Sunday, December 28, 2008

Chapter 12, still faster, from way back then

So, I went to the library at Yale to search out some refreshment on my relativity theory. I got angry at the blatant propaganda in some of the more elementary texts. Science writers can sound pretty pompous to a doubter. Then I discovered my objection to the idea that space travelers speeding near the velocity of light return home younger than their counterparts on earth. It has a name -- the "twin paradox" or the "clock paradox". It's amazing and disturbing how easily we forget things -- I forget things. Somehow when this paradox bothered me before, I couldn't find evidence that it bothered anyone else. I was angry and impotent. I've puzzled over it for a long time. I must have come across the twin paradox before, but I'd forgotten.

It's rather silly to just think of things and let them bother you when you don't have the means to understand. I should leave these problems to the physicist who understands them. My anger turned to contrition and remorse. I began to be convinced again that I was terribly misled -- that my life has been a waste, as my advisor so clearly told me when I veered from the straight and narrow. Science is the only important study. Or if not science, then at least gain some expertise in some field so you know what you talk about. I haven't learned anything well. I only speak English fluently. My life has been a shambles of scattered experiences.

I learned some interesting things browsing through the shelves. About the relativity of electric and magnetic fields to explain -- or rather establish the consistency of -- foreshortening. I learned about information-carrying waves that travel, or oscillate, at a speed greater than the speed of light. They can't carry energy because of the absolute limit of the speed of light, but if there are information carrying waves, then everything changes. They might belong to another universe with different limits. But it's still a theory, and we can't know yet. I also found what promised to be a simple resolution of the twin paradox, and settled down to do away with it. I was convinced. It was rather simple. The experts are right again.

There were a lot of explanations that bothered me a bit. But the author anticipated my disturbance and always went a step further. I'd forgotten just how willing I was to be convinced, the first time I encountered relativity. Then, it was a revelation. It angered me at the stupidity of a world that acted as if it didn't know. But I was in the hands of the scientists who'd discovered and explained and explored the phenomena. It was only slowly that I became angry with the scientists for allowing the new truth to be fit into old metaphors. Now I was coming at the theory with an unwillingness, and what had been delightful and exciting was limiting me.

I sat there dejected that my feeling of being limited was misplaced. I'd only limited my own understanding by not continuing with physics. But the paradox kept eating at me. There were mathematical proofs that I couldn’t face puzzling out. I was as sure as anybody that when a spaceman leaves earth and returns, he's aged less than his fellows on earth. Some said the paradox was dissolved because the traveler wasn't in an inertial time frame -- which would be necessary for the special theory of relativity. The general theory which covers the acceleration of the space-man as he turns around to come back, and as he leaves the earth and stops there again, is apparently in dispute. One book assured me that the math would prove that the theory of difference in aging would hold very neatly with the general theory. I couldn't argue.

Yet it bothered me. Acceleration slows time relative to a non-accelerated framework. And gravity is equivalent to acceleration according to the general theory. So perhaps the acceleration of turning around would slow the time of the traveler down, relative to the homebound, enough to solve the problem. I couldn't puzzle out the math. But one book attempted to dispatch the paradox without recourse to the general theory. This dispatch involved the reminder that time is conventional or relative to a frame of reference, and not absolute. It did some chicanery with points of view from home base and destination and tried to show its maintenance of consistency. But I couldn't quite buy. To me, in a relativistic universe, there could be no difference between the homebound and the traveler. They would both be moving relative to one another.

Take the case of two spaceships that depart in opposite directions from one another; pass through no gravitational fields, follow identical preset flight paths, and then meet again. They've had identical experiences, but it's unde­niable that, according to the theory, they would face the paradox of the appearance of greater time having passed for oneself than for the other. It would be a mutual incommen­surability. Of course, this is meaningless abstraction, since spaceships don't just materialize in places without gravitational fields -- there's no such place in the uni­verse. And even if there were, they wouldn’t have any roadmarks or points of reference to get back to one another. They'd have to keep in contact the whole time for the exper­iment to have any meaning. The distance they could travel away from one another would simply be a function of their ability to maintain contact. Distance would have no other meaning. Actually, in this abstraction, I doubt distance would have any meaning at all. Nor of course would anything else.

Or take the case of the traveler who ages only two and one half years during a twenty-five light-year journey. This is borrowed from some text. I can't remember for sure, but I think he is traveling at ninety percent of the speed of light as measured relative to earth. He knows his destination to be twenty-five light-years away when he leaves. News of his departure would have preceded him to his destination accord­ing to the difference between his speed and the speed of light. That news must take twenty-five earth years to arrive, but it will be dated only two and one half years prior to his arrival. The news of his arrival will precede him by two and one half years. Presumably he knows it to have taken twenty-five years to arrive. But if we suppose him to have aged only two and one half years during the journey, then from his point of view the news of his arrival will have traveled faster than the speed of light. Especial­ly when you consider that from his point of view, the earth is aging more slowly than he is.

From his point of view, two and a half years will have passed by the time he reaches a destination he knows to have been twenty five light years away when he left. OK, so it's just the effects of his high rate of travel. I'm sure I can be proved wrong by mathematical calculation. But calculation depends on the choice of where it is applied. The most powerful machinery is useless without some foundation to check its power. A lever long enough will move the earth only if there is a sturdy enough fulcrum. The same calcula­tions that are applied to prove me wrong, if applied by the space-man would have to indicate that something twenty-five light years away is twenty-five light years away. If he is in transit and it is to take him only two and one half years, then the nature of his destiny must have changed so as to make it closer than it had appeared prior to departure. That's fine from the earth's point of view -- nothing will have changed except the time convention in this incommen­surate frame of reference.

But in his frame of reference, the object of his travel will have to have changed. It cannot be twenty-five light years distant, if he is to reach there in only two and one half. If fact, for him, the nearer he approaches the speed of light, the more all destination becomes instantaneously achieved. At the speed of light, there would be no time for the spaceman. All the matter of the universe would have become energy -- not just because of the relativistic shift -- but it would have had to be converted into energy just in order to propel him. The whole universe would be energy on his behalf. And all the material destinations would be instantaneously achieved. There would be no time between one and the next. They would, in fact, have been subsumed within his being. He would be all destiny. Who knows how the universe would appear? We would have been destroyed in the effort at his speed. Not just from his point of view. From our own, we know that all the matter in the universe must be exhausted to propel him -- and that includes us.

Science is uncomfortable with paradoxes. It tries to dissolve them. All language is uncomfortable with paradox -- and usually ignores it. That is the necessity for carrying on. But all language depends on paradox. At its root, all existence is paradox. Ultimately, for science, the paradox that is most fearful, and most essential, is the paradox of self and other. There cannot be one without the other. Black is incommensurate with white. Here with there. Up with down. Life with death. Good with evil. Incommen­surate, but indivisible. Language and existence depend on it. To erase the distinction is to erase existence.

But science, secretly, seeks to erase the distinction. It would make the other into the self. How? Well, I know myself because I know what I feel -- perceive-- and I know what falls under my will. I can move my fingers and feel with my skin. I do this by a very meager understanding. But beyond that meagerness, I can see things that are far away according to visual language. I can effect things far away through the manipulation of my body and its extended instruments. Perfect scientific knowledge would render all accidents perceivable and all events controllable, such that all that is other can be rendered unto the self. The perfect knowledge is a perfect mastery of one's destiny. An ability to perceive perfectly the order of the universe.

Science doesn't pretend to perfection. It is on a journey with that as its Holy Grail. No one expects to find it. But the journey is everything. Not only can't we reach the stars along this journey; we can never render the other-ness of the earth unto ourselves. The examples are myriad, though they aren't proofs. The attempt to bring the earth's environment under our control will only poison us. We simply haven't the means to replace the earth's natural equilibrium-keeping devices with our own. For every piece of land we wrest from nature's grip, we gain a realm of unwanted vassalage. It's ours. We control it. But what then? ' It's us and the other which had sustained us now rebels. It throws its maintenance hard-put to the task of subsuming us back into it. We would be rendered back into the otherness of nature to become once more not ourselves. Dust.

And if we succeed, the otherness of the universe would do battle against us. We would become a world -- totally self contained and self-regulating -- all food would be manufactured according to our intimate understanding of the chemical balances in our body -- and we would have cast ourselves off from the sustaining web of nature. The only difference from our present ecologically balanced spaceship earth would be that we would be in control. The only accidents would come from somewhere other than earth. Outer space?? Nonsense.

Is it really possible? Are synthetic vitamins equivalent to natural ones? Yes, say the scientists, of course. But who in the universe has subsisted totally on man-made products? Nature penetrates even our ruses. The eggs we force unnaturally out of a chicken are still from a chicken. The plants we infect with chemicals to turn them into bags of water are still plants. Even if we replace the soil they grow from, their chemical composition is ultimately beyond us.

Not in the future, say the scientists. What future? They have a lot of faith.

When all the vast library of nature which contains more information than was ever captured by man in words has been rendered obsolete by its replacement with scientific knowledge -- what will be left to know? We may discover the chemical make-up of a bacterium, but that may be all that is left.

But science doesn't kill all the species -- man does that with his technology. But where's the distinction? Are scientists removed from the community of man so that they aren't responsible? They know why species are extinguished. They turn their head the other way in the blissful ignorance of those who can claim not to know what the future holds.

Or is it the scientists turning their heads? Maybe we won't listen to them. Perhaps many of them are trying to tell us what needs to be done. How to effect the stability of the earth once again. How to keep from crashing. There are ecologists. But they don't fit the mythology. We want scientists who act the role of high priests. Not scientists who tell us that it's up to us to understand. Some scien­tists fall into the role, and forget their humility. I imagine that most remain humble. It is not a proud position to watch the careening trajectory of the earth -- to be able to see clearly what is happening, and to have the drivers, the owners, turn their willful blindness on your cries. The scientists will be made martyrs by a blindness that is not theirs alone. It really isn't necessary.

"This is getting insane!!"

Not quite. I'm frightened and angry and excited. I can't find my way out of the web of words. I'm stuck. I'm stuck.

"You want to be insane!"

I want to know.


I want to know that knowledge is impossible. I want to know how to have faith. This is me. This boat that I live in. I put it together. I control it. I feel it. But it remains intractable. It has its own substance and is other than me. But so is my body. It has diseases and spots that I don't know. It is intractable. But it is myself. There is no other. Not my brain or my mind -- but everything. There is no division at the skin. There is only the dividing up of words words words.

"Stop. Do something else. Read a book. You'll go insane."

I will. But there is something more. We are always afraid of what is other because we can't trust it. We get the answers we want. We look into the face of the other and we read there sometimes trust in what we are. And we are not sure that this trust is warranted, because we have not been able to trust ourselves. We can never know when we have gotten the answer we want because we wanted it or because it was offered. We may manipulate, or be manipulated, but where is the true trust when self and other meet on equal terms?

There may be mutual manipulation. Poet's stare at the otherness of the world and find there a response. It is sometimes frightening. They know that something has been given them, but society tells them to copyright. To own. They are told that this thing that has been given is theirs because they have brought it into being with their control. But they know that it was given, and they have no right to possess it. They know that their words are not their own. They cherish the mind that acts as a doorway.

But there is always fear. The door may close. The love may prove false. The other may close its heart. The mind is not in the head. It is everything that is self. The body partakes in fear, and refuses to offer itself where impossible crossings are proposed. The body hangs back while the rest screams for deliverance.

There are many homosexual poets. That bothers some, and causes others to chuckle. But I know the pain that grips their soul. Not pity. But a fear of what is other because of a terrible mistrust of the self. I have slept with men. It is always manipulation. What else could it be? Sometimes it is mutual. There can be no harm. I was raped once, though. I didn't know it. I couldn't have known. A mild and insignificant rape. The simple matter of manipulating the self in blindness toward the other. I have never been able to reach orgasm with another man, though I value the crossing of the barrier of withheld intimacy.

It is difficult to cross that barrier. I could not do it without being seduced. I am shy, but I am trusting. And it is easy to swallow my fear. It is as difficult to cross the barrier of taboo that would have kept these matters secret. But I am seduced by honesty, because it has begun to reveal some of its secrets. Worlds are closed out only by ourselves. The only honesty that matters is the ability to trust oneself. Everything must be told.

I cannot blind myself to the fiction of the skin. There are no true barriers, and no true taboos. But worlds are closed off by the refusal to see. And clear vision requires trust in oneself -- and only trust. There is nothing evil in transgression. It is only when there is the possibility for trust, and it is withheld. That is the only evil. I cannot be homosexual. I am not. I have been curious. Now I fear that all otherness revealed will be sinful transgression for me. I may yet learn to trust myself too well. The man for whom too much is revealed exists with the danger of manipulating every other.

Love is a connection yet to be revealed. The emotion preceding consummation is always painful, because it is the recognition of a severed part. One is suddenly not whole when smitten. It is the pain of severing one's hand, though it is not a physical pain. There is nothing one can do. To seduce the object of one's love; to manipulate her into loving, would be the only sure way to destroy the possibility for true consummation and connection. Seduction is only safe when both are honest. The hand has been cut-off and manipulation is impossible. I fear that I will never be made whole. Such is the pain of opening the heart. But to keep it closed is far far worse.

Slouching Toward the New Year - a little thought experiment

All that we really need to do is to measure our wants. In a world of fragranced french fries and balooning obesity, it may already be beyond disputing that what we want is want. In this country, from where we have accomplished the immiserating of the rest of the globe for our greater comfort, we may have moved well beyond physical want to a baptismal immersion in the fear that our very comforts are themselves at risk.

Of course I don't mean to implicate every last one of us, since we clearly have internalized those third-world realities within our own boundaries, and live right down the road from clear and present want.

But folks like me, who doubt our talent for speaking out and acting meaningfully, live in a strange kind of panic that we won't make it somehow. That we will be discomfitted by the discomfort of our children. That we won't have launched them sufficiently along the road toward neo-liberal accomplishment, and worse that we will be a burden to them in our old age.

Or is it simply that we want space for more art and music? More community and communication? More touching and less digital stimulus? Imagine a world where there truly was more expectation of surprise from the cultural production of consciousness expanded and even bloated on our glut of oil. As opposed to the contraction in fear that we now experience that the powerless, terrified and sociopathic will overcome us. That the complexities of ecological sustainability will foil us as we fumble our stewardship of even the plot we live in. That we somehow have to exercise still more rather than less control.

Did I already write that I recently test drove the infamous Wii and was severely underimpressed. Saddened, really. That this is that to which desire has been reduced! That anyone could possibly consider this kind of play at play actually to be fun! That people are likely waiting for the elaboration on the theme at least to the point where the feedback loops are in place and touch, too, can be simulated.

Have we not finally completed our libidinal investment in things, outered and perfectly reproduced? Is there not still more surprise in the people around us, once their minds too have been liberated from the mandated measures of worth which invest our late capitalist so-called democracies? I think that Žižek did already actually adequately explain why modern democracies require a kind of instrumental reading of worth, which purports to be itself content free. Why IQ must become a thermometer of intelligence and SATs a measure of admissability to the permanent elite. (although I can't seem to verify by web search that it was actually Žižek who did that)

Can we even begin to know what wonders remain unrealized behind the fetters holding back those not even invited to play the game?

Saturday, December 27, 2008

The Actual Theory, in Brief, as Proposal

So now, then . . .

If we are to take seriously the notion that there is no simultaneity in the cosmos, which surely we must do. And if therefore there is no precise position to anything short of its actual measurement; that it is the impingement of the thing which we already know must exist since its context makes that essential, but that we can be no more precise about it's actual position than indicated by its de Broglie wavelength, however diminishingly small for the largish among us. What I propose, quite simply actually, is that there is something analogous to this wavelength which defines the indeterminacy of things in relative motion, such that it is not simply that they age rather more slowly than do we at rest, but that they become, as it were, indistinct and perhaps apart. It is the caring which blurs. The emotional connection which erodes and eventually disappears entirely, if for no better reason that that it would take nearly all of our physical energy even to create a very significant distance in the first place.

We would have to be really really angry, say, or be driven by something very much larger than love to accomplish any connection at all across paradoxial divides such as that illuminated by separating twins. It is not their relative ages which paradoxically cross, but their inertial wavelengths which relatively blur, and fail eventually, to intersect at all, anymore and forever, insofar as any of those terms are sensible!

If I gave a fig for the trueing capabilities of the formal and logical languages of mathematics (which, of course, I actually do - it's just that I'm too damn lazy and aged out to do anything about it) I would further propose a direction for investigation of this very thing. I think the equation might involve a ratio between emotional and physical connection; a kind of conceptual/perceptual relation which might predict the horizon for recognition of quirky alien intelligence, say, rather than the existence of a new quarky particle.

Of this I am relatively certain: There is no experimental proof even conceptually possible of the continued existence of perhaps once cared for percepts beyond the threshold of caring, since it would be the caring which would be proven before the only apparently sought for answer could ever be grasped. I think that's a perfect tautology, but oh well! You were expecting maybe a solution? A formula? E=MC² defines a threshold, is all. A limit. Beyond that pale, there is no caring, since there is no conceiving.

But here, true heart, on this side of the perceivable cosmos, are wonders as yet unbeheld, as we grasp too tightly the instrumentation of our undoing, the digitized simulacrum of actual stimulus. We can only measure further our own smallness in that particular direction. Outward recedes. Heart withers. Response is to our individual selves alone. All One.

Chapter 11, from 1983 - pumping them out because I actually can!

I don't know about physics. I left off that study a long time ago. There are plenty of good books introducing the concepts in simple terms. Read them. I don't know why none of them clarify my trouble with the concepts. Perhaps I'm wrong. Perhaps I'm missing something. But it seems to me that according to relativity theory, if you approach the speed of light to any measurable extent -- and a small percentage would be quite a feat -- then you lose touch and enter a different world.

The texts are full of examples of passing spaceships. They travel at a relative speed that approaches the speed of light. According to the theory, spaceship A is shortened along the dimension of its travel, and time appears to slow, when looked at from spaceship B. And spaceship B looks the same to spaceship A. Neither of them have changed from their own point of view. So why do none of the books tell you that this is ridiculous? I mean the theory's been proven in various ways; but why doesn't anybody point out that these two spaceships can't communicate with one another. It all makes sense in the abstract, when you're a God-like observer on the outside. But if the value of time differs for each of them in incommensurate ways, then they have no basis for communication.

How do you talk to someone whose time goes slower than yours? It isn't just that his voice slows down and you have to listen differently. He ages differently from you, though nothing may have changed from his own point of view. And you age differently to him. If you ever meet, you couldn't agree on anything. Your own experience would differ from the one your observer had proven with his own senses. And what basis could you have for communication in the first place? You wouldn't have any basis for comparing your existences unless you'd met somewhere prior to passing in space.

So, alright, you've met. You synchronize watches and take measurements and then take off to watch each other. Sure enough, you observe from the signal which flashes out the seconds that time had slowed for the other fellow. And you watch his spaceship foreshorten. He does the same for you. Then you meet again. Of course, everything's back to normal. You're the same size again, but he's counted fewer flashes on your timer than you did yourself. And vice-versa. It doesn't make sense. Flashes are flashes, and counting is unquestionably reliable. You must have lost touch somewhere. But where? You observed him the whole time, and he observed you.

Who knows? Relativity is a theory. The only thing we know is that we don't have any experience in the kind of shift that would occur were we, the observer, to accelerate to where relativity best describes our relationship with what we know. From our point of view, relativity helps to explain things that have from us the distance of abstraction. But we haven't been there. We use instruments to probe and measure and test. We believe them because their practicality is born out. Other theories have been proven, and these instruments result from them until finally a tremendous amount of trust is put in what is read from them. It's a trust with plenty of foundation. The instruments don't lie. They can't. But neither can they probe where we don't point them, or tell us anything about what we don't already believe.

They might surprise us. When something unexpected happens, they might call attention to a deficiency in our knowledge or belief. But we always have faith that eventually the world out there will find its way through the instruments, and our beliefs and knowledge will turn to truth. Any responsible scientist knows enough to keep back from the truth. They only deal with theories and evidence to corroborate them. They don't deal with truth.

But why don't we know that? Why do we imagine that the scientists know the truth? They don't know, and when pressed are the first to admit it. It is our fault that we have placed them in a position of authority in regard to truth.

Any authority is always given. And it is always our fault, not the authorities'. We may have given away our very souls. It is not Faustus -- not the scientist -- who makes the bargain with the devil. It is we who give away the truth.

Scientists have a tremendous amount of faith. In the scientific method. They believe in the value of what they do. They refuse to believe any expressions of truth that cannot be "proven" according to the scientific method. That is a powerful expression of faith. That however far from the truth they are now, only the scientific method will bring them any closer -- even if the truth forever recedes to infinity. The chase is fun, though. And it's only fun to play according to the rules. To accept any other than the scientific method is to crumble the foundation upon which any agreement among men could possibly rest.

It's a noble faith. Basically a scientist must be totally honest. Of course, if he isn't honest it can be easily demonstrated when his results can't be reproduced by other scientists. The only method -- or the most perfect method -- for keeping men honest. You have to be able to describe the conditions surrounding certain events sufficiently so that when those conditions are repeated anywhere in the known universe your predicted results will ensue. If you're lying, your predictions won't work for anybody else. Or if you haven't managed to include all of the conditions in your description. You might believe something too much and allow your own commitment to a certain result to help that result along in such a way as cannot be repeated by other scientists. The principles of science prevent dishonesty, lack of vigilance, or misinformation from getting very far. Science is a noble faith.

Scientists ought to be respected. But shouldn't they be concerned when the rest of us are all misled? Look, whatever the scientific theory is, there are some things all of us can be sure of. We've been to the moon. But to go any farther takes immense amounts of time, planning, energy, and control. A world first has to be imagined in which that is possible. Not this world, certainly. A different world. A totalitarian world? Or a world where men who leave can trust that they'll be watched and cared for until they or their descendants return. If they went on an American mission, they might come back to a Chinese reception. National purpose wouldn't be enough.

Why do we want a totalitarian world? For a belief in control is always a longing for a totalitarian world. Where all the decisions have been made. Where you are cared for. Where there are no responsibilities but to the collective whole. Where the individual ceases to exist. Where all that is left is the self of the state. Why do we long so to eradicate our souls? And why do we enact our longing through the paradoxical belief that only through will -- through control -- will we ever be free? We pound on the bars of our cage, never to realize that if we only showed our jailer a little compassion he would let us out. We are our own jailers. There is no other.

There are always kamikazes. Men willing to die for the glory and adventure. They would go out into space even if no one cared for their return. But how could we trust them? What could they possibly care for earth? They would have repudiated their birthright just by wanting to go. And we on earth aren't really interested in the adventures of others. We want them to bring back gold, energy, and solutions. But can we afford the gamble? Can we afford not to gamble? We can't know, because we don't have the experience. All we can do is assess the risks.

We are sure of one consequence of the mass-energy equation. We are quite sure that we can explode the earth by pressing a few buttons. It seems to be a final and unequivocal confirmation that knowledge is power, especially now that an undergraduate has demonstrated the knowledge to actually build an atomic bomb. Of course, the information is classified. But how ludicrous! The information is there in the fabric of science for anyone who desires to get it.

And what if some weakling desires to use it? Well, knowledge is power -- with a bit of money, that is.

Seems like we'd better do something quick. Like keep knowledge away from undesirables. Well, that certainly shoots the truth. But damn the truth, the existence of our world is at stake. Ah, then that's more important than truth?

What's really at stake? Power seems to be the only thing. Amateur bombers can't blow up the whole world. Only big superpowers with jets and rockets and submarines can do that. All the amateur can do is blackmail the powers. Of course, we're afraid of that, because these amateurs are dangerous and might not care too much about blowing up a few million innocent people. But then, millions of innocent people starve and are blown up and kill each other all the time. Some of it's because the powers don't care to share their wealth. Some of it's because people don't care for each other -- or they care more for an idea. Some of it's just plain carelessness -- like highway accidents.

Maybe we're not competent to live in the modern world. Maybe we ought to put some metaphorical knife on our dashboard to protect ourselves. Or maybe we ought to do something to eradicate the hatred that is making us so vulnerable. It isn't the obvious hatred really. The third world is still like the black slave -- serving its master and believing that their prosperity will grow with master's.

They still swallow the line. No, it's really the crazies we've got to worry about. The one's who might poison the water or the food.

It's not just the bombs, or the cyanide in the Tylenol. These are abstractions like the black boogey man who haunts the suburbs. They don't touch us no matter how effective the propaganda is to make us fear them. They touch someone else -- a statistic. Oh, I've been mugged. I'll never forget the sensation. I had a very powerful realization that these three black kids were people -- not bogeys. Sure, I was scared. I was petrified as I kept waiting for the knife.

But there wasn't one, and I called out for them to drop my wallet and leave me my papers after taking the money -- and they did.

I know people get killed and beaten -- but not by abstraction. Hell, your wife might shoot you, your boyfriend bash your head in or a drunk driver run you down, aside from the maniacal murderer we all know and fear so much. The knowledge that enables you to build a bomb or become wealthy, or become respected. It seems to give you power. But really the circumstances are what give power. Respect is granted by a reception. You have to demonstrate your knowledge. It is powerless in itself. We all know that money can't buy love or respect, though it can buy all the shadows. But still, in a world where money is everything, the rich will have it all. If we served and worked only for friends and people we care for and respect, then the rich wouldn't have any power at all. Their power is the power of circumstance. If we value wealth above feeling, then the rich will be powerful and our friends may be worthless. And the bomber's knowledge is useless in a world that wouldn't be affected.

Sure there might be some crazy who just wanted to hurt somebody. But, would there really? Who carries a bomb to the capitol or into a building or onto a plane unless, no matter how crazy, he feels that whatever he's blowing up is hurting him. Even the hardened terrorist thinks that the innocent victims of his acts will hurt the system.

And who is really insane? I don't think knowledge is power. It doesn't even come close. Power occurs in the connection. And the connection is made of desire, and the desire comes from circumstance, and the circumstance is, ultimately, the world and the universe. And I don't think there is any knowledge in the world that comes close to truth. Knowledge is the practical delusion by which one steers through the world. Knowledge is the operational use of a metaphor that's shared by a great number of others. If the sharing stops, then the knowledge is nil.

A man who would now claim by right of revelation or observation that the world is made up only of billiard balls that are infinitely tiny, and which bump against each other ceaselessly and so forth would be a fool. On the other hand, he might believe that and keep it to himself while making utterances only about the bigger billiard balls. Then he'd know something. But he'd make a fool as a physicist. Of course, then he might think some physicists pretty foolish for what they know about love or drink, or sex or music or whatever. Who's to say where knowledge ends and delusion begins? Truth comes first. Knowledge is a quality -- not an idea.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Blog O Yo Bitch (unreadable for sure)

This header is just hanging out waiting for some thread to pull it together. Silly. No meaning. But wondering, of course and duh, about this line between actual and projected guilt; between accomplished and merely contemplated crime. About why the stealers and murderers of millions are so politely maintained, while the potty mouthed petty dealers are so nearly often the actual targets for our resolved ire.

I guess it's because we can relate to them. Because their ambition is of a scale similar enough to our own. It's the same reason we can't actually feel very much at all about $700 Billion, until it's brought down to how much per wage earning person actually spent. How much in real dollars (my dollars) is that (I think it's about $3500 of real money, which actually does make me steaming mad, or I might just have a decimal misplaced, and my anger needs calibration too)?

Kind of makes you wonder where the money really goes, and how much stimulus the gov is ready to put into my own actual hands. So, alright, if I'm stuck with the really really tough decision to predict harm against actually inflicting harm based on my prediction that my infliction will mitigate the harm predicted to come, even though I'm going to be known as a prick for doing it, well that's why they give me the power or pay me the big bucks, right? There are no easy decisions at the pinnacle. The first emperor of China rehabilitated as the rectifier against chaos; the actual soul of that people and not its sociopathic alter (the jury is clearly still out).

I mean, if GW were screwing someone other than Laura, we'd probably feel a little bit more sure about stringing him up by his Achilles tendons to a lamppost, right? Or if Cheney seemed even capable to enjoy the power he so evidently wields. But Blago just seems like a garden variety scumbag, who you are absolutely certain would never screw someone so, well, plain as the one who snagged Spitzer and certainly wouldn't pay her the going price (why does no one consider the price paid to defend his honor, which it surely does, rather than to prove his chumphood) . Blago seems more intent on doing what we would really like to do but never would, and so bringing him down is an almost entirely post-partisan affair, such as bringing down Elliot or Bush never really could be.

Still, there is that nagging concern that Fitzgerald might be just a legal dweeb, dorked out on some comic book notion of truth, justice and the American Way. After all, he never did deliver real satisfaction on Valerie Plame (What a babe! What perfect casting! Or is she bleached?), nor has he distinguished himself all that completely from the sickly sticky Ken Starr, who really needed to loosen up his underpants.

So maybe he's just a little too quick on the draw to pounce on the unsavory as though it were the illegal. For sure, it will be a cinch to make that the case to be argued in the court of public opinion. Everything as code and metaphor for everything else. I mean, depending on the meaning of is, slick Willie surely never did have actual sex with that woman, any more than Blogo really meant to profit personally. You really wouldn't want to hear my sweet daughter when confronted with nasty drivers on the road, nor is she meant to be heard so. Please!

So, just what is the meaning of wiretaps, legal or extra, if not to get at the truth that would be withheld? Or is it clear by now that the meaning of wiretaps is to preserve the meaning of meaning; the very idea that there is or even anymore could be some perfect inner center to reveal the actual intent or is it character, tricky Dick?

Or what if the withholder doesn't even really know him or her self? Surely I did say that, but it's not what I meant? Or, you're missing the context? Or am I simply hiding out from myself, and could my therapist clue me in to what I really mean apart from my social context if only she would, and it wouldn't put me over the edge?

The meaning of a soul blessed by acceptance of Jesus as personal savior cannot be evil, except when it demonstrably is, which might simply mean that good intentions are never enough, except, of course, in the aggregate, which proof hardly ever requires wiretaps to reveal, and is almost always roundly ignored when it appears in the public record in any case. Viz McCain's bio, where fiction is so universally to be preferred. And who, apart from Hillary, should really care what goes on in private with Bill? Aren't we as guilty for wanting actually to know? Don't we all at least avert our gaze when opening the occupied bathroom door by accident? How about from an actual accident?

The problem is that plans of real consequence can be concocted by people seeming innocent, and the mere pushing of buttons can entail unspeakable doom. McVeigh was hard to profile, right? Or was an entire community guilty and did we let it drift off in that direction? The real problem is that the person inflicting torture might want to be sanctioned for that act, either before or after the fact, instead of accepting as the burden of his position the honor to avert disaster at the expense of his own honor. Surely if I would actually enjoy having sex with THAT woman, who is my inferior in power or generalized ability to reciprocate the actual pleasure, then my guilt has already been established, and the secrecy of the act is that in which the guilt consists. So, it is the enjoyment of the act of torture which is the truly tortuous act, right? The thing that you would do, behind closed doors, so to speak, if you could do it is the thing which defines your soul. Even without imagining Jesus there. Which defines the atheist's self-righteousness, I should think.

Which leaves most of us blandly and banally evil simply because we refrain from the test. Which is likely a good thing, now that Milgram's test passes ethics board muster and in modern terms we can be certain that most of us truly would, if it were suggested to us by someone in authority, do unspeakable things.

So then is the real sin that so many of us, myself certainly included, would never even put ourselves in the position? Standing in the outfield before I actually did quit Little League, I used literally to pray that no ball would fly to my quarter of the park. Driving the highways, I feel absolved by the mandate to call in the first responders by universal cell rather than to take upon myself the extracting of mangled bodies. And in no way would I, VietNam trained, be willing to pull a trigger in anyone's name, which filters out or in, does it not, those who actually enjoy that game, or who have no real choice, to be the ones honored in my name for maintenance of my supposed freedoms.

The only thing really unseemly about, say, Bush, is that he so evidently enjoyed being the "decider." And so evidently had to be kept from the trigger, eventually, when the moment of his decisions became so evident. And his only diminutive honor is that he actually did fire the fanners of the flame; he the James Kopp deflecting back some blame at the ones who made it an angry issue in the first place, and placed in the deciding center a game of tennis among the certain, not themselves being there, to the end that we very nearly did melt down, there being no there there in the center. But a tennis match with Jesus.

OK, so I said it was unreadable. I'm still trying to work this out. That the "there" in the center of our beings is also a shared thing and that there is no sin so complete that it can be pushed out onto any other but must itself be owned up to as a failure to abide by and to impose limits in and among the communities with which we participate. Into which we dissolve. Or having actually dissolved the communities, then we are forced to act individually, without authority, on the basis of honor in the abstract, that thing which only visited the earth once, and whose visitation we still celebrate just about now.

The wiretap begs the question as to why we pay so little attention in the first place. Why we can be so surprised. Why we cast our lot and ballot so consistently with the alpha bullies, and so seldom with the Jesus-like instead.

I think it's because, quite simply, we still believe in control metaphors, and we'd rather have a trustworthy driver at the wheel than a nice person. So long as he loves Jesus. I guess that's OK. I guess that's Merry Christmas!

Or is control the wrong metaphor? Short of orgy and final release, is there something better than wanting? Wanting which we still grip too strongly? Something surely is wanting . . .

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Getting (taking?) a Haircut

It's interesting how these terms seep into the language. A short time ago, "getting a haircut" was a technical term used by equities traders for how, I guess, you have to eat your losses sometimes - a kind of sharing in the pain, which, however, by the term's derivation, clearly doesn't kill you. Now it's being used for what's going to happen to the rest of us, when we get asked to take cuts in salary, keep our cars longer, or pick up a bigger share of our health insurance bill. As if this won't be an outright scalping for the paycheck to paycheck among us!

For myself, getting a haircut is a pretty strange matter. I do remember when very young, but not so young that I wasn't getting myself around on a bicycle, "my" barber was a kind of doorkeeper to manhood. A place where I would go alone, and talk and be talked to as the independent agent I yearned to be. He'd remember me, visit to visit, and ask interested and pertinent questions about what was going on in my life.

I even remember a kind of wistful regret when growing my hair long meant losing that particular connection. I felt a tiny amount of shame as betrayer, right along with what I felt toward the avuncular boy scout leader whose attraction suddenly paled alongside that of a particular girl.

Then, almost bizarrely, I carried a kind of do-it-yourselfism about cutting my own hair right up through that part of my life when I had a kind of public presence, and would even appear on television from time to time. Hair cut (likely butchered) by myself in the mirror, with no real sense of what was going on in the backside.

Counter intuitively, I got away with that (if I really did!) because my hair was thick, and the chops got covered over. Now, when my hair is nearly nonexistent, I seem to have lost my nerve about doing any self-trimming. Now, when I could care less about my appearance, and dress toward that peculiar non-entity status which makes the male of the species so much less burdened than the female. Now that I have to drive a half hour away and then hope the topic doesn't veer around to Hillary (barbers seem to have been filtered down to only those susceptible to the likes of Limbag anymore), I seem to need to get my hair cut before the shag becomes an item for comment. I guess it's all about the avoidance of standing out and making a fool. (Youngsters often feel that standing out can work to their advantage, as it so often does)

As with grocery shopping, I have to plan for it along the way toward somehwhere else, since there would be no way to justify the cost of the drive for just a haircut; or even just for groceries. But it's an odd turning point, this matter of how much I do or don't care about my appearance. No clear boundary. Just a small matter of nerve and comfort zone. A slow dispassionating to accompany the rather more precipitous de-sexing.

Still, there are times when I have a slightly public presentation coming up, and no driving plans to take me by my barber. These are the days of sixes and sevens, where I have to inject actual decisions into the stream of automatic khakis and engineer-plaid boring shirts and which place I'll visit today on my workweek rounds. These are the days when I seem to be forcing an issue and bending out of my groove.

My decisions - all of them - react to the things going on around me. There is no me anymore which knows where he's going or what he wants to do. I deliver maximum value for the dollar I earn, and trust that the Charities I serve will make maximum use of it for the needy they serve. I grind away to pay the child support, and cling to my comforts as the only things I really know that I want. The wood stove. The solitude. The house which is just the right size and reflects back to me by bookbinding, leather and wood colors everything to define my comfort zone.

My work supports a digital economy, where near analogs of reality can be perfectly reproduced, bit for bit if necessary, on the underpinnings of perfected binary decision trees. Embodiments of simple logic now made so intricate that foolish souls actually analogize that this is that in which thinking consists. But these machines still have to dip outside themselves for random numbers. They have to grab at clock ticks or person inputs, since I guess even one second per millennium of inaccuracy in a clock still allows for randomness up against a decision tree with no room for ambiguity at all.

This digital reality is the very Platonic ideal realm, which can never exist in actual reality any more than can an actual circle, say, or perfectly parallel line, or even a line at all for that matter. I learned recently that it was the discreet/continuous Zeno divide which got Galileo in trouble as much as it was the earth decentering thing. He rather urged the idea that there aren't really spheres in nature, say. And that the qualities of things, such as their color, inhere in the impingement of the thing, atomically as it were, on the organ of perception, rather than in the thing itself. Making trouble for Christ's materialization, most problematically in the Host. Such thoughts invite a kind of conjuring to the truth of knowing.

This is the same divide which now favors the discreetly digital so fervently (although my prophylactic digital TV converter box, which gets perfect pictures when it gets them, distressingly gets nothing intelligible at all when the signal drifts, in an all-or-nothing pitch for me to pay for my anaesthesia, I guess).

So, these digits are simulated in actual reality by clear tipping points in matter, along with some error correction against - I think I'm not making this up - the boundary blurring of, say, cosmic rays. The matter itself switches in state from something measurable as up or down, this or that, though it's the matter's context which makes the state definable. In reality, the boundaries are never so clear. In context they often can be.

The Turning Point we now face - it's always the same one, but the context sharpens its impact - is the one between algorithmic preprogrammed decisions, like the ones which take me through my days so very apart from myself; and heartfelt decisions in response or, still better, engagement with contingent events. We can continue down the road toward discreet boundaries between selves and families and nations and dare we say points of view, or we can find within our own very discreet selves that which we would like so very much to remain other.

Digital reality never implicates anything. Except along a decision tree moved along forward and back, there is never any clear and present implication of this here bit with that one there. It's an either/or thing with a time dependent cause and effect, and even with quantum computing, there's only thought to be an energy and time savings, not a logical divide. I think.

So, out in the world writ large(r) than bits and bytes, we find through brand naming and outsourcing and debt instrumentalization that there is no responsible agent for the mob-surge trampling which does still get done to the temporary self-marketed and therefore means of production (thought) sold-out self temp worker.

OK, so I've been holding on to this particular shit for far too long, and it's not really going anywhere. It's grown, well, flatulent. But at the time of my haircut, for which I'm now due anew, I did have something very much in mind which is long long gone. Over the Christmas holiday, my very digitally savvy nephew showed me his tee shirt creation, which looked so improbably artsy that I knew it must have been printed from some computer generated prior image.

But it wasn't! It was manually generated, using pins and tape and actual hands-on craft. And then he proceeded to demonstrate the impossibility to prevent digital theft, and its rather simple justification, that if someone is so lame as to re(re)present as valuable something so trivially reproduced, then screw 'em, I'm (he's) going to snag it, which I thought was a rather nice corrective against the uptight establishment economy so recently exposed.

Rock on dude (time for me to get another haircut!)

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Some quick slapstick to bury that last embarrassing number . . .

I don't want anyone to think I've been crying or anything. Though here's a funny story: Driving home the other day from the airport, lateish into the evening, that chalazion in my eyelid did burst. I could feel the wetness, like tears, but somehow I wasn't surprised to look in the mirror later and discover a bloody crust below. How frustrating to have missed it, and driving, not to have had the opportunity to milk it good.

So, it's back, that noisome little cyst, representing clotted tearducts. But crying is nothing to be wished for, or even induced, like that free massage I passed up just the other day, which might have ducted some toxins, so called, up to the surface for removal, assuming my faded body could endure it. Or is there another valid SAT analogy (I know I know, these are banned from the actual tests anymore. I would never in a million years make it back into the Ivies) masturbation:sex::tearjerkermovies:sadness. Maybe it's a stretch. Maybe not.

I worry not about my own body/mind fading (not sure which is going more quickly - or is there an actual distinction, tou-frickin-che?), but very very much about daughters on the road. I can't believe, truly, that in itself this is not sufficient to promote a sane infrastructure buildout rescue the economy move, bigger than FDR, to replace automobile production with light rail and other mass transit. Hell, within a tiny generation, we could have our municipalities all mass transited, and interconnected by light rail on the interstate rights of way. Country hermits like me could ski or ride bikes to the station. No big deal.

We'd cure the meltdown, get the economy going, and all of us parents could relax a bit. I don't know about you, but I'm scared almost shitless these evenings driving home in the daylights saving (as if!) dark among frantic Christmas shoppers, economic meltdown be damned. I can hardly cross a country road, and shiver to think of my daughters making the same negotiations; I with literally millions of miles under my belt.

I'm sick to puking about calls for hybrid cars. Deckchairs on the Titanic, for crying out loud!

OK, so I swear to you, again, that I don't rehearse any connection between what I write contemporaneously, and what I dredge up from my past. Some time ago, I borrowed a friend's new scanner, having OCR, as a far more likely means to translate CP-M from single sided genuine floppies (which I could never locate anyhow) to something more currently readable. I just dip down into that folder, and snap it up and read it while posting, for the very first time in many many years.

It takes plenty of courage to do so, let me tell you. I think it's several shades worse than seeing yourself in a video or on TV. And I'm not really even sure what the compulsion is except that it seems to keep me calm up against the howling mania and anxiety I did so recently suffer. I'm a little curious about whether there might be some congruence between my demise and my posting, or better still, my revitalization and a readership (I'm pretty sure I'm up to about three or four by now, but they're all related). I'm gearing up, so to speak, and having a reasonably good time doing so.

And the timing is eerie. With the CERN supercollider sputtering into e-motion, and the economy melting down, and getting an actual president back who might have a clue what this polity is all about, and the general consciousness about global everything, especially warming. Surely it dawns on everyone right about now that we've taken the controls and that it's a pretty nerve wracking thing to wake up having done (have I already bored you with my recurrent nightmare about driving a school bus, as I truly once did, with no breaks going down a hill?).

So, the other day, I'm chit-chatting about how I work for Microsoft - chuckle snort - like everyone else in the world - ironic sniff - with this atheist dude genetically related, so I am told, to a really great writer so NOT me. We establish that what I mean is that I, grease monkey style, have to master their shop manual, Microsoft's, to keep the machinery going. No lack of pride in that, as we all know the common sense distinction between the engineer who must wave his hankie by the side of the road when his creation breaks down and the greaseball who knows how to kick it over. But, given the context, I must have been mistaken for someone actually important (I think most of the gathered were proud retirees of the actual Microsoft), and so I was asked, by this atheist, which giant corporation I actually did work for (or words to that effect - the implication was that we could share an ironic sense of to what we'd leased our souls).

Drumroll -watch for the pratfall, for this is truth at its finest - I quipped in return, momentarily having forgotten his particular religious convictions, that I worked for the world's very largest and oldest corporation. (Pop quiz, gentle reader, which corporation is that, punning aside Peter?) My interlocutor did sidle rapidly away, abashed I'm sure, about what to say in retort.

True story. No shit. There, now did I bury that embarrassing post. . . .

More Excruciating Evidence of Lack of Couth - Chapter 10 from 1983

O pity those who cannot cry! They are the shut out, the alone, the strangers. They are closed to themselves forever, and the world. Pity the tears of the poor and the meek and the dispossessed and the seekers after they know not what. Pity the neurotic and the psychopath and the criminal and the drunk. Pity the drug eaters and the seekers after pleasure and enchantment. Pity the sick and the depraved. And God Damn the rich and the powerful. God Damn those in control. God Damn those who pretend to know the answers -- or pretend to anything more. There is no more. God Damn the false tears of joy and sadness of all those in the world who have no real pain.

And pity those who know not the joke that is at the root of all existence. And the horror. They are the same thing. Tears come from a separation -- a cutting off. From the realization that there are things which must remain forever other. A knowledge. A memory. A connection. And sometimes we can laugh. It's the same thing.

But don't pity me. I cried this morning. It's such a simple thing. I don't know whether I cried because I didn't know what to say or because I realized that I did have something to say or because I felt alone and misunderstood, or because I felt proud and afraid. Or whether it was because the ice was pounding on the boat and I wanted to go out and push it away with my bare feet and experience life, or whether it was because I couldn't go out. It was dark. The ice was banging against the side of the boat. I remembered and I cried. There was no pain, but the tears were real. There is no pain. There is no aloneness. The tears were real. There need be no fear.

I remembered pain and death and suffering. I remembered my grandmother's death at which I couldn't cry, and my grandfather's death years before at which I cried for days. I remembered aloneness and all the people who never understood. And I remembered all the love despite the doubt. I remembered joy and carefree life. And I remembered nothing. I lay there and looked at my breath, and the hull of the boat. I was trying to figure out how to explain about physics. It was such a simple thing. I just cried.

It's below freezing in the boat by morning. The coal takes a while to catch. I don't feel the cold until the stove begins to throw some heat. Then I shiver violently in front of it with my cup of coffee. Too cold to get out of my thermal underwear and into some clothes. My tears were melted by the activity and cursing of lighting the stove. They were dissolved by the realization that I would write about them. The stove is cherry red and my shivers subside. There was no reason that I cried. It was just the right time, and the right place. There was no reason for not having cried before.

The warmth creeps in slowly in the morning. I light another cigarette from the side of the stove, and try to move again -- to compose my thoughts and greet the day. It's clear and light now. I remember the last time I cried. I was a junior in high school. I hated school. I hated the larceny of my time. I hated sitting and watching the clock for the bell to ring. I hated the lack of choice. I hated my own inability to be interested and excited. I probably hadn't done my work. I probably hated to face the fact of my own failure. I was a good student, and probably hated my stupid fear of becoming a bad one. I don't know. But I cried inconsolably into my pillow. I moaned and slobbered and couldn't stop. I couldn't get out of bed. I couldn't face the day. There was no reason.

My mother came in with fear and commiseration. "Get out!" My father was angry. "Leave me alone" Then there was worry and concern. There's something wrong with ****. What's wrong with him? Is he sick? Should he see a doctor? I got over it. I went to school the next day.

And I never could cry again. Until just now. But I had remembered something that other time,too. About terror. About a terrible joke. Something came alive. I began to ignore school. I would graduate. Big deal. Who cares. I had a good reputation, and nobody would question my forged notes to the school nurse explaining that I had been sick, when in fact I was on the road. I'd go into the city and watch a movie. Or I'd sit in a diner with some real men. Free men. Why submit? It was a simple matter to ignore school and wait. I could look forward to college, where people would be more like me.

Connections are made on your own. The authoriies want you to be connected to them so that you won't subvert their authority by making your own connection. I used to pray endlessly for my grandfather's life. There was no worry that he would die. But he was old, and I'd been told about death, and the thought of his death filled me with horror. I was terrified myself about not waking up, and guiltily included everyone else in my prayers for life and good health. But my grandfather was really the one on my mind.

And his was the first death in my life. I was at school when I heard. You can't cry at school. But I couldn't function. I remember lifting food to my mouth in the cafeteria. My mouth was paralyzed. I couldn't move, so intense was my internal motion. I was emotionally paralyzed at school, but when I was alone I cried. Whenever anyone wasn't looking. For weeks I couldn't stop.

I was close to my grandfather. I think I was a favorite of his, though he had lots of grandchildren. He was an engineer by trade, and a dogmatic philosopher by inclination.

He explained things. He took great joy in the explaining, and I think I showed more obvious joy in my reception than anyone else. My love for him was as pure and absolute as any I can imagine.

He wrote his autobiography after he retired. I've only recently read it. And I found out that he only finished it shortly before he died. "The Diary of a Common Man", though he could hardly have believed that title himself. It had been written just in case any of his descendants might want to know what life looked like and felt like to old "Horny". He was a great man in his way. But a common man too, and I think that in the only way that is important, he really believed that about himself.

There really isn't anything profound in the diary. But his memory is uncanny. And he knew that about himself. He remembered details and names and faces. He remembered smells and sounds that had passed half a century before. The memory must have burned to be committed to all the collective memory of the clan. The only pain he could have known toward the end of his life would be the pain of being forgotten. The pain of not having been able to write his memories for us, and I feel, for me.

I cried when he died. My one most passionate prayer had gone unanswered. Yet I realize now that had he lived, I could not have grown. He was dogmatic. I was often rebellious. My hair was long. I veered from the path toward becoming an engineer. And now I begin to feel very strongly that his need to commit his memories to paper was mistaken. No. Not mistaken for him, but for me. That kind of connection is only a metaphor. We are all remembered, and not by our Name, or by our words.

Had he lived, the pain for both of us would have been far greater than the pain of his leaving. It would have been a final inconsolable pain, because we had placed so much hope in one another. He has not been separated from me, but the truer connection has been allowed to persist.

Nor did he die for me. All is not for the best in this best of all possible worlds. All is as you make it, and he was ready to die. I did not kill him. The circumstances are unimportant. It was just the shape of things.

My grandmother -- his wife -- died this year. They were devoted as few couples are, and I can never forget the look on her face when her husband died. Nor can I forget the incredible vigor with which she continued to live. She shoveled snow after heart attacks which should have left her depleted. The doctors said She shouldn't lift a pan, but she couldn't understand that at all. She knew what life was and ignored the doctor's advice. The authorities. She knew what her body could do, and she was right.

But the doctors had their final revenge. Finally she lost her mind -- so they said -- with a stroke. She lost her words. It was a fate worse than death for her. She could do nothing to resist the advice and literal control of the doctor's and nurses. There could have been nothing more painful. She could never stand to be served. She would always exert herself in service, and that defined her life. Now she was considered incompetent.

When she refused to eat they put tubes down her throat. When she gagged on them they stuck them in her arms. When she pulled them out, they tied her to the chair. For her own good she was imprisoned. You could see the agony. But, God damn it all to hell, she would always smile when she recognized you. You knew she was glad to see you. And you couldn't show your pain in the face of her agony, because you were faced with the smile that shielded a pain that would be made more hellish -- more absolutely unbearable -- if that is even conceivable -- than it already was; by your tears. She didn't want you to be unhappy.

She didn't understand why we wouldn't help her to pull out the tubes. "No, no, Mema. It's for your own good." She may have understood our smiles, and she relaxed and smiled back. Why wouldn't we untie her? Why wouldn't we let her go. I asked her a bold question. "Do you want to die?" She understood. Yes. Yes, let me go. She could make that simple word. But it wasn't the words that she had responded to. It wasn't my question. She knew what I meant and answered truthfully.

You get the answer you want. You smile and you look worried, and you ask her if she wants to die and she says no. But I know what she was really saying. "Stop torturing me. Stop manipulating me. You know damn well I can't tell you I want to die, because you wouldn't understand and it would hurt you." I don't want to hurt you. But please leave me alone if all you want is to control me with your own fears and emotions. If you love me I'll know. If you don't then I'll have to lie.

I knew what she meant. The true answer was obvious, and I think I allowed her to be herself when I asked her. But to the doctors -- to everyone else -- she would answer no. No, no, no! Can't you leave me alone. Why do you want to control me even in that final realm. Why do you torture me by bringing back words that can only keep me from myself. My whole being is telling the truth. Can't you see it. It's obvious. If all you see is a reflection of yourself, then leave me alone. I will not be controlled by your fears. At this moment at least I am my own person.

And the Goddamned doctors wouldn't let her die. God damn them. And it wasn't even the doctors. She had good, caring doctors. It was the system. They were all so ensnared by the mythical truth of control that they were blinded beyond any capacity to care and they put my grandmother through the most literal version of Hell imaginable. God damn them all. Leave Go of the system. It's killing us all. There is only one truth and it's in all of us. Don't give it over to the authorities. My grandmother didn't lose her mind. That is obvious, and should have been obvious to anyone --but they were blind, and their blindness was evil.

I am overcome in my anger. I have never been able to let it out. I have always mistrusted myself. I would not direct my anger at any individual. We are all helpless. Pity is all. There is love and caring in all of us. But the blindness is evil.

When my grandfather died, I trusted that God had made the right decision, and now I see that if there were a God that would be quite true. I knew that it was not my place to question. But the pain was intense, and I did question the authority of the church. Apparently, the church didn't know what prayer was. They thought you prayed when you wanted something. I knew that wasn't true. I had prayed to express my love for my Grandfather. I knew that when he died, and I knew that true prayer could not be selfish. My prayer had been important. The church was irrelevant. Now I wonder if the church might not be evil. Ask yourself.

Religion is to other institutions as poetry is to argument. There is beauty there. And truth. But it disappears when you are given no choice as to how you hear the truth. When you are manipulated -- preached to -- then you are not allowed to simply feel the beauty. Ritual has been lost to our world, and it is a terrible sad loss. In its place has been erected the cold and crusted edifices which pander ritual in the name of Beauty which is only a Name. The substance is gone. Clinging to something that once was true, but which can be no longer when all the universe has changed along with us. Evil.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Reverse ju-jitsu Consciousness Raising

I'm way too tired to do this right now, but it's been on my mind for a few days, and I have to outer it or else it will get reabsorbed like all my other brilliant thoughts (the big one that got away). I guess the theme must be laziness, begging the question of course, since I'm only lazy about things that would put me on the line. I'm great when attacked, however . . .

So, it would seem that I should detail what I mean by "consciousness" if I'm going to posit such a thing as elemental. Coeval, as it were, with things at their reductive minimum. Some might talk about origins, but I think I'm thinking more about limits. God as a limit to total consciousness rather than, say, God at the origin (and end?). (A difference without a distinction? Surely it's a dimensional thing, regarding trajectories and directionality vs. cycles and relative expansiveness)

I talk about "particles" in my youthful diatribe, having in mind those things in physics, the exchange of which can describe elementary forces. And I worry about the collapsing of probability functions - wave functions which describe the likelihood of a particle being perceived at a certain spot, but which collapse upon the actual measurement, since the particle gets detected and the probability function is resolved to unity.

And mind is just that necessary quality which binds, predictively or historically, particles which might or have collided. Mind is what relates the particles, which are otherwise unrelatable; and so mind is inherent, as it were, in the conception (that thing apart from perception) of particles in the first place.

And I find that not much (mental!) energy has been invested in dealing with the perceiver, among the very clever deep and intelligent efforts conducted by researchers in basic physics. I believe that shortfall relates directly to lots of anxiety about the possibility that in the act of perception there is also an act of creation. The project of science, after all, is to 'true' our theoretical models of reality to what is experimentally predictable and repeatable. Reality is the stuff which is discoverable every time when the conditions are properly stated, and the procedures sufficiently mapped out. The kinds of questions I keep asking are properly the realm of religion, or perhaps philosophy. (Too lazy to learn the distinction, perhaps?) Reality is 'out there,' with the alternative, very properly, vertiginously nauseating and rather, well, insane!

And so part of what I'm saying, for sure, is that the multiplying elementary particles of physics are artifacts of the instrumentation brought to bear in "discovering" them. But this gets very tricky.

Surely, visibility through (by means of) a microscope does nothing creative about what gets discovered thereby. And the discoveries alter not reality, but our conception of reality, which enables ever greater understanding and eventually control over the previously only random impacts we suffer in contact.

The control is exercised, necessarily, by means of technology, which is just the instrumental extension of our will into realms beyond direct bodily interference. But then a funny thing happens. The instruments by means of which we can discover ever more removed bits of reality become themselves ever more removed from bodily interference. Until the detection of percepts at the limit becomes, strictly speaking, the purely metaphorical detection of purely conceptual entities, existing surely, if at all, only in the mind.

Strictly speaking (am I?), this must be provable. I guess my eyeball can detect a single photon. A notion unimaginable before that theory (Einstein again). But for the boson, we apparently require some 17 miles of circumference in the instrumentation. At this limit, can we be certain of detection, or does the measurement become more like Sagan's Contact, where you might have travelled there only in the mind. Is there a limit beyond which the thing perceived is not distinguishable from the apparatus of perception; at which point prediction becomes tautology???

I don't know, but I suspect so. I'm comforted that Stephen Hawking has put up $100 to bet against further affirmation of the Standard Theory. If we achieve instrumental tautology, would it be at this point that we reach the limits of discoverable reality? Would it be at this point that we know there are not more answers from the instruments, and that it's all about choices we must make?

I have to guess that photons are discoverable from any conceivable direction for scientific progress (on this earth, to be very precise). And I would guess that the behavior of photons requires some further theorizing, fully verifiable, about those other particles on which they depend, these photons which might be the minimal-impact particles of direct interest to our actual bodies.

But here's the thing. Doesn't the cosmos feel kind of constrained when it's our own bodily reality which sets the limits for our questions. Doesn't it rather feel like maybe we're at the point of ultimate breakthrough, not certainly to better understanding within the models already elaborated, but more toward what could properly be called a paradigm shift? (I say properly, since most usage of that term is as hackneyed as the common "in terms of" when nothing of the sort is actually meant)

I must say, I'm far less worried about a mini-black-hole-end-of-the-cosmos-as-we-know-it event descending from final power up of the LHC than I am, first, about ecological melt-down, and second, the complete disorderly collapse of the global economy. These are, as goes the Chinese curse, interesting times indeed.

It might well be that we'll never know! The economy, or energy priorities, or something up with the data grid (let's say a really big viral video) or any number of other events might simply postpone the powerup, and then postpone it again, and some very frustrated basic physicists will be pacing around or jumping up and down in their minds. It may be that the actual results are tempered by some reassessments to the design of the instrumentation. To repeat, we may be at the point where instrumental artifact becomes indistinguishable from detected object, among those who will debate the matter. Endlessly?

This all feels like trite cliche, and I'm sure it is. But just as when I recently returned from my Seattle lark, found my little hermitage nicely intact, started my fire and turned up the automatic heat to get some of the miserly 50 degree chill out of my would-be cozy domicile, and the ancient oil-burning furnace finally gave up its ghost, I never did consider God in the works. Neither did I consider the event entirely a matter for luck or simple fate. It has far too much consequence for the now immediate aftermath of my life.

I dodged a bullet and did very much enjoy the treasure quest after an ancient enough store to hold the ancient enough part for my now decidedly nichey equipment (who can afford to burn oil?, ho ho ho). I really really enjoyed the jolt of having accurately diagnosed the issue, and getting the furnace to work first time post DIY repair, and well before the anemic output of the wood stove could allow the house to chill back down.

Am I so miserly in my praise to Allah, so proud of my own cleverness, so hubristic in my refusal to make of my life a dodging among clerically accepted and less so pronouncements and behaviors? (You Betcha!) I guess so, but surely that kind of life grows tiresome, depending always on the authority of suspect others. At best they inform my little heart. At worst, I prove recalcitrant and wooden therefore. Not mine to decide for sure.

I won't put money either way on the outcome of the supercollider experiments, but I do know for sure that the cosmos I inhabit retains endless surprises beyond those which we can uncover or design and control for ourselves. I do know for sure that a planet earth fully within the range of our instrumental control becomes almost at that very instant a very barren place. I do know that the now pervasive blackish jokes about a new world order of bartering livestock for survival hit me wrong in the gut.

So, I'm not holding my breath.