Emergence x2

by CarlD

Collating two nice clear instances of emergence. The first is from xkcd, courtesy of hyper tiling. The alt-text is the kicker, but you may have to click through to get it:

Dad, where is Grandpa right now?

The second is from Italo Calvino’s Invisible Cities (1972), courtesy of Ktismatics:

Marco Polo describes a bridge, stone by stone.

“But which is the stone that supports the bridge?” Kublai Khan asks.

“The bridge is not supported by one stone or another,” Marco answers, “but by the line of the arch that they form.”

Kublai Khan remains silent, reflecting. Then he adds: “Why do you speak to me of the stones? It is only the arch that matters to me.”

Polo answers: “Without stones there is no arch.”

A little Orientalism here, but it’s Calvino so everything gets its exotic turn.


3 Comments to “Emergence x2”

  1. Doesn’t it seem like there are far worse habits than indulging in a little Orientalism? Why does the spectacle of this sort of consumerism outshine others at the moment? Why is the seduction of the quasi-exotic more compelling now than the allure of the super-clean, over-sized, highly defined and vermin free?

  2. Hi, Amarilla! I don’t think Orientalism is automatically bad; relational exoticism is one of the poles of a satisfying sensuous existence, which as you say waxes and wanes in appeal relative to the comforting and familiar.

    In the terms you’ve offered isn’t this one of those structural binaries? Dirty/clean, hybrid/pure, raw/cooked. The Orientalism problem is when power gets mixed up in reducing the Other to its exoticism in relation to Us and then judging it inferior there. If we’re all just having fun with roles and masks, no worries.

    I’m not sure why you say the quasi-exotic is currently enjoying a waxing allure. Where, and for whom? In bad economic times comfort and familiarity become obviously appealing; but perhaps exoticism is a release?

  3. Off-the-wall speculation: Just back in Japan after spending nearly three months in Cambridge MA. Couldn’t help noticing how many inexpensive ethnic restaurants Cambridge now boasts and how many of them offer both take out and delivery as well as table service. A desire for something a bit different, a quick phone call, a bit of “Oh, that’s good.” Also, my wife and I have been talking for years about U.S. supermarkets. When we were growing up, she in Indiana, me in Virginia, supermarket offerings were pretty much plain vanilla. Now things like Asian vegetables, six-foot selves of salsa, imported cheeses and local microbrews seem to have become pretty standard. Tired of meat and potatoes? Want something spicy instead? No big deal anymore.

    Supper time approaches. I am getting hungry.

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