Prologue

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Showing posts with label Materialism. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Materialism. Show all posts

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Tempus Omnia Vincit

"Time Conquers All", in Latin.  A pithy little meditation on the transience of this vale of tears, paradoxically immortalized by being phrased in a dead language.

El Hechizado
My pal Pete found it written on the bottom of a half empty beer can around closing time at the local beer garden, as we basked in Wisconsin's recent and unusually mild late March weather.  Or rather, I suggested he'd find it there. 

I told him it was the lucky password the bar's owner had written on the bottom of a randomly selected can as part of a free promotional giveaway contest.  Turns out in actuality there was only an expiration date written there.  And by the time he'd flipped the can over to read, it was completely emptied.  Mostly onto Pete himself.

I laughed, but the barkeep seemed a little annoyed, as some of the beer had spilled on other patrons who didn't quite get the joke.  We took that as our cue to skee-daddle and started off on our walk down the hill back to my shack to sleep off our hangovers.  It's a bit of a trek, and the pleasant mellow glow of the country moonlight put us in a contemplative mood, so we had a good chat on the way.  Some of it seemed pretty profound, worth sharing with a wider audience, so I decided to recount a bit of it here.

"What the fc*k was that "Tanta Alea Vexat"[1] sh*t about, then?" sez Pete.

"I don't know.  Sometimes I'm just a medium for these things.  A passive conduit for divine inspiration."

"What's the supposed to mean?  You just made an *ss of me in front of the only hot girl within 15 miles of this crappy little half-horse town.  I'm walking to a damn lice ridden shack, in beer sodden jeans, shack to sleep off a hangover--ALONE, I might add, if a bit gratuitously."

"Don't blame me.  It was the Goddess Errata[2] what done it.  You know how I channel her when I get foggy after a few drinks.  Besides, she only intended it as an encouragement for YOU, after you'd spent two hours bitching about the failure of your "Occupy Nya Upsala" project."  I was skating on thin ice here by bringing up such a sore point when Pete was already in a bad mood, but I felt I was onto something and decided to chance it.

Pete chuckled.  "Errata again?  Figures.  I dial Venus and Errata picks up, every time."

"You, my friend, don't know how lucky you are.  That I attribute to a combination of the psycho-motor slowing effects of the two gallons of beer you drank and your superhuman powers of concentration.  Some may call you a slow thinker, I call you a prodigy of Transcendental Meditation."

"Oh yeah?" he mused merrily.  "So the Goddess Errata's got a love jones for me on the basis of my James Brown-like "Soul Power"?  Fair enough.  I just want to know when she's going to incarnate as a Selma Hayek lookalike."

"Yuk it up all you like, laughing boy.  But you've only got yourself to blame.  You're the one constantly provoking her."

He stopped dead on the path, injecting an unwelcome note of earnestness into the conversation.  "How's that?"

"Well . . . well, like I said, you're always thinking so much.  Prizing apart every freakin' waking second with questions and doubts, trying to cobble together some jury-rigged philosophical edifice out of it.  That's more or less the equivalent of smearing your *ss with Braunschweiger in front of a starving rottweiler, when you consider Errata's ravenous appetite for chaos."

He stood there silently for a while.  I could here the gears slowly churning along in his beer sodden brain, but his eyes only betrayed a dull opacity that I found alarming. 

"Come ON, Pete!"  I grabbed him by the elbow and began frog-marching him on.  "You're doing it again--and if Errata catches up with you again, in this state, you're likely to have some kind of seizure or something again."

"Okay, okay!  Gotchya!  I can walk on my own.  I was just thinking."

"And THAT, my friend, is the entire problem.  It slows time down.  Leaving you susceptible to any number of corollary's of Littlewood's Law of Truly Large Numbers.[3]  You know that's Errata's favorite weapon."

"What!?  Littlewonk's what?"

"LittleWOOD, my friend.  LittleWOOD.  As in J.E. Littlewood--some egghead mathematics professor.  He's the guy who, ironically, formally codified Errata's sole theological doctrine; namely, that any ridiculous event, no matter how unlikely, is statistically certain to occur about once a month, bare minimum."

"Ha ha ha.  Sorry, Liam, but that plainly makes no sense.  A theologist carving the dogma of the Goddess of Anarchy onto stone tablets?  Clearly you're drunker than I am.  Nice try, though."

"No no no, man.  I'm being fer-real here, Pete.  I know it seems a little counter-intuitive, but it really makes sense when you really consider the thing in its totality."

I let that last bit soak in a bit, hoping the silence would impart a kind of solemnity to the pronouncement as I plotted the link.  Pete seemed receptive enough, silently cogitating at a clip agreeable to our pace through the gravelly path.  Then he bit.

"Awright--expound."

"Well . . . Consider the following:

Given-For the purposes of this discussion, an exceptional event is defined as one occurring approximately once per every one million trials. . . ."

"Good enough."

"Also given-The average duffer spends about eight hours a day in actual conscious awareness.  Not just going through the motions, feeding the dog, letting the cat out, etc., etc. . . . "

"That seems a bit generous, don't you think, Liam?  Given a viable Republican contender who's advocating the revival of the office of Witchfinder General?"

"That may be, Pete, but it only goes to highlight how much worse off you are.  If that represents eight hours of thinking, you're probably doing at least fourteen."

"Okay.  And your point being . . . ?"

"My point being that you spend well over TWO MILLION (2,000,000) seconds per month in actual conscious awareness, as compared to just under one million for Joe Q. Normal.  Is it any wonder that over twice as much weird sh*t happens to you as a plasticine robot like Mitt Romney?  You're racking up miracles at the rate of about 2 per month."

"So . . . the mere fact of paying attention alters the objective physical reality of the universe?  In other words, regardless of the immediate short-terms success or failure of "Occupy Nya Upsala", my actions are actually and definitely succeeding in grinding the machine to a halt?"

This seemed to have struck a pleasing chord with my audience.  And I have to say, I myself was impressed by my own ability to recast Pete's inchoate idealism into a surprisingly plausible political theory, complete with an unassailable positivist underpinning.  The Goddess Errata does indeed have at least one dogma.

"Yeah, but don't get too full of yourself, Fauntleroy.  You're still basically a muck savage, Errata's boyfriend or not.  You could be doing a lot more to speed things along.  There have to be 60 something-or-others in a second you could drill down into. . . . And at least some of the credit has to go to conventional elites, who barely seem conscious at all.  They won't consider any idea unless it's been picked apart and over-invoked ad absurdam.  Kinda like the Hapsburgs, they're committing suicide by philosophical incest."

Footnotes
[1] "Such gambling disturbs"
[2]  A minor deity in the Discworld pantheon of Terry Pratchett, Errata is a being of no definite characteristics or particular agenda other than to insert chaos into the universe whenever it appears to be ticking along in an unsatisfyingly tidy manner.
[3]  Yah, for real.