Saturday, July 29, 2023

Memory Schmemory

Anyone who's been through near trauma understands how retrospect magnifies fear. In the event, one does what one does using a kind of high-speed trouble shooting. I don't actually remember fear. In my case, most of the near trauma is on or in the water.

So I go out yesterday, begging my brother to join me, in an attempt to raise the new mainsail which just arrived. And the wind is blowing some 15-20 knots, just about stopping my one-lunger with a tiny propellor even without waves, behind the breakwater, while heading upwind to raise the sail. My mind a running catalog of what could go wrong, and I haven't quite succeeded in rigging the main for reefing. So, there was only boiling along past hull speed on a partially unfurled jib. Which wasn't a good way to head out into the famously steep chop of Lake Erie beyond the breakwall. 

I am sorely disappointed in myself. Where did my pluck go? Time I broke the bowsprit in dead of night, or motored into Block Island with sails furled and so much wind the rails were in the water as though I were beating upwind oversailed. How did I trust that ancient engine? Or drowning. Or midnight hit by Thunderstorm and its windshear forces, self-saved by donning scuba goggles, and having a forward-facing light/porthole. Or capsizing into frigid water.

It's a kind of confusing motor memory. I mean my body remains hobbled by all the time I spent on bended knees crouched over whatever I was trying to repair with this boat. That kind of body memory still does whatever it was that one used to do, and the body lags in the warning. My memory of being able to do this stuff wasn't helping me. There is no present danger and so I hurt myself. 

But on the boat in a blow, the body seems to anticipate the pain of action and so the mind avoids it. As many moderated elders claim, 'I know too much now about what could happen.' But don't I also know more about what to do about it? My guts tell me no. I rationalize that I have yet to become used to the boat. My brother misses the old one too, which seemed stout enough to navigate all our shortcomings. 

The new old boat is rigged to make it easier and far less embodied to manage. And still my body moderates me. It's not exactly push-button, and there seems to be more that could go wrong. My learning curve on the old boat was but a day.

And now I listen to CNN and learn that on a county by county basis we are plagued by overwhelming binary majorities. But isn't it obvious that everything now practices coordinated community thinking? Like politics is and has always been all local. 

In an environment of click-bait news, none of us knows what to believe among personal memory and the click AI of "global warming" in whatever dogwhistle mass-murder format. We have to trust what we know locally to be true, and there are no more local newspapers that aren't written by AI anymore. Everything has become alien and scary. News today, gone tomorrow and yet I am wracked by anxiety about what I might not know.

Only God knows what can break through our collective idiocy, no matter how smart we may be locally. 

And I remain perfectly poised between the extravagant optimism of the futurists who catalog the ways in which life has never been better and the doomsayers who absolutely know that massive and painful transformation is just around the corner from our anglocene dominance. 

The hinge is at what we mean by human. If what we mean is to live without fear of trauma, or debilitating and often fatal disease, or the constant bloodshed of strong overtaking weak, then things have never, indeed, been better. Putin and Trump notwithstanding. Trumputin almost rhymes with Rasputin for the rest of us. Give me someone, please, to believe in. Main qualification: they must be self-promoting because that's almost all that the media ever shows us.

I don't yet know what I mean by humanity, except that it has yet to be accomplished. In my personal acquaintance I do know people who can only comprehend things verbally. I was unique among grad students in being able to do things with my hands. And I therefore got taken advantage of by professors. But at least not that way, though there was that one professor. . .  

They have proven so intelligent that they feel comfortable demanding an explanation for someone else's actions. Mine, for instance. And in the very questioning prove themselves incapable of understanding. That, my friends, is the AI that we should fear. And reason enough not to fear the clickbait kind.


Let's reduce it to some basics. First of all, it is arrogant to think that you can talk or even ask questions with any authority if you have no body memory of doing that kind of work. This will forever be a limitation of clickbait AI.

Second, it was indeed quite different when there were at least two newspapers to choose from, and the ads were attractive according to what you might need or want, and otherwise pretty unobtrusive. As I understand if from an old-timer news publisher, the cost of the paper supported the cost of paper, and the ads paid all the bills. Firewalls between editorial and advertising were probably permeable, but the ads also supported a much larger editorial and reporting staff. Underwritten by lucrative want ads. 

There truly is no comprehension that is not embodied, is my claim. If you don't know something to be true in your very bones, then it can't be true. Local newspapers talked to local people and could only drift so far. And now, the more rural you are, the more you know in your bones. Darn rheumatiz!

I know in my very bones that evolution moves in the direction of love in the very same way that my boat shall be moved by the wind. By the waves. And sure, I am moved by the idiot winds of humanity. But what I know in my bones is mediated more by science than by religion. I tell you what der trouble is: I can't get anyone to understand what I'm talking (writing) about. 

We now exist in a sea of hatred fueled by the abstracted processes of money. Although it doesn't look as though we shall ever move beyond that, I assure you, my friends, that we shall. And humanity, like an adolescent boy, shall find itself. Which is something that I absolutely abhor for myself, protestations that this is the only thing I've ever worked on aside. Those are the disclaimers of ignorance, for I know that there is no self to find. There is only a self to be rescued. And it doesn't always want rescuing.

Now, again, to sea!

But first a word from our commercial sponsor. 

Poetry doesn't sell. Poetry is the artistic makings of a language-mediated mind showing off in rules-conscious continuous virtuosity. Otherwise it can't be worth publishing. 

And then there is philosophy, which makes from language-mediated mind a set of rules for living. As if that can make a difference, but amazingly it does. It also doesn't sell. 

There are other things like math (which AI has always and will always do better) and visual art, and sublime music, which virtual reality pro Jeron Lanier indicates is the consummate embodied art.

Bottom line; you fail the humanity test if you like the AI imitation art better than the real. I love music when I can hear it live.

Now, hi ho hi ho, it's off to my 50th high-school reunion I go. It scares the shit out of wallflower me, but here I go! I hope I don't drown.

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