This summer, I took a break from wandering the internet machine …
and thinking of strategies for it’s digital negotiation …
and planning my India project,
and, instead, worked for a Master Rigger, watching equipment and people hang off of
and fix New York City sky-scrapers and surrounding area mansions – all to pay some bills.
My birthday was about a month ago, in August, and I had a brief and pleasant rupture in my 12-hour a day work schedule I’d been maintaining all summer. I had one of those unplanned, confounding experiences (read another example here) that reminded me of my true drive.
When I woke up the day of my birthday, I rather suddenly decided that I wanted to find a bookstore I’d never been to before, preferably used. I was occupying a summer sublet in East Williamsburg, Brooklyn, and knew what I sought must be close. By afternoon, I discovered Book Thug Nation, a used bookstore just down the street in Williamsburg. Without forethought or drama, I strolled in and, as if caught in its gravitation field, the first book I picked up was Gödel’s Theorem: an incomplete guide to its uses and abuses. I was stunned – shocked really – at the confluence and here’s why:
I’ve been explicitly interested in Gödel’s Incompleteness Theorem as an example of a paradoxical and self-reflexive tension that I’ve been interested in rendering into some kind of art form for a long, long time – in fact, it is this kind of tension that pushed me into art-making in the first place, well before I knew who Gödel was. I was always drawn to paradoxical twists and arguments and fallacies etc. In high school I enjoyed What is the Name of this Book? by mathematician, Raymond Smullyan. You don’t need to read Smullyan’s book or to understand Gödel’s Incompleteness Theorem to get a flavor of what a paradoxical and self-reflexive tension is – just think about that title one more time: What is the Name of this Book? is the title and reflects back upon itself by asking what the title is both at the same time – so, what IS the title of that book…. Love it. Anyway.
So, I walked into Book Thug Nation on my birthday after a few months away from this blog, and this book picked me up. I reread the title: Gödel’s Theorem: an incomplete guide to its uses and abuses. I chuckled at its bone-dry hilarity, and I am not only reminded of Gödel’s important mathematical discovery that I’ve been thinking about for years, but also, and more importantly, I was awoken to its tension, to its consequences, to the tension to communicate, to connect, to understand, to know. The book had me at the opening line of the preface:
My excuse for presenting yet another book on Gödel’s Incompleteness Theorem written for a general audience is that no existing book both explains the theorem from a mathematical point of view … and comments on a fairly wide selection of the many invocations of the incompleteness theorem outside of mathematics.
- Gödel’s Theorem: an incomplete guide to its uses and abuses, Franzén, p.ix.
“… it’s uses and abuses.” reverberated. I think: “Yes, exactly, EXACTLY! Gödel’s Incompleteness Theorems has created misunderstandings and fueled misuses precisely because it has such broad implications and is so universe-shattering.” I foster fresh connections as I stand there, reading, then thinking: “Uniqueness, Infinity and Unity and their concomitant ideas (the subject matter of this blog) have similar affects on people.”
The thoughts fire on “… that’s what I’m in the middle of, what is all around me … what I’ve been breaking stones for – not just the universe-shattering consequences of Gödel’s work and trying to understand it, and not just how something so ground breaking can be used and misused and misunderstood and molded for diminished purposes (and ‘what if I’m I guilty of that, myself!) – and not just how communication is riddled with rhetoric, paradoxes, manipulations, and fallacies, laced with subtly, symbolism, imagery, desires, motives, and moves designed to sway the irrational rather than convince the rational, not that our world is filled with examples of using concepts out of context and misappropriating meanings for alternative agendas, and not merely that agendas abound, belief everywhere, understanding limited, and knowledge constrained, or that the gulf between reality and mind, between reality and communication and between mind and mind continues, but also … and really – just: whew! – that I am still so subject to it all myself!?… what am I doing with my life!? …where’s my hammer!”
At this point, you may be thinking: “Dude – it’s your birthday. Take a break!” Well … exactly … this was my break – both: the planned trip to the bookstore and unplanned union between me and this book – and standard for my birthdays, breaking new ground and learning something new. What occurred upon that virgin walk-in was analogous to what draws me to breaking stone: unpredictable meaning-creation. I found this book without thought, guile or artifice, and the fact that it was my birthday strengthened my mind’s connection for a concept that has been with me for a very long time. Love G.I.T.
So, I bought the book. I didn’t necessarily feel complete, but I felt directed.
to be continued …