June 16, 2009

Putting your leg out of the water

After no posts in the first quarter of the year Ken Mogi's English blog is picking up speed again. He's a Japanese mind-brain researcher, and a particular favorite of Yuki's. He writes very simply and clearly in English, like Yechezkel Zilber, and the effect is somewhat similar.

When I was an undergraduate, I made friends with Ken Shiotani, now a "philosopher-at-large", (meaning, in this particular usage, that he does not belong to any university, institution, etc.; he is not paid for his "philosophizing"). I and Shiotani would discuss these difficult things walking along the Sumida river, drinking beer, persevering a cold night air in a park. At that time, we were quite young and ignorant, but our aspirations were astronomical.

One day, Shiotani drew up a metaphor. He would like to be the "protoamphibian" who "put his leg out of water" for the first time in history. There are heaps of things that the human mind has not had access to yet, and he would like to be the first one to do it. After many years of dormancy, I think he is still aspiring to that.

Another Shiotani quote stayed with me. I think it was one of these days when I was wont to hang out with him in Tokyo bars and Izakayas. After speaking wishfully [sic - wistfully?] of his friends who were "climbing the ladders" smoothly and becoming authors and associate professors, Shiotani sighed and said thus.

"I don't want to be a star myself. I would rather like to be the dark void in which all these constellations shine".

He is that kind of person. Practical things are too small for him.

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