Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Chance encounter

Had the great pleasure today of visiting my friend L's class at Bennington College. The course is called "Chance" and populated mostly by students studying economics (L, too, is an economist), but my assignment was to talk about chance (a) and John Cage, (b) and religion. It worked better than I thought it might... curious students and an enthusiastic host make all the difference!

I won't tire you with the details but we went from Cage's challenge to the distinction between sound (or music) and noise to the discovery that we can make sound of noise through attention (as we do when attending a concert with the right attitude) to the potential for unprecedented creativity in seeking out what we would otherwise dismiss as noise through "chance operations" to... religion? What is it not just to recognize chance, uncertainty, chaos, contingency as in their own way significant or true (even as every effort to articulate it traduces it) but to find (and give yourself to) God, Buddha nature or the Dao in it?

This is all quite different from the overall aim of L's class, which is to survey the way probability can (to the extent it can) compass chance events, but everyone seemed engaged, busily making sense of what we'd billed as a chance - or chancy - inter-disciplinary encounter. Part of a lovely sojourn in Bennington!

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