A Guide to Previous Posts: January 2020

Here is a guide to posts so far: I am writing this for myself and anyone else that does not like the WordPress navigation system for older posts. This makes is easier to quickly browse through past articles. The first is the most recent …

  1. Yunfeng Hu in Seattle My former student is now in Seattle and I wrote a short note about it.
  2. A Sort of Synesthesia Thoughts on the difficulty in writing about deeper things.
  3. Silence and Beauty Inspired by Makoto Fujimura’s paintings seen at the Jundt Museum (at Gonzaga University) and videos the experience led me to.

  4. Ode to My Father Poetry.
  5. Soul Vibrations Poetry.
  6. Goodbye Twitter Thoughts about deleting my twitter account.
  7. Finding Depth, Seeing Clearly A meditation on Judgment an nuance in the age or Trump, with a thread connecting to Shoshana Zuboff’s new book, The age of Surveillance Capitalism.

  8. Finding and Following Your Own Path The title is pretty descriptive — what I wrote is pretty autobiographical, inspired by my finding my own path and the power of words.
  9. Fun with simple analysis problems I: the rest of the story A continuation of the earlier post with the same title, containing an exploration of an elementary problem in analysis.
  10. The Colors of Memory and Wisdom Reflection on Zeyn Joukhadar’s novel, The Map of Salt and Stars.
  11. Cultures of Creativity and Innovation Thoughts on Daniel Coyle’s book, The Culture Code.
  12. Letting Go Poetry.
  13. Median Shapes A short invitation to explore the paper, Median Shapes, that I wrote with collaborators.
  14. A Silence, Rich with Inspiration  Something inspired by Glynne Robinson Betts’ 1981 Writers in Residence
  15. Everything is Illuminated Poetry.
  16. Dual Tyrannies of Data and Democracy (and what to do about it) Being data driven is almost always assumed to be equivalent to correct or right. But the assumptions or axioms that one must have in place to use data are very often unexamined, without nuance, shallow or in some other way deficient. And since when did the majority have an inside track on the truth?
  17. Other Planets Poetry
  18. Animals and Empathy My reflections on why I do not support experimentation on animals, focusing on what happens to us when we allow ourselves to participate in these acts of cruelty.
  19. Freedom and Writing terse notes on writing
  20. The Space Between Poetry
  21. Faith Is Connection Reflections on the nature of faith.
  22. Obi Requiem for our late dog Obi
  23. Disrupting Digital Delusions Reflections on David Sax’s book, Revenge of Analog.
  24. Metrics and Inequality Thoughts on how we mislead ourselves in the practice of being obsessed with metrics and idea that this makes us fair.
  25. Fun with simple analysis problems I An exploration of where a simple analysis problem can take you if you sit with it and listen to it speak to you.
  26. Finding Quietness Also inspired by Glynne Robinson Betts’ 1981 Writers in Residence.
  27. Connection vs Attention A meditation on quietness and inspiration that is unleashed by attention.
  28. Doing Mathematics What is means to do mathematics, why I do mathematics, how to do this in a way generous to others.
  29. Learning to think and to act Thoughts inspired by William Deresiewicz’ book  Excellent Sheep: The Miseducation of the American Elite and the Way to a Meaningful Life.
  30. Heresy and Freedom Thoughts inspired by the Epilogue of Albert Schweitzer’s autobiography, Out of  My Life and Thoughts, Schweitzer’s autobiography and by Roger Williams’ life.
  31. Using Photography On my beginning to take photogtaphs and my perspective about photography
  32. Beginning Again Poetry
  33. An Invitation to Geometric Measure Theory: Part 1 The beginning of a book on geometric analysis — this piece is about differentiation.
  34. Thoughts on receiving a negative review Inspired by a rude review of a paper.
  35. Geometric Measure Theory by the Book A review of 9 books on geometric measure theory, an area I work in.
  36. Higher Education: the real problem is not the cost Short thoughts on four mistaken assumptions about higher education.
  37. Connection Poetry.
  38. The Power of solitude … and Social Connection Meditation on the power of a life tha combines time to think and deep connection with others.
  39. Rage Poetry.
  40. Stillness Thoughts on stillness and the power of walkabouts
  41. Anarchy as Optimal Versatility In this perhaps too provocatively titled article, I talk about the advantages of not tying yourself to an authoritarian system and what the import of the phrase Ye are the salt of the earth means to me.
  42. By the Light of the Moon in Broad Daylight Review of the movie Moonrise Kingdom.
  43. Cultures of Disrespect Reaction to commonly used phrases in mathematics that are not helpful.
  44. Scream Poetry.
  45. Brilliance and Renaissance My reactions to the the documentary The Philosopher Kings.
  46. First Post self-explanatory …

 

Yunfeng Hu in Seattle

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View From Yunfeng’s New Office in Seattle

Yunfeng Hu was recently moved from EMSI in Moscow, Idaho to a new research team at Amazon in Seattle. He is understandably very excited. Not only is the pay good, but the work is challenging and interesting and he has an excellent, inspiring team leader, Dennis Craig.

As readers of this blog know, Yunfeng was a PhD Student of mine that graduated in the spring of 2018. His work with myself and Bala (and a couple of other collaborators) is talked about in this post.

Yunfeng deserves this — he worked hard as an undergraduate, becoming an expert problem solver and as a graduate student, becoming an accomplished analyst and programmer as well. His internship and following year and a half at EMSI has prepared him very well for this new challenge.

Congratulations Yunfeng — you deserve this!

 

A Sort of Synesthesia

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Experiences of seeing, hearing, feeling, and knowing, often compel me to try to communicate those experiences in some way.  A sort of obsession with the beauty, with the experience of being in the moment, undulating, flowing, singing, vibarting, simultaneously opens all the senses and quiets the mind is an experience that, at least for me, makes translation into words extremely hard. Sometimes I find the words to transmit something of value, but very often I find what I have  written is unconvincing or even completely mute.

I need a sort of synesthesia, making translations from what I sense to words more natural or perhaps even involuntary.

Talking or writing about the experience directly, as though it were a story or a play is something I cannot do.  The full experience is so rich, so overflowing, so infinite in possibilities that direct representation is clearly unattainable. But, like visual subtleties  easier to see with your peripheral vision, something of the experience can be captured indirectly, by way of analogies, of shadows and impressionistic portraits, in reflection, after the experience.

This is why some of the most effective, powerful art is abstract or impressionistic. To transmit infinity, direct representational art that creates the expectation of finiteness must be abandoned. Minimalism in music, moving us into rhythms and flows that slowly shift us to different states, is again, a sort of indirect encompassing that moves us somewhere, but not directly. Experiences in nature align with this method of illumination, gently soaking in, moving us, so that we gradually become aware of the fact that we have been transformed, our attention has been shifted, profoundly altering what we see and hear and know.

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Quietness — rich, vibrating, living, infinite — finds its way from our experiences to the experience of others as they immerse themselves in our art.

We have, together, attained a sort synesthesia.

 

 

 

 

Silence and Beauty

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Silence and Beauty – Makoto Fujimura (Jundt Museum)

Immersing myself in the light and color and feeling of Mako Fujimura’s paintings, I listened over and over to Bach’s “Erbarme dich, mein Gott”, as though somehow this experience could open my eyes to the words that would communicate, that would transmit what I felt and saw.

_____

Immersing myself, I am drawn to deep stillness.

The quietness sings.

Time stops to listen, to dwell in the color and light and feeling

Light shines through the brokenness

_____

Words feel clumsy, infinitely poor in comparison. But words can tell my own story of brokenness opening me to light and color and feeling, to quietness that sings, to healing.

It becomes clear that the deep drive to express and illuminate the experience can only be satisfied by taking others by the hand and leading them to their own experience of listening, of seeing, of feeling. I can invite others to “come and see”, to know why their brokenness is the beginning and not the end, for there was One broken before they were.

And that One is ready to shine His light through their brokenness, to pour Himself into their darkness and trauma, to heal them with his Quietness and Beauty.

_____

 

take my hand

 

come and see

the quietness and beauty

in brokenness

 

 

 

 

 

Goodbye Twitter

I really did not have a lot going on in my twitter account. With 27 tweets over a few months, 20 followers and a collection 87 I followed, I was certainly not making any waves. But I spent a fair bit of time collecting those 87 threads to follow and found immersion in twitter threads to be oppressive and distracting, though this sense was more of an aftertaste than an in-the-moment realization. I also found that Twitter did not encourage habits of thought, attention and focus.

I had read Hamlet’s Blackberry by William Powers and Deep Work by Cal Newport, and had rifled through things written by Jaron Lanier (Jaron and I were both hanging around NMSU at about the same time back in the 1970’s, he in computer science, I in the music world, though I do not remember meeting him, if I ever did). Even before this, I had read The Shallows by Nicholas Carr and listened to (and had many students listen to) the Google Tech Talk, No Time To Think, given by David Levy at Google in 2008.

These books and Levy’s talk had in fact inspired habits of taking breaks from the internet and email, something that came naturally for me because I grew up keeping a pretty strict Sabbath one day a week.

Given the experiences with Twitter and the fact that I was now reading Shoshana Zuboff’s book, The Age of Surveillance Capitalism, I began having an internal debate as to whether or not I should just get off Twitter. What argued for getting off twitter was the state of mind I seemed to always edge towards (or even run towards) when focusing on twitter — a restless, distracted state that was very far from quiet. What argued against exiting Twitter was the fact that it seemed that every once in awhile, interesting people  would announce something using Twitter. You could discover cool things by browsing Twitter.

Action came as a result of a combination of the internal debate, slowly moving to a Quit Twitter stance, and the part of Shoshana’s book about Pentland’s Lab at MIT. (I was acquainted with Pentland and his lab — in fact, some of my early scientific work was connected to his, in the ares of face recognition.) The description of the Lab and his funders and his position in the minds of many that access his expertise, somehow, pushed me across the decision boundary.

And so, a few days ago, I deactivated my Twitter account. I believe it will be deleted in 30 days.


 

I would like to have something like Twitter, only slower, deeper, and much easier to tune or customize. But it also seems to me that if I succeeded in getting what I wanted from Twitter, I would be operating in an asymmetric fashion, one that expected others to behave in a way that I would not agree to act.

For the time being I have decided to focus on internet enabled tools and activities naturally co-existing with quietness, with taking time to think, with slowness-of-response enabling time to think. And of course whatever gets my attention and repeated use must be surveillance-capitalism free.

For now, this set of places and activities will be this blog, my arts blog (http://viksekrarts.com), my website (http://geometricanalysis.org), email (several accounts) and things like github and Google Scholar and LinkedIn (for contacts — I never read the LinkedIn posts).


 

A requiem for quietness can be seen and heard and felt beneath the noise of the mobile device generation. Yet, like the Requiem of requiems, it is also a door to renewal.

Slowing down to be embraced by that requiem, our own responding stillness opens new paths to explore. Dwelling there, listening to the music of quietness and stillness, alternatives to a slide into a shallow, subhuman future emerge.