You can forgive me for the irreverent gruesomeness of the photo - can't you? You can forgive me because it's in the middle of the night and I leave on a plane in a few hours and could so easily have not written anything. But there were a couple of things on my brain and so rather than squirrel them away in a single private email to a friend, or protect their lop-sided form in my journal, I decided to be more deliberate and accountable by going public with them here.
So... two seemingly unrelated things from this week:
1) The philosopher Derek Parfit was profiled in The New Yorker and it so happens that he can't recall images from his past; he does not think, nor does he remember anything visually. Apparently, this is a bona fide condition and it is normally correlated with people who think very abstractly.
While I can't claim to never ever be able to summon up an image from my past, nor is it impossible for me to "picture" something -- it isn't easy. I tend to think in a stream of words. It takes concerted effort for me to imagine, say, a scene of an ocean, in my head, and even when there is a picture, it tends to be captioned... like I'm watching a foreign film, or looking at an editorial in a magazine with a catchy Helvetica headline.
The odd thing about reading about Parfit's condition is that I've been bringing up my odd mode of thought pretty often lately -- usually in conjunction with an explanation as to why I think I struggle with Utah's "grid" number-based address system. Interestingly, Parfit also struggled with math and numbers -- he thought maybe it had something to do with trouble in processing the visual representation of symbols.
So in spite of recognizing that there might be some lacking-visuals / struggle-with-number correlation, I never thought of my "visual problem" as having any relation to my tendency to think in ways that are extremely abstract. Tres interesting.
2) Discovery's Curiosity series featured Stephen Hawking talking about The Big Bang and God and such. He says that through the creation of *positive* energy (e.g. *us*) there is an equal amount of negative energy generated (think an absence... the space left in the indentation of a hole dug to make a mound). As such, every creation, indeed, the entire universe, when plugged into a plus and minus equation adds up to zero. Basically karma, but on this massive scale.
Me + Residuals from What It Took to Make Me = 0
Universe + Every Absence of Energy Required from Forming a Universe = 0
So despite the apparent incompatibility between numbers and abstractions, in this instance, they appear superimposed, since zero seems like the ultimate number and the ultimate abstraction, in which, it is neither a true number nor a true abstraction. The right shakes the left's hand, fused at the same indiscernible point in this conceptual conundrum.
And that's what the bird picture above has to do with. I was at the Spiral Jetty when I took it... I wasn't supposed to be looking at skeletons of dead birds, yet there it was, just as much on display; just as artfully formed as a spiral of rocks. An eroding frame of bones unintentionally laid out next to something that took effort and purpose to erect -- both structures transient in their exposure.
Which was more valid? Life vs. Art - now both eternally inanimate.
So that's what's on my mind as I head west. This idea that perhaps zero is the one place where we all think congruently. Doesn't matter that we arrive there through different concepts and modes and means, we all get there eventually...