Binocular viewing


Loren’s comment yesterday put some issues in relief for me. He responded to an aspect of what I wrote that I had thought of as a background bit– considerations of the past as narrated vs, experienced. Writing on the internet for many years now, I have come to appreciate that every reading of someone else’s words is truly unique. The person you’re reading isn’t you. In fact, part of the fun of putting all my old crap back online is that my old writings aren’t me either. The me that wrote those things doesn’t exist anymore. There are similarities between him and the person typing today, but we aren’t the same. In some ways, as I go back to keyword them I might not like that person at all.

That post seems very chaotic to me now. I thought I had a point, but it took a long time to find it. It actually began when I was thinking about tubes and writing about why I really want to build more gear that uses them. One reason why is that they are easier than solid state circuits in terms of complexity and fussiness. I have a little IC amp I want to build, and one look at the PC board told me that I had better get a binocular microscope to check my soldering since my eyes are not as good as they once were at picking out tiny details.

Particularly with “comprehensive usage” (sic), technology does increase our knowledge of the world. The correlative point, however, is that  it often stands as a barrier which isolates us from the things we’d like to know. Technology facilitates gaps and distortions, particularly when applied to the problems of memory. Language is a technology. Translation is a complex affair, and it is naive to think of a static “message” (or point) moving from place to place. The places it leaves from, as well as the destinations it arrives at, are always moving. The world (and ourselves) are not the same across time.

The primary lesson of tube technology is that lower distortion isn’t always better. Tubes are frequently far more engaging to listen to than solid state. The distortion with solid state devices are orders of magnitude lower, but music often just sounds better through glowing tubes. Ask any electric guitar player. The sound is quite different, and though you can always chalk it up to “taste” there are reasons why a technology over a hundred years old persists — the sound is involving and fun.

Some distortions are more euphonious than others. Loren’s reading of what I had written so clumsily was a case in point. I have no problem with it. I have been less lucky in the past. The cacophony of the internet often drowns out the slightest kernel of civility with echoed distortions considered by their contributors as “feedback.”

If we accept that all communication is distorted and that all technologies used to further/preserve that communication are flawed, where does that leave us? I think it leaves us searching for the most pleasing forms of distortion, such as tidy stories with easily digested morals.

But, with binocular vision we can see more depth in those things we choose to examine.