Wednesday, November 24, 2004

Ipso ficto

Consider the meaning of the word "fact," which comes from a root meaning something "made," something done and which exists in truth. Although some facts can be easily agreed on, such as "it is raining" (a look out the window will confirm this), these are actually a very limited number. One does not have to look so far as a presidential election to find that what one person regards as indisputable fact is a blatant lie to another.

In fact, that fact about the rain applies only if we share a frame of reference in which the water in the air seems to precipitate in a certain fashion. If we were so tiny as not to be able to perceive the raindrops, the event would hardly qualify as a fact. By the same token, if we were gigantic creatures hundreds of miles wide, a bit of moisture somewhere on our body might not even register. To say that it is raining is to register an event as being of a certain magnitude such that it engulfs our perception.

Of all potential facts, we register only a very few, which become our "faction," the totality of facts that we call reality. Political factions arise when people with similar factions join together. These mega-factions should more rightly be called "fictions" because facts diluted across multiple subjectivities quickly become divorced from the facts from which they arose.

Sunday, November 21, 2004

Dream within a dream

Edgar Allan Poe, in his poem "Dream within a Dream," depicts the poet standing on the "surf-tormented shore," contemplating a handful of sand, which is slipping through his fingers into the "pitiless wave." He weeps in the knowledge that he cannot save even a single grain from its extinction, and asks:

Is all that we see or seem
But a dream within a dream?

He questions the reality not only of the world constructed by individual consciousness but the very cosmic framework in which that microcosm resides. Not even Plato was that extreme. Yes, Poe was very, very far out. He was interested in other things besides homicidal orangutans. Check out his cosmological essay Eureka. He holds that the universe is, as it were, the fragmented mind and body of God, with all beings as "infinite individualizations of God." Ultimately the "Heart Divine" of God is our own; consciousness and the human soul are eternal, and each soul is in a sense its own creator and own God. Radicool!

Friday, November 19, 2004

Absent parent

God save us from people with religious upbringings. Their religious ideas are formed at a very young age, and while it is theoretically possible for these to evolve with maturity, it doesn't seem to happen in a majority of cases. Instead, modern religious denominations themselves seem like overgrown children that base their beliefs on a profoundly dualistic concept of a divine parent lording it over the human kids with insuperable power. It's really an absent parent, though, and as a result humanity struggles under a profound anxiety, whether admitted or not, that they have been abandoned by mommy and daddy.

Let's try an experiment. Reserve religion only for those who have passed their 18th birthday. Keep all practice of religion small, private, mysterious, and cult-like, not publicly available to all comers or advertised on television. There should be much more diversity of religious belief, ritual, symbology, and myth than there is now, and there would be if the mainstreaming effects of mass culture had not trivialized and vitiated religion. On the other hand, religion could contribute to the regeneration of the human imagination if it returned to its roots as an organic adjunct to private experience.

Thursday, November 18, 2004

A dose of dualism

Feeling sluggish in the morning? Is your mind not so clear anymore at work? Does it seem as though one day is just following the next in an undifferentiated haze? Maybe it's time to try dualism, a touch of the old black and white. You see, the mind gets settled into these homogeneous patterns, and nothing seems good or bad anymore. Well, a little dose'll do you.

Try right/wrong, for instance. That will immediately straighten out the confusing world situation for you. Them and us, that's the ticket. Here's another one to solve all your religious issues. God up there, you down here. End of story. Now if you're a metaphysical sort, a very good dualism is Being and Becoming, also known as the absolute and the relative. Transcend the relative, be in the absolute, and you're done. Q.E.D. That's the ultimate dualism, isn't it?

Not quite. The ultimate dualism is Being and Being. Put your ism together with the ism of another being and that's the ultimate.

Wednesday, November 17, 2004

If you were here

If you were here, well, it would be different from what it is now, when you're not. It would still be here, but a bigger here. Not a smaller here, because even though there would be more of us in the same space, the mindspace would be bigger, you dig?

Using that logic, I guess you'd say that the more people we got in here, the better, right? Not. You start reaching a point of diminishing returns and the mindspace contracts. You don't want that.

So let's just get you here and leave it at that. We can explore the synergy for quite awhile before we exhaust the possibilities. At which point, we'll figure out what to do next. Like maybe go over there.

Sunday, November 14, 2004

Black box

An article in the London Sunday Times today has a top scientist, Sir Martin Rees of Cambridge University, seriously questioning whether the universe is in fact just a simulation inside a giant supercomputer. Other scientists debunk the notion on the grounds that such a computer would have to be unimaginably large. But who would have ever thought that you could get the computing power we now have in such a small space? The Pocket PC that I hold in my hand is now much more powerful than the roomful of computers that once sent a man to the moon. And this is just the beginning of the trend towards miniaturization; a quantum computer can easily hold data in one table that encompasses all of the atoms in the known universe.

But perhaps it would take nothing more than the human brain to generate this simulation, for we do not even comprehend how complex that machine is. It consists of more than brain cells: it is wirelessly networked to vast reservoirs of computing power that we know nothing of. And it is through the brain that we absorb the size and shape of this world we inhabit. It's kind of like having a black box voting machine. It provides the result without any accountability.

So if you bemoan the state of affairs in the nation at present, just look at the universe. You yourself are the biggest black box going.

Saturday, November 13, 2004

Freak flag

In the 60s one was aware of oneself as a "freak," which essentially established one as a counter-identity to the mainstream, along with all of one's fellow freaks, whose company made it quite a bit more palatable to be freakish. Not only did the word acquire a positive connotation, it was a metaphor that turned the established value system on its head. In other words, one could only be real if one was different, if one established for oneself modes of dress and behavior, and philosophies and cosmologies that suited one's own idiosyncratic vision.

This is why the references to flying one's "freak flag" in Jimi Hendrix's "If Six Was Nine" and David Crosby's "Almost Cut My Hair" transcend any literal connection to hair or flags; it is really representative of being in one's own space, a separate space from society or from anyone else, really; a symbol of that ontological zone where one has license to explore the structure of the individual quantum which some freak of nature bestowed upon us.

Friday, November 12, 2004

Letter from Mick #1

When I recently was offered the chance to become God, I'll admit that I was immensely flattered, as anyone would be. But at first I was reluctant to accept the post. I was a bit averse to accepting that knighthood too, and I suppose, as Bowie chucked his, I should have done the same. But because I wasn't on tour at the moment, I thought I may as well become Sir Mick, as it might give me a rationale for wearing that medieval suit of armour I practically pinched from Sotheby's last year for a few thousand quid.

Now being God is a different matter, altogether more serious. But if I actually listened to all these constant entreaties, I'd go mad. People are worse than a pack of agents. They could just listen to my records and realize that you can't always get what you want. So why cry to me? I can't get no satisfaction either. Well, we all need someone we can lean on, and if you want it, you can lean on me. But if you can't rock me, somebody else will!

Wednesday, November 10, 2004


The problem is all in your mind. It really is. But the problem is not that there is a mind. There is, and that's okay. There's no point in railing against the mere possession of mental apparatus. It's there. Get used to it. And the problem is not that we are conditioned beings, run by those computer programs in our heads. We need them. We need both the hardware and the software.

And the problem is not with the Microsoft of the mind, either, the operating system. Maybe you can wing it with open source, but you need some kind of OS, replete with an identity (ego) on the network.

No, the problem is the bugs in these programs, the ones that cause us to fall into infinite loops of obsessive thoughts. When we consider our thinking patterns, we should look for places where some unforeseen condition causes us to unreel on endless journeys into the labyrinth. What we need is to add error trapping to our programs so that we have an out when these conditions occur: that will stop the thoughts from getting too loopy.

Give yourself an escape clause! Program your problems away!

Sunday, November 07, 2004

Popping the wild qwiff

"Popping a qwiff" is Fred Alan Wolf's expression for the collapse of a quantum wave function, and it happens whenever an observer makes an observation. That act collapses the infinite possibilities of the quantum wave, or qwiff, into the finite, relative manifestation of the moment.

No wonder you get tired by the end of the day. Think how many qwiffs you had to pop to get there, how many observations you had to make. Now think how many qwiffs you whiffed—that is, that you failed to pop. You could have popped so many more, because the qwiffs were flying right and left and you didn't even notice, but you popped what you popped, and I won't chastise you for the "old maid" qwiffs that were left in the bottom of your quantum popper. We'll never know, any of us, how many qwiffs we whiffed in our popping career.

Every time I see you

Every time I see you, I feel touched by divinity. In fact, what's the difference between you and God? There can be none. You are God.

But you are not omnipresent because much of the time we are not together. You are not omniscient because much of the time you are struggling to understand what is befalling you, and you are always dealing with the complex emotions that arise in you. You are not all loving nor do you always do good.

But none of that matters, because those are only qualities that have been ascribed to God. God Himself/Herself has other ideas. Godliness consists in whatever God does. So whatever you do next, that's your godliness. I honor that spirit in you. And I love the fact that I cannot predict or understand what it is.

Saturday, November 06, 2004

Department of redundancy

Let us begin in our quest to eliminate redundancy with the word redundancy itself, along with tautology and pleonasm. These are roughly synonymous, but if correctly used they do have shades of difference.

To begin with, do not say "pleonasm" in polite company. When you do say it, use it to refer to syntactic rather than semantic redundancies. For example, call the phrase "I know that you are coming" a pleonasm (because of the unnecessary "that") but the phrase "Could you repeat that again?" where "again" is totally unnecessary, should be termed a "redundancy." Although you would not be wrong to call the latter a pleonasm, use "redundancy" so as not to be redundant. Use "tautology" only amongst logicians to show that you can recognize dual propositions that have some pretense at differentiation but are actually saying the same thing. To wit: "It's very important for folks to understand that when there's more trade, there's more commerce" (George W. Bush, at the Summit of the Americas in Quebec City, April 21, 2001).

The greatest redundancy is, of course, the universe itself, which seems to be replicated over and over in every individual's consciousness, for no apparent reason. Perhaps it is due to some inherent principle of extravagance in nature. Did it never enter the mind of God that it would save a considerable amount of effort to simply create one universe rather than many? The recent presidential election showed, however, that despite appearances people definitely inhabit different universes, some of them very different indeed.

It is a wonder any of us can communicate at all. Luckily, redundancies are rife in common parlance and fill up the space that would otherwise be used for understanding each other.

Friday, November 05, 2004


About all I can think to say after the election is what I wrote to a friend: "Humanity has cast its vote and it wasn't for the Light. Hell can now open its gates and proceed with impunity."
On a more cheerful note, I refer you to W. B. Yeats's Second Coming:

Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.