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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Stranger in a Strange Land: Life-Changing Literature

Most people who know me know that Robert Heinlein was a hero of mine even before I had read any of his works, because he is the creator of Pantheistic Multi-ego Solipsism, which is very similar to my Multiple Personality Solipsism. This was a speculative fiction author who died three months and one day before I was born, who became an adult in the twenties and was big in the fifties and sixties, and yet blows me away as modern conventions of story-telling and social order are still generally miles behind his genius.

After reteaching my self how to enjoy reading other people’s writing, I finally got around to reading Heinlein to get a grasp on his brand of solipsism. I started with The Number of the Beast and fell in love with it, much as I had expected. Then, before starting that book’s series from the beginning, I picked up Stranger in a Strange Land, as that was supposed to be his most popular work, and I wanted to know why. Stranger in a Strange Land is a book about a human who was raised by Martians who comes back to Earth and has to learn the English Language, what women are, what greed is, and what humor is, among many other things that Martians don’t have. Yeah. It’s fascinating because he has extreme control over his body and sports the a minor ability to manifest, which makes for some tense moments because he doesn’t understand human ethics. As I touched on very briefly last June, what left me thinking about this book again and again later was how he learned intimacy and love.

One of my room mates recently got to what I consider to be the major climactic scene in the book, and talking with him about it and listening to some chunks of it on audio book with him prompted me to write about it. In the scene one human character describes to an other his disturbing experience within the Man from Mars’s new temple. The religion that he designs is based on the notion of ‘thou art god’ and the practice of community polyamory. The open sexuality and absolute sharing is what pushed the character Ben over the edge of course. He was disgusted, and yet his audience of the retelling argues that his disgust is socially conditioned and that there is not, in fact, any unethical behavior presented in his story.

Some thing that I struggled with and wrote about per haps a year ago was a distinction between ethics and morality. This is not a popular distinction, but it is a useful one. For clarity, I will again use the term ‘personal morality’. Ethics is the study and practice of what is ideally most just and compassionate, while personal morality is what we believe simply because we feel it to be right and wrong.  In other words, personal morality is based upon each individual’s biases of disgust, hatred, fondness, and faith.  What the character Ben was describing was his personal morality, and what Jubal was defending was true ethics.

I understood this; I thought it; I knew it, but I did not feel it.  Group sex?  Inviting an old friend over to catch up and then having sex in front of him with his other friend mid-conversation?  It felt too base, too impersonal, not private enough.  It felt like an improper mixing of interactions.  It felt wrong.  I was disgusted, horrified even, but the true trouble came to me in knowing that I was wrong.  That was wrong, or, more specifically, that my feelings did not reflect any truth value of right and wrong.  I didn’t know what to do.  The facts were right there.  They were a family of consenting adults, all very much in love with each other, all fair, kind, compassionate people.  Expression of sexuality is a basic need, and there’s no need to frame it up any other way by setting arbitrary codes of conduct.  It was made clear that these interactions were extremely personal and loving.  They all had their privacy together in seclusion, and sex need not be a secret!  Why should we feel shame?  Are we ashamed to love or to be hungry for food or thirsty for water?  And yet there I was trying to rationalize my feelings, my emotional responses to this passage in a genre fiction story…

May be for some people Strange in a Strange Land has no thing to tell them about their lives, and it’s just good ol’ quirky science fiction entertainment.  Well, I feel sorry for those people, but that’s not the point.  For me it was challenging.  It was mind-bending.  It was life-changing.  It forced me to look in side my self and and make a change, and I think that all good story-telling should.  Escapism is useful in small doses, but the real value of art is in its inspiration to make us better people in satisfying ways, to make self-improvement fun!  As I’ve said, the best art teaches us to enjoy tempering our virtues and our knowledge, and the best art does this by challenging us.  Challenging our views of society, of psychology, of faith, of physical limitations, of every thing!

Stranger in a Strange Land is one such masterpiece.  The Man From Mars- his whole understanding of humanity as learned from his Martian perspective, is fascinating.  An other memorable scene involves him explaining how he understands humor as being a product of our inability to avoid suffering.  He struggled to understand what humor was, because, well, when you don’t take it for granted, you’re more inclined to wonder.  Can you explain why we laugh?  Sure.  Because things are funny.  Why are things funny?  Why did we evolve with the ability to laugh?  What purpose does it serve?  If there had never been this fictional Martian-born human, I might never have thought about it, and been awed at the implications.

So get out there.  Read some thing challenging.  Read a Heinlein novel, or an Arthur C. Clarke, or some Jorge Luis Borges, Fyodor Dostoyevsky- hell, read Frankenstein!  Watch Memento, if you’ve never seen it!  I should go before I start recommending psychological thrillers.

 

 

PS: You can also try some thing that I’ve written.  Through Sunday the Kindle version of my epic fantasy novel “O” is free, and I’ve also signed up for Noisetrade’s free ebook program.

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Detailing A Few Stories, or Why My Writing is Important

In my last post I discussed briefly how writing has become my top priority, what I am most about, and it’s some thing that I still struggle with a little.  Tomorrow I ship off back north, stopping briefly in Minneapolis to sleep after a fifteen hour drive before continuing over to Black River Falls, Wisconsin to attend a psychedelic trance festival over the week’s end.  Believe me, I know that I am going to have a phenomenal time, as I have every time I’ve attended music festivals at that camp ground, but right now?  Right now, and for the past week?  I haven’t been able to shake the thought of, ‘But just think about all of the writing that I could be doing during that big chunk of time in stead!’  My room mates go out dancing pretty regularly, but me?  Shit, man.  I got work to do, and need to save my money any way.

I don’t feel like I’m punishing my self.  Writing on a regular basis hasn’t been difficult for me lately.  I’m having tons of fun, really!

And it’s not just fun.  It’s fulfilling.  I’m not just creating, giving life to fictional characters and worlds.  I’m flexing my philosophical muscles in ways that I can’t when tackling practical, real-world issues directly.  Say what you will about thought experiments; this is good practice for me.

I’ve learned a lot through my writing, and it’s developed me quite a bit as a person, not just as a writer.  My favorite example is that in Shyfted Dreaming: Shades of Gray August taught me that ‘nature’ is a relative word, that arguments from natural order are rooted in logical fallacy, and through this that prejudice against homosexuals is exactly that: prejudice, unfair bias.  I don’t mean that I created a form of my self that was more ignorant than I was at the time in order to showcase my arguments against bigotry.  I actually mean that I did not know how that conversation in the book was going to go and that when it was finished I was surprised and forced to rethink my teen-aged beliefs.  This led to an other change of thinking on my part within the same series, as Alizia, my favorite character, was a strong ‘Mother Earth knows best’ enthusiast, and yet I had to admit that she was wrong, and let that be, thus realizing that I must value my logical argument over friendships and love.

Within the same series, due to the vastly different culture from any on our Earth, I was forced to perceive religion in new ways (arguably with more tolerance) and consider many different styles of living.  Consider them from the perspective of their owners, that is, and this empathy brought me to be more open-minded about transgender (as many characters can change the form and function of their bodies at will), non-monogamy (little concern for lineage and conservation of resources), and self-expression (again, the burnt users can look how ever they like without having to pay for or suffer surgery or being pierced by needles).  These topics were not discussed directly within the Shyfted Dreaming trilogy, and I had yet to form solid beliefs, but it was a start, and these topics are big deals that the characters of my latest work, with the working title of ‘There Is No Time’, are actively struggling with.

When I first realized that my writing had a pattern of philosophical thinking, it was due to the metaphysical and existential speculation streaming through Shyfted Dreaming.  The first big questions came pretty early on in the first book: What is real?  How can we know?  Why does it matter whether we know?  Deeply emotional lucid dreams and visits to fantastical worlds will throw those at you.  Later on came questions of how to choose friends, of what kinds of relationships people ought to value.  This arose from the protagonist stumbling in to bonds with others simply because some one was in the wrong place at the wrong time, or the right place at the right time, and were forced to solve problems together.  The protagonist realized later, after returning to find an established shared home of all of these people, that he didn’t even know them very well, and had romanticized those that he thought that he did have connections with.  The love interest has been imprisoned longer than she has interacted with him, and the realization of this is painful.  The absurdity of ‘save the princess because that’s what heroes do’ came with full force; with the realization that he could have fallen for any of these fantastical women, but had been drawn to Alizia Perdue Dergahn by chance, he chooses to embrace his freedom and completely disregard his ‘hero’s destiny’.  Concepts of balance and order make him wonder if the world might need a villainous god to keep things interesting, to ensure a constant stream of conflict so that intellectual beings can do what they live for: solving problems.  The story goes on to lead us to wondering about what power is for, why it’s worth it to risk being passionate about any thing, and what it means to be good or evil.

Per haps three years after finishing Shyfted Dreaming, having spent those years dedicated to no single writing project, I decided to focus my attention on finishing a sort of prequel.  “O” continues the presentation of existential issues concerning identity, purpose, and will, but on a very different world and with a very different kind of narrative.  The biggest difference for me, though, aside from the writing style, was the shift towards a focus on ethics and politics.  Metaphysical wonders are still there, but are more familiar to the characters, so take a back seat.  It was through “O”, Chijirihaden, and The Harpist challenging the secret tyranny of the vedivexti, or wall people, that I came to realize the nuances of freedom and order.  Often I found the arguments of their enemies very frustrating (because they were too well-founded), and I feared that I would have to have the heroes admit to being ass holes and go home.

That is one of the most satisfying situations for me as a writer, when the plot feels compelled by the characters, that I’ve lost control of the events to them.  A concept in my current work in progress that has my constant attention is how one of the main characters took a wrong turn through time and accidentally wound up in solitary confinement for a month, dying of disease in the cold and the dark.  I had just thrown together some behaviors of her captors that seemed pretty dramatic and went from there, not realizing right away what this meant for my character’s development.  Poor Jinzin.  The one that was supposed to be the most bright-eyed, cheerful, and innocent became a dark, distant, cold, schizophrenia-spectrum-disordered, religious voice of reason.  Yes.  You read that correctly.  She’s crazy and prays to a god that she’s never met and highly romanticized, and yet she’s also become the most serious, ‘stay-the-course’ fellow.  I was worried at first, but the party dynamic is so much more interesting now!

The other thing that I like to showcase in my stories is how people work and develop of course.  I majored in psychology after all.  As some one who sees psychology as an art more than a science, and how art is very closely tied to philosophy, this is not only necessary to good story-telling but to good involvement of philosophical concepts.  Jinzin’s desensitization and isolation are particularly interesting stimulants for deep discussion too, because she finds her self thinking about relationship styles and traditions of sexuality, and in general is more willing to play with new ideas, as being afraid of ideas has become absolutely foolish to her.  She is the first of the four to lose interest in her family ties, realizing that the blood of the covenant is thicker than the water of the womb, and that relationships lacking a sharing of ideology are relationships that are weak.

With my most recent work, I had taken a lot of time off from it to figure out my own issues, so a lot of the concepts within it that are important to me are ones that I had already spent a good deal of time thinking about in order to directly better my life.  This is quite all right, though I do miss the accidental education, as it has allowed me to focus more on synthesizing the ideas of important philosophers directly and on developing atmosphere and mood.  I’m much more interested in the presentation of sentiment and intimacy (not sexual, really) now than I was when I was writing my first book, and I’ve become aware of how delicate and needful of attention that is.

So, yeah.  I never could have kept interest in writing, had I not discovered the meaningful side of speculative fiction, had I not learned to see science fiction and fantasy as speculative.  I didn’t even start reading fiction again until I came across the fact that The Once and Future King has a lot to say about morality and tradition, and may not have remained hooked, had I not discovered Sophie’s World.  There are thousands of philosophy and psychology texts out there, though, so why not just promote those?  Well, as you probably know, people often prefer entertainment to education, and the two work best when blended together.

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Synthesis of Publishing Research, or How My Anxiety is Slowly Creeping Back in to Power

After years of depression, anxiety, being distracted by intense social needs, and feeling overwhelmed or too damned tired, I have returned to the stressful task of researching how to make it financially as an author.  I reorganized my resources for musicians’ success some, but it has become clear to me that my highest priority is being the best and most prolific story-teller that I can be.  Even with the new realization that making video games is a real and possibly sustainable passion for me, the writing is where I live.  All of my psychological study and philosophical interests flow to and from my stories, and I probably would have lost interest in fiction writing (whether creating it or reading it) long ago, if I hadn’t realized that it can be about meaningful action and deep questions.

So, yes- if I am going to make it as an artist, I am going to make it as a writer.  That is, serious work toward making my creations profitable will be for the sake of my created stories, and, if my need to write calls for it, practically all other aspects of my life may suffer in order to accommodate that need.  This is both a frightening and liberating thought.  I’m glad that I am certain of my priorities, but it means that I am going to have to get used to suffering in the short term in ways that I am not entirely used to.  It’s not like it’s going to cause me to suffer any more financially- I already have to be picky about new employment due to discovering that my student loan payments are almost double what had been originally calculated for me!  Ha!

Right so allow me to synthesize my findings relevant to me.  First, there are my general options for publishing: self-publishing, crowd-funded self-publishing, small press, crowd-funded publishing, and big-shot traditional publishing.  I’ve been all over self-publishing and written my fair share of cover/query letters and synopses.  The crowd-funding types, particularly the publishing houses that get projects started with crowd-funding, and the small press options are the most unfamiliar to me, and I find them rather intriguing.

Small presses are more personal and accommodating, so that cuts out the need for an agent, and they typically want to see an entire manuscript up front without any sort of introduction.  This is appealing to me, as I have much more confidence in my story writing than in my writing about my story writing.  How does one effectively briefly summarize a mood, or the growth of a character from a naive thrill-seeker to a battle-worn, guilt-ridden scholar?  The first and more obvious major down side to this freedom and comfort is that they won’t make you rich.  I really don’t care right now, how ever.  Hell, man, I’d be swooning over my books just paying the damned bills!  The second major down side is that there are thousands of small presses, and most of them are bad news.  Even the good ones, well, it’s not the most stable business model.  And then, you’re still close enough to the bottom of the fame ladder to be reminded regularly that, sure, your work has reached an audience, but it is ultimately forgettable, and will likely be traded in for some thing new.

Crowd-funded publishers are a strange hybrid that are the most curious to me.  You propose a project, which either needs initial approval or not.  Then you encourage people to back it with pledges (you know.  Money).  Then, if your goal or other certain threshold is met, they publish it professionally for you.  In theory, this sounds great.  Right?  You get paid just for having an idea, and get to sit on that money while you write it (like a traditional advance), and, if your idea raises enough money, all of the publishing dirty work is taken care of for you!  There’s still the issue of actually raising that money, though.  How many people dig around through book-only crowd-funding web sites looking for projects to back?  If I’ve already failed at self-marketing and self-publicizing, what chance do I have spreading the word of any sort of crowd-funding page?  Apparently the publishers have some stake in this process, as your success is their success, but, hey- Kickstarter and Indiegogo take their cuts from successful projects on their platforms too, and those projects fail all of the time, no matter how cool the idea is.  This concept is my highest priority right now as far as continued research goes.

Otherwise, I’ve noticed that, in general, the road to publishing has become considerably less linear over the past seven years.  This is in part a problem, as more options means more research and doubt.  There is also the issue of alternative publishing methods no longer protecting the little guys from having to compete with big name authors, as big name authors are now becoming more attracted to alternative methods.  This brings me to my next point: the other change that I have noticed over the past seven years is that over-saturation of the market seems to still be on the incline.  Every where I go while reading about how to publish I come across two dozen new fiction novels that I’ve never heard of.

Who the hell has the time to read all of this stuff?  Let’s not even get started on short fiction, and then, what if my readers are also interested in history and business?  Don’t non-nerds have enough shit to read in their Facebook and Twitter feeds?  How can I justify telling people to stop reading about important world news or what’s new on the cutting edge of technology in order to read my fantasy story?  Entertainment isn’t supposed to be necessarily important, though.  People are just always going to want to be entertained!  Okay, yeah, and that’s no secret.  The world is flooded with entertainment.  Why should any one bother to take the time to look for my form, when all they have to do is open their eyes in the morning to discover what’s readily available?

Some where down the line I had this idea in my head that, as long as I made my work available, that it had a neat home page and showed up in search engines, the people would come.  I had no idea how saturated the markets were back then, but I suppose that it was helpful at the time, as even making a web site and regularly updating it was an intimidating thought at the time.  In any case, that was entirely untrue.  Sure.  The traffic to shyftedminds.com, this blog, and my Bandcamp pages has steadily increased over the years, but with forgettable fan interaction and negligible purchases and donations.   I do have a video on Youtube that has exceeded three hundred thousand views and one thousand likes, but who the fuck cares?  It’s just some goofy cover of a song by fake band.

There was also a time when I thought that artists should make art for the love of their craft, that it was its own reward.  Oh, yeah.  Because every engineer, journalist, doctor, physicist, and retail manager hates their job and honest cash comes from self-loathing.  They don’t.  It’s fucking bull shit.  The bests artists are paid for their work, because getting paid means working at other jobs less so more time to practice art.  Do you know what has interfered with my creative process even more than being a wussy?  Having a ‘day job’.  Any one who says any thing to the effect of, ‘Yeah.  Well, the rest of us have to do it too.  Suck it up,’ needs to fucking pick a passion and follow it already.  At the end of their lives, in this society, peasants were always peasants because they preferred being fucking peasants to working hard at becoming some thing else.

…Some how what I was getting at there is that the other thing that I am looking at more critically is on line presence and self-promotion.  I’m fairly confident in how I present my self in public forum.  I must be, any way, if I have this here blog!  I just don’t participate as often as I probably should, and when I do I don’t talk about my work enough.  The fear of coming off as spammy is very real for me, though, and I am in the unfortunate position of being in a social network that doesn’t exactly have a lot of spending money.  Plus, I like to be friendly, and friends don’t charge friends for art.  Right?  Right…?  So this is some thing that I need to work on.  How long does it take to make a post about writing?  Not even a ‘Hey -there’s this book or album you can buy!’ but just an insight about a couple characters or some thing.  This is the sort of thing that I could be doing every day!  And I’ve a lengthy back log of subjects for blog entries, yet I have yet to even commit to updated this blog at least once per month.  It’s not that I don’t know what to say.  It’s as easy as scheduling the time, and, the more web content I generate, the less worried I have to be about an interjecting ‘HEY BUY THIS THING’ coming off as spam!

So aside from aiming to learn more about small press publishers and crowd-funding publishers, and being my self on the Internet more often (but particularly about books), after doing the reading that I have done so far, I am looking to:

-Practice single- and double-sentence hooks for my stories, as summarizing I am bad at.  Pitches.

-Know that I shouldn’t promote in ways that don’t make sense to me or otherwise don’t suit my personality.

-Promote other people’s works of art, to gently remind people that I am an artist, and so that what I like can be related to what I do.

-In promotion, be humble but excited.

-Get back in to practicing query letters.

-TALK TO OTHER WRITERS.

The last one is the most awkward for me.  I have absolutely zero friends who are as serious about writing as I am.  Hell, I only have a few friends who consider their selves to be musicians, and most of them I’ve never even met in person!  Having writer friends and being able to talk to people about writing isn’t networking for profit, either.  It’s networking for sanity and feedback, and so is difficult for me to prioritize alongside the other goals.  When it comes to making friends, I’ve learned that those who jive with me on a philosophical level are the most valuable, so I don’t concern my self with other common interests any more.  Also, I really don’t care about writers who don’t know why they do it, or do it just to entertain, as meaningless art depresses me.  There was a time when fiction writing was generally intellectual in some way, and that time is long gone, and I’d like to have to think about that as little as possible.  While a story asking the question, ‘What if fairies existed?’ can technically land in the speculative fiction realm, I really can’t care less about finding it’s answers.

In closing: BYE!

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Exploring the Third Wheel: Romanticism

Mmm some intense, cerebral, and emotional music.  How fitting for how I’ve come to understand today’s topic!

 

Ah, romance.  A tender kiss, a gift of flowers, candle-lit dinners.  But is it still romantic when the intensity of the kiss comes from sexual frustration, and it leads to wild, crazy, monkey sex where he keeps shouting, ‘Who’s your daddy?’ and she can’t get off unless he’s tied up first?  Is it still romantic, if the receiver doesn’t particularly care for flowers?  What is meaningful about candles and loving about digestion?

All of these things seem to come down to aesthetics, and arguably arbitrary ones.  Is one kind of sex more romantic than an other?  Is slow and gentle more romantic?  What if it’s only slow and gentle because involved partners are sore and tired, and one of them falls asleep half way through?  I imagine that the gift could be any thing, preferably some thing that the receiving party actually likes.  Can the candle-lit dinner be substituted for any activity?  Are these things simply symbols for the purpose of shorthand, or is there actually some thing inherently romantic about them?  Well, either way, I can give flowers to any one, gifts to any one, and I guess I’m expected to give them to people of all sorts of relationship types.  What makes one gift-giving romantic and an other not?  Do we have to love each other first?  What kind of love?  Is it called ‘romantic love’ when it is understood that I will routinely give gifts?  What about people who give their parents gifts on a routine, say, every Christmas and birth day?  If they do this, it’s entirely likely that they will claim to love their parents.  Right?  But why do he shy away from calling a parent-child relationship ‘romantic’?  Oooh.  III get it.

~IT’S THE SEX THING~

The common conception of romance seems to be a pretty structure for sex to hide in.  We call people ‘romantic partners’ so we don’t have to say, ‘They’s fuckin on a regular basis.’    That’s the trouble with the word romantic in modern English.  Like the words love, intimacy, and even attraction, we’ve dumbed it down and streamlined it to only refer to one thing: sexual relationship.  This is most unfortunate for the term romantic, as love and sex are practical, low needs on Maslow’s hierarchy, while romanticism is much more abstract and lofty, residing at the top of the hierarchy, in the self-actualization area.

Wikipedia held a solid quote, saying as follows: according to Isaiah Berlin, Romanticism embodied “a new and restless spirit, seeking violently to burst through old and cramping forms, a nervous preoccupation with perpetually changing inner states of consciousness, a longing for the unbounded and the indefinable, for perpetual movement and change, an effort to return to the forgotten sources of life, a passionate effort at self-assertion both individual and collective, a search after means of expressing an unappeasable yearning for unattainable goals.”

That pretty much hits the proverbial nail on the head in terms of what I have felt was lacking in my understanding of the term for the past four years.  Passages in Sophie’s World got me to really think about it, and also led me to believe that ‘romantic love’ stemmed from the above concept of ‘unattainable goals’, as the first uses of ‘romantic love’ pertain to unrequited love.  To me, this was a mistake of the romantic poets, attempting to inject the romantic in to the (by comparison) mundane.  But it may still be applicable, though deceiving, as romanticism concerns the fantastic and the dreamy, and imagining love that does not exist kind of fits that bill.

To break it down, I have come to understand romance in terms of six elements: knowledge, creation, wonder, passion (general, non-sexual), power, and awe (I have considered nostalgia to fit in there too, but have had trouble making a case for it).  I will attempt to describe these six elements in a way that brings to light their romantic nature.
Knowledge: the search for knowledge is romantic in that it is both noble and everlasting.  That is, true knowledge is impossible; doubt is undeniable, and yet doubt fuels the thirst for more knowledge.
Creation: The romantics considered art to be the central item of romanticism.  I understand that creation through inspiration is as close to a spiritual experience as I am going to get.  It is a means of bringing the non-existent to life, and, though art, it is possible to bring the impossible to life.  Some romantics equated the inspired artist to God.
Wonder: This is a mixture of curiosity and admiration, an attraction to the unknown.  It can lead us toward knowledge and be caused by artistic creations.  Wondering at some thing comes from its true identity being out of reach, tying back to the unattainable.

Passion: Passion is emotional fuel.  It is the height of motivation, as caring about some thing beyond consequence.  In this way it is defying the practical (and causes it to be the most potentially dangerous) in favor of some thing better, which in its own way is a paradox.
Power: Power comes in many forms: over the self, over social situations, over the natural elements, but, like knowledge, it is elusive, always exposing more factors that are beyond our control (and, like passion, it is also rather potentially dangerous).  The challenge here is feeling powerful in our lives when we have no real control over out side elements, and even within our own minds we are subjects to chance in that our genetics are in part to blame, our basic emotions, and then there’s always the issue of determinism
Awe: This is easily confused with wonder, but they are distinct from each other.  Awe refers to the things or parts of things that we understand, and yet are powerfully emotionally moved by.  While wonder targets the mysterious, awe is a humbling response to that which is perceived as greater than us (the appropriate usage of the term epic fits in here).  In this way, some thing can be both awesome and wonderful, in that its parts we know bring us awe and its parts we do not bring us wonder.  The absurdity here is that awe can come from the unreal, a fantasy or a dream, an idea, and yet how can this metaphysical mind stuff be greater than a real, fleshy, human form that has real influence over the world?

As you can probably see, the theme among these six elements is infusing feelings of the unreal in reality.  It is through these that we transcend our base, biological selves, at least for a few moments at a time.  It is these things that can inspire and instill goodness.  They are the tools of adventure and heroism.  They are our weapons against the trivial, mundane, and the dragging down of practical matters.  We wouldn’t have virtue, if we weren’t awed by it, didn’t wonder at it, didn’t seek to know it, didn’t realize its power, didn’t create fantastic examples of it, weren’t able to be passionate about it as an idea.

Now, how does this relate to the subject of love?  Well, as a subject, as an idea, the answer should be pretty obvious, but that’s not the problem.  The problem is this: what is a romantic partner, and what are romantic feelings toward an other person?  To romanticize a person is to give them a fantastic identity, to idealize them.  While this is lifting the real with the unreal, it is going to far, and may be romanticism at its worst.  Similar to the concept of wisdom being used for evil, I don’t believe that it is true romance when applied detrimentally ((by strict definition of romanticize, it is a false romantic situation).  What is a romantic partner?  Following from what I’ve written here so far, I seem to be led to say that it is any one that you are sharing romantic feelings with, that is, sharing in an experience of awe, wonder, creation, et cetera.  In this sense, a romantic partner can technically be a complete stranger, if both of you happen to be on the shore when Cthulhu arises.

That’s the simple answer, but there are two problems with it: One: if two people sharing in passion are a romantic couple, is sexual passion enough to qualify them as romantic?  Two: people want a definition of romance as it pertains to lasting, loving relationships.  The first problem is tricky, as passion is broad and can pertain to many things.  Is there a useful distinction between physical passion and intellectual passion?  I think that the distinction lies between emotional passion and false passion, as I have already decided above that romance is an emotional experience.  ‘Physical passion’ is a deceptive term for lust, so that’s out, and ‘intellectual passion’ I made up to get my self thinking about this!  So what does having passion for a person mean?  Powerful, impractical feelings for them, passionate love then being a grand (seemingly uncontrollable?) motivation to cultivate their well being.  On a lower level, a sharing-type of love, it is that powerful urge to share.  I have often said that my relationship to my close friend Jack is romantic as a defense against misunderstandings, as I’m willing to sacrifice a lot for the sake of his well being, though I’ve no investment in the physical nature of our relationship.

My explanation of passionate relationships helps to explain romantic relationships by nature.  This brings to light that the definition of a romantic, loving relationship is a relationship where two people love each other and experience romantic feelings together- but, given the scope of romance, these feelings will typically not be toward each other (see the Cthulhu example above).  Two people can make a work of art together, and they are sharing in the romantic experience of creation.  Two people can visit the ocean together, and share in a feeling of awe.

In conclusion, romantic partner and romantic love are useful terms, but, concerning passion, they do not exemplify the height of romance, and so are deceptive.  The romantic elements are more effective when they stack, and, if a romantic partner, say, brings you feelings of awe and wonder, the two of you are probably no where near being equals and can not be consistently intimate.  After all, if a person is mysterious and makes you feel small, how can you feel close to them?  When it comes to the intimacies, the greatest romance comes from experiential intimacy and the intimacy of shared purpose (exempli gratia, climbing a mountain together that is so big that its true form can only be imagined, and yet you can touch it, or dedicating your lives together toward the creation of the world’s largest narrative painting) and, having worked through this evaluation, I am inclined to hesitate using the term ‘romantic relationship’ in regards to any thing else.

 
Other brief thoughts:

The people of the romantic period often said that horror and terror were large parts of romanticism.  I understand this, but would consider them to be the darker sides of awe and wonder- applicable, useful, but detrimental as a focus.

There may be a useful distinction between ‘romantic partner’ and two people that are merely ‘romantically involved’, as the term ‘partner’ implies some sense of permanence, of longevity.   The two people on the shore who just met and then bore witness to the great old one probably aren’t going to live long enough to establish a partnership.

As I have said or implied (I forget) before, the term ‘intimate partner’ is much more appropriate than ‘romantic partner’ in most cases.  It is in intimacy where all of those mushy, gushy feelings of closeness and belonging reside, and yet we may easily be more intimate with our parents than with our sexual partners, by nature of having more in common with them and having had a longer relationship.  Mmm, full circle!

The ultimate partnership, then, I suppose, would be the intimate, loving, romantic relationship.  May be I should come up with a term for that!

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The Road so Far

On the twentieth I leave for Denver, Colorado.  Of the three of us moving in together, one of us left yesterday.  We have a nice apartment secured; two of us recently acquired college degrees, and one of us already has a job lined up.  My last day of work here was last Friday.  This all still feels surreal, but my excitement is mostly positive.

The first task of today is to sort through my general idea notes (mainly philosophical and psychological in nature).  From the looks of it, I started the habit of recording my thoughts in note form in January of two thousand fourteen.  It starts with a quote from Langdon Warner’s The Enduring Art of Japan: ‘Here was artifice rather than art… What most occupied the thoughts of these courtiers were ceremonies, costumes, elegant pasttimes like verse-making, and even love-making conducted according to rules.’  So, I can see that it was around this time that I started to seriously think about the philosophical study of aesthetics, and yet I reread that quote now and wonder… what separates art from artifice?  Is art not a sort of fantasy, and fantasy a falsehood or deception?  The author did not detail this opinion.  Can sexual rituals not make the act more meaningful?  I imagine that the point was that their rituals, ceremonies, and art had become superficial, practiced for the sake of having practice and not for the sake of exemplifying meaning.  He did say ‘rules’ and not ‘rituals’, implying a sense of arbitrary necessity.  So Warner was criticizing morality in art without any philosophical consideration, a phenomenon all too familiar to me in my society.  Meaningless unity?

Looking over these notes, I see a general theme of ethics, interpersonal relationships, and self-growth (arguably all ethics-related).  This does not surprise me, as ethics had become my primary focus in philosophy due to my increased interest in human psychology and my personal struggles with human relationships.  Struggles with nihilism reinforced this, as I came to realize the concept of internal ethics, or virtue, purpose, and self-care.  I don’t remember what prompted me to ask the question, but my world view changed dramatically when the words, ‘Are there benefits to suffering?’ came to mind.  That question alone saved me from a terrible two month bout with depression, when I could not align my emotions with my thoughts, I could not feel my purpose.  Blog posts of mine since then have reflected this change.

~some moments pass~

I finished sorting my notes in to categories, updating ideas that I’ve thought about more since I took the notes, and the like.  Surprisingly, there are no notes that are directly related to polyamory in here.  I suppose that that is because much of my learning about the subjects of intimacy and love has been from reading on the subject (directly and as exemplified in fiction) as opposed to contemplating the subject, and synthesis of the ideas has come about in group discussions in stead of solitary reflection.  There are many folded corners of pages in Heinlein novels, and I probably felt that he said things better than I would have.  If I remember right, my blog posts have only alluded to the concept of polyamory.

I wanted to write this blog post alongside sorting my idea notes in order to get a grasp on what ideas have been important to me during my transition from feeling entirely at home in Minnesota to craving the experience of having a new one.  The greatest themes have been:

-Attachment and impermanence

-Compassion

-Motivation and productivity

-Polyamory

-Purpose and happiness (and the benefits of suffering)

-a cute little construct that I have come to refer to as ‘The Third Loop’

I wanted to be able to look at a brief summary of where I stand as a psycho-philosopher before I left.  I have also been charged with writing my IDEA PARTY group’s current manifesto for the purpose of filling a time capsule.  I also have been thinking about making some sort of meaningful speech at my last going away party before the move.  Preparations are in order!

Attachment and impermanence

As a teenager, I blamed emotions for all of our problems.  I watched Equilibrium and read Fahrenheit 451, enjoyed them, but some how didn’t grasp their messages.  After realizing my folly, that peace is not the ultimate goal, but meaning and/or happiness, I still did not know where the problem truly lied.  I thought that may be specific emotions needed to be ignored, but could find no sure method.  Then the concept of arrogance as ultimate evil took hold of me, but this word has very specific connotations and so this concept was always difficult to explain.  It took me some time, because my introduction to Eastern philosophy had been through bastardized, spiritual Western interpretations, but I finally began to study attachment and impermanence.  Attachment was the facet of arrogance that I was missing.  Without feeling any need to be attached, it is likely that all arrogance, as greed or hatred or self-absorption or what ever, ceases to be.

Compassion

Compassion for most of my life had just been a word that had little room for discussion.  It was just a descriptive word, not an overarching concept.  Care ethics meant no thing to me when I read about it.  Buddhist love seemed arbitrary to me.  It wasn’t until I read Steve Bein’s Compassion and Moral Guidance that I really began to understand the complexity of the thing.  Simply realizing that compassion is not just a synonym for commiseration blew my mind.  Sharing joys?  ‘Fellow feeling’?  An entire new world of empathy, and ethical system for it.  A challenge to stoic justice.  Compassion for the self, the justifications for selfishness, and a new, deeper perspective on utilitarianism.

Motivation and productivity

Depression makes me lazy.  Anxiety makes me lazy.  Emotional hypersensitivity brought me to desire to be an emotionless machine, and that problem may be what led me down to the path of the psycho-philosopher and has been a great assistant to my art, but it also has made my life very difficult.  May be my phrase ‘If you’re not expanding your comfort zone, it is shrinking’ doesn’t apply to every one, but it certainly applies to me.  I’ve always been a person filled with big dreams, high hopes, and lots of projects.  As I grew up I started to notice feeling low on energy, lethargy, anxiety about failure, and the fact that I can’t get every thing done at once.  Prioritizing, time management, health, and discipline became really important matters.  I had a break through: I realized that fun, intimacy, and relaxation were important maintenance measures of the human mind.  This meant that they were necessary for a healthy state of mind, a healthy state of mind being very important for productivity.  Then I went through a period of hating fun, socializing, and relaxing because the sudden integration of the maintenance perspective made them feel like chores.  It evened out (after serious cognitive-behavioral therapy).

Polyamory

Before my last mutually exclusive relationship (monogamous relationship, romantic life partnership, what ever), I had thought that I had finally figured relationships out and that I couldn’t screw an other one up.  After my last mutually exclusive relationship, I realized that I had no idea of what it was that I was doing.  I had been let down by interpersonal relationship psychology, so I dug deeper in to ethics and found no thing of relevance until I came across the study of compassion.  I realized that I had been looking at relationships from a top down perspective.  I wanted to smash my constructs on the matter, find the bottom, build a foundation, and build up from there.  I built it on the four intimacies: intellectual, emotional, physical, and experiential.  I realized how essential these all are and how they can be shared with every one.  A hug can be physically intimate (non-sexual).  Discussions of scholarly ideas can be extremely intimate.  I didn’t want an other monogamous relationship because I knew that I was not ready for one, thinking that I would soon seek one out again, but… studies of compassion revealed the importance of sharing and spreading love; studies of impermanence revealed the importance of sharing and spreading love, and, finally, due to a specific metaphysical pursuit that lead me to read Robert Heinlein’s The Number of the Beast, I found my self being fed the concept of polyamory (without even using the term or one like it) through a medium that greatly appealed to me (hard science fiction) with a perspective that I could finally understand.  Stranger in a Strange Land frightened me and challenged fundamental moral principles that I carried, but it ultimately defeated them and sealed the deal.  True love is not a mine field.  True love is practical.  Love is not about possession.  In stead, it is greatly about freedom.  There is much more to love than sexuality, and monogamy is founded on ownership of an other’s sexuality.  Most recently a feminist perspective caught my attention, pointing out that monogamy has historically been about men enslaving women (disgusting).  I now understand monogamy as a simple alternative to our natural inclinations, a choice for those who feel that having multiple close friendships is too much work, or for those who are paranoid about sexually transmitted infections (or of course for those fools who are indoctrinated by our corrupt, greedy, sexist society).  It is not for me.  I once thought that polyamory was all about sex; I now realize that it is all about love, and that monogamy is all about sex.  Since this one is controversial, I feel the need to defend it at great length, but that is for an other time.

Purpose and happiness

I’d felt a conflict between my significant others and my art for years, but the need for intimacy and love had always won out, which kept ultimately feeling right, so I didn’t question it.  I did not, that is, until I finally started to feel my lack of fulfillment without my art.  I surveyed my past and realized that the discontent was unavoidable unless some thing was to change.  Then I was introduced to the anime Berserk (the original series), and the speech given by the character Griffith to the princess about sacrificing his dream for no thing and sacrificing every thing for his dream, and what this meant for his close friendships- it really left an impression on me.  I for the first time began to consider purpose as related to ethics, but I didn’t know how to develop the idea.  Then came that big question, ‘Are there benefits to suffering?’  Googling relevant search terms brought me to Friedrich Nietzsche.  I wasn’t digging the ‘slave ethics’ and ‘master ethics’ terminology, but what he had to say about excellence, achievement, and suffering really resonated with me.  I was brought to see virtue ethics and utilitarianism in new light, seeing the value of having an internal ethical system (virtues) as well as an external ethical system (utilitarianism).  But this brought up a new question, the ‘is it righteous to create a Batman?’ problem.  Can we make others virtuous?  May we bring them suffering, if we have reason to believe that the suffering will make them better people?  Do we orchestrate the murder of a man’s parents, so that he may become the next Batman?  Excellence versus asceticism, purpose versus happiness, a subject that I’ve been writing about for a while now, very interesting stuff.

The Third Loop

There was one thing missing from every thing that I had been learning.  Virtues, intimacies, purposes… these lists of things floating around, seemingly relevant to each other, but with no stable connection.  Why be excellent?  Why be intimate?  Is ‘because it feels good’ enough?  If being virtuous and intimate is so great, what is the purpose of having a personal purpose?  Can one go any higher than achieving their dream?  Answers to these questions did not worry me, didn’t even feel necessary, so I didn’t realize a possible system encompassing it all until it was staring me right in the face.  Multiple Personality Solipsism answered my questions of metaphysics and provided for me the first two loops; here was a third one, one to sustain ethics.  This shall be the core of the current manifesto of my psycho-philosophers, this cyclical structure for ethical behavior.  It seemed too easy, too simple, so I documented a couple possible basic models and then let the ideas sit in the back of my mind for a while before returning to them.  For my next post, I am to make that return and document the system in full.

Where do we go from here?  Philosophically, socially, and emotionally I am currently content.  Sure, I crave more, I still ‘want it all’, but not desperately.  Most recently I have been finding ways to incorporate my new philosophical and psychological discoveries in to my fiction writing, some thing that should keep me continually satisfied for some time.  If I can but continue to do that, comfortably settle in to Denver with a new job and the slow addition of new friends, work on music here and there, teach my new room mates martial arts, with the goal in mind of some day reaching many with my writing, my life may be peaceful for years to come.

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I like long hugs

I like long hugs.  Long hugs feel less like hand shakes, automatic formalities.  Because most hugs are brief, long ones stand out.  Long hugs give me the time to disengage from an autopilot state that I may be in because you are a new person and it’s either run on autopilot (sophisticated as it may be) or be actively anxious and self-conscious.  Long hugs give me the time to disengage from a flow state instigated by good, comforting conversation with you that works because you’re familiar and I may be kinda trust that you care about me.  Disengaging from these states allows me to feel it, remember it, appreciate it in real time.

If I can understand some one, I will want to.  If I do understand some one, I can usually find a way to love them.  Sure, I understand people in general in a way that gives me predictive power- I quickly pick up on people’s psychological programs, but I usually don’t know why they have those programs.  Sure, I can guess, but the details of where they came from at what stage of life are typically buried deep.  Are you capable of functioning consciously, applying critical thought in novel ways?  That takes time to observe.  Do I need to observe self-awareness to experience love?  I don’t think so.  Do I need to observe self-awareness to experience understanding and compassion?  Definitely not.  Do I need to have understanding or feel compassion to appreciate the innocent physical intimacy of a long hug?  I do not.

Attention is a competitive sport.  How does one gain the advantage?  Long hugs are a good start.  But what if every one starts with the long hugs?  Then they’ll be trivialized like the short hugs and the hand shakes.  Were short hugs once some thing special?  Staying ahead of the curve: why not skip straight to friendly oral sex with your greetings and partings?  That’ll give you an advantage for a few years at least.  But what about hierarchy of intimacy?  What about sexually transmitted infections?  Public oral sex is an ordeal; others are sure to catch on to your game.  This will not do.  None of this will do.  Per haps elimination of the competition is key.  Humiliate them.  Kill them.  Step on their quivering shoulders to raise your own desirability.  What can you see from up there?

A desert.  A dried up husk of desperation and fear.  How can you win?  What have you done?  All you wanted was to be cared for.  To be remembered.  Now this.  Now this wake of bodies and broken dreams.  And the voices.  The voices won’t stop, so you can not stop.  ‘Felicia prowls your turf,’ they whisper.  ‘Jason is slowly seducing away your Erika,’ they warn.  So helpful.  So sinful.  The light goes out on dry tears.

See?  Attachment is bad.  The key to healthy relationships is surrendering to the lie that we are not categorizing-driven brains.  There is no competition (of course this is a lie).  Care is about their pleasure and delight, not yours.  If they don’t care back, it does not cheapen your care.  If you take back your care because they do not care back, it cheapens your care, which is really only useful for self-reflection because you owe no thing to those who break contract.  EMBRACE IMPERMANENCE, and embrace me for a while at least because-

I like long hugs}:<)  )

The end.

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‘FRIENDSHIP! FRIENDSHIP? AGAIN?’

There is a lot of hardships to complain about concerning the experience of ‘growing up’.  Financial independence, doing your own cooking and cleaning, remembering your own important upcoming events, communicating with health and service professionals- but what I wish to focus on here is the new difficulties of establishing close relationships (surprise, surprise).

First, I would like to point out that, though intimidated by it when in sour moods, I do generally embrace the responsibilities of a mature, civilized person.  The issue that I wish to explore is less of a new responsibility and more of a new boundary.  The older we are, the more established our existing relationships become.  Our brains do have a capacity for the amount of people that we can care about on an individual level.  Close friends exist in a social comfort zone; for many people it was difficult to build those relationships, and they hold a sense of permanence.  We identify with our close relationships, and the longer we hold one identity (set of personality habits), the more difficult it is to modify it.

Basically, the idea that I wish to present here is that, the longer we live, the more difficult it is to form new friendships.  This is not because we forget how, or some silly idea that only childhood friendships and blood relations can be strong and influential.  It is simply because of competition.  Adults are busy, typically have many more priorities than just friendship, and often find it more valuable to gain social pleasures and delights from previously established relationships in stead of pursuing new ones.  Why give a new person the chance to prove that they can be more valuable to you than the friends that you already have?  How are you supposed to tell your best friend of ten years, ‘Well, I’ve a new best friend.  You’ve been bumped down to second’?  Why risk disappointment when a new, fascinating person turns out to be flaky, a liar, or uncaring?  Why risk infatuation with a new person who may never feel the same fluttery excitement for you?  Putting time and effort in to new friendships is a risk, and, when one already has a good set of friends, a support group, a loving family, it may easily come off as a great risk with little pay-off.  ‘I could wind up adding one new close friend to my circle of fifteen close friends, or I could wind up traumatized by their betrayal.’  What is the difference between fifteen close friends and sixteen close friends?  When you look at those numbers, the difference seems trivial.  Analogies secure this as trivial: Is a basket full of sixteen apples that much more valuable than a basket carrying sixteen?  What risks would you take to add one dollar to the fifteen dollars on your wallet?

But there are no appropriate analogies to people in this way.  In some ways people can be described as assets, but exactly what each personality asset provides is not so easily measured.  People grow and change, or stagnate- it’s typical for them to alternate between flux and stagnation.  It can be said that one person that matches you can offer an infinite supply of goodness, and this is tied to the morbid concept of ‘one true love’.  A good question comes from that concept, though: why have more than one close companion?  Allow me to lay out a list of reasons.

It is unlikely that any one person will fulfill all of your social needs.  The person who matches you intellectually is not guaranteed to match you emotionally.  Your favorite sex partner was probably not your most emotionally supportive friend.  The one who will stop at no thing to see your favorite band with you every time they arrive on tour should not be expected, based on that pretext, to also share your love for your favorite film.  The one who offers the most support may strike you as emotionally distant, so the positive behavior of them always being there for you does not comfort you as well as some one who is only occasionally there for you yet is significantly more passionate- and yet always having some one there to be supportive is still valuable to you.

It is unlikely that any one person will always have free time for you.  May be your best friend works day shifts and you work nights.  May be the one that you trust the most live in an other country.  May be they have small children who require attention often, while you merely crave it.  All of us have a hierarchy of needs, and we are trying to satisfy all of our needs, and our needs and the needs of others frequently clash, and that is just part of social living.

People change.  Your favorite person today may develop terrible habits and refuse to observe them as terrible or be too stubborn or pathetic to accept your help in recovering.  Your favorite person may lose interest in you.  Any number of things could complicate or destroy any one relationship, and to go from happily friended to completely alone is not a burden any one should bear.  To drive this fact home,

People die.  Who is going to comfort you and keep you grounded when your only close relationship in the world is forced to end by the unfortunate nature of our frail, fleshy bodies?

You may not be your best friend’s best friend.  Even without jealousy, without bitterness, having an unbalanced social life can wear a person down.  No one is obligated to reciprocate your interest or love, certainly not to mimic it in return, and aside from the two of you having different social priorities because of this, there’s just that sense of not being equals that develops without any balance against other relationships.

Limiting your self to finding comfort in just one other person’s perspective makes/keeps you narrow-minded.  The smaller the friend group, the less challenging the conversations will be.  It is far easier to grow as a person when interested in a variety of different perspectives.

Your one close friend is not likely to be the best match for you.  One of the problems with the ‘one true love’ or ‘soul mate’ concept is that it’s relative to your subjective perspective.  In reality, we can always count one number higher.  In other words, it’s much more likely that your single perfect match is still out there long after you’ve decided that you’ve found that person.  There might be needs of yours that your best friend does not meet that you won’t realize are going unmet until you happen across some one who meets them.  You might be a person’s favorite person in the whole world; they may be willing to sacrifice every thing for you, and yet there is likely some one else who can do a better job of it, or do or exemplify other things that will benefit you in ways you had never imagined.

In a society, two people can still feel lonely together.  Groups of like-minded people can suffer from social isolation in unison, and this suffering will be greater, the smaller the group.

All of these concepts can be related to having two good friends.  Or three.  Even that group of fifteen- and speaking of groups, one can have fifteen close friends who do not get along with each other, or per haps there has just never been an easy way to get them all to know each other.  A strong friend group of fifteen is very different from fifteen isolated strong friendships; the latter gives no sense of belonging to a social system.

One new person can make a world of difference.  One new person can introduce an idea to a group that can improve all of their individual lives as well as the nature of the group.  If this concept does not resonate with you, you are both unfortunate enough to not have your world rocked by an idea and fortunate enough to quite possibly still have that first rocking in your future.  It’s a beautiful thing!  There are too many perspectives, too many ideas, too many sentiments, too many skills for any group to be confident in its completion.  It is possible to be related to too few like-minded and stimulating individuals; it is not possible to be related to too many.

The more friends you have, the more likely all of your social needs will be met, and the more likely they will be met all of the time.  The more friends you have, the more support you will have when one of them falls away from you, whether it be due to betrayal, life paths separating, or death.  The more friends you have, the less important it is that they favor you over their other friends, and the more likely that you are some one’s favorite (the treacherous desire to compare your friends or feel compared by your friends is naturally quieted).  The more friends you have, the more perspectives you share, the greater variety of experiences you absorb (directly and by proxy), so the more stimuli you have for growth.  You are unlikely to be perfectly matched with one person, but a group of like-minded people will have many more related traits, and so will have less sensitivity to clashing traits (this concept also applies to the ‘many individual friendships’ situation).  Finally, even a person with many close friends can feel lonely, but the likelihood is reduced with every new friendship.

Presence is important.  For some people, their best friends are simply the most accessible.  Some character traits are more valuable in a friend than their presence is, though.  Getting physical intimacy from some one who doesn’t strike you as very affectionate is still valuable as physical intimacy, but it is not a good stand-alone reason to abandon the prospect of physical intimacy from a more affectionate friend who will be away at university for a few more years.  Good friends need not be replaced by more available friends, or better friends.

But it may seem practical to do so, and just as practical to cling to the friends that you currently have and resist any new bonds.  As adults, time is precious, and, especially for those who favor the meaningful, purpose-driven life, there are higher priorities than relationships.  It is a struggle to juggle many relationships, and introverts lose energy to social situations, and so lose extra time to them.  With unavoidable sacrifice and risk, it is undeniable that the present point in a person’s life will not always be an appropriate one to be developing relationships.  But when is it appropriate?  When school is over and you have more time?  After your kids have grown up?  After you have finished your great, big, personal projects?  Are you waiting for a ‘social era’ in the history of your life?  It is up to the individual to decide, but the reasons for ensuring that it happens are undeniable.  Expanded perspective encourages personal growth; love is a need; compassion is a necessary skill to practice; great happiness is a sure product of a great tribe, and a member of a great tribe has a large comfort zone.  A large comfort zone allows for vast ability, confidence, and this all leads to a higher likelihood of personal accomplishment.

Some aspect of your being probably needs a new friend, even if you don’t know it yet.  You know what else?  Some aspect of some one else out there probably needs a new friend, may be a friend just like you, and their potential will for ever be squandered without your help.

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The Scene

The scene.  Do you know what the scene is?  It’s… a story we agree to tell each other over, and over, ’til we forget that it’s a lie.

Hee!

It’s a masquerade of bright colors and loud noises.  Its victims are empty children and faithless mannequins.  They hide what makes them human: intellectual adaptation, constructive passion, compassion, critical thought.  Its victims drink and smoke away these needs, or suffocate them with self-absorbed mysticism, if they even feel them to begin with, fearful of a clash between happiness and meaning.  These creatures seldom dare to dream beyond a wistful fantasy, but when they do dream it is of propagating the masquerade, of becoming a larger, heavier cog of self-defeat.

I can only describe my impressions of the first raves that I attended as magical places filled with heroes and fantasy creatures.  It doesn’t matter that ravers in and around Minneapolis were forced to covert to club kids.  The magic is not gone because some thing happened to the scene.  The magic is gone because it was all in my head.  Like any classically styled fantasy, the scene is a machine for escapism.  Just like any classically styled fantasy, the only lesson that it has to offer is meta: ‘people are gluttons for escapism’.

But surely some significant item has changed.  What happened to PLUR?  People finally realized that it was a joke, is all.  There have always been genre cliques, and bitterness and resentment between them.  There have always been idiots in it just for the money and beasts in it just for the base pleasures.  Being accepted for the way you dress and being ‘ell oh ell awkward and nerdy’ are trivialities, especially when every one wears what matches their clique and every one has a near eros level of adoration for Pokemon.

So why am I there?  I’ve never partaken in recreational drugs.  I’ve never taken a girl home after a show that I didn’t have an established friendship with previously.  I haven’t even seriously pursued ‘playing out’.  I can’t find much to respect about the general population of the thing.  I’ve certainly some strong opinions, so I’m probably losing interest in studying it, and the magic is gone.  What is left?  A respect for powerful aesthetics and ritual that have much potential, but poor application and redundant direction.

All powerful organizations have them in some form or an other.  Other music scenes have these too, but they typically lack free-form dance in present times, and I am over all less impressed with what I’ve seen.  A comfort bias, per haps, too, but you can’t argue against the fact that they call this stuff ‘dance music’.  In any case, the tools are not the problem.  The problem is the base redundancy of partying to celebrate partying, of ritual to honor ritual, of dancing for dancing’s sake.  This on its own is fine, but is detrimental as a foundation of a culture.  There has to be a beneficial idea behind it in order for it to be of any lasting value.  But, more specifically, what kind of ideas should be reinforced, and how can they compete with the present pseudo-meaning of rave-influenced dance parties?  Well, lyrics and vocal quotes are a good start.  We could throw out the tunes that talk about partying, intimacy-lacking sex, and intoxication.  We could limit the playing of flighty, short-sighted love songs and the like.

Bold Socrate’s ether-body, what do we have left!?  As a lover of gabber/hard core/dark core and all of that distorted bass drum music, I can tell you that there are at least artists within that clique who are already choosing to sample thought-provoking quotes.  As an artist within the genre my self, I have recorded my own voice speaking on philosophical issues plenty of times, but of course meaningful words in dance music are few and far between.  Artists have the power to change this.  This would be the easiest change, and might not even be that noticeable to many party-goers.  A greater feat would be to have the artists and DJs establish their own distinct voices, and having the parties, their selves, be about a specific message.  Interrupting the music with a formal speech or discussion is likely to be a big change in the flow of these events, but, then again, it wouldn’t be the first time that non-music performances have occurred at these events.

The greatest two obstacles are tradition and a desire to have a these parties be a place to unwind from all things critical-thought and responsibility related, but it’s not like any one actually consciously prefers a meaningless life.  The trick, like that of all nonviolent cultural movements, is proper packaging, smooth transition, and maintaining a sense of belonging.

As indulgent as the rave/club/dance scene is, I feel more comforted by the idea of pushing this change here than any where else.  These people clearly want some thing to believe in and belong to that feels like a family.  This is where I would like to see these changes first, but it could happen to any music scene, to other subcultures, and spread throughout entertainment, which is the same problem on a grander scale.  Entertainment in general is circular, providing fun things that serve no other purpose.  There are films and books and lyrics with powerful and beneficial meaning, but the majority is raised to see it as secondary, as supporting the entertainment in stead of the other way around.  Aesthetics is a philosophical study because of the idea that the best art is virtuous art.  In other words, it is art that serves to improve the relationships and purposes in people’s lives beyond the level of simply being pleasurable.

Can it happen?  Will most people be for ever too basic to be brought to care until the human gene pool is drastically improved?  I plan to live for ever, so we’ll see.

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What is intelligence for?

Today is a good day.  Today we listen to the joyous banging of the pan drums.

Yesterday I came up with a new word for my fictional Universe.  If the human form, and all humanoid bodies are not based on the human being but in stead the visible identity of the original personality, ‘humanoid’ is only a useful term when describing this category of body when it is influenced by humans.  So what is the more general term?  Long story short, I settled on ‘reflectling’, as we all reflect the image of the original personality, reminiscent of the phrase ‘made in the image of god’, though this was no conscious phenomenon (and according to Greek Orthodox roots, neither was the creation of man by God, in my interpretation).

That was your fun anecdote for the day.  What I’m really here to discuss is what makes us human.  Do I believe in the framework of my stories as true to real life?  Not really, but I do appreciate a less human-centric view of existence, so I introduced the practicality of having a more general term that includes humanity.  Aside from a body, what can we share with extraterrestrial alien life?  Our minds of course.  This is what I mean to type about.  Whether a thinking, feeling, and behaving mind is in a human brain, a electro-mechanical computer, or is just an absurd amount of energy containing its self in space, I think that general claims can be made about what it means to be intelligent.

We search for happiness; we search for meaning.  We suffer; we fall prey to nihilism.  Technically speaking, suffering and the emotional-cognitive patterns that lead to suffering in a peaceful environment and nihilism can be eradicated.  Neuroscientists in the future and gods should be able to make this happen.  What do we sacrifice in that case?  Meaning seems to satisfy through challenge.  Doing this would eliminate challenge.  So how do we prevent the elimination of challenge?  This sounds like a balancing problem.  Do we allow- do we force our world to keep some level of chaos?  Do we need war and poverty and terror?

That would be the external approach.  I find that internal struggles are just as meaningful, if not moreso (you can still share these struggles with others, help others with their internal struggles for the sake of growing-closer), and they seem to be a lot safer!  So, where does internal conflict lie?  What is the root of the reason why we practice introspection?  I point my finger at programming.  What is mind programming?  I blame emotions.  Powerful mind constructs that bring about automatic behaviors, catching stimuli that pertains to them and reacting by triggering behaviors and other programs, are collections of solidified thoughts (abstract memories, I suppose) glued to emotions.  This is how multiple programs can seem to be related to the same basic emotion, such as fear.  Fear is at the base, but it is fear coupled with these crystallized thoughts or those crystallized thoughts.

These are what habits are.  Habits are mind programs.  They can do both good and bad.  Habits that run in response to physical danger, triggering behavior that can nullify or avoid the danger, are generally good.  Habits that trigger expression of aggression in response to a difference of opinion are bad.  With this basic concept in mind, we should be able to develop our critical thinking habits, allowing us to function independently from our other habits (as much as possible) in order to consciously build new, better habits.

Some think that good habits have one thing in common, that they improve happiness.  Following this goal to its logical conclusion, we are right back where we started, though.  We start as robots autopiloted by a plethora of habits, regardless of whether they are good or bad.  If we end up with only habits that make us happy, we can shut down our critical thinking and just be, because now, on autopilot, we will be happy no matter what stimulus we receive.  Is this what being intelligent is all about?

I say that having an end goal in mind, an absolute end goal to end all goals, is counter to intelligence.  The above model of goodness uses intelligence as a means to an end, which is some thing that Kant taught us to never do, with good reason (using people as a means to an end is regarded in popular belief as bad, regardless of the logic behind it).  Do we want to utilize our intelligence only to get rid of it when we’re done with it?  Are we intelligent beings only as a means to become unintelligent beings?  I think that the answer is ‘no’.

So, for joy or suffering, too much reliance on habits is bad.  Good instincts are still just instincts.  What is the alternative?  The opposite extreme would be to fight every habit all of the time, relying only on critical thinking, and constantly questioning and reinventing even that.  With this we lose identity in a different way, we are the ’empty cup’ for an eternity.  While this may seem to me like a better life than that of the habitually happy, I can only imagine how stressful and prone to suicidal nihilism it may be.  Of course a balance is key.  What does this mean?  That even the best leaders and gods must have faulty programming.  This is a roundabout way of providing the age-old ‘perfection in imperfection’ concept.  A balance between chaos and order within the individual, with an interesting twist:

Emotional programming (subconscious) is chaos that brings about order (habitual responses to specific stimuli), and critical thinking (consciousness) is chaos (the ever-changing variable in the human equation) that brings about order.

Only with this in mind can one secure a life of challenge and peace, of purpose and happiness, all things needed to live in full.

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