Saturday, June 5, 2021

Chaos Theory of the Self

We don't hear all that much about chaos theory or fractals these days. I hardly even remember what those terms mean. It was exciting, back in the day, to realize that there was a kind of math which could describe natural forms in a pretty straightforward way without actually having to deal with the complexity of exhaustive designation and description and analytic structural analysis.

We put strange attractors on our computers, when computers were used for computing and a good spreadsheet program could do anything you could possibly want it to do. We watched as natural forms took place, once there was a graphics processor, once Chinese could be coded in double-character ASCII text and pictures too.

Now all that's left of fractals and chaos theory is the so-called "butterfly effect" which gets all of it backwards and upside down, since people hear "effect" and assume that a butterfly can have an outsized impact on the world. That would be almost like suggesting that a floor sweeper at Apple can be responsible for, oh I don't know, let's say their unworkable "optimized battery charging." Does Apple even know how much ill-will they're generating with that?

Who would bother to tell them, right? "Machine learning" my ass. It almost never works and you can't game it, and those things that might impact how it works are hidden and opaque almost beyond belief. How about give me a slider or a lever or some way to say what I want the phone to do to save my battery. I can make a flat curve at 80% and learn to live with it if it saves me buying a new battery. They must be rewarding the floor sweeper of the coding pit. They must think we're all stupid and don't want to spend any time futsing with our phones. Right.

So as corporate structures keep gobbling up smaller corporate structures until the scale rivals national governments, maybe it's time to trot chaos theory back out again. I mean we call ourselves a political democracy even as we fit ourselves in various ways, even if not by way of employment, into pure exemplars of autocracy in the workplace; the workplaces with which we must interact to deal with insurance, the vectorialists (the new capitalists if Wark would stop talking about her transition), and even drinking beer in case you thought your favorite beer wasn't owned by INBev. You know, Budweiser owns the world of beer kind of thing.

Well, I guess the economics of micro-brewing are pretty favorable, and it makes a nice way to sideline otherwise troublesome sorts with more intelligence than they know what to do with. Happy to pay your premium for the corporate dodge. Happy to let my brain ferment, no knead, evermore. Let's replicate those structures, hows 'bout?

My very self is a strange attractor, the boundaries of me fractal, and if you were to stretch them out they might reach infinity in any dimension. That would make a way for immortality so long as you go for the broke of not that thing which everyone else seems to aggrandize, the selfie-self.

My work - my narrative pitch - is to erase that self before my bounded body dies which would be that much better than to preserve it in simulation of life. Natural forms don't do the kinds of math which we prefer with heroic story arcs and happy endings. There was a young lady from Natchez.

I don't know, am I talking about fractals or am I talking about macrocosm/microcosm. In my mind they're the same thing. Structure of the cosmos, sort of thing. Q.E.D., quantum electrodynamics, Benjamin. Not ratiocination, no plastic forever, not what we will.

Lots of times these days I have to endure friends who are better off than I am talking about their pleasures. Then some of them think that I should share the beer tab. The ones who don't need me to pick up the tab seem to live the same way I do, but their thinking isn't so interesting. The moral equivalent of Trumpers, it sometimes seems to me. Right? Trumpers always pick up your tab if they're better off than you. There's something to be said for that.

So, I spend a lot of time alone, reading, and writing, and hanging with family where we can still be pretty open about things. We're almost a Confucian family in that microcosmic sense of order your own life and the world will be ordered. We have a lot of variety within the family and sometimes it's a lot of work to hold it all together. The bond is love. Strange attractor, that.

Speaking of which, it really irritates me when people who don't know jackshit generalize about China. They call it authoritarian or they call it communist when all it is is reverting to form. Among my extended family is a story from back during the days when "dynastic" described China's system of order-making, and it sure does sound like contemporary China to me. Confucius sneaking in through the back door of history's caricature-making apparatus, maybe. Just look at the way houses are built now. 

Yes, I know, I usually write about the Tiananmen massacre about now, but I no longer think I understand what it means. It's not exactly that it's been erased from my own history, and sure I get anxious when Hong Kong can't even assemble large demonstrations, but somehow it feels as though the very size of our military-industrial complex is behind it all. We handle dissent in such subtle ways here, and almost as well as China handles the pandemic. Go capitalism! We're inoculated by innovation!

Thank goodness Trump has permanently erased the very possibility of treason, so that I may now say anything I want without fear of imprisonment. Like, for instance, ours is no democracy. China has more democracy than we do now. They have yet to internalize the rules of narrative and make them into their very selves. They at least know that there is no primary author of any poem. Inception is always in the gray goo.

Nothing original there. So I have this tiny home that I've spun around the continent a few times and I'm wondering if I'll ever get back out there. I sped across the continent when there seemed to be an opening last summer. Family called. It felt like dodging snow storms, truth be told, which I'd done the year before when I left Canada too late in the season and the storms had already started. Covid, blizzards; approximate same hazard when you're on the move on highways through blasted parts of the nation.

So my well-off bro-in-law starts to wonder how he could enhance his chockfulloffun outdoorsy life if he had a trailer like mine. And I'm getting excited because, you know, I could sell it without quite having to say goodbye and pay a few more months rent without panic, to stay put. I tout its praises, in song, or whatever. Perfect!

Then they go back to their busy lives of entertainment and I go back to being unable to sleep and feeling like shit each day and so it hits me that hey why is it that when I have something like a sailboat or a tiny house it's a desperate measure to keep myself alive, and when somebody else has one it's a fine choice among too much choice about how to spend leisure-time with drink? 

Funny thing, though. I'm the one having more fun. As in, I would never ever want a really expensive yacht. It might be nice, but it wouldn't be half so much fun. Engine room of the Titanic kind of thing. I've removed my cylinder heads at sea in a storm because the valves were stuck and I wasn't sure about docking in such wind. At lake. I am rarely at sea.

And then I'm back to picking up the tab for someone who should always pick up mine, or sweeping the floor or otherwise doing the fixup for someone else's better life. And I think shit, it's all my fault since in all other aspects I already won the lottery. It's just that I'm always struggling to find the time to do what I want to do, and even if I don't have to work on an emergency basis just now, I'm too busy just simply trying to figure out what it's all about before I check out, to want to waste my time with endless fun. 

Talk about a fool's errand. But honestly, if not forced to work for the Man, it just feels like sellout to do so so that I can have more leisure. Sheesh. I've put in plenty of time, plenty of time. Just not in the big house, if you know what I mean. No corporate prisonhouse for me! It's been bad enough in the prisonhouse of academia, where I've swept floors mostly, but have been nobility enough to taste it. 

Now even the academies are touting global branding. NYU for you too across the globe, and the Cleveland Clinic has nearly nothing to do with that city where craft beer can actually be bad. How is that even possible? It's all in a name.

And speaking of which I am so fucking sick and tired of racism. Walking along the waterfront where a new popup bar in and on a shipping container has finally shown up and there's a handsome dreadlocked dude opening up and these Q-tip topped old ladies who must have hard hearing say something like, 'yeah go for a drink and you'll probably get your wallet stolen,' and I just glare. 

But what I really hate is my own internal racism. You know, like my peeps spent like 300 years creating an artificial culture based on skin color. Start with subjugation then go with strict and easily policed segregation and pretty soon you have culturally-based generalized traits that you might feel free to disparage. I mean, how does one even begin to undo that? Don't even get me started on sexism.

No big surprise that the macrocosm of our economic order is replicated in microcosm inside corporate structures, especially in tech. We're all naturalized to it, and even the black rappers just want some piece of the action of the free market, so called, which once sold people, section 230, I guess. Property is property and information will be free.

I'm just trying to get my own life right, microcosmic style, and then maybe it all goes viral through the grey goo of cultural transmission. I mean, there's zero unnatural about humans on the planet. We're fractal just as much as the plants are. There is no procedural resolution. We're what democracy means, which is to say that we facilitate autocracy big time, no matter how or whether we vote. That makes me sad.

All you have to do is have lots of money or look or act like you have lots of money and you'll have procedural power. But, you know, in the end, you're nothing just like the rest of us. Dust to dust. 

I know that I will disappear before my body does. It's in the genes. Speaking of Michelangelo. I shall become myself in sketch, unfinished sketch, and it will be me more than I am me, in very few pixels, like the original 16 by 16 grid which made characters legible before the original Hercules. We're talking processing not life here.

As I tell my friends and family who have money and want me to fix up their houses, 'you can't pay me to do this shit.' I do it for love or not at all, and if you think you're going to save money by having me do it, you're right. That's part of why I'm not going to do it for you. 

Maybe it's time to hit the road again, just as I've been getting settled. Maybe I can't just sit still. Better brush my teeth now. My mouth takes on a Frankenstein pout, lips blueing and teeth yellowing, there is no help for that which would have me for dinner with whitened Derrida obsessed hair. No thank you very much.

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