Do I Dare Disturb the Universe?

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QuiteJaughty
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Do I Dare Disturb the Universe?

Postby QuiteJaughty » Sun Jan 16, 2011 2:18 am UTC

I am currently working with an English group; our assignment is to write a one act play (using characters from the works we have read this year) regarding the theme "Do I dare/ Disturb the Universe" (Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock, Eliot). We have already to decided to use Hamlet, Woland from Master and Margarita, Briony from Atonement, and God as portrayed in the Book of Job. With this being said, we want to truly define what it means to disturb the universe, or at least tackle it from the truest sense possible. Thoughts?

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mmmcannibalism
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Re: Do I Dare Disturb the Universe?

Postby mmmcannibalism » Sun Jan 16, 2011 2:37 am UTC

I fail to see how you can get a true sense of disturbing a non living being.
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Re: Do I Dare Disturb the Universe?

Postby Glass Fractal » Sun Jan 16, 2011 3:07 am UTC

Everything you do disturbs the universe. Just the heat you give off by living disturbs the arrangement of molecules in the air around you.

Now if you want a more profound change there's nothing you can do if you're comparing yourself to the universe. Even if Hamlet set off every nuclear weapon on the planet in one last cry of angish over his father's death the universe wouldn't meaningfully altered.

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Re: Do I Dare Disturb the Universe?

Postby Loklar » Sun Jan 16, 2011 3:36 am UTC

But you're made up of the same matter of the universe. Does your heat really disturb it? It's like the old argument that humanity is a blight on nature, when humans were formed and are a part of nature.

-I think you should violate determinism in your play. Set up a situation that has a clear, unalterable outcome. And alter it.
-Or find out an action that god is about to do and implement it first using powers that humans have. (Maybe god wants a common language, but before he has a miracle that creates the common language, the internet gets people connected in a fundamental way).

Just a couple of ideas. I don't know all the characters you've chosen, but I'd thought I'd throw in some brainstorming.

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Re: Do I Dare Disturb the Universe?

Postby Iulus Cofield » Sun Jan 16, 2011 5:42 am UTC

I think if you want to avoid making the universe into a personified being (if you do, just make the characters piss off the God of Job), then you'll have to take a magical realism approach. Certainly breaking the laws of physics disturbs the impersonal universe.

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Re: Do I Dare Disturb the Universe?

Postby McCaber » Mon Jan 17, 2011 6:23 am UTC

QuiteJaughty wrote:I am currently working with an English group; our assignment is to write a one act play (using characters from the works we have read this year) regarding the theme "Do I dare/ Disturb the Universe" (Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock, Eliot). We have already to decided to use Hamlet, Woland from Master and Margarita, Briony from Atonement, and God as portrayed in the Book of Job. With this being said, we want to truly define what it means to disturb the universe, or at least tackle it from the truest sense possible. Thoughts?

As far as the Eliot quote goes, I much more got the sense of Prufrock disturbing his own universe than the cosmos as a whole. He had his life set up the way he wanted, but now he's wondering if trying to change is worth it. Is it worth the risk to open up farther than he ever had, if it could lead to losing his close friend as a result?

I feel that expanding the scope so far is a meaningless exercise. If it's one person pushing his own boundaries and wondering if that's for the best or not, that makes for a much more convincing play in my mind.
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King Author
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Re: Do I Dare Disturb the Universe?

Postby King Author » Sun Jan 23, 2011 6:50 pm UTC

I myself believe in avoiding disturbing the universe, so perhaps I can offer you insight into what may be, to you, an unusual or foreign mindset.

First, and understand this, Harry, because it's very important, this practice, this belief of mine serves no logical purpose; it's not a logically or rationally defensible position -- I only do because I choose to, because it suits me, and for no other reason. Second, and equally important, is that I choose to, because it suits me; it's not my belief that this is "right" or even "good," so certainly I have no intention that others should do the same. I wouldn't preach this sensibility of mine. I only offer it now because it's relevant and you asked.

Alright, I myself believe not in souls or spirits, though in a similar vein I speak of human Will. Yes, with pretentious capitalization. Hey, if other people can talk about freaking invisible souls, I think I can get away with talking about Will in capitals; 'sonly fair.

Human Will is, for intents and purposes (i.e. ignoring the intelligence and emotional capability of dolphins, pigs, dogs, cats and monkeys), singular and unique, as far as we know, in the universe. That is to say, bees don't make honey because they choose to, they aren't demonstrating Will in their honey-making behavior; it's preprogrammed; they're like robots, mindlessly doing as their instincts dictate. Wolves don't hunt, elephants don't mate, gazelle don't migrate out of choice, they don't act Willfully, they're merely robots made of flesh and sinew instead of plastic and wire.

But humans? Make any joke about people being mindless slaves to their instincts you want, humans can act Willfully, and no other animal has that capability. Our brains are utterly unique in their gestalt capability for higher thought. Again, as far as we know -- there may be aliens, parallel universes or whatever, but that's outside the scope of this discussion. For intents and purposes, events only occur one of two ways; happenstance and human Will. Happenstance includes purely natural forces such as gravity and meteorite impacts as well as all animal behaviors, since they act mindlessly. Save for human Will and the fact that there is such a thing as randomness, ours is a clockwork universe; things happen, for intents and purposes, by themselves.

Except for us humans. We make things happen, through acts of Will. Willful acts, to my sensibilites, are not bad, nor are they good; Will unto itself lies outside the scope of morality. However, acts of Will do disturb the clockwork. The planet Earth, today, is not a natural planet; every square inch, every single molecule, every quark and lepton in the whole of the planet is, for intents and purposes, the result of human Will. Again, this by itself is not good or bad to me; it's merely an observation. And yes, humans are part of nature, but we are the only creatures who have Will, the only creatures which act Willfully, and that places us on another, completely different level from the Willless universe and its Willless creatures.

Again, keeping in mind that I don't view this as a moral issue, I myself attempt to minimize the impacts of my Will on the clockwork universe. Where others disturb the work, alter the work, repair the work and create new works, I attempt to leave the work as it would be without me. A leaf falls on a perfectly manicured lawn. Many would remove it; I would leave it, so as not to alter the clockwork with my Will anymore than I practically can.

I am no extremist; I practice the Middle Way, I seek balance in all things. I do act Willfully. I do not attempt to act wholly Willlessly. I may well have manicured that lawn myself, which would be quite an act of Will. But in general, I let the dice roll, accept the result, and make no attempt to change it.

Paradoxically, at the same time, I engage in what I call Whims. Whims are wholely purposeless acts of Will. Because they lack purpose, they are the purest acts of Will. Picking the leaf off the manicured lawn is not purposeless; the purpose is to maintain the perfection of the manicure, because the leaf is considered unsightly. Even skipping a stone on a lake is not purposeless; it's fun, it can relieve frustration, any number of things. A Whim is truly purposeless. For instance, the other day I took a drum stick and balanced it in the loop of a pullcord for the blinds in a room in my house. There was no purpose, no rhyme or reason. The Whim struck me, and I carried it out.

This seems to counter my main belief in not disturbing the clockwork, but the Whim struck me, not the other way around. Perhaps these Whims are contributing to the clockwork, not altering it. Perhaps Whims are meant to be. Furthermore, because a Whim is an absolutely purposeless act of purest Will, I don't see it as disturbing the clockwork in the same fashion that does a casual act of Will, such as trimming a hedge or picking up your pet dog and putting him up on the couch with you or littering. Again, however, as I said at the outset; this is neither a matter of morality nor logic. It is an indefensible sentiment, and as such, I won't defend it.

Make of it what you will. Pun not intended >_>
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mmmcannibalism
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Re: Do I Dare Disturb the Universe?

Postby mmmcannibalism » Sun Jan 23, 2011 9:09 pm UTC

To take your example

In what way is choosing to not remove a leaf from your yard less disturbing then the choice to remove it. If part of the human condition is attempting to create conditions where humans can thrive(akin to the purpose of any creature), isn't not making your environment more habitable a disturbance.
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Re: Do I Dare Disturb the Universe?

Postby King Author » Mon Jan 24, 2011 7:31 am UTC

That's a very human-centric way to look at it. I didn't say my sensibility was human-centric. Also, please note that I already stated that my sensibility (I won't call it a philosophy) is logically indefensible. You can poke a thousand holes in it if you care to take the time; I recognize this and don't care.
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The Great Hippo
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Re: Do I Dare Disturb the Universe?

Postby The Great Hippo » Mon Jan 24, 2011 7:52 am UTC

King Author wrote:Also, please note that I already stated that my sensibility (I won't call it a philosophy) is logically indefensible. You can poke a thousand holes in it if you care to take the time; I recognize this and don't care.
Well, okay. Since you're telling us we shouldn't bother to discuss your ideas critically, I suppose the only other sensible step is to ignore them.

[snip]

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Re: Do I Dare Disturb the Universe?

Postby King Author » Mon Jan 24, 2011 8:33 am UTC

My post was directed specifically at QuiteJaughty, who is asking for thoughts and opinions on this essay he's (could be she's) to write.

[snip] Bordering on personal insults.

- Az
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Re: Do I Dare Disturb the Universe?

Postby mmmcannibalism » Tue Jan 25, 2011 1:05 am UTC

King Author wrote:That's a very human-centric way to look at it. I didn't say my sensibility was human-centric. Also, please note that I already stated that my sensibility (I won't call it a philosophy) is logically indefensible. You can poke a thousand holes in it if you care to take the time; I recognize this and don't care.


Okay, then you how do you decide which whims are disturbances and which are causal actions.
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Re: Do I Dare Disturb the Universe?

Postby The Great Hippo » Tue Jan 25, 2011 1:11 am UTC

mmmcannibalism wrote:
King Author wrote:That's a very human-centric way to look at it. I didn't say my sensibility was human-centric. Also, please note that I already stated that my sensibility (I won't call it a philosophy) is logically indefensible. You can poke a thousand holes in it if you care to take the time; I recognize this and don't care.
Okay, then you how do you decide which whims are disturbances and which are causal actions.
And precisely how is a view that centers itself on the concept of human will not, in fact, human-centric?

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Re: Do I Dare Disturb the Universe?

Postby ++$_ » Tue Jan 25, 2011 1:19 am UTC

I refuse to allow a thread about Prufrock to turn into a flame war about philosophy.

Remember the context:
T.S. Eliot wrote:And I have known the eyes already, known them all—
The eyes that fix you in a formulated phrase,
And when I am formulated, sprawling on a pin,
When I am pinned and wriggling on the wall,
Then how should I begin
To spit out all the butt-ends of my days and ways?
And how should I presume?

And I have known the arms already, known them all—
Arms that are braceleted and white and bare
[But in the lamplight, downed with light brown hair!]
Is it perfume from a dress
That makes me so digress?
Arms that lie along a table, or wrap about a shawl.
And should I then presume?
And how should I begin?
And would it have been worth it, after all,
After the cups, the marmalade, the tea,
Among the porcelain, among some talk of you and me,
Would it have been worth while,
To have bitten off the matter with a smile,
To have squeezed the universe into a ball
To roll it toward some overwhelming question,
To say: "I am Lazarus, come from the dead,
Come back to tell you all, I shall tell you all"—
If one, settling a pillow by her head,
Should say: "That is not what I meant at all.
That is not it, at all."
Do I dare to eat a peach?
This is emphatically not about free will or determinism. It is about poor J. Alfred thinking about risks vs. reward, about conventionality vs. idiosyncrasy, and about the difficulty and danger of exposing his inner feelings (his love, if you prefer the literal interpretation, or his hopes and dreams, if you subscribe to the most common metaphorical interpretation).

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Ortus
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Re: Do I Dare Disturb the Universe?

Postby Ortus » Tue Jan 25, 2011 7:17 am UTC

Glass Fractal wrote:Everything you do disturbs the universe. Just the heat you give off by living disturbs the arrangement of molecules in the air around you.

Now if you want a more profound change there's nothing you can do if you're comparing yourself to the universe. Even if Hamlet set off every nuclear weapon on the planet in one last cry of angish over his father's death the universe wouldn't meaningfully altered.



To get all metaphysical romantic on you:

I would suggest that everything you do does not disturb the universe, but harmonizes within it. You are not an outside force observing a specific causal system, so to hold yourself outside of the universe would be a rather arrogant act. Every change you effect isn't an aberration, but a conformity.

Also, even if a thousand thousand thousand nukes would not meaningfully alter the universe, a child's understanding might.
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Re: Do I Dare Disturb the Universe?

Postby McCaber » Tue Jan 25, 2011 10:25 pm UTC

++$_ wrote:This is emphatically not about free will or determinism.

This one. The poem's about Prufruck struggling with his own demons and whether or not to accept his place in the world he made for himself.

Not the universe as a whole, but his own personal universe; people, places, and objects that are important to him.
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Re: Do I Dare Disturb the Universe?

Postby Soralin » Tue Jan 25, 2011 10:58 pm UTC

Ortus wrote:
Glass Fractal wrote:Everything you do disturbs the universe. Just the heat you give off by living disturbs the arrangement of molecules in the air around you.

Now if you want a more profound change there's nothing you can do if you're comparing yourself to the universe. Even if Hamlet set off every nuclear weapon on the planet in one last cry of angish over his father's death the universe wouldn't meaningfully altered.



To get all metaphysical romantic on you:

I would suggest that everything you do does not disturb the universe, but harmonizes within it. You are not an outside force observing a specific causal system, so to hold yourself outside of the universe would be a rather arrogant act. Every change you effect isn't an aberration, but a conformity.

Also, even if a thousand thousand thousand nukes would not meaningfully alter the universe, a child's understanding might.

And to take the other side of the issue of semantics: Say that you have a large sphere of plutonium, and a few other elements, protected from all outside interference. A decay event within the sphere, and it's interaction with other elements within the sphere, produces a neutron, which goes on to fission one of the atoms, which produces more neutrons, eventually leading to the state of the sphere being very disturbed from what it initially was. An event doesn't have to come from an outside force to be a disturbance, something can just as easily be disturbed from within. :)

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Re: Do I Dare Disturb the Universe?

Postby Jorpho » Thu Feb 03, 2011 2:35 am UTC

QuiteJaughty wrote:We have already to decided to use Hamlet, Woland from Master and Margarita, Briony from Atonement, and God as portrayed in the Book of Job. With this being said, we want to truly define what it means to disturb the universe, or at least tackle it from the truest sense possible. Thoughts?
I just wanted to add that I thought "Do I Dare Disturb the Universe" originated from Corimer's The Chocolate War - which I never actually read.

The first example that comes to mind is Pleasantville. I suppose from that perspective, to disturb the universe is simply to add something new that wasn't there before. In the sense of the universe as all-encompassing, it would indeed be impossible to disturb the universe.

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Re: Do I Dare Disturb the Universe?

Postby weasel@xkcd » Sat Feb 12, 2011 1:21 am UTC

One of the ways I've interpreted that line is as Elliot's criticism of the self-centred and arrogant nature of society. He presents the choice to expose his inner feelings as something so profound as to "disturb the universe", this is in ironic contrast to the mundane aspect of a life "measured out in coffee spoons".

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Re: Do I Dare Disturb the Universe?

Postby Minerva » Sun Feb 13, 2011 1:18 pm UTC

Bonus points if you can work in a reference to Freeman Dyson's book in there somewhere.
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