Wednesday, February 14, 2024

The Really Big Picture

Across the span of my lifetime, things have changed with almost breathtaking speed. My tendency, which must be the tendency of most everyone as they grow older, is to disparage the changes. So I have all these possibly fake memories about how workers once took pride in their work, and devoted themselves to a lifetime craft. I remember my own jarring discovery in my youth on a bicycle, that each city looked like any other with the same ugly shopping strips sporting the same ugly shops and bright neon-analog touts.

I've watched and tasted good local eateries replaced by automated franchise outlets, and national brand-names supplant local trusted merchants. I grew up in a house with a fallout shelter, and I remember "helping" to build it. World War II replayed incessantly across the same television networks which helped me cheer our arrival on the moon.

Or, in other words my upbringing left me blind to racism, sexism, ghettos of poverty, except in retrospect. I was insulated from deficits in health standards or building standards or how much industry was changing and despoiling the landscape. Until Lake Erie died, which changed the course of my entire life.

By the time I was a conscious adult, computers had already infested banking and supply chains and would soon infest education and commerce more generally.

Now, on a macro scale we see any and all kinds of trust dissolving into an unholy mess of conspiracy theorizing. I know it's attraction. I remember reading about the Bildebergers in a tract out in the territory where Bo Gritz was as prominent as Jesus Saves billboards. I could feel the panic and outrage as it fitted itself to my doubts. Somehow now the billboards and the tracts have become coarser and even further removed from reality. How quaint it is really, that it was a Google divorcee who funded the bizarre retro respiriting of JFK with the likeness of his nephew. The flaw not quite being the nutty nephew, but rather the already weird and unreal conception we've all inherited about JFK himself. 

Judging by how one stream of filmic zeitgeist has developed, many of us are transfixed by apocalyptic endings. History can and likely must be jarring in our technological streaming age. It's never the same river anymore, in a way as different from what Heraclites might have meant when he spoke or wrote of flow and change. 

We still think that at least a part of the change has included improvements to understanding, to knowledge, to security, and even to decency. If things are not getting better that must be because of a moral failing. Indeed it is.

Like a ski jumper, there can be no doubt that my life has spanned the end of the geometric curve which represents the scientific and industrial revolutions. Guilty! Any sort of geometric curve ends not in quasi-parallel trajectories to eternity. It ends in explosion. It ends in a leap.

I hope for an explosion of consciousness, let us pray.

So many people now apologize for Trump by calling him honest, honorable, not part of the swamp. We crave a moral compass now that we accept unvarnished appetite for the way an honest honorable and clean person should behave. 

Others challenge you to find an honest or decent politician anywhere. When did that become a proper defense for the moral vacancy now in ascendance on the Republican side of the aisle?

Anyhow, the thing about all understanding and knowledge is that it must build within a kind of master cultural narrative. The feeling of understanding is really the pleasant feeling of meshing with the larger understanding; our cultural zeitgeist. One person's understanding, these days, is another person's woo woo conspiracy theory, or religious dementia, or depraved hedonism. 

The kinds of Kuhnian shifts which really change our minds are at least analogous to cultural clashes. At least that jarring. 

Now we seem to have fragmented into a kind of heaving swamp of mini-cultures clashing in ways as subtle, changeable and confusing as what the world looks like through a kaleidoscope, without the wonder.

What could possibly bring us back together, now that commerce is the only thing which can truly define the overall appearance of our living landscape. Commerce based on wants and needs which start with food, shelter and community and end with abstracted lusts for those same things writ larger and larger and more and more complex. How much of our enthusiasm do we spend anymore on things that really count. Do we even spend a relative dime on sustainable permanence? Should we?

Or are we locked into a collective supposition that we can collectively achieve a kind of perfection in our systems? A supposition which seems indistinguishable from driving over a cliff in a mad paroxysm or joy at the ride. 

When we despair about "biodiversity" we've reduced the earth to a matter of complexity. By some measures, our complexity has increased, especially if you're focused on data, which is a focus on tabulation which is a focus on a false information theory based misapprehension of intelligence. What we obviously need are sets of better metaphors. To fret about biodiversity is to ignore the possibility that the destruction is equivalent - and I do mean morally equivalent - to the destruction of each of our own bodies. We are killing ourselves for the sake of dead metaphors. 

Frankly, we're doing it because we're having too much fun. We dance on earth's corpse. 


Well, I started this quest by the instigation of meaningful coincidence, or what Meghan O'Gieblyn calls "doublings." I felt at the time - when I was a younger man - that I'd figured it all out. I have to confess that while I may be wiser, like Joe Biden, I may have lost some acuity. I can't quite bring back that Eureka! sense. 

I had something to do with a basic realization about the structure of the cosmos, and I know that it didn't challenge any of our materialistic certainties. It only drew limits around them. Those limits were fundamentally premised on the "function" of chance in reality. Not just in genetics, where it might be almost obvious, but in our daily lives. I experienced a kind of euphoric sense of amplification of the quite ordinary observation that most of what determines who and what we are is not a predicable function of material reality, but rather a complex interaction among more factors than we can catalog. Emotion defines the thrust of those factors, just as emotion defines how we make our decisions, rational or otherwise.

The essence that I have retained is that there is a more expansive definition for emotion than the limited and limiting one we intuit in our naive - as in "naive physics" - ways for making sense. When we despair of our destruction of biologic diversity, we also, at the same time, arrogate to ourselves the obligation to make it right, which goes right along with our guilt for the destruction.

We are simply not that important, and all of our metaphors, dead or alive, have it that we are of cosmic importance. We've refined that to some measure for "intelligence" which is the thing we hang our collective hat on. As though that were the core function of evolution and of life.

Well, I do declare that our naive understanding for intelligence is indeed an important aspect of life's evolution. But we should hardly omit the certainty that earth will not go quietly into the dark night of eternal nothingness. The totality of life on the planet is not in accord with our contemporary notions about what intelligent life is doing. On the scale of politics, we have obviously demonstrated most our idiocy as stewards of anything at all. 

Borrowing mildly from Chinese, as I often do, intelligence without what in the West is referred to as heart is not intelligence at all. When we put orgasmic irresponsible thrilling performances of love front and center in the guise of triumph, success, and performative joy, we are ignoring and not embracing love. To say this sort of thing will not make me a popular fellow. I'm positively anti-economic thrusting. We have to cut it out.


We have to stop searching for any postscriptum to the standard model of physics. It's no longer about force and particles. There are force-free conceptual relations which compose the structure of eternal ideas, though I don't quite mean what Plato meant (the first real book, honest, that I ever did read was Plato's Republic). 

The ideas I refer to are not eternally static. They move, and that motion is what emotion describes. Before Apple patented the i- prefix, I was already calling it e-motion, just as a kind of joke on what we're most proud of.

Well, I might be signing off for good. I'm getting too old to make good arguments, and nobody is paying any attention anyhow. 


I must repair my house and car. It didn't use to hurt so much.

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