Tuesday, April 27, 2021

Recognition (at the Oscars)

I was stunned the other night to hear both my daughters recite what they felt to be a truism; that we are, each of us, protagonists in our own movies. I joked that mine's a novel, to cover my reeling. I believe it's been a tagline of mine for a long time (one of the things that I never bother to revisit or to change) 'author of my own life, dammit!'

Of course, I have never been the author of anything, and certainly not my life. Accident is the driver, with my lousy staid and stunted authorial voice available only in response. I'll take some credit for that, thank you very much, mostly for the mild improvements to lives - mine and those around me - in the way of constructions which take advantage of the happenstance of what's on hand. 

I tried to watch the Oscars last night. The Union Station setting was fitting, in at least the fact that there was more diverse representation than I ever recall. Train stations have always been hubs of diversity. And my TV showed me new colors and combinations, and the speakers seemed more free of expression. It may have been the best (always partial for me) Oscar celebration I've witnessed.

I hardly care about the justice of who wins or doesn't. I must have watched Frances McDormand on stage while we were both at Yale. I was notable only as a quirk, so far as I can tell. There were a fair number of us there and then. 

While I might claim not to care about recognition of the sort that actors crave, of course I do care in some sense. I feel that I have discovered something that is very important to share. I feel distraught - I blame myself for certain - that I haven't been able to communicate it. The structures in which I live describe a crazed life constrained by bars of delusion.

(What a funny term 'actor' is, since they are really acting out someone else's life at someone else's direction. They are responders, or responders are actors if never protagonists. Protagonists are the characters that get acted. I modify my critique of my daughters. We would indeed like to be protagonists of our own lives, and precisely NOT authors or actors or otherwise distant relations to ourselves)

I don't wish to act out my life, I wish to live it. But by disposition, I am shy. I see it in my older daughter now, who seems to feel the same pain I do when she earns actual recognition. This sort of thing gives license, in my experience, to friends to want to hurt you, as though they see something that you don't see in yourself. I want to warn my daughter. I don't wish to see her hurt.

But I have shed most of my anger. What anger remains now is toward those I've been closest to, I guess because they have the capacity to hurt me. I remain enclosed. I feel angry in response when they feel some strange need to tweak me. As though I'm false about myself. I always take it gracefully, even while I feel an absolute taboo against returning the disfavor.

As a collective, humans remain more impressed than awed by our evident ascendance on the planet. We are proud of our destructive capacity in some sense. I, too, am awed when I get glimpses into the workings of our capitalist marvels of desire-engineering, though most of those are reserved for people like me, but who are not me. 

I thought him a good friend, but now he seems to have lost any sense of what he requests of me to hear him drone on about the money he spends and the places he goes, holding on to the imagined suffering of his own youth, and smiling like a Cheshire cat as he tries to stick me with the bill for a cheap lunch. He has never and will never treat me to anything nice. I wonder what he feels that I have done to him? In my memory I have been generous and every-ready with my skills and strengths.

It's hard not to feel angry, but well, I do owe him, as he nursed me through one of my edgier moments, when I was crying a months-long Eureka for having found something that remains mine and mine alone. I wish only to be certain that what I found will outlast my fitful efforts to convey it. Because it matters. I would like to make my findings not mine. I would like them to make some difference.

I don't matter, and I want no recognition, no matter what Francis Fukuyama thinks that I must need in order to be human. Love is enough. Or is that what recognition means? Surely, something is lacking for anyone to want a spotlight on themself and accolades beyond reason. Still, they charm us. They charm our pants off. Even Amanda Gorman seems to feel the need to wear Prada. Somehow it makes me glad.

Here in the wild west, we made for ourselves the tidy fiction that humans are singular animals because we have a "soul" and that soul is recognized by our one and only God. And then we reconstituted that soul as a catalog of what we have done in our lives, so afraid do we remain of death, and that part of our lives that is beyond us. Missing the evident fact that Mother never cared about any of that. That Father would always hold us to account. And that we may never inhabit our soul to anything near perfection. Lowly grifters, all.

In my life, I had to step away from the Christian tradition which led to WEIRD science in the name of Universal Law. It was all accidental - no malice aforethought - and it was coincident with coming to grips with relativity theory in physics, and quantum mechanics (mechanics??). I stepped away toward China. 

I still wonder why it is that I have to be the one standing here, utterly alone, with a truth beyond what I can convey to a single other soul? I will and must inhabit the creative fiction that my realizations, like scientific realizations, cannot stay occult forever. As though there were inevitability to any of our discoveries. And so why celebrate individual genius, I ask you, why?

We all feel that way some of the time. For sure, that's what we project onto those screens we watch which sometimes make us cry even while our fellows won't. Is life that much more real projected? To cry in public the greatest shame, unless at Father's funeral among a small crowd, or in a theater. And you know, film is better for that than even the stage is. Close-ups? Is that the reason?

We don't know how to step out from our frame and our frames and to live life without need for recognition. When it was already obvious that, for instance, in China, there is not such a premium on some sort of inner self having indelible attributes of character. The character that Brett Kavanaugh lacks when he sees irremediable flaws in childish offenders jailed for life, while excusing himself his own juvenile offenses. Have you no decency!? Even the recognition of the highest court allows you to deny that simple act to the least among us? You have no face. You are a shape shifter. No matter your recognition. I recognize you as fraud.

We cannot read a soul through the windows of one's eyes. Not unless we reveal our own. There is no ultimate ameliorative power which can be gotten by way of techniques and technology by way of objective science. Science is a method for truing observation; it is not a way to truth. And, of  course, there is no ultimate Truth, while there may be reason and responsibility. 

It is not reasonable to call subatomic particles real. They are statistical figments - artifacts - of our heartfelt efforts to make sense of the world around us as it would be without us, so that we may manipulate that world, hopefully to benefit our kind. Who would decry the beauty of the vaccine now? Who? Who?

But there will be no end of suffering. We are not good enough for that. Goodness requires initiative and can't wait for certainty or accident. It is a response. 

I know, for I have seen the end of science, and that is not a bad thing. Its end is our beginning as responsible humans on a planet which requires us to stand down. Not to step back into the wilds with tooth and claw. But to retreat to fine cities, which have always been the only safe haven. Except for crime and disease and poverty. These we can deal with. We can't deal with global warming. We can't deal with suburban commutation. We can't deal with some few arrogating all recognition to themselves, and all the goods.

Science ends where subjectivity begins, of course. There can be no objectivity when you can see something that I cannot. When your actions impinge on my reality. But we resist - all of us - the notion that there can be emotion apart from humanity. And yet there is.

Once you can get over the silly idea that mind is what is contained in a skull and by a brain, you also may realize that mind is cosmic. Conceptual relations are the static relations, which don't require exchange of particles and force. Mind is eternal and cosmic. You may call it God, but that would be parochial. God will not be limited by a Name. God is not a singularity. Once named, He too will Peter out. 

I will hate you if I think that I know something about you that you don't seem to know about yourself. And I will hate you more if I think that you think the same about me. The only recourse is conversation; that thing which ends when the check is placed. When that takes all our attention. I won't bring it up until I can bring it up without anger.

In actual conversation with actual people whom I just simply don't know well enough to project anything onto them, I have a very hard time deciding who is intelligent and who deluded. I would never presume to see those traits direct. Hate requires a certain knowledge together with a certain absence. Hate comes more easily than love. 

Love is a motion toward and without force. Hate a repulsion. Gravity is love. As metaphor. There are no particles quite yet to be described, although we have detected waves now. Background love is the shape of cosmos. Literally.

Life, though, requires more than gravity. It requires a physics which makes room for accident. Through not just imprecision, but by design (without any designer, of course). There is no life without accident, no matter how good we wish to be with one another. To reduce its play means to come together, and for that science gets us most of the way. It will even get us to Mars, if that's what we really want to do. To leave the wretched behind us, perhaps. To indulge fantasies of omnipotence for the very very few. As though they could be example for the rest of us, Projections, as of the Queen, on screen. Who must expunge her very person while on show.

We've all watched it on screen. 

Funny thing about concepts: they are no more stable than percepts. But as distance grows, and physical impingements morph into the scale of probability clouds - accident aggregated until there is no difference, real or discernible, between physical/causal and accidental relations - then the only connection between shared physical objects might be in the mind of some beholder. Conceptual, and the particle-mediated physical forces now describable only as emotional. Concepts coming together in the mind draw close by emotive gravity. 

There is no anthropology without clothing taken into account. There is no original man who is not social. There is no universe that is without mind and therefore without love. There are no eternal natural laws except as they bring us together. The natural laws which enable us to explode some megatons of nuclear energy, calculated in TNT equivalents, do not add up to a natural law that we must do it.

Well, I must return to tending my batteries and my updates. News updates. Software updates. Soon, updating and recharging will occupy my entire life, or will socialization return some day? I rode my e-bike near 40 miles yesterday, along the path of the Erie Canal. Chill and stark, I had it near to myself. Big Box housing proliferates like mushrooms around the University built on a swamp for fear of black lives. Probability clouds and drainage canals. As beautiful as a Martian landscape, and with as little life.

The signs of Spring are everywhere.

Friday, April 23, 2021

As the Mind Goes (around the bend)!

Yesterday found me looking blank in my daughter's house. I needed a particular screw-driver, which I was sure must be there. I was sure I hadn't given it away. I needed it to fit into a smallish lock hole for the deadbolt I was installing at my other daughter's house. 

Neither of them really want me prowling around, pulling drawers or looking in boxes. Both of them laughed at how my appearance so perfectly fit my being. Lost, confused, frustrated, and unproductive. I'd already searched every place where I was fully entitled. Gone!

Like my mind, my tools are distributed and attenuated and I spend a lot of time looking for lost or misplaced items. A book to lend my daughter, which I must have already lent. A quote that I can't place. 

Before giving up and hitting the local Ace Hardware for a new screwdriver, my daughter with the deadbolt and I went searching for the Leatherman I'd given her. It might have worked to solve the immediate problem  She caught my disease.

She was spent from her last Zoom class of the semester where she did shed tears in front of her students. We took a ride along the squalling lake. Both of us needed an outing.

The thing about that Leatherman is that I'd lost and found it before, and that somewhat miraculously. I'd carried it aboard an airplane by mistake just after 9/11 and hadn't been detained for that. Why would it go missing now? How much might we both care?

I'd previously given away most of my tools as I have most of my books, just because I was pretty sure I wouldn't need or want them anymore. That has never bothered me, even though and even as I seem to be spending my declining years fixing family houses all over the place. I've reduced the scale of the toolbag I need to the approximate size of a lunchbox. I consider that a victory, and yet still I misplace tools.

The thing which started this was that while I was installing the lock the day before, making all the usual realignments to account for the sagging of the gate and the mistakes of whoever installed the rotted lock the last time, I realized I needed a washer of a certain size to make the lock operate smoothly.

It hit me in the morning that those excess silicone rubber washers I had to buy on Amazon (it's not like they're available anywhere else) in order to get the one I needed for my moka pot would precisely fit the bill. I felt a kind of elated. That was quickly followed by my frustration that the one tool I needed had gone missing (I'd fudged the day before, when I had to leave the lock loosely installed).

Now the question here posed is which represents the creative mind? I'm going to claim that it was the random incursion of a serendipitous resolution before the fact, not the mind I'm losing. In other words, the creative "act" was the one not in my control, but which was in my purview when making a "creative" connection.

Well, yay! I'm an artist. I only had to lose my mind to become one. And a screwdriver. And an important artifact. Fair trade.

Thursday, April 22, 2021

Review: The End of History and the Last Man

The End of History and the Last Man The End of History and the Last Man by Francis Fukuyama
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is a re-read. The book has been dormant on my shelves (and in storage) for a long time. Last time, awash in neo-colonialism and post-modernism in grad school, I easily dismissed it. Now I find it cogent, convincing, and very thorough.

I don't necessarily like the Allan Bloom-descended politics which leak through here and there, and I certainly find fault in his treatment of science as a fixed "mechanism," tending toward what he finally calls "progress" in history. He wants this narrative to be as dispassionate and eternal as scientifically discovered natural law.

In that he is wrong. He dismisses Thomas Kuhn with a footnote because the perpetual motion "mechanism" of science will never be paradigm-shifted out of existence, in his belief.

I'd say that it already has been, but that we resist that realization.

Science cannot be limited to the material world anymore. That's an end to science at least as profound as Fukuyama's end to history.

I'd buy the book better if he meant his title ironically. The Last Man is the one who comes before the realization that scientific objectivity, in the cosmic sense, ended with the necessary inclusion of the subject in the reality of what is being examined. What we resist, from left, right and center, is the realization that we must become responsible.

Nature cannot be overcome. Our moral purpose is all that will outlive us, while the atomic "personality" that leaves us in dread of death can easily be represented in some digital archive. Love will never cross that divide no matter the advance of technology. Not lived love, no matter how much I adore Herman Melville, say.

Thomas Kuhn described science in very Hegelian terms (Hegel being the patron saint here), but in place of the contradictions of history are the paradoxes of the standard model of physics. Einstein was the first and last public genius both.

There is a simple way around those paradoxes. It would be to admit of something more like love than progress to describe a direction for natural history. This is no mystery. How else to construe all the accidents that make up evolutionary history. Sure, in an infinite cosmos rolling dice will end up writing Shakespeare somewhere, but, well, really? Such thinking avoids the obvious and destroys Occam's razor.

I personally look forward to what's beyond the end of history, when man takes responsibility instead of projecting that onto some sort of god or other. The choices are infinite, as are the possibilities for failure. Banishing named Gods causes no harm to eternal Love.

Just now, our economy runs amok, and the earth is being destroyed. We have choices to make, and we can't make them without first agreeing to use and to share the universal language of science. The greater "progressive" direction for science is not domination of nature (an impossibility in every case) but is the alignment of human minds as the ground for moral choice.

So, for starters, I do celebrate the ground laid in this book by Fukuyama. To disagree with some of his conclusions is not to feel anger about that. This book provides a springboard for much great work going forward. The worst possible read would be to decide that we may be complacent because liberal democracy is inevitable in any case. He already raised Trump as a danger three decades ago.

The book ends with a description of a wagon train making it through a mountain pass. There are laggards and tragic accidents, but those who finally arrive realize that there was no other way to pass. He leaves just a hint that perhaps we may redirect ourselves to outer space.

The good news is that our moral history will outpace our efforts to reach the stars. We are barely even aware of the real cosmic forces which impinge on us, so blinded do we remain by religion. So excited do we remain by our historically so newfound powers.

Liberal democracy is not the end of history, and humanity is only now just birthing. Liberal democracy is the beginning and not the end. It is fragile still for that.

View all my reviews

Wednesday, April 14, 2021

The Crown

I have no idea why, beneath an incredible mountain of possible stories to watch on film, I ended up watching The Crown on Netflix. I remember alerting a friend to it when it first came out because of the celebrated digital opening which showed fluid gold morphing into a crown. He ended up being hooked on the series. I was interested neither in the Queen, nor in the digital beauty.

There was one minuscule dialog last night (maybe Season One, Episode Four?) between still-young Queen Elizabeth and one of her mentors, the Queen Mother or Grandmother or Grand Aunt Queen (on that level I simply can't keep track), but in any case a very old woman on her literal deathbed.

Her words were to the effect that the miserable masses need royalty as, and to be, a moral guide and an aspirational model for humanity. The Queen herself could be allowed no personalty nor personality. Somehow, I/we, the audience, could relate to the pain/angst/resignation Elizabeth was portrayed to have felt. 

Now I am hardly qualified to be a writer, and certainly not a story or screenwriter. I remain too far apart from the world. Your enthusiasms are seldom mine. My experience of our collective lives is of horror and terror for the future we promise ourselves, and like many before me I am gladdened that I may not live to see the actual fact of it all.

Momentum carries newly discovered to be destructive patterns of behavior way beyond the edge of the cliff, and while our legs still churn, there is nothing beneath us. We simply cannot carry on as we have been.

And so I am mostly interested in how mankind will morph - must morph - into something quite different from what we are just now. It will not be mastered digitally, that's for certain.

Sometimes I feel quite alone in wondering what I wonder. I feel quite alone in my astonishment, on the one hand, at how rapidly mankind has overtaken the planet, and on the other at, how little we have or wish to be transformed by that evident set of facts. 

Now, instead of Queens, we have influencers. Instead of inward (moral) self-control, we have universal armed policing which, by killing so many of what we privileged still think of and feel as some kind of "other," cannot help but to inflame the issues we can't face. And then we blame the individual officers, without even looking at the big big picture within which they play bit parts. 

The "we" I refer to must, of course, include the shouting uninformed who bring the narrative alive.

And of course, "progress" is being and will be made in these and all other matters, to assuage those who believe in such things. I did and still do, though not, apparently, in the direction that is still most wanted by most of the world's (docile?) peoples.

We did once strive by way of universal education, including education in "civics," to make of ourselves a people. That is now as much by the wayside as is the possibility to afford actual restorative psychological counselling in an insurance structure which has managed to conjur medical-style "cures" from issues which likely require near life-time attention. The working classes are afforded Prozac and its analogs, while the wealthy are treated in Queenly fashion and in perpetuity for what are, in effect, the most petty possible complaints. 

It's all STEM now all the time, even though it remains the culture workers who have all the influence. The salesman still makes more than the engineer, last time I looked. STEM is yet another way to condescend to the great unwashed masses. Like handing out blankets to feel warm inside.

I suppose that, in some distant sense, the wealthy justify themselves as does the Queen (does one capitalize Queen? Seems vaguely profane), except that they get their cake and may eat it as well. No need to suppress personhood anymore, once you're wealthy. No need to model anything other or more than wealth and wealth alone. 

Off with their heads? No, hardly. They are no better (or worse) than the rest of us are. Just more "lucky" if that's what you mean by luck. It's not a sort of luck that I would wish for. There are limits to how much of me and mine I wish to spend my life's attention on.

I am far more interested in the meaning of the virus, say, toward humanity in our collective future. At this scale, there are no accidents. These reminders are more built in. Just as it seems built-in to us, collectively, to ignore all the warnings.

My thesis must be the very Antithesis of Francis Fukuyama's in his The End of History and the Last Man. He seems to have known nothing about the sciences of ecology and evolution. There will and can be no end to natural evolution. And certainly not just because we might be content if there would be. 

Of course Fukuyama's title was taken for its ironic truth right at the outset. He likely even meant it that way. Except for those within his approximate discipline who thought it a better career move to engage him, pro and/or contra, with earnest. 

I have no discipline. And so my talk is free.

If there is to be a humanity beyond the end, the from here and now so-called "last man" will look nothing like we do now. The Recognitions which Fukuyama found foundational, and which William Gaddis mocks so eternally, is but poor substitute for the love we truly crave. Just as earthly wealth shall always be poor substitute for what religionists seem to mean by God's grace.

Love is, of course, far less trivial to organize than an economy. We shall never be captains of Spaceship Earth; we simply can't master her controls, any more than we could master nature; to be redundant and non-sequitur about it.

We shall not master love. There is no calculus for it. Our Earth shall career and careen as she will, with or without us. Unless we learn to return her love. (Earth shall never be masculine, right?)

The Queen may set out to love her people, and sure she has been as good as it gets. A fine thing it is that this TV series was made so long before the Meghan and Harry show. It would hardly be believable otherwise. Yes, yes, long live the Queen who shall be panty raider King Charles before history Peters out. Johnson & Johnson on pause. We do so want our lives back, as though normal were ever a steady state. As the Queen Mother (whichever one hardly matters) did urge, fucking is no substitute for duty.

And so duty is already spent. Alas poor princesses all. 

Monday, April 12, 2021

Life is In-Between (God and Sub-Atomic Particles, (which are on the same ontological level))

Yes, well, so I've been getting by for many years now with no landline, and almost as long with cellular Internet. Finally, the frustration of the dongles and the wires - all things which can endure only so many pluggings and unpluggings - the frustration did me in, and I got an always-on Internet connection with WiFi. To go along with it, I bought a cheap Roku streaming device. My mind reels!

In some sense I'm cutting edge. I know practically nobody who even attempts what I do, but because of that it hardly ever works quite right. The data limit for the phone itself is different from its limit as a "personal hotspot," and so watching movies may be interfered with by all sorts of things. - calls, alerts, texts, but maybe also app deficiencies. Recovery isn't always graceful. And so I caved.

I was spending too much time fiddling and not enough time doing whatever it is that I was attempting to do. Except that truth be told, I've always enjoyed the fiddling more. So now I'm afraid that I've destroyed yet another pleasurable pastime. Well all the new house-buyers in my family, who spend money very differently than I do, will provide more fiddling than I can handle, I'm sure.

Check this out:

You might call it fiddling for family. Here's the one I made for my older daughter a few years ago:

The problem really is that not enough people do what I'd been doing for that little backwater of tech to be kept up to date. I"m not even sure why anybody would do it, unless, like me, they're mostly mobile. And cheap!

When I first visited China - I can't quite remember, it might have been Taiwan which came first - I remember the incredible tangle of wires from every tele-post. The entire arrangement (it was NOT arranged) bespoke do-it-yourselfism in the context of no regulation and no standards. Considering that it was both telephone and electricity, it was vaguely terrifying.  It was certainly all a tangle.

Later on, I was among the original inhabitants of a "foreign experts tower" on the campus of a university on the outskirts of Beijing back in, maybe, 1986. I remember the fuse closet in the hallway where wires poked out from concrete to screw-posts between which fusible wires were strung. Almost every code in the American book was broken by that building.

Hot water was available only during certain hours - unlike in Taiwan where we had to load the wood into the water heater ourselves when we wanted a hot shower. In this case we could watch workmen doing that to know when the water might get hot. 

Jump ahead, and only a couple of years ago in Shanghai, I encountered my first post-cable world of entertainment. In just the way that cellular bypassed the need for an organized set of wires and switches for telephone, so fiber optics bypassed the need for a cable infrastructure. Electricity seems pretty well organized in the bigger cities of China as well, by now.

It was confusing in a (low-class) hotel to understand how to pay for what was not free when I wasn't the account owner for the Internet TV. The WeChat I used wasn't quite integrated to China's micropayment system, since I was never there long enough to open a bank account, and bypass my American credit cards. Or to bypass credit cards entirely, the way most Chinese do.

But the interface struck me as way beyond what I thought we had here in the US. I could get all the local TV from all over China. I guess in China they want you to watch and don't wish to put omnipresent American paywalls in your way. I could also get plenty of free film - really only the new releases required any payment at all, and when they did it was modest. I just couldn't make my way through the tangle to do it.

Chinese webpages, TV interfaces, and lots more are way busier than most Americans could stand. So Roku looks spartan by comparison. It looks almost organized. Even though I read Chinese with pretty good fluency (mixing metaphors, I know) I've never quite learned to accommodate the clutter of Chinese mass-media websites. I suppose the brain is organized differently in an alphabetic zone as compared to a Chinese-character zone. 

I've never quite managed to leap that divide. My brain wiring was already too set in its ways when I started Chinese.

But here's the deal: we're always in between. 

There are things about which we must agree, if we are not to be defrauded nor to be frauds ourselves (can you tell that I’m - very slowly - trying to penetrate William Gaddis?). These are the things of science. And yet now, having thoroughly repudiated God as a silly projection, mostly used for the sake of earthly power, we are loathe to let science end where it must end; at the point where the subject leaks in among the objects.

Each of us must have our own point of view!

From many points of view, God is very real indeed, and one is less easily fooled of Him than of scientific overreach. Our trouble is that we make too much of individuality, as though point of view must be as personal as personality, and as though that is the only thing worth living for. Death be not proud. 

Redundant in Buffalo, for sure, death is, since we don't know how to stop eating chicken wings. Though we hardly wish to eat them alone. And there simply are no better ones anywhere else. This is not subject to scientific validation. 

Science let go of us, let us go, as long ago as the Atomic Bomb provided proof that we are willing to go only so far as power, which then goes right to our head and we think that the cosmos may be, finally, comprehended. We don't need no stinkin' god. We smell up the cosmos perfectly by ourselves.

I look at Roku's interface and it pretty much looks like any other interface for streaming. Except that there are so many categories; a problem somewhat obviated by a pretty good global search facility. 

But it looks primitive, in a way, by comparison with the one I saw in China. Over there, previews would show up anywhere and everywhere, and then when you choose something, characters might float across the screen while watching a video, to show reactions from people from all over the place,  watching at just the same time along with you. 

Is that the price of "free?" No, you could usually turn them off. What I considered a distraction was apparently welcome by most Chinese viewers. I guess it added to the excitement and drama of the viewing. But I'm not sure. There have never been that many people I could bother with my pesky questions about how to make sense of this and that. People everywhere lack the proper patience. 

But I do have to say that when it comes to what can be gotten on Roku for free, and what you're missing by not being willing to pay for it, the US looks more complex than that tangle of wires in China. I can sign on to Spectrum news without paying for Spectrum TV by virtue of my Internet account, but it's not available for free via Roku streaming. At a certain point I call well enough alone and give up. Or maybe I'll get some thirteen-year-old clever and fearless kid to climb the pole for me and add to the tangle.

I won't stand for being swindled, dammit!

Facebook will now add descriptors to its posts to distinguish "satire" from "earnest" I hear, along with other things. Just imagine the flames from people earnest about their beliefs which look like satire to the Facebook moderators!

So I interact with TV tech in a pretty satirical way. I don't wish to be caught short again the way I was when I came in from the cold of living aboard my sailboat and couldn't distinguish Saturday Night Live from televangelism. I honestly had no read of which was meant as comedy. My mind reeled.

Now I wait for cable and its incredible fees to be replaced by something more Chinese, but who knows? I may have my order inverted. Just because they leapfrogged our evolution away from telephone, cable, DVD distribution networks, and brick and mortar retail doesn't mean that we aren't the more advanced at any given moment in time.

I guess I'm meant to be anxious, in just the way that the ever-morphing viruses among us keep our enthusiasms curbed.

Somehow, on Quora mostly, I feel surrounded by apologists for China (I know, break-neck subject shift), who defend the Chinese take on Tibet or Xinjiang. Finally I read a long New Yorker article which has the ring of truth, and now I myself believe that there are atrocities going on in Xinjiang, no matter how clever watchers undermine what they call the propaganda of Western news. We, apparently, blow up sensation on the flimsiest of evidence.

The ring of truth to which I refer regards the article's treatment of systematic sycophancy in the apparatus which descends from power. Picture local and petty officials being afraid not to detain and inter individuals who *might* be considered suspect, on paper, from up above. 

And then, of course, I'm reminded how Dubya got us into an endless war in Iraq and then again in Afghanistan for equally flimsy reasons, but which ended in much more death and destruction than China has ever wrought on the Uighurs. This is the kind of thing which China throws back in our face. I suspect we deserve it.

Who, after all, is the dirtiest in assuming that others need to be more like us? In assuming, even, that they must want to be? In assuming that their religious beliefs are crazy while ours are not?

Of course official China doesn't do religion. Or do they? Don't we?

In the way of the virus, we're between what we'd thought would be the End of History and the Last Man - life as we'd come to like it - and our future release from viral lockdown. The stock market meanwhile surges. Too bad for all those whose lives have been destroyed.

We're stalled between the so-called standard model of (particle) physics and the next big paradigm shift. And we still think that shift will come from revelations generated by the CERN supeconducting supercollider, which is to say better descriptive explanations for ever more elusive still-so-called "particles." 

Those of us schooled only in Statistics for the Social Sciences cannot know what they do with eigenvalues at Google, say, nor do we have any way to validate our sense that they could do it differently and better were they not so addicted to their particular brand of golden goose: keyterm auction.

My nephew worked at CERN and showed me his graphical rendering of the data which achieves a scientific level of proof for the actual existence of this or that new "particle." (He works in finance now, of course) I forgot to ask how many logarithmic transforms were applied and why, and how many sigmas were achieved, though that is really a business term now.

I know that scientists cannot stop themselves, but I also suspect that they will not stop themselves, really just because their discoveries have been so very exciting, and often very useful. There is no shortage of problems to be solved. Funny thing is, post-bomb, post-discovery of global warming, most of the problems are social, and not amenable to scientific resolution unless by coercion. Unless we really do believe that we may - collectively? - become as gods. 

Given the nature of the so-called one-percent, we know that individuals can become as gods. Temporarily. Who even wants that? I know I know.

We never stop to recognize the religious roots for our terminology. Our assumption that there must be a law-bound cosmos and that those laws are natural laws, which is to say not created by "us", and that the cosmos is ultimately describable - that assumption is very religious indeed. It descends from Platonic archetypes which provided the framework for our unitary concept of God.

Chinese cultural forms are equally indelible, especially the notion that there is a right and singular form for a culture which shall remain continuously recognizable across some five thousand years. Of course, Taiwan must be a part of that. And of course the Uighurs should be flattered to be invited in. Just like the Iraqis should feel privileged to be offered our notions for governance.

Somehow it becomes always and all about a power structure. That's how good guys and bad guys are organized. And God help you if you offend someone whose mind has already been closed.

So here I am and shall remain, living in the bozone where I neither believe in religious truths, nor do I accept that scientific trueings are somehow cosmic, eternal, and apart from what we cook up in our very own (collective) minds. Wouldn't there otherwise be an end to progress someday? Wouldn't we have arrived? And what then, I ask you!

From my point of view, scientific trueings are about aligning our collective minds, which are only apparently separate and distinct according to a very cosmically local set of religious imperatives. Those religious imperatives morph easily into economic imperatives and so on. 

I mean, just try to tell someone who knows physics that the term "particle" is really metaphor. You'll probably get 'sure, sure, yes, of course,' in response. But then go a step further and insist that particles are no more real than ghosts or gods or other collective delusions, and you'll probably start pissing someone off.

We have a lot of apparatus to distinguish the crazies from the sane, but we draw the line at religion, which is somehow held sacrosanct, hoho, even or especially by our secular legal structures. But I'm calling it a fine distinction, if an important one. When religious zealots start carrying guns and taking over political structures, I get just as scared as the Chinese government does. At least the technorati only want everything for themselves. Those robbers of local wealth.

So, in my in-between state, I wait patiently for both government and science to get it right. I look forward to days post-pandemic, when I can be close to strangers again. And I look forward to an economy which isn't so tilted to those who already have all the wealth. The trick is to learn to be content in this in-between state, which is all we are destined ever to have.

Did you know that more people have started to play the game "Among Us" than have contracted the virus? How many cancelled books does that mean? It takes so much more energy to read William Gaddis, say, than to watch a movie made from a Philip Roth book (he believed that reading novels would be dead before the novel would be. Ha!) but only one of them will teach you what you need to know about fraud. I mean Orson Welles ain't bad, but, well, he hung with the likes of William Randolph, right?

Maybe I need religion for that to happen - for me to be content in my in-between state. But the trouble is that science is the better procedure to get us all together. It's infuriating to me that so many people think that they can just blithely disregard established scientific principles. Especially when they do it in the name of religion, but even more when they do it so clearly and blatantly in the name of raw power. 

So, let's say we are in a lifeboat, and let's say it's called spaceship earth, like Bucky used to call it, and let’s say we learn to agree that we will and can never know enough to fully describe the cosmos we hurtle through. All we can do is to enjoy the ride and spend at least enough time and effort to keep the ride going. 

When people in power claim better understanding than the scientific community, I feel like we're headed in a direction toward the corruption we project onto China, or onto Russia. Just a feeling, you know. And yet I feel worse when religionists want to be in charge. I mean, Pence was a lot more terrifying even than Trump, especially if one were to imagine a long-haul with that sort of duo in charge.

But I do hold back about ultimate truths. When scientists of any discipline claim truths beyond science's purview, they lose me entirely. Sub-atomic particles are not the end of any story. In that discipline, we've long since jumped the shark, by virtue of a kind of religious certainty that truth is objective and not a process for mind-alignment. We already have enough teasers to make that clear.

I personally find a cosmos where we are as much the makers as the product to be far more exciting than one where some abstract set of principles or beings abides in-charge in perpetuity. Sure, it's a lot more nerve wracking to be in charge. But hey, I'd rather get rid of cars altogether than to "own" a self-driving car. I'm really weird that way.

Well, OK, maybe I wouldn't mind being able to hail a car from my smartphone, which also told me relative time and cost for public transit. I'm just not sure that the planet can abide private cars, no matter the power source.

Wouldn't it be funny if the real purpose of science were to create a kind of hive mind without any queens? Wouldn't it be funny if the truths that we choose to guide us were as quirky - at cosmic scale - as we each think ourselves to be, addicted as we are to personality.

Wouldn't it be funny if I were actually correct when I did discover lo those many years ago now, that emotion is a cosmic force. It's obvious but still scientifically unthinkable. I think that's dumb. And God is love, full stop. No need for projection at all.

Where I was at, way back then, living on my old wooden sailboat (read all about it!) was tangling with the paradoxes in "modern" physics. Religion deals with paradoxes. Why can't science? Well, science deals with paradoxes by steam rolling them with practical solutions. Just so long as the science works locally here and now, we're fine!

After the bomb, it's true that we did still progress. We couldn't have GPS without accounting for the same theoretical structures which gave us the bomb - relativity theory, time dilation and all that. Now we dream of quantum computing, which will perfect privacy, among other things, as though computation will set us free! 

Computation is not subject to pesky human emotions and parochial point of view. And that's where the trouble begins. I mean I'm really sorry for the life that Alan Turing was forced to live. But that doesn't make universal machines the right response. That imitation game - the digital resolution - cuts us off from cosmos as the outset. That's what on/off means.

Full Stop.

Monday, April 5, 2021

Words Make us Crazy, Especially When They're Written

I read with horror and amazement about this finance cowboy who makes and loses money for Christ. I peek at a Facebook posts of a bible-talking medical doctor railing against the vaccine. I don't care about the money lost, and I don't care about the freedom of speech of Bible-thumpeters either. I do care about the con. The human mind seems to have a hidden tap for crazy. It seems related to Jesus and the whole 'in the beginning was the Word' thing. 

I make the claim that love is a cosmic force, here and there in my writing. I have always been amazed at the historical power of Jesus Christ, the story if not the Man. I have left a tap open in my own mind, just in case God may be real and I mistaken (in my pride at making sense of words?). 

I grow old in a way to make my writing even worse than it already is, and was and has-been. My excuse: I'm not trying to write professionally. I'm trying to conjure some sort of truth from words. I'm trying to true them, across as much reading as I can bear. I'm trying to make the same profound sense that, say, the Dao De Jing makes. Words have proliferated so that this becomes near impossible. That's my excuse. 

I have no intention to force my words on anyone.

I start my fifth paragraph with "I" and still I wish to disappear from my writing in just the way that simple-living Hwang's fortune dissolves, taking down a bunch of banks with him (don't worry, they don't sink, they just flounder for a moment). A Bible thumper has always made a convincing con.

Watching that horned Q-Anon nut-job lead a gang of vandals (he was dressed as a Vandal in the literal sense, right?) in a kind of bizarre prayer session in the Senate chamber should have clued us all in. There is something scrambled in the collective mind of a country as devoted as we still seem to be to a literal read of the literary and curated, very highly produced Bible, as the Word of God. 

How, I ask you, can love be turned into so much hate? So much child abuse? So much practice of indulgence in the forbidden fruit? Not of sex which is practiced so lovingly outside any Church (although much more exciting inside), but of patriarchal abuse of women, children and men. Forgive me father, for I have forced myself on someone again. I shall not want.

We call this out every chance we get now, really just because it's safe to do so. Yes, Andrew Cuomo, your license has been revoked. You should become a preacher. They're pausing the prosecution of any more priests here in Buffalo so that the Church's bankruptcy may proceed more smoothly. Praise God?

How have Christians come to hate border-crossers? How have Christians come to hate gays? How have Christians come to be so contrarian about nearly everything that's sensible? 

That's the same question as how can the mind become so crazed while still being able to navigate a life? What magic formulary of word-doctoring has made that even possible? In Korean?!? 

I guess we all need something to hold onto. We can't make sense of the world, we don't know who to trust, and so we accept as truth whatever gets Trumpeted loudly and with the most self-assurance and in the right cadence, and it must shake the very foundations of rational mind, just like Gideon brought down that wall, Mr. Gorbachev. 

Yes I did march around the Pentagon, but we weren't being exactly serious about bringing down literal walls. It would take a word-crazed one-time pilot to do that. My word-crazed cousin was at ground zero. It was personal.

Now we're building walls? Even as we dismantle the very bedrock of democracy in the name of Republican power? Which claims God for itself? 

This is nuts.

I sure do hope that someone has taken off our distributor cap when China invades Taiwan right after their Winter Olympics. This virus is as nothing against the plague of wanton words which destroy our very minds. The masks worn internally now by all the Bible misinterpreters are far more flameproof than the ones they throw on their toxic fires they fan for what? Freedom? Give me a freaking break already. 

The truth will set you free. 

Your truths are imprisoning you, Christian soldiers. You have erected walls inside your own minds and you shall be damned for a veritable eternity within these walls of your own making.