Chance that Mimics Choice
I’m currently working on a collection of short stories that have, as a guiding theme, the idea that the world is alive with meaning, and that nature itself uses metaphor and metonymy in its creations. In organic processes when things are coincidentally like each other (metaphoric) or coincidentally near each other (metonymic), this can constrain the way they interact and may affect the probabilities of certain causal processes. I believe that such factors underlie what is called “self-organization” in nature, which has been described historically as “purposeful” nature.
I want to capture a sense of purposeful nature that is very different from a religious or spiritual notion, such as Wordsworth had for example, one that relies instead upon an ecological and semiotic notion. As a philosopher of science, I have been researching and publishing on this topic for years (see The Biologist’s Mistress and various essays), but it’s really from my creative work as a poet-novelist that I have gained insight into the natural creativity of evolutionary processes, metabolism, pattern formation and etc. The first several pieces in this collection describe how human purpose is unconscious, sloppy, and creatively dependent on accident and misinterpretation. As I move on, I show how nature behaves in this “humanly” creative way too.
Table of Contents
Part I Four Glimpses of Meno’s Genius
Inordinate Fondness for Beetles
A New Theory of Errors
Part II Message without a Sender
A Large Upright Stone
Signs and Symbols
Part III Aesthetic Reason
The Rope and the Pencil
The Prison Diary
Part IV Reaction-Diffusion Thinking
The Tragedy of Turing
Flock of Starlings
And then there was Drift
“THE BIRD GIRL”
This was my first real piece of writing, not including the novel I started at age 10 (entitled “Bethrel,” peopled with characters with unpronounceable Tolkienesque names) and another at age 17 (whose title I’ve forgotten, but which concerned the happy days in heaven before Lucifer was thrown out). “The Bird Girl” won the Bernard Cohen Fiction Prize. Largely autobiographical, it glimpses the life of “the bird girl,” a twelve-year-old Texan, who has hundreds of birds which she breeds, trains and loves. She also has wild pets, in particular one redwing blackbird that follows her around outdoors and perches on her head and shoulders. The story focuses on a day and an evening in which she feels more than the usual pressure to be more like other girls her age.
The story appears in a heavy tome of stories written by other unusual Texans. The editor, Dr. Billy Bob, I met at a BBQ house in Denton, back when Denton was still more of an outpost than a suburb, where there was a huge stuff bear rearing up near our table. He, Billy Bob not the bear, wore an enormous cowboy hat and was most charming and erudite. (See book cover.)
In Texas Short Stories
(Browder Springs, 1997), 364-373.