Franz Kafka’s Die Verwandlung (1915), i.e. The Metamorphosis, is a novella of around seventy printed pages. Kafka writes about the life of Gregor Samsa. The book opens with Gregor waking up one morning in his parents’ home. During his sleep, he has transformed into an “ungeheuren Ungeziefer”, a sort of giant dung beetle. Kafka avoids precisely naming the creature, except that it is some sort of insect. Whatever it is, it’s something inhuman.
Great Italian inventor Leonardo da Vinci once recollected a childhood memory from the first year of his life. From the Codex Atlanticus,
“It seems that it had been destined before that I should occupy myself so thoroughly with the kite [a bird], for it comes to my mind as a very early memory, when I was still in the cradle, a kite came down to me, he opened my mouth with his tail and struck me a few times with his tail against my lips.”
Some people suffer from a rare condition called akinetopsia, which means motion blindness. These people cannot perceive moving objects the way others do. To them, moving objects appear as static objects, disappearing and reappearing in different places along their paths. For example, normal people perceive a train passing them by in one fluid motion. People with akinetopsia perceive the train as snapshots of a train ‘jumping’ from one spot to the next at certain intervals, but without movement in between. Like taking a photograph every other second.
All terrestrial vertebrate animals have four limbs (plus head and tail), except for snakes, who used to have them but lost them again through evolution. But why do they have four limbs?
Evolutionary biologists will answer the question without answering it. They will explain that terrestrial vertebrates descended from a fish-like ancestor that had four limbs. C’est tout. But this answer does not satisfy. The answer insinuates evolution works at random, with no regard for form and function, and could produce any of infinite possible outcomes.
After literature and music, fine art remains the last bastion of cultural elitism. Arguably, the centralization of paintings and sculptures by the world’s best artists in private collections has robbed society of emotional growth. How much longer will we tolerate this egotistical crime against humanity? Today, emerging internet technologies not only enable permissionless innovation but also provide tools for people to both create and copy culture in ways that cannot be censored. Like a Beethoven recording, soon everyone can own a Picasso.
Imagine, hypothetically speaking, that in the near future all native German women would give birth to four children per woman, even though they knew they could only raise and educate two of them. Perforce, because German society could no longer provide for its own people, Chancellor Merkel decides to send her surplus population to Turkey, for example, first as guest workers, then in the light of family reunion, and lastly as so-called refugees.
In On Anarchism, famed intellectual Noam Chomsky writes,
“And that’s one of the main purposes of socialism, I think: to reach a point where people have the opportunity to decide freely for themselves what their needs are, and not have the ‘choices’ forced on them by some arbitrary system of power.”1 (p. 35-36)
The historical events that gave rise to multicultural nations and cosmopolitan cities also institutionalized new and upcoming forms of social oppression, notably racism. Since people can never change their ‘race’—unlike their religion or nationality—racial discrimination both corners its victims and persecutes their offspring. But in the globalizing West, the public preoccupation with racial inequality obscures an undercurrent of failing multiculturalism. The West is in a deplorable state.
Similar to the chicken or egg problem, which came first, language or metaphor? The classic book Metaphors We Live By (1980) by Lakoff and Johnson explores how metaphors shape our understanding of the world because they help us understand one thing in terms of another. The authors provide many examples, such as Time is Money or Life is Hard. But they do not explore the origin of metaphors. What was the evolutionary advantage to think about the world in terms of metaphors?