Moulton Lava

Moultonic Musings

My Photo
Location: New England, United States

Thursday, May 30, 2013

The Theory of Apostrophe

A few weeks ago, I was ruminating on some abstract concepts in Drama Theory which led me to do some research on word origins.  What I stumbled onto may be of some interest.

Initially, I was looking up the etymology of the word, theory.  Here is my takeaway from that exercise in semiotics:

    Theory = תורת = Torat in Hebrew
    Theory of Truth = תורת אמת = Torat Emet = Epistemology

Now compare Torat to Torah:

    Torah = תורה = Customary System of Guidance

The difference between Torah (תורה) and Theory (תורת) is closing the gap in the final letter, changing the ה (Heh, the fifth letter of the Hebrew alphabet) to ת (Tav, the twenty-second and last letter of the Hebrew Alphabet).

Umberto Eco says, "Whereof we cannot express a theory, we must narrate a story instead."

The stories of Torah are not completely learned until one has apprehended and deeply understood the stories and extracted the deeper underlying theory.  There is an unspoken notion here that, buried in the stories of Torah, there resides an underlying theoretical system of guidance, kind of like "rocket science" for human journeys through life.

Now compare "Rabbi" with "Rival" and "Rebel" ...

    Great = רב = Rav
    Rabbi = רבי = My Master
    Rival = יריב = Yariv = Adversary, Opponent, Contender, Antagonist, Rebel
    Satan = שטן = Adversary, Fiend

The Devil is in the details: Be ye not misled or deceived.

Sometimes we learn gladly from the Master, and sometimes we resist or oppose the subtle persuasions of the would-be teacher, thereby setting up a contentious antagonism.

The difference between Rabbi (רבי) and Rival (יריב) is in the details. The little י (Hebrew "Yod" which looks very much like our Apostrophe) is the tiny iota of difference that makes a difference.

In English, we use an Apostrophe to skip over some bits that can be safely left out.

In Greek Theater, "Apostrophe" is a stage direction where the Protagonist has a thought, notion, or emotion that he keeps to himself, without communicating it openly to the Antagonist. "Apostrophe" in Greek Theater means the actor "turns aside" to face the Greek Chorus to disclose, sotto voce, the otherwise unspoken thought, notion, or emotion that is being withheld from the spoken dialogue with the Antagonist. This corresponds to a "thought balloon" in the comics.

Train wreck at Montparnasse Station, at Place de Rennes, Paris, France, 1895.

Train wreck at Montparnasse Station, at Place de Rennes, Paris, France, 1895.
The purpose of withholding the "aside" is to avoid antagonizing the Antagonist in an otherwise shreklisch drama to the point that it would cause a breakdown or disruption in the continuity of the drama.  It is safer and wiser to skip over bits that are better left unsaid, lest they derail the runaway dialectical locomotive and end up as a spectacular train wreck.

Have you ever said aloud something that it would have been better to keep to yourself, for the sake of preserving the peaceable continuity of the illuminating dialogue?

I make that mistake all the time.  I never quite know when it's wiser and safer to keep my mouth shut.

Indeed, this very blog post could be one of those times.

Monday, May 20, 2013

The Ninth Intelligence

In Howard Gardner's evolving catalog of Multiple Intelligences, the Ninth Intelligence is the rarest of them all.

Monument to Plato, Academy at Athens
Gardner calls it Existential Intelligence. Other candidate names are Spiritual Intelligence, Theological Intelligence, Religious Intelligence, Priestly Intelligence, Prophetic Intelligence, Mystical Intelligence, Kabbalistic Intelligence, Transcendent Intelligence, Metaphysical Intelligence, Ethical Intelligence, Sustainability Intelligence, Cybernetic Intelligence, Pattern Thinking, and (my favorite) Systems Intelligence.

Other related terms include Intuition, Visionary Insight, Wisdom, and Enlightenment.

Of all these flavors of the Ninth Intelligence, I prefer Systems Intelligence because it expressly exhibits the System Models and the calculus of their solution for Ethical Best Practices under an express Value System.

In the video below, Nora Bateson tells the compelling story of her father, Gregory Bateson, a venerated pioneer of Systems Thinking.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Bloody Hell

     Scandals and Scapegoats abound?
     Send in the Clowns!


But seriously, folks ...

The oldest and most insidious misconception in the annals of human civilization is a notoriously misbegotten idea that crept into the culture some 4000 years ago.

It was the unexamined belief that a socio-political governance model based on the Rule of Law was functionally capable of yielding a stable, orderly, well-regulated, and peaceable society. Many insightful observers (colloquially known as "sages") perceived there was something wrong with this fateful idea.

Indeed those sages were prescient.

It's been only a bit more than a century since modern science and mathematics have succeeded in rigorously demonstrating that rule-driven systems are inherently chaotic (in the mathematical sense of the word).

Hammurabi, it appears, blundered badly.

And it appears humans have been mindlessly xeroxing that lamentable blunder ever since.

One can find the first hint of Humankind's Original Logic Error ("HOLE")in Genesis 2:17. Augustine of Hippo examined that ancient text and came up with the diagnosis of "Original Sin." (Note that the Latin word, "sin," means "missing the mark.)

Well yeah. The ancient lawmakers missed the mark bigtime. They bollixed the math so badly, Ron Weasley would have called it "Bloody Hell."

I simply call it "Untamed Recursion."

It's actually a fixable mistake.

But I doubt Homo Schleppians will fix it very soon. Fixing it will require that about 25% of the political leaders apprehend the mathematics of Recursion Theory and Chaos Theory.

That's probably not gonna happen any time soon.

It's gonna take a generation of Artists to devise a way to down-translate the Math into Opera.

If that ever happens, we will have added the Arts to STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) so as to build up a Full Head of STEAM.

Please, members of the Arts Culture, please make it so.

Harrumph — Blazing Saddles


Moulton rolls his eyes. ~Wikipedia Review

Elsewhere in discussions about Motivation, Emotions, and Learning, I posed a question...

What is the name (or description) of the affective emotional state signaled by rolling one's eyes?

In Yiddish culture, the act of rolling one's eyes is usually accompanied by the utterance, "Oy."

My respondents compiled this set of terms for naming the associated affective emotional state:

Dismissive with lack of interest, annoyance, impatience, exasperation, mild contempt, or disregard.

Less common responses were "Bumptious" and "Apostrophic."

Other verbal expressions included:

"Bloody Hell."

"Oy, not this again."


"Gey avec." ("Go away.")

"Bugger off."

"Let's don't. (And say we did.)."

"Go fly a kite."

"Go jump in the lake."


"It's just a shame that on Web 2.0, when people disagree about things, there is a chance some hoary gobshite like you might be poking around to wax ad tedium on the matter." ~Kato on Wikipedia Review

Compare "rolling one's eyes" to "scathing glances" and giving someone "the hairy eyeball."

But the term that most intrigued me was "Apostrophic" which means "turning aside" or "turning away" (as in "disregarding" or "failing to pay attention").

The oldest reference I know of to "glancing away" as a signal of contempt is in Genesis 4:3-5.

What's fascinating about that ancient Biblical reference is that it's also the oldest reference to "Bloody Hell."

Banana Minions with Lyrics and Scathing Glances

Thursday, May 09, 2013

To Hell with DSM-5

The National Institutes of Mental Health (NIMH) has decided to abandon the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, at least for research purposes.

Back in the 1980s, before I had even heard of DSM III, I was a Distinguished Member of Technical Staff at the Bell Telephone Laboratories in Holmdel NJ.  About that time, the US Department of Justice moved to break up the Bell System, pitting Anti-Trust Law vs STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics).  

Law utterly clobbered STEM.  The Bell System fractured and Bell Labs rapidly went to hell in a hand-basket.

During those turbulent times I went to talk to a first rate psychologist about navigating my way through a variety of  real world problems for which my STEM education (Ph.D. in Systems Science from Stanford University) left me ill prepared.  After a few months, I received a DSM III diagnosis of 309.28, "Adjustment Reaction with Mixed Emotional Features."

I asked the shrink what that meant in plain English.  He said, "It means you get upset when upsetting things happen."

Well yeah.

By the mid-90s, I began to catalog a collection of systemic problems in American culture that weren't just troubling me, but, one way or another, troubling just about everyone I knew.  

Eventually, I compiled a list of ten seemingly intractable problems that I had no idea how to solve:

Conflict, Violence, Oppression, Injustice, Corruption, Poverty, Ignorance, Alienation, Suffering, and Terrorism.  

Not only did I have no idea how to solve them, I had no idea how to even think about them with the tools for thought that I had acquired from my high-class STEM education.

And so I became morbidly dispirited and depressed about the survivability of our increasingly dysfunctional culture.  A seasoned colleague of mine suggested I again visit a professional.  This time, I talked to one of the professors of psychiatric medicine at Harvard Medical, who happened to live next door to my professional colleague.  I told him that life had tossed a number of intractable problems in my lap that I had no clue how to solve, and that I needed help figuring out how to solve them.  

He said, "Barry, nobody knows how to solve those problems. But I can give you some anti-depressants so you won't feel so bummed out about it."

I replied, "I don't want to be drugged into oblivion so that I don't give a damn.  I want to learn how to solve these problems."

He said, "I can't help you solve them.  I can only prescribe anti-depressants for you."

And so I declined the "Nepenthe Treatment" and undertook the research on my own.  This led me from Systems Science into Theology, since more than half of the unsolved problems on my list were taken up by the founders of the world's great religions.

I eventually made some progress, discovering the pioneering research of René GirardJames Gilligan, and others, who were coming up with systems theoretic models drawn from many sources, not the least of which was the great literature of the Humanities.  Fyodor Dostoevsky, for example, turned out to be the source for Girard's Model of Contagion as well as an insightful source on many of the other aspects of systemic dysfunctionality in the culture.

My education in STEM had omitted the Humanities and the Arts.  What I needed was to beef up STEM with some Artistry from the Humanities in order to build up a head of STEAM.

So it looks like I don't need DSM or anti-depressants.  What I need in my life is less strife and more humanity.  With that, perhaps we rediscover our place in the cosmos and the proper role of STEM in the advance of civilization.

Wednesday, May 08, 2013

Symbolism, Allegory, and the Spiritual Journey

Louis Lefebvre is a gifted Canadian animator who recently released a remarkable animated allegory, I, Pet Goat II, from his animation studio, Heliofant.  Five years in the making, Lefebvre's video is full of complex and arcane symbolism culled from many sources, both modern and ancient.

I, Pet Goat II takes its title from the children's book, My Pet Goat, which President Bush was reading to school children in Florida when the Twin Towers were attacked on 9/11.

As Lefebvre explains in a 45-minute interview with Alex Jones, his animated allegory represents his own personal spiritual journey.  Alex Jones compares I, Pet Goat II to Disney's Fantasia as a tour de force of animation technique and storytelling.

Characters in the story include the titular goat, GWB (who morphs in Barak Obama), Alice in Wonderland, Osama bin Laden, the Illuminati, an evil sorcerer, a millenium child, a Christ figure, and many more.

Lefebvre provides his own clues to decoding the symbolism of the classroom scene and the Egyptian symbology, along with links to a pair of web sites in which other writers have offered their own detailed exegesis of the allegory:

      The Esoteric Symbolism of the Viral Video I, Pet Goat II by Vigilant Citizen

      The Hidden Themes of Heliofant's I, Pet Goat II by Xtraeme at AboveTopSecret.Com

I, Pet Goat II

An allegorical spiritual journey from Heliofant on Vimeo

Monday, May 06, 2013

Our Place In the Cosmos

Symphony of Science
Our Place In the Cosmos
Two years ago, Wired Magazine reported that Neil deGrasse Tyson would host a sequel to Carl Sagan's Cosmos which aired on PBS three decades ago.

The producers of the new sequel say the new series will tell “the story of how human beings began to comprehend the laws of nature and find our place in space and time.”

This also creates a parallel opportunity to review our place in the story known as “The Advance of Civilization.”

We can pick up where Giambattista Vico, James Joyce, Warren McCulloch, Gregory Bateson, Douglas Hofstadter, Benoit Mandelbrot, and Harold Bloom left off in The Canon of Western Literature.

The hardest law of nature to apprehend is the mathematical nature of recursive systems. We live in a physical universe, a biological niche, and socio-political culture all governed by recursion laws which we struggle to discover, understand and reveal.

Per Vico and Bloom's model, we have, over the past 4000 years, repeatedly passed through three recurring ages:

The Viconian cycle consists of three recurring phases:

(1) The Theocratic or Divine Age, represented in primitive society by the family life of the cave, to which the thunderous voice of God has driven mankind;

(2) The Aristocratic or Heroic Age, characterized by incessant conflict between the ruling patricians and their subject plebeians;

(3) The Democratic Age, in which rank and privilege have finally been eradicated by the revolutions of the preceding age.

Currently, we are ensnared in the Fourth Age, as anticipated by Vico, and as explicated by any number of modern sources:

(4) The Chaotic Age, characterized by the bewildering collapse of democratic society, which is inherently dysfunctional and therefore riddled with a panoply of hellish and baffleplexing problems: conflict, violence, oppression, injustice corruption, poverty, ignorance, alienation, abuse, despair, suffering, and terrorism.

The resolution of this nightmare age of unrelenting chaos is to evolve to the Fifth Age where we master the art of taming the ill-mannered recursion laws that define and characterize the Chaotic Age:

(5) The Cybernetic Age, in which the otherwise mind-boggling math of recursive loops is tamed and tuned to gracefully converge to the long-dreamed of Omega Point.

To emerge from the Chaotic Age and evolve into the Cybernetic Age, we are going to have to conscientiously educate ourselves in the STEM disciplines (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) with a concentrated effort to master the fractious mathematics of recursive systems.

The key to mastering the Fifth Age is to embrace the Fifth Discipline of Peter Senge. The key is to master the Ninth Intelligence of Systems Thinking.

Once STEM fully integrates Systems Thinking into our tools for thought, we can then team up with Artists who can shape this work for public consumption as part of the evolving Canon of Western Media. Once STEM is teamed up with the Artistry, we'll be on our way to the Cybernetic Age with a Full Head of STEAM.