The Dalai Lama of Mountain Goats
Having been taking photographs around Toronto lately using funky filters on my cheap indestructible smartphone camera (a knockoff Blackberry Motorola running Android)—no one else seems to own nor want to have—I have been enjoying the strange perceptions it’s given me, regarding light and how we view things–in my case the city, its architecture, its denizens and both its daytime and nighttime responses to light; or lack thereof.
After posting some of these shots online, I’ve received feedback such as: “What a crappy filter!” “Stop, that’s not reality!” “Why do you do that?!” “Is your camera broken?”
I like the perspective they give, I am not trying to be a true photographer; nor even claiming any sort of artistic license–although I guess those are simply granted by others if they appreciate/are emotionally affected by, what I am trying to capture or show with what I take pictures of, and the manner in which I take them. A ‘true photographer’ by my definition, is one able to replicate on demand, one who possesses the esoteric knowledge of depth of field, film speeds and what they alter, one who is capable of retaking the shot they took a year ago in almost any environmental condition, and the intelligence, education, skill and practice necessary for all of this. I possess none of these, and may never achieve this calibre of mastery, as I am one lazy sonofabitch.
Funnily though, I had been pondering how people online talk about cats–how stupid they are, or how nonsensical their behaviour be (or mystical or spiritual or…whatever). Living with a cat—one I consider pretty damn sharp—I’ve noticed similar behaviour; such as chasing things I can not see, or staring into the distance…
But I understand that she has optical apparati completely different from mine. Sometimes I’m able to catch a slight glimpse of something moving–perhaps a headlight on the wall, or a tiny flying insect, or someone a few blocks away opening a window and reflecting a quick flash of light from the sun through my apartment. But at other times, I too am at a loss. But this, to me at least, makes me aware of the limitations of my eyes, not the “stupidity of an animal”. I’ve read in some places where people have spoken of folktales where cats were said to communicate with the dead–again, for the same reasons. This of course just leads to my disappointment in humanity and people not using the gift of reason that we have evolved to possess.
Interestingly though, all of this has a lot to do with a metaphor I use regarding postmodern thinking and analysis. Lenses. Lenses provide us with a particular perspective, while limiting our vision at the same time. This is true in most every human enterprise, but namely politics. As I have grown older, I realize that I am accumulating more and more lenses of perception. As I spontaneously meet and engage intellectually with more and more humans (something I love about living in downtown Toronto in 2013), I find myself able to identify with, if not agree with completely, many who hold very strong views about a multitude of issues. Many though, seem to fail to understand that they may merely disagree with those towards whom they profess eternal hatred and enmity, due to a different lens or two..or ten. Most every human endeavour, in my opinion, seeks excellence as well as the betterment of something someone (or some group) holds dear. Humans are not intrinsically evil, nor out to hurt others, without some sense of righteousness. Unless of course they are insane, but that is not to what I refer.
The video below too, (a small vignette of a great documentary series by Richard Hammond called ‘Invisible Worlds’ by the way) made me realize something about reality–so much of what we consider (perceive as) beautiful in this world (flowers for example), we are ONLY limited to perceive through a narrow band of the light spectrum.
This is also true for our sense of hearing. This is a recording of cricket chirps slowed down so their lifespans match those of humans–they now sound like some sort of ethereal hymnal choir:
Our senses limit us in SO many ways, and yet we rarely, if ever, speak to this–we do not tell this to our children. Human-conceived religions and gods and ponderances of our eternal purpose consistently have failed to mention, oh, by the way, most of this reality? —is not available with our software edition. This is actually one of the greatest reasons NOT to believe in God or Intelligent Design or whatever, but I guess the same explanation has been used throughout the world for the contrary argument.
Which all brings me to a vsauce segment. I am addicted to vsauce. It is such the intellectually pornographic injection of thought. He touches on so much, much of what I had been thinking and articulated above, and then some. I have actually made good friends with familiar strangers, just by saying ‘vsauce’ to them instead of hello, on a regular basis.
Postmodern thinking asks you to ‘think outside the box’ but it assumes that you have in fact perceived the existence of a box. This perception requires an awareness of lenses in order that one can become aware of all kinds of boxes, and bubbles and biases; outside of which may just be other realities and dimensions you are unable, or have yet, to perceive.
The above quote may or may not be authentic. It really does not matter. Most feel-good kumbayaa (m’lawwwd) clap-trap does not really need to prove its provenance…as the masses nod along, hug and feel ‘inspired’ to another juicy apocryphal morsel.
…But, I used to wonder about Mountain Goats.
Do THEY know that life could be easier on flat ground? Were they meant to just wander on 75 degree sloped surfaces eternally; with 1 or 2 kids falling to their deaths every now and then?
I decided, on the latter; that was indeed just their experience, their reality, their ‘nature’…and then they die–perhaps never realizing life was easier grazing on a prairie–perhaps even only a few hundred metres away– as other ‘prairie’ goats.
So perhaps homo sapien sapiens are just supposed to live the way we always have lived–and evolved–for millennia? Our worry and stress and lack of vision involving complex internal chemistry…our very own ‘nature’…and billions of us (in every corner of the world) are the same way about these things…most of which, only in hindsight do we realize to have been for nought.
But maybe that just IS life.
When death or illness comes close, we ponder things, but otherwise we go back to our perceptual myopism–very much as mountain goats…but there be no mountain goat dalai lama.
Our ‘not having lived’ IS life.
“The Semmelweis reflex or “Semmelweis effect” is a metaphor for the reflex-like tendency to reject new evidence or new knowledge because it contradicts established norms, beliefs or paradigms.
The term originated from the story of Ignaz Semmelweis, who discovered that childbed fever mortality rates reduced ten-fold when doctors washed their hands with a chlorine solution between patients. His hand-washing suggestions were rejected by his contemporaries, often for non-medical reasons. For instance, some doctors refused to believe that a gentleman’s hands could transmit disease.”
So this seriously long article (below) claims to debunk the whole ‘Semmelweis Supermyth’….but I don’t really understand what they debunk or…whether it matters with regard to the concept above. It be like saying, well, Socrates was a Platonic creation for argumentative purposes. But does this actually even matter when discussing or quoting Socrates? I don’t care if Socrates never existed, as long as I can quote him, elaborate a concept commonly recognized as Socratic. The concept of the Semmelweis effect is still handy to know. It reminds me of what is said to be the impetus for the modern notions of Public Health as well as Urban Planning: John Snow and the Broadstreet Water pump handle–another myth? Who cares. That is not the point. Oh and also is the whole ‘Checklist Manifesto/ Atul Gawande description of cleanliness checklists in American hospitals reducing infection rates’ a myth? Not important. Red Herring?
Expert Skeptics Suckered Again: Incredibly, the Famous Semmelweis Story is Another Supermyth
The Semmelweis reflex or “Semmelweis effect” , which is a metaphor for the reflex-like tendency to reject new evidence or new knowledge because it contradicts established norms, beliefs or paradigms, is another exquisitely ironic supermyth. Continue this article…….
Sometimes I don’t know where
This dirty road is taking me
Sometimes I can’t even see the reason why
I guess I keep a-gamblin’
Lots of booze and lots of ramblin’
It’s easier than just waitin’ around to die
One time, friends, I had a ma
I even had a pa
He beat her with a belt once ’cause she cried
She told him to take care of me
Headed down to Tennessee
It’s easier than just waitin’ around to die
I came of age and I found a girl
In a Tuscaloosa bar
She cleaned me out and hit in on the sly
I tried to kill the pain, bought some wine
And hopped a train
Seemed easier than just waitin’ around to die
A friend said he knew
Where some easy money was
We robbed a man, and brother did we fly
The posse caught up with me
And drug me back to Muskogee
It’s two long years I’ve been waitin’ around to die
Now I’m out of prison
I got me a friend at last
He don’t drink or steal or cheat or lie
His name’s Codine
He’s the nicest thing I’ve seen
Together we’re gonna wait around and die
Together we’re gonna wait around and die