Thursday, June 01, 2006

Universality and Consistency

I've become very aware recently that I tend to universalize that which is personal. This is a huge realization for me...perhaps even a break-through in understanding how I see the world.

I wonder if others universalize that which is personal to them... or perhaps that's me universalizing my condition onto others... Taking my perspective and assuming it's what others think or should think.

But I long to understand and value a healthy pluralism that goes beyond tolerance to cooperation and truly values multiple perspectives. A world that is thoroughly contextualized to individual and group experience that is not fragmented or disconnected. I long for this...really, I do. But the problem is that sometimes I think I'm right...which means that if I believe that, not just personally, but universally, then others sometimes are wrong.

Of course sometimes that makes sense, but sometimes it is very near-sighted and narrow of thought.

You know, I just want a consistent picture/story/life...and somehow it seems necessary to my mind to verify it as universally consistent. Perhaps that's just my fundamentalist roots, holding a sort of "absolute truth" that I alone get to see. What foolishness, but how interwoven it is into my skin and soul.

My friend Emma says she just wants to meet some people that are truly consistent. I get that. I want to live a life that is truly consistent.

I'll share a poem I wrote in April when we were in Europe...

I'm searching for a unified theory
Everything accounted for
No one left out
No one left wondering

But a closed system would begin to feel oppressive

Some tell me, "Keep looking."
Some ask, "Why bother?"
Some say, "Heretic! Leave things well enough alone."

But I want it all to make sense
Be consistent, be connected
No one left out
No one left wondering


Nate Custer said...

Part of the attraction of Higher Math for me was this idea that at some level everything could be described in a single framework, a single equation.

I think for me part of this came from surveying my own fragmentation ... my own disonance and wanting to be different then that.

Mathmatics went through this really mind bending shift with Godel's incompleateness theorem ... he showed that any sufficiently complex system of axioms (complex enough to be useful in some way) could never be able to prove it was internally consistant. That is the base series of axioms did not conflict deffonitionally at some point down the way.

He also proved that within any sufficiently complex system of axioms there will be things that are true that you can never prove true and things that are false you can never prove false.

This was published in 1931. I really think it was the postmodern shift within mathmatics. I intend to write a study sometime of how mathmaticians dealt with this ... but the general reaction was to cling to a unprovable hope that there was a consistant system somewhere ... and to keep trying to add layers of detail to the painting they had ...

Perhaps our reply to this thirst for integration should be to follow it as best we can, to keep adding brush strokes of truth to the huge canvas, hopeful that the image underneath will begin to become clear.

That said I was really struck by the corprate element of your poem, the idea that this desire for integration is a desire for no one to be left out ... I am going to have to chew on that one for a while ... I suspect I will look back at my painting in a few years and see that stroke. Thanks much for that man,


Ryan Lee Sharp said...

Thanks Nate for that good (albeit heady!) comment.

It's true that a great many mathmaticians and physicits have attempted unified theories or complete theories to make sense of our place in this world. It reminds me that disciplines would work so much better if they were to concur and dialogue with other disciplines. said...

i think i told you about this book before- "grassroots postmodernism- remaking the soil of culture". some aspects of that book really challenge the whole universality concept.

...and i am still looking for some consistency. an ex-UN friend of mine who is now working on his PhD told me, "ya, i'm thinking about doing some aid work this summer, to make some money." (did i tell you that already?)... i don't know how i feel about that...

Ryan Lee Sharp said...

Weird, Emma. Just plain weird.

Stephen chronicles some interesting interactions with NGOs and empoverished economies here.