05 June 2005

"Red Light," Zen, and Bono (Africa relief)

Back from NYC
We are back from New York, where we went to a big fun Greek wedding and got to hang out with La Lecturess amidst her impressive trove of literature and art deco adornments. Thanks, La Lecturess! We had a wonderful time!

Difting, Scientifically
Along literary lines, here is a passage from Chapter 11 of Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance:

At first the truths Phaedrus began to pursue were lateral truths; no longer the frontal truths of science, those toward which the discipline pointed, but the kind of truth you see laterally, out of the corner of your eye. In a laboratory situation, when your whole procedure goes haywire, when everything goes wrong or is indeterminate or is so screwed up by unexpected results you can't make head or tail out of anything, you start looking laterally. That's a word he later used to describe a growth of knowledge that doesn't move forward like an arrow in flight, but expands sideways, like an arrow enlarging in flight, or like the archer, discovering that although he has hit the bull's-eye and won the prize, his head is on a pillow and the sun is coming in the window. Lateral knowledge is knowledge that's from a wholly unexpected direction, from a direction that's not even understood as a direction unti lthe knowledge forces itself upon one. Lateral truths point to the falseness of axioms and postulates underlying one's existing system of getting at truth.

To all appearances he was just drifting. In actuality he was just drifting. Drifting is what one does when looking at lateral truth. He couldn't follow any known method of procedure to uncover its cause because it was these methods and procedures that were all screwed up in the first place. So he drifted. That was all he could do.

It is curious that Amazon informs shoppers that Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance provides 14,300 words/dollar and 10,808 words/ounce.

Frankly, a Moving Speech from Bono
I really like - although (or perhaps because) I am not invited to - TED, an annual design / science / music / technology conference in Monterey, California. Speakers range from Jane Goodall to Herbie Hancock to the founders of Google. (See a brief video about it here. Click "Taste of Ted.") Or, better yet, click "HIGHLIGHTS" and watch a few videos from what seems to be the topmost slice of intelligentia. Two years ago I was lucky enough to be in the audience when several of those speeches were given. I still remember Vic Muniz's.

The new annual TED Prize grants Three Wishes, costing up to $100,000, to three winners. I think the value of the cash is overshadowed by the audience granted to the winners, which is the Billionaire's Club of conference-goers. Bono was a winner. He gave an eloquent plea for aid to Africa. You can read and watch his acceptance address here.

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