“All humans of normal intelligence can learn any language, provided they start at a young age. After the age of five or six, a child can almost never become perfectly fluent in a language, and the ability to learn it can completely disappear soon after that. After puberty, it is almost impossible to perfect the pronunciation of a second language.” Gene, Peoples, and Languages, Luigi Luca Cavalli-Sforza.
Do we speak because we think, or do we think because we speak? The superiority of the human mind is wrapped up in the mystery of human language. Did we become smart because we can talk, or can we talk because we are smart?
To Noam Chomsky, we speak because we think, and we think . . . linguistically . . .not because it helps us speak, but because it helps us think. Life is about events, with characters and actions situated in the past, present, and future, and so is our thinking. We function in networks of social connection, with goals of survival, reproduction, cooperation, and deceit. We live stories, and so we think stories. Our minds are literary. We are playwrights, with ourselves always one of the characters.
For Chomsky, speech came later, an output of thinking, like a printer to a computer. Unlike for thinking, there are physical constraints on how speech can be delivered, so for Chomsky, speech is less than thinking. By allowing sharing in the thinking with others, speech increased the power of thinking, and the two – thinking and speaking – then mutually reinforced each other, enlarging our intelligence, and our scope of collective action. We vanquished the Neanderthal, who were bigger and stronger. They probably had less thinking and therefore less speaking.
Noam Chomsky started linguistics in the 1950’s, when the human mind was thought to be essentially cultural, and development was learned. He noted the ease and speed with which children acquire language without specific instruction, and how they accumulated words far faster than memory could explain. In his ground-breaking work, Syntactic Structures, he suggested that there must be a ‘language acquisition device’ in the human mind, a universal, innate and hard-wired brain module that gets primed into function by exposure to speakers in the early years of childhood.
This was at last a scientific theory of nature and nurture in human nature. It launched the field of brain science, and up-ended the foundations of social science. He is the sixth most cited person in scientific literature, of all time, just behind William Shakespeare.
There is variability in converting thought into speech. Noam Chomsky, himself, is a master. No one can speak more clearly, more comprehensively, or more spontaneously his very complex thinking about very complex ideas, or enunciate streams of information as they support reasoned conclusions and opinions than Noam Chomsky.
Politics is a different matter.
This great linguist theorist of innate human nature is a . . . radical socialist anarchist. Famous for his ruthless repudiation of behaviorism, he believes in a completely rationalist . . . indeed behaviorist . . . notion of human political nature!
“How is it possible that mathematics, a product of human thought that is independent of experience, fits so excellently the objects of physical reality?” Albert Einstein.
In 1939, at Cambridge University, Ludwig Wittgenstein was lecturing on the Philosophy of Mathematics. By this time, with messianic certainty, he was adamant that mathematics was just a lot of linguistic convention, a bunch of tautologies based on definitions and word play. He thought that seeking mathematical proofs, along with the quest to develop a mathematics without inconsistencies, was fruitless. Wittgenstein, teaching mathematics, was essentially against mathematics.
At the same time, Alan Turing, perhaps the most important mathematician of his time, was also at Cambridge, teaching a course in mathematical logic. He was also a student in Wittgenstein’s class. He had proven certain mathematical truths that would eventually be very important in code breaking during the war, and to the future of computer programming. He could not agree that being mathematically inconsistent didn’t matter.
“The real harm of a system that contains a contradiction, will not come in unless there is an application, in which case a bridge may fall down or something of the sort.”
Turing and Wittgenstein debated each and every class. The other students were bystanders. Wittgenstein would cancel class if Turing didn’t show up. Turing gradually realized that Wittgenstein saw debate, itself, as meaningless. He eventually stopped going to the class.
The Vienna circle philosopher, Moritz Schlick, told his friend Albert Einstein of his allegiance to Wittgenstein’s thinking, finding all philosophy ‘superfluous’ and all metaphysical thinking meaningless. Schlick was the dean of the Vienna school of ‘logical positivists’, philosophers who tried to believe that only in observation, verified by experiment was true. They just did not believe that thinking, itself, could lead to truth.
Einstein, like Turing, could not agree. He studied the philosophers Kant and Mach enormously helpful in finding truth. He continuously defended the role of both experiment and theory in scientific advancement. It was not one or the other. All living creatures used thinking in some way! Concepts, as well as facts, theory as well as data were necessary.
“Physics is an attempt to construct, conceptually, a model of the Real World, as well as its law governed structure. You will be surprised by Einstein the metaphysician, but in this sense every 4 and 2 legged animal is, de facto, a metaphysician.”
Turing’s legacy is computers, Einstein’s is space travel.
Computers that have logical inconsistencies of programming will crash.
Space ships, traveling over a billion miles to encircle and land on asteroids, with inaccurate calculations of fuel and trajectory will crash.
The SpaceX robot-guided Falcon 9 rockets ride into sun-synchronous orbit, deliver satellites to geo-synchronous orbit at the speed of a bullet, and then return, decelerating from a velocity of 120,000 feet per second to a velocity of zero, in a matter of minutes, landing, intact, on a platform that is 60 square yards in size, floating at sea.
Mathematics, a product independent of human experience, is the pilot.
“What then is time? If no one asks me, I know what it is. If I wish to explain it to him who asks, I do not know.” St. Augustine.
Everywhere in the archeology of Earth, in the pyramids of Giza, the stones of Stonehenge, the observatory of Chichen Itza, and the temples of Macchu Piccu, humans have worshiped the heavens. But not the sun or the moon or the stars themselves. No, we have been worshiping their periodicity. We have been worshipping, with reverence and gratitude the mysterious truth of nature . . . the past informs the future. This truth, we seem to know, is our essential gift for existence.
And. . . throughout our history, we reject, vehemently, insults to tradition or esthetic violation of accumulating pattern and order, such as atonal music, dada art, and radical revolution.
And no surprise. This is the essence of life, memory to see the patterns of the past to predict the future and adapt to change. Rocks either smash or get smashed. Life can get out of the way.
And yet, science isn’t sure that time actually exists, outside of our minds. With modern cosmology, time is part of SpaceTime, a codependent coordinate with space, not an independent entity. In our experiance, we don’t actually see time, walking in the woods, we see change. What drives change? It was a life scientist, Charles Darwin, not a physicist, who, with his demonstration of evolution, written in the fossil record, who proved that the changes of the past accumulate and influence the future. Isn’t this proof of time?
We undeniably experience past, present, and future. Only life has memory, and only memory can know time. Our nose smells something real, sound waves, our eyes see something real, light waves, our consciousness senses time. Consciousness is the sensory organ of time. Some believe that time only exists in conscious life, that that is the role of consciousness, to create the illusion of time. And so we evolved a sensory organ for something that doesn’t exist . . . ?
“Suppose indeed that human beings travel through life as in a “time ship” that like a spaceship has a prow and a stern and room inside for us to move around“. Nicholas Humphrey, A History of the Mind.
Why have the illusion? Would evolution create such an organ as consciousness to perceive an illusion?
One physicist, Richard A. Muller, in Now, the Physics of Time, suggests that time very much does exist, and moves forward in the ongoing expansion of SpaceTime that has been happening since the Big Bang.
“Just as space is being generated by the Hubble expansion, so time is being created. The coninuous and ongoing creation of new time sets both thearrow of time and its pace. Every moment, the universe gets a little bigger, and there is a little more time, and it is this leading edge of time that we refer to as now.”
NOW may be what rides the crest of this wave of new space-time of our expanding Universe, and we, with our conscious awareness, unique riders on this surf.
There is singing, and then there is singing. Bob Dylan does singing. Listen to ‘House of the rising Sun’, on his very first album.
Malcolm Gladwell speaks of innovators, people who are always different. They wear odd clothes, and in ways that others don’t and wouldn’t. They start fads, but they don’t follow them. They never follow anything. Whatever it is that makes most people want to be like others, and join in with others, they don’t have. It is a life strategy. Think about it. Always being different avoids comparison. You can win when only you are playing.
“What others think about me, or feel about me, that’s so irrelevant. Anymore than it is for me, when I go see a movie, say Wuthering Heights or something, and have to wonder what Lawrence Olivier is really like.”
This is Nobel Laureate, Bob Dylan. He insists on being him, whether you like it or not. With a born focus on his own, inner experience, with his trained skills of melody and lyric, he expresses what he finds there. He wants no contrivance, no preconceived, or planned song. And he doesn’t want us to understand him. He doesn’t think we should try to understand him.
“It’s all in the songs.” Be open to what a song does for you, not what you are told to think it means, or what you think it is supposed to mean. Rather than think the song. . .feel it.
“If a song moves, you, that’s all that’s important. I don’t have to know what a song means. I’ve written all kinds of things into my songs. And I’m not going to worry about it – what it all means.”
Hey Mr. Tambourine man/ Play a song for me/Take me on a trip upon your magic swirlin’ ship/My senses have been stripped/My hands can’t feel to grip/My toes too numb to step/wait only for my boot heels to be wandering/I’m ready to go anywhere/ I’m ready for to fade/Into my own parade/Cast your dancing spell my way/I promise to go under it.
“I can write a song in a crowded room. Inspiration can hit you anywhere. It’s magic. It really is beyond me.”
“My songs are personal music, they’re not communal. I wouldn’t want people singing along with me. It would sound funny. I’m not playing campfire meetings.”
My hearts in the highlands with the horses and hounds/Way up in the border country far from the towns/With the twang of the arrow and the snap of the bow/My heart’s in the highlands, can’t see any other way to go
“John Donne, the poet-priest who lived in the time of Shakespeare, wrote these words, ‘the Sestos and Abydos of her breasts. Not of two lovers, but two loves, the nests’. I don’t know what it means, either. But it sounds good. And you want your songs to sound good.” Nobel Lecture, 2017.
“I’m no poet. Poets drown in lakes.”
“The evidence does cast enormous suspicion on Oswald. . . . leave him looking guilty of something. The evidence does not, on the other hand, put him behind a gun in the sixth-floor window.” Anthony Summers
At 11:45 am, Oswald’s co-workers on the sixth floor took the elevator down for lunch and to see the motorcade, leaving Lee without an elevator. His last words to them are: “Guys how about an elevator? Send one of them back up.”
At 11:45-11:50 am, Book Depository foreman Bill Shelley sees Oswald near a phone on the first floor.
At 11:50 am Charles Givens sees Oswald reading a newspaper in the first floor lunch room.
At 12:00 noon, Bonnie Ray Williams goes up to the sixth floor to eat his lunch, he stays there until 12:15 pm. He sees no one else while he is there. The remains of his lunch – chicken bones and lunch bag – are found after the assassination.
Between 12:00 and 12:15 pm, Junior Jarman and Harold Norman walk thru the second floor lunch room, and remember that there was “someone else in there”. During interrogation, in police custody, Oswald remembers two Negro employees walking thru the lunch room while he is there.
At 12:15 m, Arnold Rowland, standing outside across from the School Book Depository, sees two men in the sixth floor windows, one holding a rifle across his chest. Rowland points them out to his wife.
At 12:35 pm, on November 22, 1963, President Kennedy is assassinated. His motorcade is five minutes late.
“I asked him what part of the building he was in at the time the President was shot, and he said he was having lunch about that time on the second floor”.
At 12:37 pm, Marion Baker, a motorcycle policeman riding just behind the President’s car, thinks the shots came from the roof of School Book Depository. He races over and into the front door of the building, less than one and a half minutes after the shots are fired. He tries to use the elevators, but they are both stopped on the fifth floor. he races up the stairs. On the second floor, he encounters a man with a coke walking away from him. He calls him to stop. Mr. Truly, the building supervisor, catches up just then, he has been racing ahead of Baker to the top floors. “That’s Lee Harvey Oswald, he works here”. Oswald is calm, no sweat on his brow, not short of breath.
At 12:40 pm, right away after watching the motorcade, and the shooting, Victoria Adams rushes down the back stairway of the Texas Book Depository, “to see what was happening”. She has been working that day on the fourth floor of the School Book Depository. She does not see or hear anyone on those stairs, the stairs a sixth floor gunman would have had to use to escape.
Just at the time of the assassination shootings, Photojournalist James Altgen takes a photograph of the motorcade, with the front door of the School Book Depository, in view, behind the oncoming motorcade. There is a small man in the doorway, shirt half open, leaning to look out.
Is… that …man . . . Lee Harvey Oswald?