Saturday, July 16, 2016

The Suspense is Killing Me

What if next time the Internet is down? I'm almost but not-quite through with a not-quite binge-watch of a 48 episode Chinese not-quite soap opera. It has an English title, something like "City and Country Life" but I don't think it would have been translated or subtitled in English because just like me, I don't think it would have any audience among speakers and readers of English. It's far too insider Chinese, where it's called 满仓进城,Man Cang Enters the City.

Man Cang is a big strapping country boy, who gets the girl and conquers the city based on simple country honesty. I think I'm on episode 43, where things look as though they're going to jump the shark, and well, I just can't wait to finish it, so I'm writing here and now.

The other book I'm reading is The Lightness of Being which is a kind of celebration of this moment in physics, though it was written a long time ago in physics terms. Like maybe 2009. It's nice to bring my terminology up to date so that I can put gluons and quarks and bosons and hadrons in their right place, which is pretty much the same reason that I'm watching Town and Country, in which case I'm looking to grok the colloquial Chinese. Which is fun because the story pretty much moves from the Cultural Revolution up toward contemporary China, which is helpful for a guy like me who might still say "comrade" which now means "gay guy" kind of thing.

In the world around, all sorts of people are making rash decisions about killing themselves or toppling governments or wanting blatantly narcissistic idiots to take over the government. They seem also to not be able to stand the suspense, to the point where setting certainty and then following through with it beats going through the motions of daily life.

I myself feel on the brink of quitting my job again, which just really makes me nervous. I'm on something like episode 61 of a 65 episode series which ends with me not quite able to relax, but at least be on some sort of honorable dole. I feel the terrorism of health-care costs, and can even calculate these on the AARP website if I wish, which makes a kind of sobering wakeup call about how much funding I lack to retire even a tad bit early.

So I'm imprisoned by a job which prevents me from being known as myself, which is simply because I'm not worth enough money. I mean I'm at a College where the president will make more in a year than I will have made in my entire life, and he doesn't seem to know much about education. He had a life-changing moment when he was working for an outsourcing company and decided he needed to do something good for the world, and now here he is just being rich all over again. I have a cousin in the same outsourcing job he left who's both stupid enough to want Trump and richer than the pres.I don't know if that's all funny and ironic, or pathetic and scary but there you go!

Personally, I think leading a college - like leading a country - should be done in service to the public and not involve personal ego. The honor bestowed should more than equal the sacrifice in demonstrable worth, and not by some revolving door which enables you to declare zero-net-worth against future earnings as a ploy to dupe your followers. Hell, even Hillary tried that once and is probably still paying for it, poor old girl.

We have to construct a narrative of genius around people like Zuckerberg and Brin because otherwise they'd just be some poor lottery winning schmuck and the whole towering game of thrones would be deposed.

I confess that my heart sinks when I see some cultural kingpin's portrait on the dustcover of their book, and like Taylor Swifty, they are made up to look the part and wouldn't you just die to be their friend or lover? I mean it's obvious that's just sour grapes on my part.

But I know how it all ends, and I'm just getting really really tired of keeping it to myself. I mean, not that I haven't tried my little heart out, but really I'm not that good a writer, and I wouldn't make a good cover photo in a zillion years. All I know is Earnest.

By the time it's almost way too late, we're about to discover that the laws of science have been inverted, and the Earth really is the center of the Cosmos. We're about to discover that technology has just about zero to do with the scientific method except as an enabler for materials engineering, and we're about to figure out that human-to-human trust is the biggest issue facing us, each and every one.

Nevermind reports that we toss away more food than we eat and still have poverty and food insecurity. Nevermind that we refuse to elect leaders who don't pledge allegiance to some patent narrative insanity, so long as it counts as religion and has a following. And then we use whatever brand X opposing belief structure to cow ordinary people like you and me into more submission. Nevermind that our thought leaders believe in eternal life according to the most stupid notion I ever did hear; that we can solve our bodily problems with technology, and maybe suck our personality up into the cloud.

I just wonder if that's before or after it gets turned off in one of the bejillion ways for that to happen. I know for sure that I'm way more narratively insane than almost anyone who runs a country, but just like Man Cang, I know a pack of lies when I sense it. And I would rather have the roles as played in the soap opera than the dolled up stars who play them. But that's just me.

So the thing with this endless chase for the grand unifying theory of everything in physics is that it's starting to look like an interminable dodge from the obvious. The fellow who wrote the book I'm reading, Frank Wilczek, won a Nobel Prize just like Albert Einstein did, and so I know he's way way smarter than I will ever be. Well, OK, I'm on the slide down to decrepitude, so that was a really stupid thing to say, but you know what I mean.

At one critical point in the book, Wilczek hedges: "Not that minds are necessary for time - I don't think many physicists would accept that (and the equations of physics certainly don't)." This is on Kindle page 104 of 220, so you can see I've got a ways to go, but this is well after he marvels that equations come first and then people know where to look and voila, they find what they are looking for. Pure ideation, pure Platonic idealism, life as metaphor for life.

In my cosmos, where the Earth is Core, human life is way more complex than anything else out there. Way back in the old days of Einstein we already knew that mind is implicated in reality, we just didn't want to accept the responsibility which that entails is all.

In the beginning was the Word, right, and the word was made flesh and that's about the end of it according to one nutty narrative that has a lot of currency. But really words emerged from the landscape if you don't live in an idealistic mindset, and humanity was an emergent phenomenon once words got written down. Before that we were just another mammal, organized into tribes by virtue of spoken language which itself was only necessary for talking to strangers.

Trust me on this, it's way easier to follow in Chinese, but we humans have barely been here for more than a moment of time, and it has little enough to do with our hardware, which if they could they would just serve up on a dish in China along with just about anything else ... Humans are an emergent phenomenon (plug for the College I'm about to abandon).

These things didn't happen by design, really, or did they? I mean, Wilczek seems to want to bring the grid back into the picture as stand-in for that once and forever disproven ether which was supposed to fill the void. It feels dangerously Cartesian, as a way to banish mind from body, re-introduce terminal objectivity, and suppose that personality is eternal and utterly unique like a snowflake-Bentley (which proveably isn't depending on which proof you follow).

Well, maybe it is, personality. If we can have a Big Bang whose effects are still discernable though they happened at the beginning of time itself, then surely we can have some cosmic emotive heart whose draw transcends time and space and forever. I mean, what if emotion is part of the cosmic structure? Really!

The trouble with emotion is that it's really tough to measure. It's more in the body than the mind, really, and the scientific method just leaves a person cold unless and until the Eureka moment when you find out more things about objective reality out there which promise to give you power over your future as though maybe you really could live forever, avoid all accident, and be safe among a crowd.

True confession. I can't love. Wives and lovers all make the best liars and I confess that I am one. If you can't trust the one you love, then how the hell are you going to trust a politician? They almost never add up to much more than a track record. My problem is that I cannot trust myself, which distinguishes me only slightly from no-one, if you know what I mean.

But as I've always tried to say, there really are two kinds of trust. The kind where you'd trust the bus-driver because you know he knows how to drive the bus (even though you might want a nanny-cam on him if he's driving your kids) and the kind you would trust with your kids, but wouldn't want driving the bus.

A few of us from Burlington still oscillate about which kind of bus-driver Bernie would make, but we're pretty sure he'd be safe with our kids. He just simply doesn't have all that much dirt in his background, although I've gotta say he exercised bad judgment letting his uppity wife make too much money with a College that's since gone bust. Too bad they didn't come to  me! I could have found a Chinese buyer and all would be well in the end.

But we'd never trust those Chinese to build us high-speed rails, nor certainly to run our schools into the ground by destroying all our creativity!! Not a snowflake's chance in hell!

I don't see a whole hell of a lot of creativity out there over here. It's all about fascination with a screen, which is a pretty good way to deny reality no matter how cute Pokemon might be. A screen can never actually be reality, by its very definition.

Well, OK, another true confession. I feel for my screens and they are real for me. Each morning I look forward to grabbing my iPad and taking in some news of the day to see if the world is still there. Because I read books on it, it takes on some of that look and feel which makes me feel cosy, and damn that sociopath Jobs, if he doesn't make it feel good in the hand and by the swipe. I never was a fanboy, but I appreciate a nice piece of equipment as well as the next guy.

I just don't happen to think that Jobs was worth as much as we made him out to be is all, and if the iPad didn't exist but we had learned to trust one another better, I'd still rather live in that world without my iOS in its various flavors. The next big thing that I feel coming is meltdown, and I'm not looking forward to that so very much.

Why just the other day at this fine College where I work, I attended a seminar by a professor who wants to bring synchronicity into the business processes which he teaches about. Real honest-to-goodness Jungian synchronicity. (Of the sort which we all must deny on pain of exile from polite and learned discourse, so the College has that on the plus ledger). As part of the exercises in the seminar we were meant to describe some event in our lives which might fit the definition of synchronicity, and then tell it to a partner who would report it to the group.

I choked, and nearly panicked plainly because as far as I can tell utterly everything about my life is one long string of synchronicity. No, I don't hand over the steering wheel to Jesus, and I've never really tried prayer to know if it works or not (I assume that it does, since I know an awful lot of people who swear by it and seem to do alright). I just feel plainly lucky in everything about my life, even though they called me Hardluck for short when I was a kid.No kidding!

I mean for University, I was admitted to much better schools than Yale, which I attended on a lark. I've quit better jobs than most people could ever hope for, and I've got social and cultural capital coming out the Wazoo (I assume that should be capitalized as the name of a river or something). I feel like I should take risks, and feel guilty like some kind of woos for not doing so.

But vanity-climbing Everest, say, seems like a really dumb way to die, and making lots of money - even though I know it's not a zero-sum game and there's nothing wrong with making money-  just seems awkwardly egotistical in the face of so many people who need it more than I do. I think I'm just plainly too lazy to make jobs for other people, and I honor those who do (except when they buy gargantuan yachts and live in multiple houses, and then I just think they're way way over an edge which I despise, loath and frankly fear).

As a relative youngster, I did work out how emotion fits cosmology, and maybe that has been my justification for doing not much with my life. I already knew the ending. I mean sure, I've tried really hard to get people to follow the argument, but mostly I end up seeming silly and stupid, so, well, I'd mostly rather keep my mouth shut and be thought a fool, etc.

Anyhow, I've had child rearing and ex enriching obligations (not fair, since she truly is the victim here) and have done my best to keep going without losing my soul along the way. I've done OK, although now that I have a positive net worth for the first time in my adult life (I had oodles of money as a kid after paper routes and bicycle mechanics, which I squandered mostly on an education, idiot that I am), I seem to feel a perverse need to squander it. Reach for that other trapeze while I'm on the upswing.

So we all have premonitions. A series of unlikely coincidences lead up to falling in love, according to several of the stories in this seminar I attended. We all know that's true, and they seem magic! The story I came up with, typically, was about falling in love with a boat all over again. You know the drill (I mean of course the "you" that reads me, which is a fictional you if ever there was one). You start longing for a boat because you find yourself near a beautiful lake. You look around to see what's possible, and wonder out loud how you can own a boat when you live in an apartment. You learn that there is this community sailing center where you can stow the boat for a reasonable amount of money, even though the guy who tells you about it warns you away for some unknown reason as though it were the wrong side of the railroad tracks.

But the place you call which was recommended is way beyond expensive, and so you go down to the community sailing center, and it seems just fine, and you look around in the storage area and notice this little boat which looks abandoned but sweet. And then later on during a quick perusal of Craig's list, there is the very boat.

I didn't tell my table partner (who was the wife of the Board chair as it turns out and wanted my name to tell her husband) about how the fellow who owned the boat reminded me of me long ago. We had the same car, and he was an engineer, and a bit clueless and harried and with a wife and kid who needed more attention than the boat did. And while I have tended critical of him for things about the boat that he left me clueless, I maybe don't give myself enough credit for what I've since learned in my life.

The Board chair's wife didn't tell my story about he sailboat the way she was supposed to. She only told about how my whole life was synchronicity, and so was hers, which nobody really challenged on account of her evident wealth. Meaning that once you're wealthy everything really is synchronicity by definition. Unless you get sick, which can happen to anyone, or have an accident, which would be synchronicity too, but who's counting.

I was a bit disappointed because I'd told her about how I broke the mast almost right off the bat, and then capsized early this spring when the water was still really cold, and it wasn't at all like the synchronicity which the professor was like to mention, mostly regarding how people got rich and famous on a whim, which in my mind doesn't accrue to their favor unless they're making jobs for other people and not just self-aggrandizing the way that I am here and now, just for instance.

My point was that these mishaps didn't damage the originating falling in love. I mean I spent the winter and time in China puzzling through how I would carve the new mast, and capsizing gave me focus to fix all the things that the clueless prior chain of owners had all out of whack. I'm almost nearly one with the boat now, if only I weren't so old and feeble anymore, but it suits me better than one of those athletic capsizeable racers.

I got my first real job by similar synchronicity, going against the advice of headmasters willing to talk to me and talking to a school which had just unionized and would be nothing but trouble they warned me, but as it turned out would actually hire me. I soon became its headmaster, paid the princely sum, of perhaps 30% more than the highest paid teacher, which was $50K up against $30-something I think. I had been making about $12K so I felt plenty rich, but I think 30% above the highest paid teacher should be the outer limit anyhow, since the school's only real job is to get great trustworthy teachers alone in the classroom doing their mostly lonely thing with a bunch of kids. Thirty percent is just for the extra hours put in, and even then I think time makes a lousy measure of worth though it might beat the alternative which we use now.

I got my first homely boat the same way, and eventually lived aboard, so there, and it was then that I did discover and formulate the cosmological constant for emotion, which gave me a pretty big Eureka moment of my own. Which looking back might have been some kind of manic episode, though I can't shake it and keep wanting to get someone to hear it, which is pretty much why I started blogging where I'm my own worst enemy for sure as you can see. Running on as I do.

Another true confession: I can't love. Did I say this already? I've tried over and again, and I suppose that's just one example of the irony of it all which rules the cosmos. I mean I can't love in the falling in love kind of way. I love my daughters, and my family, though I'm shy about showing it (less so than the Cotton Mather family tradition has made certain of the rest of them). I don't have enough trust to fall in love, which is also why that Chinese soapy opera captivates me, since as a people, they clearly aren't quite sure what they think of this romantic Western import either.

By my read of cosmology, we are each a separate cosmos. I proved this to my satisfaction by the Twin Paradox, but there are lots of other ways to demonstrate these truths. I know the math goes against this resolution, but the math also comes up with silliness like the many worlds solution and quarks and gluons which are more like pure math than reality. My nephew does the math on that stuff for CERN, and it's way way cool, just like virtual reality must be if you don't puke, but it's not as cool as falling in love as that self-same nephew would tell you.

Emotion is real. It's just not measurable is all. And ask yourself if you're not the center of the cosmos and see what you get for an answer. Go on. Do it!

I don't know about you, but as lonely as I would feel to know that there is nothing else in the cosmos to approach human complexity, I would feel that much more lonely once we've destroyed our collective homebody here on earth. This is my home, my family, those that I can trust, and I am fighting mad that we seem so hell bent on destroying ourselves.

But I'm not about to blow you or anybody else up about it. It just makes me really really sad and lonely. I've banished the word God from my vocabulary, and so I don't pray. No, that's not right. I guess what I mean is that everyone who talks about God seems to ruin it for me. They seem to think that getting rich is holy, and that shooting bad people is a good idea, even when most of them are only guilty of being black. Methinks they doth protest too much. I don't think they feel a god-damned thing, except for rote.

My God is quite real, and doesn't require name or gender to be so. Real as the gravity from Big Bang. I know that those decisions in my life which aren't all plotted out carefully (which I've already confessed in my case are most of them by far) are made for emotional reasons. I sense something, I'm drawn somewhere in some preconscious way. Neurologists know that consciousness is what the mind rationalizes for what was already decided preconsciously anyhow, so why not just go with that? I suppose because we wouldn't be the center of the cosmos anymore, right? Right??

Well, I'm going for a bike ride while I still can and still feel like it. I know I should wear a helmet. I know. OK, I probably will. And I'm not following my feelings. It's more like that's the way the day is working out, and I don't feel like fighting it anymore. This woman asked, me, see?

I'll be the one whistling along the bike-path. Big gut big thighs kind of thing. Like a moth to light maybe, but hey what's a meta for?????

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