Monday, January 1, 2024

A Resolution for a New Year

I have this old car, which isn't old enough to lack the universal connector which throws the codes which tells the mechanic which is the part which likely needs replacing. The part was replaced, but the light show now goes on and off, and I despair that there will ever be any definitive resolution which doesn't implicate rats eating the wiring harness. 

I have a new porch with a new light which has two bulbs. Each bulb is the minimum brightness that an outdoor LED light may have, or so they told me at the electric wholesaler. The light is more pleasant when only one of the bulbs is lit, but now randomly the second goes on. Is it even worth the trip up the ladder with head bent back to troubleshoot? This was installed by an extremely competent, experienced, professional but old electrician. Like me, he may not have enough experience with the on/off workings of digital replacement reality. 

At night my bed is a little bit cold for comfort. I could turn up the heat, but I bought a heated mattress pad instead. The documentation in this case is sufficient to the usage, and I am well pleased. I still don't understand why natural gas costs nearly half of what it did last year, given the war in Ukraine, and then there is the mildness of the weather. I need not be so concerned.

I am urged to purchase a new car, since I've poured so much money into this one. But it would be a betrayal of my soul to drive an automatic.

Our Earth now is blanketed in electronic debris in outer space, and I manically binge For All Mankind wondering, has it really come to this? Which this?

So many people observe that we are like Wile-E-Coyote, having crossed the point of no return, legs still churning in the comic gap between over the edge and the realization of gravity.

Meaning simply that we inhabit a seventeenth century world and lack the instruction manual to live in the twenty-first. Since we have never been modern, we can never be post-modern. All that we can do is to accept irony as our final stance. Both/and is not the same as on/off.

Our world is so much better now, and yet the oppressed remain oppressed. The wealthy are, effectively, more wealthy than ever in earth's history. They own all of our enthusiasms, which is plenty to keep us down.

I make the modest proposal that our resolution is social, and hardly technical. We already know better than to imagine that we can, as a species, triumph over whatever mysterious evolutionary processes brought us to this point. And yet we already know that our failure is certain if we continue to allow our lowest common denominator to prevail. Call it the artificial intelligence of money. Where greed replaces love as the prime mover.

Yes, of course, we continue to evolve. We trick ourselves into thinking that our evolution is continuous with all that came before. That ours is the natural elaboration of those processes and that our injection of intention to the quick is right and proper. 

Which would be so, truly, if our thinking had ever progressed from Newton's. Who dissected dogs while they still lived, so certain was he that they weren't sentient. Whose object was still God and not the Truth. Who is credited with triggering all of this accelerating development, which is geologically explosive in its form. 

And yet across this particular New Year - the first that I remember which I transgressed without remarking it, even internally. Having been preoccupied with other things. Like picking photos for the slide show for Mom's funeral, some of which turn sideways by the undocumented internal workings of the cheap projection system on which I watched the Bills win, excitingly, nail-bitingly, and barely,  yesterday afternoon. My excitement was enhanced by the fact that my little portable but great-sounding battery powered speaker system, which works on boat, in trailer,  and even in the rain and was very cheap, like me, was either no longer charging or the charge indicator light went out. 

Black box.

Which is likely also why spell-check no longer works. I supposed Google has gone all AI, because that's the overall trend, and they are now so clever than I can no longer click to repair, but have to type around their over-sophisticated suggestions. My mattress pad delivered on New Year's Eve, late, after the game. Could we even have imagined this world when I was but a child?


And yet there is nothing unfamiliar about it, though there should be. 

Not even a heated mattress pad provisions my night for sleep, though I was asleep before I heard the midnight noise too close nearby. Which hardly awakened me. It's not commotion which keeps me awake.

This morning, on New Year's Day, the New Yawk Times offers a week's worth of fine and tested resolutions of the energy loss from sleep deprivation issues that each of us now, apparently, faces. I have zero hope that any of these will work for me, but hey, I'm game! I slept so easily and naturally until my frequent flying to and from China. I still blame the dietary rather than time-zone upset.

I shall likely not be able to let the attendees at Mom's funeral know quite how much I loved her. It was never with my Dad that I could discuss all that was on my mind. She was always my champion, no matter how negligent I was and remain about what I did was doing to her. Dad made all the decisions, and was uptight for that. Not someone you might talk with until we took a sailing trip blind across the Big Lake in his old age. In an old-style wooden boat. 

Which might have been a death pact of mutual trust. We "landed" by dead reckoning, which is all we had, within the plot where we found ourselves marked out on the charts as "restricted" by reason of ordnance testing, from which we laughingly hightailed out. We could espy the shore by then, and knew right were we were. 

And so, sure, my dead reckoning does espy the resolution to our contemporary madness. It's rather post-modern, if you can stand that. I'm a mid-century modern man myself, contaminated now by Mom's decorating effluence, which tended colonial as does, well, this post-colonial house.

We shall never populate Mars, but not for lack of cleverness. Our trouble is that we've definitively cut ourselves off from cosmos, which is the deeper meaning for digital. The conflagration on whose tail end we live is identical in form to the instant Trinity test by which Oppenheimer's success was meted out and then away. I am no big fan of Christopher Nolan's scientistic fantasies, but he nailed this one. Has he grown a literary heart? Doubtful, but hey!

Each of us has outsourced by now the better angels of our nature to the good graces of ambitious people. And what's wrong with ambition? Daniel Dennett has it in spades, as do those Mars rovers for all mankind.

What choice do we have? Who among us would arrogate the resolution of important matters to ourself? Who among us would consider themselves to have that expertise? If I can code, you might still pay me very well, but you'd be paying me for the blinders I wear about the bigger picture. Which is identical to C-level corporate compensation. Watch only the bottom line, and learn to speak to the boardroom the way that Steve Jobs spoke to the world. Coders are paid well to have no ambition beyond the code. C-level requires Ivy-grade networks. A death-pact of mutual trust.

Reconnecting with cosmos requires humility. And the realization that we've never been apart. Most of our human brainpower is "meant" to be social and not intellectual. Mom was never allowed to make the big decisions, though she had the real intelligence in the family.

I still can't find the baby Jesus for Mom's stylish Christmas cr├Ęche. No worries. It's someone in one of the boxes, I'm sure. Someday I'll have the energy to open the rest of them,

The brain is neither isomorphic nor coterminous with the mind. The mind is spread, though perhaps the brain acts, metaphorically, as a kind of microcosm for the all. Not a receiver of cosmic emanations, though that metaphor might get you pretty far. But an ironically social and intellectual nexus in a kind of living thinking swamp of humanity. The irony is that while we have never been more individually named and free and potentially heroic, we have never been so subsumed in and by the human All. 

The novel I would write, if I could write, would be the last novel. The hero disappears. I have the whole thing in plates. Never to be finished. The protagonist . . . 

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