Why this Shit Matters: Notes on the Last Few Essays

hall of mirrors

Goofy as it might sound, I’ve been trying to do something for 40 years that is almost impossible. I’ve been grinding my teeth on this thing against all good advice, pouring all my energy into what probably looks like an obscure and meaningless (or maybe just confused and confusing) thing.

The Buddhists say that the truth can’t be spoken; that words are a distraction from what is real, because language is a virtual reality that convinces us that it’s not virtual. So language is essentially a delusion, which can never help us encounter what is real. Reality is found off the page, not on it.

And the same goes for thought and feeling and imagery. It’s all a kind of curtain that pretends to be showing something beyond the curtain, where in fact nothing at all is found. We make up everything.

Look, the Buddha knew his shit. And I’m not disputing what the Buddhists say above. In fact, it was my starting point, not as an idea or belief (because I’d never heard of Buddhism), but as a terror. If for some reason you suddenly learn that you’re trapped behind a film of language, feeling, thought and imagery and that everything you experience is imaginary, then there is no “getting off the page” into reality. It’s like being stuck in a hall of mirrors. It’s not a choice.Read More »

Negative Knowledge and the Eruption of a Metaphoric Mentality

aurora

This essay is fictional. Not in the way fiction is usually defined. But this voice – anyone’s voice, even a scientist’s voice – is the invention of a framework that puts experience in a particular slant and color. And there’s no way to avoid this.

Nothing can be discussed or known without being painted in some fictional color.
Even the colorless voice of a realist is a fictional application of colorlessness.

Phrases like “everything is this…” and “nothing can be that…” sound reductive and dogmatic. But in this case I’m talking about what can’t be known, not what can. Reality is unknowable. Stories are all that’s known.

In other words, claiming to know anything conclusive about the nature of reality is a sign of bullshit.

And knowing what is bullshit is a fundamentally different kind of knowledge. It’s not reductive, but expansive, because this discovery releases perception from cages of certainty, and awakens a questioning or metaphoric spirit. Read More »

An Honest Fairy Tale Retold

Linda

My last post was in honor of my sister, but it only reflected something common between us.

Now I need to write about Linda herself. An honest fairy tale, but not a true story, for who can know the fathomless truth of anyone?

In this tale the child is led deeper into the hall of mirrors, which was in fact an enchanted forest. A bewitched forest.

And the more frightened she became the farther she fled into the foggy interior of the woods. There she made her stand, a brave and lonely thing, and built her refuge and her prison.

Or course, these enchanted forests are invisible to others. You can walk around in broad daylight and nobody would know you are lost. As the saying goes, you never see the forest for the trees.

So the child couldn’t tell anyone where she was. I’m here, she would cry. Can’t you hear me?Read More »

An Honest Fairy Tale

 

Burlingname Falls

Once upon a time a little girl was walking down a dirt road, beside a lively creek. There were five of them traveling together — the road, the creek, the dog, the grandmother and this girl – and they were all dancing their way to a waterfall, which is where the road stopped and Pan’s kingdom started. A few staggering clouds came along too, out of curiosity. And if the girl had entered paradise at that moment it would have felt like a let-down. The wilderness beyond the waterfall, and its mysterious beasts, which she knew from stories her grandma would tell her, would have lost their beguiling danger — that spice of potential doom, which the cooks of paradise always seem to forget.Read More »

Frauds Can Be the Bringers of Wisdom

Vladimir 3
Vladimir and the author after a few beers.

Frauds can be the bringers of wisdom almost as often as a broken clock.

Do I refuse to hear the penetrating critique of a drunk in passing who says, “hey, buddy, you’re just as filthy inside as I am out here on the street. Go fuck yourself”? Is he no less right because he’s a liar?

And if I’m honest with myself, it’s my own fraudulence that teaches me. Then I stop swatting away the swarms of white lies that encircle some rotting portion of my personality, and they settle and devour the rot.

The flies are my teachers.

And so a minister hawking salvation for a buck is someone who might occasionally teach me something. Not about God and goodness, but about this rot itself. And after all, nothing that is known is wholly true. Sublime heights are reached on wings that become shredded like the wings of old bees. The farthest reach is defined as much by what it can’t grasp.

So why seek truth in trustworthy sources? Why trust a guide once removed when the only valid measure is my own? Failure and over-reach are the real teachers. And what is insight except the shredding of what I thought I knew, and long trusted?

The Oven Mitt: A Comedy About Psychopathy, Guilt, Fascism and Death

Oven mitts

I feel sorry for the left oven mitt because we don’t really need it. Sometimes I wear it when it’s not necessary, just to give it a boost.

This sounds like I’m trying to be cute, but it’s a raw confession. This is no joke: I recently bought a bottle of beet juice because I felt sorry for the bottle. It felt like walking past a homeless person. And I even spoke comforting words to the bottle as it languished in my refrigerator for weeks, before I finally had to throw it out, because it tasted like shit.

It makes me sick to hear how amused I sound by my own antics. But it’s the act of confession that provides some needed respite, and respite always produces a certain giddiness. That’s why priests always thought I was making stuff up in the Confession booth. As a result, I don’t think they gave me sufficient penance. But it’s confusing the way they made us worship a statue, and then believe that a tasteless wafer was the body of Jesus. They encouraged us to blur the line between animate and inanimate just as we were learning in school that nothing is real unless it can be measured, and everything is basically an automaton, including our own biological drives and patterns of thinking.Read More »

The Delusions of Me, Myself and AI: On the Origins of Our Crises

AI picture

This appeared on Dissident Voice.

“Do I need to justify what most call philosophy? Aren’t all these social and political issues building into huge cumulonimbuses that demand a less solely reflective response? But look, a thunderstorm has its origins in the vibrations of individual atoms. And as an atom of this society, I need to examine myself, because whatever is driving me (and you) is driving that developing storm.”

“In other words, what is the role of individual perception in all these less abstract issues of immigration, governmental control, war, and the dangers of AI?”

“Well, I bristle at the word “abstract.” I’m saying that the storm has a concrete origin in the atom of my personality. There’s a dynamic there that translates into society. My personality is a twisted wreck of inauthenticity —  defensive denials, and bald declarations of pig-headed belief in anything and everything. I leap from one conclusion to another, rarely questioning any of them. Rarely learning.”

“Yes, society is a cumulative stupidity.”

“And on the “atomic” level it’s only me and you getting caught on what we think and usually staying that way the rest of our lives. It’s not just stupidity, but a stubbornly self-enforced stupidity, which is beguilingly odd. There’s a clarifying thrill in this, like being trapped in a small cell my whole life and suddenly discovering that there are doors everywhere in the cell that I’ve simply refused to open. Every resistance in myself is a door I refuse to open.”Read More »