The following is an abstract of some notes I’ve been taking today from a book called Chaos: A New Science, which was written 20 years ago (God, how far behind I feel!) by James Gleick.
Chaotic systems. Frank Hoppensteadt—fed the logistic nonlinear equation through his Control Data 6600 hundreds of millions of times, took pictures from the computer’s display screen at each of a thousand different values of the parameter, a thousand different tunings…the bifurcations appeared, then chaos—and then, within the chaos, the little spikes of order, ephemeral in their instability. Fleeting bits of periodic behavior, as if flying through an alien landscape. One instant it wouldn’t look chaotic at all. The next instant it would be filled with unpredictable tumult.
–The simple equation cannot represent reality perfectly. They were just metaphors METAPHORS
The use of metaphor to transcribe entire systems in abstract, beautiful patterns. Perhaps it’s possible to create a poetic weaving of ideas.
I feel a ringing in my ear after writing these notes, jotting down equations, trying to make sense of the information as it unfolds…and it does unfold, almost literally, before my eyes. It recalls Brahms and Chopin, the way the center of my forehead feels when I read Eliot or Milton or see, for the first time, the Red Spot on Jupiter after hearing about it’s makeup. And in a flash, something presses down on me. My ear stops ringing, my tongue tingles instead…and I am tempted to stop. Stop reading. Stop entertaining ideas of continued study with other professionals instead of simply the stack of books, the poetry that could immerge from the mixing of my neurons to explain such complex ideas in an even more dense pattern…because who am I to tread on this ground? What do I know and how could I qualify to know? Do I have endless amounts of money to accumulate degree after degree? And even still, DO I HAVE THE TIME? Because what’s the use of knowledge if I cannot produce something from it? 1 Corinthians 13 always hangs in the back of my mind when I contemplate this, specifically 1 Corinth. 13:2: If I have the gift of prophecy, and know all mysteries and all knowledge; and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing.
Interesting, that I should continue to come back to this. I have spent the night, after reading, writing you a letter.
I am doing a new thing (well, lots of new things). Here’s a shortened list:
1. Studying Chaos Theory and contemplating a PhD in it
2. Studying Neurology and Psychology (particularly the Brain) and contemplating a PhD in it (UC Davis has this thing called the M.I.N.D. Institute, focusing on Neurological Disorders and I would love to check that out)
3. Trying to chew all this new info around, write about it, and formulate the ideas in workable pieces of poetry
4. Working to get over the fear of loving people
5. Practicing dying*
*in relation to number 5– I picked up this marvelous book (ironically I bought it at the beginning of the year) called “A Year to Live” by Stephen Levine– “How to live this year as if it were your last.” He wrote it for a myriad of people..people who are terminally ill, people who are not, people who are caring for people who are ill and dying, etc.
But, it’s interesting, because while some would think this book would be a downer, it’s actually quite freeing and wonderful.
I have always felt this pressure in my chest, like something is pressing down on me and if I don’t move or do something, then I’ll explode…perhaps that’s why I’ve always written, since I was a child, in order to relieve this imagined pressure. Not that the pressure was bad, or painful, but that it was there, a growing out from within, a pushing up, like a shoot from the ground, knowing that there was only so far that that shoot could rise. At some point it had to stop, and then what would be pushing me forward? So I mean to say, I’ve always felt an urgency, even an urgency to not be so urgent…to be still…but it’s an urgency nevertheless.
My mother was laughing at me today because I was showing her all these beautiful, computer generated models of the Koch Curve and the Lorenz Attractor and the gorgeous, spiraling, infinite Mandelbrot Set illustrating fractal sets, all which go along with Chaos Theory…and she said “Are you wanting to be a Scientist?” and I said “Well, yes of course.”
But how could one be a scientist while also being a poet? Both take so much dedication and study. I can study science and incorporate it into Poetry, use Poetry as a mechanism to teach and allow science to have a new, poetic mouthpiece…and yet, how can I be completely truthful to Science if I am not educated enough? I could take on other degrees and become all I want to become, but that’s taking into consideration a fairly long life….and so much study means that the results, the products, would be long-coming (if they are to be of any quality)…far down the road…
Of course, I’d still commit to study even knowing that I am not guaranteed a long life and thus time to produce the products for the public and world that studying would birth…because it’s a process. There’s never just one point, then blank space and then another point. There are levies and quarries along the way that pile up here and there with bits of work, shadows of future projects, etc.
And so, this practice of learning to die in order to live is quite interesting to mix with everything going on in my brain at the moment. I think it might be necessary. Keeps me motivated, that’s for sure. But hopefully motivated for the love of it, not the end-of-it. No one can say what the end-of-it would be.
How can all these moments condense so much until what’s left when you look back are fractions of moments and memory that do not relate rationally to the time spent? Such gorgeous moments from the past, but seemingly fleeting and added up, they begin to seem like the dust of the points that remain…as in Cantor Dust in Cantor Sets…there I go again with Math and Science references.
This book, “A Year to Live,” mentioned something very interesting about death and the ego in reference to Freud:
“…the reason that some part of us denies that we will die is because it never really does. Even Freud, who believed that a sense of immortality was just a delusion of the sub-, or under-, consciousness which he noted had no concept for its own death, missed the point that perhaps the reason something within feels immortal is because it is. Nonetheless, whatever denial that-in-us-which-never-dies supports, must be closely examined so that it breeds confidence instead of stagnation.”
I wondered what you think of this. I am famliliar with the idea of denial of death from Freud, the concept that so many things in our lives, so many drives, are results of “death anxiety,” but how does this relate? Is what is just stated above another product of what we produce and tell ourselves as a result of our death anxiety and avoidance?
I certainly believe a sort of “living on.” That, perhaps, though we die in body and in physical contact, that perhaps something else lives on…a legacy, a movement, etc…I’m just trying to feel things out.
It’s interesting, because all this plays along very well with my studying Chaos Theory…Actually, it plays out quite beautifully, though of course it would, wouldn’t it?
I feel, so often, like a toddler trying to run and lacking the ability both physically and neurologically. I often wonder when I will ever feel truly confident in my maneuverings with life, words and others.
And this is where the ringing in the ear both begins and stops. For how am I to hold you, transcribe you, love you, when I have nothing to offer but further questioning, a longing for one discovery after another? Soon, it must stop and I must love despite this inevitability. Indeed, keep going because of it.