Surprisingly (for me) positive thoughts on a Saturday morning

[Note:  At the bottom of the post, below the footnotes, I’m including a thought that occurred to me between the initial writing and the final editing of this post, but which doesn’t directly relate to the post itself.]

Well, it’s Saturday morning (the 17th of September, a nice prime number), and I’m waiting at the station for the first train of the day, because I woke up before my alarm again and there was no point trying to go back to sleep.  I’m working again today, and I may be working again next Saturday as well, since I don’t know how long the coworker with whom I split Saturdays will be out with his recovery from surgery.

I can’t begrudge him the time off—surgery is no small thing, even if it was “minimally invasive”, to say nothing of the problem that required surgery.  I’ve had major surgery myself, open-heart when I was 18 and back surgery when I was about 35 (hopefully I won’t have another when I’m 53!).  I don’t remember how long my own laminectomy and fusion left me hobbled, because at the time I was already on temporary disability because of the injury, but it wasn’t a minor inconvenience.

That whole process contributed to the eventual catastrophic collapse of the life I had built, partly because I technically have “failed back surgery syndrome”, which means that, despite my back surgery, I still have chronic pain.  I think the term “failed” is a bit uncharitable, though, because my pain was reduced, it just didn’t come close to going away completely.  It’s there every day, and it has been for about 20 years (for those of you doing the math, I had the pain a good three years or so before I had the surgery, and I am currently 52).

Speaking of the collapse of my previous life, and the loss of so many things that were important to me, I sent an email to my son not long ago—I might have mentioned this previously—to the email address he had used the thank me for his last birthday present.  It was basically a long apology for all the things I screwed up with him (and his sister), and a reminder that I love him and always will, and of course that I miss him.  I didn’t know if he even regularly checks that email, so I asked his sister to let him know I had sent it.  He apparently does, and he’s seen it.

I don’t know what he thinks about it, since he hasn’t replied so far.  I don’t know if he ever will.  That’s up to him, which I guess is obvious.  What I mean is, that it wouldn’t be fair or right for me to expect, let alone demand, a reply from him.  I at least know that, if he wants to know what his father has been thinking and doing for the last quite some time, he can always come to this blog and read it.  I don’t know what he would think if he did that, but it is whatever it is.

I’ve always felt—at least, for as long as I’ve seriously thought about such things—that it’s important to remember that children don’t belong to their parents.  Parents belong to their children.  This is so for good, sound, biological reasons, and also for deep moral ones.  A parent can make the decision to have a child—or well, two parents can make that decision.  The child literally has no say in the matter, for the child does not even exist when the decision is made.  They cannot be held morally accountable for anything to do with that decision, and they cannot incur any obligation because of it.  Of course, good parenting and good socialization can mean that a child will be naturally grateful to the parents, and that’s nice when it happens, but it isn’t required.  It cannot, ethically, be required.  It cannot, in good conscience, be demanded.

That reminds me tangentially of the concept creep problem our culture has with the terms, “respect” and with “self-esteem”.  People cannot demand respect.  Respect is in the eye of the beholder.  Courtesy is presumptively expectable, since simple politeness is the lubricant of civilization, but respect can only be freely given if it is to be of any value at all.

Likewise with self-esteem.  It doesn’t make sense to encourage people to have just a general, free-form, positive self-image based on nothing; that leads to narcissism and all the problems it entails.  One should not feel “proud” merely of the fact that one exists.

A student who cannot seem to master math well should not necessarily feel proud of his or her math skills, though if that student has worked hard to learn as much as they can learn, they should feel proud about that!  And that person almost certainly has other strengths and abilities that they can feel good about, and of which they should feel proud.

Hard work is worthy of esteem, and thus of self-esteem.  But I don’t need to esteem my own ability to play basketball, for instance, and I shouldn’t, because I’m terrible at basketball.  On the other hand, I write reasonably well, and I write a lot.  I also have good skills at general mathematics and science, and I am deeply curious about the way the universe works, and have learned a lot about what people know about how it works, and how that knowledge has been gained.  I should feel good about that, at least.  I certainly enjoy it.

“Pride” in general is a tricky concept.  Its legitimacy depends on how one uses it, and what one means by it.  None of us made ourselves, obviously; we operate according to the laws of nature*, and we are shaped by our nature—our genes and other physical factors—and our experience, our background, our society, our upbringing, our education, and so on.  And in a sense, all of these things are also part of “our” nature.

A person may have the tenacity to work hard and improve themselves from an otherwise unpromising-seeming background, but even then, they did not create that tenacity—it was their luck, or their blessing, however you want to characterize it, that they had it.  There’s nothing wrong with that.  Use the assets you have to their best effect.

You can’t use assets you don’t have, after all.  It would be much easier, for instance, for me to get to work in the morning if I could teleport, or even if I could fly.  But I cannot, and there are no reasonable technological solutions to that lack right now, so I just don’t have that ability.  It would be the height of silliness for me to feel proud of myself for my ability to fly, since I cannot.  But I’m glad of my ability to learn and use the public transportation system in south Florida, and I’m grateful that it exists; I admire the people who put it into place, and I esteem the people who keep it running every day.

Maybe gratitude is a better notion and virtue than pride or self-esteem.  I know some religious systems place an emphasis on it, and I think that’s far from a bad thing.  It’s good to be grateful for the inherent and learned abilities that you have, and it makes sense to instantiate that gratitude by using those gifts to the best of your ability.  Otherwise, it’s not very impressive gratitude.

It’s the converse** of the situation in which a person apologizes for something, but keeps up the behavior that led to the apology.  That’s not much of an apology.  I often find myself saying to people, “I don’t need your apology, I want you not to do the thing you’re apologizing for.  If you apologize but keep doing the same thing, the apology is useless, and even insulting.”

Okay, I use words to that effect, adjusted to match the situation.  I hope you get the idea.

These are my thoughts for this Saturday morning, such as they are.  I hope most of you are looking forward to an enjoyable weekend, hopefully with some time spent with family and/or friends.  Be grateful for them, certainly, if you have them around.  No one is guaranteed to have them, and even if there were such a guarantee, with whom would you lodge the complaint if the guarantee were not met?  Feel good about the things you are good at, and feel grateful for the good things you have in the world, and show your esteem and gratitude by doing the best you can with both.

Those are good words, I think, and I’m astonished that I am the one who actually just wrote them.  The trick will be to live up to them!


*And of Nature’s God, if you believe in God, to paraphrase the Declaration of Independence.

**Or maybe the obverse—I’ve never yet been able to get those concepts clearly differentiated in my head.  Neither term may actually be the correct one, come to think of it.

[As noted above, here is my thought below the footnotes:  Is it ever possible for any kind of mind, whether natural or artificial, instantiated in hardware or software or both, to be complex enough to accurately model its own workings in detail?  As it becomes more complex, modeling its own function will also become more complex.  I suspect that this complexity will increase more quickly than the ability of the increasingly complex mind to parse it.]

Nothing to say but “What a day, how’s your boy been?”

Okay…I’m going to hopefully keep it relatively short today.  That should, in principle, be easier than writing a long post, but in practice, for me, it can be a challenge.  We shall see, I suppose.

When I first woke up today, I thought it was September 20th though I’m not at all sure why.  It’s not, though; it’s the 16th.  That’s just in case you weren’t sure, also.

I’m very tired and feeling pretty poorly this morning, but I have to go to work, and I’m going to have to go to work tomorrow, too, unless I’m very mistaken.  I don’t quite understand how it is that people at the office don’t realize how worn down I am.  I feel as if I’m dropping bits of flesh as I walk, like a cheesy, movie zombie, but apparently I don’t look much different than usual, based on the way everyone acts.

It’s probably my fault.  I tend just to keep going, day after day, without much personal complaint.  I mean, I complain about the way people in office do things, when they cut corners, or don’t follow the general, promulgated guidelines and whatnot, but I don’t often complain about myself.  I do complain a bit, like about the fact that I feel tired, that I don’t want to have to stay late and everything, because I’m always the last one out no matter what, but maybe people just see that as the way I am.

Again, as I’m sure I’ve run the topic into the ground already, I apparently have the trait of alexithymia, a difficulty recognizing, or being able to characterize, one’s own emotions.  I’m not sure how I feel about that*.  Anyway, I guess I have a pretty deadpan face no matter what, and even when I say that I don’t feel very well, or don’t feel great, people just sort of “Oh, that’s too bad” kind of thing, and then everyone just goes about their business.  I think I need to work on being more melodramatic.

Maybe it’s just that I’m always negative.  Anything’s possible in this world.  I don’t tend to be the world’s biggest optimist.  I know, that’s unbelievable, right?  I’m also never sarcastic.

Anyway, there’s just not much more to say about it.  I’m much more tired than usual, but I’m going to have to work tomorrow anyway, unless I’m very surprised, and then after having Sunday off to do my laundry, I’ll have to work Monday.  Hopefully whatever I have right now will turn into pneumonia and kill me soon, or something like that.  It would not be a tragedy.  It’s not like I’m likely to do anything more that’s useful with my life.

I wish I could just make myself lie down on the floor in the office at every full stop, but my tendency toward insomnia makes it difficult for me even to rest during the day when I’m worn out.  Or maybe that’s unrelated to my nocturnal insomnia.  I don’t know.  It’s difficult to tease these things out, and it’s not like I have anyone else helping me with it.  You people (the ones reading) are the main ones I share things with, but it’s not quite the same as having someone around who sees me from moment to moment or even from day to day.

Last night I had a hard time falling asleep, but I did sleep through to my alarm this morning after I finally dropped off.  I haven’t heard my alarm in weeks, so that was kind of surprising**.  I took half a Benadryl last night when I went to bed, because I really wanted to be able to sleep.  It seems to have worked as far as that goes, but I feel a bit groggy now, and still just physically wiped out.

Mentally, it’s hard to tell.  I feel like I’m not very alert or clear-headed, but I seem able to do my normal things in the morning so far.  Meaning, for instance, when I check my keys and wallet and all the stuff that I have in my pockets, and which I check again every time I move from one spot to another to make sure I still have everything, they’re all there, and—obviously—I’m remembering to check them.  Which is better than forgetting, certainly, though it would be nice, upon occasion, to be able to feel confident that, yes, I did remember them, and to remember that I remembered them, so I don’t have to keep checking over and over and over throughout the day until the moment I go to bed at night, or at least until I get dressed for bed.  But I always have to keep checking myself; I don’t seem to have that sense of personal certainty that so many people give the impression that they have.

Then again, most people seem to feel sure about a great many things that they cannot actually be sure about, and if I had to choose between the two states, I’d rather be the way I am, with no tendency toward easy certainty about epistemologically uncertain things.  I don’t admire overconfidence or dogmatism.  I think they are responsible for a great many of the ills of civilization—people who think they know how things ought to be and how other people ought to behave and what’s really behind everything.  This is my repeated point in reframing the X-files poster statement into, “I don’t want to believe.  I want to be convinced by evidence and reason.”

Ah, well.  Reason is something I have in abundance about some things, but in which I am very poor regarding how best to manage myself, emotionally and in general.  I’m too tired to bother trying to manage myself, anyway.  I’m not worth very much effort, even from myself.  I need just to let it go.

And, as you can see, I didn’t end up writing a very short blog post after all.  I feel as though a therapist is now telling me “That’s all the time we have today,” as has happened to me before in therapy.  I have the unfortunate tendency to drone on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on…

You get the idea, right?  Anyway, I expect, assuming I’m right that I’m going to have to work tomorrow, that I’ll be writing a post then.  If I don’t, either it means that work was cancelled, at least for me—maybe my coworker will return from his back surgery with miraculous rapidity—or that I’ve succumbed to severe enough illness that I won’t be able to make it in or to write, or that I’ve died.  That sounds kind of nice.


*Ha ha.

**It’s the Beatles song Good Morning, Good Morning, which is a perfect morning alarm.  It even begins with a rooster crowing!

A soothsayer blogs you beware the Ides of…

Hello, good morning, and welcome to Thursday, the Ides of September.  Actually, I’m not sure it’s technically correct to call it the Ides of September just because it’s the 15th, but it seems a shame for only March to have an Ides, so I’ll give it a go.  I think I’ll look up the formal definition of an “Ides” sometime soon, but right now I’m sitting at the train station with no Wi-Fi access, so it’ll have to wait.

Of course, since this Thursday is the 15th of September, that means next Thursday will be the 22nd of September, which is not only the beginning of Autumn, but is—much more importantly—Bilbo and Frodo Baggins’s birthday.  In The Lord of the Rings, Bilbo made his final departure from the Shire on his birthday, and of course, Frodo began his great journey on the “same” day, years later, after selling Bag End to the Sackville-Bagginses.  It’s an auspicious day.  I ought to do something grand and epic next Thursday, really.  I’m at least tentatively hoping to do so.  I’m not going to let you know what it is, but if I do it, it will become obvious here, I should think.  It will at least be obvious that I’ve done something, though I’m not sure if it will be obvious just what I have done.

In the meantime, I’m still sick with the virus I’ve been fighting, and my chronic pain continues, and I’ve had less than four hours’ sleep, all as per usual.  Fun!

I arrived at the train station this morning to a mildly unnerving sight:  there was no one waiting for the trains on either side of the tracks.  For a moment, I wondered if there had been some national emergency or holiday declared, or if the trains just weren’t running, but all the stairways and elevator ports and payment kiosks were open, and the announcement boards were displaying their repetitive notice that, on Thanksgiving, the Tri-rail system will be operating on a Sunday schedule.  Also, there was a security guy near where I had entered, so I knew it wasn’t as though all life in this area had disappeared*.

What happened, of course, is that I arrived very shortly after the most recent northbound and southbound trains had come and gone, so that anyone waiting for those trains had boarded, and no other people apart from me had yet arrived for the next ones.  This is because I woke up too early again, but didn’t leave the house quite in time to catch the first train of the morning.  Ah, well.  I prefer to ride the same train, and wait on the same bench before doing so, and sit in the same seat on the train, if I can help it, every day.

Speaking of living things (I was, just two paragraphs ago, you can check for yourself), it has been raining steadily and drearily for the last several days and looks to be doing so quite a bit over the next several more days.  Because of this, the access alleyway behind the place where I work is largely flooded—but that has produced at least one good outcome.  Specifically, yesterday morning, when I got to work, I could hear an astonishingly loud bunch of creaking and croaking noises from behind the office (while I was inside!) and I peeked out to confirm that, yes, it was the sound of lots of frogs.  I only actually saw one—it was quite dark—but I heard oodles, and even tried to take a “video” of the noise (I actually hoped but failed, to catch sight of one of the frogs while my video was going).

It’s nice to know that there are frogs about, because it seems like it’s been a long time since I’ve seen any serious number of frogs or toads here in Florida.  When I was a kid, visiting my grandparents, almost every time it rained, loads of the critters would appear, but not in recent years.  I read that there was some international blight that had affected frogs for a while, but maybe it’s run its course.  Probably not.

***

I’ve gotten on the train now, and someone is sitting in my usual seat, someone who doesn’t normally ride this train, or at least doesn’t usually sit in this general seating area.  That’s irritating.  Also, the train stopped at a different spot in the station than usual, which is doubly irritating, since I stand at the platform roughly where the front-most available door lines up starting about five minutes before the train arrives, so I can swiftly hop on the train (well, “hop” is an exaggeration) and get to my seat.  Because it was out of alignment, though, I got caught behind several other people, some of whom were slow-moving.  That was also irritating, but only a bit.  At last they’re people who wait for the train every day, and are familiar sights to me.

Incidentally, another issue with having someone sit in the seat I usually use is that I now have to sit somewhere else, and may be taking a seat that some other regular passenger uses nearly every day.  I don’t like the thought of doing that to someone.  I have a hard enough time justifying my existence at all to myself, and when I inconvenience other people in ways that I don’t like to be inconvenienced, it is rather mortifying.

I’m a weirdo, I know, but I guess I’ve always been a weirdo, and I guess I’ve always been aware of the fact that I’ve always been a weirdo.  I’m not too bothered by being weird; much of the time, “normal” people seem absolutely idiotic.  Why would anyone want to be like most people in the world, even the successful ones?  The things they think are precious, and the things that pass for knowledge to them, and the things they think are useless, I can’t understand, as Steely Dan said.  And I don’t want to understand them.  I don’t think they understand themselves, or each other, most of the time, nor do they stop even to think about trying to do so.  That’s the way it seems, anyway.  It may be that I’m just prejudiced against humans.  Perhaps this is all just sour grapes.

Anyway, that’s about it for today.  No fiction, no music, none of that good stuff going on.  Just drudging through the day-to-day, smelly, moronic, loud, ugly, and in a million other ways unpleasant human world.  I can’t wait to get off this planet.

TTFN

sees her smaller


*There is also the presence of these annoying termites or winged ants that live in this area, and which episodically land on one’s hands or arms or neck or computer, so clearly there are living things here.

We’ve been trying to reach you, Rob

Guten Morgen, bonjour, buenos días, ohaiyou gozaimasu, and good morning.  It’s Wednesday, at 10 to five, and I’m already on the train, because despite being sick, I still couldn’t sleep, and if anything, I awakened sooner than usual.

Yes, I am still sick—it’s rare that anyone really, actually, gets over a respiratory infection in 24 hours, after all—but I also still have to go to work.  That’s particularly true on Wednesdays, when I have to do the office payroll in addition to my other, regular duties.  It’s not a dirty job, but nevertheless, someone has to do it.

I feel even less that I have a topic to write about today than I did yesterday, but as regular readers will know, that never stops me from writing.  It’s a bit analogous, I suppose, to the jocular saying that one should never let facts get in the way of a good story.  So:  never let lack of a subject stop you from writing a blog post.  Goodness knows most pundits and politicians and even most journalists nowadays don’t let lack of subject matter stop them from writing or speaking at length.

Still, my energy feels unusually low today, even for me.  Maybe I should write about how unreasonable it is in our culture that we demand of ourselves that we go to work even when we’re ill, thus increasing the chance that other people will become ill, and probably reducing overall productivity of the workforce and decreasing the overall quality of life for everyone.  As if we needed to push that down lower than it already is.

But I suppose that subject has been addressed innumerable times in many ways by many other people.  If you need it discussed beyond a few words to trigger the thought, I’m not sure what world you’re occupying.  Perhaps your life is so satisfying that you don’t even comprehend how anyone could be less than happy.  More likely, you’re so worn down and resigned—dare I say, fatalistic—that you don’t even recognize, let alone consider, the possibility that things could improve.

I feel you.

So, what should I write about?  Or should I try to write about anything at all?  Should I just start spewing random sentences in question form, as though initiating a Socratic dialogue?  Would there be any benefit to that?  If so, what would it be?

I’m not good at small talk in general, and I’ve gotten worse at it over time, as my socialization has diminished.

I did very briefly pick my guitar up yesterday, because I had watched a video of someone reacting to the Radiohead song Knives Out, for which I had learned the lead guitar part some time ago, and I wanted to see if I could still do it.  I couldn’t do it from memory—I needed to get out the tabs—but it wasn’t too bad.  And while I had that out, I quickly fiddled (so to speak) through part of the lead from Big Log, by Robert Plant, and a bit of Wish You Were Here, and then the chords from One Headlight and A Space Oddity.  I made a video of me playing and singing the latter a while back, which I guess I’ll embed below as a space filler.

Then someone noticed that I was playing—I usually only play when no one else is around—and so I put the guitar away.  Anyway, I wanted to watch a reaction to the Radiohead song Lift that I noticed on the YouTube list, and the chords for that involve a B add…ninth, I think*, that gives me a terrible hand cramp to try to reach, so I wasn’t going to try to play along.  And listening to that song, and the reaction, made me want to cry, so I had to stop all that.

So that’s it.  I actually did get out the black Strat at the office, or picked it up and turned on the amp, since it’s always sort of “out”.  But who knows if I’ll ever play it again?  I wouldn’t be surprised if I don’t.  It’s like picking up your kids—there will be a moment when you pick up your child in your arms for the final time, and you will never pick them up again after that, and odds are, you won’t even realize that it is the final time when it happens.  You’ll just never happen to pick them up again.  Likewise, there will be a last time that you hug or even see each of the people you love, and then one of you will be lost to the other, or both will be, for the rest of time.  So don’t take those things for granted, okay?

That’s about all I’ve got for the time being.  Hope you have a good day.


*Yes, that’s what it was.

Demonstrandum in the middle of nowhere

Good morning, everyone.  It’s Tuesday, the 13th of September, and I’m coming down with something again.  Meaning I think I have some upper respiratory virus, because I started getting mild chills overnight, and a low-grade elevation of my temperature, and my throat has that sore, itchy, irritated feeling that comes with fighting a virus.

I’m assuming it’s a virus—well, not truly assuming; I’m drawing a tentative conclusion based on experience and knowledge.  It doesn’t seem like a bacterial infection, those tend to be more localized, and I don’t think it’s a fungus, since those are rather rare and occur only in specific circumstances…and I’ve never heard of a prion disease that presents in this fashion.  Whereas I’ve had many iterations of “colds” throughout my life, and this feels a lot like most of them.

It doesn’t seem like Covid, but I suppose it could be one of the later variants, tempered down by my already-exposed immune system.  In any case, although I must go to work—that’s why I’m writing this blog post today—I am masking even more thoroughly than usual.

It’s remarkable that the wearing of masks was resisted so much by so many crybaby wusses in America.  People in east Asia have been regularly wearing masks when they get a cold since long before the first SARS virus.  It’s simple courtesy to recognize that, though you may have to go to work because there are people and things depending on you, it’s good to take some minor precautions to decrease the risk of spreading your sickness to the people around you.

I understand the spirit of independence, and I am glad to live in a country where the more common saying is, “The squeaky wheel gets the grease” rather than “The nail that sticks up gets hammered down”.  But it’s not independence or free spiritedness to refuse to take simple, easy precautions to reduce the chance of you spreading a disease to your fellow Americans (as the case may be).  That’s just being a spoiled and entitled ass-wipe.  And the only good thing to do with ass-wipes is to flush them down the toilet.

Anyway, that wasn’t what I was going to write about today.  Actually, I didn’t have anything specific in mind to write about today, which is why I know that wasn’t what I meant to write about today.  Logic.  If there exists no class of things: [Topics considered to write about on Tuesday, September 13th, 2022, AD] then {the inexplicable and inexcusable refusal to use masks when ill} cannot be a member of that class.  Quantum Electro Dynamics*.

Ah, Logic.  Ah, Reason.  Ah, Evidence and Argument.  How I pine for you in the human world.  Of course, I don’t hold it against anyone that they have emotions, even strong ones.  It’s not like people designed themselves, after all, and emotions exist for good, sound biological reasons.  They are the drives, the utility functions, of organismal behavior.  And they served humans well in the ancestral environment, else humans wouldn’t be around.

But reasoning minds have achieved much more; they are much more versatile and powerful, and modern civilization is largely due to their work, though motivated by those underlying emotions and their various, often-conflicting, utility functions.

But you’ve got to tame your elephant, to borrow Jonathan Haidt’s metaphor.  Otherwise it’ll run rampant and trample everything, and it won’t get you anywhere you really want to go, except perhaps by luck.  Train it.  Maintain discipline.  Reward it when it’s good and correct it when it’s not.  Don’t just be the rider of your older brain, be the pilot, be the driver.  It requires effort, obviously, but I think it’s probably worth it.

In other words, what I’m saying is, don’t trust your emotions to guide you—they’re not reliable.  Listen to them, notice them, but don’t trust them.  They developed to help make quick decisions about hunting and gathering, avoiding lions and hyenas, and interacting with a tribe of maybe forty or fifty people at a time.

Every complex animal in the world has emotions of some kind; anyone who doubts that is simply in denial.  Only humans (among species native to the planet) have human-type brains, with big, complex frontal lobes and complex, symbolic language with syntax and grammar and logic and all that jazz (sometimes literally).

But those brains are powerful—again, see Jonathan Haidt’s metaphor of the elephant and the rider.  If they are not managed, they can be horrifically destructive.  And if you get a herd of unmanaged elephant-brains** or brain-elephants, they can do a terrific amount of harm, especially if they’re armed with modern technology (most of which was not made or designed by people with no control over their personal elephants, but is nevertheless available now to the billions of people who could not have made it, and who don’t bother even trying to steer).

Anyway, this has all been meandering and peculiar, I guess.  As I said, I’m a bit under the weather.  It’s annoying to be in south Florida and to be both sweaty and chilly.  I wish I could just lie in bed somewhere, maybe have some Jell-O or something.

I must be feeling sick.  I don’t particularly like Jell-O.  But it is easy on the throat.

I wish I didn’t have to go to work today.  Though it’s not a wish I would waste on a genie if I found a magic lamp.  I’d probably ask for some kind of special, personal powers that I could use to achieve world peace…through my absolute dominion over everyone and everything!  Bwa-ha-haaaa!!

Again, anyway…that’s enough silliness.  I’m really not going anywhere with anything today.  I just wish I could rest for the day, but I can’t, so tough luck.  A person has to do what a person must do; willingly accepted duty, and a reasonable sense of honor, and a general sense of courtesy should guide one in one’s actions, if one wishes to be other than merely a jumped-up monkey throwing feces…or an idiot protesting against a simple health precaution, pretending to take a stand on principle when one is actually simply throwing a tantrum because one doesn’t want to do something sensible and healthful, like take a nap.

Naps are good.  So are masks in the right circumstances.


*Q.E.D. in other words—quod erat demonstrandum, “what was to be demonstrated”.  That’s my little nerdy joke, playing on the earlier nerdy “joke” that was the naming of quantum electrodynamics by physicists, shortening it to QED, because why would you not?

**The elephant is a metaphor of a powerful beast carrying around the conscious mind.  I am not implying that elephants themselves are destructive by nature, though of course, they can be.

Add title – stir until smooth

Whew.  You would think that after a day off, I would be more wide-awake this Monday morning.  However, you would be wrong if you thought that.  It’s not as if I did anything that drained my energy yesterday.  I did my laundry, for what that’s worth.  I watched some fan-reactions to Doctor Who episodes by the Gallifrey Gals, which is fun, but it’s not exactly draining, and I’d seen them before.  I didn’t even watch any golf or football, nor did I even play any PS4-based golf myself, which I sometimes do on the weekend.  I just lolled about.  The only words I even spoke to other people were in 7-11 when I got some food, and a passing “Hola” in response to the same from my new housemate when she was outside, and I was on my way to said 7-11.

I am tired.  Physically, I mean.  I feel that hitherto, Mondays have been the days in which I often write longer posts about more disparate subject matter than during the rest of the week, and I had guessed that was because of having a day off the day before.  Today, however, I don’t think I’m going to be doing that.  In fact, I can’t really think of an interesting topic.

I considered making an announcement that, okay, I’m not going to be writing about my distress anymore, about how I could really use some help if anyone has the wherewithal, otherwise I’m sure I’m going to die soon, because I’ve said it already, over and over, and no one is coming to help, and it’s just getting boring, and continues to be frustrating.  Well, I don’t think I’m going to make any “official” policy statement along those lines right now, because I don’t like to make promises (or threats) about such things, since I honestly usually don’t know how my moment-to-moment decisions might change.

I will just say that I’m veering along those lines.  I would dearly love it if anyone out there were able to help me, and had the inclination, since I don’t appear able to help myself, but I don’t think there’s any such person out there, and I doubt it would be worth anyone’s while, anyway.  What would be the point?  How could anyone gain at all, in any way, by helping something like me not to die?  There’s probably even a secret addendum to the Hippocratic Oath that specifies that, as part of the ethos of doing no harm, it’s better not to help people like me, since to keep me around is, by the nature of my being, a net harm to the world.

I don’t really think there is such a hidden bit to the Hippocratic Oath, by the way.  I’m sort of joking.  I know, it’s not very funny.

I’ve said before that I wish I had a drug problem or an alcohol problem, because those would rapidly become impossible to ignore, and there are more readily available resources for people dealing with those.  But I just don’t seem prone to such things.  One of my biggest problems, ironically, is that I’m able to keep moving forward in many different situations—not necessarily well, but to survive and remain superficially stable—for a long time.  I’m able to survive, even if only by the proverbial skin of my teeth, well past any point where there’s any good reason for me to do so, and I’m able to do it without causing undue drain on society, so to speak.

It’s really annoying.

I suppose there are probably a lot of people who, if they thought about it, are in a similar situation.  There’s the old quote—I don’t recall who said it—about how most men live lives of quiet desperation (and I assume it referred also to women).  I think it probably describes a great many people in the world, people scrambling every day to get by, to survive, to avoid overt disease and injury, with the goal simply of getting to the next day to do the same thing.

Now, for people who have family and friends with whom to spend time, I’d say that daily effort is almost certainly worth it.  There may be no real external meaning to life or the universe, but being with one’s friends and those one loves in general surely makes such considerations not very important.

For people who have issues socializing and who cannot be with the people they love—because those whom they love don’t necessarily want to be with them—it can be a real grind.  It’s hard to take a speculative approach to it, with the idea that if one just waits long enough or keeps trying, keeps going, their loved ones will come back to them, or they’ll meet new people they’re able to be close to, or something like that.  It feels too much like a person at a casino who keeps playing because they imagine that, sometime in the future, if they just keep playing, they’re going to hit a huge streak of luck, or someone who keeps playing the lottery expecting that, someday, they’ll win it big.

The odds are not with you.  If simple perseverance would guarantee eventually coming out ahead, then the casinos and the lottery would not be in business; they would have long ago gone bankrupt.  In the long run, on average, the house wins…and it wins well enough that it’s not really even a near thing.

Ah, well, it’s all pretty absurd, so expecting or hoping for lives that are deeply rational from an objective point of view is probably too much to ask, at least as a starting point.  Maybe that could be a civilizational aspiration, to strive to make a world where most people can live rewarding, satisfying lives in which they can pursue useful and meaningful projects and be with people they love and who love them.  It’s probably not happening to most people most of the time right now, but I don’t think the laws of physics forbid it from coming to pass.

It’s entirely possible that, overall, for most of the world, better days really are coming.  But I don’t think it’s the case for me.  My stake is almost spent, and I don’t think I’m even going to have any chips to cash out when I stop playing.  I guess that’s the way it goes.  In the end, everyone breaks even.

Expression of depression as “indicator lights” for the state of a complex system

It’s Saturday, but I’m not in the park, and it’s definitely not the 4th of July.  It’s actually the 10th of September.  Oh, and this is 2022 AD (or CE).

I don’t think yesterday’s post was very well-received.  It was probably too dreary for most readers.  This is often the case when a relatively healthy person encounters the thoughts of one who suffers from depression.

I remember it being said in medical school that depression is, in a certain sense, contagious.  That’s not meant literally, of course, but it makes the point that, when interacting with someone who is depressed, one tends to feel one’s own mood pulled down.  In fact, it can sometimes be a diagnostic aid; even if the person to whom you’re speaking isn’t openly declaring depression, if you find yourself feeling depressed yourself after speaking with them*, they may be depressed in some clinically significant sense.

So, if people feel down after reading my writing, I apologize.  I don’t mean to bring anyone else into the fold, so to speak, or worsen the mental situation of someone who is already struggling.  There is a very small proportion of people in the world I think could be improved—from a societal standpoint anyway—by being depressed.

But it is true that, when I’ve read popular works about depression, and about the experience of depression, I don’t tend to get a strong sense of what the writers were feeling when depressed.  Most of the time, the works are written well after the particular bout of depression, and it can be hard to recreate the moods and thoughts that the condition engenders when one is not mired in it.  Just as one who is depressed can feel that the depression has always existed and always will, when one is out of depression it can (apparently) be hard to reenter the worldview that it entails.

Some of this is probably defensive.  Who, having successfully gotten past depression, would want to relive the experience?  I’d hazard a guess that the answer is “no one”.

I remember a time when, briefly, my (now-ex) wife went through a period of reactive depression near the end of a pregnancy, and shortly after it.  This is not an uncommon occurrence, though thankfully most women are spared.  Anyway, at the time, she said that she would never get angry with me when I was depressed again, that she understood now how terrible it was and how difficult, and how it’s not simply a matter of attitude or choice to feel it or not.  I’m quite sure that she meant it with all her heart.  Thankfully, her experience was short-lived, it responded to treatment and time rather rapidly, and she returned to her usual, extremely formidable and impressive self.  But she also lost at least some of her sense of empathy for the depression, unfortunately.

That’s okay.  I like her better when she’s healthy and joyful and fierce.

My personality—and probably my undiagnosed ASD, which contributes to the fact that I can’t convey emotion well, and have a hard time seeking or accepting emotional support—and the sheer persistence of the problem make me hard to bear for anyone, for very long, I think.  It makes me hard to bear even for me.  The advent of my chronic pain, and its affect on my ability to work well**, contributed to that difficulty mightily.

But maybe someone someday will find my musings when I’m depressed useful for at least getting into the mindset of someone suffering from depression.  Maybe not.  I think my thoughts are far from typical even for the depressed, though my tone is probably pretty “normal” for someone with longstanding chronic depression.  Maybe my words will be useful for people studying depression in adults with undiagnosed autism spectrum disorder, which I’m almost certain I have, having studied it now for a while since the possibility first revealed itself.

As a bit of a tangent, it’s rather frustrating to me that I recently saw a very good video that discussed the fact that it seems depression was never caused directly by a deficiency of serotonin, a so-called chemical imbalance.  The maker of this video clearly knows it was never this simple, but there is a popular notion that such a thing is the case, and that has always irritated me.  The brain is not some stew made of a big collection of ingredients cooking together in the skull, which doesn’t come out well if a particular ingredient is missing or is present in too-great quantities.

The brain is a huge and unimaginably complex information-processing system, immensely parallel in its structure, with a staggering amount of feedback and crossover between subunits of the system; even each individual neuron of the hundred billion-ish present is more complicated than one can readily grasp.  It has more in common with a vast weather pattern of sorts, influenced by both local and global environmental factors but also internally influenced by other parts of itself, so that some patterns become self-sustaining and destructive, like a hurricane in the mind that feeds and strengthens itself when conditions are right, and which cannot easily just be broken once it has formed.

So, serotonin was never some mere quantity that was deficient, like iron deficiency leading to anemia.  The nerve cells that signal using serotonin manufacture that neurotransmitter themselves.  It’s simply that part of depression is instantiated (in many) in the underactivity or poor responsiveness of certain parts of the brain that signal via serotonin, and increasing the activity in those regions can sometimes decrease the tendency of the system as a whole to get into the self-reinforcing state that depression is.

It’s rather like the notion that we could, for instance, decrease the likelihood of hurricanes by decreasing the amount of moisture in the local atmosphere.  It’s not that hurricanes are simply caused by high humidity, but just that the high humidity contributes to their production, and decreasing it could, in principle, decrease the likelihood of hurricane formation, or at least decrease their strength and thus their destructive effects.

I don’t want to push the metaphor too far, since the brain is obviously different from weather—for one thing, it is far more meticulous, precise, and in some senses (but not all) more complex and constrained.  There are roughly a quadrillion synapses in a typical brain, but it’s not just the number that really makes the difference, anymore than one can just randomly wire up a hundred billion transistors and make a supercomputer.  Weather is a bit more free form, though it involves a great many more atoms interacting than any one brain.  But analogies can point out similarities at different levels of various systems, and more usefully, they can help try to convey something of the sense, if not the specifics, of an idea.

But depression is a dangerous storm of the mind indeed; it’s frequently a terminal illness.  And one cannot simply slap a hurricane and yell “Snap out of it!” and expect it to have any effect at all.  We understand the nature of autism spectrum disorders even more poorly than we understand mood disorders—trust me, I’ve looked for good neuroscientific, neuroanatomical, structural, and functional investigations of the disorders without much satisfaction so far.  The interaction of mood disorders with ASDs is probably just going to make things still more complicated.  Unfortunately, the only computer with the processing power adequate to modeling the processes so far is reality itself, but we can’t just lift up the hood or look at the source code or whatever metaphor you want to use for that.  We have to figure it out as it goes along.

For that reason, it may not be such a bad thing for me to share my thoughts, however dismal they are and however gloomy and dispirited they may make my readers feel, when I’m in the throes of my malfunctions.  Think of them as indicator lights, or pressure gauges, or even a Windows™ Control Panel readout from the system.  At least they might give some insight into what the system is doing at that time, or what state it’s in.  It won’t necessarily allow one to prevent total system crash; some systems just have too many faults and bugs to keep running.  But maybe at least from an eventual mortality and morbidity conference point of view, they might be useful.

It would be nice to be useful.


*Assuming you weren’t already.

**As an aside, when I was in practice, I also found that I had great difficulty charting using Dictaphones or their equivalents.  This is partly because it was not at all how I charted during training, but I suspect it’s more related to my ASD.  I can write extemporaneously quite well, or at least quite handily, as these blog posts demonstrate, but speaking aloud as a matter of keeping records such as “SOAP notes” is very uncomfortable and even feels physically blocked at times.  Between that and my chronic pain, I had more than one occasion of getting far behind on charting, which caused frustration for my colleagues and my spouse alike.  I’m not lazy.  Not by a long shot.  I think it really was mainly an Asperger’s thing, but at the time I just hated myself for being so weak; I was motivated to do it, but just couldn’t seem to carry it off without it feeling like torture.

And if the cloudbursts thunder in your ear…

Well, it’s Friday again, but again, it’s not the end of the work week for me, anymore than Monday was a day off.  My colleague who was out with a back injury did have minor surgery earlier this week; he went home the next day, but he’s supposed to rest and recover for a while, and I’m not sure whether he’ll even be back to the office next week.  So, I’ll probably be writing a post tomorrow, since I’ll be going into the office.  It’s something to look forward to, if you look forward to that sort of thing.

I don’t know for sure what to write about today.  I mean, what I want to do is rant and rave and cry and all that, but I keep doing that over and over—at least that’s what it feels like—and it gets me no result whatsoever.  No matter where and when I do it, I seem utterly unable to convey to anyone how much I feel like I’m barely holding on by my fingernails and am about to fall.  I don’t know when my grip will give out, which is the nature of such dilemmas, unfortunately, and I cannot climb up on my own.

Well, falling is probably at least a sort of freeing feeling while it’s happening.  It’s probably not the worst thing to experience, especially if you’re facing upward so you can’t see the ground rushing to get in the way of you being able to follow your geodesic through spacetime.  Free fall is probably kind of cool, while it’s happening.  Unfortunately, in Florida there aren’t really any high places—it’s literally flatter than Kansas—so there’s no very high place to fall from, except a building in a city somewhere, I suppose, and that’s dreary and messy and inconsiderate.  One could sneak a ride on a rocket, I guess.  But even the Artemis thing is delayed for a bit while they fix some kind of leak.

Now that I think about it, is Artemis launching from Cape Canaveral?  I just assumed it was, but I’m not sure.

I have a new “housemate” moved in, and she seems benign enough.  At least she doesn’t try to bother me, presumably partly because of the language barrier, which is fine.  In a perfect world, it would probably be nice for me to practice my Spanish, but the world isn’t perfect, and I don’t want to have to deal with it.  I can’t deal with other people at all, anymore, except when I have a specific task to achieve, and preferably a script.  I don’t even use the kitchen or anything, I just stay in my room when I’m there, which is not very much of the time, really.

The really stressful thing is when I do my laundry on Sunday.  This last Sunday it was okay—she was just moving in, though.  Hopefully there’s no issue with it, because I don’t know if I can deal with even one more thing in the world, however slight or seemingly trivial.  I certainly don’t want to deal with anything new.

I don’t want to deal with anything at all.

I wonder if, some day in the future, this blog will be a case study in the deterioration and final catastrophic destruction of a middle-aged adult male with undiagnosed Asperger’s Syndrome and chronic depression (aka dysthymia) and chronic pain, who had his health, his marriage, his career fall apart, went to prison because he didn’t grasp the nature of human chaos but just wanted to try to help other people who had chronic pain, a person who doesn’t see his children anymore, and is riding out his last days in America’s flaccid penis*.

Probably not.  It’s not a very good story.  The world will not much more notice or remember my presence and then my absence than it notices the stupid little insects that land on the back of my neck while I wait for the train, which I then unthinkingly crush (the insects, not the train) because I get an itchy feeling there and go to rub/scratch at it.

We’re all tiny and evanescent.  I think I remember that Roger Penrose showed, in his book The Large, the Small, and the Human Mind, that on a log-log scale, going from the Planck length to the size of the accessible universe, humans are actually quite large…but if you can pick the way you represent things, what kind of graphing and scale you use, you can make things look more important than they might really be.  David Deutsch’s arguments in The Beginning of Infinity are much more compelling, but I think he would be the first to admit that there is no guarantee that human civilization is the beginning of an infinite (or cosmically significant, anyway) progression; we are entirely capable of stagnation and self-destruction.  I’m surely living proof of that.

I’m also a good demonstration of what Eliezer Yudkowsky points out, that the scale of intelligence that we should consider is not to compare very smart humans with not as smart humans, but use a scale that doesn’t depend on us as a point of departure.  Of all life on Earth, we’re at the top tier of braininess, and all reasonably healthy humans are only a few real numbers apart from each other on a measure of intelligence that goes from, say, a virus up to Albert Einstein.  But based on what we understand about the possibilities of information processing, there is no reason to think that the scale ends there.  What a horrible universe it would be if there were no possibility of intelligence significantly greater than that of modern humans!  Fortunately, it doesn’t seem to be the case.

Anyway, no matter how strong or smart or skilled you are, the space above you is always limitlessly greater—we’re all infinitely weak, infinitely stupid, and infinitely ignorant.  In many ways, that’s a great fact; it means there will always be more that we can learn, more ways that we can grow.  Improvement need never end, if improvement is what we keep trying to seek.  But in order to improve, one has to recognize that one has room for improvement, and humans often think too highly of themselves.  Humans are not the measure of all things, though they are understandably their own primary concern.

I don’t have any idea what point I’m trying to make.  There probably is no point.  There almost certainly is no point.  I don’t know what to tell you.  Try to have a good day.


*Florida.  I moved here largely because my wife was tired of living in cold climates, and I liked Florida when I was a kid and my grandparents lived here, so I happily went along with it.  And even after we were divorced, I’ve stayed here because my kids are here, and I long entertained the delusional notion that I might see them again, and would want to be nearby in case that happened.  LOL.  Things haven’t gone well for me here, though perhaps Florida is not to blame at any level.

The time is out of joint : O cursed spite, that ever I was blogg’d to set it right!

Hello and good morning, everyone reading this.  It’s Thursday again, and time for my more traditional, weekly blog post, that I’ve maintained for some years, unlike the daily one I’ve been doing in recent months.  I’m not sure how long I’ve been doing the daily one, now, to be honest.  It feels both like a short time—in that I can sort of remember the sense of when I started doing it and stopped writing fiction and stopped playing guitar—but also a long time in the sense that it’s difficult to feel the memory of it ever having been otherwise than it is right now.

All things can feel eternal sometimes.

Speaking of writing fiction, last Saturday I wrote a post in which I reminded people of the YouTube “videos” of me reading the first nine chapters of The Chasm and the Collision, as well as three, I think, of my short stories.  I don’t know if anyone has listened at all, but if you have, I would greatly appreciate any feedback you might have to offer, and if you’re interested in having me read any more.

Anyway, because I posted about it, I decided to reread that book, and I’m not quite halfway through the reread—I’ve been interspersing it with reading the latest Richard Dawkins book, Flights of Fancy, and then I’m reading Emmy Noether’s Wonderful Theorem, which I got after mentioning her earlier this week.  I think CatC has stood the test of time, at least for me.  I don’t feel too uncomfortable recommending it as a family-friendly book, a “fantasy” adventure for the young and the not-so-young alike.  I don’t know if it’s my favorite of my books or not, but I like it.

I like most of my stories, really, which is good, because it’s hard to tell if many other people even read them.  If anyone has read any of my books, having bought them from Amazon, I’d really appreciate if you’d rate them.  I’m not asking you to write a review—I know that can be a pain—but you can give it a star rating with only the click of a mouse or the tap of a finger.

I try to remember at least to rate every book that I read, but only once I’ve finished them.  That probably biases my ratings toward the higher end of the scale, since if I dislike a book enough, I’m not going to finish it.  But, really, I don’t know if I’ve ever read a book that I’d give one star, not even Swan Song, which I did not finish.  Somebody worked for a long time writing each and every one of those books, and the mental effort is not small.

Also, if there was a book so bad (to me) that it would be likely to give it one star, I think I’d recognize ahead of time that it wasn’t something I was going to like, and just wouldn’t buy it.  But, if you have read any of my books and think they only are worth one star, then by crikey, rate them one star.

I kind of wish I felt like writing, because both Outlaw’s Mind and The Dark Fairy and the Desperado are well begun, and I like both stories.  I’m a bit more attached to the former, partly because I’ve been working on it longer (though DFandD as a story idea is quite a bit older).  If anyone would be interested, I could post at least the beginning bits of the latter story here, like I did with Outlaw’s Mind, so you can see how it is, but I haven’t edited it at all (except the quick reread of the previous day’s work before writing on any given day), so it may be quite raw.

Seriously, though, I doubt there’s anyone interested in any of it.  I don’t know why I’m wasting my time.

Not that there’s anything else to do with my time but waste it.  I certainly have nothing useful to do.  Every day I feel like I want to slice my own skin off, or beat myself around all my major joints with a hammer, or maybe just break and burn everything I own.  Yesterday, at a frustrating moment, I honestly came perilously close to smashing the guitar I have at work, but instead I was able to take some of my stress out by just snapping a pen in my hands.  It was a good snap; it broke into four apparent pieces, one of which I haven’t found.  I guess it went flying.

Sometimes several times a day, on web searches and on my phone browser and in my contacts, I keep looking at the site and the numbers of the suicide prevention hotline.  But I can’t bring myself to use it, not after what happened to me last time I did.  I really don’t want to be handcuffed or locked up again, not ever.  I tried very hard all my life to do and be good and to do “right”, or at least not to do “wrong”, to live a life where I wouldn’t have such things happen to me, and yet they did anyway, and I lost everything I had that I hadn’t already lost.  I don’t want a repeat of that.  It’s not fun.

Also, honestly, I feel like I don’t have any right to ask for anyone’s help or to use any public resources (or private resources) to help me, though I need it desperately.  I don’t have anything to offer in return.  I don’t really think I’m worth saving, and I don’t think anyone else really thinks I am either.  It’s certainly unlikely that anyone will pine for me when I’m gone.

Well, that’s enough of that.  At least, for what it’s worth, I don’t think it’s going to go on for much longer.  I’m barely getting through each day, frankly.  But the days do seem to last for such a long time.  That’s that subjectively confusing sense of duration I mentioned earlier.

I do hope that all of you are doing okay, and that you’re in the company of friends and loved ones, and that you enjoy doing things with them, even boring, everyday things.  Hold onto that shit.  Seriously.  Nothing else is as important.  Probably.  Though, what would I know?

TTFN

[Apologies, but there is no picture today.]

Tangents of tangents of tangents, oh my!

It’s Wednesday, the middle of the week based on our usual reckoning of things.  Welcome.

Of course, the universe at large doesn’t give any preference to days of the week, or months, or whatever.  Days, per se, are more or less natural units of time, as are years.  Both are related to regular, physical phenomena in the solar system*.  Now, one could argue that since the moon’s orbit around the Earth is roughly twenty-eight days, that seven days in a week is a sort of natural division, since 28 divided by 4 is seven.  That’s not an unreasonable thought, but it is derivative, unlike the measure of a year or a day.

Of course, rather irritatingly, the days don’t evenly divide into the years, nor do the months (orbits of the moon, which itself isn’t quite an even number of days), which means we have to do all sorts of mucking about with the number of days in months to get a reasonable number of them per year, and only one of them has 28 days, but even that changes every 4 years, except every hundred years when it’s 28 again, except every thousand years when it’s 29 again, and so on.  And then, of course, we have to add and subtract “leap seconds” on an irregular basis to adjust things to keep them consistent, lest the seasons creep steadily in one direction or the other relative to the calendar as the years pass, even as the times of day and night also shift.

If the period of the moon’s orbit around the Earth divided evenly into the orbit of the Earth around the sun; and the length of days on Earth** also evenly divided into the orbit of the Earth around the sun; and if those divided evenly, say, into the orbits of the sun around the center of the Milky Way; and then if the second, as we decided it, turned out to be some round number of oscillations of a cesium atom being pumped by a particular wavelength of light—say 9 billion exactly, when measuring a previously decided interval of one sixtieth of one sixtieth of one twenty-fourth of a day…that would all be quite a collection of coincidences!  That would make me start wondering if the whole thing was designed by someone.  As it is, though, it looks very much like it just all kind of happened, with no inherent direction or purpose or goal.  Which makes more sense of most of human history and the natural world than the alternative does.

It would also be quite a coincidence if, for instance, pi turned out to be 3.141618110112114…or some other regular pattern alone those lines.  Especially if some similar pattern of interest showed up when it was measured using other number bases, like base 2, base 16, whatever.  That would be something.  Or imagine if pi were an exact integer.  Of course it’s hard even to imagine what it could possibly be that could make the ratio of a circle’s circumference to its diameter into an integer, how that could actually be achieved, since the number pi is something born of what appears to be fundamental geometry, constrained by internal logical and physical consistency.

Anyway, the universe looks very much like, as I said yesterday, a spontaneously self-assembled system.  For all we know, it’s just a collection of quantum building blocks of some kind that fall together in a bunch of spin-networks, if that was the right term, to form spacetime that acts like General Relativity when there are enough of them***.

And, maybe the other quantum fields are just emergent phenomena that develop as part of the properties of these conglomerated spin-networks, and the net result of their gross uniformity leads them to mutual repulsion, and then—rather like quarks being forcefully separated leading to formation of new quarks if you could do it, which you can’t—when spin-networks are stretched apart, they simply generate new, connecting networks in between, out of the energy from the tension of their repulsion.  Thus, spacetime can expand forever, generating new space-time as it does, and perhaps the other quantum fields, again, are mere epiphenomena that arise when enough spacetime exists.  And everything else, as we can already tell, is a bunch of epiphenomena overlying, or produced by, that.

Here’s a question that just occurred to me:  If spacetime can be continuously created by stretching of the preexisting network, in response to “dark energy” or “inflaton field” or whatever one might call it, popping little new nuggets of spin networks or whatever spacetime is made of into existence, can it, on the other end of things, be made to disappear?  Can quantum spacetime be unmade as readily as it is made?  I don’t think it would have to happen, say, in the “singularity” at the center of a black hole.  I can see that as potentially being a thin and narrow “tube” of spacetime stretching off and continuing to grow but only in one direction, like the function 1/|x| as it approaches zero, with a finite “volume” perhaps, but an infinite “surface area” that can keep growing indefinitely if spacetime really can just keep reforming itself.  Though maybe, if the chunks are of finite size, the tube can never narrow past some certain minimal “circumference”.  I wonder what the implications of that could be.

But can spacetime ever un-form?  Quarks that could be formed from, for instance, stretching the gluon field between two of them could, in principle, “un-form” if they encountered an anti-quark of the proper character.  They can even decay, I think.  But they wouldn’t simply disappear, they would convert into, presumably, some pair of high-energy photons, and maybe something else, too.  But spacetime itself doesn’t always obey the straightforward law of conservation of energy/mass, as GR has already shown.  Conservation of energy is a property of things within spacetime, and is born of the mathematical symmetry of time translation, as per Emmy Noether’s**** Theorem.  It doesn’t necessarily apply to spacetime itself.  So under what circumstances, if any, could it simply spontaneously disappear, and what affects would that have?

Well, that’s something I’m not going to figure out right here right now, I’m afraid.  But, boy, have I gone off on some tangents!  It’s rather like a moon or a planet suddenly released from the gravitational embrace of that which it orbits, to go off into eternity like a rock from a King David-style sling.  Or like the derivative of any continuous function, or the derivatives of derivative of derivatives, “most” of which end up settling out at some constant, if memory serves (but not the exponential function, ex!).

All this is, apparently, just what happens when one cannot stay asleep after three in the morning and so gets up very early and waits for the first train on Wednesday morning.  One thing leads to another, but with no inherent direction or purpose or goal.  Things just happen.

That sounds familiar.


*The rotation of the Earth and its orbit around the sun, in case you didn’t already know.

**Of course, there are different ways to define a day.  There’s a solar day, which—if memory serves—describes the time it takes for the Earth to turn until the same longitude line (so to speak) is facing the sun, which, because of the motion of the Earth in its orbit, is going to be slightly longer than a sidereal day, which—again, if memory serves—describes when the same longitude line returns to its place relative to the distant, “fixed” stars.  Of course, the stars themselves are not truly fixed, but their angular location changes so slowly that that’s an adjustment that doesn’t have to be made often.  I think there are other day measures, but they aren’t popping into my head right now.

***I realize that this is very loosely a description of loop quantum gravity, and that one prediction of one form of that model predicts that light speed even through a vacuum varies ever so slightly by frequency—and that our best measurements of light from distant quasars and the like seem to disconfirm that prediction.  But I don’t think the jury is completely in on that question.  And maybe that specific form of LQG is not quite correct, or the difference is smaller than expected.  I don’t know the subject well enough to opine.

****Look her up.  Einstein called her a mathematical genius.  Hilbert invited her to teach in the University of Göttingen (fighting against the powers that be that didn’t want a woman professor).  She should be a household name.  Her face should be on currency.  She should be bigger than every TikTok “influencer” combined.  That she is not should bring every human shame.