Day 79 (4 June): Original and impossible
I was staring at an accusingly blank screen thinking 'How am I to come up with something original today?' and it occurred to me that in 2020 we are at a distinct disadvantage in this respect. All the low hanging fruit was picked long ago. Had I been knocking around in B.C. Greece (and many ignorant people spent their whole lives there without even knowing what B.C. meant) everything was up for grabs. The ancient Greeks - average age of 156 - seemed to spend their time snaffling up all the original big thoughts with scant concern for posterity.
Scene: TGIF at The Agora (sponsored by Carlsberg)
Aristotle (opening a chilled beer): “Knowing yourself is the beginning of all wisdom.”
Democritus (chinking bottles): “Nothing exists except atoms and empty space; everything else is opinion.”
Socrates (taking a drag on his cheroot): “That is your opinion. Wise men speak because they have something to say; fools because they have to say something.”
Diogenese (turning down a second cold one): ‘It is the privilege of the gods to want nothing, and of godlike men to want little.”
Pythagorus: “It looks like beer, it tastes like beer; It’s probably the best beer in the world”
By the time the others got through their second case they had pretty much wrapped up the whole philosophy thing.
Eventually, we either ran out of ancient Greeks or the ancient Greeks ran out of things to say and it has been down hill all the way since.
The result is that the clever things have all been said. And in today’s world pretty much everything seems to have been analysed, measured, dissected, and pronounced upon many times over. So we now find ourselves going to the outer fringes of the daft and demented to come up with something original.
How else would you explain the fact that a team of psychologists from Plymouth University and Queensland University of Technology have determined, after many hours of Tetris, that the game can be addicting and distract users from doing other stuff like eating, drinking and having sex? Surely you could say that about a game of monopoly or noughts and crosses or pretty much any everyday activity. When is the last time you saw a game of chess interrupted by a player abruptly leaving the table for a burger and a quick missionary position?
If Tetris isn't your bag try some heavy metal. Mosquitoes really do not like it. Research suggests that female mosquitoes do not care for the music of Skrillex. A study published in March found that the pests suck less blood and have less sex after listening to the song "Scary Monsters and Nice Sprites"
I have just listened to it myself and I also lost the urge to gorge on blood. I’m still up for a bit of the other but please form an orderly queue.
Not surprisingly when university research students, with all their resources, are resorting to these extremes I am finding it nigh on impossible to come up with something original in my remote cave with only two reference books (The Lonely Planet "Guide to Slovenia” and the Ladybird edition of “Sly Fox and Red Hen “ - by far the best version in my opinion).
But perhaps it is in impossibility that originality has taken refuge.
Do you like your space-time smooth or chunky? General relativity would have it that space-time is smooth, whereas quantum mechanics tells us space-time is chunky. Your guess as to which is correct is better than mine because mine is singularly uninformed and not worth the neutrons it is floating on. Einstein referred to all this fuzzy quantum stuff (my term) as spooky action at a distance. And in 2017 an odd space experiment confirmed that reality is what you choose it to be. Physicists have, without telling me, long known that a quantum of light, or photon, will behave like a particle or a wave depending on how they measure it. By bouncing photons off satellites, a team has confirmed that an observer can make that decision even after a photon has made its way almost completely through the experiment—seemingly well past the point at which it would become either a wave or a particle.
The quote popularly attributed to physicist Richard Feynman is probably apocryphal, but doubtless true: if you think you understand quantum mechanics, then you don't.
So perhaps if we are looking for the truly original we will no longer find it in philosophical ideas but at the tiniest levels of matter where all the rules seem to be standing on their heads and blowing raspberries and things can be in two places at the same time. Democritus would have had something to say.
Just don’t expect much from me.
The Neil who is in this place at this time. Most probably.