Monday, April 30, 2007
The common man has said: we must hold the government accountable for its actions. But there is no "who" to hold accountable. And in fact, what we uniformly observe from governments is inconsistent behavior: laws which can only be motivated by inconsistent principles and inconsistent enforcement of the same. Are these the marks of one who can be held accountable? Are these the marks of one who is accountable? O, Woe! laments the common man: How can we fix this dire situation? We must appeal and protest until our voice is heard! To whom do you appeal? Only individuals. From whom can you hope for response? Only individuals. Yet no individual is accountable for all a government's behavior! "How, how," wails the common man, "how do we defend ourselves against an inconsistent government if there are none to hold accountable?" The wise man responds with gravity: you, you are to blame; only you can be held accountable. "Not I, not I: this governance is not mine!" Then, remarks the wise man casually, I must defer to he whose expertise is conflict: the best defense is a good offense.
Friday, April 27, 2007
Boredom is for the boring. The wise man is never bored, as his life is defined by his actions. To act, to constantly act, this is life on a tightrope: even the slightest movement is imbued with import. With so much consequence for every action, what room is there for boredom?
A backwards farming town distinguished by a curious disease. No one knows exactly how the disease began, but its consequences are clear: the devaluation of art. Particularly hard hit has been music. One of the typical symptoms of this disease is the irrational assessment that any four foot square space is a suitable "venue" for "live music." As a consequence, most of the inhabitants of Austin have succumbed to the delusion that they are in "bands" and can regularly be seen filling any available four foot square space with the performance of bizarre rituals which can only be described as a crude and perverse imitation of music. The victims of the disease seem to think that any collection of sounds whatsoever is suitable for "performance" in said manner, provided one's accompanying ritual is sufficiently pretentious (corollary: or one's tie-dye sufficiently lurid). To date, the disease has consumed the majority of Austin's once-noble populace. Yet with more than 90% of the town operating under the delusion that they are musicians, there is no effective procedure by which to locate any actual musicians who might reside there. Instead, any tentative venture out into public is immediately sullied by a barrage of derivative and uninspired sounds issuing from every building and public space, combining to form a cacophony which immediately reduces both one's expectations and one's desire for music. In such a restriction-free environment, how can art even exist? This is why the town has been dubbed by some "The Live Music Anti-Capital of the World."
Thursday, April 26, 2007
The scholar seeks knowledge for its own sake. He desires no reward but the accumulation of understanding. He disdains all patronage, for the nature of the patron is to infect the scholar's inquiry with petty bias and diversion. The watchword of the scholar is dispassionate distrust, for only through skepticism can he separate information from noise. The scholar is open with his knowledge, making it freely available to all others, whether they be fellow scholars or common men. Yet the scholar does not promote his knowledge, he does not march through the streets with banner unfurled, shouting his knowledge with all his voice until his throat grows hoarse. Nor does he seek to silence the voice of his critics, but implacably he listens to their cries and dissects their every word in silence. For the scholar's audience is other scholars; he knows they also follow the doctrine of skepticism, and if his knowledge be true, then they will filter it from the clamor of surrounding noise. Patiently he works, and trusts only his inner compass. These are the signs of a scholar: O, that there were such a one!
Listen to the instruction of the escape artist: "The straight jacket is designed to hold a madman. It binds such that the chaotic and irrational movements of madmen cannot escape it. To liberate oneself from the straight jacket, one must carefully perform the correct sequence of movements. Only rational, methodical, and, above all, level-headed action can extricate one from the straight jacket." Heed the words of the escape artist, for so it is with all bonds!
The common man hides his impotence behind delusions of power. He says: my personal actions affect the entire globe! What is the source of such hubris? The common man has been led astray by the experts. The experts know they depend upon the common man for their existence; without an audience to venerate them, the experts are no longer experts, merely reluctant scholars. Only in the face of ignorance, then, can one become an expert. So the experts feed the ignorant on candied sweets and strong liqueur, they tell him "only you can make a difference!" and "unless you act there will come catastrophe!" But the common man is overwhelmed with this responsibility; like a bee trapped between two panes of glass he imitates St. Vitus until his expiration; floundering and struggling, pounding his skull against the invisible walls around him, when all along, the exit lay above his head. Better to ignore the experts and follow the example of the escape artist: seek calmly and methodically for the exit, for it is your very floundering in the face of imagined future threat which itself creates catastrophe.
Tuesday, April 24, 2007
To know how one should act, but to fail to act thusly: we call this immoral. To know how one should feel, but to fail so to feel: what then should we call this? How may we catalogue this disorder that we may find a cure? The wise man has said: "to adjust one's inclinations, one must first adjust one's habits." But what habits must we adjust if our inclinations fail to admire, to ignore, to love, to fear, . . . ? If only the reflex action serves as external sign of these internal drives, what therapy lies open to us? The wise man is silent, but the barest movement of his lips instructs the only strategy: endure!
These palisades high, we scale in concert; these rivers deep, we ford with clever synchrony. Drenched half-way up our thighs, laughing in comaraderie, each slogging minute floats on the breeze as chaff. And sullen gravity's awesome pull, its base, cumbersome chains, can ne'er tie these spirits to the hollow earth. But long in company, we on occasion grow short in temper, and the bitterness of goals as yet unreached turns upon the open face of joy and darkens it with jealous spite. But to triumph was never for the one, and the wise man must bite his tongue until his mouth runs thick with blood. Amongst comrades, even these clouds pass. Amongst friends, a timely blink may mask this passing shadow. These grains of sand upon the seashore of the past, who can count such trivialities? With eyes turned forward, they crunch beneath the feet unnoticed.
Sunday, April 22, 2007
Who should take action ~ who can take action? The common man believes that the government can act, and in his apathy, his laziness, his shirking of responsibility, he does not act in its stead. But there is no "government" - as individual, as force, as source of action - that can act, there is only the slow, emergent response of individuals. In the moment, when faced with crisis, no man can say how he will act. But if the response of individuals is to coalesce into a whole, then some individual must act. There are none who will come to our rescue, there is only us. To he who, when faced with the maelstrom, did act, when all around could only cower paralyzed in the hope that others would act, we owe not just respect, but also gratitude. It is from such exemplars that we can learn what real freedom is. It is from such exemplars that we can learn how to live.
Saturday, April 21, 2007
You hypocrites and amateur linguists ~ you who forbid the use to others of words you use yourselves! You who exult in freedom by depriving others of freedom! You who hide behind the law and wield its bitter hammer in fists that pervert liberty! Freed from all external chains you are now bound by chains of your own making ~ so much more onerous and inescapable are these. Cast off your shackles! The burden of history must be surmounted by us each within our own minds. There is no external palliative; there is no social reform; there is no reparation great enough! Hypocrisy is only a symptom of the oppression within. The wise man hates not the symptom, but the disease. The wise invalid knows that the suppression of symptoms can lead to swifter healing.
Friday, April 20, 2007
How can society protect itself from the unprovoked assaults of madmen? There are two questions here: 1) how can such be prevented? 2) who should do the prevention? As for the latter, surely the answer is those at blame? But we are a jointly-imagined whole, jointly-responsible. Each of us contributes his part to an atmosphere which breeds behavior of an "antisocial" nature. Even fiction still has a cause; even the drunken careen of mad imagination cannot arise without external catalyst. We provoke the disturbances of the susceptible, and through our ignorance encourage them. So "society" is to blame for its internal detractors, but also "society" is a mere intangible epiphenomenon, laid upon the noise of individual behavior. How then can we address the former; how then can we act? We each must succor the potentially estranged separately, as jointly there is no we, but merely a collection of Is. We cannot trust a mere fantastickal apparition, but each separately must carry the load of all. The duty of the individual cannot be foisted upon the shoulders of an imaginary giant.
Thursday, April 19, 2007
Man cannot help but seek meaning in chaos. A hurricane, a tidal wave, a swarm of locusts: man asks, "Why! Why! What is the meaning of this? Is it my fault?" He makes offerings to his false gods in the vain hope that they will help him imbue the meaningless with meaning, and thereby satisfy his selfish desire to be at blame. But when the source of chaos is not capricious nature but another man, how much more compelling we find this drive. Surely, despite the chaos in his actions, he must, deep down, be like me. Surely, there is a kernel of humanity in him, a soul which reflects myself, a reason which can be understood? But the "reasons" of the mad are by their very nature without reason. These are the same folly: "what is the meaning of this shape within the clouds?"; what is the meaning of the writings on a madman's arm?
To create, one must first set boundaries, impose rules within which one may let imagination reign unconfined. Art without boundaries is chaos; imagination without borders is self-indulgence. Effective art communicates, but successful communication requires a language, and languages follow rules. Whether the rules are set by oneself or by convention, without them, communication fails, and art becomes merely for the creator. We do not call this art, but therapy. Sometimes, the rules which confine a work of art are understood by only a few, and such art is only art for those few. To the rest, the art is opaque, therapy from which they cannot benefit. St. Quentin and St. Robert have committed this sin: they have presumed the competence of the many in a language of the few. But the many are mere amateur linguists; they comprehend only languages without subtlety. The punishment for these sins is eternal torture. And we multi-linguists have gained a poem, but lost the poets, and even the opportunity for poetry.
Wednesday, April 18, 2007
To spend $100 million on a tribute to low budget cinema is surely a self-indulgent sin. Yet is not the apathy of the common man towards creativity, his choice of recycled pap over witty ingenuity, an even greater sin? What failed to pique the masses' boorish interest the first time around has failed to do so again; how foolish for the famous to think times might have changed!
Tuesday, April 17, 2007
The protestant spins his wheels with guilt, but only digs himself deeper in the mud. How can one erase these flagellant impulses? Is not guilt the the most self-indulgent of all motivations? One makes of oneself a victim, persecuted only by oneself. Such faux persecution deserves no pity, for its eradication or preservation is determined solely by the victim's whim. Protestantism has burdened the innocent with the crimes of the inquisition, making men into slavedrivers of themselves. Can we not find some purer fuel by which to feed our factories?
The common man says "somebody should do something about ____": who? We anthropomorphize entities with our speech, but such talk does not animate them and imbue them with reason. The government is a mere collection of individuals. It has no will, it has no conscience, it has no imagination. Any appearance of such is mere epiphenomenon and should not be mistaken for authentic. The only "somebody" available is you and me. Sacrifices made to gods in White Houses and Olympians on The Hill are pure idolatry. Behind these doors are only men with presumptions of godliness. Forswear worship of all false idols!
Are we to be judged in comparison with our peers ~ or rather by some absolute measure? But if the latter, do we not need some second measure, by which to judge how we should judge? How else to tell if our criteria match with those which are absolute? Better not to judge, but rather stay silent. If God, Posterity, or even Evolutionary "Fitness" is the only arbiter of greatness, then only after death can greatness be determined. Rather, I live by my own measure, and calculate success accordingly.
Are we not equal in our education, equal in our abilities, equal in our prudence? Why then should mere title, a label handed down from on high, give you license to lord over me? In the Book of Names on St. Peter's lectern we are listed alphabetically. There merit, not title, holds sway.
Monday, April 16, 2007
Social order everywhere is disintegrating, even in primeval matriarchies! Or is this war: first they deprive us of the sweetness of our honey, next the beauty of our flowers? Perhaps the hive mind is superior to the democratic mind. It recognizes that this beggared lump of rock has served its purpose: the future lies in space! We too should follow the bees' example. Abandon Gaia and seek solace in the cold comfort of the vast emptiness! Only there can we begin anew; only there can we find a "fresh start."
Communication begins with genetic evolution. The most primitive strategies for channeling information are forced upon society by its individuals' DNA. Only later does social evolution take over; here convention reigns supreme. But we who do not dance, we whose signifiers do not measure the signified, but rather indicate it arbitrarily, how can we know the world? Are our signs not too burdened by our prejudice? Are not our signs limited, rather than liberated, by society's caprice? Oh, to dance again, to tell the "truth," unencumbered by the distortions of collective hallucination!
Sunday, April 15, 2007
These talking heads who call themselves "activists," what do they do? Protests are held by those who envy power, but do not possess it themselves. Do these activists merely serve as an expression of our impotence? Activism is not action. Without the requisite degrees of freedom, what action can be taken? Waving flags, shouting, marching, and vandalizing: these acts are the temper tantrum of a spoiled child. Only an adult can effect change.
The dictator who hides behind supposed democratic process, the dictator who feigns the role of elected official, the dictator who denies he is a dictator: this is the dictator to despise. The honest dictator proudly announces his status; the honest dictator dictates simpliciter. With such an honest dictatorship comes responsibility, responsibility acknowledged and accepted. The covert dictator, the secret dictator, absolves himself of responsibility; he hides behind the pretense of popular support to implicate the people themselves in their own oppression. Better a dictator who accepts responsibility than one who cowers behind his subjects. Dictatorship requires strength, confidence, and honesty; only then can we judge a dictator, only then can we know his quality.
Saturday, April 14, 2007
From boxcutters to nailclippers, from shoebombs to shampoo: where will this vain scramble towards an intangible sense of security end? Once we eliminate all degrees of freedom from our daily behavior, will we then feel safe? ~ or will we then feel the deepest panic of all? The man of foresight prefers the loose-limbed tightrope walk of constant threat to the straightjacket-suffocation of security. Cut loose my tether, that I may never be secure!
In college, we wrote dissertations on the airport as panopticon. It was a prison, but at least an enlightened prison, titillating the gaze. In the modern age, the airport reminds us more of the inquisition; the subversive pleasure of watching has become undermined by a pervasive ambience of fear. For myself, I prefer to drive.
Friday, April 13, 2007
When I was a child, we used the word "gay" as a mild playground remonstrative. Now, this innocent use is verboten as it "impugns the homosexual." Yet "gay" once stood for the light of heart, the merry, and the licentious. Must we permit the amateur linguist to calcify its meaning in severity and forever forbid the ever-shifting currents of convention from carrying "gay" back to its roots in levity? Can we permit it? ~ convention admits no master.
"Back off man, I'm a Scientist!" ~ license for any importunity, any perversion, any eccentricity. The Scientists must be followed with blind faith; the proclamations they hand down from Olympus, unassailable. These are our Prophets; these are their Commandments.
When atheism was young and in its prime, it's hatred for christianity was a palliative. This modern atheism is ossified, however, its dogma writ large in the books of the Scientists. Now, the "critique" of "religion" offered by this fashionable atheism is just another dogma clamoring amongst dogmas. Snore.
The smoker is the modern Jew. The self-hating smoker stands idly by as hatred of the smoker becomes institutionalized: first restaurants, then bars, then streets, and now his own apartment. Where next? Shall we put the smoker in camps, or send him to the gallows?