Thursday, July 31, 2008

Sunday in the Park with Joe

We had a lovely visit in New Haven with Joe and family. Well, New Haven was pretty muggy, but their apartment was pleasantly air-conditioned and it was great to have time to catch up with everyone.

Joe and I like to talk when we visit, and we managed to sneak a few longer conversations into the visit. Basically rehashing previous discussions, and I think (Joe can argue with me) realizing we were saying the same thing more or less, but in a different dialect. I think. Maybe. Ten days later and my memory grows dimmer... And those little kids are distracting.

Our main sticking point had to do with the idea of neutrality/arbitrariness. I like the former because to me it evokes Switzerland: there's nothing inherent in that patch of land that makes it "neutral," it's just agreed that it is, and so it functions usefully as a place intentionally outside of international alliances and conflicts. Joe likes arbitrary in part because of its root in "arbitration": an arbitrary decision is originally one reached through arbitration. But I think we realized we basically agree, that utter objectivity/neutrality is impossible, but that finding pidgins and setting arbitrary benchmarks allows people to work with one another.

Where the conversation really got interesting I think is where it veered into religion. It feels to me like a lot of the background to this blog is at root religious: the conflict between objectivists and subjectivists looks a lot like the conflicts between universalists and "specifists" in my Quaker meeting and in the world as a whole. To me, the point is not which one is right; the point is that both are necessary, and finding a Grand Theory of Everything should be the goal. That might look like nestling one inside the other, or explaining one as a social function and the other as a personal function, or one as temporally long term and the other as momentary.

Who can say...


For jollies, I also attach a link Joe sent me from Archinect, trying to rethink the architectural plan, another orthographic representational school. A map really, of planned space. Anyway, some intriguing suggestions of how to turn the Plan on its head and bring it out of the camphor-filled cubbyhole it's been relegated to.

My only question as a cartographer is, where's the ground?

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