Saturday, 22 December 2012

Principles to live by

I have it in my head to propose a regular column in one of the local rags here, but not the ambition to actually act upon my idea. I greatly admire what Rene Levesque did when he was with Radio Canada explaining current affairs or talking about his admiration for American political thinkers and as a student of North American history, and that's what I'd like to do if I ever found the energy to get off my ass.

As a regular contributor to the personal exchanges in the community of posters on Huffington Post, I get a little of that satisfaction, and I learn something of myself in how I react to some posts and I learn something new everytime I read Huffington Post (from the articles, opinion pieces and posts from other users). I'd like to think that most of my posts are informed by certain principles but somtimes I don't always say something informative and am easily baited by the rightwing trolls that patrol the website regularly - some of the ignorant and sometimes racist vitriol just demand a response sometimes...

David Berlinski, the subject of my last blog entry here, wrote something that I totally believe in (in talking about why mathematicians obsess over formal proofs and other such seemingly trivial things):

There is elegance of assumption, and a corresponding power to dissolve the chatter of common experience in favour of something more austere and more dignified. (1, 2, 3 Absolute Elementary Mathematics, p. 188)

This is one of the principles I try and live by especially in my work as a linguist and as a commentator of Inuit society and philosophy. It is not always understood by my critics but my obsession with abstract structures and logic systems is (fortunately or unfortunately) stronger than my reactions to those who'd try and hammer down the proverbial nail that sticks out.

I sometimes have mystical experiences in thinking about abstract structures and in the thoughts of the long-dead and others like Berlinski and Eco and many more that I find beautiful to contemplate. This love for the subject seems to be becoming rarer and rarer, and perhaps I'm old school in this regard, but there is something of a comfort to be gotten in the old, familiar things. Else, in timeless things.

Jay

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