this is still the world and you are still in it

(6 comments)
November 19, 2008

Poem of the Moment
It must be troubling for the god who loves you
To ponder how much happier you'd be today
Had you been able to glimpse your many futures.
It must be painful for him to watch you on Friday evenings
Driving home from the office, content with your week--
Three fine houses sold to deserving families--
Knowing as he does exactly what would have happened
Had you gone to your second choice for college,
Knowing the roommate you'd have been allotted
Whose ardent opinions on painting and music
Would have kindled in you a lifelong passion.
A life thirty points above the life you're living
On any scale of satisfaction. And every point
A thorn in the side of the god who loves you.
You don't want that, a large-souled man like you
Who tries to withhold from your wife the day's disappointments
So she can save her empathy for the children.
And would you want this god to compare your wife
With the woman you were destined to meet on the other campus?
It hurts you to think of him ranking the conversation
You'd have enjoyed over there higher in insight
Than the conversation you're used to.
And think how this loving god would feel
Knowing that the man next in line for your wife
Would have pleased her more than you ever will
Even on your best days, when you really try.
Can you sleep at night believing a god like that
Is pacing his cloudy bedroom, harassed by alternatives
You're spared by ignorance? The difference between what is
And what could have been will remain alive for him
Even after you cease existing, after you catch a chill
Running out in the snow for the morning paper,
Losing eleven years that the god who loves you
Will feel compelled to imagine scene by scene
Unless you come to the rescue by imagining him
No wiser than you are, no god at all, only a friend
No closer than the actual friend you made at college,
The one you haven't written in months. Sit down tonight
And write him about the life you can talk about
With a claim to authority, the life you've witnessed,
--The God Who Loves You by Carl Dennis, via Megan McArdle's Blog at the Atlantic.

A few months ago the mantra "THIS IS THE WORLD AND YOU ARE IN IT" was in my head. I think it was kind of a refutation to the kind of thinking that this poem explores... there is no other Universe. The past is set. The future doesn't exist. Is playing a game of "what if" and "if only" good for us? The Buddhists say no. We may long for It to be otherwise, but whatever is, is.

The reality or fictitious nature of free will is another issue. We don't act, we react. We respond to stimuli before our sense of self has any idea what's going, but that sense of self hurries up and adds the component of conscious decision making that was never quite there in the sense we assume. Such is the nature of Strange Loops, the self-observing systems that Hofstadter has convinced me we are. But this strange system builds itself, we build our brains, responsible for our quick, "unconscious" response as well as our slow thoughtful musing, instinctively in much the same way a spider builds its web without "knowing" what it's doing.


Local News Bummer of the Moment
Harvard Square's iconic Out of Town News may be on its way out. And some of it might have been due to the recent construction, besides the obvious challenges of being in an area where more and more information is discovered online.


pentomino Oh great, now you've *loudly* done it. (don't sweat it!)
Found my Aunt's "Wireless" catalog--haven't seen one for decades (is it NPR or PBS affiliated?) but it's still "Lillian Vernon for yuppies"
The difference between what is / And what could have been will remain alive for him / Even after you cease existing
Y'day's work paranoia is a new found, hush-hush team of very hip coders. You can tell by the transformers T and expensive Vans sneakers.
Facebook's UI is kind of bad. I want to reply specifically to a "Wall" comment by XYZ-- click on "Wall-to-Wall" or "Write on XYZ's Wall"??