Friday, February 03, 2006


This is a repeat of an earlier blog entry with a similar lesson about how different consciousnesses must function. The math example is the same, but I’ve put in a different piece of my poetry from my original poetry thesis at Eastern Washington University. Then, since I’m taking a philosophy course at Spokane Falls Community College, I’ve thrown in a paragraph by Kierkegaard. Compared to the math and the poem, the bit of philosophy seems way out there in space, doesn’t it? Just thought you might enjoy thinking about math, poetry and philosophy as different consciousnesses in the same universe. Think, also of those passages I’ve included in other postings which show the mind of a scientist working her way through an experiment. First the math:

4 x (-4) = -16
3 x (-4) = -12
2 x (-4) = -8
1 x (-4) = -4
0 x (-4) = 0
-1 x (-4) = 4
-2 x (-4) = 8
-3 x (-4) = 12 and etcetera

There’s no escaping the conclusion there. Minus times a minus is a positive.

Next the poem:

For Geoff P.

"Our settlement's only sign of life was smoke;
It drifted up in calms between the blizzards.
I recall it was the color of the sky.
There was never enough food so we ate tubers,
And what the snow did to us we never forgot;
It was the one sure fact we lived against.
The graves spread on a knoll to the east
Where the birch and the pine were thinnest,
And the path to the knoll stayed dark all winter.
In the spring, the grass there came back lush."

Generations later, I stand on the coast
And think west across water that whispers
In my dreams, and I remember that voice.
It rains way too much here, for days obscuring
everything with mist. I drink too much, get drunk,
Try to boogie myself out of the plain facts.
Too many days, I think of them
Who I never knew. Their graves in the snow
Stretch a long shadow; even to this time.
I stare too much out of barroom windows
While Greyhounds gun by from the passes,
Their snowed tops already running slush,
The smoke of their exhausts beaten down by rain.

And, finally, a bit of the old philosophical mind:

a. Despair as Defined by Finitude/Infinitude

The self is the conscious synthesis of infinitude and finitude that relates itself to itself, whose task is to become itself, which can be done only through the relationship to God. To become oneself is to become concrete. But to become concrete is neither to become finite nor to become infinite, for that which is to become concrete is indeed a synthesis. Consequently, the progress of the becoming must be an infinite moving away from itself in the infinitizing of the self, and an infinite coming back to itself in the finitizing process. But if the self-does not become itself, it is in despair, whether it knows that or not. Yet every moment that a self exists, it is in a process of becoming, for the self [in potentiality] does not actually exist, is simply that which ought to come into existence. Insofar, then, as the self does not become itself, it is not itself; but not to be itself is precisely despair. —Kierkegaard from The Sickness Unto Death

Though I may be making a bit of fun at Kierkegaard’s expense here, I must admit that he reminds me a bit of Jack Kerouac. How, you ask? Well even though Kierkegaard seems to write awfully abstractly, sometimes I sense the emotion driving him to write as he does, the despair in the henhouse, so to speak, and that’s also what Kerouac used to do for me (specially On The Road). Jack wrote very concretely often, but also quite irrationally, like Kierkegaard. He’d spill out those words on the run on the road, breathlessly, in a hurry and driven by a passion. One employs abstract language, one concrete, but both ride on the same sense of despair and anguish, if you ask me.

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