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January 11th, 2007

Physics->Math->Logic->...?

thoughtI started typing a Brief History of myself about two hours ago and ... well it wore me out.  Pulling out files and flipping through records drained me of ... something, so I decided to write a briefer Brief.  This edition will, I hope, be more meaningful because it begins now and travels backwards.

x-posted to abstractthought where peeps thoughtfully responded.

A Briefer History of Justin
Physics->Math->Logic->...?

"So where are we now?  Ahh yes, the existential dillemma bullshit.  Let's just get started."

I arrived on campus niave, but not in the normal sense -- as I understand normalcy.  I was twenty-three and I had a few questions, so why not go to a university to answer them?  Neither my age nor intent was very normal, I later found out, but I didn't feel odd.  The former meant I was an "adult learner", not an 18 year-old college kid, and the later meant I was curious, instead of being an anspiring businessman, or cookie-cutter American of the 2nd collegiate generation, etc.  But my niavety lie in neither; it rested in my subsequent realization, perhaps the very realization that is a catalyst for this brief, that the university's professors could not answer my questions.  I wish I had known that before I left my job, sold my car, and moved to a place far away from friends and family.  Raleigh had been kind to me and I looked to Boone as a quieter place to study.  But regret is, I now see, not going to change the past so I write this briefly.

Three years ago I started studying physics.  That field naturally led me to mathematics but I was surprised at the math department's personal support for my curiosities.  I found close friends in the Math Hall and Math Club.  One fell for me and we bought pens and day planners together to help me organize and feel accomplished in my studies, while another friend and I conducted clandestine meetings in philosophy where we chuckled about taking over the world.   Both math and physics professors grew accustomed to my studious visits to their offices where we dabbled in possibilities that begged the questions -- those questions I wanted answered.

Chatting with these professors and friends led me from the halls of science to the philosophy building on the other side of campus, with it's logic.  That's an unfair judgement: I also took a course in mathematical logic with a few friends from Math Club, and my ex sat beside me in the logic course that we took from the philosophy department.  Still, I should admit that I said "logic " with a perjorative tone because it left me floundering in more questions.  There I sat solving problems, solving equations, writing proofs, ... but the answers were not my answers.  Rather, it felt like a game.  My mind drifted off as I looked out the window at the college kids throwing frisbees in the mall and as I quitely asked myself the questions again.  A year and half into studying, my mind drifted so far away that I withdrew from the university.   Psychological reasons, of course. 

But I returned.  I had left religion and the niave in Raleigh yet arrived back where I started: day-to-day life and my beliefs.  Were my expectations too high? or is my goal wholly flawed?  My study of physics led me to mathematics and mathematics said something about logic but logic and philosophy left me no signs about where to go next except a faint whisper about axioms and beliefs.  Even if I only felt those last, remaining ideas from a professor's glance or a friend's smile and never actually heard them uttered, their effect remains: belief, religion -- heretical ideas for a man of science.  Or I should say: ideas incongruous with a skeptic such as myself.  After Nietzsche told me God was dead and Goedel showed me how nothing can be absolutely proved and Einstein expanded reality to something grander than physicists comprehend, I am left with nowhere to go ... except from wherever I came, which is, I suppose, religion and the mundane. 

The Tao says again ... and laughs at my attempt, I suppose?

Hero and Flowing Water

It's Flowing Water!  It must be! 

I watched Hero again last night and remembered that I had intended on finding the name of the song that the old man plays during the "Chess Battle" scene where Sky and the Hero fight each other in their minds.   Zeddy must have felt me jump in the movie theatre when I heard the old man strike the first few notes because they sounded like the ones from the Guqin site that I listen to.  So I just listened to that sites samples again and am sure Tan Dun chose either "Flowing Water" (Liu Shui) or "Moon over the Mountain Pass" (Guan Shan Yue) -- classic Chinese music from the Qin dynasty -- as the basic melody, and I'm leaning towards the former.  It must be because it makes sense, literally; a song about water in a scene full of water and cinematography capturing its flow.  :)  So awesome.

That sound right? any Chinese music freaks?

I became mesmerized by listening to the guqin just after I moved to Boone in mid-2003 but I don't recall exactly why.  I do remember recognizing the old man's instrument as being a guqin when Hero came out a year later.   My fanaticism was probably pre-Quentin Tarantino and post-The Last Emperor; I watched that "Hidden Tiger, Crouching Dragon" crap after Hero's beautiful cinematography and soundtrack.  Hero is awesome!  And now I found out why I like Tan Dun's variation on the flowing water theme.  Dun took inspiration from my favorite Western composers: Philip Glass and Steve Reich!  Yay!

Classical Chinese rocks!   A friend imported a 4-disc set for me on her way back from the Mainland sometime in 2004 so maybe that was the birth of my fanaticism.  :)