Left Hand of Darkness – Chapter 6

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I must say I had writers block when sitting down to write this. I loved chapter 6 it was a book in a chapter a tale of escape, reversal of fortune, love rejected, and then little snippets, little clues, little breadcrumbs.

Aya wrote her summary first, and I was not going to read it until I read mine but we ARE in dialogue.

But before I dialogue let me summarize. Now we are leaving Karthide, this time with Estraven. Estraven adventures to a port city, he escapes, nearly doesn’t escape, finally escape lands in a new country as an “illegal alien”, becomes invisible and finally claiming a position in accordance his old position – and communicating the news about the Envoy. This is a fairy tale, maybe many fairy tales, the pauper and the prince comes to mind.

Aya fan girls Le Guin, and this chapter is fan girl worthy. She says “Estraven-skeptic to an Estraven believer. the subtle changes in language, cadence, and diction separate us from the narrative voice of Genly Ai.” This chapter is about language. It is language that we are becoming accustom to thorough its use in the book, kemmer and foretelling and schiftgregor (which I mispelled and am too lazy to reference). Are we, the aliens, becoming locals.

Aya references the banter and the storytelling. This is the way we pass on news, truths, teach new truths.

For me I wonder, why did LeGuin bring in Estaven’s old lover? A foreteller no less! I wonder what are the somatic practices or esoteric practices of this world? I wonder what is up with these bodies that change from male to female, that can repel stun blasts, and so forth. I wonder how did LeGuin create a bunch of words and trick me that it represented a world with answers to these questions? And that I should care about it !

Plants and Humans

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I have been meditating with plants, not like ayahuasa or san pedro, but like mugwort and tulsi.

I sit with the plants. I listen I breath … what do they have to tell me what do I… How can we just be together?

There is this common discussion among plant people, that I may have posted before, but I will post now. How did we come to discover all the uses of various plants, from things like willow bark to wine making.

How was it, for example, that people learned willow bark was good for a headache (aspirin)?

Did ancient peoples apply the scientific method? This seems sort of impossible with the amount of knowledge we have and the time necessary to proceed by trial and error (not to mention human casulties).

So there must have been some other way. One thing people talk about is that the plants communicated to the humans directly. Now this could be interpreted as very woo woo. But we can also imagine it as someone who is highly sensitive, just like when you are cooking and you smell your bouillabaisse and it does not smell quite right, or it smells right, or you know to add a pinch of this or that.

Just just accompany me on this epistemological bracketing – that we learn things directly from plants – if we can slow down enough if we can focus enough if we can still ourselves enough we can perceive differently.

Spoiler Alert – I have not been given any secret knowledge from the plants – however it has influenced my poetry and painting on a subconscious level – and even my fiction writing – and who knows what else – maybe my technical consulting work. These poems inspired by the plants are beautiful, one I think is appearing in a forth coming anthology, and another I have been performing in a series of VR salons. Truly they should be compiled into a book called plant pornography – maybe Isabella Rossellini and I could go on tour together with her Green Porno series. My plant poetry is – em – a bit erotic. When I used to first meditate with a new plant I would often take a bath with it. I have a very extensive bathing practice, and this is one of my core competencies. along with change management and value stream mapping. One particular plant, I felt, did not want to take a bath with me – (shocking) – to which someone said – you have to get to know the plant before you take a bath with them. Umm ok – I now take my plants to dinner first.

But I digress, I was walking along meditating on plants and how plants are different even in different locations even if they are the same species (we could say perhaps they have the same plant spirit, or in some Platonic metaphysics they participate in the same form of a certain plan)… they have different things to communicate. Plants do individuate even if it is less, even if Jung says they don’t – not all roses are the same.

I thought how sad it is that there are not enough people to communicate with all the different plants. And then I thought, ahh, this is what humans are supposed… to do communicate with their local plants -this is one of the purposes of being human. This does sound a bit insane, but what a beautiful thought, and how delicious and meaningful, and how more rich this makes the meaning of the person “human.” We are here to talk to the plants – maybe take a bath with them too.

Deep Thoughts on NFTs

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I was talking to my friend Stephen today about Autoglyphs. Autoglyphs are a series of NFTs where the code for the image for the NFT is generated by the smart contract itself. Here is the smart contract. There are english instructions that explain how to draw different symbols.

This was inspired by Sol Lewitt, and to me that is the first thing that comes to mind when looking at this work.

We can then render these instructions however we want. On the Autoglyphs website there is an example of these being rendered by a plotter on paper. There are also examples of these being rendered as ascii art. Each autoglyph has a different set of symbols that it uses to draw. – this is very clever. For example the symbol for this autoglyph is

I am interested in the rendering engine. It would be cool if blockchain had a rendering layer. In the web this was separated into the browser/application layer. We could generate a image in the smart contract – or the binary for an image.

It would be cool if the smart contract could represent itself. This separation between form and content is so 18century.

Anyway – I do think this is cool – to store generate art in this way. I am thinking about this in many different ways. More to come

Left Hand of Darkness – Chapter 5

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This is going to be a short and sweet comment on Chapter 5 left hand of darkness.

It begins with a story, a personal story of Genry, and his conversation with is landlord.

At first I had no idea what was happening and then I realized oh Genry is telling a story.

It foreshadows some developments about religion that we learn about later in the chapter.

Genry is travelling. He is going to gather information on foretelling. The ekumen know many things, they can communicate with their minds, but they cannot tell the future. However here we learn how foretelling works. It appears to be powered by sex and insanity. People who are celibate are seated next to people that are called ‘perverts’ – they have one gender. This exacerbates the sexual tension. There is electricity in the air, brains are broken, an answer is found to the question.

Gendry asks – why do are you a Foreteller to the foreteller (foreteller is someone that reads into the future)…

It is to learn what are the meaningless questions.

Meditations on Psychoanalysis & Noise & Signals & DNA

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I was binge listening to Conner Habib‘s podcast while reading Life Against Death by Norman O. Brown. I had some deep thoughts and now I have forgotten them – so they must not have been that deep!

I am trying to recreate it from my marginalia in Life Against Death. But I just have some notes on Ferenczi and how psychoanalysis is a deeply contextual and relative theory of sexuality. I dont think this is terribly true or profound. However while writing this I did remember what I thought. And I just now now have to marvel at the body and knowledge of the body the wisdom of the body. It is not that by writing we know what we think, because we formulate it in our minds, but by the physical act of writing our bodies can actually create knowledge or can actually know. We do not know anything until we physically express it. This may not be true because people in a locked in scenario can know things – so perhaps I need to re-evaluate this but on to my “deep thoughts”.

Ok so in the title I use the term psychoanalysis not psychology. In Life Against Death there is often a distinction between psychoanalysis and psychology. So I am not really sure of the difference. It seems that psychology is broadly about the study of the mind and the effect of the mind on behavior and interaction and psychoanalysis is specifically about a “psychodynamic” view of behavior …. And by psychodynamic I mean an interplay between the unconscious and conscious. Freud – the father of psychoanalysis quote on quote discovered the unconscious.

Different people have different theories of the unconscious, of what it is and so forth.

I was going to write something longer, but I am watching a movie with my kids so I will keep it brief.

It seems to me that Freud considers the unconscious like noise – that we have these unconscious urges that disrupt us in life or become disrupt us… they are the noise to our conscious signal. Freudian slips and neurotic behaviors are noise they are the unconscious.. and they are only useful in improving the signal.

For Lacan “the unconscious is the discourse of the other.” So the unconscious is not necessarily noise but it is not information, is perhaps something like an encoded string – it has its own structure and must be translated.

For Jung the unconscious is perhaps an opportunity for discovery – an aid in individuation. The unconscious is not noise it is like “junk dna” which turns out to not be junk after all.

Left Hand of Darkness chapter 4

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Here we get a real mad king! Again we are in the realm of anthropology. This is the recording of a story of a folktale. This is a short chapter on the nature of prediction – or augery. Here there is an augery or soothsaying practice called Foretelling. the main foreteller is called Weaver, and this reminds us of the many cultures who compare fate with weaving.

I enjoy practicing various divination methods and my weakness is knowing what kind of question to ask. In this story the problem is the same. The question that the seeker asks is perhaps vague enough that the response is inadequate.

We wonder does fate or destiny proceed in one line- do we have choice. This is a beautiful story – reminiscent of Oedipus Rex. The king asks a question and then tries to prevent the answer or anticipate the answer. Other people intervene and the story spirals or fate spirals to its conclusion of death and madness.

Days have names. Numbers are qualitative. The day the king will die is the 19th day, and this specificity combined with the vagueries of when causes him to become immobile. His kemmerer (lover I suppose), is distraught and tries to help him – offering the foretellers his life in exchange. His life he gives almost immediately after telling the king his story and then shortly there after the king dies on the aforementioned day.

The lover has no money, nothing to pay for his fortune. He must pay with his life – as the foreteller says there is always a price. Why is this? It is not an ethical question – perhaps it is just the nature of the universe that all things exist in equilibrium with mutual exchange and mutual reciprocity. And that us with our judicial systems try to mimic these laws of nature, but nature does not need us perhaps.

The day of death is foretold as the 19th – June 19th is called juneteenth.

Some questions that are alive in me.

What do numbers mean beyond counting?

What are the knots in destiny that move us forward?

Do we have choice?

What is involved in telling the future?

Why does fortune telling involve a price?

Against the Grain – Ch 5

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Today I discussed Against The Grain ch 5 with my anarchist reading group. Against the Grain is a fantastic book.

We are doing a module on slavery.

I have written this before but I will write again.

The first reading was Graeber on Debt, and I dont remember it, the second reading was about how slavery is a transgression/transformation of the social order, the third was about the performance of being a slave and the subversion of the system of slavery, and this final section is about slavery as the heart of nations – that all nations are created from slavery.

I imagine Debt by Graeber and think his notion that colonialism or imperialism has debt as its basis. That you colonized person must may be taxes in my money so you must go out and earn this money. This perhaps can lead to wage slavery or slavery (indentured servitude), but is really setting up a system of control.

In this reading, Scott is saying that slavery is at the basis of the state itself- it is the center (the imperialist/colonies are the periphery). At its core a nation needs biopower to create surplus that sustains the state. The way to get this biopower is to capture and enslave other people. There is a discussion that some early nations have capital cities with names etymologically distinct from their native tongues – like Ur in Sumer. That these represent perhaps an earlier culture or tribe that was captured and then enslaved. Notice that they are enslaved, they are not paying tribute.

In this use of people, people become tools, similar to a draft animal. Women are kept in the center to procreate and create more bodies, men are sent to the periphery and used up until they die. Using women as a machine to generate bodies for the state is behind the institution of marriage (says me not scott). Whatever the cosmic wedding is – at its core the oikos or the domus – leads to domestication – the transformation of humans (and animals) into tools for the maintenance of the state.

So this brings us to another point – is slavery and female subjugation connected at its origin? Is the nation state predicated on the subjugation of women. and that you cannot have a nation without female subjugation. What does it look like to have a society that does not being with the enslavement of women?

The title “Against the Grain” – as my friend Camille says – is about against cultivation. That grain cultivation leads to the nation state and slavery and all the rest. However in chapter 5 Scott discusses a prayer that is made before the dedication of a new temple. The prayer is called against the grain. It creates a state of exception, or a ritual space, where the slave and the master are equals. This is against the grain, because in an equal society – the state of exception – no grain will be cultivated.

Left Hand of Darkness Chapter 3

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I just wrote this whole post out and it was lost. I am completely irritated.

Who is the I that talks? This is the first chapter without context, without framing, and it is a continuation of the story in chapter 1, a traditional tale. We have many voices in this chapter. The inner voice of the narrator, the external voice of the narrator, the voice of the broadcast system proclaiming the treason of our narrators dinner companion in chapter one, we have the voice of new shoes going eck eck eck, we have the voice of the ansible responding to the king’s question, we have the voice of the king, we have the reported voices of scientists who have tried to understand where Genry, the envoy came from and who he is. Madness is a voice.

What do all these voices do? How are all these voices used?

The king is the first person to give the envoy advice. Dont be a tool. He is a tool. Someone once asked me, who am I a tool for. Are these voices tools. In the hand of the king they are. Is information a tool? Genry’s backup plan is to collect information.

We hear about desire and motivation. The Ekumen are motivated by knowledge, trade, community, pleasure, adventure. The king is motivated by fear.

At the end of the conversation Genry realizes that his path here is blocked he must do something new, and so he decides to go elsewhere and collect information. Information In form ation.

Marx Capital Chapter 15 section 8

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This is what I am reading for my Capital Reading Group.

Chapter 15 is about surplus value. Surplus value is a kind of value – it is the value that leads to profit.

Section 8 is on machinery. It is actually a really excellent section, I may suggest that my reading group on slavery read it.

This is a long section so I am going to summarize

First what are the social relations that are produced by machinery? This is an interesting question.

Marx talks about different forms of social relations and production

  1. cooperation (we could call this collaboration) – pre manufacturing
  2. cottage industries or some parts of constructing an item are automated (and a person, often a woman or child operates it)
  3. factory – this is the factory system

As a result of this movement from cooperation to cottage industry to factory social relations change that make it impossible for a person to live like a person – to live according to our species being. The family is disrupted, childhood is disrupted, it becomes impossible for parents to care for for their offspring, the ability to make choices is severely impaired by desperate situations.

These include being forced to work as a young child and not being able to get an education. This also involves a lack of moral education, or non existent moral education, since they are treated as adults as children and placed side by side with adults within their milieu – but these are adults that do not care about them. Also they are subject to unclean conditions and disease and in many instances unable to improve these conditions because of the amount of work and the lack of liberal education and moral education.

When I talk about moral education, I do not mean religion or ethics (I am all about the transvaluation of values), I mean the ability to cultivate any value at all the ability to cultivate an inner life and a core from which to make decisions instead of being reactive. Maybe we should call this psychological education.

There is also a discussion of domestic labor impacted by the factory system – but I did not quiet grok it – perhaps the point was that this is where the most unskilled people went.

That in a factory where machines are automated you do not need knowledgable workers, strong workers, or anything like that, you just need cheap workers that can operate the machinery.

There is a brief discussion of laws (the Factory Act), and the impact of laws on business and factory workers, and it seems that the laws do nothing to really change the situation but to perhaps limit exploitation a bit so things are slightly less miserable,

This section is 30 pages and this paragraph is like 30 sentences – But I tried to get the gist of it.

Left Hand of Darkness – Chapter 2

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Reading Left Hand of Darkness with Aya Natalia… and this is just so much fun.

Chapter 2 is titled The Place Inside The Blizzard. It begins with an attribution that this is from a sound tape, this chapter is from a soundtape. So the anthropology continues. I imagine oral histories and collections of lost languages. The last chapter was a transcription from the ansible, perhaps “supposed” to be a log, but rendered as a story. This story is now an oral history.

It is an origin my it strikes me. It follows a character Gethen. Is this the Gethen who founds the the country Gethen in chapter 1 it is unclear.

We begin with an origin myth of two brothers like the biblical origin myth of cain and able. Except here our brothers are lovers, the twin, the gemini. I am also reading Coming Into Being and there is a curious discussion of the gemini of homosexual male love, of art and culture in opposition to procreation. However here, the twinning is disrupted by procreation. What is happening here? I wonder perhaps biology is different on this world.

Anyway we learn the laws of this culture, suicide is a greater crime than murder. Homosexuality and sex between brothers is condoned. From the creation of these rules a drama is created when the rules are transgressed. We learn the language of this place; kemmer Hearth, Domain. We have sacred numbers 3 days, two days, We also have a sort of somatic, embodied transformation. “He began to crawl forward on knees and elbows. He had no reason to do this.” We then have a mystical experience: the vision of Gethen’s dead brother who is all white (white walker like for you GOT fans). This is the journey. But it is not quite the hero’s journey. It somehow echos the journey of Christian Rosenkreutz. It is a journey of transformation. At the beginning Gethen has a name. Then he becomes nameless, he is exiled, he wanders and then finds a new home, takes a new name, and finally reclaims his old name and can finally die.

I remember from the wizard of earthsea something about names, so this is a LeGuinism.

Some phrases I love

The names are curious Ennoch, reminds me of Enoch (from the Bible and the first occultist), Erhenrang reminds me of the myth of Er that I wrote about yesterday, Gethen remends me of Geth which is the go version of ethereum.