Mark My Words

Sunday, 1 February 2009, 13:06 | Category : Uncategorized
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I’m new at this, and I hope the grizzled veterans of the internet will forgive my gaffes in the medium. My remarkable son Ben has set up this space for me, and I want to use it as a place where people interested in my work as a poet, writer, teacher and thinker can meet with me and with each other.

At the moment the things I am thinking about include the following:

The nature of time–always.  How do we extend the present moment so that it isn’t just the automatic working of deterministic causality?  How is it that living things share a present with each other? What if evolution isn’t a substitute for divine creation, but the metabolism of a divine self-creator?

What conclusions about the meaning of life flow from the idea, very prevalent in computer science and some areas of cosmological science, that the universe can be regarded as an enormous piece of computation–nonlinear, self-programming, and generative of apparent concreteness though the constraints of threshold-crossings in its self-organizing process?  Is reality the same as virtual reality?

How is it that the cellist’s fingering hand appears to have a life and will of its own, and acts like a very quick, ruthless little animal? My brother Bob, who has his own brain-scanning fMRI lab in Leipzig, is studying music and the brain. Apparently, he says, chunks of the brain that manage the hands of pianists and string players mushroom out in size over time. This can clearly be observed of the fingering hand. But the bowing hand, I am told, especially for viol de gamba players, is an equal participant–can its work be represented elsewhere in the brain?

What is to be the role of my beloved Texas, defeated in so many ways in the last few years, in the life of the world and nation?

What would a bearable life after death be like?–supposing, for instance, we could be brought back to life at some remote time in the future, when scientists will be able to recover all the information that constitutes our identity and re-embody it.

The relationship between a currency and its backing or base, and the role of national sovereignty in this relationship.

Episodes from my own childhood–is the apparent continuity of identity and consciousness an illusion, or real?

My student Jimmy Wilder, a very talented musician, has got me thinking about the relationship between language and music again. Ordinary speech has a prosody such that, if a piece of conversation is recorded and repeated until its lexical meaning is blurred by habituation, its melody begins to appear. Don’t poets unconsciously use this in their work? My friend Zsuzsanna Ozsvath and I are currently translating Goethe together–more and more I am astonished by the musicality of his verse. Contrariwise, I have started to write poems whose meter is based on melodies I like in classical or church or popular music. I wonder if people will recognize the tune?–I know that if you tap out on a tabletop the rhythm of a familiar tune, it is often clear what it is.

Enough for now. I can’t promise to be a regular blogger, but I will try to say interesting things from time to time.

8 Comments for “Mark My Words”

  1. 1Troy Camplin

    Welcome to the wide world of blogging. Blogs are a good place to try out ideas.

  2. 2McFawn

    Many fascinating prompts in this first post, but I find this of particular interest:

    “What if evolution isn’t a substitute for divine creation, but the metabolism of a divine self-creator?”

    The idea that the world/universe is a single being with evolution as its internal processes is intriguing. “Metabolism” implies that evolution could be sped up or slowed depending on the lifestyle choices of that self-creator– perhaps the ballooning human population is like fat cells gathering around the midsection of an increasingly sedentary world

  3. 3John MacEachern

    Nice place you’ve got here, Fred. I wonder about the afterlife as well. J.T. Fraser, in Time as Conflict, writes that he hopes “the music played will be that of Johann Sebastian Bach, and the company we keep will be that of all those we ever loved; and also that explanations of passion and knowledge will not be needed, for everything will be obvious, necessary, and free.” Beautiful words, but I find myself hoping that Paradise will be a place where we can suffer if we want, which we inevitably will. My wife dreamt of a dear friend of ours who died young a few years back, and whose hands had been mutilated by a genetic condition and subsequent surgeries. My wife said that in the dream, this girl’s fingers were intact–long and graceful, in fact, but covered in fine white scars.

    I hope the afterlife is a place where we can heal, but also a place where we can be ourselves and get into trouble from time to time. If the soul is a dynamical process, then stasis is death.

  4. 4Amanda Preston

    Eddie Healey, a classical Spanish guitar player and a Ph.D. student in the same there at UTD, and I are currently in talks about a collaboration of music and poetry to try and spark some revival of appreciation for classical forms (meter of any kind, really). We hope to showcase the best of each discipline, as well as their soluablity. I am thinking about the musicality of language and poetry as a result, and I am convinced there is a relation between the natural aspects of both language and music. Every culture seems to have their own forms of each. Curious. What I am now wondering is why, and how those many songs relate to each other. Words alone can be moving, as can a melody, but when married there is so much more power behind the song, the wisdom of a child. Why else would the Muses sing, rather than speak or hum? I think we have always known this somehow, innately. But how to take that and make a point of demonstration that also makes the statement itself? Hopefully by working with a musician, I will be able to take his experience/knowledge with my small but growing poetic hopes and make something happen. Now if only my brother had such technology to aid the process as you do, I could see the two minds in action and compare them; perhaps they work much the same. Now I just have to look to a successful marriage with a message, where music is the bride and language the groom. I wonder who will be the priest to perform the rites of matrimony. And what of the offspring’s identity? If I were a master of time I might know, but I’ll just have to wait until it is done to know. Wish me luck!

  5. 5Tom Munnecke

    This is great news, Fred, that you are getting a blog… Here are some videos that may interest your readers that I took on our road trip up to the International Society for the Study of Time meeting in Asilomar, July 2007

    Your talk about time on the pier at San Simeon, below Hearst Castle on California’s Highway 1:

    Our conversation driving through Big Sur about self-referential systems: (I hope you recovered from the sun burn)

  6. 6Claudia Gary

    Fred, congratulations on your new website/blog! It looks great, and I’ll return to it as often as possible to catch up and read ahead.

  7. 7mfreeman

    What an interesting idea, creating a poem of your own to the melody of a song, classical or other, you know and love. I immediately made up some lines to beethoven’s Fifth which weren’t bad! (Must tinker before I share)–thanks!

    Congratulations on this site! It’s the first chance I’ve had to explore it carefully. I think it is great you have your poetry (old friend Blackness of the Grackle), and even Genesis. I want a way to email what you say to my children (various ones for various children) and am not clear on how to do that yet, but will be soon I hope. Ask Ben how I list your blog on The Circle, and vice versa?

  8. 8AndrewBoldman

    Great post! Just wanted to let you know you have a new subscriber- me!

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