Saturday, July 12, 2008

The Science of Lunacy

"I propose a hat-off, winner-take-all. Indy, you game?"

Yesterday, I ogled the naughty naked ladies in the new issue of Hustler read an interview with the great Umberto Eco in the new issue of the Paris Review -- oh my, was that elitist. Quick, pass the latté, I have some trees to hug before engaging in some loveless, non-missionary sex and post-coital potsmoking-- and though the entire piece was interesting, I absolutely loved, probably because I dig the same stuff for the same reason, the last line of the following question and answer:

"Your library here in Milan is a legend in and of itself. What kind of books do you like to collect?"

"I own a total of about fifty thousand books. But as a rare books collector I am fascinated by the human propensity for deviating thought. So I collect books about subjects in which I don't believe, like kabbalah, alchemy, magic, invented languages. Books that lie, albeit unwittingly. I have Ptolemy, not Galileo, because Galileo told the truth. I prefer lunatic science."

Immediately I was struck not by any further unspoken ruminations on those words nor by the fact that I have at least forty-nine thousand less books than that bastard has, but by the notion that so many Republicans also adhere, though on different and very wrong grounds, to that exact phrase. They too, love the lunatic science.

Oh, politics, what must I do to wash your foetid, omnipresent stain from my soul? The bard almost got it right. Just switch that last word with something else. Begins with P.


Anita said...

I think Eco is being cagey here.

As an artist, a person whose endeavors REQUIRE him to think (sorry to be cliche, but it's 9AM on saturday morning and I ran out of coffee yesterday and am, therefore, not running on all cylinders ... only one of the two are working) 'out of the box' and to go deeper into the phenomenon that is the human psyche (particularly given his interest in medievalism). What is "correct" ... like Gallileo, is fine and dandy and certainly a given, but what's up with Ptolemy?

He needs these alternatives because they fuel his creative process which, ultimately, reveals new and different truths.

He reads, collects and values this stuff because he doesn't subscribe to any particular religious ideology and realizes that SOME truths (or rather paths to truth, or paths to understanding human nature) can be found in the strangest of places, even in Kabballah (which, by the way, is massively misunderstood and misrepresented, thanks to people like Madonna and Demi Moore).

So there you have it. Anita on (no) caffeine.

Now get get back to your Hustler Magazine Randal. And report back.

Anita said...

Oh, and don't forget. Van Gogh was a major lunatic. And look at the gift he gave us.

And speaking of lunatics, nearly all of the great poets were mad or nearly mad:


Randal Graves said...

Usually such riffs come from too much caffeine, not a lack of such. I'm simultaneously impressed and frightened. ;-) Before we go any further, if it's any way unclear that I'm pro-lunatic, let's dismiss that mad - ha - notion right away. Go, lunatics.

But you are correct. One is going to use all the available resources. Even a good scientist might not always go to science in order to jump start the thought process. But I'm not a scientist, so I can only speculate.

If you have nearly limitless avenues of thought or imagination or inspiration, why limit yourself? Even if you don't 'use' something, it may lead you to think of something else that is useful to your creation.

Another thing he said that sort of maybe relates was, when talking about translation

"Again, the text is more intelligent than its author. Sometimes the text can suggest ideas that the author does not have in mind."

Those myriad routes - here, one language to another, but also perhaps our subconscious or emotional language versus our conscious, logical one - that one goes on can get us to pull stuff that our factual mind might never have written/painted/composed on its own.

Of course, I didn't talk about the part where he said

"one idea immediately summons another. One random book makes me want to read another. And it happens at times that, reading a completely useless document, I suddenly get the right idea for making a story proceed. Or for inserting another little box in a larger collection of inset boxes."

As the young people say, word. No wonder nothing creative ever gets done. I'd be the worst fucking editor.

Here, have some coffee. I just brewed a giant pot.

Anita said...


And speaking of something other than science jumpstarting a scientific inquiry, I highly, HIGHLY recommend this book:

The Tao of Physics - An Exploration of the parallels between Modern Physics and Eastern Mysticism

by Fritjof Capra

DCup said...

I've just spent three solid days deep in the heart of Dixie with the haters, racists, bigots, bible beaters and science deniers.

I don't need to read any books that reflect their worldview. They are HAPPY to tell, whether you want to know or not.

Mary Ellen said...

Even a good scientist might not always go to science in order to jump start the thought process. But I'm not a scientist, so I can only speculate.

Scientists don't need to jump start their thought process because they never turn it off. Although I find that many of them immediately go for the complex theory before looking for the simple solution. Honestly, I live with a scientist and I can't tell you how many times I have to solve a simple problem for him because he tries to make it bigger than it is. Or is that just a guy thing?

Who's to say what lunacy is, anyway? Isn't lunacy in the eyes of the beholder? I need to get some work done, I've spent too much time on my blog this week and now I have to give my son the false illusion that he has a good mom.

Randal Graves said...

anita, but how can read actual books if I have all these nudie mags to page through?

dcup, I shudder upon hearing such a thing, walking through the forgotten slums of human thought.

Do you at least feel more Jesusy?

ME, personally, I'd say it's a scientist thing because, even though I am a dude, I'd much rather simplify such things so I can more time for slacking.

Speaking of time, don't waste it. Slip him a twenty and he'll be cool.

Mary Ellen said...

Randal- LOL! You know my son, well.

Hey, talk about slackin'...the post I put up today is the ultimate slack job. I'm a little bit ashamed...well, actually I'm not. I lied.

Spartacus said...

Randal - I have to say that I like the concept of Umberto Eco's book collection. But in order to develop a collection such as his one be able to distinguish the chaff of "lunatic science" from the wheat of useful knowledge. In other words, you may have been better off browsing Hustler.

Liberality said...

yeah, but what about that theory that the simplest explaination is most likely to be correct--something to do with the field of theoretical physics I do believe--help me out here.

Randal Graves said...

ME, oh, like you should have put up something political? Superheroes are far more interesting, plus, merci for the Lynda Carter shot. My first crush, O lordy I had it bad.

spartacus, plus, Hustler is a wee bit cheaper than some of the tomes sitting on Mr. Eco's shelves.

liberality, of course, yay for Occam's Razor, but not when it comes to art. Why simplify when you can be sprawling, rambling and all over the place? Much more fun!

Utah Savage said...

Proust again. Sorry, I'm out of my depth, but I rather settle down with Proust for a little light reading, that Ptolomy just isn't my bag. Nothing like stating the obvious. Well read, and under educated. But the crazies, these are my peoples. I get the crazy ones and hug them to my heart.

Utah Savage said...

And Anita scares me sometimes; she's too damn intelligent, and obviously well educated. Man, I'd hate to get in a battle of wits with that broad. Good luck Randal, your gonna need it.

Mauigirl said...

The quote about him going from one random thought to another, one book making him want to read the next...sounds a lot like reading blogs and surfing the Internet!

Tengrain said...

I always suspected the big fire near the end of The Name of the Rose was something Umberto always thought about. I mean, the way he describes all the lost texts...

And from there to book burnings in DCups part of the world, well, there is always a thread.


Tengrain, fellow slacker

susan said...

Then I tried to read Foucault's Pendulum and was left a quivering mass of overloaded neurons until a few years later when I found another wonderful literary mystery called 'The Shadow of the Wind' by Carlos Ruiz Zafon. The cemetary of lost books in Barcelona is a marvel of creative imagination.

I love books about real science but with the exception of Richard Feynman not too many of them are especially amusing.

Christopher said...

So I collect books about subjects in which I don't believe, like kabbalah, alchemy, magic, invented languages.

Invented languages?

Like Pig Latin? Am I the only one that hears Pig Latin whenever George Bush or Dick Cheney speak?

"Eway illway ebay eetedgray iberatorslay."

Oh, how wrong they were!

DivaJood said...

I'm still stuck on anyone having ROOM for 50,000 books. I'm a natural blonde, and get stuck on particulars.

And isn't Ptolemy the guy who invented ptomeine poisoning?

kreplech said...

i think i might have around 50,000 pages...

Randal Graves said...

utah, believe me, there are few things I'd rather read than Proust, the indictments of Chimpy and his neocon cohorts being one of them. No luck needed, I'm smart enough to know when I'm outclassed. ;-)

mauigirl, maybe our blogs are simply the concrete, random thoughts of some colossal, universe-sized entity!

"Dude, why do you keep going on about this 'internet?'

tengrain, even when we think we cannot find a link, there it is. Fancy lit and rednecks.

Slack on, my brother.

susan, I've never read the Zafon book, but if there's a cemetery of lost books, I am there. Je suis d'accord avec toi on the science. I love the science, but I'm an unedumacated layman. I need something well-written, not just plastered with line after line of entirely accurate, yet bone-dry text.

christopher, HA! You might be onto something. Any pig Latin experts in the house that can decipher these clowns?

diva, I'm looking around my house as I type, and I suppose if I shoved them all in the basement and left no room to walk, I could find the room for, well, less than 50k books.

I hope you're not going to make such wonderful jokes on campaign.

kreplech, heh heh. Hey, 50k more than Bush! Well, I don't know how many Where's Waldo books he has, so it might only be 49k more.

susan said...

As divajood suggested the very idea of having room for 50,000 books is kind of staggering. Powells has almost a million and we've considered moving in there if things get really tight on the financial side. God knows we've spent enough money in the place over the years to at least be able to claim a corner in some little visited section. Or maybe we'll just move into the storage unit with the 10 cases of books we had no room to shelve when we came here.

SadButTrue said...

So I collect books about subjects in which I don't believe attitude that led to his great The Name of the Rose a brilliant, brutal criticism of a system of ideation in which he didn't believe - and one of my favorite all-time novels. It even translated into a decent movie, which is rare.

I understand this attitude. It's important to know thine enemy. I'm an atheist but I've read the bible several times along with a number of books on theology and the early history of the church. You should see me go at the Jehovah's Witlesses that come to my door! You'd be spewing your beverage out both nostrils in no time.

Randal Graves said...

susan, hmm, living in a bookstore might not be that bad, especially that a lot of the larger ones have access to vast amounts of coffee. Come on, economic slide into anarchy, bring it on!

sadbuttrue, oh sure, railing against something carries greater weight if you know what the hell you're talking about. Which makes the fundies so hilarious, all the weirdo shit they read into the most obscure passage.

Ha! JWs! They've invaded my downtown with their annual convention this month! They're very sartorial, I'll give them that.

okjimm said...

wow....I take off a couple of days and everyone discusses literature. The Hockey season must finally be over.