Tuesday, November 14, 2017

The sandcastle, as with so much that is constructed with forethought and intention, gets washed away -- like so many tears in the rain.  Couldn't help myself with that one.  Did you know that Rutger Hauer completely ad libbed those lines in the original Blade Runner?
Roger Silverberg

Sunday, September 17, 2017

Grow into your art.

Here's a fine commencement speech given at the New England School of Photography in June 2004.
I found it on the online pages of fotocommunity.com by Arno Rafael Minkkinen.


And a follow up.

Here's the nub, the point, the gist, the heart, the essence:
Find your focus as an artist.  Do it for awhile.  Then you find that people will compare you with others, and you'll be tempted to go back and do something else, tempted to get off the bus.  But if you stay the course, you'll find that your own distinctive features, your "voice" as it were, will emerge, and even those early works will be valued.  But getting off will interrupt your growth.

"If God knows already, why pray?" so they ask. Let's talk about it.


In this article, Stephen L. Brock enlists the aid of C.S. Lewis, Peter Geach, and St. Thomas Aquinas to think through the matter.

To the beginner and the faithful, it is enough to remember Jesus' words, "You have not because you ask not."  Done.  And James's words that you ask but don't receive because you ask amiss.

But in general understanding is an aid to our prayers, and so thinking through this matter with the aid of Brock, Lewis, Geach and Thomas is conceivably a good thing.


Friday, September 8, 2017

A prelude: Having a common mind: distributed consciousness

Here's the general idea, the details of which I will need to return in order to spell out the argument adequately.

The Chinese Language Room thought experiment has been a strong argument against distributed consciousness.  On the pro side, there is the fact that our left brain and right brain seem to be separate loci of consciousness but when united have a sense of a unified consciousness.

The idea is this.  The contributing parts will believe that it is Itself that is conscious of the awareness that is held by the whole.

In the Chinese Room, were it to happen, the clerk running the file cards would be aware that he understands that "this output" really means the thing it's supposed to mean, even though he doesn't have the first hand knowledge of each of the other parts.

When your team wins, it is you who win.

When a small town in rural Uzbekistan, say, was part of the USSR, the people there were able to say that it was part of one of the world's great historical and present day Super Powers, political movers and shakers.  But now it's just a little town in an overlooked little country.

When a man or woman are single, unattached but flirting and moving toward marriage, they have their whole lives held individually in their minds individually.  But when they marry, if it works, they will go through the long and arduous and painful process of letting go of the substance of what represented their individual aspirations and relationships--forsaking all others, say--for better or worse--and counting as one's individual success and failure the success or failure of the whole marriage and all the parts thereof.  When they marry, they have their history or "self-consciousness" surgically excised, so to speak; and it will be a long time before they are able to replace the old with the new--if it ever actually happens.

A little toe has no real consciousness, but should you stub the toe, the toe will, in a sense, cry out in pain.  The whole unified consciousness of the self will attribute the awareness of the toe--the pain--as an awareness of the whole.

No man is an island.

Should the SETI project find something, it will be all the SETI parts who rejoice.

Go Team!  Be True to Your School.  Stand By Your Man.  We are Family.  Jeremiah went into exile along with the rest of Israel under judgment.  When Roe v Wade or the Dred Scott decision was instituted, we all in the United States were aware that we were part of the country that had abortion of our unborn children at will and the legally enforced slavery of our fellow man.  It is and was not possible to claim that one has the moral high ground and that these horrific things were not part of oneself.  Abortion and slave hold were something that one is doing, being a part of the whole.  The only way to escape that awareness would be to somehow! detach oneself from the whole, by leaving, or by an intellectual emotional withdrawal which can only be partial at best.  And when one prays, one can never say, "those people out there who hold slaves" or "those people out there who put to death their living children," because it is the action of oneself as part of the unified system.

This is why divorce and civil war and amputations and exile and solitary confinement are so horrendous.  It's not a technical matter, it's an attack on the unified consciousness.

Thursday, September 7, 2017

An Open Letter to DW/3M

An Open Letter to DW/3M                      

Dear David,
Thanks for writing your book,   The Three Marriages

I just finished a first reading, and it was a very timely book to me. Again showing the appropriateness of “when the student is ready….” 

 There were a few occasions in which I have seen some of the dynamics you talk about. One was when I was in grad school, after having dragged my whole family across hither and yon to try to pay some heed to vocation and heart’s unsilenced voice, I was in a graduate program that was wrong for me in so many ways. When walking across campus, I saw a banner across a sorority house, advertising for new members, that said “There’s Still Time!” I took encouragement from that sign as if it were the voice of God. 

At this time in the larger world, George Foreman was returning to the Ring. He had, famously, been humiliated in the famous “Rumble in the Jungle” against the great Muhammad Ali some several lifetimes previously. So, and the order of events here elude my memory, I would read about how George Foreman was returning to the ring at an age that no one in his right mind ought to, and that he intended to retire from the sport after becoming the Heavyweight Champion of the World, a title he went on to claim by winning the unified WBA, IBF and lineal titles. At this time, I was in one department in my university, but had found a similar program that was very right for me in another department. But I would have to be admitted to their own doctoral program as an internal transfer in the university. When I made my case to the man who would become my mentor and who would guide my dissertation, I told him that I was inspired by George Foreman, and that, after a frankly humiliating occupational history, I was stepping into the ring one more time. 

My gatekeeper, and then friend, was amused and inspired, and championed my admission to the program. That was in philosophy, where I learned to “unpack the ordinary,” which was the way my mentor looked at doing philosophy. He also encouraged me to write what I cared about rather than what I thought would be “marketable,” which I did. Doing what he advised helped me very much over the decades since then. 

Besides philosophy, I have always had a love for music. But as in all my loves, I feel an animus against letting out to the world that I feel the way I do. It’s never felt safe to me to let people know what I love. Yet, in reading Plato, in the midst of ordinary work, I found this passage. Socrates was in prison, awaiting execution within a few days. But one would never know by looking at him. Plato tells the story this way. 

 Cebes said, “Evenus asked me a day or two ago, as others have done before, about the lyrics which you have been composing lately by adapting Aesop’s fables and ‘The Prelude’ to Apollo. He wanted to know what induced you to write them now after you had gone to prison, when you had never done anything of the kind before. … Socrates said, tell him the truth, that I did not compose them to rival either him or his poetry—which I knew would not be easy. I did it in the attempt to discover the meaning of certain dreams, and to clear my conscience, in case this was the art which I had been told to practice. It is like this, you see. In the course of my life, I have often had the same dream, appearing in different forms at different times, but always saying the same thing, “Socrates, practice and cultivate the arts.”
In the past, I used to think that it was impelling and exhorting me to do what I was actually doing already; I mean that a dream like a spectator encouraging a runner in a race, was urging me on to do what I was already doing, that is, practicing the arts, because philosophy is the greatest of the arts, and I was practicing it. But ever since my trial, …, I have felt that perhaps it might be this popular form of art that the dream intended me to practice, in which case I ought to practice it and not disobey. I thought it would be safer not to take my departure before I had cleared my conscience by writing poetry and so obeying the dream. I began...

He began.
So I began.  Writing and singing. 
Recently, I had opportunity to perform two full-length performances, and it was a lot of fun. Later, I told about it to a small group, and someone came up afterward and said, “You sound like you really enjoyed it.” When she said that, I knew I was at a dividing point, and the temptation was to treat it as “business as usual,” that “someone had to do it.” But no, I acknowledged my true love of music, yes, I do, I find a lot of joy in performing. 

BTW, I freely admit that bringing myself to the place of writing music, or performing, feels a lot like looking at a blank page that cries out to be written upon. Performing and teaching are both my career.   Both bring great happiness and joy.  

In another area that you addressed in the book, I recently had (and still have) opportunity to buy a Martin D12-25 guitar, made during the years when I as a young man earnestly desired a Martin D12-35. Think “Masaratti” to get the feeling. But it’s been a long time since then. If I were to get the guitar, it would be an imitation of good things passed, not me, not now. There is a guitar that will be just right, but it will be something in the present moment, not a memory. Maybe something that hasn’t even been made yet, maybe something that I can’t afford but will when the time is right. 

Thank you for your encouragement and your insight.


For more on the great George Foreman, see this link.

Monday, September 4, 2017

The Journal of Best Practices: A Memoir of Marriage, Asperger Syndrome, and One Man's Quest to Be a Better HusbandThe Journal of Best Practices: A Memoir of Marriage, Asperger Syndrome, and One Man's Quest to Be a Better Husband by David Finch

A memoir. Inspring, and a model of a man with similarities to me who, when faced with the loss of the best thing in his life, the wife he loved, repented and set out on a marathon-quality endurance run to embrace wisdom and to be a better person, to love his wife, and to love his kids. The tale of the journey is worth the reading. He made many missteps along the way, the kind of missteps that I have made in the same kind of journey--so I know that he's the real deal.

View all my reviews

Thursday, August 31, 2017

Shadow Government--Of the Self

The conscious mind is analogous to the president and administration of the United States.  Whatever the president says and does appears to represent the United States.  If the president says he wants to build a wall, the world says, "The United States wants to build a wall."  If the president bows before Islamic leaders, the world says, "The United States bows before Islamic leaders."  Yet all things apparent are matched by an equally formidable hidden and slowly changing shadow government: the administrative offices, the appointed leaders, the secretaries who have been running things for 40 years, the policies set in place and the habits of protocol that have been in place for ages.  Likewise with a man, there are habits, there is body memory, there are preferences that are set in place for ages, there are subconscious assumptions, there are fight-flight-reproduce policies set in the amigdala and social structures that rule with an iron hand.  Merely making a personal decision to change one's ways will not, in itself, change the ways of the hidden structures of one's life, or the shadow government of the United States.  For the most part, the people and offices throughout the United States will do their best to keep things at an even keel and wait until the new initiatives blow over, or else are sold to them: think of Obamacare that crippled the insurance system without coming near to insuring the uninsured, or making everything unisex in personal and married life.  Or think of one's body, when one decides to go on a diet, or to speak politely instead of swearing, or to stop gambling, or to get up a half hour earlier each day: the shadow government of the self will strenuously object, and will cause the new initiatives to come to naught.  Unless the conscious government of the self persuades the will and emotions and physical body to come into line by a combinations of work-arounds, strength of will, subversion of pockets of resistance (including surgery, fasting, or other direct attacks on pockets of resistance).

This has been a summation of the principles at play here.  The following is how it may apply to people in the Austism Spectrum, those with autistic spectrum disorder, or in the words of a title of a popular book, Nerdy, Shy, and Socially Inappropriate (available at fine retailers everywhere and online).

One thing I've been reading is something you might have an interest in: the neural connections of sexual interest/ideation to the consciousness.  The topic came to my attention by observing that autistic spectrum disorder (ASD) people have a mind-blindness to consciousness of one's own emotions. 

What I've concluded is that in ASDs there is a competing center of government in such a person, so that matters of spirituality and God the Holy Spirit, or or sexuality, or of beauty, or of music, will all send signals for the self (not the conciousness) to attend to; but that the consciousness, the CEO/administrators of the self (seemingly separate from the executive function), will not acknowledge that there is this second agenda, this second administration in the self.

In a non-ASD, the person, the Self, gives representation to all these other voices.  In an ASD, the incoherence of one's life resembles the USA under the administration of Barack Obama, and then under the administration of Donald Trump.  

One related thread is "split brain studies."  In these studies, both the left brain and the right brain continue to work all by themselves, but do not talk to each other.  This sad situation in a person resembles, to me, the condition of the United States under the leadership of Barack Obama and Donald Trump.  Each side (brain and politics) speaks as if it represents the whole and does not give voice to the other side in a sympathetic voice.

Plato gives the ur-text on an analysis of the Self compared to a political government, in his book, perhaps the greatest work of philosophy of all time, The Republic.  (It's got a few weird parts, but don't let that dissuade you from it.)

Plato, The Republic  (free at link, and also available in other e-formats and in print everywhere and in nearly all public libraries)

One that I think would reward rereading with close attention is this:

I see that there is a soon to be published volume by Panksepp which might be even more helpful:The Emotional Foundations of Human Personality: A Neurobiological and Evolutionary Approach Hardcover – March 20, 2018by Ken L. Davis (Author), Jaak Panksepp PhD (Author)