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Rethinking the Tribal Dance

Normally I'm not as slow in finding some significance to an outdoor trip as in the last post. I did mention that it was the best group event in 16 years of full-time RVing, and that the little spring was the first gurgling of water that I had ever seen in the desert. But now I want to try harder.

There was a similarity between the ebullience of the dogs and gurgling of the water out of the side of the arroyo. Think of the 'irrepressibility of life.' I know, it sounds a little corny. But it's true. Perhaps it only seems like corny overstatement because we live in an age when we can take water, the stuff of life, for granted. The early explorers or settlers in the Southwest would not have needed convincing. They would have fallen to the muddy ground at the foot of the spring's trickle and prayed.

If we can't appreciate something as fundamental as water, isn't it likely that we are handicapped in general when it comes to experiencing anything authentic in nature? Maybe that is why we see Nature as a visual Dairy Queen, and nothing more.

There's something about seeing two apparently-dissimilar things, and then struggling to see a commonality. It certainly raises the impact on you. It is what thinking is all about. There are other ways to think, of course. One could see superficial details and nothing else. How empty and sterile that is! Or, in the opposite vein, one could start with generalities (platitudes, concepts) and then notice only those concrete things that confirmed one's a-priori prejudices.

A couple posts ago I was singing paeans to rockhounding as the proper metaphor for so many things in life. And then there is the little matter of actually putting the idea into practice! How hard it is for me to adopt the attitude of a rockhound when it comes to my reading. Everything that a rockhound does right, I do wrong when reading. The difficulty of sifting through the detritus of books gets me feeling discouraged and sour.

Ahh, but I have a success story to try to please you with. Somehow I stumbled onto a best-seller from the 1980s, "The Name of the Rose," by Umberto Eco. I don't understand the praise given to this book by over-zealous reviewers on Amazon. But a good literary rockhound can still find a few things of value in the book. It certainly was a clever idea to write a history book, of the Middle Ages!, as a detective story.

Consider this little speech of the main character:
"...solving a mystery is not the same as deducing from first principles. Nor does it amount simply to collecting a number of particular data from which to infer a general law. It means, rather, facing one or two or three particular data apparently with nothing in common, and trying to imagine whether they could represent so many instances of a general law you don't yet know, and which perhaps has never been pronounced."
Perhaps the reader thinks that this is a beautiful quote. Let's hope so. Still, that isn't good enough: talk is cheap. For 4 points of extra credit, let the reader describe what is in common between the pyramidal topographical entity on the left and the squared off entity on the right:

But we don't want to over-praise the imagining-of-commonality as a "positive" process, and then belittle the making-of-important-distinctions as a "negative" process. What counts is that we lean against what is too easy to think. The desired result is a set of parallel tiger stripes of clear thinking.


PetDoc said…
I think the beautiful comment was one of your own: If we can't appreciate something as fundamental as water.... I am grateful for being a child that grew up in the West, and for having a father who would rather be camping than almost anything else. The further we are from nature, the less human we become...or, would that be more human? Deanna
edlfrey said…
What is in common between the pyramidal topographical entity on the left and the squared off entity on the right? After reading the question and a quick glance at the picture my first thought was Geometry. They have a commonality of shape. That thinking lead me to Euclid the "Father of Geometry" but he also wrote about perspective. If those two shapes were viewed from a different place would they retain their shape? So I must change my first thought and say that the two entities have a commonality of geometry that is subject to a changed perspective.
I think my fable answer for 5 extra credit points was better than this but I'll give this a try for the offered 4 points. I have to tell you now however IF the rewards keep going down I'm not going to play any more!
dahkota said…
"The man bent over his guitar,
A shearsman of sorts. The day was green.
They said, 'You have a blue guitar,
You do not play things as they are.'
The man replied, 'Things as they are
Are changed upon the blue guitar.'
And they said then, 'But play, you must,
A tune beyond us, yet ourselves,
A tune upon the blue guitar
Of things exactly as they are.'
XXXXX said…
I don't think that the "irrepressibility of life" is a corny statement. This planet is an explosion of life and, when snuffed out in one place, simply re-emerges in another. Right now, there's so much life that we are have to compete way too much in order to live.
That the ebullience of dogs should remind you of water is an easy relationship to understand. Even Webster got it.....look it up. The first definition refers to "overflowing with ferver"; the second definition "bubbling up like a boiling brook."
Do you also notice the water words used......"overflowing" and "bubbling up". All the same.
In the last part, you bring the reader to the point of thinking about these connections you have presented. My question to you is this: Is it really "thinking" you want us to engage in? Don't we have other methods as a human being to experience and process information? It seems to me that when you ask the reader to see the similarities between the ebullience of a dog and water, you are asking the reader to intuit, sense or FEEL more than think.
You IMAGINE these things and that's not thinking. Of course, these imaginings are just as real as thinking. We all know how many holes "thinking" can have.
PS In terms of the quiz, the geological formations create the layers and are what is shared between the two. Both were created by the same forces over millions of years. The interesting thing, I think, is what were the forces that created the is peaked; the other flat. As I look in my book about Zion, the answer might be water. Water created V-shaped canyons in Zion due to NNW fracturing and then I guess wind erosion worked to create the flat top on the other. Do I get the 4 points? How about bonus points?
Boonie, the pyramid exists because there's a caprock on top keeping it from eroding to the next layer. The two landforms are the same formations, just in different phases of erosion.

The phrase the "irrepressibility of life" reminds me of a visit I took to Yoho National Park in B.C. to see the Burgess Shale.
Dadgummit, I knew you were going to get it. Thanks for holding off for a couple days to let somebody else have a chance.

But it seemed like a valuable exercise in the basic structure of thinking. The "pyramid" seems QUALitatively different than the "mesa," and yet the difference is only QUANTitative. I suppose that, in the early stages of any science, people think QUALitatively, sorting things into categories and sub-categories. Then, over time, QUANTitative thinking takes over.

Of course, in personal life, many of the issues we deal with are not exact sciences. So QUALitative thinking must prevail.
"How many holes thinking has"? You can only come to that conclusion by thinking. And "feeling" doesn't have holes?

How lucky you were to have a father like that! I once posted about mountain biking on a remote dead-end road in the mountains of New Mexico. I saw a father and his 7-year-old daughter driving by in a pickup, with the windows rolled down. The little girl was enjoying herself so much. I wondered if she would grow up to be a camper or outdoorswoman.
Well, you're right, assuming one thinks at all, which I do only under duress, if then. Today I'm thinking I maybe should come south sooner, as I'm looking at a foot of snow out my window with more forecast.
MFH said…
Ah, the pointiness *contrasts* so nicely with flatness. If you listen you'll hear the commonality of their giggles at the delightful "joke" they've created.