Wednesday, January 4, 2012

How To Find Your Way Without A Compass

Sitting along the edge of the lake last evening, I wondered how someone would find their way out of the forest without a compass. 

During the day: 

If you have an analog watch, you're in good shape. Just place a small stick vertically in the ground so that it casts a shadow. Then, place your watch on the ground so that the hour hand is parallel to the shadow. In the Southern Hemisphere, put it at 12:00. Now, find the point on the watch midway between the hour hand and 12:00. This imaginary line is a north-south line. The sun will be located toward the south. 

Since we're already looking up, we can always consult the clouds. What direction are they moving? Generally, weather moves west to east. While this theory can be a little funky depending on which side of the mountain you're lost, as a rule of thumb, it's pretty good. Voila! Instant compass. 

In 3rd grade physical science class and then again at 6th grade science camp, they taught us that mosses grow in places with lots of shade and water, in areas that are cool and moist. On tree trunks, the north side is usually more shady and moist than the south sides, therefore, moss usually grows on the north side of trees. If you're in the Mayan jungle and apply this rule, you might as well take a seat on the side of the river and wait for another civilization to be built around you. Basically, it could take awhile to get out of there. Hopefully, you have a well-thought out pack with emergency gear in the event of such an experience. 

During the night: 

Use your iPhone to locate the North Star. Depending on the app, you can type in the word Polaris - that's it. If your iPhone is discharged for any reason, just look for the Big Dipper and you'll find the North Star. The North Star is the last star in the handle of the Little Dipper. Walk toward that star, that's north. 

During metaphorical moments: 

Metaphorically speaking, if you have lost your way and are in need of a directional device, do not stop and ask for directions. In this case, self-analyzation may feel like a step backwards, when in reality, it is akin to having a line-jumper pass at Disneyland. Write down on paper all the actions of your day as you do them, then after 30 days (any amount of self-reflection will yield insight into whether or not your behavior is in alignment with your goals), categorize the actions (cooking, sleeping, eating, working, dressing, specific projects, activities, etc.). 

Now, calculate the data and build a simple pie chart. Color each section if you like. Having a big picture, non partial view of your location works much like a compass. Depending upon the direction you wish to travel, you can get there by treating each pie slice like a direction on the compass. If reaching your next destination is taking longer than you planned, you can speed it up by spending less or more time performing a specific activity. This is how you superimpose the imaginary lines of a compass onto your life to find your way. 

Self-analysis charts often times lead to metaphysical thoughts. While consciousness is undoubtedly a theoretical conundrum, you can use Penrose's theorem to garner support in the most dense regions of the mind's synaptic forest. 

According to Penrose, consciousness is not an independent cause which triggers quantum collapses. It is simply the way in which such quantum collapses manifest themselves in our minds. 

What does that have to do with finding your way through our subjective life experiences?

If this guy's right about Godel being right, that no axiom system is powerful enough to generate all the truths of arithmetic, then according to Pendose, the human mind must somehow have non-algorithmic powers that go beyond axioms and rules. 

Essentially, we're talking quantum mechanics here and that is a subject upon which I have but limited understanding. I guess you could say it's like piling one mystery upon another. When in reality, there's no obvious reason to suppose that consciousness has the same source, multiple energies could be flowing through our atoms which are held together by some sort of cosmic bonded agreement. 

Coming full circle here, if you're really feeling lost in life and fearful that there could be a cliff with a waterfall with your name on it right around the corner, the fact that nobody else really knows what's going on here remains. So, I'm going to just chill. 

I'm not the only one playing roulette with me life based off of my subjective experiences. In this case, I intend to have fun with it. Make that silly chart I described above because it's not only cool to create visual displays of information, but it's really helpful if you just want to play with your life. Tweek it in certain areas just to see what happens. Put some basic theories to the test. 

Unless you think that some other person who is equally choosing based off of their subjective experience knows what's best for you, then by all means, do what they (your boss, your kids'  school administrators, the doctor you assessed your entire being in 6 minutes flat prior to moving onto the next patient) tell you to do and blame them if it doesn't work out. Heck, blame yourself. Those two activities keep people quite busy in life. So busy that people buy all sorts of things to help them find their way, all sorts of things except a little compass. In fact, few people these days own analog watches. Why bother? They're single-function devices. I don't even know how many things my phone does in comparison. 

I have had a lot of people tell me who I was and where I was headed, actually, thinking back, since childhood. It seems to me that we spend the rest of our lives here testing someone else's hypotheses. While nurturing and guidance are essential for our species' survival, there does come a point when in society we can choose to revise our present systems to allow for more creativity and free thinking - the earlier the better. 

Free thinking doesn't lead to chaos. No quantum or economic system will collapse in the process. While we might miss a day or two or three of work-related activities, the company won't fall apart tomorrow, the agency won't close its doors.  If your kid is in a 6th grade American social studies course, they don't need to know the names of the rivers of Northern China by heart. Unless, that is, you're going fishing in the north of China and you're teaching your child the names of the rivers in that immediate region so that if they were to ever wander off without a compass, they could find their way back to you by following a specific river to a pre-defined location. 

Other than that, who cares. I surely don't and I don't need to pretend that I do. A few years ago I walked away from a life course that I used every tool available to me to build. I still have people anxiously awaiting my input in that world. The only instructions I left when I walked way was: "Figure it out and try not to lose the company in the process." 

I'm going back to work next week, which means they didn't lose the company. Hooray!  After a 4-year international journey of cultural enhancement and all that that implies, and a 9-month exploration of Ludwig Wittgenstein's statement that "a serious and good philosophical work could be written that could consist entirely of jokes." 

This statement tortured me since the moment I came across it. Initially, I wanted to dismiss it as trivial and less deserving of scholarly examination for it fell within the realm of aesthetics, whereas my immense ego-maniacal favorite is logic. I could write the definitive graphic guide to logic and make it a whole lot more funny now! 

This challenge simply hasn't yet been met. Just when I thought I had thought all that could be thunk without going into the deep recesses of the small, precise, trivial details of some random theory of thought, the idea of writing a philosophical joke book took hold of me and the delightful satisfaction I derive by merely questioning whether I could be the one to write it has ticked me pink ever since. 

My exploration into humor arose in large part due to the promise I made myself after our voyages came to an end, namely, to follow my heart after exploring it with a few charts of my own (including biofeedback data), but the impetus for the promise that resulted in my taking on the role of the philosophical humorist was simply to answer this call. In this respect, humor studies is rather egolishious - logical surrealism at its finest. 

Saul Steinberg observed, "Trying to define humor is one of the definitions of humor." 

I think he's got a point. 
Of course, my logic could be a bit foggy. 

No comments: