Monday, 10 October 2016

On Relevance and Irrelevance

For my brother and my father...

Time marches on, we must not waste it. Not waste it in futile action, nor futile thought.

Futile thought - irrelevance. In my late-20s, I learnt the habit of intercepting irrelevant trains of thought that were going nowhere and stop them in their tracks. Silly thoughts, vaguely amusing to toy with for a while, but ultimately not taking me to a new level. I learnt this habit after my brother taught me to think at the meta-level - to think about what you're thinking. [Today this has become known as mindfulness.] Irrelevant trains of thought that bog down the brain, distract and drag one away from life's search for meaning and purpose - catch yourself thinking them and stop them.

A few weeks ago, on a day far sunnier than today, I sat atop the ballast mountain across the tracks on ul. Kórnicka and pondered the relevance of matter. It was one of those thoughts that come to me, unbidden. The relevance of matter. Matter - as opposed to energy. The M in E=mc² , where c is the speed of light, the speed of causality, the speed at which all things unfold. The electron shell whizzes around the nucleus, perpetually, and inside the nucleus - particles. Which possess mass.

Above: the equation E=mc², depicted in a mural in the booking hall of Gliwice station.


What is Hashem trying to tell me? The relevance of matter...? 

I look.

Wiktionary... Relevance, n. Pertinence. I check Pertinence... n. Relevance.

Not useful. Now, I turn to Wikipedia. Ah! Now to the meat. Relevance... [click here] So then. "Relevance is the concept of one topic being connected to another topic in a way that makes it useful to consider the first topic when considering the second."

Now, the relevance of matter (one topic). It must be relevant to something... to another topic. What is that topic? Purpose? If matter has no relevance, it become irrelevant, at least in a philosophical sense.

Because matter exists, it must be here for a reason, rather than it just happened.

Relevant in Polish? Istotny, stosowny, odnośny, trafny, związany z tematem, suggests Google Translate. The first suggestion offered is the best - istotny - from istota - or being, gist, entity, substance. Language seeks meaning for observed phenomena. Matter we can see and touch. It is. But what does it mean, and what is its purpose?

Once again, the Goy's Teeth scene from the Coen Brothers' greatest film, A Serious Man needs to be watched, to give you that wondrous sense of 'neither and both at the same time'.

This time last year:
Apple time down south of Warsaw

This time two years ago:
Poland gets anglicised as Britain gets polonised

This time three years ago:
Ale, architecture and city politics

This time four years ago:
The pros and cons of roadside acoustic screens

This time five years ago:
Moaning about trains again

This time six years ago:
Warsaw street names - Dolna, Polna, Rolna, Wolna, Smolna. Lost?

This time eight years ago:
Ditches, landscapes, autumn

This time nine years ago:
Golden autumn in Łazienki park


Jacek Koba said...

Uncertainty makes everything relevant.

The uncertainty of negotiating a safe passage past a bunch of yobs makes a stone you pass by the roadside relevant. The US elections were not relevant to many people in Europe a few years ago. Not today, when our future is uncertain.

And here are the heavy guns:

Death is very certain, so by that standard everything else irrelevant. But don't come away with this thought! Try this: life is uncertain, which makes everything around us relevant.

Michael Dembinski said...

@ Jacek Koba

Masterfully put. I was hoping for a comment from you on this post!