The Absence of Noise

August 6, 2017

A moonless sky:
like Winter, slowly it pulls
all eyelids shut.

The earthly spirits
lie in dormant memory
and dreamless, the globe

forgets all spinning
of measured time.

Somewhere, someone
walking the periphery
of neighborhoods

dissolved in muted
shades obscuring memory
lingers cognizant,

and into Gaia’s thicket
of darkened dendrites

goes.

Another Night

April 12, 2017

The dust of the earth
Settles in the horizons;
Atmospheric window-pane
Becomes unclouded.

The tarnished moon,
Cleans as its edge may seem,
Suffers eons.

It seems the stars
Sing muted melodies,
Forlorn in their age.

Consumed by time,
Separated by time,
This universe.

Constellations
Traced by my tired eyes–
Is there a story
In entropy?

And I wonder
what the ancients saw at night.

In Medias Res

August 16, 2013

Not complexity–extension.
Mother unspeakable felt
In the depths of the present
The heart of dimension
Remembered in medias res.

“Here” is not singular. It is laden
With distance and shape
In context, as all stories.

You were written in space.
And

I cry, but not for faith
Because the chest is an empty basin.

Grace

December 5, 2012

When everything is taken for granted:
Death to progress.
You and I in isolation,
Stripped of these securities
Find a bedrock.
We have always been naked.
From nakedness may
You find abandonment.
We cling
To something hiding.
Loss awakens me, yet

One can take only so much at one time.
Hope for the interludes
Or for a cleansing
When dormant trees with empty arms
Burdened with atmosphere
Stand.
Grey is a quiet color.
And God spreads his back over the earth
To shelter from a dying sun.

Dependency

October 25, 2012

I stood in rapt wonder, face to the skies,

As a host of the heavenly dropped dead like flies.

Meteor shower

In its aftermath we bathed and

Unclean,

I realized too late that when God bleeds

Or leaves

Then contingents will falter

Because everything may be its own

But is an extension of axioms.

This post is a response to Sean Lynch’s “Understanding Disbelief”. I decided to write a full post that my writing and his can be seen by a reader of either blog. I don’t know if we’ll continue debating back and forth but his post is worth reading and discussing more than a post reply can cover. You can read his post at http://lynchs.wordpress.com/2012/06/22/understanding-disbelief/

There’s a difference between comprehending an infinite being and knowing of its existence. But the word “infinite” is vague. People use it to describe God often but don’t consider in what aspects He may or may not be infinite. If He was infinite in every way He would be physically infinite, which clearly isn’t true. It might depend how you approach the argument of God; I don’t necessarily believe God is infinite in the way others think He is. Either way, it isn’t self-defeating to believe in something and believe it’s infinite. I believe in the infinity of numbers, yet I don’t think this unreasonable.

More important than His infinity is whether or not God exists. And the question of God is indispensable to morality. At the same time, neither the athiest nor thiest can prove the existence or nonexistence of God. The agnostic says the truth is unknowable, and maybe I agree with him. If anyone could prove either way there would no longer be a debate about it. Is it necessary to prove something to believe in it? Is it possible? Besides “cogito ergo sum”* I can think of almost nothing you or I can prove, including whether or not physical reality exists or is the mind’s fabrication. Considering how little I know, it’s foolish think any of my opinions can’t be disproved with information unknown to me or to mankind. The job of the individual is not to prove what is correct–he should try–but he can only draw together all the information given and choose what makes the most sense. The truth is objective, but the process of finding it is a subjective one.

Clifford’s point about holding yourself from examining other beliefs is a matter of attitude, not belief in and of itself. The person investigating truth wants to question and be questioned. If he finds he’s right he gains credence; if he’s wrong he eliminates what was false from his perspective. Developing an honest belief about reality is a constant process of building a framework and destroying it. Still, there are close-minded people of every kind. It does not follow that to hold an opinion about the nature of reality, like the existence or nonexistence of God, “forces the person to lie to oneself about reality.” There may be a probem with institutionalized religion; there’s sure as hell a problem with the herd mentality. But there is nothing crippling about well-thought-out belief in God.

To clarify: there is a rational truth. Truth isn’t irrational. The question is whether or not it is possible to arrive at truth by means of reason. Perhaps I can never know whether my reason leads to truth, but it might. In actuality, to think abstaining from a belief in something intangible is the rational thing to do is to make the assumption that what humans directly experience is all there is. If anyone takes Clifford seriously about the irresponsibility of beliving in something that can’t be proven, she is ignorant of her own ignorance. Many people believe things they can defend but cannot prove.

*Cogito ergo sum (I think, therefore I am) isn’t provable either. Someone challenged me to the possibility that thoughts could exist without thinkers; the idea of a thinker requires thoughts because a thinker is a thing that thinks, but perhaps thoughts could exist on their own as phenomena manifesting themselves in such a way as to flow consecutively as if there were a thinker. When I think hard on this, I am unable to conceive of a thought existing without a thinker or of myself not existing. Cogito ergo sum isn’t logically infallible, but it serves to give me enough surety that it is most likely true, and convinces me I could not conceive of it being otherwise. Similarly, but less dubiously, Hume makes the point that we never perceive cause and effect happen in the real world. We see one action happen and then another, but we can’t prove both events have a causal relationship, only that they happened simultaneously. Again, I don’t lose sleep over this one if I can’t prove one way or another.

Fractals and God

June 13, 2012

I’ve been taken up with fractals the past few months. I’ve started seeing them everywhere. They’ve also given me some ideas.

If you are not familiar with fractals, I suggest you research what they are, what kinds there are, how they are used, and how they are generated. I’ve provided a few resources below for reference. A fractal can be roughly defined as s a geometric figure or curve marked by self-similarity: the characteristic where the parts of a figure look like the whole. Self-similarity occurs when a figure forms a pattern that repeats itself in iterations. See below.

These iterations show a simple example of a fractal tree’s development. With each iteration of the “motif”–the pattern repeated–the figure becomes more complex.

Example of a fractal tree.

There could be a number of different fractal trees depending on the number of iterations, regularity, how many branches per iteration, how long each branch, what angle each branch stems off at, and other factors. The tree is one example of a kind of fractal. However, other shapes and designs produce different patterns. Because fractals can form complex and irregular shapes unlike Classical Euclidean geometry there are things you can model or measure using fractals that cannot be done by a triangle or circle or trapezoid. Fractals are used in computer modeling, metallurgy, and other fields particularly to predict seemingly unpredictable data.

Fractals appear throughout nature in trees, coastlines, snowflakes, plants, and a number of other entities. In the physical world they have a limited number of iterations, but in theory, a fractal can produce an infinite number of iterations. The iterations are not necessarily as symmetrical and regular as the above example. Certain mathematical algorithms produce fractals like the Mandelbrot set discovered in the late 1970’s.

Mandelbrot Set.

With online videos of fractal zooms you can see the infinite detail in a fractal set. As you zoom in on the detail of one area more detail can be seen, without end. The experience is uncanny.

When I started looking at fractals I was struck by them. Two paradoxes came to me. First, they can be seemingly simple and yet complex. By “simple” I do not necessarily mean uncomplicated, but not made of composite parts. This is easiest seen in a Koch Island or Gosper Island fractal. However, the infinite iteration of a simple pattern results in infinite complexity. This brings to mind the difference between classic Christian theological doctrine, which states that God is divinely simple, not made up of parts but whole, and Hinduism, which worships thousands of gods as different facets of one God. As fractals can be seen to be both whole and made of composite parts they exhibit both unity and complexity. This is not the same as the Hindu depiction, which sees God as divided into several different facets. Rather, I am suggesting how, as a fractal demonstrates, God could possibly be both undivided like any 2-dimensional shape and simultaneously infinitely complex, thereby resolving the contradiction between simplicity and complexity.Because of this a fractal can have a shape and still be infinite.

 

Random Koch Island or Snowflake Fractal.

Closely related to this first paradox is a second paradox. I am a sort of Deist admittedly leaning towards Theism; that is to say, I am closer than I used to be to believing God is involved in human life. But I used to have difficulty seeing how God could possibly be infinite, as most theists believe, and have a personality or will. For to have a personality is to be finite; to be a certain kind of person is for there to be other kinds of people you are not. To have a will is to want certain things done and not others. Infinity by contrast implies having no boundaries like an infinite landscape would, and personality and will therefore seem antithetical to infinity. Who can define the space of infinity? Who can put borders around it? You can imagine an infinite shape would have no boundaries. It could not be represented by a perimeter because that’s represented by a number, which is finite. Therefore there seemingly can’t exist an infinite shape. It would take up an entire plane–yet fractals have a recognizable shape; the shape of a Mandelbrot is distinct from a Koch Island or Box Fractal. However, a complete fractal set can have an infinite number of iterations so that the deeper you zoom into a fractal you will continue to see self-similarity. In a complete fractal (bad adjective for something infinite) there is infinite detail and therefore an infinite perimeter.

These are a few of the thoughts about fractals that have stood out to me.  They could be a source of inspiration for many ideas.

Other Resources:

Elementary explanation of a Fractal: http://mathworld.wolfram.com/Fractal.html

A Slightly less elementary explanation: http://www.math.umass.edu/~mconnors/fractal/fractal.html

Fractals Unleashed (more interesting): http://library.thinkquest.org/26242/full/

Fractal Geometry (much more extensive): http://classes.yale.edu/fractals/

The fundamental doctrine of existentialism holds that existence precedes essence. Jean-Paul Sartre illustrates this idea in “Existentialism is a Humanism” by an analogy of an artisan who creates a book or paper-knife. The artisan has in his mind a conception of what he will create before he creates it. Anytime a person decides to create something, he has in his mind a conception of what that thing’s essence will be and then brings it into existence. For the thing he creates, essence precedes existence. Typically people think of God as a “supernatural artisan” who envisions what he will create as the essence of each individual man and woman and then brings them into existence.

Existentialism argues that Man is a case of existence preceding essence. In Sartre’s words, “man first of all exists, encounters himself, surges up in the world – and defines himself afterwards.” The resulting belief is empowering. It places all responsibility for who you are on you. No longer can you blame any other thing for what you are but yourself. With such responsibility comes freedom, as you can define yourself and thereby truly call it yours. For if you create a chair and feel a sense that it is yours in a way, that’s because you envisioned the chair’s essence and brought it into being. However, when you look at some other object outside yourself you presumably don’t feel the same connection. If it isn’t true that you define yourself, then you would experience the same alienation. If  one’s essence precedes her existence–if she is not responsible for who she is–she can’t call herself her self.You cannot claim a connection the way you feel with something you make if what you are is predetermined; you have as much control over what your essence is as you do a tin can lying on the road. You realize you are as removed from yourself as a foreign object.

To hold to my belief that I define who I am and am not predetermined, in short, to maintain my belief in free will, it’s natural to want to believe existence precedes essence. To believe I first exist and then define myself afterwards is of critical, yet there is a problem.

If you say that “you create your self,” you refer to two different yous. The second “you” is the product of the first–your self is created by you. You can define what you are by what you make yourself to be, but then you beg the question of the origins of the “you” that made you who you are. I would like to believe that existence precedes essence but when I say I define myself the myself’s existence can be explained by the I, but the I is left unexplained. This leads backwards to the question of first choice. It’s easy to state that the you who makes a decision is a sum of your past decisions, but as you first began making choices, before having a history and an easily identifiable self, what made those first choices? There was a you that made certain decisions. Why did it make those and not others?  You can change who you are if you have strong enough will. You can adopt characteristics and drop others. You can choose to do something because it is what you want. But that doesn’t solve the problem. The question remains unanswered; you decide to take on certain characteristics and react to an experience a certain way, but why did you make that one decision and not another?

The question about whether our existence precedes our essence or vice versa is ultimately a question of how much freedom we have, or if we have any free will at all. The truth of free will seems as easy to take for granted as consciousness. You can choose to continue reading this blog or you could choose to get up and go running. No doubt you can decide. But what determines why you make one choice and not the other? Your answer has everything to do with what you believe a human being is and how he comes into being. I don’t believe identity is predetermined by genes and experiences; yet if God preconceived the person I would be I’m not much better off in free will. It appears necessary that to make decisions in the beginning I must have been a certain way to have made them, and thus what I was must have been preconceived. The person I am now as a result of the history of my development determines how I use my agency, therefore, if the former was determined in the beginning so was my will. My best hope is that possessing agency is more complicated than that. Perhaps other factors help one determine his identity.