Wednesday, January 02, 2013

Wanderers 2013.1.1

Mentioning Glenn Baker had me thinking "semiotics" anyway, and then it came up on the physics teacher list.  Those kinds of segues happen often enough:  an obscure topic connects across adjacent scenes or threads.

Tonight we were looking at "synchronicity" courtesy of Glenn Stockton, who built up suspense around doing an I Ching reading.  If he established nothing else he established his respect for the I Ching, and he reminded us of is own impressive story, which many of us have heard at least parts of, but here recapped in the Pauling House, in the evening, with a largish group on New Year's Day.

Glenn has been throwing the I Ching ever since he learned about it in language school, where he was blitzing through Vietnamese.  The NSA combs through there (the Monterey place) and he ended up a decoder, though there are fancier names for it.

He'd been a small town Montana, St. Helen's and Page, Arizona kid before that, teaching himself the art of capturing small animals, and letting them go, other skills. He stood out among his peers for his high aptitude and for that he was bullied. I've yakked here about Glenn before.

Anyway, it's OK by him to have a 5000 year old "machine" driven by random tosses (as we'd call them) offer him generic advice about whatever.  The notes to this matrix of 8 x 8 slides are magnificently oracular and in the tone of an intimate adviser acquainted with the ways of this world.

Giving it a whirl adds a magical moment to one's day, a fact I think even Martin Gardner might have toasted, why not.  The synchronistic tapestry quivers at 90 degrees to the literal plane, we might say.  Plus as someone may have put it, you don't have to visit any creepy Tarot lady, if you're not in the mood, as it's self administered.

Not that I think having another reader or therapist or auditor or what have you is a terrible fate.  The I Ching may feel too anonymous and not give enough truly personalized advice.

In any case, having Glenn treat us to his escapades in self teaching usually don't fail to entertain and instruct.  He scoots through a lot of chew, to coin an idiom, and leaves one wondering if it really could be true, that it's all one big fat quantum logic machine whatever that means.

The story involved Portuguese Jesuits finding the thing (being introduced to it by their hosts) and some of them going off the deep end in trying to get to the bottom of it.  Such power it seemed to have, as holy hypertext with a randomized spinner.

The logical pattern itself was of interest, what with three rods, either broken (0) or not (1), giving trigrams, then combinations as hexagrams, with changing lines reaching towards a next state, as we're always tumbling, tumbling.

Leibniz was reportedly one of the first to get his hands on a copy (translated) and to marvel at some of the logic, which no doubt corresponded with his own in many respects.  In exactly what way the I Ching might have been influential on his subsequent thinking is one of those big unknowns we might see books about someday, or a Wikipedia page.

There's no reason we couldn't study this game board in math classes more, what say the blogosphere teachers?  Yay?  It's pretty harmless to read ancient wisdom, as deep or deeper than just reading Dear Abbey or the daily Horoscope, or watching General Hospital, plus that's not the whole point.

Part of the point of the exercise is to get into the logic, the groove, and to start thinking more like Glenn does, e.g  "two in and one out" (describing a logic gate, a boolean vertex, or maybe a transistor, a fork in the road, a decision point).

As Portlanders, we embrace our Asian heritage and have no problem scanning the I Ching any more than we should or would viewing a favorite cartoon.  It's not like we only have time for Santa Claus, as Bill Shepard might put it.

Nor am I putting down a reflective self discipline with a mental attitude of humility ("teach me oh wise one").  Neuroscience will come along soon telling us how healthy that is, as if we had to wait for the names of all the proteins involved to get on with the experience of learning (good news:  you needn't wait, but do keep to your studies, it's not either / or).

Speaking of "either / or", Glenn was really down on the Aristotelian "excluded middle", which he characterized as "an axiom" (one of four was it?).  This form of logic had done harm by injecting polarity and opposition where we needed something more like inversion, and an appreciation for complementarity, not "me or you".  That's a rough sketch of some of the content.  Glenn has his own way of getting his message through.

Good seeing Barbara.  Christine asked for more definitions.  One Wanderer copped to using the I Ching only once, but getting good advice for the time, perhaps even critical.

The presentation wrapped up in a series of passings-around of books and art.  Glenn had brought several titles in a box and was eager to let us know about them.  Some were quite new, such as Quadrivium, a recap of that old curriculum design.

Speaking of synchronicity, it was good seeing Nancy Ankorn today, my listening partner through a number of Jungian Society of Portland events.  She connects me into the theater world, that of musicals, which her daughter inhabits, in DC these days.  I think of Ray and Bonnie and their show biz predilections.  Life is a performing art.  Ain't it?