‘Such Stuff as Dreams are Made on…...’
August 15, 2016
The forms of things unknown, the poet's pen Turns them to shapes and gives to aery nothing A local habitation and a name.
The poet turns into things, items which were once nothing. Today we term this kind of conjuring trick: The Creative Industries.
Well, using this terminology of The Creative Industries, I want to try to show here in a space of two or three sides of A4 paper, how all of us take part in The Creative Industries and together make a world in which we live come forth out of ‘aery nothings’. Poets all.
This is the truth: Reality lives inside our heads; without minds to make and shape it, the world has nothing else human in it, which is able to stand independently of us and outside of our minds.
You have a table. The table is four sticks of wood propping up and flat slab of wood. You have the name of it ‘table’. Take the name ‘table’ away in your mind’s eye; and look at a table as it were wood only. Or imagine oneself being the only human alive and coming across a table for the first time.
The South American native peoples saw the first Conquistadors arrive on their shores as centaur type creatures; because the Conquistadors rode on horseback and the native South Americans never did so; nor even knew a horse and what animal a horse might be.
An anthropologist guy who spent time in The Amazon basin living among and becoming a member of a tribe who used number counting only up to the number 5 – over the course of some months the guy found he ‘forgot’ the use of numbers and of counting. The guy came back to our societies convinced that to ask a Tribe member ‘how many children have you?’ - would have been to perplex the tribesman. A nonsensical question for him
The tribe brought up children collectively and every adult was a ‘mother’ or a ‘father’ to any and all children of the tribe. For a tribesman to have considered he had a special claim on certain of the tribe’s children, as being ‘his’ was a wholly alien idea to a tribesman. And if he had been able to understand the question and he had had more than 5 children he could not have answered anyway!
Guys in South East Asia in the Pacific arcs of islands some of them believe that the aeroplanes they see flying over head carrying business people passengers watching Hollywood blockbusters from Sidney to Singapore; they believe that these aeroplanes are gods and they worship them.
Some few believe that the UK Prince Consort Philip is a god and they worship him.
Only the profoundly ignorant will laugh and scoff at these examples of the sheer variety and oddness (to us) of human habits and customs. Send any one of us back 500 years to the England of Elizabeth I and carrying a wristwatch or a Samsung Galaxy – within days s/he will have been burnt at the stake as being a witch.
People only 150 years ago had zero notion of radio and other non-visible electro-magnetic waves swarming around about and through them. Even today few of us have imagined that particles and waves and radiations of various kinds pass through us, our heads and our bodies, every millisecond of every hour ceaselessly. But they do so. We don’t envisage ourselves as a collection and arrangement of organs and blood vessels fitted upon bone and covered over by skin. So much we just accept that we know, and we might ‘know’ this ‘so much’ ‘consciously’ when it is pointed out to us at which time we assent without question to it; but we do not really know at all, in any sense which would imply that we live our lives being aware of it; nor even are we subliminally or unconsciously aware of this ‘so much’ we would claim to know.
I tell often the story of Socrates and the Delphic Oracle. In Ancient Greece at a town called Delphi a Sybil, or wise woman, lived in a temple built there. She answered questions of The Greeks put to her by her visitors and she prophesied and possessed powers of a seer. This Delphic Oracle let it be known by proclamation that this man Socrates of Athens was the wisest man in the world.
Socrates himself would not believe this proclamation, and was troubled by it, because the Delphic Oracle had such repute and prowess throughout Ancient Greece in those days. He set about trying to disprove the Oracle. After much attempting to prove the Oracle mistaken Socrates felt he had to accept that The Delphic Oracle had been correct to say that he was the wisest man in the world. But he had this collateral proviso to the Oracle’s proclamation about him: he said:
‘I have questioned other men in trades and in politics and in the professions; and I have come to the conclusion that I am wiser than they are only in the fact that I know that I know nothing; whereas all other men I have questioned have believed they know something.’
And the examples of The Amazon basin and The South Seas Islanders and of England 500 and 150 years ago tend to bear out the fact that what we believe we know is not really anything more than aery nothing to which we all give A local habitation and a name We measure everything by using the measures we have set as standards. We make differences between things; and these are held in our minds as differences by our use of words and numbers, algebra and calculus by we associate with these things their differences to one another. Were there none of us on earth, no human beings, and no life forms able to think and to remember like we can; what might a table be; or a Shakespeare play; or a song or a musical score written down on paper? They would all be meaningless; and not even gobbledegook; because gobbledegook has to have sensible stuff to be compared with to confirm it as gobbledegook. These things would be utterly nonsensical; just as would say the play text of Hamlet; were no English-speaker or reader alive and no record of English language extant except for this text of Hamlet.
There are languages and documents not accessible to us come down from former ages which are in languages no one alive holds a key to today. Samuel Pepys’ diaries were not able to be ‘deciphered’ for hundreds of years; encrypted codes which secure Bitcoin and online banking transactions are not ;crackable’ by any person alive right now (nor machine). Some mathematical problems have been proven not to be soluble, and so their enigma has been laid to rest somewhat, in that people no longer have to agonise over trying to solve them.
The point of all this is that all our knowledge is pretty much in fact information, which is temporary and transient and ephemeral, useful only by way of its context; and its context is supplied only by other transient ephemeral and temporary information. This is the ‘cloud’ in which human life, culture and minds subsist and without which these flimsy things are unable to survive as and in functional and functioning minds.
Think of these ‘things in this list next below here; whether in fact they are ‘things’ or instead are they just thoughts in our heads?
History - Money – Music – Political Power – Rank or Position – New York City – Material Substance – getting scary? – Movies – Books – Stories – Facts – Gardens – Nature – Freedom – Knowledge – Numbers – Atoms – God?
Your guess is as good as mine. But my faith is on the First and the Last.
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