The Rat Race - Part II

The Rat Race - Part II - by P.K.Odendaal - October 2014.

In the previous article I have dwelt briefly on our quest to reach the stars, and in this one I will try to acquire some perspective on which stars are reachable and which not, as well the seemingly endless routes we need to follow to find one which will lead us thence.

I often ponder freedom and try to become clear in my mind as to what it actually is. What does it consist of, what are its symptoms and how does that infection spread? What is its prognosis and how does the disease inflame the mind? Is there a cure for that malady? In history, almost all groups seeking freedom have ended up in bondage and even slavery.

The more I think about it, the less I understand it, and the less I can fathom its secrets. So much so that, for me, and I think for most people on this planet, it has become an unreachable star. And then I came to the sobering conclusion that reaching the real stars are much more attainable than reaching freedom.

Are there other unreachable stars? I can think of many. Apart from those which are iterated in the song quoted in the previous part, there are many others. One other is trying to understand who I am and why I am here and why I am doing this. Presently this is an unreachable star and I think it will remain unreachable in our domain.

So, while we are pondering these races, lets us look at a few. There are many types and many turn out to be different from what they seem to be. Some leave us in confusion and some take us down the garden path. Some seem to be infinite and turn out to be finite and reachable and others again the other way round.

I must however qualify my definition of race. Our race was supposed to be a journey as life is a journey, but in the past century we have taken our need for speed up to previous incomprehensible levels, and we have even made a rat race of life's journey - not very nice Peter. The rat race is indeed an unreachable star, since I have never heard of anybody who has ever won that race. So, why are we all running this rat race which is unreachable and we neglect the more satisfying reachable stars available to us?

To give our enquiry some theoretical content, I need to show you some seemingly simple reachable stars which turn out to be totally unreachable, and who better to lead us into that discussion than Lewis Carroll, in 'What the Tortoise said to Achilles' - written in April 1895 (abstract only). Apart from the instructional value of this dialogue, it is also quite fun to read:

Tortoise:      Well now, would you like to hear of a race-course, that most people fancy they can get to the end of in two or three steps, while it really consists of an infinite number of distances, each one longer than the previous one?”

Achilles:      "Very much indeed!" said the Grecian warrior, as he drew from his helmet (few Grecian warriors possessed pockets in those days) an enormous note-book and a pencil. "Proceed! And speak slowly, please! Shorthand isn’t invented yet!"

Tortoise:      "That beautiful First Proposition of Euclid!" the Tortoise murmured dreamily. "You admire Euclid?"

Achilles:      "Passionately! So far, at least, as one can admire a treatise that won’t be published for some centuries to come!"

Tortoise:      "Well, now, let’s take a little bit of the argument in that First Proposition—just two steps, and the conclusion drawn from them. Kindly enter them in your notebook. And in order to refer to them conveniently, let’s call them A, B, and Z:

(A) Things that are equal to the same are equal to each other.

(B) The two sides of this Triangle are things that are equal to the same.

(Z) The two sides of this Triangle are equal to each other.

"Readers of Euclid will grant, I suppose, that Z follows logically from A and B, so that anyone who accepts A and B as true, must accept Z as true?"

Achilles:      "Undoubtedly! The youngest child in a High School—as soon as High Schools are invented, which will not be till some two thousand years later - will grant that."

Tortoise:      "And if some reader had not yet accepted A and B as true, he might still accept the sequence as a valid one, I suppose?"

Achilles:      "No doubt such a reader might exist. He might say ‘I accept as true the Hypothetical Proposition that, if A and B be true, Z must be true; but, I don’t accept A and B as true.’ Such a reader would do wisely in abandoning Euclid, and taking to football."

Tortoise:      "And might there not also be some reader who would say ‘I accept A and B as true, but I don’t accept the Hypothetical ‘?"

Achilles:      "Certainly there might. He, also, had better take to football."

Tortoise:      "And neither of these readers," the Tortoise continued, "is as yet under any logical necessity to accept Z as true?"

Achilles:      "Quite so," Achilles assented.

Tortoise:      "Well, now, I want you to consider me as a reader of the second kind, and to force me, logically, to accept Z as true."

Achilles:      "A tortoise playing football would be - " Achilles was beginning

Tortoise:      "- an anomaly, of course," the Tortoise hastily interrupted. "Don’t wander from the point. Let’s have Z first, and football afterwards!"

Achilles:      "I’m to force you to accept Z, am I?" Achilles said musingly. "And your present position is that you accept A and B, but you don’t accept the Hypothetical -"

Tortoise:      "Let’s call it C," said the Tortoise.

Achilles:      "— but you don’t accept (C) If A and B are true, Z must be true. "

Tortoise:      "That is my present position," said the Tortoise.

Achilles:      "Then I must ask you to accept C."

Tortoise:      "I’ll do so," said the Tortoise, "as soon as you’ve entered it in that notebook of yours. What else have you got in it?"

Achilles:      "Only a few memoranda," said Achilles, nervously fluttering the leaves: "a few memoranda of—of the battles in which I have distinguished myself!"

Tortoise:      "Plenty of blank leaves, I see!" the Tortoise cheerily remarked. "We shall need them all!" (Achilles shuddered.) "Now write as I dictate: -

(A) Things that arc equal to the same are equal to each other.

(B) The two sides of this Triangle are things that are equal to the same.

(C) If A and B are true, Z must be true.

(Z) The two sides of this Triangle are equal to each other."

Achilles:      "You should call it D, not Z," said Achilles. "It comes next to the other three. If you accept A and B and C, you must accept Z."

Tortoise:      "And why must I?"

Achilles:      "Because it follows logically from them. If A and B and C are true, Z must be true. You don’t dispute that, I imagine?"

Tortoise:      "If A and B and C are true, Z must be true," the Tortoise thoughtfully repeated. "That’s another Hypothetical, isn’t it? And, if I failed to see its truth, I might accept A and B and C’, and still not accept Z. mightn’t I?"

Achilles:      "You might," the candid hero admitted; "though such obtuseness would certainly be phenomenal. Still, the event is possible. So I must ask you to grant one more Hypothetical."

Tortoise:      "Very good. I’m quite willing to grant it, as soon as you’ve written it down. We will call it

(D) If A and B and C are true, Z must be true.

"Have you entered that in your notebook?"

Achilles:      "I have!" Achilles joyfully exclaimed, as he ran the pencil into its sheath.

"And at last we’ve got to the end of this ideal race-course! Now that you accept A and B and C and D, of course you accept Z."

Tortoise:      "Do I?" said the Tortoise innocently. "Let’s make that quite clear. I accept A and B and C and D. Suppose I still refused to accept Z?"

Achilles:      "Then Logic would force you to do it!" Achilles triumphantly replied.

"Logic would tell you ‘You can’t help yourself. Now that you’ve accepted A and B and C and D, you must accept Z!’ So you’ve no choice, you see."

Tortoise:      "Whatever Logic is good enough to tell me is worth writing down," said the Tortoise. "So enter it in your book, please. We will call it

(E) If A and B and C and D are true, Z must be true. Until I’ve granted that, of course I needn’t grant Z. So it’s quite a necessary step, you see?"

Achilles:      "I see," said Achilles; and there was a touch of sadness in his tone.

Here narrator, having pressing business at the Bank, was obliged to leave the happy pair, and did not again pass the spot until some months afterwards. When he did so, Achilles was still seated on the back of the much-enduring Tortoise, and was writing in his note-book, which appeared to be nearly full. The Tortoise was saying, "Have you got that last step written down? Unless I’ve lost count, that makes a thousand and one. There are several millions more to come. And would you mind, as a personal favour, considering what a lot of instruction this colloquy of ours will provide for the Logicians of the Nineteenth Century—would you mind adopting a pun that my cousin the Mock-Turtle will then make, and allowing yourself to be re-named Taught - Us?"

"As you please!" replied the weary warrior, in the hollow tones of despair, as he buried his face in his hands   ....


Now let us look at a reachable star - a real physical one ... let us say Sirius, the brightest star in the night sky and about 8.6 light years away from us. We can get there by teleportation or telepathy or super-conduction - take your pick. By the first it will take us 8.6 years and by the second it will be immediate. Well ... both these times are finite and comprehensible - so it is a reachable star. In fact Sirius consist of two stars, we just need to select which one we wish to go to beforehand, lest we land on the wrong one. Of course, our present mode of transport is still too slow and although it will now take us a few millennia, it is still finite and comprehensible. However, our maximum travel speed has increased exponentially over the past century, and our almost forgotten race for the moon will ultimately end up as a race for the stars.

Teleportation is the transfer of matter from one point to another without traversing the physical space between the points.

This next race seems to be a 'Journey of one hundred feet' and then turns out to be a journey of a few years. I give you a summary of that excellent film with that name. An Indian family opened a possibly second rate restaurant over the street to a very renowned and famous restaurant. The chef of this Indian family yearns for the success and business acumen of the famous restaurant. In the end it turns out that he needs to become a world famous chef taking him a few years and he then ends up as the owner of the famous restaurant. The one hundred feet journey takes him many miles away to Paris, a world famous restaurant, world famous tuition, recipes and skills to ultimately return to finish that journey.

So, why are we so confused over these races?

In our spirit or in the metaphysical world, there are no limits to any race. I am not speculating. What I say here is possible in a comprehensible and an all-encompassing theory - something like the Grand Unified Theory we are all looking forward to discover, but it is out there and has eluded us until now.

The problem is that scientists of today cannot find the GUT (Grand Unified Theory) - in simple terms, the Mother of all theories which will bind all we know into one comprehensible theory. The reason is that they are looking in the wrong place or at least looking in confined spaces. Theoretical physics is exactly what the name implies - looking at theories of physical things. Well... that is a very confined space if you ask me. Just as a traffic jam cannot be found in the glove compartment of a car, so the GUT cannot be found in the physical domain. It has to be tackled more globally or is that universally - in all possible spaces or domains.