Well, I’ve finished The Illuminatus! Trilogy (the novel, at least — I’m still working on the appendices), and in honor of that dubious accomplishment, I present this photograph of the Laguna Niguel Federal Building:
Snapped last week while trying to locate the movie theater showing Donnie Darko, just down the road from Pepsi and Wolverine.
It really makes me wish we’d had the better camera with us, though. We got a cheap one we could leave it in the car and have it for unexpected finds like this, but the image quality really is pathetic.
I’m about halfway through The Illuminatus! Trilogy, and the most apt description is, if you’ll pardon the language, a mindfuck. Once the writing settles into a coherent structure (or perhaps once the reader is attuned to it), the mind starts noticing connections. Everywhere. It’s as if it was written specifically to induce apophenia.
The most insidious part of the book(s) is the frequent use of historical or other authors’ fictional sources. “Oh, there’s Emperor Norton.” “OK, we’re back to Buckminster Fuller again.” “Hey, that’s right, ‘Tekeli-li!’ does show up in both Lovecraft and Poe.” And this constant mixing of fact with fiction, familiar with strange, and things known to be true with things which seem implausible does make you wonder: how much of this did they make up on their own, and how much did they stitch together out of real events, prior works, and creative synthesis?
After all, if you had never heard of Joshua Norton, and one day heard the story of a man who declared himself Emperor of the United States, Continue reading
As the topic has come up frequently in The Illuminatus! Trilogy (which I am reading right now), I thought I’d post a good quote I read recently about the human tendency to find patterns where none exist.
The only problem is I can’t find the quote. I don’t remember the exact phrasing, I don’t remember for certain who said it — I think it was either Neil Gaiman or Warren Ellis, but it could have been one of them quoting someone else — and I can’t even nail down enough words to get a decent search going.
Anyway, it finished up with something like “If you believe there is a vast alien conspiracy to take over the world through teddy bears, you’ll start seeing evidence of it.”
In my efforts to find the quote, though, I came across some interesting information. It turns out I’ve been misusing the word all along. I generally use it as a synonym for coincidence, or possibly to mean interesting coincidence. But synchronicity actually refers to a theory by Carl Jung that such coincidences actually have meaningful connections.
People do have a tendency to perceive order in chaos. It’s what makes us see horses in clouds, or people in mountainsides, or faces on Mars. It’s why faces on cartoon cars make more sense than faces on walls, and it’s almost certainly a factor in the popularity of numerology. I found the technical terms for this. Apophenia, or Type I error refers to seeing connections where there are none. Pareidolia refers to seeing something vague, but perceiving it as if it were something clear. I also found a very nice collection of pareidolic illusions [link gone].