Saturday, May 2, 2009

Does any body really know what time it is?

Like everyone, I whisked through Naive.Super, enjoying it, mostly, or sort of, less as I went along cause I felt like it did not really go anywhere or get much further with its initial premises. No development. nothing happened, few hermeneutical arcs cast, few circles finished out. In fact, by the end I was a l bit miffed and wonder how tongue-in-check we were supposed to take those pages of useless forms and the email reply... I had the sensation our author was making fun of us for finishing his book, for expecting something --- or else I missed a whole lot!

Meanwhile, I enjoyed the front end a good deal. The minimalist style was neatly sustained, at least through the first two lists, which reminded me of Frog and Toad... :), as perhaps it was intended to do. But again, by the later lists, they were getting progressively more useless, more taking up of page space with little return for careful perusing of the stuff on his lists.

I particularly liked the early going motif of sending something off getting a return, culminating in the chimney ball-like scenes of throwing a ball against the wall and getting a ready return one could naturally handle, without all kinds of calculations -- such a natural thing -- like the give and take of conversation, etc. and the story of the man who collected the money from the errant boys but returned it to them. etc.

I liked the story in the story of Time, of the satire on astro-physics and the author of the physics textbook, Paul. I liked the touch of his having this simple, first name, which includes a sense of Paul the apostle, who was btw, the know-it-all of the apostles for not even being one of the chosen 12.

On the serious note, if there was one, we have this story of a person-ality who finds these issues about the universe, of time, times, relativity, but especially the theories of the end of the universe, etc, soooooo problematic, so stop-you-in-your-tracks. This aspect of our hero's life --- his taking this stuff at its real value, saying, in effect, wake up folks, if what these gurus say is so, we are already screwed -- if it is his superior awareness that we are supposed to recognize, then the book is surely in the mold of Salinger --- not only Catcher in the Rye but also Salinger's hyper-existentialist family, whose names I forget but include Frannie and Zoey and the "hero" of Perfect Day for Banana Fish -- who one day, out of a toxic mixture of happiness and this sense of all time being no time and everything going to end this way of the universe anyway, takes his life... the ultimate existentialist project. I thought something like that might be in store for our hero in Naive.Super, like a descent from the Empire State building to test out that theory of time being different at the top and bottom and all that. But, as noted, nothing really happens, even on his trip to New York.

I figure that there are at least four main classes of folks responding to the news of the universe and the era of 'the death of god' we've been in now for the last 150 years or so. One group is the scientist/atheists who say, come on folks this is the goods, the truth, let's deal with it, we're just now starting to get the hang of it -- put away all that transcendentalist, religious stuff. For them the story of the universe is the price we pay for science and realism. It is a story that we can expect to change or not, depending on how we play out the paradoxes of "structures of scientific revolution." bottom line: they are not so bummed out or concerned in everyday life by this story of Time and the Universe. The second group are the Anglican/Universalist scientifically minded religionists -- I suppose I caucus with them myself -- finding a glory in the universe and not sure what to make of this long story of Time and the Ultimate -- but like our hero says: we just say, hey, the world is gonna hold together for the next duration of thousands or millions of years, thats good enough for me, for us now, all we can handle, no or little use for Cosmic Worry --- that is what Hope and Faith are about -- and let's turn to Charity. Then there are the more orthodox folks who really are uncomfortable with this and most any other modernist, natural philosophy story of our existence. They are worried and want their old God-centric cosmos back. Finally, there are the folks who don't make it through the adolescent stage of recognizing all these perplexities as just that, who have trouble getting over the duplicity of their being no Santa Claus, no god. I won't say most but many people, regardless of where they come out the other end in formal allegiance to science or religion, develop a philosophical-pragmatic maturity about these matters. But almost everyone in our times at least goes through this angst-ridden phase. Naive.Super is in arrested development here, which can look like he's the only one with authentic consciousness the way adolescents often too, which was the point of Catcher in the Rye and similar stories of growing up. I did like the take on the Pope preferring the big-bang theory cause it jives with the Creation myth --- whereas Buddhists tend to prefer the creation/destruction cycle story... :)

Still, I felt that the author here started out well but did not know what to do with his premise, character or plot. Other themes that he started out with he did not develop well, such as the sibling stuff about his older brother. Nothing came of the potential girl-friend, though in that case, it was clear that he could not take it far: The script for the hero was pretty meager. He could not take him too far in many directions without violating his premise or turning into another kind of quasi-serious book. But I enjoyed the book nonetheless. It had some great moments and lines.

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