Dec 11, 2017

Towards an End of Metaphysics

I've just finished reading Hannah Arendt's The Human Condition and Robert Pirsig's Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance. Between the two, I think I've read about as much Western approaches to metaphysics as I need to.

Ever since the New Yorker's piece on Martha Nussbaum, I've been taken with the idea that all modern philosophy, that is post Copernican/Galilean, is autobiographical.  Arendt and Pirsig's works, Pirsig's in particular, Arendt's in other ways, really drove home the point.

It's funny, there's a lot of things in both of these books that I've been wanting to write about but now that I'm here, I can't think of where to begin. There's far too many things to say about both. There's a sort of irony there, in the inability to write about Zen, in particular, as the inability to express oneself is a cornerstone of the Quality that Pirsig so desperately seeks.

Ah, I remember now.  Between these two books and one I read last year, David Deutsche's The Fabric of Reality, I have no more questions about the nature of either humanity, reality or ethics. That seems like a bold thing to claim, I suppose, but the reality is that Hannah's book does a incomparable job of contextualizing modern philosophic thought in relation to the sciences; David's book is a marvelous reach for a scientific basis on the physical composition of reality; and Robert's lurching take down on the subject-object divide in Western Aristotelian thought basically hits all the notes for me. I understand where the autobiographical bent of philosophy comes from via Arendt; Deutsche, in my opinion, completely obliterates and resolves once and for all the question of free will; and Pirsig situates the free will of a being into the rational framework first conceived by the ancient Greeks but that has dictated modern science since the Renaissance.

What are values, you ask? Pirsig says that it is Zen, it is Quality, it is the Tao, it is that moment when subject and observer interact.  In Deutsche's multi-branching universe, Quality is the moment in which you decide, consciously or not, of which universe you want to live in.

Finally Arendt confirms it: the future is entirely unpredictable. Further, she posits that humans have developed two tools that let us live in this wholly unpredictable world: the ability to make promises and the ability to forgive.

I get it. I've heard the message. I have no more questions. Instead, I feel a strong desire to live the most Quality, the most human life that I can.

I wonder if this realization is what underlies the resistance, the fear, that Pirsig met with in the graduate philosophy department at the University of Chicago. His professors realized that if he was correct, if he could in fact show them where and what they were wrong about, they would be out of a job. That no one would seek them out as wise men any longer, because they would have been shown not to be, in fact wise, rather just experts on Aristotelian logic.

Dec 5, 2017


Robert Pirsig, horoscope. I type it into Google because I need to know.

You can tell based on the search suggestions that pop up under the input box how many other people have looked this up. If you're the first there, then usually the first page of results will show you that some website has a page dedicated to your query.

In the case of Robert Pirsig, there is no first page result as to his horoscope.

I do discover, however, that Robert Pirsig is newly dead. He died this year, this past April.

Somehow this revelation feels similar to the discovery that I existed in the world, for only a few months sure, but existed all the same, as Richard Feynman.

We existed, all at the same time, for a time.

Do you think Feynman knew Pirsig?

The Internet reassures me that Virgos and Tauruses make good friends.

Nov 25, 2017

the why

I've been without Twitter for maybe three weeks now and the urge to do things on Twitter has largely disappeared.  My enthusiasm for my feed had been waning in he weeks leading up to unplugging; 21 days later it's largely dissipated.

What's coming into focus, however, is what I was using Twitter for.  I think the easy answer is unaccountable dreaming. I used it as a story telling platform, where the stories were things I had learned or wanted to do.

Without Twitter, I need a new place to write things down. I've been reluctant to commit to anything though, because I'm afraid of what that commitment means, the added overhead of having committed to doing that thing.

The emotion at the bottom is fear. I'm afraid of going deep on things. I'm afraid of missing out on other things by spending time on this other. I'm afraid that by investing time on X, I'll get behind in Y.
There's also uncertainty. I don't know what will happen if I invest in the things that I'm interested in. Some of it feels like 'hanging out' in semi-comfortable territory, going back over places I've already been out of curiosity.  Is this me shirking growth, or becoming comfortable enough so that I can reach for the next challenge or branch with confidence and solid first principles.

I used to avoid these sorts of impulses because of time.  I was worried I wouldn't have enough of it.

But, with the right amount of motivation, there is always plenty of time.

It's ok to take my time to write down the things I want to (re)explore, and then actually explore them.

Sep 11, 2017

sound reflecions: observations from SF MOMA's Soundtracks exhibit

karthik and i went to the SF MOMA today to check out the last few bits of the soundtracks exhibit. we saw this great video work that i can't stop thinking about. the musical content itself was quite cloying but the technical set up of it was quite marvelous -- both in execution and in display. it was a large, dark room with many screens set up. each screen showed a musician, each musician had on a pair of headphones and had been set up before a video camera in a different room of a large mansion. this mansion was in upstate new york.  the music was the repetitive chordy folksy type that seems to be the exclusive purview of brooklyn types' pastoral imaginings.  there's a total of 10 cameras, some of which watch the actual house's occupants who are hanging out on the porch while the rest of their abode is transformed into a stage set for rural music cum art ambitions. only two of the participants on the porch have headphones on, the rest seem to run the gamut from gently enthusiastic to relatively uninterested. they're playing at dusk, and as the sun sets they wander outside to let us all see the stars.

the best part of the exhibit was the spatial organization of the video feeds. within the exhibit, one could wander between the large project screens (10 all told) and gain a different vantage point of the musicians and the house. it felt like a real re-enactment of a virtual reality trope of floating video screens that you can observe by moving yourself physically through space.

in some ways, this physical movement is something that AR (augmented reality, usually delivered via a cellphone app) gets right.  the recent apps i've seen being made with the ARKit that Apple has launched -- photos suspended in space based on where they were taken, physical sound clouds that you can move your phone through -- all of these give a physicality to digital actions.  unlike VR, where you're trapped in 4 foot by 4 foot snow-globe of visual and sensory delights.  i get it, they're different techs.  VR lets you completely create a new reality, but gives you a constrained box to experience it in; AR lets you work with the surrounding reality, superimposing a new world order atop the new.  it's like a superset of reality, as opposed to an entirely different universe.

the mounted video portraits were VR like in their suspension of reality, but AR like in the physicality that moving about the display room permitted.  eventually the musicians all assembled for a self-conscious cracking of champagne (what were they celebrating, other than an aspiration of display was left unclear) and then a maudlin parade out to the porch then down into a field, gathering everyone together into a destinationless jaunt through the field at dusk.  the sunset on something at that old mansion now overtaken by artsy, aspirational 'types'.  figuring out on what seemed to be left as an exercise to the viewer, such as we were.

other favorite parts of the exhibit: a 14" sphere entirely wrapped in audio recording tape, of the likes you used to be able to find in cassettes.  there was a wheel that spun the ball and a single cassette head that read the tape as it rolled past.  the construction of the sphere and its entirety of covering was impressive.

spheres seemed to be a theme for the last few exhibitions; someone had made a set of three spheres, suspended by a set of audio cables, each one plugged into a tiny, half inch speakers that thickly studded the outside of the sphere.  each speaker played a clip from the oeuvre of the composer that the sphere 'represented'.  by leaning in close and moving your ear over the surface of the sphere you could listen in to varying works by Mozart, Wagner and ... the last I can't remember. Really a stunning piece.

On a whole, the entire exhibit was more than worth the time; I highly recommend checking it out.

Aug 13, 2017

typing speed

according to my journal entries on 750 words, I can type out three pages or 750 words (lol) in about 16 minutes.

If a book is 80,000 words, that's a little under 27 hours worth of typing.

27 hours worth of typing to get an entire first draft of a book.  That's pretty fast, isn't it.

That's less than a week of work.

Makes you think, you know. Like how much more do you think that you'd need to put into a book, other than 750 words worth of typing in 16 minute intervals for 27 hours straight.

I guess plot and structure are probably important.

I wonder what part of book writing time is spent just re-reading what you've already wrote. I feel like, if I were to write a book, the thing would grow to a certain point and then stop as I'd no longer be able to re-read the thing and still have time to be productive.

How many times do you think an author reads their novel before they release it out in the world?

Hard to say, monkey, hard to say.

Jul 20, 2017

blank canvas

this canvas is blank. does that mean it's time for me to start afresh?

that's one of the side effects of blank canvas -- it brings thoughts that you can start afresh. we both know that's not true. there is no fresh starts, not for you. not for me.

fresh starts belong only to those who don't even know that they're starting. the point at which you're like 'ah what a fresh new canvas'; ie when you know and recognize that this canvas is in fact blank and empty, you have lost the ability to start truly fresh.

we all have baggage; the canvas is but a new place to put it.

or not put it, as the case would have it. but it's there, whether you place it down or carry it with you or leave it behind.

i went to a talk with Jose Diaz once. i didn't used to understand why people went to see favorite writers and thinkers talk, but then my friend found out i had read about Oscar Wao and we went, we went to see Diaz.  Diaz said a lot of things that day; he talked about activism and color and writing. he talked about characters. it surprised me, the number of things that he said and that i found fundamentally both true and novel.  it's as if the words that writers write are a part of what they've got, to put on a canvas. and seeing them in real time was getting to get another, unedited, unpredicated part of that genius.  i like going to see authors talk now, especially ones that write true and novel things.

Jose Diaz said something about characters that day. he said "when i write a character, i think about what it is that that character will not talk about; what is the thing that that person doesn't say".

what is the thing that you won't say on that blank canvas.

there are things that you aren't saying. the question is which of them are you holding, what is the baggage that you hold so close that its shadow gets cast out alongside your own, such that the shape you throw has morphed and grown to include it.  and which is the baggage that you've put down, that which you have disowned, what you've walked away from.  what have you abandoned or forgotten about on the way to this canvas, to this place, to this moment. it may not be a thing that you subscribe to, but it's there, it's a piece. it's a part of the larger story, just the same.

Jul 5, 2017

dig deep

dig deep and roll
grind with it
diggi diggi roll

grind deep
roll with it
deeper deeper dig

til the homes come
grind with it
dig it dig it dig

dig deep and roll
grind with it

I talk a lot of shit
like i mean a lot of shit
only shit just shit

the shittiest part of talking shit
is how you make the non shit talkers
feel about all the not shit
they be talkin

Towards an End of Metaphysics

I've just finished reading Hannah Arendt's The Human Condition  and Robert Pirsig's Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance . ...