Oliver Sacks is amazing. I started riffing through the July 28 issue of The New Yorker while waiting for an appointment with my physician and landed on A Neurologist's Notebook, The Mind's Eye, What the blind see. Sacks begins:
Soon, Sacks is asking philosophical questions:
Sacks fills the next eight pages with inquiries and stories about how the blind construct reality. The answer? In wildly different forms. Some become hypervisual, others go into "deep blindness," with no images at all. Not only that, the same is true of sighted people. Finally, Sacks concludes that answers are illusive.
And I sometimes end up a reefer myself when I contemplate the nature of learning. (Learning is simply adding to one's thinking, isn't it?)
At this level, one can no longer say of one's mental landscapes what is visual, what is auditory, what is image, what is language, what is intellectual, what is emotional -- they are all fused together and imbued with our own individual perspectives and values.
This echoes in my memory, for I've been jotting down "There is no theory of everything for learning" in my journals for the last few weeks without being able to take it much further. In learning, as in physics, everything is relative; every layer you peel off the onion reveals another onion. The closest we get to explanations is a set of probablities, tiny things whose existence is uncertain, and fever dreams about string and infinity.
Well, of course there are accidents. Aren't there?
The same issue of New Yorker concludes with a piece, "Strung Out," by Woody Allen. Woody writes:
The latest miracle of physics is string theory, which has been heralded as a T.O.E., or "Theory of Everything."
Woody and I are in sync.
The concept that there's no Theory of Everything is liberating because it enables one to talk about the pieces without referencing the whole. It chucks the absolutes out the windown. It defeats extremism. It replaces this:
and, as Martha used to say, "It's a good thing."
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