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Unintended consequences, the collection

Monday, June 18th, 2018

[ by Charles Cameron — what you don’t see can blindside you ]
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Unintended consequences are the clearest indicators we have of just how much more complex the world is than we imagine it to be. They are therefore of great interest.

A short while back, WaPo had a piece that overtly referenced unintended consequences: Unintended consequences: Inside the fallout of America’s crackdown on opioids.

I’m going to take that as the starting point for another of my collections. When I find a clear case of an unintended cnsequence, I’ll add it to this post or in the comments session..

**

One major group of unintended consequences news items clusttered around the revision of redistricting rules in an attempt (at least purportedly) to curb the abuse of partisan power in gerrymandering, an ancient American political tradition practiced by both (all?) partties —

Overby & Cosgrove‘s 1996 Unintended Consequences? Racial Redistricting and the Representation of Minority Interests would appear to be a much quoted starting point, followed by Rose Institute’s 2008 Unintended Consequences of Texas Gerrymandering.

But the general principle is evident: course corrections don’t always set you back on track — or as the Taoist fellow might say, any map you can draw is liable to lead you astray — maps are fallible wrt terrain, wrt reality!

Case in point: The meandering path of the Mississippi, now here, now there — with oxbows!

Travelers, mappers and modelers, beware!

**

Oh, and BTW, I woke from the anaesthetic that accompanied my triple heart bypass to find.. Trump was president. That consequence was unintended by me at least, no matter hwat Mr Putin may have decided.

Red Bull joins the wise

Monday, June 11th, 2018

[ by Charles Cameron — red bull expands on pascal, takes us deeper into instinctive / archetypal thought ]
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I came across a powerful paragraph in Beyond a joke, a piece witth the enticing subtitle, “The brain holds many secrets that admen would love to learn – not least, how to change behaviour. Rory Sutherland explores how comedy rouses the grey matter.” Powerful, in that it connects, at least for me, with at least three major quotes from “wise men of old” from here and beyond:

The reason for this glaring discrepancy is that the part of the brain used to write economic papers is not the part of the brain that chooses a drink. The part of my brain that causes me to chug a can of Red Bull on the way home from work has a logic all of its own.

**

You remember my old DoubleQuotes format?

I used it to make various kinds of connections beyween two quotes? Well, I’ve come to feel its clumsy visually, takes up too much space — breaks the train of thought it’s embedded in rather than illuminating it? But the concept, the holding together of two ideas in close juxtaposition, still seems extraordinarily useful to me.

So here are elements of that para, juxtaposed with sayings from Blaise Pascal, Christ, and the Tao Te Ching — quite a variety of “wise” sources:

  • The heart has its reasons reason knows not of.
  • The part of my brain that causes me to chug a can of Red Bull on the way home from work has a logic all of its own.
  • The part of the brain used to write economic papers is not the part of the brain that chooses a drink.
  • The way that can be named is not the true way.
  • The part of the brain used to write economic papers is not the part of the brain that chooses a drink.
  • In my Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you.
  • Christ, Lao Tze, and Pascal! If the correlations are as powerful as I take them to be, and even if you omit the “many mansions” one which is I’ll admit bit of a stretch, that’s a power packed para.

    And the “many mansions”? It may be a bit of a stretch, but I think it adds a certain audacity to the whole — jazzes up what’s alreadt strong with an intriguing elan — what do you think?

    **

    The Bollingen classic:

    Jolande Jacobi, Complex/Archetype/Symbol in the Psychology of C. G. Jung

    **

    I mean, please comment, eh?

    Two koi fish, the one waterfall

    Wednesday, March 28th, 2018

    [ by Charles Cameron — a yakuza movie shimmering between American and Japanese ]
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    Is strategy found here?

    In the film, The Outsider, from which I have borrowed the koi quote above — which gives a riverine equivalent of the steady progress open to a pawn in the strict logic of chess — the outsider of the title played by Jared Leto is tatooed with a single koi fish moving up a waterfall, which the woman, enough said, tells him indicates that he is arrogant.

    **

    She, Miyu, played by Shioli Kutsuna, has two koi fish —

    The film invites your understanding, needlessly, by explaining.

    **

    Ah well: how a brush pen readied on an ink-stone resembles a knife blade sharpened on a whet-stone.

    Sunday surprise — Li Bai and the Song of Songs

    Sunday, March 11th, 2018

    [ by Charles Cameron — it’s all about a scarlet thread and some corks in a current ]
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    I have plenty of idle time between naps, and was binge watching The Churchmen on Netflix. Plus it’s a Sunday..

    **

    As you know, I track “twins” in events and quotations, mainly for sheer aesthetic pleasure, but also partly as an analytic tool — believing as I do that “two is the first number” and often a leading-edge clue to pattern, meaning, significance.

    I’m used to finding others who have noted these twins or “DoubleQuotes” as I call them — “DoubleQuotes in the Wild” — but I’m not sure I’ve ever run across a clear description of someone else noting them, let alone in a scholarly manner that bridges the secular west and spiritual east — but lookee here!

    **

    Amazing indeed! And what a line! Your lips are like a thread of scarlet! worthy of Li Po, worthy indeed of the Song of Songs!

    I’d have been very chuffed if I’d run across the same doublet between Li Bai – better known to me as Li Po — and the Song of Songs — which, by the way, is Solomon’s.

    **

    Li Po, who, drunk and out in a shallow boat, saw the moon reflected in the Yellow River, leaned over to kiss it, and drowned..

    Solomon — but you know the story — seated in judgement, ordered a child be cut in two when two women claimed to be its mother — then commanded it be given to the one whose shocked pure love begged him to deliver it to the other.. wisdom as the test of love!

    **

    The discoverer of the binary “Your lips are like a thread of scarlet!” is a brilliant, generous-hearted, flawed founder and leader of a seminary in France who displeases ambitious Vaticanisti, is offered a choice of disgrace (on account off his flaws) or (as an “out”) a posting to an obscure but copacetic position in Shanghai..

    A conversation ensues, in which he discusses his options with the nun who serves as his assistant:

    The nun ancourages him to consider the Shanghai option..

    That option has a certain seductive charm — following that scarlet thread.. but it represents being “bought off” rather than sticking by one’s guns come what may, and somehow weathering the consequences.

    **

    Our nun reflects:

    And that’s an interesting idea.

    At first glace it seems fatalistic — but that current moving the corks — the seminarians, the nun herself, the priest she serves, an ambitious president of the Franch bishops, various monsignori and a pope – maybe Christ, too? — has its own flows and undertows — a priest’s flaws included. It’s a complex system.

    The corks are afloat in a complex system. A scarlet thread traces its curve in the complex system, from contemporary France to eighth- century China.

    **

    And when you’re afloat in a complex system — as we all are — “go with the flow” may be sound advice. That’s why the “corks in a current” idea seems so interesting to me. Sunday surprise!

    Do nothing — just don’t do, eh?

    Sunday, December 31st, 2017

    [ by Charles Cameron — Trump — Lao and Chuang on their way to the New Year — & Iran ]
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    It’s quizzically amusing for someone with basic meditative or comparative religious eyes to read Philip Gordon‘s NYT piece yesterday, How Can Trump Help Iran’s Protesters? Be Quiet.

    I, too, want to see the government in Tehran weakened, moderated or even removed. So let me offer Mr. Trump some unsolicited advice: Keep quiet and do nothing.

    Ah, quiet. Ah, nothing.

    **

    Wu-wei, not-doing, is a basic principle of Taoism, the religion or school of philosophy which gave us Lao Tsu, author of the Tao Te Ching, and Chuang Tsu, the master humorist of Chinese philosophy.

    Lao Tsu:

  • Thirty spokes share a single hub; grasp the nothingness at its center to get the use of the wheel.
  • Clay is fashioned to make a vessel; grasp the nothingness at the center to get the use of the vessel.
  • Bore windows and doors to create a room; grasp the nothingness of the interior to get the use of the room.
  • Thus that which is constitutes what is valuable, but that which is not constitutes what is of use
  • Ah, nothing.

    But as that fourth aphorism indicates, wu-wei, nothing doing, is nothing without wei wu-wei, doing-nothing-doing — doing that springs effortlessly from the way of things. What results is true excellence.

    Chuang Tsu:

    Cook Ding was cutting up an ox for Lord Wenhui. At every touch of his hand, every heave of his shoulder, every move of his feet, every thrust of his knee – whop! whish! He wielded his knife with a whoosh, and always in perfect rhythm, as though he were performing the Dance of the Mulberry Grove or keeping time to the Jingshou music.

    “Ah, marvelous!” said Lord Wenhui. “Imagine skill reaching such heights!”

    Cook Ding laid down his knife and replied, “What I care about is the Dao, which goes beyond skill. When I first began cutting up oxen, all I could see was the ox itself. After three years I no longer saw the whole ox. And now – now I meet it with my spirit and don’t look with my eyes. Perception and understanding have come to a stop and spirit moves where it wants. I go along with the natural makeup, strike in the big hollows, guide the knife through the big openings, and follow things as they are. So I never touch the smallest ligament or tendon, much less a main joint.

    “A good cook changes his knife once a year – because he cuts. A mediocre cook changes his knife once a month – because he hacks. I’ve had this knife of mine for nineteen years and I’ve cut up thousands of oxen with it, and yet the blade is as good as though it had just come from the grindstone. There are spaces between the joints, and the blade of the knife has really no thickness. If you insert what has no thickness into such spaces, then there’s plenty of room – more than enough leeway for the blade to play about. That’s why after nineteen years the blade of my knife is still as good as when it first came from the grindstone.

    “However, whenever I come to a complicated place, I size up the difficulties, tell myself to watch out and be careful, keep my eyes on what I’m doing, work very slowly, and move the knife with the greatest subtlety, until … flop! – the whole thing comes apart like a clod of earth crumbling to the ground. I stand with my knife raised and turn to look all around, prancing in place with complete satisfaction. Then I wipe off the knife and put it away.”

    “Excellent!” said Lord Wenhui. “I have heard the words of Cook Ding and learned how to nurture life!

    Aha! Nothing, doing!

    **

    And now back to that original question:

    How Can Trump Help Iran’s Protesters?

    And the resply?

    Be Quiet.

    Be quiet! And listen, listen. Let the CIA in place just listen.

    Hey, Happy New Year!


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