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The Online Test

Mac had never put two thoughts in a row in his entire life until one night he had insomnia and took an online test. The online test wanted to know why he took the online test. Based upon the answer it either classified you as a person who was looking for answers, or a person who knew all the answers already. Mac thought he failed the online test.

But later that night his friend Bomba told him, no you can’t fail an online test. An online test is designed to tell you what kind of person you are. Some people think that they are people who just happen not to know the answer to certain questions. And other people know, said Bomba, that to be a person is to have a question he doesn’t know the answer to. But I don’t know which I am! said Mac.

Well I’ll tell you said Bomba. You are actually a question who thinks he is a person. But what question am I? asked Mac. You are the question “What question am I?” said Bomba. “I know that’s not true” said Mac, “Because if that were true once I answered that question I would be gone. And I’m still here!” “Are you?” asked Bomba. “Or you have you become a puzzle?”

“What puzzle?” asked Mac. “The puzzle: what sort of puzzle would puzzle itself?” “That’s not a puzzle, that’s a riddle.”

“Suit yourself.” said the online test, and got the results.

You are an online test.

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Codes and Puzzles

When I was a kid I was fascinated by cryptography. I had a book that taught me the scytale, the Playfair and the Vignere table. I knew the difference between a code (word substitution) and a cipher (messing with letters) and between a substitution cipher (“cat” becomes “dbu”) and a transposition cipher (“cat” becomes “atc”). I made up my own ciphers and codes, wrote messages in them, decoded and recoded them, ciphering and deciphering.

The puzzle I present to myself this evening is: why would a kid who was entirely alone, who nobody cared what he said or thought, be interested in codes and ciphers? I have come up with three solutions to this puzzle.

The first solution is that this interest in code masked the opposite desire. I hid my thoughts because I wanted my thoughts to be seen. This solution takes the form of a code: everything in the coded message (a lonely boy studying how to hide his thoughts) masks the opposite meaning. Decoded it means: boy seeking connection wants to know how to get other people to know what is within his heart.

The second solution is that this interest in code was an attempt on my part to substitute for the normal speech situation — one person says something and another person understands it — another speech situation in which the same person codes and decodes. This solution, clearly, takes the form of a substitution cipher. The pieces of the original activity, like an alphabet, remain in their places — a boy writing symbols in a book. But each piece has been replaced by something to hide its meaning. The coded message — a boy writing something in a way a hostile eye can never understand — reveals, by means of substitution the true message — a boy creates something that looks like communication but is actually a self-enclosed activity, to protect him from loss.

The third solution is the easiest — I was writing codes to have a secret to share with an imaginary friend. And this, easily enough corresponds to a transposition cipher — where the components of a normal coded communication — the friendly sender, the friendly receiver, the hostile spy who is unable to understand or perhaps even detect the message from sender to receiver are shuffled to become a sender who is friend and enemy, and an empty space for both receiver and spy.

And yet I find I am not satisfied with any of the solutions to my puzzle. They all miss the mark. What was happening I’m sure was something beyond the reach of code-craft; some sort of practice for understanding what it would mean to be understood, by way of practicing what it would mean to not be.

Good practice for tonight as I pose a puzzle to myself and fail again and again to solve it, generating only more puzzles. Why do I pose puzzles to myself? And why do I ask myself why?

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Baked Hawaii

Suppose there are two people, let’s call them A and B. Both and A and B have impossible-to-fulfill expectations of another human being. For example A wants to be shown love by being given what he wants without asking for it. The only way in which he can feel fulfilled and safe is if another human being magically anticipates his needs and fulfills them. This is obviously a fantasy of going back to a childlike state, an infantile state, in which the mother provides warmth, nourishment, and safety although the child has not the cognitive or linguistic wherewithall to say “I want warm. I want nourishment. I want safety.” But this leads to an impossible-to-fulfill need because once the adult does have the cognitive and linguistic competence to ask for what he wants he will. Or the other person will figure it out! And that means that at some point A will say “I want my needs to be fulfilled without my expressing them” and this puts A’s partner in an impossible position, because once having said that, what is B supposed to do? If he fulfills A’s need to have his needs fulfilled without asking, he is in fact violating the conditions of A’s desire, because he is giving him exactly what he asked for. But there are as many ways to be unhappy as there are people, and there are other ways to have impossible-to-fulfill needs. For example you can have B whose need is to find someone who will accept him for those parts of him that are most unacceptable. Because as long as he makes himself acceptable he worries that he will die because some residual remains, which he thinks is “the real him” and this part is unacceptable, and as long as this unacceptable part remains unaccepted, he feels unsafe. You get this way I think if your mother did not breastfeed you. As it happens this is, if you do the math, also an intrinsically unfulfillable desire, because the moment you say that I have parts of me that are so unacceptable that nobody will ever accept them, a decent loving, or at least codependent person will say “No problem. I get that. I accept you.” and those parts will then be accepted, when what B wants all along is that those parts of him (or her) that are precisely unacceptable be accepted.

So what happens when A and B get together, A being the one who wants to receive without asking, B being the one who wants to give what is unasked for?

Well a Baked Alaska is when something ice-cream that is inherently cold becomes a delicious dessert because it is baked together with something inherently hot.

When A and B get together what happens is almost precisely the opposite. That’s why I called it a Baked Hawaii.

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Grummus the Weird Donkey

This is a story from a long time ago. I think last week? Hard to remember. They took away my phone.

Grummus was a donkey they gave LSD to and other neuroleptics. He jumped over the chainlink fence of the petting zoo and cut up his belly. He hid in Mrs. Fleishman’s house.

Mrs. Fleishman had been a school teacher and she lost her job because people said bad stuff about her. She had very little money and very little food. Ok you want details. Yes she ate cat food. She watched tv but then they had no more tv. She took care of Grummus’s wounds.

Grummus could not talk like a human talks but Mrs. Fleishman understood what he thought. They figured out how to escape from the city by making the security cameras think there was an emergency and then when that emergency was recognized as a fake, they snuck out.

Grummus was able to visualize colors that we cannot see.

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Schopenhauer and Nietzsche

Schopenhauer thought life was a dream and Nietzsche thought life was an interpretation. This reminds me of an interesting story. In the future every young man or woman upon initiation was given the services of a dream interpreter called a Joseph. He or she would dream in the temple and then go to the Joseph to have the dream interpreted (called this I think because of an old book? Not sure.) and that dream would guide his life. He had the dream and told the Joseph and the Joseph said “the only interpretation I know is red moon in the morning means sailor take warning. So maybe your dream means sailor take warning.” “That’s wrong” said the young man — “That’s an interpretation of reality. What I’m looking for is the interpretation of a dream.” “Oh really?” asked the Joseph. And the young man woke up.

Sailor take warning!

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Holy Nights in Helicarnassus

It’s hard to put my thoughts in order, priestess, because like the supplicants at the door of a rich man in the morning they are pushing their way forward to be noticed, one blocking the other, some feeling shy and hanging back and maybe those are the ones who should be selected and brought in for the privilege of a dignity of an audience, I’m sure you know — forgive me for my inept use of rhetoric, but I am old and the lessons I learned from the masters about how to lead bull-like to sacrifice the minds of the listeners to the holy of holies, lie vine-covered like the implements designed long ago to perform the rituals in honor to a god whose name is un-remembered. Nevertheless I try.

Helicarnassus the Loyal, because despite speaking Greek our King took his Satrapy to the King of Kings in Iran as a serious vow, the breaking of which would be displeasing to the gods and a shame to men. Helicarnassus the Holy because we are the City of Temples. Helicarnussus the Ever-Fragrant because ships plying sandalwood and cinnamon debouche their wares in the harbor for the acquiring of silver, and trading contracts, and gold.

But to the priests of the Great Goddess we are the Doctor to the World because it was here that She Beneath Whose Peplum Mortal Dare Not Peep took human form and took as her lover the First Doctor Asclepius and in exchange for his wild nights of love taught him the arts of attending to fast-galloping fever, of setting broken bones, of cutting The Stone, and of calling the muse-bewitched wandering wits back to the liver when e’en they do roam. Madness. That was the ill I learned to heal and after the years of war when “horrors seen unclasped the mind” I had patients like the salmons that crowd the rivers in the lands made frigid from the winds of the North.

To what do we liken the mortal mind, my master asked me. To a castle made by children by the ocean’s shore: destined to dissolution and containing the seeds of its undoing mixed within the atoms of its form. What then undoes the clasp of the madman’s soul and allows his every thought to charge forth like peacock and sparrow and wren and eagle rising to sky in a wheeling, chaotic flock when the aviary is afire? Nothing more or less than Fear, a Fear justified in light of the ultimate fate of mortal man, yet lacking in temperance and appropriateness, since as one sand-castle may endure a minute, or one an hour, or one indeed by reason of luck, or the favor of the gods, or sound construction, until the high tide sweeps it away to we know not where, so is known to no man, save few, the hour or time or day of his dissolution. It is fear that unhinges the mind in the general, and it is the job of the Priest of Asclepius, to whose order I had pledge my forelock and in whose honor I abstained from meat and from beans and from taking a wife, to determine in the specific case of the specific mad-man what fear it was that had unhinged this mind, or, to vary the trope, unwoven it.

The madman knelt before me in the pronaos, his fingers never stopping their motion, as if he were weaving thread or counting gold. His hair was untouched by comb or oil. His eyes were startled like a man who upon waking from a dream of his own death had looked into a water basin and seen looking back at him his own face, smeared with blood, his throat cut like a the sacrificial ox.

We looked at each other and evening fell and myriad upon myriad of stars, brightest among them Great Jove himself, looked down upon the two of us, young priest facing his first great challenge although he did not know it, and young mad prince. He spoke:

-My father tried to kill me, my mother let me nurse at her teats when I was already a man and said with these paps I nursed you from babe to child, with these paps I nurse you again for you are not a man, you are a God. My teacher taught me to follow moderation in all things but there was no moderation in his lust for my father’s gold, in his fear of his wrath. But if I am a god to what law do I bow my head?

-Your father tried to kill you?

-He became angry because I became adept at blowing the flute. He said I should be ashamed because this was the art of a woman. Man was made for war.

-And your teacher? Did he agree?

-My teacher asked me to read books: his master Plato, and his own, stories from when he had gone down to the sea in a bell made of glass, to spy on the fish and shrimp and worms.

-And your father?

-My father said I should be ashamed. He said I should read not books but men.

-And your father tried to shed your blood?

-He sent a man to do it posing as my friend. I caught my father’s spear and threw it back at him.

-And the spear? Did it find its mark?

-It did. I need only return to the palace and I will be King of Macedon.

-And your mother?

He paused. Overhead shooting stars like sparks from burning myrrh streaked the sky.

-She rewarded my courage as women do.

-But not as mothers reward their children?

-No. Not as mothers of men reward their children. But perhaps.

-As mothers of gods.

-As mothers of gods.

I waved the incense above the madman’s head three times and then four times as my master instructed me, and gave him to drink of the kykeon, and led him down as mystagogue to the cave beneath the temple where the hetaera performs the mystery of the Great Goddess in secret, unspoken of, terrible and holy. He woke the next morning, bestrode his horse Beucephalus and as all know now turned the wheel of conquest as far as India, before one of his generals, homesick for his own bed, poisoned him in his tent, and the high tide washed him away.

These events that I relate happened years ago. Now Helicarnassus is gone.

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Reflections on the Evolving Noosphere

Having had the concept of “The Evolving Noosphere” for many years it become important to reflect upon the concept of the evolving noosphere.  The concept of the evolving noosphere helps us understand many things. It helps us understand noospheres, it helps us understand when they are evolving and when not, and most importantly, it helps us understand ourselves.

For example when it is the case that we look at our civilization and we say we have an excellent evolving noosphere.  Will others then say, no. We had a much better evolving noosphere back home at the civilization there? Perhaps they may.  And are they right or wrong? Perhaps the evolving noosphere will help us know.

When mother died my sister got the evolving noosphere.  I got nothing because they thought I was all right. I was not all right. I did not tell my mother that because I didn’t want her to feel hurt.  If she felt hurt, perhaps she could be comforted by the evolving noosphere.

Son, bring the Evolving Noosphere from out back.  I went out back and I brought my father the Evolving Noosphere.  That ain’t no Evolving Noosphere he said to me. That ain’t shit.  And you ain’t shit. I felt real bad but then I said “I’m not gonna let you talk to me like that no more.” and I left the house.

I went to the Evolving Noosphere.  And it said to me it took you long enough.  And who knows what I’ll say back?

When I know, I’ll tell you.

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