Sunday, February 10, 2008

The natural history of contingency

The natural history of contingency
by Ken Mogi

One of the deepest joys in life is to understand more fully the world in which we find ourselves, as the days unfold.
The objective knowledge of how the universe is constructed is very much related to the subjective working wisdom of daily life. The academic and the worldly are interrelated. Without a background of wisdom accumulated over the many years by scholars and thinkers, we cannot hope ever to enrich our individual lives. Without jumping into the ocean of life in which the unknowns await, we cannot aspire to accomplish anything substantial in our academic endeavors. A system of knowledge which would ultimately encompass the whole universe starts from the very private experience of this small "I". The microcosmos resonates with the macrocosmos. In that realm, the traditional wisdom of "tao" itself would be gradually fused into the grand ensemble of wisdom, western, eastern or otherwise. At this meeting point of the knowledge of the world and the knowledge of life lies the human brain.
What is deeply moving in the novel "Flowers for Algernon" by Daniel Keyes is the process in which Charlie Gordon gradually comes to an understanding of what have been happening to him once a successful operation endows him with an improved intelligence. Various scenes from his life would flash back, as Charlie starts to comprehend how other people have been feeling, regaining his own emotions. Through this "rite of passage" does Charlie finally come to a reconciliation with his own past. Charlie, in a sense, lives his life all over again.

(This is the author's own translation of the opening sentences from the essay "The natural history of contingency" ("Guuyu sei no shizenshi") which originally appeared in Japanese in the quarterly magazine "Kangaeru Hito" (The Thinking Man) published by Shinchosha . The "Natural history of contingency" essay series will be carried in Kangaeru Hito over the next two years.


Petrusa de Koker said...

I hope you plan to post more translated excerpts from "The natural history of contingency" essays. I'd love to read more of them. I like the phrase, knowledge of the world and knowledge of life... One can so easily neglect one or the other, without realising that both is needed.
Take care and keep well.
...and write often in your English blog.

Anonymous said...

I think that a more mysterious thing hides in Taoism or shamanism.
I think that I should understand relevance of a microcosm and the macrokosmos.

Ken Mogi said...

Hello Petrusa.
Thank you for your kind words.
I will certainly try to keep going with my translation!

Good luck with your world and life!

Junko said...

I've read "Flowers for Algernon”
in Japanese.
I was touched by the story.
What is his life?
What is a happiness?
I never forget Charlie’s humanity. 
Thank you for your invitation to the excellent book.

P.S. I bought the book in English version!

ben said...

It is a pleasure to read your thoughts in English, always expressed with flourish and clarity.

Twinkle said...

I read your original article (essay) in Japanese and think this is an excellent introduction in English. A human being continues to learn but yes, we may find out or bump into a totally unexpected new thing, relationship, feel, etc. etc. I cannot calculate or plan them but what I can do is as you say try to open the "sea of contingency." Guess it is to "go and learn/do anything you have interests and feel curious. Looking forward to future issues.

concetto11 said...

When I think of microcosmos and the macrocosmos, the medieval philosophy of 'music' always come up in my mind. There are three kinds of music and we can only hear the one of them 'musica instrumentalis' by sound.
Also I think in human brain there are parts which can feel about not sounding music 'harmonia mundi', or the universe.