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Monday, November 17, 2014

Genies, Courthouse Doodlebugs And Lunch Enigmas

                                          [Normaphoto: Robert Matsui U.S. Courthouse}]

I like to think our present selves are genies who grant wishes to selves we used to be, and continue to do so even while the present becomes fixed, certain, passes and turns to stone. Variables disappear. Present self becomes former and joins immutable history like stone doodlebugs.

We can pursue some certainty by asking questions that span time. I asked two of the many mischievous doodlebugs that infest our courthouse down by the river --a process recorded by Norma in the picture above. Doodlebugs are turning to stone. I am on their right, turning to jerky. Here is a transcript:

"Do our minds associate ideas or do ideas, aware of themselves, group out of affection?"

Silence.

"Are more things far away than close up because there is more room for them?"

Silence.

"After Galileo and Copernicus shattered Ptolemy's "Celestial Spheres" theory, did he ever let them play with his things again?"

Silence.

"Is thought the only physical process exempt from the predetermined behavior of matter?"

Silence.

"To future observers, what is the difference between an arrow shot into a bulls-eye and a bulls-eye painted around an arrow shot anyplace?"

Silence.

"Why do all children, at a certain age, eat pitted olives off their fingertips?"

Silence.

"Does zero, which reproduces itself mathematically by subtraction, prove its own absence?"

Silence.

"If all players in a game of tag touch each other at once, who's it?"

Silence.

"Can I hang a photograph of itself hanging on my wall?"

Silence.

The only defense available to stone doodlebugs against human questions is a U.S.Court-Approved Silence Act to minimize annoyance to them. So I left  and joined some family and friends aboard the Delta King, an old sternwheeler docked off Front Street and stocked with food and beer. We all asked each other many questions over the table. I found interrogatives dispel all concept of a stagnant universe and make lunch more fun.

                                                [Delta KingCC BY-SA 3.0  by J.smith ]

Another question did occur to me aboard the riverboat. I thought of Heraclitus, who said, "It is impossible to step into the same river twice." I hoped it would at least be possible to have lunch on it again. I wanted to ask someone about it but my company had already seen me talking to statues and framed their own interrogatives about my sanity, so I refrained. Such an inquiry might defeat its own motive.

32 comments:

  1. To borrow from Kurt Vonnegut, you captured musings in the "amber of the moment. There is no why," but there are those delightful doodlebugs, perfect companions for such a conversation.
    By the way, I hope ideas are unaware of themselves, but still choose to "group out of affection."

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    1. Thanks,Tom. The sculptures are the work of Tom Otterness, whose cartoon-like style got locals to calling the figures doodlebugs --an affectionate term.

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  2. I suspect that Heraclitus would be happy to be wrong. And also suspect he would enjoy lunching on the river with you...

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    1. He has a standing invitation, Delores.

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  3. I will not attempt at this juncture to answer the fascinating questions you pose. I must, however, plan a project which may last for many a year in which answers to the aforementioned questions are sought.

    I was interested in the term 'doodlebug' which you used to describe your stone familiars. That word (doodlebug) is defined in my dictionary as: a diviner's rod, a US name for an antlion (the larva), US any of certain insect larvae that resemble the antlion. (The definition ends with the extremely helpful comment that the word is probably derived from DOODLE + BUG. I would never have guessed that!) What is of interest, and I cannot say why for the life of me, is that doodlebugs were also those flying bombs, the V1's which Herr Hitler used to send us in London - not personally of course. We used to watch as they flew towards us, and then run like hell if the ramjets stopped before they were overhead. Heh-Ho! So much for childhood reminiscences of the war.

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    1. Wow. I had no idea doodlebug had any connotation besides resemblance to larva. But then, I often learn from you

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  4. Are you supposed to stop eating pitted olives off your fingers after puberty? No one told me.

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    1. I'll let you know when I've finished puberty myself.

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  5. Those questions are so complicated that I would probably answer with silence as well. Better to keep quiet and seem a fool than try to answer and remove all doubt LOL. Actually I think that's a famous quote from someone.

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    1. Now you've set that quote agitating my brain, Keith. It has many attributions but the earliest version of it I could find is in Proverbs 17:28.

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  6. I like Heraclitus....you can't step in the same river twice....it is a constantly moving and changing entity. You can ask it a question but it's gone before it can answer you.

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    1. A lot like raising teenagers, isn't it?

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  7. All good questions, no doubt. The only one I'd comment on is zero....it's interesting that the word derives from the Arabic 'sifr', from which we get the word 'cipher'.

    Does the stern-wheeler leave the dock?

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    1. Thanks Mike, I remember hearing the concept zero came to us from Arab scholars, but the etymology of 'cipher' is new to me. The steamboat is retired.

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  8. Perhaps the doodlebugs had nothing kind to say so therefore said nothing at all.

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    1. There are so many of them squatting around the Federal Courthouse now, maybe they're exercising their 5th Amendment right.

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  9. How frustrating that they were so silent. That's a passive aggressive move on the doodlebugs' part. Although, as Che Guevara said; "Silence is argument carried out by other means." Maybe they were making a point after all. :)

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    1. True! And I suspect it furnishes a refreshing counterpoint to all the drama inside the building.

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  10. I love how profound your questions and wondering were yet you manage to tell it in a light and fun way. I also like your opening spiel. We are our own genie, what we are today is what we wish for from our past. Applause!

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    1. Thanks! (p.s., server didn't eat your comment. I have "comment moderation" enabled, so messages go to my dashboard until I click them to appear here.)

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  11. Wow, that one about the photograph on the wall is going to torment me...

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    1. Its solution requires adding several dimensions to the universe. We need Mr. Spock!

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  12. My audible responses to this caused my husband to ask across the table, 'Whatcha readin', babe?'

    My answer: 'A really, really, really great blog post.'

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  13. Dear Geo.,
    my long silence to this post had nothing to do with being doodle-buggish.
    No, I thought about your stunning questions. Still do. Looked up the definition of doodle-bug, found the same answers as Tom, only they reminded me of the bombs my mother was running away from in Hamburg - always the innocent people that suffer, but that might be an enigma too, so I fall into silence again - what is innocence? , hoping we will never have to step into that same river twice.

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    1. Dear Brigitta,
      A moving and eloquent comment. What indeed is innocence? Perhaps it is the preponderance of humanity --going about their lives in peace-- who are certainly nobody's enemy, surviving upheaval, consigning old definitions into stasis and repairing the future. And yes, emphatically, "hoping we will never have to step into that same river twice."

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  14. Excuse me. For that creaking sound, that is. Your posts always make the rusty gears in my brain spin a little faster.

    As for the bull's eye question? You think so far outside of the box, you create your own targets, dude, and you nail the center of them every time. (That's a good thing.)

    May you and all your doodlebugs have a wonderful Thanksgiving.

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    1. Dude thanks you, Susan, and wishes you the same!

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  15. Pitted olives are still finger foods for me, I associate mess with good eating. I like the zero question because I think it does prove its own absence. Absence always seems like a presence, and zero is a perfect representation of it. (That makes sense in my head.) And from now on I will always have bullseye paint with me when shooting arrows.

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    1. What a delightful outlook! Zero indicating the presence of an absence makes more sense than the other way around.

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  16. I never ate pitted olives off my fingertips. I think I must have missed out!

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    1. It's never too late to start. I have to use the jumbo olives now, but they come in all sizes.

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