Trying to engage with the concept of curating a life into a brain in a vat I became engulfed with thoughts. One might even say overwhelmed.
Here’s how it went:
Where are thoughts?
Are they stored or created spontaneously. (I know that cognitive psychology has some answers to these questions, but I’m not entirely convinced - or maybe I just don’t understand them or maybe I’m looking from a different perspective)
Either way it seems incredibly hard work (can I say ‘impossible’ for me to embark upon this task)
One thing that’s clear in the practical sense is that the curating involves massive amounts of editing. I don’t have the space/time to archive all thoughts/memories etc. And most of them aren’t worth ‘preserving’ or ‘re-creating’ (although am I really the best judge of that - and if so/not what does this say about the role of the ‘author’?
My thoughts moved on to: The relationship between thought and memory and imagination and where such things might be stored is a mind bending path.
Storage, of course in quantum infinity its possible - but how do I engage? My curation is taking the wave and rendering it fixed. And as I try to explore ways of doing that, right now the written text seems the best possible way. Or at least the difficulty and lack of expertise/imagination of how to actually achieve this (without rendering it paltry in meaning or simply random in value) beyond the text is both scary and exciting.
My approach is 1) let go and 2) engage ‘one bit at a time’ (no computer pun intended.
But hey, if you think about it - data stored as 0 and 1 - and think what can be ‘in’ those data bits? And what is the analogy between this and the ‘mind’ and thoughts?
Makes me want to wear a helmet that’s for sure. How precious is a brain.
But a brain cannot be preserved in a vat because it’s fundamentally quantum infinity not a collection of particles. So I’m into the world of quantum virtual vats…
And what scope is there for paradox in all this?
A question is: What is a metanarrative?
In true early 21st century style, Wikipedia comes to the rescue (beware Wikiworld of course). 'W' may not be true but it tends to reflect what a lot of people think. Which is, of course, not the same thing. But it presents us with a platform from which to jump off. Or a cliff to dive over.
‘A metanarrative in critical theory and particularly in postmodernism is a narrative about narratives of historical meaning, experience, or knowledge, which offers a society legitimation through the anticipated completion of a master idea.’
An online dictionary offers the following options. It’s a noun. We can fix it thus far at least.
1.a narrative account that experiments with or explores the idea of storytelling, often by drawing attention to its own artificiality.
"Don Quixote is a work of fiction but also a metanarrative"
2.an overarching account or interpretation of events and circumstances that provides a pattern or structure for people’s beliefs and gives meaning to their experiences.
"traditional religions provide stories that deliver a metanarrative about how we should live our lives"
And so, I think we can say that All Moments is One Moment is, indeed, a metanarrative. But what do I know, i only wrote it/lived it/dreamed it/ argued it... insofar as I am the author, and there are those who would suggest that the author has little claim to their narrative. I recently came across this opinion... (once the text is published the author has nothing to do with it) I will just say 68 and leave it at that.
Tone is really important in spoken Chinese. And the way I’ve been learning, via Pinyin, being tone deaf can throw up some interesting conundrums as regards characters (and what they ‘mean’)
Perhaps simply learning character after character ‘for what it is’ would have been easier, but in order to render a word (known) from English into a Chinese character, my process was to write it in pinyin on the keyboard and have it converted into Chinese. Tones are VITAL for this process. Also, it’s kind of cool to know how to pronounce the characters. The relationship between reading and speaking and thinking and understanding is a deep one (beyond my immediate brief.
Pretty quickly when dealing with Chinese you come across the ‘issue’ of Wade-Giles and Pinyin. I’ve gone with Pinyin, not least because at least it was ‘invented’ by a Chinese person. But there is further possible confusion when trying to consider the classical/traditional and modern simplified characters. All of this is way beyond me at present, I’m just beginning on this journey. But at the stage I got to while writing All Moments, creatively, the ability to play around with what seem flexible ‘wordconcepts’ offered by characters was very appealing.
I know that, if my Chinese was better I might have a completely different view to things, but as a learner, struggling to make sense of ‘which character’ to use, I have been able to play with characters almost as one would play with ‘sounds’ - the tones affect the written character and if one doesn’t know the appropriate tone one can come us with some interesting character choices. The concept of the ‘typo’ in Chinese is therefore amusing to me (and pretty scary!) If you use the wrong tone, you find you’re saying a completely different word. And so, when trying to discover the most appropriate character, there’s many levels to explore.
Here’s some examples of the liminality between word and character as I have experienced it. (I’m using the world liminality just for my own amusement, generally I hate these kind of words are not within the basic lexicon - another of them - of the ordinary or non-academic person)
To a Westerner, wuxing and wuxin might seem pretty similar. However:
Wuxing The five elements -( literally five rows) is revealed in the characters 五行 whereas
Wuxin means Invisible or ‘no mind/essence’ (literally without shape) and is revealed in the characters 无 形
But if you use Wuxin with a different tone you the following it can mean to falsely believe which is represented by these characters 误信
Obviously, if you know the characters themselves, understanding how the ‘radicals’ and ‘finals’ are constructed you’d not make this mistake, but I’m interested in the flexibility of the word/concept which is represented through character (as we represent it in alphabetised words) And such flexibility (or confusion) became fundamental to my creation/understanding of ‘word dancing’ as a creative force.
I find thinking and working in Chinese characters very freeing (perhaps because I don’t know the ‘rules’ and so am free to experiment). Now, it must be said, I resist the ‘rules’ in English too, and that has always got me into trouble. I’ve found that stating one doesn’t ‘believe’ in either numbers or grammar rules tends to create something of a stir.
Here’s another example:
Wuji is a Daoist concept and so most obviously found in traditional Chinese characters (which I've not learned) 無極. It 'means' ‘without ultimate’ or ‘no ultimate’ , no limits’ or boundless… therefore, infinity. It's a very complex concept, and some suggest it's the original void, or the state of being before YinYang - the eternal nothing. It's really significant both to Daoism and to my 'story' but
when trying to find its simplified alternative, I struggled. So I looked where I knew. Tai Chi. This is composed of the ‘wu’ radical for 'no/without/empty' and the ‘chi’ from Tai chi [WG} or ji) [pinyin]
Thus I arrived at Wújí , rendered 无极 in simplified chinese. But is this the right 'tone'?
If you say wuji with a different tone, it means promise represented by the following characters: 无极
I’m intrigued by the possible connections between boundless and promise. But that didn't help me decide which characters to use for my Complete Balance 24 Forms. I may have 'invented' a version to suit myself. But I think that's in the 'flexible' spirit of both Chinese characters and my narrative.
The 'forms' of All Moments come from Tai Chi - where each movement is described as a FORM. They have cool names like Repulse Monkey, Leisurely Tying Coat etc and there are several styles of Tai Chi - Yang, Chen etc which come in 'sets' of specific numbers. These include some level of repetition, though an understanding that there is no ‘real’ repetition as each form is experienced afresh with each action. (But there are sometimes right/left versions of a form). There's something profound about the concept of variation in repetition that accords to my disbelief in 'equals.'
I split my text of All Moments into two sets of forms:
The Open Circle which is the basic 32 forms (the ‘chapters’ if you like, of the story) and
Creative Balance the 24 forms. These are ‘variations’ of the 32 forms. They are split/curated into two smaller sets
WuXin - 11 forms which are the ‘story’ of Brand Loyalty
WuJi - 13 forms which encompass thoughts and ‘being’ outside of that story - places I have been, places the story took me and places the story came from.
(You have no idea what a personal trial it was for me to break from the geometry of 2 x 12 =24)
The forms contain a mix of fact, fiction and philosophy.
The Form structure thus works as an analogy ‘beyond’ chapters. I felt it important to come up with a variant on the A-Z of Brand Loyalty.
A more recent work ‘The One that Got Away’ (2018) in which I was experimenting with a non-hierarchical narrative structure had a deck of cards as the chapter alternatives. Number 52.
But for All Moments I wanted something that would link with Chinese patterns. Ever since ‘The Other Side of the Mountain’(2003) I’ve been trying to find a way to work in the hexagons of the Iching/ bagua trigrams as a pattern (and failed repeatedly) but the Tai Chi forms have provided me with an acceptable (I think elegant) alternative.
Tai Chi practice has informed a lot of the process of construction of this narrative and in practical terms it’s something I would never have been able to achieve without Scrivener software. Its non-linearity has proven essential to my constructional needs. If there was a god of software, Scrivener would be it! In the beginning there was the ‘word’ of course, but Scrivener has allowed me to go beyond ‘word’ in so many ways - and this informs much of the thought and practice of the text.
Then we come to ‘number theory’. It’s no secret that I have a poor relationship with numbers as things and a language. I certainly don’t see them according to the rules of mathematics, or even arithmetic. So when I ‘use’ them it’s for somewhat individualistic purposes. To make patterns, but patterns beyond ‘number’ per se. First I was trying to mirror Brand Loyalty and come up with 52 ‘units’ of text but I couldn’t get this to resolve as I worked on the structure.
The cards, if you like, fell out at 56. It took a while before the significance of this became clear to me. Here’s my answer…
This work is being born during my 56th year and has become a statement of what I understand/ who I am at 56. And so the 56 forms seemed to offer a good analogy or perhaps its a metaphor my relationship with the text both in terms of structure, theory and ‘reality’.
poli In the world of (Western) philosophy it’s not unusual to have books called ‘Reading’ a text.
We might think it analogous to a metanarrative [???] and [???]
Such works are usually a series of essays explaining what the text is about. In my days of analytical political philosophy (hollow laugh at the irony) I engaged with two of these:
Reading Rawls - Rawls Theory of Justice. (A pernicious book if ever there was one)
Reading Nozick - Anarchy, State and Utopia (much more my kind of thing)
Political philosophy as I knew it in 1982. Not even going to show you the Rawls covers. I did have some 'issues' with Nozick, not least his hideous covers. And retrospectively he's credited as the 'father of libertarianism' which I'm not sure is that cool. But on the other hand... which one of the mugshots do you think is Nozick and which is Rawls???
So it’s with something of my tongue in my cheek that I propose: 'Reading All Moments are One Moment' as the title for this online metanarrative/explanation/exploration of the printed text.
The alert among you will realise that the acronym is RAM.
RAM of course stands for Random Access Memory in computer terminology. That also seems entertaining analogous (to me).
I like to think of these 'elements' beyond the printed text as a kind of random access of memories curated into readings of all 'my' moments. It's more than simply trying to make the work more explicable - surely I would have been better simply to do that in the text itself. It's for those who like to explore/engage with a text 'beyond'. And in some sense it is, if not a defence against, then a challenge to post-modernist ways of being and reading. Post post-modernist perhaps. Or attempts at developing quantum narrative.
I shouldn't really need to state that primarily this is an 'experiment'. My ‘project’ aims are to a) curate my brain into a virtual vat (website) and b) offer some insight into the theory, ideas and process that compose the ‘texts’ All Moment.
Just let go...
Find out more about the theory, process and meanings - an exercise in creating a brain in a virtual vat.