Thursday, September 22, 2022

A Cipher In the Fullness of Immature Time

There is, of course, no fullness of time, unless you wish to count eternity somehow, and then you can't be in time. Time as we live it is perpetually immature. As, I hope, am I. I do so wish to improve. I know so little yet. 

There is a oneness to me, if not a fullness, in the sense that there is a constancy hardened over time which is easily proven by friends and acquaintances. I do insist that even in the fullness of time, my future life is not quite set. But apparently, and evidently, neither is my past. Forward facing, I am diminishing and shall be diminished in the fullness of time. At least I never did mistake my youthful certainties for knowledge.

The other day at a Labor Day picnic, moved cause of rain from my daughter's outside backyard to my ex's more accommodating inside, I also learned something about the relation of time's indeterminacy to anger and to love, and especially in relation to the narratives we compose to establish and define ourselves. 

Increasingly, these days, my ex tells stories which diverge from reality in the direction of my miscredit. Fine! I'm sure I deserve the abuse on some level, but lately they've started to cut to the quick. For instance, after I'd left her, her house, which had been our house, was broken into. I rushed over from Canada where I was then living and expeditiously installed bars across the vulnerable French doors which were the point of entry. She wanted me to stay. I wouldn't. She later thanked me for that.

How could I forget what was such an emotionally charged event, and especially those tough decisions that I faced? Sure, I have often been caught out and have caught myself out with false memories. Often, even when I'm certain of them. I do modify in the face of evidence. The mind plays tricks. 

My ex has now replaced me as protagonist in my little tale with an older fellow to whom she credits my work. We both loved the man. He might have done it but didn't in fact. But she is apparently as certain that I didn't install those bars as I am that I did. 

Narratives are formed for all sorts of reasons, certainly to include a kind of preservation of personal integrity. Sometimes there are conflicts. We might wish to be perceived as someone that we're not. Quite.

I don't think that the conflicts between my ex and myself will ever turn deadly. We enjoy our continuing good relations far too much. Though I may absent myself the next instant she starts a story, since whether true or false by my lights, I don't think that there's any excuse to rehearse such stories in front of me, especially when I'm in front of my kids. I can't control what she does behind my back, and while I know that my daughters feel often compelled to believe the worst of me according to her telling, they don't seem to stop loving me for that. So, no harm. I am humbled. So what?

Now to expand to the cosmic dimension, dear reader. As you know, I am fond of declaring the cosmic eternity for narrative. Nothing makes sense ever without narrative. At its elemental basics, narrative is the ordering, in time, of otherwise disconnected discreet points. DNA composes a narrative. I maintain that there is both an emotional and a physical/perceptual component to all that has ever existed and that can ever exist. There is most certainly an emotional element to narrative. Always.

This forces me to apply the same uncertainty principles which we have applied to empirical objective measurable reality to the proper fourth dimension of time. Indeed, I would go so far as to claim that time has no meaning without narrative, and that the narrative is composed in mind. Mind therefore, is always present in existence. Time is a conspiracy of the whole, as it were, and has no forward or back without life, which is to say without emotion, an elemental component of life, coeval with all those innumerable particles which lack individual identity. Life also was there at any possible beginning; at the very least as a want.

Life is always wanting.

We commonly imagine that time past is time set and unchangeable. But it's not, any more than the future is set, although we believe that more comfortably. We even go so far as to consider the future to be conditioned on us, even down to the level of the individual. I believe that is the widely accepted meaning of free will and agency.

But individual me is mostly not me, certainly in the terms of DNA, but also in social and linguistic terms. My personal degrees of freedom are quite limited in fact, even if, in practice, I may exercise outsized agency. If I am white and reasonably attractive in speech, manner and appearance. If I am not identifiable as one of the colonized victims of empire.

Still, since most of what composes me is formed by luck, I do believe that my personal agency is far more conditioned than most of us now seem to believe. That means, I suppose, that I am less a capitalist than you are. (As far as I can tell, I'm less capitalist than almost anyone, expect for that woman while I was gassing who had 'fuck the patriarchy' painted on her car, and I wanted to hug her but I knew that I didn't look my part.)

I see the likes of Jeff Bezos as rather more trapped than I am too. He is in thrall to his own master narrative of him as master, which makes him rather deadly, I think. I, on the other hand, am a harmless, which is, I'm afraid, my preferred condition. I wouldn't be competent for anything different. I lack the honor, sure, but mostly I lack the desire.

Time is indeterminate in ways analogous to the indeterminacy of physical reality when taken to its fundamental level. Meaning that this uncovering of yet another dimension for indeterminacy makes no nevermind for our everyday life. 

But just as it has unsettled many of us to know that there is no way even in principle to understand everything, qua quantum physical reality, it may unsettle us even more to know that the past is in no way fixed. There is no ultimate truth to be found. We create our past to the same extent that we create our collective future. After a margin, both become quite fuzzy indeed.

For the me, the fundamental meaning of quantum physics is that we are fully implicated in reality. There is no point of absolute objectivity. We are also implicated in history in almost precisely the way that we know ourselves to be implicated in the future.

In just the way that IQ cannot measure the totality of intelligence, most of which is qualified by a moral dimension, science as we practice it cannot tell our future. What is happening now - although much more easily defined by and as the predations of unregulated capitalism - is really better defined by the coming together, in however haphazard a fashion, of all humanity on earth. Big O Notation. Darkest before the dawn and all.

Sure, it's messy right now. We have a long way to go to reclaim livable communities. Here in Buffalo now, we can almost imagine bringing the Olmsted greenway layouts back to reality. Back to the future. Soon, we'll move beyond electric cars to trolleys. Cities will re-envision themselves as havens for walking and biking and getting together on trolley cars. People like me will get back together with people I don't yet know again, once the competition for attention is eased. I am so very through with job and school competition, aren't you?

Most of us don't really want so much. Nice parks. Maybe a sailboat. Maybe a bike. Nice neighborhoods and nice neighbors. Meaningful work that makes a difference.

Like most of us, I declare that I have not and will not harm another soul. I'm guessing that's the most of us. Sure, they make shit up about me. That doesn't make me want to make shit up about you. I'm decent in my heart, and I'm willing to guess so are you. Now let's act like it. Plain decency is likely the most underrated quality in the whole wide world just now.

Sad to say, in a way, while I was out walking yesterday the maybe two and half miles to Riverworks where the Music is Art Festival was being held across maybe two dozen stages, I was accosted by a young fellow manning a little display about how all religions are one. He asked me if he could ask me a question. I said sure, if it won't take long. Of course, the question he asked me was 'do you believe in God.' My answer was something like 'probably not the way you do.' 'Why?' he might have said. 'Because you believe in a man-made God.' I said as I walked away. 

It wasn't very nice of me. But at that particular moment I had been put in mind of how much harm what I'm calling man-made religion has always caused. People - mostly men - want to channel what they think God would tell you to do or not do, and I just don't buy that kind of God. That just feels like patriarchy plain and simple. 

Does it do any good for the world for me to convince you to believe in God the way that I do? I'm saying it probably causes more harm than good. I didn't really want to argue about it. But yes, now that I think about it, it would make the world a better place if you were to believe in God the way I do. For one thing you'd know why it's always best to be decent. And for another, you wouldn't judge people who aren't decent. God knows, it takes all kinds.

Well, I don't really have enough math to convince you of what I know in my bones to be true. Except that among those things that I know is that understanding reality doesn't require much math, and you don't need a higher degree of education to be able to do it. But if only I could convince one among those one-percenters who do have enough education, that would be something. But I don't seem to be able to do that either. 

I'll keep trying. For your sake, gentle reader, for your sake. 

And yes, while there is no absolute truth or even truthiness, the truth, still, will out. All these individualistic attention seekers with brains barren of fellow-feeling and beings which lust only after money become as meaningless as sandflies in the fullness of narrative time. There is not a Republic left on earth, it would seem, who actually believes in an actual god. Maybe Liz Cheney, no matter how evil her Dad is. Believers in actual god don't tell lies to get elected. That narrative erases you from life. You become a cipher of finance capitalism, which is, by definition, nothing at all.

Wednesday, September 7, 2022

An Email to Virginia Heffernan

Dear Virginia (I'm old school that way)

I can't find your contact information no way no how, which is, I presume, the way you want it, and so being both old school and considerate I'll call you out in public, which is where I hide out, the way my friends and I did as kids; not wanting to ring the bell and disturb some missus inside some domicile or other. 

I've read a fair amount of your stuff, and tend hard in the direction of the extravagant praise I've seen for your writing. The flamers aren't so surprising, especially as good writing almost always makes a good target for illiterates. I am still somewhat surprised at how vitriolic some of it is, but that's the nature of our Now.

I especially enjoyed your recent piece in Wired, which effectively exposes and decouples a false connection between work and luck; replacing it with the truer revelation that to equate luck with work debases all of us. As in virtually everything about who and what we are has been determined by luck, and yet our economic arrangements almost compel us to take credit for who we happen to be, as though, if we're lucky, we created ourselves each and every one ex nihilo.

I don't think you did this very much in your piece, but I would say that what you wrote exposes the moral dimension as being far more important than what we commonly think of as our personal agency. Sure we have choices to make, but we almost always fail to notice how conditional those choices are.

When you choose to be on the capitalist pig side of the capital and labor equation, you are making a moral choice. As you point out, we are conditioned to see it as a properly productive choice, even beyond its selfish aspects. Selfishness is, after all, what powers a capitalist economy. And selfishness is what has to be supervised for labor to be marketable. Delayed consumption, metered and conditioned so that satisfaction is always on the way and never already there.

We, each of us now, are the final commodities, alive for just a moment before we too are bought and resold as scrap.

Growing up, my nickname was Hardluck. As in I always drew the short straw, and never won any lotteries. I knew it was silly and wrong, since I knew that I was competent to do whatever it was that nobody seemed to want to do or to know how to do, and so yes I considered myself lucky. I was sound of mind and body, reasonably good-looking and healthy. I grew to like the short straw, kind of wishing it upon myself, and not as penance.

Just now, because I am in transition (I am always in transition), the first thing that acquaintances ask me is 'where are you living?' As it happens, I have no less than four highly viable choices, with two more on the way. Now this doesn't quite make me feel lucky, since I can hardly afford any of them. But in just the same way that I was lucky to escape Covid with a mild case (an example you use), I am lucky that my tiny pension plus social security almost precisely equals my monthly outflow; living in a very affordable apartment in very affordable Buffalo.

I should sell, but haven't done so yet, the trailer that I've lived in for most of the past 5 years or so. It remains available to me still, and I long for it still. So is the apartment I fixed up in Oregon, which gave me pause for a couple of winters and then again for Covid lockdown. Talk about luck! Mom still owns that summer place in Canada to which I decamped upon separation from my ex many years ago. Too bad the borders have hardened, and I can't just go live there anymore during my current transition.

I have yet another sailboat on the way in response to my daughters' longing, and it's about the same layout as the one I did live aboard some forty years ago. I acquired it for a similar song (and dance).

While I would dearly love to remain in this apartment that I love, my well-off Microsoft alumnus brother-in-law has long wanted to invest in Buffalo real-estate, on the condition that I live in and maintain it. I do suffer so!

I do know that once I've moved, which means once I've made my decision, which my mind refuses to do until then, I'll feel relief about whatever were the annoyances of those places I will have left behind. Some will remain useful, some will be abandoned, and I my bodily unchoosing self may yet persist or not as luck will have it.

I'm old, and it hurts even to think about it, but I'm sure I'll be moving into my bro-in-law's house, basically just because it would leave me with just about enough spending money to maintain and sail my new old boat. And maybe keep the trailer.

Now I know that you don't care about any of this, and you should be wondering why I even ask you to read it. Just another guy trying to figure out if he got lucky or not, or might. It's never clear to me what getting lucky really means or might mean.

What I really want you to know, basically because I think you might actually get it, is that at about the time that I was living aboard my old wooden sailboat (albeit younger, relative to my acquisition of it, than the sadly fiberglass one I'm getting now), I discovered, by happenstance, a way to incorporate luck into meaning. I mean that in the way that the scientific method explicitly removes luck from meaning by its usage of "random." We stake almost all of our claims about life, which we might consider to be goodness out of chaos, as though that monkey did finally type Romeo and Juliet by random pecking orders.

Now what I then discovered has no practical application. There's nothing you can do with it that you can't do without it. Scientific knowledge is mostly useful, while what I propose is not. Way back then, I was more worried about fate and coincidence and finding my place in the equation out of a kind of desperation which descends from a seemingly inborn need for meaning. Meaning means understanding for me, and I had no way to understand what felt like a series of meaningful coincidences. Like, life, the universe and everything.

My discovery, as I call it, was not of something new. I discovered a new way of construing what was already known. Starting here from where I ended up then, I rejigger the usage of random as applied to evolution, say, and stake my claim that it would be more informative to define all the accidents that entail life in the cosmos not as random mutations, but as mutations which have tended in the direction of love. Love as a direction for evolution was my discovery. Like gravity, love might be construed as a force of sorts.

Now I'm not saying that love precedes evolution as a kind of force to guide it. I'm just saying that love is a better description than random for how, and mostly why it happens. Like gravity. It's part of the program of mass and force. Force is equivalent to mass, in a measure relative to how forces are applied and perceived according to relative position for observation.

This realization about evolution came after a more general realization that emotion more generally is not a function of the inner state of some highly evolved life-form such as humanity, but that emotion, like force-mediated motion, is an elemental aspect of any construing of reality that we might come up with. The difference from force, whose elemental aspects are percepts, as in proliferating particles at every scale, is that emotions are a function of conceptual reality, whose elemental aspects are concepts.

Words, particles, whatever. On some level particles are composed of words plus some math which add up to predictability. By the displacement of metaphor, which is for exceeding our grasp, stupid. And unnecessary unless you think that the mind is disposed ultimately to understand and to know everything, which is only a tad less likely than the production of that monkey at a typewriter.

As far as I can tell, my reconstruing of life, the universe and anything doesn't predict a freaking thing, except that it might facilitate collective us taking more responsibility for our choices. Responsibility for choices is rather better highlighted once we put ourselves, whatever we have been or shall become, back into our equations where we belong.

While simultaneity cannot be defined in perceptual reality except in relation to some conceptually stationary subject, simultaneity is a direct function of conception and emotion. Conceptual relations are held in mind and don't exist except for simultaneous reciprocity. By definition, is what I'm saying. 

Time was, we thought that particles could exist in isolation. We gradually inferred that there is no escaping relative motion, and that motion involved force and that force involved the exchange of yet smaller particles, and that there is ultimately a so-called entanglement between sufficiently tiny particles such that it makes no sense to calculate distance between them since transformation in one is simultaneously mirrored by the entangled twin, which pretty much nullifies the time/force relation of mass transitioning to energy at the limit of lightspeed.

My redefinitions don't change a thing about what it is that we can perceive and measure. And yet they are somehow terrifying in prospect, and so I don't expect another soul to concur. It would be nice if some soul did, but I don't expect it because the resistance is so great among thinking people. I become a kind of out-of-touch religious castaway for believing such an extravagant redefinition of basic terms.

I also see that you've read and appreciated the grand work of the two Davids, The Dawn of Everything. As I sit watching streaming film and hoping for enlightenment while waiting for the end, which feels inevitable globally, and which certainly is inevitable in my very local life, that book is really what leaves me hope for my children.

Yes, it does seem as though we are so dependent on a global market for our sustenance that its breakdown will consist of conflagration, warfare and starvation on a scale we can hardly imagine, the Davids' book reminds us all that we are adaptable and haven't lost all the social capacity that we've had throughout our bloody history to find a way to adapt again.

I have a kind of hope and even faith that others will discover what I have discovered, at least just in time for the Greater Transformation when it inevitably occurs. This one goes back to the future, as it were. Humans in community. Or whatever it is that evolves from humans. Whatever it is will evolve in the direction of love; that much is certain. The other direction is, after all, death. I leave that to those who misplace their hope in quantum computing. Who misconstrue intelligence in ways artificial and overly mathematical. 

As far as I can tell, intelligence has yet to show its hand here on earth, but look out when it does. The losers become the winners, right? And then what becomes of us?

Saturday, September 3, 2022

Anger Management

Lots of times, in my mind alone, I do a kind of devil's advocate thing. Like I don't always like our demonizing our historical behavior out of its context. Sure, genocide and wanton slaughter should be universally detested, but I'm still not so sure we have any right to take these behaviors out of their proper context and judge people as though they lived in our time. 

Yes, I'm including those in the American Civil War on the side of the Confederacy, and those wanton murderers of native Americans who overran and populated the American West. Slave holders even, and especially when the original captors were black fellows of who would be the slaves.

This all feels dangerous, of course, and so I keep such thoughts to myself, as thought experiments of a sort. If I ever do dare to voice them, my daughters will immediately set me straight, and mostly I think they'll be right. 

My basic trouble is that I don't really buy any notions that history is progressive, as in ameliorative, as in we are getting better and better. Like, especially when Stephen Pinker, who's often associated himself with such notions, shows up with Jeffrey Epstein.

If I watch streaming services which serve up ads, like Hulu for instance, it's hard not to remark to myself that the ads target young self-branders. Sure, I suppose ads have always featured young beauties who exemplify what we're supposed to want for ourselves from the spoils of the marketplace, but I sense a kind of desperation now.

I'm certain that it's all projection on my part, but still, it all opens up fields for irony. We aspire to be people who look and behave the way they do because of luck, and the riches it brings of lifestyle and beauty. We somehow don't accept that those projections will never become us.

There is a neo-Marxist concept called accelerationism, and I'm glad to note that very few neo-Marxists take it up. It's a writ-large version of how we thought maybe Dubya would put the lie to the Republican brand so that we could move more quickly in a progressive direction. Nope!

Anyhow, accelerationism is fundamentally tied to a teleological meaning for history, of the sort that Marx professed. Now, accelerationism has been co-opted by the radical right, who deploy violence to accelerate the revolution they want. They seem to have some bizarre belief in the manifest destiny of the white man, meaning that they want to bring back a certain context from our past. 

While I might, in my mind, forgive the white supremacists of those days, since they had a whole Church behind them along with a pride in the European origins of what Karl Polanyi calls The Great Transformation; I certainly can't forgive the white supremacists of our times now. Any more than I can forgive the Republican Party for what it's become.

(I still can't understand why Polanyi's thesis hasn't supplanted Marx, among we progressives. Which is to say we liberals. By which I mean those who have deracinated mankind according to Polanyi. So I do have my answer, in a way.)

But on the other hand, the Republican Party may well be awaking more and more of us to the ugliness of rampant unregulated capitalism. Of literal readings of Bible or Constitution which are so blatantly mis-readings that more and more of us worry about the future prospects for our Union. This business of buying in wholesale to arguments that you might make with your beer buddies out of hearing from normal society, has gone over some edge hasn't it? Those readings of the Bible just don't feel like love. Those readings of the Constitution don't feel like democracy and freedom. 

It all feels like hate and anger.

But now, maybe, along with global warming, species death, and the evident psychosis in the notion that we are ever going to populate the universe off-earth, this kind of non-thinking might push us beyond the pale of a quasi-religious - which means quasi-fascist - belief in capitalism as any kind of end-game other than the sort which ends everything all at once.

Sure, capitalism unleashes creativity, but without effective governmental regulation, that creativity runs by itself amok, and cares not at all for the carrying capacity of our planet. Joe Biden may not be the best thing since sliced bread, and I certainly disagree with him powerfully about China, but at least he's not morally bankrupt in the totalizing way that, say, JD Vance went. Anyhow, China tries too hard to engineer their future and it looks like they're heading into really difficult times. Blame it on corruption, just as we do here, but I'm pretty sure I'll take our bumbling way forward over their more deliberate ways over there. 

Our quandary now - the Earth's quandary - is not economic, not technological, surely not religious, and only partly political. Our quandary is a moral quandary. We have to figure out - and quickly - how to be good human beings.

We might excuse ourselves by claiming that we can never find, and indeed should never try for, a universal definition of the good. I'll be generous here and suppose that Peter Thiel thinks he's a good person, and believes with some integrity that winners like him should rule the world. That's even while I can't think of a more morally bankrupt person, unless maybe it's Rudy Giuliani or his capo Donald Trump. We all know that Rudy did once believe he fought on the side of the angels. Now I suppose he fights on the side of the angles; validating every lawyer joke you've ever heard. 

The law can't touch morality, nor can science. All law can do is to collectivize our basic sense of right and wrong. It can help to provide us some measure of order in an otherwise messy world. Now we have a supreme court who is so wedded to a particular religious order that they are willing to accelerate the debasement of any kind of collective faith in the rule of law. Ditto science, when it subserves the military industrial complex, which it always has. That's where the money comes from, stupid.

Law and science both are things of beauty, so long as they don't totalize. Just as we can never populate Mars until we become good humans, we can never describe everything about existence by means of the scientific method until we recognize the morality uncertainty principle. Morality is relative, just like mass and energy are. Morality engages emotion, which is always context-dependent. If you are able, even in your mind, to shoot people that you don't understand, then you are certainly immoral. Today, if not yesterday.

Our context now is the Whole Earth, and it has been for a while. Science and technology got us this far, but they won't do a thing to get us beyond. The law worked for so long as we all believed that it could work. Believing in the law is a moral agreement with our fellow humans. It's nothing greater than fair-play on a field as grand as the earth. That's the limit for law.

Sure, it's fair that a competent and clever industrialist should enjoy the outsized fruits of our labor. But he crosses a line when his workers can't afford his products, just as surely as wealthy footballers cross a line when ordinary working fans can't afford to attend the games in person. We have gone all out of proportion, and we've done it very recently.

By now I'm old and it hurts so much to follow them that I've lost most of my enthusiasms. I certainly no longer think that I'm going to convince anyone that emotion is part of any valid definition for bedrock reality. I won't convince you that evolution moves in the direction of what - and under the direction of what - many people still call God's Love. 

It does so in ways not so difficult to imagine, thanks to atheist Richard Dawkins and others of his ilk. But those atheists aren't prepared at all to leave go of the scientific definition for random, which is that random is meaningless, which is just plain wrong. Just because something isn't directed either by God or by man doesn't mean it's meaningless. It can only mean that its meaning exceeds, and will fundamentally always exceed, our comprehension. Unlimited intelligence has no context ever at all. Even God requires context to exist, stupid.

So, while I don't believe in progress, I do believe in growth. Humans qua humanity remain immature and we therefore destroy our any context. Our elders have forsaken us. Maybe it has to be this way, because maybe we have to make way for a consciousness which is not amoral. Or in other words, our consciousness is at least as artificial as what we dream of creating by way of logic circuits. What comes next will be as a god to what and who we are now. It just won't be our God. 

When the planet is bereft of humans, that won't be God's doing. It will be ours. But hey, no species is forever. Life is, by definition, what persists in realization of God's love. Life is the realization of God's love. We are fallen and bereft, and about to enter eternity as a species. We have forsaken God. Not He us. Peace be with you. Not you, Alito, I'm talking to the good guys.