Saturday, April 30, 2016

Personal Responsibility and Personal Time


It might seem strange to write about time from the point of view of responsibility, but that is what I will attempt to do.

A person's sense of self has a direct relationship with their past and how that past is remembered. Who you are is the sum of your past behavior, past events, past achievements and failures.

People who avoid taking responsibility have a problematic relation to their own past. I don't believe that most of them think they are lying -- they would tell you they just remember things differently. But this memory is often a bit fuzzy or distorted. To avoid responsibility they must blur the past, smudge the details because it is those details that reveal the truth. Consequently the sharp edges of reality are lost. And after many years, the ability to remember things with clarity is no longer available to them.

I have noticed that people who avoid responsibility have a kind of 'out of focus' memory. They often say things such as what occurred was "just an accident" or even more telling, they often say, "it just happened." Saying it "just happened" puts the blame on no one and makes an event appear to be out of anyone's control. It was just fate; it was just one of those things. Without realizing it they may also lapse into passive voice such as the famous Watergate phrase by the Nixon administration, "Mistakes were made." 

These people are not quite connecting with world we live in; they are keeping reality at arm's-length. In order to protect themselves, they deny any culpability. But they have, unknowingly, made a deal with the devil. If you don't take responsibility, then you cannot learn from your mistakes, and if you can't learn then you can't grow. So often these people are quite childish and assume it is 'adults' who are responsible but not them -- and I am talking about childish people of any age.

Oddly, taking responsibility is the best way to find true freedom. This is because you quickly learn after taking on tasks you don't like, what to avoid and what is worth committing to. And when you do eventually commit to something you like, through thick or thin, you may experience one of life's deepest joys. 

These irresponsible people are often intelligent and quite good at avoiding accountability. They instead blame their father, their mother, an abusive school, or an unfortunate upbringing for any failings. And while there may be some truth to this -- at some point every person who grows up needs to accept responsibility for who they are and take charge of their personality no matter what forces shaped them up to that point.

But the intelligence of non-responsible people, which could have been used to gain insight and wisdom, is instead, dedicated to making sure they are never blamed for anything. This takes a lot of psychic energy and further erodes their personality.

Also because they are so good at evading responsibility, they often assume others are doing the same. Since they blur reality, they are sure everyone else does too. So they can be quite difficult to deal with. 

They think they have gotten off scot-free but instead have paid a terrible price.

Quite simply they need to 'own' their actions and not tell themselves stories. Unfortunately I  believe most think they are telling the truth; I think that they filter (to use the computer phrase) their memory of the past so that it is to their advantage and after a while believe their own fictions.

In my experience I have found this lack of responsibility to be much more common than I would have imagined when I was taking psychology classes in college. For example, I suspect it plays a role in most psychological Personality Disorders.

But there is another side to this issue. There are also people who take on other's responsibilities as their own. And often it is the responsibilities of these very same people I've been talking about. This is equally bad. A realistic view of the world requires that you be accountable for your actions but not for the actions of others. So this too is a distortion.

Ideally each of us, say in our late teens or early twenties, needs to find a balance: we need to take responsibility for our own actions and learn when to take on or not take on the burdens of others. Yet this balance can be learned at any age. This is not an easy or simple process, but it is essential for growth.

The psychologist Erikson postulated that there are eight stages of psychosocial development which are encountered at different ages. Each stage requires finding a balance. I would suggest that understanding responsibility would also fit with his concepts. 

Perhaps one of the best descriptions of irresponsible behavior comes at the end of The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald.

Here is the background for the following quote about a married couple, Tom and Daisy: 
Driving Gatsby's car Daisy accidentally kills a woman in a hit and run -- driving off quickly hoping never to be caught. Tom lets the woman's husband believe it was Gatsby who was driving the car. As a result the husband kills Gatsby and then kills himself. Then Tom and Daisy abruptly leave with no forwarding address or anyway to find them.

The narrator of the novel writes:  
I couldn’t forgive him  [ED: Tom] or like him, but I saw that what he had done was, to him, entirely justified. It was all very careless and confused. They were careless people, Tom and Daisy — they smashed up things and creatures and then retreated back into their money or their vast carelessness, or whatever it was that kept them together, and let other people clean up the mess they had made. . . .

Thursday, March 31, 2016

My Education Interferes With My Learning

My Education Interferes with My Learning

The only thing that interferes with my learning is my education.
Albert Einstein
I recently watched the PBS Nova program about the Antikythera Mechanism, the geared device found on a Roman ship that sank around 100 BCE. While this device was discovered in 1900, it took another fifty years before it was taken seriously. And it has only been in the last ten years that we have begun to understand its remarkable sophistication. 

The Antikythera Mechanism as it was found 
and there were also a number of fragments. (

It turns out it is an ancient Greek analog calculator that could predict eclipses (the Saros cycle) and calculate the Metonic cycle which reconciled the lunar cycle with solar years to keep the calendar in sync. Plus it could calculate the complex movement of the moon "around the ecliptic in a 8.88 year cycle (Wikipedia)" and also, it is speculated, replicate the movement of the planets. 

X-Rays revealed a complex set of interlocking gears.  (

It is now seen as an ancient computer and perhaps the most sophisticated device of classical antiquity -- one that changes our study of history.

The Antikythera Mechanism means that the Greeks who built it had reduced time to a mathematical and geometric formula and in addition put those concepts into a geared machine that could also predict the future such as eclipses. This is a major leap toward the modern concept of time.

Yet although all of this is quite fascinating, there is another aspect to this story that I find even more intriguing.

When this device was dredged up from the Roman shipwreck along with many other items such as sculptures in 1900, it went unnoticed for two years. When it was finally noticed by the archaeologist Valerios Stais, he believed it was an astronomical clock -- an intuition which proved to be correct.  However, most experts assumed it was an anomaly. The thinking of educated people at the time was that any such geared device was too advanced for the age of the ancient vessel so it must have somehow ended up on the ship accidentally. As a result nobody examined the device further for another 50 years.
On 17th May 1902, archaeologist Valerios Stais was examining the finds and noticed that one of the pieces of rock had a gear wheel embedded in it. Stais initially believed it was an astronomical clock, but most scholars considered the device to be prochronistic, too complex to have been constructed during the same period as the other pieces that had been discovered. Investigations into the object were soon dropped...
It was not until the 1950s that  Derek J. de Solla Price, a professor of the History of Science at Yale, took a long look at the device and realized that it deserved a full investigation. He X-rayed the corroded metal to reveal the hidden gearing underneath. His investigations opened the door to a full study of the device which now finally, with state-of-the-art 3-D X-ray equipment, have begun to be revealed. 

Derek de Solla Price with his recreation of the Antikythera Mechanism.  (

The mechanism consists of a complex system of 30 wheels and plates with inscriptions relating to signs of the zodiac, months, eclipses and pan-Hellenic games. The study of the fragments suggests that this was a kind of astrolabe. The interpretation now generally accepted dates back to studies by Professor w:en:Derek de Solla Price, who was the first to suggest that the mechanism is a machine to calculate the solar and lunar calendar, that is to say, an ingenious machine to determine the time based on the movements of the sun and moon, their relationship (eclipses) and the movements of other stars and planets known at that time. Later research by the Antikythera Mechanism Research Project and scholar Michael Wright has added to and improved upon Price's work.  

To me this is a classic tale of people's preconceptions and their education interfering with knowledge and understanding. For example, what were the odds of such a device accidentally falling into an ancient sunken ship?

I have written about this before. When the 'caveman' paintings in the Cave at Altamira were first discovered, they were not taken seriously and the man who discovered them was accused of fraud, even though none of his educated accusers had gone into the cave and looked at the paintings. It was not until twenty years later, when a number of other caves with prehistoric paintings had been discovered, that his accusers admitted they were wrong.

See my two blogs about this:

With the Antikythera Mechanism I see the same dynamic at work. When it was first discovered, calculators were uncommon, so educated scholars could not make the leap that it could be an ancient calculator. Yet by the 1950s modern calculating devices and our awareness of computers -- the first commercial computer the UNIVAC became available in 1951 and was used to predict the outcome of the presidential election -- were almost commonplace. With this new perspective, historians could then look at an ancient device and recognize that it could be a complex calculator. 

Now admittedly understanding the nature of this mechanism and the paintings at Altamira required a leap. In the case of the paintings it meant rethinking our understanding of prehistoric humans and stone age culture and in the case of the Antikythera Mechanism, rethinking our ideas about the sophistication of ancient Greek science.  

A similar dynamic takes place with experimentation. A scientist who experiments but has a high expectation of a certain result will not be receptive to results that do not fit his or her theory.

Men who have excessive faith in their theories or ideas are not only ill prepared for
making discoveries; they also make very poor observations. Of necessity, they
observe with a preconceived idea, and when they devise an experiment, they can
see, in its results, only a confirmation of their theory. In this way they distort
observations and often neglect very important facts because they do not further
their aim.
Bernard, Claude. An Introduction to the Study of Experimental Medicine (1865).
New York: Dover Publications, Inc., 1957.  

As Einstein pointed out many times in his writing, logic is a poor tool when faced with this kind of discovery. 

The intuitive mind is a sacred gift and the rational mind is a faithful servant.
We have created a society that honors the servant and has forgotten the gift.
Albert Einstein

Now to use the old expression, I feel strongly about this because I, personally, do have a dog in this fight. 

As I have written, I believe the passageway at the Passage Tomb in Newgrange Ireland -- that everyone now (finally) agrees is aligned with the rising sun on the day of the winter solstice-- is a precise instrument that was equal to and possibly superior to the science of the Greeks and Romans. I say this because I believe it could indicate the exact day of the winter solstice in real time which the science of the Greeks and Romans could not. 

Detailed drawing of Newgrange passage showing the precise placement of stones and the shaft of solstice light. Used with permission: 


My point in a way is very simple. Modern humans for 200k years have always been intelligent and used their resources in a sophisticated manner -- given their technology at the time. Neolithic people built a precise solstice device for a simple reason, they felt they needed to know the exact day the solstice occurred -- perhaps to reset their calendar and also for ritual purposes. This was not as important to the Greeks and Romans. They could calculate the day of the winter solstice after the fact, but did not feel a need to know on the actual day when it occurred. 

If what I am saying is true, it will change our perception of Neolithic people and our understanding of the complexity of their culture. 

Yet when I proposed this idea and posted it on various sites related to Neolithic study, it has been almost automatically rejected, due to our current assumptions about the skills of Neolithic culture. 

Yet this is an idea that can be tested. An accurate computer model of Newgrange using GPS and laser scanning along with a computer simulation of the rising winter solstice sun adjusted for the time when Newgrange was built should prove or disprove this theory. 

I anxiously await the day when funds and a research team will be available to do this.

Saturday, February 27, 2016

Why Great Art Is Great, Using Shakespeare's Macbeth As An Example

The Power Of Great Art
A work of art is great 
it is compelling 
but not because 
it has a clear meaning -- 
since it is often understood
by other cultures
and other generations

See the gallery of 30 pictures from Shakespeare's Macbeth 
created during the years 1768-2012 at the bottom of this blog.

This blog is about the human experience of time. So in this article I will cover what, in a sense, is timeless in the human world.

When I was in college, getting my degree in English, teacher after teacher would explain why a work of art was great. With a tone of certainty they would list all the reasons.

In the 1960s Freudian interpretations were popular and many literary works were seen through a psychological perspective. This approach was often so heavy handed we all learned the joking phrase, "Well, sometimes a cigar is just a cigar."

Others interpreted works with a Jungian or symbolic slant. When I was in the honors program for creative writing at UNC-Chapel Hill, we were told that Eudora Welty had once been asked if the sudden appearance of marble cake in one of her short stories was a reference to the yin-yang symbol, the two complimentary sides of life. Her reply was simple, "I just like marble cake." 

In my senior year I became quite irritated with academic explanations. Teachers taught a work of art was great because it involved universal themes, archetypes, fundamental conflicts etc. -- all of which were true, of course, but something basic was missing. It took me years to understand just what that was.

I began by thinking in reverse. Suppose I wrote a novel that had all the elements a great novel must have, would that mean that my novel was great? Of course not. Very few works of art seem to grab us and hold our attention decade after decade, century after century. So there had to be something more -- and quite fundamental.    

There are no facts, only interpretations.

I now believe a work of art is great because, in a sense, it cannot be explained for all time. A work of art is like raw experience or raw nature.
What that man creates by means of reason 
will pale before the art of inspired beings. 
~ Plato ~
Thomas De Quincey said in 1823 that Shakespeare's plays
were a "phenomena of nature, like the sun and the sea, the stars and the flowers."

Each generation -- and also different cultures -- find they are fascinated by a particular story or music or imagery or poetry, but each may see it quite differently from the way it was seen originally. And each will interpret it through their own particular prism. 

This is to be expected. The view point of each is different. Yet great art contains a timeless core that is compelling no matter how much a culture changes and no matter what the era.
A work of art is great because
it can be seen differently
and still retain its power.

I believe great literature should be taught not only with today's understanding, but also with an historical perspective that includes various interpretations from the past. This method would allow students to consider different approaches and as a result think in greater depth about the meaning of a work.


To make my point, I researched a number of images from performances of Shakespeare's Macbeth. For 400 years this play has held our attention, and today seems more popular than ever. The following pictures are in chronological order. In them you will see a wide variety of interpretations starting in the 1700s right up to a few years ago. In addition you will notice that Macbeth has been performed in the non-English-speaking world as well. 

You can find these pictures and many more at: 

To find out more about each individual picture below, click on LINK.

I found these images on so that I could publish them in this blog without any copyright problems, but these pictures are just the tip of the iceberg as this play has been performed by hundreds of theater groups over that last four centuries.
In addition to theater productions there have been 24 films made since 1908:

From the First Folio of Shakespeare's plays published in 1623

1768 England -- Painting of famous actors as Macbeth and Lady Macbeth   LINK

1786 London, England -- Painting of two famous actors as Macbeth and Lady Macbeth   LINK

1784 England -- Painting of Lady Macbeth sleepwalking   LINK

1785 England -- Engraving of the witches   LINK

1786 England -- Engraving of Macbeth seeing the witches  LINK 

1812 England -- Painting of famous actors as Macbeth and Lady Macbeth  LINK

1824 England -- Watercolor of the witches   LINK

1832 England -- Colored engraving of Lady Macbeth   LINK

1838 England -- Famous actor playing Macduff   LINK

1855 Boston, United States -- Boston Theater   LINK

1888 London, England -- Photo of a famous actress as Lady Macbeth   LINK

1933 Harlem, New York, NY -- Voodoo Macbeth   LINK

1948 Film, Orson Welles as Macbeth    LINK

Contemporary high school production, United States -- Macbeth with the witches   LINK

2005 United States -- Processed photo of Lady Macbeth   LINK

 Non-English Speaking Productions and Images 
 of Macbeth 
 in chronological order 

1787 Berlin, Germany -- Painting of a famous actor as Macbeth    LINK

1819.Italy -- A ballet performance with a Frenchman as Macbeth   LINK

1850 Italy -- Poster for Verdi's opera based on Macbeth   LINK

1855 -- Macbeth and Banquo come upon the witches, painting by a French painter    LINK

1855 -- Ghost of Banquo, painting by a French painter   LINK

1892 France -- Painting of Sarah Bernhardt as Lady Macbeth 
in a French language production    LINK

 1916 Prague, Czechoslovakia -- Photo of a famous Czech actress as Lady Macbeth    LINK

1933 Poland -- Pastel of Macbeth and Lady Macbeth  LINK

1930s Azerbaijani actor playing Macbeth   LINK

1945 Berlin, Germany -- Photo of two famous actors (in the year of Germany's defeat)   LINK

2009 Slovenia -- Photo during performance of Lady Macbeth   LINK

2012 Tunisia -- Photo during performance   LINK


While today there are perhaps seven different standard ways to interpret Macbeth, there are many other variations. 

I have seen a film performance in which Macbeth was a member of the mob (Men of Respect)  and also read about Macbeth depicted as a VP in a corporation as was done in 2015 in Bend, Oregon.

From the Japanese film, a Samurai version entitled Throne of Blood, to a low-budget film adaption called Teenage Gang Debs which involved a  girl who got her biker lover to kill the head of the gang and so take over, there have been many interpretations.

Nevertheless there is still plenty of room for other ways to present this play. For example, the marriage of Lady Macbeth and Macbeth was called by Harold Bloom "the best marriage in Shakespeare." So the focus and tragedy of the play could be the dissolution of a marriage rather than simply the fall of an ambitious man. 

I am sure there are many other possible interpretations. In the future there will probably be many more that I cannot imagine. 

And that's why this is a great work of art.

Friday, January 22, 2016

Index-Overview: 3 Years of DeconstructingTime

 Index-Overview of This Blog 
 Over the Last 3 Years 

In December 2015 over 30,000 pageviews had been recorded at this DeconstructingTime blog during the last 3 years or 10,000 page views per year.

More than half of these pageviews came from outside the United States from over 100+ countries. Here are the top 10 in the order of numbers of pages viewed: France, Russia, Ukraine, Germany, United Kingdom, Canada, India, Australia, Poland. Altogether this blog has been seen by people from more than half of the countries in the world. 

The following is an Index and Overview of the 50 blogs I have published and the various themes that I have discussed during the last 3 years.












Saturday, December 12, 2015

New Blog by Rick Doble:

New Blog by Rick Doble:

In addition to writing this blog, DeconstructingTime, I have started a new weekly blog that consists of just a few words with imagery. Posted once a week on the weekend, this is a blog of very short words, about 20-30 words, along with a number of related pictures, paintings and photographs. 

Beginning now through early February, I will be featuring short poetry about the nature of time on -- so these works in particular should be of interest to readers of this blog: DeconstructingTime. 

If you go to now you will find 14 of these haiku-like picture-poems already posted. Right now, for example, you will find a poem with this stunning image, from the annual Mummer's Parade in Philadelphia -- a centuries old tradition that speaks to the human experience of time. 

A New Year's Day mummer's costume and performance from the Mummers Parade in Philadelphia. Mummery, which is associated with Christmas, has been in existence since the early 1800s. Yet Mummery in various forms is an old tradition that goes back almost a thousand years. Groups that participate in the parade often spend a year designing and creating their outfits. You can see the new 2016 Philadelphia parade streamed live on your computer starting at 10 AM EST on January 1, 2016. ( 
Here is what I wrote about these works on my Haiku-like blog:
I will be exploring the short form of poetry in this blog -- also known as micropoetry. My goal is to make these poems as powerful as much longer lyric poetry. These will often be accompanied by images or photographs as I am also a photographer. Like Nietzsche I want to say in about 20 or 30 words what others take hundreds of words to say. I have been writing such poems now for over 20 years and my work has been published in several Haiku publications.
After working with this genre for four months, I find that the mixture of a few words accompanied by several strong photographs or paintings can have a powerful effect. It is as though the pictures fill in and add to the meaning of the few words I have chosen. I look forward to working in this format for many years to come.

You can also find my work through these hashtags
on Twitter and elsewhere: