Wed, 28 Nov 2007 7:29 AM (GMT+0000)
Reining in my thought processes has been a little difficult lately so I'm just going to dive right into paradox and expound on ineffability. I've been chasing my own tail to find a place to start tonight and keep identifying new layers of meta-meaning that could suffice as the main theme only to find yet another layer on top encompassing and at the same time circumscribed by the swirling mass below. In the past, I've polished and polished before even beginning to write, and of course throughout the process as well. Tonight I am instead intentionally biting off more than I can chew and attempting to catalogue uncertainty and general non-definition, both for its own sake and for the sake of maybe answering a few questions. At the very least, I think it will be critical to make a few structural adjustments to my own mutable framework.
After rereading, I'm finding this introduction to be a little more heavy-handedly sophistic and pretentious than usual. And that's saying a lot. I blame Hofstadter and Eco and to a lesser yet greater extent my newest inspiration. Perhaps credit is a better word to use than blame.
Choosing a place to start is both easy and difficult. It's the paradox of choice - too many options means nothing gets chosen. I guess my first theme is revisionism. EVery once in a while I'll go back and read what I've written and chosen to "publish" (quotes explained later) and find recurring concepts or threads. In fact this very topic is itself an example. Sometimes I'll see certain ideas in the same way I did when I originally documented them. Other times they'll pluck a third or fifth in a sort of thematic harmonic. Sometimes they'll be pure discord and I'll feel inclined to do what it is that earned revisionism the connotations that it has. (Is there an ism without connotations?)
Here's a concrete anchor to grab on to (Lead shoes for enlightenment?): this week I will have answered a few giant question marks about my life. I moved to San Francisco in search of the question mark. This was a mere three months ago. In that process I quit my job, divorced myself of the vast majority of my possessions (including my house), and systematically dismantled the structure I had built my life on for the previous four years. Coincidentally, a full set of huge life decisions will all be lining up in the space of a very few days. Where to work? Where to live? What is it that I really want to do with my life? What's really important? How selfish am I, and how selfish am I really going to be choosing to be?
Again I'm back to revisionism. Do I really expect to answer these questions? I do expect to pencil a few things into the blanks, yes, but I'm fully aware that nothing is ever answered for good, until death (and how much do we know about that?). Enter the theme of commitment phobia. How is it that I recognize and am paralyzed by such a massive fear of commitment, yet historically everything I've committed to has been long term? Is it simply the fact that these commitments were long term that I can call them commitments?
Even if I hadn't used a pretty hard graphite in the pencil I just used to scratch out something I had in a blank this weekend, I think it's impossible to create a completely indelible mark when you sever someone from your life. It doesn't really matter how soft the lead. (I first penciled in (as much as is possible while typing (which brings to mind this video I just watched (or did the video bring this image to mind?))) the word "erase" here instead of "sever", which is imprecise - you can never erase someone from your life because they have already changed you in some even small way, and of course we still can't erase their memories (and the metaphor would have gotten very confusing given that I was already working with the other end of the writing implement).) (Do you see why I was struggling to find a place to start tonight?) I want to go back and undo that severance at some point, but for now I'm convinced that it was the right decision despite that fact that someone in the position to be victimized by my selfishness, the strength to withstand it, and the demonstrated commitment to continuously point it out to me is not a person that I would be wise to disconnect from my feedback network. This is especially because this is the second time I've done it to her.
Lift the needle from the Moebius record player. Change the magnification on the microscope. Put your left foot in, take your right foot out, put your pinky on the shift, and shake your keyboard out.
I'm basically a neo-luddite; I don't use "Web 2.0" the same way most people seem to. I don't even really know what the hell "Web 2.0" is. What I starkly lack is the overabundance of EMBED and ANCHOR tags that seem to characterize most other people's Web presences. I suppose that's been fairly analogous to my meat-space life up until now (oh, The Distance). I accused a lot of blogs of rubbernecking, and for many of them I think I still stand by that assessment. However, I just read one that does so much more than gape. It gets involved and digests and transcends. Now, if I was one of those normal two-dot-oh users, this would be the point at which that ANCHOR HREF would be showing up, but I've tried to draw the line on my site that things that are intensely personal should actually stay that way (which is obviously ironic being that a Web site is the most public of fora) and maintain a certain degree of anonymity. If I point to her blog, which points to her Web site, which points to a large degree of contact information, that anonymity is spoiled. However, after reading her site, there are a lot of things that I want to point to, too, while at the same time pointing to her pointing to those things, while at the same time adding my personal interpretation of those things...
Really this seems to be the fundamental concept of social networks, yet I'm not aware of any way in which this concept of multiple point-and-stare-and-comment is actually implemented in current technology. I'm slowly coming to terms with the fact that privacy is dead. The entire next generation happily places their facts and figures (and increasingly windows into other ineffables) in public for free with no apparent thought given to the consequences. And I think about the immediate implications of my own reservations about doing the same right now. Why wouldn't I publish a relationship? On the one hand it's meaningless to those that don't know either of us and chances are that the people that know either of us could pierce the thin veil of anonymity draped over this discussion by the pronoun game. Did she not point to me directly because she has the same rules, or because she knew my rules, or because she didn't know the address to which to point? On the other hand, isn't the point of our publishing our ideas to share them and spread them as widely as possible? If her ideas resonate with someone, even unknown to her, wouldn't that someone want to be able to tap into her network of like-minded individuals?
Except very recently I've been both consciously and unintentionally disconnected. Am I right to shun technology in favor of traditional forms of communication (talk and touch)? Am I wrong to insist on tangible, meat-space relationships? I realize this is a fight against the trend. It's probably more common now to interact with people we'll never physically meet than ever before, at the same time that I find myself focusing more and more on "real" communication and understanding. It seemed hypocritical to me until now, but I realize that my using physical distance to keep people at an emotional distance is yet another symptom of my refusal to use the available new tools of communication.
Nihilism aside, as far as I know it's generally accepted by most major systems of belief that it's our interconnection that matters. That's approximately a keystone in my own foundation. In yet another paradox, I believe that the concept of a "God of the Gaps" applies to this fundamental interconnectedness. The emergent behaviors of this hugely complex system of systems that we're all a part of and at the same time observing are ultimately of supreme importance and yet it is precisely that which we can't explain, despite having pretty well dissected and codified huge swaths of the underlying driving forces. In fact, each of us is driven by this question mark. Some people translate this into "God has a plan". Ineffable is fucking right. Heisenberg says that entire universes don't even exist until relatively insignificant events are observed. Who really has the power here? It's somehow deeply disconcerting and oddly comforting in its simplicity to think of non-determinism as the Supreme Power in the universe. It does very neatly wrap up the conflicting ideas that we have free will and yet we live in a world governed by immutable physical laws.
Extending that concept to the logical extreme, I come to the idea that because of the foundation of uncertainty and the ineffable nature of our existence, that it's a wasted exercise to build an institution around trying to understand the world. Science and religion are equally useless in this light at creating a documentable system for living our lives and passing our knowledge on to the next generation of humanity and the rest of our fellow human beings. Put simply, everyone has to learn for himself. Herein lies another paradox in that it's essentially every man for himself despite our interconnectedness. It seems that not only will there always be room for sin, evil, and error, but these are in fact necessities. That's not easy to swallow, either.
Here's something more concrete, for the left brain. She blogged only a link to this site, and didn't comment. But this is how I ran through it. (What happens if the link target disappears or gets broken?) When I first saw the image, I couldn't even force myself to see a counter-clockwise rotation. The skeptic in me first suspected that the page was a trick. Did the image actually randomly switch rotational directions or randomly display a rotating image in only one direction depending on when you load the page? Reading through the lists of right-brained and left-brained functions, at first it seemed like the left was "wrong" and that right is "right", being that the right-brained functions enumerate those things that are important. But the more I read it, the more I realized that I used to value abilities on the left more highly. Then I finally realized that it's important to train the hell out of both sides. After a while, and reading the comments, I found that I could actually get my brain to perceive both directions, even while watching the image to make sure it wasn't anything but a change in my own perceptions. Then I found that by focusing on different parts of her body, it was easier to shift the direction. Should this test really be called "Are you a breast or a leg man (or woman)?" Finally, I decided that it's important to recognize that we all have the ability to be totally convinced by something we perceive and yet a diametrically opposed yet equally valid interpretation exists. That, combined with the fact that we have the power to control our own perception and habits is a pretty humbling realization. Incidentally, it depresses me to read the comments that some of the other thousands of people that responded to this had to offer. All this potential, and yet I fear we're doomed.
I clicked my prerequisite three clicks (NoScript + FlashBlock, back to the left brain) to allow the embedded Flash on her blog to load. I had no context, no hints, just a title which could have meant anything when I pressed play. What I saw was Yuna doing some summoning dance. Then what I heard was Skillet's A Little More. But what I felt was my old cocoon up in Seattle with my ex playing FFX and the raw power of that game's story line intertwined with an immediate and fresh image of riding shotgun with my arm out the window, crusing along the Pacific out to Cabrillo National Monument, listening to her sing, being consumed by how much the song meant to her, then almost immediately realizing how seeing it on her blog gave me a whole new perspective on its meaning. Had I not pressed play, I might never even have known how to find that song or any of those memories again, or even the depth of resonance that song must have for her. Crossing farther over into the right brain, I've realized that I started this paragraph thinking that this served as an example of why the old forms of communication rule: it was the real, live experiences in Seattle and San Diego that mattered. But now I realize that those experiences might have been lost forever without the new world media. It would be almost as if they never happened if they were never remembered.
Near the beginning of this flood I put the word "publish" in quotes. I don't tell everyone about my Web site. My name is common enough that I can't be easily Googled. So in a sense, this writing is just about as anonymous as it can get for a Web page. I think only one or two people have ever linked to my site. I don't make it easy with TrackBack. I'm not part of the blogging community. I'm essentially two steps out of the dark Internet. (I love that there are so many meanings for the word dark - unilluminated, secret, and evil to name a few.) I don't usually choose to share my site with people, because I don't think it's a precise representation of me. Often people that have known me for years have told me that they never knew of this dark side (choose your meaning) before reading my writing.
Effable. What is an accurate description of our selves (the "me", or "I")? Is it what we think we are? Is it what other people think we are? Is it an average? Do we exist differently in every single universe of every other person on this planet? Are there a million different copies of us made for every single choice we make in life, each living out their own separate realities and creating their own millions of universes of choices, of observations? Is it what we leave behind? Is it what we mean to others? Is it what we are destined to do? Is it only temporary, and destroyed as we slip out of each others' memories?
Some question marks do need an answer. I'm happy to live for the rest.