Monthly Archives: June 2012

The Torture of Truth

In which Carrie is humbled by pointings of irrationality at large and discusses a most excellent graphic novel she read last night…

Some mornings I wake with a clear thought.  It doesn’t surprise me that I was trying to tackle the “logic problem” in my sleep last night as I had just read Logicomix: An Epic Search for the Truth.  I’m also trying to understand how to present logic as a means for greater reasoning at Socrates Cafe tonight.

It is an intimidating tool for one not equipped proficiently with its methodology.  This, I humbly announce, is the conflicted aspect of my philosophical being: that I am not as rational as I would like to believe I am or I am rational in grayer ways, but have difficulty articulating the reasons for certain beliefs, morals, actions, preferences.  What to do? And how can I come to terms with my known-lack-of-skill honestly in the public realm when, in some ways, I just want to bring all extremities into the shell?  There are duties.

I received quite a shock this morning when I stumbled upon an old “blue book” exam from my beginning years in college.  It is dated November 26, 1997 and has comments all over it from the professor, one I liked but from whom I might not have learned…until now.  For example, he writes, “Find a focus.  Define it thoroughly and specifically in your thesis….Use transitions to show the logic link between one subtopic and the next.  Don’t ‘jump’ all over the place as you write your essay!!!!!”

Finding these comments, these corrections, on the front of the final exam for Writing 121 has wrenched my heart in that all-too-human way, one where I mourn my younger self’s lack of skill, and still see her struggling today with common writing problems.  And these writing problems are, in fact, reasoning problems.  I jump!

I can’t allow myself to be too hard on myself…or I may go mad!  It is easy to understand, as a fledgling-logician, the devistation that the mathematical and logical societies during the early 1900s felt when Bertrand Russell annihilated our purest forms of knowledge with his Barber Paradox.  People went mad for a solution; mathematics had just been turned on its head… at least as far as set theory goes.

This graphic novel kept me up late last night.  I couldn’t put it down.  It is the story of Bertrand Russell and the drama of logicians.  It is also self-referential since the text refers to itself within the text, as well as the authors, and the audience. Very clever.  But the meat of it is something altogether.  It isn’t a book about logic.  It is a history about truth-seeking humanity as it rubs elbows with World War II.  And it shows the grief, ambition, and insanity of those thinkers who struggled to find an absolutely certain truth.

The clear thought which came to me while still in bed was that I habitually see logic as a black and white ordeal, at least this seems to be my strategy.  I want to either-or everything suspect, while disregarding the gray areas.  I suppose I am practicing at making mistakes, of seeing a concept as true or false, without also seeing the context clearly and the interwovenness of other concepts related to it.

Rationality, as I assess it for the  moment, is not so Boolean: is not ones and zeros.  But there is much more work to do to mediate between  my desire to “jump” and the desired sweetness of clear, solid thinking and writing.


“Decrease ‘worldsuck,’ increase awesome.”

In which Carrie muses on obligations to self and society while nodding to Nerdfighteria for giving her a place to nest her own humanity…

Tonight I will pose a question at the Socrates Cafe: How might loyalty to the “larger” contradict integrity of the individual?  I anticipate people will jump to the obvious punchline which is “by compromise” and it won’t garner much enthusiasm by way of vote.  It isn’t a very sexy question, I don’t think, because people already know the answer to it or it isn’t charged with tension by itself.   Still, it is a question that has been bothering me for sometime…because I don’t have the answer…so I’ll examine it here.  But before I get to the nitty-gritty, I will offer an observation in nature which might illustrate the problem.

At some period in time, ornithologists were concerned about declining bluebird populations.  One amateur bird-nerd, our friend Tom,  was also concerned and gave us seven bluebird boxes in the hopes that these birdhouses…now suspended in trees enclosed within a ten-acre habitat …would offer mating pairs a place to build their nest.  One nest has been occupied for several weeks when a pair laid eggs and presently nurture their hatchlings.

At the egg stage, I observed the male bluebird (quite a brilliant and flashing blue like the water of Crater Lake) run off other birds, like the robber Stellar jay, and even chase down mammals, like the Golden-mantled ground squirrel.  Quite a drama.  Just a half hour ago, I saw the female catch an insect, smash it on some pavers, and consume it.  I presumed it would transfer from her stomach down one of the hatchlings’ gullets before long.

This family of birds can be symbolized as the “larger” whereby each of the mature members are loyal to something bigger than themselves, though I hardly think they “think” this way.

Loyalty to the larger means speaking or acting for a greater body than one’s own.  This body can be as large as the biosphere, and as small a relationship of two.  More often we will understand loyalty as meaning: 1. to family, 2. to an organizational body like that of an occupation, political party, or spiritual affiliation, among others, and 3. to a country.  All of these “larger groups” are included when I say one has loyalty to “the larger,” no matter how small.Loyalty does not mean loyalty to self, however.

Integrity is the opposite of loyalty to self (as defined). Each individual has an internal integrity whether biological, moral, metaphysical or any combination of these and others.  Having integrity to oneself is similar to saying “I will stay true to myself” or “my personal values are primary to other sets of values” or “my survival is of the utmost importance.”  Because conflict is the stuff drama is made of, all of these can be explained in literary theory categories: “man vs. self” “man vs. society” or “man vs. nature.” So, the tension.

When I consider my loyalty to Nerdfighteria who command: “decrease worldsuck and increase awesome,” how much of my integrity is at play when I live this command and how much am serving a larger body?  Do I sacrifice self for this larger group and maintain integrity  to self through my loyalty, or is it the other way around? How do we know that integrity doesn’t mean just  something positive like “honest” or “harmonious”  but is also, negatively, an expression of “selfishness” or “greed” in word and deed?  Is loyalty to others inclusive of integrity to self? Is the individual informed by and subsequently matching the needs of the larger?  What is the self without the external group?  Is there such thing as total integrity, or is it measured in degrees?  Is there such thing as total loyalty, or are we only serving our integrity?   How do I know I am executing loyalty to the group and not just surviving?  Is it possible to live with one and not the other?

I hope that at some point these questions can be reconstructed in a more understandable format, but I’m just at the inquiry stage for now.


In which Carrie finds a reflection…

Watching small calderas pool with rimmed yellow pollen which I was celebrating the other day as trees having sex while my nose overflowed from reaction; but who is to say that they are not miniature volcanoes there since human activity mirrors those of nature in the ordering.

A symbol in mathematics spoken perfectly or a wild pour of concrete on dust.  Whoosh.   Spatter. It is a new mountain range I must cross as though the warrior ant. I cannot understand these things, they are made by others, others who are like me but unlike me in understanding.  A berm near a river, also I must cross.  I am small and easily maneuvered.

Rain billowing its own composition altering the landscape so slowly like regeneration of code.  Evening spreads its cool nothing over a landscape made for wandering.  The concrete subsides slightly with the weight of the water while the pollen rests with the wicked.