Aaron Harburg

Through the noise

Have you ever heard a recording of something that was so degraded it was next to impossible to make out what was happening? And then when told what was being said the next time you listened you could make sense of it? Our brains are amazing filters, not having a filter for sensory input has been identified as one of the markers for autism. Our brains are designed and evolved to pick out patterns. Until we know what the pattern is sometimes it can be difficult to pick out the meaning from the noise. My question is if this type of phenomena occurs on a higher level. On the level of meaning. Can we pick up patterns in life? In Art? Or do we need to have an idea of the pattern to look for? Can we find patterns in the chaos of everyday experience? Does the meaning we find simply an imposition of primed ideas?  

Meaning could be defined as the final causality of a being or event. The reason for which it is. Its teleos.  

“Purpose” deals with final causality that extends beyond the immediate sphere of influence or effects. This is distinct from “function” which is simply the immediate effects of a being in a system. For example the purpose of a steering wheel is to allow the driver to direct the vehicle. The function of the steering wheel is to move the wheels. 

In modern society efficiency is put as the highest value. This is in part a desire to bring order to the seeming chaos. This is done from faulty premises which deny meaning to the universe as such. The incapacity to grasp the full purpose of a part in the whole. For example the elimination of certain species deemed obnoxious in the past has result in wholesale destabilization of ecosystems. It’s easy to confuse ambiguity or at least unknowable-ness with chaos because its internal order escapes us.  

Yet chaos is a reality. There is disorder in the universe. Decay is everywhere. Yet it couldn’t be more obvious that attempting to re-order nature purely according to our immediate preferences has devastating consequences. A garden should be cultivated, not left to its own decay or worse burned to the ground, then replanted with only selected plants that are fashionable. Especially when these plants hog resources like mad or only because they don’t. The former is excessive, the latter is usually ugly. Thus genuine diversity is a component of ordered systems. Industrialism only allows for replicable conformed commodities.

While this has brought us unimaginable luxuries. It has also cheapened them and at the expense of the artisan. Now only the rich enjoy custom craft. As an additional effect it has made us question our own individuality. As if we ourselves are the result of an industrial process invented by nature. Now there are countless items we can buy, all clamoring for our attention. Advertising campaigns constantly screaming creating a cacophony of solicitation. A chaos of meaning as contradicting philosophies that underlay these ads compete for our devotion. 

The reason the universe seems to have no order is due to immersion in disordered artificial affairs of a cynical secular society. You can only make judgments about the whole from the parts you are in contact with. This is why I advocate that people spend time in silence and solitude. Take time to wander in nature in order to observe her secrets. Without that, our inner chatter will only be in a constant reaction to this mess.