The word “applications” in physics needs to become a dirty word again, physics is about inquiry, useless, poetic inquiry, it isn’t about applications. When Faraday was asked by the mayor of his village what the point of his studies in electromagnetism were, he told him that surely one day he would find a way to tax them. Faraday was mocking the mayor, but his machines are now mocking us. These silent senseless creatures curving the spine and numbing the mind. The point of physics is to do and think beautiful things, it isn’t to make a GPS controller so that we can get to our kitty parties faster, it isn’t so that we can become more and more impatient, incapable of thinking for ourselves, of being bored. The machine is the slave, let us not forget that, as Oscar Wilde said “Human slavery is wrong, insecure, and demoralising. On mechanical slavery, on the slavery of the machine, the future of the world depends.” Indeed we must enslave the machine, not become machines ourselves, human beings aren’t supposed to find applications, applications should find human beings, if and when human beings have the time for them.
The computer doesn’t know what boredom is, and I am forgetting what it is too. The computer is stupid because it lacks the sophistication to be bored, and I am slowly losing it too.
What is art? Why is there a need for art? Why do paintings sell for millions of dollars? The rich couple, in furs, hats and coats walking back home to their fine mansion, built with the best architects of their time, their homes filled with the finest paintings and statues they can buy, they convert themselves into works of art, with perfumes, clothes, they read, or try and read the finest books, the finest poets. Why? Why do we go to cinema, what is this need to cultivate ourselves? Why do we try and read poetry, and try and listen to classical music, even thought it is so difficult to do so? Why do parents encourage their children to learn the piano, and why do we encourage them to read difficult literature? To speak well, to write well? Why do we visit museums, why is there an endless queue to glimpse at the Monalisa? They tell us there are forms of art, but they don’t tell us why we should seek Art, and what it IS. A different question: Why do young people smoke weed and and drink alcohol? Why do we party till late at night? What do we search for in sex? Why is their a drug problem, and the need to build more and more rehabilitation clinics. Like a scientist, finding the mechanism explaining seemingly disparate phenomena, Pessoa unifies and answers the two questions in this paragraph, again, poorly translated: “Art delivers us, in an illusionary way, from this sordid thing that we are. As long as we experience suffered by Hamlet, prince of Denmark, we do not experience our own, vile because they are ours, and vile, simply because they are vile. Love, sleep, drugs are forms of elementary art. Or more precisely, elementary ways of creating the same effects as art. But love, sleep and drugs, each bring with them a particular form of dissillusion. Love wearies us, or dissapoints. After sleeping we wake up, and whilst we sleep, we have not lived. Drugs come with a price, the destruction of the organism, even if it has served to stimulate it. But in art, there is no dissilusion, because we admit illusion from the beginning. From art, there is no waking up, because we do not sleep, even if we dream. No price to be payed, in art, to enjoy it. The pleasure in art does not belong to us, strictly speaking, so we don’t need to pay for it, either in suffering, or in remorse. By the word art, it should be understood, all that is source of pleasure without belonging to us: a smile offered to another, the sun setting, the poem, the universe. To possess is to lose, to feel without possessing is to conserve, because it is to extract from everything its essence” The rich couple walking back home from the opera, stumble upon a drunkard smoking weed, the former finds the latter repugnant, and the latter mocks the former. They don’t understand each other, but Pessoa understands them both, and know they are looking for the same thing. O master Pessoa, O prophet of our times. Technoscience, alone, will not solve the mountain of human suffering, it isn’t because we have a name for the synapses that go off when we are sexually excited, or the mechanism surrounding it, that we know what sexual excitation IS. Nothing science tells me is of any value to me, but science is of value to me when it is art. “Everything you ever need to know, you shall know from a poet”. Technoscience is arrogant and it is destroying humanity, converting us into machines, leading the world to transhumanism. It isn’t because we know what hormone is released when we fall in love that we know what love IS. To disintegrate the mountain of human suffering we need subtle force of Art, which unlike a hammer does not try vainly try to break it down, but like water, it seeps into its crevices, and weakens it, till it collapses. The mountains of this world bow to the water bodies, not the other way around. Technoscience must bow to art, and not the other way around.
I feel sad that all these companies are thanking me or wishing me a happy new year, and I am unable to wish the companies anything. M. Zuckerberg isn’t answering any of my emails! Dear Facebook, you had a wonderful year too! Well done! Dear Google, thank you for telling me what a beautiful day it will be, I hope your mother is doing well. Trip advisor, congratulations to you too for being part of the Trip advisor community. Dear flipkart,thank you for reminding me to buy a gift for my family, but you haven’t told me what you are getting for your family! Tell me Flipkart, how was 2016 for you? Thank you all of you, for making me talk to machines, and slowly converting me into one. Its a great time being human today, I shall outsource living also. And its such a pleasure to see Netflix coming out with advertisements for Black mirror, capitalism is the biggest troll in the world. Useful things are useless, and only the truly useless things are truly useful, for “only the poets make things that last”.
P.S. “The usefulness of the useless” by Nuccio Ordine, for those looking to do something useless with their time.
The careers of many soap stars, television series actors, and even movie stars depends crucially on our inability to find anything better to do with ourselves. A capitalist society brings out the mediocrity in us, we simply will not put in the effort to see the difference between a shakespearan tragedy and a saas-bahu (family drama) serial. There is a difference between the two, and a very important one, the former uplifts the human soul, is still read and studied hundreds of years later, making its viewer think with more subtlety, use language better, and like good Art, refines the human spirit, as we read the genius of Shakespeare and his grasp of the human condition, the latter simply distracts. It is difficult to read Shakespeare, it is difficult to put in the effort and the patience, it is easy to press a button and be fed a soap serial.
A society that does not find interesting things to do with its time, that does not have the patience to do difficult things, ends up paying more to people playing the role of a physicist on television (The big bang theory), than to an actual physicist, simply because, we live on the life support of entertainment. In ancient times, acting was hardly an honorable profession. If people knew what to do with their time, FRIENDS would at best be a popular folk group earning a simple living, and not world famous filthy rich stars, it is up to us to make them what they are, they themselves do not understand why they merit this much wealth and importance, often falling into all sorts of problems, it is up to us to improve the standards of what we watch and pay for, to prevent the skews of the modern “entertainment industry”.
The capitalist monster wants us to be perpetually distracted, to rid us of patience of any kind, boredom is very important to creativity and the desire for upliftment, for as Oscar Wilde said “discontent is man’s original virtue”, but the capitalist monster will never let you be bored, because it wants you to become a machine, because machines are predictable.
A society that loses its patience with literature and art, is much more amenable to mass hysteria, as Nuccio Ordine explains in his book “The usefulness of the useless”, we don’t learn the tools to understand other cultures, or the other in general, we are quick to judge, we do not think, we feel, because we lose all subtelty and patience, this is evidenced in all the madness of the last few decades, it is urgent that we give more importance to difficult, patient “useless” education.
Again, as explained in his book, only “useless” education goes directly against the logic of profit of the cynical economist, because if we share education, we are often richer not poorer for it, and it does not divide by half, but often multiplies, manyfold. It is then also not surprising that simplistic military answers are given to all the problems, I wonder how it would be if the americans on average had more appreciation for persian and middle eastern culture, if their understanding of pakistanis and indians was beyond that of taxi drivers and restaurant owners. Oh the inhumanity! And if indians and pakistanis had a little more appreciation for their own culture and history, if they had their own vision of the future, outside of the urban industrial vision, perhaps the absurdities and excesses of the silicon valley wouldn’t be imported to India.
The Acropolis, after serving as a pagan temple, a mosque, a church, has reached its final state: a tourist destination, with tourists infesting it like crickets, clicking away selfies to be posted on social media…
The day I read the chapter in the Feynman lectures on “What is force”, where Feynman describes the concept of “gorce”, my entire understanding of what physics was got shattered, I realized I had understood nothing, I realized that day how mysterious physics really was, and why I would never understand physics.
Perhaps physics doesn’t “understand” things, it “creates” an
understanding of things. I don’t know how to describe the difference, but I feel there must be one. Since then I can only see physics as a constructive process and not as understanding process, they create their mathematically consistent understandings of nature, their models that they eventually start calling laws. I shall never understand the “laws” of thermodynamics, nor the newton’s “laws” of motions, nor relativity special or general, I shall only perhaps appreciate that the edifice constructed is sound, if I get used to their equations enough.
The apple does not fall “because” of gravity, the sun does not shine “because” of weak interactions, the apple falls, and the sun shines, and we don’t know really why, it isn’t because we have a word for something that the mystery of it has gone anywhere.
P.S. I cannot help quote Ghalib here
Juz naam nahin surat-e-aalam mujhe manzoor
Juz waham nahin hasti-e-ashia meray aage
I acknowledge the face of the universe as only a name
The substance of reality is but superstition before me