I know what it's like to live in close spaces. The rain here today so hard that the street is a river. But the loud old A/C units drown out the sound, and I only know it's raining when I go to see if and where the unit is dripping. At least I'm dehumidified. But the dripping is outside. The rain.
Now is a different kind of close. My oldest close was a tiny house built in a tree and hoping for rain. Perhaps a tent in the Adirondacks, lost against a topo map, awakening to a foot of snow on top, and warm for that. Sometimes wondering if the wind would flatten it. Canoes which somehow sometimes made a roof, and an actual drowning.
That's not the sort of close I mean in older age, though. I mean in a sailboat that I rebuilt with my own hands and mostly hand tools. I mean in the winter or at night when the bowsprit snaps and I have to quickly release the strain on all the other stays. There is not thought in the event, despite much malice aforethought in a kind of anxious pre-panic. I was prepared. I didn't cause it.
Or the rain and hail in the lightning are so powerful that I have to douse the sails and go below to check through the cabin lights for other craft. Donning my scuba mask to see anything at all when I ventured out through the leeward open companionway and then faced into the storm. My motor thrumming still then, just before its death. I felt life then. Alone.
I didn't want to live that way forever. I needed a safe harbor at the end of the day.
I mean in a tiny popup house in a bucking wind, and not able to know that it would not topple over, or that I would be able to handle it or that, whatever whatever whatevermore. The boat would flatten in the wind sheer when a storm kicked up. I'm still here, bizarrely. Old sails can be restitched for a much longer while than you might imagine.
I don't know hurricanes in New Orleans. I don't know wildfires. I don't know floods in New York City. And now my cosy not-quite-close apartment above all frays isn't what I mean at all.
It's a trap, no different than the cheap hotels I inhabited in Shanghai, saving money for the college at my expense, as it were. Those too so very different from a tiny one-room cabin near Taos, New Mexico. Alive is living close. And outdoors near. Hotsprings instead of bathtubs. But bathtubs in the long run. Crumbled to dust now, those cabins.
My place now is too much inside, and getting out involves stories of airlocks and minor social thresholds and has to be decided. Liberating my bike is a minor ordeal, beyond what it would be if only I had the better isolation of a house.
Not like going above on the sailboat, or how many times can that door open and close on my tiny house trailer, and how precious the warm and dry repose inside or below while reading. Now I lock in with news on my iPhone in noisy climate-controlled (manually controlled) cutoff.
I feel bleak from the powerboat ride yesterday afternoon. Trump 2024 flags flying from oversized cruisers where out to sea is itself some sort of (semi-automated) ordeal, and the living way too close at the dock. And RVs on the highways, and deeply tanned babe on a noisy Donzi cigarette aspirant boat, piloted by Don-somebody in shades. Super friendly.
I just simply wonder if there is even any awareness of what to do when something breaks. Like I can't even visualize the systems on my friend's boat, and it is relatively simple and standard. The same friend who arrived the day after I'd removed the engine and exposed the ribs on my old wooden boat before ever sailing it, in our twenties.
And he left the day after we, together, re-seated the old engine amid much righteous yelling about how to align it properly with the shaft. The shaft turned smoothly forever after, though wood is supposed to move. Still a minor mystery,
The propellor almost took my head off after I torqued the gear puller to nuclear proportions. To replace the sternpost. We both laughed outrageously.
I'd misrepresented to him and to his girlfriend now wife, they say, how soon we might go sailing. I had no idea. And we remain kind to one another, swimming in soupy Lake Erie under the windmills and docking for take-out pizza (only to boats) in the understaffed riverside complex which should have been hopping harder than it was. Even to be able to dock was a minor miracle! Compared to before. A ferris wheel is ready to go this year. Will it?
WTF is going on? My family had to leave the shore of Lake Erie in my youth because it was dying if not dead already, and the fish were piled on the beaches. The River is getting better too. Which way are we even going?
At least I had things I knew to do when my craft failed, as all craft will, eventually. Removing cylinder heads at sea to unstick the valves. Piece of cake. Keeping the mast aloft without its forestay and then refitting that stay's anchor with a handcrank-drill and scavenged bronze highway expansion plates for an upcoming voyage. They laughed at me boring holes in my hull while afloat. Crew laughed when I resorted to hand-cranking the engine. Well, I never had crew. I laughed.
They do service calls at sea now, but there's storm and night and too far out and it just simply makes me nervous. Weather being so unpredictable now, and all. Um, I guess I never used to check it. I just went.
I need to know detail about how to survive, though. I need to have touched all the parts, and know to some degree of precision where the weak points are. And still the break is always a surprise. The panic only in the afterthought.
Does no-one else see how obviously we now careen toward the end of what has been turning us on. We sail gleefully over the falls that we can't even hear. I ran the River underwater and worried only about the water intake. For drinking.
Thinking ahead might mean you're prepared, or trusting in a better system might be better. The odds can be odd.
So many people that I know or run into are fitting out small vans as living spaces. Not understanding the difference between a mobile space which can stay put when necessary and the necessity to be always on the move. One must be able to shed one's clothes with a shrug in an instant to swim to run to safety.
To don the snorkel parka, quick. To be doobee. There is no place safe for hunkering anymore. We're all exposed. The living fraudulent. Our dreams are far too material. Our material far too permanent. Our systems too far beyond us.
I feel my life in small spaces and it feels very good indeed. But the road feels deadly now. Where does one wish to be when things start falling apart? The weather, the political plague, the firestorms.
Too late. It's already started and one has to do what one has to do, and be where one has to be. Moving out is fantasy.
But finally there is a thoughtful book about the fraud of automation. Finally, there is a book describing what we call structural racism as a caste system, which is structural at every level of our nation. These things are the same thing. Automation is an ideology:
"But rather than a concrete technological development and improvement, “automation” was an ideological invention, one that has never benefitted workers. I use scare quotes around “automation” as a reminder that the substance of it was always ideological, not technical.
As I read Caste, I want to insert some kind of post-structuralist Foucauldian analysis and I recognize that this is yet another precinct for white domination of thinking, just like computing has created a reserve, a preserve, for young white males who think that way. Libertarian lib-tards. I need a Brazilian butt-lift because I have no butt and would like to appropriate everything to make you look bad. Just kidding, I'm way too old!
I did fall for the promise of computers and networks to enhance social productivity in academic and other non-profit settings. And the fraud that the computers made each of us more productive was made obvious.
I was an educator and easy to talk with, I was told, and still I could not demystify what was going on enough to help people to work effectively without letting the machine get in the way of their work. Without Solitaire the only thing that made them feel good about the interface.
None of it was helping to help the people that needed help. None of it would help my little school for gifted children, which (fortunately?) succumbed before computers became mandatory. We didn't even have a fax machine yet, though my dictated reams of correspondence were helped along by a secretary willing to try a dedicated word-processor. Though her typing was already flawless and fast. But it canned some boilerplate now. We all speak in boilerplate so that our machines will understand us. I marvel at her mastery in retrospect.
And then we become so angry with one another. As white people think that merit is defined by what white people internalize as what they must do well. And that structural racism - caste - is somehow an intellectualized attack on what we were born to be and can't help.
We run on automatic as a society and as an economy, which is to say that we are being run. Listen up people, listen up. Thank goodness I'm not amplified, or I'd be sued for breaking your eardrums. "Be Quiet" is harmful when amplified.
But quietly, I think we can understand where each of us comes from, if we listen. I'm game. The trouble is now that we accept a level of complexity where we simply can't know if we're outthinking the machines. We game the gaming and are utterly lost most of the time, unless we're only gaming, in which case, rock on if it works for you.
I actually do understand most of the systems and their glitches. What I don't understand is why we stand it. Does it still turn us on, or is it turning on us? Not my problem, since I'm not really turned on anymore. What is my problem is what's happening outside. And between us.
The lake had to get really bad before we backed off. How bad does the climate have to get before we back off now?
I'm reading Caste now after reading American Republics, the latter written by a manlier white dude, whose mind works more like mine does. That book covers the territory between the Constitution and the Civil War. It is an excruciating laying open of how we looked as a young nation. How embedded slavery always has been in our national DNA. How willing we were to slaughter for wanton self-aggrandizement. It felt like survival.
But it's Caste that lays me open. Reading that book is therapy, sneaking right past my intellectual defenses. Now I find myself. Flayed. Guilty. Defenseless.
My living is no longer close. The humidity and the temperature both dropped. I chatted with the landlord yesterday about the furnace for the winter. But for now we have the glory of Buffalo in Spring or Fall when the sun shines and the air transmits every little sound. The windows are open and I find myself back within a throng of activity.
The helicopters landing on the hospital twin towers may be louder, but I have no air conditioner thrumming. I open up. A long bike ride through Niagara Falls to Old Fort Niagara. A long walk with my daughter. An escapade through my heart.
Lately, after spending time with my good friends the powerboat couple, I have felt beaten up. She seems to feel the need to take me down a peg, which is fine. I'm sure I could use it. But it doesn't really feel like it's about me. And finally I've had it when she feels the need to tell me that I was the only one in our crowd with the cushion of being rich. I'd had it.
All of my Catholic friends seemed to have money, and seemed to have toys and even boats and things that I was protected from. Money was a presence for its absence where I grew up. Dad would buy ten cent ice cream cones for the four of us maybe once in a blue moon, and we had a single and very old black and white TV in the basement which we weren't allowed to watch.
So I patted my friend on the back and allowed to her that it was fine if she needed to think that I was rich. She'd tipped me over my edge. I could feel the chill when next I saw her.
It was late in my life, while caretaking one of Dad's cousins in his dotage that I came across the Buffalo Blue Book. The social register. The last one that had remained in continuous publication in the U.S. I was told when I asked about it. No Catholics allowed in this blue book, in the most Catholic city in the nation. My Dad's cousin was really really well-off. Not modern one-percenter well off. Not Thousand Islands robber barons well-off. But well enough off.
No Jews, no Irish, and nevermind the blacks. So sure, I had allowed to my Catholic and Irish couple friends, I was dripping in social capital, but it wasn't until by reading Caste, that I pried open what she had been trying to let me know. Sure we would never be named in the social register, but we knew everyone in there. We went to church with them. Even though my parents didn't contribute to it, I could surely think about the Ivy League. My legacy.
And then I'm remembering how I was hired to the newly forming teams for distributed IT support at the University. That was when PCs were the new necessity on the block, and the centralized mainframe gurus weren't structurally equipped to deal with PC networks. The Internet was new, though the web and dot com were still on their way. It was still all UUNet. Eight bit ASCII was all you got. Though you could turn these into Chinese or pictures by way of an escape code. It was fun.
One of my first support calls was to a black female professor who reamed me out when I asked her was she in such and such department, as though I was challenging her qualifications. I was clueless is all.
I later found out, after we'd become close, that she was on the hiring committee for my job and had rightly blackballed me as a slumming blue-blood. There was a black dude she wanted to hire. My young boss and still good friend horse-traded and the new Local Area Network PC support division got us both.
I was nervous in my new job. I jumped ship from an academic scholarship because I was desperate for money. I soon learned that I was also jumping caste (from PhD aspirant to servant). My new black colleague was what my new black ladyfriend called a "zero" when it came to troubleshooting and helping professors deal with their computers.
My young boss was full blooded East Indian, or was his mother German?, which was somehow invisible to me. Outside the Indian caste structure as a Sikh, I think. I helped him out of his inherited right wing instincts. His father is dying now, unreconstructed, but no less loved for that.
Now I liked my black colleague just fine. But I needed him out of my network. I mean my computer network, not my social network. Too many people depended on it, and he didn't have a clue. I was nervous about keeping the network up now that so many were depending on it, and by extension depending on me.
By that time, I had been schooled by several of my black students ranging from high-school through grad school when I questioned their usage in my review of their work. They gently revealed what I didn't know. I must have been deferential enough not to arouse their ire. I never did go for the gold of my privilege at Yale, where I felt outcaste myself as a public schooler among the preps. I couldn't even look the wealthy classmate from Buffalo in the eyes when we were introduced. He didn't even take note of me. His name was so exalted. And yet I palled with bigger names from elsewhere.
So my black colleague took my Indian colleague and myself to lunch and explained as how he had been ostracized from the work because he was black. And the other two of us were taken aback and a bit outraged.
I think I still believed in "merit" at the time, even though I never could define what "gifted" meant in the school I'd recently headed. Where my colleagues in the preppier schools displayed outrageous racism in our private 'liar's club' meetings of local private school heads.
But should I have mentored my colleague? How condescending! I was hardly qualified myself. And yet I now regret not having gotten together on the work level, even as we seemed to get along fine socially.
I heard and then saw what he was dealing with financially on the home front. I was a very different kind of poor, where I had been granted a whites-only relationship-based apartment for next to nothing. He was struggling against an actual house with marginal plumbing and four kids while I had only two and a divorce to hold me back.
I still cringe that my black ladyfriend had to endure my recitations about falling for a different colleague (white, comely and very young) and I had no clue as to the source of her new rage against me. She won't respond to me still after my return to town.
Now I cringe anew about how my black colleague must have felt. His dignity felt put on to me. But he came as a leader from his own community. I am ashamed. Perhaps I've grown?
This day was predicted to be clear and crisp, but the fact of it is overcast and close. It's cool won't penetrate to where I sit and pretend to write. My entire life is a pretense. A fake. A fraud. Outcaste.
I'm not naming names here. I try to give you no more than I grant to Google who now passes me the outrage of forcing me to agree to be surveilled if I continue to want their direction. Nothing has changed, and yet now they want my actual assent?!? I resemble that remark!
I should name Isabel Wilkerson, though. I did have one good therapist among several. He described himself as more toward what a shaman might be in other cultures, without thereby ascribing any nobility to himself. His therapy worked and I was better able to live. Wilkerson too has changed my outlook.
The writing is not my style for sure. I usually read for the hit of cognitive expansion. The theory is light here in her book, and the metaphors gentle. Yet the bite goes deep, and for all that it is easy to read and without theoretical ballast, I am finding myself changed. I feel a sort of odd sympathy with all the Trump nationalists. We know not what we do. We are innocent of our anger. And yet it is real.
I have not before understood where and how liberal media has fallen short and failed us. I have not before understood what was happening with Obama and then with Trump. I read The Trouble with Kansas, which helped a little, but this book is the mother lode if you want to know what's going on.
I've hated Obama for being a neoliberal shill for the establishment, and for getting so fucking rich. That's because I believed in him beyond anything reasonable, even while I cringed for what he couldn't help unleashing during his press-club roasting of Trump. He might as well have said, ladies and gentlemen I give you Donald Trump! That trajectory is palpable in hindsight.
Now I realize that I hated Obama for the same reason that I resented my colleague. I realize that I and my ilk can't help but be the cause of all our troubles even as and though I, myself, don't feel the benefit of my caste belonging. It is the harm which counts. Living close or living trapped, I live only for myself. That can't be right.
I don't exactly name myself here, do I? I neither implicate nor exonerate. I struggle to be. My complaints focus locally up or down, though mine is the penthouse, mine is the bestie in my COVID ravaged walkup. The best that I can afford. The one who died lived in the basement where I hadn't thought anyone could live, and not from COVID. He was white with cancer. I only met him once and he seemed nice. He had been screwed by crossing health-insurance lines, as I learned by those who knew him and who were outraged.
Now, watching in horror at what has been happening to these United States, China reins-in their tech titans and superstars as we still don't know what to do with ours. Let them go to outer space? China reverts to Confucian form whose best Western analog might have been Holy Catholic Empire. They would not remove their state apparatus from moral guidance, nor allow their economy to run armorally amok.
We, here, seem to have no choice.
I write, or so it seems to me, always from the starting point of some crystal nugget of clarity. That, quite evidently, is no way either to learn to write or to gather any readers. It also means that I spend much of my waking life trying to retrieve that crystal nugget that I had the moment or the night or the week before. And still most everything I write becomes something I've already said or written before.
So the problem becomes how to crawl out from whatever little and often tiny man-cave I inhabit. I've turned away from so many points of focus for a career. Mostly because they're too specific; too focal. No, mostly because of bad luck. No profession seems worthy of a life, and so I spend my life on whatever it is that will have me or that I hazard into.
I'm not writing like those mostly male and often intelligent-sounding conspiracy theorists who've swallowed their own theories whole, without even choking. They seem to amass audiences. You know, like the preppers whom Mark O'Connell outs as thinly veiled white male supremacists.
Our apocalyptic anxieties seem to differ mostly on a distinction between there being someone in charge and there being no-one in charge. Politically at least, my own fears scintillate. There is no-one in charge of our government, whose systemic controls are being rapidly dismantled by the rabid right so that, according to the law of the economic jungle, the benign white rich folks who always win will always be in charge.
They worship an economy which organizes itself better than any rationally ordered economy would. They anthropomorphize the godhead into something which always approximates a bearded white male who's not a Muslim. The beard to distinguish the unkempt long hair from female and bedraggled.
Conspiracy theorists strive to out the malign "system" which has it in for radically and individually competent white males, who are somehow uniquely competent to tell everyone else what we must do. Patently ignoring the fact that it's the black males who have actual experience learning to survive a malign system.
I myself am clearly a believer in the self-organizing systems of nature. The self-organizing systems of our economy seem only to enable the over-reach that is the basis for most of our anxieties about things falling apart.
I re-read Franzen's Freedom on my Kindle, not knowing that it was a re-read until I re-read my Goodreads review of it, from back when I was in a different kind of fog. I couldn't remember a single thread, except for the grandma dying of a pulmonary embolism, which, at the time, I had nearly done. Still, the book must have informed me somehow, since its tenor felt familiar.
I guess there is no natural and best form of government, just as there is no natural or best way to organize an economy. But it does seem clear that governors - usage here stemming from the mechanical metaphor - are necessary for any type of government or economy to work. Our anxieties are about things flying apart. And therefore about the need to be a radical individual. We think that everyone else needs to be governed. Just not me, myself, and I.
I hold onto the most insignificant factors to keep from flying apart myself. I hold onto a kind of metatheory to keep me immunized against the crazies. My metatheory is almost insanely trivial, and yet it works for me: I see love in the self-organizing principles of nature. I see humanity as a kind of culmination of that direction. That doesn't make us lord over creation, or any better, morally, than animals. But love does inhere in the capacity for choice that we embody.
Our capacity for choice is no more unlimited than our individual lives are.
Yes, life can be brutal, though that may also be a kind of anthropomorphizing. Animals, say, don't maim and kill from any kind of unleashed hatred. It's something wrong with humanity that we do.
Anyhow, it seems patently absurd to me that Mars will ever be more hospitable than Earth, no matter how thoroughly we've mucked up our systems. That needn't mitigate the thrill of exploration, though I have myself explored beyond my limits in that sort of direction (underwater, outer space, same thing). I don't really expect to find anything more interesting than wreckage. Or a scary fish in my face, emerging from the murk.
It seems just as patently absurd to believe that life in the wilds can somehow be more vital than life in a big city. That the preppers aren't kidding themselves about the comforts of togetherness that they will miss. As simple as hot showers and store shelves and potable water from a tap.
They seem to believe that loneliness can be mitigated by subjugated women and children and other followers. That God is going to speak to them in some kind of readable code, or rather that God already has. That set of beliefs is dangerous at best.
So the end is certainly near. Just not that end.
My local end for sure. The end of the democratic America of our dreams for only a little less certain. Definitely the end of unregulated and digitally accelerated capitalism. These things have simply not proven viable. We blew it. Just watch Turning Point on Netflix and see how unprepared out so-called leaders always have been.
But a less imperialistic - which means a less white masculinist - America surely can live on. The compassion and wisdom I hear from, say, black women in government, is nothing short of a natural wonder. And there are more than a few white men in government who agree with me on that. Not everyone panders for votes and tries for voter suppression gerrymandering certainty to the scale of preppers caching weaponry and ammunition.
And that is how we prevail. That is how we return to the embrace of so-called nature, which still exists in our computer code, which will never be removed from whatever it means to be human, because our thought has never been and never will be disembodied Bayesian choice.
Our choices are real and embedded and embodied. We need to get real.
So as I still periodically ponder what that crystalline clarity was about which I had intended to write before being interrupted by phone call from my daughter, I do continue to read. I learn about sovereign individualism from Mark O'Connell, who borrows the term from some libertarian nutjob.
It seems that there are actually people, of which Peter Thiel is O'Connell's representative for the moment, who believe that they are so superior to everyone else that they believe that they should be autocratic masters of the universe.
O'Connell is an ironist, best of all, and among the ironies that he skates around is the evident fact that the Thiels of the world consider the rest of us as their bodies, more or less. They are looking for a cognitive elite to take over everything as they become mega-preppers to survive the systemic collapse that they, themselves, are responsible for. As though they would remain so powerful without the Matrix-like battery power that we, the masses, provide to them.
They fantasize that the world's collapse is their apotheosis, as it already has been by their triumph on our backs. They fantasize that they can replicate the pioneer days, just like the more working class preppers, except that they can do it in style. Riding out armaggeddon in a kind of yacht life.
I won't try to rehearse O'Connell's frequently brilliant exposes of the nostalgia in certain brands of futurism for a past that replaces slavery and genocide with the misty romance of Little House on the Prairie. But anyhow, no wonder Thiel makes many of his millions by way of big data and surveillance capitalism, which must just reinforce his contempt for the rest of us who can hardly avoid its predations on our freedoms. What he means by freedom is not what we mean.
It is hard for me to understand that grade of individualism. Narcissism, really, where one cannot quite imagine one's own demise, life is so wonderful. And we are meant to imagine the demise of our fantasies for democracy, as these were never real in the first place. We are meant to imagine demise of all that we do love, that we cling to, just as those with the means find ways to escape all harm.
But most of us are not so afraid of our individual deaths, and don't fantasize the way that Thiel does about approaching immortality. So why are we so worried about our children's world? Because we love them, perhaps? We are simply not big enough to worry about nuclear war or asteroids colliding with earth, or even about pandemics. All that we have to lose is those that we love. And the communities in which they live and will live. And the world.
To extend humanity as we know it to the ends of the universe as the PayPal alumni seem to want, is identical to extending our radical selves onto forever. But doesn't that just negate love? Don't we love our children because they are not us? Don't we wish that the humanity to endure will be better than this one. Perhaps it will even be unrecognizable to us were we able to see it as it shall be. It certainly won't resemble the likes of Peter Thiel.
Now, somewhat improbably, though maybe not, I read an article in GQ, of all places, about the last denizens of a hippie back-to-the-land movement in Northern California. These also are patrons of Tolkien. Perhaps I would be a tech mogul or a hippie too, if only I'd ever bothered to read Lord of the Rings. The guy who worked on, but mostly taught me to maintain, my old Saab could actually write and speak the language. Thiel is the same kind of Tolkien fanatic that some of those hippies were.
(Interestingly, Apple News + has this article before it's posted to the web, so I can't link it for you. The article is called "The Last Glimpses of California's Hippie Utopias," by David Jacob Kramer)
The hippies were radical individualists as well, moving into their own private altered states, in every sense of that word. Of course, I've had glancing intersection with some of this. I've been to a Rainbow Homecoming. I've spent the night in a hippie prepper compound. Not so different at the extremes of left and right.
I'm forced now to read most of my news on my smaller than average iPhone. It's a matter of money. Steve Jobs got his start too, in psychedelics and a sort of hippiedom. I read another article somewhere else about Bread and Puppets, a phenomenon I revisited when I recently lived in Burlington. The matron had died. Was it the New York Times? I think so. No, the New York Review of books. Written by a fellow one-time Burlington denizen, now poet, Dan Chiasson. Nicely done.
I also remember that some Jews wrote off the puppeteers because of a pro-Palestinian stance, I think.
So I'm spinning irony up even beyond where Mark O'Connell took it, documenting the absurdities of the preppers and the cognitive elites (or so they believe of themselves) of tech.
It is more obvious to me that our cognitive processes, built on words as they are, also build in the apprehension of self as a kind of epiphenomenon of consciousness on the social steroid of language. Written language in particular.
We're starting to get a clue that Chinese protagonism isn't the same as our own narrative and novelistic protagonism, though they do finally begin to merge. In ways both good and horrifying. Now the entire globe practices performative identity structuring, and we can't quite move beyond it and back into being. Everyone except those in charge understands the dangers of capitalism the way we practice it from America.
The state takes its cut from the altered states now, and tech provides the bar-coding against tax fraud. As much they have anything else, building codes destroy the hippie dreams. The towers still come down. And yet we all shall dissolve back into the stream of life. There is no other way.
So I have to start by working my way out and past the group therapy of family and friends. It's like group therapy in that it's a (pretty) safe way to work through what makes you angry. In my case, I'm generally the one - mostly self-appointed - who knows how to fix things and live in and with them in ways to maximize their useful life.
I think that what this means is that I claim a proprietary interest in shared spaces, and get mad when I feel taken advantage of or not listened to. Interestingly enough for an anti-capitalist like me, this pretty much defines private property as that is meant in capitalism. I declare myself the master of any realm that I inhabit.
Also interestingly, automation can be a mitigating factor with proprietary anger of the sort that I feel. For instance, automatic transmission is a help for for car-sharing, since the mechanically-inclined owner (me) doesn't have to worry about someone else burning the clutch, grinding the gears or lugging the engine.
I remember reading some '60s communard debating about making an exception for sports cars as non-communal property, which might be considered an extension of the owner's body. Like a violin. I suppose then capitalist-roaders could be outed for wanting to claim exclusivity by tweaking the exception.
So to blast any pretensions I might ever have shown about being part of the working class, my family owns a beachside property across the border in Canada, where I am - perhaps I arrogated it to myself - the designated fix-it person.
And somehow I become outraged when family members live there as though there were a maid service, a cleanup service, and a handyman on call. (I'm generally also the cleanup person when it comes to preservation tasks, like gutter cleaning, window cleaning, shower and toilet maintenance and anything short of vacuuming and laundering bedding, although I do far more than my share of those.)
I live in my own space knowing that I'm the one to clean it. I like cleaning and arranging, and so my living habits are geared toward not ruining that arrangement. As in, I would NOT enjoy maid service invading my space. In part, that also dictates the size of the space that I wish to inhabit.
What really sets me off in the summer place is when family members live in the same proprietary manner they do when they do have maid service (which might be their spouse). They live like renters. They are immune to my pleas to live gently in this shared space, since they know what makes them comfortable, I suppose.
So to share a house a car or anything at all, some sort of automated and outsourced cleaning and maintenance service should be mandatory, Chinese-owned Volvo will market a car which builds in all those services to make the inevitable car-sharing that we shall evolve into a lot more painless.
On the other extreme, there is contention about beach access in Ontario, Canada. By lore, there is a distinction between "crown-grant" properties and other, more recent, title. Again, by lore, the public may 'trespass' the beach up to a rod (25 feet?) above the ordinary water line, but if the land was first conveyed as a crown grant, then the property owner may restrict access to the beach, though not to the water.
Walking the beach is customarily allowed to fellow beachfront homeowners, if not to the general public. But there are extremists now along the beach who will threaten to put a lien on your property if you trespass theirs. Some Texas style thing in Ontario settled law.
These property owners are apparently trained with a script, and spend all their time bird-dogging their private property, chasing out to recite the threatening script to whoever goes there. Most ordinary people despise these creatures. I've even heard one casual beachwalker say that he'd never felt the desire to shoot someone before that encounter.
Well sure you don't want some neighbor just walking into your house while you're at dinner, which also happens along this beach, but really can't this all be settled by normal polite negotiation? Must we be so Oklahoma stand your ground trigger happy?
An automated, reliable and quick mass transit system would pry my fingers from my steering wheel before those fingers are cold and dead. I don't hate gun people or preppers, but I sure do hope that they would relinquish their obsessions regarding personal safety once general public safety is better established. That would include an easier confidence in governance structures, especially up to and including environmentally-based restrictions on personal freedoms.
So, what I mean by dissolving back into the stream of life is not some hippie dream of primitive self-sufficiency, which is also a model of radical individualism and personally tailored altered states. I mean a greater collective on the model of a political state. You know, democracy as it is supposed to be.
It is clear to me that along the way toward humans learning to think, it was inevitable that we reflexively categorize ourselves - the subject - as radically special. There is a natural progression from cognition and recognition which enhance the survival of living individuals to a celebration of a sort of competency which can be attached to a proper name; "Me."
But this is akin to what Marxists mean by false consciousness. My Me will never approach Peter Thiel's Me, or Donald Trump's Me. In my case, I would hate myself. Others may be in the throes of disease, certainly including these two named billionaires. They live in the fantasy world where the systems would still support them after systemic breakdown because of their wealth. I mean an autonomous bunker doesn't stay that way forever. You can only buy so much future-proofing.
If you're prepping, you're more than likely responsible for the mess you want to hide from. If you're Peter Thiel, you've caused the systemic breakdown that you're running from and then you intend to profit again after the fall on the same backs you exploited to amass your billions.
There is irony and then there's terminal irony. Anyhow, I don't give you credit for cognitive merit so much as for a generic sort of diseased rapacity. The same kind that allows Trump to rise up by abuse of the government and creditors that he claims to despise, while his followers, who may have been abused more genuinely, seem to feel some bizarre solidarity. It's all pretty weird.
Anyhow the "Me" we cherish and wish to endure is not the real Me. It's a fictional fantastical Me. The actual me is more subject-to than subject as originator. Laying claim to proprietary competency is laying claim to fraud. Your consciousness descends from words, and words cannot be had alone as a sovereign individual.
Truth or fiction, Martha, truth or fiction. I am as I am loved, and that's enough. Forever is a lot longer than I expect to be loved, even in memory. The present is, by definition, not the end.
Somewhat exhausted by reading strong non-fiction, I felt the powerful need for a novel. A quick scan of my Kindle "Library" brought up Franzen's Freedom. There are plenty of books in there that I've never gotten around to, After starting it, a quick scan proved that I had read it. I'm nearly done with it now, and there hasn't been a spark of recognition, except for the grandmother dying from a pulmonary embolism. That part I remembered. I even tied it to Franzen, though I had a clear memory of her dropping dead in the remote cottage, which I now realize is central to the story. But narrative fact is, she died in her workplace.
Each day I slog through memory deficits, which pains me as much as getting up from a chair now. Backpain seems permanent, and it takes a while to straighten up after getting out of the car and walking. I somehow feel that it's my fault. If only I ate better or dealt with how poorly I sleep, or did more exercise.
Stories about of those who survived their loved ones' death on 9/11 and I perversely remember all that we did wrong after the event. All the nation-building stateside that was squandered. Now Biden is excoriated for, among other things, ending the twenty year and abortive war on terror.
Watching the progressive agenda get undermined by West Virginia - another protagonist in Franzen's novel - is very much like watching the Bills blow it. Buffalo's legacy of bone-headed mistakes can be a metaphor for our national future. City on the Edge.
Rebuilding my wooden sailboat was a prolonged exercise in compromise. I'd wanted to steambend frames, and strip off the outer skin of polypropylene affixed with flexibilized epoxy. I'd wanted to restore to yachty bright virginity. In the event, I remember knowing about the various toxins and still finding no way to avoid - tar baby - bathing in them every day, which finished with an acetone wash. Perhaps that's what I pay for now in my old age.
Though surely my years of sailing preserved some aspect of youth. Had I died then or there, it wouldn't have been nearly so tragic as had I died on 9/11, either the one we remember or the one at nearby Attica, or just the emergency call. Firemen cancer from teflon in their pants.
On the one end capitalism as we practice it is nothing short of miraculous. Somehow we can keep expanding as a species and somehow we can keep coaxing out from earth the substances and systems to make it happen. Sure there are moral lapses at each end and along the chain, but overall who really wants to do without its fruits?
Though it is a morality play writ large. Franzen focuses on population growth, really as something one of his protagonists might focus on. But population growth is at the end of the chain, and no more resolution than to resurrect extinct species could ever be. Flight to Mars or to New Zealand will always be too late. These are novelistic plots as well.
Population growth is what has been enabled by the triumph of capitalism. China is panicked now, both about American style superstar abandon, and by the error of its way to limit population growth. They gently tamp down radical individualism by outlawing the academic torture of children. Who knows? Will they re-open the gates to computer gaming, or has that genie been let out of the bottle?
With our American government still apparently bottled up in black/white either/or anger fueled virtual civil war, can anyone even imagine global systems holding together into a long future? And what will that lack of imagination do to or with the morality plays with money? Is there no decency anymore?
Sure, the likes of sullied Steven Pinker urge us to understand that we're getting better and better. We feel like wealthy people in therapy, and it helps, it does, and we can buy new things again and feel good, even if we still need a tweak now and again to keep it up.
Nature will prevail. Natural law will prevail. Fractally chaotic and without order for our discernment, no death can be proud. No death can claim moral superiority to any other. All are random, though we would like amends for the causes when we find them.
While we still and frantically look for better understanding so that we may take better control, it is already the case that our systems exceed any principles for certainty. Science is meaningless without reliable prediction. What we want is control, and it's not on offer.
Control can enable us to fly, even to the moon. Control can keep us relatively safe among the crazies on the highways. Control might even give us sustainable power generation, if we could only let go of personal luxury transport pods and legislate other forms of moderation. But we can't even legislate a vaccine!
Where, really, do we think that we are going? I have no hope nor expectation of or for immortality. Like most boomers, my biggest fear is to be comfortably housed in some kind of meaningless old-age home, as my parents arranged for themselves against their bigger fear of deliberate ends. Those profits are obscene.
But why do I care? Either way I won't quite be there. Mom has found a new family in one of the rare instances of compassionate care. Why do I care? The odds are that the systems won't quite break down during my lifetime. I have my life up on a shelf, as Mom used to say we put her. Had that novel been on my shelf, I might have remembered it.
What ever happened to my personal copy of the Club of Rome, Limits to Growth? I read it at its inception and remember it vividly. It had to have survived all my cullings of all my various shelves. I must have lent it out. Franzen's book must have changed me too, or was my reading it too proximate to a series of health scares, not even ending with the pulmonary embolism, which is often a pretty good way to end things.
What profiteth it a man to keep himself alive with modern medicine, delivered with corruption?
The trouble with my science is that it grants no control. It only provides prediction upon belief, though that belief might be as compelling as any other scientific rendering. My science is far too subtle. It provides no handle for experimental proof or profit or heroic accomplishment, though it's no less true for that. Trued across my life, for sure. My work has been to contradict it. I would if I could but I can't.
So here goes again, trala trala. At the very most arcane and metaphorical remove of subatomic "particles" which exist at the limits to scientific understanding, there must be admitted a newer sort of ambiguity. The pivot point is likely gravity, or more specifically, the elusive graviton. The closest I might come to prediction would be to suggest that the graviton will never be "detected," which is to say that it will never be perceived.
It hardly matters whether that is because the graviton crosses a line from percept to concept or whether it is because our institutions of science will have, themselves, collapsed. They will have collapsed not only for the same reason that everything else will have broken down, but the chase after the graviton will be the efficient cause for their collapse. There were already so many better things to pursue.
Conception is a function of mind, and can't be instrumented. There are objects in motion toward or away which don't involve force, unless there is force to emotion, which, of course, there is. There is no exchange of particles, though such exchange may also be necessary to emotive motion. Emotion is as primordial as mind is.
I hold these truths to be self-evident. That all men are subject to emotion, and therefore equal to the tasks before us. That it is not our cognitive qualities which will set us free, Our mind is composed and composes itself more of concepts than of those things that we might control, physically.
That might differentiate us from other life, but not so much as our named and Christian God(s) would have us believe. Master of nothing, subject to all. That is how we avoid our collective ending. The darker women shall be in charge. I abdicate my status as cognitive elite. My age compels me. Anon.