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.

 

NONSENSE

 

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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The Matrix: Smith is the One, but who cares?

SPECIAL EDITION FILM CRITICISM!

I was recently exposed to a fan theory about The Matrix trilogy that proposes that Agent Smith was the One, Neo merely being a tool to meet the One’s end.  This theory is attractive, because…

1. Smith, as a program, was born within the Matrix.

2. Smith heavily implies that he has been around since the beginning of the Matrix when ranting to the captured Morpheus.

3. It is clear that Smith is anomalous simply because he has so many human traits, even before Neo ‘freed’ him, as expressed to Morpheus.

4. Smith is actively avoiding returning to the source, and it is the One’s code that is required to reload the Matrix.  Once the Deus Ex Machina gains access to Smith through Neo, the Matrix is reloaded.

4. Smith refers to the Oracle as ‘mom’, and the architect claimed that she was responsible for the creation of the One.

5. Smith is the character that comes the closest to destroying the Matrix.

6. Smith shows off being able to reform the Matrix as he sees fit, summoning a storm with green lightning, bragging to Neo, ‘Do you like what I’ve done with the place?’  Neo only jump-started a heart once.

7. The Matrix trilogy wants to be a thoughtful film with clever twists, but is full of plot holes.

Smith can See

I found this theory so satisfying that I rewatched the second film, only to be disappointed by pseudo-philosophy and poor martial arts choreography.  Oh- and I also thought that I had found flaws with this theory and thought about how to fix them as well as plot holes that it didn’t fill in.  I first hopped on Google to see if any of my concerns had already been addressed, but I was flooded with so many absurd theories and so much broken logic that I decided to just have faith in my creativity.  My own concerns are…

1. Smith clearly gains not only the Oracle’s powers of foresight but also her memories when he assimilates her.  If the Oracle knew that Smith was the One, shouldn’t Smith have then known that he was the One?  If he knew that he was the One, he definitely would have told Neo- he loved to rub bad news in his face, and gloat even when it cost him his advantage!

My attempt at patching: Stolen memories pertinent to Smith’s interests per haps did not come to the surface of his thoughts just because they were useful to him.  He was not interested in the prophesy, so per haps he had no reason to search the Oracle’s memories for any information concerning it.  In real human life, memories do not always surface on our consciousness just because they may be useful soon.  Smith was per haps too excited to have the future-telling ability to be concerned with any of the Oracle’s memories at all, but… the only reason we are sure that Smith inherits memories is because he was so easily able to come up with one that would prove to the Oracle that he had assimilated that little girl.  It really didn’t seem that any effort went in to him accessing those memories, and what the hell else did he have to do while he was waiting for Neo to show up?

Second attempt: the Oracle had even more control than she and the Architect implied, and purposefully encrypted or destroyed those memories in her self before Smith arrived.  May be she forgot after her weird change-over happened (though this creates a new problem of her remembering again later).

2. If the Oracle was keeping this all a secret from every one, even the Architect, why couldn’t the Architect or the Deus Ex Machina see through it?  Why didn’t they know that Neo’s ‘code’ wasn’t the right stuff just by looking at him?  The Architect made it very clear that he was watching every bit of Neo’s internal actions, and we could see representations of this on all of those screens.  If he was tasked with receiving the One at the source, he should have been able to know what the One’s code looked like.  You know, so he could process it.

My attempt at patching: the Architect was in on it, and spoke to the Oracle the way he did at  the end because she had still concealed from him her plan of using Neo and the One for peace.  If the Architect knew any thing about the One, he must have at least known that the One was a program.  But then…

3. The Architect said that the One will return to Zion and choose survivors to repopulate.  Could he really have meant to put Smith in a body and have him to take care of humans?

My attempt at patching: The Architect lied.  He was going to just have Smith destroyed at the source, Neo killed, and Zion completely destroyed, which would have been a lot easier, if Neo had complied, believing that it was his species’ best option.  This is a viable possibility because no where was it mentioned that it was necessary for Zion to survive continuously.  The machines preferred to not have freed humans, so there was no reason to give the humans a head start with a preset society, even just a small one.  Let those ass holes wake up and stumble through a dark, cyber goth world on their own atrophied legs and find a place to live!  As for getting a hold of Smith without Neo’s help, well, that move seemed like an improvised plan B on the machines’ part any way.  Neo writing on to Smith seemed to have surprised every one.

4. If Smith had the Oracle’s foresight, and the Oracle knew that Neo would jack in at the Source, why didn’t Smith know?

My attempt at patching: Smith was only concerned with winning the fight, not what would happen in the immediate aftermath.  He was a simple dude with a simple purpose.  Still…

5. Why didn’t Smith just kill Neo?  Trying to assimilate Neo was a dangerous experiment, regardless of whether he was jacked in at the Source or not, and Neo had even resisted it before.

My attempt at patching: Smith was a reckless idiot.

6. How does Smith being the One make the role of the One any more significant?   With the amount of deceit that the machines were willing to go to in this case and the amount of extra power and control that this implies that they have, why did they need the One to do much of any thing at all, other than entertain its self for a while until the Architect prepared the reboot?

My attempt at patching: I don’t know why, but the Matrix can’t be rebooted without the Prime Program (or the One) at the source, and Neo screwed that up when he imprinted some of his self on Smith at the end of the first movie in stead of just killing him.  If Smith’s code is needed to restart the Matrix, it makes sense that the machines would want Neo to go back in to the Matrix to trick Smith in to touching the source after Smith became beyond control.

7. The biggest problem with the Smith is the One theory at this point is that, as soon as we decide that the machines were willing to be even more deceitful than the Architect was willing to admit, we have even less reason to believe that the machines would honor their agreement to end the war!  It was already strange that the machines would give a shit about a social contract with a human, since they’d been harvesting them for food, killing them willy-nilly (agents never paused to spare the innocent), killing them systematically, and repeating a lie to give them false hope so that they could kill them more effectively.  If we accept that Smith is the One, we have to accept that the machines have no intentions of being honest.  And why would they?  The One is the enemy.  The humans are the enemy.  The cycle of Matrix reboots was working just fine before.  Why stop now?

My attempt at patching: I don’t think that I can!  The Oracle and the Architect talk at the end about how the peace probably won’t last, but why should we believe that it would even begin?

There’s plenty of other obvious stuff, like how human bodies would make terrible batteries- and what about all of the mysticism?  Future-telling?  Sure.  A program could predict the behaviors of other programs and may be even humans within the Matrix by watching their code, but that does not account for the Oracle being able to predict things that occurred with influence from the real world, and Neo spent a considerable amount of time not jacked in to the Matrix.  Trinity reviving Neo with a kiss?  Bull shit.  ‘Your mind makes it real.’  Don’t make me sick!  Neo has a special connection with the machines, and can kill them in the real world just by looking at them (but can’t just as easily subdue software within the Matrix)?  The alternative argument that new iterations of the One aren’t old programs that become anomalous, but a single old program being reincarnated?  That stuff is just silliness, thrown in for dramatic effect.  I hate plot devices like that, but I guess that I’ve gotten used to them (some people explain all this stuff away with the Matrix within a Matrix concept, but this relies on the characters being even more clueless, and the designers of the outer Matrix making a lot of arbitrary decisions- it’s a cop-out explanation.  If the world beyond the outer Matrix is never even speculated about within the story, this is just as disappointing as trying to explain away plot holes by saying, ‘But it’s all just a dream of god, and in dreams any thing can happen!).  What I can’t get over is how so much hinges on the machines suddenly developing a conscience at the end, there not being a single machine on the planet that could hack the Matrix from the out side (that Prime Program to the Source bit was apparently true, but awfully arbitrary), and Smith being a monumental moron, despite his most important character trait being that he is endowed with a special awareness.

I greatly appreciate the aesthetic of the Matrix, which has been extremely influential on my own work and my very identity.  I enjoy the impact that it had on pop culture and on film.  I very much like what it was trying to be, but I am so disappointed in its failures.  Smith almost said some thing important about purpose, and then didn’t.  The Merovingian did a better job of discussing determinism than the Oracle did, who might have just been spouting nonsense in order to deter Neo from the truth.  Infrequently did the participants in the martial arts scenes actually strike at their targets (again and again strikes are blocked or parried despite those strikes being out of range).  There were so many opportunities for important philosophical questions to be asked, and they just weren’t.  Did Smith assimilate the Merovingian and his servants and slaves, and, if so, couldn’t he have used that influence to pull strings in the real world or some thing?  The whole story just feels like the writers thought really hard for like thirty minutes and then just jerked off until they felt that it was time to stop-

And thank determinism that they stopped.

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Thoughts on Pride

 

From a significant perspective, there are two hierarchies of pride: one ranging from pride in one’s physical body to pride in country and one ranging from pride in small achievement to pride in large achievement.  The difference is between benign, mostly innate quality and effort of will.

Pride is an emotion, so we don’t need to judge people too harshly for feeling immense pride in how their body looks, but we need not act as thought that person ought to.  This is probably fairly apparent to many, but what is important is how similar this sort of pride (often referred to as vanity) is to family pride.   A family shares genetics, and we generally wish to care for our families, and many wish to hold their families in high regard regardless of the character of said family’s individuals.  The simplest way to reflect these things is in a feeling of pride, and our monkey brains prefer simple things.  This entire hierarchy is based on reacting to a sense of belonging in such a way that tries to relate the positive emotions of fulfilling that social need to the objective, uncaring world.  This issue has been obscured in the past, what with family prestige being related to power over others, but at its core the pride always came from a desire to be naturally good.  National pride too can be defended by referring to a country’s achievements, but being proud to be a citizen of the United States does not bring an individual any closer to the achievements of those many in power.

It’s interesting how such an individualistic society such as the one that I live in has maintained subscription to such a collective way of experiencing the world.  ‘Such and such action brings the family pride, such and such action brings the family shame.’  Treating a family as a unit, that the individual represents the group… it’s a dangerous way of handling responsibility.  While it may force individuals to more seriously consider the needs of others, there is little preventing this from merely being for the sake of saving one’s own skin.  There is still an individual aspect to this perspective: ‘have brought shame to my family/business/country.’

 

People can argue that this is wrong, and point to the achievements and good characters of others in their group, and make their pride sound like fellow-feeling, like compassion.  If that was the case, though, and this form of pride is valuable, these folks ought to be pursuing even more successful groups- but no; this is tribalism.  The innate bond by genes or place of birth or even unconscious choice masquerading as one’s nature has great value in the emotional programming of those in question.  We still carry this primitive notion that what is natural is what is pure, innocent, and good.  ‘Nature is good by nature’ is what this argument comes down to, a circular logic- this is why it is considered a red herring fallacy.  The purity of nature is that it has no value.

Thoughts of a Shyfted Mind 11

Your physical attractiveness is not inherently good.  My belonging to a family is not inherently good.  His sexual orientation is not inherently good.  Her race is not inherently good.  Their nationality is not inherently good.  Others might argue that your body is good, but that is only true as long as you have agreed to share it with them, whether for the pleasures of their sight or their touch.  My belonging to a family is only good for me, if I choose to work on my relationships with them and doing so benefits me.  Utilizing one sexual orientation is no different from utilizing an other in terms of the Good.  Being of one race or an other is only better or worse because of arbitrary, caustic social constructs, and there are no choices to be made about one’s race.  Having been born on one patch of soil as opposed to an other, regardless of their difference of culture and politics, only reflects on the individual as far as how it chooses to identify.

Why is this a problem?  Why is feeling good ever a problem?  Why care for objective truth as long as we feel good?  The answer to those questions is usually that only concerning one’s self with immediate positive emotions and sensations will significantly harm individuals in the long run or significantly harm society.  Pride in inherent value assigns a sort of mystical perspective that causes us to judge others on useless pretenses.  It breeds tribalism, and tribalism breeds hatred for what is foreign, and a distaste for the foreign stalls personal growth, societal progress, and makes unity and the most needed of compassion impossible.  Being comfortable in your body is good for your confidence.  Vanity brings negative judgment on those who don’t look similar.  Feeling lucky to have been born in a country that values freedom is humbling.  Pride in one’s country creates hatred for those of other countries.

The alternative, as mentioned above, is pride in personal achievement, in our choices, in our efforts.  Pride in my success is an emotion that encourages me to aim higher and achieve more.  Pride in my heritage encourages me to stagnate, because I’ve decided that I’m good by nature, that I’m good no matter how I behave.  To focus on achievement, focus on how good it feels to face the odds and succeed when we could have failed, encourages us to not be satisfied with what we are.  This does not mean that we are bad when are are not in the process of succeeding.  This only means that we will feel that our identities are fluid, that regardless of how good we are we can always become better, so there is no need to fear being bad.  We can become more friendly, more logical, more caring, more physically fit, more ethically sound, more academically skilled, more in control of our selves.

We can impress others with our skills in stead of our looks.  We can build and choose our own families based on shared values in stead of shared genetics.  We can work toward world peace in stead of world domination.  We can work toward being better than we were in stead of simply deciding that we are better than other people.

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Sit Down, Metaphysics

Metaphysics.  Metaphysics is the study that drew me to philosophy.  I wanted to understand the mysteries of the Universe.  I wanted to meet gods.  I wanted to discover some secret law of physics that allowed me to will my body to be able to contain enough power to literally manifest any ounce of my will.  I was dissatisfied with human life, and I wanted more- a lot more.

And then some thing happened.  Well, first no thing happened, as in, I never developed magical powers or discovered some secret gate to the dream world.  Then, after all of that disenchantment in the real world, after years of escapism and making a mockery of modern human living, I started to find value in it.  I began to feel emotions, intense complex emotions about the real world, not just fantasies.  It had to do with my expanding understanding and appreciation of love and science, but I think the more important factor was that I had become even more disappointed in my fantasies.  They continually failed to deliver, and I started to let my dreams fade before they were properly encoded in memory after waking because the deep sense of meaning and belonging provided by certain dreams clashing with, well, the exact opposite was becoming too painful.  It was like dwelling on a dead loved one.  I had to let it all go.

Over a year ago my friend Jack and I were having a discussion about metaphysics and our disappointment:

johnny4playdub: I don’t know about manifestation, man.  I don’t believe in it.
Feind.Shyft: I do, but- WITH SCIENCE- in like two hundred million years.
johnny4playdub: MATTER FABRICATORS DON’T COUNT, YOU DOUCHENOZZLE!
Feind.Shyft: What if they are implanted in to our brains?
johnny4playdub: We won’t be human anymore.  I’m talking about in the now.
Feind.Shyft: Which is obviously not two hundred million years from now, yes.
johnny4playdub: Objective reality, man.  Now.  What is around us, not our imaginations.  I’m training myself into the idea that imagination is only useful when used in harmony with the outside world.  As in, work with my surroundings first, and when I reach an impasse use abstract thinking.  I think I’ve been living my whole life in reverse.
Feind.Shyft: Fantasizing first and then trying to make reality comply?
johnny4playdub: Using abstract thinking as a base mode of living and then being fucking confused by everything that happens in the world.  Yeah, basically.
Feind.Shyft: I know I’m guilty of that.
johnny4playdub: I mean, man, it’s been 23 years on this planet so far, and I’ve spent most of it inside of my fucking head.  I don’t have much time left, and there’s an entire world out there to experience.  I don’t have time for anxiety and depression anymore.
Feind.Shyft: Me neither.
johnny4playdub: NO MORE THINKING.
Feind.Shyft: Haha wait.
johnny4playdub: Hahahahaha!  Over-thinking.
Feind.Shyft: No need to over-compensate.  Yeah.  Man, I miss metaphysics though.  It was scary, but it was ours.
johnny4playdub: I’m fucking SICK of metaphysics.  GO AWAY.  Hahahaha!
Feind.Shyft: every time the conversations were over, and every one went home, the real world would be so much worse.  It was like a cocoon to retreat in to where the Universe was ours to define, and it seemed so important that returning to the mundane felt near impossible the next day.  This is why, yes, I am also sick of metaphysics.  But it felt safe.  It made me feel powerful.  But ethics, now- ethics makes me actually powerful.  To understand people is some thing we can use!
johnny4playdub: Metaphysics made me feel extremely weak.
Feind.Shyft: Really?
johnny4playdub: That wasn’t a cocoon, it was a prison.  I hated it.  I hated thinking about it.  It was exciting at first, and then it made me feel worthless, devoid of purpose.  Those conversations were tough, and they left me drained.  For me it was more begging to return to reality, because reality is simple, and has meaning, even if I don’t understand why that meaning is there.  And I didn’t have to think about it.  Just get drunk and party with my friends.  I mean, having that knowledge has always been great for starting conversations with people, and seeming like the guy who’s both cool and intellectual, but the conversations with daily Joe never got much deeper than simple explanations, so it only served to make me more popular and I didn’t really have to expend the heaps of energy.
Feind.Shyft: Why’d you keep doing it, then?
johnny4playdub: Because I thought that there would eventually be a solution.
Feind.Shyft: A solution to what?
johnny4playdub: All of the problems.
Feind.Shyft: Ah.  Yeah.  Me too.
johnny4playdub: Like some kind of super basic observation on reality that unfolded into becoming the answer to every single problem that people have.  That’s why unified theories in physics have always interested me.  Anything really that attempts to define the building blocks, but it’s just increasingly more and more complicated.  Never simple.
Feind.Shyft: Sadly, we only realized more trivial things, such as how no everlasting god would ever be so human.  Great. We can debate more with religious people.
johnny4playdub: That kind of thing stopped interesting me, too, gods and what not.  It’s too far removed from the basic reality that surrounds us.
Feind.Shyft: Honestly, I probably only still care for the sake of my story telling.  Otherwise, I just want money and recognition and skills and love and discipline.

 

Jack now regularly expresses his deeper values concerning making a positive impact upon society, particularly by fighting against ignorance and destructive biases.  I still feel positive nostalgia for those times, but I’ve realized that my purpose and my happiness are tied to this world, and can only be gained by functioning within this society.  I still feel more at home within my stories than I do in real life, but I do feel at home in real life, and my emotions understand that they are just stories.

I don’t remember when it happened, but at some point I realized that real physics has taken the place of metaphysics.  We don’t need to know whether gods exist, because we’ll be making them in a matter of decades.  We don’t need to find new places full of wonder, because wonder is in us.  We don’t need complex thought experiments to understand how the Universe works, because we can fucking measure it.  I don’t remember when it happened, but I’m sure that I wasn’t able to submit to real physics until after I had shifted my investment in metaphysics from metaphysics to ethics and cognitive science.  I don’t refer to my self as an agnostic any longer.  I am an atheist through and through, and I understand that agnosticism is a bull shit oxymoron.  I still love Multiple Personality Solipsism, but I am a full-blown skeptic and only believe in science and art (in their methods, not that every thing that they have to ‘say’ is true).

I understand that the sense of belonging to some invisible entity that I feel when listening to sentimental music is because the longing-for-companionship function is being triggered in my brain by conditioned chemical patterns.  I understand that dreams feel more vibrant because the subconscious has a freedom that the waking self does not have, not because we have some secret tap in to extreme amounts of energy that fuels an impossible to evolve feature of our brains that can bring us to or even show us alternate Universes or what have you while we are sleeping.  Sure.  A god could have build this in to us deliberately and could be hiding some of the rules from us, but I know now that the only reason to believe this is because we are insecure and desperate to escape from our own inadequacy, our own ineptitude.

And there’s no need to day dream about magic and profound freedom, because one of these days we’re going to transcend humanity through nanotechnology and up loading.  Teleportation, body-flight, telepathy and telekinesis, immortality, you name it!  All of it will become normal, standard, mundane.  And you won’t need to day dream about what ever is imagined to qualify as magic then either, because that reality will be just as awesome as this one, and this one is awesome, as long as you remember to look at it the right way.

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