The Dissimulation of Man: Will to Power, Hubris, and Downfall

“But you and we should say what we really think, and aim only at what is possible, for we both alike know that into the discussion of human affairs the question of justice only enters where the pressure of necessity is equal, and that the powerful exact what they can, and the weak grant what they must. (Thucydides 5.89)

“For of the Gods we believe, and of men we know, that by a law of their nature wherever they can rule they will. This law was not made by us, and we are not the first who have acted upon it; we did but inherit it, and shall bequeath it to all time, and we know that you and all mankind, if you were as strong as we are, would do as we do.” (Thucydides 5.105)

What is the source of ancient Greece’s lasting legacy? What contributed to her dominating force and efflorescing beauty in the ancient world? I’d like to examine Athenian culture (paideia) within the context of the ancient Greek world and identify will to power as the prevailing causal mechanism for her greatness . However, I argue that, despite being a source of initial strength, this inclination for power is eventually the source of Athens downfall as hubris leads to self-deception and miscalculation.

The fortitude or hellikon that arose in ancient Greece was a result of their common preoccupation with the ideal man. In ancient Greece the ideal man manifested as a continual striving towards arete (Gk. ἀρετή, Lt. virtus), or excellence, which served as the source of their competitive spirit. This competitive spirit was vigorously active among the Greeks, with the city states constantly challenging and competing with each other, even when foreign enemies, such as the Persians, were no longer a threat. The spirit of competition was most exemplified through the agon characterizing Greek Olympic games and Religious festivals. They praised the noble character containing virtues which extolled the nature of man as a continual overcoming. This ideal was first embodied in Homeric works as a type of humanism in which struggle (agon) and glory (kleos) were the grandest features of the human experience. The propensity for overcoming was none other than a will to power, or the will to survive, which the Greeks insisted was preserved through their freedom; specifically, their freedom from oppression and, likewise, their freedom to oppress. Indeed, as a slave owning society, oppression was a common feature yielded among the Greeks and the resistance of these slave owners to be ruled seems only natural.

Beginning in the 5th century BC there is a marked change in morality in the Athenians that can be witnessed throughout their culture. What occurred was a shift in the cultural value system that deviated from the internally ideal man towards an externally ideal representation of man. In the arts and drama this was marked by a transition away from mysticism and religion toward realism and secularism. This schism may be symbolically represented between the relationship of Socrates and Plato at the turn of the 4th century BC, with Socrates representing an emphasis on the internal man and Plato emphasizing the external man.

It was Socrates who refused to record his philosophy because he understood that wisdom and right living cannot be contained in words, but in present action and mutual dialog alone. In Plato’s dialog Phaedrus, Socrates discusses his aversion for writing, saying that writing would not allow ideas to flow freely and change in real time as they do in the mind during oral exchange, so that over time written language cannot change and the meaning is lost. Socrates was the gadfly who emphasized the exercise of inner reason and reflection over immediate appearances and traditional convention. However, Socrates was an empiricist at heart, as illustrated in the Phaedrus when he said “to be curious about that which is not my concern, while I am still in ignorance of my own self, would be ridiculous”, and always questioned stories and ideas until they were demonstrated or experienced for himself.

In contradistinction, Plato came on the scene at the pinnacle of this transition, just as Athens was feeling a backlash from the Greek world due to her propensity for power and control. Fittingly, it was Plato who first to attempted the distillation of the noble essence contained in man in his formulation of the good and forms into an objective, logically coherent system. The very act of transcribing and writing down a systematic formulation of man epitomized the Greek sentiments of an idealism that could be functionally preserved outside of man.

As the Athenian conception of the ideal man developed and took external form, so too did their emphasis on materialism and power. Seated at the head of the Delian league, Athens collected taxes from her Greek allies for their protection and engaged in a subtle form of expansionism. Boundaries beyond Athenian walls were extended and both wealthy and middle class Athenians enjoyed a period of economic expansion. The revenues collected from the Delian league were arguably used to free up city building projects as well as reimburse citizens for civic service, such jury duty and the like. The economic expansionism was greatly increased due to Athens role as a naval power which facilitated the corn trade among other commodities throughout the mediterranean world.

While it is impossible to determine whether emphasis on the external representation of man lead to material and economic accumulation or vice versa, what can be said is that the will to power was the driving force behind its inertia. By emphasizing the external, the Greeks began institutionalizing their culture in a way not seen since the Homeric epics, but rather than the anthropomorphized qualities and virtues of man manifesting as Greek gods, man himself became a god devoid of the inner variegation captured by the Pantheon. For the Athenians, the culmination of this change in values meant that man no longer sought to overcome himself, but sought to overcome others. That is, Athen’s enemy was no longer the vices, ignorance, and folly characteristic of man as it was so long before, but rather it was the external world that was to be overcome. The exploitation of other Greek cities created inequalities that injured the resilient Greek spirit or hellenikon they shared. When it came time for war, the Athenians argued that “might makes right” as their justification for battle, rather than any sensible or restrained words of wisdom. This over estimation of their ability lead to gross miscalculations and, consequently, their eventual downfall.

The Dissimulation of Man, which serves as the title of this post, refers to the self-deception that occurs when external “material” values trump internal “spiritual” values of the kind extolled in arete and virtues personified by the Greek Gods and exercised through reason. Existing as a natural tendency of man and, in the context of this paper, Athens, the will to power is the driving mechanism that allows for continual overcoming. So long as we are overcoming ourselves, and seeking to change and modify internal man, rather than the external world and others contained in it, humanity will flourish.

References
Boardman, John, Jasper Griffen, and Oswyn Murray. The Oxford History of Greece and the Hellenistic World. 2. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2001. 126-213.

Plato. “Phaedrus.” Phaedrus. Internet Classics Archive, n.d. Web. 26 Apr 2012..

Woodruff, Paul. On Justice, Power, And Human Nature, The Essence Of Thucydides’ History Of The Peloponnesian War. Indianapolis: Hackett Pub Co Inc, 1993.

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.

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!

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

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.

What is Good Writing?

I like to think that practice and passion are the necessary elements for good writing. Structure and style, prose and poetics: these follow effortlessly from the deliberate declaration of your voice.

My aspiration is only to communicate the motifs comprising the human condition.

A side thought: A friend and I were talking the other day about writing and what it took to write well. My initial inclination was to say that practice and passion have been the driving force behind any great writer. But then we thought about those people who are just great at communicating ideas clearly without much practice or passion for the subject. I think we decided that the art of writing is like the art of drawing. The more you do it the better. But what’s most important are the ideas. You can’t draw something you cannot conceive. Likewise it is with writing. Ideas make writers great. If you work at communicating these, all else follows.

Mer

Why don’t I write? Some inadequecy that lurks beneath. Something that grips my motives and violently shakes me into retreat. Why? I mean, I’m not sure exactly. Sententious speak.

As predicted, the world’s boiling over. This world, this society, living in delusional states, it’s vapid affairs simply rolling along, not because there’s any inherent meaning and necessity to the madness, but because us men, us intrepid sheep, are suckers for tradition, for the familiar inheritances we deem as having so much value. When, in reality, it’s nothing but mindless manipulation. When we try to escape, we escape only deeper, not beyond.

Drunk.

This summer is coming to a close. A good amount of drinking, and reading, and traveling has been accomplished. I like to think every experience amounts to some value, but I must remember that context determines all meaning, all utility, all purpose. Am I any more of a person? Eh. Let’s define the context, right? Well, I sure as hell don’t have an answer at the moment.

I need to expunge so much. Blah. I’ve been working two jobs. One, at Wells Fargo Advisors working for a wealth management group. The other, a manufacturing job at International Ceramic Engineering. There’s a pretty steep contrast between the two jobs. One is saturated with intelligent, driven, ambitious white collared workers; the other involves the illiterate, mostly foreign, blue collar laborers. At the engineering company I press buttons all day. I literally bring a book to work that I read while I’m on the job. It’s too un-stimulating to bear otherwise. I read a book every other day. It’s been great for reading. It’s also been great for showing me what the vast majority of uneducated American’s do every day to provide for their families and make a living. Vastly different dispositions in the working peers I encounter each day. Vastly different experiences gained. I’ll add more later.

Our world is pretty messed up at the moment. Or, at least, that’s how it’s being portrayed in the media and news. I’m not sure if they are capitalizing on the opportunity to inflate mild market shifts to instill fear, or if there really is reason to be concerned for the stability of the world. Riots, market volatility and crashes, unemployment, violence, political bickering and selfish debating, fiscal irresponsibility and mismanagement, misplaced policy priorities: the list could continue along.

I need to contemplate more, extract more from my mind, my experiences. It’s not enough to have an expeirence. You must make an experience work for you, make somehting of it, recall it and give it meaning, contextualize it. You know? Many people have experiences, and

Hamartia

Writing is like breathing: I exhale so that I may inhale. When I do not write I find that I am not fully living. The concoctions of thought, the skeletal remains of lurid fantasies, need to be exhumed. Conversing is good and all, but at the end of a long conversation, I find no evidence that these spirits have been properly exorcised. It’s not like I can see the conversation and know for certain how I felt when I said the words and had the feelings. I may be a bit happier, maybe more relaxed or passionate or enthusiastic, but there’s no reason why that’s the case. The fact is: I need to write. I just need to think through my fingers, through my body. I need to feel the velleity of inspiration coursing through my veins, through my mind.  Art is nice, but writing takes the abstract and makes it concrete and comprehensible. I feel like very little is lost in translation, whereas in art, it’s about as interpretive as you can get. Who knows, maybe writing is just as hermeneutic. Maybe art is a purer, more universal language that transcends the idiomatic nuances of the written word. Or maybe not. I like to think that the poignancy of ideas is best captured through writing. So…

Anyway. I began writing another novel. I decided that I’ll try a third person narrative. I’ve never written an extended story in the third person, and I realized that 99% of the stories and essays I’ve ever penned have been in the first person. The majority of philosophy essays are first person. I journal in the first person. Whenever I express my thoughts it’s done subjectively. It’s not like I’ve really had to write in the third person. I figure I should give it a try and wield the power of an omniscient narrator. It might be liberating.

The past two day’s I’ve been writing up a plot and developing the characters, writing close to three thousand words. The novel will be about love, essentially. Loving others and loving yourself. I know, it’s sappy, maybe overused, but I don’t care. I’m not tryin to publish a number one best seller. I’m just trying to write. I’ve written pretty much every day for the past eleven or twelve years, whether it’s in a hand written paper journal or a blog entry, so I decided that, since I’m writing, may as well start writing stories. At least that way I can hone my story telling abilities. And, I’m not sure writing for my sake will do much good unless other people read it, and people generally don’t really read thoughts and journals unless you’re someone with a notable reputation, or saying something of significant importance. So write I shall, and stories they shall be.

So anyway, the plot. The plot is different, but I decided to write about something relevant in our culture today. Specifically, on the theme of homosexuality and fitting in. There’s been a lot of news regarding the bullying and suicides of kids that have identified themselves as homosexual. While I don’t have that much background in that world, I figure at the very least it’d be a learning experience and provide me an additional perspective.

To give the briefest plot ever: “A do-good boy meets his free spirited best friend and falls in love with a girl who seems to have life figured out. He gets rejected by the girl and copes through rebellion which, through a radical summer of experimentation, leads him to discover his true self and sexuality. Initially free and inspired by these revelations, he finds himself feeling trapped and ashamed upon returning to school. As a result he turns inward toward his new inner life and begins writing about these new feelings. Upon finishing his masterpiece he finds that his life has fallen into ruins and he decides to kill himself, but moments before he goes through with it, he has a life changing experience.” Still working out the turns and other details, but that’s essentially it. We’ll see. Woot.

Need to write about thirty pages in two days. Gotta love finals.

 

 

 

The Nature of Artists

It’s been a long while since I’ve read a passage that resonates with my soul as powerfully as this passage does:

But fortunately, artists do not have to be morally admirable people. All that matters is that they create great art. If his own art is to come out of the more contemptible side of himself, so be it. Flowers grow best on dung heaps, as Shakespeare never tires of saying. Even Henry Miller, who presents himself as a straightforward fellow, ready to make love to any woman no matter her shape or size, probably has a dark side which he is prudent enough to conceal.

Normal people find it hard to be bad. Normal people, when they feel badness flare up within them, drink, swear, commit violence. Badness is to them like a fever: they want it out of their system, they want to go back to being normal. But artists have to live with their fever, whatever its nature, good or bad. The fever is what makes them artists; the fever must be kept alive. That is why artist can never be wholly present to the world; one eye has always to be turned inward. As for women who flock after artists, they cannot wholly be trusted. For just as the spirit of the artist is both flame and fever, so the woman who yearns to be licked by tongues of flame will at the same time do her best to quench the fever and bring down the artist to common ground. Therefore women have to be resisted even when they are loved. They cannot be allowed close enough to the flame to nip it out.

—YOUTH, by J. M. Coetzee

Soft Summer Songs

There is nothing so satisfying as an opulent ocean of redolent rays gleaming across the sublime summer sky.

Relationships: these interesting symbiotic syntheses of feelings and minds and circumstance. Two people, pulled by fate, like magnetic force, yield their defenses long enough for a daring gesture of interest to find its way into their intimate chambers, where their egos reside with the risible recantations of a wry world.

Two men exchange their thoughts, like young twins speaking their own tongue, referencing their experiences, in blissful agreement: “Yes, yes” and “yea”, “but of course” and “oh right!” These affirmations of love, spoken in frank response.

Write with freedom, with unrequited passion; the world will never return the favor with the same fervor. Never mind it. You are a model, a leader. As a writer, your words do more than etch new thoughts and moods among men. They reverberate through time. Their roots wrap and coil around future gardens of growth.

I need to journal more. What do I mean by journal? I mean, feel more deliberately. Writers experience life twice. Why would I want to deprive myself the experience of living life with any less feeling the second time? Full and fabulous.

I want to be a writer. I want to capture the human condition, to communicate existence with humanity, as a comfort, a beacon, that life is not a lone journey, but a universal struggle. The journeys are all different, but the struggle is all the same. The phenomenon of each journey may be irreconcilable with another’s, but the limitations are universal, uniform, consistent.

Writers are sensitive, acutely aware of details, of the incantations strewn by the senses throughout the consciousness.

When I write, I feel. I never write without feeling. The best thing one could do for oneself is be transparent with their thoughts and feelings. Thoughts should reflect feelings, so that when you feel intensely, thoughts follow with equal force and vigor.

When I write, I write through my states, through the moods moderating my memories and mind. Like a performer, my heart commands and my fingers obey, with precise form and clarity of expression. There is nothing wanting. The audience is a lone traveler, hungry and thirsty, searching for anything to quench their parched and pallid imagination. The routine of this journey weighs, and each step adds another circular chain to their load. Starving eyes, so eager to capture the faculties of imagination so they might dispel their locking illusions. They long to shed the weight. The writer offers this salvation.

Relationships. These are a peculiar breed of experiences. The man longs to be free, the woman longs to be secure. Each seek to liberate or enslave the other. In this way each relationship seems over before it has even begun. But this is precisely the bond that brings them together.

Everything persists by demand, and it is through this demand we experience a command, a resounding order abounding from the passions. To disobey is mutiny: a self sabotage.

There cannot be freedom without activity. To utilize humanity one must act. But activity must be chosen every moment. Routines develop into chains as circular habituations take hold of choice. We must attend our freedom like a fire, gently stoking its embers and fueling its flame. The inattentive watchman risks losing the fire, the light of his soul; or it bellows beyond control, consuming everything until there is nothing left to ravage. Either way the man is lost: losing his way or losing his life.

Passivity is slavery. Unreflective choice is slavery. Impulsive choice is slavery. Any thought or action that is not chosen via volition is inauthentic. Passivity encrusts the consciousness, it clouds and clutters and confuses. There is no I without action, no subjective perspective without freedom and action.

TV, advertisements, anything generated from a capitalist society that engenders humanity as a static condition of a whole, is an assault on freedom, on authentic living. Man cannot manifest his freedom by doing nothing. He cannot create ethics or values or tastes or preferences that reflect an original genesis of choice unless he acts through himself, for himself, as himself. Men should not be whipped with their past. Advertisements: propaganda that illuminates man as a predictable creature, as a rational creation, with no faculty of imagination, objectifies man and indoctrinates him with alien laws and limitations.

How do I know what I think until I see what I say?

“How do I know what I think until I see what I say?”
-E.M. Forster

I read this quote a long while ago and it stuck with me forever. I always related it to writing as a way of developing the inner voice of conviction. Conversation and discourse may allow you to articulate ideas and arrive at certain convictions, but much of it is in passing and the unreliability of memory provides little material for later reflection. Writing allows you to create a clear, objective portrait of the inner thoughts composing your convictions and principles.

Writing allows you to reinforce your being and gain a sense of self in a way no other medium can.

Novel

There’s nothing to writing.  All you do is sit down at a typewriter and open a vein.  ~Walter Wellesley “Red” Smith

In five days time I’ll be pounding away at my keyboard constructing my first novel. I’m extremely anxious to get started. While I have a general plot with a twelve page outline to refer to, I am overwhelmed by the possibilities of capturing everything. I’ve decided that my first and foremost priority will be to expunge thoughts. Expunge and expel every last iota of thought I can muster. While it may be true that I can’t write, I know for a fact that I can rewrite: and rewrite I will. I have to remind myself that this process will serve only as the initial draft. It is the gathering of amorphous clay before adroit hands give it form; the faint black and white outline that dons the canvas before it is filled with the melodies of color. Nevermind perfection. I need material to shape and mold and hew and hone.

While I have a friend who has decided to join me in this undertaking by writing his own novel in a months time, I know that I will need much than his support if I’m going to see this endeavor through. I’ve been cogitating some strategies for aiding the writing process: outlines, character sketches, perusing old journals for quaint situations and duologue I hope to recapitulate with necessary and profound precision. I’m thankful I’ve journaled consistently over the past decade. With 1700 words a day, translating to three single spaced pages of writing, I can’t be naive to think I won’t hit a wall. When I do, I know I have a trove of notes over the years to draw inspiration from.

So this novel. Writing, every day, hours a day, for thirty days. The very idea gets me giddy.

So I’ve thought about my plot quite a bit. I have concluded that I might very well go mad trying to come up with the perfect plot. Instead, my plot will be internal, and revolve around a boy’s development of his consciousness. Essentially: “The story of a boy’s pursuit to reconcile existence and meaning in the 21st century. Born with a burning curiosity to garner experience and uncover truth, he embarks on a mission to shake free from the familiar foundations that vie for his mind and explore foreign and unknown worlds filled with new adventure.”

I’ll be honest, as someone who has never written a book before, the task is a little daunting. I figured the best way for me to achieve my goal of fifty-thousand words in a month is to write about what’s most familiar. I just so happen to be most familiar with myself. My life has been less than normal, and my childhood progressed with almost predictable unpredictability. I remember thinking at various times in my life, “When will I get a break?”. Problems seemed to afflict me like the plague. Thankfully, I rebounded time after time, and with a new perspective. My goal is to some how weave those transformative experiences into characters and a story that appeals to the universality of humanity.

Whatever happens, I will write, I will finish, I will see it through, 1700 words a day, everyday for the upcoming month. When the deadline comes, I will be proudly fit to call myself a novelist.

I am a man, and alive…. For this reason I am a novelist.  And being a novelist, I consider myself superior to the saint, the scientist, the philosopher, and the poet, who are all great masters of different bits of man alive, but never get the whole hog.  ~D.H. Lawrence, preface to Shestov, All Things Are Possible, 1938

Languor

Every once and awhile I find myself pouring over old journal entries. Juvenile musings. They actually inspire me. I was so… naive? Yet, genuine. I spoke with subtle vulnerability. I was open, the world was open. Earth and all its greenery wasn’t tainted by the shadows of worldly criticism. It thrived on pure joy. I can’t say whether these joys were derived from girls, friends, drugs, rebellion, music, adventure, or some other delusional teenage romance. What I can say is that I spoke with brutal honesty. I didn’t hide my devilish joy, or embarrassing hurt. I threw it out there.

Nashville is beautiful. Its slowly transitioning its way to fall. The night brings a cool chill with it. Pretty different from the summer sauna.

I always fantasize about freedom. Freedom is a state of mind. It is inside your being. I judge too much. My self; others. It’s in the name of reason, of truth and justice, but it erodes the value. It ruins the essence by peeling a wonderfully true experience into a fraying cognitive conundrum. It renders the experience useless. It wears it out. Its magic dissolves.

I don’t want to think anymore. I want to be. I want to exist moment by moment, feeling by feeling. I want to explode outward like a dazzling display of fireworks and illuminate the world with my sparkling embers.

I will hold no grudge with myself; nor will I hold a grudge with others. I must remember that when I judge, I am condemning myself. I am holding myself to one more impossible standard. My only standard should be to live loudly. Be boldly.

School’s going alright. I haven’t applied myself at all really. Not sure what the consequences of my lack of discipline will be, but I don’t seem to care too much. I’ve been doing my best to get real with myself, to shed the bullshit facades. Self deception, in all its vapid power, has an insidious nature. “Battle not with monsters, lest ye become a monster, and if you gaze into the abyss, the abyss gazes also into you.” (Nietzsche) It stole into my life and left me paralyzed; wholly entranced with its emptiness. Analysis paralysis. I don’t care anymore. I just don’t give a shit. It doesn’t mean that I won’t face my demands with a fierce resolution. It just means that I won’t reserve any energy for condemning myself or others. I refuse to hold myself to standards. Standards only stifle potential. They cap it. They put limits on something that operates in a world beyond definable limits.

I love my friends. One specifically comes to mind: Ravi. Half italian, half indian, he’s one of the most genuine people I’ve met. The real deal. There’s nothing opaque about his intentions. They are out there for general review, and he’s ok with that.

Lifes good. I am defiant at the moment, and I’ll continue being defiant. Either existence is a heavy burden, or it is no burden at all.

Personal Commitments

“We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, therefore, is not an act but a habit.” -Aristotle

I am making some commitments to myself. There is no use putting off for tomorrow what can be done today. Some changes need to occur in my life, in my actions. In no particular order, I’m going to expatiate on some things I’ve been meaning to do, and why I desire to do them. Then, I will prioritize and organize them for execution.

Write everyday.
I need to write every day, be it philosophy, various events or happens, quandaries, inspiration, or whatever. For me, writing is life. It is an on going autobiographical account of the maturation of your thoughts and progress as a person. It helps contextualize and visualize the free floating immaterial swirling about in my head. My mind is like an atmosphere swirling with cool and warm currents of moisture. Ideas coalesce into clouds. When certain clouds gain enough mass, and churn and swirl and boil enough, lightning strikes as inspiration. I need to capture these clouds if I want to recreate that inspiration, in myself or others.
Additionally, writing is a skill. And like any other skill, it is refined through ongoing temperamental and deliberate practice. That means I need to attempt at writing my best, every day. Focus on the organization of thoughts, the poetics and prose of presentation, the clarity, the rococo, the rhetoric.
In my opinion, any life worth living is worth remembering. No thought is too trivial, or too important. They are all brush strokes that make up the larger canvas of your character. The fear of a single brush stroke defining your work, your character, will only prevent you from making more brush strokes.
I want to emphasize the importance of writing, and writing a lot. Any genius or man of great success in his field has had one defining characteristic: They produced, a lot. Even when no one was looking they were producing volumes of output in thought and action. Look at any great writer, any inventor, any businessman, any athlete, any scientist, any musician, any philosopher. Whether it was writing 2,500 words a day, coming up with five new inventions a day, examining markets every day or engaging in outstanding interpersonal skills with everyone they meet, practicing hours a day long after everyone left the field, conducting and publishing enormous amounts of research, playing for audiences and songwriting every available opportunity, or reading and contemplating the nature of truth and life every waking moment- they produced.

Visualizing goals
Not only have I been meaning to write down my goals, I have been meaning to create an environment that supports and forces me to think about my goals as often as possible. This means writing down my goals, posting them in locations where I will be forced to look and think about them, and telling people that will hold me accountable. I need to control my environment so that my thoughts are constantly oriented to their achievement.
Goals are cognizable desires. They are not simple emotions, but specific longings for specific destinations in character. No meaningful, worthwhile goal is achieved without a change is character, and its only when your character changes that other rewards and success fall to you, be it of material or immaterial value. Goals allow us to draw a map, construct a blueprint, compose a melody where there was none before. They transport us in ways that nothing else can. Only through goals can a person grow in character and consciousness with deliberation.
Having goals will only get someone so far. Visualizing goals is important. It is through visualization that we are able make them apart of our lives. It is through this visualization, this meditation, that we harness the power to control our lives by controlling our thoughts. This means taking time out of your day, every day, multiple times a day, and contemplating the nature of your goals, seeing them in your head, examining their idiosyncrasies, their personalities, their nature. If your goal is distinct and real, it will contain a multitude challenges before it is overcome and achieved. You must be familiar with these challenges so you can takes steps to prepare, be it psychologically or emotionally or physically.

Health and Physical Fitness
It is not enough to be healthy when its convenient. Health consciousness must be an ever present lifestyle. This means the elimination of vices such as food or chemical substances. Physical activity is necessary for a positive well being, not only in the now, but for the future which I am continually living into. There is no shortcut to living a well balanced life full of vitality.
If we really take time to appreciate all the environmental factors that influence us, we can leverage and utilize that knowledge for our benefit in two specific ways. We can maximize and stabilize our well being by ingesting only the most nutritious foods, and we can cleanse our body of toxins and negative hormones through rigorous physical activity. This will provide me with more energy and elevate my mood so that I give my best when conquering goals.

Time Management
A person will never find more time in a day. They must make more time. But how does one ‘make’ more time? Proper time management. This involves taking time out of ones day, every day, and laying
out priorities for accomplishment. This means parsing out specific time for specific tasks. Schedule everything: sleep, reflection, working out, reading, socializing, studying, writing, napping, errands, free time. You name it. If its not on your schedule, do not do it. Put it on tomorrows schedule. Do not change your schedule until the next day.
Life is made of time. If it were to stop, life would cease. We are all products of time; merely the exposure to stimulus that occurs with time. When you control your time, you control your life. That is when you gain self-mastery. Being creatures of habit, we must learn to control our habits. This is done by controlling our time. Habits are repeated actions. The more a person performs a thought or action, the more he will continuing performing that thought or action. It is like a piece of paper creased and folded repeatedly. Over time the paper has a natural tendency to bend at that crease. Likewise it is with our malleable minds. “We are what we repeatedly do” says Aristotle, “Excellence, therefore, is not an act but a habit.”

Memoir & Devoir

I’m writing my book. Its got me excited. I get these little bursts of creative inspiration where my life seems to coalesce into a singular story. During these times I begin to see how my story can be told. The outline is expanding. I was always shocked how authors managed to write five hundred plus pages. It seems like such a daunting task. Now that I’ve been working on my outline I find that I have well over 200 points to talk about… and if each of those points was about 3-4 pages long, I have myself a really long book. My initial approach will be to organize all the events. From these I plan to detail the experiences associated with those events. This is where I will retrieve info from all my journal entries. These detailing will be more factual. When I have all these stories together, I will begin weaving them together into an idiosyncratic autobiographical account. From there I will cultivate the prose and rhetoric expected from quality writing.

‘Stories’ or the notion of ‘story’ has been a frequent theme thats been cropping up in my day to day life. From narrative fictions, to tradition and history, to meaning, to context, etc. Stories play a powerful role in explaining the world around us, our relation to it, the truths that reside within it, and our feelings about it. There is no better way to communicate than through a story. This is why I’m inspired to tell mine. Although, its greatly unfinished. The older I become, the more perspective I have to contextualize all these life events. I fear, however, that with this age and perspective will come the loss of rawness I seek to convey.

I have work. Will write later.

***
I can say that I am not living up to my fullest potential at the moment in my life. I find myself met with some mental barriers that have caused me to settle for less than what I know is truly my best. I’ve made a commitment to myself to overcome this mental and emotional stagnation. This is my proclamation. I commitment to myself, to my integrity, to improve my work ethic, hold steadfast to the continual cultivation of my life’s vision, and seek to lead through example, so that every person I encounter has a brush with my passion for harnessing the unbridled potential that constitutes life and its possibilities.

A Reflection: An Evolution of Responsibility

The Evolution of the Responsibility to Self and Place:

Looking back on the semester, I fastidiously inspect the various moments my mind was exposed to new insights. The philosophy class has been a period of incubation. Throughout the fall I have allowed my mind to freely explore the legitimacy of novel ideas and weighed their relevance to my life, unhindered by competing feelings of preservation. A burning passion kindles in my chest. I reflect on the philosophers and the discussions that struck deeply, that fanned that flame into a fiery blaze. My thoughts turn to a few readings and philosophers that reinforced and, at the same time, upended my antiquated belief system. In order to illuminate the timid shadows of self deception, I allowed these philosophies early on to serve as a spectacle for all further reflection.

At the start of the year I was enveloped in a dense cloud of confusion. As we progressed in our readings and I accreted understanding, a series of themes began to emerge. The themes, strung individually throughout the weekly readings, later weaved themselves into a vivid tapestry as the semester culminated. They included the conception of self, the genealogy and history of society, the role of belief, and the function of nature as it relates to a sense of place. None of these themes stand alone, but borrow from each other. Of each, I will speak broadly and expound on each philosopher’s contribution to the construction of each theme as it appeared to me.

I believe the core to understanding is primary experience. In an age of information, I believe its role in the modern life has been diminishing. With so many perspectives to read on a subject, who needs to waste time experiencing it for themselves? One can read of the countless errors and achievements and interpretations of each and come away feeling equally wise and judicial. The fault with this, however, is that we rob ourselves the task of exercising our own powers of reason and interpretation. Nevertheless, our lives are short and we cannot possibly indulge all our curiosities so, read we must. With this in mind, we are obligated to read judiciously, choosing texts carefully (preferably primary sources to ensure minimum distortion of interpretation) and reflecting with the intent to incorporate the new knowledge into the faculties of understanding. John Aubrey said, “He had read much, if one considers his long life; but his contemplation was much more than his reading. He was wont to say that if he had read as much as other men he should have known no more than other men.” Reading must involve contemplation. Thus is the duty of the philosopher.

Continuation…

Writing. Process.

Sitting in a room. Alone.

Two adjacent chalkboards hang at the corner of the room. A library bookshelf filled with very old philosophy books ranging from behavioralism to phenomenology sits caddy corner. On my right, there’s a large canvas painting depicting an ocean view from a deck, outfitted with a table for two covered by a red tablecloth; place settings and chilled wine wait patiently for the guests.

The walls of the room are made of decrepit brick. There is a long table at the center of the room. I sit at its head. I view toward the end of the room and peer out the lone window into the darkness.

The room is located on the second floor in a small classroom at the back of the building. I am the only one left. The building is large and foreboding, characterized by thick gray stonework and archetypal Gothic architecture. The cloistered main entrance is guarded on either side by two large embattlement towers topped with crenels and merlons. Furman.

Its 1:30am. I need to finish this paper. I need to concentrate. Need. To. Concentrate. Kant. Hypothetical Imperatives. Formulations of humanity. Formulations of Autonomy. Perfect and Imperfect Duties. When will the madness stop.

While I absolutely love Kant, his readings are torturous. At least starting out. After I spend like four hours with the text, it comes alive and I can actually makes sense of his precise vocabularly. That’s the thing, Kant is soooo vocabulary intensive. He uses strict definitions that make reading troublesome. You need to relearn the meaning of the words before you can read. Otherwise it makes no sense. But, once you spend time, and your mind acclimates to the new semantics, sentences become more clear. That’s another things- his sentences are unbearably long. Example: “All imperative are expressed by an ought and thereby indicate the relation of an objective law of reason to a will that is not necessarily determined by this law because of its subjective constitution (the relation of necessitation).” I mean… I understand it… but only because I’ve read the essay five times. Rearticulating his sentences is fun. poo.

Anyway… I like his way of formulating morality the bestest. At least when compared to those utilitarians or emotivists like Hume, Mill, Artistotle and the like. I do have some issues with Kant…though… I can’t really put what they are into words right now.

Anyway… onto the last four parts of this essay. Soooooon.

Point.

It is with words as with sunbeams.
The more they are condensed, the deeper they burn. ~Robert Southey

I need to practice this…

If you wanna say something, don’t forget it. No one gives a shit about your flowery rhetoric or uplifting prose if you fail to make a point. When you write, don’t forget the point. Don’t use big words, don’t over exaggerate, don’t make it some climatic event… just say it. Say it as poignant, and as concise, and as exact as you can. Your intention should be like a scalpel on brain tissue. Don’t retard the audience with your exaggerated descriptions about seemingly peripheral shit. Make a point.

Becoming the Jack of All Trades, Master of None

I’m thinking this draft is too vague and not concise enough. I’m not sure if my opinion is stated clearly. I need to quote Simpson more, and clearly state whether I support, refute, or modify her claim that multitasking inhibits concentration and detracts from effective communication.

Becoming the Jack of All Trades, Master of None:

Responding to the Unquestioned Demands of Multitasking
Rough Draft

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            At the turn of the twentieth century information consumption hit an all time high. Managing all the information required new methods of organization and processing. Technology quickly came to our defense and created new ways of its gathering and dissemination.  Mankind is now ingesting more information and juggling more tasks than ever before. As we incorporate more and more technologies that aim to improve our efficiency and effectiveness, the question remains if multitasking truly contains detrimental tradeoffs worth exploring. There is a poignant expression that describes the nature of those who specialize in multi-tasking: “Jack of all trades, master of none.”

            As the industrial era gave way to the information era, technological advances produced computers that allowed businesses and people to tackle more tasks with greater efficiency resulting in an influx of knowledge. The internet presented itself as the perfect catalyst that spurred the flow and exchange of this knowledge. As the need to harness and organize this information became a priority, the demand for people to make sense of it all gave rise, resulting in the emergence of analytic thinkers: engineers, computer scientists, lawyers, investment bankers, accountants, and MBA’s. A generation was born into a world where crunching numbers and juggling tasks was prized and rewarded. Acing standardized tests and performing in rigid curriculums meant to regurgitate knowledge has been the benchmark for success. In the process, it seems, the need for deep, creative thought has been overlooked.

            Mainstream society is currently a single interconnected whole where the populous is integral in dictating current trends through its contributions. People are required to share themselves, their opinions and their interests with the world, be it through their cell-phones, Facebook, twitter, or other technology.  The resulting trend is a society constantly being pulled in all sorts of directions as their attention remains commanded by the whole.

            Joanne Simpson is an excellent observer of the multi tasking phenomenon. As a professor, she has a front seat in witnessing the effect of a culture constantly demanding the attention of the developing youth. In her essay Multitasking State of Mind Simpson illustrates her experiences as an educator dealing with a generation of mentally taxed students raised in a world that expects interconnectedness and constant communication.

            Because technology has allowed people to manipulate information and knowledge with lightning speed, people openly adopt its presence in their life and give little thought to the accompanying tradeoffs. Simpson believes people have gotten carried away with all the positive aspects of being able to manipulate this information. While technology allows us to do more with the time we have, instead of freeing up our thoughts and free time, we become entrenched in even more tasks. It is clear that people in our culture are packing more and more into their daily lives as technology helps them manage the flood of information and activities. PDA’s, smart phones, and laptops allow for ultimate organization and even allow for work on the go.

            Simpson reminisces to her experiences prior to the tremendous technological boom when people’s lives were slower, more thoughtful and directed. “As I remember it, I still paid attention to one thing at a time” she recalls.  As tasks were allotted to specific portions of time, thoughts were more continuous and distractions were numbered. Nowadays, people manage to accomplish inhuman amounts in a single day. When Simpson polled her classroom at to whether they do several things at once, every students hand was raised. Watching television and listening to an IPOD while doing homework are almost an expected part of studying.

            With technologies help, people are expected to produce the same quality of work in half the time. Despite the efficiency of doing more, the depth of thought required for these tasks remained the same. An example is writing papers. Once an arduous process of continuous writes and rewrites, accompanied with countless edits and proofs, computer word processers gave people the ability to type at lightning speed, and leave the majority of editing, punctuation, and spelling, to the computer while still producing relatively high quality work. When this level of performance is achieved, it is demanded everywhere. Soon the act of writing becomes a single task instead of a process. When this happens form is left unrefined and content is sacrificed.

            Consider the process of research writing. Before computers and databases, hours were spent in the library burning the midnight oil, flipping through pages, hand writing notes and bookmarking pages. Compiling the information was an even greater task. Academics were all too familiar with the discipline and focus required for a typical research paper that required twenty four hours of effort.

            Today students are able to jump on a database, read article summaries with lightning speed, bounce from web page to web page, refer to citation machines, and use the ctrl+F function to find their information with minimal effort. The compilation of this information is just as quick.

            What we are seeing with the adaptation of technology is a decline in sustained effort towards given tasks. Quality ideas and work are a culmination of focus, concentration, reflection, and continued applied effort. Jumping from task to task, aside from the time lost in transition, doesn’t allow the mind enough time to familiarize itself with concepts and understandings. The superficial level of thought allotted to ideas consequently jeopardizes the student’s ability to articulate these ideas. Simpson is not amiss when she notices students coming to class in dazed and distracted states. When they step into her classroom they enter a place very different from their connected world; their attention is demanded everywhere as they juggle multiple priorities simultaneously.  The classroom is a place where prolonged attention is required to hash out the idiosyncrasies of an idea.

            While Simpson presents a persuasive case for multitasking’s detrimental effect on concentration, and its translation to poor communication, there is an unspoken standard of normalcy that her essays infer. Simpson claims that multitasking has left students more distracted and less able to concentrate. She spoke of Multitasking as an anti-Zen and describes how really living involves concentration. I would argue that Simpson is taking a conservative and bias approach to these changes in our society. Multitasking is a result of our adaptation to changing demands.  She outlined the negative effects she witnessed as a professor, but failed to mention how multitasking has contributed to the overall productivity and efficiency of work. The very e-mail she uses to illustrate a student’s ineffective communication skills provided a clear example of how technology has opened the lines and eased communication with her and her students.

            Perhaps the sheer ease of communicating and being connected has caused people to overlook quality. E-mails, texts, status updates and posts are sent by the dozens. The sheer volume messages sent daily may have people overlooking the quality of messages they send, not because they can’t send quality messages, but because being efficient is a greater priority. When hand written letters were the norm for communicating, much time was spent during the writing process to ensure effective communication because few letters, by today’s standards, were sent out.

            Its possible that Simpson has it all wrong and that the academic setting is the real problem. Perhaps its rigid, inflexible constructs don’t allow students to synthesize the volume of knowledge that they normally do. Perhaps students are bored and not stimulated.

            Simpson states that “really living and connecting with people—requires concentration, not distraction”. It sounds as if Simpson believes that ‘connecting with people’ is something that happens one person at a time. In our generation, information is prized. The thoughts and ideas we seek are gleaned from volumes of people. No longer is one person enough to qualify an experience or an idea. This generation seeks to understand and contribute to the consensual understanding of people. We ensure sound scientific literature through peer reviewed studies, vote for our American Idol contestant, give five stars to YouTube videos, and contribute to open forum discussions to share expertise and knowledge. If our aim is to seek and verify truth and knowledge as a people, than connecting with the population is what matters most. Not, as Simpson believes, one person at a time.

higher

Damn this world. Meaning. All I’ve strive to accomplish and for what? At the end of the day I’m still pitted against the vacuum of emptiness, a void. Where is the meaning? The pursuit of meaning just might be more meaningful than the goal I’m reaching to attain.

Where is my mind? Despite all the philosophers of antiquity, all the poets past and present, no matter how eloquently stated- nothing remains certain. No matter how much is written, no matter how long the debates rage, there is still little evidence that the life of an individual is worth any more now than when he started. Even after examining the assets accumulated, the people touched, the love kindled, one is still forced to face the ultimate reality which nullifies all efforts- death. This is a nihilistic state that I’m literally dying to escape.

So I’m faced with the care of my direction. All my energy has seemed to have left my limbs, the muses departed, leaving me with the reflection of a boy, scared and alone. I once cherished the kindled relationships with other human spirits above any other ideal. Now there seems to be a shallow reality that they are as lost as I. Meaning…

I’m trying to adopt a different tone. This nihilistic feeling leaves me powerless. I’m learning to shun the idea of expecting anything from life, but embrace the expectations that life holds for me. That may be the only escape from this mental torture.

I’ve sabotaged my integrity with illogical optimism. I need to regain footing and stand again with a renewed sense of purpose. I need to be confident in my ability to reach swelling heights of achievement. I am here and, like a tree, I will never question how high I am destined to grow.

write more later.

love seat

Ensconced on the love seat, a quixotic tinge of nostalgic memories sift through my conscious. I’m gripped with irascible feelings of regret and a dark cloud settles over me. A typical bout of dyspepsia. I woke too anxious this morning. The few rays shining in my direction were nothing more than a cruel luster of pollyanna still lingering from the ravenous exchange the night prior. As if the slightest quench of thirst were too much too ask, the inclination proved nothing more than an overzealous hope for some existential satisfaction, rendering another life experience totally meaningless. That’s the problem with being your own God, subject to none, dictator to all. The reality of your homage still stands abruptly in the face of your upward gaze. You’re nothing more and nothing less than flesh wherein you reside. Courting the imaginative lies is effortless, swallowing the deceit that bores its way into our beliefs, we no sooner discover, if insanity doesn’t find us first, that we are no more God than we think ourselves to be. The malignant disease of pride will be the cancer of our heart and eyes, numbing us of true satisfaction and blinding us to the narrow truths of life. Not till I became my own God did deprivation never feel so real and blindness so permanent. My strength, residing in the ability to continually coax fabricated realities into being, cannot save me from the human weakness that extends far beyond the feeble clutches the will bears to survive. My heart is black, tainted by the raging consumption of loneliness and confusion burning below, tormented by the thought of relinquishing control to anyone else but my ego. I shovel my grave when I fail to acknowledge where real law originates, constituting realities that need no eye to behold nor mind to conceive.

Writing? how do I think most people write?

Most people see writing as a formula of expectations that need to be addressed by filling in the pages with content that reflects their intent. I see that the general population of people do their best to grasp the teachers understanding of what should be conveyed, and do their best to structure their style in the most according way. I’m not sure too much creative talent is dumped into writing that isn’t motivated by the desire of the pupil to stroke the ego of the teachers understanding of creativity as opposed to gain a deeper understanding of himself and calling certain maxims he’s encountered into inspection. Whenever a student enters a scenario that involves a teacher attempting to draw out some response in accordance with their expectations, the student writer is rarely thinking beyond the depths of his own soul. Creativity is something that is shunned in the school system. Creativity is treated like it can be taught rather that what it truly is- a mode of gathering every understanding and introducing the possibilities of combinations of these understandings existing together in metaphorical or analogical forms. School is strictly semantic constructs. Material and understandings deemed as unquestionable concrete deductions by people who’ve preceded us that we’ve accepted as infallible. Very little is seen as relative. The possibility of things existing outside the system that’s being rammed down our throats and fed to us as the only source of reality is unquestionable.
People approach the writing process in the same manner they approach everything in a system- Methodically. There is little room or time for questioning. The only creativity that is fostered is that within the limits of previous predecessors getting away with it. Straying too far from the norm causes a jam in the system. Creativity is to create. Real creativity is creating new things. Not being able to see insights already tackled. The problem with creativity in the system is that it considers things relative, and in a system where grades are allocated and a specific order is reinforced to ensure a progression of a certain type of person, creativity is something that can only exist outside that system.

Random creative (or not so creative) wiriting about killing

I grab his face and slam it against the solid wood desk. I lean in and wisper in his ear “What the fuck are you trying to prove motherfucker?” I continue clenching his face, my fingers sinking deep into his eye sockets. He flails his arms in a desperate rant and claws at my wrist. I am unmoved and unphased. I try pulling his face off but his head and body come with, so I slammed his head on the desk once more, this time cracking his skull like an egg. He let out a half shout, half gasp, of air that seemed to last an agonizing long while. I felt warm liquid on my hands as I examined his twitches. There were pools of blood in his eye sockets. My fingers individually penetrated the depths on his skull, plunging far past his facial flesh and into warm soft tissue that spurted streams and eventual rivers of blood. His heart was still beating. He was still alive. I let go, as if to throw a useless piece of trash on the floor, and he slide softly to the floor in a marienette kind of motion. There was no one manning the strings.

I got up and walked down the hall. Ever other ceiling tile contained a flouroescent energy saver light-bulb. The hallway was hallow and it felt purely artificial. I stopped at the EXIT ONLY door at the end of the hall. I patted each of my pockets and plunged my hand down to examine their contents. ‘There ya go’  I thought. Pulling out a used tissue, crumbled and falling apart, I wiped my blood stained finger-tips, doing my best to remove the flesh wedged between my finger nails.

I opened the door and was greeted by an emergency buzzer. I continued to walk through as my eyes spasmed and squinted against the will to see. Outside was brilliant and blinding. I continued to walk. I could hear children playing not too far off. Playful laughter of hide and go seek. The pitter-patter of their little feet zooming along. My eyes adjusted. It was bright. The sky was blue. The grass was green. My shoes were black- with small spots of red. I crossed the lawn and found my car. I nearly seared my fingers off trying to open the door.  Leaning to get in- my lungs filled with lava like heat, causing me to nearly lose my breath as I breathed in. I sat down, light headed and dazed. Half from the adrenaline, half from the heat. I was a little too eager to get inside the car. It was a stifling hundred degrees. I peered out the window. The streets were empty.

 I looked past the streets, past the grass, past the trees and the sky and the reality around me and delved into a trance. I swam in a pool of thoughts. I was indifferent. Searching for a word to make me feel anything. I wanted some reassurance I was alive. My black slacks only futhered the baking process. I wiped my forehead as little beads of sweat began banning together to cascade down my forehead and cheek. sweat began soaking through my pants into the velvet red seats of the 87 lincoln town car. They  were sun bleached yellow. I smacked the seats with my hand and a bellow of dust saturated the air, swirling and catching the suns rays shining through the window. I wiggled the key into the ignition and started the car.

I turned to Jill and focused on her for a moment, thinking of a question worth our time to take us away from our thoughts.
“Are you happy?”
She turned quickly and we locked eyes in a cold stare for a brief moment, before she let out her curvy smile- the one that makes me smile cause it’s so damn sexy.
“What makes you ask?”
“I get the impression there are a lot of people who don’t know what happiness is. I feel like they settle.”
She continued smiling as if she was tinkering around in my head, trying to figure out my direction. She seemed to be getting some pleasure from the challenge.
“I’m as happy as I decide to be. I suppose if i chose to see things differently life would be a bit different, including my happiness, now wouldn’t they? I do my best. Does that answer your question?”
I’m not the most romantic conversationalist and it often happens that we get into these dry rhetorical talks.
“Whats your best? Do you think you try your best everyday?”
She paused, looked down and lifted her eyes out of the deep thought “My best. I do my best according to what I believe I’m capable of. I just put my faith that my best will suffice for the circumstances.”

By this time we were parked in front of Publix Shopping center. It was 1:30pm. Still hot as hell.
I proceeded to pull out my .50 cal desert eagle from under my seat. She smiled. Her eyes smiled. I melted inside. I pointed the muzzle at her and winked.

The flash was searing. I blew my eardrums out. I was blinded by a mist of blood floating in the air as it began clotting in my eyes. I do remember.  It took her head clear off, right out the window like a puff of smoke.

I took a drag from my cigarette. The cherry burned deep red and crackled. I held it for a moment and exhaled into the air like a dragon blowing fire. I glanced around the bar and took another sip of my bear. It was warm. Blue Ribbon Label. It tasted like stagnant water.

bed.

fall tonight

Automated. Routine. My heart beats. I put one foot in front of the other. I inhale cold dry sharp air. I slowly breath out steam that drifts just in front of my face. I idle. Partially in fear, partially in favor of the rewards for being patient.I lean a little to far in one direction and over commit. I reach for something to grab onto, anything to save me, but I’m already falling. It’s too late.

what is good writing?

Michael Sean

My thoughts on good writing…

Genuine authentic good writing is something I eagerly breathe in, hoping that in the process I can make it apart of me so that I might produce work as equally invigorating.  Good writing invokes an emotional eagerness, an emotional response of inquisitiveness that is more exciting and magnetic that anything else you could be doing at that moment. It is alluring in the most curious way. It has an enlightening edge that cuts deep. It picks you up and your mind forgets the words. A script inside your body begins to resonate with this truth as your imagination dances around possibilities. It’s no longer a chore. It’s no longer a book. It’s an experience that transcends basic communication. Good writing keeps your mind in the here and now, in motion. It doesn’t matter what it’s dwelling on, past or present. It’s fierce. It’s bold. It’s fresh and new and properly lit in a way you’ve never seen it before. It tastes a little different, smells a little different. The combinations of experiences you’ve explored to date are melting into internal imagery that produces natural fluidity in your understanding. You’re every faculty is engaged and prompt and willing. It is ready to go. Your heart is fluttering and you’re anxious for the feelings to begin or end or endure the thrill of the journey. It’s all in between. It’s a masterful collection of anything and everything you’ve dreamed to create in that moment.

I read what moves me, and I write when I’m moved.  I only want to write from my heart, where my feelings dictate my fingers, where I enter a state of conscious unconsciousness. Time stops and my eyes pass through the screen or paper into my thoughts where I swim and skim off the top of my subconscious. My vibrations are in sync with every cell in my body. This is sometimes brief. A flash of inspiration like a white light. Sometimes it lasts for hours until my attention is forced to be drawn elsewhere. I only want to write in order to let people know that someone feels like they do. I want to capture the curiosity, capture the eagerness, capture the appeal of another consciousness, or subconscious. Maybe these words will replay at night in their dreams. Maybe a single word I present in my productions will be the last word in a revelation to could change their life. Who knows? I just want to relay and relate.

 

Writing is an art, much like music or  painting. There are many aspects that make an artist more powerful and talented than the others in his field. Recognizing and refining these aspects are essential for the artist to excel as he pours himself into his work so that another soul may be touched through a medium such as art.  

Just as notes are fundamental to a musician or paint is vital to a painter, so is vocabulary essential for a writer. A good vocabulary allows for experiences or understandings to be encoded with emotional or mental stimulus, into a single word for digestion. A single misplaced word can mean the difference between a mutual understanding and a complete miscommunication. Vocabulary provides the raw resources for our imagination to constructs our thoughts.  Just like as single note on a musical ledger synthesizes and harmonizes with our inner self, so can a word resonate with unique feelings and ideas. The style is simply the writer’s soul communicating  as much honest detail as possible from his heart to the readers. Like the detailed brush stroked of a painting, or the symphonic arrangement of musical notes, it is something that is personal and rarely duplicable. These two elements, when arranged into a coherent melodious message, will bloom causing ideas to refract perspective, reflect insight, and color the landscape of our mind with the proper contrasts and shades of the story.

To be a competent writer there needs to be emotional engagement. The emotional inspiration is what makes the writing personable. If the writer is less than enthused about the writing, it will seem meaningless, void of any value, dry and rigid. The commonality and fluidity of human emotion will cause a reader to look past the basic metaphysical realm of grammatical traditional prose and into a much deeper message of meaning.

I want to see a writer who is obsessed with communicating his heart and soul. To be a good writer you need to bear all. Screw all the mindless jargon. It’s boring. What I want is raw human emotion. I want sheer brutal honesty. I want the ‘what is’. I want to take something from the experience. I want to grasp his unique assimilation and response to human experience totally naked and free.  When I can smell and taste and feel the message and the thoughts and feelings, when I’m in the writers mind, shaking and breathing heavy, than I know that the writer is competent. He will find whatever way possible to relay this kind of message.

 
            In the end, competent writing is an individual expression. To what degree you want to expose this individuality will determine the reader’s response. The writer shouldn’t worry whether or not everyone can relate. You cannot please everyone. The only thought to be given is to those that have the imagination to engage so that they can testify in their deepest of gut that what is being translated is real and tangible- no matter how intangible their thoughts and feelings are. The grammar, the style, the vocabulary, the iteration, the prose…. It will come naturally after you have beaten the hell out of the negative instincts that cause you to shy away from exposing your soul. Those technicalities, those formal traditions of proper communication and dialect, used for uniformity, will come as you relate the whole truths that represent human experience in its rawest most honest state.

Personally as a writer, I want to know what I’m doing right.

I want to be successful. I want a teacher who facilitates success. I’ve read a lot of books about success. That universal word, success, relates to personal excellence in any progressive worthwhile ideal or endeavor. I’ve learned to focus entirely on the positive. A positive mental attitude is the only thing that encourages the will to rise to the challenge.  Nothing else allows for proper growth. Anything else stifles or stagnates. Negativity is the weed that chokes out the beautiful flower you’ve worked hard to plant and prune and water throughout the seasons of your life. It will kill all enthusiasm and all progress. Avoid watering the weeds by giving them attention. The key is focus on the solution. Eighty percent of your focus should be on the solution, twenty percent on the problem. I want a teacher who successfully communicates positively.

When you are running a race you do not want to keep your eyes on the starting line, otherwise you’ll never leave.  You want to focus entirely on the finish line, and direct every ounce of energy and focus to get you there. Your desire should be to learn whatever you can to improve your chances of arrival and the efficiency and effectiveness of the time and effort allocated to get you there.

As a writer, I want to hear whether I’m going in the right direction or not. I want to hear about my strengths- what captures your attention, what works. I want to hear what you’re looking for. I want my creativity fostered, encouraged, and guided. I do not want hedges, or boundaries, or blockades. I will grow restless and confused and produce mediocre works for you- when all I want is to produce the very best work for myself. To properly express the holistic mind and the assimilated truths I’ve gathered that represent my unique experiences and perspective.

A detail I specifically look for from a teacher, speaking from my individual opinion as a student, is the ability to ask good questions. I am looking for questions that inspire me to think, to dig deeper. I do not want answers. I want questions. I want a teacher who asks me questions so that I, as a student, can arrive at an answer as I see its relative importance to me. I want to arrive at the intrinsic value of an answer through my own deductive reasoning and intuition. I want to earn it. I want to pave that path. I am unique and I want its significance and  meaning to stay that way. When I ask a question, I want a question in return. That- to me- is the difference between a good teacher, who teaches the students to actually think for themselves and develop their own creative imaginative learning style that leads to the development of a unique individual, and the teacher who fuels the degenerate society we live in to willingly accept the answers we’re fed by our superiors. 

Confused and lost

Saturday, April 01, 2006

….
Confused and lost. Programming myself on a daily basis. I know too much for my own good. I don’t know what I want. I know what I don’t. I struggle daily with vices, addictions, motivating. I’m obsessed with learning, knowledge, acquiring it, putting it to use; and at the same time, totally wasting away because life is short and seemingly unfulfulling. Creativity can be practiced. You’re only as smart as you think you are. Know you are. What is my existence. It’s a cruel catch phrase. I want to catch something that will pull me along. Passions are postal stamps. You label your hobbies as cool. Nothing is filling. Negetivity will bring you nothing, show you nothing. I know nothing in the scheme of things. I think too much. I get headaches, heartaches, and stomache aches. I am conscious all the time. There is little I overlook. I say everything for a reason. But it doesn’t mean i mean it. I look past and beyond whats behind and in front of me, obstacles, you know. I realize my happiness is trivial when compared to yours. I hope your happy. Love exists only in the eyes of a blind man. Fortunately you can gouge your eyes out. I only plead with myself. Im very articulated and poigant. Picky, selective, particular but I’ll lead you to believe I’m not. I’ll please you, but your not special. Few read the credits. Who really cares about anyone but themselves. I can be your biggest fan. I believe in bliss. Lying to youself. Ignorance. I have a hard time dealing with reality. Reality is debatable. I can close my eyes. I escape too often. No ones special without a label. Power corrupts. Knowledge corrodes. Wisdom prevails. and all this means absolutely nothing.

No more breaking

Thursday, April 14, 2005


i dont want my heart to break for no reason. sometimes i find it necessary to break my own heart. i get complacent with my feelings and i become numb to the happenings around me. i have to hurt to feel again. people get upset with me for being insensitive. they dont realize its unintentional. although alot of times when i recognize the insensitive state i choose to stay cold… sometimes… i try far too hard sometimes… and not nearly hard enough other times. people try far to hard sometimes… and not nearly hard enough other times. i dont like being taken for granted.. and i do things to avoid being taken for granted. i dislike when people go out of thier way to give a shit… just so it can be noted that they gave a shit… when in their heart they dont give a fuck. they dont even make the effort to make thier efforts worthwhile. useless. i started lifting again.. i cant wait. i want to gain 20 lbs in the next 3 months. 185bs. i met my neighbor for the first time last week. shes an interesting person. fun. i like being creative. i like writing. ive been beingh creative and writing alot lately. its been… refreshing. i like expanding my mind. love is painful and difficult. its also absolutely amazing. i want to be in love forever.
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