Wednesday, April 21, 2010

A Chill this Morning - Dreams of Endings

This is  Buffalo, after all. I only hope that all those recent gardiners don't have their labors wrecked. Mom tells me that it really isn't safe to plant before Memorial Day. But the trouble is that once everyone starts, the good stuff sells out and so you have no choice but to go with the crowd, no matter how idiotic it is.

Well, she may be basing her certainties on the mini-ice age that I grew up under. During. Back when the frost penetrated to some canonical sixteen inches under the surface. We're lucky even to get any penetration these days, and I'll bet you can dig a grave now year 'round. (Sorry, it's just this Icelandic movie I happened to see the other day)

Still somehow this frost makes me happy, you know, because I just fixed the heater in my car and now I can feel justified. Hey, it's not as though I caused the frost! And I'm not one of those people who blow on dice, or otherwise mistake correlation with causality. I leave that stuff to the conspiracy theorists, the Goddists, the congratulators of themselves for the accomplishment of good luck. You know, the Republicans!

I take my good fortune as a gift, the way it was meant. Sharing is easier that way.

I promised some discussion of the differences between narrative frames, East and West, which is a pretty tall order. So tall, in fact, that I must demur a tad. I must retreat to the particular, and leave the grandiose schemes to more accomplished scholars who have earned that right.

Think of me as a kind of Grasshopper, in contact with the meridians of qi by virtue, simply, of my very basic neural structure which contains a kind of winding up of energy for sudden release now and then, triggered by God knows what random pressures from my momentary context. A touch, a bit of heat, a change in the shadows. My mind is not large enough to exercise control; I can only respond.

Without a good read on your audience, I think all such stories must be told as children's tales. Disney learned long ago that if you're going to capture the kids' attention, you have to be interesting to their parents as well. Put another way, good children's stories always exercise fully adult themes, albeit on a junior level.

I used to attempt this sort of thing with IT; where your audience all claims to know less than the next person, except that there's always at least one person who thinks that they know more than you do. Plus the bulk of them actually do know way more than you do about how people actually use this stuff in their daily lives. I mean, what real techie knows about multi-user massively networked gaming?

So you shoot for the universals, which can't be naysaid. You shoot for the overall context, which, by virtue of being that interested in the stuff you probably do get better than your audience or you wouldn't be up there doing the talking. You never claim superior knowledge, always taking challenges back down (or up?) to the level of the overall trends and directions for the stuff, assuming that someone in the audience will actually have tried something you've never even imagined.

So, I left off with the notion that narrative frames must, first and foremost, contain and direct desire. At the most basic level, this means the desire to turn the page. More generally, it means the desire of framer and "reader" for the story of their lives.

Right now, for instance, we in the West are almost entirely in the thrall of the root metaphor of our grand narrative going, generally, by the name of the Big Bang. Goddists take offense, in the same way that environmentalists take offense at the predations of capitalists upon the "environment." (Please do note the congruence of the term "environment" with "context", and hence the quotes)

From some other perspective - the Chinese one, say - the environmentalists and the capitalists are both inside the same frame. This one has to do with the genius of untouched nature, wildness; and the creativity of natural forces when released from human interference. No wonder that Chinese Taoism looks so attractive from that perspective.Well, except for the seemingly minor technical difficulty that Taoism, grounded as it is in a different grand narrative, has no notion about the directionality of things left to themselves.

No mistake that in the West, we presume a hubristic end to all human interference. This is the one where nature's genius is destroyed by human meddling. The fantastic art/nature divide. Whereas, from a different perspective, nature left to itself has no place for humanity, which is a regularizing, patterrn imposing, civilizing influence. Man eat man is just simply not acceptable in the realm of humanity.

So, that Big Bang thing again is only seeming in opposition to the glory of God's promise to us. That promise, remember, is outside of history, outside of physical reality, outside of all narrative framing, in the realm of the purely and utterly and perpetually abstract (paradoxically, without ever having been abstracted from anything, which is clearly nonsense by any other name). The Big Bang is just that portal at the end of what can be known, beyond which is the realm of, well, um, God.

The trouble with the Big Bang as the Big Frame is that it tends to have the effect of negating all desire. I mean who other than a grown up grasshopper wants sex if that's the end of it all? Where's the happily ever after in that? It's just supposed to feel like the massive climax, and then you get a chance to look forward all over again, until you grow old and eventually, well, die. Books, books and more books.

It's no wonder that among the great and divisive intellectual issues of our time are ones involving whether evolution leads to anything (whether consciousness is any kind of culmination), whether amelioration is best accomplished by interference or by leaving alone, whether natural disasters are even natural anymore (it's almost fun to watch the gymnastics of the talking heads now dancing around the Icelandic volcano. Trying to put it in some perspective for viewers who demonstrably know nearly nothing at all about scale. I mean it sure looks like a really massive tailpipe, no?)

It's no wonder that the issue of intellectual property law now looms as the basis for a new economic cold shoulder if not war. Any China hand could have told you this was coming, descended from our cult of authenticity, or was the cult of authenticity descended from intellectual property law, or were they all descended from God. Actually, I do think that's the One.

Anyhow, it's very hard to dislodge the narrative frame of the Big Bang, especially since and as its most ardent proponents really are know-it-alls who believe themselves at odds with the Goddists who, rhetorically, oppose them. Not only are all the established facts in their favor, but some pretty awesome instruments have been deployed to bolster the case. These cost almost, but not quite, as much as the instruments of mass destruction (of humanity, not incidentally) now in massive production and deployment across the globe. Most by the ones rhetorically disposed against both their deployment and their use. Us. U.S.

This, in brief, exposes the awesome power of rhetorical framing. I mean, it's almost as though having said it makes it so, which those evil Republicans figured out a long long time ago. Well, according to Lakoff, who is almost as alarmed as I am, though he can't seem to get it together with Chomsky. Boy, talk about digression!

As is the case of all massive arrays of awesome power, I think the best thing to do about them is a spirited endrun. And while running - over the shoulder and out the door, so to speak - yell out that by the very terms of relativity, the reality inside the "first few micronanomoments" of the Big Bang do indeed and in fact expand to fill all of eternity also. By any other Name.

Clearly, this project of mine is so far beyond me that I should just give it up already, The trouble is that every single job I apply for is gotten by some guy a full head and shoulders more qualified, dedicated, good looking and convincing than I am. What's a fellow to do when he can't compete? Shoot for the stars, I guess. Or lay low. But I don't have enough time left anymore to go and work for the Man again. Life's way way too short for that. Especially when the Man is so often the corporate mindless beast, ridden rather than guided by the very nice people supposedly in charge. You know, the ones so much better than me in all dimensions.

Hi ho, hi ho, it's off to work I go. Oh, wait, I'm already there. Sorry. I'll do better next time.

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