Sunday, May 13, 2007

In The Beginning

This feels very scary. I am doing this (almost) on a whim - no malice aforethought! Scary, like a remedy for agoraphobia, and scary like I actually want to have something to say, not just blah blog my personal life.

I have a feeling that it must break a rule of blog etiquette to attempt narratives of any significance. (I have never read a blog before - honest! I can't imagine anything more dreary, and haven't summoned the curiosity to be proven wrong, partly since my work puts me in front of a computer, ruining the fun of it) Commentary of significance is apparently OK, but I have a sense that blogs are supposed to be stream of consciousness. The medium inherently rejects completed and formed works, except, I guess, as paste-ins, as a sort of reference to the commentary. I suppose that blogs have to be interesting enough to read. I also have a sense that there is much narcissism involved, and that there is some blending toward voyeurism in the reading.

I guess that's what scares me. That I might be wanting to expose myself, or that by breaking into this medium, I am wanting to escape some basic rules, like for instance any need for discipline, since I'm pretty sure that if I were in any way disciplined, I wouldn't be in this pit I want to write myself out of.

I've discovered, over and over and over, that I don't know how to write, and lack the discipline to learn. And yet, narcissistically I'm sure, I've been bedevilled most of my life (I am not a young man!) by the conviction that there is something important which I must put in the form of a narrative. Is there any chance that this newish medium of blogging could move beyond factual exposure, alongside news media, to a kind of art form? I am imaging, and now semi-publicly hoping, that there could be a space for a kind of writing performance art.

If there is, I could go poking around to find it, but I do this from dial-up. I don't find the technology very interesting in any case. What is interesting is the conjunction of Speakers' Corner, with a kind of infinite asynchronos performance space

I'm really not at all sure that I have 'something to say'. Truly, every time I read a book (which is most of what I do these days), I feel relieved that at least I am not depriving the world of anything by failing to develop any latent literary promise. There are lots of great writers out there!

There, that statement exposes what I'm getting at. I do suffer from a sense of failure to myself - lost promise, you might say. Not just that the rat race has ground me down, but more likely something that I have in common with most of humanity, or maybe I really mean most of first-world humanity; those of us who suffer guilt and anxiety about the fate of spaceship earth and yet have no clue what to do about it. (not an entirely felicitous metaphor, as I hope we'll see, but I like Bucky, and it suits me here for now - I'd rather say something like Gaia (sp?), but that feels wrong in the other direction) Those of us who have not been anaesthetized by sufficient wealth or fame (I'll take mine straight, thanks!) to succumb to the illusion of being apart from those who toil and succumb. Those of us who really don't imagine that there can be life, in any meaningful sense, apart from all of that creepy crawly nature which remains, at least from the point of view of complexity, at the center of our known cosmos, and bounded by Earth.

We are left, Willy Loman like, with a sense of lost perhaps not promise, but we see ourselves as from the audience, and we cry for ourselves, glad, perhaps, that we cannot be implicated in some great sell-out, but sad nontheless that we haven't much to say for ourselves.

Hence the blog.

I can be pretty proud of my emails from time to time, though I have never gotten feedback from any correspondent to validate my sense of a well-turned phrase. I have to suspect that my correspondants are embarrassed for me - to the extent I become enthralled by the language, I must seem to be overreaching and pompous. Which is probably why my attempts at crafted narrative always end up scrapped. I end up sounding to myself the way I imagine I must sound to my correspondents, though it is at least conceivable that there is general dullness out there.

More recently, I dusted off a book called The Artists Way (Julia Cameron), which prescribes a daily regimen of uncrafted narrative as a means to discover oneself; to unfetter whatever creative powers are latent. And, true to form, I can't summon the discipline. (I think she wrote the book before blogs were imagined.)

I have to wonder if it is entirely out-of-bounds to use the public space for what should be done in private. There is surely something wrong about not pulling the blinds, say, unless it is that you shouldn't be where even such a signal as pulling the blinds could be noticed. So, I'm that kind of scared. As well as pretty sure that I am simply too clueless to know how to live, and risk exposing that fact.

Does everyone rehearse the meaning of blogs before starting? I must be like a victorian at a rock concert. Same setting. Same meaning. But the music sounds like noise, and the people don't behave. Just lack of exposure? I'll come along.

Nerve endings have built in them the facility to numb the annoying or the repetitive. My dental hygenist is amazed that I can use the traditional Listerine for instance, but I just got beyond the training period. (Masking that awful flavor just makes it worse to me) Just as I have never understood getting past the endorphin barrier with physical activity. Really really really spicy Szechuan-style food, for instance, tastes like a really really hot rock concert, and would be entirely missed by, say, my mother (yours too!).

So maybe I've just numbed down, and am willing to venture out? Blogs are about this blurring of private and public, aren't they? They make it hard for nefarious pols to pander their lies. They make all-powerful corporate entities actually accountable in ways that might rescue some aspect of democracy (do I tip my hand too far when I observe that the United States is fast becoming a caricature of that aristocratic England against which we once rebelled). And blogs allow me to implicate myself in the age of narcissism. To let go of the idea that I will ever write that Great American Novel (which is as much neurosis as any of us should be allowed to expose), without quite letting go of the idea that I might have something to say.

Which is where I started this particular screed. (scroll up to look!). I am proposing a kind of experiment. I am pretty sure that I have nothing very literary in me. But I am also pretty sure that I once discovered something, almost science-style, which if effectively shared, would change everything. This discovery, if that's what it turns out to be, was made way back at the canonical age of, say, 25 or so (24? 27?), and had, for me, what I can only imagine to be the power discovery has for a scientist.

The trouble for me was that I soon found that I had no way to demonstrate this find. There was no microscope through which to see it. No body of theory waiting for this tipping-point measured observation to indicate its next direction. But neither was it quite the same as spiritual revelation, which, judging by numbers anyhow, is much more reliably communicated than any scientific finding.

I have felt, at times, saddened that I am apparently immune to extra-scientific communions of any sort. I have also felt distressed that the growing body of scientific understanding leaves life cold, so to speak. And of course this body of understanding, if that is anything like the right way to speak of it, cannot be encompassed by any one mind. In the end, there seems always to be some kind of faith invoked, whether material or spiritual.

By the same sort of happenstance which frames most good thinking (there I go, exposing my lack of discipline again), I recently read Ray Kurzweil's Singularity book. I realized that it was the same story told in those satirical Left Behind books, where the Revelation tales get told out literally. (They are satirical, aren't they? Please?) Kurzweil apparently actually believes that computing power will saturate the cosmos, and I think he means literally.

I guess a lot of people haven't quite taken notice that we already inhabit virtual reality. That the Candy 2000 virtual date can be had in most bars (I hear, but I find the stories reliable). That we can transport ourselves in the space of a dream to far-off places, even as we make what was exotic local. That perhaps intelligence already pervades the cosmos, since how would we know anyhow - not seeming so intelligent ourselves much of the time.

Anyhow, I quickly found that my "discovery" could not be shown, way back then in my extreme youth. It had to be told. And I apparently lacked the equipment, because I tried and tried, but could not tell it. And of course I realized that this finding was becoming reliably identical to a simple delerious disease (other people thought so too!). I'm pretty sure that there could be no clinical distinction.

So, I relaxed, already. If, as I was certain, this matter was more toward a scientific than spiritual discovery, then it was sure to be found out by myriad others, and all I would have to do would be to join in the more collective delerium when, as it surely would, it developed. Clinical sanity in a world transformed!

But that was back at the outset of the Standard Model (of physical reality). Did I hear on the radio, 30 years ago now?? I was there at the beginning. And mum's been the word, as we wait for the CERN collider to come on line - which to be honest has filled me with a sense of urgency - and some laser-connected satellites to report on Einstein's curvature.

So, I've started to get restless again. It seems as though no-one else is going to come out with this thing, and so it maybe falls back to me. I am alarmed at the collective delerium forming all around me. I feel some responsibility, you know, because I never did rise to the obligation of that fated discovery. Sort of the reciprocal of remaining silent as witness to some heinous crime, because to speak out entails so much impact.

Although, I guess it's not very recipriocal, because that's exactly how I feel - silent witness to heinous crime. Craziness is afoot, and it's not just the religious fundamentalists and their nut-job reality, of which I remain jealously oblivious (I am not entirely oblivious of the truer parts of their realities - the what happens if you act as-if part - but wouldn't it be nice if you really could have your cake and eat it too).

On the one hand, Corporations expend actual billions in reparation and reaction and public relations paranoia when some tiny fraction of the techno-violent destruction of modern living gets meted out in the form of transgressions of the my space safety bounds (whew! Sorry!!). As if horror can be lodged in spinach (Popeye?), and terror in psychosis, when real terror and horror gets not so much meted as rained down on much of the world outside the castle grounds by that same techno-violence, of which we remain the beneficiaries as well as directors and even toward which we have diverted our very lust.

Sorry, sorry. That's what happens when I start writing. But those thirty years ago, I think I imagined some publishing medium without implication. Someplace where a sort of gift-to-the-world-take-it-or-leave-it statement of incontrovertable fact could be dropped off and distributed, not quite anonymously, but at least without needing to make it good enough to make a living at. While still discharging my responsibility, as it were (I always want to say things like "as it were" or "so to speak").

And I do feel some urgency as species drop from the face of the earth. I can't claim any physical pain, but it is very much as if these were insults to my extended physical body. I don't have any faith that I am in any meaningful way apart from this earth, that the boundaries between my self and others are distinct and absolute, that my death is the end of me any more than my skin is the end of me. But I do find notions of eternal to be very silly, metaphorically as though my personal body could pervade forever. And I do find the notion of soul to have become problematical, when it seems to have become an excuse for the self - as though humanity were a grant, rather than something toward which to aspire.

So, at this particular moment, having discovered this great and powerful medium to penetrate that sacred boundary between public and private, and ever hopefull that all such transgressions are not necessarily boorish (though they very well might be!), I am staking my flag that on the faith that there might be a way -- call it catalytic narrative -- to effect global change other than by this confusion of ends and means we now experience as technology-driven military-industrial economic expansion which costs so much of life.

It is narrative in words which has defined humanity - a set of stories - apart from if not the culmination of natural history. Now we have become authors, perhaps, in our own collective story, even as we chafe at the responsibility and prefer to live by our Picaresqe wits at the behest of God or Fate. We might accept a designation as Hero of our own story, so long as by living it we don't have to write it too, which would break the God-man contract.

My claim is that it has long passed time to define humanity more poetically than by narrative. Where Author is less maker than finder, as much delighted as delighter. Where words need not have a point, and narrative trajectories may start all over again before they end.

I do declare, this is a fine new medium! There is some tiny spark of that pleasure in actual human company. And some hope for me that I will actually remember what I once discovered, now so long ago, when my memory, humanity and intelligence were so much more intact.

Technology has finally caught up with my promise, I am hoping, in the humble sense of a promise I once made to myself. I have, truly, nearly forgotten the promise, and my sense of responsibility, which swamped my earlier excitement. Now I am at that other canonical age (50 something) when one is at the peak of power (I was just reviewing the Time 100 -- they're practically all 50-s0mething!). I have to do something!

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