Friday, May 28, 2021

Stop, Already! (A Review, of Sorts, of Walter Isaacson - The Code Breaker)

There is so much competent writing out there now. I read as much of it as I possibly can, and still I can't learn to write well. My trouble is that I have something to say. It's better if you just want to tell a good story. There are rules for that. I obviously refuse to learn those as well.

How fortunate for me that there is, occasionally, a book-length treatment of something up-to-the-minute timely, that I know very little about. To be clear, I am not on a quest to understand anything and everything. Mostly, I look for clues about people whose work it might be productive for me to connect with.

Who knows what I mean by productive. I guess I mean productive toward my being able to express a way to approach life and understanding that nobody seems to share. It's more of a scientific-style discovery than it is philosophical. It shouldn't depend so much on perfect language, though I'm afraid that it does.

As I embark, finally, on reading what promises to be another masterful summary of an entire ground-breaking field, in the guise of biography, by Walter Isaacson, it feels like time to survey, yet again, this inflection point for humans on the planet. (I honestly don't know if I'm telling myself to stop - which will happen on its own soon enough - or if I'm telling the "innovators" to stop. Isaacson writes about those who discovered, by way of the so-called CRISPR anti-viral mechanism of bacteria, how to edit genes.

I just read yet a different masterful piece in the New York Times about how Sinead O’Connor doesn't regret, but rather celebrates, what happened after she tore up her photo of the Pope on Saturday Night Live, once upon a time. She was detested by many for that act, and then derided for destroying her own career. She herself apparently felt, instead, that she had rescued herself from the prisonhouse hell of celebrity. 

That story is a reminder, at least to me, of just how far we have to go before we even consider stepping in to "take control of evolution." The heroes of Isaacson's true story seem to feel that it is inevitable that we will eventually do that. Isaacson himself comes around by story's end, in celebration of curiosity.

I am intensely curious, spending most of every day chasing down things I've never heard of. I found my calling early in life. In most ways, I have been the winner in the project that gene editors see in mankind's future. I am white, reasonably good looking, athletically coordinated (if somewhat uninterested) and I was admitted to CalTech and MIT, along with Yale.

I hated Yale in many ways, and of course it marked my turning away from scientific pursuits. Not because of any shortfall on Yale's part. Rather more because I couldn't handle the distractions; my own curiosity about things I knew nothing about. The calling that I discovered for myself may have been nothing other than a psychotic break. I remain agnostic on the topic. I was never abducted by aliens.

Taking control of anything requires understanding where the levers are and where conscious choice - the stuff of free will - takes over from demons working you from "inside." An honest assessment requires applying Heisenberg-style uncertainty to your own motives, an allusion I've picked up from Isaacson's book. Better to ask someone who knows you rather than to defend an honor which might not even exist.

My warning is embodied in Sinead O'Connor's warning to Miley Cyrus, which I found in Wikipedia, wanting to know more than the NYT article offered:

The message you keep sending is that it's somehow cool to be prostituted… it's so not cool Miley… it's dangerous. Women are to be valued for so much more than their sexuality. We aren't merely objects of desire. I would be encouraging you to send healthier messages to your peers… that they and you are worth more than what is currently going on in your career.

Isaacson's book is about Jennifer Doudna, who is credited (including by a Nobel prize now) with instigating much of the genetic research which has led up to our ability to "edit" genes, and more particularly the book describes how she and her colleagues worked to deal with COVID-19. No small part of the story is that it documents the scientific career of a woman. Of many women, in what remains so very much a man's world.

Once we start editing genes, how might we be assured that we won't just simply embody our current state of depravity off into eternity by our attempts to "improve" humanity? Is a popularity contest the way to go? And if there can be no democratic resolution, looking to factored and fragmented religion can only make things worse, as history, recent and ancient, surely shows. 

We already conduct genetic experiments in a sense, and have for a long time. There are powerful differentials which determine who thrives and who fails, and only some of them depend on what are thought to be natural endowments. These have been accelerating post-Darwin, post-Einstein, post-Terman, post-Turing, post-von Neumann, post-whoever-you-will. The geniuses we worship in our history. Industry and technology does that acceleration. The thinkers only wave the starting flag.

I would contend that we are nowhere near mature enough - sophisticated enough? - to decide what it is that we would like to amplify, or mute, about humanity. This problem is almost unrelated to scientific advance, except if and as scientific advance causes us to change our minds somehow. Changing our minds would mean to adapt to a new and different episteme.

The simple thought experiment, which has probably been advanced a million times, is about the mother who succumbs to the temptation to design her baby. What regrets might there be then, with the actual offspring? How would those compare with the ordinary regrets of a mother projecting happiness or regret upon a daughter whom she so dearly wishes to spare her own particular litany of regret. Birth rage will make road rage as nothing, right?

More still to the point, how about a person themself who knows that they have been edited with beneficence aforethought (could that be malice in some disguise?)? What will happen to the, perhaps wonderful, discovery of some particular and surprising talent. What will happen to the disappointments of falling just short.

It is the wrong approach to ask sufferers and their families what they would have different about their lives. Yes, sure, we all imagine a future, a different life compared to the one we were consigned. Mostly, we know it as a dream. Look around yourself and see the wreckage of false hope, madly dashing about a world in flames. What do you see in your dreams of our future? I suppose that might depend on your present.

Surely it is more urgent to provide universal healthcare, decent housing, and affordable food to all before we embark on more control of our collective future. These things require no scientific advance, and there is no new discovery which can force them, or make them trivial. Politics is hard. 

These questions can and undoubtedly will be writ large upon the human race; upon the world entire. Do we really wish to set about designing our own future? What would be the goal? To eradicate stupidity, along with disease and hosts of other slings and arrows of insult?

James Watson, co-discoverer of the structure of DNA, apparently believes in those goals. He seems surprisingly stupid himself when it comes to understanding intelligence and beauty. None of his colleagues now would have him involved in any decisions about our future.

Here is my little list of things that we not only don't know enough about, but whose existence as questions most of us don't even acknowledge. I make no claim for brilliance, for precedence, or for anything at all, other then the happenstance of my particular, and perhaps peculiar, personal history. It makes a quirky list.

  • Is there meaning to random?
  • Once deracinated and decultured, is there still a sense for the term 'God' which is valid?
  • Should intellectual prowess be the defining factor in definitions for "merit?"
  • If we have indeed transgressed the objectivity test for valid science, then must we admit "emotion" as a cosmic, rather than local, quality?
  • Where does emotion fit in the mind?
  • Can we ever move beyond our local world to cosmos, now that we are part of the objective "natural" laws that we uncover?
My own responses, in order:
  • yes
  • yes, God is Love (I have no idea if I mean that metaphorically or literally, but I'm working on it)
  • There is no "mind" that excludes emotional valence. There is no proper merit without "heart."
  • There are moving configurations of matter which involve no discernable force. Such motions are e-motions, and their structures are conceptual.
  • Emotion is the (pre?) determiner of choice
  • Sure, but it would entail some (necessarily non-physical) interface with other life

The only thing that technology will or can do is to accelerate whatever processes have already been going on. Social networks on steroids, perhaps. So, I think I don't wish or need to take a side in the big debates of our time, including whether germ-line gene editing is morally acceptable. It is surely do-able. I'm asking us to look properly for what aspects of reality we really don't understand before exploding this one.

Science doesn't move backward. Once your mind is opened on any given matter that is subject to scientific validation, you can't go back to blindness, except by embracing a kind of evil. The scientific method is wonderful that way. And scary. It's really no wonder that so many refuse to open their minds when it would mean to relinquish much that they have held dear.

I did a little experiment - very unintentionally - a while ago. I wrote about my problems in my tiny mobile home, guessing that others have had to address similar issues, and hoping that my experiences might be of some assistance. In other words, I actually wrote something useful. 

Surprise, surprise, it is rapidly becoming my most widely read post (which isn't saying much). Almost there. Still, I get nearly zero comments on almost anything. People must think that I'm some sort of plant, like my Bulgarian classmate did when she wouldn't believe I wasn't CIA. I mean, I had to be, right? With my Ivy League Chinese literacy. And especially with my apparent unemployment. 

I know, I sound like a drone after the first sentence and so who would go further? Why would I expect engaged readers?

But really, I'm just a guy who likes to solve problems. Look here: my daughter got a house which had an utterly unworkable kitchen. For way way less than what a kitchen designer might stipulate, we made the kitchen workable:

I'm thrilled, my daughter and son-in-law are thrilled, and the whole setup didn't hit $4K to populate that unused kitchen wall, and to change out a dishwasher. OK, so that's hardly nothing, but it's a lot less than most kitchen remodels. New stove (air fry! and convection!), new hood, new cabinets from Home Despot plus supposedly sustainable rubber-tree butcher block, plus leftover lucite rods from the bookshelf which I also made them (and that you have already seen, dear and gentle reader). Yeah, the labor was free, so your mileage may vary.

The house has a theme. And yes, I confess, this is just simply usefulness clickbait. Let's see if it ups my readership! Bet I don't get any comments, though. Hmmmm, maybe I just shouldn't be giving shit away for free. Is that all it is?

Probably. Or maybe I just can't write. Maybe I just refuse to learn how. Maybe that's because there are so many competent writers out there and I just simply don't feel all that competitive for eyeballs, since I'm not exactly doing this so that I may "go viral" and get rich. That would, frankly, terrify me. 

I'm recently surrounded by claims that "recognition" is part of what makes humans tick. Francis Fukuyama says so when he writes about the "Last Man." William Gaddis seems to suppose so in his book by the same title, The Recognitions. And now in this Walter Isaacson tale of CRISPR, the desire for recognition takes top billing right up there with scientific curiosity.

If this is a defining feature of humans, then, seemingly lacking it, I may not be human. More likely, I'm just a liar, and in denial. I mean sometimes I do boast about things I've done, but I'm honest enough with myself to know the difference between my amateurish mockups, and the works of true professionals. I'm not about to go into the business of kitchen remodeling, though I will do the work for love, if not for money.

So my quest here is purely to find someone to hand off my discoveries to. Surely, there must be someone else out there who has a similar enough background and perspective, and can do me better about selling this stuff. I've spent just about 40 years without any real luck. And just as I'm tiring out, I'm getting desperate. And nevermind me, the world feels on some precipice.

Adding to my bullet lists above, I just simply don't believe that the persistence of humanity is what's at stake, no matter how much vanity gratification populating Mars might afford. What's at stake is our very world. You know, the one which goes all the way back to the Big Bang. It's not that humans are required for life. We may be the end of life.

I found this (generationally degraded now) on Quora from somebody who found it at Humon

Of course, in a way, I agree with sentiment in the comic above, as well as in its "truth." But in a different way, I follow the Chinese tradition to the effect that humanity has a cosmic role to play. My shorthand for that role is that we, on the one hand, bring the constancy of the heavens down to earth (literally, in the Chinese) and on the other that we, in our position as the center or heart between heaven and earth, bring heart/mind to the cosmos. Perhaps it would be better to say that we realize heart/mind on earth. 

As you might imagine, I also think that our particular brand of mind is as unique in the cosmos as are our individual "personalities" among our peers. Personality is a concept that I don't find all that useful, to be honest. And "character" doesn't exist unless it's subject to improvement. So that's why I don't feel a need to take a moral stand about what we should or shouldn't do with our "knowledge," expect to be humble about how comprehensive it can ever be.

We have discovered that we are part of what we dispassionately investigate. We don't become as God, but that is a deficiency in what we mean by God as well as in what we mean by human. That paradigm shift - that shift in episteme - requires that we take responsibility for what we discover. We have become inventors now of reality, and our choices matter.

We seem to believe that technology happens in just the way that science does - a progressive process of uncovering necessities that were already there. Surely we can't invent natural law? But technology is a series of "artificial" choices. Just because we can do something doesn't mean that we must. 

A major thrust of Isaacson's book is to document the changes that have happened in universities when they cross this fuzzy line between science and its profitable applications. True confession; my first love was engineering. I wanted to fix things more than I wanted to discover them. There is no natural law for political economics.

At dinner with my ex the other night, I saw again what had led to my lovely daughters. Sure it may be the artificial fruit of exercise, plastic surgery and makeup routines, but I was and will not be inclined to ask. Neither of us wishes to have continued that relationship, and I wish her well with her new hubby, who can see other things that I can't see.

The bigger question for me is not whether editing germ-line genes is moral, but whether it is a human thing to do, in the Chinese sense of humanity. Our usage of the term often has it be a pejorative rather than a celebratory term. I do believe that it remains important to distinguish between human and inhuman.

Now that we have created antibiotic resistant bacteria, it would seem a sin not to deploy gene editing techniques to resurrect the good old diseases that we could kill. Maybe raising the wooly mammoth from extinction doesn't quite have quite enough entertainment value, not to mention the unintended Jurassic Park consequences, but surely we must be allowed to fight artifice with artifice.

For that matter, I think almost everyone should read this book! We have no idea how lucky we have been in these pandemic times, to have researchers like Doudna who have discovered the tools we need to avoid the horrors of pandemics past.

I don't wish to throw cold water on any of that by pointing out that the pandemic itself is a function of our modernity this time, regardless of its inception in the halls of science, if that's what happened. Does it matter? We now have clear and present hope and even expectation that life can be good for all of us. We have scientists to thank for that.

I'd like to introduce a different approach to identifying the "red line" between proper and improper uses of germ-line gene editing. Based on my read of Isaacson's book, those at the front lines of the field have only vague notions about messing with the "natural" processes of evolution. Most shy away from doing that. Their 'notions' are exceedingly well-informed, but I believe that they miss something obvious. 

Things like houses and clothes and glasses and automobiles are hardly natural, and yet we inhabit or become them quite naturally, as extensions of ourselves. Indeed, in my life, all the unnatural features of my lived landscape compose my memory. It is blank, that memory, until I revisit places where things have happened. Most of those are part of human geography. 

Most unnatural of all our artifices are words, and these too seem to require being kept, at arms length, to be kept fresh in any sense. Words may inform our minds, but they hardly reside there. They reside on the page and in the elaborate memory palaces (talk about coals to Newcastle!) that we might construct if we are so bent.

(to elaborate on my text above, I remain astounded that the Jesuits could teach the Chinese about memory - coals to Newcastle -, given the rote recitation which has always been part of their education. But then again, I have proven gifted at learning Chinese, and I have always had a notoriously terrible memory, being incapable to memorize almost anything. Or is that an abreaction to flubbing my lines in Kindergarten, when I was playing Father Time?)

Things like genes and the invisible structures which house computer code are unnatural in a different sense. They can't be experientially 'naturalized' as such, even while the expressed interfaces are fairly easily naturalized. Folders on the screen, and even words, have a fairly easy metaphoric relation to the surroundings we more typically - pre-digital - naturalize as part of our environment. 

Isaacson speculates that it will be a while before we have a useful understanding of consciousness, and that this is vaguely related to a reasonable timeline for deciding the ethical issues involved in germ-line gene editing. 

Well, I would say that we are the entirely wrong track for understanding consciousness. 

We think our thoughts reside somehow "in" our mind and still more readily assume that our brain is their housing. But we misapprehend the brain's function; its evolutionary function. 

Brains evolved to generalize and catalog observations and perceptions. Without a brain, a creature may only react spontaneously to stimuli. With a brain, one may react according to categorizations of external (to the body) challenges. The challenges are not held "in" the brain, but remain in the world about us. What we think of as memory are those features of particular instances which are at some variance from the category. 

We have become very generalized survivors, adaptable to almost any niche. We have become that way in largest part because we are social.

There are emotional valences to these categorical variances: the day Kennedy was shot, or when the cougar leaped at me. Even more than we think that thoughts and memories are housed in our brains, we think that emotions are. Surely, emotions are a quality of mind and not of the world around us!

But what if that's not true? After all, it's the quality of fright elicited by the cougar, based on the observed behavior, or stories told, of other cougars at other times which causes us to jump and flee. In what sense is this not a quality of the world about us? We don't have time to think about it, but without our brain we wouldn't react to it at all.

As we work feverishly to decode the workings of our brains (not, apparently, quite so successfully as we did with the coding of somatic genes), we miss the obvious. By their workings, our brains act in obvious ways. It is our imagining of occult hidden structures which obfuscates. Not that there isn't productive research to be accomplished, but that there will be no replication of the mind. The mind is a part of life, and cannot be constructed or reconstructed apart from it. 

I say this not in an attempt to lay dogma down. I believe that all I express is the already obvious.

What I describe is, of course, also the cusp of free will. Most of what we are is "designed" in a way, by our brains without our conscious choosing. By any reckoning, random defines us, even, or especially, when we take credit for all those slings and arrows which worked in what we consider a positive direction. 

This is the very same random which runs evolution as we now understand those processes. In a precise analog with brain v. mind, we tend to focus on the creature - the container for assembler genes - rather than on the ground for our evolving. There is no evolution without changes to the environment in which we live. Most of our ground now is social.

I read by random. The topics about which I write occur to me randomly, as must be painfully obvious to you, gentle reader. But they do have a theme. Mostly unconsciously - but sometimes consciously, I know - my mind excludes on my behalf that maximum part of the dross of my existence in which I can find no possible interest.

Hell, my very survival has depended on happenstance. Those two Christmas eves I spent in the E.R., nearly prevented once by border guards. The time Mom slammed her door on the doctor making a holiday home-visit. The time I drowned and my last gulp of life just happened to be of air and not of water.

Our computer code enshrines a mistaken notion for how cognition and consciousness works. We consider its enhancements to our reach to be in a direction that makes us more human. That too, is based on a mistaken notion about what it means to be human. We are not the levers that we manipulate, those great structures of logic externalized or reduced to extraordinarily tiny photo reductions of printed digital circuit boards.

And now we focus on genetic code as though we understood in what direction evolution was heading when humans popped out as apex creature. We haven't got a clue, I tell you. We haven't got a clue. Human-guided evolution composes a far worse nightmare than nuclear winter ever could. In either case, we remove ourselves from the Love that is God, not by our hubris - which got us fire and houses and civil society - but by our very blindness to the love that is all around us. 

Comfort in the face of fear is a good thing. Flailing blindly after holy ghosts will get us nowhere. Neither genes nor words nor computer codes can make up the entire story. The story requires heart, and we lose that when we move in the direction of structures which cannot be lived and shared and understood on their face. 

Our technologies are tools. I know the feel of a tool in my hand. It is an extension of myself. I may have a silly amount of nostalgic reverence for hand tools in place of their powered replacements, but that is based on a personal preference, and a sense of better efficiency and control. To bad I can no longer wield a bush or a pen to write.

Yes, OK, anyhow, I did grant near a full year's worth of my rent to my daughter, for wedding and house, putting my own future in distinct peril. Well, my reproductive days are well behind me, as are my productive days. The one relevant to genetics, the other to what exactly? All I know is that I'm sore most of the time, I don't sleep, I drink too much, and I hardly ever have the energy to be productive. I have to pick and choose my moments to keep reading William Gaddis. That requires more sharp attention than I almost ever have. What, me worry about my future?

I'm no gentleman amateur slacker, meaning simply that I can't afford to be this way. I do consider that proper gifts should hurt. My work, in lieu of income, is, I hope, an expression of love. I wouldn't do it for someone who needed to judge me, by way of how much my work is worth. I feel the same sort of love for you, gentle reader. Well, not exactly, but you know what I mean.

You must understand that there are desperate forces at work to ensure that our current Kuhnian paradigm doesn't shift. Where we live right now this instant is arranged perfectly for a small subset of collective humanity. The ones with all the power. Hey, let's just give them more, why don't we?

OK, so nothing new about that, but now those folks have bought the con that there is nothing other than life as we know it here and now on the planet, and that the game is to maximize the Maxim life. Well, OK, so that's not so novel either. It's just all so accelerated, is all.

Here in the West, where we believe in science as a procedure to uncover what is true, and to true what is uncovered, we also tend to believe in things like character and merit and IQ as inherent traits, not subject to editing. Natural law is reduced to a code, and whether genes or texts or computer programs, they are all subject to editing and improvement. Perhaps I'm the only one who finds our position internally contradictory. 

A person may be beautiful for a time, in some particular milieu, but beauty can hardly be the trait of that person, apart from the heavy cosmetic editing that makes it so for a rather brief time. And nevermind recognition, it does seem as though everyone on the planet now seeks to be first, to be unique, to be on top. Perhaps we need to celebrate more the ground for greatness, rather than its person.

Haven't patents gone out of control when some hundreds are granted for various hyper-specific ways to exploit the discoveries around CRISPR? Haven't universities lost their balance now that they are in on the profits? These matters are better solved within Confucian parameters than they are according to our vaunted Western principles. Judge us by our behavior, and make no ascriptions, please, as to our character as a people.

You can feel the desperation in the pivot from internal combustion to electric cars so that we may preserve our automotive ways. Great fictions are spun about how harm-free those deadly toxic waste producing battery powered cars, laptops, cellphones are. We buy them because we want to, and can tell ourselves a good story where we're the hero. We transmute carbon to gold with bitcoin now, by way of silicon catalysis. And this helps anyone how?

I don't wish to go "backwards," I really don't. I spend way too much of my life worrying about batteries of various sorts. Which SciFi was it that featured background power free to all in some great amplification of how my iPhone charges now? Seems doubtful. And why the hurry? 

True confession; in my gentleman's leisurely existence I finally did see fit to actually purchase that book written by my one-time mentor, Stephen Owen, and I am going to read it through! At over $50, it is way way beyond my means. The local libraries which give the public access don't shelve it (I am now 'the public'). The only reviewer that I have managed access to, provides this context for it:

Owen’s revolution in a way reminds us of recent intellectual history and the dethronement of thearchy. With Newton, believers still could cling to a Creator bequeathing us a mechanical universe with natural laws governing universal gravitation and the motion of all bodies. After Darwin’s, Einstein’s, and the quantum revolutions, humans—naked apes—now seemed a trivial and most tenuous example of nature’s blind and wasteful random mutations, living in a world whose basic forces resist unified theoretical characterization and whose constituents (e.g., mass and location of electrons, etc.) defy full understanding. In somewhat analogous fashion, our “Grand Narrative” of early poetry has now lost its authors, its poem as governing construct, and the stable motions of genre and literary progress. We have, metaphorically, lost our “watch,” our “watchmaker,” and our story about how watches and clocks got made.

Yes, and so what that reviewer called "gray goo," a term which I did attribute falsely to Owen himself, is the very same threat to the received wisdom of and about literature, as is the "gray goo" of autonomous viral replicators, which makes for a certain strand of science fictional dystopia. What will literature be without author, genre and originality? Can tradition alone replicate itself without an author? Wouldn't that be terrifying?

(Isaacson never does quite address the matter of why life actually required what he calls the mortal battle between bacteria and viruses which led to the insights of CRISPR. As though one were the bad guy and one were the good.)

Well, literature will be what the Bible is and what humanity is and what the cosmos is. There need be no author to any bible, assembled as it clearly was, and quite by accident, from the gray goo of desire and longing and making a name; a story from the raw materials of fiction. That doesn't make it any less inspired. I'm talking about historic truth here, and not the sort decreed by theologians. Look what a difference that little book - The Bible - has made!

Plagiarism may elevate or rob, says William Gaddis, I think, between his lines. Where is the fraud if people value the production? What after all is the relation between Tradition and the Individual Talent, Mr. Eliot? You, at least, knew the difference between feelings and emotion, by analog to mind v. body, as though there were opposition. The poet must efface himself, anon.

If and as life prevails we must relinquish excessive creature comfort. I willingly relinquish my own dear future as my body wracks with pain now, and gets no sleep. None of that descends from my superannuated labors, and despite my daughters' urgings, there is no real medicine for it. Were I only a Chinese poet, I would have something to say about old age. And it would be grounded in broad and sanctioned reading. And it would be lovely. Alas.

I live now comfortably and well beyond my means. Well beyond any means of my wildest imaginings, is what I mean. Just as those trouble-shooting repairs do which I accomplished, I do depend so much on happenstance, and on no design that I can claim as my own, or that I will. Blessed, I am. I am blessed. The blessed should share their blessings, just not the way that Bill Gates does. He wants to stay in charge. He would decree our future, as they all would, in a corrupted bid for the same sort of immortality craved by the Chinese poets - makers - of old.

Why, I wonder, do we so revere those on "the spectrum?" Elon resurrects himself on SNL, just as Sinead sacrifices herself. Is it just simply because they are all so unaware of social grace and blurt out what so many of us are already certain about? Tell me Greta, please! Amanda?

Thou shalt not hit on someone subordinate to you. And therefore only women may hit, dimwits all. My daughters tell me that hitting up is OK. No wonder we're all going trans, eh McKenzie? My sex change happens naturally. The media gives the best massage. Vectorialists of disease. Gray goo replicate not on my behalf. I am but as I am.

What I author from out the gray goo of my brain is nothing very much, against the embodiments of history. What rises up is but a dream. Merry rows of five syllable prose. Read them please, it's time.

Well, no, I did rediscover from T.S. Eliot the meaning of catalytic as I must have meant it myself. The poet is the catalyst; the platinum converter, which remains as it was before the reaction which, without the platinum, would never have occured. The poetry is not about the poet. The poet is the medium. The poem the message? Without love, it is only words.

All that I would like to do is to write a novel whose protagonist is truly transformed and not in the way that heroes are transformed by m-ssages with happy endings. I want you, dear reader, to invest and not only to project yourself into the world which I would write and which would never come to be without you. Ah, don't we all? 

But any novel I might write would involve too much design, and I refuse to do designer novels. There are whole industries for that.

That world, the one to come, the one that ever has been, is a world moved more by constancy of relation than by indelibility of impact. Always between worlds, we are, and ever have been, world without end. Immortality too may come (only) with self-effacement, which is hardly what the market desires. Hardly what market desires promote. The market wants want, and I want only to live well enough, alone.

Well enough to want to arise, and not to wish only that I could lay in repose a while longer. The rising involuntary. The sleep unreachable. There is torture in that which no large mansion, in heaven or on earth, might assuage. Which abstinence cannot cure. Of any sort. 

And so, and so, I must to work re-go. There is no profit in writing. But refreshment for the soul. Would that there were one. Hello?

No comments: