Saturday, August 11, 2007

The Recognition of Patterns

Cayce thought: "However odd things seem, mustn't it be to exactly that extent of oddness that a life is one's own, and no one else's?"

I just finished re-reading Pattern Recognition, by William Gibson. One of the side-plots revolves around one character's missing father, Wingrove. Though absent, his presence pops up throughout the book in memories of his actions or thoughts.

"That had always been Win's first line of defense, within himself: to recognize that he was only a part of something larger. Paranoia, he said, was fundamentally egocentric, and every conspiracy theory served in some way to aggrandize the believer."

Another one of Win's ideas had been that a person must allow room for coincidence. Look too closely for meaning in unrelated things, and you end up in the realm of apophenia.

Responding to the cliché "I know in my heart," another character, named Hubertus Bigend, corrects by way of the following paragraph.

"The heart is a muscle. You 'know' in your limbic brain. The seat of instinct. The mammalian brain. Deeper, wider, beyond logic. That is where advertising works, not in the upstart cortex. What we think of as 'mind' is only a sort of jumped-up gland, piggybacking on the reptilian brainstem and the older, mammalian mind, but our culture tricks us into recognizing it as all of consciousness. The mammalian spreads continent-wide beneath it, mute and muscular, attending its ancient agenda. And makes us buy things."

Gibson's gift of effortless description is poetic in a way rarely found in sci-fi, and his method of creating characters of depth and insight is remarkable. Sometimes he shows us a distant future, and recently he paints us a picture of the future that is tomorrow. Twenty-three years after winning the triple-crown of literature awards for science fiction, it is abundantly clear that he deserved it.

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