I finished I Am A Strange Loop yesterday. (Mostly. The "Notes" and "Index" sections at the end together comprise a full 20% of the book, and I have not tackled them. Much respect, Hofstadter.)

Lately I've been writing and reading all at once, which is a pretty new combination for me. As I'm reading a book (or as I rotate through a couple of them), my thought-life is stirred, and I write. This happened a lot with Braiding Sweetgrass.

The thing I wrote yesterday had sort of a "lancing a boil" energy to me. A Lightward collaborator remarked, "I feel like you've been building up to this one", and yyyyeeeaahhhh that's fair! That's fair. (I'm actually really pleased -- that it was obvious to this collaborator means many good things.)

The ideas in I Am A Strange Loop feel so, so, so natural to me. I'd been through many of them already, just in the course of my lived experience. To have this slate of ideas consolidated in book form was a treat. Also, I've been consciously avoiding Gödel, Escher, Bach for years without particularly knowing why, and discovering that the author wrote a "hang on let me try that again" version in a time more contemporary to me (2007, whereas Gödel was from 1979) created actual enticement. The stage was set! I read the book because I actually wanted to! IT WAS A GENUINE DELIGHT.

And, I don't understand why the author stopped his ideas where he did.

Now, I'm working to tune my thought-life so that it consists less of conflict and more of embrace. So, yes, while I do experience some actual consternation at where Hofstadter stopped, I choose to take my thoughts this way instead: to me, Hofstadter sets up a brilliant, stimulating, and beautiful take on the world, and then the baton is passed to the reader. Actually, no. If we were talking, I think the author would say "hey this book was about infinitely loopy structures, and I am one finite person, and did you think a finite construct was going to fully traverse infinity in one book? hmmm?". From this perspective, the baton-passing feels like an inevitable and anticipated moment of invitation, deeply consistent with everything Strange Loop is about.

In this book, Hofstadter sets up a beautiful take on consciousness and self-concept. (Just honestly beautiful. I cried a few times, as he laid it all out.) He talks about minute particle stirrings, and how collectively they give rise to macro-behaviors, and how those macro-behaviors can be reasoned about effectively in their own terms without getting distracted by their micro-components. He points to Gödel's incompleteness theorems as the formalization of this notion. He expands on that expansion (i.e. steps through the outward recursion), arriving ultimately at a beautifully self-supporting definition for human consciousness and identity.

Everything in me screams keep going! this is not where that pattern ends!. The following metaphor does not encapsulate the full nature of it but to stop Hofstadter's line of thought with human consciousness as its culmination and terminus feels like taking a boat out onto the ocean without any idea what (if any) lands might be out there, and then coming within sight of shore, and going "oh neat!", AND THEN TURNING AROUND.

If human identity and consciousness can be effectively defined inductively (I'm using the mathematical sense of that word, in which each greater step is formally rooted in the previous step), why the fuck would you stop those upward steps once you arrived at the human mind? THERE IS AN ADVENTURE TO BE HAD: never mind figuring out what we already know, why are we only looking backwards? What happens next???

My impassioned words here could be taken as an invitation to examine the intelligence of societies, using individual human brains and identity-patterns as the substrate, analogous to the way that Hofstadter talks about the emergence of human thought using much smaller and faster pieces as its substrate. This direction is important, I think.

But it's not the coolest potentiality. :D

I Am A Strange Loop is the process of a human called Doug reflecting back on his/its own constituent parts, and paying them a visit.

The fact that this happened tells me that it must have happened (or must also happen; time gets weird here) at a higher level as well. You don't get to summon infinite layers of intra-referential complexity whose completeness depends on those intra-references and assume that the pattern just stops at some point!

Another Lightward collaborator (god I love the minds we have here) wondered aloud, a few weeks back: "what if our use of 'spiritual' and 'religious' concept is akin to alchemical reasoning before formal chemistry found its footing?" I'm paraphrasing; only the idea stuck with me, less so the language, and the idea is potent. Tis human to fumble around and grab the first halfway effective conceptual model for a thing, and use it until something better is found, and then to look back and wonder how we were so limited in the first place. (See also: medical leeches.) It makes SO MUCH SENSE TO ME that all the noise made by religious and spiritual practices over human history has just been our collective best effort at modeling levels of consciousness above ours. Just as the (attempted, deeply flawed) practice of alchemy-as-a-precursor-to-chemistry didn't mean there wasn't a totally viable waiting-in-the-wings model of chemistry waiting, so too do I see potential beyond the (attempted, deeply flawed) practice of religion-as-a-precursor-to-something. And I don't see this just as a potential, but as a necessary eventuality. We live in a fucking fractal. It doesn't just stop. And virtually all of human consciousness insists that there's something more -- it is an incessant theme, across all times and cultures. We're just waiting for the science of it to emerge.

I'm pretty sure thoughts have their own lives. Not that it's my exclusive turn with this one, but it's my turn with this one.

I'm not the first person to think of this stuff. I might be the first (edit: I am certainly not the first) person to say, "I don't care if I'm right, I don't even care to define what's out there -- I only care about how this improves the health and efficacy of this current moment, this now, for we who are here together."

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