Written in the Sand
Dune, Book One, Chaper One part 1
I want to take some time to establish a policy about direct quoting from the books. I’m going to limit how much I do that because I want to encourage you to actually read them yourself. Open them up, even just to get a refresher; it’ll be fun. This episode we’ll be looking at a very small section of Dune chapter one, and that is the opening quotation.
I know…you’re looking at the timer on the player and wondering how someone could spend that much time on just one paragraph, but I honestly believe it’s an important one. This is something of a foundation episode. Last episode was to set the stage for the podcast. This one is more about setting the stage for the actual material.
The quote itself opens up with the idea that beginnings are a time for balance and there are certain things I think should be emphasized in the beginning because we don’t know each other.
We can assume quite a number of things with varying degrees of accuracy. I can reasonably predict that we are all human, beyond assumptions like these everything gets a little fuzzy, doesn’t it? It’s because we have different backgrounds we need to go over this.
We need a common baseline, and that requires a certain mode of perspective and that is what this quote is about and therefore what this episode is about. If you need that refresher on the actual words of the quote feel free to pause and go check it, I’ll wait. If not, here’s the gist:
Paul existed in his own time. He was born on Caladan but Arrakis will always be his place.
Yeah, I’m going to pull ½ an hour or so out of that.
Paul has his place. Everyone has their place. Place is so much more than location, a place has its own natural rhythms and familiar sites. A location has its culture and it has moments that are impressed upon those that call it home. Those people are unique to that place, they are familiar faces, they speak familiar language, and they follow familiar routines. But just because you live in a place does not mean you fit there.
Related to that and just as important, everything has its own time to exist. Some people and ideas shine in their existence while others will barely sparkle. The phenomenon that Paul becomes can only happen on Arrakis and a thing that we will tackle in much more detail later on is that Paul can only fulfill his purpose within the time period he lives. My basic point with this is that some people are lucky enough to exist in the place and time where they can reach their full potential.
Does Einstein develop a theory of relativity if he’s born in the Amazon Jungle 500 years ago? Instead of the thought experiment of the train, is it the thought experiment of the flying monkey or the falling tree? Or crouching monkey, falling tree? And who does Amazon Einstein tell? Does it become legend or is it just the crazy ramblings of a wild-haired shaman forgotten by a culture with no printing press or recording device? Being ignorant of physics and mathematics, does he invent something just as brilliant that is actually useful to his tribe and does he then get remembered as a demigod, or does he live his life and die with no achievement at all – not even worth a footnote in history?
Do we in the modern world even have the theory of relativity if Einstein isn’t a patent clerk in 1905? Without it, what journey does science take? A person needs his time and a time needs its history.
This idea that everything has its place in space and time, is a concept so basic you would hardly think it’s worth mentioning. However it is worth mentioning because it is so basic that almost no one pays attention to it, as I’ll illustrate. It’s more than the alternate history of Amazon Einstein.
The inspired holy man of the past could be the schizophrenic of today, and the autistic child of today is the survivalist of early man who stores food and supplies with single-minded focus. Optimal environment isn’t always the place and time we live in. We may want to think it is, but that doesn’t mean we’re really thinking about it.
In places of academic study we are just now beginning to grasp something we hadn’t considered before. Human psychology is not set in stone. What we consider healthy and normal is based on modern, often western ideals, not a species wide reality. Researchers such as Dr. Richard Nisbett have started to demonstrate that a person’s environment – the place, and culture, to which we also add the era they live in, has a profound influence on not only what they think, but how they think it.
We’re going to spend some time on how we think, so I’m going to play with things a bit.
continued in podcast…
The relevant book for the episode will always be in resources. If you haven’t picked it up yet, you should.
Good Omens by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman
This is where the remark about dinosaur bones being a joke is from. This is an awesome book. If you haven’t read it, you should. And the authors are excellent – two of my favorites.
Neil Gaiman taught me to love stories, to see the epic in the small and simple.He writes myths in the modern world, his gods are not set in ancient stories, but are living, breathing participants in our present day.
Terry Pratchett was in a class of his own. Terry tackled big ideas, but his gift was portraying people as they should be and, yet, how they really are: noble, quirky, and a little daft; sometimes evil, but altogether wonderful and amazing. Terry Pratchett is one of the few celebrities that I cried about losing to Death. Part of me always will.
I don’t know if he really needs a blurb, if you don’t know something about Einstein, you have probably been living under a rock. I’m including specific links to a Biography; The World As I See It, his own thoughts on the world, and his Special Theory of Relativity
The Geography of Thought by Dr. Richard Nisbett
This book is primarily about the difference between Asian and Western thought. Worth a look if you want to read more.
Are Optical Illusions Cultural? – Smithsonian Magazine Article on Optical Illusions
Why We Are All Insane -Mental illness as a method of survival. Brief article but it references a book, Origin of Mind by David C. Gary which explores it more.
Autism as a Survival Instinct-Link to an article on our scary mental illness du jour as a survival instinct, just in case you thought I was making it up.
Links about perception of color
Hues and Views —American Psychology Association article on Language and Color
What is blue and how do we see color? — Business Insider
Hex Colors —Just a little page that enables you to pick colors and see their Hex designation.
Feather Dinosaur Fossil Discovered in Amber– This just cool.
Greek Giants– An article about the fossil origins of myth
Black Swan– If you’re unfamiliar with the concept, it’s good to check out. It’s very relevant to what I am presenting in this episode.
The Original. Neil Degrass Tyson can try to remake it all he wants, but Carl Sagan did it better.
Hero of a Thousand Faces by Joseph Campbell
This book is about the cycle of stories that we tend to like. Once you know them, you can see where they are in your favorite books and movies, and where they are missing in the ones that no one seems to like.