To Mutate the Yottapede: Expand the Team

In the Sixteenth Week of the Leacock Anniversaries in 2019, on Monday, July 8th, our scouts Astranasus the Star-Nosed Mole and Mnemochirianne the Centaur welcome Vulphystrix the Both-Andian to the quest to mutate both the Yottapede and the Charged Ooze and thus to tame and put to work the wild Unsolved Riddle of Social Justice.

The back-story:

It all started with Archilochus, a Greek poet from the island of Paros, who observed that, “The fox knows many things; the hedgehog knows one big thing,” or words in Greek to that effect. This idea was taken up by Isaiah Berlin in a famous long essay called, appropriately, “The Hedgehog and the Fox”, which is actually about Tolstoy. “Is he a fox or a hedgehog?” Berlin believes he was trying to be both. Maybe we need Tolstoy more than Stephen Leacock, for the work that lies ahead. Stephen Leacock was all fox, or so I will believe until convinced otherwise, despite his end-of-life pronouncements.

All the foxes and hedgehogs on the island of Paros were entirely disconcerted by Archilochus’s dictum, due simply to their natural distaste for being stereotyped. To cut a very long story short, they held a series of meetings involving only themselves, then a series of bilateral meetings, and eventually resolved that those who wanted to prove Archilochus was wrong should make of themselves a new combined species, and leave the others alone who were entirely comfortable with being one or the other. They would do this by a process of unnatural selection (defying Darwin, although they didn’t know that). If you know anything about foxes and hedgehogs, you will realize that this was a tall order indeed. In fact, it failed miserably all over Europe, and many were the casualties on both sides. Even when the foxes pitched the idea to porcupines on both sides of the Atlantic.

In despair, the survivors finally decided that the best they could do would be to conjoin themselves for practical purposes retaining, indeed embracing, their separate identities for purposes of survival but walking intimately side-by-side as if they were one whenever the need arose. This yielded some highly comical appearances which evoked the contempt of some foxes and hedgehogs (or porcupines) alike. But under pluralistic conditions, where being exclusively one or the other was necessarily uncomfortable, it worked wonderfully. The resulting eight-legged creatures came to be called by various hyphenated names, depending on the exact partnership. They resisted fiercely the idea, floated by some who did not understand, that they, especially if both females, should be called Heterodoxies. Taxonomically they came to be recognized as Both-Andians.

Thus it was that Astranasus and Mnemochirianne, realizing that their own considerable talents, however useful for understanding the Yottapede in its native Charged Ooze and even anticipating its behaviour, were insufficient to achieve alteration in its cast of mind, that being the first step in the process of mutation. They put out the call for a fox-hog, hedg-fox, fox-upine or porc-enard, who duly arrived, incorporated under the name Vulphystrix.

They made a curious sight, this bizarre quartrio, as they circled the Yottapede through the Charged Ooze, reversing and unreversing the charge as they want, confusing the great beast with that and their antics. How was it to deal with Astranasus the Star-Nosed Mole snuffled his way around the perimeter, as much at home in the Charged Ooze as the  Yottapede itself, although unable to see, hear, or smell anything about it, yet understanding it fully by touch alone? How was it to deal with Mnemochirianne, the Centaur, half horse and half woman, and a very attractive one at that? The Yottapede of course uses attractive women all the time, but this one didn’t fit any of the stereotypes. Beware, beware! But of what? The mesmerizing face? The penetrating, inscrutable eyes? The strong white teeth? The perfect breasts? The sinuous arms with their two elegant hands? The potent hoofs, shifting and dancing like a picador’s horse but with that feral, female intelligence behind them? And now this new threat, if it was that, this incorporated partnership, Vulphystrix, both fox and porcupine, confronting the conflicting monistic pluralism of the Yottapede with an integrating pluralism of its own: what menace did it hold?

The Yottapede watched the newcomers warily with its myriad million eyes. Both parts of Vulphystrix, observing this scrutiny, danced elusively but temptingly within reach, varying the space between themselves without breaking the connection, causing the myriad million tracking eyeballs to swivel and cross, back and forth, up and down, giving the whole massive creature a massive headache. How will it respond?

All this is happening, of course, within sight of the Mariposa walkers who are about to experience the last three rings of their labyrinth, the longest, the second longest, and the third longest, in that order. They will soon go out the way they came in. They have but three more weeks to come up with something useful. Are the Yottapede and its Charged Ooze becoming sufficiently malleable? Maybe. Maybe not. We’ll see.




The Yottapede: Ultimate Unsolved Riddle

In the Fifteenth Week of the Leacock Anniversaries in 2019, on Monday, July 1st, Canada Day, in collaboration with our scouts Astranasus the star-nosed mole and Mnemochirianne the centaur (see previous posts), I persist in the effort to corral, tame, and put to work the wild Unsolved Riddle of Social Justice.

Before I do that, however, I am going to write into the record the text of the e-mail I sent to the Leacock Anniversaries list last Friday, under the title “A Canada Day Weekend Wish from Stephen Leacock”:

Stephen Leacock opens the original The Unsolved Riddle of Social Justice with the words, “These are troubled times.” That, at least, has not changed, although I suppose we might ask whether the times are troubled, or we are. Perhaps both. Of course, if we ourselves are the ones troubling the times, then perhaps we might well prescribe a little more activism and a little less fatalism.

Stephen Leacock proposed a Canadian political economy pursuing National Development and Social Justice through a liberal, creative, enterprising economy and society, regulated in the public interest by democratic politics and institutions to smooth out its excesses, fill any gaps it might leave, deal with its externalities, and provide for its future. He imagined a contented, creative, fulfilled population, meeting their own needs, caring for each other, enjoying life, and expanding its possibilities. Prosperity, in other words, in the fullest sense.

He thought we might achieve this by cultivating a cast of mind blending Knowledge, Imagination, Compassion, and Humour, using Education as the primary tool. These are more complicated times. I am proposing the addition of “Creative Doublethink” to the blend, “Both-And Accommodation” to the tools. All these terms and the arts of their cultivation need to be carefully worked out, of course.

My wish for Canada this weekend and beyond is that we may join in the work according to Stephen Leacock’s wish, as people “of good will whose hearts are in the cause.”

I wish you a splendid celebrating and forward-looking weekend,

This can serve, at least for the time being, as a reasonable summary of where this whole project may be going. It’s all about cast of mind. If we as a society find our policies and practices to be flawed, which we do, because they are, and if we encounter impediments to change, which we do, then we need to locate their source. We often hear suggestions that some come from the self-interest of powerful agents in society, and to some extent they probably do. They may also come from our own cast of mind, perhaps based on our own self-interest, perhaps merely based on force of habit and an inability to  imagine something else.

The CBC, as part of its contribution to Canada Day, published analysis of a recent poll under the headline: “Conflicted and worried: CBC News poll takes snapshot of Canadians ahead of fall election”. On Wednesday I will pick that story apart in some detail; suffice for today to say that this story represents the impedimental cast of mind at work in blatant fashion. This is the “the sky is falling” cast of mind. I suggest it might well also be a grotesquely inaccurate statement of the general outlook, although it might reflect a accurately the answer to the questions, depending on the nature of the sample and how the questions were asked. But that’s all for Wednesday.

I was hoping that today our two scouts would report something about the relationship between the Yottapede and the Charged Ooze through which it moves. Fish, and other aquatic creatures move through the water and may be said to exist, move, in a double medium formed by water and the force of gravity kept in balance physiologically in all three relevant dimensions: up, down, and sideways. We, and other land creatures, exist, move, in air held down by the force of gravity, up by the land, and sideways by our own structure and musculature. We are therefore multi-media creatures, pluralistic by the very nature of our physical being. But what of the Yottapede?

To cut a long story short, and at considerable risk of over-simplification, the Yottapede is both “aquatic” and terrestrial. It occupies land and breathes air as we do, under the same combination of forces and capacities. It “swims” in the Charged Ooze and respires from it, as fish do, and with the same system of balancing. The unique thing about it, however, is that the Charged Ooze itself, in both substance and charge, is extruded by the Yottapede! It continuously creates for itself the environment that sustains it!

What an amazing creature: both parasite and host to creatures who are both parasites and hosts to it in a self-sustaining symbiosis! This is so surprising and wonderful that I have sent Astranasus and Mnemochirianne back to the field for another week to find out more. When we understand how it works, then we may understand  how to re-direct it towards Social Justice. What a reward that would be!

Posted by Paul Conway, Hunt Secretary.

Prowling the Sagacities, Perplexed

In the Fourteenth Week of the Leacock Anniversaries in 2019, on Monday, June 24th, in collaboration with our scouts Astranasus and Mnemochirianne (see last week’s post), I persist in the effort to corral, tame, and put to work the wild Unsolved Riddle of Social Justice.

In the good old days, when a knight errant received word of a pestilent dragon, he simply suited up, saddled his horse, rode out, and slew it: a simple linear set of tasks. If our scouts can be relied upon,—and I think they can,—our set is decidedly non-linear. They bring us word of a creature, called the Yottapede, whom we have created and who is engaged upon the jocund task of shaping and thus creating us, on whom we are parasitic, and who is parasitic upon us. The dragon, in other words, is both an independent being operating on us from outside, and a part of ourselves operating from within. Whatever we do to the Yottapede, we do to ourselves. I have suspected right from the start that that might be the case, which is why I speak always of taming the Yottapede and putting it to work, not slaying it.

Or rather, I speak of taming the wild Unsolved Riddle of Social Justice and putting it to work. Are the two tamings and puttings to work the same operation? Or are they simply closely related?

I believe that I may have chosen my scouts well. Mnemochirianne, being a centaur, is both horse and human. Horses are a most conspicuous example of a wild creature whom we have tamed and put to work, whom we have adapted, who has adapted to us, and who has adapted uks. The art of whispering horses, that is, taming them without breaking their spirit, is known. I served notice last week that we need to learn to whisper the Yottapede.

Astranasus, the star-nosed mole, serves as a supreme example of a creature who, on its own, has learned most unusually how to adapt its senses and skills of daily living in order to take advantage of fruitful environments and circumstances beyond the reach of others. Detecting, through the long, slow process of evolution, an environment containing food but where sight, sound, and even smell were of little use, this enterprising creature grew a set of foveated tendrils and learned to do the job by touch. We, wallowing in what I am calling the Charged Ooze, are still trying to find our way using the senses on which we  habitually rely, primarily sight, and intellectual processes related to sight. I make no judgement yet about the senses and their respective intellectual extensions that we will need to navigate the Charged Ooze. I merely suggest they may not be the old accustomed ones.

We may not have as much time as it took the star-nosed mole, because Nature now seems disinclined to wait around while we figure it out. The Yottapede, as it began to form, as we began to form it, all those centuries ago, believed it could conquer Nature. Nature always had ways of fighting back when our notions of conquering went beyond sophisticated forms of symbiosis into brutal violence. “Okay,” says Nature, “if you want to be violent, so can I.” The problem for us is this: Nature may or may not turn out to be more powerful than the Yottapede. Recent evidence, and much history, suggests it is. In any case we know this for sure: Nature does not care about the survival of individuals, nor even of species. If Nature, to ensure her own survival, needs to get rid of us, she will do so. We pride ourselves on our adaptability, but ours is nothing compared to Nature’s. And she doesn’t care how long it takes.

Recently, for reasons entirely exogenous to the Leacock Anniversaries, I have been spending a great deal of time with William Wilfred Campbell, a dead, almost entirely forgotten Canadian poet and writer who as a young man spent two years as a school teacher. His biographer tells us that he “opened the book of knowledge to his youngest pupils and to others almost as old as himself with the frequent interjection, ‘It’s only common sense, only common sense and reason, that’s all.'” (Carl F. Klinck, Wilfred Campbell, p. 25). Ah Wilfred, it’s not only that. It’s not even primarily that. Stephen Leacock teaches us it’s a creative blend of Knowledge, Imagination, Compassion, and Humour. There’s one big problem with common sense: it’s common. We are an uncommon species in an unprecedented pickle. We are going to need uncommon sense.

We are going to need uncommon sense just to survive, let along tame the Unsolved Riddle of Social Justice. And it we can’t tame it, at least to some workaday extent, what’s the point of survival?

Next week I will ask Mnemochirianne to give us some pointers on whispering the Yottapede. Or I will ask Astranasus to teach us to use our senses uncommonly. Or I will keep wandering around in a receptive frame of mind as I have since the week of March 28th until something useful happens.

Maybe I can find out something about whispering the Yottapede by re-exploring the ideas of Stephen Leacock on Education. Has Education been taken over by the Yottapede? Perhaps it has. Maybe we should find out, or at least what kind of Education might help to tame it.

Posted by Paul Conway

Sagacities, Real or Unreal, Flowing with Charged Ooze

In the Thirteenth Week of the Leacock Anniversaries in 2019, on Monday, June 17th, I append the most recent scouting report from the effort to encircle, tame, and put to work the wild Unsolved Riddle of Social Justice.

I recently walked around downtown Toronto, one of the Sagacities. I noticed quite a lot, but in particular, I noticed a tremendous flow of traffic on the arterial streets,—and when I say tremendous I mean tremendous, as others will no doubt attest,—almost all of it vehicular. When I looked or walked along the side streets, however, I saw almost none, and much of what there was was pedestrian. If we postulate, therefore, the existence of the Charged Ooze, then we may at least hypothesize,—perhaps conclude,—that the arterial streets and roads are rife with the stuff, and that the state of the side streets remains uncertain.

Since I have characterized some streets as arterial, thereby introducing a blood-flow metaphor into the mix, I have to ask: are they in fact arterial, or are they venous? In other words, when traffic flows from homes to places of work or commerce, is it flowing back to or out from the heart? The same question arises when it flows back the other way. And is the Charged Ooze (remember, that is the short name I am giving to the Charged Global Membrane of B.W. Powe, which I call the Charged Global-Perceptual Membrane-Medium-MemBrain; B.W. and I are entirely agreed about the Charge, although we vary in our concepts of what is charged),—is the Charged Ooze a vital fluid internal to the organism, or the external environment in which it lives and breathes, as air is to us, and water to a fish. And is it natural, or does the organism create it?

I have named the organism the Yottapede, intending to suggest a long narrow creature with a great many feet. I think you will agree that a city street is just such a creature, especially if we are allowed (and I do allow it) to count wheels as feet. I have two scouts out there studying the Yottapede: Astranasus, a star-nosed mole able to burrow through the Charged Ooze and sense its properties through his foveated tendrils, and a feminequine centaur named Mnemochiranne equipped with all the sensory tools of both a human and a horse along with the two-handed reasoning power of the former and the motive power of the latter. While I took a break last week they have been busy. They dropped in this morning before going back to their field work, to report some preliminary findings.

They have discovered, first of all, that the Yottapede is a complex creature, being both an organism in its own right, and the product or effect of the other organisms that compose it.  In somewhat over-simplified terms these can be thought of as human beings, their servants, and their tools. As Marshall McLuhan is said to have said, first we shape our tools, then our tools shape us. We are both creators and the creatures of our creations, including the Yottapede itself; we all flow together through the Charged Ooze.

Whether the Yottapede is the Unsolved Riddle of Social Justice, or contains it, remains to be discovered.

The Yottapede is a parasite, depending on us and our tools for its existence. We are the host of this parasite. In the same way we are parasites of the Yottapede, depending on it for our existence, or at least for the only existence we can collectively imagine in our present circumstances. The Yottapede is therefore both parasite and host, and so are we. We are mutually parasitic, and mutually hospitable. Not only that, but we (with our tools) and the Yottapede are also mutually parasitic with the Charged Ooze which may also have the same symbiotic creator-creation relationship with both of us. When you take all this into account, you will begin to see that what we have before us is a considerable Unsolved Riddle.

Now one of the basic principles of parasitology says that a parasite that kills its host is inefficient at best, possibly suicidal. Or, at the very least, if it is going to kill its host, it had better know how to find or create a replacement. The emerald ash borer as a species is entirely dependent on finding another ash tree within striking distance. Before we jump to the assumption, therefore, that we can solve the Unsolved Riddle by killing the Yottapede in all its parasite-host complexity, we had better know how we are going to replace it.

In other words, the Unsolved Riddle of Social Justice may look something like this, in its present form: This pervasive creature whom we have shaped and who shapes us, may be both necessary to the achievement of Social Justice, and the greatest, indeed decisive impediment to it. If that is inescapably the case, then taming the creature and putting it to work for that purpose is going to require something much more creative than a straight-forward tinkering with machinery. If we can’t break the Yottapede, and it appears we cannot without breaking ourselves, then we will have to whisper it. And we may have to take into account that it may have a mind of its own, and is whispering us all along the way in its own interest, which is also ours. Not to mention the possibility that it may use more brutal methods.

This much flows from the first reports of our scouts. I’ll check in with them again next week.

Posted by Paul Conway.

Delving Into the Sagacities

In the Eleventh Week of the Leacock Anniversaries in 2019, on Monday, June 3rd, I turn the Saga of the Dark Tower into something else.

In our array of three blogs, this one now calls itself the Stalking Blog. It used to be called the Dark Tower Blog, but since we have now arrived at the Dark Tower and have discovered it to be something quite different from your conventional notion of a Dark Tower, even perhaps from Robert Browning’s (“Childe Roland to the Dark Tower Came” as blown upon a Slug-Horn), the time seems propitious to re-name it. Further, because we are now entering the second quarter of the Leacock Anniversaries (each quarter being ten weeks long) the time seems equally propitious to re-constitute the entire Saga. So here goes.

Stephen Leacock’s ghost, called Olde Stephen, and I have been walking through the wilderness of this world, trying to find the wild Unsolved Riddle of Social Justice, thought to reside in, or be, a Dark Tower. The exigencies of this quest made it expedient for us to assume the aspect of star-nosed moles. The explanation is now irrelevant, and I don’t recommend that you hunt for it.

We have now ascertained that the wild Unsolved Riddle of Social Justice lives in, or is, not a Dark Tower, but a Charged Global-Perceptual Membrane-Medium-MemBrain, for brevity called a Charged Ooze, or Chooze, the idea owing much to the recent writings of B.W. Powe (The Charge in the Global Membrane), whose ideas owe much to the teachings and writings of Marshall McLuhan and Northrop Frye, along with a whole raft of other people. In other words, the wild Unsolved Riddle of Social Justice is not, or does not live in, a place out there, but a place in here. We have seen the wild Unsolved Riddle of Social Justice and it is us, or at least a hefty part of us. Since we are now for the most part inhabitants of cities, or otherwise dependent on them, and since I am taking a narrative approach to exploration, by means of metaphorical, even poetical, reasoning, I am going to call that place “the Sagacities”.

Incidentally, if Stephen Leacock had called his book Sunshine Sketches of Little Towns, people might have paid attention when he told them it was seventy or eighty real towns. As it was, some people got the idea that it was only one,—Orillia, Ontario,—thus unleashing such waves of misinterpretation as to constitute a major literary scandal. I don’t want to provoke another. Therefore, “the Sagacities” it is, or rather, they are.

So, setting the scene, we have the Sagacities, their dire streets running with Chooze. Just how dire they are remains to be seen. If we were to use Evidence and Reason to make the assessment, we might conclude they are pretty dire. If we use a Leacockian tissage of Knowledge, Imagination, Compassion, and Humour, perhaps not so much. We shall see. In the meantime, it will assist our endeavours if we transpose from another saga, the Wednesday one, a creature sighted there, who might also be, or house, the wild Unsolved Riddle of Social Justice, who is called the Yottapede, on account of the number of its feet. I will also transpose Mnemochiron, the feminequine centaur from that saga, because she has proved she can move around in and explore the interior of the Yottapede without being sucked in. I will allow her to so circulate without the burden of her Uneasy Rider, who will remain uneasy but not ride her any more. I am also going to release Olde Stephen from his molecular confinement in order to preserve him from possible molestation by the Yottapede. I will keep one star-nosed mole, however, for its capacities (a) to burrow through the Chooze and sense what is going on there, and (b) to blow slug-horn-wise through the foveated tendrils of its star.

Furthermore, I am going to place above the Sagacities a floating island, similar to Jonathan Swift’s Laputa. That will be Mariposa, labyrinth and all, with walkers, as in the Tuesday saga. Around the outer edge of this island, I am going to cut a walking trail (a hobby of mine), placed for simultaneous observation of what is happening both on the floating island itself, and below in the Sagacities.

To summarize, therefore, during the second quarter of the Leacock Anniversaries this year we will have:

In the Monday Blog the Stalking Saga, in which mole and centaur stalk the Yottapede both inside and out through the dire streets of the Sagacities, burrowing and prancing through the Chooze, taking careful observations leading to a full understanding, enabling the capture and putting to work of the wild Unsolved Riddle of Social Justice;

In the Tuesday Blog the Walking Saga, unfolding on the floating island of Mariposa, wherein the Labyrinth Walkers will continue their pilgrimage in proper Cretan order, taking their own time in their own way for the same purpose.

In the Wednesday Blog the Talking Saga, in which Olde Stephen, you, and I will stroll around the perimeter of Mariposa, closely watching both stalkers and walkers, learning what we can from their adventures, building our own interpretation, and conversing about it.

In order to clear our minds for the rigours of this multifarious enterprise, I declare a week of silence for meditation. The Stalking Saga will resume on Monday, June 17th.

On behalf of myself and all members of the cast I thank you for reading and bearing with us so far. I sincerely hope that the enterprise will become more intelligible from now on.

Posted by Paul W Conway

The Riddle of the Chooze Revealed

In the Tenth Week of the Leacock Anniversaries in 2019, on Monday, May 27th, one-quarter of the way along, I continue the Saga of the Dark Tower. I first remind you, since the terminology is a little obscure, that the “Chooze” is the name I have chosen for the Charged Ooze in which we are burrowing,—we being Olde Stephen who is Stephen Leacock’s ghost and I in our assumed aspect of star-nosed moles,—the long, proper name being the Charged Global-Perceptual Membrane-Medium-MemBrain. I will also remind you that as we burrow we blow upon the Slug-Horn, in order to clarify and lower the viscosity of the Chooze. Fortunately it turns out that the mole’s star with its foveated tendrils makes a very good slug-horn indeed.

In last week’s episode I may have given the impression that we could see all the activity surrounding us as we burrowed our way through the Chooze. This of course is false, because star-nosed moles do not see very well at all. They sense things through their stars. We could hear it, however, because until I learn otherwise I am going to assume that star-nosed moles can hear at least well enough to detect a nearby predator at least some of the time, because I can’t imagine the star being a safe device to rely on for that purpose. If it turns out that they can’t hear very well either, then I will either have to adjust the narrative, or take refuge in the notion that the ghost of a dead humourist and a living scribe who have assumed the aspect of star-nosed moles for metaphorical purposes can hear as well as the metaphor needs them to hear, that is, sufficient to detect what is going on around them. If it needs them to see, then they will be able to do that too, although I have an idea that will obviate the necessity,  should it occur.

Be that as it may, we were able to detect it all just as I described it last week. What I did not then describe was the sound. I am going to borrow another idea from B.W. Powe, who in his book Outage called it a “roar”, a “cacophony” that is a “polyphony, the song of all things joining”, that is also the sound of all things fragmenting, as Powe describes in one chilling paragraph on page 256 that is too long to quote here. Amazing, powerful stuff. And as we listened to the roar Olde Stephen and I both at the same time turned to each other, linked our foveated tendrils, and blew upon our combined slug-horns a mighty blast of recognition, a roar announcing to the roar that it is not alone in the wilderness of this world:

The roar that is the wild Unsolved Riddle of Social Justice — I hear TWUROSJ singing, the varied carols I hear;

The roar that is the sound and the smell of everything good in the human enterprise, and everything evil, and everything morally indifferent, the Marriage of Heaven and Hell and Where-We-Are, for better and worse and muddling along, for richer and poorer and getting by, in sickness and in health and in okay for the time being, in all possible variations of life;

The roar that is the song of all things joining and of all things fragmenting, of all things complete and incomplete, of all things conclusive and inconclusive;

The roar that is Pandemonium and Pantheon and Pandemic and Pan and Pantaloon and Frying Pan and Fire.

The Dark Tower is not a structure, but a sound and a smell and a feeling as of warmth and cold, of damp and dry, an acoustic-olfactory-sensory aura, an emanation, a diffusion, a dispersion, a radiation, emitting its energy not in straight lines, but enveloping, swirling, penetrating.

We are in the midst of the Dark Tower, and have been ever since we entered the Chooze. The Chooze and the Dark Tower are one. We are the Choozen People.

We have arrived.

Now what?



The Chooze is the Booze of the News

In the Ninth Week of the Leacock Anniversaries in 2019, on Monday, May 20th, I continue the Saga of the Dark Tower.

You should now be aware, unless you are encountering this blog for the first time, that Olde Stephen, who is Stephen Leacock’s ghost, and I, having both assumed the aspect of star-nosed moles, are burrowing our way through the Charged Global-Perceptual Membrane-Medium-MemBrain towards the Dark Tower, whatever it may turn out to be. As we burrow we play regularly upon the Slug-Horn, in order to keep it from becoming plugged.

I cannot go on calling our environment the Charged Global-Perceptual Membrane-Medium-MemBrain, although that is the best description I have been able to find so far. I could call it the Charged Ooze, because that is what it was like, but I would like to find something punchier than that. From now on I am going to call it the Chooze. I will recharge your mem-brain from time to time with a reminder of its long name, each component of which captures an important property as we try to understand what it is and its effect upon us.

Since I believe it is important for you to understand just how Olde Stephen and I are finding our way through this substance, I offer the following quote from the Wikipedia article on Star-Nosed Moles:

The star nose is a highly specialized sensory-motor organ shaped by 22 fleshy finger-like appendages, or tendrils, that ring their nostrils and are in constant motion as the mole explores its environment. The star itself is a centimeter across and thus has a diameter slightly smaller than a typical human fingertip. Nevertheless, it is much larger than the nose of other mole species, covering 0.92 cm2 (0.14 in2) per touch compared to 0.11 cm2 (0.02 in2) covered by the noses of other mole species. This structure is divided into a high resolution central fovea region (the central 11th pair of rays) and less sensitive peripheral areas. In this way the star works as a “tactile eye” where the peripheral rays (1–10 on each side) study the surroundings with erratic saccade-like movements and direct the 11th ray to objects of interest, just like the primate’s foveating eye. []

As we learned to use the wonderful sensory organ that came with our assumed aspect, directing our eleventh rays to objects of interest with gradually increasing acuity, we became aware that we had plenty of company. All around us myriad creatures were burrowing or groping their way through the Chooze towards their myriad destinations, including some who wanted to find the Dark Tower of the Unsolved Riddle of Social Justice just as we did. We felt instinctively drawn to them, largely indifferent to the destinations of many, repelled by those of a few. It was difficult to pay attention to them all, such was their number and diversity.

We soon became aware of some, however, whose methods of chooze-navigation were aggressive, erratic, even hysterical. They would race towards any glimmer that looked like an opening, dash into it at high speed, and race towards the next one. Or, they would clutch blobs and fling them around in a frantic effort to clear their way. It was impossible not to notice them. They made themselves conspicuous by their rush and anxiety. Only by sensing carefully with our foveated tendrils could we detect the Great Preponderance of our fellow choozers who simply made their way as best they could through the stuff as it presented itself to them, sanely, sensibly, to all appearances content to take it as it came.

The most hysterical of all were those who had taken upon themselves the task of interpreting the chooze to the rest of us. Olde Stephen and I, also charged to interpret, played upon the Slug-Horn as we burrowed. Under its vibrations the chooze thinned about us, enabling us to sense more clearly and move about more easily. These other poor souls,  however, in their hysterical grasping at particular blobs that caught their immediate attention, only thickened the chooze around them, clogging their sensory organs and making their way more difficult. The worst were getting nowhere at all, but simply oscillated in their own little pool of congealment, oblivious to their predicament.

In the physical world there is a thing called Brownian Motion. As a method of forward progress it is not recommended. Olde Stephen and I had committed ourselves to Browningian Motion, a literary, poetical, artistic alternative, not intrinsically more difficult, but requiring a different kind of resolution. Would it take us to the Dark Tower of the Unsolved Riddle of Social Justice? We thought it might. We believed we would soon find out.