The best thing about this story is the end! Not because the story was bad but because the end is so weird.
I loved this story so much. More and more I see these fairy tales as intertwined with similar characters and symbolism.
I find it difficult to write about this story. I cannot seem to organizing my thoughts. My main thought is about tests and proofs again. But it is more about personal decision making than proofs.
How do I know what to do in the moment?
The “evil” brothers strategize and do not really think for themselves, they accept what the gnome tells them without question. The other brother (Hans) appears to act his conscious. Why do the evil brothers think the good brother is stupid? Maybe because simplicity appears stupid. Our society definitely seems to prioritize complexity over simplicity – over DO EASY!
I do think this is about nonduality and awareness, as everything is really. Sense-make in the moment – all evil – all karma comes from strategizing and acting thoughtlessly according to rules. The stupid brother is really engaged in a transvaluation of values – thank you Zarathustra.
Symbols and Observations
Three – The king has three daughters, and there are three huntsman
9, 7, 4 – the number of heads on each of the dragons. What do these numbers mean? In the first story we read there was a dragon with 9 heads.
Apples (trees) – this reminds me of the garden of Eden
Gold (Golden apples)
Magic – The flute
A Search ( the huntsman search for the missing daughters)
Necklaces – the First princess gives the stupid brother a neckless after he kills the dragon
Headlessness – the brother’s heads are chopped off
Gnomes (I think this is the first time we have met a gnome).
Music (I think this is the first time we have music – but we have a magic flute that calls the Gnomes to Hans)
Stupidity – this is the first story that talks about stupidity – Hans is considered stupid, although he turns out to be the smartest or most successful. To me, this is about acting without a strategy (or malice or manipulation).
Three are the fates – the past present and future. Music is the medium of time. We go under the earthin this story; as so above so below perhaps. Or perhaps there is something to discover – perhaps this is about orientation and dimensionality, up and down.
The hero – the stupid brother – is named Hans. And I picked this story because the last story we read ended with a story about Hans.
“Kling, klang, gloria. Who sits within this tower? A King’s daughter, she sits within, A sight of her I cannot win, The wall it will not break, The stone cannot be pierced. Little Hans, with your coat so gay, Follow me, follow me, fast as you may.”
Is the huntsman the little hans? Does he have a gay coat? At least Hans could probably help the princess out.
Our story today ends with the following strange line: “When the wedding took place, I was wearing a pair of glass shoes and stumbled over a stone. The stone said, Clink! and my slippers broke in two.”
So this to me leads to a story about glass slippers? Also how does stone speak? There is a book called if stones could speak – and it is about cemetaries.
In March 2020, I flew from Atlanta to New York. I returned in time for the COVID-19 lockdown. The following week I spent in isolation with a single book — Spinal Catastrophism by Thomas Moynihan — a speculative philosophical fiction that traces the history of the world through geology, embodiment, and trauma.
A friend just emailed me and said he had read this book and enjoyed it. I told him I would type my notes, and maybe something interesting would arise. In the spirit of sharing and dialogue, here is the first installment of my S.C.N.E.
The first page of my notebook contains some notes and what looks like sigils and wordplay with the word telomerase and lion. Sigils are statements turned into symbols that people use for self-induction practices. Telomerase is the ends of chromosomes, and people think they are related to aging. I am trying to understand why the word lion is there. I also wrote my name. I am grateful I did not write the name of crushes or little hearts — although that may come.
On the first page, I wrote words: and thoughts about these words, genealogy, and hypergenealogy. Presumably, this book is a work of hypergenealogy. It is beyond genealogy — a genealogy of structures without origin. In geology, we have Orogeny — perhaps this is the word to use. Maybe I will use it for my future work of theory fiction.
What is Genealogy?
The genealogy shows “causes masquerading as reason.” So the book begins. Logic shows the relation between things; genealogy shows the origin of things. If logic is Genesis, genealogy is Numbers.
The If, then, nature of my last sentence makes the sentence a condition — a logical statement. The genealogy of this sentence starts in the Tanach, the Hebrew bible, which contains the books of Genesis and Numbers. The genealogy of the Tanach includes different middle eastern mythologies, histories, and ideologies.
“Causes masquerading as reason” is a quotation from an article by Robert Brandom. One of my favorite essays is a book review by Ray Brassier of Brandom’s A Spirit of Trust — which I own but have not read. In this essay, Brassier talks about the phenomenology of suspicion — a concept from the french philosopher Paul Ricoeur.
In modern times we have philosophies that interpret symptoms rather than analyze facts. Our philosophies are Freud (psychology), Marx (socialism), and Nietzche (power). We interpret dreams, uncover systemic inequality, and engage in a transvaluation of values. These activities are subjective and interpersonal. Genealogy is an uncovering; it is detective work. How do we understand beyond observation and data collection?
Parade and Masquerades
Hypergenealogy — a neologism — is “tectonics parading as reason.” What is a masquerade versus a parade? In a masquerade, the social order is transformed or dissolved. We all wear different personas and act out of character during a masquerade ball.
When I think of a parade, I think of a military parade. It is the opposite of a masquerade. Both end in — ade, which denotes an action—tectonics and causes act.
A parade is about the reification of a mask. We solidify our new social order created in the mascarade when we have the parade. We have parades on Halloween and Christmas. In Rhinebeck, in the Hudson River Valley, there is a fantastic Sinterklaas parade. This feels part masquerade, part parade.
Recursion and Metabolism
Techtonics is structure. Sometimes there is no reason. There is just structure.
Water adheres to the side of the straw in capillary action not because of choice but because of structure. Structure is destiny
Is anything applied to itself recursive? Genealogy applied to itself is recursive. In computer science, we use our products and call this dogfooding. We eat our own food.
When is a practice recursive or metabolic? Are we powering the system or regulating the system? This is a Marxist question. It is also a regenerative economics question. I am a Levite, a custodian of the temple, the original trash collector. My job is to regulate the resources to be recursive or metabolic. Where does the waste go? Must there always be waste?
Hypergenealogy and Genealogical machines
When genealogy is generative, it always “generates more claims.” A claim to what? To authority? To truth. What is a claim? Claim is a legal word. Claims are about law. When paternity is uncovered, the child has a claim to the father.
Laws are generative. I can create a motor according to the laws of physics; I can make a computer program according to the laws of boolean logic. Genealogy is revealing; it creates through uncovering and establishes by identifying new vectors of connections.
Laws create one methodology, one heir. Genealogical machines generate multiple origins. There are more claims to authenticity. Who becomes the rightful heir?
How are ideas, objects, methods, and philosophies generated? They are not logical or discovering. In ancient magical practices, there was something called a magic square. I think of this because the side of my notebook looks like I am making some sigil out of the words Lion and Telemeter. Sigils are imagistic.
The Escape from Logic
“Decoupling reason from proposition is the escape from logic.” In English, this means, how can we reason without statements? Can we reason with geology? Can we reason with images? Can we reason with diagrams?
Only when we have a statement can reason use logic. There is no logic without a statement, without translating an action into a statement. The proof is no longer logical but biological, historical, and generative. I am a human because of my parents and their parents. I am not human because of any propositions concerning humanness.
What is the criterion for judgment? We have logic to judge the true from the false, the sensical from the non-sensical. Time is suspended.
Genealogy is temporal. We go back in time. Judgment is timeless; it is temporal, not eternal. Judgment does not exist for all time, only for the moment that the judgment is made. This is trauma as judgment.
Words and Beliefs
“Voluptuiousness of vocabularies is the world belief.” This reminds me of Jung — consciousness is the creation of possibilities. It could be Lacanian because Lacan is about language, and Jung is about images. World belief is not world truth. Belief is doxa, as we say in ancient greek, not episteme (knowledge). Language is always a fiction. All philosophy is theory fiction. “Superlation is beyond truth.” Hypergeneaology is beyond truth; beyond truth and laws.
This was page 1. I don’t remember this book, and I am trying to figure out what I wrote about the text in the pages of my journal. Before reporting something, I could distill it first, but I will write and interpret it as an I go – at https://therewrite.substack.com/
Aya selected Maid Maleen via our patent pending bibliomantic method. At first, I kept on thinking of the plant Mullein – which is used for the lungs – associated with grief – among other things. Here is Mullein
Mullein is tall like a tower, in fact like the tower that Maid Maleen is lock in. But I am moving too fast. Let me slow down and start from the beginning.
I will say this story has 5 acts.
Act 1 – Maid Maleen is a princess is betrothed to one prince but she is in love with another and refuses to marry the man her father picks. Her father builds a tower that neither light nor sound can penetrate and puts her in there with her maid for 7 years – along with a 7 year supply of beef.
Somet things to note, we have thwarted love, we have a difficult father, we have a tower and we have beef. We also have a maid instead of a mother, and we have the prospect of marriage (perhaps representing growing up). I will note 7 years and the 7 planets and the tower card from the tarot.
Act 2- Maleen and her maid are in the tower. They have no idea if time is passing since they have no light. How horrible – what torture. The prince that Maleen loves calls to her, but she cannot hear him because the tower walls are too thick. I think of incubation or transformation, a caterpillar in the cocoon.
Act 3 – The food is running low, so Maleen decides to dig her way out of the tower with cutlery. She and her maid take turns digging and they bore a hole through the tower. They could have escaped all along! We have the power to set ourselves free. When they look outside, they realize that the kingdom has been destroyed. They would have died in that tower. You must make decisions for yourself; you cannot trust blindly – especially if you are locked in a tower. Also – the power tools – a knife. They wander through the countryside – starving and eating nettle.
I love nettle, it is great when you are mineral deficient. I am drinking nettle right now. They are probably mineral deficient now that they are not on their heavy meat diet!
So they are destitute and wandering the countryside, finally, they come to the kingdom of Maid Maleen’s first beloved. The cook takes them on as scullery maids and the denouement begins.
Act 4 – In the new kingdom the prince’s father has betrothed the prince to a woman as ugly as she is wicked (so very).
Again we have importance of beauty/looks and the equation between beauty and goodness. We also fathers who really do poor jobs selecting a mate for their children. Maybe this is about how to make decisions. Aya has talked a lot about trust in these stories and proof and related to this is decisionmaking. Who is making good decisions? Not many people? It is interesting. When things do seem to work out, no decisions are made, they seem natural outcomes – like a walnut growing into a walnut tree. I’ll say more later.
So the betrothed is ugly and does not want to walk through town to be married to the prince so she has maid maleen pretend she is the betrothed. Maleen walks with the prince on the way to the get married and has three exchanges
She sings a little song to a nettle plant – about eating it with out cooking it when she was hungry
She says something to a bridge – about not being the real wife
She says something to the church door – about not being the real wife
Each time the prince asks what she is saying, and maleen says, she is saying something about Maid Maleen but does not know her.
I want to note the rhyme/spell nature of these, that there ae three, and that two are about being a wife (or a real wife) about reality, and that one is about nourishment but without cooking (cooking being civilization). So perhaps there is something here about nature vs culture.
After they get married, the prince gives maleen a necklace, but still does not know she is maleen.
Act 5 – During this act the wicked and ugly princess who is supposed to marry the prince is discovered. The prince asks what she was saying to the nettle and the bridge and. thedoor and the ugly princess has. togo ask maid maleen. Finally the prince realizes that the ugly princess does not have the necklace and discovers that maleen is the true bride. The ugly princess is beheaded and maleen and the prince live happily ever after.
But there is a coda that kids sing about the tower
“Kling, klang, gloria. Who sits within this tower? A King’s daughter, she sits within, A sight of her I cannot win, The wall it will not break, The stone cannot be pierced. Little Hans, with your coat so gay, Follow me, follow me, fast as you may.”
What does this coda mean?
Now I will just mention few things about this story. So we have doubling again, we have reversals (poor/rich), we have numbers (3,7), we don’t have colors, we have the sun and wind, we don’t really have animals, we have plants (nettle), we have tests, we have time passing, we have marriage, fathers, beauty, ugliness, headlessness, deceit, impersonation (or personas).
My main takeaway is that we cannot predict the future – we cannot manipulate events – we cannot control things. We can be in the moment and let life run through us -“Follow me, follow me, fast as you may.”
The tale we read this week was “All Fur” and I selected it via bibliomancy. The cover painting is The Bear Dance by William Holbrook Beard. I posted it on instagram(aleatoric_ops) and Aya said – “All Fur!” so I included it here. There is a sort of reverse animal personification.
Last week I was blown away by Aya’s discussion of proof in the Two Brothers. Why is proof so important ?! I think of logical proofs and Aristotle, consensus proofs and the blockchain and then proof of identity or experience in these tales. We recorded a discussion that talks a lot about proofs maybe we will post it. In All Fur there are also proofs – lets get started!
All Fur is a common sort of tale, it reminds me of a tale called Mossy Coat, and also of Cinderella. I still struggle with fairy tale logic. My tldr is that nature is harsh and has no ethics – fairy tales are the “ethics” of nature. This story is divided into two sections that I will call childhood and adulthood (or adolescence). The first half takes place in the princesss’ kingdom, and the second half takes place in another kingdom where the princess is ‘All Fur’. First I will list some points that I noticed that have a resonance with the previous story- or I just wanted to note down:
Color: Gold – The queen has golden hair and is beautiful and her daughter has golden hair.
Marriage – When the queen dies she makes her husband the king promise to marry someone as beautiful as his wife. I am disturbed that the value of a woman is beauty – but perhaps we can read this apart from gender and think about nature, what makes a beautiful tree a beautiful flower a beautiful fruit?
Children – There are no twins here or brothers, instead there is a father and a daughter and the father wants to marry the daughter! Thankfully the entire kingdom is against this, but they are powerless to stop it. This reminds me of the story of Noah. Sam from Arbor Vitae connected the story of Noah (the inventor of wine), with the idea of seconds, second sons, second worlds after a flood, the second is the one that is generative (the second grape vine produces the grape when you cut back the first). However Noah also had relations with his daughters – which reminds me of this story.
Trials vs Storytelling
The daughter, in order to delay marrying her father, says she needs three dresses: one golden like the sun, one white like the moon and one bright like the star, and pelts from all the animals. To me this is the connection between the celestial and the material the earth is symbolized by the fur. We need to over come our base desires that can drive us insane / our complexes by integrating soul spirit matter and emotion.
I also think about the 1000 arabian knights. Scheherazade delays execution by telling stories, the daughter delays execution by creating tasks/trials. I wonder if this a contrast between narrative and game logic.
Identity & recognition – The princess escapes in a coat she makes of the furs. Her fiancé, a king in another kingdom, finds her but thinks first she is a wild animal and then realizes she is a person – but does not recognize her. she is practically enslaved by the king and works in. the kitchen. They call her All Fur. She keeps this disguise and enhances it by spreading ash on her body. I think this. is code for forest farming, controlled burning, and the nutritive properties of ash for soil. She also has 3 gifts randomly from a fiancé: a ring, a spinning wheel and a rod that she takes with her when she escapes.
Repetition – right now I am into the techniques of surrealism and one of those techniques are repetition. The repetition here is in the 3 nights at the ball with the three dresses, the three dishes that All Fur make with a hidden gift from the fiance in each, and the refrain she says to the king that all she is good for is to throw shoes at. (This last part I find weird – why would she want to marry a guy that throws shoes at people). To me this is about unfolding in time . We must take our time / you can’t hurry love you just have to wait. It is very bergsonian. It also gives the princess a time to show all her gifts to express her gifts. To every time there is a season. a season for all fur and a season for princesses. It is not always wise to have one persona.
Ritual objects: A wheel, a ring, and a rod. (I wonder is a rod a scepter?). Round and straight? Procreation? What is the meaning?
Proof – the king can prove all fur is the fiance because she has a white finger, the only part of her not covered in ash.
As a woman these stories are disempowering. But what if we think in terms of the masculine and feminine principles the yin and Yang – the receptive must relinquish everything. This is a sacrifice. The active principle is not subject to ethics – he just acts but through the passive principle the active principle is shaped. Why is passive beautiful and active powerful : is there a dichotomy between power and beauty.
The Aya and Meredith Reading Group continues. Now we are embarking upon the Brother’s Grimm. Growing up I was really into mythology – all different types of mythology. I was not into folk tales. They did not make sense to me. I am not sure why mythology made more sense, but it did. But there is some deep wisdom in these tales, they are the history of the inner life of Western Europe and western civilization. We began with the two brothers.
I have a very beautiful hardback copy of the Grimm Fairy Tales but in this book, there is no tale of two brothers. Instead, there are 12 brothers and three brothers. Two is the dyad, the twin, polarity: the yin/yang, heaven/earth, animus/anima, eros/Thanatos – and as it turns out 2 is very important.
I loved this story but I have no idea where to begin. It is long and dense – so stay with me here.
This story feels like 4 stories in one:childhood, adolescence, bachelorhood, and marriage. I teach film and I always teach 2001 a space odyssey. My students sometimes say that this film does not make sense. I say, it is not supposed to make rational sense, it is supposed to make emotional sense – so you feel something. Cinematic sense perhaps, or imaginal sense. This story reminds me of that .
two brothers. Ok the dyad – the polarity,
one is rich one is poor. The rich brother. is evil-hearted. What does money mean? Is it about generocity? False value?
the poor brother finds a gold bird and is a bit brutal in trying to kill it and then gives it to his rich brother (why?). This makes me think of ethics and also of nonduality. The poor brother seems like a jerk and an idiot. Why does he try to hurt the bird at all and why give the bird to his brother? But there is sense in the story that the poor brother is acting naturally and so perhaps poor really means simple and rich means cunning.
the poor one has two sons that through adventure involving their uncle produce gold while sleeping. We have another duality but they do not become differentiated until later in the story. These boys accidentally eat the heart and liver of the golden bird while the uncle roasts it and ths lets them produce gold every night under their pillow. Liver is the life force heart is love – but why does this matter?
The rich brother tells the poor brother his children are evil and the poor brother puts his children out of his home.
The brothers are adopted by a HUNTSMAN who teaches them how to hunt and keeps their coins (which keep coming) safe. This makes me think of the idea of stewardship.
The brothers pass a hunting test and leave the foster-father gives them a magic knife that will rust on one side if one of he brothers dies.
The brothers go into the world. They are hungry and want to kill a rabbit to eat but do not instead they get two little rabbits – the same thing happens with a bear, wolf, fox, and lion. What is up with these animals? Totem animals? I mean its not astrology. Maybe the 5 centers of human design.
The brothers split up.
the younger brother comes to a town covered in black cloth. I though oh no – black plague. But no.
everything is black because the princess is going to be sacrificed to a dragon. I recently read a book that discussed dragons. Most world myths involve killing. adragon. Sometimes the dragon or dragons blood gives birth to life (or humans). Dragons are also associated with sulfuric caves – that many cultures associate with healing and prophecy.
the brother defeats the dragon. He first has to drink liquid with a cup and that allows him to pick up a heavy sword and with. thehelp of his animals kills the dragon. The cup is very tarot – emotions. I am always interested in tools – the sword is a great one. The dragon has 7 heads ( the planets?).
There is giftgiving between the brother and the princess – everyone naps and then the evil marshal beheads the huntsman and forces the process to marry him. The gifts are coral – I wonder about this. It seems strange for a german story. Also headleness comes up again, this is a big theme in magic (the headless rite) and astronomy/myth (orion and solstice)
the animals get a magic root that brings the other back to life although his head is on backward (temporarily it seems) and then for a year and a day they travel around carnivals – the brother thinks he was abandoned not killed
He comes back makes a bunch a bets with an innkeeper thanks. to the gold from part 1 of the story and discovers the princess still loves him. She comes. toclaim his hand in marriage and the evil marshall is beheaded.
The brother is now king and is happy and just and merciful. He goes on a hunt in the enchanted forest against the wishes of his wife.
He gets lost in the magic forest, makes a fire, finds an old woman in a tree. He invites her to warm by his fire she refuses unless he takes her wand and touches each of his animals. Which he does. They turn to stone and then the witch turns him to stone and carts him away to a cellar or something. why does the brother touch his animals with the wand ??
The other brother meanwhile, the older one, has just been doing carnie work – no kingdoms for him. He sees the knife from part 2 half rusted and determines to save his brother.
He ends up in the kingdom – everyone things he is the king. He plays along but sleeps next to his ‘wife’ with his sword between them.
He researches the enchanted forest and then goes to find his brother. The same thing happens with the witch – but the brother does not touch his animals with the wand. He makes the witch turn his brother back – and then throws her in the fire.
The brothers reunite. The younger brother chops off his brother’s head when he learns he had been impersonating him and sleeping in the same bed as his wife. He then has remorse and saves his brother with the same magic root vegetable that saved him. They both return to the kingdom, the younger brother resumes the throne, and learns about the sword in bed – and realizes his older brother did not betray him after all. There is a test – the queen has to guess which brother is her husband – she does it successfully because of the coral gifts she bestoyed to the brother’s animals.
Motifs to track
As we read more fairytales I want to track characters and motifs. In this I have identified
language: parts that sound like songs or enchantments, usually involving repetition and rhyming.
food (and different animals wine lions, bear sweets)
– in another pane, you type whatever you are copying
– record the timestamp and keystroke and this becomes a “score”
With the score we can:
– playback the writing as the person wrote it (animated) not only the static end product
– interpret as a musical score and map letters or times to notes
– create a film or animation maybe using stable diffusion
– compare how different people type the same manuscript
– understand our writing habits
– other things ? ideas wanted
How quickly do I write certain words or letters? How often do I mistype the letter ‘y’?
We lose these gestures when we only look at the finished piece. Lets treat writing as a performance.
Writing as Gesture is alive for me today so I went back to rebuild the application
The Design and Architecture
There are two modes: writing and playback. Writing mode captures the user, the piece, the keystroke, and the timestamp of the keystroke. I want to capture the data as a log file, but I am using a database for now.
I do not have the concept of an ending. A piece of writing never ends. Each user only has one version of a piece: you can only copy Moby Dick once or recopy it over and over in the same document.
Anyone can write a playback mode since the protocol is public: user, piece, keystroke, timestamp. My first playback mode will probably be straightforward playback, but I may change the colors of the letters depending on how many times they were erased or how long it took the user to write them.
I am using preact (typescript) and the front end and python on the backend since they are both languages I am familiar with. Preact is new for me, but react is old for me.
I am hosting with Replit. I use Replit when I teach Python (last at CUNY). I also use Replit with my kids for superhi classes. They have great templates, integration with git, and free hosting, and it takes zero time to set up.
Maybe I’ll move it over to a cloud service provider eventually. I do have some shame that I am not using a CPS, Docker, k8 etc – but not much.
Last weekend, I attended an herbalism lecture where the excellent Sam Perry spoke about Chinese medicine.
Sam focused on the relationship between culture and medicine. Medicine is a product of culture, like clothing, vases, and frescos.
He spoke about Chinese symbols, yin and yang, the tai chi symbol, the sinusoidal shape of the yellow river in china, and the color yellow, and then he offhandedly mentioned the circle in the square.
Squaring the Circle is an ancient paradox and hermetic symbol.
The problem is this:
Can we create a circle and a square with the SAME AREA with only a straight edge and a compass and use a limited number of steps?
The answer is NO. This was finally proved mathematically in 1882, so the mystery existed for a long time.
This problem had mystical dimensions. The circle in the square was used as a symbol for alchemy: transforming lead into gold. The circle in the square was also used to describe the relationship between spirit and matter.
Discrete Steps and Devices
The structure of this problem reminds me of computation. A universal turning machine, a type of computer, reads and writes symbols on a tape.
The theory of computation asks what we can solve and in what period with what physical limitations.
I wonder what is different between the computational engine of a hammer and nail and what is the computational engine of a straight edge and compass.
As it turns out, you can create a circle and a square with the same area, but just not with these tools and a discrete number of steps.
We can use new tools like the Quadratrix of Hippas (which I do not entirely understand), infinite steps, or non-euclidian geometry.
Can a circle turn into a square? What is the relationship between the shape of a thing and what the form contains?
How does the circle shape become the square without losing anything?
This is the mystery of transformation. Ancient myths like Ovid’s Metamorphoses tell how gods turn into trees and humans turn into animals. In China, the 64 hexagrams of the I-Ching describe different types of transformation. Alchemy is about transformation, lead into gold, the individuation of a person from a Jungian perspective.
Squaring the Circle is about tools and processes, about creating a machine for transformation. But there is a limit to the transformative power of a machine. What is this limit? The natural world, life, quantum physics, chance, or just more transformation?
Two weeks ago, I binge-listened to the New Books podcasts: film, anthropology, and philosophy.
Sometimes I like to be quiet and feel the ideas come from within me, but it also feels good to get a drink from an idea firehose and see what sticks.
One of the conversations that stuck with me was with Kim Q Hall on her book Queering Philosophy.
Why should you be interested in this topic? Read on…
The meaning crisis
Fake news is news that is not factually correct. Deep fakes are photorealistic images and videos of real people, made by AI, of fake scenarios and events. What is real, what is fake, what is important, and what is not important?
John Vervaeke, an assistant professor at the University of Toronto, says the root of the crises we face: mental health, economic and political turmoil, and environmental degradation is a crisis meaning.
We do not know how to reason anymore. We do not know how to decide what is meaningful.
Reason is broken
Socrates was a gay shaman. Socrates and his “frens” like Aristotle and Parmenides, created new ways to make meaning from their world – and from this, we got western philosophy. And maybe a lot of other things like inequality and war, but also perhaps things like science and this fantastic computer.
Our world is different from the world of the ancient Greeks. I am less interested in how a boat disappears beyond the horizon and more interested in why the algorithm suggested that I buy baby formula.
One way to support a new way to reason is to Queer it.
Could we use a different word? No.
“Queer” is embedded in personal lived experiences, activism, and social convention.
Some ways to queer philosophy include:
Using methods of queer activism to change the discipline such as a focus on archives and personal stories. Even Hall’s book includes personal anecdotes which I consider queering.
Examining the “normative” (straight) habits in both the academy and in ideas.
Make philosophy more embodied. Thinking happens outside the mind as well – as Annie Murphy Paul writes. Queerness is often expressed in the body and in movement and action. And queer bodies are often treated differently than straight bodies.
Ideas and Experience
People say that Freud’s thought could only come from a neurotic.
I often say people don’t have ideas, ideas have people. But these people have lived experiences.
Queering philosophy is one way* we can oscellate bweeen the traditional (dominant) narrative and the personal story: between myth and psychology.
During the pandemic, I started painting with my kids. The kids lost interest, but my interest kept going.
This period coincided with a lot of personal exploration and inner work. I began a serious meditation practice, practiced yoga every morning at 4:45, and read widely in the history of consciousness.
I began to associate my painting with my inner work.
Art and Self
When I make a painting, it is a capsule of myself at that moment in time. In vedanta sometimes we talk about the self and the SELF. The universal and eternal Self and the self in the world, the ego. Experiencing the Self is to right-size the self.
Right-sizing the self is related to stilling the mind. A painting captures the movements of the artist but also the struggles, fears, the ideas in their head. When I paint, I want to remove all the mental chatter and act!
This is true for all paintings, and perhaps it is true for all art. But, the more art is mediated by symbolic language such as writing and technology, the more difficult it is to remove the mind and act as the Self.
Painting, and drawing, are about decisions.
Each mark on the page is a decision the artist makes. These decisions are embodied decisions. The artist perceives the work through her senses, and moves her hand or body to create.
Contrary to logical decision-making, we do not predict anything when we make an artistic decision. We sense-make at the moment.
When we look at art, often we have a story about the art.
Sometimes we say the work is about power, freedom, or trauma. But this story is about the mind more than the work. It is a projection.
Projection is a psychoanalytic term that describes how we bring our own feelings and mental activity to work, situation, or individual. When we project, we experience our mental projection, which is an illusion.
I want to strip away the chatter and experience the work or the individual as it is, in its naked beingness.
Advaita Vedanta is a spiritual path to enlightenment. Enlightenment is pure awakening – to live without projection and strategy and experience each moment as radically new, shining with its own radiance and the godhead.
When I see a successful painting, I feel this sense, of radical acceptance of reality as it is. It is fully embodied and of the world. It is original and surprising without the constraints of the mind.
Abstraction and representation art can both create this feeling, but in abstraction, there is no scaffolding. We are performing without a net.
“Good software developers give their variables good names.”
A manager told me this many years ago. I assumed this showed attention to detail. For, me this statement went much deeper.
Good names build a bridge between the abstract world of symbols and the human world of meaning.
I am obsessed with song covers. Creating a good cover of a song is like giving a variable a good name. It reflects an essential meaning of the song.
Jimi Hendrix’s version of “All Along the Watchtower” sounds how the words mean in a way the Dylan version does not.
Language is not only a medium of communication, but it also acts. In our culture, specific phrases change the world. When a judge says, “I now pronounce you wife and wife,” a marriage is created- a new legal entity.
When we write software, we create a language that acts.
A name may start as a label for a part, like “I got new wheels” instead of “I got a new car.” But, over time, this part may grow symbolic power. One day, the word “wheel” may replace the word “car.”
Language can change the way it acts. It evolves.
A New Name
This week I created a new microservice at work. Creating a microservice is momentous, and I spent time discussing the name.
Should we use a similar name as the service this was replacing? Should we use the word security or instrument?
The name and the service co-created each other. When we created this name, we created boundaries.
Did our ancestors name things?
Our ancestors named their children and their livestock, but that was about it. We live in a time of rapid innovation and name things all the time: new products, new variables, new websites, new microservices.
Names come from nothing. An object has a name because someone gives a name to something. It is a gift.
Identity, Pseudonymity, and the Metaverse
Names refer to groups, individuals, containers, and bits and pieces of all of these. Digital technology allows everything to be combined and mixed.
Naming remains one of our most primal psychotechnologies of sensemaking. Good names make sense.