The Hilbert Certainty Principle
Wir müssen wissen. Wir werden wissen.
We must know — we will know!
- David Hilbert (1862-1943)
Wir müssen wissen. Wir werden wissen. We Will Free Man - A planksip Literary Fiction
The Hilbert Certainty Principle
Inspired by David Hilbert (1862-1943)'s quote, "Wir müssen wissen. Wir werden wissen. (We must know — we will know!)". The titled responsion is a solidarity call to action, a movement towards irradiating ignorance.
If you have thoughts to add or comments to contribute, feel free to submit an article on the titled responsion and quote from David Hilbert. As a fictional phenomenon, Will Freeman is my creation, artificial and intelligent, generally speaking, that is.
“If you will it, it is no dream.” — Theodor Herzl (1860-1904)
Is it just me, or was quoting the man behind the State of Israel immediately after quoting a German who lived during the Nazi era a little...odd? Maybe it is just me; in all fairness to our pal Dave Hilbert (that is Hilbert, not Dilbert, by the way, so don’t be expecting any trite Scott Adams inspired office culture themed aphorisms to make any appearances throughout this write up), he was purged from the German university at which he taught (mathematics, not race science or principles of eugenics, so he’s clear on that front, too) during the expulsion of all the Jewish intellectuals and their fancy-schmancy academic colleagues, who did not share Hitler and his boys’ rabid disgust for all things kosher.
It’s a shame. Kosher salt is actually a little better for you than table salt, so perhaps they would have led healthier lives had they just given in a little. I mean, it is impossible to say; one can only make assumptions about these sorts of things — alterations to the intricately woven web of historical events. Nonetheless, I possess an inkling of suspicion that perhaps Heinrich Himmler would not have been so eager to please his Fuhrer had he tossed a few matzah balls down his gourd, or even spun the dreidel around a few times.
Alas, this is not the point of the article that I have set out to write here. Well, actually, in a kind of long-winded, tangential way, it could have a bit of a connection - such a connection, however, would be pretty damn shoddy. In the words of Walter Sobchak, there is no literal connection.
Be that as it may, and it may very well be that way, I must now don my tea-sipping essayist hat and toss my worn-out slippers into the smouldering vat of muscimol and animal fat.
Because I feel like it. And if I feel like doing something - unless that thing is morally wrong, of course - I do it. I don’t overthink it. As a matter of fact, I don’t even really think it at all. I just do it.
Like Nike. Or, to use a more lively reference (in the parlance of our times), like Shia LaBeouf (he of Even Stevens fame...or Holes if you were one of the cool kids growing up).
Because that is the only way anything that I wish to accomplish in this life will ever get done. That is one thing that is for certain - and, as we all know, nothing is for certain. Except for that. That, I am certain, is certain.
So...uh...yeah, then. I guess we can close the file on it, in that case.
Before we do that, though, there are just a few more things on the agenda that must be taken care of. We mustn’t move hastily from one file to the other, after all — for, as the saying goes, haste is bound to make nothing but waste. I think that’s how the saying goes. I am not entirely sure.
I will have to get back to you on that one.
The first order of business here, at least as far as I see it, is to provide a little bit of context. A little bit of context, when applied in the right manner, can go quite a long way towards shedding some much-needed light on a subject. So, in that spirit, I shall begin the beguine (proverbially speaking, of course) and delve into this stuff in the same way my cat’s razor-sharp teeth just delved into my sleeping roommate’s calves (bad kitty!), which will surely help us navigate this collection of words and whatnot with a tad more ease (and by us I mean you, the reader, for as the writer I am not in much need of assistance when it comes to deciphering my own writing...most of the time, that is).
Let us begin with defining our terms - specifically, let us briefly describe what is meant by the word “certainty” as it is being used here.
Now, I am sure many of you are at least somewhat familiar (at least those of you who have any interest in theoretical physics, or watched the show Breaking Bad) with Heisenberg’s uncertainty principle. If you are not, however (and that is totally fine - really, it is; do not be ashamed, for we all must learn something new at one point or another [I, for example, did not know how to change a bicycle tire last week...I still don’t, but at least now I know that I don’t know how to do it, which allows me to open myself up to the possibility of perhaps one day learning how to do it, as opposed to never finding out that I did not know and having to live the rest of my life blissfully ignorant of my own shortcomings]), let me explain it in the simplest possible terms (again, this is not to insult you; rather, it is done simply for the purpose of instructing you most effectively).
Once upon a time, not long ago (perhaps around the time when people wore pyjamas and lived life slowly...ah, those were the days, man), there lived a man by the name of Werner Herzog. Wait, actually — wrong German Werner.
My bad. Shout out to Werner Herzog, though. Doing big things.
Werner Heisenberg. That was his name, yes. A pioneering physicist, Heisenberg was instrumental in the development of the theory of quantum mechanics, particularly with the publication of his seminal article, published in 1925 in the now defunct (not to be confused with New York City funk rockers Defunkt, who themselves had a pretty substantial following in Germany) Zeitschrift für Physik (English: Journal for Physics), entitled “Über quantentheoretische Umdeutung kinematischer und mechanischer Beziehungen” (English: “Quantum theoretical re-interpretation of kinematic and mechanical relations”).
What does it all mean?
I’ll tell you what it means, man. It means…it means...shit.
Sorry for all of that build-up, guys. I will try to do better next time. I promise.
You have my word. That much is for certain.
Now we must move on to phase two, which is to unravel the explanation behind what is meant by the two quotes that I used to prepare you for the reading of this article. They are quite potent quotes, and a proper understanding of each of their respective meanings is crucial in order to understand the rest of this article.
So, without further ado, let’s get into it, man:
“Wir müssen wissen. Wir werden wissen.”
(or, in English):
“We must know. We will know.”
-David Hilbert (1862-1943)
We often tell ourselves that there are many obstacles in the way of our dreams - “If only such and such or so and so were not in my life, then surely things would be working out for me”, we reason.
Well, I got news for you, pal: You are the only one in your way.
Yes. You, reading this right now. You are the one. Not your prick boss, not your unreliable friends, not your lousy father, not your nosy mother, not your lack of funds, not your back pain - none of that should have any bearing on whether or not you are able to get what you want out of life.
Indeed, in the wise words of a Mr. Jerry Garcia (whom, you may have noticed, I am often fond of drawing inspiration from), “ain’t nobody messin’ with you but you”. Truer words have rarely been uttered into a microphone on a stage adjacent to a field of some of the sweatiest, grooviest working professionals/hallucinogen enthusiasts to be found this side of a clown motel - and if they were, Jerry was probably the one uttering them (or perhaps Bobby, or even Phil from time to time; I would mention Pigpen, but his advice was a bit less sagely and a bit more ... lascivious).
Frankly, your friends are getting most concerned.
But seriously, folks.
You hold the key to infinite knowledge. I am not kidding - you can literally discover anything you wish to, especially these days with life-saving tools such as YouTube tutorials and Wikipedia articles (not a credible source, my aching...glutes).
So what’s stopping you? This is not a rhetorical question. I am genuinely asking you why you are not acquiring all of the information you wish you had more of. It is literally at your fingertips. As a matter of fact, you don’t even have to use those anymore. Just pick up your phone and speak “I want to know *insert subject you would like to learn more about* into its microphone; before you can say “damn it, Siri, I said meant meatloaf not Meat Loaf!”, you will inexorably know more about said subject.
“If you will it, it is no dream.”
-Theodor Herzl (1860-1904)
This quote. I cannot tell you how often I use this quote - far more than can ever be implied by the word “quotidian”. I mean, I am just - on a personal level - really an enormous fan of this quote.
I must be honest with you, though: I did not come across this quote while conducting research on the history of Zionism. In fact, up until I heard the quote, I had no idea who the hell Theodor Herzl even was. The only “Theodor”[s] I knew were Dr. Seuss, Teddy Ballgame, and President Roosevelt (the latter two both spelled it with an “e” at the end, however, so it might be unfair to include them in this list of Theodors; as a matter of fact, I will swap out my two Theodors for one Fyodor in the form of Dostoevsky, which I feel like is a fair trade - and if you disagree, well, I don’t know what to tell you. I don’t know enough about Theodor Adorno to be throwing his name around all willy nilly. He ain’t no Mike Jones, after all [Who? Mike Jones! Who?!? MIKE JONES!]).
I digress, of course.
I first became acquainted with this quote when it was featured in what I consider to be my Qu’ran, my Bible, my Dianetics: The Modern Science of Mental Health: The Big Lebowski.
I would get into a whole thing about how important this film is to the way that I conduct myself as a human being but, alas, this is neither the time nor the place for a foray into my deeply held religious beliefs.
I will simply explain to you what it means to me.
And I use the word “simple” intentionally because it really is simple stuff. It is not easy; it is simple. To quote my own parenthetical aside from earlier in this article, if you were a real G you would know the difference.
Yesterday, just after writing a little over half of this piece, I packed a toothbrush, some toothpaste, a hammock, a whole bunch of other camping equipment that I did not end up needing, way too much food, a set of seven harmonicas, a pen, a notepad, and a Tom Robbins novel (yet, strangely, no blanket or set of warm clothes to change into), hopped on my newly renovated bicycle, and rode nearly sixty miles from Washington, DC to Harpers Ferry, WV. Then, the very next day (which is still today for about twenty-eight minutes), I rode another sixty miles back home.
How? Because I willed it. Why? Out of respect for John Brown - the famous white abolitionist who initiated a slave rebellion at Harpers Ferry. If you are unfamiliar with the story of John Brown, I highly suggest remedying that. He is as important a historical figure, if not more so than Daniel Boone or any of those other pasty history textbook glossary items.
Better yet, just bike down to Harpers Ferry for yourself and see what I saw today. Not just when I got there, but for the entire way up there and back. It will give a whole new meaning to Herzl’s quote, and bring you closer to truly knowing yourself.
Then we can all abide together, in perfect harmony.
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