Navigation & Pataphysical Self-Consciousness

"_____ is a prototypical fuzzy category. Ever subject to conflicting discourses, the concept of _____ is constantly being undermined by a politics of interpretation in which hegemonic norms are challenged by dissenting voices. It follows that the meaning of _____ in relation to other things, the Saussurean value of the category, is always shifting. Consider the categorical entanglements of “money” and “sex”. When we say that someone is well-fixed or well-endowed, what exactly are we talking about?" (– Marshal Sahlins)

"Pataphysics, whose etymological spelling should be έπι (μετà τà φυσικά) and actual orthography ‘pataphysics, preceded by an apostrophe so as to avoid a simple pun, [in French, e.g., "patte à physique"] is the science of that which is superinduced upon metaphysics, whether within or beyond the latter’s limitations, extending as far beyond metaphysics as the latter extends beyond physics. Ex: an epiphenomenon being often accidental, pataphysics will be, above all, the science of the particular, despite the common opinion that the only science is that of the general. Pataphysics will examine the laws governing exceptions, and will explain the universe supplementary to this one; or, less ambitiously, will describe a universe which can be – and perhaps should be – envisaged in the place of the traditional one, since the laws that are supposed to have been discovered in the traditional universe are also correlations of exceptions, albeit more frequent ones, but in any case accidental data which, reduced to the status of unexceptional exceptions, possess no longer even the virtue of originality." (– Alfred Jarry)

An eye to aesthetics merely turns the normal curve upside down. It's a matter of pataphysics. The new peaks are disturbances, bringing us to consciousness, arousing our interest, encouraging movement. They are always attractive, no matter where (or even if) our "moral senses" lie. The slopes and lows, the inverted swells (mean, median and mode), the repetitively normal and banal (if they don't put us back to sleep) announce to us commensurable patterns – landmarks useful for navigating absurd peaks. These peaks may be statistically insignificant, but they represent the most poignant (from Latin pungere 'to prick, sting') elements of our landscape. In the study of probabilities, the fluke or "exception" is not even registered on the pie chart and outright disappears in the normal curve. Pataphysical aesthetics places the fluke at its very center. A recognition of environmental consistency gives us the courage necessary to follow our nose, to engage, to immerse, to participate. When there is no consistency, it's either time to set aside the LSD for a time, or dispense with your neurosis and move your camp because, from this perspective, one can see the absurdity in the normal and realize the equivalence of all absurdities. (– Carlos Dufús)

"The great merit of pataphysics is to have confirmed that there is no metaphysical justification for forcing everybody to believe in the same absurdity, possibilities for the absurd (and in art) are legion. The only logical deduction that can be made from this principle is the anarchist thesis: to each his own absurdities. The negation of this principle is expressed in the legal power of the state, which forces all citizens to submit to an identical set of political absurdities." (– Asger Jorn)

"Naive realism, such as is found among savages and some Germanic scholars, accepts the data of perception without question. Philosophy began with the distinction between the 'apparent universe' - the universe made up of the data of perception - and the 'real universe' - which allegedly underlies the universe of perception and 'explains' it. The 'real universe', is assumed to be by definition more 'real' than the 'apparent universe'. But philosophy turns on itself and mind whirls when we remember suddenly that this so-called universe is made up entirely of our theories, our guesses, and, as I have explained previously, the instinct to gossip. It then appears that the 'real universe' like the 'apparent universe' is the creation of our brains. We then have to assume a triple, or three-headed cosmology, made up of the 'apparent universe', created by our senses, and the alleged 'real universe', created by our guesses and gossip, and the real 'real universe', which our 'real universe' may or may not resemble greatly. But if the 'real universe' is made up of theories, this 'real real universe' can only be a theory about theories, namely a theory that some thing may correspond to some theories. Thus we go from inference to inference, and find certainty nowhere." (– Prof. de Selby, in Brian O' Nolan, The Third Policeman; and as well, R. A. Wilson)

Jain Sevenfold Dialectic of Syadvad in Relation to Probability:

  1. syadasti: Perhaps or maybe or in a sense ... it is.
  2. syatnasti: Perhaps or maybe or in a sense ... it is not.
  3. syadasti nasti ca: Perhaps or maybe or in a sense ... it is, it is not.
  4. syadavaktavyah: Perhaps or maybe or in a sense ... it is indeterminate or indescribable.
  5. syadasti ca avaktavya sca: Perhaps or maybe or in a sense ... it is and also indeterminate or indescribable.
  6. syatnasti ca avaktavyasca: Perhaps or maybe or in a sense ... it is not and also indeterminate or indescribable.
  7. syadasti nasti ca avaktav-yasca: Perhaps or maybe or in a sense ... it is and it is not and also indeterminate or indescribable.
  8. – Syadvad:

We are observers and mimics: Pataphysical Psychoanalysis

When we stay at home and mimic only each other, we must stay the same old normal same old, democratic, corncob pipe-smoking, jug-tipping, porch-sitting gossip mongers playing the banjo to the tune of "I'll marry my sweet sister Sallymae". When we explore a bit and mimic others or equally, when we embrace novelty which comes our way, we change our behavior. We learn the incest taboo, which is the birth of adventure (or born from it), and is very nearly the only cultural universal, said Freud, learned when we repress our mortal desires to take our fathers place at our mother's table (the roles are reversed in the female "electra complex"). The healthy ego is attracted to the strange and different. What can be more familiar than the family?

Adventure is the birth of rebellion as a solution to pimples and excessive hormone-fueled teen angst. Of course, it could as easily be said that our first pimple itself produces a desire to retreat from the potential ridicule "for being different", as ridicule is always observed to be the centerpiece of rounds of front-porch gossip. If Freud was even near the right track, it would seem that numbing fear of (or constraint from) adventure results in patricidal ideation which eventually escalates beyond the immediate family. It is said the only way to be truly comfortable in our own skins is to take on a job in town and evacuate our selves like a boil freshly come to head. "Express yourself", we are told. In this way, adventure is negated and our fathers survive to see us become them and we marry, not our sister, Sallymae, but someone who highly resembles our mother (or at least one we wish we'd had).

The adventurous amalgamation of observation and mimicry of the new and different is the source of scientific experimentation and modeling technics, which is to say art and invention. It is also the primary existing condition for the possibility of life itself in all its diversity. A mind to aesthetics is proven by the eye-spot of the amoeba and its propelling protoplasmic foot. We can say "it follows its nose". Social mimicry at its most basic is participation in a mutual feeding frenzy. Mimicry encapsulates and merges the novel into the familiar (and vice versa), and that requires not only movement, but stimulus discrimination (a state of aesthetic excitement) and navigation, even at the cellular level.

A South Seas Adventure

I have a theory that ancient Pacific Island mariners may have used kites to navigate by upper air currents to follow migratory birds to their island resting-spots. The kite mimics the wing, the canoe allows the observation, matching sky and water, to follow forthwith to its predicted conclusion. The existence of unknown distant islands could be deduced from prior observations of bird behavior concerning known islands repeated toward the unknown. They fly off that-a-way, then come back! Flying kites at the altitude of observed migration routes in the appropriate season would suggest a direction and visible target to steer by, even when the birds have flown beyond sight. We are talking about tracking behavior, assuming birds follow a path of least resistance accompanying wind currents and only fly so far before requiring a resting spot on dry ground. This much is yet known and described by New Zealand Maori. Stellar navigation alone suggests travel restricted to night-time. This would prove precarious should the journey last more than one evening, albeit, the position of the rising and setting sun provide directional aids, much of the day would be traveled clueless if encountering new seascapes. The travelers might find themselves spending each night only getting back on course.

Re-creations of Polynesian voyaging have the advantage of knowing in advance their destination. The original discoverers of, say Hawai'i would have only had a theory, unless it is true that all discoveries were matters of accident after being blown off coarse. If this danger was so immanent with sea travel, (as it must have been to "accidently" populate the entire Pacific so rapidly) how could they have made any such voyages to begin with? Any attempt to cross the water to points even within the visual horizon would have been seen as great acts of foolhardiness, as the attempt would be punished more frequently than reinforced. It is generally observed that consistent punishment eventually extinguishes adventurous behavior, if it does not produce a revolution. On the other hand, if it was a matter of teenage elopement or even 'run-aways', the question of accident is rendered moot. Of course, the accident theorists have no problem with the idea of courageous savages canoing by the seat of their loincloths, navigational instrumentation and especially, integrated systems of navigational science among the beastly lot would be considered absurd, to say the least. By comparison, our compass and gps tracking allows us to go through life with no knowledge whatsoever, nor even a perceptual inclination toward our surroundings, not even to say changes in it.

Of course, there's no proof for this kite theory, but we do know that the Polynesians were experts in astronomy and bird ethology and navigated great distances by other means, amalgamating "motions" and constellations of stars and color and "texture" of ocean swells which occurred in predictable patterns, cloud formations, following habits of sea life, as well as by many other means lost to colonial history. We know they were consumate kite fliers. We know birds had mythological (so-called "gods" appearing as birds and birds as mediums, communicating with gods and natural forces) as well as 'economic' importance. Interestingly, Polynesians metaphorically referred to the canoe as bird. We know their cultures were integrated, not haphazard assemblages of isolated institutions. [see Polynesian Navigation and Maori Myth, Legend and Lore]

Integration is an a posteriori matter of combining the known or observed to illuminate hidden patterns. It is mimicry turned inside out, or as Nietzsche would say, "observed from the backside". Theory extracts these patterns which may or may not be "real" in some describable or indeterminate sense and then goes on to posit their commensurability. Sometimes they seem to shout at us if we look closely. Boas' theory of diffusion insists that novelties are not mimicked, reproduced or modelled unless they fit or are made to fit with the familiar. This works well with the iteration or even perceivability of new ideas. An atlatl or spear thrower is the result of self-mimicry and extension. It is a prosthesis. The slot and hook at one end mimics the hand and finger (and often carved as such) holding the spear. Our own hand holding the device mimics a joint, and the device itself mimics an extra bone-length to our limb. The result of the sudden extension of our contracted or folded limb multiplies the distance and velocity of the spear when released on full extension. Mathematics will describe the process, but gives us no clue to its "invention". It is perfected by practice and modification, not by systems of logic. Rather, we are talking about poetry, and without some resemblance to the "known", passes right over our head.