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Monday, July 9, 2012

Discussion: Chapter 3, Quantum Psychology

I really enjoyed reading Chapter 3 of Quantum Psychology, but here I run into a problem I brought up a couple of days ago: I don't really know how to do the exercizes that seem to have been created for people physically together in the same room.

Eric Wagner avers that all of the exercizes can be done on the Internet. I am  very sorry to disappoint Eric, who after all suggested this format and likely knows much more about RAW's philosophy than I do, but I am not smart enough to figure out how to do that and will in the end have to do the best I can.

So, begging everyone's pardon for those who disagree with me, I will jump to the third exercise and then add a question of my own, taken from the text:

(1) Oscar Wilde said, "All art is quite useless." Discuss.

(2) RAW, discussing  Claude Shannon's famous equation for information content in a message, wrote, "Norbert Wiener once simplified the meaning of this equation by saying that great poetry contains more information than political speeches." Please post a short poem that you consider great (or a short passage from a great poem) and say something about its information content.


Eric Wagner said...

Howdy. I think the exercises on drawing the room deserve some comment. First off, I find it interesting that in 1990 Bob seemed to have little inkling that folks might do this book online. I remember him showing me his computer in 1989. He liked playing little sound bits from Monty Python and "2001." Unlike Tim, the idea of the online world had not turned him on yet, although it would in a few years. He felt very apprehensive about viruses at the time.

"The room in which we meet" could mean this webpage, (I feel like a Christian reading the Old Testament trying to make it fit the Christian worldview.) It could also mean the various places where we look at this webpage. (It occurs to me that nouns don't seem very good words to use to descibe the frequent flux of the networld. They seem more like verbs or processes.)

I certainly love Tom's webpage, and I check it nearly every day. I most often look at it in my classroom. Looking over my computer screen I see the opposite wall of my classroom with an Avengers poster, a Marvel Universe poster, and a bunch of student projects on The Haunting of Hill House, Sherman Alexie, Alice in Wonderland, Anne Sexton, Sylvia Plath, Ezra Pound, etc.

A "floor plan" of "the room"... (Man, this makes me think of The Room in the film "Stalker" and the book "Zona" about the film and The Room.) Those of you who understand computers better than I do might have a deeper understanding of the "floor plan" of a webpage.

I love your new exercise, Tom, and I plan to post on it shortly.

Eric Wagner said...

"All art seems quite useless." I don't know the context Wilde said this (or something like it). When it comes to getting out of jail, art seems somewhat useless. When dealing with hate, cruelty, injustice, murder, etc., art seems useless sometimes. I think of Heydrich working on the Holocaust and then playing viola in Beethoven string quartets, and I realize the limits of the power of art, although in the long run I do believe in the power of art. It makes me think of Gandalf's power and the limits to his ability to work against Sauron.

I started Ellmann's bio of Wilde. I loved Ellmann's book Four Dubliners. Bob Wilson frequently discussed Wilde's great essay "The Truth of Masks."

Eric Wagner said...

Odi et Amo

I hate and love. Why? You may ask but
It beats me. I feel it done to me, and ache.

Catullus LXXXV. Translated by Ezra Pound

odi et amo quare id faciam fortasse requiris

nescio sed fieri sentio et excrucior

I remember reading this in the fall of 1983 the first time I read Pound and Marcella Spann's great anthology Confucius to cummings. It blew away because it seemed to so true and concise. It made me smile to read it out loud again today.

Anonymous said...

Poetry is not something I know a great deal about, although I was brought up on william blake, I never jumped into it. there was a lovely poem by some anonymous writer, possibly a christian lady, I once read in an introduction to poety:

Luveli ter of luveli eyghe,
Why dostu me so wo?
Sorful ter of sorful eyghe,
Thu brekst myn herte a-to.

Thom Foolery said...

I read last week's note about the challenges posed by chapter 3, in terms of our online discussion group, and so I read the chapter a bit earlier than I would have to see what was up. Interestingly, I came away from the reading with "pictures" in my head in response to the first two discusion questions, and wanted to share these mental images.

As for the "room in which we meet," I envisioned a full-color rendering of my desktop computer, in my office, as seen from the perspective of me in my office chair. My mental image for the "floor plan" was a flow chart-sort of diagram indicating all of us end-users in squares connecting to the various routers and other gizmos that bring us all together in this comment box. What really struck me immediately was how the former mental image was so vividly rendered, almost with acrylic paints or colored pencils, while the latter mental image was filled with flow-cart symbols and regular shapes like squares, diamonds, and lines.

I really appreciate your comments, Eric, on RAW's futurism not including online discussion groups for his books. Hell, did any of us envision this stuff even five years before it became reality?

As for Oscar Wilde and art, I think he is correct insofar as we in the West have conceived of art for the last few centuries. Art is that which doesn't have an immediately utilitarian value (which goes a long way toward explaining why art and poetry get such a bad rap in the good old USA). In most of human history, though, I don't think this statement holds up. Art has been inseparable from religion and culture, and so art is eminently useful: as a way of inculcating values, telling stories, and even inspiring social and spiritual transformation.

And finally, here is my poetry choice, from a book of poems my wife bought me for our first anniversary:

Michiko Dead, by Jack Gilbert

He manages like somebody carrying a box
that is too heavy, first with his arms
underneath. When their strength gives out,
he moves the hands forward, hooking them
on the corners, pulling the weight against
his chest. He moves his thumbs slightly
when the fingers begin to tire, and it makes
different muscles take over. Afterward,
he carries it on his shoulder, until the blood
drains out of the arm that is stretched up
to steady the box and the arm goes numb. But now
the man can hold underneath again, so that
he can go on without ever putting the box down.

This poem was filled with information. I have never lost so intimate a loved one, and so have no immediate knowledge of such grief, but the unexpected and mundane metaphor of carrying a too-large, too-heavy box conveyed a lot of meaning.

magickm said...

Oscar Wilde said, "All art is quite useless." Discuss.
If no one see the art does it have any essence? Bob talk about things having essence to them or not.

Yesterday, upon the stair,
I met a man who wasn’t there
He wasn’t there again today
I wish, I wish he’d go away...

One of the many poems that Bob quoted. It is very easy,for me, to see the man at the top of the stair and like the movie "Harvey", who is it that see the man?

Unknown said...

I felt like oscar was indicating to the arbitrary nature of art, in that its value is only what we give it.

Sudden Light

Dante Gabriel Rossetti (1828–82)

I HAVE been here before,
But when or how I cannot tell:
I know the grass beyond the door,
The sweet keen smell,
The sighing sound, the lights around the shore.

You have been mine before,—
How long ago I may not know:
But just when at that swallow’s soar
Your neck turn’d so,
Some veil did fall,—I knew it all of yore.

Has this been thus before?
And shall not thus time’s eddying flight
Still with our lives our love restore
In death’s despite,
And day and night yield one delight once more?

I could speak at great length in regards to this poem.

Unknown said...

I think magickm got a perfect poem to relate to the topic.

magickm said...

Thanks Mike. I love everybody's BS.

Cleveland Okie (Tom Jackson) said...

1. I'm having trouble with the Oscar Wilde quote, but I wonder if he meant that art cannot be quantified. Or perhaps he was attack "message" literature.

2. I Was in Paris Again Last Night

I was in Paris again last night
Deep in the marvelous manmade wood
Where the roads lead back to the roads
And you want to be lost forever.

-- Charles Henri Ford

Charles Henri Ford was a poet who lived in Paris before World War II and hung out with Gertrude Stein, etc. I think the poem captures better than an essay what Paris meant for a generation of artists and writers. The roads leading back to to the roads suggests how Paris was the center of the cultural universe, much as all roads once led to Rome.

Adrian said...

I wonder if it's art's uselessness that makes it useful?

That is, in purely functional terms then art is hard to justify. Which actually begs qestions about who gets to justify what to whom, and why. It points to a reductionist worldview, one that's easily seen in these days of apparent financial slump when 'worth' is purely a monetary matter.

What use is a poem? A painting? A forest? An otter?

I've randomly selected an extract from Lao Tzu as the poem I want to contribute. Which seems to offer useful commnetary on the above...

"People know the taste and smell of good food and the sound of music.
But knowing a description of the Dao is beyond comprehension.
It seems without flavour or sound.
For it cannot be seen or heard and yet it is the very source of everything."

Adrian said...

Thinking more on the Lao Tzu quote...the connection it has with the value of art exists primarily if not exsclusively in (where else?) my mind. That is, I have found an apt parallel between it and what was said before.

That is one way in which poetry can be said to have meaning, through connection with something else that the thinker has rceently been thinking.

It may too be useful to note that process/content distinctions are of use. That is, meaning (perceived information) can reside at the level of the process/
structural aspects of a poem as they relate to something previously considered.

Or meaning can reside at the level of content, which is quite often how cold reading seems to operate. That is, I can consider the poem line '...into the valley of death rode the six hundred' and apply it to my hypothetical ownership of a Fiat 600. As with most examples of mediumship, I am required to give meaning to the 600 element though it doesn't match so well with 'rode'.

PQ said...

Really enjoyed reading this chapter. This sentence makes me really excited about this book (which I'm reading for the first time):

"I will try to show that the laws of the sub-atomic world and the laws of the human 'mind' (or nervous system) parallel each other precisely, exquisitely, and elegantly, down to minute details."

Though we didn't actually do the exercises, I enjoyed reading them because they really convey what RAW is going for here. Listening to his lectures, he frequently does this with the audience (asking them to draw or mentally photograph the room).

What all of it (the three exercises) brought to mind for me is that the most supreme art is usually "useless" in that utilitarian "Architect's floor plan" kind of way because the best art reflects the universe perceived by THAT one particular person, the artist rendering him(her)self and his/her universe's image precisely as it appears to him/her. The artist's talent is the ability to accurately recreate his/her vision.

Wilde's quote also called to mind the line from Finnegans Wake that makes fun of Ulysses as that "usylessly unreadable Blue Book of Eccles."

PQ said...

Also, want to mention that I really enjoyed Mike Smith's quoted poem "Sudden Light" and the Lao Tzu quote used by Adrian.

The poetry that sits amid my mental furniture is mostly rap lyrics. Here's a bit from MF Doom:

"Revelations in Braille, respiration inhale view
nations fail, the shaking of a snake tail,
make due
Blazing swords trace the haze, praise the lord
Saving grace, lace your broad, she say she bored
A crazy straw, ink and stale dry paraffin
Candy corn crap rappers pale by comparison
A bad Samaritan averaging above average men
Rancid rats having rambling savages scavenging
for scraps, perhaps road kill
if that"

Eric Wagner said...

Hello PQ. I think we do "actually do the exercises" online, although we do them differently than we would sitting in a room together. I hope this experience Tom has set up will benefit us over the next five months.

phodecidus said...

I think it would have proven amusing to follow up with the room-drawing exercise in spite of the online nature of this discussion. Even though we all have different reality tunnels, we might have similar posting-quarters. One thing all of our drawings would have had in common, whether we post from a coffee shop, bedroom or home office; a computer.

Would our architectural schematics and drawings, had we actually made them, qualify as 'art'? I don't know. Marshall McLuhan called art something like a coping mechanism, a piece created by the artist in order to live with the sudden changes brought on by new media. It seems like art has a use in that sense. Frank Zappa said people will call anything art so long as it has a frame and this includes functional things too.

I always thought Barack Obama could have followed the path of musician rather than politician in an alternate universe. He possesses a gift for rhythm and tonality, which I think made his speeches so effective to begin with. Now he even sings on occasion.

"But of course now that so many singers
are doing politics,
a lot of politicians are starting to sing.
And lately it's been a really great time to study
the political art song format."

- Politics & Music,
Laurie Anderson

"You know, I'd have to say my all-time favorite song is probably the national anthem. It is hard to sing though, with all those arpeggios. I mean you're out at the ballpark and the fans are singing away and it's sort of pathetic watching them try to hang on to that melody.

The words are great though - just a lot of questions written during a fire. Things like:

Q. Hey! Do you see anything over there?
A. I dunno... there's a lot of smoke.

Q. Say! Isn't that a flag?
A. Hmmm... couldn't say really, it's pretty early in the morning.

Q. Hey! Do you smell something burning?

I mean that's the whole song!
It's a big improvement over most national anthems though, which are in 4/4 time:

'We're number one!
This is the best place!'

I also like the B side of the national anthem -
Yankee Doodle.
Truly a surrealist masterpiece."

- National Anthem A & B,
Laurie Anderson

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