Discussion: Language, without barometer

Suppose that in ten million years, humanity has been long wiped off the face of the planet. Some life still remains, but it has regressed to a more primitive state, due to some cataclysmic event, caused by our own iniquity, or some element of chance.
No animal that could understand the basics of calculus has existed on the rock called Earth for a very long time.

When one day, entirely by chance, our no longer blue planet is discovered, by some nomadic civilisation, who managed to achieve travel into the stars without using that same technology to blow each themselves up. In the ruins alone, under the assumption that concrete has eroded into mere particles that blew in the wind, and pages from books lost their ink; this civilisation would be able to piece together very little of what we were. Even if somehow some homestead had managed to endure the withering of time – if it had been cocooned in a blanket of ice, for instance; where would you even begin to understand what objects were?

A slab of metal and glass filled with silicon lines, in the corner of a room, where every piece of furniture is pointed at it. Knives and forks on the dinner table, for fighting no doubt. Window frames on the second floor, because we could jump so high, and often used that for quick access. Cloth in wooden containers, powdered energy in glass jars, animal carcasses in large white frozen boxes. It would be a frightening world of guesswork without a basis by which to guess. Everyone has had that experience of trying to tell a story, that was funny at the time, but after telling it out loud you find the other person does not find it so. Think of this, except not only do you not speak the same language, but you share no history, no culture, no prospects, no allegiances, and perhaps not even the same galaxy.

Now let’s suggest that humanity as a collective decides that the idea of a future civilisation discovering our remains and not being able to fabricate who we were is just too harsh a thought to bare. So they decide to devise a solution to this, or at least to devise a means in which to help these future nomads. And as a collective, they have decided to accept applications from anyone on the planet, and accept any ideas anyone on the planet may have on how best to communicate with the future visitors.

The problem then becomes the focus of this article: How do you communicate with these visitors? How do you construct a language, without barometer? In our own world, translations of works are inherently different to the language in which they were originally written, mainly because there is no word which translates over 100% – but at least we have something by which we can vaguely relate it to. But with an alien visitor -you don’t even have a set of words, objects, animals, or plants, by which you could guarantee you share. Not only this, but you cannot even predict the senses this alien might use to perceive the world around them. It is not enough to suggest you could communicate in a language that is a concatenation of a number of languages that are most frequently used or most expressive; because you cannot guarantee this creature has ears. Or perhaps they do but do not hear in the same frequency as we do. Perhaps you wish to communicate in symbols? – Well it has taken us thousands of years to build up semiotics to the point we can look at something and register to which category it belongs to at a glance, and even now most humans struggle with all of them, they differ in time and they differ from culture to culture. Equally, as before, the visiting nomads may not have eyes. Or if they do, maybe they do not see colour in the same range that we do. Lets say that they do have eyes – well what do they even register as a note? Say they looked at English at a glance, they could interpret the white space between the letters as the symbols rather than the letters themselves.

The possibilities are near endless for interpretation. This would be fair to say of something that came from our planet, or even our galaxy. But this could be a visitor that we may not even recognise as intelligent life, and yet regardless, it is. So much so that it had travelled through the stars to find us.

Furthermore then, we have an obligation to protect intelligent life as best as we can. To avoid any kind of pain and anguish where we can. If something can intelligent understand the universe and perceive its own consciousness, it must be our responsibility to ensure it.
It is important then to have this discussion – say we are aware of what brought about our destruction. It is our obligation then, to warn these visitors of the dangers we could not avoid. Perhaps areas of contamination, physical or otherwise, should be left in the past and certain technologies either avoided or proceeded with caution. The question being, how do we do this?

How would you communicate to something that may not even perceive the world in the same way that you do? And on a more personal note… Would you? Would you personally make an application to share your thoughts on how best to do this?

Arguably our only efforts to communicate without language thus far, is music. For thousands of years, we have communicated celebration, happiness, fear and war to others through music. No lyrics required to communicate exactly how we feel. Perhaps this would be our best bet to begin. Perhaps the sound of children laughing, the rain forest, or the ocean reaching the shoreline. The times at which we as a species were most at peace.
But then, while this may provide an example of our environment – it doesn’t necessarily define who we were or are. When we were good or bad. When we loved, and when we hated.

If we continue on a scientific trend – would we leave behind a hologram of a child as an ark of information, to provide context to who we were? Would this be the most realistic option, to convey our messages of peace in as many images and as many words as we possibly could? Could this child hold out a hand, with the bumps on his hand spelling in braille, and his words echoed in every other language, and Morse code? Would what the child spoke even resonate on any parallel? Should we literally throw sounds and light in some form of pattern, and hope that something sticks? Data dump our history and languages in as many different patterns as possible? Perhaps an AI, that can use everything that we are currently to determine what COULD be encountered in the future? Statistically, this is probably necessary. As much as they would like to earn us, we may need to learn it first, in the form of some machine learning. To discuss topics not only do we not understand yet, but we may never even have encountered in our cosmically short lifespan.

What if we decided that we wanted to communicate, only that which we wanted to communicate. I.e. perhaps we would wish to leave out the horrid parts of our history, or tell much more embellished versions of it in myth, legend, and art rather than the much more hard to swallow science and objectivity. If we were to do that, how could we separate semantics from pragmatism? To say very clearly what is, and not what we meant to say. This applies to our language, and also our visualisation of our culture. Say we built, or painted, or sculpted a grand cathedral, and hid it in some frozen ark – we may try to convey how complex and grandiose we were in our architectural choice – only to find that our visitor friends interpret the use of space as inefficient. They may regard our distinct lack of compactness instead, as a sign we were not intelligent whatsoever. That we were too wasteful. Perhaps then, they would be right.

The questions are endless, and arguably you could discuss for the millions of years we are hypothetically wiped out discussing what we could and should do – if and when we should – why and where we should. In fact, this question, which its infinite possibilities seems to grand a task to bestow upon us, and too great a burden to endure.

But if something is important enough, you must always try. Even if the expected outcome, is failure.

However; the question remains: Would you? And if so, how? How would you begin to construct a language to speak beyond the stars, without barometer?

Go.

There are no stupid questions.

There are no stupid questions; only stupid answers.

To be a good teacher – and not just a successful educator – it is important to remember that the idea of being stupid (a horrible thing to think of someone, or to address someone as) could only be reserved for someone who lacks intelligence. And you know the only way to gain more knowledge, and to be more intellectual as person? Asking, questions.

Fundamentally, the sentence “They were asking stupid questions” or “that was a stupid question” is flawed – you’ll most likely either have said this in a moment of fury, or have overheard a disgruntled friend or colleague complaining. While it’s easy to understand why someone might say this, as they’re just frustrated, its equally not a helpful phrase for anyone.

Let’s suppose that you have never learned how to wash your clothes. You are a teenager, and have just moved out for the first time in your life. There is no washing machine in your apartment, so you head to the nearest laundromat with a couple of bags of dirty clothes, that you’ve no doubt put off washing. Nervous, you stumble your way towards a stranger, and in a moment of courage, you tap them on the shoulder and explain to them your predicament. “I’ve just never learned how to wash my clothes” You’ll say, “So… How DO you wash your clothes? Is there a system for putting it in the washing machine, or do you put anything in with it or… ?”

They laugh in your face. They sputter their words, and they repeat it, “You don’t know how to wash your clothes!? Are you stupid!?” They continue their merriment, maybe chuckle to themselves or turn to a friend. And you sit there wondering… “Am I stupid?”

What’s happened in that scenario, and in every other scenario where a variant of this has happened, is that someone asked for help to improve their own understanding, and was made to feel small in return. As though because they did not know something, that they know nothing. Which, ironically, is a stupid thing for someone to think. By acting that way, or by saying these things, you’re only conditioning someone not to ask questions, because when they do, they’re reprimanded. So they may stop asking questions. And without questions they don’t know answers. Now you’re hurtful comments have sustenance to them, but only because of what you did. And by doing that, you are far more stupid, and worst yet ignorant, than they could ever be.

You may not consider yourself a stupid person, and yet – do you know anything about botany? Or rocket science? Or fishing? Maybe even geology, sociology, psychology, phrenology? If you are not an expert in all these fields, it would be expected that at some point if you wanted to know more about the subject you would have to ask a question, no? So, does this make you stupid?

Fundamentally, we are all uneducated in some aspects of life. To call someone stupid, or make them feel small in any way, because you excel in an area they do not; is arrogant. It’s unkind, it’s unfair, and you are objectively helping to numb society to the pursuit of intelligence.

Curiosity IS intelligence. To wonder what lies beyond. To wonder about that which you do not know, and pursue it relentlessly. Do not stifle someone, and trip them up at the first hurdle of understanding. You are hurting someone’s potential more than you know.

Next time someone asks a question you feel they should know; that you feel is a stupid question – be patient. Take your time to think of the appropriate answer. For it is you who is on the ropes. Because there are no stupid questions; only stupid answers.

Quote of the Day: Kindness

“You are never too important, to not be kind.”

Stochastic

adjective: stochastic
  1. having a random probability distribution or pattern that may be analysed statistically but may not be predicted precisely.

What this effectively means, is that while we can retroactively analyse that 70% of people who suffered from X succumbed to Y; we cannot say guarantee that 70% of people who suffer from X will succumb to Y.

This is why, mathematically, you should not let something with a small chance of success stop you just because of its likelihood to succeed.

“If something is important enough you should always do it. Even if the expected outcome; is failure.”

It scientifically, succinctly, with supporting evidence, suggests how important it is not to give up on something. How odds are important, only to the mass – not to the individual.

Equally, it humbles the self.

By the same logic, that which is overwhelming likely to work in your favour; may not. Not because you’re bad, or because you made a foolish decision – but because even if something has a 99.9% probability of happening, it still by definition requires 0.1% of people for it not to happen to, or for. And when it is you who finds themselves in the latter percentile, you will be acutely aware that percentage of probability offered you no benefits. You were tarred, by the fact that statistics mean nothing to the individual.

No matter how good a decision you make, or how bad a decision you make, it can go the other way. No because it was the right or wrong thing to do, but because an immeasurable number of other factors had an effect on that decision, which you could not possibly measure or account for. Differences that on their own are negligible, but together if they hit that sweet spot, it can just work out for you, or not.

It’s all chance.

The chance that you’ll fall madly in love. The chance you’ll get your dream job. The chance you’ll be hit by a car tomorrow morning, or that the world will be obliterated by some passing celestial body. The trivial decisions, and the grand. Use chance to share a little kindness, and compassion in a world that appears to grow more grey by the day. Be that one light, turning for all to see, in weathering storm.

So when you see someone on the street, shivering in the cold of the winter, or with chattering teeth from the damp of their sleeping bag that covers them on the ground – be kind. They could have made every possible good decision on the planet, and still been that 0.1% whom it did not work out for. In return, be the 0.1% who stops. Who shows a little compassion, care, and much needed unconditional love.

If you think you are affected by the anxiety of this world, if you fear the next day or if you cry when no one is around, imagine how they must feel. Heartbroken to not have the one they love have their arms around them, and the warmth that comes with it. To be affected by mental illness that comes with the trauma of living on unforgiving streets. To feel unwanted.

You, no matter how clever, how forward thinking, how prepared, or how entitled you believe yourself to be – are not so far separated from the man on the streets. Do not think yourself more important.

You are never too important, to not be kind.

These words may not hit you – they may not break your heart as intended. But if you fall into the 0.1% whom it does hit, I hope you fight with yourself in the night tonight, and decide to do something better. Stochastically, some of you should. But I hope more of you do.

I’ll have to leave it up to chance.

 

Shorts: Sixty Minutes

No matter what you’re doing in your life at the minute, no matter how busy your day appears to be, or how much furrows your brow each day – take sixty guilt free minutes; for yourself.

You, are as important as anything else on your plate at the minute. To handle all the things you consider important, you must first maintain that which allows any of it to be dealt with. Or even thought about and decisions considered.

Don’t feed the negativity, and the burden of the world. By feeding it, it only grows stronger, more confident, and more ferocious. It will visit more often, Pavlovian. Instead, feed creativity. Intelligence. Feed passion, love, and kindness. Feed selflessness, motivation, and self improvement. If nothing else, feed relaxation.

You deserve a warm bath. A hot chocolate. Your feet resting up against the table, with something wrapped around your body to keep your heat. You deserve your favourite song playing over the hot of a candle at night.

You deserve kind words from friends and loved ones. You deserve hobby which drives you, regardless of what end becomes of it or its futility.

It’s very easy to get caught up in it all; to wholeheartedly believe you should receive the full weight of burden that taxes you every day, and yet require no rejuvenation. And while that sounds convenient, and very noble; It isn’t. It isn’t brave to struggle, for the sake of it, to endure hardship without reward. It’s just sadism. Or masochism depending on your inclination.

It’s mental flagellation –  and your mind deserves better than that, because it allows everything you are, and how beautifully unique you are, to even take place and be perceived. Even if you get mad with yourself, disappointed, or even just a little disillusioned, remember you are absolutely astonishing.

Talk to a friend, or even better someone who will listen. They can remind you of that fact. They can remind you that life has been continuing outside of all that hinders you from sleep at night, and make larger objects in the mirror appear smaller than you might have thought. They can remind you that life will be okay, and whatever obstacles you considered large, are now long forgotten. So you can relax knowing that whatever stresses you out now, too will pass. In fact, you can take that as the one certainty in a world of anxiety. It will pass.

There is no once else like you, for every nuance of yourself. For small details you do not even notice in yourself, but that a poet would spot in a heartbeat, and write a sonnet without your knowing.

Relax. Be you.

Take sixty minutes. And between us, we’ll call it maintenance.

Pressed for time.

You will always be aware of the passage of time. As leaves around you turn amber and crumble, as trees wither and rivers shape mountains, you will be well aware that nothing can escape its grasp.

Man – is the only animal on Earth that pertains a concept of time; and with that comes an equally unique fear; what happens when it stops.

Rather than spin this in dim light, rather – look at it with unhinged beauty. Time is based on our own perspective. Five minutes to someone in an excruciating interview will crawl its way along, while the same five minutes to new lovers will pass in the snap of a finger.

While you can be certain that your life will expire as it is at some point in the future, and while you can say with relative certainty you will not live to be as old or much older than a century, equally, you could unexpectedly perish tomorrow of some unnamed disaster. While you know your time will end, you do not know when. You do not know how worth your time will be, or how quickly it will pass. The time on your clock may tick for the last time, in the following heartbeat.

So… run. You are pressed for time. And if you wish to leave some part of you in this universe, act with haste. Do not put up with situations that bring you unhappiness. Relish in those that do. Do not bother with people who are toxic to your well being, in any way. Rid their weight from your shoulders and press forward linked in swinging arms of equally enthusiastic runners. You owe nothing to anyone, and are bound by nothing but that which you yourself will accept to be bound to. The thing about the great social contract (where we conduct ourselves uncharacteristically for the sake of  the acceptance of others) is that we do not have to abide by it at all. And just because we have spent so much time on it, does not mean we must continue to do so.

“You are under no obligation to be the same person you were five minutes ago”
– Alan Watts

Rather, do what brings you joy. With happiness being forever fleeting you must pursue it as though fire burns at the back of your heels. You must dish it out and lend a helping hand to those you can. Kindness and happiness can be shared without depreciation. So, do.

Put nothing on hold – because it can be dropped at any point – no matter how securely you imagine yourself to be holding it.

Let no anchor tie you to the shoreline, because adventure awaits beyond the horizon. To find new land, you must watch traverse stormy weather, and watch as the horizon obscures the security of where you came from.

Plan; but do not fret if the reality of the situation alters so much you cannot use it. While your sail can steer, it is still influenced by the wind. And the changing of that wind, is anyone’s guess. But that does not mean you should opt to float on driftwood, just because the sail may fail.

And so with that in mind, equally do not judge. Others or yourself. This will only stifle your release of endorphins from your runners high. In fact, do not concern yourself with the achievements or the decisions of others. Comparison rarely every bring anything other despair.

Instead… run, and beat the clock.

And while you will always be aware of the passage of time – you will slowly start to realise you no longer fear it. And the time you spent on the race will no longer matter, only how far you ran, and all the things you saw along your way. How you turned the leaves red, and shaped the mountainside.

 

 

 

Shorts: Mother’s Day(s)

According to the dictionary, to mother, is to;

  1. bring up (a child) with care and affection.
    “the art of mothering”

And so apt a definition it is. It’s an art, because it’s beautiful. It’s wonderful. It’s hidden in plain site, and often it’s significance forgotten. If you’re looking for a definition of kindness, or a reason to continue believing in this world in a time of tempest and uncertainty, motherhood should be your guide.

Your mother has held you in the cold, with cotton wrapped around your infant body. She has held you against her, when tears have streamed down your face at matters trivial or otherwise. Your mother has taught you; inspired you; in ways more than one. She has clothed you, paid your debts, and listened to what makes you unique as an individual. She’s cared about it, and listened for countless hours, for the stories you tell her, she will surely tell to anyone who will listen, including strangers, in moments of pride.

She does all this from the moment you are born, knowing you will one day lie to her. Knowing you will one day upset her, move on to other things without her, and act selfishly towards her. You’ll put your feelings first, you’ll reject her advice, and you’ll forget in the moment, all that she has done.

And yet still, unwavering, she will be waiting with forgiving arms. She will not remind you that she told you better, she will not put you down, but raise you up, and she will not ask for favour in return. But only love.

I cannot think, of a kindness, grander, than a mother’s. The act once itself, is so gorgeous one could write a poem. But more astonishing, is rather the constancy of the act.

To all mother’s out there, thank you. For birthing and raising every one of us, since the dawn of human kind. Thank you for your unimaginable kindness, for so many years. So grand a span of time, to consistently be kind. Thank you for listening to us, seeing who we truly are, caring for us, and sharing yourself with us, so that we may learn, and grow.

And to my own mother, thank you. Words sadly fail me, for I cannot describe how wonderful you are. How inspiring you are, every day of my life. How decisions I make, and thoughts I have, are done with you in mind. You’re a thought that does not leave my mind, even though some things pressing may appear for it to be so. I love you with all my heart, for everything that you’ve done.

I love you for your support, your kindness, your friendship, and for being my inspiration to be a better man, for as long as I live.

Happy Mothers Day.

P.s. Spoil your mothers. Treat them. Remind them you love them, and you’re thankful for all they have done. Just be sure, not to limit it, to this one day.