Wednesday, May 14, 2003

Random thoughts while walking to work today:

- The evolution of childrens drawings as a cultural map. When I grew up, all of us kids drew the same car, the same house, the same trees. The car was boxy with an ample trunk, like a Ford LTD. The house is a small frame house with a working chimney. The tree was a stick with a bush of green leaves perched on top. Where did these cultural figures come from? To start with, I grew up in San Diego, where few houses have chimneys. Are kids of today drawing cars that look more like SUVs?

- In college, studying physics, I would rarely read entire papers - short though they may be. I read abstracts and summaries. And from the digest I would then work out on my own how the authors had developed their conclusions. More times than most, I failed. Stumped, I then skimmed the paper to see what I had missed. Often the authors had taken another unexpected line of thought entirely. But, it is good to see the problem from many perspectives, to not be channeled into an inevitable train of thought. Most ideas are not inevitable, it is us that decide to make them so.

- Reason and logic will only take you so far. Devout fans of those two will find their world constrained. I am a fan of the unexpected leap. The intuitive flash, the unexpected insight that does not seem to follow from anything else. It is a willing blurring of the world. Often it is a matter of becoming unattached from words and terminology. A devotion to words is a devotion to the knives which carve up the world. Some ideas are unexplainable and we can only gesticulate and point.

- Some precepts have been hard for me to learn and accept. As a kid, I didnt understand how science could proceed without being one large tautology, like a dictionary that explains every word in terms of another word. But what word is fundamental? What are the axioms? (my teachers considered me hopeless and i failed my elementary school science classes)

- I am reading The Life of Pi and it is a wonderful parable. Our struggle through life is reduced to a story about a boy and a tiger drifting on a boat. Their survival is a mutual struggle. Pi manages to control his fears and hopes and anxieties as he confronts life in all its naked horror and beauty.

- Monday we skinny-dipped in a small pool carved from the stone out under the trees and the glorious sun. A family of deer strolled by and gave us wary looks.

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