1 can be divided by 2, 3, 4 ...

I wrote an email to a friend a couple weeks ago and I really liked the content of it, so I’m going to go ahead and write about the same topic here, but I will try to stray from exactly the same wording although undertaking this does give me a slight feeling of anxiety, like a dog glancing behind it to check for its owners as an endless forest stretches out before it.

(Actually to go onto a tangent right away, in a separate email — an email blunder — I was asking a friend for feedback on an idea I had about a project I wanted to undertake. The email, while personal in the sense that it tried to honestly lay out my emotional connections to this particular project and the reasons for pursuing it, was not actually personal towards this friend as a person, made even more clear as I had cut-and-paste it, verbatim, from an email to my aunt. Unfortunately I also cut-and-past the greeting to my aunt, throwing my email self under the bus. What I love about this particular friend, however, is that after I wrote an apology for cut-and-pasting an email to her, she admitted that her last email to me was composed in the exact same manner. I feel a bit like we are couple who just burped in front of each for the first time, shrugged, and continued to eat our meal.)

The meat of the email I wrote was about the idea of indivisibility which, as most ideas that float into one’s field of view, approached me from what was at first a single point of reference, but then suddenly became a salvo of relational and tangental references. My entry point, out of all places, was a church: more specifically a Romanian Catholic church in Cluj, which I entered during the beginning of a service being given in Hungarian. 

(On a historical note: this part of Romania used to be part of Hungary, then went back to Romania, then (part) flipped back to Hungary, then (that part) flipped BACK to Romania, in what is a real land tug of war. It’s an interesting read: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_Transylvania. Also what is interesting is that a castle that’s in Translavanyia, Vajdahunyad Castle, was recreated in Budapest, which I guess is sort of like dating someone that looks just like your ex. In a similar relationship analogy, many Hungarians and then Romanians asked me about the other nationality and what I thought about them. I’d demure on this front, which would be met with a comment indicating the asking party thought the other nationality probably hated their nationality. It felt a bit like a random man or woman coming up to me on the bus and asking, “What is your father/mother saying about me?” as if I was some child from their failed marriage.)

When I travel I like to bounce into churches as I enjoy what they smell like and I’m a sucker for spaces that make me gaze upwards as well as gold leaf and any paintings of saints that have super flat halos and oddly bent necks. 

(I always thought that 14-15th century Spanish religious art really struck this chord perfectly, given museum research, but I’ve been in a lot of Russian orthodox churches that really blew me away on the super flat front. I had this ex-girlfriend who’s dad was Russian and he would sometimes go to church, while her mom waited out in the car reading a fashion magazine. I went with him once, standing in a room vacant of seats, looking around at walls painted like Jesus’ fever dream: all color and overlapping people and limbs and every nonhuman object placed in a way that seemed to indicate it was a symbol for something else, but for the life of me it was a single hand gesture in a game of charades where I had none of the same base knowledge as the other participants. The one guy I remember in the whole scene was this man in a blue robe, standing off to the side of a big group of similarly dressed people, and he was pointing off into the sky with a very serene look on his face. By coincidence, or divinity, he also happened to be pointing at an air conditioning vent.)

Anyways, I’ve recently been on a streak of hitting the beginnings of services. Or I should say a streak for me: 2 in 2 years (the previous was in Poznan, Poland, which has a really nice town square with a clock tower where two goats come out and butt heads on the hour. I was dating a woman here and those two goats seemed to be a metaphor that cut both ways. On the one hand we had a phyiscally overpowering reaction to each other that seemed in line with the base insticts of goats defending their territory, but on the other hand we maybe were just destroying one another.) I sat a bit before the service started and was immediately intrigued by the two people nearest to me: the woman to my left had a neck that seemed unusually long, but with lines that evoked carefully designed Italian cars from the 60s, and the woman in front of me was kneeling at her pew, but was somehow able to place the inside arch of each of her feet flat on the ground as she was kneeling. If you were to stand directly behind her and look down, it would appear as if a letter T was being written with human legs. 

For some reason at this moment the idea of indivisibility hit me; in particular indivisibility and the holy trinity and my realization that the holy trinity is one of the only things that make sense to me in Christianity; or maybe not one of the only thing that makes sense to me — I’m all for loving my neighbor, not killing and whatnot — but it seems like one of the most honest ideas presented. Because units are such an important part to the construction of knowledge basis. In math, you get units in numbers like 1, e, and pi, but these numbers are revealed as being arbitrary, in a sense, because they expose that there are different unities in different contexts. We need unities so we can build from them — we need packets not waves, to build some ontology — and the holy trinity is acknowledging this by saying there’s three things in one thing and we’re supposed to focus mostly on the one thing in order to build out the whole idea, but really all things can be viewed as other units. And that’s an idea I can get behind: we’re limited as humans, but we’re trying our best.

Because of cultural bias (read: war on Christmas… just kidding) and various personal encounters, I’ve never really had a warm stance towards priests, and in these wandering thoughts I added onto my dislike that a robe is basically a way to make a person look more indivisible by hiding the usual associations of a body being a trunk with a handful of appendages. This is obviously my own bias being revealed, but I couldn’t help but feel the honesty of the holy trinity was being hidden in robes. And while I don’t believe in god, I do believe the usual role people play is making murky the water of anything that seems honest, whether that water has god in it or not.

And I guess this makes me think about people who claim indivisibility as part of the structures of thought that they propose. It makes me think that concerns of indivisibility are concerns with control; concerns with ones own aptitude and worth. A cloying NEED for something seems to be present.  Bohr with quantum mechanics and the Pledge of Allegiance (to the United States of America) make me think of this when they toss the word “indivisible” around. It seems to be the word to build a plank that you eventually step a little too far out on and fall into an ocean of bewilderment. Indivisibility in the sense of constructions of thought seem to be like gold. They seem to be statically present, but really they are slowly disappearing (https://www.theguardian.com/science/2011/jan/24/scientists-weigh-up-shrinking-kilogram), its just we tend to be stuck in a very small finitude of scale when we think about most things. The only time “indivisible” can stick around is in a completely closed information system, like with integers, or the characters in M*A*S*H.

In some ways the Pythagoreans and Darwin showed us how the indivisible parts of an open systems can fall apart from a mechanism within the system itself; which makes me think about being a kid and trying to run across a dark street at night and completely overlooking a low siting, black car that I subsequently ran directly into: my goal was very clear and obvious, but I didn’t foresee how the mechanism for completing my goal would be my undoing. In the case of the Pythagoreans they believed that the entirety of the world could be described in whole numbers, an indivisible fact of the world, only to have their study of a right triangle with unit length sides show the existence of a number that had no end: the square root of two. In a bit of a lesser way, but also like running into a parked car, Darwin was discovering the consequences of heredity and genetics while being married to his first cousin, which began to dawn on him as not the most genetically ideal situation (Rudy Giuliani, infamous ex-mayor of NYC, on the other hand, can not claim a late scientific discovery to explain his marriage to his second cousin.)

And in the final piece of this, not a piece that will necessarily tie all of this together in some way, but instead is more of a “huh, would you look at that?” sort of addition is that of a thought that pops up in the book Hyperobjects by Timothy Morton. Hyperobjects, whether you are on board with them or not, are pretty aptly named as they are objects that exist beyond what we typically think of as objects. (As an armchair/backseat philosopher please allow my terminology to exist in the best light you can possibly find. Perhaps put all this text by a window overlooking a nice view of a meadow.) Morton tackles the topic by draping it over the hyperobject of Global Warming, but I find it easiest to just think of the entire universe being objects in objects (where there are no voids to speak of, no infinity of space) and one of those objects that is either wrapping or being wrapped in this thought experiment you will find to be very “unobject”, as you typically think of an "object", and that there is your hyperobject. 

Hyperobjects have the saucy property of being nonlocal, which means they don’t exist in one place at one time. With our different ways of perceiving the world we slice into hyperobjects with different perceptual plans and get these little peeks at them; like cutting a multilayered cake at odd angles and getting all kinds of different strata. While this means with more abstract objects like Global Warming that we have a hard time describing them, because we can never really see them in totality, I’ve been wondering if ALL objects are really sort of like hyperobjects, but statistically it is so rare for them to present with a new phenomena to us, that they appear static: I don’t expect my pencil to suddenly fall into quantum disarray, because the likelihood is very very very small (although it isn’t impossible.)

Indivisibility can also then be related to the desire to fix the phenomena of an object. And maybe in a human scale these things do seem indivisible, but to believe that they are in their essence also indivisible, seems to misunderstand something basic about the foundations of our experiences; it puts in our mind a mechanism for our thoughtful undoing.

we are all a movie

Tom went on his first date with Andrea in a park that had a duck pond behind a very tall fence constructed from thick iron bars. The fence was such that it allowed a minimal view of the actual animals within. In some ways the view that took place as you walked along the pond's edge was like an old pre-cinema projector: a magic lantern or perhaps more accurately a zoetrope. Slits in the fence lined up like dominos separated by the voids created by fencing. This modern incarnation of the zoetrope gave the impression of robotic animals behind the fence: ducks of colors unknown, flicking about with disjointed wings and broken legs as 3” iron bars, painted a green that has never occurred in nature, stole their middle states of animation. The flicker of ducks made Tom think about how his intentions never found their reflection in the environment around him.

Earlier in the day he had watched Zlatan Ibrahimovic play his first game with the LA Galaxy. Tom was a big MLS fan; the only one among his friends to have such a passion. For this game, waiting for his favorite player to take the field, he had listened to the pundits dissect the career of Ibrahimovic as if all that was left was for him to take the field as some token to greatness; he had been put carefully back in his original packaging and now this castrated version of him was being seen on the field. And amongst talk of Ibrahimovic having passed his prime, he launched into his first game, striking a volleyed ball at midfield, scoring a miraculous goal, on par with anything he had achieved in his Premier League days.

Tom felt he shared something with Ibrahimovic in this moment; some sort of talent, or hidden spark, that people had told him he didn’t have and he was waiting to create some performance where it became obviously, fully known. Unlike Ibrahimovic, no one had ever seen the talent in the first place. It languished in his mind and stayed hidden just beneath the nerve endings of his extremities. 

So when walking at this caged duck pond with a woman who, in affect, seemed unclear if she wanted to be there, he tried to jostle his limbs into a representation of something that approached what he thought his greatness was; the presence and continuity that he felt he had with the world around him. Playful, smart, and carefree. As they approached a flock of pigeons he threw a leg out towards them, to spook them, with a little cackle of a kindergarten boy running towards a puddle that he plans to leap into with wonder and the energy of a pure moment. 

With the swing of Tom’s leg, the pigeons swooped to the air in that chaotic order that they always tend to do, eyes wide and necks outstretched like biathlon skiers trying to be the first across the finish line. Near the front, a single pigeon, however, flicked his head with careless concentration, whipping his head tetherball-like around his, in retrospect, thin, below average neck. With this drunken swing of its head, the pigeons flight path was altered from that of a retreating trajectory to one that intercepted perfectly with the swing of Tom’s cueball foot, stuffed down to the bottom of his tube sock leg. With geometric precision they each became legs of a physics problem triangle, meeting precisely at one of its corners, the pigeon connecting with all laces. The impact sent the pigeon directly into the duck pond fence, dropping it limp to the ground. 

It’s unclear if the shoe or the fence was the cause of death, but the ducks all sat behind their old theatre fence, thinking to themselves, “this must be intermission”.

what it's like to be disappointed in someone and yourself at the same time.

It was a windy day and she shouted at me from the street, two stories down below, that she needed a cigarette. I would throw them down in futility as they were continually caught in gusts of wind and carried off into trees; cigarette bird nests building up like snow drifts on remote Canadian highways. She kept on making the signal to throw down more: two hands raised towards the sky before quickly flicking her hands down towards her shoulders. 

“Throw more, Throw more.”

The pack was soon empty and I looked back into the hotel room, towards the end table, to see if another pack lay next to the bed. My eyes, however, were caught by the low quality carpet that the end table’s legs were plunged into. Each little, worn, tired loop of carpet seemed to be trying to lift the table up; I could hear each loop whispering about destiny and divinity as they believed themselves to be the foundation of all things; commands shouted among the loop groups at each of the four legs.

I saw a second pack atop the table, and gingerly walked over to pick it up, crushing as few of the carpet loops as possible.

Pre Patent number: 9355431

A system for transferring any (flat) 5x5, two-dimensional array of information into a binary 5x5, two-dimensional array of information.

a pin is a utopia

I met most of my friends on the head of a pin. We had wandered aimlessly across a two dimensional surface of pockmark metal: manufacturing defects that undermined the sheen of a perfect cylinder. Heads down and shuffled feet continued until a moment when we suddenly found ourselves at the tip of a device meant for securing fabric or otherwise entertaining children as they pushed into the body of a plush tomato stuffed with batting. The loneliness of this single moment lead us to an opposite pole where a utopia meant a moment spread out in time; a circle that encompassed a place that belonged away from solitude.

What was it about the purchase of thread that made my heart race? I thought of the wrapping of material on spool like scandalous dance moves on a floor flooded with strobe lights and sweat and a singular woman looking at me across a space too full with lust. I needed at that moment something spun taught with a dye of a hue like meteors bursting above random cities in Russia. 

(All that laid on my apartment floor were the makings for dress shirts that had no specific design for collar -- peaked or otherwise -- but owned a formality for a future moment that felt too certain.)

The Ping.

John Playfair said on witnessing geological formations that had clearly taken millions of years to come to their current state, "The mind seemed to grow giddy by looking so far into the abyss of time." I stumbled on an article mentioning him talking about this (it's actually a good article) and it struck a chord with me about something I've been thinking about a lot recently: The Ping. The Ping is so named, not by me but a friend of mine (just recently, actually, when I had the pleasure of being put awash in her ideas and brilliance), as I was telling her about my hope that, in my lifetime, I will witness communication from aliens. 

And I'm not under the impression that we'll be sitting here on Earth and suddenly be in some Snapchat exchange with folks from another star system (maybe our own sister: https://www.theatlantic.com/technology/archive/2014/05/our-sun-has-a-sister/361962/), but I think there will be a moment that a structure of information will wash over earth, a wave finally coming along as an overly calm break, and we will see it's inherent structure and realize that there is a message within it. Nothing fancy. Just a Ping. And it will be hundreds of years before anything really comes of it.

But the abyss that will open with The Ping will be altering of our experience. It will expand our dimensionality of how we see the world; something 2D, now is 3D. Or maybe it's a little like western movie sets that all become real buildings. And as I spoke about this desire for The Ping I realized the emotional quality that existed in how I was speaking to my friend (and that her face looked far less emotionally engaged), and that my Ping, is maybe not all people's Ping. And I thought suddenly about how when some alien pokes us with an electromagnetic wave, not everyone will look skyward as one large group and all have a new sense of their humanity. I think I will. But probably a lot of people will use it as a way to deepen previous convictions; to show they were right about X, Y, and Z. 

Most the time we are presented with new information our first response is to fold it into what we already know; to slightly augment, but mostly bolster what are the foundations of our truth. But The Ping is something that I think, for a moment, would pull me into a moment of reflection on the entirety of my truth. Like an accountant auditing a business, but instead of auditing finances, this would be an audit of truth. It doesn't mean everything is necessarily wrong, but there may be a lot of basics that have shifted in a subtle, but important, way.  

The Ping is romantic -- I'm romantic -- and there are small Pings, too. It's any moment that speaks to a fluidity in things that we have almost allowed to completely harden; time, space, and belief. It speaks to essences, infinities, and scales where language fails. But I think it's good to be looking bright eyed and bushy tailed to the heavens every once in awhile to see if The Ping has made its entrance. It's an outlook on the world that I feel is better than the alternatives (like irony and cynicism).