Johnicholas Hines

Last Friday night, I went to Velvet Whip's Cirque and committed sins with a stapler.

A picture I took of the stage that night

The following Saturday morning, I talked on the phone to my father, as I usually do on Saturday mornings. His brother-in-law, my uncle, is in hospice care and my father and his wife have been visiting twice a day, trying to support him and my aunt. My father has been working through Ian McGilchrist's "The Matter With Things", an enormous 1500-page book in two volumes about how the right hemisphere of the brain is better than the left hemisphere.

It frustrates me because every week, when I ask him what he has been reading, he says "McGilchrist". I ask him what the topic that McGilchrist was writing about recently, or what he learned this week, or what thoughts McGilchrist's writing provoked in him, but he usually does not name or mention any topic, idea, image, theory or thought in particular. Instead he re-recommends the book, and enthuses about how brilliant McGilchrist is, and how deep and insightful the book is.

This time, after I mentioned this frustration to him, he said that McGilchrist had talked about Haecceity, John Duns Scotus, and Gerard Manley Hopkins, and read me an excerpt from a Hopkins poem As Kingfishers Catch Fire.

As kingfishers catch fire, dragonflies draw flame;
As tumbled over rim in roundy wells
Stones ring; like each tucked string tells, each hung bell's
Bow swung finds tongue to fling out broad its name;
Each mortal thing does one thing and the same:
Deals out that being indoors each one dwells;
Selves — goes itself; myself it speaks and spells,
Crying What I do is me: for that I came.

I tried to respond by saying: "Is it possible that the division of the world into different objects, such as Hopkins's kingfishers, dragonflies, and bells, is perspectival? There is a maxim 'Beauty is in the eye of the beholder'. IIUC, the saying claims that at first glance, we might imagine that beautiful things are objectively beautiful, like a unary predicate "X is beautiful" but it is more accurate to think of beauty as a binary relation between beholders and things, 'X finds Y beautiful'."

That is, my question was - if the world is in some sense really a seamless whole, and we observers are drawing more or less arbitrary boundaries around parts of the fabric of the world and calling them objects, does this undercut the idea of Haeccity, or is there a way to view it as compatible? And I was sad that he didn't, or couldn't, respond in his own words. Instead, he just re-read the Hopkins poem, with additional emphasis on the poetic alliteration and assonance, as if that would clarify things.

Afterward, I worked a little bit on my version of the Richards benchmark, simplifying the Task interface and the DeviceTask implementation by removing the idea that tasks all have names.

Earlier, I said I went to Velvet Whip's Cirque and committed sins. On the one hand, this is just a colorful expression. As one of the interludes between acts, there was a game that involved the audience - consensually - stapling bills to the sexy clowns. But I also regret some aspects of my behavior. Basically, I panicked and moved too quickly when it was my turn onstage, making that part of the overall experience somewhat perfunctory if not actually furtive. That is, the bad kind of sin. Maybe if I had slowed down and tried to do it up, tried to make the experience more of itself, it would have been better for everyone - for me, for the performer, for the other audience members.

Later, when I was writing code, my intent was to revise the code to make each part of it more narrowly focused on that particular part's job, simplifying away any ancillary duties that it might accidentally have acquired.

The through-line here is that it's possible to rejoice in the particular and intensify it by directing care and attention to it. If we're going to do this (clown shit, Saturdays, life, whatever) let's do it right.

Opinions expressed are solely my own and do not express the views or opinions of my employer.