Gödel, Escher, Bach: An Eternal Golden Braid

Bart forwarded me:

Five years ago, I embarked on an expedition for which I was too unfit and unprepared. My circumstances at the time were not conducive to success, yet I stepped boldly forward anyway.

I made it as far as the third base camp, approximately halfway to the ultimate goal. The journey so far had been tiring, but perhaps even more mentally taxing. I could see the monstrous edifice looming above me, and was determined to reach the peak, but alas it was not to be.

As I stood there, gazing upwards in awe, the chill winds of lambda calculus swirled around me, bringing clouds that obscured the summit. I was ill-equipped and too fragile to continue. Reluctantly, I turned back.

Since then, I have often contemplated making another assault on that formidable peak. Yet always I still felt mentally unprepared, and the dread of another failure kept me from setting out again. Perhaps I could have done it four years ago, perhaps three years ago. But always, it was that fear of failure that held me back. A second defeat would be devastating.

But I have become stronger and more capable over the intervening years. I have exercised regularly and am fitter now than I was five years ago. I have broadened my horizons. I have written and published over a thousand webcomic strips with topics ranging far and wide, trawling all realms of history, language, mathematics, and philosophy for material. I have learnt bits and pieces of several languages, and understand much better the intricacies and ambiguities of translation. I have had deep philosophical discussions with friends, exploring the realms of consciousness, recursion, infinity, and self-reference. I have been part of a winning team of an internationally known puzzle competition, requiring creative, analytical, and insightful thought. I have learnt functional programming.

I am ready.

This time, I will finish Gödel, Escher, Bach: An Eternal Golden Braid.

from http://dmmaus.livejournal.com/337989.html

…and he added: which is a reminder that I probably should have a go at reading GEB as well… I found “Le Ton beau de Marot” a very interesting read, but assume GEB’s going to be a bit more math-y than “Le Ton beau”)

I replied with my stock observation which has been valid since I first read the book in 1984, c/o my friends Neal and Wanda:

I have yet to meet anyone who read it non-stop; most instead pause for 3 to 36 months (or more) at some point between 50 and 75% of the way through the book.

So don’t rush it. It’s easier to go with the flow.

10 Replies to “Gödel, Escher, Bach: An Eternal Golden Braid”

  1. Yep, for those folks who actually read it, rather than just look at the pictures (I forget what her name was… it was late… the wine was sweet… I didn’t have any real etchings…) getting to the halfway point is a pretty good time to digest its lessons.

  2. Well, I’m the exception that proves… The first time I read it, when it came out in hard cover, I took it out of the library and zipped through it in about a week. A year later, I bought the paperback and read it more slowly, taking about three weeks. The third time I had been reading “The Mind’s I”, and read only the chapters that seemed relevant to that. The fourth time (about two years ago) I read it in two weeks.

  3. And since you’ve met me, you are going to have to abandon your “stock observation”. Sorry about that. Stock observations are so useful.

  4. I loved GEB. I couldn’t get enough of it and spent several successive late nights reading it all as quickly as possible.

    I did wait until I was thirty-something before reading it, mind. At the time I wished I’d got around to it sooner, though perhaps I’m now glad I didn’t?

    Conversely, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenence left me largely cold despite many people apparently adoring it.

  5. I think I read it straight through in a couple of weeks’ worth of bedtimes. But during the days I had lots of arguments with Jim about the ideas in it. Maybe if I hadn’t had that cogitating-out-loud time I would have needed a break instead.

  6. I’ll help with Alec’s stock. I’ve “tried” reading in about 4 times. I’ve only ever managed to get just past halfway.

    The problem is, I always start from the beginning every time. 🙂

  7. GEB is a fabulous book and Douglas Hofstadter a great author.

    I happen to be reading “I am a Strange Loop” now.

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