April 16, 2015 Part One
Distill: To concentrate, to extract the essential elements.
Zeit: A neologistic abbreviation of zeitgeist. Zeitgeist has too many syllables. It has a harsh sound. Let’s shorten 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, containing many shadows of myth memory. Every generation has its zeit, a feel, a conglomeration of values - many unspoken and many 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.
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.
“You don’t need a weatherman to tell which way the wind blows.” - Bob Dylan
You get weathermen - like ‘em or not.
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?
“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 relationships
“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 to conserve these chemical changes as culture, memory and conserved 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 as copied onto RNA. This process is called Post Translational Modification. Translation is the copying of a sequence of base pairs ( a gene) from a strand of unravelled 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 from the cell nucleus out into the rough endoplasmic reticulum surrounding the cell nucleus where the RNA passes the gene- info to a ribosome where is has modifications installed. If it’s a liver cell it is going to need to be adjusted to process bile. If it is a retina cell, it must be set up to distinguish color or, if an auditory cell - sound. If a brain cell it will produce neurotransmitters.
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 DNA for an audio cell is captured by the RNA in the nucleus of a cell already assigned as cochlear and in passing through the ribosomes of a cochlear cell, sequences of DNA created from the same gene gets a unique molecule attached or is folded in a unique twist giving it the ability to distinguish between A flat and A and B and C and C sharp and so on. This unique feature is installed by a specific histone specifically evolved for this task. Remember, for each of our 20,000 protein coding genes there are 10,000 associated histones for adding specificity. If Watson, Crick and Mendel are in the DNA then God is in the histones.
Where in our genome ( as this detailed info must be in there somewhere) are these hundreds of audio fine points coded? Given, that this final coding of pitch specificity occurs at the cochlea in a specifically cochlear cell. We know that a 33 week fetus can hear music. It must be that the source gene is unlocked on two occasions - once to code for the cochlear ( audio) cell and then again later for its specific pitch - one small translation to create the cochlear cell and then 700 additional translations from DNA at a second uncoiling of histones to reveal the audio gene(s) with all of their pitch-code now made available. What gives the cochlear cell the signal to unwind its DNA for this renewed access to the codons for pitch. There must be at least 700 different codons in the chromatin ( unravelled thus accessible DNA) for this pitch information that will be locked into the 700 different hair cells - some hear the piccolos and some hear the bass and some will be capable of hearing a plucked cable of the Golden Gate Bridge ( lowest limit of audio perception)
- What genes code for hearing?
- How many genes code for the cochlear hair cells
- Is it 2 genes and 700 histones or vice versa required to make the human hearing apparatus.
- Are the same few genes re-visited for additional higher level distinctions?
- How many trips back to the DNA are made by hair cell operators
- Just a second trip with all subsequent translation performed at RER within ribosomes?
- Are there perhaps 700 different ribosomes - one for each different hair cell capable of listening for its specific pitch?
- Is there a cascade of operators? One Gene, say 2,000 bp of this gene code for protein with 198,000 bp of “junk” and 10,000 histones along this DNA sequence.
- Perhaps only 2% of the base pairs here code for protein identifying a cell as one for hearing but the other 98% of the DNA may simply capture the histones required for hair cell differentiation for pitch once the cochlea has developed in the fetus say between weeks 25 and 34.
- Perhaps “junk” DNA codes for molecular tags for pitch sensitivity at yung ribosomes as they emerge from synthesis at nucleosome. The ribosomes thus tagged proceed to the rough endoplasmic reticulum where they manufacture 700 distinct pitch chemistry for cochlear hair cells.
or to distinguish between cantaloupe orange and burnt butterscotch, or to remember to wipe your feet before entering grandma’s house or to salute the oncoming soldier. Your cochlear membrane has 15 thousand cells that have been adjusted by post translational modification to distinguish pitch. learning when and whom to salute gets encoded at age nineteen by a drill sergeant activating some post translational activity in your neocortex.
How could these PTMs be passed on to following generations without affecting the genome? Our FOX2 gene is mighty flexible. It captures minor PTMs ( methylation, phosphorylation etc) with glue-like promiscuous histones.
Book title: “Our Promiscuous Histones” The ones at our FOX2 and ARHGAP11B genes. Among several genes coding for the mighty neocortex, the part of our brain that makes us human, the source of our sentience. Several genes encode 20 billion neurons for fire, art, language, manners, music, technology, much memory, self reflection, altruism, self-control. The histones around which these two genes wrap are involved with many partners as they express the zeit.
- How might a FOX2 gene convey a culture-induced modification to a following generation?
- Are FOX2 and ARHG AP11B ( henceforth: FOXAR) genes more likely to be carried across a few generations than mutations at any of our other 20,000 genes?
- Do FOXAR have immunity to gene self-correction during lifetime i.e. more flexibility? more tolerance for innovation to their molecular structure? How minor is a stored memory?, a memory conserved across a few generations as in TTT ( Transgenerational Transmission of Trauma @ N.Kellerman)
- How does FOXAR resist the gene police avoiding being tossed into the vesicular trash bin?
- Is blood part of the trash removal system at cortical neurons?
- How does blood get past the blood-brain barrier?
- FOXAR 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 lifetime at some point in organism’s evolutionary history thus exhibiting Lamarckism?
- Minimal FOXAR policing absent where a child inherits an entire suite of acquired characteristics: Picasso, Mozart.
- How to explain Frank Lloyd Wright’s genius for architecture. His father was a preacher. His mother willed him to be an architect from gestation. A suite of skills planted by a supernatural entity in parental DNA or FLW in utero with his embryonic neural DNA invaded by a spirit-walk-in. Cue: “Twilight Zone” theme.
- FOXAR susceptibility to short-lived ( 1 to 35 generations only) If this does occur then the factors that pass on talent must evaporate after the original occurrence. Wright’s sons were not gifted architects though John Lloyd Wright invented Lincoln Logs. Picasso’s children were not notable painters.
- Henceforth I am going to use the term “methylated” for all post translational modification - PTM ( there are dozens, hundreds? thousands? of varieties) PTM changes a heritable gene after cell division and outside of the chromosome in order to produced a protein or an array of proteins not specifically carried in DNA code i.e. the genome.
- Methylated histones at outermost layers of neocortical neurons migrate via blood and tagged for destination at germ cell by golgi apparatus. As these neurons may 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 vast landscape of the body with each tissue reading the destination address and forwarding as necessary like a chemical Pony Express. Perhaps passed from neocortex to thalamus-midbrain-pons-medulla-spinal cord to uterus where these cortical neurons that have been methylated with music talent ( abstracted clusters of trained-interconnected neurons i.e. 500,000,000 synaptic interconnections coded into a single cell for transport to the germ ( and where might this packaging of experience occur? let’s say - the hippocampus, the putamen, lateral ventricles or caudate nucleus, possibly the thalamus.
- Perhaps there is a cascade of operations involving a few of these structures - each adding a layer of decipherable abstraction.) One methylated protein carries a lifetime of music skill down to an egg or perhaps to all of the eggs and a couple of day’s worth of sperm where it works its way into some unravelled DNA-histone zone where it will get locked in and wrapped up after fertilization and meiosis-mitosis and passed onto to the child of the craftsman where this skill headstart will flower into full-fledged genius - prodigal expression and a concert tour of Europe at age nine.
- There are six layers of cortical neurons in the human brain. Do these layers correspond to the rapidity with which a sensory input is dispatched to other parts of the brain? If one experiences a rude push on the crowded sidewalk this message follows a synaptic path originating in the amygdala via level three whereas when stopped by a mugger and struck in the face, the message is sent express from amygdala along a closer pathway level six to the proper processing zone at cerebellum i.e. the different levels of the neocortex from I to VI are lanes of neuronal traffic each with its own speed of travel - the lower - inner-closer levels for connections that must be made instantly - locked into very short term memory for a few seconds - like remembering the direction of a blow so that the following punch might be slipped.
- Transmitting axons originating at level VI have dendrites extending to each of the six levels so that this axon can forward a message to the proper lane / layer i.e. fast lane or slower lane or slowest lane - take your time, don’t crowd the system unnecessarily. Analyzing the Weigert stain, the Golgi stain.
- Is it the topmost layer one that is the fast lane? to be nearer great surface area for immediate cooling of neural-synaptic heat from electrical pulsing and inner layers five and six are slower? A big brain debate - lane six for shortest distance or lane one for greatest cooling?
- Experiment: Check for relationship between amount of blood flow and most vital brain communications - life or death. Check oxygen consumption and CO2 production as it occurs in a 9-zone voxel cluster as evidence of priority.
- Is the neocortex outer surface corrugated only to pack a lot of neurons or is it corrugated in order to cool the neurons and glial cells it contains? Folding doesn’t necessarily create more total volume but the six-layer limit may argue for folding as a surface area provider. As neurons are already packed six layers deep, perhaps brain folds at gray-pink matter at top layer for cooling only - like a radiator that has lots of surface area - not to hold more water but to cool the water it has.
- What type of brain cell would require more cooling, a neuron or a glial cell?
- analyze brain for heat with night-vision scope - may be more telling than electrical activity or are they coincident? Electrical activity equals heat generated?
- Where is brain blood warmest when thinking - the limbic system or the neocortex? In considering the limbic system is it then at the thalamus or the putamen or hippocampus? To do: track heat intensity and differential throughout brain and central nervous system under 1,000 circumstances.
- Do layer one neurons have more mitochondria than other layers? Mitochondrial density may be a sign of greater activity over time. which of the six layers of brain cells of the neocortex has the most mitochondria? The most Golgi apparatus? The most rough endoplasmic reticulum?
- If layer VI has the most mitochondria in its neurons then maybe this is a sign that this is the fastest lane for relaying signals.
- Do the six layers of the neocortex reveal a gradual pattern from I to VI re: blood vessel density?
- To do: Relate brain function to blood supply, heat generated, amount of waste generated. Track 2000 substances produced in the brain in relation to specific function.
- At Weigert-stain at neocortex that shows all six layers, why do most axons extend upward from soma rather than down or sideways? Does this directionality relate to importance or type of signal?
- Is this axonal directionality real or simply a quirk of the slice location / direction or some other quirk of the stain process and representation? “There’s many a slip ‘twixt the cup and the lip.” -Palladas
- Where in the brain are the shortest term memories stored? Is this somewhere in the neocortex or elsewhere? perhaps in the cerebellum or brainstem?
- Using the example of touching a hot coal where does the hot memory get locked to avoid an additional burn? If in a fistfight or 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 lousy 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 in order 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?
- If 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 level V pyramid cells 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 an amygdalan - fight or flight emergency and see if this is 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 does a signal get stored to reflect its probable future use. Where does the incoming signal get tagged for immediate vital recall. Perhaps electrical signal, accompanied by a tag 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.
- If an individual human had an experience or a thought whose memory and subsequent genetic conservation was crucial to the survival of life on Earth including all 5 kingdoms: animal, plant, bacteria, virus, archaea, how would this knowledge, this memory, be conserved? What are the neural-genetic pathways and mechanisms: spatial and chemical. Written language and mathematical equations would be too abstract - best to hardwire this into the genome and not depend on Google - Wikipedia-Facebook. How is this accomplished? INH-epigenetics, LIF-epigenetics. INH refers to Lamarckian INHerited acquired traits, LIF refers to non-heritable factors such as histone modification and DNA methylation as source of gene expression that are not necessarily heritable.
- 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 life-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.
- Perhaps inputs have options given how crowded a particular neural pathway may be. Say level III, the usual path is crowded trying to process a problem with the waiter when an owl flies in to snatch puppy from lap and an alternate route to Pons must be used.
- Which situation would result in more 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?
- It seems like it would be harder to evacuate waste ( products from metabolism) from central area of a larger cell, thus larger neurons not used for very rapid response signalling that would require high ATP consumption.
- Are cortical layers with the smaller neurons used for fight or flight response?
- 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.
- Due to longer voyage to outer membrane and more evacuoles needed, it seems like larger neurons would produce fewer different proteins, as this would result in fewer errors / waste during production. So, counterintuitively - small neurons mean more protein variety not less - easier to take out the trash ( broken strands of nucleotide, CO2 sent to blood vessels ( vein capillaries)
- Which is warmer given equal amounts of blood - veins or arteries?
- Perhaps cortical temperature is related to
- What radiates more heat: Oxygen or CO2?
- 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 noticing small 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 jacobson's ( vomeronasal) organ as a pheromone. Is there a fear pheromone? Any sort of fear signaling chemical transported by air produced by a frightened organism?
- Are there two kingdoms of genes: one active only during gestation and one set postpartum for remainder of life?
- Is there a gene coding for the neocortex soon after fertilization then additional involvement from this same gene at 3d month, 6th month, 8th month, birth and so on until puberty or late adolescence when the final neocortical gene expresses itself as teen rebellion from parents?
- Are there only one or two genes for all of this neuronal / behavioral differentiation with PTM ( post translational modification) saying- methylation responsible for 1,000 different expressions?
- 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 limbic system, brain stem. Would social interaction with wolves or horses stimulate development in the neocortex?
- The beauty of the Kardashians isn’t so much their butts or money as their gift to us that celebrity is often dopey and deserving minor consideration. Most celebs would be the first to agree. This gift becomes clear when watching legendary newsman Walter Cronkite interviewing Frank Sinatra in the early 1960s, asking Frank many stupid questions, as if Sinatra were an alien in his great celebrity. Cronkite seems foolish asking the questions and Sinatra is obviously perplexed trying to answer them.
“Mythical thought builds ideological castles out of the debris of social discourse.”
- Claude Levi-Strauss
A Mythical thought: On the Origin of Species - Charles Darwin
The following list is Debris of mid-Victorian social discourse:
- Adam Smith
- Charles Lyell
- Thomas Carlyle
- Thomas Malthus
- Jeremy Bentham
- John Ruskin
- Matthew Arnold
- Cuvier and Lamarck
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
“Set” equals Zeit.
Our initiating structure is a set of genes coding for neocortical activity on two levels; that of the social order and that of each person. Every culture cherrypicks 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
- Our writers: Grant, Twain, Hemingway, Fitzgerald, Mailer, Heller, DF Wallace, S.J. Gould, Karr, Shteyngart
The individual weaves the fabric of his / her identity from the multi-hue thread of family and friends, teachers, internet, movies, tv and books.
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) that involved one hour of looking for each single 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 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, 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 thought-weavers of our zeit?
- Jenny Blake
- Seth Godin
Synthesize the aforementioned for a big new theory of “What It Is”
How might the ideas of these people be united into an 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
- 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 a columnar or cortical / limbic destination?
- Zeit is distilled on a hierarchy 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 effects on a vast scale that are beyond intention. The same goes for taking a crap or driving a car. The large effects will happen beyond individual intention as a result of numbers alone, as properties of combined effects. The zeit defines itself over and over again. when the number of suzerainties in Western Europe reached critical mass, nations emerged and absolute monarchs reigned.
- Zeit is also distilled at the more local levels of person, family, friends, profession, community, state, nation
- Does Snoop Lion distill any zeit? We know the Kardashians do
- Each decade has its zeit-distilling TV shows: “Jackie Gleason” and “I Love Lucy” “Bonanza” “All In the Family” “Mash” “Cheers” “Sopranos”, “Lost”, “Breaking Bad” “Nurse Jackie”
- ….and its zeit-ey books: Mailer, Wolfe,Breslin,Talese, Roth, Sontag, Heller, Updike, Didion, Pynchon,McGuane, DF Wallace, Shteyngart, Ford.
- In order to be ziet-worthy, music must be simply structured, melodic, harmonic, danceable and bearing a message: “da do ron ron - da do ron ron” or more recently “Mama say knock you out”
- Stick to the big zeits or this is going to take all night.
What are the effects of a single person on their zeit? Imagine a gear that is the diameter of a pea engaged in a larger gear the diameter of the Earth’s orbit or vice versa depending on one’s ability to distill.
Why discuss zeit? In order to parse 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 idea so that we may evaluate it effectively. 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 penetrable, more vulnerable to challenge than if the idea of gradualism arrived from on high, from some 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 grail 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. The Big Boat is taking on water now for many reasons.
If the result of random mutation-natural selection has as its source the broad strokes of Malthusian population dynamics and not nature’s genetic experiment then random mutation becomes less fixed as a principle. It can be seen as an intellectual fashion statement of Victorian vintage and 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 merely 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 a 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, see: 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 little more than a distillation of popular ideas and not as inviolable, scientific principle that is beyond questioning. “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-coal compressed into Myth-diamond or decomposed into molecular building blocks for new life. It is prudent to question “accepted” wisdom on all possible levels prior to buying into the Myth or its zeit. Kicking the tires is Job One for anyone over twelve years old.
Every avant garde has its spear points. In painting they have been Delacroix, Turner, Manet, Monet, Van Gogh, Gauguin, Cezanne, Picasso, Duchamp, Malevich as well as the army of obscurities who provided a bohemian milieu for the geniuses. 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. Picasso had his “Bande au Picasso”, Warhol had his Factory to generate and carry out ideas in colorful company.
Prime task for the avant garde is combing the zeit from every point on the compass, dismantling decaying dogma. The avant garde is good bacteria digesting dead ideas making room for the living.
Contemporary science in the West resists the idea of an avant garde in its own community. It conserves process and procedure, habit and tradition, assuming self-correction at all levels: all credible experiment under senior guidance, intense peer review, publication in respected journals. 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 back down the ones who have made it to the upper edge for escape to the realm of a new idea. Science must nurture a class of dedicated zeit-pickers, rebels by definition. Science abhors an avant garde as fiercely nature abhors a vacuum. Every researcher knows they are the next Newton, Einstein, Feynman, Margulis, McClintock or Watson. As Tom wolfe reminds us in The Right Stuff regarding test pilots and astronauts; if you don’t believe you are the greatest of them all, you crash.
Zeit manifests Myth. Myth is the operating system, Zeit is the array of Apps. Myth evolves gradually for the most part undergoing abruptions 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
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 impact at 50 to 250 million year intervals creates CHANGE.
Myth includes all features of a culture including those that have been highly conserved ( Christian, Muslim or Buddhist doctrine, Scientific method, American Democracy, Western legal tradition: contract primacy, private property rights, storytelling tropes ( 3 to 5 acts and out) Humor( other people’s pain), music( 7 tones in tune), literature (begin and an end with conflict in the middle). The operative Myth of a people contains everything - the whole ball of wax. Each group has an operative paradigm always open for a good shift, swerve or juke. The paradigm defining document for the U.S. Government is “The Constitution” For our contemporary Capital “A” art world it is Duchamp’s reposition of R. Mutt. In physics it’s the Feynman diagram in bioscience its the double helix. 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? If a new nation cannot write its Constitution on a single sheet of typing paper it is doomed. E=MC2….The whole shebang!
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 the 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 these people.
Well, you say, every scientist, fresh PhDs among them, is probing the unknown all day long. Hey! It’s what we do - perhaps, but rarely beyond the parameters of your professors, peers and publishers. Myth and its multitude of manifestations are required in order to function. To discover truth, Myth must be busted and all myths are bustable - look deeper. It takes talent, tenacity, imagination, hard, sustained work and a bit of seduction along with a sexy idea like gravity or relativity or DNA structure or symbiosis.
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.
- 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 The Krebs Cycle before all of its efficient metabolic steps evolved?
- 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.
- 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 that was most recently expressed one billion years ago that it spent 2 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!
- Maybe ‘junk” DNA is used by microbes during decomposition - a reason for them to get involved in the process, harvesting useful aminos.
- Title for new Paul McCartney album: “Re-Evolver”
- Perhaps “junk” DNA is used during gestation as timing mechanism thus appearing “junky” postpartum.
The steps involved in zeit-search. It’s part of every curriculum listed as: History, English Literature, Anthropology, etc.
- 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 happens in the neocortex it is the stuff of Myth. If Myth is a big sockeye salmon, zeit is a golden trout. They’re both fish.
- That your present milieu has a distinct character that is different than those previous and will be different from those in a rapidly approaching future. Acknowledge that each contains its own swerve on morality, ethics, professional dogma and associated jargon, shibboleths and laughingstock etc.
- Study your zeit - what are its key features both strong and weak?
- All hindsight is through tinted 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 potential or expressed nefarious intention.
- What is Postmodern zeit? How is it different from Modern zeit?
- Postmodernism 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 ( Yale, Department of English Literature) that spread within a decade to architecture, anthropology, sociology, paleontology and other academic realms. These apostles are inspired by: Barthes, Foucault, Derrida, Deleuze, Debord, Baudrillard. See: The three Hs ( Hegel, Husserl, Heidegger) and Saussure for the see saw significance of sign and signifier. The Fab Six.
- Modernism in a nutshell- left brain, PoMo - right brain.
- Connect the dots of this cascade of art world causality: Cezanne-Duchamp-Warhol-Sontag-Koons
- And this one in bioscience: Lyell -Darwin-Galton-Mendel-Watson-Margulis-The Fab six, Eldredge/Gould(1972)-Dawkins-Gould ( 2002)-Quantum biologists(2015)
In his towering novel ( see: JB essay #25 - “Gould’s Great Novel”) on everything under the sun with a focus on evolution: The Structure Of Evolutionary Theory, Stephen Jay Gould goes to great length repeating the 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. the linear ( left-brain-Modern) and a lateral ( right brain-Postmodern) interpretation of all phenomena at all levels of abstraction. This omnipresent, hardwired into the neocortex difference 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 brainer.
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 vs Delacroix, Stendhal vs Dickens. Structuralist-Poststructuralist, Hemingway-Fitzgerald, Mailer-Vidal, Nirvana vs Coldplay, graffitist vs easel painter. Whoever comes up with the cleverest new name for this timeless duality achieves fame. The Left-right dialectic is the perpetually setting sun we misread as dawn. See: Victor Hugo on the Renaissance.
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 associated cortical zone. 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 this influence. I would guess that it is the inhibitory effect on jumpy layer III neurons at insula- neocortex allowing synthesis of mental activity into written word.
Large-scale random mutation will have little meaning 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 bolide impact - see” Chicxulub meteor ( wiped out dinosaurs) mops are flying every which way, doing their foundational work. 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 effective decisions are in place with their purpose intact. The painted realities are now calling the final phase shots as the painting and the organism control their own evolution with little outside help cherrypicking only the finest refinements. A bear isn’t going to decide to become radially symmetrical after 2000 million years of bilateral evolution but there was a time when this organism’s bauplan ( now expressed as a 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 completion. So, as an organism is 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 ten 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” cop, or 10 or 100 or 1,000.
Re: consciousness and our 10 billion neurons. If you have 10 billion anyting ( 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 - its 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 theory closes the door on one era and opens the door on a fresher, more inclusive one. In order to close the door on a zeit, one has 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 exclusively a Chicago Blues-based band. The scope of The Stones was too narrow to be revolutionary. The Stones were a juke on the Blues. the Beatles were a zeit shift away from yet including all Rock and Roll that preceded them.
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 setlists; 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 setlist 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 Thee Beatles’ case, the raw nature of Buddy Holly, Little Richard and Elvis, each of whom had received a higher education on mother nature of pop music 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 very 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. Gris did not understand Cubism at all. He was making 15th-19th century realistic renderings of Cubist-like subjects. Hint: anytime you see an “X”-type intersection with four different hues at each quadrant, you know you are seeing the work of a pretender. 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 setlist, 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 anatomically 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 “R.Mutt” from the men’s restroom to the iconic Armory Show-1913. Warhol repositions Campbell’s soup from supermarket shelves to the 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 Warhol to a lesser extent, shifted paradigms ( OK, let’s call Andy’s a swerve - smaller than Duchamp’s shift) without performing an act of extraction of essence from an existing body 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 it’s humble, low-key manufacturedness, whereas CocaCola, 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 great 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, silkscreening 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 advertized 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 compact laws of nature - explosive impact on a generation.
Great minds are like expansion valves on an air conditioner condensing unit. This valve transfers pressurized liquid into vapor which has a much greater capacity to store heat i.e. to do 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.
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: exaption: features evolved for one reason and used by an animal 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, it will open doors 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 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.
Gregor Mendel squirrelled his zeit-shifting work away 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 seen in light of genetics. Genetics threw and it continues to throw a lot of light.
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 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 musico-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, are hailed because they are intensely well behaved.
Picasso was a well known painter in 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 forest canopy? In a forest that will not evolve on the new island for five million years? There is no way to know which species might be controlling the direction of the zeit or what avant garde painter will prevail - it is a matter of future, unpredictable forces. The most adaptable will survive. Evolution is “Moneyball” Buy me the player who gets on base. I don’t care what they look like or how they do it.
Who will be our zeit-defining writers? Mailer,Wolfe, Updike, Frantzen, Sedaris? Vonnegut, Heller, Castaneda? Ford, McGuane, DeLillo? Shteyngart, Foster-Wallace, Gould? Each has made contributions. Mailer cast a brawling, wide net and advertised for 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, Ali, Astronauts, 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. Ford-articulates the ephemerally morose. Mcguane only writes about social inferiors and people in more hot water than he’s in -remains disconnected. Montana is a mile high and there is little oxygen in the air required for neural effulgence. Montana-The Craftsman State, if you want artists go to the big cities. DeLillo is disconnected though deep, wide and cold, 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) Someone must edit 500 pages away before we can 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 and 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 vast ambition but any sign of ambition works against you. See: George Washington and Thomas Jefferson. 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. Hamilton had a similar problem. Where is the Alexander Hamilton Monument in Washington D.C.? He deserves one in spades. You’ve got to nurse your milieu, allow those smacked by your greatness 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 so 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 ones who get swallowed up, subsumed, erased by evolutionary forces from natural selection to symbiosis to quantum effects. Your adversaries study and steal your moves, no matter how successful at one time - they’re 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: Stephen Jay Gould did 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 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, maybe 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 wipe. 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 nature boys John Ruskin and William Morris, both in fashion in Chicago design circles at the turn of the century. Wright sang the praises of the previously reviled ( by Morris and clique) 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 Mahoney’s brilliant perspectives of Wright’s best Prairie School work as 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 forbears. 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 including latecomer Paul Rudolph ( one of my Harvard 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.
Life: The inventors of our grammar and syntax, the inventor of the Golden Rule, Plato-Socrates, Zorastrians, Hindus etc.
Kingdom: Jesus-Plato-Socrates: the biggest, identifiable by name, zeit-distillers.
Phylum: Newton- Martin Luther - Darwin - Edison - Henry Ford - Marconi - Tesla
Class: Moore-Grove-Woz-Jobs-Gates-Page-Brin-Zuck axis.
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.
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 neologistic addendum) to deeper loci within the individual to describe the causality of human myth. The “um” suffix is a nod to phylum, subphylum.
Orgum….. organs in a single body - heart/gut memory?
Cellum…...cells within a single organ, cells throughout an organism not protists
Cromum... organelles,chromosomes (as physical entity w/ DNA, histones etc) golgi structures, endoplasmic reticulum rough and smooth, ribosomes, etc, etc-not proteins
Protum….. DNA molecule, all proteins, peptides, polypeptides, lipids, etc
Genum…..individual genes (as parts of DNA affecting one another) and immediate intermediaries within process of protein synthesis and cell metabolism
Parum…....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: computers 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 (methylated DNA) then onto another realm of myth-making, all of this Myth n’ zeit genetically secured in the DNA.: 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 frontman 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, physics - Newton he’s 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 (Apes!!) then into avuncular Myth. Moving on now to Art, there is old man Cezanne and then Einstein brings the ball back into the arena of science.
Our local zeit comprises them all to one degree or another Copernicus to 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.
Where will the Myth-hammer fall to crack-a-paradigm,wack-a-zeitmole to release 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 the chemical composition of water to swim in it but you do need to know if you’re going to change it in ways larger than the fact that you eat and crap and maybe drive a car.
Zeitshift is rarely an act of will though it may take great willpower to create a body of work that will catalyze a population, distill the idea of a people 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 generations, 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 and his destruction of the box?
Darwin relocated Christianity from inaccessible 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 system. 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.
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.
Contextual voltage: Stored intellectual charge as accruing electrical charge, charging a capacitor or a battery, setting the background, backstory, backdrop, the stage, the platform for the jolt of a new idea. Adam Smith, Charles Lyell and Thomas Malthus charged Darwin’s battery 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.
Does a culture go into estrus, signalling readiness to be impregnated with a new idea? Does it get twitchy, ill-at-ease, more curious? 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 young 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 - perfect for a boomer band in 2015.