We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time.
The FXC footnote on page 52 of Ship of Theseus possibly leads to a game-changing idea behind the construction of “S.” that lead to a book entitled The Glass Bead Game. If you haven’t already read that theory, it is worth your time, especially before exploring the connections to Gödel, Escher, Bach.
That theory led to explorations into synthesizing S.‘s apparent fugue state and the musical fugue, as in Interlude: Toccata and Fugue in Free Time (p299-330). If you haven’t already, I suggest you read geekyzen’s thoughts on the musical connections in “S.” It is also worth your time.
This attempted synthesis led to the idea that S.‘s fugue state may be similar to an Australian walkabout, where aborigines walk across the lands, singing songlines that serve as musical maps to help them navigate their journey. It also led to the idea that perhaps J.S. Bach’s Art of the Fugue is the songline that may help us better understand “S.“
In the comments section of that post, Jillaggie1 said all of these posts together reminded her of Douglas Hofstadter’s book Gödel, Escher, Bach. Then the user Captain pointed out the The Art of the Fugue is actually discussed in Gödel, Escher, Bach.
And so the journey begins.
There are strong similarities between Gödel, Escher, Bach (GEB) and The Glass Bead Game (GBB).
- Both focus the synthesis of thought in otherwise vastly different fields: music, mathematics, art.
- Gödel, Escher, Bach attempts to weave an Eternal Gold Braid in these various fields as it applies to thought. In The Glass Bead Game, the main character creates a drawing in which these same disciplines come together in a circular garland. He then dreams that this garland spins until it flies apart into twinkling stars.
- Both focus heavily on the musical fugue.
There are strong similarities between “S” and Gödel, Escher, Bach.
- One of the Straka candidates is Lewis Looper (FN1, p38). GEB discusses loops in detail. Douglas Hofstadter later wrote a full book on the subject entitled I Am a Strange Loop. Hofstadter’s publishing company described GEB as “a metaphorical fugue on minds and machines in the spirit of Lewis Carroll.” This gives us both Lewis and Looper. In addition, the eternal golden braid is a loop, which reminds us of our opening puzzle, “What begins at the water shall end there, and what ends there shall once more begin.”
- In GEB, Hofstadter utilizes a fictitious author that he names Egbert B. Gebstadter. He creates this character for various reasons, but uses the initials EBG as a play on the Eternal Golden Braid of Gödel, Escher, Bach. In “S.” we have a character known as Edsel B. Grimshaw. He is mentioned in the marginalia by Eric Husch on p106. In addition, he is the author of a 1950 review of Ship of Theseus provided by Doug Dorst, tweeted on December 19, 2013. It appears that Egbert B. Gebstadter and Edsel B. Grimshaw are both meant to point to GEB.
- There is a character in GEB that is used repeatedly in dialogues to present ideas. He is the TORTOISE. “S.” refers repeatedly to The Tortugan Journals of Juan Blas Covarrubias.
- Within GEB, there are embedded puzzles and ciphers. There are definitely puzzles and ciphers in “S.”
- The book cover of The Winged Shoes of Emydio Alves and Escher’s Gravity (mentioned in GEB) both use birds of negative space in a very similar way.
- Both books deal with self-reference.
- Both books appear to challenge us to synthesize vastly different fields of thought (psychology, music, mathematics, art, etc.)
There are undoubtedly many more similarities. I would love to see your own thoughts here.