Tuesday, 7 August 2012

The Fly and the Cow

As I roam around in my chaotic world my thoughts cascade and whilst they are current they seem quite important and consequential.  But moments later something else seems just as important.  As time goes by all these thoughts seem like junk in an attic.  On the one hand they are a pile of clutter and on the other hand they are all unique, possibly useful, and they certainly don't want chucking away.

What thoughts?  Well the funny thing is that most of the time I can't remember.  It is like one of those dreams that you know you've had but you can't quite recall.

However I am confident that they all have their place in my life and there is significance in them even if I can't see it myself.  Like all that stuff in the attic.

"So when exactly are you going to take personal responsibility for the actions you take on behalf of someone else?"

Like that.  It was with respect to an imagined pharmacist's response to my claim that the Tax Credit people had screwed up and not sent the replacement prescription exemption card.  I imagined that they would say that they couldn't give me the prescription without charge if I didn't have the card.  So do I get needlessly ill because someone else has screwed up?  The concept extends to numerous people in positions of making decisions on behalf of organisations like bank clerks and policemen.

But then there are the less easy to grasp notions like when I ponder how a human might imagine what a cow seems like to a fly.  I heard once of a native American idea that one should try to imagine what it is like being various animals.  I think the idea was that by imagining what it is like to be a snake one can master the art of patience and stealth in stalking one's prey.  We are intuitively empathetic - some more than others - and it is quite natural to try to imagine what it feels like being something else.  In fact we do not generally think highly of people who can't even imagine what it is like to be another person.  But another layer to this idea is to imagine what it is like being another animal, like a fly, imagining what it is like to be another animal, like a cow.  But to start with one has to get an idea of what a cow seems like to a fly.

It reminds me of what is called indirection in software.  It is like an index to an index.  So you have a list where the seventh item points to an index.  That index currently contains the reference to the ninth item in a list.  But this second index might be altered by some other criteria and the 9 might be replaced by 22.  Now the seventh item in the original index points to the twenty second item in a list and not the ninth as before.  This indirection can be very deep and complex.  I guess one could try to imagine what it is like being a fly imagining what it is like being a cow imagining what it is like to be a human.

There is a purpose to all of this and it is not to discover what a fly thinks.  The purpose is to become familiar with the practice of considering various complex points of view.


  1. Thinking sure is overrated, like a bad habit in your mind.

    1. Ironically I have thought about that - and I think you are right.

  2. I think therefore my brain hurts...

  3. Keep posting man!!!

    The Imposter....aka...Four Dinners...so now you know...;-)