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Remembering and Losing

Tue, Mar 27, 2001 05:54PM -0600

Disconnected strands of text. When will I learn that being cheap has a high chance of getting you screwed, sorry, but I can't deal with United Airlines, they're just too erratic for even my tastes. My brother's and my sister's flight to O'Hare was cancelled, so who knows what time they'll be getting in. But onto the quotes....

This one is about a man who can't forget anything, God's honest truth. I found this passage by the Russian psychologist A.R. Luria quite poetic--the man is called "S".

Thus, trying to understand a passage, to grasp the information it contains (which other people accomplish by singling out what is most important) became a tortuous procedure for S, a struggle against images that kept rising to the surface in his mind. Images, then, proved an obstacle as well as an aid to learning in that they prevented S from concentrating on what was essential. Moreover, since these images tended to jam together, producing still more images, he was carried so far adrift that he was forced to go back and rethink the entire passage. Consequently, a simple passage--a phrase, for that matter--would turn out to be a Sisyphean task. --A.R. Luria(1987)The Mind of a Mnemonist, p. 113

It reminds me of something out of short stories written by Jorge Luis Borges, which I have resumed reading as of late. (The collection I'm reading is entitled Collected Fictions, translated by Andrew Hurley).

The other passage that stuck in my mind is from a short story by R. Garcia y Robertson entitled Firebird. It makes me think of the evolutionary game theory roughly sketched out by Richard Dawkins in The Selfish Gene and the wild extrapolations of game theory by Jeff Noon (He is probably most famous for Vurt, which is part of this highly amusing series. Some of the technical details are quite fanciful, so if you're a pedant, you might get impatient, but if you loosen up, you'll find it's quite entertaining.) In any case, I think the following is a delightful interpretation of life as a game:

[Saith the knight,] "I possess an astounding ability to choose the losing side.... I have been in half a dozen pitched fights--and have always come out a loser. A remarkable record, not easily achieved.... An honor really. Any lout with a bit of ability can run off a string of victories. But to lose every time--that requires not just talent, but uncanny luck as well."

"I cannot believe your luck could be so bad," [saith the maiden]....

"Bad luck?" He laughed. "Not in the least, my luck is excellent. Could not be better."

"Really? But is it not better to win than lose?"

"Better perhaps--but not always easier. Anyone can survive a victory, just stay to the back and shout loudly. But surviving six defeats is a rare feat. Requiring more than a swift horse. Twice... I was the only one not killed or taken. That is phenomenal luck."

Well, I've gotten that out of my system. Now, back to studying.

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