"There is no 'try'...there is only do, or do not." ~ Yoda

"There is no 'try'...there is only do, or do not." ~ Yoda

Preparing myself, my family and my friends for the Fourth Turning.

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

What I Tell You Three Times is True

Just the place for a Snark!" the Bellman cried,
As he landed his crew with care;
Supporting each man on the top of the tide
By a finger entwined in his hair.
"Just the place for a Snark! I have said it twice:
That alone should encourage the crew.
Just the place for a Snark! I have said it thrice:
What I tell you three times is true.

                                    Lewis Carroll, The Hunting of the Snark

Saturday, September 19, 2015

Saturday Morning Fiftyness

"Well I went to the doctor
"I said I'm feeling kinda rough".
"Lemme break it to you son:
your shit's fucked up."

                    Warren Zevon, My Shit's Fucked Up


Today, sometime around 8 am local time, I completed my fifty-first orbit around the star that irradiates our planet, thus giving rise to all life upon it.  I preferred being fifty: it has a panache that fifty-one lacks.  Aging is, among other things, irritating.

I typically spend my birthdays doing not much that is noticeable to the world - certainly I don't celebrate, except for milestone birthdays (the last two were 50 and 21, the next will be 75).  The plan for today is not much different - the wife and I plan to camp later, but during the day I'll do the normal things that need doing, like laundry and house cleaning.  I may build the second wood rack I have planned.

Inside, though, I will be hard at work reflecting on the past year, and the entirety of my life, knowing that I am fully embarked on the unavoidable journey through my fifties and onward, a journey whose far shore will be but a brief resting place, before, coin in hand, I join Charon for the final metaphorical journey.

Not being religious I am not buoyed by anticipation of an afterlife, where a magical being in a magical land will grant me, and everyone else there, everything we could ever want, endlessly, for all eternity or until the universe dies its heat death, or re-collapses, whichever comes first.  (What happens after that I do not know.  Perhaps in heaven there are no laws of physics.)

I'm aware instead that dissolution is my fate - someday the atoms that comprise my being will disassociate, perhaps slowly, perhaps quickly, but they nonetheless will. This temporary aggregation of atoms, mostly water, much of it not even me but other organisms along for the ride, will cease to be self animated.  Pieces of me will drift off and lie still, or be carried on the wind, or within water, or will be acquired by other organisms more needful of them at that moment than I.  Associated standing wave patterns and quantum effects that underpin and drive biological processes will long since have halted, and with them activity and thought.

But now, at this moment, I exist: I am a collection of particles and stored energy, all of which were once part of some other living thing that I devoured, or were acquired as raw materials directly from the environment.  My environment and I routinely exchange bits of ourselves, and over time I've acquired more particles from other creatures and my environment than other creatures and my environment have acquired from me.  It's how things are done, in this meat-based existence.  

My particles act together in a synchronized fashion, animated by quantum forces, motivated jointly by the unconscious biological drive to make copies of me, and, ostensibly, by thought.  However, lots of life can do this and not require thought to do so.  Spiders, for example, are just little biological robots following the imperatives programmed into their genetic code.  Lacking appropriate hardware, they lack the capacity for thought.  Choice, debates about free will, considerations of an afterlife, Donald Trump - these are not part of the spider's existence.  Even plants do this 'living' thing, acquiring particles with which to assemble and produce copies of themselves, with no need for thought. 

I am in this manner unspecial.

Sub-collections of my particles interact in peculiar ways: employing advanced quantum processes linked to and synchronized with specific biological activities that permit extremely rapid mathematical and spatial calculations intended to aid physical navigation through space and time, thus assisting my ongoing acquisition of particles and energy.  But again, lots of creatures do this - birds catch insects mid-flight, their actions defined by the directing function of their central nervous system which ensures their beak is both spatially and temporally co-located with the target insect in order to satrify the need to acquire more particles for themselves.

I remain unspecial.

Somehow, sub-processes executed by certain sub-collections drive the higher-level, executive functions that we call consciousness and thought.  This is where the story gets interesting.  Right now, at this moment, in addition to existing as a unique, coherent, animated and purposeful collection of particles I also exist as as a continuous self-referring concept that believes it monitors and controls the entire collection.  Cogito, ergo sum indeed.

(It's not at all clear that this is so, but that's a complicated topic for another time.  What is clear is that most other living things of which we're aware cannot do this thing, and none to our level.)

Now I'm kinda special.

So today I use this specialness to consider (as I do upon every annual anniversary of the emergence of my collection of particles from the collection of particles that, together with another collection, copied parts of themselves and made me) the thought that at some point, the continuous self-referring concept that I call me will no longer be able to execute continuous self-reference, because underlying quantum and biological processes will have ceased to function.

I am halfway or more, through this journey we call life.  How best to live what's left?

"I said, "My shit's fucked up?
Well I don't see how"
He said, "The shit that used to work
It won't work now."

I had a dream
Ah shucks, oh well
Now it's all fucked up
It's shot to hell.

Yeah, yeah, my shit's fucked up
It has to happen to the best of us
The rich folks suffer like the rest of us
It'll happen to you.

That Amazing Grace
Sort of passed you by
You wake up every day
Hang your head and cry.

Yeah you're going to die
But you just can't quit.
Let me break it on down
That's some fucked up shit.

Yeah my shit's fucked up.
Fucked up."

All the more reason to live an examined life.

Friday, August 14, 2015

Cogito, Ergo Mutatio

A long day done in service to self
outdoors, unadorned, laden;
but pleasurably so.
Burning muscle screams,
senses creep, focus narrows.
Landscapes emerge and boundaries reveal themselves.
Machine noise and diesel heat:
the din of slash and burn;
I compose with fuel and iron,
and will.

Whilst working so I again ponder the meaning of existence
and again conclude there is no meaning.

But knowing Turing's work,
and kin to kindred thoughts,
I conclude that if I am but
a selfsame automaton,
a ghost in the machine,
a program, perhaps, at best, in some vast Difference Engine
then yet I am aware.

Existence it seems is not a prerequisite for intuition, therefore, although 
existence may not have meaning, meaning unarguably has existence.

Since I ponder and know I ponder,
and pause to look and wonder,
and find no need to invoke magic to explain what I see
I conclude that meaning requires
not some revenant artifact
returned from the cold philosophies of gods,
but simply an acceptance of my own will.

Meaning exists, yet it is undefined.
And so I define it any way I want.

Cogito, ergo sum.
Itinerant words drifting lazily
reshape the landscape of inner space:
neurons re-purposed,
I will to power.

And willing so I scrape
and tug at the burning ground
'til vast fatigue weakens my senses.
Pondering ended, I look around once more
and find I am elsewhere.

Friday, July 31, 2015

The Sins of Anarchy

This post is in response to an original post by Connor Stiles on Wednesday, April 1., 2015.  That post may be found here: The Post War Dream.


In your post on Anarchy, you open with a sort of manifesto or anti-almost-everything screed, the purpose of which (and perhaps more importantly, for which the reason for the tone) is not at all clear.

Yet I concede your points: our government has become insular, polarized, ineffective, and in the sway of wealthy interests.  We have become an oligarchy, in thrall to Eisenhower's Military-Industrial Complex. We overuse our military for illegitimate purposes, we permit our intelligence and legal (and I would add financial) systems what appear to be nearly unchecked powers with little consequence for overstepping their already meager limits, and our culture has become willfully ignorant, saccharine and homogenized.  On a grand scale there is much to be dismayed about, when reviewing the (hopefully temporary) wreckage of the American Experiment.

So I decry neither your vehemence nor your judgment with respect to any of the things or persons or concepts you dislike; in point of fact I much dislike many of the same things you do, and the same might likely be said of most mature adults in most countries throughout time and space with respect to equivalent forces and actors in their own personal lives: we as a species generally dislike being controlled.

(Some of your other dislikes are more perplexing - you apparently like no form whatsoever of a convenient, easy to transport and store, medium of exchange.  What do you propose - wampum?  You don't like news?  News is merely information about the state of the world around us - you don't like to know the temperature forecast?)

In contrast, governments constrain, and they compel.  This is their nature and in fact their purpose, be they democracies, theocracies, dictatorships, or any form of government that lies within the vast gulf separating  these three forms.  Except for those with power (legitimate or otherwise), and thus often with accompanying impunity, most citizens will find at least a few things to complain about and many citizens will legitimately find more than a few.

Since most of us have little real power we are at the mercies of our governments and to a certain extent at the mercy of those who support and enable the particular government under which we labor.  Governments often sin, and those who govern unfaithfully and those who facilitate governmental misdeeds are complicit in these sins.  Our task as citizens is to hold our government accountable. 

(This is both an early Greek and an American ideal.  It is an imperfectly realized ideal in both cases, but the ideal is not diminished by poor practice of it.)

This makes our day to day existence with government a form of bargaining.  We are constrained from doing things we otherwise might, and we are compelled to do things we otherwise might not, and we seek to minimize the imbalance between what we wish for and what we find by by both moderating our responses and seeking to adjust the behavior of our government.  Thus we behave when me must, and misbehave in secret (or so we hope), and from time to time attempt to influence the course of government.  Sometimes we openly defy for one reason or another.

In the best cases, we peacefully and willfully alter our government so that it better suits the preferences of an increased number of citizens, while preserving the legitimate rights of the minority: this is the essence of the best of the American Experiment.  In the worst cases, we stage or support coups and massacres and become hegenomies.  This is the essence of the worst of the American Experiment: American Exceptionalism grown hubristic.

Yet governments are much like the weather - a simple condition of existence.  The climate we might find in a dictatorship is different than that in a theocracy; in the end, however, we have to live with the weather that is the day to day bureaucracy inherent in either form of government and the imposition of will not our own. There is no escaping this, and there has not been for most humans for at least several hundreds of years.

Note however, and briefly for now, the antithesis of your conjecture: despite its failings there are some things about government to be liked.  There are many things about our own government to be liked, for it does have its successes.  A mature evaluation proves this to be so.  More on this in another post, perhaps.

My own preference for government falls along these lines:

      Rightful liberty is unobstructed action according to our will within limits drawn around us by the 
     equal rights of others. I do not add 'within the limits of the law' because law is often but the
     tyrant's will, and always so when it violates the rights of the individual.  ~ Thomas Jefferson

  Let us call the condition described by Mr. Jefferson 'Optimal Liberty'.  It is the self-determined and generally self-stated purpose of most humans to achieve optimal liberty: we all wish to be 'free'.

You, disliking the governmental climate in which you find yourself, propose an alternative: anarchy.  I reject this alternative for reasons I will presently state.  But first, from your post:

      Allow me to copy and paste the online Merriam Webster definition of 'anarchy':

      1 -

      a :  absence of government

      b :  a state of lawlessness or political disorder due to the absence of governmental authority

      c :  a utopian society of individuals who enjoy complete freedom without government

      2 -

      a :  absence or denial of any authority or established order

      b :  absence of order :  disorder <not manicured plots but a wild anarchy of nature — Israel

I agree to use your chosen definition of Anarchy for the balance of this post.

However, assuming you retrieved your definition from Merriam-Webster.com, you neglected to include the opening definition, which I feel is germane:

     Noun: a situation of confusion and wild behavior in which the people in a country, group,
     organization, etc., are not controlled by rules or laws.

I offer these premises:

1.  Humans are social animals that require group membership in order to be fully healthy.

2.  It is not possible for groups of humans to harmoniously coexist in resource constrained environments over extended time periods without an accepted system of behavioral normalization and control.
3.   All humans live in resource constrained environments.

4.  There are two possible forms of Anarchy:

     4a. Peaceful, self-ordered anarchy in which individuals willingly perform those acts (including acts of self-sacrifice and selflessness) that will promote the greatest good; and,

     4b. Violent and disordered anarchy, characterized by an every-man-for-himself mindset and a disregard for the common good.

5.  Most humans seek optimal liberty and do not seek a "...situation of wild and confused behavior...".

 The above being stated, I reject your proposition of Anarchy as a functional social system (as an INTJ, I am most concerned with efficacy) on three grounds:

     a.  Humans require group membership to survive and therefore humans require a system of rules and/or laws for effective collaborative group behaviors; anarchy as a system of governance by definition fails to meet this need.

     b.  Peaceful, self-ordered anarchy might void the need for a system of rules and laws, but this form requires utopian conditions in order to exist as a harmonious social governance paradigm and such conditions are unlikely to arise.

     c. Violent and disordered anarchy is achievable, but not desirable.

As flawed as our democracy might be, and despite the fact that it is presently in an oppressive mood (which has occurred before in our nation's history), it nonetheless is better than many if not all alternatives (Sweden might be an exception).  Our efforts should be oriented not to it's dismissal, but to its improvement.

As to your likes - I like all these things too.  I would add that I like having found a kindred intellect in my son.  I like our late night conversations that last for hours, even if we do both get cantankerous.  I like stale licorice.  I like cats.  I like long days on my property with no sound but the wind, and the fall of my axe on wood.  I like silence.

And if my government is listening, spying, cataloging, recording these words....then shame on you who do so.  The speech my son and I here exchange is by right free and unfettered, and poses no threat to legitimate power.

I urge you remember our principles, and abide them.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015