The Dangers of Meditation

October 23, 2013

I had been thinking for some time now of what I now realize can be called “Cartesian meditation”, I mean, the sort of meditation that Descartes performs in “Meditations on First Philosophy” — I mean, a kind of highly concrete introspection, involving the inner eye, looking inwards, and so on. People who read Descartes, or whatever, today, may be … lured in by the clarity and simplicity of such practices, and also by a subtle sort of condescension, by escapism. It would be nice to make money in that way, by lying, I mean, and by leading a kind of innocent existence. But there is seriousness there that we may miss, I here accuse people of not reading Descartes seriously enough, especially those who enjoy him or think they understand him. Cartesian meditation, like all meditation, is a very real way, a mode of thinking that we have to respond to, of responding to the world — not so much at it’s essence, but at it’s step — before we take the first step, the first of many steps. I am not talking here about the foundations metaphor — “before we start constructing edifices we have to lay the groundwork” — but rather about steps, walking, movement — meditation is to the step as the critique is to the groundwork.

The basic thesis of Heart of Darkness involves the dangers of meditation. What’s so interesting about Kurtz is the sincerity of all those around him, he doesn’t promise power, fame, etc. so much as truth, as a kind of meditative truth. Marlow is inexplicably drawn towards him and inexplicably finds himself defending him — one of the central questions of the book — why? Why if Kurtz is not worth the life of the foreman lost to get to him, for example? But in order to think about this form of meditation we may will have to think beyond cartesian meditation.

… one thing troubles me highly, which is that meditation, unlike ideology, is true … it’s true in some sense. We have for the longest time been blissfully equating thinking with peace, with progress, and so on. Even for the critique, we have been equating that with self-questioning, doubt, all good things. I had a talk with someone today and I found myself, despite my best efforts, falling back to such banalities. How many times, for example, have I said that love, and not hate, is the justification for most violence? (Hate associated with guilt, doubt, and so on…) And I have quite a few drafts in my computer regarding Nietzsche’s On Truth and Lie, which is at once — true, I mean, I have thought about that work in relation to what feels like basic, preliminary insights — and at the same time, specific, powerful.

There is a kind of … historical theory, I guess, in Heart of Darkness, where history is seen not as the struggle between good and evil but rather the struggle between … light and darkness, maybe. Light here symbolizes knowledge, clarity, self-interest, and so forth — it is associated with reason, communication, and nihilism. (And sometimes with death and bone.) In a sense, anything goes, everything has an exchange value, but we are kept from each other’s throats by the careful balancing of self-interest. I mean, not the balane between self and other but the balance of conflicting self interest. I am not against light, I live, it feels like, in a world of light. When I sometimes stumble into darkness I feel the need to lash out and defend myself against these goddamn idiots who think they are so much cooler or more soulful than me and cannot recognize how common interest works. I hate you too, but let’s just keep it to our interests, shall we? I think I have plenty of these moments in previous entries.

The darkness on the other hand is associated with … yes, meditation, but not cartesian meditation, but rather, the feeling of a kind of significance, the feeling of the step. Well, that is the entire effort here: how do we go beyond cartesian meditation? I have a few drafts where I talk about Pandorum, which is a recent sci-fi movie. Well… the movie is not important, the point is that, whenever we take interest in anything, we find that it is due to a kind of weird fascination rather than any kind of satisfaction of desires, aesthetic pleasure, and so on. I took interest in Pandorum because it dealt with a kind of space sickness, a kind of insanity in the depths of space. Well, it also tied heavily to Heart of Darkness, Lord of the Flies, and various questions about restraint. But what fascinated me definitely had something to do with the “step”, with the supernatural .. the subconsciousness. I mean, if you think about it, the supernatural is a kind of underlying questioning, the question of the daily course of events, of the step by step.

With Kurtz, too, there is this notion of the —

TBC

Junji Ito

October 3, 2013

I’ve been reading the collected works of Junji Ito lately. It’s very iteresting stuff — it feels like it’s all the same, which is probably a good thing. Billed as a horror comic, except It’s not really all that horrifying, and in the very last volume he does a rewriting of Frankenstein, mostly true to the original Mary Shelley version, which is quite interesting, since I hadn’t noticed before just how Itoian that book was. My favorite webcomic gunshow actually references Ito … a few times, I think. I think he’s fairly well know around the internet.

I have been thinking over a sense of freedom — the freedom of the mastery. I don’t think I drew out this final sense of mastery — I know I keep returning to it. I mean, anything goes. We are not fundamentally, our intellects, are not fundamentally determined by technics. … I had not thought about the most radical consequences of the desolution of the borders between disciplines, the most radical consequences of not taking people at their word — the most radical consequences of Socraticism, let’s say.

CRP — which sounds sort of like CPR — I use to stand for, the “complex recent past”. It’s an idea of the thinking of history, what are we going to do with this incredible freedom? Well, we did talk about this notion of selfishness. Of looking out for myself, my kind. With so much freedom, such a task , well, we can do it unapologetically. The Complex Recent Past is our way of avoiding phenomenality, it’s a way of abusing this freedom. We have an experience, logically, in the complex recent past, and then, maybe, we experience it. This is the sort of power or freedom I feel.

Anyways, let’s talk a bit about Ito. I was happy that I did not draw any of the usual conclusions, any of the Freudian conclusions. It was definitely interesting — it was not horrifying. I did not even want to read it as some Japanese audience, that I couldn’t understand — rather, I don’t think anyone really felt it, or, alternatively, that no one really felt horror, that the fascination with horror isn’t aesthetic. The characters are stupid of course, but maybe that is part of the dreamlike sense of claustrophobia or helplessness.

I am a lot racist than I’ve ever been, really. Which doesn’t mean that I respect differences but rather than I believe all people are the same. So, again, for Ito, there is no privileged audience. Nor do I want to go the route of saying that there is some kind of art of the future. I think that there is a lot — me included — exoticism when it comes to this guy. So, rather, I want to apply this principle of CRP, of the complicated recent past, which, recall, synergizes with that sense of absolute freedom.

There is definitely something very interesting about the drawn image. I think I read one of the critics say that it was a character wasn’t beautiful so much as she was a symbol of beauty. When I read it, I confess, I tend to skim it — not even because I disrespect it or anything, but merely because it feels like it suffices. That’s what’s interesting about comic books I guess. I mean, I know the translation is bad, that there is nothing really to be understood in the word bubbles. I could probably read the entire work in Japanese (I don’t know Japanese) and have much the same effect. The dialogue is very banal, which may mean that it was translated badly, or it may mean it was intentionally banal — which is a real possibility, I’m not sure. Anyways, I tend to skim it. Not all comic books, but these ones are sort of like IV’s into the brain. A sequence of mostly identical, repeated images, combined — it is very interesting.

Now, I have not forgotten about truth, or historical significance. I mean, yes, selfishness, but there is also the need to talk about historical significance, that is probably the main purpose here. Now, my theory of history, or of interesting history, is that history is determined by the CRP, which is an odd sort of hypothesis. I mean, it is one step removed from simple aesthetics — it is indeed undeniable that aesthetics, pain and pleasure, correspondence, etc., itself has a history to be written. Say, the history of pain and pleasure. But that is perhaps not so interesting. A history of CRP is one step away from aesthetics and — importantly, not merely exoticism, ie, not merely, as we said above, in anticipation of an ideal Japanese audience. It is a history where the basic cause is what just happened. And a major reason why CRP is so important is because it ties in so closely to mastery, to the freedom of mastery. (And as a reminder — let me remark that we are not above lying, cheating, fronting, when it comes to mastery!)

In other words, Junji Ito’s has a historical theory — it is at once a theory of history, and a model of the CRP, the two are not the same. (The former depends on the latter.) Now when we think of the CRP for Ito we think of … something that is very different, certainly, form someone like R. Crumb of Jim Woodring. He is highly aware of how repetitive his comics are.

TBC, for real!

Who is the bigger loser?

September 27, 2013

So the question is, who is the bigger loser, me or them? (… whether tis nobler to suffer the slings and arrows …). Or more precisely, is it better to live in the world, to live joyfully, or … to seek the truth? I mean, we’ve made a big deal out of such issues as honesty, nihilism, and play. Well, what is our, what is our high horse anyways? Maybe it is to get at what is really driviing the world, or what’s on the back of everyone’s minds, etc.. Well … I wrote this on Facebook the other day:

“Vaccination and the Age of Reason” –Vaccination is something that has saved countless lives and is one of the benefits of living in civilzation, it is one of the fruits of the age of reason. But beyond our modern conveniences and our limits there is very little that separates us from jungle tribesmen, cannibals, what have you. But is vaccination “caused” by the reason? And what really characterizes the age of reason? It is not, actually, any ideas of justice, human rights, etc., but rather, maybe, the capitalization of man’s mental *energies*, ie, in the same way that oil has reshaped the world mental energy has reshaped the world — suggesting by this term a kind of undirected, violent, inevitable force. Vaccination was discovered by someone (quite by accident, as certain anecdotes go) that had put forth immense mental energies, mental capital. There is no way to “repeat” the insight of vaccination, though we tell stories about it. This is why reason is not the driving force, because its insights cannot be “repeated” — experiments are verifiable, but there is no way “repeat” that same insight. What this means is that technical history is a history of *accidents*, it can be likened to the discovery of gold nuggets unearthed by the explosive energy of mental capital. (And I am arguing, we cannot repeatedly, methodically, discover gold nuggets — it also means that there may be some limit to how much we can unearth).

This actually raises the question of whether there are *other histories*, a history that would not be a history of accidents. And this is where the concept of mastery fits in: since mastery, as a regression to childhood, give us visions of the future not shaped by accidents but genuinely our own, unreachable yet so imminent that they are often mistaken for having happened.

I’m not sure if the whole thing needed to be included, but the basic argument here involves the thinking of a kind of mental energy — there is a critique here of reason here, the Age of Reason. The Age of Reason — bless its heart and its consequences — is nothing but “the discovery of (a finite number) of gold nuggets unearthed by the explosive energy of mental capital”. I try to argue for an energy-based account of history in order to discredit any essence of reason. So that is “them”, I mean, those who carry on — with whatever consequences, beneficial or not — with belief in the cohrenecy of their own life, of their own essence.

So yes, it’s hard to put a fine distinction, when asking the bigger loser question, on what the distinction, which we feel so strongly about, even is.  But there is a distinction isn’t there? I am not here to tear this down or to argue that there isn’t. There is. Well, and I am not here to, of course, really answer the question of who the bigger loser is. Who cares? We each have our own failures. I am penniless but I have the time to do what I want. And I have a lot of trouble getting a girlfriend, even though I am, well, not unattractive, and this is a combination of my pennilessness, isolation, and my general misogyny. Fine. But they have their own issues to deal with. There are very few of us who aren’t selling our youth for money. I mean, if I can’t stand the life they lead, if hell is other people, then on some level they can’t either, I’m sure.

So at stake in this question is really (of course) an effort to refocus on the question of who we are, now that we can no longer claim an essence, we have to get off our high horse, and yet continue to have, to feel the pull of, such diverse concepts as guilt, futurity, imminence, and so on. Indeed, the feeling is that we will be working on a history yet to be written, or a reanalysis of history. If not some thinking of the essence of history, then at least, some alternative history, a history, vaguely defined, involving these concepts. (TBC)

“Don’t get any big ideas” — I was reading, recently, someone’s blog about trying to develop a … graphical terminal emulator, I think it was. He was one of those mac programmers. I’m pretty prejudiced, I admit. I kept on reading… he tried to start a project but failed — it was an interesting effort. In the post-mortem, he complained a lot about the community and all the various software design tools that he had to work with. It was a lot of complaining. I was glad to see it fail, most because terminal emulators don’t really need a rethinking. They do need some added functionality, which was what I was googling for, but they don’t need to be rethought from the ground up. It was apparently a project that got a lot of vocal support but very little actual finger-lifting from the community. I love ther terminal, by the way, or rather, I have a different idea of what a pure terminal would be. The whole Mac mentality got to me anyways. It was like every single thing they touched was somehow a fundamentally different, beautiful, rethinking of data or something. I was sort of headed in the opposite direction, I mean, I love the sparse of text terminals. I would rather us think about ways for us to change our lives so that text would be enough. There is a lot of issues here, certainly. I don’t believe our lives are natural, I believe that a computer is not so much a way to represent our lives, which just leads to added complexity, but rather, perhaps, to simplify our lives.

I’m not sure how interesting Apple would be for our history, for example, for our purposes. It doesn’t really confront guilt. I would rather think about open source or something. I’ve been working on a very simple and small scale … text editor enhancement recently, hopefully I’ll have a chance to throw it up in a few weeks on this blog. But my experience there was that, well, I congratulated myself on not having any more big ideas. In the end I had very little to say about the whole software design experience. I spent a lot of time looking up documentation, and as always the logic of the underlying system can never really be fully documented. It was very messy, a lot of trial and error. It was almost like a research project. A lot of the work involved grouping conditionals into forms that I could deal with and maintain, I mean, attempting to categorize all the exceptions — and the feature set changed along the way. The feature set had to be coherent, too, I mean, it had to seem consistent even as it was stressed by the requirement of maintainable code, a very minor sort of feedback loop here. I was proud of myself for not having learned anything through this whole process. I wondered if this amounted the regression of mastery — the regression to a kind of childlike state, where the task becomes, the wrestling with exceptions, where nothing is so structured. (TBC)

The Consequences of Mastery

September 24, 2013

I want to write a hardcore philosophical essay right now, I mean, rhetorically. It is also going to be short, maybe. I say this because I feel like I am dealing with a priori consequences, or with results that flow from the concepts themselves.

Well, without giving a formal introduction, I mean, without laying out the stakes beforehand, let’s consider the question, “what is mastery?” I have been thinking over this for a few days now… I feel we can start with some banalities: namely, that mastery involves a non-concern with technics. So I distinguish it from nerdiness. … I just wrote this on facebook:

Mastery (of something) resembles spaciness / vapidity because it is not nerdy (it doesn’t concern itself with technical details), ie, a master sounds like a fool with the added aspect of being competent at technics nonetheless. It *does* resemble being nonchalantly good at something, but not because such technics provides a form of transcendance, ie, not from depths of experience. Mastery, then, may be not only superficially but also essentially a regression in attitude towards an earlier stage. We can maybe sum up all this by simply pointing out that a master, perhaps like a child (or certain childlike moments) is fundamentally interested in intentionality, choice, other living beings, and not objects or facts (I mean, with regards to the domain of mastery, not in a general ‘zen’ sense.).

So, I think we can say that we have moments of mastery, or mastery is not so much who we are as some way of seeing the world. … OK, so let that be our introduction.

Isn’t mastery a surveying? Yes, but it is at once a surverying, of the field, and of our past, and it is a way of continuing to live, which means, that it is still concerned with intentionality, or with the future. The master is concerned with history but not with a technical or intellectual history… and perhaps not with a history at all, in the traditional sense. The idea that mastery is a regression feels important to me, I mean, that it is a *non-technical* attitude, despite being deeply involved in some discipline. This is important because the consequences are quite nice, it means that we can deal with almost everything at all in a non-technical way, say, math, physics, as long as we restrict ourselves to mastery.

This is what I am so excited about — that mastery, the full understanding of anything, is non-technical (I mean, we will still have to be familiar with technical details) — it is not so different from the frightened apprentice except for the following important difference (the master shares more with the novice than with the journeyman): to the novice everything is a promise of future self-overcoming, everything is leading towards the future. But perhaps — and this is a big hope, a big perhaps — with mastery we can … manifest, or introduce into the system, these intentionalities or these futurities.

TBC: Examples; Relativity and Mastery

The History of Math / Dedicated to the one I love

September 17, 2013

The last words he pronounced were — your name. (Heart of Darkness)

There is are some complex things dealing with time. Well, let’s begin by talking about the Heart of Darkness, which ends with this lie about dedicating one’s life to a loved one. This whole whole section seems to be about the past and the future. Kurtz is the future, but he is also the past — he is dead and gone. Something so powerful as to be imminent — so real was this future that it was mistaken for having already happened.

That’s just it — the imminence of the future, the mode of imminence. I feel like this is familiar ground, but the whole oint here is semi-imminent, as we approach familiar ground with better tools maybe. And also, the women — for some reason the women has control over this imminence, despite having, of course, never set foot in Africa. But for her this imminence was as real as a river, or a window, as in the final scene. “Mathematics is profoundly feminine” I have here in my notes — which is a kind of a provocative formula that points at where we want to go.

The real question here is the imminence of math, or the mode of imminence. Again, I am not sure if the above quotation is right, but at least it does raise questions, ie, if it is wrong, then it is wrong in the right direction, I feel. Math, too, seems to be a future that has already happened, in the above sense. Well, there is a third concern here: that we do not know what math is. This is important to point out since all math does is talk about itself, it seems, but we cannot trust it, at least, not in the first, declarative, descriptive sense. The history of math has yet to be brought to light. We may have to talk about a psychological history of math, or about eras that we haven’t even understood yet, who knows. This is certainly an exciting venture though.

Oh, and one more thing: isn’t it true that all metaphysics can do is point in a certain direction, to point at something? nd if so, doesn’t the history of math consist merely of moments that point at something? Yet these moments must each be examined individually?

Now, by the “femininity of math”, I don’t merely mean, the creative feminine. This is a benefit of us returning to the same question with more maturity — I mean, that it’s easy to be misled here, to forget what we meant, and to dismiss it later as error. We are not referring merely to the playfulness of math, since that is simply being who one is, and is not a future that is imminent. It does not relate to guilt, for example, or to the future yet to come, which we identified in the previous blog as the uncanny.  But, on the other hand, it is not something other than what math already is. Again, this feels like some moment of maturity to me, I mean, the necessity of thinking such a delicate topic. It is the moment, not strictly outside of math, a moment when imminence and femininity intersect. That’s another thing about the feminine — that they seem more real.

(Sometimes I am troubled by the question of whether what we talk about is exists at all, ie, whether math isn’t merely the sum of technical exigencies. But I am comforted by … various reflections, not limited to the “categorical imperative” of criticism, the existence of parallel histories, etc..)

So what I’m saying here is that the only kind of reflection that matters, in math, are those that seem to determine our future, but that is subtle enough to not merely be a fantasy. But still feminine — that is the whole nature of the feminine. “They are out of it”, says Conrad, but at the same time, they are not fantasy. It is not obvious whether something is one or the other, whether something is fantastic, technical, or of literary interest, it is hard to tell the interesting from the uninteresting in history.

========== END OF INTRODUCTION ==========

Let’s talk about the zero, the historical development of the zero. Now math functioned long before the zero, and it functions long after. The zero is certainly ingrained into math at this point, it has become one symbol among many other symbols. Now, I don’t really want to speak of the zero as merely a symbol, I don’t really want to associate with the rise of algebra or something, I mean. Rather, it is associated with a very specific sort of purity in math — I mean here specifically to dismiss the assumed distinction between the pure and the pragmatic, the notion of “mathematical autism”, for example. In a sense we are saying that everything is the same, that we are cut off from “our own” origin, that we work with ideas that are dead and gone. “I arrived in a city that always made me think of a whited sepulchur” (Heart of Darkness).

It is hard to imagine that moment. It is perhaps a profound transformation. It was at once anti-materialistic and materialistic. It faced great resistance for it’s amaterialism, but at the same time it seems undenaible with its play uon guilt, which we associated with the uncanny in the previous entry on Futurama. The uncanny causes metaphysical transformations, which may be, as we said above, pointers, or not stable in themselves (and rather only as an orbit). The phenomenality of the uncanny cannot be discounted but it slowly builds up until it becomes this imminence we speak of.

TBC

Futurama’s “A Game of Tones”

September 11, 2013

I like Futurama, but I don’t consider it really worth extended reflection, so that when we talk about our interest in The Game of Tones (from this latest season) it is in the sense that it is an unusual episode and in many ways quite unlike the rest of the show.

Now, I don’t want to go too deeply into the Lynchian influences, it is a great episode to watch from that angle, it reminds me of Twin Peaks… it actually also reminds me of being high.. and there is a sense that you aren’t really watching Futurama so much as you are a dream of Futurama, the way in which dreams seem to bring out the uncanny in the familiar, or how something in a dream often feels like a parody of that which you are remembering.

And then there is that sense of impending doom, which perhaps should be taken simply as an impending future (no pun intended) a future yet to arrive (rather than as death or destruction). There is a UFO approaching earth that emits a sequence of four tones that will literally blow up planets — but at the same time the show itself, also, as we allude to above, seems to be coming apart at the seams. “The impending future”  is not the extrapolated progression of day-to-day life — but it is very close… maybe we should even characterize it as a kind of gravity or something, in the sense of, that towards which the present is drawn, but which never arrives, a kind of orbit — ie, a spatial rather than a temporal metaphor.

The concept of “the future”, for me, is a way of getting over a kind of impasse, the impasse of descriptivism. I mean, perhaps the only way to understand the present is to understand such a future — some things about the world can’t be understood descriptively. The only way to understand the truth is to lie about it or to participate in this lie. (Cf, eg, the final scene of Heart of Darkness). This impending futurity is a kind of holism, it is something that cannot be understood aesthetically or as some kind of political “negation”…

As I said, we shouldn’t take the ‘doom’ too literally, but rather to think of it as a kind of blasting or exploding — a show “coming apart at the seams” we said. So that what impends is not absolute doom but rather the future, but the future that never arrives, or a future that we may have to pretend has already arrived — think, eg, Hitchcock’s Spellbound. Perhaps all psychoses have some connection to the future.

What is the future of Futurama (again, no pun intended)? It is an emptying out, it has a lot to do with the “conventions” of that show. The show is very concerned with math and a kind of systemic humor, the system of the crew — but the satisfaction with systemics can only take place if we are too content with the stability of everything around us. I mean, think about, for example, the kind of thinking required to become a mathematician — and I don’t even mean that one has to first be well-fed … doesn’t the initial, childhood interest assume a contentment with things as stable objects, as atomic elements of a system? So it is precisely this sense of stability that is being questeioned here — and this questioning, or rather this explosion, comes about via a kind of … dreamlike sensation, a kind of self-parody. I mean, the world that the crew explores is strange and terrifying, it is unlike the futurama we are used to. Even nature in that show typically exhibits the usual human qualities. But here they are caught in something way over their head (and the ending comes only because the show has to be aired, ie, it doesn’t reflect at all where the show was headed) — which is a kind of … vicious self-understanding. I mean, the way in which actions repeated over and over again seem to lose meaning — self-parody we said. But these elements can’t be understood in this way as descriptive, aesthetic, or rhetorical elements, but rather seem to take hold of our society precisely via their status as the future, whether we embrace it or not.

The future is the breakdown of the system and the coming fascination with the signifier. TBC

The Final Scene of the Heart of Darkness (Progress Report)

September 4, 2013

Well — boss — there are a few things I’m thinking about: the final scene of the heart of darkenss, the theory of relativity, and the Amazonian tribesmen. Yes, I feel they are all linked somehow, going through these things peice by peice is not opitmal and we may get trapped in talking too fast, knowing too much, thinking we’ve accomplished something, but I also feel it’s really the only way I can make progress at this point.

(1) The final scene of Heart of Darkness — I have in my notes here that this final scene seems to answer all the questions. It is, indeed, a scene of lying, which is something that Marlow isn’t really comfortable with. But maybe it’s about time that we got our our discomfort with nihilism — nihilism is okay, and some forms of hihilism are more okaythan others. I mean, there is the sense in which, if you’ve ever expereinced this, women have a way of evoking things, they seem to make things real — that’s part of it. There is also the way in which this scene seems to provide a solution to another problem. I mean, consider that, well, consider a few elements: (a) The jungle (b) Kurtz, stability, emptying out (c) Reading too well (d) Historiography.

Now, the jungle is something that seems to disrupt, it is sort of like a kind of overwhelming nature, we feel so small in the jungle, if we are able to feel that. It is interesting that it is precisely at this time of crisis, or at this moment, that Kurtz makes his appearance — so that, for example, what is so surprising about the Russian is just how oblvious he is to the general chaos around him. In the midst of a time of great dispiritedness, Kurtz provides a kind of stability. Kurtz is not the jungle, nor is he a return to cynicism, but he is a kind of cynicism or a kind of nihilism that survives — a lie that we believe in sincerely. I used to give the example of “historical speculation”, such as for the Mormons — however ridiculous the Mormon doctrine may be, for example, however much in bad faith they carry on their lives, the aspect of sincriety to them is the way in which they have taken out a lottery ticket for the future, the way in which they believe they are on the verge of some kind of arising truth. As a consequence of this those caught up in such a moment are often notoriously bad — we must not trust them — at explaining their actual motivations.

The final two terms are linked as well, I mean, (c) and (d). We must not read too well, I mean, there is a moment when we believe that the book is simply agreeing with us. But this suggests the impossible problem of always reading the book anew. As a solution to this problem I want to suggest this notion of ‘historiography’: of understanding a point i nhistory, which is the moment when Kurtz arises in the jungle which is also the final scene of the Heart of Darkness. That scene is all about defining what occurred at a partciular point in history, under specific conditions — and maybe there is an ineffability there too, and certainly a kind of nihilism (which is what makes Marlow so uncomfortable) — assomething that is evoked in the final stanza of Boy of Winander, when the speaker pauses in silence, for a good half-hour, unable to recover that moment, despite having just written it down quite vividely. That poem is sort of about that very same situation in a sense, I mean, the second half of that poem is very easy to overlook.

So that this is how we should understand Heart of Darkness as well, I mean, as a historical thesis, about a moment in the past, something we can barely see, or almost see, or see only with a woman that sort of makes us content with nihilism.

Well, that final scene is all about reliving a moment in the past that did not crystallize until the present, I mean, until that moment of visiting the Intended. When it does crystallize it seems a moment of reliving the past, a moment when “all games are emptied out” but no longer by the jungle. One has forgotten by that point the devstation of the jungle, so that all that’s left from that experience seems to be Kurtz, for some odd reason. When we look back on the past we like to reember a specific moment of negation, something that is impossible with the jungle itself. There is a sense perhaps that a specific negation is the only way we have, the only way we can stabilize the past, or maybe something that we always seek. (TBC)

(2) Let’s talk a bit about relativity. There is a sense that the cards were stacked from the beginning with regard to such a theory, which oppurtunized on the empirical discovery that the speed of light was constant — I mean, in the sense that every disruption to our intution will resolve itself in a certain way. The argument above is that the women are facillitators to the way in which we control our past, the way in which we understand the past as a kind of specific moment of negation (Kurtz) rather than as a general kind of disruption. Applied to relativity, this principle suggests that the function of physics is to — not so much incorporate external elements into an established system, but rather — the attempt to reach this moment of negation or of emptying out. I mean, certainly physics can be considered a kind of game too, math and physics can be considered a kind of game. You can publish hundereds of perfectly correct papers and there is still the sense that something may be missing, and the question is what the particular form of this negation could be, if it does not derive (of course not) from the introspective correction of errors.
For relativity, the specific form of negation involves the identification of a moment of “pure representation” (which is itself a “nihlistic” moment, as we said — yet the cards are stacked, somehow, in favor of this.) It is a clearer image of the world that becomes, well, secular. “The multitude of secular trees looking patiently after this grimy fragment of another world” (the steamer) — from the Heart of Darkness. Secularism is the emptying out or the vacating of “games” of particular nihilistic circuits, of illusions that are carried on only so far as they are useful, of fitter happier, of the colusion of metaphor and formula. Secularism, the secular vision, is precisely that which no longer allows for metaphor. I just said a bunch of stuff really fast, but I am actually not bullshitting. I mean, the idea is that there is some absolute vision that no longer allows for the convinient switch between metaphoric, pragmatic vision, a short moment when the world ceases to be populated by metaphors.

An Omegle Chat about Uncanny Computers

September 2, 2013

You: howdy stranger
Stranger: hi
You: hey whats up

You: right now i’m trying to write a “2d” text editor
You: like, in the sense that you write text on an infinite plane rather than navigate page by page, line by line
You: trying to basically think about a nice UI for that
You: like, so, to access somehing you wrote, about cats, say
You: you would walk north 2 miles, make a left at a todo list and then walk west a mile
You: that sort of idea
You: im not sure if it will be all that useful
You: …
Stranger: ok, sounds nice, something like a mind map i suppose
You: yeah, like that, except less organized
You: my favorite thing about windows is the desktop
You: like, a have about a hundred files on there
You: it is a huge mess, but i sort of know where everything is
You: all other file storage methods, including folders even, sort of pale in comparison to that, at least for human information
You: i think of it as a giant desktop
Stranger: you should have a look at my desktop, looks exactly like that ^^
You: haha nice
You: i think my life is like that too 😀
You: like, my room, etc
Stranger: pretty nice
You: i don’t think it will be that hard i guess
You: maybe it will be like minecraft, with text
You: i imagine having physical “roads” that connect peices, where if you place your cursor on the beginning it will rush you to the ending
Stranger: cool concept, reminds me of some “real life hashmap”
You: hmm a real life hashing

You: and the most awesome moment of that time was when, like, 6 hours in, i stumbled upon an old mineshaft i had
You: like, i would start the game, and make a few mines, and then i’d get lost
You: when i finally had a kind of large mine, i was better at the game, and made like roads and tunnels, but eventually i stumbled upon one that i made in like the very first hour
You: it was an amazing sort of experience for some reason
You: im not sure if that is reproducible with the 2d text editor thing

You: yeah… nested folders are really a horrible way to store things
You: because you basically have to know what you’re going to be before you do it, so you’re at the right place
You: ive completely given up on organizing things into folders
You: likewise, in real life, i’ve completely given up on having a kind of structured environment

Stranger: i think it is not a human kind of thinking to structure things in a discrete structure like a folder tree
You: i remember an expert mnemonist (?) saying that the trick to memorizing a deck of cards is to imaginatively place them in a room
Stranger: have you ever interactively zoomed in a mandelbrot fractal ore something similar

Stranger: look: remember this fractal is your storage
Stranger: you can place things at some position
Stranger: and it is easy to remember
Stranger: much better than any discrete structure
Stranger: like a folder tree
Stranger: you look at it like a map and you start to zoom closer and closer as you remember where your file is

Stranger: it would be cool as a giant menger sponge, which is some 3d storage for photos etc.
Stranger: or use it as an interactive desktop

You: i think minecraft would actually be a great “desktop”
You: it just needs to be linked to files, or text, or something

You: i used to write things in my room, on random papers
You: or post them on my wall
You: to sort of simulate that
You: it didn’t actually last too long, the expeiment

You:
 you know, people don’t realize that virtual reality isn’t, like, lightbikes and such
You: it is a new kind of mnemonic organization or navigation
You: i think

You: im not sure how much data the average person generates
You: a lot of photos i imagine, but probably not a lot of text
Stranger: it could be combined, text in photos etc.
You: one big chaotic mess
You: maybe there shoudl be like a constraint
You: i was thinking some sort of artificial gravity for texts, like a spiral or something
You: so like, the deeper you go, the older you go
Stranger: oh fuck yeah, a barnes hut algo rocking the whole data mass
Stranger: massive particles god damn

Stranger: it dynamically changes dependent on the gravitation value
You: the layout?
Stranger: fuck yeah
Stranger: data automatically structures
Stranger: some topic spotting algorithm with n gram analysis assigns a gravity value
Stranger: and some topic attractor is pushing the data into the right position
Stranger: like a self organising map of a neural network,
Stranger: thats the art or artificial learning
You: oh, a gravity value based on the content
You: like, based on keywords or something
You: wow, that would be interesting… sort of likea self-organizing mind map

You: like a constantly shifting, self-assembling data complex, slowly shifting itself over time due to some kind of gravity effect
You: i guess you wouldn’t really know where to find someting, exactly
You: but occasionally you would stumble upon relevant things

You:
 it would mean you wouldn’t ahve to really “search” for things, but there would be a kind of suggestion feature

You:
 this is sort of like web spam, or ad sense
You: but consider, like, if you were writing something, you had a search engine constantly running
You: and it would sort of display “ads” of relevant things you’d written earlier
You: that would be kind of interesting

You:
 well, i’m thinking about, basically, a kind of “fuzzy memory”
You: like, the difference between computer memory and human memory is that the latter is fuzzy
You: but the former is more precise and more powerful, faster, usually
Stranger: you can not store the data itself fuzzy, but you can use the location in a fuzzy way
You: the 2d editor, keyword gravity, are all ways of introducing a kind of fuzzy, suggestive element to computer memory

You:
 we generate so much data that we will never access again
You: but a kind of fuzzy suggestion might be able to solve that, somehow
Stranger: a path must get bigger if you use it often
You: and in a sense, we are sort of limited by what we currently remember, and a kind of random recall
You: right, a kind of ad-sense adaptation algorithm or something
You: “personal spam” is the idea sort of
Stranger: or maybe suggest some ball, that attracts your files in a circular arrangement
Stranger: files that you use often
Stranger: get a higher gravity
You: right … except it wouldn’t be files… it would be just text fragments or image fragments maybe
Stranger: and the files attract each other if they are related
You: files are sort of an artifical unity necessitated by computer systems but don’t reallly have any existence in the human mind
You: right
Stranger: you store actual files, but you work with links to the actual files
Stranger: they just hold keywords
You: keywords, fragments… there will be some algorithm to sort of split up the file
You: or maybe to split up an image
You: like, it would take a photograph and maybe split it up, find faces, buildings, etc
Stranger: you dont need to read the actual content, just imagin the context in which you use the file

Stranger:
 if you are mailing with someone and you writhe about something
Stranger: you send them a picture
Stranger: then all this persons and files have a relationship

Stranger:
 the computer knows that this guy who revived this image has something to do with it
You: so the gravity would take into account not only keywords but also context

You:
 this stuff already exists on the interent, we just need a personal version of this
Stranger: google@home

You:
 basically, our brains is probably just one big fuzzy retreival system
You: we do have a train of thought, but it is imprecise, and so we imagine it is random
You: this sort of hopes to extent that via the computer

You:
 or maybe, if you are editing a photo, you have another screen where a computer is always churning and analyzing your data
You: and sort of brings up relevant fragments
You: it would be sort of like being stoned

You:
 i mean, if the effect of drugs is a kind of disconnected memory retreival

You:
 i can imagine like a cyberpunk novel where in the future, everyone just stays home and dwells in their own nostalgia or something

You:
 like, the newest, computer-aided memory drug

You: yeah, i’m sort of aware of the brain interface stuff
You: but i think this memory manipulation and retrieval stuff is a more exciting direction to go in
You: it does sort of resemble a new kind of neural interface
You: the question is how “insightful” these personal spam-bots can be
You: or if they ever bring up, in practice, anything useful
You: like, traditional AI, there is the Turing test
You: about holding a dialogue with a computer in another room
You: but what if there were some test about the “insightfulness” of memory retreival

You:
 where you can’t tell whether it is a person or a machine making these spam suggestions
You: like another sort of turing test
You: forget the dialogue
You: person A writes, say, a diary
You: and person B, who may be a machine, retreives relevant fragments from the diary, or from past texts
You: the machine passes the test if person A finds the fragmetns “shocking” or “insightful”

You: yeah, there are already all these memes about google suggestions being “uncanny”

You: i guess that is the ultimate turing test
You: whether the computer can evoke the uncanny

The Noble Savage (by Chagnon)

September 1, 2013

I think I’ve mostly reached a point where books are “stimulating” rather than life-altering, and that’s good — the idea that another reaffirms or provokes us rather than opposes us or forces us to question ourselves. The account of the Amazonian tribesmen in “The Noble Savage” mostly affirmed what I already suspected — that they were pretty much exactly like us — I mean, in their deceit, self-alienation, hypocrisy, and so on — there but for the grace of police stations and butcher shops go I, so Conrad would say … but it also offered a tantalizing way to reconceive of my own project. The biggest thing, the most conspicuous thing absent from “The Noble Savage” is an account of guilt. The book’s overt political project, leftism bashing, is mostly agreeable to me, but it verges on preaching to the choir. You know there comes a point when you should probably ignore about 90% of intellectuals as not really worth talking to and not really worth the task of serious critique either. Hmm. Well I pause here because — I had originally intended to say that the interesting link that the book afforded me was the link between guilt and violence, between the private and the social. Guilt is a highly personal thing, it is that vague notion of self-awareness that is, basically, what makes leftist intellectuals so unbearable, and what makes, indeed, the natives themselves so unbearable. Those goddamn happy natives. Is it the task, then, of the missionaries or of modern man, to bring guilt to the primitive man, as has been the story in so many cases? In fact, no, because guilt is already the organizing principle of that culture, in the form of violence. (And it is this endemic nature of violence of guilt that makes me pause above.)

There are two things I want to talk about here — (1) a personal anecdote and (2) the Conradian expression, “city of death”.

(1) The most annoying thing about people, and what so irks me about them, is how loud they are, how they always have something to say. They always ahve something to say because they live in a bubble where everything is already figured out — they and their sentimentalism. I must speak of sentimentalism here. Sentimentalism is absolutely not the sort of guilt I refer to here — it is actually simply the inverse but equivalent of that jabbering happiness (you might think about the Apollonian and the Dionysian here). I mean, let’s not make the error of believing that those jabbering idiots are somehow naive. They aren’t naive — they are aware of all those darker forces there too. But they believe that the essentially human is that which occupies that bubble. The sentimental is simply the state of man taken away from that bubble. But guilt is a new world founded on something other than that bubble — we will get to this later.

I react badly to this attitude, I mean, now that I reflect back on it in this context, my behavior makes more sense. I remember that my aunt from China visited me a few months ago, to see the US and such. She was definitely one of my favorite people growing up but as I spent more time with her she began to wear on me. Her fascination with cultures and rituals annoyed me, and it annoyed me how… generously she viewed people. Now, mind, I am aware of that people do things for money, and so is she, I mean, that people are “truely” motivated by greed, selfishness and so on. But even that is still part and parcel of the sentimental attitude — it simply views the “ideal” state of the man as, again, that which is essential, and perhaps even more valuable because of its ephemerality.

I still remember the last little talk I had before she left. She knew about my condition, I mean, my sorry employment, and advised me to change directions in life or something along those lines. That really irked me — I felt like she viewed my condition far too sentimentally, as I was someone stoically living in solitude outside of that bubble and that all I wanted was to get back in, to be accepted. I did something quite consciously in response, I blamed her. I mean, obviously, not for ruining my life or anything, but for not really listening to me. I questioned her about what I just said. I tried to make her feel guilty about something. It didn’t “work”, but thinking about it now, my behavior does sort of make sense.

What I did could be considered a form of “violence” I guess. Violence is the attempt here to make someone see — namely, to aknowledge an intention that was strictly outside of the bubble of sentimentalism, but which was nonetheless still human. That last chat, and that sudden shift in strategy, that sudden performance of mine, was sort of an act of desperation. As Conrad said, I may have been happy with leaving them confused. Well, let me be precise, my basic strategy was to stop talking to her and instead to quiz her on what I was saying. She couldn’t really respond, of course, not many people can. What annoyed me was how I was drawn into that “jabber” I spoke about above. This sort of reminds me of a Keats poem:

This living hand, now warm and capable
Of earnest grasping, would, if it were cold
And in the icy silence of the tomb,
So haunt thy days and chill thy dreaming nights
That though wouldst wish thine own heart dry of blood
So in my veins red life might stream again,
And thou be conscience calmed — see here it is —
I hold it towards you.

I believe this poem was basically Keats’s last words, and here, too, we see the kind of absolute selfishness, but of a self that has — not so much died — but transformed into icy death. The “warm grasping” is exchanged for a kind of haunting which may be related to the “endemic” role of “violence” that I spoke of above.

But I mean, for my aunt, just to finish up that chat, there was a moment when I was “not myself” you could say, but not, on the other hand, simply a kind of happy savage. It was a moment when I tried to channel something else. My points were not all that important, but what I desperately wanted to do was make the point that I wasnot merely talking, merely “jabbering”, not merely something to be warmly embraced. There are a few ways to think about my performance. Maybe this involved the evoking of a kind of holistic intentionality that was sort of embedded in the word itself, the precision of the meaning there. I wanted to make her feel like aintruder perhaps, upon such a realm. This is not, in fact, in the final analysis, perhaps, merely the persuasion towards truely listening to another — since — well, I have this expression, “technicolor sunshine”. I wrote earlier, on Facebook, that “Insight less resembles a portal and more a chesspeices”. Here, insight and sunshine both metaphorize the same sort of thing, but sunsahine connotes an era that lasts, the time of sunshine or the time of daylight. A sunshine of technics, a time when a certain mode of insight dominates — and not merely a time that is reached by stepping through the portal of understanding.

(2) I arrived in a city that always makes me think of a whited sepulcher. (Heart of Darkness)

TBC…

Let’s actually return to the violence of the savages, and in particular, to the metaphysical understanding of this violence. Here at this point we will have to, actually, cease paying attention to their own explanations, which are often notoriously bad, notoriously pragmatic. If we were to believe them we would indeed be forced to reach the conclusion that the history of civilization were nothing but the history of criminality in triumph. The way in which violence escapes their apparent control involves the metaphysical stakes of violence which establishes it as some independent element, a life of its own….

Honesty, I have nothing in this regard… I need to read the book a bit more.

Heart of Darkness

August 30, 2013
Leon Let's pick up where we left off last time, or rather, let's 
     make one more effort to speak about the Heart of Darkness, 
     since last time we only gave an introduction
Leon My big insight recently has been this notion of the 
     'universality of sentience'...
Leon What this means is that we all basically think 'the same', 
     all sentient creatures ... 'the same' in the sense of -- 
     well, I don't want to go over this again, but the basic 
     argument is that animals are in general much more rational 
     and manipulative than we think
Leon And the consequence being that we need will need to stop 
     thinking about 'paradigm shifts', about how, for example, 
     langauge fundamentally alters the way we think (I don't 
     believe it does), or how certain beliefs or methods 
     fundamentally alter how we think -- I called it 'the 
     immutable sentience'
Leon Furthermore, I said, last time, "There is no beginning and 
     no end, because insights are less like portals and more 
     like chesspeices"
Leon What this means is that we should think of variances in 
     sentience, not as essential changes in nature (ie, portals 
     into new modes of existence) but rather as chesspeices, as 
     moments of complication, or tension -- ie, the way in which 
     chesspeices relate to each other, the way in which gambits 
     pile up, etc
Leon Perhaps we can consider the metaphor of 'the sun' here -- 
     that moment when we are held in fascination by these 
     chesspeices is a time of daylight -- and thus, we can even 
     of dusk and dawn...
Leon But at the same time, we shouldn't forget, in considering 
     the daylight metaphor, that we are *not* speaking of a 
     "time of play", of a time of fascination due to *complexity*
Leon We aren't speaking about a golden age of self-understanding,
      self-celberation, metaphorization, play, and bad faith
Leon Daylight is not the golden age
Leon But rather (and perhaps this is why "daylight" is not such 
     a good term) Marlow spoke of the 'dreamlike sensation' in 
     Heart of Darkness
Leon ... to simply declare the result I want to reach as a 
     formula, daylight is a time of stability within a massive 
     disruption, a cataclysm, the cataclysm of the collapse of 
     play, the collapse of "the golden age"
Leon If Heart of Darkness takes place within a time of 
     disruption ... the disruption of black culture by the white 
     colonists (Marlow spoke about villages being abandoned 
     alongside trade routes -- and obviously there is Kurtz) and 
     of the white colonial effort by disease, death, corruption, 
     etc.
Leon We need not be *too* specific I feel as to the nature of 
     this disruption -- I merely want to emphasize that it is a 
     time of the collapse of the golden age ... this notion of 
     the emptying out of play is essential to what I'm talking 
     about
Leon (And this is why we rely on the intelligence of animals -- 
     intelligence in the sense of the understanding of play, 
     basically
Leon I mean, taken literally, all mammals, pups, and all social 
     animals exhibit obvious modes of play
Leon And, although we have very little insight, usually, into 
     the behavior of adult mammals, there is certainly some 
     understanding of the importance of play within a human 
     "golden age"
Leon The Wordsworth poem, Boy of Winander, speaks of a boy being 
     disrupted in the midst of play by some kind of radical 
     insight
Leon ...
Leon In contrast, daylight is basically, as we conceive of it 
     here, a time of perpetual revolution
Leon It is a time when the emptyness of play holds us fascinated,
      as well a moment when this emptyness and cataclysm is 
     stabilized
Leon Kurtz was "but a ghost" by the time Marlow reached him, he 
     was "nothing of this world" but yet he can be considered a 
     stabilization of this cataclysm
Leon Indeed, the Russian attributes to him countless things -- 
     he said that they stayed up late at night, in the heart of 
     the jungle, talking ("well, he talked, I mostly listened") 
     about many things -- the meaning of life, the purpose of 
     man, "even love". But can't these countless things be 
     understood as something that we cling to in the midst of 
     this cataclysm, or this vacuum, left by the emptying out of 
     play?
Leon Indeed, the attitude towards Kurtz by the Russian speaks of 
     a kind of honesty -- that is, the Russian didn't consider 
     what he was saying as a "portal", a way to become new 
     things, as a kind of teaching, as a technical process, as 
     "rhetoric" (in the sense of a way to manipulate people), 
     but rather as the truth as such
Leon And though Marlow never listened to him talk, or even 
     bought into what he was doing at all, he still spoke of 
     "wanting to hear this man talk", of "talking to him", ie, 
     of having a heart of heart. Yet Marlow also said that he 
     was 'but a voice'...
Leon It is the time when the voice ceases to be a means of 
     communication or manipulation but becomes the expression of 
     the truth as such -- or at least, less mystically, of a 
     kind of honesty
Leon That was after all our perpetual complaint here: that 
     civilization was "nihilistic" in the sense that people were 
     attracted to things that made money *because they made 
     money*, in most cases
Leon It resembles a mail order scam where the person sends money 
     to receive a business oppurtunity only to be sent 
     literature describing the selling of get-rich-quick scams ..
     . so maybe even a kind of mail-order pyramid scheme, if he 
     does chose to follow up on it
Leon I sort of lost moment in religion when it became so 
     pragmatic, when it came to resemble a kind of pyramid 
     scheme -- "fitter, happier, more productive" as Radiohead 
     sayd
Leon err... the moment when I *realized* it was pragmatic, not 
     when it "became" pragmatic
Leon In contrast to this we speak of "truth" and "honesty" here, 
     which are words heavily loaded with moral meaning certainly,
      but which we would like to rather ignore
Leon I mean, we aren't saying that society needs to be more 
     honest, as if that were intrinsically a good thing, but 
     rather, that that time of honesty is a historical event, is 
     a time of daylight
Leon ... to sort of digress again, this is exactly the sort of 
     rhetoric that the Intended used at the end of the book in 
     describing Kurtz
Leon "I was happy once! Too happy! But now I will never see him 
     again."
Leon But Kurtz was "but a ghost", which suggests that what we 
     attribute to him could be understood in many ways
Leon Or also, that we have to read beyond the impasse of 
     formalism here -- I mean, we need to read past the 
     temptation to make an intellectual, black-and-white 
     distinction between Kurtz, in a formal sense, and the 
     society of nihilism
Leon Which is not to say that we can conceive of Kurtz in 
     countless ways, or even in other ways
Leon The thinking of honesty here is simply the positive image 
     that corresponds to the sense of cataclysmic shock
Leon Well, two things here
Leon (1) the origins of language and (2) the nature of this shock
Leon Regarding (1), I eventually want to make more grand 
     historical connections to this theory of daylight, and one 
     of the connections I want to seek is this notion that 
     langauge (and remember, sentience is basically unchanged by 
     language, the langauge capacity) arose during such a 
     cataclysm
Leon Now, for (2), the it's hard to say what came first, I mean, 
     it's hard to make a linear causal connection between shock 
     and the metaphysics of honesty (ie, Kurtz, above)
Leon Indeed, there is a sense that the shock occupies the same 
     space as the metaphysics of play, the soup of play, the 
     society of nihilism
Leon I wrote a few days ago that the history of civilization was 
     basically nothing but the history of crime, ie, of accepted 
     transgressions
Leon Play and crime are the same, we said, an enormous pyramid 
     scheme, where we kind of forget (or was it ever there?) 
     that sense of letdown when we realized how pragmatic 
     everything was
Leon Shock and emptying out is latent on and sort of built up 
     upon this system
Leon I mean, even for something like math or physics, for the 
     hard sciences or whatehver, there is still certainly the 
     sense of there being a pyramid scheme here -- as we are 
     building upon the works of others, theories of whcih we 
     have our doubts
Leon Kurtz arises as a latent possibility, a new way to live, a 
     new way to approach language within the familiarity of 
     criminality
Leon It is something that haunts our lives, you could say
Leon And this is basically what the metaphysics of honesty (and 
     we must not be caught at that impasse) is built upon
Leon ... the metaphysics of honestywill make scant mention of 
     the materiality of the voice but that becaus it has 
     forgotten its origins, in which case it is at once truth 
     and error -- I mean, truth in the sense of, a link to 
     history
TBC