[ by Charles Cameron -- a possible cultural parallel, also an entry for the pattern language of creativity, ourobouros ]
You’ve read about it in the news already:
U.S. officials couldn’t believe their luck last week when a suspected Taliban commander who heard there was a $100 reward for his whereabouts turned himself into authorities.
Perhaps misunderstanding the meaning of ‘wanted’, Mohammad Ashan sauntered up to police in Sar Howza, Paktika province, with a poster bearing his own face – and demanded the finder’s fee.
There are two things to note here — a parallel, and a pattern.
The parallel is with an incident I mentioned earlier on Zenpundit:
I was also struck by an anecdote Tom Ricks told Fareed Zakariah on the latter’s show recently. He recounted a story first told by John Masters in his book “Bugles and a Tiger”, the memoir of a British officer serving with the Gurkhas in Waziristan in the 1930s. At the end of the war, so the story goes, some Afghans approach the British soldier and ask, “Where are our medals?” “You were the enemy,” he replies. And here’s the punchline, the Afghan respose to that: “No, no. You gave medals to the Pashtuns on your side. We want our medals, too. You couldn’t have had a good war without us.”
Tom Ricks comments, “This is very much the Afghan attitude. This is a kind of sporting event for them in many ways.”
Food for thought.
The pattern is self-reference. Again,it’s something I’ve touched on here before, because it’s always of interest when it crops up:
there’s a special place in my analytic thinking for those representables which are self-referential – the category that gave rise to Douglas Hofstadter’s celebrated book, Gödel, Escher, Bach.
Indeed, I have a special glyph that I use in my games to notate ideas that are self-referential:
We don’t learn anything new about the particular instance of the Taliban walking in to claim his award for identifying himself by noting that it’s self-referential — but it intrigues us because it is, and that’s actually a sign that paradoxes of self-reference are significant at an unconscious level: that they’re a pattern worth watching for, and one that will play a role in the generation of aha! moments — whether they be analytic insights, creative breakthroughs, or (as in this case) just strange and amusing.
Kekulé von Stradonitz‘s basic insight into the structure of the benzene molecule was that it might be a serpent eating its own tail. That’s self-referential paradox at it’s finest — and a key aha! moment in the history of Chemistry.
It is also an archetypal image — the self-devouring serpent (ouroboros) crops up in alchemy (see image above) and in the Norse myth of Jörmungandr, the serpent who encircles Yggdrasil, the world tree.
Such images are important to the care and feeding of the creative mind.