Nor love thy life, nor hate; but what thou livst
I maintain that people give other people credit for being conscious simply because of their continual external monitoring of other people—which is itself something like a Turing Test.
(spoken by a character in a dialogue, “Sandy,” who seems to best represent DRH’s opinion)
How can both Rubik’s Cube and nuclear Armageddon be discussed at equal length in one book by one author? Partly the answer is that life itself is a mixture of things of many sorts, little and big, light and serious, frivolous and formidable, and Metamagical Themas reflects that complexity. Life is not worth living if one can never afford to be delighted or have fun.
There is another way of explaining this huge gulf. Elegant mathematical structures can be as central to a serious modern worldview as are social concerns, and can deeply influence one’s ways of thinking about anything—even such somber and colossal things as total nuclear obliteration. In order to comprehend that which is incomprehensible because it is too huge or too complex, one needs simpler models. Often, mathematics can provide the right starting point, which is why beautiful mathematical concepts are so pervasive in explanations of the phenomena of nature on the micro-level.
“Don’t you see? The real magician isn’t the bleary-eyed guy who doesn’t understand a thing; it’s the scientist who has grasped the hidden secrets of the universe.”
To me, he was in reality become no longer flesh, but marble. His eye was a cold, bright, blue gem; his tongue, a speaking instrument–nothing more.
All this was torture to me–refined, lingering torture. It kept up a slow fire of indignation and a trembling trouble of grief, which harassed and crushed me altogether. I felt how, if I were his wife, this good man, pure as the deep sunless source, could soon kill me, without drawing from my veins a single drop of blood or receiving on his own crystal conscience the faintest stain of crime.
Elegance is more than just a frill in life; it is one of the driving criteria behind survival. Elegance is just another way of talking about getting at the essence of situations.
One day, people will find themselves thinking not just that an old practice was wrong and a new one right but that there was something shameful in the old ways. In the course of the transition, many will change what they do because they are shamed out of an old way of doing things. So it is perhaps not too much to hope that if we can find the proper place for honor now, we can make the world better.
How was it possible that something I’d created from my own being was now larger than my being? Is it possible that the created can create the creator?
In society, we do horrible things to one another because we don’t see the person it affects. We don’t see their face. We don’t see them as people. Which was the whole reason the hood was built in the first place, to keep the victims of apartheid out of sight and out of mind. Because if white people ever saw black people as human, they would see that slavery is unconscionable. We live in a world where we don’t see the ramifications of what we do to others, because we don’t live with them. It would be a whole lot harder for an investment banker to rip off people with subprime mortgages if he actually had to live with the people he was ripping off. If we could see one another’s pain and empathize with one another, it would never be worth it to us to commit the crimes in the first place.
Forget whatever you feel like forgetting. From time to time, practice not being open, discover new things not to talk about, learn reserve, hold the tongue. But above all, develop the human talent for forgetting words, phrases, whole unwelcome sentences, all experiences involving wincing.
“The Attic of the Brain”