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Beatrice had come home early to find Elise with her tongue inside the fire-flower plant.

“What is this!–Am I not enough for you?”

Elise’s mind was too far gone, lost in the visions produced by the ecstatic nectars of the plant, normally reserved for special ceremonies. Instead of Beatrice, she only heard echoes from a distant shadow. Crystalline colors appeared, then a memory of spilling ice cream as a child.

“Oh god, you’ve had too much again. You damn bitch!”

Beatrice began to cry and stormed out.

Elise didn’t mind. She just fell deeper, and deeper. Soon the sacred plant would start to glow from within. Under the empty sky of a new moon, the light would sharpen through the sun roof, and dragonflies would lay their eggs.

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A horrific accident occurred yesterday afternoon at a local strawberry patch. A Drivelling Loude–a tiny red insect employed to protect berries from predators–had accidentally become enraged due to smelling Big Boy’s cologne. Unbeknownst to Mr. Boy, the active compounds in his new cologne, Fresh Boy (TM), bear a striking resemblance to the pheromones of the Loude’s natural antagonist, the Icy Larn. Thus it was that a trace of the volatile compounds from Mr. Boy’s sweet skin passed into the slits of some Drivelling Loudes, causing them to pass the signal of danger to the entire hive.
Sensing a threat, the colony soon mobilized towards Big Boy and his wife, Big Girl, while the unsuspecting pair was out on holiday picking strawberries at McGoot’s Berry Patch. According to testimony from nearby observers, thousands of the Loudes branched together to form a large blade with the edge of their pincers, neatly decapitating Big Boy. Big Boy’s head landed in a basket of just-picked strawberries.

“Never have I seen something like this in my 59 years as a berry farmer,”
said the defensive Mr. McGoot.

“Certainly, it is a tragedy, but the use of Drivelling Loudes is a well-established practice in berry farming, and they have been judged as harmless helpers by the USDA.”

“We see this type of behavior occasionally occurring in certain members of the Loude species and subspecies,” said Professor K. Horacios, an expert in Loude physiology and ecology at the University of Delft.
“It is exceedingly rare, but, once mobilized, the hive follows strict auto-commands. There have only been two recorded cases of unprovoked attacks against humans of this caliber, once in Zimbabwe in 1948, and the other in Antarctica, in 1983.”
“Blimey, what was a Drivelling Loude hive doing in Antarctica?” mused the professor, as he puffed on his pipe.

There was no word yet on whether authorities expected to press charges against Mr. McGoot.

Ms. Girl could not be reached for comment.

So I’m doing this now: http://www.patreon.com/chaosnick

Seeing Tomatito last night at The Palace of Fine Arts was awesome. Here’s a wonderful nugget of wisdom from an interview he did 10 years back: http://www.flamenco-world.com/artists/tomatito/tomatito13072004-2.htm

Most young and not so young guitarists are crazy – they subconsciously want to compete with Paco de Lucía. They might say he’s the best, but they really want to better him. What I did is when I met Paco de Lucía at the age of fifteen, I surrendered as soon as I saw what he could do. That’s why I seek out my own way, that’s why my conscience is clear, that’s why people like me, that’s why I do what I do, that’s why I have my own personality, and know my limits. And young guys still say “Tomate, you play some mean flamenco.” At least they value your music, you’ve carved out a niche for yourself.

And competition shouldn’t enter into music. You have to compete with yourself and you have to bring your fantasies, your dreams to life, everyone has something. That’s why one guy’s paranoid, another one’s stuck at home… but look, we’re all only human! You aren’t Mozart, nor is anybody else, so quit trying to be so mystic – that’s all phony. I mean if there isn’t a flower in my dressing room I won’t play, and if my chair isn’t this color… Get real – go play your guitar, think about your guitar and quit goofing around! You need a shrink, man, you’re not gonna last in this game. You’re gonna get sick and in the end you won’t even want to work, and the record companies are gonna lose their patience with you – audiences too – and they’re gonna end up hating you. Nobody’s indispensable in this world.Camarón died and the world keeps turning. And he was the genius of my generation. We won’t see a greater genius in our lifetimes. He re-vamped flamenco, invented ‘flamenco joven’, the crowds, that identification with the youth, the intellectuals back then… He came to Madrid and packed fourteen thousand people into the Palacio de los Deportes stadium. Who else has done that? Nobody. Maybe back then Serrat could pull it off, but a flamenco artist with a guitar and a suit? He was the only one doing that stuff. His power to draw a crowd and the way he could connect with the masses, that charisma, there was no effort, it was just natural. Any big international musician that came, they all came after him: Chick Corea, Mick Jagger… he came and he was knocked sideways by Camarón. And what do the Stones know about flamenco? And you go all over the world and you see his records. He’s the reference point for flamenco today.

http://www.berklee.edu/berklee-today-28

Did you have to learn about synthesizers and computers on your own when you were starting out?

I had been experimenting with synthesis since I was a kid. I took a synthesis class at Berklee, but back then, there was nothing presented that I hadn’t already checked out on my own. When I was at Berklee, I was by far the geekiest kid there. I was really interested in programming and electronics. I’d be in my room in the Hemenway Street dorm using a tiny screwdriver to take apart my Roland TB 303 [a synthesizer/sequencer] to make the resonance self-oscillate, or I’d be line editing autoexec.bat files on my PC for automatic sound creation. Everyone else was ripping through the modes on their instruments at 208 beats a minute.
The kids in my dorm didn’t know what I was doing. I think I missed my peer group by about five years. Now when I stop by Berklee, I see students engaged in the things I’ve been interested in since I was a kid. That inspires me.

We were hiking in the woods when they circled around us. I thought it was a couple of deer at first, or maybe a bobcat, at worst, from the weight of the steps; but definitely not a band of wild monkeys. This isn’t even the right ecosystem for them. But there they were, springing out from behind the bushes, four or five of them.

They didn’t touch us, but they were screaming, trying to intimidate us, hitting the ground and breaking sticks. I always thought of apes being mostly vegetarian, with square teeth for grinding and chewing bark and leaves, but they all had really nasty, sharp teeth, bones in triangles and rhombuses, glistening with drool and spit.

There was one off to the side. I didn’t see it at first amidst the haze of the onslaught, but at some point I became aware of him sitting just slightly off in the distance, sharpening a rock. His dispassionate gaze reminded me of a yakuza in a Takeshi Kitano film just before something horrible happens.

So that’s where it comes from, I remember thinking.

I don’t know how long we were standing there, but eventually they became quiet and one of them jumped in front of us, and started walking off the trail, the rest forming a half-ring behind, herding us. The one with the rock stayed a farther distance off to the side, just barely in view.

I started to think about Planet of the Apes, and Charlton Heston, and then of course, the NRA–Why had I never learned to shoot a gun? Why didn’t I have a gun with me? There was no alternative now; it was too late to run or fight.

We walked for maybe an hour, through thick vegetation, some of which seemed liked poison ivy (or was it poison oak?) Sure enough, soon after we got to “camp,” we both started to itch terribly, and rashes had started to form all over our bodies. It was pretty creepy there because there were quite a few of them, and it was clear that the group that had captured us was merely a thin reconnaissance unit. Did they know we were there or were they just looking? I’m not sure.

We weren’t put in a cage or anything; they just dumped us off on a patch of fallen leaves and went back to doing other things like it wasn’t unusual. None of them really made much of an effort to interact with us, but it was clear enough that we weren’t free to go. They seemed to just watch us, periodically. “Pet” isn’t the right word, but neither is “equal.”

I felt like they were waiting for us to do something, but it’s not like they were giving us commands or requests.  There wasn’t any evidence to suggest that they were anything other than a variety of chimpanzees, but they had somehow developed enough structure to decide we would be held captive. I couldn’t figure out why they weren’t in their proper environment, and had never heard a single report of any person in the area seeing a single ape, monkey, chimpanzee, or any other non-human primate. That really bothered me.

Food was brought to us, thankfully. They had gotten hold of some fruit from somewhere—sometimes they’d bring peaches, banana, oranges—I swear I recognized a persimmon once as being the exact variety that this one bearded-mystic guy at the farmers’ market sold, and that made me really upset, broke my spirit. I wanted to cry, but couldn’t, so Mary did instead, and I tried to console her, even though I was the one who had explained it to her. This was after about a week.

We ate bugs as well. Neither of us were too eager about that decision, but we were both losing weight and feeling hungry most of the time–the fruit wasn’t enough—we had to more fully adapt to the chimps’ lifestyle. Like everyone says, it’s not so bad once you get used to it. You can get used to anything.

It was the same for sleeping and warmth. It would get really cold and we’d be shivering, and huddling together for warmth—couldn’t they see that we didn’t have fur like them? A few of them would come over and brush their hands over my arm, the hairs of which must have seemed so sparse compared to their own, lush coats. They especially liked Mary’s hair, which they’d play with. She really didn’t like that, but we weren’t in a position to protest. I don’t think they were malevolent, just ignorant–curious.

Our clothes were totally filthy by this point, so we discarded them. We had gotten used to the weather and it had stopped feeling so cold. Obviously, we didn’t have any extra garments, so this marked the conclusion of our Return to Nature. It was a little odd, but not all that alarming after what we’d already been through. After awhile the whole idea of wearing clothes started to feel silly and extraneous.

Mary still had a rash that was bothering her. Mine was mostly gone, but I had developed some sort of ear infection that impaired my hearing and made it feel like I was underwater. I missed playing music. I would get fragments of songs stuck in my head for days at a time, unable to remember the endings. An inner tension gnawed at me. One time I got that one Smiths song stuck in my head,

“Why, do I give valuable time, to people who don’t care if I live or die.”

That got me thinking about all the people we had “left behind,” because they must have thought we were dead. Where were the search parties, the helicopters? Had they even tried?

After years of neglecting my voice in favor of my instrumental skills, I got really good at singing. Mary and I would sing for hours at a time, trading harmonies, switching keys, just because we’d had plenty of time to figure it all out. That was a lot of fun. I could tell the monkeys really enjoyed it, too. They would stop what they were doing and listen to us. I’ve rarely had a more captive audience.

We even got up to doing more complicated works, everything from delving into polyphony to Miles.  Personally, I think In a Silent Way was our greatest accomplishment of that period, although there was some confusion as to whether were aping (no pun intended) the Miles Davis classic, or the original piece as envisioned by Joe Zawinul. Now that I think about it, Jaco Pastorious comes off as a rather ape-like creature. I think he would have handled this ordeal all right. I’m not sure about Miles, though.

Sometimes we would do yoga for exercise, and of course, we got really good at that also. I think we may have even invented some new poses. The monkeys didn’t seem too interested.

At other times we would just watch the rain come down for hours. I got the sense that our little masters didn’t care for it much more than us, though it did provide us with ample drinking water. It turns out if you watch the motion of raindrops long enough, a lot of features about the principles of fluid dynamics start making more sense, something my engineering instructors never mentioned during the endless integrals.

One day, one of the chimps slipped us a flyer. That was an odd enough event in itself. He/She then quickly walked away. None of the others seemed to have noticed. It read:

Xenia

A Harmonious Gathering of the Two Species.

There were some crude instructions printed on the back of it. We really didn’t have much to go on, and in retrospect, it might have been foolhardy to risk capture or injury from something that looked like it was out of an adolescent-constructed ‘zine, but that just shows you how desperate we were.

One night, when it seemed like no one was watching, we followed a path off to the side, orange paper in hand. They had gotten used to us being there. We hadn’t made a move. That’s why it was so important to go for it when we finally decided to do it.

We followed the directions to the letter and arrived at an encampment with some markings that showed the presence of others. Around a fire we were welcomed by a host of both humans and apes. It was astonishing, but before we were able to process any of that, we were overcome by joy and deprivation. They all had different stories about how they had ended up there, and though the mix was odd, somehow it worked.

As we got used to life there (and at that point, returning to “civilization” seemed even too distant to contemplate), it began to grate on us. Even though our previous confinement couldn’t be described as pleasant, the freedom from time and rules provided us a certain expanse of liberation. Xenia, while a self-professed vesicle of liberation (with us, as the proteins being gobbled and transformed, as one follower put it), had certain cultish tendencies, and too many simple-minded followers (to say nothing of the chimps), and we started to contemplate other options. Not to mention, the rigor of our own regimens was at odds with their rather loose sense of discipline.

Just as we were hatching our plans, everything came tumbling down—two park rangers flew in one night (and where the hell had they been up until now?) and started smashing things up, just like that, and it was over. Monkeys were screaming, people were yelling, pissing everywhere, while the mustachioed rangers shot tranquilizer darts and the apes came out swinging. Suddenly we didn’t even know whose side to take. I didn’t, anyways. I saw Mary just standing there, dazed, and I realized she was looking at me with the same expression, just because it seemed like the only reasonable thing to do in such an unreasonable situation, even though reason didn’t really play any part in it.

A few weeks after readjusting to some semblance of a regular life, the doorbell rang and there was an official-looking character with an upright posture and a masculine mustache, standing too close to the entrance.

“Hello sir, do you remember me?”

I did—he had been one of the rangers that had interrogated me, but had been pretty understanding about it, considering the circumstances; then again, we had probably been a joy to deal with compared to some other members of the “family.”

“Well, you see, in the raid, we discovered something that only became clear later,” he vaguely explained.

He motioned towards the car, and I saw something that looking like one of the apes, but not exactly, sitting calmly next to another man.

“My partner,” he said, noticing my gaze, without addressing the whole picture.

“Well, and you can see..at first we thought this was,”

He thoughtfully paused, trying to consider my position and his predicament,

“One of the other species, but it soon became clear to us, with the help of the proper scientific and medical personnel,”

He stopped again, seeming to be in mid-recall,

“Well, it was determined that this..being you see there, was judged to be a hybrid.”

My eyes must have really splintered, because he continued,

“Yeah, I know, it’s..unusual.”

“So you mean at some point the apes and the people..?”

“As best as we can figure.”

“But isn’t that biologically impossible?”

“I sure as hell thought so,” he shot back, grinning slightly.

“So,” he intoned, returning to his sober tone of protocol,

“Basically, sir, I am here to discuss certain options with you regarding the care of this child, which, due to your unique experiences, have been judged to be of particular value.”

I started to see what he was getting at, and immediately resented his presence.

“Hey, what? Do you think that it’s mine? Is that why you’re here?? Whoa, nothing like that ever happened!”

“Now, wait, hold up, I did not insinuate that, sir.”

Pause for time. Fiddling with his mustache.

“What I am saying is simply that, because of your experiences, as you conveyed to us, prior to your time spent with the group in question, and your mental faculties, relative to..some of the individuals we have taken in,”

Scratching his chin,

“–That can talk, you understand—well, we have not been able to determine the parents of this hybrid juvenile, and the relevant authorities have decided that a more normal introduction into human life may be more suitable than a clinical facility, for the time being.”

“It’s a child? And…what, you want to know if I would..take him in? Is that it?”

“Well, in a manner of speaking, yes.”

He flashed a toothless smile, looking back at the car.

“This isn’t something you’d have to do alone. There’d be visits, with various professionals. We’d want you to bring him in from time to time to assess progress, analyze the state of things..of course, all necessary funds would be provided for, we’re not asking for charity.”

“I see.”

And we were silent. The kid was looking peacefully around the car, gnawing on what looked to be a tennis ball. Huh.

“We think he’s about 5,” the ranger seemed to whisper.

“I understand if you need time to think about it, but the sooner we can start the bonding, the better.”

“Could I just meet him? Get a little closer?”

“Sure, no problem. That’s why we’re here.”

We walked the 15 or so steps to the car, slowly, sensory details of fading events flooding back to me, and the ranger slowly opened the backseat door. In his best kid-voice, he spoke to the half-chimp, half-human,

“Hey there, how you doing? You want to meet someone? He’s real nice, he just wants to say hi.”

The boy-chimp stared out, didn’t say anything, but cautiously nodded his head. He looked like a 5-year old boy, but his jaw-line was much more pronounced, and a ring of fur already spun itself around his head like the protagonist of a cheesy werewolf movie, mid-transformation. He had normal child clothes on, but no shoes, and I couldn’t help but think of The Hobbit when I noticed his feet, shouting at myself from the inside not to be making comparisons like that at a time like this, at a real moment. He came up to maybe my knees.

“Hi, hello there,” I finally said, instinctively reaching out my hand.

He looked at me, and my outstretched hand, and parted his lips slightly, to reveal a slight smile and three, jagged teeth. The inner part of his palm, away from the fur, was almost the same color as my own hands. A vision of sitting in a forest listening to Bill Evans suddenly came to me, and I smiled back.

This is a famous quote from Einstein, which has since been turned into countless GIFs, JPEGs, and before that, posters, t-shirts, and so on. I’ve seen such posters on the walls of people whom I wouldn’t describe as particularly scientific. My sense is that many such people tend to interpret this statement as, “imagining various things (preferably, exciting/odd/cool)  is more worthwhile than knowing facts about how motion works or some formula I don’t care about.”

Of course, like many quotations taken out of context, I don’t think that’s entirely what Einstein intended. Looking at the full original quote (according to wikiquote), we get a slightly different picture:

Imagination is more important than knowledge. For knowledge is limited, whereas imagination embraces the entire world, stimulating progress, giving birth to evolution. It is, strictly speaking, a real factor in scientific research.

Having only just re-read the full quote, this is pretty much what I inferred Einstein meant from the more well-known first sentence. Namely, when we say “knowledge,” what we basically mean is “things which we’re fairly sure about up until this point in time.” Where does such knowledge come from? Well, in the case of science, and basically any other human endeavor, knowledge is only a product of experience–experimentation, observation, conclusions–that’s the scientific method, as is commonly taught.

Still, how does the ball get rolling in the first place? We can observe various things that happen in front of us, but to set up experiments, to probe phenomena that causes other chains of thoughts, questions and future tinkering that is a consequence of some initial or previous observations, we need to have some sort of idea or hypothesis. And that’s the problem with the scientific method, at least as is usually taught. There’s no nice 1-2-3 logic in how you get to that first step or series of steps that sets the whole thing in motion that eventually gives you this nice tidy piece of “knowledge.” Cognition of this gap in the scientific process really started to kick in when I read Zen and The Art of Motorcycle Maintenance at the age of 20. Another vivid, related memory, came during my sophomore year at Harvey Mudd, while taking a required course in electricity and magnetism.

“But why are Maxwell’s Equations true?” I asked a physics professor.

He simply looked at me blankly, and said, “Well, that’s just how they are.”

There is no answer to some questions. That’s another lesson about the limits of knowledge.

But, the source of all this stuff called knowledge may very well be put under the umbrella of “imagination,” for what else is it? I believe that’s exactly what Einstein meant by imagination “stimulating progress,” and “giving birth to evolution,” not to mention, the definitive sounding, “a real factor in scientific research.”

I believe that Einstein was not saying that imagination is a separate thread apart from knowledge and that one trumps the other, but rather, that the real epistemological roots of knowledge are, if you will, imagination. There’s other words or descriptors he could have used: vision, creativity, fascination. Intuition. The source. These things will result in knowledge, but the reverse isn’t necessarily true, though I do believe knowledge is complementary and necessary to achieve certain heights and progressive steps of the imaginative/creative process.

If you accept this, then you have to accept that the truest form of knowledge is through direct experience. I would go so far as to say that the only kind of real knowledge worth having is that which develops intuition for a particular subject. Until you see and do science, or martial arts, or music (to use a few examples of things I’ve spent a fair chunk of my life doing), in the same way that you breathe, or eat, or know how to intuitively walk along different grades and uneven surfaces, then you don’t really understand them at their full depth. Blasphemous as it may be for me, as a teacher, to say this, but the longer I’ve taught, the more I become convinced you can’t really teach anyone anything; all you can do is serve as a kind of human pinball machine, bumping them towards more correct paths and away from less correct ones, as they attempt to   develop some degree of intuition.

It takes a damn long time to develop this kind of intuition. As famous as Einstein’s referenced quotation, is Malcolm Gladwell’s much more recent claim that it takes approximately 10,000 hours of time in a skill to become a master of it. One will start to see the natural, extreme restrictions inherent to classroom settings, particularly when it comes to the sciences, if the goal is to develop scientific intuition in the same way one develops intuition for riding a bicycle. For this to really be achieved, the entire structure of most science classes would have to be shelved. We would have to give up on teaching the vast majority of information that is required for a given course, and instead spend almost all the time in lab activities. Even though this would require major effort and overhaul, I believe the results would likely bear fruit.

Understandably, particularly in the modern, instantaneous-information age, we want to be kept current on all the advances that have been made up to the present so that we’re not starting with the same knowledge base as in Plato’s time. That’s a perfectly reasonable assumption. And that’s where conceptualization comes in. This is a type of imagining. If we can not get direct experience–which the truest forms of real knowledge derives from–then the best we can do is to look closely at what others who have directly discovered and then conceptualize their findings and the ideas they have come to.

Of course, direct experience will naturally lead one to conceptualization, which itself, spurs on further experimentation, and this is true in every possible endeavor, in my experience. Since it isn’t reasonable to repeat every experiment that’s ever been done from first principles,  we have to acknowledge that the ability to conceptualize, to imagine, becomes extremely important–essential, really–towards understanding, particularly within the sophisticated realm of studying the sciences.

Thus, the scientific method, could really be restated as:

1) Direct Experience (observations, experiments, findings), 2) Imagination/Conceptualization (which both precedes and follows (1) ).

And there’s always pithy t-shirts.

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