Bo and the Time Wallet

Bo sat at the edge of the bed next to his sleeping bride, took out the time wallet and flipped through the cards inside. The Time Wallet contained a card for each of the three most important experiences of his childhood.

The first card was the fight with his father. And he taken this out when he had had the fight with the man who, unwillingly enough, was to become his father-in-law, once he put his bride on the plane and went far away from that awful place.

The second card was the time Karen the girl behind the fence in the backyard had squeezed her body through the space between the fence and the garage and kissed him.

Whenever he took the cards out of the time wallet he could buy the meaning from whatever experience he was having NOW by seeing how it was like the experience he had THEN when he was a child.

Looking at his sleeping new bride Laura’s white shoulder and remembering Karen, the garage, the kiss, the fence,he thought:

Maybe I should put another card in the time wallet, for the experience of realizing that moments in the present and moments in the past are the same, thanks to the time wallet, they are just different doors to enter that single dancehall we call Eternity?

And he laughed and realized he already had that card in his wallet. It was the card for the first time he had used the time wallet and realized this fact, that his future and past reflected each other in these cards and had since he was a child.

Bo sat at the edge of the bed and smiled and flipped the card, the third card, the first card, from finger to finger to finger.



Anxiety: I Love and I Hate

Kierkegaard believed that those things that we are anxious about we both love and hate. Actually he said we have an antipathetic-sympathy and a sympathetic-antipathy towards them, but that’s a fancy way of saying the same thing. We want them and we don’t want them.

Those things that we feel anxious about are the important things — people who really matter to us. Big decisions. Big stuff. Do you want cocoa puffs for breakfast? Sure, why not. No anxiety. No love and no hate. No antipathetic sympathy or sympathetic antipathy. You simply prefer them.

Where did he get this stuff from? From life. But life as he lived it was told in the context of a particular story.

Kierkegaard was a Christian — sort of — which meant he believed in the old story of the Fall and the hoped for Redemption. What’s that?

Augustine, the North African philosopher of Roman times spent ten years as a Manichean — i.e. he believed that from eternity there had been two principles at war in the cosmos — good and evil. Then he became a Christian, in part to make his mother happy. He was the greatest Christian theologian of the Fall, though his enemies thought he was still a crypto-Manichean.

Augustine said the fall is the reason we want things and don’t want them. For example: sex. Before the fall sex was a matter of thinking it would be good to have sex and then joining genitals with no anxiety and no ambivalence — like shaking hands. But now our members — our sex organs — revolt. We can want to have sex with a person even though we think it’s wrong. We want and we do not want. As Catullus said: I love and I hate.

A strange story — falling and then loving and hating. That is the sign of trauma, they say, that you are in a sense split, into the person who underwent the trauma and the person on the outside observing it. They say that trauma splits how you see the world. You hate the person who traumatized you — of course. And you love him too. Why? It’s too scary to imagine that he doesn’t care. Part of you does Stockholm syndrome and sympathizes with the accuser.

And a story that takes you through what they call peripateia and anagnorisis — ups and down and something that makes sense of the story from all the masks of the drama — abuser and abused — and the person the abuser was abused by — and the person whom the abused abuses in turn — story knits together the trauma. It teaches us how we can love and hate.

Does thinking do it? Thinking is a sort of self-talk. We take two sides of the story.

Anxious people think a lot. Do I love her or do I hate her? Do I forgive him or will that kill me? They think to deal with their anxiety.

People feel anxious about two things probably — birth and death — joining together in love or breaking up.

Birth and death, copulation or separation with another person. But also internally. Birth and death of the fragments. Do the fragments join together and become a whole, which has a more nuanced view? Does the whole person undergo a new trauma and split some more?

In the old days there were two basic takes on all this — the school of love and the school of strife. The school of love thought the world was a bunch of separate things seeking to reconnect, while the school of strife thought life was about a bunch of unruly wholes seeking to tear themselves and others apart. Needless to say the School of Strife was in love with the School of Love, while the school of love strove ceaselessly to fend off the school of strife.


Cultural Evolution

This article explores under what circumstances a species is more likely to evolve. You need mutation but that’s not enough because a potentially salubrious mutation can be snuffed out by random noise; the monkey who has the mutation making him 1% smarter than his peers may get eaten by a lion before his mutation has a chance to spread through the population. If a species goes off to form little breeding colonies periodically and then reconvenes that’s better. In this case our hypothetical smart monkey can go off and breed a little sub-population of smart monkeys, and when this sub-population starts interacting with the rest of the monkeys they can have more offspring and the whole monkey species will evolve.

What are the analogous rules for cultural evolution? It seems like something analogous is true. It’s not enough that there need to be cultural mutations — say a new way of writing poetry that is kicker or more evocative or more memorable — because this new way can just vanish in the marketplace. The new cultural form needs a protected enclave in which it can thrive and get love, and then it can burst onto the global marketplace. This is probably the function of sub-cultures and fandoms.



Lovely Fool

What’s Hecuba to Him?

When father lost his job he went to the city for hours and came back and his finger stunk! What were you doing all day mother asked. “I was giving the neighborhood dogs free prostate exams!” the old man said proudly. “Lovely fool!” said mother “That kind of animal doesn’t have a prostate.”

What’s He to Hecuba?

My sister said: Those two old people were both a pair of idiots. The mother was wrong — that kind of animal does have a prostate. The father was wrong: he had no idea how to check them.

Lovely Fool

But I say: those two old people were both right. The father was right that they had prostates. My mother was right that he didn’t know what he was doing. He felt bad he lost his job, he wandered the neighborhood to get away from us. He saw the collie and wanted to help it. So what he didn’t know how?

Now they’re both gone.


Complicated Idea

When Master Jennifer was discoursing on the Doctrine of Creation, her student the Green Leaf Elder said “Why so complicated? Why so many falls and re-arisings? Why the Increate, the Son of the Increate, and the Dream of the Increate’s Ineffable Mother? Why the light, the returning light, and the shattered light? Why can’t your explanation of Life and God and Evil be simple?”

Master Jennifer took the Green Leaf Elder to the shower of the Education Building where a plumber was working on a stopped drain by pouring water down it. “Why is the drain stopped up, Louis? Why is water rather than going down, going up? And why, if there is too much water, are you adding even more water?”

Louis said:

The plumbing system in your home is composed of two separate subsystems. One subsystem brings freshwater in, and the other takes wastewater out. The water that comes into your home is under pressure. It enters your home under enough pressure to allow it to travel upstairs, around corners, or wherever else it’s needed. As water comes into your home, it passes through a meter that registers the amount you use. The main water shutoff, or stop, valve is typically located close to the meter. In a plumbing emergency, it’s vital that you quickly close the main shutoff valve. Otherwise, when a pipe bursts, it can flood your house in no time. If the emergency is confined to a sink, tub, or toilet, however, you may not want to turn off your entire water supply. Therefore, most fixtures should have individual stop valves.

“That’s so complicated!” said Master Jennifer “Wouldn’t it be easier if the problem were simply that there was a big stone in the pipes?”

“I don’t know what to tell you, lady.” said Louis. “There’s not a big stone in the pipes.”

“I see, Master Jennifer!” said the Green Leaf Elder and threw himself at her feet asking for forgiveness.

And yet when the government burned down the Education Building, put the teachers in jail and destroyed the Teaching, both Green Leaf Elder and Master Jennifer worked until their eyelids bled to put the teaching in an easy-to-understand form, so the common people, harried as they were by the pressure to stay alive and provide food for their families could understand it, as much as they were able to.