Saturday, February 28, 2009

What's a Meta For, Indeed

Finally, I just watched "The Corporation", a fairly ambitious documentary film whose first half traces the history of the "legal person", of much more recent vintage than you'd think. It was, I'm proud to say, a former student of mine who arranged the screening, for a (very very) small assortment of lefty thinkers and, apparently, homeless people who might have been attracted by the goulash. As one might expect, the screening was held in an old warehouse space - I think this one might have been the old Kittinger factory, or maybe the Pierce Arrow automobile factory, both centers for pride gone by in this "We're Talking Proud" community.

I'd been looking for the film - no surprise that you can't get it at Blockbuster - and so made a point to go. For some unknown reason, I can't seem to spring for the monthly fee to get those NetFlix discs, even though living out in the country without even a phone line now to do the Dish Pay-per-view, you'd think I'd make the perfect candidate.

So this film traces some sort of elaborate figure of speech, whereby a precise likeness is traced between a corporation, which has legal rights and standing as a fictional person, and a psychopath - a person, like my oft berated brother in law, without a conscience. Without a heart, in my own very precise terminology.

This, of course, sets out the very dangerous form of argumentation used in all conspiracy-type films. You paint a kind of picture, generally by editorializing on how you present the evidence, and then allow the congruence of this picture with the pattern of your proposed explanation to provide the force of your argumentation.

Gone are standards for evidence gathering. Gone are trails of proof. It's all circumstantial evidence, matching likely opportunity with likely motive, say, and leaving the blanks all but filled in.  It's what Michael Moore gets accused of, and it's what left me cold after watching about how the Bush administration brought down the World Trade Center towers deliberately. I had no way to assess the validity of the pictures and the information as presented. Like watching a magician on stage, I trust that what seemed to have happened cannot really have happened, and behind that trust is some solid sense of what can and cannot happen in the wide wide world.

So, when I watch some overheated documentary about how Bill Clinton arranged the murder of all his opposition, I'm only reminded of that numerologist I once did watch with gape-mouthed awe at some Rainbow Homecoming (I swear I was quite the outsider there). The coincidence of his math seems so unlikely that you wind up being convinced that there must be some occult meaning to the numbers, as assigned to letters of the alphabet, names like Reagan (hint - it ends up 666), or whatever. Like a really good magic act, you end up almost tasting the in to that secret key, to unlock all the secrets and leave you somehow what? Zoned in? Harmonically on some wavelength with all like minds, and not deluded like all the other unenlightened? In the presence of someone with real power?

Well, but then you're left with what these days goes by the shorthand MSM, to provide your better evidence against these slants???? Where editorializing is hardly even disguised, as though the magician were to expose all his sleights of hand before the show, so why would you even watch?  Perhaps in admiration of his talent, but not for the same reason that most do watch (to test their own credulity, I guess, and to address a puzzle beyond solution).

So, the argument at the heart of The Corporation is not quite one that can be tested. It urges a coloring on the way we find the world. A king of gestalt shift to where the old lady in the picture is young, even though there may be some other, editorially perverse, way to construe those lines.

A likeness is made, then, between the corporation and a person, but that a person acts with conscience and a corporation, qua corporation, never does. Evidence is presented that corporate behavior regards the laws and norms of society as so much new information for the calculus of the bottom line. And most compellingly of all, there is a tracing from enclosure movement, through fabulously edited outtakes from interviews, to a kind of exuberant celebration of the privatization of absolutely everything, from among those shilling for the wealth-generation point of view.

Most horrific and on the face of it beyond the pale of absurdity, are the claiming of patents on genetic codes, so that now not only has evolution been violently thwarted by wanton destruction of species along the way toward wealth generation in obliviousness of the externalities of living systems; but now to the extent that it can be consciously guided by genetic engineering, the course of evolution will and must be made profitable. So, presumably, we can progress and generate more wealth. Or rights to sell the water, and next the air. Because the commons has been so fully now enclosed. Natural systems will and should get replaced completely, so that we can move right in to the cartoon world of Disney.

Another presumption gets mocked, that the miserable of the world are and should be glad to earn a few cents per hour, as improved alternative to starvation. That this somehow lifts them up. But from what?? Can this be any better than coursing through the wild with spears to chuck and snarling jaws to outsmart? So that subsequent generations can be removed to Disney life? Wall-E?

Now, here comes the hard part again. There is, between metaphoric and literal truth, a divide not unlike that I claim between perceptual and conceptual reality. Of course I further claim that there is no way to privilege one from the other in any ultimate sense, but generally and in the local sense, there is no significant issue to distinguish what's meant literally from what's meant by indirection.

A person is a person, and a corporation is like a person, and everyone is meant to understand that the differences are writ large enough that no-one gets confused. But a person, acting without accountability, will generally devise a chain of deniability such that his actions have only local significance and that externalities are quite, and literally, beyond his comprehension. Such a person, now, is like a corporation.

But comprehension is itself a veiled metaphor, right? It means beyond his grasp. Beyond the grip of his hand, but in this case his mind is the thing doing the grasping. Metaphorically of course. And what is it that gives the mind this purchase? Well, a mental schema, of course.  A conceptual framework supposed to mirror or at best to idealize the perceptual world as it is, out there. It is what gives us confidence in our behaviors, or often what makes us shy.

It is indeed very very difficult to imagine our personal behaviors having much impact beyond our immediate circle of influence. And when they do, we must recoil in horror. Like when the cigarette so casually tossed from the window of a moving car lights up the forest, or a moment's inattention squashes a cat. But to be a trader on the stock market floor, you cannot pause to calculate the moral harm which made your trading day, as this film displays by interviews and examples of gold's value in response to the Trade Tower's collapse. Or how your purchase might stimulate some destruction by the socially misguided corporate power it encourages.

But how can you know?

You have to trust in some structure beyond your personal understanding, which rectifies these things together for the common good. Or perhaps you are a psychopath yourself, and there is some evidence, I guess, that market traders and lawyers are overrepresented among that crowd. You might only care about yourself and this very moment. But you have to trust that the pilot of the plane is not that way, and that its design represents thinking that is tested and trued.

The behavior of an individual in a corporation rehearses this very same sense of personal limitation, most excruciatingly portrayed in the film from the very top, where CEO's, whose legal mandate is so clearly limited to maximizing short term gains, have almost no discretion toward the common good. If they pilot a plane, then that plane is almost always on autopilot, perhaps until it is too late, and when the machine lets go the mere human is beyond his strength and reflex to respond.

Or maybe, like the captain on the spaceship ark in that dark and happy Disney film Wall-E, there is very little for him to do but uphold the appearance of being all he's worth. (Michael Moore claims it's greed which allows corporate powers to hoist themselves by their own petard, and I suppose he must be right)

It is this enclosure, of one from each other as we interact in response alone, to Main Stream Media and its collective framing, which enables deniability of one from each other, and each from the earth we do so collectively destroy - in this enclosure, there is nothing we can, individually, do. Metaphorically, the machines have already taken over, because there is no place for heart in the system. 

Although, to be absolutely sure, there will be no smiling and glad handing good cheer when Disney's world is finally complete. Psychopaths, I trust, when at the end of their hand's play, seem always and only to grow bored and off themselves.

Now, at land's end, I turn in tears toward my co-passenger. There is no return but afoot.

It is not only that conscience does provide a guide. It is not only that consultation with ones heart does provide for some accountability beyond the merely local. It is, for actual fact, that there are, by very design, as it were, true occult vibes which link us one to other. But the courage to let these be our guide is so far beyond what I for one can muster. It must be a common turning.

As Disney provides Wall-E, so the cosmos of corporate greed (and it is only that and nothing truly evil, since there is no heart to it) provides this Internet for my somewhat free amusement. Still, there could be a spark tossed off, and conflagration among myriad minds like thinking, aligned by words and images and thoughts.

There could be some resonance more powerful than that of MSM or the electrical grid. There could be some actual alignment of hearts along the vectors not of purchase power, but those more metaphorical vectors, arranged for systems quite beyond us and beyond our grasping control.

These evolved life systems have as their metaphorical ground our emotional caring, which is the meaning of their having come together in this particular way. A fated conclusion is what had to have happened, looking past, without even metaphorical access to why. So, looking forward, what is our fate dear hearts? Or do we even care?

I do know that particles, like money changing hands, must mediate the forces of the physical universe. I also know that waves describe seeming action at a distance, quantum collapsed to actual here and impossible now, by mind's perception. Waves, or their function more properly, pervade by inverse square attenuation, the entire cosmos depending on its population.

There must be some fair balance among the cancerous proliferation of minds on planet earth and its substrate which cannot support us. There must be some form of education which can lift our burden from this ecosystem, by the magic trick of courage to trust and to believe, but not in the Christ as metaphoric realization (I hedge my words). So Disneyesque now in ugly stentorian fascistic outline rules and awful commandments.

How about trust that there is some common good, or that self indulgence truly does become boring, and that aggrandizement is no longer sign of accomplishment toward anything other than hell on earth? Full wisdom is so common. So often childlike. So utterly thrilled to take off down a hill on a bicycle the moment the snow is melted even for a minute. 

And educated out from childhood is dull oblivion, grinding cogs, in corporate mass annihilation.

I must now screw up my courage to leave the Church, with whom I literally am employed. This quite dysfunctional embodiment of Christ on earth. A shell. A husk. A corporate structure of aristrocratic inertia, having at its center something no less absurd than a queen in Britain's heart. The child support winds down. The grasping after love is dulled. The care about endings or conclusions is narratively well away, and I shall attempt a turn towards poetry. (not for you, dear hearts, I would not torture the you so.  Merely for my passive taking in)

The world's a song, more like, than story with conclusion. Let's sing together full throated loud, a chorus against the booming. A song to carry the aching heart. A song to cheer full stop.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Embarrassing imature twaddle

sorry, but I've yet to grow up that way . . . 

I haven't really worked out what a blog is or should be. I think when I first heard of them, I simply wondered why anyone would be interested at all - so, you can publish your daily thoughts? You could already do that. HTML isn't very hard. Then I kind of got how it was being made so very trivial. How young girls at the age of narcissism just wanted the whole world to know what they were thinking. 

Then, seemingly overnight since I almost always have my head too far into whatever I'm doing to notice, blogs became serious, and covered what serious writers want you to know on a minute by minute basis, apparently in a way to deepen the published and editorial coverage of what's new but not new enough. 

In any case, I am finding the process transformative in a way which interests and intrigues me. I take it as given that letter writing is dead and gone and never will return. As with all transformations, I find this more than a trifle sad. Letter writing, when practiced, aspired to a kind of elegance and turn of phrase which was lovely in its compact precision. 

I'm certain that there have been people who write their letters starting with a rough draft, leading ultimately to a clean copy, but I certainly never did. Almost precisely as when I used to dictate letters into a tape machine for my secretary to transcribe, I developed a simple discipline which made it possible to contain the structure whole in my mind, and in the dictating - or in the letter writing - get it out.

I somewhat mourn - and it is a guilty mourning - that my daughter does not get letters from me the way I used to from my parents. And I don't get any from her. We are really no less in touch than before she went to college, since her cell phone number is the same; and the need to know precisely where one is and what one is doing is long attenuated

So I get calls for advice on rare occasion, and we exchange emails on occasions still more rare. But it surely is not the same, any more than neighborhoods full of children playing outdoors among neighbors who actually knew one another can still survive our sprawling wombs with views. 

Sure, I do try to write emails as though they were letters, but truth to tell, as rare as truth telling is, they don't get read. Email is far too hoppy for someone to tuck into quite. Emails have to be almost bite sized. 

I had long distance when I was in college, but it was costly, and entailed some permission or trade for beer money (when beer cost a quarter). So, I think I was energized by simple heartstrings, whether of loneliness or fond familiarity, there was simply a desire to let my folks know what was going on and what was new and what was on my mind. I surely didn't tell them everything, but it was pleasant enough and almost entirely without guilty pressure that I would sit at my desk to compose my thoughts.

And in almost the same manner did I devour the letters from home.

I do remember a transition to typed letters. This must have been some while after college note-taking destroyed my script, and college paper writing trained my fingers to fly across the manually hammered keyboard.  It was after my handwritten letters from my backpacking spring and summer across Europe had been transcribed by my Dad's secretary, probably so that they were legible. But I knew there was some pride in the compilation.

Much of our history is recovered from letters, when they aren't destroyed from too fine a sense of what is private. When discovered - these very private letters not destroyed - we get a sense of in to some truth beyond the scripted and edited version of history.   Though surely many epistolary writers wrote in full consciousness of private now and eventual public archival significance then.

So, for me for now, that is where the bloggers' art comes in, if art it can become. Maybe just beyond the verge of embarrassing if your friends or workmates were to know what you're up to. More like what you might disclose to a benchmate in the train station (if there were train stations anymore), but of course don't anymore in the airport, so anxiously nervous lest you be delayed and bumped or can't find some space to relax amid the noise and too much informality of dress and of behavior.

I wonder where is the space for those truly private thoughts which should get burned. What can happen to the art of making love long distance? Never mind. 

So, for me, this practice, while far removed from keeping in touch, might yet provide some energy back to a mind itself grown jumpy and disconnected and distracted and oh so very abstracted. It is distressing not to be able to coax a thread where once there was actual correspondence. 

I still do have, on my actual desk at which I seldom sit (laptops actually work better on the lap I find) a series of now ancient letters which I myself never could respond to. From China, say, or from a very close friend who moved away, and whom I actually did try to visit motorcycling through Little Rock. Something had happened to me. I was too busy for sure, but also inwardly there was nothing left with which to press a write. Only a vague sense of guilt and want. I think it was simply that the leisure space in my life, and perhaps in all of ours, had been squeezed away. There was too much on my mind and too much to take care of. 

Or maybe it was simply the fuss to set up the typewriter? The awkwardness to tame my hand? A simple habit lost? I was fooling around with how to compose Chinese on a computerized word processor, well before the GUI. My Chinese hand is well beyond execrable, though that can hardly be the whole excuse.

I think rather, and this is quite extravagant be warned, that in the very way that holographic films contain the entire image across their whole - such that when broken in half each part contains an attenuated version of the whole - so we humans, as conscious beings, but even were we not, are in microcosm the entire cosmos.

This is hardly radical in itself, though I do mean it in the most radical possible way. And as we whittle away our planet earth, which for my very own purposes is the only living cosmos in our way, our souls are attenuated too. This earth is cosmos whole, and there is no other. In complexity it more than comprehends all else "out there". It is, in very precise sense, cosmos' heart. Copernicus be damned along with all those concupiscent Piarists who so befriended Galileo.

It is always possible to be quite wrong while being right. While correcting one strain, as in the Inquisition, torturing out another which might itself have guided the way toward salvation, if that is what you want.

It just may be that in our throes of certainty about the physical cosmos, as though that is all that is there, we are in process to destroy our emotional heart, which also does pervade creation. 

And so, dear heart, I blog in desperation, perhaps, to kindle back some kindred connection, heart to heart, that consciousness can be raised to its proper estate, co-creator of a world never ever quite created in the first place. Because that sort of Creationism is become a very very dangerous fiction. God has come to earth, and he is in us. Unborn still. In grave peril of abortive loss. And you know where I stand on that issue . . . 

Damn!  Off to work, hi ho hi ho . . . or what's a meta for????

Another fish about to die . . .

There is almost no emotion involved anymore, but I do continue to maintain an aquarium. It started as a school project for my daughter, when we discovered, to our confused capitalist-consumer amazement, that we could have an actual glass aquarium in which for her to build her ecosystem mockup for school, for far far less than the paper to construct one. 

I thought at the time that it must have been like the razor companies giving away the expensive holders, to ensure better sales of only marginally less expensive blade cartridges; which was confirmed at the pet shop, but with a frown since I think I used the analogy of heroin samples, which is never appreciated among true capitalists.

Anyhow, for some reason, at a later birthday, my daughter really really wanted some fish, likely as displacement down from the puppy dog which she really wanted and knew was out of the question, broken and stressed out divided home that she continues to survive.

We've done pretty well over at least a decade, with one - I think it's only one - fish to survive the entire journey from city to country, and loss of childish interest. (this sort of thing makes one glad about the dog not gotten).  The survivor is called, I think, a cave tetra. It's blindness must make it hardier somehow. 

But one of the other tetras is showing familiar signs of quickening old age. You see it in the color and mostly in the grasping uncertainty of floating balance. It distresses more than saddens me, and long gone are the days when I did wonder how to break it to my daughter.  I think that I myself do compulsively continue to maintain this small aquarium in penance for the laboratory mice, or was it hamsters, which I once did let die of neglect in their very similarly constructed  - to the aquarium - hyperbaric chamber. Or maybe it was the beagle I never could take proper care of, and which got sold while I was away at summer camp, and still manage to feel was, the selling, my own darn fault. It was.

They are no company to me, these fish, but I do make a mental note to buy another, and oh yes also that glass scum sucker fish since the green stuff is building up again.  Which seemed to have a shorter life, useful as it was, at the bottom of this particular food chain. I think they need company, and well perhaps I am glad to have them around for when I come home. It gives my transition some focus. Feed the fish, feed the cats, also for the daughters gone, but now long since banished out of doors , the cats, not the daughters, because they full took over the house in my perigrinatory absences, and filled it with puke and shit and hairballs in all the wrong places despite my most strenuous efforts. And feed the fire before I can take the time to feed my mind.

I suppose they do provide a kind of company. Unless it's just the reminder of my daily responsibilities toward something simple but living and apart from the daily grind. It could be a reminder of where I did once dream of being, scuba flights beneath the seas. Though now I am content full stop with flights of mind alone. I shall call my daughter anyhow. It's always nice to have an excuse. Must be content with breathing apparatus. There is emotion to rehearse across some silent ether.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Carnevale followup

Well, it wasn't much of a reunion, but it was very nice. Absolutely no one I knew, and all my age, except for my dear friend who was their teacher. I don't think those relationships ever quite change, as witness the difficulty letting go of the "Mister", and so I was rather privileged as his friend. These folks were before my time, and therefore went to the school I actually did refuse in my youth, but not for the reasons they indicated - most peers would regard them as dweebs.

I was gently reminded that the school was not so much founded on the IQ test per se, although it was the age of Sputnik, and such instruments were all the rage. More on a kind of mission to combat American anti-intellectualism, which still needs combating, and to correct American prep school notions of who are and should be the elite. An utterly unsupportable mission, beyond the Sputnik age, and certainly through stagflation, as I would find out to my misery.

Still, when you put these groups into a room, just as when you put hundreds of priests in a room, there are some unavoidable observations to be made, all tending in the direction of reinforcing certain stereotypes. While at the same time tempering the ones you'd have without seeing them in a room together.

So, of course, as to Mom, I do have to revise the observation, since however much I'd love it to be her fault for not having good boundaries (my very favorite piece of psychobabble), I do have to own up, if that's what it is, to my own genetic (are they?) predispostions toward hiding out. I am, by nature, very shy.

But hell, even genetics is far too complicated to master. I watched a NOVA special about how science was made to stand trial, yet again, recently somewhere in Pennsylvania just to my south. Now surely some stop should have been put to the very notion of trying science in court (that's a nice phrase, right there, Larry). And luckily common sense ruled. But a little too narrowly, as in the margin would have to be infinity.

Still, there is surely something to the Creationist complaint. Not to their claims. Just the complaint, since scientific certainty is very very unscientific, and always parochial. I've been reading lots about infinity, its limits (!!!), or more properly, the limits of abstraction, and well for sure to claim anything for sure is to claim too much. Lots of lost minds along the trail.

There still remains much silliness about eugenics, back to the IQ theme. I'm remain pretty sure (but never certain) that species differentiation happens when boundaries occur between groups, and not when some creative genius-style mutation happens to the individual. I think the Good Man Kinsey did demonstrate this fact decisively back in the dark ages before sex was polymorphous and perverse right in the University. Well, you know what I mean.

There are no ideal types, nor certain boundaries. So that there has to be environmental change, group migration, and boundaries abstracted from blurred distinctions, before cross mating stops being possible, right?

Ours, for sure, was language, and more recently, that mighty crossroads of consciousness where language became written down. I draw all lines at beastiality. (and incest, thank you very much)

So here we are, slouching toward that, what did Douglass Adams call it, cafe at the end of the universe. That place off which our words only echo, and there is nothing more. Not, surely, understanding, but rather the dead end for tools' manipulations which don't, by their very exercise, attempt a hoist by our own, very precisely now, petard.  I'm talking the red button, or the frog in a pail over a fire global warming, or simply an overwhelming sense of too much want.

This is not a spaceship we can fly, nor ever should want to, remember. Since I do know that my body extends throughout the biosphere, and is not, finally, bounded from my mind (which bounds and bounds, sometimes quite out of control) and that these mysteries, right here in this cosy logosphere, are oh so much less costly to explore.  

Yesterday's post, truth to tell, was made through an impossibly obsolete instrument. An old laptop I can't bear to toss away, steward of the environment as I try to be. I had to laugh out loud, because I actually do have some understanding of what's going on inside that particular black box, at the battle among virus definitions, memory limits, and Microsoft's very very terminal fixation on prolix code, to where simply turning it on to the point of access to my very own ethereal tablet allowed me to complete an entire chapter of Hot Flat and Crowded.  Now that's good irony, right there, Larry!

I have always preferred hand tools. Frankly, I find them faster, and a whole lot less fuss. I think snowblowers are foolish hangovers from, first, when there actually used to be snow, and second, when machinery was still fun to deal with. Rebuilding my boat went a whole lot more smoothly, and just as fast with a hand plane. You know my feelings about 4 wheel drive, but out here in the middle of nowhere, I'm pretty sure I've shovelled maybe 4 times in the past three years. And I get a lot more snow than Buffalo. (and I DON'T have four wheel drive)

OK, end of sermon. Still, oh gifted humans, can't we do something a little bit more noble than to resurrect our old bad ways? Isn't there something properly post-capitalistic which can help us along the way toward more humanity, and a little less hot, flat and crowded?  (Hint, I'm pretty sure Friedman's still stuck on flatland)

oooh, I'm shivering.  I have to find out why my damned stove won't properly catch. Later.  I have a sinking feeling that it's the wood I bought so cheaply. Can't trust anyone these days . . . 

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Off to the Mardi Gras!

I'm off this kick for a bit, as I invest my time back into writing up my "book".  It's hard, and I very much doubt my talent.

. . . so I'm off to a reunion, of sorts, for folks who can't stop identifying with the "school for the gifted" I once did head. This, also, is hard for me, since closing the school was so costly personally, and since I am not terribly sociable.  I am very touchy on my various skins, and need just a bit more molting time in my cocoon. My cocoon which has always been a feature of me - likely relating to some not quite clear enough boundaries between Mom and me. She invested too much delight in me and not enough in herself. Made me want to hide all the time.

Sort of like these alumni, some of whom may be too attached to whatever they thought was special about that they associate with the school. Like Mensa dweebs. I think it's abusive to tell kids their IQ. The test has some validity as a diagnostic, and I surely tried to identify the school more with its approach to learning, which certainly wouldn't appeal to all kids, because it was very brainy. The kids didn't need more label than that. And for sure, the best of the reasons so many still stay close is because it really was a special group, some great teachers, and most of all an honest interaction between the teachers and students, built more on respect than instrumental inculcation, which seems to have become what most schooling is about.

So, hi and bye, and more later . . . .

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Well, that about does it

I couldn't even read that last one, because if I did I'd have to make some sort of editorial decision, which I'd pledged not to do. 

So, that's about it. Now I have to turn my efforts to something having a little more quality. I have to continue making a living. I have to get my daughter out of bed.

But I do feel that there is this moment in our collective history, at the end of this blind rush through the scientific and industrial revolutions, and right up to this moment of truth with our political establishments. Thanks God for GWB, since he made possible the very unlikely election of an intelligent, honorable, and decent man. I doubt that would have been possible had not the extreme dysfunction been so thoroughly exposed. It could not have been a landslide, but it could easily have been more of the same.

And now the poor fellow, savvy as he is about the nature of politics, is facing brain-dead politicians on both sides of the aisle, still running on some mindless momentum, having nothing other from their tired old positions and jockeyings and fundamentalist beliefs. Were it only possible to throw them all out and start afresh. Would that we really could celebrate a genuine rite of renewal and find again the promise that has been these United States. 

But there is still new life. There are still new possibilities. And there is this final turning of an important page, to where the body and mind are not opposed. To where abstraction ends, and practical matters again claim our attention. To where the female is in ascendant, and caring counts for more than winning. To where as much energy is expended toward preserving as much of the fullness of life on earth as is humanly possible, now that all life on earth is in our hands, as we have expended on rocketships and glass and steel tall buildings. To where the particular exhuberance of wealth generation peters out against more modest generations of community life. To where truth is a process of rubbing up against all tellers, and not of final abstraction and perfection and God imaginings which seem, only and always, to produce more pain.

God on earth is alive, collective, earthy, and very very female.

The Final Chapter from 1983

It's Saturday, March 6. I've been staying with friends in Mystic, Connecticut. They've been kind enough to care for me while I am possessed by this writing. They have a word-processor, and I have developed an addiction. I hate the infernal machine, but there is so little time. It really helps a lot, and with patience, it can be trusted. But I have been addicted to the writing. For several weeks I have been doing my time in the desert of words. Not to go outside. And now I have a cold.

I was up before dawn this morning. I couldn't sleep. And I know better than to fight such feelings any more. In the past, when I have journeyed, the single most important rule has been never to return along a route already traveled. That has been a good rule, because it has taken me places I otherwise wouldn't have gone. It's gotten me into plenty of jams, too. I remember being pinned under my five-hundred pound motorcycle on a rocky dirt road that had become too steep. I was swimming in sweat by the time I had the machine righted. But I couldn't go back down.

The road ended at the top of a small hill. It opened into a farm field. The view was spectacular. I don't know what impelled me, but I took off cross-country on my highway motorcycle. It was crazy, but I just refused to return along the path I had come by. It was an exhilerating ride. I remember that the exhileration lasted until I was back on the highway. I had checked over the bike after its minor spill, and when I came to my favorite switchbacks through the woods I was more sure than ever of my connection to the machine. It was a game. The road had become ever more familiar with each new challenge of its dangerous though well paved curves. Each time I was more sure of myself. This time I was one with the bike and the road, and there was no real limit to my speed. I took curves at well over eighty which had been marked with warning signs of thirty-five miles per hour. I certainly wouldn't do it again unless I knew. Another biker saluted me when the road became straight again. He had watched.

And so this morning I discovered the beauty of well-trod paths. As the dawn broke, it was the familiar songs of the familiar birds which stirred my soul most powerfully. And the houses were not an affront to the natural scene. I was reminded of dawns in Canada, away from houses, but this was not deficient. There was only the roar of the distant highway to disturb me. Along which blind men hurl at silly speeds wanting never to return. But here, in Mystic, I watched a seagull circle toward me and away. He had something to say to me. As I watched I knew the pure joy he felt in his movement. Not joy, really, but oneness. When you are a bird, you just rise at dawn. There were lots of stirrings.

As I walked back, the cars were beginning to come alive. I felt a little sad that their life should be so shielded. The seagull's message was open-faced and honest. But the stirrings of human life had its beauty too. And I didn't hate the cars. I was only sad that it would be so difficult to penetrate the armor.

This morning as I rounded a corner in the road and saw the red beginning to show across the harbor, I remembered what one can really see if his heart is open. I was startled as if there were a face in the scene. The tears came to my eyes for the beauty of which I felt so much a part. For the first time in so many years. The utter beauty of the world. A world in which there are other souls. The birds and fishes both willing to give their lives to each other when the time comes because not to is to deny everything. I have seldom felt so moved. It was a natural scene, where man's intrusion too felt natural. Mystic is a pretty town.

But my tears of joy at joining the dawn were also tears of sorrow. I felt the evil of man who is so rapidly eradicating those other souls. My heart truly reached out to all the unsung life of the earth which is suffocating with hardly a cry. I heard the roar of the highway, and I was sad.

It is thrilling to always discover newness. But it can become an addiction. In the end it numbs one toward what is most ancient. I remembered this morning that the soul is stirred more strongly by the familiar than by the new. I remembered that there is no need to be cut-off. Newness is a quality of mind. Under the sun, there is nothing else new.

The birds don't hate when they kill. And they don't thrill when they fly. But they are connected. And it is love that connects them. I felt it. It is the same love that we can feel when we allow ourselves.

I began writing when I changed the quality of my reaction to what was happening around me. I felt summoned. That is simply the feeling that comes when the mind lets go and allows the connection to be made. The stormy morning was welcome because I changed the quality of my reaction because I decided to believe that my life meant something. I was summoned because I summoned myself. It is a circular argument. Don't kid yourself. All good arguments are. Truth has a familiar face. Arguments with a point cause blindness. And a mask over truth is required in defence.

In writing, I have tried to be honest with myself. I had to invent you, the reader, because I had no confidence that anyone would want to read what I would write. But I had to imagine a reader in order to keep me honest. Writing that is too secret only digs a hole for oneself. Words are for sharing. I have written boldly, but not with pride. It is as big a mistake to pretend you are smaller than you are as to pretend greatness. I have tried to be honest.

That is what makes all the difference. And not worrying. As I wrote I began to see the shape of my life. The bright points in my memory began to have a purpose. I had always known that, but I had no confidence to make sense of them. Now I can look at my life -- the real thing and the literary form -- and know what it means. I am finally my own best critic. There is no other critic, no authority, no psychoanalyst, no reader who knows the significance of my life better than I do.

That is true of everyone who is honest. When we erect the wall of lies, we build also a barrier between our conscious mind and the unconscious which more easily makes the connections to what is familiar for all life. There is only one way to make our minds whole, and this is the only moment in history when it is possible to be whole. Words rule the conscious mind, but poets have known how to unlock the barrier and make words meaningful. The rest have used words as weapons or tools for manipulation. Finally, they have become the bulldozers of the fertile earth of our minds which must include our hearts.

But I am as immune as the earth. The earth will die without hatred if we feel we must pierce her skin and draw her life's blood out. And I will die without hatred if the message I bring is too hard to take. But it's all so unnecessary. We've all been this way before. It is not necessary to repeat the mistakes of the past. It is not necessary to remain willfully blind when the mask has been removed.

No-one can know the meaning of your life except you. And you must be honest. I see now that my boat was not another attempt at transcendence of the skin as I had feared. I would laugh at the suggestions of womb-space because they were so obvious. But really, I did have to crawl back in and be reborn into the swirling maelstrom. I had to be shocked into tears from the numb slumber into which my life was slipping. Wy boat has been a womb because only there was I able to shut out the noise -- the conscious voices and the authority. Only there could I ignore the guilt that kept reminding me that I had to make a living. Only there could I remember the connections that make a life. And finally I could become whole and now I must emerge.

When you are whole, the story of your life writes itself. Believe me. I am the man who made you blind by asking you to believe in me. And now I must make you see. There is a way if I can only let go and feel it. This writing is the axe, and I am the woodchopper. I must find the moment. Please don't imprison me for my boldness. No man has authority over any other.

Sometimes the words are enough. Sometimes putting on a mask -- acting like you believe -- is enough to lead you believe. If you really pray earnestly. Don't tell jokes. Don't lie. Just try to be the words.

I was blessed in Chinese with a wonderful teacher. I tried to put what he taught me with what I knew into my graduation essay. It was just passable. But at least I couldn't forget what I'd been taught -- what I'd already known.

I wrote about Li Ho, the "mad/demonic" genius. He was a little out of the classical tradition. But enough in to be remembered as a poet. Some comparisons have been made to Western poets. I wrote about his poetry in terms of the rules of Classical Chinese poetry. These terms aren't found in books, nor taught anywhere else. They are the terms that only my teacher had the nerve to translate properly from the Chinese. He is a bold man.

I believed my teacher, not only out of respect, but because what he said made sense -- complete resonate sense. So I wrote about Li Ho who died of old age when twenty seven, and who broke the rules of Chinese poetry just enough to be considered mad, or demonic. With the help of my teacher, I began to realize the power of his poetry.

In Chinese there are no metaphors. In the canonical, classical language. Believe me, it's true. I didn't make it up. It's not my idea. And yes, there are no ideas either. No Platonic eternal abstracted-from-the-substance ideas. There is no appleness in Chinese. Only apples.

Don't get me wrong. I'm not speaking absolutely or from a position of authority. This is a tendency in the Chinese poetic language that I know to be true because I know that it makes sense. Anything can be translated. Words can be made to read anyway at all. But there is such a thing as mis¬reading. And to translate Western terminology for explic¬ations of Chinese poetry always results in a misreading. Something is always lost.

Sure, the words for things are said to look like things in Chinese, so you don't need ideas. That's not quite the case. The words are abstract symbols. They are simply spatial rather than linear in their arrangement. There are no capitals at the beginning nor periods at the end of a classical Chinese sentence. There is a shape. There is a rhythm. The meanings and the sounds rhythmically cycle with their ebb and flow. The emphasis is on the space and not the line.

Sure, you can find metaphors in Chinese. And if you can't find them you can put them there. It would be an act of translation. The language would still make sense, though something would be missing. The crucial thing. Same with ideas. Anything. Any world can be translated into any other world. It just takes time. And sometimes it's more interesting to notice the differences. Sometimes learning an alien language just to read a poem is worth it when the translation can lack so much. The tendencies in the Chinese classical, and particularly the poetic language are different than those in the West.

Lines point. They point beyond. Beyond the text to where the meaning lies. The ideal realm. God's realm. Where the answers are. Abstraction. Metaphor points. Using what is familiar to point to what is remote. Beyond the text. Beyond life.

Spaces are. There is no progression -- only rhythm. There is change, but it is cyclic. You don't read for the point or for the ending. You read to meet the heart of the writer. Or, if you read the oldest texts, you read to find the heart of the universe. Not just the center. The heart. In Chinese the term for heart is the same as that for mind. Hsin. They didn't used to leave the feeling out of thinking. Until they took to studying the West.

There is Heaven above and Earth below. Man is in the Center. Where Heart is, and Mind. Hsin. But heaven isn't the ideal realm. In Chinese, it's peopled with all Sorts of mortally weak immortals. They act like their counterparts on earth. But for the educated -- literate -- Chinese, though not quite all the gremlins are ever eradicated, the heavens are simply a model of constancy and order. One doesn't look beyond life for meaning. You look for clues in the more constant life of the heavens. So that the maelstrom may be ordered. Chaos made still for a while.

Words are wen in Chinese. Sounds like "one". Heaven has its wen. Earth has its wen. Wen is pattern. It is not separate from the substance on which the pattern is manifest. Words don't point to the ideal. They don't mean anything beyond themselves. They are the pattern through which order is manifest. They indicate what is at the center. What is at the heart. It is only through wen that the center is apparent, so buried is it in the shrouds of flesh, rock, or whatever. Attempts at hiding also show up on the surface, though a reader must be adept to see the wicked heart.

Heaven has its wen. The constellations, the clouds, the rain. The moon. The apparitions. Earth has the rivers, the trees, the animals. The ten thousand things and the apparitions. Man's is the realm of hsin -- heart/mind -- and has it's words. The words don't point -- metaphorically --to the meaning of heaven's order or earth's order. The words place hsin in the universe and thus make it whole. It is an act of ordering that seeks not to control, but to perceive and to create at the same time. To find what is there and to join it.

China had an elitist tradition, and words were at the center. Gestures, faces, and other meaningful patterns were ignored in favor of words. So the literate were elite. And the illiterate had no power. But they were not ignored.

The reader finds the poet's hsin in the words of his poem. He finds it forever after when he is reminded of the occasion on which the poet wrote. A mountain, a kind of bird, a singing girl. The poems are memorized, they are borrowed from -- plagiarized, hackneyed. But they are never fiction. A Classical Chinese poet doesn't lie. He doesn't invent his poem. And poems are dominant over narrative which has a direction and a goal. Narrative has been dominant in the West. And fiction. Mythology. Metaphor.

There is rhythm to a Chinese poem. Not just the sound, but also the meaning. The basic poetic unit is the couplet in which components of each line are placed in parallel opposition. The word for "mountain" opposes the word for "lake" for example. The relationships are complex and deter¬mined by tradition as much as by rational cosmology; if there can be said to be any difference between the two.

Li Ho began to move his couplets from the rigid structure of the written line out into the world. The effect on a classically trained reader is hallucinatory. You can't tell what is real. Instead of observations being contained in the old form by a poet the truth of whose vision is trusted implicitly, the observations take on the bizarre juxtapositions that are possible only on the page. You have to move to see opposed things together, though they can appear to¬gether on the page. The Chinese poet looks for poetry in nature. He looks for couplets. Li Ho was describing a landscape that could only occur in couplets that had been invented on the page. The movements in the real world that would have been required to unite the opposites seem impossible.

If you trust him, the scene is hallucinatory. If you don't, then you might call him a liar. But the poetry is beautiful. Li Ho was considered mad. He was being tempted by metaphor. A structure of meaning which points beyond any substance to meaning in the abstract. Beauty. The word.

According to our language, he would have to be considered mad by most. The magic carpet rides that would have been necessary for him to unite with his literal vision what was on the page could not have been actual. So the reader has to get confused. The poetry is too beautiful to simply call Li Ho a liar. To say that he is making it all up.

Perhaps for Li Ho himself there were some magic carpet rides through his poetry. Perhaps he saw something there in the nature he describes that was literally invisible to stricter minds. Perhaps he was hallucinating. He describes ghostly events. Written characters in the landscape. He unites visions that would require something like a motorcycle for their literal coming together. All he had was a horse.

I'm sure that in the sense that we understand, he was inventing things on the page. He had discovered a meaning different to that approved of. It must have been unbearable. His hair turned white and he died at twenty-seven.

Fictional narrative was being discovered in China during the same epoch in which Li Ho wrote. My last attempt at staying in school was thwarted by a wrestling match with a long Chinese narrative called "The Jouney to the West", or "Monkey" as it is translated. The title alone seemed significant to me. It concerns the upstart monkey who acts like a man. He is a willful little bugger. It seemed to me that this story did represent the literal beginnings of a Journey to the West for China. The discovery of the power of will.

The literal journey is the travelling of Tripitaka, the Buddhist monk, to India for the scriptures of Buddhism. The introduction of Buddhism to China brought many things. Storys. A pointing away from this life. Forsaking of worldly ties. Of family. A new pattern was emerging whereby the secular authority of the written word was implicitly challenged. As is usual with China, the new was assimilated without subverting the old completely.

But the book is not really Buddhist. It represents more than the literal journey. In this book, which has always been considered frivolous by the literate Chinese -- a children's tale -- Buddha is a God-like figure. Or rather there is a God-like figure who finally thwarts the will¬fulness of monkey who would subvert the whole order of the universe by his willfulness. It is a brilliant book. And what a brilliant way to keep it from being understood. It's childish.

Monkey has a phallic wand that he can use to transform things at will. He can make whole armys of himself with the wand to fight off adversary gods. He refuses to recognize the existence of any other will than his own. They are all a threat, and so he must have clones of himself. He uses the wand.

And there are plenty of magic-carpet rides. In a humorous sort of way, one might easily see the modern world de¬scribed in the Journey to the West. Not literally. Not even by using the magic devices as metaphors for cars and planes and telephones and what not. But mostly because monkey describes pretty well the modern mentality. If we are honest we will recognize ourselves in him.

Li Ho was smitten by the demon invention. He sought an immortality beyond this life, and so he died young. But 0 the life that has remained. The words are his immortality. If we understand them. We kill every writer we misunderstand. And every gesture we misread because of our unwillingness to see. Because we are blinded by our own lies about ourselves. They are not our lies. They have been forced upon us by authority.

The Chinese chose their magistrates according to their knowledge of and ability in poetry and the classics. The purity of the tradition has waxed and waned with the dynasties, but that has been the rule. A man's hsin was more important than his reasonable intelligence. He had to be good at reading other men. There were plenty of abuses. People lied all the time. Liers got into power. But they didn't trust law. They knew that whatever is in a man's heart cannot be read mechanically from his actions by the application of some perfect rule. They knew that only another man could judge the contents of the heart. And the judge would have to be screened carefully. Not the common law which is an institutionalization of misunderstanding. Authority behind the mask of the common man. But the elite charged with the responsibility of their position.

The punishments for misuse of power were severe. And among the most severe was banishment. To be excluded from the community. Not quite literally, but to be placed at a remove from the capitol which was the focus for all the tradition which ultimately had given the poet his vision. His vision was what was most precious. To be cut off from the source was terribly painful.

Some chose reclusion. Their vision turned them away from power. The word for them may have led back to the gesture, and they mistrusted the right to judge. But they had their books. And some wealth, since the written word commanded so much power in China. The recluse wasn't quite cut-off. He just didn't want authority, nor did he want to be subject. It is a great and long tradition.

China has never been in a position to reverse its ages old elitism. They never had science. Nature was recalcitrant and provided floods to wipe out advances. Droughts to decimate the population. They took these things to be the way of life and didn't complain too much. The magistrates felt responsible. When nature was uncooperative, it was assumed that the pattern had been disturbed. By an intrusion of will. Or by a lie. By a failure to live up to responsibility.

It has always looked silly to we who are so sure that the events of nature are only random. We pity their ignorance. Yet we all know the Chinese "invented" many tools before the West. They're different. Not better. Not deficient. And they have always been elitist until recently.

We trust the Word in the West. In the beginning. The logos. Science. Truth in the abstract. We believe that there is only one truth -- one answer, and that it is absolute. We think the perfect law can be written that will solve our problems and dilemmas. Pro life. Pro choice. Freedom or Socialism. Heaven or Utopia. They are all the same thing. The true choice is the one we have been avoiding. It has seemed at times that there has been a conspiracy to make us avoid the true choice which allows us to find truth that is not abstract.

We don't trust ourselves or each other, so we must trust the law. The machine. An accident -- fate -- or the doctor's fault. Somebody's fault. Guilt. You can't have it both ways.

All the choices we offer ourselves in the West are the same. They are all perpetual evasion. They are no choices, only a diversion from real choice. A diversion. A game. There is only the personal choice. The answer always bears two horns. Paradox is at the root. The serpent eats its tail. Progress is a myth. Stasis is impossible. Metaphor is the only way to know truth. Truth is metaphorical. Metaphor is myth. There's no way out. The Tao that can be uttered is not the eternal, unchanging Tao. There is NO ANSWER. The Name that can be named is not the true Name.

There are many more words, but it's getting late. It has to be NOW. There is no return and there is no progress. There is no decline and no fall and no ascent. They were not lies before, but they are lies now. The truth is time-bound. There is only NOW. There is no time to find but the one you remember NOW. The program that can be designed is SHIT. It's out the door. It's already too late. It's NOW.

Now is the time to take your money out of the banks which have been financing the lies. It goes in seconds to the powerful. Not the people. The machine. You are giving it your power. Do you agree with the power structure? You can't disagree with words. You can't complain and moan about the fate of the earth when you're paying for it right now. You are the system. You can't design a better one which will solve all the problems. All you need is confidence and faith. I know that words can do at least that. They can give confidence.

You're in control. YOU.

Don't keep the money for yourself. Burn it. Fast. It's an abstraction. Wealth is you. Don't sell your soul to a machine that pretends to take care of everything. The machine can't make all the connections. Only you can do that. Money isn't evil. It's the blind faith people have that makes it evil. The economy is everyone. It works when we work. But don't depend on money for your survival. The true wealth is you.

And don't listen to anybody who tells you what to do. Listen to yourself. Listen with your whole being, not just your mind. Feel your choice. Don't let people tell you you're wrong or bad or evil or dead. Only you can know that.

Nothing's going to change. We're there. We have the keys to the tractors and the super-markets and the cars and the plenty. There's no longer any need to listen to THEM. They are us. There is not any difference. We all hold the keys. You don't need to pay your own jailer. Look around and see who's hungry, sad, afraid, angry. Feed them. Calm them. Love them. Now. Not in heaven or in utopia. We're here.

And don't listen to what anybody tells you to do. Don't love because you're guilty -- because you think you ought to. Look inside and see if maybe it's easier -- more alive -- to love than not to. Maybe it's only you that's holding you back. Not your luck.

And it certainly isn't them. If you don't care for them, then why give them power? Why listen? You know what to do. Nobody else.

We've got the TV's and the computers and the knowledge and the power. If we need something someone else has got --we give them what they want -- everything and anything. We can do it together, but only together. It's us in America. The "middle class". We are the tyrannical warlords of the earth. We're the lucky, the wealthy, the responsible. We're lying when we say we've got to look our for number one. Not then, but now. We've got it made. We throw away food in this country. We burn up money -- energy -- at the same time we crave it. We've got to kick the habit, because all our addiction is doing is making us more numb. We are in limbo.

Don't be afraid. The world hates us, you and me. The earth hates us. And they are not afraid of us. Put down the knife and confess -- together. Not guilt. Just look inside and ask who is it. Who is the millenial coming. The time to remember is now. There is no choice.

But you must believe.

Buckminster Fuller is right, only he's not nearly literal enough. Gravity is Love. It is -- really. But science isn't going to solve our problems. We are. Truth can't be pointed to. It has to be felt. Perhaps we have progressed to this point. Perhaps, just maybe, Christ was -- is -- real. His would be the only true guilt. He has been responsible. So don't feel guilty when you kill him. He killed himself.

The earth only hates us because we hate ourselves. Don't try to tell me who or what I am. And I won't try to tell you. I know who and what I am, and so might you.

We have progressed nowhere. We have only rehearsed the ancient Chinese knowledge, and my mother's knowledge, that there are good times and bad times. The problems come if you tip the balance too far. If you spin the yin and yang too fast it escapes the chamber and returns to a bullet. A vector with trajectory and only destruction at the end.

We have gotten it all backwards. Science is a metaphorical language. It can be very beautiful to the initiate. But it is not the language of truth. Poetry is the literal language. Read some of the old poems and see if it isn't true. See if they didn't know something about us that we have forgotten even though we are here.

Read some of the new poems. Listen with your being. Look at a daisy.

Preachers are metaphorical bulldozers. Listen with your heart, and you will find the unadorned beauty. There is a place for everything. Nothing is wrong. Nothing is right. The choice belongs to each individual self whether their whole being is tied to a positive future or a negative one. Do you feel good? Do you feel good about yourself? Please try.

We are at the point of explosion. Fate has brought us there and fate is not meaningless. Christ was real -- not fictional. Not a myth. Real. In the flesh. Believe it. Our tradition has brought us to this point. Our concern with beginnings and endings has brought us through science to where we have little choice but to take careful control of the earth. Christ knew, but he couldn't have known. He couldn't have known that when he was asking only for faith in Him, he was offering also the numbness of the most dangerous insurance policy. The crossroads. The crucial, critical point. The cross. He took our guilt upon himself. But he has led us down a path toward blindness. The woman has been left out.

It could be considered an accident that so many have found ardent focus for ther participation in the sweep of Western culture in the Christian myth. They could all be stupid and misled. Or Christ could have been a man who was connected. Who knew what he had to do to bring the future -- this future -- into being. It doesn't have to be a bad moment. Christ didn't manipulate. He took what was in the fabric of the civilization and believed in himself. If he wasn't the son of God, then it was exactly as if he were. And now we are all responsible. Not guilty.

But he lived in a different time, and could hear the voice of God. It may have been his own voice separated from himself by the barrier between conscious and unconscious. He couldn't have known. But he heard the voice of God and he listened. Now we must listen. And don't forget the woman.

I've given little lectures about the I Ching. Usually people go to sleep. They're about how, if you don't believe in God, and you don't believe in will -- classical Chinese doesn't have an identical term, though you might mistranslate -- and you don't believe in beginnings and endings, then you might believe in connections. The roll of dice is meaningful. The accident is telling you something if you know how to listen. God does not exist, yet He is Buddha. The serpent eats his tail. The man accepts the woman, and pray to god the woman will forgive. If she picked the apple, we gave the reason. And we've run the show. God-damned Mother Fucking men of the Earth. Wake up! Feel. Cry. It's getting late.

The hexagram is chieh, "limitation".

We are reaching the limit. I know my fate. You will have to remember yours.

I know this is all unclear. I know it's hard to read. But if something stirs you, why not read it again. Start from the beginning or wherever. Don't be upset with me. I know I can't write. But I doubt I've been responsible for all of this. Do you recognize something here?

It just gets worse

Watch out for this next one. You are about to witness my meltdown, and I don't think it's pretty. But I think I'm going to hold my nose and do it anyhow. I think.  I'll have to ponder on it for a little bit.  Just a warning. Strange that my former self can still embarrass me, especially in the face of my current self doing so much worse. I'll go read a little more Tom Friedman. Try to correct some of my extremism. Stuff like that. 

Chapter 17, from 1983

I knew that there was nothing to be found in physics --nothing that I was looking for. But I didn't know it in words. I only knew it by instinct -- by emotion; by vague memory. I had the vague memory that I already knew the answers to the physical problems. That I'd already solved all that. I had the vague memory of epiphany.

So I traveled, and I foundered and ...

I didn't know what it meant until I said it. I didn't know what it meant!! I'm scared. I'm excited. I have to go fast now. I can't sleep. I can't eat.

I floundered. I wanted to study some language. All I knew was English and a little Spanish. I remembered that my words were limiting my universes. I remembered that I wanted to break those limits. I was floundering in Buffalo. I thought of German. Wrong time. My friend suggested Chinese.

Of course. What more distant language? What could be more remote. We rode up to the University of Buffalo on my 550 cc Japanese phallus. My friend wasn't into the motorcycle so much. But I liked to go fast and had a black leather jacket and was starting to smoke Lucky Strikes. We were a little late. The poor professor looked over his glasses and suggested that perhaps we'd found the wrong room. Oh, no. This was Chinese wasn't it? Yep, this is it.

So he asked everybody why they were studying Chinese.

This is getting difficult. I didn't know it would happen like this. I have so many things I wanted to say and they're not going to get said. I'm not an artist. This isn't a story. This is real and I'm not crazy.

But how?


The question came around to me and I said, "I think the way you look at the world depends quite a bit on your language. I figure that learning a new language will change the way I look at the world. And Chinese is the most different langugage I know of."

I had happened upon Chinese by accident, yet my reason was honest. I don't know how I said it. Normally, I couldn't open my mouth in a classroom. But this was UB, and I'd been to Yale -- so I had confidence. And I had my new tough skin.

I guess the black leather jacket didn't go with my answer, because the prof. took a shine to me. I did well. I worked hard. And he convinced me to go back to Yale.

Why do you study Chinese? Well, trade's gonna open up there you know. It's a whole big market. One quarter of the worlds population. It's inevitable. Be where the action is. Bound to be in the world's future.

I gave those answers a lot. I play an act. I hide behind a mask. But the answer I gave that day was honest, though I wasn't quite sure when I said it. And it was unselfish. It was the truth. I didn't want to be famous. I was determined never to go back to school again. I didn't want to prove anything to anyone. I just wanted to "expand my mind." Well, I've blown it now.

It's easy to do. When I was a freshman at Yale, my purity went downhill quick. I pulled cigarettes out of people's mouths at first. I still didn't drink more than an occasional beer. Nothing made sense and I wanted my world to make sense. People sometimes told me I really seemed to have my shit together. And then the shit hit the fan.

I was jealous and I hated myself for being jealous and the world didn't make sense. My girlfriend who I knew loved me loved somebody else at the same time. I was torn between possession and trust. My pain was real, but it was only mine. Nobody had lied to me. But I lied. I told her I didn't love her. And I smoked and I drank and I got stoned. Same old thing. A few hits and I wasn't just stoned -- I was hallucinating. I saw music and I felt time stop and colors changed and tasted -- and I was really in outer space.

Nothing -- absolutely nothing -- made sense and I was ecstatic. I couldn't believe that I could function at all but it was ecstasy. I had shut up my rational mind. I had stopped demanding an answer. Stopped demanding that the world make sense, and suddenly it did, though my mind couldn't have known. Or rather, it wasn't a rational experience. My mind was involved. But words can't tell.

And then I came down and was depressed -- for days. I couldn't get out of bed. I was suicidal. And I wanted to get stoned some more.

Hy friends were afraid and reluctant. I was hurt when they smoked behind doors and behind my back. So I tried to get cool and show everybody I had my shit together. And they got a kick out of me. I was wild when stoned. Probably nice to see me lowered off my high horse. But I still managed to insult people. Now they were frivolous because they couldn't let go and be stoned. Now they were too up-tight, and once again my way was the only way. Let loose, man. It's great.

I made it through that year all right. I did well enough, though I managed to avoid the math and science courses. My advisor was sure I was wasting my life. But I was adamant about the diversion. "What can you do with it?" he wanted to know. I'd picked up a line at a party, "What can you do without it?" (philosophy, art, literature, ambiguity) The voice of authority was unsatisfied. I tried to make amends -- but I couldn't do it. I flunked out. I dropped out. I hated school. It hated me. It was definite.

During my freshman year, a kindly professor had kept me from flunking English. I was thrilled and excited, but I couldn't read the assignments fast enough so I always got behind. I had no training so I sat with my mouth shut all during class. He thought maybe I had a real problem. Not me, I assured him. I had my shit together. Trouble was, they'd placed me over my head for some reason and I just didn't have the background of a typical Yale College literary freshman.

Seems that I made out all right in literature over my head. I wanted to. I was excited. But, then literature's easy. There's no hard core evaluation. It's all wishy washy. Anybody can squeak through. I had read a handful of literature before coming to Yale. The first real book I ever opened was Plato's Republic. I'd been avoiding my assignments and we were only supposed to read a synopsis. But I was curious. And I never put the book back down. I read the whole damn Republic overnight. I was rather elated that I could understand it and by what it said. And rather angry that I should have somehow felt that it was beyond me.

I was a little embarrassed. I tried to keep it all low key. I was in high school. I didn't want anyone to make a big thing out of my staying up all night to read Plato. And I certainly didn't want it to be known in school. I got my good grades strictly without doing the work. I was smart. I didn't learn by rote. I understood the principles. But there was something in Plato that struck a chord too heavy. A memory of meaning lost or meaning yet to be found. I was compelled.

The only other real reading experience I'd had was Dostoevsky's Crime and Punishment. The high-school English teacher couldn't believe that I hadn't finished it. I started and never finished. Now that was really a crime. Almost anything else can be done but that! All you can do is shake your head. It makes no sense.

It made no sense to me. I was compelled by the book, but couldn't finish it. Too excited? I later redeemed myself and thoroughly embedded myself in the book. I can hardly remember a thing except that the protagonist is Roskolnikov. But that's the way I read. I shake. I shiver. I get excited, but I forget everything. Except the life. That becomes a part of me.

I recently re-read Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance. All I remembered about the book is that I'd read it while dropping out of school -- when I was supposed to be studying for exams and writing papers. Everyone knew I was crazy, but there I was excited about a book and nothing else mattered. I was bothered recently that I couldn't remember anything. How could a book have been so important and leave me with nothing?

Then I read and I remembered. It was a bit of a shock. I had become what I was reading. I had gone through my motorcycle -- but that's just a metaphor. I know about wrenches and saws and how things work. I've effected major repairs to this boat on which I live. I couldn't have known how well I read.

But nothing ever seems legitimate. I've always had lots of help. An old friend helped me with the boat. There was some money from my father. No matter how hard I've worked in my life -- chasing out gremlins and trying to fill the gap --it's never seemed legitimate. My American Protestant background tells me I've got to go it alone. I've read little parts of the Bible. I have a personal relationship to God. There's no ritual. 0nly Ego. A direct line. And if I can't keep sober -- maintain control and do things right --then I'm not legitimate, if not damned. I have to hold what I've read in my conscious mind now. I have to remember.

I learned something with my boat. I tried not to worry. I tried to deal with what I was able to deal with. And things came to me. The skills. The tethers when they were needed. The materials that I couldn't find or afford. My friend when I needed his help and love; and money. When I worried; when I thought I ought to get things under control, then everything fell apart. Nothing worked then.

There are plenty of ways to fix boats. But let's not lie to each other, OK? Sure, I'm proud of my boat. It's a mess, but I'm prouder still of how little I knew beforehand. I hadn't done fancy carpentry. I'd only sailed a board-sailer. And here I am in my boat which I've sailed through a good stiff breeze, and all the way to Block Island and backwards through the Race (which only a fool would do). I survived and I feel blessed. Sure, it's hell to let somebody see how I live. Downright embarrassing. But I try to hold my head up. So I live this way. I'm not going to feel ashamed that I don't have a house and lots of money and a big ego-pushing job. Oh, I make my gestures. I try here and there, but a little voice warns me away.

You get the answers you want. I feel proud when someone seems to be impressed. I feel embarrassed when someone seems critical. It's hard to feel good about myself, because somebody always seems to want something. I needed to be alone. I couldn't have known where it would lead. I have more confidence now. I hope I won't need to feel proud or ashamed or guilty. But that depends on how much help I get.

It's important to realize that I haven't been chosen. My boat is no major accomplishment. My life is no breakthrough. I didn't go out a fool to tempt fate and come back smelling of roses. I assessed the risks at every stage and never took any greater chances than I take on the highways. And I've never had a real accident on the road. I'm careful -- even when I'm drunk. I'm in control. But always it comes down to despair.

Now I know something about control, and I can't be sure about being in control. There is no choice for me but to relinquish control. I am prepared for it. I haven't been chosen. Just in the right place at the right time. Or wrong depending on how you look at it. We are all lucky. It just depends on whether you can listen to yourself. Or is there too much noise? But my choice is mine to make, and so is yours. I'm not trying to convince anyone of anything other than that you must be yourself. There is no choice.

Look, I say to myself, the world's fucked-up, right? It's either going to poison itself to death or blow itself up. This isn't going to be any goddamned apocalypse. That's only when God pushes the button. This time WE push the button. It's our fault. And it isn't fate. I'm not going to be a lawyer or a politician or rich or all those other things Yale and all other voices of authority prepare you to be. The world's changing. The steady sinusoidal curves, the oscillations -- whichever ones you want to follow -- are reaching for the asymptote. Geometric progressions don't occur in nature without explosion.

Malthus knew that. Anybody knows it. This isn't just change. It's accelerated change and it's cataclysmic. Why be a lawyer when lawyers won't have their positions forever, and forever is around the corner. Why be anything. Why not be myself.

But Malthus was wrong. He forgot that everything changes together. We have expanded the foundations. It can't go on forever without a change of consciousness, however. Gravity represents a geometric curve. Acceleration. Love. But there is always friction to slow the explosion. We can make it through if we care to. We can't pretend anymore that there are accidents in nature. It will be no accident if we blow it. It will not be the fate inherent in the other mind of God. It will only be our numbness. Our denial out of arrogance of feeling to a universe which has had enough of our stupid joke.

There is now, at this moment, only one true faith, and that is faith in oneself. Science isn't going to pull us through. That is BULLSHIT! And it isn't faith. That's blindness. That's rowing ot to sea in a storm with a leaky boat. Only we can pull us through, together.

So now I want to pull it all down. I want to take everybody's position away from them. But I won't. I can't. I have absolutely no power. But everyone will have to do it themselves. You don't need position if you can believe in yourself.

Nothing has changed. Nothing will change. I've made a leap of faith. Beyond that there are whole avalanches of meaning revealed. I've known it forever, but I finally decided to believe it. To accept the limits of my own mind. There is NO ANSWER. It's a matter of faith. If you believe in why. If you believe that there is a relationship between YOU and what is other. If you believe you are connected to the Universe. Then everything is possible. If you would simply have faith in meaning.

You don't have to smoke anymore to watch your breath and prove that you are in constant moving exchange with the universe. You don't have to play the lotteries and hope for your good fortune. To do that is to succumb to the hope that slipped out of Pandora's box. It is a cheap hope that is dangled in front of you to keep you from yourself. To keep you a slave. But pity the wealthy who give you the lotteries. Even as they steal your money and replace it with false hope, they are more enslaved than you. Don't offer your anger. Offer your love.

You don't have to find the cheap thrill of challenging fate. You don't have to suffer for your insecurities. You don't have to feel neurotic because you secretly know you are somebody. You are! And you are going to make yourself somebody. Not by taking control and making all the right decisions. But by remembering -- feeling, caring – knowing what you know and saying it. Shouting it! Being who you are by a simple act of faith!

And don't be misled. You have no choice. There is nothing else. It's too late.

Please don't make the mistake of thinking I've been chosen. I haven't made a fiction except for fear of hurting people. Now I know enough to tell the truth. This is all true. Details are left out. Some are combined. But you have no choice but to believe. Not the words. Not me. Not an answer or solution. But YOU.

I may be among the early aquarians or what Pirsig calls the Romantic-Classic blend. The male-female, yin-yang in one. Or I may be ignorant and proud and disgusting. I can't know. I know I can't truly feel. I had to put feeling back in the universe because I'd taken it out. Because every soul who betrays himself takes feeling out of the universe --drains the magic. And I have been the voice of reason and the king of control in my life. And I talk too much.

It's the Woman's turn. I've fought and I've made the leap and now there are no more questions. I know who I am and I know what to do. There's absolutely no time to waste. These words must be allowed to spill out. There's no time for control. There's only time for care. And there are so many words which must wait. But let's not wait for the answer. It's too final.

I flunked my English papers because I didn't know how to write. But I got some help. And when I returned to school to study Chinese I floundered. Some thought I was hopeless or nuts or just too eager and enthusiastic. Calm down. You can't have everything at once. Slowly and with pain I learned not to flunk courses. To receive grades of A instead of F. And to speak a little Chinese.

And I had been right. One does think differently in Chinese. I was excited and fascinated. But as usual, I was overexcited. When it came time to graduate, I had a paper to write and I couldn't write it. The summer dragged on and I couldn't get anything done. I don't know whether I wanted to say too much or simply didn't know how to write.

I took a bold step. Faith in science. I engaged a psychiatrist at the school. Another revelation. I was thrilled.

He hardly said a word. But I'd begun to read about self-help and finally to write about myself. At first I thought I'd publish what I wrote. Then, as I wrote, I realized how execrable was my style and how insipid was what I had to say. But I wrote and I learned about myself and science was vindicated. The psychiatrist was a hero. I wrote my paper for school and graduated magna-cum-laude with distinction though seven years and several months too late. But my parents were relieved as was I. I went off to graduate school for more Chinese. I'd found myself.

Now everybody's more concerned than ever, and I feel unsure. I seem to have slid back. When I finished the paper and the visits to the psychiatrist, I was certain that I have been deluded in my life. I had admitted my pride to myself -- that I had secret desires that nobody knew and which I expected to be validated only by fate. I had watched a movie on TV -- an accident -- about a gambler. This time my excitement was not for what I remembered about the fiction, but for what was revealed. Something I hadn't known before and have now forgotten forever.

I saw myself as the gambler -- the rider of the winds of fate who can't admit to himself that accident is accident and quite meaningless. It was a painful admission. But it was a release. I accepted my ordinariness. I made a connection to a time when I had nearly drowned. My life had passed before me at the instant that I knew I was doomed, and when I gulped what I knew would be a final gulp of water I had reached the surface. I gulped in air and lived. I ignored the coincidence of my survival. I might have drowned. But the night after watching the TV show, my life passed before me and I knew that some rotten part of me had died. I felt the old self who smoked and procrastinated and drank and would hardly let me breath; I felt the old self die and it was exactly like a real death.

But he's been back to haunt me along with his drink and cigarettes; cynicism and depression. I had made the connection to death but I had forgotten the accident of life. I truly did almost drown. But at the moment that I gave up, I found myself on the surface. Now I can make the deeper connection. I had forgotten that the problem with the gambler is not that he is expecting fate to be meaningful --but that he is trying to control it. He wants fate to be meaningful for him. Ail he really needs to do is to let go and stop worrying. There are much nicer ways to pass the time.

Now I've put my arms around him and assimilated him. It was a joyful and painful reunion. There were tears. But I'm whole and reborn.

Fate is not meaningless.

Exactly nothing is meaningless.

My life is meaningful. It's an act of faith. And so is yours if you let it be. Let it be. There will be an answer.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

A little placeholder

Or like a note to self: 

That as explosions were captured and turned to revolutions by the internal combustion engine. As the discovery of plugged rockets led to guns, and as the bullets' energies were captured. And as oil provided both the fuel and the lubrication. And as the wars provided the orgies of destruction, pitting entropy so directly against life's thermodynamic backwater eddy, most recently in oil saturated cataclysmic destructiveness, punctuated finally by demonstration of man's having achieved in action prior to contemplation, his absolutely final ability to control his surroundings (mushroom clouds after the rain of fire) for catapulting out with transistors and spaceships and radios and the rest. Let us not forget that oil, quite apart from being a fuel from hell, as opposed to those from the heavens (Tom Friedman's book again) has also been the gift which gets us to this point of transformational consciousness. Which we, of course, resist, still enamored of our childish ways and hopes for more revolutions toward more joy than is our human measure. 

Happy Valentine's Day

I got utterly and entirely lost for a while there (writing into the ether, which you might never see), trying to outline my vision of a New World Order, including a new economics based on a link economy of micro-payments, but realized how much simpler it is to define a post-physics cosmology of love, my Valentine.

There is nothing more absurd than to enter the arena of science with a proposal that emotion belongs there too. Surely, there is nothing more foolish either. Unless it is to ask out loud, to the one who holds your heart, "would you be my valentine?"

In actual life, such risks are contained by their moment for sure. Perhaps the love is already hinted at. Or if too much of a stretch, well then that poor lovelorn fool is already out of the commerce in feelings and needs some social training. If anyone cares even so much.

But the rewards are so great. Especially if there is a certainty about the implicit offer proffered. How I long for that certainty, now sublimated here, into words of abstract love. I am certain of what I offer you, gentle reader, please know that. 

It is rather that in the particulars of mind meeting mind or body meeting body, I have nothing left but to break the abstract/physical divide right along with that artificial and fictional one between mind and body. I have no right to the attempt, coming as I do from a legacy of emotional retardation, combined with self-righteous reasoning. Lawyers and engineers, with mothers kept and treasured.

I ponder, for a moment, whether there have been any important female mathematicians.  Have there?  Could this be another embarrassment of the sort which saw mainstream Larry Summers repudiated from Harvard? The regions of cutting edge mathematics offer few rewards and many risks for sure, if you consider the very real prospect of losing your mind, the actual fate of so disproportionately many. Or is there something about pure abstraction which makes it the province of the masculine?

Often, I speak of my project as though it were to redress an imbalance all too often historically (I refer to mankind's incredibly brief written history here) tipped in the masculine direction. I'm thinking of warfare and competition and odysseys of exploration, not to mention who's always been in charge. For sure, the surprising shift I propose to the language of science takes it in a very feminine direction; bounding as it does the otherwise apparently perpetual questing after ever more complete abstraction.

I don't have the language - the formal training in and control of words, which would take so many more years of study and a disposition much more favorably disposed than mine to learning systems of thought. I don't really know how to define abstraction, nor to what it is opposed. But I have in mind something like the Platonic forms, taken away from the physical substrate which can only shadow them imperfectly. And therefore, as the heretofore project of science, I have in mind a kind of perfect mapping between this abstract space and everything, sort of, sub-emotional about our cosmos.

But just as I have long since lost my lust for shopping, and thus long for a different economy than one which builds on human individuals' seeking after authenticity, so I wonder that anyone seeks more perfect understanding of the physical cosmos. I wonder what still awaits discovery which wouldn't fill my particular soul with compounded ennui. Perpetual energy? Perfect health? The avoidance of all accident or death?

These things have been approximated more than sufficiently, leaving only the matter of distribution to be resolved. Our individual clamorings and clawings after something special for ourselves, or some perfect security which must mean pure repose in absolute assurance that we are the object of most everyone's desire; these wants have surely turned dysfunctional by more than half. 

Now, having reached the edge and containing boundary of what can be known or reached, we must look at and to each other for mysteries far deeper and more impossibly unbounded. The alternative is to drown in our own ejected garbage, which we once did think could never fill our own small nest. Or to be deafened in an echo chamber whose walls we once thought more distant. And whose only interesting contents turned out to be the sound dampening living creatures already so wantonly destroyed in manly quest for certainty against life's torment.

God, of course, could never be a woman. The matrix, rather, is what God opposes; apotheosized abstraction and removal from.

Love too, is Platonic abstraction. Here below there is only messy implication with other lives and their cares. Far short of ever after, it is time to turn in the direction of love in the here and now. I surely haven't a clue about how to do it. 

Happy Valentine's, nonetheless!

Friday, February 13, 2009

The embarrassment near excruciating . . .

I think I've said that before, but I did make a kind of pledge to myself to see it through.  And it's been an interesting journey, finding that my particular thoughts on this particular day, apparently every time, presage what it is that I'm going to dig out and post from my past. It's a peculiar thing. It's not particularly fun, and I'm not getting much of a charge out of it.  More like discharging an obligation I've been carrying around for many many years, testing my thoughts against what I learn and observe.  That journey is almost over.

I wish I could say that I've grown wiser and more mature, and have lots more detail and elaboration to add to what I knew so young. But the fact is that I've become older is all, and a lot fatter and less healthy. I've struggled and bumbled my way through life, not quite a surfer dude, but not too far removed either (except that I never had so much fun as surfer dudes know how to have). I'm mostly earnest. Some call me cynical. I have a pretty good sense of humor, but am lousy at telling jokes since I hardly ever remember them. I'm one in the crowd of the middling folk so celebrated by Franklin, and so betrayed very lately. A Flatlander, for sure, without any irony to be understood.

But there has been nothing in my vast or half-vast life's experience to lead me in any other direction than the conclusions I arrived at so long ago, at that twenty something age of canonical discovery which never will return, alas. And I have almost no confidence in my ability to say it better. I'm not even sure that words are the way to do it. But I have almost no talent, surely, for anything other than words.

Meanwhile, there are other things to preoccupy me, in this post-capitalistic awakening. I did read an interesting article in Time Magazine, by the same fellow who authored two wonderful biographies I recently finished.  The one lovingly given me on my birthday by my daughter, and which propelled me so strongly forward toward this blogging. Walter Isaacson, who is I guess the former editor of Time, was writing about how to save our dying newspapers. He reminded the reader that hyperlinks were first conceived as a kind of medium for transacting micropayments.


Now, we somehow think that our present arrrangement is more free, since we all know how to avoid the adsense intrusions off, vaguely, to the side. But the important paid content-creative positions, argues Isaacson, are disappearing. It's cheaper to follow the sensations, and way more difficult to investigate the tricky matters, like how our government is working, or the economy, or wars. We have C-Span. We have lots of bloggers to reveal the plots. But we're losing our newspapers, as they all get replaced by the wash of too much information - what we're losing is the newspaper as an operation, not as a thing, urges Isaacson.

What is missed by the Time article is that the thing most lost is the time to read the newspaper. This might be the real reason they are disappearing.  We pay happily for cable or satellite TV, and access to the World Wide Potential for entertainment, information, and breaking news. Clearly, if we had the time and it was that much better than these others, we'd pay for an operation to get the important stuff in front of us. 

And speaking of time, and Time as well, they are about due for another in a long series of articles on the general theme of  "why, after the washing machine, don't we seem to have any more leisure?"  Well, I may be extreme, but the time I have to keep informed is behind the wheel of my car.  So, I gladly pay for NPR, but feel a kind of squandering in two dimensions  First is the waste of my limited high adrenalin attention in the act of driving.  It's still fun, but there is no question that it drains me. Second is that were I to have an actual newspaper in front of me, I could be much more efficient than the linear and precomposed presentation which is all the radio can possibly provide. Nor do I have time or interest to compose my own from podcasts among the available proliferation.  Something vicious about the cycles of rat race, post-technology. The effort of searching exceeds the returns by far.

There is a point after which the do-it-yourselfism of navigating the WalMart lots and aisles no longer feels productive. The question is plainly begged about who should be paying whom, and how much time is worth. Not to mention what is getting destroyed. I'm set scrambling because I want, and yet the margin for fulfilment is perpetually squeezed, and so, in precisely the same manner that my hours at work go up in obedient service to those who need my help, the one thing I can easily devalue is my self. Which WalMart shopping has essentially proven to be substantially value-free.

I had the endure a work colleague practically beg not to be given any "raise" (like "patriot act" is code for sacrificing what should be most precious, this is code for cost of living allowance) and to be allowed enslavement rather than to be let among the poor unwashed unemployed.  There is a crossroads here for sure, and on the one side is a losing chase after a receding goal.  There is indeed a red shift upwards in income distribution. Without a middle, there is, pun intended, no heart. 

Anyhow, when shopping is our main leisure activity, and when price is the only thing to drive us such that we prefer a systematic grinding down by the machinery of price reduction to the upstanding member of the community who made his honest living by profit from our provisioning, if not our want, and when the margins of our own lives are so thin that these stores must stay open 24/7, and when our consumption exceeds our digestion not to mention our capacity for chewing (or are those two not interrelated), and when this whole vicious cycle seems so readily relatable to what used to be called Madison Avenue's want generation, then surely the last thing we want to do is get the machine back to "normal."

I just started the latest Tom Friedman book, which rehearses the usual cutting edge metroWired post-everything thinking. Sorry Tom, but it's one of those books where reading the cover might exhaust the content. The trouble with it is (I've only just begun, so indulge my sour grapesism, hung over from Flatland) that it doesn't, and he can't seem to, challenge any of the really basic givens.  It and he is way smarter than the rest of us at putting together very enlightened summaries of what every intelligent person basically knows. I mean, you can fly through this writing the same way you can drink down a plate of pasta.  You're cheering what you already know, and just hoping a guy this smart and this well placed will have lots of influence on the people in power, who you just know in your guts are too venal or troglodyte to act in enlightened fashion.

But a piece of wisdom from the book which I should insert here is that I shouldn't be talking about post- anything, and perhaps especially post-capitalism.  Let's say instead, pre-new-age-economy. And the new age will not make prominent the classy globe trotting thinking of those who rub shoulders with the important and rich. Don't get me wrong. I like this guy, and enjoy his analysis. But it's just about one step short of what really needs to be said (I favor the tree huggers who stopped the WTO meeting in Seattle).

Micro-markets could do this.  

Here's how it could work: First you have to recognize the click as a kind of transaction, perhaps analogous to the collapse of a deBroglie wave in the understanding of quantum physics (self referential plug here, on the model of the way CBS/Katie Couric now constructs its news programs - always making news of something you can learn more about by watching their other programming).  An actual choice has been made in the click.  This choice also has a context, in that the person making the click is doing it from some particular page. 

Now what if the click had some minuscule consequence, sort of in the way that ticking minutes do on a cell phone, or used to with a landline? What if a thousand random clicks might cost what a text message does, as one of Isaacson's for instances.  Surely that would be no inhibition. Especially if it were traded for the current cost of access, which maybe should be free and ubiquitous, or maybe should be metered like electricity. We surely understand that volume of data is no measure of its value, any more than number of words can be a measure of their quality.

But clicking might make a good measure of the value taken from Internet's availability. Especially as context might reveal, ever faster upon clicking in, the increasing value of what comes up. Right until some consummate click, where price is negotiated and content purchased or things delivered or services rendered. 

Now the person putting the link on the page should be taking some responsibility for this link, by which I mean that he should pay the page owner to which the link is made, if that page owner has content to sell. I should say that the person should take some responsibility to the extent that he is getting paid in the first place for the privilege of looking at his own site.

The deal might be that the referred page would offer some multiple of the outlay back, provided that the clicker desired to see more than the particular page linked to, up to and including a purchase or a subscription, forcing a cut back to the person providing the referral.

You could easily limit your exposure, by offering links up to some limit, after which the reader would have to pony up their own micropayments, since your referrals weren't paying off to yourself.  This could easily be tied, proportionately, to the income/outgo ratios of your page, just as the link cost would be tied to the economics of that host.

Right now, we have a threshold, in effect, beyond which you have to buy the book, or get the print version, or buy a subscription.  Sometimes the threshold has to do with how far back into the archives you want to look. Sometimes it has to do with premium content. Mostly, it has to do with how well known the brand name is.  There's generic information, and then there's the really good stuff.  There's the stuff someone else wants you to know, and then there's the stuff you want to know.

And right now, the economy of the Internet is supported by companies large enough and well enough capitalised to be able to get into the game of advertising. Or to put it another way, there has to be some payoff for the expenditure of micropayments per view, which is how advertising works. Ideally, the Internet offers better targeting than other kinds of advertisement, since the context can be so narrowly defined. But in practice, this seems only possible by letting malware onto your computer to track your context - your personal browsing history - or by letting Google keep your history by accepting the lure to log onto their search page. After all they're "not evil."

That's because a single page view doesn't give nearly enough information about how likely you are to purchase what's advertised there. But there are certain things that everyone wants, even if not openly. Ringtones. Contest winnings. Love. Pretty naked pictures. The rest of the stuff engenders our mistrust for the very reason of the techniques which put it in front of our face. I'll do my own searching, thank you very much, before I "buy" the claim being thrust in front of me based on how gamely you put it in front of my face. Either you have so much money that I already know who you are, in which case putting the ad in front of me purchases just about nil in your favor. Or you have mastered the tricks of getting in my face, in which case you're probably trying to trick me. Or I'm an idiot and actually pay money for ringtones or look for dates on the Internet. Or, I'm actually looking for slime, in which case the slimier the source the better so long as I have the proper protection and wariness.

But in any case, the web has generated its own monetization Catch-22 by the counter intuitive assumption that links must be free.  What's counter-intuitive is that free links are the same as free information. And that ads, which are fundamentally embedded in the old dead economy, are the best or only way to monetize the distribution of information. The ads have lost all value as we blow past them looking for something to believe.

Let's try this again. Subscriptions were how Ben Franklin got rich. But ads instantly followed, since the disseminated information was such an obvious vehicle to get the word out about a particular product, or to slam or slander a political opponent. The attention was caught first by the information slung, and second by the riders thereon.

Now we have a medium where the information can be slung with only tiny increments expended for increased exposure (Isaacson seems unaware or declined to say that the cost for subscriptions has traditionally covered the cost of the media - when paper was a significant cost, the subscription would cover the paper, and the ads would cover the editorial production.).  At the same time as coverage has gone global for even the most local production, therefore the number of productions available per eyeball has exponentially increased.

An ecology of subscription versus link cost would generate a system of virtual boundaries around communities.  Payments per production could and should be incremented up by virtue of invitation by some more prominent host. But ownership, that trademark patent thing, could stay with the individual producer.

There is a clear direction toward this type of ecology. First is the possibilty for centralized identity caches, as opposed, say, to the need for usernames and passwords for every site on the web. Next is a virtual wallet, including detailed statements of income/outgo and a metered realtime reading of what it's costing to surf and buy. Third is a graphical interface to locate oneself in each of the many dimensions which get created. 

The obvious first dimension is geography. This helps to find information, goods, friends and services of local relevance, in the literal sense of that term. Another dimension might be affinity of interest, relative to which each of us owns multiple identities, rendering less than useful the tracking of my browsing activity in a single dimension only. I don't care to be distracted by links of relevance to cat lovers when I'm wanting to understand the territorial predations of lions and tigers. Boundaries here, in the right dimensions, are a good thing.

Now, just imagine the value of advertising real estate if the neighborhood can be precisely defined.  Imagine it, just for a moment, because my goal is utterly to transform what advertising means, at just the same moment when coinage is made obsolete. Hang on.

So, let's say that I actually want to purchase some particular thing.  Let's say, in other words, that I still live in the old capitalist universe, where I remain motivated by acquistions which somehow turn me on, and am willing to trade a little of the production of my no-longer-sweaty labor for your talent for anticipating or creating or otherwise meeting my desires. I want to go where I can see enough of all such productions, so that I can establish the going cost to meet my desires, make some comparison among the population of the field, and easily transact business.

If it's a physical thing I want, depending on its size and cost to transport, I may care about geographic locality. If I want it now, I may care about time to ship or delivery method, or I may even want to run out and pick it up. If the item is mass produced, I'll want to cost compare, or if it's not, I'll want testimonials before making the effort of a personal meeting. 

And I'll surely still enjoy the serendipity of browsing bazaars, bookshelves, and meeting actual people. But remember, as the medium is the message, the goal here is to liberate our polity from the destruction wrought by over-ripening capitalism (you can read Friedman for the details), and for the moment this once so-called new medium is as much in service to the continued destruction as it is an object for the hope of its users. 

Now the nature of this multi-dimensional webspace "map" is that things which want to be found will have to locate themselves in (however blurriedly) bounded spaces beyond which no one is looking. They will accomplish this location by transactional history, which just means clicks. "Where" business is transacted becomes the main currency, and so the domain naming system, overlayed now by a "domain mapping system," must be transparently maintained in the same was that money used to be. Transparency in this case simply means that you, the clicker, must always know where you are, and that transactions beyond this mapping are at least as impossible as touch beyond the skin.

Remember, this is no longer naming in the sense of DNS, which simply locates hosts for the purpose of making the routing infrastructure work.  That type of hierarchal ordering is at the level of fluid mechanics, and not economics. Transactional history, which arguably is what money means anymore, is what has to be vaulted, not, surely, at Google Inc, but rather at, but that it has corrupted so completely, something more like the Federal Reserve. Because a person's transactional history is identity combined with monetary values. What I am willing to spend my time on. What I am willing to spend my labor on. And what I am worth, which is the value of my labor that I am willing to place out there on the web. 

Actually, what is to be hoped for, by the likes of me, is that there may be no further need to market oneself. To sell oneself. To advertise oneself. And this in turn stems from a deep conviction that the better selves of the world have almost no voice as things are construed right now. That there is far more wisdom among those who hold themselves back, from shyness, rather than to hazard making a fool in public. This, indeed so far as I can tell after the first few pages, is what Tom Friedman sets out to delineate - the disjuncture between what is plainly to be preferred in the decisions of our government and what we are getting. 

The function of newspapers is part of what is missing. The ability to hold accountable those making the decisions for some intelligence instead of Madison Avenue gamings of the wants, fears, and desires of the media consuming public. A voice as well for those who would not sell themselves, but who would in any community properly so constituted, be called upon to lead because they would be known as the leaders and not because they have put themselves forward as such, in a system which rewards the gamers.

There is so much work to be done. I am nearly ready to start that more considered thinking, which will take the form of a book which you, gentle reader, might have to buy. Not quite. But almost.