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.

No comments: