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Friday, July 20, 2007

The End Is The Beginning

I must confess to having already had a sense of what Hofstadter has to say in I Am A Strange Loop and, therefore, could not resist going over to the last page where he summarises the entire perspective thus ...

In the end, we self-percieving, self-inventing, locked-in mirages are little miracles of self-reference. We believe in marbles that disintegrate when we search for them but that are as real as any genuine marble when we're not looking for them. Our very nature is such as to prevent us from fully understanding its very nature. Poised midway between the unvisualisable cosmic vastness of curved spacetime and the dubious, shadowy flickerings of charged quanta, we human beings, more like rainbows and mirages than like raindrops and boulders, are unpredictable self-writing poems - vague, metaphorical, ambiguous and, sometimes, exceedingly beautiful.

To see ourselves this way is not as comforting as believing in ineffable other-worldly wisps endowed with eternal existence, but it has its compensations. What one gives up on is the childlike sense that things are exactly as they appear, and that our solid-seeming, marble-like "I" is the realest thing in the world; what one acquires is an appreciation of how tenuous we are at our cores, and how wildly different we are from what we seem to be. As Kurt Godel with his unexpected strange loops gave us a deeper and subtler vision of what Mathematics is all about, so the strange-loop characterisation of our essences gives us a deeper and subtler vision of what it is to be human. And to my mind, the loss is worth the gain.
I do not particularly care for the poetic disposition, but, as emphasised in the quote, that sentence just about sums up what I feel about being human. And that is that ... there isn't much more to say. All else follows therefrom ...

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