WhyTheseNotes

A life of ideas is lived in the midst of a whirling maelstrom of facts, metaphors, stories, and
distractions. To think, one must take in this chaos, filter out the noise, and begin to build
one's own patterns from the pieces that remain. In a few, extremely felicitous moments, one
may be lucky enough to add a few pieces to the puzzle, and if one is truly blessed, they may
turn out to be key pieces which others will find useful in assembling their own puzzles. But
we are never alone in this enterprise; we always are standing on the shoulders of the giants
who have preceded us down the paths of thought.

What is the purpose of thought? To ask that is to ask for the purpose of life. Perhaps the
answer is the question itself? The purpose of thought may be to ask --- and to learn how to
pose better and more appropriate questions --- to help others ask their questions and to solve
their problems --- to share ideas, to strive against barriers --- and to "be excellent to each
other".

These notes are written with extreme diffidence. One could not share ideas without a certain
minimum amount of hubris or without some other driving force to keep one scribbling away at
the pages, tapping along on the keys, or whatever. The very selection effect associated with
writing (no one who is illiterate can do it; no one who is not wealthy enough in time and
resources can either) means that books, notes, and the like will tend to be crafted by those
who have a special drive, and perhaps also a special axe to grind. The big risk is that the
author wants to impose a world view, a set of ideas, a way of thinking, upon the reader. This
asymmetry should be avoided --- hence, the hesitancy associated with these notes. "I" do not
wish to impose anything upon "you". Rather, the theme of this work is conversation, mutual
growth, and exploration. "We" are learning together.

In fact, we are always talking to ourselves in the adventure of the mind. The words here have
evolved from countless conversations over the past several decades of life --- personal
conversations, and one-way "conversations" that took place while reading books and thinking
about what they meant. These words are a product of millennia of human cultural evolution, as
individuals coined terms and patterns of usage to convey their thoughts to each other and to
permit them to express internal mental states and relationships.

A large-scale goal of these notes is to provide the reader (and the author!) with a broad and
deep arsenal of tools, based on the concepts of physics and the universe as we now understand
it. Many of the facts and methods of the sciences --- especially those of modern physics ---
help to pull one out of the boxes that ordinary existence tends to confine one inside.

What's worth remembering? Most of our conversations are best forgotten --- but there are a few
that deserve to be kept in mind. How can we recognize them and increase their rate of
occurrence? That is one topic that these notes will wrestle with.

Imagine the cacophony if, every time someone said "Good Morning" to us, all the thousands of
previous instances of "Good Morning" came crowding into our mind?

But on the other hand, imagine the poverty of life if some words, sounds, tastes, smells, etc.
did not have the power to strike resonant chords in our thinking. When someone says "Summer's
Lease", we may get echoes of the rhythms of Shakespeare's sonnets; when we hear a piece of
music, we remember how we felt when we heard it long ago with a loved one; when we taste a
cookie we think of a madeline, and Proust, and perhaps then Ludwig Bemelmans and his children's
books --- a chain of associations.

Such memories add great richness, both to our lives and to the creators of stories and other
works of art by permitting great compactness of representation for complex ideas. This
extensibility of language into the personal, but shared, allusive domain is what gives
metaphors their power and makes them worthy of study.

These notes are not intended for people doing easy jobs in clean, ideal environments; rather,
they are for people under pressure attempting to do impossible jobs in the worst of
circumstances. The emphasis here is on hard-headed, intensely practical thinking.

Monday, April 05, 1999 at 13:14:26 (EDT) = Datetag19990405

TopicWriting - TopicZhurnal - TopicMind - TopicThinking - TopicLife


(correlates: PositiveAndNegativeChoice, Purpose of a Poem, EvolvedDeceivers, ...)