Victor Pelevin on Myths and Meaning

Via The Helmet of Horror

“[…] if a mind is like a computer,

perhaps myths are its shell programs:

sets of rules that we follow in our world processing,

mental matrices we project onto complex events to endow them with meaning. […]”


The “Why is there something rather than nothing?” question from another perspective.

I guess it all depends on what “is” is? Doesn’t it?

Another good reason to Think Context: How well do we know how we felt/feel about something?

Imagine this:

You get to do a really repetitive,simple and boring task, then you are given $5 to tell someone, also waiting to do the task, that the task was not boring. Now imagine the following, instead of $5, you get payed $100 to do the same thing….

How does this change how you feel about the task?

“Well,” you might say, “young chap, this doesn’t alter how I feel or felt about such endeavors, after all, I am a gentleman and a scholar who knows that a boring task is a boring task and that’s it. Cup o’ tea?” Well… Actually…

It turns out that if you get payed $5 and tell the other guy that the task was not that bad, you actually start to believe that the task was not that boring, while if you get payed $100 and tell the guy that the task was not that bad, you don’t believe it yourself. The idea behind this is that you get to fool yourself into believing the task was not that boring because you experience cognitive dissonance, since you are holding two psychologically incompatible thoughts. In this case: the task is boring and a “bad reason to lie” ($5) or a “good reason to lie” ($100).

You see, you feel the need to reduce this dissonance to make you feel better about yourself, so that you are “not really lying for $5,” but rather you “actually did not dislike the task that much.”

Think about it…

Yeah Science!

(Festinger & Carlsmith, Cognitive consequences of forced compliance, 1959)


Notes from The Blue Book.

And so, Wittgenstein said:

” […] The question what kind of activity thinking is is analogous to this: ‘Where does thinking take place?’ […] by misunderstanding the grammar of our expressions, we are led to think of one in particular of these statements as giving the real seat of the activity of thinking. […] Thinking, one wants to say, is part of our ‘private experience’. It is not material, but an event in private consciousness. This objection is expressed in the question: ‘Could a machine think?’ I shall talk about this at a later point, and now only refer you to an analogous question: ‘Can a machine have tootache?’ […] The question is What is the relation between thinking (or toothache) and the subject which thinks, has toothache, etc.? […] I shall in the future again and again draw your attention to what I shall call language games. These are ways of using signs simpler than those in which we use the signs of our highly complicated everyday language.”

And after good ol’ Ludwig said these words, Language Games were discovered, and the whole world would never be the same.

To be continued…

Taken from: Major Works, Selected Philosophical Writings published by HarperCollins.


The Dhalang

Gideon is sitting right next to a friend of his, whom we can call Mitra. We interrupt them in the middle of a conversation; the show had begun some time ago.

“… Arjuna is a prince, one of the Pandava brothers. Krishna, an incarnation of Lord Vishnu, is his charioteer,” we hear Mitra say.

The epic develops in front of their eyes; the Dhalang sits behind the white kelir, upon which the shadows of the wayangs are projected by means of the light coming from the blencong. 

“See how each has his own movement and way of speaking. This is the work of the Dhalang. Very clever man, very skilled”

“That’s the puppeteer, right?” asked Gideon.

The shadows keep moving, synched to the sounds of the Gamelan. A certain ethereal ambiance surrounds everything.

“Ah, yes, yes,” answered Mitra, “the Dhalang.”

The dream-like atmosphere feels enhanced by soft clouds of smoke.  We hear the metallic sound of the kepyak right before the Gamelan’s pace changes.

“He makes the voices and moves the wayangs,” we hear Mitra say, “He directs the Gamelan musicians. His job is to make us laugh and cry. Very clever man. The Dhalang is more than a puppeteer.”

After a pause, Mitra added “His skill makes us believe that we see a war between two great armies, but there is no war. There is only the Dhalang.”


(With special thanks to Grant Morrison, author of the original dialogue, featured in The Invisibles. January, 1995)

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