The Savage Mind – Claude Levi-Strauss
Scar Tissue – Anthony Kiedis
Power, Sex and Suicide – Nick Lane (the story of mitochondria)
Distill: To concentrate, to extract the essential elements.
Zeit: A JB neolog – an abbreviation of zeitgeist. Meaning has not changed. Zeitgeist has too many syllables. It has a harsh sound. Shortening zeitgeist to zeit, still meaning the temper of the age, the tenor of the times, the water we all swim in like it or not, rebel or not, winner, loser, guru, boozer. Zeit is the more flexible layer of our operating myth (the Technium-see definitions at start), containing deep shadows of myth memory. Every generation has its zeit-swerve, a feel, a conglomeration of values – many values unspoken and many values enforced by law to ensure that you get the message.
Zeitgeist: The spirit of the time. The trend of thought and emotion characteristic of a particular period. The beliefs, ideas and spirit of a time, its intellectual, moral and cultural climate.
Zeit-Search: An ongoing component of every science and humanities curriculum.
Acknowledging and examining such things as Myth and zeit (must read Kuhn TSOSR 1962). Myth is capitalized in this essay because it includes all manifestations uniquely human. If it is pondered, compared, analyzed, planned, debated, fought over within the neurons of the neocortex it is the stuff of Myth. If Myth is a big sockeye salmon, zeit is a salmon egg. They’re both fishy.
Humans have a great strength and a great weakness, these are that everyone lives by the spirit of their times and does so with intensity. Each zeit has a foundation of reinforced concrete, a flexible wood frame, moveable partitions, a leaky roof, conditioned air, hot air, cold air, moldy air, stuffy attic, invisible spirits, voices from the past, smoke and mirrors. Each generation has an avante garde trying to open windows or saw holes in the wall or tear the whole house down. Maybe it’s still wintertime in the soul of the culture, maybe it has been springtime for weeks, time to introduce some fresh air.
“You don’t need a weatherman to tell which way the wind blows.” – Bob Dylan
There will always be weathermen yammering about wind direction. – JB
Somewhere in the sunny Caribbean there are three young fish swimming side by side. An older fish swims along and asks: “How’s the water fellas?” They respond in unison: “What the hell’s water?” – D.F. Wallace
“Creativity begins in the imaginative grasp of a world of relationships hitherto obscured by clouds of received notions. Anomalies in the received tradition are detected, discrepancies observed, and then one discovers a composite, integrated world that lain hidden – complex, multitudinous: like fictional worlds of Proust or Faulkner. In a rising excitement the discoverer sets out to explore it all, to show its details, its interconnections, and its vitality. That recovery of a hitherto submerged world and the capacity to conceive of it as a whole, form the essence of historical creativity.”
– Bernard Bailyn
Zeit: Our world of ideas, prejudices, values, core beliefs and all other relationships within the technium. Zeit plus Technium equals Operative Myth aka Myth with a capital M to indicate its all-encompassing scope for all individuals.
“Magic: A treasury of ideas” – Franz Boas
“Mythical thought can be capable of generalizing and so, be scientific, even though it is still entangled in imagery.” – Claude Levi-Strauss
The primary role of the human neocortex is to translate sensory input into biochemical patterns and in so doing to conserve these chemical changes as culture, memory and matrices for language, social interaction, altruism, curiosity, tool use, i.e. sentience, raw material for Shakespeare, Dante, Dickens, Dostoevsky, and Rachel Maddow.
Biochemical patterns unique to an individual are created in the brain and other organs by adding small groups of molecules to core genetic sequences and copied onto RNA. This process is called PTM (PTM, with its multiple meanings now comprises Post Transcriptional Modification and Histone modification within the cell nucleus and Post Translational Modification after exit from the ribosome). PTM is any chemical change to any genetic or potential genetic material that affects the expression of a gene in the living organism or its descendants. Transcription is the copying of a sequence of bases (a gene) from a single strand of uncoiled DNA floating in nuclear soup in each of our 15 trillion cells.
Once this primary, highly conserved information is copied by the RNA from DNA. it is transferred through a nuclear pore out into the rough endoplasmic reticulum surrounding the nuclear membrane where the RNA passes the gene-code to a ribosome where the protein is constructed with amino acids. After the core protein has been manufactured (translated), it is modified to serve its finer functions. If it’s a liver cell it is will be modified to process bile. If it is a photoreceptor cell, it must be modified into a cone cell in order to distinguish color or, if an auditory cell for a range of pitches.
I don’t want liver cells that beat or heart muscle that produces hair or the cells in my eyeball struggling to distinguish between 15,000 olfactory stimulants. The genetic code for an auditory cell is transcribed by the RNA in the nucleus of a cell already expressed as cochlear and in passing through the ribosomes of a cochlear cell, base sequences created from the same gene receive a unique molecule attached or is folded in a unique twist giving its hair cells the proper height bundles of hairs to distinguish between A flat and A and B and C and C sharp and so on. This unique hair-height feature is controlled by a specific histone that has evolved and been conserved for this task. Remember, for each of our 20,000 protein coding genes there are from 750 to 110,000 associated histones that may add specificity to each gene. The average gene is 27,000 bases. There are eight histones for every 146 bases. There are more options / opportunities for protein molecule variety than particles of everything in the entire universe. The genome is just the starting point. If Watson, Crick and Mendel are of the DNA then God is of the PTMs, the Post Transcriptional-Translational Modifications to proteins. Histones are proteins.
Where in our genome (as this detailed info must be in there somewhere) are these hundreds of pitch differentials coded? Given, this end use point coding of pitch specificity occurs at the cochlea in a hair cell. We know that a 33-week-old fetus can hear sound. It must be that the gene for hearing has been activated on two occasions – once to code for the hair cell itself as a type of cell and then again later for a specific pitch (the length of hairs in each cell’s hair cluster) – one small PTM (at translation) to create the hair cell and then 700 additional PTMs from DNA at end-user, the organ of corti at the cochlea. This from a second DNA uncoiling of bases and associated histones to reveal the audio gene(s) with all of their hair length- pitch-code now made available. What gives the cochlear cell the signal to unwind its nucleosomes for this renewed access to genetic material for pitch differential? There must be at least 700 different PTMs in the chromatin for this hair-length information that will be expressed in the 700 different hair cells aligned in order of pitch from low to high along the organ of corti – some hairs are moved by the piccolos and some by the bass and some will be capable of hearing a plucked cable of the Golden Gate Bridge (lowest limit of audio perception).
Questions & Observations:
- What genes code for air vibration sensation at cochlea?
- How many genes code for the cochlear hair cells?
- Are 2 genes and 700 PTMs required to make the human hearing apparatus or are there 700 genes with their PTMs that code for hair cell differentiation at the cochlea’s organ of corti? Perhaps a single long gene with all 700 pitch differential lengths coded by a mix n’ match of exons during transcription of this single gene. A gene with a million bases would provide a large arena for such distinctions.
- What governs / controls / codes hair height in hair cells? Is it the cell’s location along the organ of corti that limits the amount of a specific growth-factor? One PTM per specific hair height?
- How many trips between the DNA and ribosomes are made during hair cell-hair length protein production in the fetal organ of corti?
- How does blood get past the blood-brain barrier?
- FOXP2 gene police more lenient than the police at all other organ tissues therefore cultural change acquired during lifetime are more likely to be passed on.
- How would ANY mutation avoid being acquired during a single lifetime at some point in organism’s evolutionary history thus exhibiting Lamarckism? All mutations are an acquired characteristic at least once.
- Is FOXP2 mutation-policing absent where a child inherits an entire suite of acquired characteristics from a talented parent: Picasso, Mozart?
- How might one explain Frank Lloyd Wright’s genius for architecture? His father was a preacher. His mother willed him to be an architect from his first trimester. Perhaps a suite of sensibility planted by a supernatural entity in parental DNA or into fetus Frank in utero with his embryonic neural DNA invaded by Pietro Brunelleschi’s spirit-walk-in. Cue: “Twilight Zone” theme.
- Genetic factors that pass on talent must evaporate after their second use. Wright’s sons were not gifted architects though John Lloyd Wright invented Lincoln Logs. Picasso’s children were not notable painters.
- Big T-pot: Methylated histones at outermost layers of neocortical neurons at temporal lobe-audio cortex migrate via blood and are tagged for destination at germ cells by golgi apparatus. These neurons last for one’s entire life, there is plenty of time to send such chemical messages to the germ cells, maybe by a means of transport much slower than blood, lymph perhaps or simply winding their way across the landscape of the body with each tissue along the route reading the destination address and forwarding histone with PTM as necessary like a chemical Pony Express. Traveling in cerebrospinal fluid to pelvic region-ovaries where these cortical neuron PTM’d histones that have been methylated with music sensibility (abstracted clusters of trained-interconnected neurons i.e. 500,000 synaptic interconnections coded into a single cell for transport to the germ and where might this talent packaging occur? the hippocampus.
- There is a cascade of operations involving a few of these structures – each adding a layer of genetically decipherable abstraction. One group of methylated proteins carry a lifetime of music skill down to an egg or perhaps to all of the eggs and a couple of days’ worth of sperm where it works its way into some uncoiled nucleosome where it will get locked into some junk DNA and recoiled after fertilization and meiosis-mitosis and passed onto to the child of the virtuoso where this skill headstart will flower into full-fledged genius – prodigal expression and a concert tour of Europe at age nine.
- Do histones migrate from cell nucleus to the cytoplasm of its own cell?
- Do histones migrate from one cell to another?
- Do histones migrate from one organ system to another?
- Are histones intercell messengers?
- Has anyone ever searched beyond the cell nucleus for histones?
- What circulates faster lymph or cerebrospinal fluid?
- Using the example of touching a hot coal where does the hot memory get locked to avoid an additional burn? If in a boxing match – remembering that opponent swings from his right after slipping a straight-right jab, this among 500 other vital details of style in a conflict.
- This short term memory of an opponent’s fighting quirks is not important enough to be conserved for a future generation but would be important for later encounters with this particular person or others from his tribe.
- What is the role of intra or inter-cortical signaling in relation to role in long-term memory. A memory of a poison plant would be useful to all future generations. Is this toxic taste stored for epigenetic transmission immediately or is it sent to germ cells after a deadly encounter by another member of the tribe looking over a dead body and a half-eaten plant?
- Does a foul taste take a different path through the six layers of the neocortex and or limbic system-brain stem than a pleasant, seductively delicious taste or the path of an ordinary taste encountered often?
- It seems like a very bad taste-larger negative effect ought to be sent on its way to the germ cells sooner rather than later.
- As this epigenetic information arrives at the chromatin of an egg. how does it find its way to the appropriate collapsed puddle of DNA for storage and transmission?
- If a vital genetic message is sent to a sperm it has only a day or two to find an egg or the important message is lost.
- Epigenetic messages accrue in women and are very transitory in men. Maybe people have more sex in times of catastrophe or social upheaval to fire both barrels toward the bookkeeper of the species, the DNA memory bank.
- How soon can a particular synapse reboot in order to send another signal?
- How might this repeat-rate affect the number and type and distance of interconnections of dendrites?
- I am in a fight with a wildcat and the blows are flying fast and I want to remember the details of this animal’s head bobs, incoming paw direction and speed, my brainstem that are receiving signals re: blows landing intensity and direction I might want several avenues to my “fast lane” memory storage.
- Determine the part of the brain that creates the most CO2 or that uses the most blood in a fight or flight emergency. Is this related to the type / location / destination of the memory and its pathway(s).
- Memory might be divided up by the brain as follows:
- VSTV…..very short-term vital
- VSTT…..very short-term trivial
- VLTV…..very long-term vital – individual or group-tribe-clan survival
- ILT……..intensely long-term for clade, phylum, kingdom survival
How is a signal stored to reflect future use? Where on the molecule is the sensory signal tagged for very short-term vital recall. Perhaps electrical signal, accompanied by a molecule of adrenalin, stands alert in memory for split-second retrieval. In the examples, above: a through d, each needs a tag to indicate the duration of memory from:
- hyper- long for species level effects: I must remember to hibernate.
- very long for generational effect: Salmon run at this fork in the river.
- long for single life duration effects: Remember my mama’s birthday.
- medium- Where I parked the car at the mall.
- short – Stochastic directionality of flying paws with claws.
- An individual human has an experience whose memory and genetic conservation is crucial to the survival all three domains of life on Earth how is this knowledge, this memory conserved? What are the sensory-motor-genetic pathways and mechanisms of conservation? Written language and mathematical equations are too abstract – best to hardwire this experience into the genome and not depend on Google – Wikipedia-Facebook. How is this accomplished? A-epigenetics, B-epigenetics.
- According to Neo-Darwinism all species memory, i.e. genetic change is rooted in mutation whether by chance (Darwin) or by internal forces ( Galton, Kimura, et al). This mutation ( according to Darwin) occurs in an individual providing immediate reproductive advantage. This all domain-saving thought would not be manifest for two generations. How can we sidestep Darwinian causation to ensure that this life-saving wisdom in not lost?
- There must be alternate pathway(s) to conservation of mutation than natural selection acting on individuals during their lives.
- Which would result in more useful mitochondria ( i.e. cell energy) a few large neurons or many small neurons?
- Are the nuclei in larger neurons proportionally larger than those in small neurons?
- Would it be harder to evacuate waste from central area of a larger cell, so larger neurons not used for rapid response signaling that would require high ATP consumption.
- Do larger neurons produce more proteinic variety than small neurons? Perhaps a larger neuron would produce only GABAergic proteins whereas the smaller would produce serotonin, acetylcholine and norepinephrine.
- What are warmer given equal amounts of blood – veins or arteries?
- Science and art are both about noticing the world. Drawing as a child helps one to stretch the capacity for observation of any kind. Don’t wait for science class in high school to begin looking closely at small and large stuff.
- Does a human smell his / her own fear? Does this smell affect behavior, i.e. external stimulus augments internal signal to get the hell outta Dodge.
- Is fear “smelled” by olfactory system or detected by one’s vomeronasal apparatus as a pheromone? Is there a fear pheromone? Is there a fear signaling chemical transported by air produced by a frightened organism?
- Would Romulus have a blank neocortex if raised by wolves with no Remus or other humans to socialize with?
- If a human grew up isolated from other humans with no living things other than non-humans, would its neocortex remain unused and empty – the blank slate remaining blank with all brain function handled nicely by a small deer or dog-size neocortex, limbic system, brain stem. Would social interaction with wolves or horses stimulate development in the neocortex?
“Mythical thought builds ideological castles out of the debris of social discourse.”
– Claude Levi-Strauss
Social discourse is nothing but mythical thought in the first place-debris everywhere-JB
A Mythical thought: On the Origin of Species – Charles Darwin
The following thinkers created the debris of mid-Victorian social discourse:
- Jeremy Bentham
- Adam Smith
- John Ruskin
- Charles Lyell
- Matthew Arnold
Humans, like termites, push around their little clod of dirt (activities for earning a living, gaining social status, reproducing, killing time) all the while creating an urban architecture possessing complex mathematical properties.
“All myths tell a story.” Claude Levi-Strauss
“Myth starts from a structure by means of which it constructs a set.” – CLS
Our initiating structure is a set of genes coding for neocortical growth and activity on two levels; that of the social order and that of each person. Every culture and every generation chooses its keepers. The following list contains some of our keepers.
- U.S. Constitution
- George Washington – the idea
- Primacy of contracts and other law established by Marshall court.
- The myth of progress, myth of Wild West, Hollywood
- writers: Grant, Twain, Hemingway, Fitzgerald, Mailer, Heller, Wallace, Shteyngart
- Songwriters: Francis Scott Key, Stephen Foster, Hoagy Carmichael, Doc Pomus
The individual weaves the fabric of his / her identity from the multi-hue thread of family and friends, teachers, internet, movies, tv and books and as much nature as one can stomach – rivers, tides, animals, galaxies.
One can’t just say “Cubism is Cezanne for Dummies” or “Cezanne is the source for 20th, 21st century art” without discussing what exactly it was that Cezanne did. He painted in a slow, tortured anti-bravura manner ( for bravura manner see: Joaquin Sorolla 1863-1923) Cezanne’s everyday technique involved one hour of looking for each minute of applying paint to canvas. He painted in a way that creates the simultaneous perception of deep space ( think Mt. St. Victoire) and the actual surface of his canvas – an odd thing to do as it begs the following questions as it answers them; what is pictorial space? Why always a window? Why always an open window? Cezanne destroys the window as he celebrates the surface of the canvas. There are no windows either opened or fogged with Cezanne. It’s just you and the wild outdoors or you standing in his dining room or kitchen. Cezanne destroys the window. He performs this magic act with passage and facture. Passage is those large patches of sky that appear to be locked into the midground tree branches and the foreground dirt road. Facture is those small fields of 3-dimensional pigment, actual brush strokes about half inch by half inch used to render sky or cloud or tree foliage, little patches of paint that scream “This is paint ! This is the surface it is painted onto! and….This is sky mutha-fuckkka!”
Cezanne asks trope-defying questions while delivering a deep, soulful depiction of nature and in so doing, a view of his own humble, durable, tenacious, hardworking spirit. He has simultaneously removed the ground rules of 350 years of Western painting and gives in return an art of depth, belief and imagination. Cezanne demonstrates the superficiality of the previously unquestioned rules of myth-making in paint, their fallibility.
Cezanne opened the door to countless experiments, Cubism among them – Cezanne is the source of all Art- isms postdating 1905. Cubism toys with only one or two of Cezanne’s many facets but not all. After Cezanne, all Art is about art – no longer about “nature” nature: i.e. trees, soulful facial expression, rivers, sunlight on flowers or sunlight on anything other than the canvas itself. See: Malevich “Red Square,” Cezanne is the perfect Christian, a good man in tune with nature and free of zealotry, dogma and petty catechisms.
Does art ever get transformed into a scientific instrument, an heuristic? Or is our cosmic path toward entropy always from technology to art from the factory to the art gallery? Answer: All art is science.
If Lyell, Carlyle, Malthus, Smith, Ruskin, Dickens, et al were the zeit-threads of Darwin’s Victorian cloth who are the more recent zeit-weavers?
- Jenny Blake
- Seth Godin
- James Altucher
- Chris Hedges
Synthesize the aforementioned for a big new theory of “What It Is.”
How might the ideas of these people be united into a single over-arching idea that would refresh art, science and philosophy? Who were the great zeit-distillers of the Christian era? Who is buried in Grant’s tomb?
- Jesus (is not buried in Grant’s tomb)
- Martin Luther
- Adam Smith-Thomas Jefferson-James Watt
- U.S. Constitution
- Darwin’s “On Origin of Species”
- Wozniak et al.
Do creeping plants like ivy share any chemical process with axons as they both seek verticality? Yes, they both pump protons. Zeit is distilled on a number of levels from bottom to top and from top to bottom. Sometimes small ideas accrue to large effect creating an idea avalanche changing all in their path – both directions are constantly at work, up and down the taxonomic ladder or along its mobius strip. These are phenomena whose effects are beyond intention, i.e. if 6 billion people drink water every day there are small effects on a global scale that create effects that are beyond intention. The same goes for eight billion people using the toilet or driving their cars. The large effects will happen beyond individual intention because of numbers alone, as properties of combined effects.
The zeit is always in flux. When the number of suzerainties in Western Europe reached critical mass, nation-states emerged and absolute monarchs reigned. Zeit is also distilled at the more local levels of person, family, friends, profession, community, state, nation.
Each decade has its zeit-distilling TV shows: “Jackie Gleason” and “I Love Lucy” “Bonanza””Andy Griffith” “All In the Family” “Mash” “Cheers” “Breaking Bad” “Nurse Jackie Gleason” ….and its zeit-ey books: Mailer, Wolfe, Roth, Sontag, Heller, Updike, Didion, Tom Robbins, Tom McGuane, D.F. Wallace, Gary Shteyngart, Richard Ford. Looking at music; In order to be ziet-worthy, songs must be simply structured, melodic, harmonic, danceable and bearing an easily understood message: “da do ron ron” or more recently “Mama say knock you out” I’ll stick to the big zeits or this is going to take all night. What are the effects of a single person on their zeit? Each of us makes the only difference that matters.
Why discuss zeit? To parse, analyze, describe, explain, deconstruct our operative myth, to split it apart, to gut it like a fish and go over it with a magnifying glass or a scanning tunneling electron microscope. All this in order to understand the context of our new idea so that we may evaluate it effectively, all the time remembering that the act of observation affects the thing observed. If gradualism was important to Darwin as homage to his esteemed colleague Lyell, then it becomes more vulnerable to challenge than if the idea of gradualism arrived from on high as a cosmic truth accessible only to a mighty mind.
Gradualism, as conceived by Charles Lyell, is the idea that small things accrue for large effect over vast amounts of time. The silk sleeves of sorrowful maidens leaning plaintively on travertine windowsills wear a groove that holds a trail of tears. The activity of a trillion earthworms over one billion years creates six feet of topsoil in Illinois. The lives of countless tiny corals over eons create The Great Barrier Reef. As Darwin interpreted Lyell, small mutations accrue over the ages that give a selective advantage to an organism, as these changes accrue, new species emerge. Turns out that little species evolution follows this pattern but it was the zeit. Gradualism was in Darwin’s air, it was boldly asserted and plausibly maintained until Eldredge and Gould arrived in 1972 to blow gradualism out of the water. They actually put a pinhole in the hull of the great ship Neo-Darwinism but the leak has been growing-gradually. Darwin’s Big Boat is taking on water now for many reasons.
If new species resulting from random mutation-natural selection have as their source the broad strokes of Malthusian population dynamics and not so much nature’s genetic experiments then random mutation is less fixed as a cause of speciation. Mutation-selection can be seen as an intellectual fashion statement of Victorian vintage and it becomes less fiercely conserved dogma. If the advantage of natural selection and environmental forces simply running their course perform all the weeding of the unfit thus resulting in a beautifully adapted system, say a Tiger, is Darwin tipping his hat to Adam Smith’s laissez faire economics? If so, then perhaps these aspects of Darwin’s thought ought to be revisited in light of our new zeit. This has actually been going on among biologists since the late 19th century. Every bio-scientist takes a swipe at Darwinism. Some of the big swings of the 1920s and 1930s, discredited at the time are returning with credibility, such as Galton’s internal causality Sewall Wright’s theory of species selection.
It has been said by many of our now renowned, formerly maverick, contemporary scientists that it is important to review one’s “incontrovertible doctrine” as a distillation of popular ideas and not as inviolable, scientific principle that is beyond question. “Hard Science” implies the malleability characteristic of any zeit, i.e. no science is hard through and through. Zeit hardens into myth under the pressure of subsequent generations. Zeit-fallen leaves compressed into distilled zeit-coal and then into Myth-diamond or deconstructed into elementary building blocks for new life. Our lives and all of those we see around us are the falling leaves. History makes coal-graphite-diamonds.
The prudent as well as the rebels question “accepted” wisdom on all possible levels prior to buying into Myth or zeit. Kicking the zeit-tires is Job One for anyone over twelve years old. Every avant garde has its spear points. In recent painting pointy Delacroix, Turner, Manet, Monet, Van Gogh, Gauguin, Cezanne, Picasso, Duchamp, Malevich as well as legions of bohemian obscurities who provided a rich milieu for the geniuses. The nourishing bacterial stench of the rotting organic ideas-fear-despair-depression-hopeless ignominy of the uncelebrated avant garde. For every Yoko Ono or Andy Warhol there is a cohort of peers who “get it,” who challenge one another with intense competition, commentary, criticism, enthusiasm, comradeship, backbiting, gossip, swapping lovers before they jump out windows. Picasso had his “Bande au Picasso,” Warhol had his Factory to explore ideas in colorful company.
The prime task for the avant garde is scouring the zeit from every point on the compass, dismantling decaying dogma. The avant garde is our good bacteria digesting swallowed ideas to make room for more nutritious fuel. Contemporary science resists the idea of an avant garde in its sprawling global community. It conserves prejudice and procedure, habit and tradition and hopefully reputation, assuming self and other-correction at all levels: all credible experiment under senior guidance, intense peer review, publication in respected journals. A hard-won reputation is easily blown. In theory, the system cleans itself, no avant garde needed.
Contemporary science is like a big steel tub of crabs crawling over one another trying to pull down ones who have made it to the upper edge for escape into a new paradigm. Science ought to nurture a class of dedicated zeit-pickers, rebels by job-title. Science views an avant garde as abhorrent and vacuous. God forbid that a young scientist get some publicity in the popular media for her exciting ideas upstaging her “humble” elders. See: “The Sagan Effect” Every researcher imagines they are the next Newton, Einstein, Feynman, Franklin (R.), Margulis, McClintock. As Tom Wolfe reminds us in The Right Stuff regarding test pilots and astronauts; if you don’t believe you are the greatest fighter pilot of them all, you crash.
Zeit is living Myth. Myth is the operating system, zeit is apps. Myth evolves gradually for the most part undergoing abruptions-punctuations every 115 years caused by political, scientific, artistic or technological revolution. Sometimes a perfect storm. An abrupt shift in Myth would be a paradigm shift in Kuhnian terms ( see: The Structure of Scientific Revolutions – Thomas Kuhn – 1962)
“Science is a series of peaceful interludes punctuated by intellectually violent revolutions.” Thomas Kuhn – see: JB essay this book “Titanic Twelve”
Myth trumps zeit. Smaller abrupt shifts in Myth are Kuhnian paradigm shifts. Paradigms are a subheading of over-arching, prevailing myth including religion and language of a people. Neither Newton nor Einstein nor Picasso changed the religion or language of their people in order for their ideas to launch great change. There is change and then there is CHANGE. A bolide (comet, asteroid, meteor-something big crashing to Earth) impact at 50 to 250 million year intervals creates CHANGE.
Myth includes all features of a culture including those that have been highly conserved (religious doctrine, Scientific method, Capitalism and its underpinnings in the legal tradition: contract primacy, property rights, three-act storytelling tropes, humor as other people’s pain and idiocy, music: 7 tones in the scale, literature as other people’s pain and idiocy. The operative Myth of a people contains everything – the whole ball of wax. Each culture has an operative paradigm, some are more open for a good shift, swerve or juke than others. The paradigm defining document for Americans after The Holy Bible is “The Constitution” For America’s contemporary Capital “A” art world it is Duchamp’s reposition of the R. Mutt urinal. In physics it’s the Feynman diagram, in bioscience it’s the mitochondrion inner membrane proton pump. Note that as the idea described gets more complex, its defining document becomes simpler. What is more complex than life? What could be simpler than a base pair or a Feynman diagram? If a new nation cannot write its Constitution on a single sheet of typing paper it is doomed. E=MC2= The whole shebang!
The vulnerability of any paradigm to change is analogous to the trash receptacle in the men’s can at the Black Rock gas station-mini-mart. It is always overflowing. There is no more room for a single additional paper towel but any fool can put their boot down into this overflowing bin and compress the contents to the bottom making much more room for hundreds of additional paper towels. There is no realm in American business or industry, academics, science, art, literature, pop culture that wouldn’t benefit from a boot stomp to squeeze out hot, warm and cold air, inefficiency, wrong-headedness. Opportunity abounds !
Every scientist, engineer and artist ought to be required to generate a proposition that pokes a hole, however preposterous, in her branch of science or art. A hole in the prevailing paradigm, demonstrating her comprehension that she is not only swimming in water in the first place, but that she might know something of its temperature and chemical composition, its operative dogma, its governing paradigm, its local expression of The Myth. This probe ought to be formalized. A part of every humanities and science curriculum. If the young person’s proposition does not induce snickers, frowns, anger or laughter in the faculty, (who all made their bones by drinking the Kool aid of their teachers) she must return to her drawing board until she finds a way to annoy her characters of her establishment.
Well, you say, every scientist, fresh PhDs among them, is probing the unknown all day long. It’s what we do! – perhaps, but rarely beyond the parameters of professors, peers and publishers. Myth and its multitude of manifestations are required in order to function. To discover truth, some Myth must be busted and all myths are bustable – look to the side and deeper. It takes will-power, talent, tenacity, imagination, hard, sustained work and a bit of seduction and fun along with a sexy idea like gravity, relativity, proton pumping, symbiosis, quantum energy.
A swerve on the Myth, an abruption, gains traction like airborne bacteria attracting H2O molecules to become drops of water and rain. Rain created The Grand Canyon.
Questions & Observations:
- Perhaps huge genomes of the broadfooted salamander (65.5 billion base pairs) the African Lungfish (132 billion base pairs) and the Paris Japonica flower (149 billion base pairs) humans clocking in at only 3.2 billion base pairs, are used as storage lockers for 1,000 other organisms – life libraries.
- Investigate: individual’s “junk” DNA coding for features of other organisms. Do we warehouse the DNA of other species in the event of a catastrophe that wipes out 90% of individuals on the planet so Cosmo doesn’t have to start life again from scratch?
- If we do store the DNA of other organisms, are they the same species, clade, phylum or kingdom?
- Might “junk” DNA code for bacteria or viruses vital to the host for various functions including digestion or ph regulation, metabolism, earlier forms of respiration and fermentation before all of its efficient metabolic steps evolved as the Krebs Cycle?
- Humans evolved from apes, rats, fish, sponges and protists. Perhaps “junk” DNA is left over from our previous incarnations. HOX genes are conserved over hundreds of millions of years, perhaps our fish gill DNA is also conserved but switched off for now as it sits in long-term storage on one of our chromosomes in the event we need to devolve like the whale devolved.
- Scenario: Earth gets struck by a colossal ice ball that vaporizes upon impact, vapor condenses creating a global ocean. The catastrophe initiates much dramatic re-switching of genes from off to on – our prehistoric gills are re-expressed and we swim away. Hey boys! How’s the water?
- Our “junk” DNA is the old crap in the attic that may turn out to be great grandma’s priceless tintypes of Lincoln.
- Why would our genomic sensibility toss something away that was expressed and lost one billion years ago that it spent 3 billion years creating?
- If this “junk” DNA doesn’t jive with any known living creatures – this is to be expected. The organisms it jives with have been extinct for a billion years but like the Terminator – They’ll be baaack! 99.9% of species that ever lived are now extinct.
- Maybe ‘junk” DNA is used by microbes during decomposition – a reason for them to get involved in the process, harvesting useful nucleotides.
- Title for new Paul McCartney album: “Re-Evolver”
- Perhaps “junk” DNA is used during fetal development coding for phantom proteins controlling micro-development of fetus, appearing “junky” postpartum, i.e. for the following 70 years.
Zeit-search: An ongoing component of every science and humanities curriculum.
Acknowledge that there are such things as Myth and zeit (must read Kuhn TSOSR 1962). Myth is capitalized in this essay because it includes all manifestations uniquely human. If it is pondered, compared, analyzed, planned, debated, fought over within the neurons of the neocortex it is the stuff of Myth. If Myth is a big sockeye salmon, zeit is a salmon egg. They’re both fish.
Study your zeit. Make many lists. What are the key features of your zeit: deep and shallow, strong and weak? All hindsight is through tinted glasses. My zeit tints my glasses always in all ways. Examine the dyes that tint your glasses. Search for and examine source-zeit or Mythical roots for current beliefs that have been conserved by either popular demand or because they are useful to a powerful group with hidden, latent or expressed nefarious intention. What is Postmodern zeit? How is it different from Modern zeit?
Kill ‘Em All Postmodernism (K-PoMo) is the flowering of the ideas of the apostles of turn of the century French linguist Ferdinand de Saussure during the mid-1960s in American academia, specifically at Yale in the Department of English Literature. Many obscure elements of PoMo texts spread within a decade to architecture, anthropology, sociology, paleontology and other academic realms. The core idea of PoMo is KILL ‘EM ALL. By ALL read anyone who ever had an advantage due to class or race or education. PoMo erases advantage. It deconstructs hierarchies until those at the bottom are at the top. PoMo accelerates social convection. These PoMo apostles are inspired by: Barthes, Foucault, Derrida, Deleuze, Debord, Baudrillard. See: The three Hs (Hegel, Husserl, Heidegger) and Saussure for the seesaw significance of sign and signifier. The Fab Six, the French Invasion. To summarize: Modernism in a nutshell- left brain, PoMo – right brain. Connect the dots of THIS cascade of art world causality: Cezanne-Duchamp-Yoko-Warhol-Koons-Barney. And THIS one in bioscience: Lyell -Darwin-Galton-Mendel-Watson-Margulis-The Fab six, Eldredge/Gould(1972)-Dawkins-Gould ( 2002)-Quantum biologists-present. 1960s PoMo is now over, exhausted but Big Postmodernism (B-PoMo), the stuff of The Titanic Twelve, is just now gaining global traction as we move from 60s “kill ‘em all” PoMo into the new age of digital-robotic-artificial intelligence-nano aspects of B-PoMo.
Levels of Distillation
In his towering novel on everything under the sun with a focus on evolution, The Structure of Evolutionary Theory, Stephen Gould goes to great length repeating his mantra that every era has built-in prejudice that is difficult to notice and that limits the scope scientific exploration. This prejudice marginalizes mavericks.
Every zeit has two opposed components providing instant dialectic but rare synthesis, not unlike oil and water: the linear (left-brain-Modern) and a lateral (right brain-B-Postmodern) interpretation of all phenomena at all levels of abstraction. This omnipresent difference, hardwired into the neocortex, remembering that even prehistory had its modern and postmodern minds, will always spark deep disagreement, conflict, bickering, scoffing with snort- flehmen response as the vomeronasal excitatory waft of a PoMo juke on the topic at hand hits the Jacobson’s organ of a left brain conservative.
The Modern / Postmodern dialectic has been with us since the dawn of civilization. It is renamed with every new zeit: see: Apollonian-Dionysian, Romantic, Academic, Jacques Louis David’s Classical vs Delacroix’ Romantic, Stendhal vs Dickens. Structuralist-Poststructuralist, Hemingway-Fitzgerald, Mailer-Vidal, Nirvana – Coldplay, graffitist – easel painter. Whoever comes up with the cleverest neolog for this timeless duality achieves a certain fame. The Left-right dialectic is the perpetually setting sun we always misread as dawn.
Any individual will possess only or two or three of Howard Gardner’s nine intelligences (two too many, Gardner should have stopped at seven, lose “cosmo” and “self” as these are implied in the others), The Gardner Nine: Nature, Music, Math, Cosmos, EQ, Kinesthetic, Language, Self, Art. The Art-smart person will be a temporal-spatial learner and will be drawn to a different set of tools than a computational learner. Some people smell the beans, some people count the beans; both know beans.
Two 25-ounce cans of beer produce a pleasant hangover conducive to thought. How? Perhaps ethanol, as excitatory, stimulates reasoning, problem-solving in the neocortex. Perhaps ethanol as inhibitor calms the ambition, new-seeking, research hungry neurons allowing synthesis of existing knowledge and creative speculation into unexplored realms. How many days in a row will this new productivity last before neural pathways become saturated with Budweiser? I wonder about the quality of the ideas produced under the influence of beer. I would guess that it is the inhibitory effect on jumpy layer 3 neurons at the tectum allowing synthesis of mental activity into written word.
Large-effect random mutation will typically have destructive outcome to an organism-species in its later stages of evolution. John Trumbull said of his painting method “I begin with a mop and finish with a one-hair brush.” When nature swings a mop late in evolution the organism dies; however, following a catastrophic comet impact – see” Chicxulub bolide (wiped out dinosaurs) mops are flying every which way, doing foundational work of species opportunity creation. Big opportunities when Oxygen happened in Earth atmosphere and poisoned most life on the planet for whom oxygen was deadly. Splattering random paint may be an effective way to begin a painting but as the work progresses and especially as it nears completion, too many successful structures and processes are in place with their purpose and destiny fixed. The painted realities are now calling the final phase shots as the painting and the organism control their own evolution with little outside help. Intensely selective of the finest refinements. A bear isn’t going to decide to become radially symmetrical after 700 million years of bilateral evolution, but there was a time when this organism’s bauplan (now expressed as bilateral bear) was on the table and a choice was made between bilateral and axial symmetry. The painting suggests to its creator how it wants to be resolved re: color, texture, tone. After the dramatic initial stages of evolution, whether art or animal, the creator is primarily listening to the work speak. The work completes itself using the momentum of prior decisions and a core logic of all art regarding qualities of resolution. As an organism moves further along its evolutionary continuum, it is less likely to welcome any mutation at all regarding not only its core structure and metabolism but mutation to any one of fifteen levels of established, road-tested fact.
So who are the “gene police”? Might “junk” DNA serve a policing function for the 10% of our DNA that has a protein coding function? Is this 10% evenly distributed spatially along 43 chromosomes or around a locus within chromatin soup in order to be close to its DNA policeman? Perhaps ‘junk” DNA merely acts as police ensuring that extinct DNA remains switched off. One extinct trait per “junk” policeman. If all 43 chromosomes turn to chromatin soup and get scrambled how do we know we don’t use 33 instead of 23 chromosomes? We use the mother’s gene if Ph is from 2 to 5 and father’s gene if 6 to 10. Do we have 1,000 genes that switch back and forth depending on local conditions throughout life?
Re: consciousness and our 80 billion neurons. If you have 80 billion anything (jumping beans, Pop Rocks, insects, oxygen molecules) in one small place ( like inside a skull) things are going to happen – see: compressed gas molecular motion – things speed up – it’s a law of nature – thermodynamics. Interactions happen, patterns emerge with a little prodding from the environment.
Distill the zeit because all great thinkers have done this. Their revolutionary theory closes the door on one understanding and opens the door on a different, usually more precise one. To be a good zeit door-closer, one develops a deep understanding of the door being closed. The Beatles are considered revolutionary while the Rolling Stones are simply a great band because The Beatles understood so much of the music they were synthesizing into their compelling new sound, whereas The Stones were, at their inception, exclusively a Chicago (via Mississippi Delta) Blues-based band. The Stones didn’t pack enough music DNA to be revolutionary. The Stones were rarely more than a juke on the Blues.
Charles Darwin understood in detail much of the natural science he was synthesizing: French naturalists Cuvier and Lamarck, geologist Charles Lyell, the work of countless fossil hunters-classifiers, taxonomists, plant and animal breeders. Darwin’s theory of evolution wasn’t such a great leap of imagination for him. It was a reasonable conclusion seen from his broad cone of vision on the shoulders of an army of scientists among whom were a giant or three. Darwin was a great synthesizer of the ideas of others just as were The Beatles.
Distilling the zeit opens doors of inquiry. If stasis is data as Eldredge and Gould assert, then 10,000 research projects gain new validity. Distillation is creation. The distillation of existing ideas will precipitate the new idea. How does one distill? Is list-making distillation? Is enumeration distillation? The Beatles had a repertoire comprising 200 rock and roll, R&B and Broadway show tunes from which they drew set lists; 12 to 15 songs per set, five to seven sets a night. The Beatles played and sang through their song-zeit for 8 hours a night for two years in Germany prior to breaking big. Zeit-shifting can be searching for something to break the boredom. Innovation for its own sake.
The Beatles shifted the entire paradigm of pop music, not just a part of it due to the width of the net they cast. Their repertoire covered entire shimmering shoals of fish not just the blues, however, The Blues were the basis for much of The Beatles 200 song knowledge base making the lads second level synthesizers as they worked with material that had already undergone one distillation, a creative swerve from this endlessly fruitful fount, Mississippi Delta Blues-Gospel songs i.e. the music of black people.
The Beatles, like their co-paradigm shifter of the mid-1960s art scene, Andy Warhol, had the instinct to use, as a source material, that which had already emerged from an intense refinement-distillation-synthesis cycle. Each one of The Beatles primary inspirations, the songs that landed a slot on the Beatles Star Club Hamburg set list was a proven innovation, a synthesis in its own right: Little Richard, Bill Haley, Elvis, Buddy Holly, Holland-Dozier-Holland, Lieber-Stoller, the Everlys, Goffin-King, Ellie Greenwich, Bert Berns.
The challenge for Darwin and The Beatles was how to synthesize that which had been refined once already by big talent. Using a math concept, let’s call it the challenge of synthesizing a second derivative of nature, i.e. synthesizing the products of other talent. In Darwin’s case: Charles Lyell, Adam Smith, Thomas Malthus all of whom had already gone to school on raw nature or in The Beatles’ case, the raw nature of Buddy Holly, Little Richard and Elvis, each of whom had received a higher education on the mother nature of rock and roll, early 1950s R&B. The Stones were a first derivative, the Beatles, a second derivative, i.e. more concentrated by an order of magnitude.
An explorer synthesizing that which has been distilled, works with more potent raw material by definition. Raw material that is hardly “raw.” It has been well cooked. Little Richard and Charles Lyell manufactured bricks; Charles Darwin and the Beatles designed and constructed towering beacons. In Darwin’s case, shining a light on 150 years of civilization – a near Myth. The Beatles illuminated their own generation to transcendent effect – a rock solid zeit shift.
Picasso understood the tropes of western painting when he accepted the challenge of distilling Cezanne. The Salon Cubists barely understood Picasso let alone Cezanne. Gris did not understand Cubism at all. He was making 15th-19th century realistic renderings of Cubist-paintings. Hint: anytime you see an “X”-type intersection with four different hues at each quadrant, you know you are seeing the work of a Cubist wannabe. Gris’ “Cubist” paintings are rife with this goofy space-splitting device.
Did Andy Warhol perform an act of synthetic magic similar to that of The Beatles with their magic potion 200 song set list, stirring his pot with Campbell’s, Brillo, Marilyn, Liz and Mao? or was he doing something other than synthesis? Is repositioning (see: Duchamp) an iconic cultural artefact an act of synthesis or is it taxonomically different, requiring a new category, but on the same level of abstraction, i.e. once removed from nature? There are two classes of second derivative: true synthesis, i.e. deriving essence from an oeuvre for some new thing and there is repositioning. Duchamp repositions the urinal as “Fountain” by R.Mutt from the men’s restroom to arena of the Exhibition of the Society of Independent Artists in 1917 (note: “Fountain” rejected though rules stated all entries would be accepted – later exhibited at Alfred Stieglitz’s studio where it was photographed) Warhol repositions Campbell’s soup from supermarket shelves to avant garde art gallery. Has anything been synthesized by either Duchamp or Warhol? In repositioning their common objects into rarefied Art-space they synthesized the Idea of reposition. Andy and Marcel’s second derivative was something even more densely concentrated than The Beatles’ own hit songs – an idea itself – the idea being, that one could gain traction, make a statement, get acceptance in the capital A art world by an act of reposition an idea that has spawned 100 years of art to date and is going strong. To give Paul McCartney his due, Sergeant Pepper is a towering reposition of a rock and roll band into an 1890s dance hall combo, see: Edwardian era poster advertising the “Benefit for Mr. Kite” btw, contrary to popular belief, Paul was easily the Beatle most tuned into 60s Art-zeit, not hipper than Yoko, but among The Beatles, the most in tune with the currents of the 20th century zeit stuff.
Duchamp, and to a lesser extent Warhol, shifted paradigms (Andy’s contribution was a swerve – smaller than Duchamp’s shift) without performing an act of extraction/consolidation of essence from an existing range of work. Duchamp and Warhol redefined the pursuit of meaning in Art. For fundamental zeit-shift in music one would have to credit the atonalists and John Cage whose composition “Four thirty Three” frames the ambient sounds of wind in trees, raindrops, whispering and muttering, coughing and program rustling while a classically trained concert pianist intermittently raises and lowers the lid on a grand piano for four minutes and thirty three seconds without playing a single note. After the premier at Maverick Concert Hall in Woodstock, NY on August 29, 1952 the audience was in an uproar and Cage entered the history books. Cage is dealing with an idea about the nature of music itself more than with any expectations built into his zeit at any level; from infant auditory neural programming of the 7-tone western scale to the expectation of an audience versed in the avant garde for something new and exciting, but not this new or this “exciting”.
“I am frankly embarrassed that most of my musical life has been spent in the search for new materials. The significance of new materials is that they represent the incessant desire in our culture to explore the unknown. Before we know the unknown, it inflames our hearts. When we know it, the flame dies down, only to burst forth again at the thought of a new unknown. This desire has found expression in our culture in new materials, because our culture has its faith not in the peaceful center of the spirit but in an ever-hopeful projection onto things of our own desire for completion.” – John Cage
“Many people taking a walk would have their heads so full of preconceptions that it would be a long time before they were capable of hearing or seeing. Most people are blinded by themselves. Thus, the goal of the composer is revealed to be primarily that of the missionary. Music is about changing the mind — not to understand, but to be aware.
Many people in our society now go around the streets and in the buses and so forth playing radios with earphones and they don’t hear the world around them. They hear only what they have chosen to hear. I can’t understand why they cut themselves off from that rich experience which is free. I think this is the beginning of music, and I think that the end of music may very well be in those record collections.” – John Cage
Duchamp: This stuff that was not previously considered Art is now Art, we know this because it is located at an art exhibition.
The Beatles: This is art because it distills the very best of the recent past. It is art concentrate – white lightnin’.
Darwin, Duchamp, Warhol and The Beatles shifted their zeit. Darwin and The Beatles via distillation; Duchamp and Warhol by reposition.
A urinal is like a tree in its unassuming naturalness, in its humble, low-key manufacturedness, whereas Coca-Cola, Marilyn and Elvis were intensely advertised- commodities.
Commode vs commodity, commode is commodity, albeit quiet. The urinal and the Coke bottle are familiar objects. Drink the Coke, take a leak.
Distillation vs reposition, what mechanisms did Newton and Einstein use? Newton distilled his theories from the spectacle of nature: the things of this Earth and celestial bodies. Einstein drew from his imagination.
Who was the greater paradigm shifter, Picasso, with his distillation of Cezanne or Duchamp in his reposition of the manufactured object? Picasso revolutionized all painting. Duchamp revolutionized all Art.
“Warhol took Marilyn Monroe as his subject in different mediums, silk-screening the actress’s image multiple times in a grid in bright colors and in black and white. By repeating Monroe’s image (and that of other celebrities) over and over again, Warhol acknowledged his own fascination with a society in which personas could be manufactured, commodified, and consumed like products.” – anon @ web
Levels of commodification can be measured by counting advertising dollars spent and from income generated by a movie star or a rock star. How much money has changed hands as a result of Coke in all of its manifestations or Marilyn? considering gross box office receipts and auction prices for Warhol’s silkscreen paintings of Marilyn. Box office gross receipts for “Some Like It Hot” – $8 million, auction price of “White Marilyn” Warhol silkscreen – $12 million, one of hundreds of “Marilyn” silkscreen paintings. The commode is advertised in industry catalogs and at trade shows. Billions of dollars are spent advertising Coke around the world. Warhol, as a child of The Great Depression, was drawn to things involving a lot of money. Duchamp, the aristocrat, would be comfortable with the ordinary. The ordinary carrying, for him, built-in irony.
Copernicus distilled observations of planet orbits into a new theory of planetary motion. Newton distilled his observations of apples and planets and heat into laws of nature. What are “She Loves You” and “I Want To Hold Your Hand” if not laws of nature? songs, clothing, performances and attitude with explosive impact on a generation.
Great minds are like expansion valves on an air conditioner condensing unit. The expansion valve transforms pressurized liquid into vapor which has a much greater capacity to store heat, i.e. to do the useful work of removing heat from indoor air. The trait shared by all zeit distillers is their discovery of new realms of opportunity whether by distillation, reposition or some other strategy. To distill is to put one’s boot down in the overflowing trash can.
Has reposition accomplished anything useful beyond the Art world? The internet / Arpanet repositioned from a useful military tool to public use. The breakfast drink Tang repositioned from Astronaut fare to popular breakfast drink. Feathers repositioned from thermal insulators to flight enablers. See: exaptation: features evolved for one reason and used for a different reason.
Might reposition add value to bioscience? What if non-coding “junk” DNA is repositioned as vital stuff ( as has been proven for some “junk” DNA) as Duchamp repositioned his urinal from a piece of discarded ceramic junk translating it into an iconic talisman inspiring 100 years of artmaking. Once this reposition of “junk” DNA has been repositioned to uDNA (undiscovered function DNA) becomes an accepted trope, doors will open for new experiments and add significance to 1,000 previous ones.
Niles Eldredge and Stephen Jay Gould repositioned stasis in their landmark 1972 paper on “Punctuated Equilibrium,” overturning Darwinian gradualism in species evolution, opening new realms of meaning for data gathered in the last decades of the 20th century.
Selling the synthesis: Stephen Jay Gould spent considerable, if intermittent effort during his 40 year career selling this idea of Punctuated equilibrium (stasis IS data). It was a hefty idea in that it contradicts the key Lyellian- Darwinian notion of gradualism. Andy Warhol attended 10,000 parties to ensure that neither his visage nor his work would be soon forgotten. Linnaeus sent twenty of his most brilliant and devoted students to distant regions of the globe classifying plants and animals using his system of taxonomy, still in use today though modified. The Beatles played 1,000 shows to sell their innovations in pop songwriting, performance, haberdashery and haircuts. It is never enough to have a great idea; one must sell it. Myths insists upon perpetuation. They have momentum, much energy is required to reverse, shift, swerve or juke them. Myth tolerates the juke but will kill to resist a shift. Myth is an organism continually interacting with all aspects of evolutionary causation. When does Myth-speciation occur? As in nature, after catastrophic events, just like plants and animals. World War II was a great speciator on many levels of our hierarchy of mid-century zeit; from radar to a million young dad’s with PTSD whacking their baby boomers around.
Gregor Mendel squirrelled his zeit-shifting work away in an obscure journal where it was undiscovered for 40 years then BLAMMO ! ! Mendel’s ideas were so powerful they propelled themselves into the heart of bioscience. Mendel is the Neo in Neo-Darwinism, i.e. evolution in light of genetics. Genetics threw and it continues to throw much light on evolution.
Is zeit-shiftiness in inverse proportion to the energy required to sell it? Warhol was the tip of zeit-spear Coca Cola upon which billions of dollars had been spent in advertising and he advertised his persona to remarkable effect. He wanted to be famous. Stephen Jay Gould spent 1,340 pages to try to sell his ideas of stasis data and species-clade centrality in natural selection. Does this mean Warhol and Gould’s ideas do not sell themselves? They may be simply a bit before their time or in light of an avalanche of data gathered from contemporary genomics perhaps trivial by now. They seemed important at the time. The Structure of Evolutionary Theory is a labyrinthine, emotionally complex veiled, camouflaged, tortured plea to the public for Gould’s own enshrinement next to Darwin as a discoverer of two primary evolutionary processes after 40 years of getting too little respect from his peers in the scientific community. In 1972, poleaxing Darwin was a bigger deal than it is these days.
“I Want To Hold Your Hand” is four minutes and six seconds long and it sparked a musical-social revolution. It inspired a cascade of events and attention, each propelling the next until 50 million boomers were eating out of John Lennon’s hand. Perhaps one of these boomers will write: “I Wanna Eat Out Of Your Hand.”
As is the case with the air conditioner expansion valve, pressure is a key component in zeit-distillation.
Distill the Zeit: A command, a request, a duty, an obligation, an opportunity, a challenge. Every individual is a distillation of their zeit without trying. One distills by falling off a log. Every person carries the language and an array of core values, beliefs, ideas, prejudices. How many Baby Boomers didn’t like rock and roll? It’s the water.
Is zeit the same for all? Do we end up, after all of this distillation with the same jar of hooch? Why were Darwin, Einstein and Freud’s white lightnin’ enduring, so effective in changing the temper of their time? It is hard to say whose hooch will rule – much easier to rank the participants in retrospect and then write the story of precursors. Who were William-Adolphe Bouguereau’s 19th century academic precursors? Whose work did he distill in his masterworks? Who cares? He perfected all tropes distilling none. He shifted no zeit. His masterpieces have been forgotten. He had total comprehension of the water he was swimming in with zero vision for the future. In trying to perfect academic painting he killed it. Pioneers are, by definition, outliers. Those celebrated in their own time, as Bouguereau was, were hailed because they are intensely well behaved.
Picasso was a well known painter in the Parisian art world in 1920 but not yet canonized. One hundred artists take a conscious shot at distilling their zeit, say there are fifteen genuine candidates. One simply cannot tell at the time the work is created who will prevail. It’s like trying to predict which species of lemur will survive extinction when Madagascar breaks away from Africa by forces of continental drift. Who could possibly know which of 10 species will survive this long, slow, catastrophic change in habitat? The winners will be determined in part by future climate patterns. Which species is best adapted to the desert? Which one to the rainforest? Which one can best endure hunger, drought, new predators, a new bacteriome. Who swings with the most agility through the canopy in a jungle that will not evolve on the new island for five million years? There is no way to know which species might control the direction of the lemur evolution or what avant garde painter will prevail – it is a matter of future, unpredictable forces. The most adaptable will survive-the best promoted will prevail. Promotion is often associated with quality and as Gore Vidal said when quitting Hollywood screenwriting after little success in the early 1950s “Even shit has its integrity” Evolution is “Moneyball” Buy me the player who gets on base. I don’t care what they look like or how they do it.
What zeit-defining writers will emerge in 200 years? Mailer, Wolfe, Updike, Frantzen, Sedaris? Vonnegut, Heller, Castaneda? Ford, McGuane, DeLillo? Shteyngart, Foster-Wallace, Gould, Altucher? Each has made contributions. Mailer cast a brawling, wide net and advertised himself to the max but his subjects were pre-cooked like those of Warhol and often relied upon the same pre-cooked legends for “raw” material: Kennedys, war protesters,Ali, Astronauts, women’s libbers, Marilyn and then Mailer’s own prefab crew of Gilmore, Jesus, Picasso and Hitler. Tom Wolfe’s net is as wide as Mailer’s, not as deep but more fun. Updike tried too hard to seduce-got smarm? Vonnegut just didn’t write enough, though he touched a big Boomer nerve. Heller hit the jackpot and added a term to the zeit-vocabulary, Catch-22, but he was a distiller with little shift. Castaneda who? Find your spot. Tom Robbins – find your clit. Ford articulates the ephemeral morose. McGuane writes about his social inferiors and people in local hot water, remaining under-connected to the book-buying public. Montana is a mile high and there is not enough oxygen in the air for the swampy expansive southern deal. Keep it clean. Montana-The Craftsman State, if you want avant in your guard go to New York. DeLillo is disconnected, precise, deep, wide and glacial, Pynchon without the kookie-scramble. Shteyngart nails it but as a definer not a shifter and a only a small nail. Foster-Wallace, a towering presence but that 400 page section on the international war game- tennis match scotched the deal, repelling 20,000 potential readers. Gould’s masterpiece demonstrates the non-utility of Gould’s Glu-Stik (see: Occam’s razor) Someday someone will edit 500 pages away and we’ll see the stumps of the trees in the forest levelled to print this heart-tugging, mind expanding and deeply moving 1,300-page doorstop. Gould’s Glu-Stik: Never miss an opportunity to say something five times using all adjectives that pop into mind, let the reader sort them out.
Zeit-distillation isn’t a pissing contest with contemporaries or precursors. It is ideally the unassuming precipitation of events. Events are raindrops forming around someone’s bright idea-microbe, will it become a rivulet, a river or a tsunami? Preening in the spotlight may create zeit-flash but is a sign of Myth marginality. One does his or her thing (see: Gregor Mendel, the quiet monk) – Your work ends up shifting the zeit or not. As in quantum things, the act of seeing disturbs the nature of that seen. Zeit-shifting is like running for President in the 18th century. One has big ideas, deep capability and large ambition but any sign of ambition works against you. See: George Washington and Thomas Jefferson. The “aw shucks-foot scuffing” trope had dissolved by the 1952, 1956 presidential campaigns to Adlai Stevenson’s dismay. John Adams’ biggest problem and the main reason his face is on no currency, is his failure to hide his ambition at a time when this was a key feature of public life. Ambition is the dead give-away that you are not of the nobility or the landed gentry, that you have no inherited wealth, that you are common. By mid 20th century USA zeit revealed suspicion of inherited wealth. Hamilton had a similar problem with revealed ambition. Where is the Alexander Hamilton Monument in Washington D.C.? He deserves one in spades. You’ve got to nurse your milieu, allow those convinced of your fitness for office to sing your praises. If they’re not singing loud enough and you’re dying of cancer, you’ve got to write the big book and explain your achievement yourself. Gould’s big book is great because it is so sad.
There is a cabin high in the Hartz Mountains of southern Germany with a gable roof whose ridge splits a raindrop. Half of this drop becomes the Rhine and half becomes the Danube.
This you know from all evolution, if your work does not contain a mutation it has no chance to launch a new species. Evolution follows the errors. It is the static species who get swallowed up, subsumed, erased by evolutionary forces from natural selection, endosymbiosis and/or by quantum effects. Your adversaries study and steal your moves, no matter how successful at one time – they’re soon on to your game. They know your hiding places. They dig you out, your number is up. That weirdo we kicked out of the troop for playing with fire is far away now, on his own, fifty miles upriver with not a tree or banana in sight, hunting with his new girlfriend spearing and cooking rats and hiding in the grass. He had a mutation in his curiosity gene – dude was out of control, dangerous, he couldda burned down the whole forest with his hot stuff.
Distill the Zeit: Gould has done an astounding job describing the water he was swimming in re: evolutionary theory. Gould knew in great detail what “stasis is data” was shifting away from. His “shift” turned out to be a credible swerve or perhaps only a juke. Punctuated Equilibrium and species selection have both been buried in an avalanche of science that perforates Neo-Darwinism. It is time for a new term for species evolution. there appears to be little natural selection or gradualism at work.
It is every scientist’s job to say no as loud and as often as possible to a new idea. This gauntlet is as much science tradition as hypothesis-experiment. It is a hazing ritual not essentially meant to offend so much as to encourage and to sort. Don’t take offense all you innovative thinkers and proto-paradigm shifters, every great paradigm shifter is required to have their satchel stuffed with snickering, nay-saying, turned backs, whispers and sneers, a bit o’ persecution but hopefully not exile, prison, burning at the stake. These tales of mighty opposition are as much a part of myth-making as the original experiments that proved your paradigm-shifting theory. Picasso’s friend Braque thought he had drunk gasoline upon first seeing the zeit defining-shifting painting “Les Demoiselles d’ Avignon”. Matisse, leader of the Paris avant garde, scoffed at Picasso’s bold African-inspired tortured, fractured abstraction saying, “This will ruin us all,” referring to Picasso taking the Paris avant garde into a realm that frightened even Matisse, the leader of the avant garde for the previous five years with his wild and crazy Fauves. Picasso’s feelings were hurt. He rolled up this canvas and put it in the back of his closet for twelve years. It is now the centerpiece at MOMA where it has held sway since the late 1930s as ground zero for 20th century painting. Remember: Duchamp-Art, Picasso-Painting. Not the same thing. Painting is a subset of Art; therefore, Duchamp is more important than Picasso.
Did you set the course for the future or was your bold assertion simply the luckiest?. Your spaghetti sticks to the wall because the wall was sticky from a recent toss. You become canonized – a lucky shot, but you DID throw some spaghetti. One gets credit for making and throwing, the sticking is left to the course of history. Your toss affects this course ( see: Pea size gear – Earth orbit around Sun) and the course of history affects your toss. Creation is a discourse with the future.
Frank Lloyd Wright distilled the zeit big time. He was the Darwin and darling of Modern Architecture; actually PoMo architecture but this is a long argument for another essay. Wright took the best of the nature boys Thomas Carlyle, John Ruskin, Matthew Arnold and William Morris with their re-directed Christian fervor. Ruskin’s words and Morris’s works both in fashion in Chicago design circles at the turn of the century. Wright sang the praises of the fashionably reviled machine as he deconstructed the American home as a stuffy, claustrophobic hellbox. Wright grew up in near poverty in a hot, stuffy, drafty, freezing attic bedroom (the box upstairs) with an oft-abused (beaten by his psychotic mother) mentally ill sister locked in the basement (the box downstairs). He had lots to hate about these clapboard torture chambers. Wright’s mantra during his Prairie School years was “The Destruction of The Box.”
Wright was born with perfect visual pitch re: proportion, a bold imagination and a capacity for hard work, schmoozing self-promotion. He had good hired help. Marion Mahony’s brilliant perspectives of Wright’s best Prairie School work showcased in his “Wasmuth Portfolio” rocked a generation of young Modern architects in Europe. Voila! Wright’s (and Mahoney’s) portfolio shifts the zeit of 20th century architecture. Wright was accused of being the “greatest architect of the 19th century” by Philip Johnson-speaker at my Harvard GSD graduation in 1979, advising us to marry money adding that he never hired Harvard grads because they all want to be boss. The core of Wright’s genius is the zeit-distilling esthetic theorist of Victorian age, John Ruskin for the “Organic Architecture” storyline Ruskin developed in response to Gothic architecture. William Morris for the woody tectonics of all things Arts and Craftsy. Matthew Arnold for the relaxation of Wright family Puritanism of his Welsh forebears. Wright’s largest gift to 20th century architecture is not the impact of his 700 built works as much as his effect on the three towering Modernists: Le Corbusier, Mies, Gropius, Wright’s apostles by proxy. His actual apostles save only two (Schindler and Neutra) were incinerated in the heat of propinquity to the master including latecomer Paul Rudolph, one of my Harvard architecture critics. Poor Paul, incinerated as a young architect by a Wright encounter of the too close kind. Wright was viciously dismissive, poisoning Rudolph as a critic.
The water in 2015 – Distilling The Zeit as hierarchies – a Linnaean taxonomy.
Domain: The inventors of our grammar and syntax, the inventor of the Golden Rule, Plato-Socrates, Zoroastrians, Hindus etc.
Kingdom: Jesus-Plato-Socrates: the biggest, identifiable by name, zeit-distillers.
Phylum: Newton- Martin Luther – Darwin – Edison – Henry Ford – Marconi – Tesla
Order: Juridical system – The law of the land: “The Constitution,” vast libraries of case law i.e. the “book” as it will be thrown at you in court.
Family: Your defining entertainment: movies, TV, music, internet stuff
Genus: Your community, neighborhood, school, church, bar n’ grill
Species: your family and friends
Individual: Your own mind
Continuing the experiment, extending the Linnean heuristic (JB neolog addendum) to deeper loci within the individual to describe the causality of human myth.
Orgam….. organs in a single body – heart/gut memory?
Cellam……cells within a single organ, cells throughout an organism not protists
Cromam… organelles,chromosomes (as physical entity w/ DNA, histones etc) golgi structures, endoplasmic reticulum rough and smooth, ribosomes, etc, etc-not proteins
Protam….. DNA molecule, all proteins, peptides, polypeptides, lipids, etc
Genam…..individual genes (as parts of DNA affecting one another) and immediate intermediaries within process of protein synthesis and cell metabolism
Param…….base pairs in position at DNA
and so forth down the line to quarks etc.
Computer science wasn’t shifting much zeit in its first 50 years – waiting for Woz-Jobs the great synthesizers with their great idea: computing power to the people.
Zeit-locus shifts among realms of thought, each different realm seated in a unique cluster of voxels in the neocortex. A neocortical volume containing a dash of conserved Myth (as methylated genetic material) then onto another realm of myth-making, all of this Myth n’ zeit genetically secured in the cell nucleus. An early era centers on philosophy – Plato begins as zeit grows into Myth, for the next era the locus of our Myth is religion – Jesus begins as zeit then grows into Myth. Jesus becomes useful as a benevolent front for powerful political leaders – Constantine and a long parade of Popes. If JC had not proved a useful front man for avaricious politicos we would not know his name. If you buy into the Myth of Christianity, there is work to go around for everyone. Every church needs an architect, a groundskeeper, a few priests, deacons, aldermen, youth counselors, missionaries, monks, painters, sculptors, musicians, stained glass artists, stonemasons, quarrymen, printers, Bible salesmen, crusaders, weapon makers, horsemen, stable boys, blacksmiths, iron miners, real estate brokers and managers, accountants, investment advisors. Religious Myth is a big job creator. Jesus was a sort of Mother Teresa for the Middle Ages, established here and there to pave the way for power – just as Jesus reified as missionary and surrounded by the most opulent seductions of the human mind: Suger, Martini, Cimabue, Giotto, Brunelleschi, Raphael, Michelangelo, Bernini, Borromini, et al.
On to astronomy – Copernicus: heretical zeit, then stored as heritable Myth n’ physics – Newton he is the zeit – a kingpin with the Royal Mint, The Royal society then onward as his ideas are locked into Myth. Then the spotlight of Myth accrual shifts to bioscience – Darwin as alarming zeit (descended from apes!!) then into intellectual comfort food Myth. Moving to Art, there is old man Cezanne and then Einstein brings the ball back into the arena of science. Our present zeit comprising them all to one degree or another Copernicus to Jimmy Kimmel. Remember when architecture mattered? Zeit-guy Abbot Suger in 1150, his Gothic cathedral – spirit of the age, sadly, no longer, we live in the age of the tweet, Gordon Moore – you and your microchip are ancient history, zeit-shifter Bill Gates hangs out with geezers. We’re drowning in Zuckerwater. Alas, architecture has been over for 750 years.
Darwin distilled his zeit and launched a new one. Evening talk show joke writers distill the zeit-lite of the day. Over the course of three decades Letterman tells a story by accretion not by a synthetic act; Dave’s message: irony is exhausted, bearded, out to pasture. Where will the Myth-hammer fall to crack-a-paradigm,wack-a-zeitmole releasing fresh air for mankind? There are now a billion people on facebook most of whom have never heard of either Charles Darwin or Paul Cezanne. You don’t have to know there is hydrogen in water to swim in it, but you do need to know some chemistry if you’re going to affect water in ways larger than flushing the toilet.
Zeitshift is rarely an act of will though it may take great willpower to create a body of work that will catalyze a profession or a population, distill an idea of your social milieu into something manageable, something clear.
What is the difference between Myth and zeit? Myth has broader scope, deeper roots. Myth comprises the deep levels of language, its grammar and syntax ground rules shared by all, that humans are driven to speak and write. Myth is conserved across all generations of the technium, zeit has flex and is shifted by minds like those of Newton, Darwin, Cezanne, Wright and McCartney. If Cezanne hadn’t shuffled the zeit of Western painting there would have been no Cubism, no Duchamp, no Le Corbusier. We would only now be hearing such things as “Ornament is a crime” “Form and Function are One” “Less is More” “God is in The Details” “I asked the brick what it wanted to be, the brick said “I like an arch.” Such ideas would have had no context or not enough context, not enough enabling soil, no critical, contextual mass. Question: Who shifted more zeit for architecture, Cezanne-Picasso with Cubism or Frank Lloyd Wright with his destruction of the box? I would vote for Wright as architects are always among the last professionals to show evidence of having gotten the word.
Darwin relocated Christianity from unassailable Puritan, Protestant Myth into the less tightly conserved Victorian zeit, opening it up for a bold re-interpretation of its creation dogma. Conservative Christians have never bought this reposition of their belief system from its locus of primary Myth to the much more flexible zeit. Young people of the mid-Victorian era wanted more flex in their belief system to deal with the avalanche of discovery and technological change. Their grandparents were executed for apostasy. An idea must be demythologized in order to be changed. De-mythologizing is like uncoiling the DNA molecule from its core of histones so that specific genes may be copied or changed. Things tightly wound are not easily accessible. Darwin loosened the bindings of the shifting Victorian Christian myth launching a thousand manifestations of fresh air, cleaner water, turned soil. People try to de-mythologize one another with alcohol – works every time. Police ought to test drivers with a mythologizer to see if they have reassembled their comprehension of the myth of traffic rules and regulations before driving home. Red light means stop but it hasn’t always.
Contextual Voltage Metaphor (CVM): Stored intellectual charge seen as an accruing electrical charge, charging a capacitor or a battery, setting the background, backstory, backdrop, the stage, the platform for the jolt, the energy release of a new idea. Adam Smith, Charles Lyell and Thomas Malthus charged Darwin’s battery, a triple-charge, that would not have lit a lamp 25 years earlier. The Beatles music would have been rude cacophony in the decade 1945-1955. Beatlemania required the modulating, pump-priming effects of the early R&B: Louis Jordan, Jackie Brenston, the Treniers, Jimmy forrest, Ray Charles as distilled by Bill Haley, Little Richard and Buddy Holly. The evolution of style is like a line of rats undergoing peristalsis in a crawling kingsnake. Each pooped out in its own time into the light of day to fertilize the dreams of a new generation.
Timing is of the essence. Will the flame of a new idea gutter and die or start a raging forest fire creating its own turbulent weather? Every idea needs conceptual kindling, prime the pump, humans do not like to be shocked, but we all enjoy a good buzz…..and then there are the savants – people out of step, living in their own bubble, worlds of their own making, the outsiders, the crazies who invent a language spoken only by themselves, creating their hermetic, always obsessive art and music ( see: Captain Beefheart, Martin Ramirez, Joseph Cornell) setting few fires outside of their own flaming minds but evidence that our broadly shared myth-making instinct is at work. Sometimes a private language will fuel a larger fire due to its undeniable inventiveness or delight, Isadora Duncan comes to mind. Cezanne was considered an oddball outsider for much of his painting career and he slides into home plate in Paris at age 65 for the game-winning home run. Our kingmakers enjoy bestowing accolades on a few of these geniuses toward the end of their lives or post-mortem, escorting them through the looking glass into the public eye and into the history books – big shows, reviews, auction clout. Zeitshift requires not only combustible intellect but a sales pitch. Every painter needs a pocket apologist-a sympathetic, articulate critic or three. Zeitshift begins with a juke, then a swerve – prime the pump, fresh water flows, all is cleansed.
How does one know when the pump has been adequately primed? Hard to say – go ahead – toss your spaghetti. If it slides to the floor ignored, you will have left a tomato stain. It might be art, especially if tossed against an interior wall of an art museum.
Does a culture go into estrus, signaling readiness to be impregnated with a new idea? Does it get twitchy and frisky, ill-at-ease, more willing to take risks? Does it stay out late to hang with dangerous friends, aching to get its paradigm shifted, Its Myth modified?
Every generation produces unique zeit-signs in art, science, philosophy, music, dance, humor, religion and language. That one of these expressions might shift its zeit is always a possibility. Fascinating how the titanic generation of 1912 shifted paradigms in physics, philosophy, art, dance, technology (motorized flight, radio, autos), architecture, bioscience, entertainment (movies, recorded music) A generation every bit as fertile as the flagship class at “Saturday Night Live” with Morris, Newman, Belluschi, Chase, Ackroyd, Radner, Curtin, Murray – boggles the mind. Think British invasion mid-1960s: The Beatles, The Zombies, The Stones,The Who, The Animals, Herman’s Hermits, Donovan, The Dave Clark five, Gerry and The Pacemakers, funny name Pacemakers – perfect for a boomer band today.