Friday, December 25, 2009

Happy birthday

Although not a Christian or even close, I can take some recognizance of what the day is supposed to be celebrating -- the entry of the divine into the world in a radically new form. This is apparently a very powerful idea. Some possible responses:

1) Worship and celebrate it (Christians)
2) Mock it (atheists)
3) Ignore it and go out to a Chinese restaurant (Jews)

I'm going to a lot of (3) (in fact, I'm going to take the kids to see Avatar which I just realized is mildly amusing in the context of this blog post). I've been raised to be allergic to Christianity. But using my finely honed powers of abstraction, I can also take some time to appreciate the underlying metaphysical ideas, which are different from the messy and sorry actual history of Christianity as an institution. It's a twisty kind of irony since Christianity is about the realization of a mighty divine abstraction in the concrete flesh of Palestine year zero.

Is all of human intellectual history an effort to bridge this gap between abstract and concrete? AI and cognitive science are the latest attempt, not really very successful ones in my estimation. We've found ways to make the word into electronic flesh through symbolic computation, but have not come close to doing the same for the spirit. Whatever that is.

Previous birthday wishes.

No comments: