Wednesday, 20 August 2014

Pastry related thoughts

The Lithuanian lady that works in the pasty shop gave me a free pasty once. I sneezed a polite 'thank-you' (the Lithuanian for 'thank-you' is pronounced 'achoom') and went about my day - my inner being warmed by that simple act of human kindness (and delicious peppery skirt steak folded in shortcrust pastry). Whenever I felt pessimistic about human nature, I would think back to that day and wonder if I'd ever see such a purely altruistic act again.

That was four years ago. A few weeks ago, I went into Louis's Deli on St Giles street to order a sausage roll to eat at work during a Tuesday day shift...

(You may be wondering why I was in Louis's when I walk right past the Upper Crust bakery on my way to work. The Upper Crust sausage roll is a travesty in my opinion. Twice the length and half the price of his cousin at Louis's he may be. But the rusk to meat ratio is way too high and they always leave me with a vague sense of disappointment and mild nausea. I would always recommend making the trip over the bridge to Louis's if you have the time and, if you don't have the time, Upper Crust do a passable date and chocolate flapjack. Because it is covered in chocolate the staff always warn you that it contains dates. A policy that I like to assume was brought in because so many were returned: "Ugh! Someone's put dried fruit in my chocolate-covered golden syrup oat bar!")

...and the servitor announced that she had given me two for the price of one because that day's batch were burnt on the underside.

There's bound to be a moral in this somewhere. Memories bake where pastry flakes or something. I'm not terribly good at morals.

Wednesday, 13 August 2014

Some Metaphysics

Last week I wrote a semi-political post that expressed the desire to punish weapons-manufacturers with eternal torment in the Ninth Circle of Hell. Among the responses was this enquiry from my old friend, boss and one-time flatmate (she let me doss on her sofa for three weeks way back in the summer of 1999) Grainne:

Since when do you believe in hell?

I don't believe in Hell. I was drawing on a rich cultural tradition of post-death reward and punishment common to many mythologies (not universal however or at least not included in my favourite list on the internet Donald E. Brown's list of human universals) to make clear my disapproval of the moneygoround which is the world of arms dealers, Western governments and their client states.

I hope that's cleared that up. It may surprise some of you that despite not believing in hell, heaven, ghosts, God, elfs, goblins or the Easter Bunny, I do have some quite out-there metaphysical beliefs that hitherto I have kept more or less to myself. Amazingly, I now have a regular readership to share them with.

I think numbers (even the imaginary ones) are real. I think Mathematical truths are discovered not invented. I think that one plus one would equal two even if there was no human mind to think it. I think that one plus one would equal two even if there was no Universe in which a mind capable of thinking it could evolve. In fact, I think that one plus one would equal two even if there was no Universe at all.

I struggle with these beliefs and have not arrived at them arbitrarily. My beliefs stem from a choice: Either mathematics is embedded in the Universe (i.e. in the minds and cultural memory of one species of primate living at the bottom of a gravity well orbiting one out of a trillion stars in one out of a trillion galaxies) or the Universe is embedded in mathematics and anything capable of counting and reasoning will reach the same conclusions. I find the former proposition less elegant than the latter although I admit that this an aesthetic rather than a purely logical choice.

Next week: Why I would be a Cartesian mind/body dualist if only there was more evidence for the body.