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Paradoxes, Avoidable and Unavoidable 

If a person believes something is true and untrue that is a paradox, but not one he necessarily needs to lose sleep over.  So for example the Sorites paradox could lead you to believe both that

I)a man with a hundred hairs is bald

And

2)a man with a hundred hairs is not bald.

(Cf Wikipedia on the Sorites  — they are doing it with heaps of sand but it works just as well with bald man and hairs)

Paradox of the heap

The word “sorites” derives from the Greek word for heap. The paradox is so named because of its original characterization, attributed to Eubulides of Miletus.[6] The paradox goes as follows: consider a heap of sand from which grains are individually removed. One might construct the argument, using premises, as follows:[5]

1000000 grains of sand is a heap of sand (Premise 1)
A heap of sand minus one grain is still a heap. (Premise 2)

Repeated applications of Premise 2 (each time starting with one fewer grain) eventually forces one to accept the conclusion that a heap may be composed of just one grain of sand (and consequently, if one grain of sand is still a heap, then removing that one grain of sand to leave no grains at all still leaves a heap of sand; indeed a negative number of grains must also form a heap[7]). Read (1995) observes that “the argument is itself a heap, or sorites, of steps of modus ponens“:[8]

1000000 grains is a heap.

If 1000000 grains is a heap then 999999 grains is a heap.

So 999999 grains is a heap.

If 999999 grains is a heap then 999998 grains is a heap.

So 999998 grains is a heap.

If …

… So 1 grain is a heap.

But if you don’t need to do anything that depends on that question it doesn’t matter.  If you avoid thinking about the issue, you avoid the paradox.

On the other hand if you want and don’t want something, say another cigarette, that is a more uncomfortable paradox.  In the face of a cigarette you can’t just not think about it : you either smoke or don’t.

Nevertheless if you move somewhere with no cigarettes you avoid it.

The maximally uncomfortable paradox is one that you can’t avoid. So if you find life intolerable but view suicide as wrong, you are in a difficult situation.

Perhaps we are all in this situation.

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The Next Discovery

I like the moment when a whole new category of things is discovered to appreciate.
For example: nobody used to care about popular music. If you asked an intellectual in 1820 about music he would talk about classical music. It would never occur to him to listen to the music farmers sang in the fields. Then Alan Lomax and people like that went into the fields with recording equipment and they discovered (for them) popular music.
The same thing happened with film and with commercial art. A whole category of human experience was dragged up from beneath the ocean of inattention and opened and revealed a chest of pearls and emeralds.
But the really valuable thing was not the pearls and emeralds in the chest (the songs of Charley Patton, the movies of Dwaine Esper) — it was the act of dredging itself and the hope that it proclaimed.
I am thinking of the next discovery. By definition I can’t think of it because if i could really think of it and you could really understand it, then it would not be submerged that deeply.
And yet. And yet!

Here are the next things I hope some day will be appreciated, culled from the world, reviewed, ranked, criticized and loved, as we now learn to love television programs and rock and roll music:

1. Nagging. There could be a time when the nagging of the unfamous is collected and appreciated as movies and blues songs are today.
2. Squirming. Even the physically undeveloped have their personal way of squirming through a tight space.
3.Inarticulate discussions of family fights.
4.Special feelings of ease and disease in the limbs.
5.Angry corporate memos and doublespeak of all kinds
6.Double consciousness
7.Forgetting.

When I curate a web page of the greatest acts of forgetting, from an uncle forgetting his nephews birthday in Rio D’Janeiro, to a bureaucrat in Thailand’s forgetting “just why am I doing this again” I will wake up with a start, because I will include in it my own acts of forgetting.

Because if it is to be anything other than voyeurism the appreciation of the unknown other is and must be a path to the reclaiming of the unknown me.

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Don’t Let Them Get Their Hooks in You

Humans control livestock by placing a metal ring in an animal’s nose.  This makes it possible for the human to control a possibly much larger animal with very little effort.  Since the ring is in a sensitive part of the animal’s anatomy very little effort on the part of the human can cause a huge amount of pain in the animal.  A single human can use the ring to highjack the animal’s nervous system — chiefly its desire to avoid pain — and ultimately lead it to slaughter.

Humans control other humans by an analogous technology.   Manipulators take a sensitive part of human psychology — the desire to be safe, or to be loved or taken care of — and graft an easily manipulatable tool onto it.  So, for example, a religious leader might get his followers to call him “father”.   This grafts a sensitive part of psychology, analogous to the pig’s nose, in this case the need to have a powerful, loving presence care for us when we are helpless or confused, onto a hard piece of manipulatable thought — this particular religious leader is to be called “father”.  Once the graft is successful the religious leader can use the hook to drag his followers anywhere.  So, for example, he could say, or more likely imply, they can’t ask questions about his finances, because you don’t ask questions about your father’s finances.

Religious, political and business leaders all obviously try to get their hooks in people, so they can control a lot of people with little effort.  On the more intimate, micro-level, romantic partners try to get their hooks in you too.  The message of the relationship is: if you leave me, if you disappoint me, if you question me I will make you feel abandoned, unworthy, and unloved.

Some say that is fine as long as your hooks are in them as well.  Myself, I’m an optimist and think there must be a better way.  So personally I say whether they are to be found in an office, a temple, or the bed next to you: don’t let them get their hooks in you.

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Making Things Hard for Yourself: The Case of Writing by Dragging Stone Blocks

A friend of mine was upset with the following:

The internet, blogs, social media sites all make it too easy for people to communicate.  As a consequence each communication has less value, because it costs less.

He decided to make communication more difficult in order to impose a constraint upon himself and thereby make sure he thought good and hard before he said anything.  So he had a company with a stone lathe make him a collection of ten pound granite alphabet blocks and would write things by putting the blocks in an internal frame pack, hiking up a three mile mountain trail, arranging the blocks, and taking a picture of the resulting sentences from a tree.

This is what he wrote:

A MAN & A WOMAN WENT OUT

SHE TOOK OFF HER CLOTHES & HE WATCHED AND & SMOKED A CIGAR

THEY WANTED MORE

THEY WANTED LOVE

HE SAID YOU WOULD JUDGE ME IF YOU KNEW WHAT I WAS LIKE.

SHE SAID NOT NEC

ESSARILY

HE SAID WHAT IF I GENOCIDED A BUNCH OF ANIMALS

WHY SHE SAID

CAUSE I FELT BAD ABOUT MYSELF.

SHE SAID WHAT KIND

WHAT IF ANT?

OK.

WHAT IF CRICKET?

OK.

WHAF IF MOUSE?

OK

WHAT IF GUINEA PIG.

SHE SAID NO.  I DON’T LOVE YOU ANY MORE BECAUSE YOU ARE BAD.

SHE LEFT.

HE TOLD HER I WAS TESTING YOU.  YOU DO NOT REALLY LOVE ME IF YOU WOULD STOP CAUSE

OF GUINEA PIGS.

IT IS NOT TRUE.

I AM A GOOD GUY WITH A GOOD JOB.

***

Sometimes I think about my friend’s story and his curious method of writing it.  I realize that he tries to make things difficult for himself because he is worried that his life will be a waste if it is too easy.  He does it in how he expresses himself, and he did it in the relationship that he lightly fictionalized in his story of the nudity, the cigars, and the terrible lie about murdering cavies.

In my view he has made a mistake because the easiest thing in the world is to believe that your life will not be a waste if you make it difficult.

As if keeping from wasting your life, your words, or your love could be as easy as that or saving them could be that hard.

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Jen and Ashley: A Dialogue About Honesty and Last Words

JEN

I feel like we are best friends because I can be honest with you.

ASHLEY

I worry that I am never really honest with anybody.

JEN

What do you mean?  Aren’t you honest with me?

ASHLEY

I try to be, Jen.  I really do.  But sometimes for example if you are really depressed I try t say things that will cheer you up rather than things that are completely honest.  Sometimes I am nice rather than you know honest.

JEN

I know what you mean.   Like when I went in for the treatment last time you said I know it is going to work.  But, obviously, you did not know it was going to work.

ASHLEY

It still might work.

JEN

It might.  But it also might not.

ASHLEY

Well, anybody could die tomorrow.

JEN

Anybody could but a normal persons numbers are between five and fifteen.  And the doctors told me my number is 8 million.

ASHLEY

Nobody knows if those numbers mean anything.

JEN

Your phone number doesn’t mean anything.  But that number was developed by doctors to mean something.

ASHLEY

Well.

JEN

You know in the old days people used to have memorable last words.  When they knew they were going to die they said something that people in the future would quote.  They said serious things like “I only regret that I have, but this one life to give for my country.”  Or they made jokes like “Either this wallpaper goes or I do.”  I would like to think of something like that to say.

ASHLEY

Why?

JEN

It will be my one chance in life to be honest.  I won’t need to worry about the consequences because i will be gone.  I think I will say something like “Always be kind.”

ASHLEY

Please don’t say that.

JEN

Why?

ASHLEY

Because you are worrying what people will think about you and you are not being honest.  You would like people to think you are a good person who says “always be kind.”  Women are supposed to say nice things like that.

JEN

That’s true.

ASHLEY

You have always said things to make other people think things or feel things.  I have too.  This is your one chance not to do that.  I would feel sad if you wasted it.

JEN

I don’t want you to feel sad.

ASHLEY

Can you do something for me?

JEN

Anything.  You are my only friend.

ASHLEY

When you say your last words I want you to say whatever you really think.  If it is “fuck everything” say that.  If it is “my ass hurts” say that.  If it is “be kind” say that.  But be honest.  Do it for me.

JEN

I promise.  But Ashley, what if I don’t feel like doing it for you?  What if I feel too sick or in pain or depressed or mad?

ASHLEY

Then don’t.

THEY HUG.

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