A new poem by Hugo Brucciani

[Editor’s note: at this stage of his life, Brucciani, apparently embittered by failure and given to extensive substance abuse, now opens and closes his poems by arguing with an imaginary critic. He also has a product-placement deal with Nando’s.]

20200429_1307517475566394176937517.jpg
Photo: Simon Alvinge / Alamy

lockdown is like the end of the world

by hugo brucciani
april 2020

dear reader, please
add a short
pause after each
line
think of it as
the rhythm

you say my poems are
the stoned ramblings of a
half-baked moron?
well, fuck you

here in the garden in an
infinity recliner, i wonder
how does it feel to
be a bird? hey, bird
does your tiny mind
bliss out when
you soar?

but
it’s hard to
acknowledge feeling in
others

people
birds

we have
advanced awareness but
can’t control it

for some, its
shininess is too
reflective

they live in
shiny bubbles
pretending to
connect and
hoping it works
to a point at least

(what shiny beast
saunters towards Nando’s
to be born again
as a chicken?)

others connect better yet but
it’s still not enough

think of us as
an evolutionary dead end
nice while it lasts
apart from when it’s not, like
now

it feels like it’s the end of the world
the end of the road
for us and our one thing after another
farewell cruel world
it’s all your fault

your human nature failed
its epic test
failed to fulfil its
promise

got so far, only
couldn’t connect with
the, you know, thing

couldn’t connect, so
couldn’t relate, so
we’re self-destructing and fuck it
if we’re going down we’re going to
take a lot of other life forms
with us

to whatever is
supervising
good try, and
better luck next time

the multiverse will
carry on evolving but not
with us and not with
life as
we know it
Jim (lucky to be
worried about by
Mrs Dale)

so we’ll never know
how the multiverse evolves
we’ll never see
the bigger picture
that’s the worst thing
here in my bubble

still, could be worse
my worst thing
never knowing
could be a third-world problem
the one we made
could be a pile of shit but
it’s not that bad or sad

it’s OK. it’s fine
it’s only love, and
that is all
love of my life
love of it all

fuck some universal purpose
let’s live for the future
the one that’s got people in it
and birds
and bees

fuck the self-destruction
let’s kiss it better
love it better yet
save ourselves
save our souls
are we saved? not yet

Save

a shallow epiphany, you say?
well, fuck you


[Editor’s note: In this poem, Brucciani seems to see humanity as a failed experiment in multiversal connectedness. For an alternative (if equally bleak) view – of life as a crop – see his poem, God the farmer?]

The ineffable

If universal consciousness caused DNA, it’s ironic that we highly conscious humans, the crown of evolution, are apparently unable to apprehend it. Metaphorically, God made man in his own image: with consciousness; but even to conscious humans, God-consciousness (whatever gnostics, mystics and gurus say) is unknowable. Non-metaphorically, science for all its brilliance, is unable to agree on a theory of everything. Metaphorically again, science in its current state can’t look upon the face of God.

I should add that I’m an agnostic. I’m implying design, but not a designer. Evolution is designerless design. I’m suggesting a universal non-divine design process analagous to evolution.

The purpose of universal consciousness in fostering life might be to produce mirror or companion consciousness (perhaps the result of cosmic vanity or loneliness). Or – more darkly – it might be energy farming.

The meaning of meaning

image

Probability maths says that given infinity, a random character generator (producing upper and lower case letters, spaces and punctuation marks) will reproduce the Complete Works of Shakespeare. Think monkeys and typewriters, if you like.

(Shakespeare is wheeled on for this thought experiment rather than, say, Charles Dickens because he’s the supposed apogee of literary creativity. The reductionist probabilitarians are saying: you think Shakespeare’s great – well, he can be reproduced by empty randomness.)

You can kind of see what they mean, and there’s probably not much point arguing with a probability mathematician (though there are valid questions about the abstract concept of infinity) – but it just seems wrong, doesn’t it? The first sentence or two, maybe – but the whole thing? Maybe some things will never happen by chance, even in infinty.

Then there’s the origin of DNA. Scientists say it can be explained by random chemical events occurring over a very long time. There are several different theories as to how this might have happened, but none of them sounds remotely plausible. As with the randomly reproduced Shakespeare, it just seems impossible.

I know it sounds like I’m on the slippery slope from intelligent design to creationism, but I’m not. I’m suggesting that the crucial element in both cases is meaning.

Henry VI, Part One
Scene I: Westminster Abbey. Dead March. Enter the funeral of King Henry V, attended on by Dukes of Bedford, Regent of France, Protector; and Exeter, Earl of Warwick, the Bishop of Winchester, heralds, etc.
Bedford: Hung be the heavens with black, yield day to night!

I’m yawning already, but that’s not the point. The works of Shakespeare, including that opening of the first play, exist because they have meaning. That meaning comes from human consciousness (and its medium, language) . The unique sequence of six million characters comprising that product of meaning could never be reproduced by chance, I’d suggest.

Wikipedia says that DNA is a molecule that carries the genetic instructions used in the growth, development, functioning and reproduction of all known living organisms. Most DNA molecules consist of two strands coiled around each other to form a double helix. Both strands store the same biological information, which is replicated when the two strands separate.

Does that sound like something that came about by chemicals randomly bumping into each other?

Perhaps DNA came into existence because the universe (or multiverse if you like) has meaning, perhaps deriving from universal consciousness. Again, I’d suggest that meaning is never the product of random processes.

It must, of course, be admitted that random genetic mutation fueled the natural selection that led from the first living organisms to humans capable of pondering the meaning of meaning. Nevertheless, randomness and meaning are worlds apart.

Or perhaps, rather, they’re part of a hierarchy, with randomness subject to probability, and probability subject to meaning.

Try as it may, maths and science can’t yet explain the origin of life, what consciousness is, or the ultimate nature of the universe.

I’m a big fan of maths and science. I’d love science to have an explanation for everything; but perhaps some things are ineffable. Perhaps maths, for all its fundamental beauty, is the scaffolding rather than the be-all and end-all.


Pseudo-academic footnote

I thought my post title was original – but, of course, it’s not. The Meaning of Meaning: A Study of the Influence of Language upon Thought and of the Science of Symbolism by Charles Ogden and Ivor Richards has been in print continuously since 1923.

Damn!

The most recent publication is the critical edition prepared by Terrence Gordon as volume 3 of the 5-volume set C. K. Ogden & Linguistics (London: Routledge/Thoemmes Press, 1995).

Wikipedia says that the book proposes a contextual theory of signs: words and things are connected by signs that are the source of our power over the external world.

(I’d say: sod the signs, it’s language that has the power – the power of meaning.)

The book has been used as a textbook in many fields including linguistics, philosophy, language, cognitive science, semantics and semiotics. Umberto Eco described it as ‘a seminal book, whose merit was to say certain things well in advance of its time’.


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Somehow, consciousness

Bad trip or what?
Photo: Ken Russell/Altered States

A 2016 UK Guardian article about films that show how the mind works included an analysis of Ken Russell’s Altered States by psychologist Sue Blackmore. She said that there isn’t really a ‘hard problem of consciousness’*. She said that ‘somehow’, we should see the mind and brain as the same thing.

If we’re allowed to think that something might ‘somehow’ be true, we might also consider the possibility suggested by rogue biologist Rupert Sheldrake that the brain is a receiver for consciousness, which – somehow – exists outside it.

(Sheldrake is written off as “woo” by some, but for those who bother to read him he makes a good case.)

* The hard problem of consciousness
The name given in neuroscience/consciousness studies to the unsolved problem of how and why sensations acquire characteristics, such as colours and tastes.
(See, for instance, this Guardian article on the subject.)

Postscript: I emailed Sue Blackmore. Her reply shows that she’s dedicated to opposing the duality that sees consciousness as something separate. Sadly, she doesn’t think much of Sheldrake’s ideas.


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