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  #21  
Old 01-11-2019, 08:13 PM
Martin Elster Martin Elster is offline
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Nemo - I was talking purely about scientific discoveries, not culture (or cultural history). Maybe if someone from now were transported back to ancient Egypt, they might faint as well. So I’ll extend the thought experiment to taking someone from the stone age and bringing them here.

But that’s not all I was trying to imply. The stories and mythologies of people thousands of years ago to explain the natural world (universe) are beautiful and wonderful stories, but how plausible are they? Fiction can be compelling and interesting, but (as the saying goes) truth is stranger than fiction. Mark’s poem is talking about the amazing things we now know as either true or plausible and comparing it to thousands of years old tales (that are not plausible). I think that the juxtaposition of those two kinds of understandings and beliefs are, for the poem, too facile or easy. That’s all I was trying (not very well) to say.

The innovations of all periods of history were new when they were first innovated! But to compare modern scientific understanding (first half of poem) to mythology (second half) doesn’t engage me (however imaginative and fantastic those stories are; they were not at all devoid of imagination!). (I could change my mind, as sometimes happens.) Did the people who invented those stories (alluded to in the second half of the poem) have a telescope or a microscope. They could not test many of their theories and assumptions (as we cannot do with certain theories either, because we don’t have a particle collider as large as the Galaxy, for instance). They didn’t know the earth orbits the sun. They didn’t know how the sun shines. They didn’t know that it is just one star among jillions. They didn’t know that there are jillions of galaxies moving away from one another. They didn’t know anything about supernovae, fossils, microbes or molecules or atoms or gravity or quantum physics or black holes or neutron stars or countless other things that we now know about. They didn't know about star stuff!

I’m not suggesting that ancient people were not smart. On the contrary, our brains are no different. But we simply know things about the natural world that were once mysteries. That’s all. We don’t know what consciousness is. We don’t know why the universe is expanding. There are many things we don’t know. But we know more than people did 5 thousand years ago, right? And if someone from that time period were brought here, we would be gods to them. A smart phone would be magic! A radio, TV, electric lights ... The car that my dog (and every human) takes for granted would be no different from magic.

Anyway, Nemo, you got me thinking more, which is always a good thing!

Mark - your poem got me thinking also, obviously!

Last edited by Martin Elster; 01-11-2019 at 09:27 PM.
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  #22  
Old 01-11-2019, 10:42 PM
John Isbell John Isbell is offline
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Clarke's Third Law: Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.
Arthur C. Clarke

John
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  #23  
Old 01-16-2019, 11:05 AM
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Mary Meriam Mary Meriam is offline
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I don't think you need this line: we deserve no more or less.
I like the initial caps a lot.
This poem has such a sonnet feel to it.
But there's also the repetition, like a repetend, of "kill us now" which is so different each time it's used.
The last three lines are like the final couplet.
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  #24  
Old 01-18-2019, 06:34 PM
Mark McDonnell Mark McDonnell is offline
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Hi!

Oh, that's a lot of posts to respond to.

Erik - that's absolutely fine!

Hi Jim - thanks for a great comment.

Quote:
To dare utter an ultimatum like "just kill me now" says you think it's a pretty safe bet no one is listening.
That's nicely astute. Thanks.

Martin - Thanks. The poem paints in fairly broad strokes. It's the cry of an averagely informed and exasperated N, so I want the religious iconography in there to be the most archetypal stuff, rather than delving into less well-known myths.

Quote:
Would any rational person living now think the tall tales of the Old and New Testaments describe reality?
Well yes, I think plenty see much more than allegory and symbol in there. Which is fine, except some of those people are in positions of great power.

Nemo and Martin - Hmm. I'm really not trying to set up a 'modern science vs ancient wisdom' argument in the poem, where science wins. I think that's a false dichotomy, anyway. Science is just a process. Black holes, evolution, quantum physics: that's not 'science', that's just stuff that seems to be really out there (if we can agree on what 'really' means) and that the scientific method has allowed us find out about. I see no opposition between science as a project and 'soul' or ' visionary experience' or however one wants to phrase it. There is a Romantic tradition of anti-science, where science is reductionist and 'all charms fly / At the mere touch of cold philosophy' and we must 'Pray God us keep / From Single vision & Newton's sleep!" As much as I love Keats and Blake, especially Blake, I'm more than happy to look up at the stars in wonder and yet also have the knowledge of all that cosmology has revealed to us. Definitely doesn't spoil it for me. Certainty and dogma I'm less keen on. Neither were Keats or Blake. Good scientists and good poets are always searching and are rarely certain. The religious mind, it seems to me, more often is. Hmm. I realise with embarrassment how certain I sound. I'm not sure this addresses any of your points or is a useful contribution to the argument ha. I do like the idea of separating the numinous and transcendent from the supernatural and superstitious. I suppose I see the poem as less about science than it is about one of the mysteries that science is still trying to come to terms with: the fact of consciousness (L8-14). Anyway, you both got me thinking too, which is always good. Cheers.

John - that makes most things in my house magic to me: the kettle, the phone...

Mary - I brought back the caps on Chief of Spheres, but not 'blessed'. I quite like the idea of just nouns being capped - like Nemo's idea of a new zodiac. The Chief of Spheres would fit right in, I think.

I thought a lot about the line you suggested cutting. I think I'm going to keep it. My only justification being that it sounds better to me. And it does have the symmetry of 'we deserve' after 'kill us now' and 'We're tired' after 'kill us too'.

I agree it has a sonnet shaped sense of argument. Interesting!

Thanks folks!
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  #25  
Old 01-18-2019, 08:55 PM
Martin Elster Martin Elster is offline
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Hi Mark,

Quote:
Martin - Thanks. The poem paints in fairly broad strokes. It's the cry of an averagely informed and exasperated N, so I want the religious iconography in there to be the most archetypal stuff, rather than delving into less well-known myths.
That makes sense, especially since the archetypal stuff is what most people are most familiar with.

Quote:
Well yes, I think plenty see much more than allegory and symbol in there. Which is fine, except some of those people are in positions of great power.
You are correct. It was silly of me to imagine otherwise. And, yes, people in positions of power (like politicians) should be able to differentiate between fact and fiction.

Quote:
Nemo and Martin - Hmm. I'm really not trying to set up a 'modern science vs ancient wisdom' argument in the poem, where science wins. I think that's a false dichotomy, anyway.
I guess I was under the assumption that the poem was, indeed, trying to make that false dichotomy. But I can now read it without coming to such a conclusion.
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