Skipped blogging yesterday. I am dealing with some pretty classic horrific caregiver stuff with my father. Takes some time to process. Also met with a staff person from church yesterday. I talked to her briefly about family systems, especially in relation to church work. She said she was going to read Friedman’s “Generation to Generation” which happen to be laying around at church.
If you’re curious about this man, I found a transcription of one of his lectures which starts with the fable about the scavenger fish who lost her taste for shit. Recommended.
Spent much of the day yesterday sorting and copying my CD collection to my spare hard drive. I find it satisfying to group the recordings under the composer, especially when multiple composers are found on one CD. I have a ton of old BBC recordings which are essentially fascinating anthologies. I file my CDs under composer and often I have to choose which composer to file it under. The way I am approaching ripping will make recordings much more accessible to me. And it’s kind of fun. Big project, actually.
My brother called last night and said he is coming for a three day visit. It’s a good time, because we might be looking at readjusting my parents living situation, getting Dad into 24 hour care and Mom into a smaller apartment.
My wife brought home a book I interlibrary loaned last night, “Consiousness Explained” by Daniel C. Dennett.
I ran across this title in the comment section of the introduction to “The Third Culture” by John Brockman. The commenter was Roger Schank:
I’m on the editorial board of the Encyclopedia Britannica, and one of the things that went on a year or two ago was this discussion of who was going to be taking care of the encyclopedia in the future, and what would be in it. The board, who are all these literary types, decided it would let computer people in, because the world was getting to be computerized. And Clifton Fadiman said that he supposed we’d have to resign ourselves to the fact that minds less educated than ours would soon be in charge of Encyclopedia Britannica. I said, “Hey! How did you decide that I’m less educated than you are?” And he actually got out of it — he said, “Oh, I didn’t mean you! You’re a very phenomenal and unusual computer scientist.”
But I’m not a phenomenal and unusual computer scientist at all. What’s interesting about such people in the literary world is that they somehow think that if you don’t know the classics you’re uneducated, whereas it’s O.K. for them not to know beans about science. And I don’t understand why that’s O.K.
We’re living in a world in which no one can be an expert on everything; there’s too much to know. So the idea of being very broad is no longer an appropriate model — everyone’s going to have limitations. Somehow, we’ve set out these limitations. The ultimate one — the one society cannot put up with — is that you don’t know the classics. Mortimer Adler, the head of the Britannica editorial board, says the same thing. We’ve argued a lot about the “great books.” He’s had a list of the great books printed; they’re very interesting books, but the fact of the matter is that they leave out almost all of what we’ve learned in the last hundred years.
I’ve been reading a lot lately about consciousness. I’m interested in this subject now, and I want to find out as much as I can about it. And finding these things, written by many different authors, has been easy for me because of an index Adler has put together called The Syntopicon. I’ve been able to find remarks on the subject by Thomas Aquinas and Montaigne and Aristotle — the authors Adler has listed under “consciousness.” These people have a vague hand-waving notion of what consciousness is about, with a religious tinge to it. Their work wouldn’t fly at all in modern academics. Yet we’re being told that if you haven’t read them you aren’t educated. Well, I’m reading them, but I’m not learning much from them. What I’m learning is that people have struggled with these ideas for the last two thousand years and haven’t been all that clever about it a lot of the time. Now, with the computer metaphor, and a different way of looking at the idea of consciousness, we have entirely different and new and interesting things to say, and yet the Clifton Fadimans of the world wouldn’t read what we have to say. I’m willing to bet he didn’t read Dan Dennett’s Consciousness Explained, for example — but it’s O.K., he’s still educated.
Read the first forty pages last night and it blew me away. Dennett is seeking to explain mind without the classical dualist mind/body or mind/brain metaphor. He writes a clear readable prose about interesting difficult ideas.
I also read a bit more in my ongoing project, “The Outline of Sanity: A Life of G.K.Chesterton” by Alzina Stone Dale. I listen to Librivox recordings of Chesterton works at night to soothe and lull me to sleep. I used to think of him as mostly the author of the Father Brown Mysteries. But in the last year I have listened to many of his other works including “The Man Who Was Thursday,” “A Short History of England,” and “Heretics.”
I found out yesterday that Kafka had read much Chesterton and was apparently influenced by him. Also I ran across his book, “The Ball and The Cross,” which seems to be a sci-fi work. Chesterton knew Wells. I read a bit on Gutenbergy and it put me in mind of a cross between Verne and Wells.
In the last few days, I have tentatively picked up my guitar again. My guitar compositions are really my personal therapy. Interesting how I will lay off guitar for months at a time, then pick it back up. Fortunately my guitar skills keep returning pretty quickly. And of course I keep playing piano (Mozart, Schubert, and Joplin yesterday) and reading.