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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 But each piece has been replaced by something to hide its meaning.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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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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Explosion of Desire

This one is about a guy who became depressed because of his compulsive sexuality; every couple of days seducing a different woman, learning what sort of things to say to put her at ease; each encounter following a prescribed series of seeings and doings like those sections in tourist manuals of what to do in Paris if you have only 24 hours — you must see the  Winged Victory at the Louvres, you must eat Royal Couscous in Les Halles.  Depressed?  Oh he was so depressed.  And he realized suddenly that he was dead, numb, but deep within him there was a geyser of desire.  And what was the desire for?  It was to dare to say things to unusual that they had never been thought before ever by any human being. And he crept from the bed where his companion slept, limbs askew, mouth open, hair in an aureole to the hotel desk, took out the little pad of paper and started to write his reflections on his life: how time seemed to flow from the past to the future at a constant rate but actually collected in pools that cascaded from one to another, how different stages in life were totems for other stages in life, how the glint of morning light entailed a certain quality of thought and THIS was the true nature of logical entailment of which the logical entailment we consider when we judge how propositions preserve the truth of other propositions is merely a shadow.   And when she got up from the bed and looked over what he had written she said “I’ve thought all these thoughts myself every day.   Everyone has.  You have thought nothing new or interesting at all.”

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