Actually we are a vulgar, pushing mob whose passions are easily mobilized by demagogues, newspaper men, religious quacks, agitators and such like. To call this a society of free peoples is blasphemous. What have we to offer the world besides the superabundant loot which we recklessly plunder from the earth under the maniacal delusion that this insane activity represents progress and enlightenment?

–Henry Miller

Chapter 5. It was a story told by my mother to Paul that grabbed…

It was a story told by my mother to Paul over tea and cookies and I believe some inelegant cheese that grabbed me by the Saskatchewans, pitching me into a fever dossier and a full count I am probably still suffering consecutively this very day, nearly several thousand dawns of Cooling Earth later. Why had she never mentioned this before. Why had she struggled with my pangs of sensitivity all these years? Why did she strike us in urgency when we only begged for some greater understanding of the way the universe worked than she did?

Paul said nothing. I made a small speech upon hearing what I considered a revelation of some blinding magnitude. Paul was an analytical alcoholic from Utah. A freelance CPU who lived in squat houses, and a couple of changes of suits, ties, and white shirts whose clients knew what they were getting and got what they knew they had coming. he didn’t work everyday, but he did drink everyday. In his late 40s at the time. Matriculated at Brigham Young. A failed Mormon. I was in my mid-20s, charming no one but myself with long back-length hair I wore in a braid, and funny britches to boot. I met Paul at a bar, and we breezed in and out of each other’s testimonials in half-lives for about a month.

These were also the hackneyed days of Teresa. I met her in an airport. She was passing out pamphlets. She was attractive, but rather hairy, and uniquely overdressed for the summer with long woolen skirts and sweaters.

At the time, I had just left Corpus Christi TX, after finding a book called Gödel, Escher, Bach: An Eternal Golden Braid by Douglas Hofstadter on the coffee table of the brother of my brother’s brother-in-law, who had gone over to check the ignition and tires on the old 1966 Mercedes his brother owned. His brother was somewhere in the Middle East, working as a contractor. I have no idea what he was doing over there. It was top secret, and this was the early 80s. It paid well, and thus his older brother, a chef-in-training periodically kept a solemn eye on his younger brother’s more exotic acquisitions. The Mercedes didn’t interest me, but this book caught my eye immediately. I picked it up, handling it like cushioned gold. Then sat down, switching on the lamp.
Described by the author in the tagline as “a metaphorical fugue on minds and machines in the spirit of Lewis Carroll” I was immediately hooked.

On its surface, the book examines logician Kurt Gödel, artist M. C. Escher and composer Johann Sebastian Bach, discussing common themes in their work and lives. At a deeper level, the book is an exposition of concepts fundamental to mathematics, symmetry, and intelligence.

Through illustration and analysis, the book discusses how self-reference and formal rules allow systems to acquire meaning despite being made of “meaningless” elements. It also discusses what it means to communicate, how knowledge can be represented and stored, the methods and limitations of symbolic representation, and even the fundamental notion of “meaning” itself.

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