Thursday, May 31, 2007

"talking" apes

Language does not consist in the mere matching of words to events ~ such signaling is no different from the "language" of warning signals used in the wild by many animals to alert their comrades of predators. These signals cannot distinguish cause (= presence of predator) from effect (= run!) ~ declarative and imperative are rolled into one. Furthermore, they cannot distinguish between the presence of a single predator, many predators, or the mere evidence of a predator ~ nor can they distinguish between the fact of a predator's presence or the mere opinion that there is such. These "talking apes" demonstrate this same lack of syntax, lack of a first person perspective, as such they are no better than rabbits, parrots, dolphins, or virtually any other signaling animal at "language," no more like us. Perhaps they even fall short of our poor cousin the bee whose intricate waggle dance at least displays a syntax!

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

institutionalized compassion

The gravest danger of the anthropomorphis of government is the attribution of the same moral values to this "agent" as to individuals. The should and should not of the individual are not those of the government. For example, an individual act of compassion is an expression of hope, of optimism for the future. To choose to act compassionately toward an individual is to demonstrate one's faith in his ability to continue, to persevere, to become. Such an individual act of compassion is constructive. Conversely, institutionalized compassion, compassion rigidified in government policy, is an expression of profound pessimism. Each act of government "compassion" is an instance of mere rule following, conformation to law, blind reverence for statute; it demonstrates no judgment that its object will persevere, will become, rather it stands as evidence that "society" counts him incompetent, unable to become, simply to be. This is the corollary to the momentum of government: as the agential dominion of government grows, so that of the individual shrinks. To succumb to the institutionalization of compassion is then to make of man a slave, mere cannon-fodder for "just wars," or cattle for the living slaughter of bureaucratic prison. These cattle drivers who come under the guise of the compassionate! ~ these Quislings, these traitors toward humanity who march under hypocritical banners: "Compassion"; "Hope"; "Peace" . . . the wise man believes not such rhetoric and recognizes institutionalized compassion for what it is: institutionalized slavery!

Monday, May 28, 2007

war memorial

The claim that war is "bad" for its own sake is profoundly offensive. The history of compassion is drenched in gore ~ blood sacrificed that compassion might be possible, blood squandered in the misguided and hypocritical name of "compassion," blood spilt across centuries, drenching entire continents, simply because two groups have incompatible notions of "compassion." You who protest war simply because it is war deserve the slavery and gas-chambers to which such narrow-minded, close-sighted cowardice inevitably leads. You defecate all over difficult decisions and impede rational debate. You deny history and shun the sacrifices which have allowed you the very liberty to proclaim your facile views in the streets unhindered. To begin to analyze the value of this or that particular war, one must first acknowledge the role war serves in the evolution of human culture. One must acknowledge the occasional necessity of war. One must acknowledge that to refuse war is sometimes the very antithesis of compassion, to refuse war can mean complicity in murder. Furthermore, one must abandon this talk of a "just war"! Justice is a notion defined within a legal framework; wars, by definition are conflicts outside the bounds of legal systems, between legal systems, as it were. To pretend then that there can be such a thing as a "just war" is to persist in a delusion about what one is engaged in ~ to paint the other in one's own colors and presume he will admire you for it. No no! ~ if the notion of "just war" were coherent, there would be no need for war! Let us pray we never see such a day, as on that day we will know that liberty sleeps in her grave.

Not "just war," but "justified war" is the notion needed, with the recognition here that justification is only by our own lights. Then we can debate, then we can engage in rational discussion, we can weigh the cost against the gain . . . . but this cost, this cost! Today we remember the cost, the lives snuffed out by the wind of war, in justified and unjustified wars alike. And their sacrifice is no less, their honor no less in the latter case. For the danger of poor decision making hangs heavy over any rational debate, this very uncertainty is what creates the excitement of thought, the adventure of argument. Often, only in hindsight can one truly measure the value of a particular war, and even then, our judgments may change from age to age. No, the soldier cannot be judged by the value of the war in which he participated, for such is ever indeterminate. Rather, the soldier can be judged by his actions: by his courage to place his life at risk for the life of his culture, for the lives of his compatriots. To be a soldier is to see with keen eyes the distant unfolding of human history, to put others before oneself, compassion in its truest sense. In this country, we ride on the backs of countless dead ~ a revolutionary war, a civil war, two worlds wars ~ "justified" or not, it is impossible to imagine our culture uninfluenced by these wars. We lead lives determined by war, and both the beautiful and the ugly of our culture was birthed in war, is steeped in war, is inextricable from our history of war. Today, at least, we should think of the beautiful, that we might better appreciate the value of deaths which from so many other perspectives seem futile and barren of meaning.

You who died that I might freely publish these vain bloviations, that I might wallow in security and liberty and health, that I might have a life filled with opportunity, joy, and pleasure: you are too many for me to ever know your names, but I know your sacrifice and I thank you in the only manner I can, with these impoverished words. thank you.

Saturday, May 26, 2007

amis and amis

Living in the shadow of his father, the one breaking rules, rebelling, experimenting for its own sake, "buggering about with the reader." The other bound by rules, rebelling within their constraints, a giant chained. Whatever stylistic / generation gulf separates them, at least they share humor.

Friday, May 25, 2007

verboten culture

The practice of forbidding particular words, of enforcing the use of one word over another via sanctions, systematically divests our language of meaning. Language is a holistic system and words carry meaning only in contrast to other words. Thus, to have many different words in use for the same object or property provides many shades of connotation, or subtlety of meaning. When we forbid the use of alternate terms in the public forum (because they are "derogatory" or "offensive" ( = Saxon)) the remaining, permitted word ceases to have any positive connotation, it subsumes negative connotations. Of course, the intended purpose of such regulations is to control thought. By forbidding the use of a derogatory term (the argument goes), we inhibit the spread of the attitude expressed by that term. (comparison: systematically erasing usage of the term "bad" in order to stem dissatisfaction with the government (Orwell, 1984)) Even if such derogatory attitudes are to be despised, surely a less-totalitarian strategy for combatting them could be imagined! In fact, historically, the effect of such sanctions has not been to eliminate prejudice but to introduce further layers of prejudice. Consider the suppression of Saxon terms by the Normans; we still feel the effects today of Norman intolerance in the persistent suppression of the "seven words" ~ it is no accident that they are of Saxon origin, while their Latinate cousins are regularly used in scientific journals and high school health classes! How ironic that our "freedom fries" eating government remains resolutely Francophile in its vocabulary choices! Consider also the case of "dwarf" and "midget" ~ these used to have distinct meanings referring to two distinct physiological types. The medical term midget became pejorative as it was subsumed into popular culture ~ here the causal direction is reversed! Surely the preexisting prejudice manipulated the term's connotation, and its legitimate meaning had little effect on this use. How long, then, will "little people," a term which erases the heterogeneity of medical conditions resulting in less than average stature, survive as a positive term? How long before cultural prejudices tar it with pejorative connotations? ~ when said with a sneer, or an ironic twinkle in the eye . . . when said bitterly, as if a nastier term merely has left the lips with the wrong sound . . .

No, the manipulation of language is a dead end in the quest for acceptance, the attempt to remove one prejudice by introducing another a profound hypocrisy.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

real-life villains

In the "real world," a villain does not dress all in black; he does not proclaim his villainy with his fashion or his mannerisms. Likewise, he is not motivated by one-dimensional drives to evil and cruelty. He does not crouch in a dark cave plotting the torment of innocents for its own sake. No, the real-life villain sees himself a hero; his actions are motivated in the righteousness of his own imaginings. He, no less because he is a villain, is a paragon of his own standards of virtue. The wise man says: our certainty of our own righteousness is no guarantee that we are free from villainy.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

dreams of work

When one dreams of work, sleep is no haven at all. One wakes unrested and anxious ~ ill-prepared for the long day ahead.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

my education

. . . began with lies presented as truth. Next year, there was a patina of new lies to cover up the old; never mind that some of the details of these new lies conflicted with those of the previous year, kids can't tell, can they? The next year was the same, and the next. My "knowledge" was well-shellacked with layer upon layer of lies . . . but at the bottom? ~ or was it lies "all the way down"? In college was the first time I was assigned a reading which was then later discussed in class as if it might not be true. May I then doubt the contents of books? May I then doubt the verity of television broadcasts? May I doubt even the words of my teachers? Indeed, I must, but I found this doubt late, very late. And for those who never find this doubt? ~ or find it in the wrong way? Modern society is built upon a profound pessimism and lack of faith in mankind. Children, says the common man, are too stupid to learn critical thinking, too stupid to begin acquiring the tools necessary to mend that which is broken. And so the common man persists in breaking his children, in feeding them lies, in indoctrinating the freshest eyes and raping the cleanest minds. The common man has made of himself a petty God with narrow dominion; he controls not even his own lot, but only that of his child ~ and in this tinpot kingdom, he enacts the grossest despotism and tyranny merely to assuage his own sense of impotence.

the gullible skeptic

The gullible skeptic begins life with an open mind, waiting for indoctrination. The first propaganda machine to snare this poor tabula rasa in its web of compelling fictions has snared him for life. For the rest of his days he remains adamantly skeptical of all conflicting information, no matter how "convincing" ~ for conviction trumps the convincing any day of the week!

fraternizing with one's superiors

The fine line between sycophant and colleague ~ a forced laugh to a joke one didn't quite get (or even quite hear) ~ feigning interest in activities entirely foreign to one's nature ~ suppressing one's real interests, one's real style of discourse ~ the metamorphosis of weak future goals into concrete projects in progress ~ conversely, the metamorphosis of petty accomplishments into grand achievements ~ can one opt out of the game? Can one be oneself, but not sell oneself? Or, perhaps, they are simply the same thing . . .

Monday, May 21, 2007

the culture of fear

In the 80's we were indoctrinated with fear of the impending nuclear holocaust. I remember seeing a musical composed and performed by passionate Soviet youths. They traveled the world performing their catchy songs and desperately pleading for change and action. The state of affairs now is quite different, and nuclear war with Russia no longer seems an immanent threat. But to what extent was this goal achieved by filling the minds of children with fear? And now, a new "threat" and a new program of indoctrination. Shouldn't we be giving our children skills rather than propaganda? In a society where even the highest echelons of government lack the ability to separate information from disinformation, surely this is the skill we need to impart to our children to "build a better tomorrow"? The culture of fear is likewise a culture of rash and irrational action.

Saturday, May 19, 2007

a natural history of the janus-faced party

When the great invisible hand of evolution first paired two single-celled organisms and made them one, its actions were inevitable. In particular, no conspiracy, no collusion on the part of the single-celled organisms was needed, in fact, in virtue of participating in a larger organism, their individual identities became lost ~ it is precisely that they continue acting as they had in isolation which nature intended in pairing them together. The cells' awareness of their cooperation is not only not necessary, it is impossible. And so it is also with The Janus-Faced Party. There is no need for its two faces to collude, or even to acknowledge that they are partners ~ their collaboration has arisen naturally through the inevitable momentum of government, and it is precisely the illusion of conflict in which they so sincerely believe which makes The Janus-Faced Party so successful. Wake-up "individual"! ~ only you can see the unity of the two faces, as a bacterium trapped inside the body of Janus, beset by its immune system, you can see Janus for who he is. Surely, now that even the same face of Janus speaks with two mouths ~ purporting "family values" with one while denying the most universally acknowledged moral principle with the other ~ his duplicity will become clear? The wise man says: "the common man buries his head in the sand of comfort and pricks out his eyes rather than see the chains that bind him."

the golden rule

"we need to look at what we do from the perspective of what would happen if somebody else did it to us"

Friday, May 18, 2007

the momentum of government

The behavior of a complex system can be characterized by broad generalizations, or rules. These rules capture correlations and trends, but are not necessarily causal in nature, they emerge. Just as the behavior of a gas emerges from the behavior of its constituent particles, so the behavior of a government emerges from its constituent agencies, officials, etc. And, similar to the case of gases, where the particular types of particles which comprise the gas are largely irrelevant to its behavior as a gas, there are regularities in the behavior of governments which can be predicted and characterized independent of the specific makeup of that government. In particular, governments grow.

Government growth is an observable natural phenomenon which arises from bureaucratic organization. In a bureaucracy, there is no metric for measuring the ratio between efficacy and expense. In a market, an equilibrium is reached which maximizes this ratio (one characterization of this equilibrium point is through the notion of pareto-optimality). The flow of money provides a metric by which distance from this equilibrium point can be measured in a market. Governments are necessarily bureaucratic in structure, and a bureaucracy is not subject to market forces, and thus money cannot serve this role of metric within a government. Without a successful measure of the ratio between the costs of actions and their efficacy, however, agencies and officials within the government will be alotted funding in accordance with principles irrelevant to their success at fulfilling their intended purpose. In general, it is the lack of a well-defined goal state plus the lack of a gauge of efficiency which ensure that funding will increase, power will accrue, and any particular agency will grow. As a corollary, government as a whole will, in general, grow.

This momentum of government is entirely independent of the type of government. Monarchies, oligarchies, republics, democracies, social republics, social democracies, anarcho-syndicalist communes, etc.: all governments comprise bureaucracies and, as such, are susceptible to this same growth, this same momentum. The difference between types of governments can be measured along two parameters: 1) the number of tasks that fall under government's purview; 2) the process by which additional tasks accrue to government responsibility. In a communist society, for example, all tasks fall under government purview, and thus all tasks are carried out in a manner governed by the properties of a bureaucracy, i.e. without an appropriate metric for measuring efficiency. This is why gross inefficiency has generally been observed in communist societies. A monarchy is characterized by the manner by which tasks accrue, i.e. via the decisions of the monarch. Thus, this characterization alone does not answer the question of how many tasks fall under government's purview. Democracies require majority agreement for a new task to accrue to government responsibility, thus the growth of bureaucracy in a democracy is relatively slow, but monotonic.

This perspective provides a different explanation for the progression through various social structures as observed by Marx. Marx characterizes the trend from the bottom up, from the perspective of workers. Conversely, we can also characterize the trend from the top down, from the perspective of governments. The progression from monarchies, to democracies, to socialist societies is just an example of the gradual accretion of power to the underlying bureaucratic structure. Backlashes, as have recently occurred against communist societies, are the result of the gross inefficiency of a bureaucracy finally being challenged by those subject to it. In general, such backlashes require violent upheaval to remove tasks from the purview of government. Bureaucratic channels generally develop such that it is exceedingly difficult to purge them of power.

Can this encroaching tide be stemmed? Can a great enough dam be erected? Through one small hole in the dike erected by our forefathers ("to make all laws which shall be necessary and proper for carrying into execution the foregoing powers"), a torrent has poured through and flooded most of the countryside. We sit calmly and quibble about this and that, while we are up to our necks in water. The wise man says, he who would not drown, must choose: either plug this hole, or build a raft!

Thursday, May 17, 2007

the near-sighted man

. . . drinks the kool aid because it is sweet.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

the janus-faced party

We live in a one party system. With a single party there is no choice, and with no choice, no power. We call our party The Janus-Faced Party. Some men prefer one face and rally in support of that face with religious fervor. Other men prefer the opposing face and likewise rally in its support with identical enthusiasm. This illusion of conflict keeps the feeling of choice, the feeling of power and worth, alive in the common man. He stands too close to realize that the faces share a body. But if he took but a few steps back, and viewed his "democracy" with perspective, he would realize the unity behind these opposing masks. Oh, what then Janus-Faced Party, what then! Might he rally in the streets against both faces and stem the oncoming tidalwave of government "progress" with sheer collective force of will? Or would you, a colossus, merely crush him beneath your heel (as you have done so many times before)? In the safe warmth of my bed, late at night, before drifting into tortured dreams, I like to imagine you feel just a smidgeon of fear at the prospect. This is the wise man's palliative.

the election

The election is a nationwide exercise in delusion. The common man thinks: "in the election, I have a choice; by voting, I can effect change!" But the common man does not understand the momentum of government. This momentum is teleological in character, and any real change in government must be a change in this momentum. The petty issues which will determine the outcome of the coming election ("the war in Iraq," "abortion rights," "drugs for seniors," . . . ), these are but pebbles on the inevitable road of government "progress." The near-sighted man will be the death of democracy, and the hero of slavery.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007


My three roommates and I are at a funeral when suddenly a fight breaks out. Soon the air is ripped with bullets and we have to evacuate. My roommates decide it's time for them to buy guns too, and plan to do so on the way back to our apartment, where we will spend the rest of the afternoon in leisurely repose. As we leave the cementary, they invite three new acquaintances, with whom we had bonded at the funeral, to meet us there. Arriving at our apartment, after the purchase of firearms, however, we find that these three had invited their own friends, word had spread, and an army of hip young gatecrashers pour into our place as we open the door. Narcotics are plentiful and my state is far from relaxed. Leaving the party in frustration, I break down and buy a gun myself, before wandering into a small antiquarian bookstore. Or rather, the storefront is small, but on the inside the place is vast. Suddenly, over the loudspeaker, a voice announces that the sequel to Meet Pamela is on two-for-one special. There is a mad rush to the appropriate section of the store: little old men are knocking each other over in their enthusiasm to get to this deal. I am swept up along with the crowd, but with firearm at the ready, in case another fight breaks out. We sweep past the grocery section, the toy section, sporting goods, there seem to be fewer and fewer books about. Two female police officers in skintight, shiny leather are running towards me with guns out. They think they are here to arrest me, but I think they have come as an escort. Running up to them, without breaking stride, I grab them by the shoulders and we run together towards the stairwell. Rushing down flight after flight, each one getting longer and steeper than the last, I realize the cops are not here to help, but are trying to hold me back. By sliding on the bannisters, I manage to get ahead of them. Finally, I reach my floor, and return to my apartment. Now the place is overflowing, and in my rage, I expell the revelers. Like Jesu at the temple, I shower them with rage. But with each group expelled another shows up. Now, however, word has spread so far that old friends begin to appear amongst the throngs. Soon my rage has succeeded in expelling the majority of unwanted attendees, leaving only a small group of close friends with whom I had long fallen out of contact.

I show off my newly acquired firearm, then we lounge naked on ottomans for the rest of the afternoon, eating cake, smoking narcotics, and reminiscing about old times.

Monday, May 14, 2007

the starling

The hubris that the works of a single English poet might serve as better guide to the appropriate fauna of the new world than nature's invisible hand has been repaid ten million fold. And so also will the hubris that the experts might manage through wielding the righteous sword of federal funds that which their own theory dictates unmanageable. And in the former case, the cost is an incessant theme and variations on the car alarm, lovingly reproduced in nature's throat, and rehearsed out my window from dusk 'til daybreak. But in the latter . . . ?

against the cell phone

Once upon a time the sound of a phone ringing was infrequent and significant. Now it marks the norm, not just in one's home, but everywhere. No street, no shop, no park, no lecture hall, no church is safe from the persistent klang of cellphones. The jingle-jangle of the work-a-day world infiltrates even the house of God, and profanes the sacred. In their infinite wisdom, the arbiters of style allowed the common man the illusion of "individuality" by selling him the latest factory-produced "music" as a "ringtone" for his "celly." But now the cacophany of numerous inane melodies has become more repetitious than that of the old boring ring. Oh, "individuality," you whore! These are our enemies upon whom we spill flaming tar, laughing in glee at their distress.

Saturday, May 12, 2007


Who anthropomorphized man? We should trust our attribution of human characteristics to government, to nature, to (. . .) no less (but also no more) than we trust those of this ur-anthropomorphizer. But even this attribution, even this act of anthropomorphosis? And if one were to attempt to avoid it, what then? To accept a doctrine of auto-anthropomorphosis, self-anthropomorphosis, passive anthropomorphosis: this is the same as the denial of will, of accountability, of self. "Something given has no value": true, but how can self be earned if there is none to earn it from? The wise man accepts anthropomorphis, self organization, but he accepts also it's corollary: man is born of chaos and as such his attributes are those also of chaos. Likewise even with those whom man himself presumes to anthropomorphize: There is no need! For the same anthropomorphis produces "self" also in these.


The rosy fingered dawn creeping across the belly of a cloud; children playing in the spray from a fountain of dandelions; a lazy butterfly navigating the palette of gravity's rainbow. [ . . . but also: a tear shed in vain, laughter in the face of disease, the flame that burns half as long . . . ]

Wednesday, May 9, 2007


Let us seduce falsity with fool's gold and empty promises; let us lure her into our bed. For in the arms of falsity, we know where we lie. And in embracing deception, we ourselves are not deceived.

10 environmental commandments

1. thou shalt trust the government in all things

2. thou shalt honor the scientists and keep them holy

3. thou shalt not hold scientists accountable for past proclamations inconsistent with present ones

4. thou shalt feel guilt in every action

5. thou shalt promote socialism

6. thou shalt labor to perpetuate a society which deserves to crumble into dust

7. thou shalt exalt the animal and denigrate the human

8. thou shalt fight against the industrialization of the third world with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might

9. thou shalt exemplify hypocrisy in all thy actions

10. thou shalt presume understanding of chaos where none can be had

the unnatural

What is the unnatural? In ancient days, the common man used this expression to express disgust for social practices which violated his religious dicta. In modern times, we have become relativists about social practices. Now "unnatural" is used as an expression of disgust for industrial practices which violate the prophets' environmental dicta. There is no unnatural, but that we make is so in name only, and these unnaturalists are but another impediment on the arduous climb to the pinnacle of understanding. Human society exists in continuum with the unnaturalist's "nature," and is likewise ruled by the same forces. The invisible hand which governs evolutionary change and that which governs market forces is the same. The wise man has said: listen to the prophets with a suspicious ear; believe not their rhetoric, but instead extract from their hyperbolic proclamations tentative and careful meaning.

Tuesday, May 8, 2007

the absence of style

The common man has dressed himself in pre-ripped jeans and sweats with words across his buttocks, he has shaved his chest and plucked his eyebrows, he has brought back the bell-bottom after deriding it for a decade, he has spiked his hair and pierced his belly-button, but does he know why? Do his tribal tattoos and his thongs and his designer ipod pouches exhibit his style, or lack thereof? None can dodge blame; none can absolve themselves of responsibility for their style. Can we imagine such a one, can we imagine stylistic innocence? One can choose one's style, but can one choose not to have a style? Certainly, one can have no style, but this itself is a choice. Usually, lack of style is really lack of imagination, an apathy towards appearance and blind deference towards the social defaults for all aesthetic judgments. But these are the worst styles: those which defer to the aesthetic judgments of others, not out of laziness, but out of status-seeking conformism. The man who is lazy about his style will never presume to sneer at others for theirs, he will not pay extra for aging on an article of clothing which would accrue naturally if he simply wore it for several years, he will not flaunt the ugly, the boring, the unimaginative as if they were symbols of worth. But the man who copies his style from an authority in the hopes that it will confer status, his is the emptiest hubris. One is judged an authority because of one's sexual orientation, one's net worth, one's photogenic figure ~ but none of these cause good style. And if they are correlates of it, what the causal direction? No, such a one punishes. Himself, perhaps, but more importantly: my eyes, my eyes; where can I find a haven from this ugliness which pretends to beauty!


What can be true or false? Only answers. But the truth or falsity of an answer depends upon the question asked, and questions asked depend upon language. So, that which within one framework of questions is true, may very well be false when considered within an alternate framework. The common man has said, "O vilest of heresies, this heresy of relativism! Surely the scientists speak incontrovertible truth! How can you deny the existence of the fact of the matter!" But this, this is not true relativism, for there are indeed definitive states of affairs, there are events which have occurred and no amount of talk can change their details. In this sense of "fact of the matter," such does exist. But this state of affairs can be stunted and distorted by the sieve of language in a variety of ways, depending upon the perspective from which it is examined, the angle of the shadow. The wise man reminds us: the language of science is still but a language.

Monday, May 7, 2007

"random" and "determinate"

Do not be fooled by the dichotomy "random" vs. "law-governed." Randomness is not a property of events, it is not correlated with a particular type of cause or lack thereof. Randomness is a property of data. Consider three bodies moving in accordance with the laws of Newtonian gravity, with no additional forces acting upon them. Suppose two are rotating mutually in a plane while the third crosses this plane (between the other two) repeatedly in the course of its movement. Now, examine the system at suitably coarse, but regular intervals, marking a 1 in one's logbook if the third body is on this side of the other two and a 0 in one's logbook if it is on that side. The sequence of 0's and 1's you are left with is data about the system. As it turns out, this sequence of 0's and 1's will be indistinguishable from one which has been generated by tossing a "fair coin." In other words, there will be no discernible pattern in the data, in this sense it is random. Yet the three body system is completely determinate, every development is predictable with an arbitrary degree of precision given a precise enough knowledge of the initial conditions. Suppose one stumbles across such a system in nature, and observes it for many many years, generating a long string of data. No amount of knowledge of the laws which govern the system can allow one to precisely predict the next piece of data. This is because there exists an infinite number of solutions to the problem posed by the data one has collected, each corresponding to a different set of initial conditions and, mutatis mutandis, to a different subsequent development of the three-body system. We call a complex system with this characteristic chaotic. Most natural systems are chaotic in this sense.

Sunday, May 6, 2007

the end of boredom

At the end of boredom man surveyed his surroundings and saw no other. In his loneliness, man created procrastination. Now, man's comfort is his vice and exhaustion his only virtue. One needs two mirrors, if one wishes to tame the monkey on one's back without assistance.

Saturday, May 5, 2007

language as sieve

The "blooming, buzzing confusion" of which James wrote is a rich, multi-dimensional continuum. However, language manifests itself only in one-dimensional strings of discrete phonemes. When one understands an event as summarized in language, when one reports an event to another through speech, one performs a projection. The utterance is a mere shadow of the event, and as with all shadows, a different perspective, a different angle, might yield a confusingly different shape, even if the event casting them remains "the same." For how can we talk of two contradictory sentences describing the same event, when within language they cannot be reconciled? How to discuss the world beyond language? For language is a sieve, it captures only coarse chunks and unsubtleties of experience and necessarily lets the full richness of detail slip through.

Friday, May 4, 2007

the tyranny of conscience

When climbing dunes the sands shift greatly beneath one's feet. The carrying of heavy burdens is inadvisable.

Thursday, May 3, 2007

the documentarian

When a filmmaker has no budget for actors, no imagination for a script, and no guile for special effects, we call him a documentarian. He is reduced to turning his camera upon the "blooming, buzzing confusion" that surrounds him and using these chaotic events as grist for his mill. Luckily, the documentarian too has the opportunity to create. He exercises first the creative power of omission, for with his tiny lens and four-cornered frame he captures only a single perspective on an event. By selecting one perspective amongst a continuum of such possible, the documentarian squashes the subtlety and complexity of any moment into a single, simple interpretation. Later, in the darkness of his hovel, the documentarian strings these moments together into a narrative. And here again, there is room for creativity, for some moments are omitted and others rearranged, until a vast complexity has been whittled down to a simple, linear story. Modern heir to the alchemical tradition, the documentarian has performed a mystic transformation: he has made of reality, a fiction.

Wednesday, May 2, 2007

on speaking in generalities II

Horus Kemwer, perched on a throne of sunset amber, lips set in disgust, but eyes dripping with futile tears, as the unfathomable blackness sweeps through the world and darkens even immortality, his broad wings spread to stem the tide which cannot be stemmed, facing the defeat he knew from the dawn of time to be his destiny, laments: "The man who speaks in generalities can never speak falsely, for to speak so is to say nothing at all."

on speaking in generalities I

The disciple has asked, "why do you speak in such generalities, oh teacher?" The wise man responds: "To speak of the world is to hold up a mirror by which the common man might see his true nature. To speak in generalities and with great vagueness is to ensure that one's mirror is murky and reflects poorly. If one dared to hold up an untarnished mirror, the common man would see his true ugliness and turn away in disgust: this monster cannot be me! To speak to the common man one must first lure him with sleight of hand and wonderous trickery: what is this murky image, how strange this funhouse image of myself! Once he has recognized the murkiness of the mirror, perhaps he will also recognize the trueness of its reflection."

Tuesday, May 1, 2007

the tyrrany of the media

A nation full of bees: they work work work all day long, and at the end collapse into their hexagonal chambers. There, ensconced in warmth, they are fed dripping elixir through long feeding tubes, winding from their queen's porous udders down to their mouths, and as they drift into a chemically-induced haze their eyes focus only on small CRT monitors embedded in each cell wall. There they receive the "official story"; there their minds are spoonfed. This is how it happened, and this is what you should think of it. And a thousand drowsy bees murmur "yes, that's what happened; yes, that's what I think of it." For variety, on some days slightly different messages are piped into each chamber. The next day, busy at work, first one bee voices the opinions displayed on his monitor, then another the opinions displayed on hers. In repeating the views they have been fed they feel important, they feel right. They think "I'm arguing; I'm debating; I have my own opinion." Once one has tasted this elixir, once one has viewed the tiny monitor, one can never become a queen.