All right. We might as well get this over with. I’ve been meaning to write this introductory entry for this brand new blog for a ludicrously long time now and putting it off for just as long. Not for bad reasons too. Traditional wisdom teaches us that the first of, well, anything, matters. We love world premieres, don’t we? We relish our first appearance on the world scene, our first steps, first words, first crush, first crushing of a crush, first kiss, first date, first eureka moments, first published paper, first won Nobel prize and so on. Why exactly these firsts should be deemed more memorable than their latterday counterparts is presumably beyond my cognitive capabilities (although, so is Euclid’s Fifth, so what do i know?). Just because they predate them? Or because they mark the beginning of some hitherto unexperienced phenomenon? Sorry, I don’t buy it.
But anywho, i digress (get used to it, by the way), that’s a theme for a proper entry. The point is, as mathematicians and documentary producers have longed discovered, you cannot start your blog with entry #2 and therefore avoid this whole charade of having to introduce what that otherwise unintroduced series of writings will be all about. You just can’t. So, as a long time admirer of documentary producers as such (not a big fan of mathematicians though), i decide to stop torturing my already worn out gray matter with the possible contents of this first ever entry, and just go impromptu on you, which is rather ironic or maybe plain self-fullfilling if you think about the whole rationale and premise of this blog. But, you can’t think about neither the rationale nor the premise of this blog just yet, can you? Oh no. That’s what this entry is supposed to establish, that’s why it must be so finely articulated as to not keep you, the reader, and perhaps me, the author, in the dark, and to shed some, however dim, light on what’s, and what’s not, to be expected and, curiously, that’s, partly, why it’s carefully tiptoeing around the subject matter, not getting on with it head on, with all these comma-driven, if you will, sentences and, yes why not, drivels and non-sequiturs. So, without further ado, here’s me, at this unreasonably late hour, Casals’ invidious excellence in Bach sonatas firmly probed to my auditory cortex (with the stupid right earphone transmitting sound if it pleases), slightly inebriated by the acquired taste of light beer (now that marks a ‘first’ i would very much like to forget), actually taking myself up to the task of collapsing this particular ‘blogular’ wave function into a quantum state whose ‘trigger’ (if i may indulge you with an analogy to what must surely be the most famous thought experiment ever conceived) could be thought as this entry, ‘cat’ as this blog, and ‘Schrödinger’ as, well, me.
The human understanding is no dry light, but receives an infusion from the will and affections; whence proceed sciences which may be called “sciences as one would.” For what a man had rather were true he more readily believes. Therefore he rejects difficult things from impatience of research; sober things, because they narrow hope; the deeper things of nature, from superstition; the light of experience, from arrogance and pride, lest his mind should seem to be occupied with things mean and transitory; things not commonly believed, out of deference to the opinion of the vulgar. Numberless, in short, are the ways, and sometimes imperceptible, in which the affections color and infect the understanding.
If you, like my former self, are unsure of what a dry light is supposed to be, here’s a definiton a google search has to offer:
Dry Light: Pure unobstructed light; hence, a clear, impartial view.
There you have it. Now, human condition has, surely, been described in better terms. This paragraph neither exhausts nor is up to date about what can sensibly be asserted about human mentality. After all, it was penned almost four centuries ago. Long before ‘man’, ‘with all his noble qualities’, was demoted from being an image in god’s mind to glorified bipedal apes, at a time when patterned firings of mechanical neurons in the brain was mistaken for divine patterns in the soul whose rationale could not possibly be divined, when the ‘ghost in the machine’ as opposed to ‘machine in the ghost’ made near perfect explanatory sense. Before Paley with his watch, before Darwin with his watchmaker, before Hume with his a priori deductions of nature’s nature, even before Descates for god’s sake, and his butchering, if you will, of the already weak bonds between matter and mind. Humanity needed some time to get her grip on these difficult problems. So it would be unjust to Bacon’s seventeenth century dry light if we were to take all of his claims at face value today. And i strongly tend to agree with an eminent zoologist, who once posed the question ‘What is man?’ and then unequivocally prejudged it by saying ‘All attempts to answer that question before 1859 are worthless and we will be better off if we ignore them completely’. Mouthful? Sure. Justified? I think so (we shall dig this too). Furthermore, i have mild reservations about the invocation of ‘the will’ as providing infusion to the mental underpinnings of human understanding. Recent researches are, as far as i can tell, all but unanimously converging on the long suspected (and established, in some doctrines) notion that conscious will and its implications are mere illusions, that have no causal influence on the regulations of the body. In all fairness, the problem of will and consciousness is still rather open. So i tend to hedge my bets. You may witness me hedging my bets in the subsequent entries. And it’s also possible that the context of these notions moved on during the intervening years. In any case, i’d like to think that Bacon was entertaining similar reservations when he omitted using the phrase ‘the will’ in the final sentence, in which he casts all the blame of coloring and infecting our mental faculties on solely ‘the affections’.
A resounding ‘nonetheless’, you must be thinking, is bound to crop up right about now, in order to save this particularly messy, and in the implied context of this blog, rather backwards train of thought. And, sure enough, it does. (Accompanied by the aforementioned music shifting to the definitive interpretation of the Goldberg Variations by, well who else, Glenn Gould. Right earphone, equally rebellious.)
Nonetheless, these are all asides. For my purposes, this piece of eloquent writing, which was first brought to my attention by the equally eloquent writings of Carl Sagan (from whose quote the title of this entry is derived), sums up, not necessarily what man’s mental make up per se is, but what mine is. Dry light is exactly and most emphatically not what yours truly’s understanding is. I even have an ‘ontological proof’ for that assertion, Anselm-style. Observe.
My light is either;
- Not Dry, hence proof concluded or,
- Dry, and, by living a life convinced otherwise, my light is even more moist than i currently think it is.
All right, maybe it’s not as ontological as i initially thought it would be, for i have to establish, perhaps among other things, that the way i percieve my own mental light is non-dry. Fair point. (But, you gotta admit, the fact that i go so far as to name the very blog accordingly, should serve as an indication of my sincerity in this belief.) This blog and all its contents, then, should be seen as one long testimonial to my uncritically upheld world views. And when the final keystroke of the final word of the final sentence of the final paragraph of the final entry of this blog is published (which is bound to be a full stop, if you think about it), i shall be content if you leave the page with the thought ‘Yep, he is an idiot!’ on your mind.
So consider this as the offical disclaimer. Arguments may not be followed. Points may be missed. Themes may not be fully developed, or carried to their logical conclusions. Obscureness may raise its ugly head to conceal the possible lack of content, even though i will be on the watch out to avoid that.
And it will be mainly about science, hence the lip service to Bacon, the foremost visionary of the whole scientific enterprise. Occasional mention of certain branches of philosophy is to be expected, with maths thrown in for good measure. No socially significant contemporary topics shall be covered. No sports. Definitely no politics. Nothing every cognizant man, existing anywhere, anytime, anywhom wouldn’t also find interesting. Nothing an alien wouldn’t also find interesting, other than maybe pure anthropological curiosity.
Personal stuff may arise. A viable mechanism to avoid this from happening in a blog is yet to be put forward by the ever parched light of coders, and human propensity to talk about himself is only matched by the futility of his existence. I will humbly follow suit.
I plan to write mainly in English. But my mother tounge, Turkish, is bound to get its fair share.
Finally, the runner-ups for the name of this blog was as follows, in boldface:
… man with all his noble qualities, with sympathy which feels for the most debased, with benevolence which extends not only to other men but to the humblest living creature, with his godlike intellect which has penetrated into the movements and constitution of solar system, with all these exalted powers, man still bears in his bodily frame, the indelible stamp of his lowly origin.
This is from Darwin’s The Descent of Man and was eliminated because, even though i needed something derogatory for my purposes, i realized that i had no problem with my ape ancestry. Quite the contrary. (And this, celebration of natural selection and its implications, shall constitute a recurring theme in the blog.)
We have to understand that the world can only be grasped by action, not by contemplation.
This is from Jacob Bronowski‘s The Ascent of Man, and would have been a perfect title. Alas, it was taken. Indeed, to a large extent, contemplation is exactly what i am going to aim for, as opposed to action. But the tone and the depth of Bronowski’s rhetoric will always remind me of my solicited preoccupation.
Actually the mere fact that i had to resort to quotations, however appropriate, for the name of this blog, rather than coming up with something of my own creation, should give you an idea just about how dry this particular light is. Even the idea of initiating a blog of my own was conceived and executed in a matter of minutes, with total lack of consideration about the luminosity or tenacity of its founder. I genuinely wonder how this will turn out. Like a quasar, nominally the brightest light source of all, but barely noticeable from the other end of the universe, even by the strongest equipments we can come up with? Like a local star, nothing fancy or special in the cosmic scheme of things, but essential to its immediate surrondings? Or maybe like the moon, or even Earth, merely reflecting whatever light comes towards its way, doomed to a perpetual intrinsic sombreness? We shall find out.
Now, as my left earphone dutifully intones me the opening chords of Bach’s Chaconne moulded in Accardo’s able hands, you are privy to both the premise and the rationale of this blog. Let the inverse-square law of radiating entities kick in!