Once More to the Moon

The stars will blow out they say
tho none have seen one up close
or this far away for that matter.

And for now the center still holds
the “deep heart’s core” burns on
of course tempered with age.

The tool worn and bent its handle
once forged so hot to the touch
now almost cold the closer you come.

The further astray and adrift
solo in space in your egg shaped
spiral lost in your milky way.

Why nine chains to the moon?
Because things arranged in threes
allow a mysterious symmetry.

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All advertisement is argument.

We start arguments when we say something and we know someone will disagree. Happens all the time. We are never safe from disagreement. If you say, “The sun rises in the east,” you might think you’d be safe from argument. But an astrophysicist listening in might say the sun does not actually rise. The earth spins in orbit around the sun, and so on and so forth. A rebuttal around what you said about where the sun rises might productively explain the importance of point of view and perspective, presuppositions and assumptions, audience and expectations, proof and fallacy. Or it might be met with an eclipse of the eyes.

Most of the above, in one form or another, you can find in books on rhetoric, and most of those have as their ultimate source of reference, Aristotle. When “The Coming of the Toads” started out, on December 27, 2007, the first post was about argument. Since then, the Toads has posted 866 arguments. Not that frequency or redundancy leads to persuasiveness. Some readers will no doubt argue that’s 866 arguments too many.

Artists enjoy argument. A poet might say, for example, “Wouldn’t it be nice if the sun rose in the west for a change?” Buckminster Fuller suggested we replace the words “sunrise” and “sunset” with sunsight and sunclipse. Fuller, a scientist and inventor, was arguing that language both informs and betrays how we see and understand things. Both physicists and philosophers might ask, “Why does the sun rise?” Their answers will be arguments. Advertisers can’t afford arguments, so they cleverly disguise saying anything someone might disagree with. An advertiser might suggest sunopen and sunclosed.

Silence, too, is often met with disagreement. “You should speak up,” someone says. “Say something.” Or your silence alone might be understood as disagreement, particularly if your arms are folded tightly across your chest. Advertisers never fold their arms or cross their legs.

Aristotle saw that arguments happen everywhere and all the time. But listening closely, he also saw that some people were better at argument than others. Some people always seemed to be right, no matter what they said. And Aristotle thought that if he studied how those people argued, he might be able to explain the tools of argument.

The proper use of those tools is the subject of another argument.

Shops

To Hawthorne, hopping nuts with holiday shoppers, the shops overheated, crowded with festive folks wearing wet weather gear, so it felt fresh again and good to leave a shop and back out onto the sidewalk. On the corner at the Hawthorne boutique Goodwill, the usual Cannery Row characters occupying the sidewalk, sharing beer bottles noted, something craft, where the money for that, wondered, and another sign, next a panhandling hat: “Too honest to steal. Too ugly to prostitute.” Got the to too correct. Literary bunch. Probably all with English major degrees.

Distribution the problem, Buckminster Fuller said, Earth enough resources, but inefficiently distributed. And saw a news report last week where down in Los Angeles a new project encouraging grocery shops from throwing away food deemed unsaleable, systems now being created to collect and redistribute the food in a number of ways – to the homeless and hungry, to compost feed for animals, to entrepreneurial startups creating energy from the food scraps.

At the same time, reports afield of Amazon mistreating employees, robots running over their own, for example, while on TV we’ve been seeing obviously propagandistic ads showing these same employees as happy as Tiny Tim when miserly Scrooge shows up with the surprise goose.

But deep waters, this anti-Amazon sentiment. Was retail clerk ever a great job? And suppose Nordstrom or Macy’s does goes under – would that be some sort of cultural catastrophe? Suppose Amazon actually capable of solving distribution inefficiencies Earthwide: Water, Food, Shelter, Medicine, Grain, Tools. Suppose Bezos awakes from uneasy dreams some Christmas morning and converts his current medieval style dungeon warehouses into chic campuses like the ones employees currently enjoy in Silicon Valley? We should focus on problems of distribution and job satisfaction and livable wage, not on some romantic notion of brick and mortar life in shops.

On the Moon

Moondance 1A group of moonstruck locals climbed to the top of the park Sunday night to view the rising of the super moon. In Italo Calvino’s short story “The Distance to the Moon “ (1965), the characters climb to the moon from Earth using ladders:

“Climb up on the moon? Of course we did. All you had to do was row out to it in a boat and, when you were underneath, prop a ladder against her and scramble up.”

It’s the same moon Leonard Cohen had in mind when he sang,

“Ah, they’ll never, they’ll never ever reach the moon, at least not the one that we’re after.”

But which moon are we after?

In Buckminster Fuller’s book “Nine Chains to the Moon” (1963), he explains the title:

“A statistical cartoon would show that if, in imagination, all of the people of the world were to stand upon one another’s shoulders, they would make nine complete chains between the earth and the moon. If it is not so far to the moon, then it is not so far to the limits, – whatever, whenever or wherever they may be.”

Fuller may have climbed up to the moon to write some of his books.

When the Brooklyn Dodgers first arrived in Los Angles, they played in the Coliseum, which was not built for baseball, and the fence in left field was so close that a screen was put up so homers would not be too easy. But a Dodger player named Wally Moon cleared the fence so often his homers came to be called “Moon shots.” The Space Race was on.

For most, the dark side of the moon will remain forever dark. Apollo 8 circled the moon late in 1968, the year of the Tet Offensive, so there were other things on minds besides the moon. Eric Sevareid, for one, was unimpressed with the promise of pics from the dark side of the moon. From his short article, “The Dark Side of the Moon” (if following link, scroll about ¼ down):

“There is, after all, another side— a dark side — to the human spirit, too. Men have hardly begun to explore these regions; and it is going to be a very great pity if we advance upon the bright side of the moon with the dark side of ourselves, if the cargo in the first rockets to reach there consists of fear and chauvinism and suspicion. Surely we ought to have our credentials in order, our hands very clean and perhaps a prayer for forgiveness on our lips as we prepare to open the ancient vault of the shining moon.”

Of course, as it turned out, the dark side was no different than the bright side. Go figure. Speaks more to the mystery of metaphor than to the mystery of the moon.

Joyce had, in “Ulysses,” given his version of the perigee. From the penultimate episode of Joyce’s “Ulysses,” written in catechism form:

“With what meditations did Bloom accompany his demonstration to his companion of various constellations?

Meditations of evolution increasingly vaster: of the moon invisible in incipient lunation, approaching perigee: of the infinite lattiginous scintillating uncondensed milky way, discernible by daylight by an observer placed at the lower end of a cylindrical vertical shaft 5000 ft deep sunk from the surface towards the centre of the earth: of Sirius (alpha in Canis Maior) 10 lightyears (57,000,000,000,000 miles) distant and in volume 900 times the dimension of our planet: of Arcturus: of the precession of equinoxes: of Orion with belt and sextuple sun theta and nebula in which 100 of our solar systems could be contained: of moribund and of nascent new stars such as Nova in 1901: of our system plunging towards the constellation of Hercules: of the parallax or parallactic drift of socalled fixed stars, in reality evermoving wanderers from immeasurably remote eons to infinitely remote futures in comparison with which the years, threescore and ten, of allotted human life formed a parenthesis of infinitesimal brevity.”

No, the answer is not as brief as those in the Baltimore, and we still seem to be nine chains from the moon. In any case, must it always sound so cold? Not at all. Joyce follows up with a question and answer that deconstructs the man in the moon.

Moondance 2Sevareid had acknowledged the emergence of a new moon:

“The moon was always measured in terms of hope and reassurance and the heart pangs of youth on such a night as this; it is now measured in terms of mileage and foot-pounds of rocket thrust.”

Joyce also allows for a double moon, one of science, one of metaphor, in Bloom’s catechism answers:

 “What special affinities appeared to him to exist between the moon and woman?

Her antiquity in preceding and surviving successive tellurian generations: her nocturnal predominance: her satellitic dependence: her luminary reflection: her constancy under all her phases, rising and setting by her appointed times, waxing and waning: the forced invariability of her aspect: her indeterminate response to inaffirmative interrogation: her potency over effluent and refluent waters: her power to enamour, to mortify, to invest with beauty, to render insane, to incite to and aid delinquency: the tranquil inscrutability of her visage: the terribility of her isolated dominant implacable resplendent propinquity: her omens of tempest and of calm: the stimulation of her light, her motion and her presence: the admonition of her craters, her arid seas, her silence: her splendour, when visible: her attraction, when invisible.”

081020141748Pic to left: back from the mountain, down from the moon, in the backyard, a somewhat diminished super moon over the apple tree. I picked up a guitar. There are many more songs with moon in their title than sun. The reflection is not as blinding as the reality.

Thoreau Posts

…some Thoreau posts:

Back to School: An Interruption to Learning?

Buckminster Fuller’s Operating Manual for Spaceship Earth is available on-line at the Buckminster Fuller Institute. I think of it as Fall nears and students return to school, though they’ve no doubt been learning all summer, and school may be an interruption to that learning. Fuller explains, “Of course, we are beginning to learn a little in the behavioral sciences regarding how little we know about children and the educational processes. We had assumed the child to be an empty brain receptacle into which we could inject our methodically-gained wisdom until that child, too, became educated. In the light of modern behavioral science experiments that was not a good working assumption” (Chap. 1, para. 9).

The Operating Manual was first published in 1969, and I first read it at Cal State Dominguez Hills in the early 1970s as part of the 20th Century Thought and Expression Minor, an interdisciplinary, non-specialist course of studies: “Inasmuch as the new life always manifests comprehensive propensities I would like to know why it is that we have disregarded all children’s significantly spontaneous and comprehensive curiosity and in our formal education have deliberately instituted processes leading only to narrow specialization” (Chap. 1, para. 10).

Fuller was an inventor and an architect, and a philosopher and a teacher whose work touched regularly on the forms and reforms of education: “In our schools today we still start off the education of our children by giving them planes and lines that go on, incomprehensibly ‘forever’ toward a meaningless infinity” (Chap. 2, para. 1).

Throughout Spaceship, Fuller illustrates the debilitating effects of specialization and reflects on the success of generalized thinking, the ability to look at one thing and see something else, to invent. The specialist is unable to invent because his learning narrows to a dead-end point in an institutionalized tunnel: “Once man comprehended that any tree would serve as a lever his intellectual advantages accelerated. Man freed of special-case superstition by intellect has had his survival potentials multiplied millions fold. By virtue of the leverage principles in gears, pulleys, transistors, and so forth, it is literally possible to do more with less in a multitude of physio-chemical ways. Possibly it was this intellectual augmentation of humanity’s survival and success through the metaphysical perception of generalized principles which may be objectively employed that Christ was trying to teach in the obscurely told story of the loaves and the fishes” (Chap. 4, last para.).

Around the same time as Spaceship, pictures of Whole Earth began to emerge. These pictures lacked boundaries: “We begin by eschewing the role of specialists who deal only in parts. Becoming deliberately expansive instead of contractive, we ask, ‘How do we think in terms of wholes?’ If it is true that the bigger the thinking becomes the more lastingly effective it is, we must ask, ‘How big can we think?’” (Chap. 5, para 4).

Operating Manual begins in metaphor. The title itself is a metaphorical argument. “I am enthusiastic over humanity’s extraordinary and sometimes very timely ingenuities. If you are in a shipwreck and all the boats are gone, a piano top buoyant enough to keep you afloat that comes along makes a fortuitous life preserver. But this is not to say that the best way to design a life preserver is in the form of a piano top. I think that we are clinging to a great many piano tops in accepting yesterday’s fortuitous contrivings as constituting the only means for solving a given problem. Our brains deal exclusively with special-case experiences. Only our minds are able to discover the generalized principles operating without exception in each and every special-experience case which if detected and mastered will give knowledgeable advantage in all instances. Because our spontaneous initiative has been frustrated, too often inadvertently, in earliest childhood we do not tend, customarily, to dare to think competently regarding our potentials. We find it socially easier to go on with our narrow, shortsighted specializations and leave it to others—primarily to the politicians—to find some way of resolving our common dilemmas. Countering that spontaneous grownup trend to narrowness I will do my, hopefully ‘childish,’ best to confront as many of our problems as possible by employing the longest-distance thinking of which I am capable—though that may not take us very far into the future” (Chap. 1, para. 1).

Related Post: Earth-Glass Half Empty or Fuller? Reposted at Berfrois as Planet Earth as Spaceship.