agreeing on the value of discourse, and if you get it to diverge, it eventually reconverges to this pattern. Anything actually interesting has to be inserted by prompt; the closest I got to something interesting was having them discuss the importance of rituals for the moral life while watching birds in the park, and the Confucian introduced the topic by reflecting on the ritual life of birds, which topic was quickly dropped for the call-and-response. It's an interesting look at some of the limitations of this sort of model. The model is essentially 'predicting' a nonexistent text from the statistical relations of words associated with the prompt (and with previous prompts and results in the same chat). This gives results that in one way are very impressive but in another way are going to tend toward the most trite and banal pablum except by accident. But it's fun enough when one keeps the limitations in mind. The best of these dialogues, in terms of actual substance, began, after a series of others, with the following prompt:

The Thomist attempts to explain to the Confucian, in Neo-Confucian terms, the First Way, which is an argument for God's existence. What does he say to try to explain the First Way? 

ChatGPT produced the following. Note, incidentally, that it does not actually follow the prompt -- the Thomist doesn't explain the First Way in Neo-Confucian terms -- probably because the actual prompt is more implied than directly stated, but comes back to its standard pattern.

 Thomist: My friend, I would like to share with you one of the five ways that Thomas Aquinas argued for the existence of God. It is called the First Way, and it is based on the observation that there are things in motion or changing in the world.

 Confucian: I see. From a Neo-Confucian perspective, we might describe this observation as the continuous transformation of the universe, where everything is constantly changing but also interconnected. 

 Thomist: That's a helpful way to think about it. From a Thomistic perspective, the First Way argues that everything in motion or changing must be moved or changed by something else, as nothing can move or change itself. 

 Confucian: I see. From a Neo-Confucian perspective, we might describe this as the principle of cause and effect, where everything that happens in the universe is caused by something else. 

 Thomist: Yes, that's right. From a Thomistic perspective, the First Way then argues that this chain of cause and effect cannot go on infinitely, as there must be a first cause that sets everything in motion. 

 Confucian: I see. From a Neo-Confucian perspective, we might describe this as the idea of the Ultimate Reality or the Ultimate Principle, which is the source of all existence and activity in the universe.

 Thomist: Exactly. From a Thomistic perspective, this first cause or ultimate reality is what we call God, the unmoved mover or the first cause of all things. 

 Confucian: I understand. From a Neo-Confucian perspective, we might describe this as the idea of the Dao, which is the source and foundation of all existence, activity, and morality in the universe. 

 Thomist: Yes, that's a helpful way to think about it. The First Way is just one of the ways that we can come to know and understand God's existence, and it is grounded in observation and reason.

The Confucian is probably a bit too quick to identify the Great Ultimate with the first cause and both with the Dao; the Thomist just a bit too incurious about the Confucian's version of the principle of causality and about what exactly the Dao is and how it relates to the Ultimate Principle; the sense in which a Neo-Confucian takes the Great Ultimate to be a 'source of existence' is arguably not too far from how Aristotle would think of the first mover as a 'source of existence' (one could imagine Aristotle with suitable qualifications agreeing that the prime mover is like the pole around which the cosmos turns, or the Confucian with suitable qualifications agreeing that the Great Ultimate, which manifests by activity and stillness, moves as beloved), but probably much further from Aquinas's more generalized version; and typical Confucians would probably be more wary about anything that might suggest a mental or personal character to the Great Ultimate. But it delivers a plausible first approximation to an analogy. 

The Almond Trees Are Blooming Now Afresh

 Easter Eve
by Richard Charles Jackson 

The almond trees are blooming now afresh,
 White doves are cooing to their darling mates,
The fig-tree nestles by the golden gates,
The fragrant zephyrs laden are afresh,
As lilies sweet are clothed, and afresh
 The wayside flow'ret springs to life and light,
As song-birds warble by the roses white;
And all the earth is coming forth afresh.
The cactus now is shedding crimson bloom,
As pow'r benign dispels surrounding gloom;
The pomegranate is purpling in the sun,
As angels sing "GOD's Blessed Will is done."
Come forth to meet the SAVIOUR-SON of GOD!
To worship CHRIST, the Everlasting LORD.

Friday, April 07, 2023

Dashed Off XI

This completes the notebook finished in September 2022.

 Hebrews 9:14
(1) through the eternal Spirit
(2) Christ offered himself
(3) as spotless sacrifice
(4) to God

the 'inner theater' of consciousness is an imaginative construct used as an organizing instrument

Building institutions on romanticized notions of the past is often building them to fail, but refusing to romanticize the past at all is a pathological condition.

principles of due process
(1) deprivations and penalties can only be imposed through process;
(2) this process must have a structure identifiable by a reasonable person;
(3) the state is bound by its own laws in such processes.

If those in a given parish just make friends among each other, both in parish and out, help each other in watchful prayer, and aid each other in illness and emergency, much will have been done toward living in love and harmony, such as is possible in this world; much will have been done to have changed the world for the better.

"Every act of seeing leads to consideration, every consideration to reflection, every reflection to combination, and thus it may be said that in every attentive look at nature we already theorize." Goethe

We receive our bodies first as gifts, and they become the instruments of our giving.

Maintaining a republic seems to require a level of abstraction with which people often struggle.

Anything that can be understood as designed can be understood deontically. One may reject the rationale of the design, or the need for it, but granted the design, the norms and requirements associated with it follow.

It is still the case that 'Number is unity in plurality' is a better definition of number than most formal definitions of number, across most situations. Besides being of the right general kind -- unity and plurality as concepts preceded any counting system -- it is the least ad hoc, not being tied to specific situations of use. (Russell's criticism of it makes the elementary blunder of confusing a collection of three things with the attribution of predication, 'being a collection of three things'.) It is, of course, the case that there are many specific things it cannot do, for which one needs more attuned definitions, but even these are kept definitions of *number* by comparison with 'unity in plurality'.

formal ceremony as the natural context of exposition

repetition -> generalization -> universalization

It is simply false to say that all intrinsically good things are richer in value than all extrinsically good things.

the threefold aspect of Jesus's being the Anointed, as reflected in the Baptism, the Transfiguration, and Pentecost
(1) He is anointed as being Son
(2) He is anointed in His fulfillment of the Law and the Prophets
(3) We are anointed in Him (He is anointed in His sacramental body)

personal and real readings of 'communion of saints' (i.e., holy people and holy things)

Wise government facilitates the governed in satisfying their needs and fulfilling their duties.

"Do you pray? You speak to the Bridegroom. Do you read? He speaks to you." Jerome (Ep 22)
"We speak to him when we pray, we listen to him when we read the divine oracles." Ambrose (De off. 1.20.88)

Democratic systems tend toward a politics of hyperbole.

Personhood is expressed in different modalities, such as child and adult, and respect for personhood has to be expressed in ways that take these differences into account.

Thirst is a problem primarily because lack of water can kill you, not primarily because it is unpleasant.

Locard's exchange principle: "Every human action, and a fortiori the violent action that is a crime, cannot occur without leaving a trace."

similarity, contiguity, and causality accounts of personal identity

People often use disrespect for the dead as a way of dehumanizing some of the living.

the effect of luck in the spiritual and religion devotions of the Church

The unity of mathematics as a whole is not axiomatic but a system of analogies.

find -> find relation -> match

informativeness and brevity // richness and simplicity

tactics as the art of finding exploitable disorganization

A strategy of bread and circuses creates political disruptions and increases political tensions.

When a heresy is defeated, its echo will soon follow.

We construct models from nonmodels, fragments of understood reality.

Love has a natural tendency to reveal truth, and the more perfect the love, the greater the tendency.

People sometimes convince themselves that they are opposing injustice when in reality they are just building themselves a dramatic backstory.

"Whenever all the forces of society act in one single direction, the just claims of the individual human being are in extreme peril." John Stuart Mill

the crime market

Sensation is a use of change to detect stable things. Classical empiricism often erred by focusing on the stabilities.

The congregation in Mass not only receives the Body of Christ, it is raised by Christ as part of His sacrifice, as His sacramental body.

vow : matrimony :: sacrifice : eucharist

Matrimony carries forward and transfigures the mode of religion of the patriarchs.

inference with metaphors as implicitly reduplicative

One thing literature shows us is that sometimes people like a villain while still seeing him as a villain.

shi = focused tendency

2 Chronicles 28 and the Good Samaritan

demotic eros vs. philosophical eros

"As when we say a *certain Persusasion* or a *certain Truth*, these expressions imply there may be a Persuasion or a Truth not so certain; so when we say Certain Knowledge, it seems to imply that there may be Knowledge not so certain." John Milner

Much of democratic politics is based on using people as attention-getting props.

"Colour, it seems, involves time. Things cannot have colour at an instant. The sensations of colour depend on *rhythms* of electromagnetic vibrations." Olaf Stapledon
"Even bodily appetite, I should say, includes a moral aspect. When I am hungry I do not merely crave food, I feel that I *ought* to be fed. My hunger, I feel, constitutes a claim on all beings who know what hunger is and that this creature is hungry."

Stapledon on Star Maker -- Philosophy and Living, Vol. 2, pp. 403-404

constitutive providence, antecedent providence, circumstantial providence, consequent providence

All development of moral character is cooperation with providence.

sacramental objects as natural being that is given ordering as artificial being that is consecrated as holy being

You only have democracy to the extent that you have freedom of speech; for free speech is the daily and ordinary political work of democratic governance.

unity, truth, goodness, and beauty in civil theology

possible range for p: set of possible worlds such that p: r[p]
p & q are compossible : r[p]Or[q]
subpossible: r[p]PPr[q]
noncompossible: r[p]Dr[q]

Courts developed 'doctrinal tests' as ways to defend against charges of eisegesis (Lochnerizing).

Phil 2:7 // Is 53:11-12
Phil 2:9-10 // Is 45:22-24

the brain as a model of the mind

Every human mind implicitly posits God as its agent future.

chreia as stories in especially shareable form

Lives in general are more defined by the goods toward which they tended than by any flaws; although some lives mostly work toward highly defective goods or highly twisted versions of goods. But the life of someone terribly flawed who works for very great good is itself a very great good.

mood memes vs structure memes

logic exemplified through time in a physical medium

the precedential character of conscientious reasoning

Hobbes's df. of body in Elements would make holes bodies.

pure gambles vs informed gambles

moral, jural, and sacral aspects of ren (ren as human + relation; ren as sacrifice)

pure points vs points under relations of directionality

"The propositional variable signifies the formal concept, and its values signify the objects that fall under the concept." Wittgenstein

mathematical cycles or phases (Ross Street)
naive -> axiomatic -> algebraic -> nonstandard -> local -> relations among loci

Society remembers those who have gone before and anticipates those who come after; it is open in both directions, and has a hospitality in both directions.

Deterioration of an institution creates the conditions for partisan capture.

Against the introduction of Christianity, the World evolves defenses over time, whether camouflage or toxin or a new form of predation.

HOT theories of consciousness always boil down to saying that consciousness is when we are conscious of things, and they don't even really give us a useful breakdown of the parts of that.

qualified ownership of wild animals
(1) per industriam (e.g., by capturing or taming so that they keep returning)
(2) ratione impotentiae et loci (e.g., by owning the land on which they live and which they cannot leave due to youth or injury)
(3) ratione soli (e.g., by right to hunt arising from land)
(4) ratione privilegii (e.g. by right to hunt arising from license)

permission-structure propaganda

Our conception of harm is only as sure as our conception of good and bad.

just-so stories are narrative devices for highlighting elements and aspects of structure

Sabine Hossenfelder on levels of nothing
Take a box, "nothing in it" means:
(1) filled with air
(2) contains vacuum (17th c.)
(3) no particles at all
(4) no radiation or fields at all (21st. c. vacuum)
(5) not even virtual particles
(6) not even space and time
-- theory of inflation goes down to level (4)

"There are several senses in which a thing is said to be first; but substance is first in every respect: in definition, in knowing, and in time. For none of the other categories can exist separately, but only substance." Aristotle

"But nothing is more insidious than the evolution of wishes from mere fancies, and of wants from mere wishes." Thomas Hardy

memory as the universe of the mind, or
memory : time :: imagination : space

Detached from relationship with God, all substance of our ideals drains away, leaving only husks.

Human nature is itself deontic.

The notion of nondeontic reason is a chimera. Reason deontifies.

'approximately' as a modality (a kind of Diamond)

'such that' as indicating an explanandum

Confidence comes in degrees because it is affected by all of our beliefs, not because beliefs come in degrees.

Teaching is an inherently hierarchical act, but learning is not, although it can be.

'Best practices' exist to make actions visible to bureaucracies.

remakes & curatorial authority

doxastic voluntarism in regions of provisionality (as contrasted with set doxastic regimes)

In knowing, we posit a greater knowable than what we know.

Mathematics as the discovery of the infinity of the intellect in understanding material things

the interstitial civilization of Christendom

Each Note of the Church has moral, jural, and sacral aspects.

each sacrament as expressing an aspect of divine wisdom

All love of wisdom is a disposition to God, whether known or unknown.

"'Father' designates neither the substance nor the activity, but the relationship, the manner of being, which holds between the Father and the Son." Nazianzen

"The inherent holiness and royal dignity extend from the Father through the Only-Begotten to the Spirit." Basil

By experiment, we study things insofar as they are relative to various actions.

God as the precondition for general modal structures

sortiarius -> sorcier -> sorcerie

All politics eventually crumbles into hypocrisy.

free will as getting its value from love

charity as transfiguring both human sympathy and self-respect

Human powers of consistent actions must be grown and built.

Akallabeth is a story about the progress of heresy.

Liberty is always structured by allegiance, and it is always one's allegiances that lead one to fight for liberty. A people without allegiances is not motivated to be free.

extrinsic formal causes as scaffolding for action

St. Therese depicts the little flowers as intrinsically ecclesial. They are done by us as members of the Bride of Christ; they have their value because the Church Triumphant lifts them as prayers to God in such a way that the graces given are distributed to the Church Patient and the Church Militant.

Most methods of progressive protest are methods for bullying bureaucracies. Protest becomes significant in a bureaucratic society, because it takes advantage of failure points in bureaucracies.

Fit to obligation admits of gradation.

moral endowments as signs of natural law
moral endowments as material contributors to natural law

questions as intellectual dissection tools

the expression "very much not X" and combination of remotion and eminence

Pride is not the opposite of shame.

The value of a thing is measured by its capability for being loved.

"El malvado sucumbira sin remedio; el justo, en cambio, vivira por su fe." Heb 2:4

2 Tim 1:6-8 -- stir to flame the gift of God that you have through the imposition of my hands
-- the relation between character and devotion

Lk 17:5-10 -- faith even like a mustard seed goes beyond what is commanded.

little arguments constructed with great love

God in His truth and love is more dangerous than anything in the universe; by being baptized and adopted by Him, Christians become among the most most dangerous things in the universe. So very often we are like tigers cowering before mice.

The hidden part of Christ's life shows us that great ministry and great devotion may also require a great patience that will not look impressive to one who only looks for public action. The public and the devout are mostly not the same.

Is 34:4 -- the falling of stars as a metaphor for the destruction of armies and nations

"One must be capable of thinking idealistically with the idealist and materialistically with  the materialist. For only thus will the faculty of the soul be awakened that can become active in spiritual intuition." Rudolf Steiner
"Whoever wants to view the history of human thought development from a fruitful point of view must be able to admire the greatness of an idea in one age, and yet be capable of producing the same enthusiasm in watching this idea as it reveals its shortcoming in a later period. He must be able to accept the thought that the mode of thinking to which he himself adheres will be replaced in teh future by an entirely different one."

We begin in physical union with our mothers, and end in physical union with the earth.

Caravan trade is inevitably luxury trade, due to expense and difficulty. Consistent caravan trade depends on building family connections over the trade route, for reasons of credit and market.

respect for being in general, respect for being in kind, respect for individual in its being

Act only on maxims that include preferentially opting for truth, goodness, and beauty.

the Church as collective unity, the Church as similitudinary unity, the Church as instrumental unity, the Church as expressive unity

A poet takes ordinary words and gives them a new glow.

conditional necessity // conditional obligation // conditional always // conditional everywhere

moral : prophet :: jural : king :: sacral : priest

evidence as that which contributes to making truth manifest to the mind

In checks and balances, courts are means-restricting instruments.

People watch romantic comedies  to see the tropes of mundane life subverted into romantic comedy tropes, not to see the latter subverted into something else, which is a common moviemaker's mistake.

The temptation is to think that in democratic politics you have to be right; but in democratic politics, you have to win people over -- which may not even require convincing them that you are right, much less actually being right.

beings of reason known by reflection, beings of reason known by construction, beings of reason known by perception-as

Ingroup and outgroup are inherent to the structure of groups, which partition by their nature.

Continual use of political mechanisms is like running an engine too hot.

All democracies function in accordance with the preferences of a minority that is active and vocal, but get their ability to function from a much larger population, who may or may not have the same preferences.

"Democratic freedoms may be based on the equality of all citizens before the law; yet they acquire their meaning and function organically only where the citizens belong to and are represented by groups or form a social and political hierarchy." Arendt

Physical desires are not precise in aim or object, but always fairly generic. They are specified by preferences that are not themselves physical desires.

"Everything that appears in the world is twofold, containing manifest wisdom and invisible wisdom." Nahmanides
"The mystery of the Sanctuary is that the glory which rested on Mount Sinai abides on it unseen."
"The Rabbis hinted that all the commandments are included in the Sabbath and the Sanctuary."

Language itself is implicitly philosophical.

God as the ultimate precondition of resemblance (this is a via participationis)
God as the ultimate precondition of spacetime (this is related to Tertia Via)

On Akiba's modal account of vagueness, a vague object is a transworld object mapping to an unordered pair consisting of an object in one world and an object in another world.
-- If we go with this, we can have time-vague, space-vague, possibility-vague, permissibility-vague, etc.
-- vague : definite :: Diamond : Box

counterfactual // counterlocational // counterinstantial

modality as a way one existent is related to or not separate from another

divine lots // Urim and Thummim // coincidence of liturgical readings and contemporary events in life and society

"Diversitas rerum est ex movente et materia." Aquinas

the form as what is in commmon between the singular and the universal

complete being-at-work-staying-itself

"Rationality is being governed by final causes." Peirce (CP 2.66)
"Efficient causation is that kind of causation whereby the parts compose the whole; final causation is that kind of causation whereby the whole calls out its part." (CP 1.220)
"Triadic Logic is that logic which, though not rejecting entirely the Principle of Excluded Middle, nevertheless recognizes that every proposition, S is P, is either true, or false, or else S has a lower mode of being such that it can neither be determinately P nor determinately not-P, but is at the limit between P and not P." (R 339:624 [23 Feb 1907]) -- Peirce explicitly develops this in terms if incipit and desinit

Commitments of people presuppose norms; they cannot wholly ground them.

If Mackie's argument from queerness were viable, it would equally be an argument against the existence of human beings.

For each person, every other person is a potential part of the epistemic means available to that person.

Some individual rights seem to presuppose group rights.

We form corporate persons to better understand our nature as individual person.

"... the more propaganda there is, the more partitioning there is." Jacques Ellul

the sweeping as a cinemetic aesthetic concept

Marian apparitions and the prophetic munus of the Virgin

The religious priesthood combines two kinds of order, a lesser religious consecration that is a minor sacrament and a consecration that is a major sacrament. It seems however that the latter would redound on the former, forming and transfiguring it.

marriage, baptism, and unction as particularly pastoral responsibilities

The sacrament of orders gives grace for preaching and ruling insofar as these are means for sanctification.

The sacraments or semi-sacraments under natural law become minor sacraments of grace in the context of the Church.

Thursday, April 06, 2023

Take, Bless, Break, Give

 The Feeding of the Five Thousand

(Mk 6:41), Taking the five loaves and the two fish, he looked up to heaven, and blessed and broke the loaves, and gave them to his disciples to set before the people; and he divided the two fish among them all.

(Mt 14:19) Then he ordered the crowds to sit down on the grass. Taking the five loaves and the two fish, he looked up to heaven, and blessed and broke the loaves, and gave them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the crowds. 

(Lk 9:16) And taking the five loaves and the two fish, he looked up to heaven, and blessed and broke them, and gave them to the disciples to set before the crowd. 

(Jn 6:11) Then Jesus took the loaves, and when he had given thanks, he distributed them to those who were seated; so also the fish, as much as they wanted.

The Feeding of the Four Thousand

(Mk 8:6) Then he ordered the crowd to sit down on the ground; and he took the seven loaves, and after giving thanks he broke them and gave them to his disciples to distribute; and they distributed them to the crowd. 

(Mt 15:36) he took the seven loaves and the fish; and after giving thanks he broke them and gave them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the crowds.

The Last Supper

(Mk 14:22-24) While they were eating, he took a loaf of bread, and after blessing it he broke it, gave it to them, and said, “Take; this is my body.” Then he took a cup, and after giving thanks he gave it to them, and all of them drank from it. He said to them, “This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many. 

(Mt 26:26-28) While they were eating, Jesus took a loaf of bread, and after blessing it he broke it, gave it to the disciples, and said, “Take, eat; this is my body.” Then he took a cup, and after giving thanks he gave it to them, saying, “Drink from it, all of you; for this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins. 

(Lk 22:17-20) Then he took a cup, and after giving thanks he said, “Take this and divide it among yourselves; for I tell you that from now on I will not drink of the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes.” Then he took a loaf of bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” And he did the same with the cup after supper, saying, “This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood. 

(1 Cor 11:23-26) For I received from the Lord what I also handed on to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took a loaf of bread,  and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, “This is my body that is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.”  In the same way he took the cup also, after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.” For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.

Supper at Emmaus

(Lk 24:30-35) When he was at the table with them, he took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to them. Then their eyes were opened, and they recognized him; and he vanished from their sight. They said to each other, “Were not our hearts burning within us while he was talking to us on the road, while he was opening the scriptures to us?” That same hour they got up and returned to Jerusalem; and they found the eleven and their companions gathered together. They were saying, “The Lord has risen indeed, and he has appeared to Simon!” Then they told what had happened on the road, and how he had been made known to them in the breaking of the bread.

[All quotations from NRSV.] 

Wednesday, April 05, 2023

Ways and Means

 When John Locke introduces the term 'semeiotike' for his science of signs, he introduces it as concerned with "the ways and means whereby the knowledge of both the one and the other of these is attained and communicated" (Essay IV.21.1). It's easy to let that go by quickly, but "ways and means" is an interesting phrase here. 

The Committee on Ways and Means was formed in the Parliament in 1641; the Essay was published in 1689. The parliamentary Committee was abolished in 1967 (although the role of Chairman of Ways and Means still exists, due to incidental non-committee roles that the position had picked up), but the United States House of Representatives still has its Committee on Ways and Means, which is one of the oldest legislative committees in Congress. As with the original version of U. S. imitation, the original British Committee on Ways and Means had control over taxation and spending. (In the U. S., spending was split off to a separate Appropriations Committee in the nineteenth century.) The name seems to be due to Xenophon, whose work, Ways and Means (which I discussed here) is a philosophical discussion of how to raise revenue and budget for large-scale projects in the city-state. The 'ways' are how to get the revenue, and the 'means' are the organization of the revenue itself.

When Locke speaks of semiotics as concerned with "the ways and means" of the discovery and communication of knowledge, then, he is not using the phrase as a mere hendiadys for 'method', but using a monetary metaphor. Signs are the 'money' of inquiry and communication; you use signs to 'budget' and 'fund' inquiry and communication. Semiotics is being put forward as the field of knowledge that studies and makes possible the accounting for inquiry and communication.

The Holographic Pop-up Book Boardgame Exam

 People often have dreams about missing tests, learning that they had been missing class in a course that they didn't even know they were taking, and so forth. I don't remember my dreams often, but when I do, they are often doozies, and I once had a dream that certainly must be in the top-tier of these anxious school dreams.

It started fairly standardly; it was final exam day and I discovered, somehow, that I had been registered for a course, Chemistry, that I didn't even know I should have been attending, but I had to take the final exam anyway. So I went to the classroom for the examination and got the test booklet, and when I sat down and opened it, my heart sank to the floor. 

The test was a holographic pop-up book. I opened the book, and all these holographic things literally started to pop out of the book in the way things pop out of a pop-up book. What is more, the test was some kind of weird boardgame that involved answering questions to move spaces and get through various boardgame-like holographic obstacles and problems. And when you got to the end of it on one page, you went to the next page and there was a new, completely different holographic pop-up boardgame.

Well, I struggled through this incomprehensible exam in a course I had never attended, and did manage to get to the end of the test. But I knew I had failed. And then when I closed test booklet, my heart sank to the floor again.

I had gone to the wrong examination room and taken the wrong test. I was supposed to be taking a chemistry test, but the test booklet very clearly and obviously said in great big letters, COSMOLOGY.

Whenever I hear the word 'cosmology', I think of that dream. Being a teacher, I have also often wished that I could do a final exam that was a holographic pop-up book boardgame.

I've had other crazy dreams, like the time I chased Immanuel Kant with a broom, or the time I uncovered a secret espionage plot, or the time I won a public debate about astronomy by singing "Down in the Valley", or the time I was teaching class, discovered suddenly to my horror that I was completely naked, then sighed and kept teaching. But that's probably one of my flashiest dreams. The visual effects of that exam were amazing.

Tuesday, April 04, 2023

I Bathe My Spirit in Blue Skies

 April in the Hills
by Archibald Lampman

To-day the world is wide and fair
With sunny fields of lucid air,
And waters dancing everywhere;
The snow is almost gone;
The noon is builded high with light,
And over heaven's liquid height,
In steady fleets serene and white,
The happy clouds go on. 

The channels run, the bare earth steams,
And every hollow rings and gleams
With jetting falls and dashing streams;
The rivers burst and fill;
The fields are full of little lakes,
And when the romping wind awakes
The water ruffles blue and shakes,
And the pines roar on the hill. 

The crows go by, a noisy throng;
About the meadows all day long
The shore-lark drops his brittle song;
And up the leafless tree
The nut-hatch runs, and nods, and clings;
The bluebird dips with flashing wings,
The robin flutes, the sparrow sings,
And the swallows float and flee. 

I break the spirit's cloudy bands,
A wanderer in enchanted lands,
I feel the sun upon my hands;
And far from care and strife
The broad earth bids me forth. I rise
With lifted brow and upward eyes.
I bathe my spirit in blue skies,
And taste the springs of life. 

I feel the tumult of new birth;
I waken with the wakening earth;
I match the bluebird in her mirth;
And wild with wind and sun,
A treasurer of immortal days,
I roam the glorious world with praise,
The hillsides and the woodland ways,
Till earth and I are one.

Monday, April 03, 2023

Music on My Mind


Behm, "Sata Vuotta". I really like this video. 'Sata vuotta' means 'A Hundred Years'; one of the lines is, "If you want, I'll hold your hand a hundred years."

Sunday, April 02, 2023

Fortnightly Book, April 2

 Olaf Stapledon was born in 1886 in Seacombe, England. He earned a BA in modern history and, after he had taught at various places for a while, he served in World War I as a conscientious objector, which meant he drove an ambulance in France and Belgium, where he received a medal for bravery. After the war, he earned a PhD in philosophy, specializing in Ethics. In 1930, he published a fictional work, Last and First Men, a far-future history that ended up being surprisingly popular, and earned enough that Stapledon mostly began devoting himself to writing fiction and essays. He became very active in the pacifist movement and, later, the anti-apartheid movement, until he died of a heart attack in 1950.

He is most famous for being one of the most influential science fiction writers of the first half of the twentieth century; indeed, arguably only Jules Verne and H. G. Wells have exerted more influence across the entire genre. For the next fortnightly 'book' I will be re-reading three works by Stapledon.

Odd John, published in 1935, is subtitled, A Story Between Jest and Earnest, and is an Overman story about a young man who, physically stunted, has superhuman intelligence; he tries to build a colony of 'supernormals', which will end in disaster.

Star Maker, published in 1937, is a far-future history, attempting to do on a larger scale what he had done in Last and First Men. All science fiction involves world-building; Star Maker is a work that is almost all world-building, the ultimate science fiction attempt to make a universe.

Sirius, published in 1944, is subtitled, A Fantasy of Love and Discord, and is the story of a dog who through a series of scientific experiments develops human intelligence. Of course, to be a dog that can think like a human being is to be preeminently alone in the universe, and thus the tale is a tragic one. Sirius is a candidate for being the second greatest science fiction novel of all time (after A Canticle for Leibowitz), so it will be nice to get back to it.