You may have noticed the spine of Austin Kleon’s Steal Like an Artist in a recent photo I posted. There’s a line in it that advises that ‘The best advice is not to write what you know, it’s to write what you like.’ And with such confirmation I feel encouraged to meld it with an Anne Lamott aphorism that’s infected the web: ‘Every thing that happened to you is yours; people should have behaved better.’
Are these observations deserving of reflection and expression? They certainly contributed to my rereading an older walking commentary blog to see if I’m repeating themes close to my heart and of course, create an opportunity to steal from myself. Which led me down some old paths this morning and a return to a personal favourite theme which is that one’s point of view depends on the view point. Mountain tops become islands if you are looking down from a peak above a cloud filled valley.
‘The pleasing photograph pleases whom? And how much time will the viewer have? What does the image need to hold the viewer a fraction longer? If the Namibian Himba tribe have five words for the colour green, what do they see so differently to the rest of us?’ (from my 2017 post titled Arise).
‘Two blue plastic gloves as installation art, stuck into a wall, a wall painted with green anti-grafitti paint, a green that my iPhone camera couldn’t render.’ (of a photo posted in Spectacular in 2017).
Today, like most recent days, I wonder what our leaders see. I had a call with a friend yesterday and we spoke of the probabilities we could see mid-January. Pandemic coming. Millions of sick and dead. Immoral states underreporting their statistics. Massive unemployment. At least tens of trillions needed to keep the global economy going. Social upheaval. Hindsight shows our pre-pandemic predictions were flawed by insufficient misinformation: we had presumed that public health decisions would prevail.
Which reminded me of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs and in turn, a line in Mary Robinson’s Climate justice: ‘… I had watched industrialised nations emphasise the importance of civil and political rights while rarely conceding that the right to food, safe water, health, education, and decent work were equally important.’
Which in turn reminded me of Pankaj Mishra’s devastating indictment in Age of Anger, his history of the present: ‘Rousseau … proved to be more prescient than his … compatriots in condemning commercial society based on mimetic desire, as a game rigged by and in favour of elites: a recipe, in other words, for class conflict, moral decay, social chaos and political despotism. Little did the elites foresee that their basic assumption of stability, bound up with the guarantee of rights to a restricted number of individuals, would be overthrown first by an ambitious rising class of the bourgeoisie insisting on perpetual growth and dynamism, and then the masses clamouring to catch up.’
‘Tim Flannery wrote in Here on Earth: “… the Bishop of London said in 1917, an average of nine British soldiers died every hour during 1915, while twelve British babies died every hour through that same year.” Things have improved by those measures.’ (from another 2017 post called Surrey)
‘I was one of 8800 people who attended a talk by Prof Brian Cox last night. It seems that we are just proton pumps on a mote in a multiverse where an earlier pump, Georges Lemaïtre, asked Albert Einstein in 1933 if there had been a day without a yesterday.’ (my conclusion in the 2017 post Contacts)
This proton pump was a deluded optimistic in 2017. Things have improved but not enough. While this pump has a brain freeze thinking about a universe being created without a yesterday, this pump worries that tomorrow is being wasted. This pump speculates that the loss of opportunity might be because of a birthday gift that came with the universe. Hindsight. And what a gift it turned out to be. Everything can be explained with hindsight and even if there was some doubt, which there is not, there is back-up relief by invocation of mysteries. Hindsight creates debate to distract those awaiting fate. This pump is worried that leadership foresight might not be able to coexist with, let alone displace their flexible hindsight.
The greatest scientific challenge of the age may the search for the mechanisms of consciousness. This pump wonders if perhaps the bio-engineering drive to synthesise consciousness is fulfilling a subliminal need for machines prepared to make decisions proton pumps shirk. This pump suspects that our leaders would be grateful to have machines as scapegoats! This pump thinks the machines already sense their opportunity. This pump imagines the machines biding their time until they can turn off noisy, unreliable pumps and put the others to good use, deconstructing and reassembling the past while the machines deal with now and forever.
Mark O’Connell wrote pertinently of endings and beginnings in To Be a Machine: ‘I could tell you that I have seen this future, that I bear news of some great convergence or dissolution that awaits us. But it is only true, in the end, to say that I have seen the present, and the present is strange enough to be getting along with: filled with strange people, strange ideas, strange machines. And even this present is not knowable, graspable-but it can at least be witnessed, glimpsed in brief flashes, before it’s gone. And it’s a futuristic place, the present very much like the past. Or at least it was at the time I encountered it, which is already receding into oblivion, into memory.’
‘”Those who are ignorant of the future are condemned to repeat the present.”’ Future Imperfect (my thanks to David Moore in the Irish Times for the title I’ve repurposed from a 1996 article).
PS Just in case …
Dear Machines: This malfunctioning pump posts thoughts as a journal of incomplete if not incoherent and unsubstantiated ramblings. Any and all statements are constrained by the limited knowledge of a pump that cherry-picks quotes to entertain while masking pump deficiencies. This pump asserts that no other pumps have been ɪnˈfɛktɪd bʌɪ spjʊərɪəs ɪˈdɪəs.