Cimmerian Shade

You and I, wrapped in the cloven colored sky,

Watch the beautiful twilight floating by;

And the nights shade, left over from summer rays,

Clothes a delightful dalliance.

The heat rushed into my face as I exited my car. I examined the house. It sat on a small hill. The garage and lower floor were nestled into the hillside, and the main entrance sat a top a small set of stairs. The exterior was painted a mellow green, a lilac green.

I inspected the inside of my car, mulling over what to bring in, but my thoughts were absent: they were with her. They were filled with enthusiasm, with joyful expectations. “I don’t need anything at the moment,” I thought “I’ll come out and grab it later.” The truth is, I wanted my arms free: free to embrace her.

I walked towards the house, my eyes to the ground, lost in thought. A subtle smile was perched on my lips. I lifted my eyes, and there she was, smiling coyly through the glass door. Her demeanor was excited and hesitant. She opened it and walked onto the porch as I made my way up the stairs. We extended arms and hugged; and the mightest avalanche of ephoria pounded my thoughts into a placid pool of bliss: my chest lept, my heart fluttered, and satisfaction wrapped itself around me in waves, over and over again. I rested my chin on her shoulder and my thoughts adjusted. “It’s good to see you” I said. “It’s good to see you too.”  I felt like a child all over again. If there was any doubt that I could love anyone, it was dispelled then and there. I was submerged in love: patient, pleasant, warm, kind, pleasing love. And it was all for her.

We unloaded my car, dragging in a cooler of food, a backpack of clothes, and a brown bag filled with bottles of wine.

I walked into the house and was met with wondrous woodwork, daedal designs that weaved their way into every facet of the home. This was no ordinary house built by ordinary men. This was a special house, crafted with keen skill and the dexterous hands of a lone laborer devoted to his trade. My eyes danced from once detail to the next, and then a voice appeared from below me. “Why hello there! You must be Michael!” I observed an older man with a burly gray mustache climbing up a small staircase from the lower sunroom. “Hello! Great to finally meet you Don!” We shook hands and exchanged the usual amicable small talk. A kindness emanated from him; his personality seemed shy and restrained, with only the occasional burst of light that gently escaped whenever he attempted a small joke. I complimented his home and he thanked me humbly in the most unassuming way.

She showed me to our room; I followed behind with my bags in hand while my heart danced in step.

I prepared grilled Salmon for dinner that evening, as well as a medley of vegetables: asparagus, tomatoes, mushrooms, garlic, and pinch of parsley, all sauteed with extra virgin olive oil and seasoning. Don happened to have a “special” teriyaki blend procured from his favorite Japanese restaurant; a real treat, he says, because Japanese Chefs are super stingy with their recipes. I made sure to be impressed, and when I tasted it, I most definitely was: the glaze was exquisite. Sweet, but not overly, and it was nestled with hidden flavors of garlic, citrus, and other herbs. The dinner was fantastic: the choicest wine and salmon and, above all, company.

After dinner she casually suggested that we could take a bath, together, in the hot tub openly situated in the master suite. There was no hesitation in my response. She filled the hot tub. The rest of the night we grew in knowledge. Exhausted from the events of the day, and inebriated from the libations that loomed throughout the night, we fell asleep quite early. I awoke throughout the night several times soaking in sweat: the air conditioner was off for the evening and it was over a hundred every day the past week. I managed to go to bed, but at five thirty an alarm sounded. “Odd” I thought in my sleepy haze. My eyelids cracked and were met with blinding light. I looked at the clock confused. When the hell was it ever this bright at five thirty in the morning? Now I know why farmers manage to wake up so early. And why the hell is there an alarm for this hour? Then she turned and asked me, “I’m going for my twelve mile run. Do you want to join?” While I was unbelievably impressed and fully infatuated with her charismatic discipline, the idea of running twelve miles at that hour left the same reaction as jumping from a cliff onto jagged rocks: the possibility of my muscular one hundred and ninety five pound frame surviving such a task existed only in distant dreams. I did want to run though, but I encouraged her to go alone. She left and I explored the idea of sleeping longer but the summer heat and blinding rays penetrating through the windows prevented that option from ever materializing. Instead I laid in bed and watched humming birds court each other in hypnotic floating displays of majestic brilliance outside my window. After a short period of time I dressed myself and began my three or four mile run. The countryside was invigorating and enlivening: rolling crests of green grass and pastures reamed across the landscape. Wildlife seethed throughout the dense vegetation and open plains and soaring sky. The smells and sounds and sights saturated my senses, and I felt fully alive.

I arrived home drenched in sweat and absolutely beaten with exhaustion. After I caught my breath I journaled my thoughts and read a few chapters of Ender’s Game.

After Don prepared us a breakfast of eggs, hash browns, ham and waffles, we decided to explore the 2,700 person town or, more aptly, “village”.

We happened upon a civil war battle site named “battle of the bridge” and later discovered an estate sale auction in one of the neighborhoods that appeared to attract nearly everyone in the county, including the entire Amish community (I love the Amish!). Cardboard boxes of goods lined the backyard, side yard, and empty lot across the street. Families, children, old and young stood ’round a man dribbling words from a hand held microphone: the auctioneer. He rapped prices with a southern drawl that hung in the humid air. The occasional hand would flicker upwards and he’d raise the price, “five dolla five dolla five dolla we have five dolla do we have five fifty five fifty do we have five fifty… five fifty! six dolla do we have a six dolla now…” and slowly they’d make their way through the labyrinth of goods. At one point he stopped at a mechanical contraption and provided a brief description, “Naw here we have a werkout machine, a walking board,” and there was a laugh and commotion “or I guess they call it a treadmill.” Her and I looked at eachother and smiled with fond amusement. These little folk and their back yard auctions, stuck in prohibition, with their straw hats and thick suspenders.  It was quite a spectacle. And archaic at that.

Eventually we made it to our canoe destination on the river. Barry, as he introduced himself to us, was waiting with a canoe strapped to the top of his large old Tahoe. He was mild mannered and polite, soft spoken and friendly.  “So we have a three hour and a six hour lazy canoe trip” he said. The heat was in full swing and I imagined myself on the river for six hours, wondering if it was possible or enjoyable to canoe for that long in the heat. If anything it sounded like a challenge. “Well six hours sounds a bit long, you think if we trucked it we could get it done in three hours?” I asked. Barry’s face pulled back in distaste. “No no no! You’re not suppose to go fast. It’s called the lazy river. You want to go slow. You don’t wanna go fast, just take your time, enjoy the river. The six hour trip is definitely worth it and the best bang for your buck.” I looked at her and smiled with surrender. “Well then, I guess that sounds good. We’ll do that.” We loaded into his car and we stopped by his home while he ran our credit cards and had us sign waivers. We grilled him with every question we could muster during our short car ride with him: how he got into business, how the local economy was, what the local demographic was like, how he liked his life, where the best restaurants were located. It was only a fifteen minute drive but we were efficient with questions and satisfied with our answers.

We canoed for six hours, about 12 miles in all, in scorching one-hundred and five degree Kentucky heat. It was no joke. There was plenty of scenery to keep our senses entertained. Back woods Kentucky families posted up in the river bed in their lawn chairs, their cubicle sized shacks in the foreground with laundry lines extending from their sides. Gun shots accompanied our tour of the river. We passed the couple, rifle in hand. “A little target shooting?” I said light heartedly. “You bet! It’s my favorite thing in the world!” Her posy pink one piece wrapped over her shoulders and crossed her breasts in a deep V that connected at her belly button. Her dark roots chased after the blonde hair tied in a knot situated on the back of her head. “I don’t blame ya” I said with a twang in my voice “I’d be out here every day if I was you!” I tried to make small talk as we sheepishly floated on by. The river was pathetically slow that day, making its name “the lazy river” well suited. It hadn’t rained in over eight weeks. Though the levels were low, the water was exceptionally cool and clear thanks to the subterranean aquifers pumping continuous supplies of cool water into its currents.

We paddled the red canoed through the blistering humid heat, through the biting bugs that chased and bit throughout the duration. We talked about everything. Life. Love. Jobs. Happiness. Family. Children. Friends. Relationships. Six hours is a long time to canoe a river. And talking in the heat while your slowly growing more and more exhausted from beating the insects in between paddle strokes would be a challenge, except I was in her company, and that thought alone dissolved any penetrating distractions that would otherwise detract from having the best of times.

We had lunch on a river bank. An Amish family sputtered away from the bank in a small motor boat (Odd, I know!). A small fire crackled and white smoke rose over the river and into my nostrils: memories moved within me, memories of my youth, and camping, and my early pyrotechnic fascinations.

We pulled the canoe on shore and pulled out our sandwich bag from the dry sac. She brought the bread. As we were making sandwhiches earlier in the morning I noticed that the bread she brought was peculiar. Why? Because it was made for midgets: each slice was slightly smaller than the size of my palm. I could easily eat two or three or more of these small sandwiches. But I had to give it to whoever thought of restandardizing their loafs: they definitely make you eat less, and think twice about making more than one.

We ate raspberries with our little sandwiches. Mine was tuna. Her’s was hummus and vegetables and maybe turkey, but I couldn’t be sure.

We arrived home around five pm. Don had offered to make us his “special” Mexican burritos which, he mentioned, were quite good by his standards, and something of a specialty of his. We inquired earlier that day with the locals about where good restaurants might be and found that there were, in fact, no good resturants. Save, of course, the Mexican resturant, the only resturant anyone would recommend that we visit. We decided that we’d rather have our wine (it was a dry county!) and have Don grace us with his cooking abilities. He was making Mexican for us anyway, so why not.

We arrived home early and Don hobbled from his sun room in cartoon boxers waving his hands (or hand, since he had but one, but that’s a minor detail) and saying “Don’t worry, I’m not in my underwear!”, but it was clear that he was. He pulled over his shirt. It was backwards. “I didn’t expect you to be back so soon.” We explained how we annihilated that “lazy” river with our exceptionally intense “go-get’em” attitudes and finished slightly early. “I was only having a few cocktails and didn’t expect you to be back so soon!” Don continued apologizing. “Don’t worry,” I said “we’ll join you after we refresh ourselves, get some water and fill our stomachs with a bite to eat.” Don liked that idea. You could tell he was lonely, sharing the company of a twelve pound Lhasa Apso named Sophie. There was no significant other in his life, and none that could be guessed from his past. He was alone. Him and his dog. And his beautiful home. With no one to share it with save the wayfarers that stopped in for bed and breakfast a few times a month.

We talked over wine. Don had himself a bloody mary. We discussed a spectrum of topics, from his favorite bloody mary mix, to his travels abroad, to his real estate aspirations, and finally, at the peak of our intoxication, to his finances. He went so far as to show me all his investments and explain his savvy investing strategies. I entertained his enthusiasm.

Don soon began making dinner, but after all the alcohol, her and I faded to sleep on the couch, nuzzling close to one another. Don must have saw us while making dinner and caught some inspiration, for he fell asleep as well. We awoke several hours later to Don in a panic. “I completely fell asleep in the middle of making dinner! I’m so sorry! I don’t know how that happened!” It was a goofy scenario, as she said. All of us, tired, drunk, passing out, the dinner half cooked, the kitchen steaming, the TV murmuring in the background. How funny.

We quickly ate dinner and went to sleep.

We awoke the next day and had Don’s breakfast, but this time instead of waffles he made sourdough french toast. I was gorged.

The original caves we were going to visit happened to be completely booked due to the holiday weekend, so we engaged plan B and decided to visit two other caves, and meet her best friend at the second, more southern location.

We stopped at Diamond Cavern for the first part of our trip, and the Lost River Cave and Valley for the second, where we met up with her friend.

I drove back with her an hour north at the end of the day. My car was parked in the small town we had stayed at. I opted to ride with her. I missed her company already.


Thoughts on Observation, Complexity, and Evolution

What people say they do and what they actually do are usually quite different. They may mean they do what they say, but it may not reflect our expectations of what we typically associate with the representative behavior. There is no ideal, no perfect standard. You may ask someone to “throw a ball”, but his or her idea of throwing a ball is probably different that your idea. Whether or not they are the same depends, of course, on whether you share the same sphere of socialization. Does “throw a ball” mean to throw underhand, overhand, or side-armed? Lob, toss, or beam? And even then the behavior or mechanics of throwing the ball will be dictated or constrained by the conditions at hand. This may depend on the type of ball, the person’s location throwing the ball, the location where the ball will be thrown, the weather or atmosphere, and the like.

Observation is paramount. We exist in the same world that has existed for millenia. Nothing has changed save our perceptions of it. Euclid and Pythagoras and Aristotle and  Newton and Laplace and all the other great thinkers who walked this earth stood upon the same ground and cast their eyes upon the same sky and grappled with the same minutia as we do today.

How can we verbalize relationships that exist within the scope of a previously undefined context? Euclid accomplished this feat in the domain of geometry by elucidating sequential definitions, postulates, and propositions. We must transpose relationships from one context to another through the use of analogies and similarly, but to a lesser extent due to the ambiguity of the term, metaphors.

I was reading Newton’s Principia earlier today when I came upon his description of Definition 3, which discusses the inherent force of matter, and I noticed a particularly fascinating point that I overlooked before. He ended his description with the following sentence: “Resistance is commonly attributed to resting bodies and impetus to moving bodies; but motion and rest, in the popular sense of the terms, are distinguished from each other only by point of view, and bodies commonly regarded as being at rest are not always truly at rest.”

What Newton was describing is relativity. Einstein elaborated on this “minor” detail using the Cartesian system of coordinates which allowed him to create independent frames of reference for each body at rest or in motion; that is, Einstein utilized reference bodies or system-coordinates for transposing the spatial location of a body’s position as it relates to another rigid body. In this way spatial location could be abstracted so that bodies were no longer  bound to a single frame of reference anchored to rigid bodies. This provided a means of calculating the relationship of two bodies in motion relative to each other without issuing a single fixed frame of reference.

Genius really. But that’s just the start. However, I don’t feel the urge to elaborate on this point.

My main interest is explanatory power, a kind of prophetic insight gained by understanding. Isn’t that what all knowledge and wisdom is? Not simply utility in the moment, but long term, enduring utility. Data changes. Wisdom endures.

If we look at the “data, information, knowledge, wisdom” hierarchy, we can see that at the base there is maximum flux and at the peak there is maximum staticity.

 

This image can act as a loose analogy for what happens during the evolution or devolution of both consciousness and physical phenomena. Where these two meet in synthesis is biology or neurobiology. How does a mind grasp the world? By grasping itself.

I want to understand how evolution occurs, or more exactly, how self-organizing systems or emergent complexity arises. If we can crack this code, I feel that one can understand and unlock secrets of the universe.

The question is: how can we predict the future? Is the solution for this question the same as the theory of everything? Observation is paramount. But the question is, how reliable are our instruments of observation? When Galileo looked through his first primitive telescopes, he observed distortions in the stars. The problem was that his telescope wasn’t properly collimated; that is, the instrument wasn’t adjusted and fine tuned to the precision necessary to render accurate inferences for observation.

What is important isn’t just what we’re observing, but where we are observing, the scope and details, and when we’re observing. Of course there is the how we are observing as well, whether it is direct or indirect observation or is through a single sense or multiple senses.  Context is all important for synthesis, and synthesis is the essence of understanding, serving as the impetus of order. The greater the context, the greater the magnitude of synthesis. The greater the whole, the greater number of parts contained within and relationships shared among.

How do we define life? Perhaps life is a replicating adaptive organism that exhibits a degree of micro complexity. Life is chemistry, a continual reaction. But what is an organism? A body. But how do we delineate the body?

Is life defined by the software or hardware? The replication of information or simply the physcial arrangement. Is there a difference? Can one exist without the other?

There is no what it’s like. It is all associated senses to thought.

The earth is a closed system. Energy is entering the system, from the sun, but does not escape at the same rate. Evolution increases, i.e. complexity increases and organisms proliferate. DNA becomes more complex throughout time. Is complexity order or disorder? Are complexity and disorder inversely related?

How does evolution take place? Are we getting more complex or less complex?

The central question is this: What causes evolution? or rather, what causes matter to organize into greater and greater complexity, complexity that allows for incredible specialization, but at what cost? Are specialization and adaptability inversely related to durability?

It would seem that the simplest organisms are most durable, with micro-organisms like bacteria and cynobacteria possessing the most hardy history of endurance. But what of humans, or homos? We’ve been around for only a few hundred thousand years. Yet, we are incredibly complex and incredibly adaptable. What do we have in common with out biological ancestors, bacteria?

What role does energy play in this whole theater of evolution? And what of values? It would seem that values determine and dictate demand. Values act as an impetus of human activity, and they don’t even seem entirely necessary for survival. Why do some people die for their values, like martyrs? Is there a social utility, a species utility, where one individual acts on behalf of the collective in a form of self-sacrifice for the sake of a greater evolutionary advantage?

Values are intriguing. They cause humans to self-organize into groups, into organization, into institutions, into markets. Economics seeks to track and map this activity to prevent scarcity that would otherwise jeopardize the cohesive organization of the whole.

Is there a method for predicting values? For predicting behavior? Is change too great an unknown to surmount with inference, even with infinite data and information? Given the rise of computers, I have to wonder what our capacity will be to accurately accommodate the entire spectrum of influence acting in a given context and accurately forecast long term outcomes.

More thoughts later.

Planets

In Greek, “planet” is from Latin planetaplanetes, from Ancient Greek πλανήτης (planētēs) variant of πλάνης (planēs, “wanderer, planet”).

When the astronomers of antiquity cast their gaze upon the nights sky above, they noticed certain lights wandering about in eccentric patterns of motion, in contrast to the fixed stars in the background. These lights were thought to be gods wandering about in the heavens and were thus named “planets” and received their respective Greek god names, later translated by the Romans into our modern titles for the planets: Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Saturn, Jupiter (Uranus and Neptune were discovered later).

American Inequality

A Case for Economic Equity and Long-Term Growth (Draft)

Abstract

Macroeconomic policy issues, as well as the theoretical assumptions underpinning their conclusions, must be considered within a political Liberalism framework that ensures and upholds the democratic values of freedom and equality inherent to the constitution. The complexity of economic development requires a holistic empirical approach that accounts for the historical, political, sociological, and business factors contributing to the makeup of society when crafting and recommending economic policy.

For this paper we will assume that economic growth is the aim for society. Inequality is a product of increased bargaining power resulting from increasingly powerful institutions in the business, financial, and governmental sectors (Kumhof 2011; Barnhizer 2004; Argyres 1999). Research has repeatedly confirmed growing inequality globally and domestically (Hisnanick 2011). Inequality, manifested as widening income and wealth disparity, contributes to domestic and global account imbalances, consumer debt, and economic stagflation, i.e. inflation and unemployment (Kumhof 2012; Rajan 2012). In addition, inequality is linked to key social variables such as political stability, civil unrest, democratization, education attainment, health and longevity, and crime rates (Thorbecke 2002). Greater economic equality always results in greater long run economic prosperity for the whole. (Wilkinson 2009)

The thesis explored in this paper is that bargaining power inequalities causally contribute to economic and socioeconomic inequality due to path dependency, organizational inertia, and habit formation. Bargaining power inequalities increase proportionally with capital accumulation, concentration, and centralization. This paper will show that the restoration of equal bargaining power will rectify financial and labor market imperfections and spur economic growth. In addition, this paper argues that US economic growth over the past several decades has been vastly overestimated due to increases in financialization.

Executive Summary

In order to determine the best policy for rectifying inequality and spurring economic growth, this essay provides an overview of current economic and socioeconomic conditions within the US and abroad, identifies problems within those conditions, and details the contributing historical economic policies that shaped them. It then examines the systemic causal mechanisms contributing to current US economic conditions, present potential policy solutions that seek to address these underlying causal mechanisms, and lastly interpret and rank their theoretical effectiveness. This paper addresses the following areas:

Continue reading “American Inequality”

Appearances Rule

This is what I have learned: as a rule, people do not think. That is reserved for only the very few. I can only think for myself, not concern myself with what other people fail to think or do. I need to leverage wisdom and erudition gained from experience and reflective thought to aid my goals. What are my goals? To influence people, to resolve their problems? Do I offer myself up as a messiah? How do I want to be remembered? Whether you are Jesus, or Ghandi, or a CEO, or an investor, or a celebrity, your essential duty is all the same: resolve other people’s problems, through art or wisdom or technology or inspirational works.

Appearances are all that matter. It’s not what you’re looking at, it’s what you see that counts. Like I said, I can’t be concerned with what other people see. I can only acknowledge what and how they see and provide a means to capitalize on that. There is only one god, and he resides within me, as me.

Information Evolution: Language and Real-life Structures

Random thoughts on language as information evolution. And technology and digital information.

Continue reading “Information Evolution: Language and Real-life Structures”

Lleng

I love challenge. If I think I can do something, and I demonstrate to myself that I can do it, and do it with a degree of proficiency that is exceedingly above average, I’m satisfied with myself. Many times this means I become overly satisfied and end up becoming apathetic. I ask myself, “What is worth doing if it isn’t challenging? What’s the point of doing something that’s repetitive, that’s rote or routine, that leaves you feeling nothing, like nothing meaningful is being accomplished?” The answer I always give myself is “Nothing.”

The result is that I often struggle to find something I’m passionate about. I love ideas, I love challenge, I love novelty. When you thrive off these things, you become addicted to them, and eventually you run out of things to stimulate you. When you’ve read all the books, went to all the schools, studied all the subjects, worked all the jobs, lived in all the locations… what else is there?

So I’m often left jaded, dispassionate, dispossessed of a higher purpose or calling. I find myself preoccupied with problems that no one else finds problematic, generating interests that most people find uninteresting, in order to come up with something that is compelling, that provides enlightenment or illuminating stimulation. Hence why I explore the world, read books, study philosophy, seek out novel experiences, and indulge in artistic production or admiration.

 

The Debate Between Oral and Written Communication (Or why Socrates never wrote anything down)

The following dialogue (see below) is an except from Plato’s Phaedrus in which Socrates discusses why writing would erode thought by permitting people to forget what they had learned because they’d be able to look things up, that “they wouldn’t feel the need to ‘remember it from the inside, completely on their own.’ ” Worse, writing wouldn’t “allow ideas to flow freely and change in real time, the way they do in the mind during oral exchange.”

(I’d suggest taking time to read the dialog before moving on)

Socrates’ sentiments relate to my thoughts on the institutionalization of texts that become “truth” in time. Likewise, I am immediately reminded of Nietzsche’s essay Truth and Lies in the Nonmoral Sense, in which he asks, “What then is truth? A movable host of metaphors, metonymies, and; anthropomorphisms: in short, a sum of human relations which have been poetically and rhetorically intensified, transferred, and embellished, and which, after long usage, seem to a people to be fixed, canonical, and binding. Truths are illusions which we have forgotten are
illusions- they are metaphors that have become worn out and have been drained of sensuous force, coins which have lost their embossing and are now considered as metal and no longer as coins.”

In sum— and I will elaborate much more in a proceeding post— I believe that emphasizing the dead written word rather than the living spoken work is the source of all man’s ills. By placing faith in the value of written word, man effectively subjugates the value of his own personal, individuated experience— that is, his individual intuitions, opinions, and feelings; or more precisely, his subjective reflective consciousness. The spoken word is intimately connected to your feelings and experience: 97% of communication is nonverbal. It is impossible to capture the meaning, the affect, the intention, the feeling, of the author’s written words. In spoken word, there is genuine communication, a mutual exchange of feelings and ideas.  The dichotomy between written and spoken word can be loosely represented as the difference between deductive and inductive thought, or rationalism and empiricism, respectively.

Why this is important relates to the creation and preservation of institutions. All institutions have a text or creed or principles that govern the behaviors and dictate the conventions of its constituent agents, whether the text is a religious book, or an academic text, or a constitution, or a charter is all the same. What is important is that the words are blindly given ultimately authority as the subjective perspective, wrought from an individual’s unique experience, is overlooked and pushed aside completely. The result is that people become a means rather than an end, and human activity manifests as instrumentalism: an extension of someone else’s morality, another person’s valuation of the world, a reflection of their will to power. All of these examples reflect an external set of apriori assumptions imposed into a subject’s psyche by another person— and therefore motivate extrinsically. We call these a priori assumptions “culture” or “truth”, as well as other names like: norms, conventions, commonsense, mainstream, popular, customary and the like.

I think about Jesus, who I believe advocated the same message of Socrates, namely that people are blind to themselves. Jesus said he came to abolish the old law, the old traditions, the rituals and customs that blinded people to themselves, that caused people to get caught up in appearances and words rather than understanding their meaning. He said that god was the living word (Hebrews 4:12), and emphasized that the “spirit” or “god” was within the body, rather than the physical “temple”.  Socrates similarly stresses the priority of the “spirit” or the “reflective consciousness” or “reason” as being paramount to the purification of man.

Suspend your biased judgments about the nature of “god” or “spirit” for a moment; and reinterpret “god” in favor of man’s “mind” or the “subjective reflective consciousness” and consider the following verse: “So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.” (Genesis 1:27). Replacing it with our conception of god as man’s “mind” we get: “So the reflective mind created man in his own image, in the image of the reflective mind he created him; male and female he created them.”

The idea that “god” is actually referencing man’s “mind” or “reflective consciousness”—  that distinguishing feature that demarcates men from lower animals to the degree of their development— mirrors many truisms, aphorisms, and words of wisdom throughout time such as: “We don’t see things as they are, we see them as we are.” (Nin) or “You give birth to that on which you fix your mind.” (de Saint-Exupéry)  or “The eye sees only what the mind is prepared to comprehend.” (Bergson) or “Men are disturbed not by things, but by the view which they take of them.” (Epictetus) or “Let the mind be enlarged…to the grandeur of the mysteries, and not the mysteries contracted to the narrowness of the mind.” (Bacon) or “Things which we see are not by themselves what we see … It remains completely unknown to us what the objects may be by themselves and apart from the receptivity of our senses. We know nothing but our manner of perceiving them.” (Kant) or “Perception is a prediction, not a truth.” (Mooney) and the list goes on.

The idea is communicated succinctly by Feuerbach who said:

“Consciousness of God is self-consciousness, knowledge of God is self-knowledge, by his God thou knowest the man, and by the man his God; the two are identical. Whatever is God to a man, that is his heart and soul; and conversely, God is the manifested inward nature, the expressed self of a man– religion is the solemn unveiling of a man’s hidden treasures, the revelation of his intimate thoughts, and the open confession of his love-secrets.” [Feuerbach]

I could write for a long while on this topic, so I’ll stop now and wait to do that later. My main message is that writing is good for personal reflection and meditation and study, but it cannot serve as a replacement for experience and reflective thinking for another man. If you look to the outside world for answers, whether its in books, or things, or authority figures, you are cheating yourself of the opportunity to develop authentically. You must earnestly weigh your experience against the world, and do it with an even keel, remembering that self-deception is our natural tendency, that we want to seek confirmation in what we already believe and think to be real, rather than what is actually real. Think dialectically, think in opposites, and challenge other minds in mutual dialog with YOUR mind, with YOUR experience while exercising genuine curiosity for understanding, and with practice your mind will grow fertile, deep, open, and sharp.

I beg you: with an open mind, read on!

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Soc. At the Egyptian city of Naucratis, there was a famous old god, whose name was Theuth; the bird which is called the Ibis is sacred to him, and he was the inventor of many arts, such as arithmetic and calculation and geometry and astronomy and draughts and dice, but his great discovery was the use of letters. Now in those days the god Thamus was the king of the whole country of Egypt; and he dwelt in that great city of Upper Egypt which the Hellenes call Egyptian Thebes, and the god himself is called by them Ammon. To him came Theuth and showed his inventions, desiring that the other Egyptians might be allowed to have the benefit of them; he enumerated them, and Thamus enquired about their several uses, and praised some of them and censured others, as he approved or disapproved of them. It would take a long time to repeat all that Thamus said to Theuth in praise or blame of the various arts. But when they came to letters, This, said Theuth, will make the Egyptians wiser and give them better memories; it is a specific both for the memory and for the wit. Thamus replied: O most ingenious Theuth, the parent or inventor of an art is not always the best judge of the utility or inutility of his own inventions to the users of them. And in this instance, you who are the father of letters, from a paternal love of your own children have been led to attribute to them a quality which they cannot have; for this discovery of yours will create forgetfulness in the learners’ souls, because they will not use their memories; they will trust to the external written characters and not remember of themselves. The specific which you have discovered is an aid not to memory, but to reminiscence, and you give your disciples not truth, but only the semblance of truth; they will be hearers of many things and will have learned nothing; they will appear to be omniscient and will generally know nothing; they will be tiresome company, having the show of wisdom without the reality.

Phaedr. Yes, Socrates, you can easily invent tales of Egypt, or of any other country.

Soc. There was a tradition in the temple of Dodona that oaks first gave prophetic utterances. The men of old, unlike in their simplicity to young philosophy, deemed that if they heard the truth even from “oak or rock,” it was enough for them; whereas you seem to consider not whether a thing is or is not true, but who the speaker is and from what country the tale comes.

Phaedr. I acknowledge the justice of your rebuke; and I think that the Theban is right in his view about letters.

Soc. He would be a very simple person, and quite a stranger to the oracles of Thamus or Ammon, who should leave in writing or receive in writing any art under the idea that the written word would be intelligible or certain; or who deemed that writing was at all better than knowledge and recollection of the same matters?

Phaedr. That is most true.

Soc. I cannot help feeling, Phaedrus, that writing is unfortunately like painting; for the creations of the painter have the attitude of life, and yet if you ask them a question they preserve a solemn silence. And the same may be said of speeches. You would imagine that they had intelligence, but if you want to know anything and put a question to one of them, the speaker always gives one unvarying answer. And when they have been once written down they are tumbled about anywhere among those who may or may not understand them, and know not to whom they should reply, to whom not: and, if they are maltreated or abused, they have no parent to protect them; and they cannot protect or defend themselves.

Phaedr. That again is most true.

Soc. Is there not another kind of word or speech far better than this, and having far greater power-a son of the same family, but lawfully begotten?

Phaedr. Whom do you mean, and what is his origin?

Soc. I mean an intelligent word graven in the soul of the learner, which can defend itself, and knows when to speak and when to be silent.

Phaedr. You mean the living word of knowledge which has a soul, and of which written word is properly no more than an image?

Soc. Yes, of course that is what I mean. And now may I be allowed to ask you a question: Would a husbandman, who is a man of sense, take the seeds, which he values and which he wishes to bear fruit, and in sober seriousness plant them during the heat of summer, in some garden of Adonis, that he may rejoice when he sees them in eight days appearing in beauty? at least he would do so, if at all, only for the sake of amusement and pastime. But when he is in earnest he sows in fitting soil, and practises husbandry, and is satisfied if in eight months the seeds which he has sown arrive at perfection?

Phaedr. Yes, Socrates, that will be his way when he is in earnest; he will do the other, as you say, only in play.

Soc. And can we suppose that he who knows the just and good and honourable has less understanding, than the husbandman, about his own seeds?

Phaedr. Certainly not.

Soc. Then he will not seriously incline to “write” his thoughts “in water” with pen and ink, sowing words which can neither speak for themselves nor teach the truth adequately to others?

Phaedr. No, that is not likely.

Soc. No, that is not likely-in the garden of letters he will sow and plant, but only for the sake of recreation and amusement; he will write them down as memorials to be treasured against the forgetfulness of old age, by himself, or by any other old man who is treading the same path. He will rejoice in beholding their tender growth; and while others are refreshing their souls with banqueting and the like, this will be the pastime in which his days are spent.

Phaedr. A pastime, Socrates, as noble as the other is ignoble, the pastime of a man who can be amused by serious talk, and can discourse merrily about justice and the like.

Soc. True, Phaedrus. But nobler far is the serious pursuit of the dialectician, who, finding a congenial soul, by the help of science sows and plants therein words which are able to help themselves and him who planted them, and are not unfruitful, but have in them a seed which others brought up in different soils render immortal, making the possessors of it happy to the utmost extent of human happiness.

Phaedr. Far nobler, certainly.

Soc. And now, Phaedrus, having agreed upon the premises we decide about the conclusion.

Phaedr. About what conclusion?

Soc. About Lysias, whom we censured, and his art of writing, and his discourses, and the rhetorical skill or want of skill which was shown in them-these are the questions which we sought to determine, and they brought us to this point. And I think that we are now pretty well informed about the nature of art and its opposite.

Phaedr. Yes, I think with you; but I wish that you would repeat what was said.

Soc. Until a man knows the truth of the several particulars of which he is writing or speaking, and is able to define them as they are, and having defined them again to divide them until they can be no longer divided, and until in like manner he is able to discern the nature of the soul, and discover the different modes of discourse which are adapted to different natures, and to arrange and dispose them in such a way that the simple form of speech may be addressed to the simpler nature, and the complex and composite to the more complex nature-until he has accomplished all this, he will be unable to handle arguments according to rules of art, as far as their nature allows them to be subjected to art, either for the purpose of teaching or persuading;-such is the view which is implied in the whole preceding argument.

Phaedr. Yes, that was our view, certainly.

Soc. Secondly, as to the censure which was passed on the speaking or writing of discourses, and how they might be rightly or wrongly censured-did not our previous argument show?-

Phaedr. Show what?

Soc. That whether Lysias or any other writer that ever was or will be, whether private man or statesman, proposes laws and so becomes the author of a political treatise, fancying that there is any great certainty and clearness in his performance, the fact of his so writing is only a disgrace to him, whatever men may say. For not to know the nature of justice and injustice, and good and evil, and not to be able to distinguish the dream from the reality, cannot in truth be otherwise than disgraceful to him, even though he have the applause of the whole world.

Phaedr. Certainly.

Soc. But he who thinks that in the written word there is necessarily much which is not serious, and that neither poetry nor prose, spoken or written, is of any great value, if, like the compositions of the rhapsodes, they are only recited in order to be believed, and not with any view to criticism or instruction; and who thinks that even the best of writings are but a reminiscence of what we know, and that only in principles of justice and goodness and nobility taught and communicated orally for the sake of instruction and graven in the soul, which is the true way of writing, is there clearness and perfection and seriousness, and that such principles are a man’s own and his legitimate offspring;-being, in the first place, the word which he finds in his own bosom; secondly, the brethren and descendants and relations of his others;-and who cares for them and no others-this is the right sort of man; and you and I, Phaedrus, would pray that we may become like him.

Phaedr. That is most assuredly my desire and prayer.

Soc. And now the play is played out; and of rhetoric enough. Go and tell Lysias that to the fountain and school of the Nymphs we went down, and were bidden by them to convey a message to him and to other composers of speeches-to Homer and other writers of poems, whether set to music or not; and to Solon and others who have composed writings in the form of political discourses which they would term laws-to all of them we are to say that if their compositions are based on knowledge of the truth, and they can defend or prove them, when they are put to the test, by spoken arguments, which leave their writings poor in comparison of them, then they are to be called, not only poets, orators, legislators, but are worthy of a higher name, befitting the serious pursuit of their life.

Phaedr. What name would you assign to them?

Soc. Wise, I may not call them; for that is a great name which belongs to God alone,-lovers of wisdom or philosophers is their modest and befitting title.

Phaedr. Very suitable.

Soc. And he who cannot rise above his own compilations and compositions, which he has been long patching, and piecing, adding some and taking away some, may be justly called poet or speech-maker or law-maker.

Phaedr. Certainly.

Soc. Now go and tell this to your companion.

Phaedr. But there is also a friend of yours who ought not to be forgotten.

Soc. Who is he?

Phaedr. Isocrates the fair:-What message will you send to him, and how shall we describe him?

Soc.Isocrates is still young, Phaedrus; but I am willing to hazard a prophecy concerning him.

Phaedr. What would you prophesy?

Soc. I think that he has a genius which soars above the orations of Lysias, and that his character is cast in a finer mould. My impression of him is that he will marvelously improve as he grows older, and that all former rhetoricians will be as children in comparison of him. And I believe that he will not be satisfied with rhetoric, but that there is in him a divine inspiration which will lead him to things higher still. For he has an element of philosophy in his nature. This is the message of the gods dwelling in this place, and which I will myself deliver to Isocrates, who is my delight; and do you give the other to Lysias, who is yours.

Phaedr. I will; and now as the heat is abated let us depart.

Soc. Should we not offer up a prayer first of all to the local deities? By all means.

Soc. Beloved Pan, and all ye other gods who haunt this place, give me beauty in the inward soul; and may the outward and inward man be at one. May I reckon the wise to be the wealthy, and may I have such a quantity of gold as a temperate man and he only can bear and carry.-Anything more? The prayer, I think, is enough for me.

Phaedr. Ask the same for me, for friends should have all things in common.

Soc. Let us go.

Socrates: Oral and Written Communication (Or why Socrates never wrote anything down)

The following dialogue (see below) is an except from Plato’s Phaedrus in which Socrates discusses why writing would erode thought by permitting people to forget what they had learned because they’d be able to look things up, that “they wouldn’t feel the need to ‘remember it from the inside, completely on their own.’ ” Worse, writing wouldn’t “allow ideas to flow freely and change in real time, the way they do in the mind during oral exchange.”

(I’d suggest taking time to read the dialog before moving on)

Socrates’ sentiments relate to my thoughts on the institutionalization of texts that become “truth” in time. Likewise, I am immediately reminded of Nietzsche’s essay Truth and Lies in the Nonmoral Sense, in which he asks, “What then is truth? A movable host of metaphors, metonymies, and; anthropomorphisms: in short, a sum of human relations which have been poetically and rhetorically intensified, transferred, and embellished, and which, after long usage, seem to a people to be fixed, canonical, and binding. Truths are illusions which we have forgotten are
illusions- they are metaphors that have become worn out and have been drained of sensuous force, coins which have lost their embossing and are now considered as metal and no longer as coins.”

In sum— and I will elaborate much more in a proceeding post— I believe that emphasizing the dead written word rather than the living spoken work is the source of all man’s ills. By placing faith in the value of written word, man effectively subjugates the value of his own personal, individuated experience— that is, his individual intuitions, opinions, and feelings; or more precisely, his subjective reflective consciousness. The spoken word is intimately connected to your feelings and experience: 97% of communication is nonverbal. It is impossible to capture the meaning, the affect, the intention, the feeling, of the author’s written words. In spoken word, there is genuine communication, a mutual exchange of feelings and ideas.  The dichotomy between written and spoken word can be loosely represented as the difference between deductive and inductive thought, or rationalism and empiricism, respectively.

Why this is important relates to the creation and preservation of institutions. All institutions have a text or creed or principles that govern the behaviors and dictate the conventions of its constituent agents, whether the text is a religious book, or an academic text, or a constitution, or a charter is all the same. What is important is that the words are blindly given ultimately authority as the subjective perspective, wrought from an individual’s unique experience, is overlooked and pushed aside completely. The result is that people become a means rather than an end, and human activity manifests as instrumentalism: an extension of someone else’s morality, another person’s valuation of the world, a reflection of their will to power. All of these examples reflect an external set of apriori assumptions imposed into a subject’s psyche by another person— and therefore motivate extrinsically. We call these a priori assumptions “culture” or “truth”, as well as other names like: norms, conventions, commonsense, mainstream, popular, customary and the like.

I think about Jesus, who I believe advocated the same message of Socrates, namely that people are blind to themselves. Jesus said he came to abolish the old law, the old traditions, the rituals and customs that blinded people to themselves, that caused people to get caught up in appearances and words rather than understanding their meaning. He said that god was the living word (Hebrews 4:12), and emphasized that the “spirit” or “god” was within the body, rather than the physical “temple”.  Socrates similarly stresses the priority of the “spirit” or the “reflective consciousness” or “reason” as being paramount to the purification of man.

Suspend your biased judgments about the nature of “god” or “spirit for a moment reinterpret “god” in favor of man’s “mind” or the “subjective reflective consciousness” and consider the following verse: “So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.” (Genesis 1:27). Replacing it with our conception of god as man’s “mind” we get: “So the reflective mind created man in his own image, in the image of the reflective mind he created him; male and female he created them.”

The idea that “god” is actually referencing man’s “mind” or “reflective consciousness”—  that distinguishing feature that demarcates men from lower animals to the degree of its development— mirrors many truisms, aphorisms, and words of wisdom throughout time such as: “We don’t see things as they are, we see them as we are.” (Nin) or “You give birth to that on which you fix your mind.” (de Saint-Exupéry)  or “The eye sees only what the mind is prepared to comprehend.” (Bergson) or “Men are disturbed not by things, but by the view which they take of them.” (Epictetus) or “Let the mind be enlarged…to the grandeur of the mysteries, and not the mysteries contracted to the narrowness of the mind.” (Bacon) or “Things which we see are not by themselves what we see … It remains completely unknown to us what the objects may be by themselves and apart from the receptivity of our senses. We know nothing but our manner of perceiving them.” (Kant) or “Perception is a prediction, not a truth.” (Mooney) and the list goes on.

The idea is communicated succinctly by Feuerbach who said:

“Consciousness of God is self-consciousness, knowledge of God is self-knowledge, by his God thou knowest the man, and by the man his God; the two are identical. Whatever is God to a man, that is his heart and soul; and conversely, God is the manifested inward nature, the expressed self of a man– religion is the solemn unveiling of a man’s hidden treasures, the revelation of his intimate thoughts, and the open confession of his love-secrets.” [Feuerbach]

I could write for a long while on this topic, so I’ll stop now and wait to do that later. My main message is that writing is good for personal reflection and meditation and study, but it cannot serve as a replacement for experience and reflective thinking for another man. If you look to the outside world for answers, whether its in books, or things, or authority figures, you are cheating yourself of the opportunity to develop authentically. You must earnestly weigh your experience against the world, and do it with an even keel, remembering that self-deception is our natural tendency, that we want to seek confirmation in what we already believe and think to be real, rather than what is actually real. Think dialectically, think in opposites, and challenge other minds in mutual dialog with YOUR mind, with YOUR experience while exercising genuine curiosity for understanding, and with practice your mind will grow fertile, deep, open, and sharp.

I beg you: with an open mind, read on!

*****************************

Soc. At the Egyptian city of Naucratis, there was a famous old god, whose name was Theuth; the bird which is called the Ibis is sacred to him, and he was the inventor of many arts, such as arithmetic and calculation and geometry and astronomy and draughts and dice, but his great discovery was the use of letters. Now in those days the god Thamus was the king of the whole country of Egypt; and he dwelt in that great city of Upper Egypt which the Hellenes call Egyptian Thebes, and the god himself is called by them Ammon. To him came Theuth and showed his inventions, desiring that the other Egyptians might be allowed to have the benefit of them; he enumerated them, and Thamus enquired about their several uses, and praised some of them and censured others, as he approved or disapproved of them. It would take a long time to repeat all that Thamus said to Theuth in praise or blame of the various arts. But when they came to letters, This, said Theuth, will make the Egyptians wiser and give them better memories; it is a specific both for the memory and for the wit. Thamus replied: O most ingenious Theuth, the parent or inventor of an art is not always the best judge of the utility or inutility of his own inventions to the users of them. And in this instance, you who are the father of letters, from a paternal love of your own children have been led to attribute to them a quality which they cannot have; for this discovery of yours will create forgetfulness in the learners’ souls, because they will not use their memories; they will trust to the external written characters and not remember of themselves. The specific which you have discovered is an aid not to memory, but to reminiscence, and you give your disciples not truth, but only the semblance of truth; they will be hearers of many things and will have learned nothing; they will appear to be omniscient and will generally know nothing; they will be tiresome company, having the show of wisdom without the reality.

Phaedr. Yes, Socrates, you can easily invent tales of Egypt, or of any other country.

Soc. There was a tradition in the temple of Dodona that oaks first gave prophetic utterances. The men of old, unlike in their simplicity to young philosophy, deemed that if they heard the truth even from “oak or rock,” it was enough for them; whereas you seem to consider not whether a thing is or is not true, but who the speaker is and from what country the tale comes.

Phaedr. I acknowledge the justice of your rebuke; and I think that the Theban is right in his view about letters.

Soc. He would be a very simple person, and quite a stranger to the oracles of Thamus or Ammon, who should leave in writing or receive in writing any art under the idea that the written word would be intelligible or certain; or who deemed that writing was at all better than knowledge and recollection of the same matters?

Phaedr. That is most true.

Soc. I cannot help feeling, Phaedrus, that writing is unfortunately like painting; for the creations of the painter have the attitude of life, and yet if you ask them a question they preserve a solemn silence. And the same may be said of speeches. You would imagine that they had intelligence, but if you want to know anything and put a question to one of them, the speaker always gives one unvarying answer. And when they have been once written down they are tumbled about anywhere among those who may or may not understand them, and know not to whom they should reply, to whom not: and, if they are maltreated or abused, they have no parent to protect them; and they cannot protect or defend themselves.

Phaedr. That again is most true.

Soc. Is there not another kind of word or speech far better than this, and having far greater power-a son of the same family, but lawfully begotten?

Phaedr. Whom do you mean, and what is his origin?

Soc. I mean an intelligent word graven in the soul of the learner, which can defend itself, and knows when to speak and when to be silent.

Phaedr. You mean the living word of knowledge which has a soul, and of which written word is properly no more than an image?

Soc. Yes, of course that is what I mean. And now may I be allowed to ask you a question: Would a husbandman, who is a man of sense, take the seeds, which he values and which he wishes to bear fruit, and in sober seriousness plant them during the heat of summer, in some garden of Adonis, that he may rejoice when he sees them in eight days appearing in beauty? at least he would do so, if at all, only for the sake of amusement and pastime. But when he is in earnest he sows in fitting soil, and practises husbandry, and is satisfied if in eight months the seeds which he has sown arrive at perfection?

Phaedr. Yes, Socrates, that will be his way when he is in earnest; he will do the other, as you say, only in play.

Soc. And can we suppose that he who knows the just and good and honourable has less understanding, than the husbandman, about his own seeds?

Phaedr. Certainly not.

Soc. Then he will not seriously incline to “write” his thoughts “in water” with pen and ink, sowing words which can neither speak for themselves nor teach the truth adequately to others?

Phaedr. No, that is not likely.

Soc. No, that is not likely-in the garden of letters he will sow and plant, but only for the sake of recreation and amusement; he will write them down as memorials to be treasured against the forgetfulness of old age, by himself, or by any other old man who is treading the same path. He will rejoice in beholding their tender growth; and while others are refreshing their souls with banqueting and the like, this will be the pastime in which his days are spent.

Phaedr. A pastime, Socrates, as noble as the other is ignoble, the pastime of a man who can be amused by serious talk, and can discourse merrily about justice and the like.

Soc. True, Phaedrus. But nobler far is the serious pursuit of the dialectician, who, finding a congenial soul, by the help of science sows and plants therein words which are able to help themselves and him who planted them, and are not unfruitful, but have in them a seed which others brought up in different soils render immortal, making the possessors of it happy to the utmost extent of human happiness.

Phaedr. Far nobler, certainly.

Soc. And now, Phaedrus, having agreed upon the premises we decide about the conclusion.

Phaedr. About what conclusion?

Soc. About Lysias, whom we censured, and his art of writing, and his discourses, and the rhetorical skill or want of skill which was shown in them-these are the questions which we sought to determine, and they brought us to this point. And I think that we are now pretty well informed about the nature of art and its opposite.

Phaedr. Yes, I think with you; but I wish that you would repeat what was said.

Soc. Until a man knows the truth of the several particulars of which he is writing or speaking, and is able to define them as they are, and having defined them again to divide them until they can be no longer divided, and until in like manner he is able to discern the nature of the soul, and discover the different modes of discourse which are adapted to different natures, and to arrange and dispose them in such a way that the simple form of speech may be addressed to the simpler nature, and the complex and composite to the more complex nature-until he has accomplished all this, he will be unable to handle arguments according to rules of art, as far as their nature allows them to be subjected to art, either for the purpose of teaching or persuading;-such is the view which is implied in the whole preceding argument.

Phaedr. Yes, that was our view, certainly.

Soc. Secondly, as to the censure which was passed on the speaking or writing of discourses, and how they might be rightly or wrongly censured-did not our previous argument show?-

Phaedr. Show what?

Soc. That whether Lysias or any other writer that ever was or will be, whether private man or statesman, proposes laws and so becomes the author of a political treatise, fancying that there is any great certainty and clearness in his performance, the fact of his so writing is only a disgrace to him, whatever men may say. For not to know the nature of justice and injustice, and good and evil, and not to be able to distinguish the dream from the reality, cannot in truth be otherwise than disgraceful to him, even though he have the applause of the whole world.

Phaedr. Certainly.

Soc. But he who thinks that in the written word there is necessarily much which is not serious, and that neither poetry nor prose, spoken or written, is of any great value, if, like the compositions of the rhapsodes, they are only recited in order to be believed, and not with any view to criticism or instruction; and who thinks that even the best of writings are but a reminiscence of what we know, and that only in principles of justice and goodness and nobility taught and communicated orally for the sake of instruction and graven in the soul, which is the true way of writing, is there clearness and perfection and seriousness, and that such principles are a man’s own and his legitimate offspring;-being, in the first place, the word which he finds in his own bosom; secondly, the brethren and descendants and relations of his others;-and who cares for them and no others-this is the right sort of man; and you and I, Phaedrus, would pray that we may become like him.

Phaedr. That is most assuredly my desire and prayer.

Soc. And now the play is played out; and of rhetoric enough. Go and tell Lysias that to the fountain and school of the Nymphs we went down, and were bidden by them to convey a message to him and to other composers of speeches-to Homer and other writers of poems, whether set to music or not; and to Solon and others who have composed writings in the form of political discourses which they would term laws-to all of them we are to say that if their compositions are based on knowledge of the truth, and they can defend or prove them, when they are put to the test, by spoken arguments, which leave their writings poor in comparison of them, then they are to be called, not only poets, orators, legislators, but are worthy of a higher name, befitting the serious pursuit of their life.

Phaedr. What name would you assign to them?

Soc. Wise, I may not call them; for that is a great name which belongs to God alone,-lovers of wisdom or philosophers is their modest and befitting title.

Phaedr. Very suitable.

Soc. And he who cannot rise above his own compilations and compositions, which he has been long patching, and piecing, adding some and taking away some, may be justly called poet or speech-maker or law-maker.

Phaedr. Certainly.

Soc. Now go and tell this to your companion.

Phaedr. But there is also a friend of yours who ought not to be forgotten.

Soc. Who is he?

Phaedr. Isocrates the fair:-What message will you send to him, and how shall we describe him?

Soc.Isocrates is still young, Phaedrus; but I am willing to hazard a prophecy concerning him.

Phaedr. What would you prophesy?

Soc. I think that he has a genius which soars above the orations of Lysias, and that his character is cast in a finer mould. My impression of him is that he will marvelously improve as he grows older, and that all former rhetoricians will be as children in comparison of him. And I believe that he will not be satisfied with rhetoric, but that there is in him a divine inspiration which will lead him to things higher still. For he has an element of philosophy in his nature. This is the message of the gods dwelling in this place, and which I will myself deliver to Isocrates, who is my delight; and do you give the other to Lysias, who is yours.

Phaedr. I will; and now as the heat is abated let us depart.

Soc. Should we not offer up a prayer first of all to the local deities? By all means.

Soc. Beloved Pan, and all ye other gods who haunt this place, give me beauty in the inward soul; and may the outward and inward man be at one. May I reckon the wise to be the wealthy, and may I have such a quantity of gold as a temperate man and he only can bear and carry.-Anything more? The prayer, I think, is enough for me.

Phaedr. Ask the same for me, for friends should have all things in common.

Soc. Let us go.

Talking Pineapples: Unreflective Education

Just finished reading an article titled Talking Pineapple on 8th grade New York State Confuses Everyone.

How does something like this happen? And how often? I’d like to know when the education system fully embraced its role to inculcate and train students with nonsensical, abstracted theory rather than educate students with sensible, relevant material rooted in experience. Has education replaced religion as the perpetrator of unreflective dogma? Or I am being too harsh?

Do educators believe students are simply too dumb and unreflective to realize that they’re being duped?  What is actually being tested here? Abstracted relationships with no foothold in reality. This leaves the mind way too open for programming. When you don’t have a foot in experience, when you’re holed up in a classroom, in a car, behind a computer, in front of your phone the majority of your life, you are liable to be believe the craziest, most nonsensical rhetoric.

When I train an animal— a dog for instance— I train it using extrinsic rewards. When it performs an instructed action, I say “good doggy”, pat it on the head, rub its belly, and produce a succulent morsel of food. When the dog behaves in an unacceptable way, I blow my whistle, scold him, place him in time out, give him a smack, or perhaps withhold food and treats. I use these rewards or punishments to condition his responses, however illogical they appear to be (what is logic anyway?). I could have him stand on a ball, balance a fishbowl on his nose, and have him howl a song. He doesn’t care how ridiculous it looks, just so long as he gets fed and a pat on the head. All he knows is that there is a reward at the end, every time.

When I train a human, I train him using extrinsic rewards. When the person performs an instructed action, I say “good boy”, put him on the back, give him a gold star, an A+ grade, or perhaps produce some dollars. When he behaves in an unacceptable way, I yell at him, scold him, place him in time out, take away his star, give him an F, whip him, or starve him.

It’s the same way for humans. When the instructions become so insane they don’t reflect our personal experience, and we’re alright with that, you can be sure you are being manipulated, that something is not right. “Why would I ever have to consider thinking about pineapples and cannibals in this way?” you might ask, “When have I ever in my past?” And they reply “Never mind, don’t think about the content of the story,” and say, “just remember what we told you in class, remember the answers, the response we told you to produce when you see the question.” It’s not education, it’s training. Education means  “to lead out”, such as when we lead someone to a new terrain, to new pastures. Training means to “drag out”, like when you drag a mule, or pull a slave by the collar.

(Educate comes from educere ex- “out”+ ducere “to lead”, from the PIE root *deuk- “to lead”, where Duke is derived. Training comes from trahere “to pull, draw,” from PIE root *tragh- “to draw, drag, move”)

I have been giving thought to similar problems I encounter throughout our education system and, more broadly, culture.

This is an example when theory trumps experience. What the hell does that mean? I mean schools don’t teach you how to reason from open experience, they train you to reason from closed theory. They prioritize syntax, structure, and empty relationships among symbols, among words. Pure abstractions.  There is no emphasis on content, semantics (associated meaning and feeling), and comprehensive understanding. Am I being too hard?

I don’t think I am. In our classrooms it doesn’t matter if you know what the worldly implications of an answer are so long as you answer it correctly on the test. It’s not like students ever experience or encounter the object— that is, what the words and relationships among them actually refer to—  as they sit for hours in their crammed classrooms. Most of education is abstraction. They teach you how to reason from principles, and the constructed relationships between them, that you’re instructed assume, ad hoc, to be true. When we simply believe words or principles are true, we commit the same error that religion commits. Words and authority don’t make something real. Just because the pope says the bible is the word of god doesn’t mean that Jesus was the son of  god— like we even know what god, which god, or who Jesus meant when we spoke of “god”; God could simply be enlightenment, desire for understanding, thirst for knowledge, or faith in your self, which is my favorite interpretation since it contains explanations for all the preceding.

As far as I’m concerned, there is one reality, one god, and it’s found deep within each individual if they dare to venture within and search it out. Reality does not exist outside of the mind: to be is to be perceived. Symbols, words, tokens, signs— they all seek to transcend the authority of personal experience with impersonal theory, and they are very persuasive, especially when “logic” knits the story together so convincingly.

What makes something real must be real according to you. I always suggest that you peer review your experience with others who have shared that experience, but ultimately the utility of your conclusions must be left for you to decide. Do not give the authority of your experience over to the authority of another due to complex justifications or compelling rhetoric.

*

Regarding this article and our culture, I believe we’re in a time where the sovereignty of an individual’s internal experience is on its way out, where individualism counts for nothing anymore.  We’re witnessing the rise of pedantic educational, political, and economic institutions that are similar to the rise of parochial religious institutions, all of which serve one purpose: enslavement.

How is this possible? How can this be?

I would bet it’s the natural corollary of civilization. Every civilization reached a point where ridiculous dogma and metaphysics governed the masses. And we think we’ve escaped the ignorance? We think that science has somehow saved us from ourselves? That is prideful ignorance.

Repetition causes words to lose their meaning. Scarcity creates value. And values prescribe action. But when there is no common experience, and control must be exerted, you must appeal to some values, some feeling for influence. What feeling can universally move the masses? We’ve discarded religion due to its incompatibility with the profits that science and technology can provide— But religion did work so well for so long! Wage labor a far better way of incentivizing work and extracting wealth than tithing is anyway: so what is the common value of industrialized society, for America? Materialism! i.e.  money and the “things” we can accessorize our experience with!

All that we do revolves around the pleasure of goods, the gratification of indulging in “things” or pleasing corporeal experiences. But what happens when there is no more scarcity, there is no more value, there is nothing unique about the human experience? What happens when your individualism becomes null because there is nothing in the world that hasn’t been felt by everyone else?

That’s why experience is so important, that’s why feeling is so significant, why authenticity is the reigning value of all values. Where you are your own god who creates your own meanings.

And what to I mean by god? I do not mean perfectly “omniscience, omnipotent, omnipresent”. That is for fairy tales. The god I am referring to that you possess within you is the ability to create meaning and value and visions and worlds and relationships for yourself. Without having to rely on some external superior power or governing authority.

Yes. You are your own god. Does that terrify you? It should. Is a slave terrified without his master?

You must learn to become, as Emerson said, Self-Reliant. The power exists within you, within the imagination, the depths of reflection, where memories mix and meld with reason and will, the desire to thrive and flourish.

Thoughts on Society and Mental Disorders

What is mental disease? When we see someone who is mentally unwell, do we immediately recognize their dysfunction? Do they recognize their dysfunction? Do we appeal to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manuel of Mental Disorders?

I don’t believe in mental disease, per say. That may raise a lot of eyebrows, but I’m looking to transcend the conventional wisdom (in truth, wisdom is common knowledge that has grown uncommon, so the idea of conventional wisdom leaves me skeptical). I’d like to take a broader, grander view of things. I don’t believe in mental disease for the same reason I don’t believe in, say, God. Both are manufactured, their cause and effects, by society.

Let me elaborate.

Everything we know about anything we have inherited from nature and our social culture. I would argue that, given the social forces of cultural influence, as well as an absent relationship with nature, people know more about societal values, its fabricated and historical values, than the absolute values discovered within nature and in themselves.

All perceptions are biased. The loss of ego is the loss of values, the loss of perspective, the loss of an etiology that structures significance and meaning.

What is mental disease? I believe mental illness is manufactured by society: civilization is a disease. I’m not the first to propose such a caustic claim, just one to reemphasize the fact. Socrates, Diogenes, Rousseau, Nietzsche, Thoreau, Freud, and many many others pointed out civilization’s detrimental assault on man’s psyche.

I posit that mental illness arises due to the oppression of an individual’s self. The self, or perhaps you could say the ego, is the seat of consciousness that structures experience in a meaningful way. It regulates its point of view as the subjective in which the objective web of the world is woven around. In order to operate functionally and efficiently, the self needs to be strong and healthy. I would argue that the self develops as the world around it affirms its nature. In this way society, our family and peers, dictate who we are, they literally dictate who our self is through their perception of and reaction to what they believe they see us to be. Think Bourdieu’s habitus.

Mental illness is the result of an unhealthy self. It is a self that cannot effectively structure experience around its “self” in a meaningful way. It therefore cannot coin meaningful associations with the phenomenal objects constituting experience, whether these objects are other subjects (people) or simply “things” incorporated into our environment.

Man is a social creature. He has evolved to such a degree that relationships with other subjects are integral to his conscious life experience, and the propensity for these relationships has found a way to forge endless webs of relationships with experience itself. The conscious experience is simply not a conditioned response. It is a relationship with a reality embedded with a key feature, that of change. Hence the continual need to communicate with the external world in order to adjust and adapt.

I believe that mental illness is a byproduct of a societal forces being impressed on the self, our reflective consciousness, by undermining the personal experience of the self, by forcing it to contort to unnatural expectations and artificial values that are incongruent with our first hand experience.

Is mental illness genetic? I believe there are aspects of mental illness that are. But what is mental illness? A behavior that deviates from the norm? An unconventional disposition that leaves you feeling unusually more or less than your fellow man, to such a degree that is unnatural, or abnormal? Is it a disease to feel too much? or too little? Society would have us believe so.

Could it be that, without an integrating support system provided by institutions like family or community, society’s abstract value’s literally destroy the self, leaving us incapable of making sense of the world, leaving our mood to vacillate uncontrollably, and forcing the self to assign values to unusual features of experience?

We look at mental disease, observe it through imaging technology, through scans and sensors, and denote a marked difference for the “normal” control group (however, whatever that “normal” actually is is beyond me). So, yes, there is something going on here. But what is the disease? It is purely psychological, purely a phenomenal product of a mind that has grown maladapted to its world. What caused this maladaption? Is it genetic? I’m skeptical. Genome research is showing that while our genetics play a tremendous role in our development, it is our environment that expresses these genes as a means for our organism to adapt to environmental demands. So that while we might observe the manifestation of behaviors and locate a physiological origin, I would argue that this observation is simply an effect, a symptom, of external demands, of environmental stimuli or trauma.

When we find ourselves bleeding, we do not simply say that the body is the cause. We ask ourselves what caused the gash, and index some sharp object we may have encountered. In the same way, when we observe a set of unusual behaviors, we do not say the mind is the cause. We look for some proper cause, some first cause that preceded the manifestation of the psychological symptoms.

We do not need prescription drugs to alleviate our bizarre reactions to an even bizarrer culture. We need support and discourse, love and kindness. More importantly, we need recognition. We need a world that acknowledges the self for something more than it believes it is, more than it was told. This is where love comes in, the all important quality that instantiates the ultimate relation between man and his world.

Most mental illness occurs on the fringes of society. Celebrities are not immune, for they occupy a space that is so elevated above the common psyche, even they have trouble seeing their self at such altitudes. This incongruence yields a break down. The homeless? Did they develop their mental malaise before or after their predicament? Did they come from a loving, supportive home with healthy relationships that respected and valued one another for who they were? Or did they become maladapted after the fact?

The abused, the downtrodden, the castaways, the  people who come from broken families, that come from families with broken values: these are the people who experience “mental illness”. The people who cannot properly develop a self because they have no functional or loving relationships to reaffirm the worth of their self. As a result they cannot adequately integrate their subjective self with the objective world. It becomes a problematic endeavor, especially when challenge and obstacles arise. The lack of self produces a lack of will power, a lack of authenticity that asserts an individuated self.

The self is a disposition that orients the external world in a way that elicits a given response, a mood, that produces a consciousness that gives rise to thoughts.

Society has grown to its vast proportions due to a division of labor. Men are no longer reliant on the whole of their organism to achieve balance with their world, to sustain their life. They are required narrow physical or mental aptitudes that serve a circumscribed function within a greater organizational structure. The division of labor creates casts and forces man into those casts, requiring him to subjugate what other feelings, or thoughts, or talents, or skills, or passions he might possess. We are assigned a job and stamped with a title. Just like that we have grown inward. To define is to confine, and no other place will you fine both of these than in an ornate industrial system like the one we call home.

Those with mental illness, I am sure, developed in an environment that was oppressive, that dictated the value of a self that was less than the value they perceived themselves to possess. It is not simply being oppressive, for discipline is a form of oppression that encourages growth towards very specific ends. In the case of discipline, the individual believes in their value, in the possibility of attaining the end, and exists in an environment that expects or supports the achievement of that end.

The oppressive environments I’m referring to are those where relationships exist only to diminish your value, and perhaps elevate theirs at your expense. It is a form of judging that sentences you with a self valued next to nothing you can comprehend through personal experience. Perhaps this arises because the environment is abusive. Perhaps the environment refuses to acknowledge that person’s self, and therefore provides no context in which to integrate into.

I would argue that those people without a web of relationships with others that orient themselves around the subject as an appreciable aspect of their experience cannot create meaningful sense from their world. That is, their lack of significance within a web of relationships, within system of interpersonal references, leaves them dispossessed of a structured order of experience. In a word, they have no subjective self because they exists in a world that refuses to affirm it. Without a self, without a reflective consciousness that constitutes a subjective individual, there can be no relationship with the world. Every relationship begins with the subjective, ends with the objective. The more developed the subjective, the more relationships can be developed among and between the objective world, whether they are other beings or things.

Culture manufactures mental illness. When discussing mental illness, what matters is our values and the lack of authentic communication about things that matter. No where else in the world do you find the level of mental illness exhibited here in the US. Mental illness is due to a culture that capitalizes off of solving people’s problems, whether they are real or perceived. The only problems people have is relationship problems. “People” are not the problem. Their brains are not the problem. It is a world, a culture, a society, that has forgot how to engage in mutually beneficial relationships, meaningful relationships that are reciprocal, that engage each other with equal vested interest. Instead we have a society of exploitation, of one sided dialog, of oppression. This has lead to minds that do not possess a clear idea of what it means to have original feelings, or novel thoughts: authentic experience.

There is an absence of authenticity, of autonomy, because no one possesses an actual self. Their self has been imposed on them, sold to them, by culture, through the mass media, the proliferation of icons, the repetition of signs and symbols that impress and embed themselves into our psyche, our self; and all the responses accompanying that self are acquired from outside of itself, in the world, the same place that sold them the idea that they were an individual self.

Imagine the mind like a plant. Imagine that food was the soil, and that sunlight was our sensory stimulation. In order to grow, we need to find the most sunlight. Now imagine that above our plant a disk has been placed to block the sunshine. The plant would naturally grow out and around this disk. Imagine a cylinder has been placed around the plant on all sides, with only a small opening at the top. The plant could not grow out, so it would grow up until it pierces the hole, then grow out wide (perhaps this analogy resembles the saying: if you want to make the rules, you must first play by the rules).

My point is this: society is the shade, the disks, the blockades that shade the sunshine, the stimulation afforded to our minds. It imposes artificial restraints on our potential and capabilities, on our value and possibilities. As a result, the mind, just like the plant, may grow weak and whither, or develop in a erratic way, or be forced to grow in an unnatural way.

Perhaps this is simply survival of the fittest. Perhaps exploitation is a fundamental inescapable feature. But I insist that equality and collaboration yield the greatest, most universal perspective and utility. This has been demonstrated time and time again when people are seen as equal. But maybe the system of collaboration is imperfect and everyone cannot be included due to the size? I would say that this system should be trimmed, that any system that too large to accommodate equal individuals is inefficient and ineffective.

Or perhaps I’m being too creative with my criticisms.

Values: The Art of Authenticity and Will Power

“There can be no knowledge without emotion. We may be aware of a truth, yet until we have felt its force, it is not ours. To the cognition of the brain must be added the experience of the soul.”
— Arnold Bennett

The answer to all of life’s questions requires an understanding of values. If you understand what values are and how they work, you will understand the world, yourself, and others with clairvoyant sagacity. Values. What are values? Values are more than beliefs, they are more than pleasures. They orient us to our world. They provide a context, a priority of significance. They move us to action, but more importantly, they move us to thought. You could probably say that values occupy some corner of our subconscious, like the super ego or Id or something.

Values create a worldview. They are institutionalized into us through tradition, through enculturation, through habitus. We can appeal to universal values as a result of socialization. If you know what a person values, you can predict their thoughts and behaviors, however unassuming they may appear.

Values are the source of all intention. If you understand values, you understand all “will”, all motivation, all incentives, all behavioral manifestations. You understand thought, culture, action, desire, mood, emotion…

When you understand values, you understand morality, which is nothing more than socialized values, conventionalized values. “Truth” is a value that we are so familiar with, it becomes ultimate commonsense, common knowledge to all.

How do values appear? What do they look like? There are relative values, which are dictated by society and culture, by societal conventions— which are always up for interpretation—, according to what other people value, conspicuous or not: our clothes, our virtues, our accessories, our goals, our interests, our job, our degree, and the like.  And then there are absolute values, which are dictated by physiological necessity, and not so open to interpretation, such as the most basic survival needs, like food, water, shelter, and sex.

I believe that when absolute values are unsatisfied, relative values cannot flourish, and therefore culture can not develop. Culture is purely conventional social values oriented around absolute values, around life sustaining amenities and activities that grow in complexity as technology allows for more efficient and effective acquisition, and therefore more free time to socialize.  As freedom increases, the attainment of absolute values becomes less of a priority and socialization around these absolute values grows more distant, and the more culture can flourish, deepen and grow. When a society is focused on survival, there is less free socialization, and therefore less time to devote to occupying our thoughts with relative values that provide cultural meaning.

Nietzsche’s will to power is simply a will to actualize values which are relative to the “self-willing”. A person who manifests original values for, and according to, their “self” is in a unique,  and perhaps “authentic”, position to imbue their values in others. Self-knowledge, being “self-willed”, or possessing “autonomy”, produces authenticity which creates an almost divine “authority”, and authority begets power, because authority dictates value. The ability to leverage value is power, because values move people, and power is the ability to move people, and therefore resource, to facilitate change. But this all begins in the “self”. The origin of “authentic” and “authority” is autos which means “self”. “Autonomy” means “self-law”.

Values dictate context: they provide a priority of perception, of thought and action. Values are purely instinctual, purely primal, purely emotional. Thoughts encapsulate feelings with words. We are conditioned by association. Thoughts and feelings— derived from our perception of reality or the outer world— are simply feelings indexed by symbolic words. When we undergo debate, discourse, casual conversation, or cognitive therapy, we assign words to feelings, and learn to leverage and manipulate them as a means of exerting our will to our benefit.

Values are the lens in which we view the world. There are always ultimate values: a hierarchy always exists. Values create an etiology— which contributes to a “worldview”. As an example: For the religious, God and the scriptures and the church are the ultimate value, and all other values and the activities accompanying them revolve around these ultimate values; whereas for the materialists, wealth and conspicuous commodities— anything quantifiable— are the ultimate value, and all other values and activities accompanying them revolve around these ultimate values.

Creativity is nothing more than a reorganization of values— a creation of new feelings that index perceived objects to new words, which creates new relationships with new ideas, and constructs a new gestalt, a new conceptual schema, a new perceptual structure.

Values dictate what we see— they provide a priority of perception. We see what we “want” or “desire” to see. We have an affinity, an emotional yearning, to actualize values.

If wealth is your highest value, you will be a slave to it and possess none of the intangible fruits it offers. If power is your highest value, your top priority, you will possess the tangibles of wealth and authority, but lack a full appreciable grasp of intangible values. If wisdom is your highest value, you possess the greatest value of all— the ability to understand and create human values— and the world becomes yours. It is often said that wisdom can be defined as the proper application of knowledge. But all action, all application, is a manifestation of a value system possessed by an individual “self”. Action responds to values.

You may believe that values are simply the desire for pleasure, and you may be partially right, but most important for individuals is the desire for stability, for security, for equilibirum and coherent experience. An individual desires balance between their perceptions and thought, and their feelings and mood. All pleasure is the result of attaining expectations, achieving a congruent innerworld and outerworld. We set goals to create incongruity, and we work to achive an outerworld that resembles our inner world, our inner expectations. It is not the attainment of a reward the produces pleasure, but the expectation of reward.

Attaining expectations is when the thoughts containing an encapsulated emotional memory, are reinforced in the present, through passive circumstance, such as aesthetic experiences that reflect our internal ideals, or active realization, such as worthwhile work that reflects our internal ideals.

All thoughts are reaffirming, are self-enforcing. All minds want to organize according to a preexisting structure of values, of meaning, belief, perception… according to a history, a narrative, a story, a tradition, an inherited legacy. We strive for stability and so aim to create and ensure that our outer world matches our inner world of values. When incongruity arises, many people would rather persist in a delusional state that reaffirms their inner world of values to maintain equilibrium. The consequence of such delusions is a host of emotional alarms which indicate mental and emotional duress, such as anxiety or stress, due to conflict and discord, as an indication of contradiction and incongruity. When these emotional alarms are not dealt with an individual may internalize them, but they manifest through physical outlets, such as ulcers and the like, or behavioral outlets, such as deviant substance abuse to inhibit or numb the emotional duress.

Extrinsic values are the same as extrinsic motivations: they are meaning imposed on “life” by society, by culture and convention. Intrinsic values and motivations are creative, are self-generated in the absence of external guidance, cultural dictations, or normative signaling from society.

Authenticity is nothing more than a purely self-generated system of values. Authenticity transcends circumstance, transcends reason, transcends convention and truth and normalcy.

Art is emotional expression. Must you embrace yourself as an artist before you gain acceptance and legitimacy? Must you embrace an identity before you become an agent in the world? What is an artist? What is identity? If an artist utilizes a medium for emotional self-expression, as a therapeutic activity rather than an identity reinforcing act, must they embrace a collectively agreed identity to become legitimate?

Struggle destroys and creates values, by stripping the essence that moves you to bear. Challenge requires a redefinition of values— a re-contextualization of perspective— which compels personal growth and character development by impelling an adaptation of a new set of values, a new value system, in order to orient and navigate your perceived world.

Creativity, being rooted in the believing heart as a purely emotional enterprise, is the product of struggle. Creativity arises when struggle causes the redefinition of values, which in turn leads to the alteration of perception,  consequently changing the organizational structure, the context, of thought and mind and feeling and heart.

When struggle occurs, the value system containing the emotional associations— your values— that move you to compulsive action, to convicted thought, must be dissolved and reformulated with new, stronger, and more resilient emotions. When the realization of what you expected to happen falls abysmally short of what is actually happening in life, your original value system becomes useless and life becomes increasingly disorienting as the incongruity grows. You might associate these situations as the most difficult and trying times in life, perhaps times when you consider yourself being tested by god or circumstance, or some might say it’s the time of “hitting bottom”. These are the times that define our character, that shape our will. Whatever the case, religion has us putting our faith in “God” and new agers have us meditate in the “Dao” or “Chi” or whatever that life flow is.

The point, the function, the value of these coping strategies produces the same value of placing all your faith in yourself. Accepting yourself confidently despite uncertainty, accepting your strengths despite your weakness. Accepting yourself is nothing more than accepting the emotions that embody you as a reflection of your essence, your will to persist despite natural circumstance. Because the will or will power is nothing more than applied feeling, emotions are our greatest strength. Call it will power, or the will to power, but emotions are the impetus of all thought and action. The will to power is simply the propensity to produce a world that caters to and reflects our emotional disposition, the equilibrium we strive to achieve between our inner thoughts and ideals and the outer physical and social world. Some people acquiesce under circumstance and exist like water, reflecting, absorbing, flowing in accordance to the will of others.  Other people dominate over circumstance by exerting their emotional disposition into the world, by bending the will of others, by manipulating nature through technology. They are masters unto themselves.

See these earlier posts on the utility of Oppression and Suffering.

***
Authentic comes from Gk. authentikos”original, genuine, principal,” from authentes “one acting on one’s own authority,” from autos “self” + hentes “doer, being,” from PIE *sene- “to accomplish, achieve.” 1) Meaning Of the same origin as claimed; genuine; 2) Conforming to reality and therefore worthy of trust, reliance, or belief. 3) (obsolete) Having authority.

Autonomy comes from Gk. autonomia “independence,” noun of quality from autonomos “independent, living by one’s own laws,” from auto- “self” +nomos “custom, law”.

Authority, from early 13c., autorite “book or quotation that settles an argument,” from O.Fr. auctorité “authority, prestige, right, permission, dignity, gravity; the Scriptures” (12c.; Mod.Fr. autorité), from L. auctoritatem (nom. auctoritas) “invention, advice, opinion, influence, command,” from auctor “master, leader, author”. The power to enforce rules or give orders. Used in singular or plural form: Persons in command; specifically, government.

Streaking Canopy

I can’t sleep. Insomnia has plagued me. Not insomia, per say, more of a total lack of diligence. I’ve been observing myself from afar the past few months, and I can’t help but think I’ve degenerated into a raving lunatic. There’s something of a compensatory malaise that’s settled on me, a disease of the imagination, one of the heart. I’ve succumbed to old vices, justified desultory behaviors, yielded to impulse, all in the name of fulfillment. And while I can’t say I’m in a state worth complaining about, I’m not exactly sure I feel any more fulfilled because of it.

Where is the self-discipline? I rationalize my passions, these unpredictable tyrants, with aphorisms like “reason must be a slave to the passions” and other nonsensical speak. What is balance? Before the structured society, nature imposed her rule, through time, the seasons, the setting sun. I’ve lambasted society’s strict structure as a pathetic excuse to escape responsibility from her order, all in the name of wildness. But am I an animal? Where is my personal narrative, my imagination? Why can I not call on a thread of story to sow meaning back into my life? I find myself with fading preoccupations that come and go with the tide, and I proclaim my evolution. But all the while the shore recedes and I am left with less than when I started. Am I too harsh? I have declared the reclamation of merit to live on a whim, but at what cost? Have I regressed? Have I grown into myself, or out of myself?

Change is something of a comfort. I’m tired of these thoughts, these stagnating feelings, these perduring words that have etched themselves into my psyche, that beat incessantly at my consciousness like a dripping faucet. Stillness breeds pestilence: placid pools choked of a streaming consciousness. Familiarity has evaporated fresh thought, leaving me with more of the same. Where are the revelatory insights? Do they come and go? Do I implore the world for more of her wisdom? or do I dig and mine for it from within? And what of the world and my proper place in it? Do I tell stories? do I listen to stories? or do I create them?

I am surrounded by enablers. People that feed my ego, that affirm the worth I continually seek to discard. I need to molt, to metamorphisize into something grander. Can this happen in my current state? Should I seek new frontiers? How should I employ my experience? How should I demonstrate my value? Where might I find something that doesn’t reek with past association? What is it that I am trying to escape? Where does this restlessness arise? Do I stab at it with self criticism? Do I strangle it with satisfaction?

But I want to do great, I say, want to change the world in an unprecedented way. I keep my eyes cocked, one pointed outward toward the world, the other inward toward my soul, to achieve balance, I say, but I only become disoriented. What will salvage this soul of mine? Is it literate? Do I leverage words over the minds of men, persuade them to embrace the clairvoyent alms I offer, the values I impart to the world? Do I act as a torch to light the way? And who will light my path? Is that for me alone? Or do I light the torches within other men, one by one, so that they become their own beacon, their own true north?

There are only questions, endless seas spanning leagues and chasms and planes. If I was a bird; I would have a voiced graced by divine inspiration and wings to carry me above the rising currents that bake the earth. I could soar across new landscapes, traverse valleys and streak up the hills, catch secret shade in towering canopies, and greet frontiers of wide open blue. Where is my place in this world? Is it in words, in symbols, in relations? Do I steep myself in meditation, in reflection? Or do I act with unrequited abandon and throw myself into the world? But the balance, you say, the moderation that beckons every stable being, where is that in this wide open dream?

Facebook, these digital landscapes, falsifies reality. The updates. The information. We are drowning in information. Do we need more knowledge? Does this world need more knowledge? More abstracted meaning? More stuff to fill our minds, to clog our souls, to muddle our mental machinery? I believe we are overflowing with information. Do we need more scientists? What of all the science we have? Are we getting any closer? What is the end, here? What have we achieved? Is our society any better off? Are we any better off? Do we have any more answers than when we started? So what is the goal? Should we make more of an effort to learn more? To stuff our brains with more symbols, more words? Will that provide the meaning, the answers? Will that suffice? I believe we have reasoned from the wrong premises, and our conclusions, natural as they may be, will fail us. I want to start over. From where?

I will secure a j-o-b soon. I type it like that because it’s often said like that, as if the word contains a frightful taboo, a terrifying reality that we should shield ourselves from. Upon securing this job, what have I to do then? Apply myself, earnestly produce value for my employer, all in the name of a paycheck, in the name of some core values and mission statement coined in a conference room by men wearing pin striped suits whose aim is to devise a moral incentive to maintain company performance. Workers are numbers, applicants, positions: faceless and nameless in the sea of business, in the market of operations. Performance is dictated by necessity, and beliefs are formed accordingly. We have bills to pay, mouths to feed, cash to accumulate, things to buy that extol our worth and achievement, and suddenly work becomes meaningful. But when all of that is provided, life suddenly becomes meaningless. The only outlet is pure self-expression, artistic screams that cry for some transcendental worth to imbue activity with meaning. But the crowds are fickle, and appealing to them for direction and value is a fruitless endeavor. No, you must dictate direction and value to the crowds.

Figures in authority ask the questions. It is not your place to question me if you are inferior, they say. Who do you think you are? I ask the questions, and you provide the answers. Let us educate our workforce in this way, silly complacent children.

The boys come and go. They are preoccupied with the thoughts of others. They seek approval of their worth, so they act the part, play the role, pander to the appraisal of others. Their lives, like most others, are empty; their own thoughts do not stay close but pass through them like a sieve. What is retained is a shallow film scraped from the sides of their hollow canisters. It is the same grime, the same soot, the same slime that festers across the airwaves, that penetrates the media madness, that trickles across the ticker, that dawdles down the twitter. The same information, reaffirming our crumby selves, our empty selves, devoid of self imposed rule, of self affirmed value. We become machines, with machine minds and machine hearts, latticed with everyone else’s ideas, with everyone else’s dreams, pipe dreams.

Creõ

The heart of creativity lies exactly there: the heart.

The Latin root for create is creõ, which means “belief”. The Indo-Proto-European root for creõ is cor-, which means “heart”.

It is not thought that moves man into great action, not merely ideas that imbue mind with clairvoyant insight; it is the heart. There we find man’s inner chambers flooded with ecstasy or anguish, the impetus of evolution. Necessity—who is the mother of invention— breeds struggle; we are not born adapted to this world. Struggle shapes our constitution, our capacities, and through this struggle our strength and fortitude is born.

Where there is no feeling, no passion, no pain: there is no creation. Anxiety is the greatest struggle. It is struggle internalized, adopted by the psyche, embodied by the ever reflective mind searching for resolution. It is the single source of genius. Anxiety, or more poignantly, existential angst, is the overwhelming flux of feeling much. It incarnates as a loss of certitude, a banishment of reliable logic, formalized answers. It is accompanied by a frenzied mania chasing for vivification, for illumination and elucidation. It shuns what is presented and rejects the status quo.

Creativity is the enterprise of evolution. The greater the struggle, the greater the chances for unsurpassed evolutionary advantage. Necessity alone breeds innovation: it is an impasse that can only be surmounted by a reflective mind that seeks for its answers inside itself, rather than outside itself, within the world.

Among mankind, the mind has shouldered the responsibility for evolutionary adaptation. No longer do we succumb to the necessities of the physical world. Instead we project our lavish visions of a world modified according to our liking, to our internal ideals. We have inverted the tables of evolution from a wholly extrinsic force to one that is intrinsically borne from the will to power; that is, the will to imbue our influence, our mindful vision, into the world. For the creators, the self-willed autonomous agents: Nature no longer manipulates man: it is man that manipulates nature. Humanity has stretched beyond the zenith of possibility. We become the master by programming our will into the world, by leveraging our values through information and knowledge to suit our desired ends, to manifest our will to power.

Because evolution has transcended physical constraint by occupying the multifarious magnitude of mind, our struggles are no longer physiological, but psychological. That is why anxiety is the greatest virtue of genius. It is the psychologically imposed feeling of struggle that grants passion room for creative invention, for the obdurate heart of crushing genius to reformulate the rules of the game, the laws of society and nature, to transcend the existential angst imposed by the struggle rendered from change.

Education and Genius: Boredom and Learning

If you are having a conversation with someone and you find yourself struck with boredom, chances are it is not a failure on your part, not a result of your mere laziness. I would bet that the failure rests with the person your speaking to, your interlocutor. I’m under the opinion that there no boring ideas. Just boring people.

After all, we’re sensual creatures. We thrive on stimulation. Nearly all of communication is nonverbal (Knapp). Sight and sound comprise 94% of our sensory inputs, 84% and 11% respectively. The American educator Marva Collins said that “The essence of teaching is to make learning contagious, to have one idea spark another.” I couldn’t agree more. I believe that at the heart of this contagion is a resonating passion, an enthusiasm that generates a visceral reaction, a mutually shared connection with another person.

Regarding education, why do we find that the responsibility for learning and adequate understanding rests with the student? Assuming that students have a vested interest in gaining knowledge of the material, why would we dismiss them as merely lazy or unmotivated when they find it unbearably difficult to fight through boredom and apprehend a classroom lecture?

When a student enters a classroom prepared to learn new material, they begin without a context. Even when reading the text is a prerequisite to coming to class, there is still an absence of ultimate relevant context: why should a student be expected to understand the relevancy and relationships within the context being presented? They shouldn’t. But this is the prevailing attitude maintained by formal education.

The result of an attitude insisting that the better part of learning rests in the hands of the student rather than with the teacher is a system of education where disengaged teachers instruct and lecture to students who are discouraged to engage in critical, mutually beneficial dialog, but sit as semi-passive observers to be inculcated with remote, vague ideas devoid of a context that is immediately relevant to the schema they bring with them to the classroom.

What kind of thinking does this promote? I would bet that the direct manifest of this classroom emphasis produces analytic, auditory-sequential thinking. This type of thinking is rote, routine, automatic, and poor in relevant context necessary for robust comprehension. Outside of what meaning is directly issued by the dictated insistence of the educator, there is no meaning. As a result students know all the words to all the questions, but they fail to ever develop a comprehensive semantic web that poises all the questions, and therefore lack the capacity to critically inquire, to ask original questions, for themselves. The contrary of analytic, auditory-sequential thinking is nonsequential, visuo-spatial thinking characteristic of geometric visions of reality.

I recommend reading Two Ways of Knowing for a preliminary elaboration on the virtues of auditory-sequential learning (left brain hemisphere) versus visuo-spatial learning (right brain hemisphere). To briefly note, highly gifted individuals utilized visuo-spatial thinking, exhibiting greater brain activity in the right brain hemisphere. But allow me to continue this line of thought a little further down. (Also another interesting article on Temporary and Spatial Processing)

Wonder. This word encompasses the attitude of children— model geniuses in their own right. They are absorbed with curiosity, captured with wonder, and intensely interested in the prismatic, multifaceted world around them. Children learn at exponential rates, partly due to their physiological development, but even more importantly, due their excitement for discovering novel experiences and the process of knitting new understandings regarding how these experiences work.

But what happens to that childlike wonder? Where does it go in age? In the past psychologists speculated that the brain is programmed for critical periods of development that allows for exceedingly fast neural growth in childhood that eventually tapers off with age. They posited that brain plasticity and cognitive fluidity wanes as knowledge becomes more crystallized with age. Due to recent research dispelling notions that brain plasticity declines and ceases with the onset of adulthood, and due to my own experience with learning, I do not embrace this paradigm.

Instead I would like to introduce a paradigm that explains how sparkling wonder for the world fades as individuals become more enculturated, as their questions about the world are met with more of the same answers, the same flat predictable responses. The corollary? They grow more desensitized, their brain is starved of stimulation, and their minds slowly harden and calcify into a crystallized understanding of the same old  phenomenon they find themselves routinely bombarded with.

In effect, the loss of childlike wonder, the lack of curiosity for the world and all its treasured enthusiasms for understanding, is a result of mental oppression. Sounds harsh, right? While this may sound like an overt plot by big brother, I assure you it is not. Rather it is the natural progression of culture.

Allow me to digress momentarily and introduce my thoughts on the sociological philosophies of Bourdieu and Althusser.

Bourdieu discusses the phenomenal progression of enculturation that begins before we are born, beginning with a room and crib and name and clothes assigned to us by our parents. As we emerge from the womb and into this world with an open mind, tabula rasa, we adopt the world that has been carved out for us. Aside from the aforementioned articles, our parents may even have an idea of what kind of person we’ll be, what personality and character they believe we should possess, what religion we’ll practice, and maybe even what job they envision us to have one day, perhaps as a doctor, or lawyer, or entrepreneur.  As we grow older, we learn the various cultural conventions that should govern our behavior appropriately within the context of our given family practices, within school, within church, or within the public domain, such as how to think, how to speak, how to act. We are corrected whenever we venture outside the realms of customary convention, such as when we use foul language in certain public settings, and are reprimanded and corrected, otherwise censured.

This external censure slowly becomes adopted and internalized by individuals until they no longer need external ques for regulating inappropriate and appropriate behavior. In a sense, we learn to censure ourselves. We learn the act (or art) of self- censorship. The proper behaviors we adopt are cultural capital endemic to the social or cultural context in which we find ourselves most exposed to and influenced by.

Bourdieu describes this as the habitus, or the set of socially learned dispositions, skills and ways of acting that operate unconsciously without our awareness. When we do become aware of this habitus, it is often when we find ourselves in a foreign or unknown context that allows us to recognize the incongruencies in behavior, say when a well groomed wealthy elite finds herself at a barbecue in the deep south.

I apologize for the digression but the point I’m making is all important, so allow me to state it plainly: the education system of today fosters a habitus that discourages self-guided open-ended critical inquiry in favor of directed, closed, routine memorization. I am speaking in absolute abstracts, of course, but if you take time to draw parallels to your experiences with formal education I am sure your true conclusions will be the same as mine. The reason why this is the case falls with the aim of education: to produce a work force proficient at undertaking assigned orders, finding answers to given questions, and completing a set of tasks dolled out by superiors. If you look at the hierarchical structure of the classroom as a training ground for the hierarchical structure of the workplace, this doesn’t seem like such a preposterous explanation of education’s existing state.

The individuals proposing and influencing education policies, the wealthy elite, can only think in terms of their own self-guided interests. What benefit would it serve them to have a free thinking, critically minded, independently motivated work force? While I would argue that it would do our nation a great service in terms of creation, innovation, and invention, from an executive’s perspective I can’t see how that’s the most desirable employee. On the contrary, they want workers who work quietly and do the exact job they are given. More precisely: to passively accept what they are told and perform accordingly to expectations.

But in my opinion that’s an outdated paradigm organizational and labor systems. Societies are organisms, like cells or animals, where every part of the whole is as important and valuable as the next for operating at maximum efficiency and effectiveness. To deny the capacity to openly challenge and critically think about work processes is a form of self-sabotage. Fortunately there are organizations such as Google and 3M that employ the practice of critical and creative thought in their workplace.

But again, I digress. And allow me to clarify a point: I am not diminishing the role of intelligence in formal education and the work place either. In fact, it is the only facet or trait of an individual of any worth in contemporary education. What is intelligence? Does it differ from problem solving? Let’s explore these questions.

In the mainstream sense, intelligence is the ability to arrive at correct answers. Sounds good enough. In Greek, intelligence translates as intelligere which means to “select among” from inter meaning “among” and legere meaning “to gather”. More precisely, intelligence is a convergent style of reasoning that utilized deduction to arrive at conclusions. It is analytic and sequential. Does it differ from problem solving? Not if the problem is defined among a given set of premises or facts.

But what if a problem exists as open, without any apparent premises or facts with which to reason from? What if the questions are not given? This is where the utility of intelligence breaks down and an indication that some other important element necessary for problem solving begins gaining apparency.

Allow me to cite Leonardo de Vinci’s response when asked of the secret of his creative genius: saper vedere. In Latin this translates as “to know how to see.” From this brief phrase we can draw some tentative conclusions about what he might have meant, namely that creative genius, or rather problem solving, is the ability to formulate a novel perspective, an original point of view, that rearranges and reprioritizes the saliency and valuations of phenomenon, of facts, within the context of a given problem. This is where visuo-spatial thinking is paramount.

It would seem that the ability to gain the proper perspective necessary for solving open-ended problems rests with the ability to think divergently through a visuo-spatial context of thought. That is, to diversify and differentiate different modes of thought, perhaps through analogy or metaphor, in order to gain an alternative and, ideally, an original point of view.

So I must ask: What type of thinking does our contemporary formal education system encourage? One that deviates from the “norm”? One that tests various processes of reasoning through problems? One that explores alternative solutions to a given problem? Or how about the most striking question of all: Does contemporary education encourage independent thought or novel perspective in the classroom?

If I were to generalize all my experiences in education, and even defer to the data regarding increases in standardized testing, my answer to all these questions would be a resounding no.  Is more standardization, more conformity and uniform perspective the answer? No and no again.

What we need are better teachers who are more adequately equipped to facilitate open discussion and lead critical thinking. In addition, we could do away with rigid, inflexible curriculum’s and standardized tests, as well as the stifling behavioral expectations of structured class settings. We also need to toss out this notion that intelligence— the ability to utilize deductive reasoning to converge at correct answers from a set of given premises— is not the only measure of value, and that other critical thinking skills— such as those that produce an ability to transcend bias, create new perspective, and generate novel questions and original solutions— are being totally overlooked and underutilized.

Truth Hear

In customary social interaction, I tell people what they want to hear: the truth. And for that reason truth is the most insidious instrument ever to have been invented.

When I want to move people into feeling, I talk in terms of their truth, what they perceive to be real, however far from reality and actuality that may be. Does this cause injury or harm? Do we like being shaken from our dreams?

That is why I let people sleep. Very few people want to be woken from their slumber.

Truth anesthetizes the senses the same way repetitive knocking becomes silent background noise: first it is salient, then it is comforting, finally it disappears.

Repetition lulls man to sleep. It dulls his senses by incessantly chipping away at his resistance until he is made more facile and docile, more tolerant to the beating drum, the inculcation.

Very rarely do I talk in terms of actuality. Far too many people shiver at the prospect of losing ground in their truth. Very rarely do I have the courage to disrupt their cool delusions. Am I wrong? Does this antagonize their delusional trance?

Though exceedingly rare, it is only when someone opens a conversation with hope and self-criticism simultaneously do I test the waters of actuality with my toe, making sure to create the most gentle ripple across their placid consciousness so that I may observe how they react to these waves. If there is no hope, such a ripple will likely cause them to thrash and drown. Where there is hope they will tread water, perhaps reluctantly; and where criticism can churn waters and whip waves high above their head, they will rise with the wake and achieve greater perspective.

What is unfortunate, however, is that most have no hope. No hope in their ability to think critically, to tread in tumultuous waters, and gain perspective. As a result they shirk from novelty, they preserve misaligned bias, and they maintain a certain xenophobia to all things foreign.

While I strongly resist any notion that man is inherently limited by nature, rather than strictly limited  by self, I can only conclude that most prefer the tranquility of sleep, the plush luxury of feeling comfortable in their current state, and that the herd, though bewildered and duplicitous, offers the only mentality capable of capturing this feeling of familiar.

 

A Curious Life

A life is a life. A year is a year, a day a day, an hour an hour, a moment a moment. Everyone is subject to time. No one experiences the effect of its measure any differently. The impact is the same on all. What differs is the quality of that time, the quality experience contained therein. And quality is dictated by intensity, in thought and feeling. Intensity is submersion, utter consummation with your thoughts, whether they are derived from immediate impressions and sensations, or past memories and intuitions. What is paramount is quality, the purposeful yearning to yield some understanding, the intensity to string it all together into a beautiful synthesis, a harmonious portrait that expands universally, whose canvas grows larger and larger as questions arise and multiply exponentially. This is the good life. Not a life of answers, but a life of questions.

But only curiosity generates questions, and you must be willing to know, be willing to accept that you don’t know, that you don’t have shit figured out, that your understanding is but a caliginous ink blot on the mural of life. You must part with self-conceit, hubris, certainty and decisiveness every now and again, probably more often than not, in order to possess an open mind, a mind that is receptive to being critiqued, to being wrong, that recognizes itself as slanted and askew. If you think you’re free how is there any hope for escape? If you think you retain no bias, that you’ve got it all figured out, how do you expect to gain correction and progress you’re insight?

Curiosity is the cure all for life’s ills. Curiosity comes with risk, but where there is no risk there is no reward and I refuse to live life in the petty dark corners of safe sanctuaries.

A quality life, a life lived with intensity, may arise unintentionally or intentionally, indirectly or directly. A person thrust into hardship, into uncomfortable or painful or unfamiliar settings and situations, is forced to live life with intensity, they are forced to think deeply about resolving the incongruencies, about reconciling inconsistencies. By chance, through indirect circumstance and unintentional occurrence, they are thrust into situations that elicit feelings and thoughts they would never otherwise have. This forces them to submit to experience, providing them with the quality experience that, more likely than not, can leave them with a better understanding of things. But this understanding is not a guarantee and many people, especially in our culture, where conflict and discomfort is shunned, put off reconciling those thoughts and feelings into their life. They medicate, they avoid, they rationalize, they make excuses. These difficult situations may occur when someone close to them dies , or if they face a tumultuous upbringing, or they are forced to work with someone they disagree with, or they are introduced to material that doesn’t align with their world view. But by unintended consequence, you are given the opportunity to grow because of these things.

Contrast this characterization with the person who intentionally seeks out quality experience, who seeks disequilibrium, experimentation, who creates conflict and crisis and is looking to critique the status quo assumptions in an effort to uncover understanding. They probe the depths of thought to discover insight into the inner-workings of life, in all its objects and ideas, all its tangibles and intangibles. These people set a different bar for themselves. They see the good life as something to be earned through work, through absorption, through consummation with all experience, all thought and feeling. These people seek understanding through discernment, they seek knowledge through wisdom. They place themselves in disorienting situations so that they may gain the ability to orient themselves. They view safety as tantamount to settling, and reward tantamount to risk. But in time, as wisdom grows with understanding, risks become more calculated and outcomes more predictable. Their humility is the key to true foresight, true prophetic ability, true wisdom, true power. (The word for male youth— the reflection of their perfect human— in Archaic Greek was Kouros (κοῦρος), from which the word Kurios (κυριος) is derived, meaning lord, master, and guardian.  Most interesting is that this word also translates as “far sighted” and “powerful”.)

I like to think that the first half of my life was spent obtaining understanding gleaned from unintentional circumstances, from unfavorable conditions that forced quality into my thoughts as a result of my concerted efforts to bring about resolution, and that the latter part of my youth and adult years I have been caught in the fever of autonomous inquiry and intentional experimentation.

I ask myself whether extreme openness and my propensity for thrill seeking was a way of declaring my mental fortitude, my psychological resiliency to the world; so that all the desultory activities characterizing my past— all the promiscuous sex and fiery romance, the poignant intimate encounters, the self- exposure to people of wide ranging personalities and disparate socioeconomic classes, the varying occupations, the entire gambit of school settings, the binge drinking and substance abuse, the manic peaks and melancholy valleys, the indulgent dosing of dozens of hits of acid for consecutive days or weeks or months— were simply a way of confirming my ability to retain composure and maintain control and sustain equilibrium. It was these experiences that I used to prove my capacity, my vigor, my elasticity and tenacity in the face of success or failure to myself. Perhaps this is a biological mechanism at work? Perhaps females are drawn to this type of fortitude and subconsciously my primal instincts have been the driving force behind these developments? But perhaps it was I that allowed this primal instinct to express itself? Maybe it was a continual conscious decision of mine to disregard the oppressive suppressive tendencies to hold back  in favor of fully expressing my desire to completely consummate mind and body, self and world.

 

Myopic Zeal

To the Zealots:
— which may include the Religious, Pious, Orthodox, Evangelical, Fundamentalist, Dogmatic, Scriptural, Ecclesiastical, Sectarian and the like–

I don’t identify with a single myopic vein of thought, and any hopes of converting me into the herd would not only be regressive and detrimental to a healthy flourishing mind seeking wisdom, it would be futile.

I do love you, and I love that you always think of me and share these little bits of biblical joy you come across, but I’m not looking for answers. I’m looking for understanding. So while these may contain little nuggets of biblical wisdom and feel good rhetoric, they will not be an end for me. As an evolving creature it is my duty to adopt all the wisdom of the world so that I may adapt to and overcome challenge and flux and obstacles most appropriately.

Contrary to religious ideology, understanding the human condition is the beginning of all wisdom. But this requires that we consult not only external sources, but explore our internal sources as well. In Greek culture religion was not an individual journey nor a spiritual encounter but a collective enterprise to create a uniformity of experience via the dissemination of a consistent historical narrative which detailed social values and collective moral agreement. The gods of the pantheon were not seen as real or existing, but only as anthropomorphic representations which preserved aspects of the human condition; that is, they were the idealized values and virtues incarnated into typological beings and symbolic situations (myths, fables, parables) that could communicate and explain the world to each generation in society through oral or written language.

The preservation of this culture and its order was predicated on a cultures ability to retain this language, which they called nomos. In Greek nomos means “law” and refers to the structural ordering of experience, specifically relating to daily living and normative activities. Religion was simply an institutional vehicle that served as a way of preserving and perpetuating nomos, or social order and law. The nomos provided explanations and resolutions in the face of anomos, or chaos, conflict and turmoil. The individual appealed to this collective social law for explaining and handling problems arising in their conscious experience that was outside their ability to resolve themselves. In this way individuals sought the advice of the priests or prophets who knew the oral or written tradition exquisitely and offered their personal or propaedeutic interpretations– interpretations that would be absorbed into the tradition for later consultation, much like a contemporary judge’s ruling becomes canonical common law.

Language is all important. The limits of your language dictate the limits of your world.

Man is not made in the image of god: God is made in the image of man. “In the beginning was the word and the word was with god and the word was god.” (John 1:1) Interestingly, ‘word’ here is Gk. logos derived from the Proto-Indo-European word *leg- meaning “to collect, bind, gather”. The word ‘religion’ is a combination of the words re- “again” + lego “choose, gather” or “I go over or go through again in reading, speech, thought, read, relate or recite again, revise, recount”. In this way we see the intimate connection between repetition in binding words to the mind in order to create a consistent world view, a structured ordering of experience. Religion is the institution charged with the preservation and diffusion of a language via enculturation. Throughout history religious institutions have been replaced by various community organizations and governing bodies, most notably Academic institutions that actively inquire about the world with a more precise and thoughtful methodology.

On an interesting side note, the first institution of higher learning, Plato’s Academy, was established in the olive gardens on the temple grounds of Athena, the goddess of wisdom. It is no coincidence that the first school of philosophy– the love of wisdom– and the first institution of higher learning (beyond the gymnasium) was affiliated with the cult of Athena. The Academy derives its name from the legendary Greek Attic hero Akadamos who defected to the aid of the Tyndarid’s Castor and Pollux when they invaded Attica to liberate their sister Helen. As a result, the Lacedaemonians devoted a plane of land in homage to Akadamos planted with Olive trees in the spot where he revealed to the Divine twins where Thesus had hidden Helen of Troy. This plot of land was located just outside the walls of Athens and was later the site where Athena’s temple stood throughout the Bronze Age.

Through this brief sketch I hope it becomes obvious of the potential trappings of cultural institutions like religion. As their perfunctory duty to society, they seek to preserve the status quo, to present man to himself through a slanted portrait of the past. In a “stable” society the only people who can offer legitimate interpretations are those in positions of authority, i.e. priests, professors, professionals, politicians or any other title. Every so often a prophet arises from the herd and expresses the collective opinion in a fell swoop of the pen or brush or voice. These are the artists, the leaders, the creators, the visionaries– all subversive forces of established authority, all necessary agents of evolution and change. These are the disestablishmentarianists, the revolutionaries, the rebels, the terrorists. They are impelled to express the change they see around them, to lead the blind into the light. They are called by nature to tip the scales in favor of progress, despite the howls from stagnating pools of thought and undeterred by the biting guilt of defection, of desecrating antiquated tradition and custom.

The Greeks maintained that the past contained the understanding necessary for adapting to the present. What is important is that, like the Greeks, we view our culture as an instrument of understanding and ordering experience and maintain a tolerance and openness to other cultures and veins of thought. All language, all culture, all knowledge aims at providing explanatory power and utility for navigating through the world. To remain prejudice is to retain a myopic view of the world, deficient in variegated color and devoid of curvaceous depth, and we rob ourselves of another instrument for charting our world.

Sincerely Yours,

X

Make Believe Reality

Have you ever thought about the word creativity? What does it mean to create? What does someone do who is creative?

The word creative comes from L. creatus, pp. of creare “to make, bring forth, produce, beget,” related to crescere “arise, grow” (see crescent). The verb creare means “to create, appoint, cause, set up”.

This is from the present active L. credo meaning “I lend, loan; I commit, consign, entrust to; I trust, confide in, have confidence in; I believe in, trust in, give credence to; I believe.” From Proto-Indo-European *ḱred dʰeh₁- (“to place one’s heart, i.e. to trust, believe”), compound phrase of oblique case form of *ḱḗr (“heart”).

Interestingly, Latin for heart is cor or cordis (think coronary or cordial) which literally referred anatomically to the “heart” and figuratively to the “soul, mind”.  The -do in credo comes from the PIE *dʰeh₁- which means “to put, place, set” (whence also Latin faciō). The present active infinitive L. credere means “to believe”.

In this way L. credo means to “do with your heart”.

It would seem that creativity requires that, first and foremost, you must believe.

 

 

Problems Don’t Exist.

Passion is powerful. You can’t be all thought, all machine, calculated and cool. You need warmth, fire, some fuel to spread your light. But I despise drama. Drama is unnecessary theatrics.  It is passion with problems. Problematized passion. It takes good genuine energy and creates problems rather than solutions. People who attract drama feel insignificant without it. They lack an ability to exist in tranquility. It’s almost as if they think that drama gives their life character, somehow makes them strong or resilient for persisting through these problems, problems they create within abstract of their mind. They take a perfectly good life, and instead of applying their passion, their life force and energy to synthesizing new solutions, they problematize a good thing. Of course they talk like they don’t like the drama, like it weighs on them, like a millstone they carry with them. They are constantly talking about the day when they don’t have so many problems. They are the first ones to talk about discarding this laboring load and equally quick to point out how  badly they want to set it down and dispel the drama, but they continue talking, thinking, seething about their problems, adding potency to their diluted delusion.

Problems do not exist. There. I said it. Problems are only problems when you identify them as problems. Before they are identified, we accept circumstance and situation, absolving that that’s just the way things are, for better or worse. Perhaps it is a skill to be able to identify problems, to label things are deficient, broken, and I bet it takes a critically inquiring eye to do this. But where do you draw the line?

Problems are not problems. Drama is not drama. These are facets of life. Contrary to the clamoring chorus of capitalist commercialism, our life does not need to be problematic and dramatic to be glorious and grand. They profiteer off such knave  propensities for ease, for life without suffering. They drain you of your liquid wealth and welling life as you train to maintain and gain a greater sense of self, a sense of self complete with all the accessories they sell your squeaking soul. But your soul needs no oil. Let the soul, that broken squealing soul, scream, let it scream and burst forth in melody, let it create harmony with other squeaky souls. Do not oil. Warm yourself with its friction, these triturations of life. Soon your stridulating soul will begin to warble and transform into a beautiful hum, a harmonious vibration that echoes across cold chambers where copious copies of silent, gunky souls reside, soiled and slow from the years of feeble fabricated fixes. There is nothing wrong with your soul. You are perfect as a diamond is flawed, stronger than all the universal forces and extraterrestrial elements, pressed and latticed in structural perfectitude, lined with innumerable inclusions and trace elements that straddle its knitted bonds, strontium and nitrogen, rubidium and barium, adding to the refracting flash that douses the senses when you allow transparency and light to work their way within you and shine forth.

Problems do not exist. They are in your mind. If there were no mind to observe, no eye to see, there would be no problems to probe. Overcoming yourself is a task which has no end. The road up a mountain is the same road down it. Do not confuse your life’s task, your journey. Do not tire yourself with the trifling pursuits of climbing the insurmountable where barren cliffs and cleft rifts and ice tips are all that waits you. Go instead down the road, where momentum is your friend, and follow the valley where the streams merge with rivers and  gather into looming pools and luscious lakes and lead to opulent oceans that provide cooling relief under the dense shade of living vegetation. Go where there is life.

Problems do not exist. Life begins in consciousness. Life is not simply physical minutia, else the moons and marbling spheres and stars and solar systems be living. Life is not simply movement. It is purely imagination. No mind exists apart from the life giving force of their imagination. Our eyes cannot capture meaning. That is reserved for our minds. Do not forfeit your mind and believe your eyes. Do not let your ears consume the drunken speech of other grey minds, their crannies and crevasses all canvassed in web, caught in a tangle of dense delusion, of smog that blocks the breathing flue, changing flowing channels into choking chimneys, and strangulating the stronghold of being.

Problems do not exist. They are created, by us, to achieve ends, fabricated ends, short sighted ends, poor hallow ends. Until we believe that our means are greater than our ends, we will fail to dream, fail to see opportunity where there is challenge. Our lives will encapsulate a silent storm of tears, sleeting, frozen over from lack of warmth, from lack of friction with the world, lack of authentic abrasion that causes aural ambage.

Problems do not exist. People sell you problems, don’t sell yourself problems. Don’t add insult to injury and do the job that capitalism, commercial advertising, has perfected. Problems. Everyone wants you to believe that there is a problem free life– that can be achieved by means they can provide if you forfeit a small payment in price, a small piece of your time, a fraction of your wage. We will provide you the happiness, the comfort, the pleasure, the distress-free existence if you pay for it. But this is a lie. There are no problems. And the people who buy into the problems die poor, poor in pocket and poor in spirit. They failed to save, failed to build, collect and create. They diluted themselves with the quick fixes, the shabby solutions that clutter their consciousness, until they are wrapped in flax linnens and preserved in a perfect state of lifelessness.

Problems do not exist. What exists is desire for power, power over circumstance, power over passion, power over thoughts. These people die a slave. They never learned to revolt, never embraced the chaos, the flowing flux that embodies a living life, and rebel as a self-sustaining individual, perfectly punctual in the moment. Defining and confining, constraining and restraining.

Problems do not exist. Mind exists. When our mind identifies a problem with some thing, it is not the thing that changes, but our mind, our relation to that thing. Our mind is eternal, but our attention is finite. We cannot allow ourselves to be preoccupied with any thought or feeling that does not deliver grandeur to house of being, or fails to cleanse our doors of perception. We have one life, one spectacle, a single show, a solemn act to perform. We must choose the words that echo into the ears of eternity with heart, with care. We cannot think our way out of a state of being, a dramatic scene of tragedy, we can act our way out, only feel ourselves into another line, continue playing a developing role to an ambivalent audience.

There are no problems. There is fate. There are ends. There are expectations: faulty suspensions, wry calculations, aslant anticipations. Properly viewed, problems are merely  stepping stones that carry you through life.

 

Anyway.

I believe that love for a subject, passionate unrequited love, is the only way to let yourself gain any appreciable acquaintance, since love is selfless devotion. But I’m not sure we can love people before we love ourselves. We love the me we see in thee.

 

Fid

Words are like capsules of feeling. When properly strung together they become pearls that you wear in your mind so that the light of experience reflects and refracts into a brilliant rainbow of color, decorating and illuminating your inner chambers of thought.

Confidence is attractive. Why? I believe it has something to do with appearing genuine. I know that’s a load of crap, cause being confident or being genuine doesn’t guarantee one or the other, but I believe we like to think it does. When you aren’t confident, there’s uncertainty. And people become uncertain about their impression of you. People like control. They like a world and people they can count on. If you aren’t confident, you probably can’t be counted on.

I’m not saying everyone should be confident… but yea, yea I am. Fake it. I believe you should be confident about your shortcomings, about your limits, about your lack of understanding, about you strengths, and so on and so forth. Be confident where you stand. Be confident that you may be wrong. Confidence manifests as assertion, as declaration. It’s important to project yourself onto the world, every facet and flaw and gem of glory you possess. That’s the only way to truly know yourself. That’s the only way to truly be yourself. And as you gain confidence, you gain a greater sense of being. And you begin to incarnate an ever evolving life that effloresces in time.

*

Moments and modes. My roommates use these words to describe what appears to be my various desultory states of being. I change modes, overturn ethics and morals, undermine and contradict myself. For the moral man, this behavior appears inconsistent, untrustworthy. But I don’t think I could ever trust myself, my thoughts and conclusions, if it were any other way. I like to think that adopting different modes allows for the advent of new perspective. The only way you gain perspective, I believe, is if you change some variables, like values or the weight or significance you give to certain entities and activities and events in your experience.

Some of my modes include prioritizing writing, introversion, reading, an antipathy for socializing and culture. Others include the opposite, where action without much forethought is prized, where people and relationships are put on a pedestal. And still other modes include a mentality of pure success and domination, a lack of empathy and care for others that fail to aid my journey of achivement. But there is a spectrum.

People can be bland. (I can be bland, that’s why I feel like I can make that statement) Maybe adopting these modes all the time makes for unpredictability, but isn’t that life? We try to control, control, control. Which is nice in some modes. But you really can’t embrace the idiosyncratic fluctuations of colorful experience when you’re in complete control. Your control, the premise for your control, is that the future will be like the past. But that certainly isn’t the case. And additionally, that mentality doesn’t allow for the variegation of change to work its way into your life so that growth can take place.

I was going to say more, but whatever I was thinking escaped me.

So this semester I’ve been on the domination streak. Not much thinking, and it’s been feeling great. Lifting six days a week. I weigh 195lbs now at roughly 15% bodyfat. Not shabby. Feeling all nordic and vikingish. Getting strong. Doing my work. Taking 18 hours. Working 15 hours (or struggling to work 15 hours). I’ve been allotting time for socializing and pleasure. I’ve been practicing my guitar quite a bit, and even formed a little jam band with my roommates. We have a drum set in our dining room now. It provides a nice, Nashvillian decorative touch.

I actually have a lot that I could write about. It doesn’t ever occur to me until I begin writing, then it just starts pouring out. I have class. Write more at a future date.

Insecurity

The less confident you are, the more serious you have to act.
-T. Ploughman

Why are people insecure? How can you spot insecurity? Insecurities are funny. On first thought, when I think of someone who is insecure my mind immediately imagines a meek, timid, closed off person who visibly suffers from low self-esteem. On second thought, my mind thinks about those people who always tout their abilities and accomplishments, like they are seeking validation from other people.

It’s the second type of person that is most intriguing. Many times they display a show of self-confidence. They may even be very adept at a great many things, but they seem to consistently feel the need to remind everyone how great they are. These people often fly under the radar when we think about people who are insecure. Or maybe not. But they are everywhere. It seems we have a society full of insecure people.

 

The Great Dichotomy: Passionate Power

Random musings.

Money to get power, and power to guard the money.”
~Medici family motto

Dichotomies are interesting. Many are none other than existential paradoxes: mind and body, thought and matter, possibility and necessity, spiritual and physical,  and the list goes on. Kierkegaard, as well as Nietzsche and other agents of enlightenment, was a literary guru when it came to expounding upon how to live with these irreconcilable realities. Over the years I’ve learned to cope with the resulting blindness of these realities, the otiose character of life and the recondite disunion of body and soul. I’ve compromised with myself and learned to live with one eye pointed inward and the other pointed outward so as to balance introspection and aspiration.

In recent years I’ve faced a dilemma of deciding what to do with my life and career. It’s not like I didn’t see this crisis coming, but I guess I didn’t realize how many times I would be wrestling with my conclusions and convictions. Despite the temporary setbacks and failures mottling my youth, I’ve orchestrated my education beautifully over the years, exploiting a multitude of disciplines of thought and growing ever cognizant of how achievement is actualized. I’ve gone to great pains to realize the context of my condition and the contingencies of my aspirations.

Out of my experience grew two concentrations of study, economics and philosophy, each representing the broader dichotomies encompassing life. One satisfies my intuitions about what I perceive other people to value, the other regards what I value in my heart. I’ve tried to reconcile these over the years and explain why this dichotomy exists, whether a balance can be achieved, or what direction I should favor. For a long time I decided to refuse to sell out. But this clashed with the omnious system that I would face upon entering the workforce: success seemed tantamount to abiding to the myriad of expectations laid out by others.  As I have no trust fund to lean on for support, no assets to buy my way into fortune (compounding investment: you must have money if you wish to accumulate more money), I faced the reality that no upper echelon would endorse my musings, my art, my thoughts, unless I belonged to them, to their network or, by chance, satisfied their criterion of worth.

The citizen of the world in me refused to conform to the ‘system’, to the authority that dictates standardized achievement and propagates worldly values. The autonomy within me bucked as I studied philosophy and developed the tools and methods for critical inquiry, tools I used to ridicule the backward nature I learned to see in the world. The pragmatic element of my spirit recognized the utility of conformity and uptook various preoccupations that would fashion my mind according to them, such as the study of economics and finance.

But I ask myself: what does it take to be successful? I always like referring to the context in question. I’m American. I live in a ‘democratic’ country where the few rule the many. The few in this case are not the parasitic politicians (although in many cases, when it’s convenient, they are one in the same). The politicians are figureheads, merely the arm or scepter of power, not the head of governance. The true source of governance and power resides in the wealthy, the capitalists, the business owners, the stock holders. These are the greats that arbitrate the economic and political atmosphere. They embody the will to power. They pass the laws, set the wages, orchestrate the commerce, conduct the symphonious marketplace we’re lead to believe is free and open. The current sentiment is that if governance is left to the people, we’ll be in a real mess. The populous is simply a bewildered herd, uneducated and incapable of self-rule. (The Wagner Act of 1935 was the last real effort of the masses to mobilize. Since then these efforts have been squashed. Unions are ‘evil’ and communist.) This is why we live in a ‘democratic republic’ where we elect a small group of ‘leaders’ to instruct the masses on which policies they should live by.

To be successful you must be a sycophant. More specifically, you must possess utility for those in power. If you cannot help these people achieve more power, you are worthless and will amount to nothing more than a cog, expendable and interchangeable. But the wealthy will not extend a job or opportunity to just anyone with ample capacity and a strong will. No. They must be familiar with you. You must possess some wealth, influence, charisma, intelligence, talent or power that they can leverage for their own gain. Posterity is as empty as truth. Rationality is an instrument of the powerful: they dictate the rules of the game, the vernacular, the premises and logical structure of your success.

“All things are subject to interpretation whichever interpretation prevails at a given time is a function of power and not truth.” (Nietzsche)

Rationality is a function of motives, of intention. Pin-point desires and motivations and you can construct a cathedral of reason to leverage against those in power to mutually achieve independently contrived ends.

The questions that have wracked my mind most over the years: Do I follow my heart or my mind? Do I follow my passions or my prudence? What it’s come down to is that, given the current state of affairs, given my context as a young American, passions are prized only in youth, as is freedom. With the coming of age what is most prized is security, with the passions left to fantasy much like the irrealism of dreams are left to enamoring vagaries. We discard our passions and convictions, our fantastical visions of grandeur for a better world, in favor of a ‘realism’ scented with a dark cynicism that dispels illusion, that acquiesces under the ‘system’ that we obey out of sheer necessity grown from our will to survive. What has been trampled is our will to power, but it is never too late to revive this urge.

The artists, when they are not lining the capitalists pockets with profits, are simply muses in the most passive sense of the term. These artists are no longer concerned with inspiring as much as they are fixed on entertaining, or ‘amusing’, for their agenda is the same as the capitalists: money. They render the audience as docile and facile as possible, getting them in a blurred frenzy, caught up in emotion, totally distracted from the realities that oppress their sad existence. The poorest, the most impoverished left with only their intangible dreams, love these entertainers the most. Since they cannot live through possessions and materialism they escape through fantasy, artificial emotions induced through hollow emotives.

I’ve decided I want to sell out, for a time. I want to master the system so I can one day create the system. Considering my background, I’ve played my cards right up until now: the best university, the best internships, solid degrees, great grades. What is necessary now is to capitalize on these achievements instead of forfeiting them for the preponderances of my heart, the longings of my spirit, the existential conundrums I unravel in my reflections.

What I need to do is exploit the source of power for my ends: finance. I need to get into the industry where all the wealthy have a mutual stake. Wealth is the common denominator of power. Investment banking, wealth advising, asset management.

I need to toss these ephemeral thoughts about passion, about right and wrong, about selfless creation, to the garbage. They are fruitless. If I want to succeed, I must capitalize on my strengths: people skills, smooth talking, will-power, vision, charm, intelligence, good nature, pleasant appearance. I can be obedient. My rebellious nature was resistant to obey arbitrary authority, and my attitude throughout school and to my superiors proves this. But this needs to be corrected if I am to succeed and dominate. I must fawn these superiors in order to advance. There are many who wish to succeed, but only those who stroke the ego’s of those holding the keys to power will allow be to ascend to their true potential. I look around me and I see so much talent. Young automatons do everything right, except they haven’t a clue that doing everything right has a ceiling. You must not only serve the interest of your superiors, you must also create value for them, you must learn to hijack and supplant their vision with yours in order to aid them in their accumulation and concentration of capital. In this way achievement is guaranteed.

Morality does not exist. There are no facts, only interpretations. You cannot have a universal moral conscience as a businessman, as a ruler of wealth: only a fabricated justification that accepts the inequality of man as a rule. Nietzsche said, “The reasons for which ‘this’ world has been characterized as ‘apparent’ are the very reasons which indicate its reality; any other kind of reality is absolutely indemonstrable.” Those in power dictate these reasons. Their are the moral clergymen.

It’s interesting to consider the influence of media control. The media is the mouthpiece of the powerful. As Chomsky said in his book Media Control, “Propaganda is to democracy what the bludgeon is to a totalitarian state.”

Who rules the world? The powerful, the elite. These are the American ruling class. We elect proffered politicians which have been paid for by these elite with the single agenda of taming the bewildered herd, of keeping the masses complacently compliant.

Slavery was replaced by share cropping, which has been replaced by credit and loans: all of these forms of debt rob the citizens of equality, life and liberty, and it’s legal. Bankruptcy laws. Capital gains taxes. Trickle down economics. Sub-prime mortgage lending. Failed education reforms: No child left behind. The war on drugs. The rise in pharmaceutical psycho-therapeutics. Currency manipulation: Coinage Act of 1972. Foreign wars and fear mongering, communism, creating enemies like Russian and terrorists as a means of keeping the populous paralyzed and fearful, of keeping their attention turned outward instead of inward. All creating fear. All manufactured to suit the ends of the elite. All propaganda.

Truth and lies are one in the same. They condemn or praise according to which subjective end you are most vested.

 

Sol

Creation begins in solitude. I’ve grown misanthropic over the years, less patient with my fellow-man. I’ve come to believe that solitude is where the penetralia of being resides, where the citadel of mind abides, the garrisoned cathedral of the heart. I like to think that all great thoughts and passions germinate in these chambers.

Self-conformity is the only conformity I endorse.  This requires that you love yourself. I don’t think anyone is capable of liking me more than I like me, even if they were paid. As Hillel said, “If I am not for myselfwho will be for me?” So long as I fortify my spirit with solemn reflection and meditation, I am unbreakable. I feel that we’re obligated to respect and love ourselves. Too often the world would have us believe, would lead us to think, that our worth is limited, when in fact, I believe, it is proportional to the love and devotion we pay ourselves. I don’t think loving yourself necessarily means you don’t hate yourself from time to time. Love and hate, being the most powerful of affections, seem to go hand in hand. Indifference is what I fear the most: the true absence of self-love. We are the gods of our existence, the arbiter of our destiny.

Know Your Enemies: Insecurity and Threat

You can always spot those who are threatened by you because they will be the first to compete with you. Anyone who sees you as a threat is an enemy. The surest way to crush your enemies is to avoid competition. This does not make you weak; rather it makes you superior. Those who want to compete are attempting to bring you down to their level, to their preoccupations, and judge you according to their inferior criterion of worth. To preserve your prestige and remain impervious to your enemies, stage all competitions according to your rules and only your rules. By acquiescing to another standard of competition you compromise your integrity and forfeit the very values used to justify the individual greatness that they view threatening.

Your enemies suffer from insecurity; therefore they are threatened. Their lack of self-confidence is a lack of responsibility, a lack of faith in their ability to rise to the challenge or overcome or equate to external values. If they possessed faith in themselves, they would be secure. They would not be threatened by anyone or thing, nor would they compete in a test to measure their worth against another man.

Men of greatness compete with themselves and themselves alone, never compromising their self-generated criterion of worth. When someone extols their personal achievements, you can be sure that they struggle to possess an authentic sense of self. If the measures of greatness are self-generated and self-imposed, what need is there to publicly announce your achievement? The only hope for this announcement is an external affirmation of self.

When you live authentically, self-worth is derived through a process of becoming. Each man lives according to his own ends, as each man possesses his own set of demands afforded to him by life. He becomes more of what he embodies, of what values presuppose his every thought and action. It is vital that these values bolster the purest and greatest sense of self, the highest self-esteem possible.

Competition is death. Domination is the elimination of competition through sheer superiority of values. Would any competent man compete with an invalid? This is how the superior man, the over-man, must think. His values place him above such competition, out of sheer pity or principle. In this way he is morally superior: any competition must occur out of charity alone. I maintain that charity is the gravest form of oppression as it leads to domestication and enablement. Charity is a false generosity that ensures conditional dependency and establishes a hierarchy between the self-sufficient and the self-deficient.

Do you want to maintain superiority? Never compromise your values through competition except when you dictate the rules of the game. Otherwise, let the success of your self-guided actions speak for themselves. Never compromise your integrity, your authenticity, by playing to the rules of another game. Other’s will pine for your competition, but you must never stoop to their level unless the guarantee of winning is indisputable and inevitable.

Recall: familiarity breeds contempt. If you wish to know your enemies, see how they behave when they are lead to believe that they know you. Present yourself plainly as if there is nothing more than meets the eye, nothing deeper below the surface, and see what reaction this elicits. If there is insecurity, your enemy will capitalize at first chance to highlight the superiority they believe to perceive. Do not let this sway you into competition or emotion. Your self-worth, your value, is internally generated, not externally imposed. Any insecurity they voice through comparison or judgement reveals a chink in their sad suit of defense. Capitalize on this error at a later time.

Remain quiet. Do not speak of your achievements. Genius is often seen and seldom heard. When other’s pass judgment, do not flinch in their direction: remain stolid and steadfast. If need be, recalculate the rules of your game and press on toward self-mastery. Those who continue living in competition never reach heights of greatness because they fail to realize that greatness is attained from within. Greatness is demonstrably true, not by way of judgment, but of effect. Your impact on the world will be proportional to the original value you create within yourself.

Part I: Commentary on “Adam Carolla explains the OWS Generation”

My motivation for this post arose out of the hoopla I perceived concerning the wisdom attributed to Adam Corolla’s unreflective rant regarding the OWS movement. For the sake of open discussion, I’m going to disagree with some of his premise. I’ll summarize and reply to the two primary premises underlying his arguments in two separate posts.

You can view his rant here.

Argument 1: The 1% own 50% of the wealth. The 99% expect the 1% to pay for them. Carolla believes that the 1%  deservedly earn 50% of the wealth because they have worked harder than the 99%. Because the 1% pay 50% of the taxes, the 99% are lazy and ungrateful, leech off the wealthy tax dollars, and should work harder to increase their share.

My response to argument 1:
The 1% have not earned their 50% of the wealth, so to speak. Possessing wealth does not mean that it was earned “morally”, in the sense that you can earn wealth by exploiting people, which I maintain to be the case, or you can inherit it, in which case it is not earned at all. Furthermore, if the 99% had more of the wealth, they would be paying a greater percentage in taxes. It is not as though the 1% are charitably paying taxes. They pay the portion of taxes they due because of the current graduated tax structure which requires people with greater income to pay more taxes, which I should mention has decreased significantly in recent years.

Continue reading “Part I: Commentary on “Adam Carolla explains the OWS Generation””

Part II: Commentary on “Adam Carolla explains the OWS Generation”

My motivation for this post arose out of the hoopla I perceived concerning the wisdom attributed to Adam Corolla’s unreflective rant regarding the OWS movement. For the sake of open discussion, I’m going to disagree with some of his premise. I’ll summarize and reply to the two primary premises underlying his arguments in two separate posts.

You can view his rant here.

Argument 2:
The OWS movement typifies a society that is self-entitled and narcissistic which has caused envy and shame when they compare themselves to the 1%. Corolla believes this self-entitlement is a result of a society that glorifies being average and treats every individual as special despite their work-ethic and achievements.

Response to Argument 2:
Disregarding the economic reality of potential inequalities, I believe that the denigrating qualities typifying society which Corolla has attributed to the OWS movement are the natural corollary of what happens when the 1% dominates and possesses so much of the power as incarnated in accumulated capital and influence.  In this light the 1% is directly responsible for the values– attitudes and expectations– directing and justifying their behaviors.

Continue reading “Part II: Commentary on “Adam Carolla explains the OWS Generation””

Cultivating Successful Paradigms: Typological v. Population Thinking

Today I read an article in Business Week titled Why China Doesn’t Have Its Own Steve Jobs. The second paragraph struck me:

Former vice-president of Google global and president of Google China Kai-fu Lee explained on his weibo that it was because Chinese education puts too much emphasis on reciting and memorizing stuff instead of fostering critical thinking.

As the article further mentions, China’s collectivist culture or “herd mentality” wouldn’t permit the kind of narcissistic egoism that characterizes Job’s genius, and I think that’s a darn shame.

Innovative entrepreneurialism/ executive leadership requires a degree of egoism– that is, fierce self-reliance, self-confidence, non-conformity/individualism and narcissism. These qualities allow individuals to take more risks, bet on themselves more often, think more creatively and retain more faith in their individual vision, especially in the face of adverse circumstance/ opinion. I doubt don’t these people can be difficult to deal with, but their vision is inspiring and contagious.

China needs to place more emphasis on creativity, novel thinking, and the individual value of a person, their ideas and experience. America could do a better job retaining their share in these areas as well– instead we’re busy standardizing students and their thinking like China, like somehow that’s the answer to our problems. It’s a matter of typological thinking v population thinking: one emphasizes Platonic-ideals and abstracted averages, the other emphasizes evolutionary-variation and unique individuals.

The difference between Typological thinking and Population Thinking goes back to the classic distinction between a priori knowledge and a posteriori knowledge: knowing by way of axiomatic definitions, and knowing by way of experiential intuitions. This distinction manifests as deductive reasoning and inductive reasoning, relations of ideas and matters of fact, analytic statements and synthetic statements, contingent and necessary propositions, quantitative and qualitative properties, and the like.

Typological thinking is deductive and categorical in nature. Its roots go back to Plato whose philosophy codified this form of thinking by maintaining that the physical world adheres to ideas or eidos. Characterized by ‘forms’ such as the Equal and the Good and other such values and virtues, Platonism holds that there are a limited number of fixed, unchangeable ideas that underlie observable variation. The gradation and discontinuities observed in nature were explained simply as gaps’ between natural ‘ideas’ (types). As a result, gradual evolution by variation was a logical impossibility for the typologist and evolution at all could only occur in steps, from one ‘form’ or type to another. Modernism of the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries utilized the idealism of Platonic philosophy (Think Kant)

In contrast, Population thinking is inductive and qualificational in nature. Darwin posited this type of thinking when he introduced his theory of evolution. It maintains the uniqueness of everything in the organic world, that all animals or humans or plants possess qualities distinct to themselves alone, and that even individuals continue to change throughout the duration of their life. Each  organism possesses unique features that can be described only through inductive methods such as statistic reasoning to produce terms appropriate for the average. However, statistical terms are merely abstractions and not indicative of the individuals that actually compose reality.

Ultimately, the typologist is an idealist who hold that only type (eidos) is real and that variation is an illusion, while the populationist hold that type (average) is merely an abstraction and that only variation is real.

You may be asking yourself why this is important. One word: change. Life is characterized by change, and change is absolutely necessary for the variation that facilitates evolutionary adaptation. Typological thinking treats the world idealistically, giving everything a proper place and name. But this is not reflective of reality, or the observable world. It is only reflective of our symbolic mind where ideas can persist without variation (the concept of tree does not change in my mind).

We need to encourage variation, encourage change, novelty, and creativity if we have any desire to flourish and succeed. Simply adhering to prescribed notions of ideal states and ideas will guarantee eventual failure. And in my mind, believing we have it all figured out, that we’ve got the basics down and we’re doing it all right, is a dangerous form of hubris. Success– adaptive variation–requires valuing individuals, their ideas and experience, rather than some abstracted average dictated to us from above. Statistics and science are helpful, but not with regards to possibility. In this area they fail more often than not.

Also, typological thinking creates biases and stereotypes by prescribing labels and abstracted terms to everything. Population thinking is more open and tolerant because it is reflective and observant of all variation and experience, recognizing that there is always more than meets the mind. But this comes down to man’s propensity for control, his desire for the will to power and to dominate, which has pros and cons and is situationally contingent. Because typological thinking is assertive by nature, it is good for positing and leading and commanding, but it is poor for learning and observing and reflecting. William James said:

“There can be a tendency to label something in order to negate its impact. It is easier to brush off or control what is perceived as solid instead of fluid.”

Perhaps this is why man has the tendency to label everything at first glance instead of experiencing things as idiosyncratic and unique phenomena.

What typological thinking allows for is control. When we label and abstract and standardize we delude ourselves that we’re in control, that our ratiocinations are reflective of what is.  Now, it is true that this type of thinking is useful, but its shortcomings apply when forecasting into the future. This is because the physical world is in flux and ever changing. Formalized logic applied to matter is most useful within the time and context it originally created and diminishes in utility/ value as time progresses and change becomes more evident. Eventually the logical structure can no longer hold together as the premised facts of matter change so drastically they can no longer be said to be true.

(This may be a bit abstract so I’d suggest reading Axioms (pdf) as a nice little introductory piece, or if you are so inclined, check out Kant’s Prolegomena for any Future Metaphysics and Hume’s An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding)

The point I want to make is that as a nation we need to relinquish the tendency to think typologically in favor of the more evolutionary population thinking. Specifically, we should do away with standardized methods of schooling that quantify instead of qualify: This means focusing on quality rather than quantity. We need to develop a system for encouraging quality teachers, not by necessarily measuring their efficiency or effectiveness. All that does is emphasis fulfilling whatever criteria we lay out. Same goes for students. I would argue that the quality of student and their thinking has declined significantly since the advent of standardized tests which resulted in teaching material and learning facts that are minimally necessary for passing or getting by.

We should value diversity. Diversity of methods, opinions, ideas, etc. Value individuals. What criteria would I require for delivering quality teachers and students? Output. Productivity. Activity. Experience. Something that indicates they are actively producing. This will indirectly indicate the aptitude and ability of the individual, as well as indicate their motivation and passions. I wouldn’t give grades, per say. I would let their work, their results, do the speaking.

However, there’s a hitch: cultivating leaders requires diversity, but their success dictates uniformity: its paradoxical.

Additional references:

Elliott Sober (1994). Conceptual issues in evolutionary biology . MIT Press: Bradford Book.^

Marjorie Grene (1990). Evolution, “Typology” and “Population Thinking” American Philosophical Quarterly27(3), 237-244.^

opprimere

Lots of unrefined, undeveloped rambling:

I believe that oppression is man’s greatest asset. I believe that when man is not oppressed, he has no need to adapt, no need to grow and acheive and strive and thrive. I would say that oppression is the ultimate good. Since I can think of nothing pleasing about actively undergoing oppression, I would say that it is tantamount to suffering. But like suffering, oppression presents an opportunity to tap into previously unknown potentials in order to endure and survive.

What is oppression? More or less, it is “the exercise of authority or power in a burdensome, cruel, or unjust manner”, or “the feeling of being heavily burdened, mentally or physically, by troubles, adverse conditions, anxiety, etc.” If man is to live as a truly free and autonomous being, one can argue that there is no such thing as just authority and that all authority is a burden.

The etymology of oppression? Coined mid-14c., as “cruel or unjust use of power or authority,” from Fr. oppression (12c.), from L. oppressionem, noun of action from pp. stem of opprimere. Meaning “action of weighing on someone’s mind or spirits” is from late 14c.

Oppression is nothing more than demands. Demands are the effect of some initial cause. Demands instantiate voids to be filled, or requirements to be satisfied, with a response such as thought or action. Humans respond to these voids by exercising human ingenuity, innovation and invention. These responses exist as conceptualizations, systems, meanings, or structures where they inhabit the mind and manifest as through our action.

I believe that our efforts to escape from oppression, from physical or mental demands and the duress they may cause, provide us with the ultimate salvation by rescuing us from our previously cramped conceptions of human possibility and forcing us to expand our horizons of what it means to be fully human. When we commit to escaping oppression we commit to adapting, we commit to conceding outdated paradigms and belief systems for a novel, alternative perspective.

Where does oppression take place? It can occur to the mind and the body. I believe civilization has capitalized on the venture of oppressing the mind. Nature imposes its own form of oppression. Natural, or environmental, oppression, was much more of an issue in the past due to our failure to capture the nature of cause and effect as well as our frail ability to leverage physical laws to alter or overpower the course of physical phenomena. Throughout our evolution, however, we’ve managed to innovate and invent ways of overcoming the oppression of natural physical constraints.

Body and mind are inextricable, so that what oppresses the mind manifests simultaneously in the body, and what oppresses the body manifests simultanesouly in the mind. In this way, as man alleviates physical oppression, he simultaneously frees his mind. But where does that leave the mind?

All life wishes to not only survive, but thrive. Existence depends on ensuring a continuity. Life does not want equilibrium. Life wants the power to create its own equilibrium, to impose its own balance, its own demands, on the world.

The oppression that occurs in the mind originates from abstractions generated and perpetuated by culture, from power relations vying for authority and dominant influence.  What are these abstractions? They are belief systems, language, meaning, conceptions like truth and law, etc. What are these power relations? The forces generated by competition between opposing ideologies. These forces present themselves as the will, or the emotional driver reinforcing every form of action.

Culture is a conglomeration of these abstractions and power relations. Culture shapes and programs individuals with the systems of abstractions and relations necessary for navigating, acting and reacting, within the culture.

Culture produces individuals and these individuals produce new physical boundaries that expand or contract oppression.

Was man ever a blank slate? There was never a garden of eden. The first oppression was natural environmental oppression. Out of human’s adaptation arose social relations and ultimately oppression.

Does scarcity drive oppression? When there is plentitude, is man oppressed? Only when social oppression continues to persist.

Oppression forces you to make a choice between fighting to anhiliate and overpower the oppression or acquiescing the mind and body under its force. One is active, the other is passive.

Education is oppressive. This oppression, when actively overcome, is positive. When this oppression overcomes, it is negative.

What is value? What determines value? Does all value maintain an equivalent price? Is value determined by emotional attachment? Utility? One can say that anything that is useful possesses an emotional attachment, since our emotional reflexes arise from deep primal impulses to survive.

What is value? Clearly utility has something to do with it, but then again, hardly anything at all. One can agree that just about anything can be useful to someone at sometime, but not someone at just anytime or all the time. So value has something to do with utility. Is art valuable? It produces an emotional response that aids in your well being. Love is valuable because, in some other degree, it does the same.

Because we cannot use every useful thing all the time, we must consider how we use our time. In this way we establish a hierarchy of values that serve us according to the proportional time we spend in any given activity.

Some abstract, qualifiable values are information, experience, feelings, thoughts, and I’m sure the list goes on, but these seem to be the most basic.