So, you didn’t even participate, and you still want a trophy

We fought for better working conditions.  We got better pay.  We got forty hour work weeks.  Benefits!  Workers’ unions were put in place to protect these things, and push for more.  These things became status quo.  Now we have anti-union rhetoric spreading through all classes of people, anti-worker rhetoric saying what they have now is enough, that they’re too lazy to get more, that they’re a drain on the system… the system that requires them in order to keep its wheels turning.  Some anti-union rhetoric is even true in some cases, where unions exploit their members just like the bosses do, collecting their dues and doing little else.  Union gate-keeping where jobs are only available to union workers, and union entry is only available to current employees.  The very exclusivity of power the unions were meant to protect workers from.  But this isn’t considered extreme any more either.

Employers call paying for a fraction of their workers’ health care ‘taking care of their employees’.  Those who fought for workers’ rights expected us to get more than this by now.  Those who died for workers’ being treated better than the machines they worked beside were forgotten, their struggle forgotten; the fact that capitalists will kill their fellow citizens when their capital is threatened was forgotten.  We didn’t beat them when we shifted the status quo.  They just changed tactics.

MLK socialist.png

Wait.  Dr. King was ANTI-CAPITALIST?  Next you’ll tell me he didn’t really preach pacifism!

Political centrism is not balance.  Political moderates do not harmonize the far left with the far right.  There is no value in finding the golden mean between equity and violent prejudice.  There is no value in finding the golden mean between communal liberty and violent oppression.  Feminism is a leftist view and misogyny is right wing.  What is the middle ground there?  Tolerance of women?  The ‘Oppression Olympics’ is not a leftist practice, no matter what its participants call their selves.  Communism can not be statist or fascist, despite what so-called Russian or Chinese ‘communists’ might’ve said.  The National Socialists (Nazis) achieved pseudo-socialist ideals by stealing property from Jews and redistributing it to ‘true Germans’.  Socialism ‘for us, but not for them’ is not socialism.  A balance between left and right can not be achieved by defending the right and belittling the left.  Some one is not ‘fighting polarization’ by saying ‘not all right-wingers are Nazis’ while also preaching that ‘leftists need to calm down’.

It is not status quo to protect free speech.  We censor far more sexuality than we do brutal, physical violence.  We censor words on public television because we’ve arbitrarily deemed them vulgar, as if vulgarity ever stopped us before, yet we encourage our children to cheer on soldiers, people who kill for money, without even explaining to them the nuances of the international conflicts.  We use patents to censor the replication of technology in order to protect capital.  Copyright is censorship that protects money.  We fire our workers for being insubordinate.  We fire our workers for demanding better working conditions.  Most bosses don’t even have to fire any one any more; the fear of retaliation by the bosses is so ingrained, most don’t even think to speak up about their poor working conditions.  It is status quo to silence those who work against the current power structure, and it is status quo to glorify violence as if to remind the public that, while our leaders are afraid of us expressing our selves and cooperating to spread affordable technology, they are not afraid to use violence to get what they want.

It is normal for police to plaster the faces of those who have wronged the wealthy across our streets, on our screens, through our media, and it is normal for police to tell the poor, ‘There’s no thing we can do’ (it’s normal for Human Resources to shrug their shoulders at your case of work place harassment, but slam you in court for trying to sue the company).  It is normal for police to protect and serve elites.  They favor businesses over individuals, corporations over small businesses, whites over blacks, men over women, abled over disabled, who ever is higher in the power structure.  What do they get out of it?  Are they not working-class?  Well, they answer to the state: the most powerful cozied up against the most wealthy.  The state can do more than just fire you, if you demand better working conditions.  It is normal for our courts to favor the dignity of violent aggressors over that of traumatized victims.

‘How is a registered sex-offender supposed to get a decent job?’

How are women supposed to live safely when unregistered sex-offenders stalk their places of business, after leaving a court room with a head full of encouragement?  I’m all for rehabilitating criminals in stead of punishing them; brief punishment set beside some twisted form of coddling is not rehabilitation.

State-sanctioned murder.  Gate-keeping basic needs.  Priority to wealth.  Money buying freedom.  These are all status quo, and these are all things centrists are defending by saying that every one’s ideas of change are wrong.  Democratic and Republican politicians act like they’re fighting, but both sides of the aisle are happy with the current system because they’re profiting from the current system, and both are right there neighboring the ‘center’ where the centrists are.

Keep in mind that the common view of what is politically central changes over time, as the norms change, and right now it’s far more right than it is left, considering the true differences between leftist and right wing values.  Centrism is not trying to stay center; it is trying to stay comforted in the current system, which is impossible, because politics/economics is always changing.

Moderates during feudalism would not be moderates under capitalism.  Centrists before the Civil War of the USA would not still be centrists during that war.  Sympathizing with the South is very different from sympathizing with the traitors.  Supporting your neighbors is very different from supporting the enemy.  Centrism is relative, and not to the ends of the spectrum, but to current political norms.  Holding a centrist view is not civil; it is cowardice.  It is pride in taking the road that requires zero effort, the beaten path, and the road that is cracking and crumbling as we speak.

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Who wants to join my cyberpunk centrist nu-metal band?

Compromise with the Machine and then Die

Who wants to join my cyberpunk centrist nu-metal band?

I am trying to understand politics/economics.  I empathized with Plato’s fears of democracy, but I couldn’t get down with his censorship of art (yes, I actually liked his caste system for a couple years).  The Trump administration is a spooky one, but Obama fucking had civilians bombed.  I liked the USA Libertarian Party for a little bit, ten years ago, because Ron Paul said some stuff that was ground-breaking for me at the time.  Then I started to get to know other people associated with the party and realized that it was all just a glorified introvert fantasy- one to keep the common folk disconnected and the elite unchained from responsibility.  I dabbled with centrism for a while, off and on, cause that more-stoic-than-thou attitude felt damn satisfying… until I kept seeing people getting killed for no good reason.  I knew shit was bad, but I didn’t know why- not to mention how bad it really was.  I blamed Republicans.  I blamed politicians.  I blamed bigots.  Once, more recently, I had this eureka moment when I thought I could trace it all back to ‘toxic masculinity’, but there are a couple problems with even some thing that fundamental.

For one, ‘toxic’ is too vague and is asking to be abused.  As soon as some one suggested it be substituted for ‘hegemonic’ I was sold on it.  Hegemonic masculinity.  It’s the thing.

For two, as frustrating as it is, it’s difficult to point the finger at some thing that potentially divides our population in half.  I’ve seen the power-hungry, self-absorbed, cold, objectifying monster in my self, and I know that I’ve been wrong.  I accept responsibility for that, but to say, ‘All of the world’s problems are men’s fault,’ as pathetic as this is, will keep us divided.

In stead, I’ve come to realize that I have been consistently grumbling about capitalists.

Capitalists.  The people who compromise firstly for material wealth.  The people who pay us our wages and can take them away, if we complain of them not being enough to care for our selves and our families.  The people who pay hundreds to thousands of people to perform tasks for them, to perform innovations for them, to invent new technologies for them, and then claim to be self-made, independent geniuses.  The people whose salaries are in the millions or billions, who ‘ran the numbers’ and determined that it’s just not feasible to pay every one beneath them a living wage.

They encourage competition.  They encourage ruthlessness.  They’ll have you believe that zero-sum games exist in real life, and that any one can be (and should be) as wealthy as they are, if we just work hard enough in a system that’s rigged against us… by them.  They are about hoarding wealth, hoarding power, not because they know how to best serve society and distribute its resources- no.  It’s just to keep it.  To own it.  To have it.  If the wealth of billionaires were to actually trickle down, well, why is it only a trickle?

Oh, but they’ve earned it.  Through exploitation, through ignoring the needs and wants of others, but it was work and the hardest, riskiest work with the greatest sacrifices (even if the sacrifice is human dignity) deserves the most compensation.  The most possible.

It was difficult for me to see the lie of hyper-individualism, but now it’s so plain.  When you’re concerned more with what you’ve earned, you think less about civil rights.  When you’re concerned more with how impressive a person’s ability to game the system is, you think less about basic human needs.  We charge people for water.  We charge people for food.  We charge people for shelter- and that last one, for the most part, doesn’t even have any labor involved.  Letting people exist in rooms is not a service.  No service is done.  All of the people employed in real estate do work solely to protect the investment of their masters.  We charge people for overcoming illness.  If people don’t have these things?  They die.  We live in a world where, if you aren’t graced with enough wages for your needs, you don’t deserve to live.

Some people get behind that.  ‘Too stupid to live.’  ‘What do they contribute to society any way?’  With no regard for circumstances and unfair limitations, capitalism is all about what you can provide for the capitalists, not about what society can provide for you.  Simply look up a basic definition of the word society, and you can understand why that’s a huge problem.

For many people, when they think of collectivism they think of group-think, tribalism, nationalism, and/or conformity.  Negative connotations.  No thoughts of unity, compassion, sharing, organization, society.  We all acknowledge that we’re social animals, and we all enjoy human relationships, families, friend groups, sub-cultures, yet many of us are so anti-collectivism that we cringe at the word ‘social’.

So when your enemy is the capitalist, how does that change your perspective?  Well, all major political parties in the USA have capitalists at the top.  The top Democrat and Republican politicians are all appealing to views that they know how to profit off of.  They all put money and power above their other values- and, if they seem not to, well, that’s because those ‘other values’ are making them lotsa lotsa money.  Exploitation is capitalist.  Colonialism is capitalist.  Imperialism is capitalist.  Hierarchy is capitalist.  What does all of this mean?  Racism promotes capitalism.  Sexism assists capitalism.  Ableism supports capitalism.  Hatred fuels capitalism.  Dividing people and scaring people and turning people against each other is all extremely profitable.

Even many who support capitalism are comfortable with the ‘follow the money’ train of thought, and just accept this kind of corruption as an unavoidable evil… but why not at least humor an alternative?

For my own part, it’s because I thought socialism was a joke.  I’d learned that communism lead to violence and poverty, and anarchism was just an other word for chaos.  Bernie Sanders softened me up some, because this ‘democratic socialism’ is supposed to manipulate the ‘inevitable system’ in to catering to some social values.  It didn’t seem far-fetched or absurd.

Oh, but it was still an appeal to capitalists.  It was a way of saying, ‘Please?  Please, can we be cared for a little bit more?’  Well, the capitalists and hyper-individualist scholars would scoff at us for being so pathetic.

I don’t trust people, but I want people to be able to trust each other.  I want to feel independent, but I want the needy to be taken care of.  I want people to have liberty, but not the freedom to exploit their neighbors.  I often dreamed of a benevolent elite, the Philosopher Kings, a compassionate, authoritarian, central power to set the rules and enforce the perfect system, what ever that was, because I thought that the common person was self-absorbed, short-sighted, and otherwise incapable of self-governance.  Oh, but the USA’s founding fathers studied Plato, and that’s how we got capitalism in the USA.  Oh, and otherwise, that essentially describes a brand of communism.  Since I’d let go of Plato and rolled my eyes at communism, what the hell was I doing?

It wasn’t enough to hate capitalism.  I needed a response to it.  This came to me from two seeds.  One was from an individual that I deeply respect.  They identify as an anarchist, and when I first read that I thought, ‘Huh.  That’s ridiculous, but they at least must have a complex and intriguing reason.’  The other was from an in-depth political spectrum test that I took, claiming I was a libertarian socialist.


Turns out, ‘libertarian’ was appropriated by the American Libertarian Party from a very different set of beliefs, and ‘libertarian socialism’ is anarchism.

By this point, I’d some how at least learned that anarchy did not mean chaos; it had organization, but focused on smaller distributions of power.  Like states?  Like a USA without their federation?  I didn’t know what that meant, not at all, and it was too weird for me to come to terms with for a long time.

My news feed began to be flooded with communist ideals.  Every day, socialism was rooting its self in my mind, an understanding.  I wasn’t going to just believe Facebook’s impression of it, though, so I finally began to study, study communism, study anarchism, study liberalism, understand how all these terms relate to each other, and work out where my invisible biases lied.

Let me tell you, when your whole world has been this artificial survival of the fittest prestige match where the powerful tell you that you can be just like them, if you just work harder, and when your whole perspective of socialism centers around government funded health care and not killing minorities, the idea of a society of trust and caring cooperation is fucking surreal.  Understanding the difference between governance and administration feels like splitting hairs.  Imagining what it means for power to come from the bottom seems like mere poetry.

Then this quote from Proudhon hit me:

‘As you cannot conceive of society without hierarchy, you have made yourselves the apostles of authority; worshippers of power, you think only of strengthening it and muzzling liberty; your favourite maxim is that the welfare of the people must be achieved in spite of the people; instead of proceeding to social reform by the extermination of power and politics, you insist on a reconstruction of power and politics.’

But, if we’re talking about giving all of the power to the people- the hell would that really look like?  Later this quote from a contributor to a large anarchist FAQ put it in to perspective for me:

‘For example, powers that are now exercised in an authoritarian manner by managers under capitalism, such as those of hiring and firing, introducing new production methods or technologies, changing product lines, relocating production facilities, determining the nature, pace and rhythm of productive activity and so on would remain in the hands of the associated producers and not be delegated to anyone.’

And for bigger decisions?  Include more relevant people in the votes.  When there isn’t enough time, or the decision has to be made elsewhere?  Elect representatives that can be dismissed at any time with a new election.  When do we hold elections?  When it’s decided that we need to.  What about trade?  Problems between working environments?  Problems that effect huge communities, or groups of communities?  Elect representatives who elect representatives who elect representatives, how ever many tiers of responsibility as you need, just as long as they all answer to the people, and all are entitled to no power of their own, and must step down, if it is demanded of them.  Oh- and as long as their sole contribution is not this administration.  Administration is not a career.  Administration is not a career.

Disorganized?  Fluid.  Organic, easily adjusting to the needs of the people.

I am still learning about anarchism and communism.  Pardon me, if you’re well versed and this seems painfully rudimentary.  Communism, with centralized power, simply reminds me too much of capitalism, which in turn reminds me of feudalism, and I want to live in a society that is equitable, where every one has an equal stake, where every one is involved in politics, where every one is raised to think about the good of the community, and how the community can do the best good for their selves.  I want to live in a society where the self-serving thing is the society-serving thing, because every one will vote to preserve their own rights, so every one’s rights will be preserved.  Will there be currency?  May be.  Will there be religion?  I don’t know.  Will there still be technological innovations?  Definitely, cause some people just plain love building technology, and not enough people, when they feel secure, are going to vote against bettering the lives of humanity and humanity’s ability to take care of our environment.

Social living does not require hierarchy.  Social worth does not require power.  All kinds of relationships can be mutually beneficial, without one person having an edge over the other.  The economics ‘laws’ that claim competition and self-absorption are natural and unavoidable have only been studying corrupt systems held together by power elites.  Socialism is not the government babysitting us; it is all of us supporting each other.  Capitalists are now afraid of the collapse that they’ve triggered.  Even capitalists are only capitalists to gain enough wealth to escape capitalism.  No one enjoys hierarchy.  The people on the bottom are afraid of having things taken away by the powerful, and the powerful are afraid of having things taken away by their peers, or by the many.  We are a society with Stockholm syndrome, and our captor is our selves.



Fuck, I was going to rip on centrists/moderates more.

Centrists/moderates, you’re not being stoic.  You’re being apathetic.  You can’t compromise with people who want you to die.  You can’t compromise with people who don’t care, if you die.  If you think pacifism can be and should be upheld in all situations, you’re a privileged piece of shit.  You’re not keeping the balance.  You’re allowing the aggressors more space to grow their power.  Not all people identifying as anti-fascist are smart; like any movement, some people are just there to get in on the action, but anti-fascists can not be the real fascists.  I know we didn’t take the Nazi’s word for it just because socialist was in the name, but seriously: trying to squash hate speech is no more an infringement on free speech than trying to prevent ax murders is an infringement on the freedom to own an ax.  The purpose of hate speech is to incite dehumanization, which at its best thieves liberty and at its worst kills people.  The only reason to legitimize hate speech is to let it spread.

We can’t make society better through reform.  We can’t vote in a better system.  The current system will not allow it.  I vote; I pay attention to the capitalists, but we need a revolution, and, if you don’t think so, it’s because you’ve been suckered in to believing that the comfort your privilege has provided for you (in turn provided by capitalists- to some, not others) is enough.  The far left sees it coming.  The far right sees it coming.  Even the capitalists who desperately cling to the status-quo you defend see it coming, which is why they claim to be investing in bomb shelters and disciplinary programs for personal body guards.  Centrists, when this shit goes down, no matter who wins, you lose.  The socialists and the fascists alike will remember when you called them idiots and barbarians from the comfort of your moderate, middle-of-the-road, not-too-spicy bastions of ‘moral purity’, and your time will be up.

Nah.  Just kidding.  If we pull off anarchy, there’s a good chance the rest of us will just laugh at you and give you hugs.

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From an important perspective, there are three kinds of generalizations.  One reflects a minimal personal observation.  One reflects coincidental norms.  One reflects systemic behaviors.  Why make a distinction?  Because not all issues can be discussed on the macro or individual level.  But how can it be okay to include people that you have never met in your judgments?  Let’s look at three statements about one large group of people.

‘Women[‘s interests] are superficial.’

‘Women are liars.’

‘Women are oppressed.’

All three are broad, sweeping statements targeting literally billions of people from countless back grounds.  By the time I have met and gotten to know the first hundred thousand of them, the rest will have died of old age.  Why would I say any of these things about people who, from an arguably practical perspective, will never exist in my life?

‘Women are superficial.’  Are the minds of all people identifying as women every where filled with superficial interests and only superficial interests?  No way.  So why would some one say such a thing?  Are they worried that women are genetically predisposed to this mind set?  May be.  Is their concern that women are socialized to be this way across all cultures and subcultures?  Also possible, but why only remark on women?  Are not other groups subject to this indoctrination, if women are?  Men?  A particular race of any gender?  Young people?

The genetic predisposition argument is laughable of course, unless it is referring to the fact that all animals generally prioritize their basic needs of survival.  To claim that women are specifically socialized this way in a given culture or all cultures might hold some weight, but to be socialized implies some purpose by a dominant group, whether its conscious or unconscious of this influence; women do not just happen to be this way.  Unless the concern is for women, and the statement is really about oppression, this ‘women are superficial’ statement probably only reflects one’s personal bias due to past frustrations with a few specific scenarios that they felt harmed them.

‘Women are liars.’  Are women more likely to lie than men?  Are women statistically more inclined to lie than any other group?  If they are, why is this important information?  Would it be useful to hold distrust in general toward such a large, diverse group?  If we can find evidence of this, what reasons can we find for this hypothetical statistic being true?  Why is there this difference between women and, say, men?  If people lie for reasons of power, to either protect their assets from opposing power or to gain power, what methods to men utilize in stead of lying, and are these methods more virtuous?

Dishonesty is fairly pervasive.  It seems odd to point the finger at any one group (well, any group without a specific, shared political agenda, I suppose) and say that they lie more than others.  I am uninclined to believe any one claiming to have never lied.  To find a women who lies is trivial, not because women lie, but because people lie.  This here is a coincidental norm, but framed too narrow in scope (as coincidental norms usually are), so is not useful and is even counterproductive, as it breeds a useless prejudice.

‘Women are oppressed.’  This one frustrates a lot of people, people who will deny it just as readily as others deny the first two- but not in the defense of women, of course.  In the defense of their own desires, as people who do not identify as women but have decided that they want things that women have to offer.  Do all women feel oppressed?  No.  Are women more oppressed than other groups?  Certainly.  Are women more oppressed than men?  Some people don’t really understand what oppression means, but no.  But wait!  Men can be oppressed, and men are oppressed.  But are they oppressed by women?  There are many cases of an individual man engaged in an abusive intimate relationship with an individual woman, and in these cases the man may be oppressed.  Are groups of men oppressed by groups of women?  I’d be interested to see that.  Are men systemically oppressed by women?  Some would still argue that they are, but trust me when I say that these men either still don’t understand what we are talking about or are delusional.

Attitudes that push oppression on women are not directed toward individuals.  They may be used on just one person at a time, but they are general attitudes.  This is why a woman can say, ‘I don’t feel oppressed,’ and yet it is still useful to say that women are oppressed.  This is why a man can meet a woman that is much wealthier than he is, has many more healthy relationships, and is met with greater respect than he is, but it is still useful to say that women are oppressed.

Some women are superficial.  You’ve probably met some who are, but to be a woman is not to subscribe to an ideology of superficial interests, nor does it mean that one was born that way.  It might say some thing about a culture forced upon women, but it isn’t even a useful comment on the susceptibility of women to said culture.  Many women are liars.  You probably had a woman lie to you this week.  Does it take dishonesty as a trait to be a woman?  No.  Do many women just happen to be liars?  Yes, just as most people have lied many times.  Are apples worse than other fruit because they are round?  How can they be, when all fruits are round?  All women are oppressed, because we live in a social system that is oppressive of women.  Even those women who can escape measurable effects of this oppression are still subjects to it.

So when is it useful to make serious generalizations about people?  Not when they are only telling of your subjective experience.  Not when you want to blame a group for a few individuals’ actions.  Not when focusing on a behavior of one group that is regular across many groups.  We always have to be careful of making generalizations in situations of us versus them (does one insist that vegans are pushy with their beliefs because their research has shown this trend, or is it because they feel that the core value of veganism is an attack on their meat-eating life style?), but it is easier to resist making bad general claims when we can separate out minimal personal observations and coincidental norms.


So we have this model.  Generalizations are only okay when discussing systemic issues.  Does this work?

To look at women again, let’s say that all women have breasts.  Does this fit?  It doesn’t fit in to a social system, such as oppression.  And, well, men have breasts too.  And, if that’s not what was meant, having a gender is a choice, so not all women have breasts.  Biological women?  Oh.  You mean female humans?  Is it useful to say that all female humans have breasts that differ from males’?  If it is not, won’t it be difficult to defend the idea that female people ought to cover their breasts while males have no reason to?  Probably.  So what?  Okay, so what about trying to explain lactation as it concerns child birth?  Are people being deceived when we say that female folks’ breasts swell during pregnancy and produce milk for the child?  Probably not, so does this fit in to a system?  Well, yes.  A biological system.  An evolutionary system.  Systems have exceptions, but are defined by their norms.

But why not take a step back, then?  If minds are run by brains, and brains are organs that belong to a biological system, are not all human behaviors determined by a system?  Why can’t we in confidence say that women are superficial, if their superficiality stems from their biology?  Well, my choice of favorite color must also stem from my biology, in that case, but that’s no reason to say that all writers prefer black, or all biological males prefer black, or all North Americans prefer black.

Where do the limitations begin and end?  May be you don’t care for my three-part division of generalizations, even just the chosen names.  I had a spark of an idea and just started typing, and stopped when I lost interest- and I’m not even gonna edit this one!  Fuck it!  It’s nearly three AM!  The point isn’t in the names, or the number of categories, or even my conclusions.  The point is that we say a lot of things without thinking about them, without wondering why we’re inclined to say them, and without considering how it will affect our view of the world in the future, and the world view of our audiences.  Ask your own questions.  Dig in to your own reasons.  Are your reasons for the purpose of instruction… or expression?

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Cing of Cogs

I knew that I wanted it to be a concept album.  I knew that I wanted it to represent the aesthetic of the Cogs, the army of gods and anomalies that are the only beings in a distant future capable of defying Universe’s oldest law: none of her memories may be erased.  New moments always come to be, but the old were never thought to be capable of vanishing.

The Imp King, who escaped his binding to a distant past sequence, will not only develop a mastery of focus and space-time travel.  The master of the Cogs will also come to us with complete control over that one of the last few mysteries, the ability to delete sequence, the ability to erase the past, erase the present, and prevent all possible futures.  The shared aesthetic of dull colors, blacks, grays, browns, represents the Cogs’ disentanglement from the ordinary wonders and awes of living.  What they perceive is bland, boring, cliched, and their garb and flesh reflect it as such.  The only adventure left is to do what The Harpist and Fade before him failed to do, to destroy all that exists, every history of every world, every iteration of space under every god, every dream, every fantasy, one sequence at a time.  The cog wheel is their central symbol, representing their collective nature, their belief in hard determinism, their belief that life is work, and the idea that any one thinking machine can be harmlessly removed, with enough redundant gears, but that, if some of the gears turn hard enough, they can reverse the entire purpose and process of the big machine.

The Cogs build such a machine, one hard-wired in to all of space time.  It obviously is not the machine, Universe her self, but the Cogs’ Big Machine will be a physical representation of the clunky, disordered, unpolished nature of existence.  With the Big Machine as a focus object, the Imp King’s army shall develop a personal relationship not with all who have ever lived, but harmonize with the mechanics of Universe her self, to undermine each of her natural laws to prevent any and all resistance to her destruction.  The laws are old and unsophisticated, so the Big Machine is all gears and pulleys and pistons and shoddy monitors and pipes and steam vents.

Like the ancient aesthetic of the machines, so too are many of the Cogs’ instruments of sound taken from sequences at early stages of civilizations.  Bells, bowed strings, blown horns, keys triggering the plucking of strings, keys triggering the rush of air through pipes- and the jagged pipes and plates of their machinery are used as well, their surfaces struck as drums while pistons thrust in time.  This says that all time shall end, all memory, past and future alike.  The electric impulses are heavy and distorted, signalling the Cogs’ aggression.  What they shall do they shall do for all of us, but they are not afraid to take the lives of any before their sequence’s end time has come.

The Cogs may seem generally stoic, but are not beyond expression.  They sing and play music as part of their focus, practicing ritual harmony through sound and movement.  Their music also serves to inspire fear of The Darkness, that unconscious, amoral force that dictates our fates.  It serves to inspire awe in them, so that their army may grow.  That is what this album is- an attempt to capture the passion and the will of these ultimate destroyers, these Clockwork Cannibals, these Crestfallen Killers, these Cogs of the Big Machine.

So I knew that I wanted it to suit this concept, but I did not know how bizarre it would get, or how long it would take to reach its completion.  It has been three years since I decided that this would be the next album to be released under the name of Shyft, and I am glad that it took so long; since then I’ve collected many new tools and developed new skills that really made a difference in the quality of this release.  This is a big one for me, hopefully big enough to allow me to put down music to focus again on my writing projects for a long time.  Music is an essential part of my being, but I have decided that, if I am to succeed as an artist and a philosopher, that the vehicle for my success shall be speculative fiction.  Besides, how are we going to be able to get to know the Cing of Cogs and his army’s philosophy more personally, if I never get around to writing his story?

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Art, Entertainment, Escapism

In a dark and twisted world too much of pleasant and cheerful aesthetics is escapism.

Last time I talked about happiness-seeking and how it relates to apathy toward societies.  As an artist, it’s only natural for me to stem from that in to art, entertainment, and escapism.  As I said before, we need just a touch of the pleasantries here and there as we go along, brief periods of escapism in to things that give us a sense of what an ideal life (for all) should feel like, but hanging there or chasing that artificial high in a reality that’s oozing prejudice, corruption, spite, and indifference ought to offend any one who’s seen the terrible things that humans are willing to do to each other in order to chase their own personal satisfaction.

Now, a lot of people get angry about what they perceive to be bad art.  Reboots of movies that were released only five to ten years ago, far-fetched film sequels, rushes to copy trends in all mediums down to specific sound design techniques, plot twist types, and actor/genre match-ups.  Every one wants to complain that pop music is all the same, that stadium country ‘sucks’, that we don’t need to see the story of King Kong for a fifteenth time.  But why?  Most people who enjoy pop music probably enjoy it in large part because they were not exposed to any thing else while they were developing their tastes, so aren’t even capable of the relative comparisons that allow for such a judgment as ‘it all sounds the same’.  As far as I can tell, classic black and death metal are super samey genres, as well as the modern hard core punk derivatives.  Even underground dance music artists are guilty of copy-catting what is popular, it’s just only popular on a certain level.  Film reboots don’t just sell because there is a demographic of nostalgia-suckers who can’t get enough of their favorite characters and themes.  It’s also an ingenious business model because there are always young people growing up without having seen the originals, kids who are being exposed to these characters and themes for the first time, be it iteration two or iteration five hundred.  To put it plainly, these people simply don’t know what they are missing, and can we really expect every one to research every piece of entertainment that they come in to contact with?  Even I only look up whether a song is a cover/remix when I suspect that it’s not enough like the performer’s style to be otherwise.  I only check to see if a movie was based on a book, if it was particularly inspiring to me, and what piece of pop culture drivel is inspiring enough to excite any thing greater than a few moments of smiles?  What’s more, pop culture is designed to appear as the be-all, end-all, showing its audience every thing that they need to see, providing the very best.  When convinced of this, why conduct one’s own search for novelty?

We can talk about bad art in terms of how much money-grabbing was a greater influence than expression, but even that vague term ‘expression’ can imply useless things.  A song or story that genuinely expresses an artist’s struggle with a bad break up is still pretty uninspiring.  What’s it going to do?  Remind people of their own bad break ups, and make them angry about bad break ups?  Who cares?  If what you are introducing to a society is a copy of a response to a trivial thing that already gets plenty of response, you are not inspiring that society.  It’s still just entertainment at its foundation.

So yes- I would rather talk about whether art is good or bad in terms of whether it is more entertaining or more inspiring.  Certainly the greatest art is both!  But we have enough pure entertainment.  Plenty of old entertainment can be reused without being remade, and it often is: theaters bust out old reels; nightclubs host regular retro events; Netflix collects shows and films both old and new.  We have enough entertainment, but we can always use more inspiration.  I am tired of seeing new bands pop up whose lyrical focus is ‘tragic relationships’ or ‘dreams’ or ‘Scandinavian folk lore’.  I am sick of movie reboots and variations on a theme.  Regurgitating the same old, tired crap- but why is this a problem?  Because, more often than not, old and tired ideas are reused without useful metaphor, or hard facts in advice- they return without meaningful improvement.  Scandinavian folk lore can teach people important life lessons.  How to have a healthy relationship can be explained in song, film, and fiction writing.  If you’re really clever, you might even pull it off in a single, still image!  Or at least a bit of it.

Big business media aims to please the lowest common denominator, so ‘art’ becomes simple and meaningless, which is in a way amusing because it is that lowest common denominator that needs the strongest, most inspiring message.  It’s not like meaningful art is destined to fail.  Just look at the commercial success of Rage Against the Machine, a musical act defined by its anger and political perspective.  Take a look at the classical science fiction authors.  Moral play after moral play, existential quandary after epistemological experiment.  Since science fiction’s inception, there have always been best-sellers in that genre, even after Star Wars went and tried to drown science fiction in space fantasy opera.  ‘There’s just no money in it’ is no excuse, especially when philosophy can easily survive being soaked in entertainment.  Take a look at Rick and Morty, for goodness’s sake!

Indulgent.  Needlessly redundant.  Hedonistic.  There is such a thing as bad art, but it’s not just some childish matter of subjective taste.  Stadium country doesn’t suck because of the twangy vocals and the repetition of subject matter; it sucks because the whole of it exists to promote a self-indulgent life style that depends on being completely alienated from modern society.  It’s escapism in the most direct sense, in encouraging people to escape to the ‘simpler’ life of tractors and sweet tea, devoid of information technology and universities.  Concerning fantasy and ‘paranormal’ stories, the source of the escapism is no secret.  Wouldn’t life be better, if we could just will away all of the shit we don’t like with magic?  Wouldn’t it be great, if there were no facts, no logic to the Universe, and weird stuff just happened for no reason, so we’d never have to be held accountable for any cause-and-effect relationships?  But fantasy can be useful, if used in the same way science fiction can be used for good.  The two general genres share the title of speculative, and real life problems can easily be explored from fantasy perspectives that grant extra emphasis to this or that unlikely detail.

So, okay.  Inspirational.  Meaningful.  Still pretty vague.  What are artists supposed to be doing, under this narrative, exactly?  Well, there are two kinds of inspiration: cognitive and emotional.  With a vague, catch-all ‘love’ ballad, you can inspire people to feel affectionate or lonely, and think that the best close relationships are defined by a few tender moments and physical attraction, and only loosely defined even by those terms.  With a powerful sci-fi epic, you can move one to tears, anger, compassion, confidence- and attach all of these feelings through passion to some noble cause.  Rage Against the Machine is an ingenious project because the lyrics raise all sorts of social issues, make the audience feel the, er, rage of a disenfranchised, disenchanted, and frightened populace when faced with such issues- and it pulls all of this off over funk riffs.  Groovy, downright fun instrumentation, so even if some one isn’t interested in the lyrical content at first, they may- and many have (I know that I was)- be lured in by the vibe and absorb the message as they get used to the records.

Some songs and stories, though with plenty of lyrical content and plot points, only serve to inspire emotionally.  That is fine.  Some times we need a little pick-me-up, a little hope with an uplifting melody or a simple story of triumph over evil, but again, escapism is a dangerous lure to apathy.  What is better for us is angry, aggressive music.  Dark music.  Stories where the bad guys win.  Stories where the villains are intelligent, kind, and difficult to accuse.  Emotionally, we need art that drives us to care about evil, to care about the suffering of others, and to learn about how to deal with these things.  We need sad and melancholy art that doesn’t inspire self-pity, but an empathy toward the pain of those less fortunate.

And all emotions are in response to complex phenomena.  Love songs can have a thing or two to say about relationship psychology.  Party tracks can shed light on the perils of hedonism (I’ve heard it before!).  The form need not even be deviated away from by much, thanks to satire!  Any story with characters living in a society have potential to involve issues of prejudice, politics- does the fictional society have a government?  A history of colonialism?  Don’t just write about the king’s quest to defeat the local dragon; touch on his struggles as ruler, the disconnect between royalty and peasantry, how the dragon threat impacts the economy, and the treacherous misconceptions of who is to blame.  Dragons are supposed to be intelligent; what is the dragon’s perspective?  How does it justify its motives?  Shed light on how background and expectations shape perspective.  And, for your audience’s sake, study your chosen subjects.  Returning to the love song trope, if all you write about is physically intimate human relationships, but you don’t know a single thing about the history of romanticism or the reason for this or that marriage statistic, well, go fuck your self.

There.  I did it.  This piece of writing at least inspired me to anger about the issues!

Aesthetics are important.  Art is important.  Entertainment pacifies.  The truest form of art critiques our lives and directs our passions to improving the world that we share.  I am not here to tell artists that they should never create for their selves ever again, that they should avoid using art to explore their selves and their abilities, but I do share concern for our priorities.  Are you here to please your self, or are you here to attempt to improve the world around you?  If your priority is the former, then you are but a happiness-seeker masquerading as a purpose-driven creator.

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The Time is Not Right For Happiness

Happiness, as a state of mind, is a pacifier.  For all practical purposes in an imperfect Universe, the words ‘happiness’ and ‘complacency’ are exactly synonymous.

Idiot, via Old French via the Latin idiota, which came from Greek in the form of idiōtēs which meant ‘private person, layman, ignorant person’, coming from the term idios, meaning ‘own’ or ‘private’.  It was easier for the early Greek philosophers to talk about how retreating from societal issues is a vice.  Today, in the United States of America, you hear would-be intellectuals scoff and say that they are above politics, without a clue as to what that implies.

Oh.  I’m sorry.  All of your rights are protected (and some times violated, which is a cause for even greater concern) by a complex system of laws held up by hundreds of thousands of people across the nation, but you can’t be bothered by thinking about it?  Remind me where your pride comes from, social animal.

So we have a hypothetical, figurative punching bag person.  It doesn’t need a name, but let’s say it identifies as male in order to at least have an easy to follow pronoun.  He believes that politics is a pointless subject, and avoids political issues (in its general sense, any subject in which we may concern our selves with how society ought to be).  May be he makes a point of ‘avoiding society’, or may be he’d just prefer to ignore the fact that social systems affect every one.  There is no way to truly disregard politics and society and yet be genuinely concerned for the well being of the people.  Society could get better, society could get worse, but what of it?  This guy is in it for his self.  Sure, sure, he probably cares about his friends and immediate family, but we’re talking about one or two dozen individuals in negligence of billions.

But hold on.  What am I implying?  One person can certainly positively influence the lives of two dozen, but billions?  Who has that kind of power?  Well, some people actually do, but our guy probably isn’t one of those people- hell, he’d probably have to care about politics or some such grimy thing to accumulate world-changing power!  How terrible.  Caring about society and running for president are not the same thing.  Not every path to bettering society results in ending world hunger.

How many of our guy’s friends and family members are actively in support of a cause?  Probably none, if he has any thing to say about it.  So he’s at best supporting the happiness of a couple dozen people, if that.  Maintaining that many relationships is one thing, but actively supporting the happiness of others?  Easier said than done.  Chances are, he’s just going through the motions, preventing a few people from going below base line most of the time, and they’re turning out to be okay because of a multitude of factors, most of them being ones that he has no control over.  This guy’s an idiot any way.  Remember?

Ultimately, shunning society, ignorant of the world’s real, serious problems, unfeeling toward them, avoidant of their implications, this guy’s main drive is his personal happiness.  And yeah.  It’s pretty dang easy to be unfeeling toward the suffering of the world, when he is feeling perfectly content in his own little, safe world.  He’s comforted.  He’s entertained.  He’s celebrating his satisfaction with alcohol at home and parties on the week end- never mind that the alcohol purchase was made possible by government regulations on business and companies that have their own internal politics.  Never mind that house parties and night clubs and music venues and festivals exist due to the efforts of communities, communities all assisted and restricted by law- but, hey.  Let us not be too presumptuous.  What if our man lives with only a spouse and a dog and a cat in a house run on a gasoline generator, completely off the grid!?  Well, their contract of purchase of land was still made official by state law; the government is still protecting their property, their rights, and they’re still going in to town for things- but good.  Good!  Separate your self as much as possible from society, sir, because your attitude makes you practically useless to us.

But he’s happy.  Right?  We’re assuming that he’s happy, and didn’t I just imply that it’s easier to be happy, when you ignore all of the world’s suffering?  I most certainly did!  And isn’t happiness, really, the goal?  Well, may be.  But is it for the individual to be happy, or the whole?  If every person was only responsible for the well being of their self, most people would be doomed- and most people are already doomed, if we as societies don’t realize the potential of compassion.

Happiness.  Love.  ‘I just want to be happy.’  ‘All you need is love.’  When people say that, they don’t mean the true, giving kind of love- unless they mean ‘all you need is for every one to give every moment of their time and every bit of their effort to your needs and desires’.  That might make a person truly happy, but either way it all comes down to personal happiness.  Happiness is a state of being.  A ‘happy life’.  We chase pleasant things in the hopes of stringing them along to create a lasting, permanent contentment.  A time when we can sit back and just smile at out fortunes, those that shall sustain to the end of our days.  Stop struggling, stop fighting, and just be.  Ah!  Wouldn’t that be great?

Do we really want to be content?  Of course we do.  Even those of us most driven by purpose appreciate contentedness.  Of course we do, but do we want to feel it right now, while the world is vicious and suffering, or later, after we’ve triumphed over our selves?  There are always problems, be they devastations or be they hiccups, but happiness allows us to forget them, to minimize them, to become apathetic to them.  Sure.  It’s important to be able to laugh over a stubbed toe, but when our guy hears about a mall massacre and responds, ‘Well, at least I’m happy,’ he is expressing a vice, and that vice is apathy.  Apathy.  A social animal feeling no thing but appreciation of his self in response to learning of the tragedies of others!

When we talk about ‘happy moments’ what we really are talking about is glee, joys, satisfaction in response to specific things, all momentary responses.  These things are helpful, as rewards.  They can give hope, they can energize the mind, they can even make the body feel revitalized, more capable, but capable of what?  Of going out to dance, to celebrate celebration?  The strength to get out of bed to watch more Netflix?  Well, may be yes, actually.  May be yes, but also-

To work.  Work has a bad reputation in this country, and I could go on at great length about that, but for now: true happiness should only be the reward of a happy and wise Universe, and in order to get there, we have to do work.  Get a job with NASA or SpaceX so that we can reach the rest of the Universe.  Get a job with what ever parts of the government are choking NASA.  Go in to career politics and try to fight the corruption.  Participate as a civilian on the town hall level.  Become a cop and expose the corruption in that system, risking your life like no one else will.  Get in to law.  Become a teacher, and don’t be afraid to teach your students some thing real.  Create art that makes people relate to the struggles of the world, and/or inspires others to do good.  Study ethics and politics and go out of your way to shed your knowledge on to others.  Show others what passion about compassion looks like.  Stand up against racism at your place of business.  Step out of your comfort zone for strangers.

There are people who seek happiness and there are people who seek purpose.  I hate to break it to those chasing that nebulous thing happiness (that we all talk about but very few know much about), but the world has very little need of you right now, save to assemble our products, to maintain our products, and to transport our products- and those jobs probably don’t make you happy any way.  No.  We need political change.  We need social change.  We need a redistribution of wealth.  We need better education.  For those things we need specifically-tailored hope.  We need targeted inspiration.  We need… even more good education, and we can’t get enough of any of that stuff, but we certainly have more than enough financially and emotionally well off people with their heads down, gazes averted, concerned only with where and when they’ll get their next pleasure and delight.

So don’t pursue happiness.  Pursue betterment; pursue improvement, and who knows?  May be you’ll even feel kinda-sorta good about it along the way.

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Some thoughts on personal validation


Reassuring our selves that others validate us is different from the active validation of others, though both phenomena depend heavily on our perception of other people.  Why?  Is it because we do not trust our memories?  Per haps it is only pride that remembers behaviors as evidence that others found value in us.  Is it because of that undeniable fact that people change, lose interest, move on?  Sure, we can be valued when present, but why think of us when we are not around?  Is there value in a friend that is missing?  What good is a companion that does not accompany us?

It is acceptable to ask for validation, for people to speak those words of evidence that they are interested, that they appreciate, that they empathize, that they care, that they love.  As social creatures, our self-esteem requires continuous validation, if not from others, then in ways that are only emulating that validation from others.  But continuous and constant are two separate concepts.  Regular and often do not mean the same thing.  Hearing ‘You still love me.  Right?’ or ‘Do I have your forgiveness?’ every once in a while probably bothers no one, but when does tending to security become insecurity?  And do good friends provide validation frequently without being asked or otherwise prompted?  How does one tell the difference between routine, habitual, insincere words of affection and genuine- but frequent– ones?  How often do people cuddle their partners out of a feeling of obligation (as opposed to an authentic desire to do so), and, if it still makes the other person feel comforted and valued, can it be called a ‘lie’?

It can be difficult to look out for other people, to guess at their needs and attempt to cradle their insecurities, especially when we are still confused about our own.  Balancing acts are difficult to measure.  What is fair and even?  Exchanging praise for praise, affection for affection- many times I have renounced personal exchange relationships.  We don’t love people because we want them to make us feel good; we love people because we want them to feel good, and to become better, because we understand their position in this shared world, so much so that we’re willing to sacrifice our time and energy to help.  If we understand a person, we know that they are able to improve, and that they will do well to not depend heavily on validation from others.  If we are lucky, the people that we love also love us, and will understand us enough to know that we can not within reason always be available for support, and will still appreciate what ever little amount that we can offer.

Asking for simple validations shouldn’t be hard.  What are we afraid of?  If the other person generally does not care about us, we should not crave validation from them in the first place.  If the other person is temporarily emotionally or otherwise unavailable, but generally cares about us, it should be easy to communicate such a thing, apologize, and allow us to quickly move on to find what we need elsewhere.  One rejection does not necessarily indicate a lack of value, and even a person of little value still has potential to grow in to one of more value.

But what if rejection is consistent?  Or what if attention enough for rejection is not easy to obtain?  Well, the human animal is not just a social animal, but also an intellectual one.  Self-validation can be gained through learning, developing skills, even simply by absorbing and understanding art.  ‘Having healthy, caring relationships’ is a practical goal, but, like any serious goal, we have to put in the work to obtain it.  Does the status of social animal earn us the right to companionship?  No.  No.  Not at all!  Not any more than we deserve the right to having fun for our status of ‘bored’.  All people deserve compassion, but compassion can exist between strangers, between law enforcers and criminals.  No.  People want to associate with attractive bodies containing attractive personalities.  The human mind is generally fascinating, but this should not imply that any one human mind is inherently attractive.  We make our selves, our behaviors, our interests, our values attractive- or unattractive.  Some times we are lucky and are raised right.  Some times we are unlucky and are not, or are raised right but turn out vicious any way.  Regardless of our individual tragic pasts, we do no thing to earn love and companionship save for being good- or viciously deceive.  Ah, but how can one love us, if they do not understand us, and will they understand us, if we deceive them in to a caring relationship?

Personal responsibility, authenticity, openness and honesty, and growth of character are regular topics on this blog, because many personal problems lead us back to them as some part or all of the solution.  As I, my self, have become more secure, I still notice the temptation to become addicted to validation from those that care about me.  Picture this: I am content, proud, and confident (which is true like half of the time, I guess).  I get praise and affection on top of that as a base line.  The praise and affection does not strike me as helpful, but as pleasing.  And pleasure is desirable, and there is no immediate threat of deficiency, so why not seek out more, if I am above emotional base line, and rejection doesn’t seem so scary right now?  Well, even happy, content people can develop detrimental habits, can ask for too much, and can become fixated on that which is not the best purpose of a thing.  Expectations can rise, and rise, like the tolerance of a drug addicted nervous system, until my needs become overwhelming, even though I was just happy, proud, and confident.  Then smaller amounts of validation are meaningless, smaller amounts, from fewer people, and I’m feeling a social deficit even though I am getting no less than what I was getting before…

‘This feels really good; I want to feel this way all of the time.’

All of the time.  It’s a trick.  It is not satisfaction that is supposed to last, but the effects of satisfaction.  One of our intellectual powers is the ability to remember things with clarity, to provide a sense of permanence to things that are not present, to reflect on the good, and to use memories as fuel for confidence, for improvement, as inspiration for our purposes, and to maintain happiness without the assistance of others.  It is true, that memory is fallible, but let us allow concrete evidence to make us skeptical; let us not allow our emotional insecurity to cast us in to doubt.


Easier said than done, though.  Right?

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An other story comes to a close

On January ninth 2016 I began writing the third part of my second trilogy, an existential, speculative fiction piece about time travel, war, friendship, ethics, and purpose. On August third 2016 (at about two-thirty AM) I wrote the ending to that story, coming out to 242,593 in 607 pages for the third installment, written over the course of 207 days. That’s on average 2.93 pages written per day, or 1,171 words written per day.

Compare that to 470 pages or 164,452 words written in 434 days for the second part, an average of 1.08 pages per day, or 378 words per day.
Compare that to 449 pages or 139,510 words written in 2236 days for the first part, an average of 0.2 pages per day, or a whopping 62 words per day.
After writing about one hundred pages in the first part of this story back in 2008, I got terribly distracted by other projects, started and finished an entire other novel, “O”, and got distracted by years of anxiety and depression exasperated by, shall we say, ‘relationship problems’ and ‘social fears’. Most of that first part was written, and it was finished, while I was working full time, going to school part time, and failing to save an intimate relationship. I considered my habits of motivation and time management to be poor, and I often had to reread the entirety of what I had already written, because I couldn’t keep it all straight in my conscious mind. Looking back on it and considering my self-perspective during that time, I suppose that I did pretty all right, but I was terribly disappointed with my self. During the writing of the second part, between late 2014 and January ninth 2016, I made an effort to get my shit together, to break down my morbid attachments and learn how to be sustained emotionally on /healthy/ validation from peers, the awe and wonder of art, and the satisfaction of personal accomplishment. During the writing of the third book, I streamlined my life, maintained the writing as a top priority, and kept on reinforcing my new, healthier cognitive/emotional habits. I have a lot to show for it, but the easiest to figure is in those numbers above. I multiplied the productivity of the most important project of my life (so far) by 14.65 times. There’s still a lot of editing to do (I have per haps twenty pages of notes to go through and apply), and then the terrifying decisions and loathsome waiting periods that are associated with publishing, but the part that makes me confident in my identity and self-worth is complete.
It’s been six months since my last blog post here.  Most of that time was spent working (I had just started a new job before my last post, and there was a lot of overtime for the first four months), writing that damned story (still tentatively titled There is no Time), and trying not to get distracted from writing that damned story, but a lot more happened too.  Ten excellent friends and family members visited me from out of state (and I visited friends and family back home one week); I made some new friends here in Denver; I got a promotion and an additional raise at the food bank; I had my first cup of coffee; I confirmed that I can achieve days of bliss without attachment, I conquered a bad case of intestinal parasites, and I absorbed the wonderful aesthetics of Bioshock Infinite (for the second time), Hyper Light Drifter, Ergo Proxy, (the anime mini-series) Noir (for the second time, reliving a major part of my high school years), and the latest season of Game of Thrones.
I’ve had lots of ideas that I wanted to blog about, but couldn’t justify the time spent.  Some of the subjects were recorded in notes, and I’ll get to fleshing them out as posts, and some of them just went in to my story in stead.  I’ve a lot of other projects to work on now, but they’re all smaller in scope, and are easier to focus on in small chunks.  Because of this, I expect this blog to soon come back to life.  As for right now, this is just a simple life update, mostly to keep good record of this accomplishment and these times so that my brain doesn’t have to.
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Explaining our interest

This six-year-old ‘darkly cute’ instrumental piece on glock, heavily edited tuba and bowed violin, and drum and steam samples accurately represents how I feel this morning (and I composed, arranged, and produced it).

Almost two months ago, after three and a half months of applications and interviews, I finally secured a sustaining job near my new home in Denver, Colorado.  At first I had a ‘take what I can get’ mentality about it, as the pay wasn’t quite enough to pay all of my bills, but it turned out to supply me with extremely cheap (and supportive) health insurance, which doesn’t mean that I save loads of money, but that I can pay all of my bills and have a little bit left over at the end of the month.  Plus, they almost always have free food there, so I am finding my self spending less money on food.  It’s not an ideal situation, and I still have to be frugal, but it is the best paying job with regular hours that I’ve had, with the kindest coworkers that I’ve experienced.

Getting accustomed to a new work environment takes quite a bit of time for me, and brings out the introvert in me like none other.  Because of this, though I’ve been assembling my thoughts on a few philosophical and psychological issues and taking notes on them, I’ve barely touched my story writing, haven’t been working on music, and have neglected this blog.  In stead I’ve been using my free time to relax and make new friends; with a couple extra days off due to the holiday, I figured I’d try getting back in to one or two of those things this week end.

I talk about communication a lot, but it’s usually concerning conflict prevention and resolution.  This week, I’ve had two experiences that have prompted me to write about communication that is satisfying in its own right.  The two exchanges that I had involved two different types of explanation for what is usually only expressed through gestures, and so their meaning is typically only implied, and as such is often misunderstood.

In the one case, it was a telling of a desire for sharing affection.  We all have these desires, and they are typically pointed toward specific individuals, but it is much more rare that we express them in words, especially to new friends.  In some ways, hearing that the other person has a conscious, understood desire to share comforts is even more satisfying than experiencing said desire in action.  For some reason, speaking it out loud makes it official, more real.  It shows that the desire exists when we are not around, that the affectionate feelings don’t vanish when we are separated from the other person.  It is also an expression of a different level of comfort: being able and willing to talk about feelings and desires, some very personal things that can still be hidden even in the embrace of the object of said feelings and desires.  It combines a pinch of intellectual intimacy with emotional and/or physical intimacy.  It’s a particularly vulnerable position to be in, to be telling a person what you want from/with them.  When we just try to let affection quietly flow, we can act as though we don’t want what we don’t get, and save face in the face of disappointment.  We might feel vulnerable when our desires are rejected, but it is far more likely to be painful, if the other party knows that they are rejecting our desires- so yes, I understand why people have trouble speaking up about what they want, but I am here to say that it is worth it, that the vulnerability is valuable, and that it is still worth it to continue after the fear is gone.

In the two case, it was a detailed explanation of gratitude for my friendship over the course of years.  It is usually pretty clear when a person enjoys our company, but no amount of gestures can really tell us why that person enjoys us and finds us valuable.  We can get by on a general sense of validation, but it is much more potent when our individual traits and/or actions are commended.  It shows not only interest and care but understanding, understanding of who we are and what we provide.  Aside from what is valued, speaking of it can show how much we are valued.  In the adult world we can’t measure how important we are to an other person simply by how much time they make for us, because we all can get pretty busy and have conflicting schedules.  Casual friendships are typical, regardless of how much time is spent together.  The relationships that we experience the most often are the most convenient, not necessarily the strongest.  To be able to differentiate, our best bet is to talk about it.  Beyond what I’ve covered, it is particularly satisfying to be told how we have inspired others, and it is particularly difficult to know this without being told.  A person’s internal growth is a pretty hidden thing, so we typically can have no idea of our influence on the growth of others without them first realizing it and then explaining it to us.

Some people subscribe to the loose philosophy that different people bond and understand interest best in different ways.  Whether they are conditioned to respond more strongly to touch or simply have expectations of a greater meaning behind material gifts, I find that being told how one feels in detail is still extremely important.  A simple ‘I love you’ routine isn’t what I am talking about here, nor are simple vocalized expressions of commiseration.  When a person shows me that they have thought about their relationship to me, that they care enough about it to analyze it and determine consciously that it has value, I feel the fullest security concerning the bond.  Additionally, this also shows how the other person thinks about relationships in general, what they value in them, and this helps me understand what there is in that person that I can value.

Now, some people make the argument that gift-giving is a worthy substitute for shared analysis.  The idea is that a gift is purchased during a person’s alone time, which shows that the person thinks about the receiver when the receiver is not around.  The idea is that gifts have a concrete value, and that the amount of money spent can be used to gauge the level of investment in the relationship.  The idea is that we can tell how much a person understands us with a gift, because we have to know a person well in order to choose a fitting gift.  It is an interesting concept, but I find it problematic for these reasons: every one has a different level of income; every one requires a different percentage of their income for necessities and life style support; every one values material possessions differently; gift giving as proof of interest is too closely tied to sexist age-old traditions; gift giving is forced to be regulated by (likely fluctuating) financial state before emotional state; the measurement of gift-giving is, in a way, too precise, to the point where it strongly encourages the rise of exchange relationships, which are essentially vehicles for the monetization of care, intimacy, and love (this obviously isn’t a complete argument against prioritizing gift-giving, but the presentation of such would likely warrant its own post).

I would not be surprised, if the reason for the popular (mis)understanding of love being so tied to monogamy is because most people are so poorly equipped to talk about their feelings.  Can’t talk about how much you value a person?  That’s fine!  You can express it with a huge gesture of exclusivity!  This might not make the extent to which you value the other person clear, but it surely will make it clear that you value them more than all of the other potential mates!  Life is all relative any way.  Right?

In sum: tell people that you care, but don’t just tell them that you care; tell them why you care, tell them what you want to share, find ways to describe why you want to share those things.  Create a dialogue of intimacy, to build comfort, to build security, to understand your wants and needs, and to bring delight to those that you care about.

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Hippy-woo Energy Magic

Spiritualism.  The purpose of spiritualism was once to add a mystical element, an unmeasurable variable, to the natural world, to fill all of the gaps in our understanding of physics/chemistry/biology/psychology.  It subdued our fear of the unknown, so that said fear would not influence our behavior in negative ways- negative toward the in-group, any way.  Spiritualism led to religion, of which the unifying strength was so great that it began to make us think of humans with a faith different from our own as detrimental to our own way of life, as if we secretly knew that all it took to destroy our beliefs was an alternative perspective.  I am not here to rant about religion, though, at least not directly.  Religions are traditions; they serve a greater purpose than to simply keep us from questioning the world.  They serve a social purpose, which is arguably much more valuable than a metaphysical or existential one.  Straight up, unattached spiritualism, though, a general and personal belief in a spiritual plane of existence that we are/can be connected to, does not cater to the same social needs.




Look at this.  Dear determinism, just look at it.  It is sickeningly meaningless and empty of purpose.  It answers no thing and raises so many questions.  What is a mental realm?  Is that my mind?  If that is so, what is an emotional realm?  Is that, like, the hell to my mental heaven?  How does one tap in to the spiritual realm?  If we can think of tapping in to the mental realm as thinking, and the emotional as feeling, what follows for the spiritual realm?  What kind of spiritual actions can we make?  Is there some significance to changing the term from ‘realm’ to ‘dimension’?  Is the spiritual dimension merely a spacial dimension that we are not used to perceiving on?  Finally, the blasted energy.  What kind of energy are we talking about?  Are we talking about all energy?  How can physical energy be limited by existing in its own realm?  If we are not talking about physical energy, how can it benefit us during our physical lives?  If there is a source of unlimited energy out there, doesn’t that mean that, how ever it is accomplished, as soon as one is to tap in to this source, they should be able to quickly and easily become a god?

There is a practical use of imagining intellect and emotion in such a duality as light and dark realms, but let’s face it: they are both systems contained within the brain; they are both part of the same electro-chemical system.  In any case, they certainly can not be a realm as physical space/time is a realm.  Discussing intellect and emotion in this way merely serves a rhetorical purpose, as for poetry or metaphor.  My dreamscape can be thought of as a realm, but my dreams are actually disconnected sequences of memory events.  There is no realm that binds them, so to think of dreams in terms of realms is to imagine an original realm for every dream one has ever had.  Even that is foolish, unless you believe in Multiple Personality Solipsism, because once a dream is had it is reduced to common memories, like every other kind of memory.  A dream sequence does not continue to progress while we are awake.  To try to imagine thoughts and feelings as things with spacial dimension is absurd.  At best, this image is trying to use a metaphor to justify through analogy the significance of the spirit, which just plain does not work logically (and yes, for those haters out there, logic is extremely important, because we live in a logical, mathematically predictable Universe).

If it is true that there is a spiritual dimension that is ‘higher’ than temporal dimensions, and we have yet to be able to time travel by mere will, I doubt that any one can simply just ‘tap’ in to it, and I especially doubt that any human ever has.  The trouble here is that, to the best of our ability, we can only imagine interacting with spiritual stuff in terms of feeling, and feeling is either an emotional event or a sensational event, that is, it either refers to emotional stimulus in the brain or physical stimulus in the rest of the body.  We, as human animals, are a mind and a body, or even just a body with a complex electro-chemical system on top.  Every thing about us, including spiritual beliefs, can be accounted for by psychology and biology.  Every phenomena that we produce is a thought, an emotion, or a behavior.  Spiritual feelings or sensations are just complex emotions and/or bodily sensations (which are closely related to said emotions) that are entirely misplaced intellectually.  We have a strong urge to belong, so our nervous systems have developed a complicated set of programming to appease this urge, including feelings of bonding, including sentimental value for inanimate objects, including misattributing a sense of purpose or belonging to our environment.  In other words, our brains can trick us in to feeling like things in our environment are alive and have mystical influence over us, including the empty air.  This is what ‘tapping in to the spiritual realm’ is, it is an emotional state and bodily sensation that makes us feel that we belong to some thing invisible, some thing powerful, an abstract hallucination that is not only predictable but triggerable in a laboratory environment for reliable testing and retesting (with electrical signals sent from electrodes to a specific part of the brain).  I am pretty sure that, if spiritual experiences can be created by inanimate objects in a sterile and bland lab office (not to mention by chemical imbalances in schizophrenia patients), that there is no thing truly spiritual about them.

What the hell kind of energy are we talking about?  Is it electricity?  Is it electromagnetism?  Is it heat?  Is it acoustic pressure?  No.  All of those things are measurable, so are physical.  What we are talking about is a specific spiritual energy, what our souls are made of!  Different cultures call it different things.  Some call it chi.  Some call it ki.  The word adapted to English is ether, which is where the term ethereal comes from.  People claim that ghosts are ethereal, that they are no thing but spirit stuff, and yet claim that ghosts can be seen- but… if ghosts can be seen, if they can reflect light, they can be measured.  It doesn’t matter, whether cameras can pick them up or not; our eyes are simple machines, and, if they can detect ether, certainly our advanced machines of precision can, but they can’t and they don’t.  Now, some people are more reasonable and realize that every one who has ever claimed to have seen a ghost has either lied or been subject to a hallucination, prank, or optical illusion.  These people know that our eyes are not ethereal, and so can not measure what can’t be measured (the idea is that the ghosts do not reflect light, but actively manipulate light or other physical things for the purpose of drawing attention to their selves).  That’s all well and good, but, if the physical world can not interact with the ethereal, how is it that our bodies react to our spirits?  If our simple flesh sacks can so easily and flawlessly receive input from our spirits, why can literally no thing else in the known Universe (why can I interface with my brain but not my computer)?  Sure.  There are people who have claimed to have invented electronic machines that can detect ether, but, if their spiritual selves can not detect the same signals, why are they so quick to assume that ether is what is being read, in stead of some other input (just food for thought here, really, as all of that nonsense has been proved to be hoaxes)?  The whole purpose of subscribing to a belief in ether is so a whole mess of arbitrarily chosen postulates can escape scientific scrutiny, but the joke of it is that, if a thing can not be analyzed scientifically, it effectively does not exist.  Even the most subtle sentiment captured in poetry can be explained in psychological terms, which in turn can be explained biologically, and so on.

If spiritual energy is unlimited, and unrestricted by physical limitations, are there spiritual limitations?  The argument is typically that physical limitations hold back our spiritual selves, but by definition ether and physical matter/energy can not even interact.  A more generous definition (humored here with much strain on my capacity for benefit-of-the-doubt thinking for the sake of argument) allows for the spiritual to influence the physical- but certainly there is no way to justify the other way around.  Okay.  What new problem does that allow us to explore?  If my spiritual self has access to unlimited energy, only choice can prevent me from acquiring godhood.  In order for a spirit to interact with its physical host, it has to have sway over the physical world, and so a spiritual god is also in effect a physical god- buuut I’ve never seen a new-ager bending the very fabric of reality to their will, and none of my friends have either.

The things that ether used to account for have been explained in physical terms.  The mystery has been solved.  We don’t need that awe or wonder any more.  We have new awes and wonders.  New, better awes and wonders.  And why the hell would our spirits be shaped like our bodies, complete with bones when no structural support is needed, ears where there are no air vibrations to be heard, and noses in a realm without physical matter to enter the nostrils?  Look at that ridiculous image!  Why all of this but no spirit genitals?  Eh?  And the star patterns?  And what the hell do big, burning balls of gas and heavy metals have to do with the spirit plane?  Is that secretly where all of the ghosts are getting their real ‘unlimited’ energy?  They’re sucking the electromagnetism off of stars?  It’s all just artistic interpretations to me, and trying to explain how the Universe works with art is a horrible top-down approach to analysis, if I ever saw one.


PS: If the physical, mental, and emotional realms are distinct from the spiritual one, then what the hell does a spirit take away from interacting with them when it separates in death?  How is losing your ability to comprehend and remember sensations, feelings, and thoughts any different from a complete death, as the atheists expect it?  If having a spiritual self is supposed to give our lives more meaning, what the hell is the point of interacting with a body at all?  If we follow this logic, the ethereal form just goes back to being incapable of action and experience, having learned no thing.

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