About a year ago, for some misguided reason, I decided it would be a good idea to blog my way through a big book called Gödel, Escher, Bach, one post per week for all of 2015. Since this time of year is rife with retrospective listicles (I recommend Chewychunks‘), here’s my humble contribution.
1.) The book was more digestible than I was expecting – Sure, there were some parts that were tough to get through, but, on balance, Hofstader’s writing is lucid and quirky. GEB is as much a study in the clear articulation of abstract ideas as it is about computing and consciousness.
2.) The Seinfeld Technique works – So does the commitment device of public self-induced shame. A few posts may have been short and lame, but I managed to get something, anything, up by 11:59PM every Saturday. Hofstader’s Achilles says it best: “It’s a strict regimen, but it pays off.”
3.) Art is weird and that’s ok. In another unexpected turn, some of my favorite posts to write turned out to fall under the “Escher” category. I’ve found myself rewatching the videos featured in “My Kid Could Do That” and “Metaphysics of Notation“. They’ve changed how I think about places like the Hirschorn
4.) Quaerendo Invenietis – Hofstader invokes this latin aphorism in his initial description of Bach’s Musical Offering, two movements of which use the phrase as a subtitle. The translation:”Seek and ye shall find”. It turned into a nice slogan for this project, which I’d originally thought of as mapping closely to the book itself. Instead, I ran out of book material about halfway through, and found myself in DeepDream, the Robot Apocalypse, and that stupid dress.
5.) There is (almost) always another level – Gödelian paradoxes aside, truly rare is the situation that can’t be stepped back from and considered from a wider perspective. Hofstadter only concretely mentions this a few times, but it’s a pervasive theme that keeps sneaking back into both his dialogs and prose throughout the whole work. His gentle reminders in the book have made it easier for me to remember to do this outside the book. It’s vastly improved my year.
Now what? With one year fully complete, I won’t be continuing the non-negotiable weekly posting schedule in 2016. I will leave the site up and continue to add new content if it seems timely.
And that’s it. I wish there was a profound conclusion to conveniently wrap this all up, but I don’t have one. Even if I did, it’s probably most for a project inspired by Strange Loops to end more messily. The best I can do is to let Achilles say it for me.
“I don’t mind admitting that, as I pondered the idea, my thoughts got more and more tangled, and in the end I really didn’t know what I thought. But this idea…it boggles the mind.”