I get nowhere.
I started my talks in a recent visit to the USA with an amusing aside from Stephen Hammer. I had asked him what the advertised title of my talks would be. He said it did not matter because the titles of talks tend to mutate. This new title and my old one viz. “The Haworthioid rocks of the Aspho Delay Sea” are however, one and the same through six different versions of this presentation.
John Rourke quoted to me “The ship of many a taxonomist has been wrecked on the rocks of the Liliaceae”. The thrust of my every presentation is that there is another sea which is incredibly and indescribably more turbulent and fraught with rocks, and shoals and perils of unbelievable magnitude. This is the sea of human existence. To quote some unknown philosopher “We are born in ignorance, we live in ignorance and we die in ignorance”. The sea of human existence is a vast cradle of ignorance.
I did not want to attend the congress because there was nothing that I felt I wanted to or could say. And that my credibility which would inevitably lead to an invitation to make a presentation there, is a credibility which is not derived from where either organisers or delegates might perceive. I did not come because I felt a compulsion to be here. The fact that my prediction proves correct now leads me to wonder how on earth I can explain to you where my credibility comes from – if I do not have the credibility in that arena. You have to help me now by transferring some credibility to any subject that I might now raise. The personal distress this has caused me in the 10 days or so, I cannot adequately describe to you. It is the cumulative distress of a lifetime of suffering. I have put my thoughts down in five other versions of this presentation. These lead from a fulminating, small minded, comment (ie, version 1) on a really very insignificant work (Haworthiad 12:79, 1998). That work may lead to a book to stand in opposition to my own, which does offend my ego. There is however, a much deeper and more subtle motive for what I want to say. Ego and self-importance are not operative in the mind of a real scientist. He is interested in the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth.
My thoughts have led me from the complicated and very difficult arena where you give me credit (possibly something which I can prove, if I do not offend your ego and thus undeservedly lose my credibility in doing so), to the life and death of Larry Leach. The prediction that I would be here could have been the scientific prediction derived from the knowledge I know I have and which you respect. I have wept for Larry Leach and for myself. And those tears are also for those odd and rare individuals who going to also tread a very very lonely path.
All these thoughts are presented in 6 versions of my presentation, which I rejected progressively as I completed and tested them. The 6th now stands to the test, and regardless of the outcome I will metaphorically just have to “wing” it. Possibly the organisers may see fit to in some way make the material of my preparation available to delegates. Those rare souls who may want to know to what the real extent and causes of my distress as a scientist are, and relate this to their own experience.
Long and extensive as it is, it only is the tip of an iceberg of suffering and longing that resides within my being. It does not touch on topics which intellectuals, scientists and intellectuals have been discussing from day 1, without result or conclusion. Is this going to be another conference for you in the sentiment of an eminent scientist who said to me that he went to conferences to be entertained?. If this is what you expect from me, do you think you have invited a clown to appear before you? Like Larry Leach, I may be saying something to you, and you are not listening to me. My compulsion to shake you and make you listen, may not be of my making. Do you think it may be the flooding tide that Fritjof Capra referred to in his book “The Turning Point” (1973).