Chaos surfing is difficult, but it’s the only sport there is

Happy Labor Day to those of my readers who live in the United States.  If any other countries celebrate a similar holiday on the same day, well, happy holiday to you as well.  And to everyone, Happy Monday.

At my office, we’re celebrating workers’ rights by working a half day today, and based on the fact that quite a few other people are at the train station already—though it’s operating today on a weekend schedule—we’re not the only ones.

It’s just another case of competition leading to inadequate equilibria of over-exertion, to the relative detriment of everyone in the system, like trees in a forest having to compete against each other for light, so they all have to keep getting taller, even though it would be saner if they could somehow agree to stay shorter and collect the light of the sun without wasting so many resources on competing with each other.  But they can’t and even if some of them could, they would be vulnerable to any mutant tree that grew taller than the others, and then that one would outcompete and out-reproduce, until all the trees got taller again, until they reached the point where the costs of getting taller were greater than the benefits, on average, and they would level off there, in a state of mutual strain.

Evolution is a bitch goddess, that’s for sure.  But trees are very pretty and majestic, so there are at least minor compensations.

As with trees, human businesses compete with each other, and the ones that stayed open on holidays had advantages over ones that did not, until a great many businesses—ones not constrained by laws forbidding it, otherwise, or union rules and agreements—stayed open on holidays, and ultimately, there are essentially no holidays on which everything is pretty much closed, when everyone stays home with their families.

That’s assuming, of course, that people have families with whom to stay home.  As for me, the only people I really interact with personally anymore are the people at work, so going in to work is my only serious socialization.  When I had my family around, I would have been happy to stay home; my family was probably an equivalent to one of my “special interests”, as they describe it for people with the Syndrome Formerly Known as Asperger’s and related disorders.  Now, though, I mainly just loll about on days when I don’t work.  If I didn’t have my chronic back pain problem, I might feel like doing other things—maybe going to bookstores or something similar.  But as it is, I just try to rest and not pay attention to how utterly empty and pointless my life is.

Hopefully, most of you who are celebrating this holiday are going to spend time with your families and/or friends, maybe having a cookout or something.  That’s the way it was when I was a kid.  Most of the people in my family worked for General Motors and related businesses, so they had the day off, thanks largely to union efforts and the like, such as—I believe—are celebrated by Labor Day.

However, businesses obviously lost money by having their factories idle when they could otherwise be productive, and so once they could transfer at least some of their manufacturing to other countries, they did, and got more work with less cost, and then so did all the other companies, and the equilibrium led to anyone who wanted to stay competitive keeping their businesses open as often as they could for as long as the costs of staying open were lower than the costs of being closed.  And the wheel turned, grinding ordinary lives into powder underneath it.

Okay, that’s a bit melodramatic, but it still does in fact suck.  In the past, there were those who predicted that rising technology would lead to people having more and more leisure time, and yet still being able to produce more than ever in the past.  These people had never studied evolution and natural selection carefully enough, it seems.  Success is always relative to other success in the environment; there’s always an arms race.  Now we work longer hours than ever before, and the most successful people are often the people with the least leisure time as opposed to the other way around.

That’s a bit ironic, I guess.  Success breeds more work rather than less, and the society it creates is so mind-numbing and stressful that hundreds of thousands of people every year die prematurely simply from drug overdoses, because drugs are the only reliable source of any solace or escape many people are able to find.  This is, of course, one of the reasons drugs are illegal; they harm productivity.  Why else would a society be against people doing something to their own bodies, as long as they don’t directly harm others by doing so?  The most popular drug in the world by far—caffeine—increases people’s productivity, at least temporarily, and there is no serious thought of restricting it.

Many of the costs of people’s drug problems are entirely due to the fact that some drugs are illegal.  In many cases, having been convicted of a felony related to drugs makes a person less able to get gainful future employment such as they might otherwise be able to do.  It likewise affects what kind of housing they can get.  And so, far from having “paid their debt to society”, these people never stop paying, for the rest of their foreshortened lives.  Why would one not be willing to risk death by taking unregulated drugs, when life is an empty competition without any good reward even for the most successful?

Then again, life has never really promised any good and lasting reward.  Any creature that found truly lasting satisfaction in a meal, for instance, would live a happy but short and less-reproductive life.  Lions and gazelles don’t have job security, and they don’t get to take vacations from each other.  Every day is a struggle to survive and if possible reproduce, no matter what or who you are.

Economies no more have souls than ecosystems do, because they are both spontaneously self-assembled systems in which whatever survives is just, well, whatever survives and becomes self-sustaining.  They’re conspiracies without conspirators.  There is no master plan behind it all.  Most conspiracies—even ones that would be recognized by all as such—were not nefariously planned by any cabal behind the scenes.  They just happen, and the ones that persist do so because they become self-sustaining, like bureaucracies and governments and businesses and whatnot.

It shouldn’t be too much of a surprise that we aren’t able (so far) to throw off such self-created situations.  Each person and thing can only act in response to the vector sum of all the forces acting on it locally.  Even the laws of physics only act locally.  Gravity doesn’t actually reach across the universe; each change in a local bit of the gravitational manifold affects the bit next to it, which affects the bits next to it, and so on, spreading out at the speed of light as it changes.  This is why there are gravitational waves, and why black holes continue to gravitate even though nothing can actually pass through the event horizon outwards.

Likewise, each bit of the electromagnetic field influences the next bit, which influences the next bit, and spreads along, again, at the speed of light.  That speed of propagation can fool people, whose reactions happen at most at a few meters a second, into thinking that things are truly and directly interconnected instantaneously, but they are not.  Every point in spacetime is influenced directly—as far as we know—only by the points immediately around it at any given time.  The universe itself is, in a sense, just a spontaneously self-assembled system, an unplanned conspiracy.

Humans have the advantage of being able to think about such things and their implications more deeply, and a few of them even do so.  But it’s hard for one bit of water in the middle of an ocean to deliberately change the specific configuration of the world’s seas by the effects of what it can do locally.  A butterfly flapping its wings in the Amazon Rainforest™ may indeed affect whether a tornado happens somewhere thousands of miles away months later…but the butterfly doesn’t know this, nor does it know how to flap its wings in just the right way at just the right time to cause or prevent any weather formation.  It just flutters around looking for nectar and looking to mate and lay eggs and so on.

Humans are more sophisticated than butterflies, but the equations that govern the interactions of the world are generally higher-order, emergent equations that cannot be solved even in simplified forms, not within the lifetime of the universe.  Only the universe itself has the processing power to compute them, and even it can do so only by enacting them.

And while the Schrodinger equation is, apparently, a linear equation, and remains so in perpetuity, it’s still not readily solvable for anything beyond the simplest of systems.  And anyway, people are not completely sure what it really represents, they just know that it works really well.

Oh, well.  What are you gonna do?  Have a hamburger or a hot dog or some potato salad today with your family if you can.  Give a hug to someone you love and who loves you.  The chaos may be inescapable, but there are still benefits that can be squeezed out of it, if you can learn to surf it for a while.  You might even be able to have fun doing it.

Can a day be both fried and scrambled?

First of all, let me apologize for yesterday’s bogus title and picture.  I had very little mental energy, which no doubt was obvious, and I just felt that I was wasting what little effort I could bring to bear by choosing a quote from Shakespeare to adjust with some form of the word “blog”, and then to find and modify a picture of some kind so that it matched (at least roughly) the subject or the title of the post.  If anyone was looking forward to seeing what “clever” thing I’d done this week, I’m legitimately sorry to have disappointed you.

I think all my posts this week have been dreary, even for me.  I’m gradually approaching the point of just giving up completely.  People usually say that they give up well before they really have.  I know that’s the case for me.  I’ve felt like I want to give up for some time now.  I have also asked, even practically begged, for help—though I’m not sure what form such help might take—on numerous occasions through this blog (and elsewhere), hoping that someone out there might have some ideas, or some resource suggestions, or even some words that I hadn’t read or heard or thought of already, but I’ve found nothing that’s really useful.

I’ve even gotten suggestions to read one of the psalms.  I’ve read all the psalms before, but I went and read it again.  Though they’re nice poetry, it didn’t inspire me in any way.  Sorry, person who suggested it, but I’ve read through the entire Bible at various times, and—though I appreciate your intentions, I really do—it’s not a source of consolation for someone like me.

I’ve thought over and over again about calling the “crisis hotline”, especially now that they added the 988 number to it, but then you read all about those warnings that, yes, they do track your location when you call.  I myself have previously, through a call to the hotline, had a run-in with the effing Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Department in which I got nerve damage in my left hand because I was handcuffed—because, of course, a suicidal person is dangerous to two armed PBSO deputies.  Then I got brought to a facility so bleak that I would almost have preferred the mass holding cells in Gun Club Road jail.

I suppose that story does highlight something that’s been in the news:  the fact that police are not trained or equipped to help people going through psychological crises; to be fair to them, it really isn’t part of their job description.  And if you can’t trust that you won’t be kidnapped by “the man” against your will, how are you supposed to be able to trust the crisis hotline?

Not that I don’t think the people who work on it are sincere—I’m quite sure they are and that they really want to do good.  But as I’ve said many times, good intentions are not enough.  Good intentions are just the beginning, and they are only barely that.  It’s not enough to mean to do good.  If you want actually to do good, you’re going to have to figure out how to make that happen, and adjust your approaches and improve them over time as you learn.

I wonder if one of the VPNs your keep hearing about might be useful enough that I could at least use the crisis line “chat” function without being tracked and hunted down by police officers (who are also, I’m quite confident, desirous of doing good, but are not equipped or trained to do so in a psychological or psychiatric emergency situation).  Would just “going incognito” on Google Chrome be enough?  Does anyone out there know?

***

Sorry about the interruption just now, though I know you didn’t actually experience it.  I suddenly started getting some esophageal spasm, and I had to rush to get a drink from the fountain at the train station to help relax my esophagus.  It’s quite painful, and it’s disconcerting, and the first time you have it, you feel like you must be having a heart attack or maybe an aortic dissection, but it responds to warm water (at least in my case) which is basically like stretching and warming a charley horse, and heart attacks don’t do that, and neither do aortic dissections.

So, where was I?

Oh, right, I was wondering about ways possibly to get in contact with the crisis hotline without being in danger of getting abducted and taken to an involuntary mental health facility—getting “Baker Acted”, in other words.  If anyone out there knows if just “going incognito” is enough, please let me know in the comments below, NOT on Facebook or Twitter.

I think I’m quite a bit past those first, heady days of thinking that I want to give up, and am really near the point of actually doing it, of actually not caring at all about trying to continue.  I guess I do care about not wanting to be incarcerated, even if it’s in a mental health facility.  The public ones I’ve seen around these parts are just dreary and, well, depressing.

It would be nice to have someone to talk to about these kinds of things, someone I felt comfortable with, someone for whom I don’t have to try to put on a happy (or in my case, probably just a blank) face.  Apparently my face is not very expressive at the best of times.  Certainly nobody seems to pick up on the fact that I’m horribly depressed a lot of the time, most every day.  I think I’ve been trained too much—partly by myself—to pretend.  They call it masking.  Also, it turns out, I’m just not able to express my emotions well, and often not able even to realize what they are from moment to moment.

It’s interesting that people will sometimes send you things like “hugs” on Facebook or through text messages and things, like the hug emojis, you know what I mean?  Now, being apparently an Aspie, as I guess they say, I’m not great with even real hugs from most people, but e-hugs feel peculiar (albeit in quite a different way).  I guess they’re a way of showing that the person cares and “wishes” they could hug you for real.  That’s legitimately nice, and I wouldn’t want to discourage it.

But, like I said, I feel reticent about even real hugs, though from certain people, at certain times, hugs have been great.  Apparently, I’m a bit like a cat in that.  I really don’t even like it when people I don’t know well come up and, while talking to me, put a hand on my shoulder or something.  Though, in the right circumstances, a shoulder and neck massage can be great, preferably when it’s something I’ve sought out.

I don’t even like going to the barber shop, because having strangers touch me even to that degree is just uncomfortable, and that’s gotten worse over time.  You can imagine how much fun it is to be handcuffed and chained and all that.  I’ve had more than enough of that crap for the rest of my life, I can promise you; I would be tempted just to force police officers to shoot me rather than let myself be handcuffed again if the situation arose.

I may just be out of luck here.  There may not be resources to help someone in south Florida who is an “ex-con”, a disgraced doctor, divorced, alone, with chronic pain and, apparently, autism spectrum disorder, as well as dysthymia/depression, who is a long way away from most of his family (certainly those who would want to have anything to do with him), and who doesn’t want to cause any of them trouble, anyway.  It’s frustrating, sometimes, to know that there are resources for people with drug and alcohol problems, there’s public and private support, and people are even celebrated (justly so) for their struggles to defeat them, but if your problems are not with substances but with a fucked up nervous system, then it’s hard to find resources, and humiliating to seek them out.  The world just kind of blames you for the problem.  You’re weak.  You’re defective.  You’re inadequate.  You’re just faulty.

To be fair, though, I don’t like myself enough to be proactive about my mental or physical health much anymore.  I’ve used many different antidepressants and related meds and therapy of various kinds; I’ve tried to see if there’s any religion or philosophy or technique that gives me comfort*.  I just keep coming back to as bad or worse states.

It’s been said by some (usually quite successful) people that being happy is a choice, but that strikes me just as a way for people who happen to be happy to pat themselves on the back while they blame the unhappiness of the unhappy on the unhappy themselves.  They can feel that they deserve their own happiness, and wash their hands of the problem.  “If you’re unhappy, it’s your choice.  Choose not to be.  Get over it.”

What utter bullshit.  You didn’t build your brain or your body or your background, and you can’t “freely” choose what its set-points are.  The workings of the brain and mind are not understood well enough for us to know what “buttons” to push or “dials” to adjust to achieve, reliably, a desired state.  Believe me, no depressed person, if suddenly fully cured of depression and all its causes and sequelae, would choose to feel horrible and wishing to die again.  If they “choose” to be depressed, that’s part of what depression is.

Anyway, I’m not getting anywhere with this…probably because I’m not going anywhere with this.  It’s also getting too long.  But I am despondent, and washed-out, and just getting apathetic about it all, mostly.  I really think I’m near the stage of just letting go.  I want to stop trying to “cry for help”.  It doesn’t do any good, and I don’t see any signs that anyone out there knows any answers that are better than the ones I already know, which I know don’t work.

No one has mastered the merger of quantum mechanics and general relativity; if they had, it would probably soon become self-evident.  And no one has mastered the art of repairing the dysfunctional mind.  It would be too obvious if they had.

If I’m wrong, please tell me.  I could use the knowledge.


*Nope.  Nothing I’ve encountered so far has done the trick, and I am a widely and eclectically read and educated individual.  Most of what I’ve found is puerile.  Let’s be honest, if there was some method or insight or spiritual factor that reliably worked to make life better for people who tried it, it would rapidly become glaringly obvious, and would stand out among all the various treatments and philosophies and religions and pills and machines and other substances.  It would be clear that the people who applied it were better-adjusted and healthier than most others, and they would probably happily share the insights.  True insights, like addition and subtraction, are usually logically demonstrable.  If someone has to sell you something, to give you a pitch and try to convince you with rhetoric rather than with reason and evidence that it’s good—if they sell it with pictures of models and shots of beautiful homes and flowers and all that—it is unlikely to be all that it’s cracked up to be.  You don’t have to “sell” people on antibiotics if they have a bacterial infection; if anything, you’ve got to prevent them from overusing them.

Paper bags get wet on rainy Mondays

Well, this wouldn’t be a good day for Karen Carpenter—at least if the lyrics of one of her songs accurately described her feelings—because it’s a Monday, and it’s raining.  Since both of those things, according to the song, always got her down, then the combination of the two seems likely to have done so doubly.

Unless, that is, the combination follows the rules of multiplication rather than addition.  Adding two negatives produces a more negative outcome, but multiplying them together turns the product positive.  Maybe then the combination of a rainy day that’s also a Monday would have boosted her spirits.  I think she could have used a boost.

As for me, well, rainy days don’t tend to get me down particularly.  They don’t necessarily cheer me up, either, though sometimes I enjoy them.  Right now, the rain is here either as a consequence of or as part of the cause of a slight drop in temperature, which is nice, because it’s been quite hot and muggy with little to no respite for quite some time.

You’d almost think I lived in south Florida.

And as for Mondays, well, even when growing up I never had a big dislike of Mondays, and that’s not my only divergence from Bob Geldoff.  I certainly didn’t dread school; I was always a pretty good student, and school was where I had my friends.

Also, I have usually preferred to have a purpose of some kind, so whether it was school or work, I never particularly disliked getting up and going in to either one.  I like having a schedule, with things to do and a place to be at a particular time.  If anything, weekends sometimes make me feel a bit lost, at least when I don’t have any family structure or any reason to do anything in particular.  I just loaf around feeling rudderless.

Of course, this weekend, I definitely welcomed the rest.  As I think I mentioned, all last week I was fighting a virus, and didn’t get a chance to take a day off, so I needed the break.  As it turns out, I had to go briefly into the office on Saturday morning, because the other person with whom I alternate Saturdays had lost his keys, and our boss was already well on his way to Key West*, so he was much farther away that I was.  It happens; I wasn’t too upset about it, but I really didn’t feel very well.

Honestly, I’m still not really feeling very well, physically, though I certainly feel better than I did on Saturday, when I was tired and grumpy and a bit out of breath.  Now I’m just a bit out of breath, and a bit tired; but I don’t feel particularly grumpy.

Give it time, it’s early in the day.

I even brought my book of all Radiohead song chords to the house over the weekend, just in case I got the urge, during that time in which I was supposed to be undisturbed, to play guitar.  I did not, of course—I could have told myself I wouldn’t—but then again, I wasn’t actually undisturbed, but rather got no fewer than four surprise impositions on my time and space.  But I don’t want to dwell too much on those, or I will get grumpy.

I’m really just physically, mentally, and emotionally fatigued, I think, and it’s not something I enjoy.  I certainly don’t get any kind of secondary gain from it, unless it’s the secondary “gain” of fulfillment of my self-hatred, since I can’t really socialize very well anymore, I don’t have the sort of personality that makes people want to spend time with me—I also don’t enjoy doing things such as most people seem to enjoy—and I frankly don’t even want to take the chance of trying to get involved with other people, since I have an almost 100% track record of alienating those closest to me, the people I love, and on whom I rely, the most.

Maybe Tennyson was an idiot, or at least simple-minded, when he said that it’s better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all.  Or maybe he was thinking more along the lines of someone like Voldemort, who was incapable of love and lived a life of misery, making other people suffer, before dooming himself to an eternity of pain.  That really doesn’t sound so good.

Shakespeare was a bit more on the money with Hamlet’s inclusion of the “pangs of despis’d love” as one of the things a person wouldn’t willingly bear if they could avoid it.  And then there’s Fiona Apple, who in her song, Paper Bag notes that “Hunger hurts, but starving works when it costs too much to love.”

Not that poetry (or song) automatically has any access to truth, even if it’s beautiful.  Just because someone can put words together nicely, in ways that catch people’s attention and appeal to their cognitive biases doesn’t mean that those words actually bear any deep wisdom.  As witness:  “If the glove does not fit, you must acquit.”

That’s the problem with rhetoric, as opposed to dispassionate argument.  Often it “persuades” people because of the clever manipulation of the foibles of the human psyche, forged as it was in the savannahs of sub-Saharan Africa over the course of a million to a hundred thousand years, depending on when you start your cutoff.  People can embrace non-sequiturs and internal contradictions without giving them much notice, if they trigger the right emotion or have a catchy beat or sound or structure.

This is why, unlike Mulder from The X-files, I don’t want to believe.  I want to be convinced by evidence and argument…preferably the dispassionate kind.  Passion is nice to feel, but when considering someone’s attempt to persuade you, it should be a warning sign, in them or in you or in both.  Being passionate doesn’t guarantee that you’re not right, but even if you are, it may mean you’re right for bad reasons, and it doesn’t help your chances of getting things right.  Passion is a decent servant but an unreliable master.

no belief

Maybe I worry about such things too much.  Though even the words “too much” carry assumptions that, for the most part, people don’t notice or try to pick apart.  Too much for what purpose, by what standards, according to whom, for what reason?  If this much is too much, how does one determine how much would be just right?  How much would be too little?  What would be the good and bad consequences of any of these states, and would they be different depending on external conditions?

Probably I’m overthinking it.  But what do you want from me on a rainy Monday?


*How ironic.  Well, not, not really ironic.  But it is an amusing coincidence of words.

Excuse me, Miss Anthrope? The doctor will see you now.

It’s Wednesday now—hello, Wednesday, you’re my second favorite member of the Addams family—and at least I think I’ve figured out why Monday night/Tuesday morning was particularly bad for sleep for me:  I’ve been coming down with the respiratory virus that’s now going around the office.

It’s not COVID—we’ve been tested and all that—it’s just an annoying cold-type virus, but one that nevertheless made two other people in the office who had it stay home.  Unfortunately, I could not stay home (or leave early) yesterday or today, despite feeling crappy, because one of the people who was out yesterday is the only other person who shares a crucial function in the office with me.  And today I am even less able to stay home from the office, because in addition to the other work—and the fact that, for all I know, my coworker will be out again today—I have to process the payroll today.

Of course, I wear my mask on the train anyway, just as a general precaution, so I’m doing that today, even though by court order the CDC (or TSA, maybe) had to revoke its mandate about wearing masks on public transport.  Because, you know, masks are a cruel and unusual imposition on the delicate faces of the great American pubic…I mean public.

I can’t believe what a bunch of panty-waisted whiners so many people are about wearing effing masks, if only just to at least decrease a little bit the odds of them spreading stuff to other people in the world (and with the added bonus of sparing their neighbors from having to look at their unimpeded faces).  And a lot of these wimps are gun-toting Republicans, people who imagine themselves to be rugged, independent, frontier types.  But they’re afraid of needles and afraid of masks, and afraid they can’t defend their homes and their Wal-marts and their ways of life without dozens of firearms each*.

I hope—I wish—that the next time any person who complained about mask wearing needs serious medical interventions, such as surgery, the whole surgical and medical team decides that masks are an unreasonable imposition from the Nanny State, and that avoiding increasing the risk to these patients’ lives is not worth their minor inconvenience and discomfort…and then proceed to cough and sneeze into the open abdominal cavity or chest or whatever part of the body that is getting treated.

And hand washing—that’s got to be an unconstitutional imposition as well, isn’t it?  George Washington fought the Nazis at Gettysburg not just to throw off the yolk of the Roman Empire, but also to give all Americans the freedom not to have to wash their hands at the behest of dictatorial scientists who use their imprimatur of authority to seize and maintain their control of the top corporate and government positions all throughout America and the rest of the world.  Just look how many top scientists are running nations and major corporations, making billions upon trillions of dollars each, every year…money that’s taken from hard working Americans on farm subsidies and disability, money that’s taken from their houses in the middle of the night at gunpoint, while they sleep, by Islamic terrorists who are part of the International, global Zionist conspiracy.

Okay, sorry, enough of that pretend rant.  I just have no respect for wimps who can’t stand to take a little personal responsibility for tiny bits of inconvenience to help protect themselves and their fellow citizens.  They’ll make all sorts of excuses—not very clever ones, usually—but ultimately their protests and complaints come down to tantrums about not getting everything their way.  Most of the pundits in the media have all the character of spoiled toddlers who don’t want to brush their teeth and go to bed.

When I think about ways to kill myself, which happens rather often, I frequently rule out a lot of them right away just because they would inconvenience too many other people**, and I wouldn’t want to do that.  But maybe I shouldn’t bother to take that into consideration.  Humans in general don’t seem to worry too much about other humans being inconvenienced; why should I worry about inconveniencing them?  Let them (hypothetically) deal with my messy corpse in the middle of their workday.

On the other hand, maybe the rude and irritating people, the people who are whiny and inconsiderate—not wanting to be inconvenienced themselves, but entirely willing to cause trouble for others—are simply noisier, more noticeable than all the other, finer people out there.  After all, one doesn’t tend to notice the countless members of the public who go through their days quietly, politely, doing their part and yielding the right-of-way as it were.  That’s precisely because they try not to cause unnecessary inconvenience to other people, but it makes them lower profile.

And the small fraction of people who are disgusting, whiny brats get noticed precisely because they are disgusting, whiny brats.  And they make the rest of the human race look bad, and also they do far more than their share of damage to the world and to others.

If only we could find a way to isolate these people and prevent them from breeding.  Oh, well.  We’ll send at least some of them off to hold political office in the meantime, which at least gets them away from trying to do anything productive, where they’ll only make things worse.

Huh, that’s weird.  I seem to have talked myself around to at least considering that the majority of the human race might be less reprehensible than I sometimes feel they are.  I really must be sick.  Anyway, try not to be too put off if I occasionally indulge my instinct for misanthrope; believe me, the one person in the world I hate most of all is myself.


*I am not a dogmatic anti-gun person.  I’ve owned a few guns when I could, and I enjoyed target shooting; I shot competitively, in fact, and successfully.  But there’s a difference between shooting recreationally or owning a weapon for potential personal protection (and training appropriately for that purpose, since otherwise it’s more likely to do harm than good) and fetishizing guns, the bigger the better.

**To be honest, though, it’s also often at least partly because I can’t see myself quite being able to work up the nerve to do them, at least not without getting supremely drunk or similarly impaired.  For instance, I wouldn’t want to throw myself in front of a train partly because it would inconvenience a great many commuters…but it’s also just too intimidating a prospect, viscerally, when I consider it.  Setting myself on fire with gasoline would probably be easier.

“I’d give you everything I’ve got for a little peace of mind.”

It’s Tuesday morning, in case you somehow didn’t know—or, I guess, in case you’re reading this at some time in the future, six sevenths of which will not be on a Tuesday.  Actually, in the long future, presumably, the concept of Tuesday will cease to be relevant; indeed, it will cease to exist, and certainly once the Earth has been incinerated by the sun when it goes red giant, such things won’t matter.  But then again, presumably no one will be reading this blog at that point.  It’s hard to consider seriously the possibility that my blog might outlive the very Earth itself.  It’s not impossible in the sense of being against the laws of physics, but it seems vanishingly unlikely.

Of course, if the Many Worlds (or as I like to say, the Everettian) interpretation of quantum mechanics is correct, then in some branches of the future my blog will probably still be read even beyond the days after the Earth in incinerated.  Perhaps this will be because, in that branch (or, rather, that particular subset of the branches of the Everettian Multiverse) I am considered the savior of the human race, or the prophet of some new religion or something.

Now that’s a dystopian future!

As for the here and now, in case it’s not evident, I had a worse sleep last night even than I normally do.  I feel vaguely as if I’m living in more than one of the many worlds of quantum mechanics at once as it is; certainly everything seems quite surreal and slightly distorted.  I’m reminded of the line from Fight Club (the movie) in which the narrator says that, with insomnia, everything is a copy of a copy of a copy of itself.  It’s not quite exactly the way I feel, but it captures some of the spirit of it.  Anyway, I’m very foggy and ever-so-slightly delirious—more so than usual, I mean.  So please excuse me if I seem even more absurd than usual.

If I seem less absurd than usual, then, well, I don’t know what that might indicate.  I doubt that it would imply in any way that insomnia is good for me.  More likely it would just highlight the chaotic nature of its effects on my nervous system and the rest of my body, giving superficial outcomes that might, on initial inspection, seem to be an improvement.

Believe me, though, they are not.

It would be one thing if I were going to eventually get the ability to see all the colors and auras and everything in the world, like in the Stephen King book Insomnia, including getting the ability to suck excess, unused energy from people and get healthier and “younger”.  But, of course, I suppose then I’d probably be caught up in events that threatened the fate of all realities or something, and that would just be annoying.

Not that the real world is mundane or anything, except perhaps in the literal definition of the word*.  The laws of physics, mathematics, the facts of chemistry and biology, astronomy, cosmology…these things are all quite amazing.  It’s too bad so much of human history, and the human race in general, doesn’t quite live up to the universe.

Okay, well, I guess that’s a bit unfair.  Humanity is whatever it is in the universe, and it could not be otherwise than it is, by the laws of physics.  Everettian Many Worlds might seem to make things a bit questionable here, but General Relativity (which has a much more confirmed status) certainly seems to show that the past, the present, and the future** all already exist, or still exist, or “always” exist, whatever that even means when you’re talking about the totality of space and time itself.

And, yes, this implies that free will, in the purest sense, does not exist.  But then again, how could it?  It’s not even coherent from a philosophical or psychological point of view, let alone from that of physics.  If you think you have free will that somehow rises above the laws of physics, then try drinking three martinis within the course of an hour on an empty stomach and choose not to be drunk.  Your brain is a physical organ, and your personality, your alertness, your willpower, your self-control are all dependent on the state of that brain—indeed, they are part of the state of that brain.

For that matter, try having long-term insomnia and a neurodevelopmental disorder and chronic mood disorder and and see if it doesn’t affect your outlook and your ability to tolerate and deal with the slings and arrows of day to day life.  Try not to be grumpy and impatient and diffident and anxious and stressed-out.  Maybe the insomnia will be part of the cause of a chronic mood disorder for you; or maybe the chronic mood disorder causes it.  Or, more likely, the things feed back on each other in the ridiculously complex system that is the brain, like a hurricane that becomes self-sustaining in the right conditions.  Anyway, it’ll make you think and feel stupid things that will make you hate yourself even more than you already do, believe me.

At least, that’s the way it’ll work if you’re identical to me.  Which you’re not, of course.  Unless you are me, from the future, looking back and rereading this former blog post at some later time.  But then, of course, you still won’t be identical to the me that’s writing this, will you?  You’ll be a future version of me, later in my timeline, in the one future that exists, if there is only one, or in some subset of the many worlds of quantum mechanics, if that is the correct description of quantum mechanics.  But whatever that future is or is not, whether there are many versions of it or just one, it will be whatever it will be, and the nature of it is and will be whatever it is and will be, and I do not have any choice in that matter.

Neither do you.


*From the Latin mundus for “the world”.

**Which, by the way, are not universal concepts but are applicable only with reference to any given world line, and any point, arbitrarily chosen, in spacetime.  What’s past to some might be future to others, yet they all might be thought to be simultaneous to yet a third observer.

What does the moon think it’s smiling at?

It’s Monday morning again.  This keeps on happening, no matter what we try to do about it.  Somehow, we’ve got to get together as a civilization to end this disastrous, senseless litany of workweek beginnings.

Human civilization is about as likely to be able to do that as it is any more important or “realistic” goals it might want to achieve.

That reminds me—I followed the YouTube channel of that guy who did the video on the strong force (see this post), because I thought he seemed like someone worth checking out.  I was right.  He has another video, not as popular, but which I think is even more thought-provoking.

It’s about seeing our governments as a kind of AI (Artificial Intelligence) which have, as a part of their nature, the same issues we have with AI alignment in general:  that unless we are very careful with what terminal goals we give our AIs, they are likely to find the easiest workarounds—cheats, if you will—to satisfy the letter of their terminal values, because they certainly are not capable of grasping the “spirit” of them unless we are smart enough to give them that nature.  The same is true of governments.  The video maker brings this up as a way of possibly explaining the so-called Fermi Paradox*.  His conjecture is that perhaps all governments in the long run tend to evolve into dystopias, and dystopias are not going to colonize the galaxy, and all alien civilizations that might have done so are stuck in dystopias.

I’ll embed the video here for your delectation.  It’s not as polished and fancy as the one about the strong force, and it has no animations, but I think it’s an original, interesting, and troubling idea.  I’d be curious to know what you all think.

Let’s get back to Monday, though, and what we can do about it.  One possible solution to Mondays would be to develop our technology to the point where we don’t need to work at all, where all our actual goods are produced by robots and AIs and the like, so there’s no longer any need to get up and go to “the office” on Mondays.

I don’t think that’s going to work, so to speak.  There’s the alignment problem mentioned above, of course, but there’s also simply the fact that we don’t work merely for sustenance.  If that were the case, many people in the western world, at least, would only have to work 10 to 15 hours a week, maybe, if that.  Unfortunately, humans are competitive—for individual resources, yes, but also for status, prestige, sex, power, all sorts of other things that will always be, in effect, scarce resources, because success in such things is always relative to other people.  We work longer hours now than people did in the 1950’s, despite all the technological advances we’ve made since then.

Maybe we’re already in a dystopia.  Maybe dystopia is the natural state of human civilization, just as it’s (arguably) the state of all those monstrous, gigantic trees, growing ever taller and taller only because they have to compete against other trees for sunlight.  Humans are, after all, really just souped-up chimpanzees with delusions of grandeur.

Maybe the proverbial “quiet desperation” of daily life is the natural state of humans, because, even when basic and not-so-basic needs are met—food, shelter, water, sanitation, protection from most natural disasters, all that stuff—people always want to do more, to compete for higher social status, bigger houses, sexier mates, more “important” jobs, flashier bling, fancier cars, “better” smartphones.  And, of course, like everything else in the universe, people can only respond to local forces, local incentives, so fixing things that are out of whack but in an equilibrium state (of sorts, anyway) is hard even to get started.

Ah, well.  Life is complicated.  We didn’t make the world, nor did we make civilization; it made itself, as I think I’ve mentioned before.  It’s a spontaneously self-organized system.  We’re ants in ant-holes.  And remember, the queen ant, or queen bee, or queen termite, is no more in charge of the ant hill (or beehive or termite mound) than the Queen of England is actually in charge of running the day-to-day business of Great Britain or the British Commonwealth.

Even Putin isn’t really in charge of the moment to moment happenings in Russia.  He has great influence, of course, but it is tenuous, and it is ephemeral.  When he is gone, Russia will still exist, as it existed after Stalin, after the Tsars, after Genghis Khan, and so on.  Essentially no one who was alive during the reign of Queen Victoria is alive today (no human, anyway—there might be a tortoise or two), and that includes Queen Victoria.  And by the year 2150, unless very surprising things happen with respect to trans-humanism, no one will be alive who was alive during the reign of Queen Elizabeth II.  Though she herself is surprisingly durable.

I don’t know what point I’m trying to make.  Maybe I’m trying to make the point that there is no inherent or meta-level point at all, and I’m doing that by not trying to make a coherent point.  That sounds cleverer than I’m likely to be, but maybe my subconscious is smarter and cleverer than I am consciously—well, it almost certainly is those things—and it arranged this on purpose.  I doubt it, but I don’t completely rule it out.

In the meantime, though, remember that Monday is the day of the moon—the moon that was smiling madly but cheerily down at me this morning when I looked up.  It should have looked much the same for anyone else seeing it at that time.  And the moon is pretty cool.  Remember Sting’s description of the moon, by way of Shakespeare, when confronted by a drunk who asked him to describe it:  “My Mistress’s are nothing like the sun.”


*Basically, that our galaxy is at least twice as old as our solar system, and there have been potentially billions of years for other planetary systems somewhere in it to develop first life, then multicellular life, then intelligence, then civilizations, then high technology, and then presumably space-faring civilizations.  Even at a slow rate, any one civilization—and there could have been countless such civilizations, potentially—could have colonized the galaxy by now, or least have produced technology some of the signatures of which we should have been able to detect.  Yet we have found nothing.  So, where is everybody?

What else should I be?

Thank Cat it’s Friday, or words to that effect.

To be honest, I work tomorrow, so it’s not as though it’s really the end of my work week, but I’ll still try to enter somewhat into the spirit of things.  I might as well do that from time to time, right?

I hope not too many people were put off too much by my blog post yesterday.  I was not feeling well at all—physically, yes, but mainly mentally—and I didn’t feel like pretending that I was.  I’ve decided that I’m not going to try to court popularity, or whatever, with this blog, at least no more than is purely instinctual, but will just try to convey the honest thoughts and feelings that spring into my mind.  Unfortunately—perhaps—for those of you who read this, my mind works somewhat a-neuro-typically, and always has, and I also have my irritating chronic pain and a longstanding mood disorder, so sometimes my thoughts and feelings will be unpleasant.

Actually, it’s entirely possible that, at some point, you may witness a full-scale and complete mental breakdown on this blog.  Heck, you may already have witnessed part of it.  In the spirit of Descartes, I can’t be sure that I haven’t already had a full-scale and complete mental breakdown before I’ve even started writing this.

There certainly seem to be weird numbers of people and vehicles about this morning, doing things they don’t normally do, but no one is doing anything that isn’t allowed by the laws of physics (as I understand them), there just is an unusual number of them.  For instance, there are at least three people sleeping or near-sleeping on benches in the train station, and one person lying in the crosswalk bridge, but they don’t seem to be homeless people.  At least two of them are actively using cell phones.  It makes me wonder if there was an Amtrak train that was cancelled late last night or something, and all these people are waiting for one to come in the morning.

Of course, that doesn’t explain the weird number of cars out and about and seeming activity in a place that’s usually only operative on Friday nights and into the weekend.  I haven’t lost track of the days, have I?  This is Friday, isn’t it?  I was wrong about the date of one of the posts I saved earlier this week, though I did fix it the next day, and the error didn’t show up in the post.  My computer says it’s Friday, but I could, in principle, be imagining my computer.  I don’t think so—none of this feels like a dream—but who knows?

I suppose that’s always the question, and it’s a notion that has been raised all the way from Plato, through Descartes, and up to and including The Matrix.  I doubt that I’ll add any particular insights to the exploration.  I just get stressed out when new things happen that interfere with my routines, but none of what I’ve described above has actually done so; it’s all just curious.  If I were still writing fiction, I might even imagine a supernatural story that might involve these curious things happening, explaining them in a way that at first seems just banal—like the actual reality of the events that I am encountering—but turns out to be the first hint of something “unnatural” and possibly terrifying.

Meanwhile, my own mental deterioration, which is real*, is much more banal, and unfortunately, it doesn’t feel frightening.  Not to me.  I suppose the breakdown of a person with paranoid schizophrenia is probably a truly terrifying thing, from within and even sometimes on the outside.  Mine is subjectively underscored by a diminishment of any feeling of engagement or connection, except sometimes in the form of revulsion and irritation.  The irony is that I probably am in much greater physical danger—from myself—than a schizophrenic might imagine himself or herself to be in, but I don’t feel like screaming or trying to escape.  And I know already that my cries for help are ineffectual.

I’m just skimming along in a passenger jet that’s running out of fuel (and which has no apparent other passengers, which is a good thing) over the contours of a wilderness, losing altitude slowly, unable to shift the controls no matter how I try, with a radio that apparently doesn’t work.  If anyone is hearing my calls, they must be getting a lot of it mired in static, because no one seems actually to grasp what I’m trying to say.

Eventually, some bit of the landscape is going to jut up enough that the plane is going to crash—though I suppose it’s physically possible for there to be a happy accident and the aircraft will skid to a halt on a long flat stretch of prairie or something.  It’s an awful lot to expect.  All I can do, or so it seems, is buckle up and see if I survive when the crash happens.

Honestly, I’m not entirely inclined to buckle up.  I’ve been on this plane for a long time, and it’s not got much to recommend it.  The scenery outside isn’t interesting, possibly because it’s dark out.  I can’t even seem to nudge the yoke downward to speed up the crash, though I have tried, and it seems like there might be just a bit of give in that direction.  But habit, biology, and all the people who always tell you not to give up, make me think I’m supposed to wait and see if, just maybe, something will change, or a voice will come on the radio giving me new, useful instructions about how to get out of this situation and even, just maybe, get back to the place I was before, or someplace like it.

I’m not optimistic, though, either by nature or by anyone’s description.  I figure that sooner or later, as I said, this vessel is going to crash.  I don’t know for sure what shape that crash will take in the outer world.  But if, one day, I suddenly just stop writing these blog posts, that’s probably what happened.  I don’t think it’ll be tomorrow, but I can’t be certain.  Yesterday was a very bad day.

The terrain I’m flying over is not perfectly level; there are hills and trees and even the ruins of old buildings, possibly not built by any human, scattered along it.  There may be mountains jutting up at any point in my path.  It’s hard to tell how high above the ground I am—I guess the altimeter is broken—but I’m not as high as I was a week ago, or a month ago, or a year ago.  I’m losing altitude, and there is going to be a point where the air stops and a hard surface begins.

All right, sorry, I’ve pushed that metaphor more than far enough.  It would be a shame to crash it into the ground, though perhaps I’ve done so already.

I expect I’ll write another blog post tomorrow, and if you’re interested, you can read it.  I’m trying to take my masks off as much as I can, and my true face is not pleasant to look at, so I can’t guarantee it’ll be fun or funny or whatever.

But it will be me.  How could it be anything else?  I’ve never wished to be anyone else, though I’ve often wished I could be a better version of me, to quote Fiona Apple.  I can’t even comprehend what it could possibly mean to want literally to be someone else.  If I were to become someone else, then that wouldn’t be me being someone else, it would just be someone else.  And there are already plenty of other people about who aren’t me.

Anyway, I guess that’s it for now, at least.  I sincerely hope you’re all doing as well as you possibly can, which I should have said yesterday.  Do your best to enjoy the absurdity and to surf on the chaos.  I’m sure it can actually be great fun if you have the skill.


*Though today I am in a better mood than I was yesterday, I do not feel at all that I am in a normal state of mind.  It’s just relatively better.  All things are measurable relative to their local environment.

How many rhetorical questions can one man ask?

Well, it’s Monday again, the start of another work week.  I think it’s a bit unfair that we’ve made the day that we named after the moon—arguably our most unique and interesting and certainly among the most important of nearby astronomical bodies—into a day that’s associated with the return to drudgery after a minor respite.

But that’s not what I mean to write about today.  I’ve been thinking recently about a list I saw of “Greatest Songs of All Time”.  I think it was one of those “WatchMojo” or “WhatCulture” lists, but that doesn’t matter much.  What matters to me is, what had this list declared to be the greatest song of all time?  Well, the answer, my friend, was Blowin’ in the Wind.

There’s nothing particularly wrong with the song.  It’s a simple folk tune, pleasant and catchy enough for what it is.  But the greatest?  Musically, it’s not terribly interesting.  It has only three chords, which change in not terribly imaginative or impressive ways, and the tune itself is also not especially beautiful or catchy.  It just repeats its structure 3 times in a row.  That’s all fine, don’t get me wrong, but…surely it can’t be because of the tune and the chords that they think it’s the greatest song of all time.

It must be the words.  After all, the person who wrote this song was recently given a Nobel Prize for his words (all of them, not just this song), so they must be the reason some people consider this the greatest song of all time.  Presumably the Nobel Committee doesn’t give those awards out just for any old lyric writing.  They haven’t given one to Paul McCartney or Bernie Taupin or (God forbid) Tim Rice.

So, Mr. Dylan—if that is your real name*—let’s examine the lyrics of this supposedly greatest not just of your songs, but of all songs.

With the first line, I already have problems:  “How many roads must a man walk down before you can call him a man?”

It’s internally contradictory.  If a man is walking down any road at all, as the lyric says, you’re already calling him a man.  If the starting point is “a man walking down a road” then he doesn’t need to be a man walking down a road at all before you call him a man.  For a man to walk down a road, he has to be already a man.

Then comes the line “How many seas must a white dove sail before she sleeps in the sand?”

This one just doesn’t make sense.  Do white doves sail?  Aren’t doves land birds?  Does any bird, other than a pirate’s parrot or similar, actually “sail” at all?  Do white doves tend to sleep in the sand?  I thought most dove species nested well above the ground.  Or is this “sleep” a reference to dying?  In which case, maybe a white dove will die if it tries to sail—since they aren’t sea birds—and so it will die at once, and the answer is “one or fewer”.

Next comes “How many times must the cannonballs fly before they’re forever banned?”

Well, I don’t think you need to ban cannonballs.  They’re a long-since obsolete form of military projectile.  What good would “banning” them “forever” do?  Cannonballs are easy enough to make, but again, they are obsolete.

Well, this one I’m willing to accept as a catch-all term referring to all military weapons, but surely banning will not be the way war is ended, since “banning” something requires an implicit threat of force in and of itself.  Surely only by advancing as a civilization to the point where war is no longer in any sense desirable by anyone is the way things will go, if it goes that way at all.

Next comes the title verse, “The answer, my friend, is blowin’ in the wind.  The answer is blowin’ in the wind.”

Now this is clearly just an evocative image (so to speak) showing that the answer is not something that can be grasped, calling to mind poetic queries such as “Who has seen the wind?”  But ever since I were a wee lad, I’ve heard this and thought, “So, maybe the answer is ‘a leaf’.”  Which doesn’t quite make sense, but a leaf is the sort of thing that can be found blowing in the wind.  Or we could go “meta” or whatever, and say, “The answer is, ‘dust’.  Dust in the Wind is the answer.”  And for my money, it’s a much deeper, more evocative, more haunting, and far more beautiful song.

But that’s a digression.

Now, the first lyric of the second verse is one I frequently forget, because it’s partly banal and partly misses any point.  The whole “How many years can a mountain exist before it’s washed to the sea?” is a bit of trivia, and it would differ for every mountain.  Also, I would think that not every mountain is, in the end, washed to the sea.  I don’t really think that’s how geology and plate tectonics work.

As for the third line of the verse, “How many times can a man turn his head and pretend he just doesn’t see?” it’s basically an empirical and uninteresting question***; I suppose one could run a test on a statistically significant number of men and have them turn their heads over and over again, pretending not to see, until they get fed up with the process, or fall asleep, or develop some form of repetitive stress injury, then publish the result with error bars and significance estimates, but why would anyone do such a thing?

The middle line sticks in my craw in a worse way, for moral philosophical reasons:  “How many years can some people exist before they’re allowed to be free?”

Well, if freedom is something that people are “allowed” then they aren’t free at all.  They are being given a privilege, not claiming a right.  Freedom is something that is demanded, that is seized, that is declared.  It is not given nor taken away—ethically, anyway—at the whim of other people.

It is certainly questionable, as a matter of physics, whether anything like “freedom” actually exists, but from a civilizational point of view, if you think you have a right to “freedom”, you don’t ask to be allowed to be free, you insist upon it, and—if it’s important enough to you—you put your life on the line to seize it.

Then comes the little chorus again.

Now for the last verse, which starts, “How many times must a man look up before he can see the sky?”

Well, honestly, we don’t have enough information to answer that question.  If the man is in a closed, windowless room, then it doesn’t matter how many times he looks up.  He’s not going to see the sky.  On the other hand, if he’s in the basket of a high-flying balloon, for instance, or in a plane, he may not need to look up at all to see the sky.  But if he is outdoors, and it’s not cloudy (unless clouds count as “the sky”) then he only has to look up once to see the sky.

The next line is “How many ears must one man have before he can hear people cry?”

The most straightforward answer is, “At least one.”  I would be willing to include in this definition of “ear” anything that transduces sound into decipherable neural impulses reaching the appropriate brain centers for interpretation, including those amazing new devices that have allowed previously deaf people to hear for the first time.  When those are turned on, and you see the recipients’ reactions, anyone with half a soul can’t help but cry.  That’s poetry in real life.

But it’s orthogonal to my point.

Next comes perhaps the silliest line, to me:  “How many deaths will it take till he knows that too many people have died?”

There are a lot of assumptions made in asking this question, such as the notion that death is inherently bad in and of itself.  If that’s so, then we’re all hosed, because as far as we know, every human born will die someday, somehow.  As far as we can tell, the universe itself will eventually reach some stage of “heat death” with the development of maximal entropy and no free energy, where there will no longer be any arrow of time.  But in any case, every human will die eventually, that much is effectively certain.

So, how many is too many?  I suppose if the last mating pair of humans alive in the world die, leaving the human race extinct, then “too many” people would have died…from the human point of view, anyway.  Maybe to other creatures on the planet this would entail “just the right number of deaths”.

This line is part of a general attitude toward which I have antipathy.  It is not death per se that is the evil.  It is premature death, and death that causes or entails unnecessary suffering.  Suffering is the real tragedy, not death.  Everyone who is born will die.  If not—far worse—they’re eventually going to find themselves floating in a featureless, timeless haze at just-above-absolute-zero, and they’re going to be alone there until the next Poincaré recurrence, estimated to be on the order of 10120 billion years, if such a thing even happens at all.

That doesn’t sound fun.  Why not just be content to die and then come back whenever the laws of physics accidentally recreate you, somewhere****, which is going to be more likely to happen sooner than the whole universe recurring, not that you’ll experience the intervening time.  That’s all assuming that the laws of physics don’t contain bigger surprises than anyone expects, which they probably do.

This should all be enough to show my irritation with the notion that Blowin’ In the Wind might be the best song ever.  It’s obviously memorable, of course, and it made me think—but only in the sense of thinking of the ways that it’s awkwardly worded or ham-handedly metaphorical.  All Along the Watchtower is a better song, in my opinion.  Even The Times They Are A-Changin’ is a little better.  Or The Man in the Long Black Coat!

Then again, I’ve written a lot of words picking apart this one, simple song, with a simple chord and verse structure, with many lines that could be considered what Dan Dennett calls “deepities”—words that sound profound, but which are fairly banal and even trivial or nonsensical when you look at them closely.

But I did stop and look at them and pick them apart and think about what they could mean if they were slightly better worded, and they made me think about possibly better questions to be asked.

Maybe it’s a pretty great song after all.  Who would’ve thought it?


*That’s a joke.  I know it’s not his real name.  His real name is Vladimir Ilyich Ulyanov**.

**That’s a joke within a joke.  It’s not actually Bob Dylan’s real name.  Anyway, as far as I’m concerned, Dylan is Dylan, just as Muhammed Ali—another famous poet—was Muhammed Ali.

***Though I know it’s really a rhetorical question referring to people’s ability to ignore injustice, and I don’t actually have any issues with it as such.  So I apologize for being picky about this line.

****Possibly as a so-called Boltzmann Brain, which frankly doesn’t sound appealing.

The moon, a train station, a species of monkeys, and more

It’s Monday again, a day named for the moon (at least that’s what I’ve always been told), and as I looked up this morning, the moon was a tenuously thin crescent—what Dr. Becky might call a “thumbnail moon”.  Even when so effaced, it’s a lovely sight, especially when clouds move across one’s view, partially obscuring the moon and making it take fantastical configurations*.

Other than that, I don’t know what to write about today, really.  Currently, my footnote is longer than the main text of this post, though that won’t last.  I don’t particularly like writing about current events because, for the most part, I see them as the behaviors of baboons going through meta-level (and not so meta-level) primate dominance displays and hierarchical jockeying, throwing metaphorical (and not so metaphorical) feces at each other, and it’s just so pathetic that people actually think their lives and deeds are in any way sensible or rational.

I just now saw (case in point) a young man climb clumsily over the fence between the northbound and southbound train tracks—thus, crossing the tracks very far from an official, safe crossing—having to stop and go back while doing so because he dropped something in the coarse gravel as he went over.  Meanwhile, the elevator and overpass bridge were less than twenty yards away.

Either he’s too stupid to know what an elevator is** or he thought he was being a rebel, declaring himself not subservient to “the man”, impressing at least himself with his daring, if that’s the proper word.  Meanwhile he put himself at some non-zero risk of being hit by a train, two of which were arriving shortly (though admittedly, in the early morning you can see their headlights from quite a long way off).  This would almost certainly have killed him, even if the trains were slowing down, and worse still***, it would have stopped all the trains for quite some time, until police had thoroughly investigated everything.

In case anyone wonders why I tend to be misanthropic, and indeed, nearly pan-antipathic, occurrences like the above are quite influential.  I suppose that, at least to some extent, this trouble is in the eye of the beholder, but it cannot entirely be that, because surely no one can deny that there is an astonishing amount of idiocy in the world.  Innovations, advances, improvements are made by a tiny percentage of the human race, while if it were up to most people, the species would still be living in caves (in the few places where they ever did such a thing) or chasing game across various savannahs and scrounging for fruits and nuts and such.  In other words, if it were up to most humans, most humans would never have been born because none of their ancestors would have survived to reproduce.

I sometimes think it would be a good thing for more people to be rewarded for being voluntarily sterilized, at least until they were in some reasonable position to be able to raise a family.  Of course, that’s really what ordinary contraception allows, but those needs to be used on a daily, or per-occasion, or per month basis, or similar, and people are very good at dropping those balls (no pun intended, honestly).  Nature selects for people who like to have sex without thinking about it too very much, because they tend to have children somewhat more frequently than those without that proclivity.

Of course, such a system would be subject to abuses and bigotry which would make it problematic to enact.  And most religions wouldn’t go along with it, including our currently Catholic Supreme Court.  Those religions that continued and spread under the influence of their own version of natural selection were the ones that encouraged their adherents to “go forth, be fruitful, and multiply”, or some equivalent thereof.  The Catholic Church allows its priests to be celibate****, but it definitely wants the hoi polloi to keep dropping progeny as fast as they can.

That is a reasonably successful evolutionary strategy for a religion, at least in the middle term—on the scale of a couple of millennia, for instance.  Other religions have had and still have similar imperatives.  But of course, even if there were no other issues with the various religions, if their populations continued to grow indefinitely, there would of necessity be war between them (because ecumenicalism only applies when there is plenty of room or resources to go around, and/or when people don’t really believe their religions), possibly until they’d all killed each other completely and everyone else as well.

Yes, it’s possible for a strategy that’s very evolutionarily stable in the short or middle term to lead to extinction in the long term, and to take everything else with it.  If you don’t believe this, just think about cancer.  Every cancer is the product of the natural selection of mutated cells that have become, through various alterations, more aggressively reproductive than ordinary bodily cells.  And the individual cells among billions to trillions (before long) in a tumor that are further mutated to become yet more aggressive in their reproducing and spreading come to dominate ever more and more, iterating and accelerating the pattern as things go along.

That is, until they spread so successfully that they kill the body in which they originate.  Then everything dies, even those most successfully reproducing cells.  Thus, cancer can be a useful metaphor for a society, for a species, for a planet, as well as of course for organizations and other groups of people.  It’s possible, and even common and easy, to mutate into an unsustainable form that seems and feels like success while its happening.

An intelligent species might recognize and learn from this and be highly mindful, watchful of their own actions, and frequently reevaluate and even (gasp!) question themselves and their fellows, not out of malice but out of care for the future.  An intelligent species would strive to be self-aware and adjust its course and be on the lookout for ideas and organizations and practices that might become malignancies.  An intelligent species might well do all this and more.

The human race…not so much.


*Or to seem to take them.  The moon, of course, no more changes physical states due to clouds than it does due to the fact that it’s currently a crescent rather than a full moon.  Actually, the latter circumstance changes it more, because when the sun is shining on it directly, that part of the moon’s surface gets very hot, whereas when it’s in shadow the moon is very cold.  So, there is certainly some change brought about to the surface of the moon by the changing phases.  But not by the clouds.

**Which seems unlikely for someone in the Miami area.

***Not because his life is inherently worth less, necessarily, but since he is the one who chose to risk it, he’s apparently okay with the risk, and he certainly bears responsibility for it, whereas all the other people his actions could affect are, in this circumstance, innocent.  And there are many more of them.  There may even be lives lost in the aggregate along with significantly increased suffering caused by people being late for work—lost jobs, shifts at hospitals started late, consequent overwork of the previous shift and diminished attention, stress leading to poorer judgement during the day of various people, dogs and cats living together…you know the rest.

****Nominally so, at least.  Of course, the Catholic Church also made Darth Ratzinger into its previous Pope not so very long ago, even though he’d been part of covering up some portion of the vast child sexual abuse scandal that inundated the organization like measles.  It and they are fine moral exemplars for the world, don’t you think?

Wednesday morning at five o’clock as the day begins…

It’s actually 5:03 am as I’m starting to write this, but it’s damn close to the time mentioned in the opening line of the Beatles song She’s Leaving Home, and that seemed too fine a coincidence not to note at least in the title of today’s post.

It’s not ironic, by the way, in case anyone out there thinks it is—though probably most of the readers here on WordPress know the difference between irony and coincidence.  But the public at large, unfortunately, at least in the USA, seem to think irony is simply any somewhat amusing or tragic coincidence.  Whereas (for instance) the only real irony in the Alanis Morissette song, Ironic, is that none of the examples she gives in the lyrics are really cases of irony*.  In that sense, the entire song, taken as a whole, is truly ironic…which is a rather delicious irony, if you ask me.  I sneak myself toward the suspicion that Ms. Morissette did that on purpose, and in fact, I would be delighted for her to confirm this fact.

If anyone reading knows her personally, could you ask her for me?  Thanks.

Today is July 13th, a date which has the slight fun of being a pair of prime numbers (7 and 13, in case anyone was unclear on that).  It has the added charm of being a combination of a supposedly lucky number (7) and a supposedly unlucky number (13), which combination is borderline ironic in a certain sense, but not really.  Of course, which numbers are deemed lucky, and which are deemed unlucky is deeply culturally dependent.  Apparently, for instance, the number four, in at least one of the ways it can be pronounced**, is considered unlucky in Japan, because it sounds like the word for “death”.

This is all good evidence that “lucky numbers” are not actual, natural, real things in the world, outside of human minds.  Cultures the world over figured out arrows and spears, and fire, and the fact that things fall when you drop them, and that pyramids are strong and stable structures.  The Mayans figured out the number 0 (zero) centuries before Europeans used it or came to the western hemisphere, but the people of India had figured it out, too, on the other side of the world.  When things are real and natural—at least when they’re also useful or pertinent—cultures across time and space will tend to arrive at the same conclusions about them.

Judge for yourself, based on this, whether the many and varied world religions have more in common with “the wheel” and “counting numbers” or if they are more like “lucky numbers” and local fashions of apparel.  Don’t worry about what I think; I’m not here to tell you what to decide.  I’m here to be judgmental if I disagree with you.

I’m kidding about that last sentence.

This will now be, if my figuring is correct, the eighth of my pseudo-daily blog posts since I decided to do this instead of writing fiction—which I cannot be arsed to do right now—or playing guitar—which I don’t enjoy much at the moment, and which is giving me some kind of repetitive stress inflammation in my right hand and wrist.  That soreness could be contributing to my lack of enjoyment, obviously, but I don’t think it’s the main thing.  I’ve just got rather severe (and worsening) anhedonia.

For example, I threw away a Dutch apple pie yesterday which I had accepted as an impromptu gift from someone who had it and didn’t want it, because when I began to eat a small piece, I realized I didn’t much like it.  This is very weird for me.  In my younger days, I was known to eat an entire mini-sized Dutch apple pie from the Publix bakery in a single sitting***.  It was one of my favorite things.

This is not the only one of my prior “comfort foods” or foods-of-indulgence that has lost its charm.  Almost all of them have.  You would think I would start to lose weight, since I’m not eating as much of the foods I like.  Maybe I am, but it’s too slow to notice.  Oh, well, whataya gonna do?

I don’t think I really have much more to talk about today.  It’s arguable, of course, that I haven’t had much to talk about on any of the previous days that I wrote blog posts, or when I wrote fiction for that matter, but that didn’t stop me from writing—which is fine in my view.  But today I just think I’m in the mood to peter out early, not just with writing but with everything else.  I wish I could take the day off work or something, but Wednesday is the day on which I do my most “crucial” work at the office.

Someday soon I’ve gotta just get them ready to take care of all this without me, because I really don’t know if I’m going to be around much longer.  Not because the job is bad—it’s not.  I like the people I work with well enough, and my boss is very nice, and positive, and my coworkers are for the most part good and well-meaning people****.  In fact, it’s safe and accurate to say that the only person at the office whom I really, deeply, do not like…is myself.

I need to get away from that asshole.


*If “Mr. Play-It-Safe” who was afraid to fly had refused to get on a plane but had instead taken a train, and then the train had derailed catastrophically, that would have been irony!

**“Shi” as opposed to “yon”.

***This wasn’t a good thing, per se—it’s certainly not a healthy habit, and was in its own way a desperate attempt to find some reliable source of positive feeling when I couldn’t seem to generate such things by other means.

****One of them came in late yesterday specifically because he wanted to be home to watch the revelation of the first scientific images from the James Webb Space Telescope, and I can’t argue with that decision or his priorities.  They were fine images indeed, though I’m more interested in the new science that can be learned through them.