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Sunday, July 24, 2011

Inverse Dichotomization

Written all there is to write
So goes the wild presumption
My path is clear of ennui
And rid myself of gumption

People talk about current events primarily because they can’t think of other things to say. It’s an ongoing epidemic of talker’s block, but fortunately for us, the news is there to bail us out in our time of need. It’s as if each day or week we’re waiting for our marching orders to discover what’s permissible to talk about during that time. And we can only talk about famous people after they die — but then only until the next famous person dies. They’ll even call you a talented singer for the first time in your life. What some people won’t do for acclaim…

And on a slow news week, there’s always the weather to fall back on for a contingency plan. Weather is nice, although I never know what to say in response to a comment about the humidity. Is there a manual for this? Can you go to humidity school? I don’t even know what humidity is, even though people talk about it all the time. Does anyone know what the measurement for humidity is? I mean, is 16 very humid, or is it just barely humid? I’ve had a humidifier before (or was it a humidor?), but I didn’t know why. Well, I know the answer to those mysteries now… after referencing, where I go to get all my technical data. They were a little non-committal about the Loch Ness Monster, sadly enough. I’d be happier if they just took a position one way or another, to put my mind at ease.

Keeping in mind that environment plays into a person’s upbringing, note that I grew up being influenced by the likes of Bert Convy and Soupy Sales. That’s my alibi if I were to ever get institutionalized. I’m sure I was scarred for life with a predisposition to speak in a cordial, game-show demeanor that neither insults nor satisfies. I’ll admit it does work great for most social situations where people are playing for prizes.

As far as game-show hosts went, I’d say Bob Eubanks’ smile was more genuine than Convy’s. Eubanks looked like he was enjoying himself, while Convy looked like he was trying to impress somebody in the audience. I have nothing in particular against Convy, other than ruining a good part of my life, but we’ll let that slide. In fact, Convy is the perfect neutral character in the annals of culturalism. Of all the people in the history of the world, Bert Convy is firmly ensconced in the very middle. Just before Dick Clark and right after Yo-Yo Ma. If they ever got on the same elevator together, they would create a vacuum, and then the whole building would converge around the elevator until it reached critical mass, sending them 28 floors above the roof.

Words that form our thoughts and then
Ones that make our writing
Have got no climb inside my rhyme
This verse no longer biting

I know that after eating so much chocolate, you start to feel sick, but I’m also wondering if you just keep on eating it, maybe it will come back around and then you’ll feel better again. It’s worth a try. For the good of mankind.

As individuals, if we worked as hard as we do in trying to increase our revenue — instead of in the area of decreasing what it takes to gratify us financially — we’d reach a stabilization point a lot quicker and without nearly the amount of anguish. But the tendency is to want to put more in the bucket than to manage the bucket. It’s the way society has trained us. It saves time to believe that more is better, but then the long-term benefits are relinquished.

Daniel Gilbert of fame and author of “Stumbling on Happiness” has an interesting theory about macroeconomics. He points out that money doesn’t increase happiness except for those who might be very destitute and lacking the basics needed to sustain life (no, not Ferraris). However, he says that in order for a civilization to have a sustainable economy and therefore further the civilization, it needs its inhabitants to be under the false impression that they need to strive to acquire more revenue in order to be happy and thereby cause them to be more industrious in generating capital, otherwise the national economy would falter. But on the micro level, we create our own happiness, with or sans all that much money. An interesting fiscal dilemma. And then the message that while industriousness is laudable, materialism isn’t. What to do, two deux?

I thought of something, but now I can’t remember what it was. I figure if I think about it in general terms long enough, it will come to me. I’m pretty sure it was something abstract. And it was smaller than a breadbasket. I think it had to do something with the, um… the… what’s it called… You know what I’m talking about? I would say my mind’s a blank, but there’s too much debris in there for that to happen.

This message is not really here
It came and went completely
I could not write it if I tried
To sound it out discreetly

When people patent something, they’re essentially saying “Neener, neener… I figured it out before you did.” We’re giving them a legal way to take their ball and go home when they don’t want to play anymore. I’m guessing narcissism’s rise roughly coincides with the advent of patents. People or aliens looking back on the ‘90s and ‘00s will be confused about all the things labeled ‘My’ this and ‘My’ that. They’ll think there was a crisis over property rights, and everyone needed to stake their claim. “This is my computer, it’s not your computer. You get your own computer… And these are my files on my computer. They’re not for you. Go to the ones that say ‘Your files’.” Then as the ‘10s approached, the concept of sharing files came about. “What? Share files that are mine? How’s that supposed to work? Does that then make them ‘Our files’?”

One thing about musical artists. They invariably don’t recognize their limitations. They could be plain out of ideas for more songs during a certain period of their career, but that doesn’t stop them from putting out another album. Typically, a wistful offering is a wink that they couldn’t come up with anything but they still wanted to appear artsy. In this sense, “acoustic” means “songwriter’s block.”

And if they really wanted to make a concert interesting, they should just give everybody backstage passes and have the concert back there, since that’s where everybody wants to be anyway. And then when the concert was over, the band could go over by where the concert is usually held. The logistics of this are stunning. I see a patent coming.

The need to frame a minuet
Has turned into an option
In chosen no cathartic path
For minds given adoption

People always say they have inside information about something. Nobody ever talks about outside information though, which doesn’t get the respect it deserves. It’s not all about inside information. Inside information is only valuable because it builds upon the outside information that’s already there. If it weren’t for the outside information, the inside information would be useless.

The quest for ‘my’ everything may have begun in modern 17th century philosophy, and while cogito ergo sum firmly establishes that Descartes exists, what about the rest of us? How about cogito ergo sum more?

So I grew up thinking that the purpose of anvils was for cartoon characters to drop on each other, or in a particularly insulting moment, hand one to another cartoon character who happened to be suspended in the air to further aid in their descent. Then in the fourth grade they further confused the issue by telling me the anvil was one of the three parts of the inner ear (the outer ear being the part that evolution produced when eyeglasses came about). It wasn’t until college that I was freed from my ignorance to know what a real anvil is. But by then it didn’t matter anymore, so my attitude at that point was, “Well, now you tell me.” I notice that I’ve had lots of anvil moments. What? Columbus didn’t discover America? I want my money back then. Can you sue teachers for perjury? Or at least conspiracy to deceive?

There’s no power button on my refrigerator. They just assume you want it on. But they don’t assume that on my stereo. They figure we’re really into food, but not so much with music. Who knew your food was plug and play?

I'll sing the songs composers who
Were still inside their fervor
As mine are lost between the haze
Of eloquence and murmur

When police arrest someone, it’s not true that they read that person their Miranda rights, because the police have the dang thing memorized. They’re more correctly reciting to that person their Miranda rights. Or possibly interchangeably piecemeal shackling and reciting. If the person being brought into custody enters talking, I think they need to alter the arresting disclaimer slightly to: “You have the right to stop talking,” (or, as the case may be, you have the right to stop screaming like a banshee) because when they tell them they can remain silent and they’re already talking, it doesn’t make much sense.

According to Gilbert in his research, people are typically unaware of the reasons why they are doing what they are doing, but when asked for a reason, they readily supply one. We often don’t know what we want or what our motives are, but we think we do. Perhaps the clues we’re receiving from the media and culture machines are confusing us about what we should think, desire and feel. Another reason that polls about attitudes and interpretations are no better than anyone else asking the same questions of themselves. Do your own inventory and you’ll learn more.

You can tell a lot about someone by the clothes they wear. For example, if they’ve got a hazmat suit on, then you pretty much know that they’re not thrilled about being in your presence. If they’re wearing a ballet outfit, then you can rest knowing that they’re not in the ideal position to attack you. (Note: within the next 30 years, a horde of ballet dancers will be able to successfully invade a small country due to this stereotype)

The vehicle for spinning yarn
Has burned up on material
So quilted concepts once adored
Are left to wax ethereal

What would happen if they arrested a mime? Would they even need to mention the Miranda rights? Or what if the one they arrested was someone who only spoke in sign language? You have the right to keep your fingers still. Any movement your fingers make can and will be held against you… They make it look so easy on TV, but as we discover it’s anything but.

That awkward customer service moment when your situation has been resolved and you’ve already thanked them three times, waiting for them to take the cue to wrap the call up and memorialize it. So you say, “OK, thanks for your help. I guess that takes care of everything… That should do it.” And then they, not schooled in the give and take of conversation other than the part they do for a living built into their script that they don’t want to lose their place of: “Is there anything else I can help you with?” Pause. Hmm. That was odd. So then I feel compelled to clarify further: “You mean after I said that takes care of everything, or in a time warp where I hadn’t said that yet?” Probably no canned response for that yet, but give ‘em time.

You can’t have an infomercial unless what you have is revolutionary. It won’t work otherwise. It’s written in the mandate: “An infomercial must contribute to the revolution — or at least some revolution.” They have to involve breaking away from a government or regime. I’m not a good one to sell infomercial products to, because I don’t go for revolutionary, personally. I find myself instead gravitating to whatever the thing is they show in black and white where the person is in consternation and it all falls apart. That’s more interesting to me. Teach me how I can do that. I want the closet hangers that explode in unison when you touch them. Much, much more intriguing.

I like it better when a poet doesn’t read his or her own poem, but someone else interprets a reading of it. It gives more of an indication how the poem comes out the other side, rather than just how the input operated. For me, this is where a poem transforms into something more.

Worlds undiscovered here
Revolved around to show
Mirrored images inside
And I lack the will that I've applied
For the rest of the life I see

At the store, I’ll see someone’s child protesting a purchasing decision, acting like a sick cow moaning in the pasture. I don’t think this is a particularly wise childhood strategy. Providing imagery of ailing bovines does not engender sympathy, nor does it elicit much goodwill in terms of vibes across the airwaves. Somewhere else in utopia, the loudspeaker intones, “Whining kid in aisle 4. Avoid for the next five minutes.” This attribute is likely a harmful mutation, and natural selection should rightly have the injustice corrected to winnowing kitty sounds within a few hundred years — and not a moment too soon.

I’d like to be able to turn on narration about my environs at any time I wanted. In your imagination you can, but not loud enough for the entire crowd to hear without bringing undue attention to yourself, which would then spoil the mood. We would need an authoritative voice to narrate to us at various times. I could be picking up zucchini in the produce section amongst my fellow Earthly inhabitants, all playing the role of food gatherer along with me, and we might hear emanating from a distant microphone: “Look around you and notice your fellow man. Notice all these others scurrying about, as troubled as you might be, wondering how they’ll get through the day. Look into their eyes — by using those eyes you’ve got. And Abigail, turn your phone on… your daughter is trying to reach you. In more ways than one. That is all for now…”

Apathy can be a beneficial trait in many respects, when kept in balance with caring enough to respect oneself and those in your purview. The rest tends to be fluff. Drama of real life? Meh. This and that? Big deal. That and this? So what. Herculean hubbub? Two words: What and ever. It’ll all come out in the wash if it’s got any fabric to it.

Gilbert likewise said that often when we say something can’t happen, we usually mean that we’d have no way to explain it if it did. Ergo, things are only impossible until they become possible. Before we could know what is or isn’t possible, we’d have to know all about reality first. So troubling ourselves over possibilities gets to be a fruitless affair. We thwart our own destinies by placing artificial roadblocks along the way. If we instead assumed up front that all things are possible, that could be where we become truly liberated.

Another mention was that a healthy psychological immune system strikes a balance that allows us to feel good enough to cope with our situation but still bad enough to do something about it. And so go our lives, merrily times four… but dreams for us to dream out in solace and desperation. No worse, no better. In perfect imbalance.

To the one who lifts the load
The leaves fall off the poet tree
And somewhere still they cover
What I could not myself foresee
Some patch of unencumbered ground
For which a place I falter
I mask the yearning for a wisp
Of wind I would not alter


Alison said...

Were you a philosophy major? Your thoughts run very deep. I may have to go back and get my PhD to comprehend them(I have a pea sized brain, you see).

KDT said...

In reading this, I found myself reflecting again and again upon that masterful, albeit little known, address by Hugh Nibley entitled "Goods of First and Second Intent." ( Possibly you are familiar with it. I couple of insights from it are most salient to my perception:

"We all stand in need of constant nourishment for both body and spirit. The trouble is that we are not allowed to forget the hunger of the body; it will always remind you that you are in need of nourishment. But what about the other? We think the hunger of the mind can wait, but if we separate the mind and body, we nourish neither. Both are susceptible to junk food and anorexia: TV supplies the junk food, the school the other. But it is always the mind that stands to lose the most."

"There are certain things of which we never tire, with which we never become bored. Those are the things of eternity. Yet strangely enough it is these which we easily dismiss and neglect as if they were highly expendable. Arthur Clarke compares our mental state to the condition of a man who, having inherited a magnificent palace, prefers to spend his days holed up in a broom closet in the basement. That is the popular mentality."

On the other hand, if we are to "prove all things," as per Paul's injunction in 1 Thess. 5:21 (Greek "dokimazo," meaning "to test, examine, scrutinize, prove, etc.), then all things merit a degree of our attention.

I am occasionally asked why I myself have never earned a PhD. I answer: Because there exists no institution of which I am aware offering degrees in omniology.

Rusty Southwick said...

Hi, Alison. No, I didn't major in philosophy. But I've bought lots of candles so I can wax philosophical. If I can motivate someone to get their PhD, that would be like a life's accomplishment to me. That would be even better than having the PhD itself. It would be like being an accessory to a PhD, which sounds a lot more mysterious. Ferb, I know what we're gonna do today...

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