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We had 8-to-10 inches of snow last night.

So no hiking today.

Just walking my dog Tessa in deep snow a few hundred paces was as tiring as a couple of miles of trail on an ordinary day.

Hence, I’ve been indoors most of the day.  It’s a ripe time for exploring the wilderness of the mind.

Out on a trail it’s easy for me to simplify.

If there are two ways of explaining something, then the philosophic concept of Occam’s Razor gives me permission to opt for the simplest of the two.

For one, it is difficult for me to think in Latinate words and phrases. So when my friend look-at-that’s about a pine warbler, it’s a lot easier for me to remember the name, pine warbler, than to fill my head with the more biologically correct, Setophaga pinus.

In today’s post I’m giving a simple explanation of what’s in Godel, Escher, Bach, a book I mentioned in an earlier post, rather than the long-winded, Latin-derivative words and phrases of its author.


Strange Loopy Thinking

What’s most interesting about Godel, Escher, Bach is its insights into the free-will, creative aspect of our mind.

The author argues that at the deeper recesses of the mind we have real freedom to create new thoughts and try to change our beliefs and act accordingly.  And those thoughts in turn have ability to change those at the deeper recesses.

He says the creator within us is created by the creator outside us who creates the creator within us. If that sounds twisted and weird, that is exactly the point of Godel, Escher, Bach.  The author calls it Strange Loops of the way we think at our deepest level of mind.

Escher hands

The Creator Creates the Creator???

I bring up M. C. Escher’s drawing of the hands once more to visualize this concept.

The two hands are each drawing the other.

The book’s author is thinking out there in the way of Quantum Physicists, right out where our ordinary way of reasoning ends and we need to find new ways of understanding things.

It’s at the edge of reality where we have to give up the idea that things are either/or and accept the crazy loopy notion that they are really both/and.

Instead of thinking that you are either reading this post or not reading it, we have to accept the idea that you are both reading it and not reading it.

Make sense?  Of course not.


But, that is exactly the point at which both Quantum Physics as well as Godel, Escher, Bach are in agreement.

Be careful not to take this concept too literally and apply it to everyday life.

Don’t give up common sense reasoning about most things.

It is only at the ultimate, end-game where reasoning no longer works, and another way of thinking needs to come it.

Physicists still think and work in Newtonian Physics terms and reserve Quantum Physics thinking to the sub-sub-atomic levels, at the end-game of microscopic reality.

Giving up common-sense reasoning prior to the end-game is where humans do become crazies.  But it is at that ultimate end-game where creativity does come i

Forgive My Error

Oops! I’ve over-simplified the answer physicists have given to ultimate reality.

Here’s what happened.

They developed an experiment that was designed to produce an answer to a great quarrel they’d been having that divided them into two opposing camps of thinking — one that believed light was comprised of waves, the other believing it was particles..

The experiment was supposed to settle the dispute.

But, it didn’t!

Sometimes the experiment told them they were waves.  Then, at other times, the same experiment, said they were particles.

So, the two sides got together in Copenhagen to have an OK Corral settlement of the issue.  The die-hard wave-ites confronted the dogmatic particle-ties — face to face.  Do or die!

Then cool, level-headed Niels Bohr and Werner Heisenberg said, “Hold it!  we’ve got a solution.”

Thank God, they persuaded them to come to a draw.

Thus, they accepted a compromise.  They called it the Copenhagen Interpretation   Some physicists though, like Albert Einstein, refused to give in. Nevertheless, thereafter the essence of light has been considered to be both a wave and a particle.

However, this was to be an acceptable solution only for light and not for all of reality.

A great host of mystics throughout history, in cultures around the world, still consider ultimate reality to be well beyond our brain’s hard-wiring logic and reason, even beyond the words we use to speak about it.

But doesn’t common sense tell us that our experience is very different from the words used to describe it.

Remember the Kovalenko Spiritual Principle I described in For Geezer Backpacking Thinkers post.

Eugene Kovalenko said, that the more we try to describe an experience, the farther from the experience we get; and conversely, the more we experience something the more difficult it is to describe it.

Think music.  Can you adequately describe in words what it was like to listen to your favorite tune?


The Unity of All Things

Now, the author’s argument in GEB actually goes farther than this loopiness.

Hofstadter acknowledges a “mystical” element in the loopiness of self-reference thinking.

Two-thirds along in his book, he calmly says, “by gradually widening the scope of the brain/Mind system, one will in the end come to a feeling of being at one with the entire universe.”

That’s on page 479 where he speaks of Zen.  He does not endorse Zen, but simply speaks of the possibility of our ability to attain enlightenment, and thus that “feeling of being at one with the universe.”

It all makes so much good sense to me out on a trail.  But it is not so easy when I am partying with friends on a lazy Sunday afternoon.

The problem is getting to that end-game.  It means giving up humungous amounts of ideas that we carry around in our heads, most of which we aren’t even aware.

It is a humungous task that takes years of meditation.  It is what mysticism is all about.  And often psychotherapy is needed for help.

For me though, the trail helps as much as my morning meditation.

I’d love to have your thoughts on all this.

If you’ve read this far, why not add your ideas in the comment box below.

Then, if you would like to read further posts, why not bookmark this site. Or, better still, subscribe to my free blog notices.

And, as usual, let me remind you of some fun reading about hiking and backpacking.

Check out my latest book, Backpacker & Hikers’ Handbook.


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One Response

  1. BackpackerBill
    | Reply

    Dear Mr. Kemsley, Iv’e read some of your web posts & enjoyed them, so I’ll be back for more. In appreciation I thought of sharing, the website of Prof. Pierre Gimes, a Platonist. I met and attended his classes at my neighbor’s; the Krotona Theosophical School here in Ojai, CA. You’ll find Prof. Grime’s website here; http://www.openingmind.com Also googling you’ll find many of his video presentations. Best Wishes!

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