A Necessarily Incomplete Guide to What’s Going On: I

Of the two worlds available, the more intriguing one at the moment is the Internet. A crank calls it the “second spectral world that spins parallel to our own, the World Wide Web’’, but it might more cannily be described as the global subconscious. Not in the sense of a dirty, barbaric child subconsciousness that is out to get you and your socialized self (though there is that too, viz. pornography and fetishism on the web), but in the sense of a subconscious as the productive, free-associative secret double-life of the mind. The Internet is fast becoming humanity’s Wise Blood, a mysterious ground of real life (rl) action inaccessible to the frontward, or conscious, social attitude.

Why inaccessible? Because the Internet is so large, multilingual and informationally dense, it simulates the complexity of the world itself, yet it presents fewer barriers to exploration of that complexity. This lack of physical barriers more readily exposes a condition that we resist recognizing when we butt up against it in rl: that our understanding is not sufficient to grasp the world in its complexity. We may have a survey knowledge and we may have specialized knowledge, but knowledge as universal expertise is a doomed proposition. While many would see this as a common wisdom universal to the ages, it has previously been urged on us in the language of religious humility: bow before the infinite, o finite wretch, etc. The intellectuals, somewhat in defiance, have always sought to “broaden’’, “deepen’’, “expand’’ their knowledge as if there were no certain promise of defeat in this.

The Internet, its world, forces us to acknowledge our limitations: the problem can be displayed mathematically to us, by our computing machines. Sartre’s the Self-Taught Man attempts to read through the inventory of the local library alphabetically. Many an intellectual harbors a fantasy of reading through the entire Encyclopedia Brittanica. But the Wikipedia now holds over a million entries, and is growing; a broad Google search can yield millions of pages; the catalogs of Amazon and others confront us with terrible figures: millions of books, millions of movies, albums, billions and billions of man-hours on display. Even thousands of graduate theses, even millions of bad poems. This is our world, expanded perpendicularly to its surface, piled with all the information that has been teased from stony being, and given to us to wander at will. It is nothing but one of Borges’ maddening universal libraries.

Confusion #3

Some clarity, of a sort. Confusion is caused by too many things going on, where the confusion of things cannot be condensed into a sensible whole. That is, confusion is caused by too many little things and not enough big things. Now, the ways to avoid confusion are multiple. They are:

  • Avoid locales with too many small things of the sort that demand your attention
  • Narrow your vision to limit the number of things you see
  • Only look at big things learn new ways to see sets of many small things as big things

The most sinful of these ways is the third. This way can make you very foolish or very powerful. The first and second ways are not sinful, the prejudices of intellectuals aside, but they are-for what it matters-small. The fourth way is the challenge issued to the “modern intellectual’’. It means to craft new categories for things that have never been recognized as things before. It can be terrible, because you must live within the vast swarm for a long time, trying to find the rule that binds the things together.

Three conceptions of history:

  • “One damn thing after another’’
  • An arrow shot from the beginning of time
  • Four-dimensional matrix, an ice prison(and many others, more mature)

This is relevant because history becomes a problem for human beings when it ceases to be a guide but a source of confusion, i.e., when the span of history becomes too long and the actors too numerous. The first conception falsely relinquishes a claim to guidance; in fact, it gestures slyly at human nature; and it recommends belief in the gods. The second conception is, of course, the crusader’s; also the liberal bureaucrat’s; and it can be buffoonish in its rush to absorb violent accidents and incidental jokes into itself. The third conception is a useless lie, because it simply posits a possibility of absolute knowledge that is impossible; and the image is dreary, anyway. Now, arrows shot in time, from different points…

Confusion #2

Editor’s note: the lack of irony is a bullet fired in the cause of moral seriousness.

The source of the present confusion, why the Riefe quote appealed to me, is this growing awareness of mass movements in the “spectral parallel world’’ of the Internet the ultimate meaning, direction and force of which I can only guess at. I have my theories, though, the reason I am drawn to investigate and register these phenomena in the first place. Since my theories are kooky, relating to the far-flung future and deriving their conviction from a slapdash review of history, history of thought and systematics, I suffer from the recovering delusional’s greatest fear: of confirmation. To guard against false confirmation-rubber stamp of madness!-I try to watch what’s happening with an unprejudiced eye, but this requires persistence of inquiry, and it is this persistence that is encoding my mind with its growing obsessive fixations.

I try to comfort myself that I am merely developing an expert knowledge, but I know that the particular injunctions I have taken from my martyr’s study of philosophy make the attainment of mere expertise impossible. Learn to limit your horizon-yes, if only I could. Discontinuity is the new, infinitely harsh, infinitely hated teacher of wisdom-the student wants to run away to old teachers. How to make sense of it all?

Have you seen this?

From the wiki:

An Ethos in Bullet-point Form!

Remember: This is the site’s ethos, not yours. You go be how you want.

  • Moral with respect to human suffering.
  • Amoral with respect to nature, God, propriety, order and prudence.
  • Belief in omnipresent, beneficent Doability.
  • Idealist in dreaming phase.
  • PMA in planning phase.
  • Realist in prescription phase.
  • Idealistic PMA-realist in action phase.
  • Faith in phrases.
  • Committed to wholesale disaggregation of interests.

Disruptions.

(Don’t worry, this is not a poem. This is an unordered list)

religion
technology
worklife
labor unions
family
sex
travel
disease
medicine
dispersion
population
economics
environment
magazines
movies
television
internet
computer game
pornography
accidents
war
nuke
democracy
equality
music (ragtime, jazz, rock, hiphop)
information
science
automobile
decolonization
ideology
women’s lib
civil rights movement
conservativism
communism
fascism
plastics
antibiotics
contraceptives
hallucinogens
cocaine
tobacco
alcohol

The list is not intentionally associational. Association merely provided the algorithm for pushing new items onto the list. Listed are (some of)the major “disruptions” that have colored modern life. Since

nihilism
irony
self-consciousness
sociology
materialism

also belong on the list, it should be noted that disruptions are not negative. Disruption is what has the ant colony in a frenzy.

Opportunity.

A remarkable quote:

“Everyone seems to be getting gas; some people from watching their speculation, errr, investment in Stupididea.com vaporize, but mainly from the markets suddenly waking up to the realization that while gasoline prices may have dropped post-Iraq, natural gas prices are holdings their highs.”

Harry Koza , Buy Bonds, Wear Diamonds

Denial.

Editorial note: Despite any superficial similarities, this site is not a blog. It is a repository for articles, or “thought-pieces”, that are irregularly submitted through a back-end content management system and then displayed in descending-order chronological fashion on a front-end web page. (Deprecated).

Confusion

A remarkable quote:

“I, too, aspire to see clearly, like a rifleman, with one eye shut; I, too, aspire to think without assent. This is the ultimate violence to which the modern intellectual is committed. Since things have become as they are, I, too, share the modern desire not to be deceived. The culture to which I was first habituated grows progressively different in its symbolic nature and in its human product; that double difference and how ordained augments our ambivalence as professional mourners.”

-Philip Riefe The Triumph of the Therapeutic

This sums it all; the rest is detail work. The author is addressing his thoughts to an earlier sequence of quakes. The fault that has opened beneath him is on a different line than the one that this author feels breaking his stance. It is the same dilemma, though, that brings the same intellectual to crisis: the wrenching dislocations force the choice between the absurdity of the past and the absurdity of the future. The intellectual, unlike the poet (to say nothing of the philosopher), has the sacred duty not to choose, but to confront all dilemmas and to resolve them. And this has worked with Zeno. The intellectual is brought to crisis when it becomes revealed that one gap is more real than another, because it widens, that a fissure’s bisection of the world is sufficiently alarming to counsel one-sided action. The “modern intellectual” steps manfully onto the moving landmass of the future, his violence is against his inclination to remain behind and attempt the span.