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Transcending both scientific and poetic comprehension of multiverse


Being a Poem in the Making (Part #6)


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The concern is then the identification of clues to transcending the constraints of the languages of poetry and science -- recognizing that this transcendence may take the form of an intertwining or mutual entanglement (In Quest of Mnemonic Catalysts -- for comprehension of complex psychosocial dynamics, 2007).

Poetic synthesis: The articulations above with respect to "being a poem" all take the form of essentially descriptive assertions of cognitive modes which one is free to emulate -- if their experiential meaning can be comprehended. They are reminiscent of "death poems", "last lectures", mottos and slogans in presenting a fundamental cognitive synthesis which may be embodied to a degree. As with comprehension of the theories of science, notably any Theory of Everything, the nature of that cognitive embodiment is necessarily as elusive as the assertions are allusive. Such an insight may be enshrined in a tombstone inscription, in a family motto, in a corporate slogan -- or even an advertising jingle.

Final death poems are written near the time of one's own death according to the tradition in a number of cultures, especially by literate people of spiritual persuasion -- as with those in haiku form in Japan (as jisei). Corresponding to this effort of integrative cognitive embodiment is the newly emergent academic tradition of a "Last Lecture Series," in which distinguished professors are asked to think deeply about what matters to them and to give hypothetical final talks (cf. Randy Pausch with Jeffrey Zaslow, The Last Lecture, 2008; 10 Inspiring Last Lectures and Commencement Speeches Everyone Should Watch, 2008). For the audience, the question to be mulled is: What wisdom would we impart to the world if we knew it was our last chance? Related syntheses are evident in epilogues to a life, as with that of Henry Sewell Stokes (Memories: a life's epilogue [in verse], 1879).

Both science and poetry necessarily have their limitations -- especially at this time. As modes of communication they are constrained by their style and how indulgence in it may or not be appreciated. In particular they are constrained by the sense in which they purport to inform and inspire others who may neither wish to be informed nor desire to be the subject of that intention. People way well be averse to communication which takes the form of explanation -- taking them out of themselves and away from their psychic centre of gravity -- however much this may be understood by others as being "for their own good".

Synthesis from the perspective of physicists: How then to engage with the following explanations by physicists?

Ouroboros symbol presented as a scale for the size of physical objects
Adapted from Nancy Ellen Abrams and Joel R. Primack
(The View From the Center of the Universe: discovering our extraordinary place in the cosmos, 2007)
For additional, and contrasting, figures see Robert P. Munafo (Size Scales of the Universe at Home),
also Cary Huang (The Scale of the Universe: Planck length up to the entire universe -- interactive visualisation)
Ouroboros symbol presented as a scale for the size of physical objects

As a theoretical physicist, Chris Clarke (Weaving the Cosmos: science, religion and ecology, 2010) comments on the above adaptation of the traditional image of the Ouroboros by Joel Primack to depict objects of steadily increasing size from the very smallest to the cosmos as a whole. Necessarily extending to the multiverse, as further developed by mathematical astrophysicist Bernard Carr (The Anthropic Principle Revisited, 2007), the symbol offers a means of holding the sense of observer-participancy presented by astrophysicist John Wheeler -- namely the sense in which the Universe is observing itself (cf. Brian D. Josephson, Biological Observer-Participation and Wheeler's 'Law without Law', 2011). For Wheeler, information is fundamental to the physics of the universe (cf. John Wheeler, At Home in the Universe, American Institute of Physics, 1994).

Clarke notes that living organisms occupy the middle of this scale mapped onto the Ouroboros -- opposite that representing total unity, where the head grasps the tail. As he indicates:

So as we move in our mind from its central position, we move away from the living and into the progressively more Other. Until we finally reach, in one direction, the entire cosmos, and in the other direction, the most fundamental level of matter.... In terms of being... this is the point where pure being is emptied of all its qualities, so far from our rational concepts as to be beyond words, accessible only by mystical intuition. This being overflows into all existence, at all scales.

One vital understanding in all this is the way there is no sudden leap from the rational and scientific into the non-rational and mystical. Rather, these two ways of knowing are complementary to each other at each length scale, each requiring the other in order to make sense. But as we pass, in either direction, towards the serpent's head and tail, so the verbal recedes in significance. It is replaced, not only by the intuitive... but also by the mathematical, being detached and abstracted from our concrete words while remaining totally rational, is in a position to mediate between the conceptual and the intuitive. (p. 92-3)

The challenge of engagement with such an explanation is explained further by Alexei V. Nesteruk (Cosmology at the Crossroads of the Natural and Human Sciences: is demarcation possible? ):

In spite of a common presumption that cosmology is a natural science, the specificity of its alleged subject matter, that is the universe as a whole, makes cosmology fundamentally different from other natural sciences. The reason is that in cosmology the subject of cosmological research and its "object" are in a certain sense inseparable. Any study of the universe involves two opposite perspectives which can be described as "a-cosmic" and "cosmic", egocentric and non-egocentric. Cosmology involves two languages, namely that of physical causality (pertaining to the natural sciences) and that of intentionality (pertaining to the human sciences). On the one hand the universe can be seen as a product of discursive reason, that is as an abstract "physical" entity unfolding in space and time. On the other hand the universe can be experienced through our participation in, or communion with the world understood as the natural context of living beings. This dichotomy between reason and experience, abstract construction and concrete participation, originates in the essence of human persons understood as unities of the corporeal and spiritual. On account of this dichotomy it is hard to set up a strict line of demarcation between the elements of the human and the natural sciences in cosmology. This confirms the intuition that any realistic world view is incomplete without a knowledge of what it means to exist as a human being. Conversely it is likewise impossible to understand human existence without considering its natural setting, that is the universe. We conclude that anthropology is incomplete without cosmology and vice versa.

Challenge for the individual: The question may then be rather how an individual seeks to engage with possibility and potential -- however it may appear or be presented. This may indeed involve a degree of benefit from the output of both science and poetry. The process may notably be characterized by paradox in unforeseen ways. It may benefit from forms of elegance which are an inspiration to both -- despite their extreme differences. It may necessarily challenge conventional understandings of the "mystical intuition" to which Clarke refers above, however these are articulated.

The question here is then what it is useful to explore in relation to such a possibility, and how -- inspired by the imaginative explorations of science and the intimate implications of poetry. There is also the irony that radical rethinking of experiential conscious engagement is potentially characteristic of both.

One approach is to consider possible clues in a playful spirit -- whether from science or poetry -- and given its intimate relationship to the elegance by which they may be variously inspired (Enacting Transformative Integral Thinking through Playful Elegance: a symposium at the End of the Universe? 2010). This may extend to humour (Humour and Play-Fullness: essential integrative processes in governance, religion and transdisciplinarity, 2005). Extensive use may be made of metaphor, as separately argued (Metaphors as Transdisciplinary Vehicles of the Future, 1991).

As a poet, Stephanie Strickland Quantum Poetics: Six Thoughts, 2007) presents the major inspirations from physics for her as being:

  1. the discovery or refinement of new time dimensions, from macroscopic "world lines" to engagements at the periphery of attention to "curled up" hidden possibilities;
  2. privileging what I call a stenographic paradigm for interaction: "moving through me as I move";
  3. cultivation of an oscillatory or flickering kind of attention, directed not only to different complements but also to different emergent levels as we have learned to understand these in dynamic systems;
  4. thinking beyond oscillation to superposition;
  5. remolding our sensorium, our neuro-cognitive capabilities, through these works; and finally
  6. as sense of the importance of the practice of translation, understood as encompassing acts of transduction, transposition, transliteration, transcription, transclusion, and the transformation we call morphing.

Threads, lines and strings: One fruitful approach is through the metaphorical use of thread and equally familiar notions. This is clearly central to the "string theory" of physics -- elaborated into "superstring theory". Thread is however also widely used in relation to discussion and thought -- "threaded discourse" on the web, and "losing the thread" in discussion. The related process of weaving also merits metaphorical consideration in the light of "superstring" theory (cf. Interweaving Thematic Threads and Learning Pathways: noonautics, magic carpets and wizdomes, 2010; Magic Carpets as Psychoactive System Diagrams, 2010; Energy Patterns in Conferences: weaving patterns of information as a context for higher levels of integration, 1988; The Future of Comprehension: conceptual birdcages and functional basket-weaving, 1980). As noted above, the metaphor has been used by physicist Chris Clarke (Weaving the Cosmos: science, religion and ecology, 2010).

Use of "line" also merits consideration, especially through the manner in it which figures in a "line of argument", a line in a verse of a poem or in the lyric of a song, "dropping someone a line", a "line of credit", and a wide range of notions of connectivity, most notably in networks. As in poetry, a storyline is understood as the narrative plot of a story. In this context, the narrative threads experienced by different characters articulate the world view of the participating characters cognizant of their piece of the whole -- with each thread woven together by the writer to create a work.

The use of "line" in engaging (romantic) discourse is particular intriguing -- notably in the idiomatic use of "stringing someone a line". However "line stringing" may be of considerable significance to power lines. Especially as in poetry, however, the concern is how lines are configured or composed to form larger complexes of meaning. Their consideration may be partly inspired by more complex geometrical forms (cf. Engaging with Globality -- through cognitive lines, circlets, crowns or holes, 2009). Music may be generated from "string instruments" -- of which a poem could even be considered one form.

Potential pointers are offered by Omar Khayyam, renowned for both his poetry and mathematics (Implicit possibilities of synthesis: Omar Khayyam, 2011). Coming from a family of tent makers, he offers a line of verse explaining that he had stitched the tents of science. Separately, in relation to current preoccupation with membrane theory (M-theory) by astrophysics, the question is raised as to the influence of his understanding of the geometry of tents, and his preoccupation with "nothing", as to whether his poetry pointed to intuitions of current significance (Global Brane Comprehension Enabling a Higher Dimensional Big Tent? Strategic implication in encompassing nothing and coming to naught, 2011):

And if the Wine you drink, the Lip you press,
End in the Nothing all Things end in -- Yes --
Then fancy while Thou art, Thou art but what
Thou shalt be -- Nothing -- Thou shalt not be less.

Threads and lines are notably celebrated in myth, as with the ball of thread enabling Ariadne to find her way out of the labyrinth -- surely a question for current global governance. Of some relevance to life in a multiverse is the use Ariadne's thread in logic -- as the solving of a problem with multiple apparent means of proceeding. Held to be of considerable significance in cultures of the past were the Fates -- the Moirai of Greece, the Parcae of Rome -- who controlled the metaphorical thread of life of every mortal and immortal from birth to death.

These various uses of thread and line highlight the sense that for many it is not a case of explaining what "is" but rather of selecting threads from which to construct a pattern which is personally meaningful. This can be framed as a cognitive garb, an art form with which one resonates, or an enactive self-image. It has the implication of engendering one's own universe, implying it or participating mysteriously in it through inexplicable forms of entanglement.

In contrast to the question raised from a cognitive psychology perspective by George Lakoff and Rafael Núñez (Where Mathematics Comes From: how the embodied mind brings mathematics into being, 2000), the complementary question might be asked as to "where threads come from". In that respect the sociopolitical engagement of Mahatma Gandhi with respect to spinning yarn on a handloom, from home grown flax, merits considerable reflection (cf. Warp and Weft: Governance through Alternation - world governance as a Gandhian challenge for the individual, 2002). The latter was produced to complement current concerns with respect to "spin" (Spin and Counter-spin: governance through terrorism, 2002). Is a cognitive "universe" to be compared to a spun cocoon -- whether for science or an individual.

Associations, correspondences and resonances: The coherence and memorability of a poem is partially ensured by the pattern of associations between the elements of its structure. This is most obviously evident in rhyme, often reinforced by a specific metrical pattern. Together these may combine to give a sense of recurrence through which successive phases are recognizably related within a larger whole. This pattern is evident in song rounds, possibly reinforced by a choral line. The pattern may be recognizably circular or have a spiral form.

Within such a context an important contribution to coherence may be achieved through correspondences, variously significant to both the sciences and the arts (Theories of Correspondences -- and potential equivalences between them in correlative thinking, 2007). These extend into a sense of complementarity, again variously appreciated in the sciences and the arts. In the case of the arts, especially through dramatic development of a plot -- as in an epic -- this can be appreciated in the complementarity of roles. In music it is appreciated through the use of consonance and dissonance in the expression of harmony. Use of these devices reinforces harmony and elicits cognitive engagement.

Although these forms of connectivity may be somewhat subtle, they tend to be readily recognized. The connectivity associated with what are termed resonances is more subtle however -- and for that reason may well be contested. Resonance is commonly recognized between people and with respect to places -- typically using slang variants of "vibration", as with "good vibes" and their relation to biomusicological entrainment. Associated manifestations of yet subtler psychosocial phenomena, described as resonance, tend to be highly controversial when explored from a scientific perspective, as has been evident in the response to the courageous work on morphic resonance of Rupert Sheldrake (A New Science of Life: the hypothesis of morphic resonance, 1982).

The challenge for science in recognizing such resonance is all the more astonishing in that life itself, as based on organic molecules, is fundamentally dependent on the subtlety of the resonance between carbon atoms (in the benzene configuration). It might well be asked whether analogous resonance has yet to be recognized between cognitive modalities and their organizational manifestations (Patterns of Alternation: cycles of dissonance and resonance, 1995).

Especially interesting is the capacity to recognize "justice", as the appropriate outcome of a narrative plot. This pattern is unrecognizable to science, possibly restricting its attention to "goodness of fit". However it has been asserted that physicists are more easily swayed by elegance than by "metaphysics". As articulated by Paul Dirac:

... it is more important to have beauty in one's equations than to have them fit experiment.... It seems that if one is working from the point of view of getting beauty in one's equations, and if one has really a sound insight, one is on a sure line of progress. If there is not complete agreement between the results of one's work and experiment, one should not allow oneself to be too discouraged, because the discrepancy may well be due to minor features that are not properly taken into account and that will get cleared up with further developments of the theory. That is how quantum mechanics was discovered. (The Evolution of the Physicist's Picture of Nature, Scientific American 208, 1963)

Certainly, the final acceptance of Einstein's quantum theory of light seems to have resulted as much from the strong aesthetic appeal of his conceptualization as from its explanation of the photoelectric effect.

"Versing": Attention has been drawn above to the use of "verse" in a poem as well as -- ironically -- in universe and multiverse. Separately this resulted in consideration of the implications of prefixing "verse" as indication of conversation potential (Transforming the Art of Conversation: conversing as the transformative science of development, 2012). Examples included converse, inverse, obverse, diverse, reverse, subverse, adverse and metaverse. Each of these has both geometrical implications (for science, notably with respect to the movement of light) and transformative implications (for poetry, or embodied in dance, or expressed in jazz). Of relevance is the question as to when greater diversity (essential to viability) renders any unifying principle of the "universe" unrecognizable.

These concerns led to consideration of Transformative conversation in a multiverse as well Proposed universes and their conversation potential -- with the implication that distinct (cognitive) universes might be usefully understood in terms of different "languages". Given the metaphors of transformation suggested by the contrasting prefixes applicable to "verse", this raised the question of the nature of Transformative conversation in the light of interwoven metaphors. Provocatively the question was raised regarding the possible Complementarity of university and conversity. Of relevance to the following argument was consideration of Conversing with "oneself".

"Versity of life": The manner in which learning is fundamental to engagement with the information fundamental to any cognitive "universe" is highlighted by the integrative insight into the "university of life" -- a lifelong learning process. This raises the question as to how "verses" are to be recognized within a life, as explored by Mary Catherine Bateson (Composing a Life, 1990; Composing a Further Life: the Age of Active Wisdom, 2010) which she adapted to Composing a Conversation (in an interview with the Ikeda Center for Peace, Learning and Dialogue).

Provocatively it might then be asked what is to be learned, and how, from applications of other prefixes to "versity": multiversity of life, conversity of life, adversity of life, metaversity of life, and the like.

If university celebrates the universe (of knowledge) might a conversity celebrate the challenge of conversation inhibiting diversity, multiversity and metaversity.

Disciplines as cognitive "versions": Is there then a way of "re-cognizing" the disciplines of the sciences (and arts) as a variety of "verses" -- as "cognitive versions" -- through which reality is apprehended by the human mind?

Given the role of metre in poetry and metre in music, it is curious that many disciplines focus on the elaboration of a "metric" -- of which some are beyond the capacity of the ordinary human mind, as illustrated by the recent financial crisis (cf. Uncritical Strategic Dependence on Little-known Metrics: the Gaussian Copula, the Kaya Identity, and what else? 2009)

What might then be the thread or line offering continuity or complementarity between the disciplines -- in celebration of some underlying coherence as yet to be discovered?

Imagination: As noted in the annex to this document, the challenge in a society in which imagination is widely appreciated is who is to subscribe to whose imagination -- and whose imagination is to be deprecated by whom? For Mario Bunge (Parallel Universes? Digital Physics? In: Evaluating Philosophies, Boston Studies in the Philosophy and History of Science, 295, 2012, Part 3, pp. 151-157):

Every original idea is imaginative, because only imagination can trigger creativity. This is why imagination is just as essential in science and technology as in the arts and humanities. The difference between these two pairs of fields is that in science and technology imagination is disciplined rather than free. What motivates such discipline is the objective truth requirement.

This highlights the issue of "objectivity" -- and for whom? The quotation is complemented by that of Arjun Appadurai (Disjuncture and Difference in the Global Cultural Economy, Public Culture, Spring 1990):

An important fact of the world we live in today is that many persons on the globe live in such imagined 'worlds' and not just in imagined communities, and thus are able to contest and sometimes even subvert the 'imagined worlds' of the official mind and of the entrepreneurial mentality that surround them

Despite acknowledging the role of imagination in both the sciences and the arts, it is clear that little can be meaningfully said as to what imagination "is". What role does imagination play in a multiverse? How does it fit into the processes conceived by physicists? And yet both scientists and artists would claim intimate engagement with imaginative processes.

Imagination is clearly fundamental to the life of any individual -- especially in envisaging future possibility. It is through imagination that people create the world within which they live, as separately argued (Imaginal Education: game playing, science fiction, language, art and world-making, 2003). Many are obliged to live imaginatively between worlds -- suggesting an implicit understanding of communication within the multiverse (Living as an Imaginal Bridge between Worlds: global implications of "betwixt and between" and liminality, 2011).

Many call for "more imaginative" approaches to the crises of the times and the possibilities they represent (cf. Imagining the Real Challenge and Realizing the Imaginal Pathway of Sustainable Transformation, 2007). Irrespective of claims for collective strategic initiatives regarding the future, could many find it more feasible and appropriate to "re-imagine" the present, as separately argued (Engendering 2052 through Re-imagining the Present: review of 2052: a Global Forecast for the Next Forty Years as presented to the Club of Rome, 2012).

Paradox: Science rejoices in the exploration of logical paradoxes, most notably with respect to the "coherent" explanations offered by fundamental physics. Individuals are frequently confronted by paradox in their daily lives. Poetry and music are widely employed to engage fruitfully with such paradox and sustain a sense of coherence despite appearances.

The more fundamental paradox may be associated with the nature of the "marriage" between the representation of paradoxes by science, notably as explained through the forms of topology, and their inploration through poetry. Relevant to comprehension of the paradoxical marriage -- the mysterium conjunctionis of Carl Jung -- is the work of Douglas Hofstadter (I Am a Strange Loop, 2007; Gödel, Escher, Bach: an Eternal Golden Braid, 1973) and that of Steven M. Rosen (Topologies of the Flesh: a multidimensional exploration of the lifeworld, 2006; The Self-evolving Cosmos: a phenomenological approach to nature's unity-in-diversity, 2008).


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