Amerika

Posts Tagged ‘natural law’

Individualism and Nature

Saturday, July 29th, 2017

The courtroom filled with vultures and snakes, and each one wanted me dead. As an outsider to this group — coming from one of the outer belt moons instead of a nice, middle-class planet — I was already not one of them, and the fact that I had made their clique look bad was the clincher. This was through no fault of my own.

“All rise…” intoned a bailiff, hand on his stun weapon, eyes on me.

There was the usual boilerplate, introductions, disclaimers, miscellany, and other formalities before I found myself on the stand. The whole trick in court is that when you are on the stand, you see an entirely different room than you did before. Before, you saw the judge. Now, you see a group of people and know that whatever herd instinct they fall into relying upon will decide your fate.

“Describe for us the events of the date in question,” said my lawyer. As far as I could tell, his job was to make a bargain — a compromise, a pragmatic quid-pro-quo — with the other team, and deliver me into an appropriate sentence. On the other hand, in my view, I had done nothing wrong, which is why I was surprised to be arrested hours after the event, where they found me in an unlicensed church. I have no idea how they found me, but fifteen guys in combat gear came in and bodily removed me, and ever since I have been spending time in a locked cell with only a single window to view the world as the finite hours of my life passed by.

The judge nodded, and so I began. “We were a combat scout team deployed to a new and promising world. It had Earth-like temperatures, slightly on the warm side, and dense vegetation resembling that of the Triassic Era of our planet of origin. As scientific advisor, I was sent along to assess feasibility and to serve as second rifleman, which has always been my technical rank in our unit, since I lack the ambition to be formally recognized by military rank.”

“Objection, irrelevant,” said the prosecution.

“Overruled. Irrelevance itself is not against the rules of this Court; he is simply rambling. Witness, keep your attention on the narrative. Go on,” the judge rustled in a bloom of black silk.

“Where was I? Right, so we landed at about 0400 hours. Myself and my fellows — Dak, Zak, Mak, Vak and Hak — went north to the foothills of a mountain range, covering a half-dozen kilometers of jungle and prairie. I took numerous samples which are listed on the evidence table over there. Most of what we sampled were small invertebrates of two varieties. One had webbed wings like an insect, but soft bodies like butterflies, and the other were blind worms that thrashed along the surface of the dirt, eating vegetable matter like a cross between slugs and roundworms.”

I continued, since no one had objected. “Life was bountiful here. We spotted thousands of these little creatures. I kept sampling the air for microbes but found nothing threatening, similar perhaps to the ‘crobes of our own Jurassic period. My impression was that this world had a lot of potential, but that the hotter a world tends to be, the higher the presence of parasitism is because nutrition is easier for organisms in a hot climate, so there is excess which is exploited.”

Sort of like this courtroom, I thought, but did not add.

“Dak, who was ranking as a corporal, said we should acquire a vantage point to see if we could observe any large animals, as we had not seen any for some time. We climbed a small mountain or large hill, depending on how you look at it, and found ourselves on a jungle plateau. I took additional samples here which were lost somehow after my arrest, although they were in the custody of the military-scientific liaison group. My defense team has petitioned for these but received no answer.”

“Objection, hearsay,” said the prosecution.

“Sustained.”

I sighed. “These activities took us until mid-day, at which point it was decided to break for rations. Having covered quite a bit of ground, we were famished. We broke out rations, heated them, and started to eat, then Hak found a tea bag — ”

“Objection, witness is trying to deflect,” said the prosecution.

I waved them off and continued. “A teabag was found. It was decided that water was needed. One member of the team was either dispatched or dispatched himself to find water, over my objections, since we had not sample any aquatic life and so had zero verification of its safety. However, it was decided by ranking leadership that water itself, if properly boiled, could not harm us. But through this act, our doom was decided.”

As it turned out, Hak had found quite a beautiful little pool. Surrounded by gentle trees, with a soft breeze rushing over it, it was the loveliest and most inviting pool I had ever seen. These guys would not care about that, so I continued: “We found a small pond. At this point, it was blazingly hot — the notes are in my after-action report, if you can find it — and so Zak asked permission to strip down and go for a swim. Morale was sort of low at this point, since we had quarreled over whether there could be water for tea, and so over my objections, leadership decided that we should have a swim.”

“At that point, the events in question began. The others got into the water, but I refused to go, even when told by a commanding officer to do so. In my view, his order was illegal because we had not yet sampled the water to see what kind of life, if any, was in it. This is detailed in my report, which I do not see on the evidence table, where I felt strong objections to going into the water.”

The prosecution flexed his fingers below his chin. “And so, at this point, you began to resent your colleagues?”

I thought. “No, I would not call it resentment. I was determined not to follow them in their folly, mainly for the risk of bringing an unknown organism with multiple life-stages — think of a liver fluke — back onto our craft. It was bad procedure and there was no way I could ever agree to it. I would do the same today, honestly.”

A murmur went up from the crowd, earning a hawk-eye of disapproval from the judge.

I went on. “At this point, the group was fairly agitated. They were having fun splashing around, and were finally free from the heat. I wished for the same, but not through their methods. They started to call to me where I was seated on the bank of the pond.

‘Don’t be such a fag, get in here!’

‘Always a spoilsport. Quit being such a bitch.’

‘We’re all doing it, why are you such a nerd?’

‘Whatsamatter, what’s good for us isn’t good enough for you? Such a little prince, nose in the air.’

‘He thinks he’s too good for us! What a bigot!’

And so on. I have to say here that I did not particularly take heed of this, as I am told that such ribbing is in the tradition of our unit, so I had mentally filed it under camaraderie instead of antagonism. But after they had been in the pool for just, well, about two or three minutes, something changed.”

The silence in the courtroom made other sounds loud. I could hear the electricity arcing through the lights above, and the fan on the computer the court reporter was using. Even through the thick insulated doors, the mutterings of the crowd outside reached me. My stepfather and surrogate mother were out there somewhere, probably disappointed with me as they had been my whole life, except when I finally got appointed to this team which I had, in their view, screwed up.

All eyes were on me. “I noticed it first with Mak. He had been swimming in little circles, but then he started wriggling.”

“Wriggling — ?” the prosecution asked me.

“Yes, shaking, squirming, moving uncomfortably, like a weird dance or an uncomfortable child. It was an odd motion, now that you mention it, and that must be why it caught my eye. I called out to him and he turned to me. Dak told me to shut up. But as Mak turned, I saw that he was writhing in pain, and that there were… creatures in the water around him. There may or may not have been samples taken, and if they were, they were filed along with my after-action report, alive, but I do not see the chit on the table either. I will describe these creatures.”

The court remained silent. If I were on a power trip, or just an egomaniac like most people, I would have relished this moment. “They were about ten centimeters long, and were segmented worms with an outer carapace, like Earth millipedes or centipedes, but instead they had mouths like a lamprey inside a little armored head, like a tiny placoderm. And in place of legs, they had little flippers that were like the bodies of tiny flat snakes, so not bony like ordinary fish fins or flippers, which are usually a mammalian or bird adaptation. Any samples that I may have taken were extracted very carefully from the surrounding water using medical tweezers and a solid glass, kevlar-topped sample container.”

“But I am getting ahead of myself. Before I took the samples, I was talking to Mak. The others had stopped swimming at that point. Mak was in the deepest water, and he was doing this writhing dance, but was clearly not drowning. Then he turned to us, and opened his mouth, and inside of it I saw all of these creatures thrashing as they dove into his flesh. He looked at me with tense eyes, clearly in pain, and then the creatures thrust upward and all the life went out of those eyes as they ate the brain. He was dead before he sank into the water.”

A ripple of emotion cross the courtroom, bounced off the far wall, and lapsed into the middle in an entropy caused by lack of actual caring.

“At this point, I yelled to Dak to get the others out of the water. Zak started slashing at the water, and said, ‘They’re coming in through my penis!’ at which point the others started heading toward shore. But it was too late. They each started to do the death-dance, the little creatures having drilled into them and then attached their limbs to one another so that they formed a big rope, which then was sucked into the body where they began to feast. Piranhas and candiru have nothing on these little guys.”

The judge waved for me to go on.

“Before they died, Dak and Vak called for me to save them. They wanted me to pull them out of the water, or use my shock rifle to help. The problem is that the shock rifle would have killed them as well, and that going into the water would have put me in danger.”

Aha! The prosecution leaned in and said, “Isn’t it your job to go into danger in service of your comrades?”

The entire audience sat back. This was the moment they were waiting for, when the person who violated the sanctity of the herd would be punished.

I thought, and then said slowly, “There is no part of the rule book that says I am obligated to destroy myself to rescue a doomed comrade. You will see in my defense brief a listing of military cases where soldiers refused to aid those who had made bad decisions and doomed themselves. As it stated in our military book of law, there is no general obligation to render aid to another where rendering such aid would not change the outcome. And in my view, there was no hope in this case.”

“And on what authority did you make that determination?” sneered the prosecution, angry that his guillotine moment was over.

“The timing. Mak died in a matter of minutes, but even before that, he was beyond saving because his internal organs had been consumed. They eat the brain, heart and lungs last, probably to keep the meat as fresh as possible during their feasting. From the fact that these organisms had already entered their bodies, I knew that my comrades were doomed, and by their own choice, against my advice.”

The prosecution swept toward me, his robe forming dark wings behind him with the sudden movement. “But you were not the ranking officer here, so it was not your decision to make,” he said.

“No, I was not. However, I was the only scientific officer, and this was a scientific and not military question. There was no military objective in the pond. Nor was there any part of our mission that covered the pond, or I would have objected until we brought equipment that would allow us to safely sample the creatures within. None of the others had scientific training or background with biology, as I did. And so I had to make the determination on that basis.”

The courtroom fell into a complete lack of energy. The moment was defused. The excitement was gone. I had stood up to the crowd and, whatever they did to me, they would have to lie about it in order to make it seem like my defense had no basis. Then again, with so much of my evidence missing, I had zero expectation of fairness. But I went on.

“Seconds later, all four of the survivors were doing the writhing dance with increasingly frequency, like Mak had done in the moments before his brain was consumed and he lost consciousness, leading to animal death. In sequence, they each turned toward me, opening their mouths so I could see the swarming mass, and then the eyes went out as the creatures dove in and ate the brain. Then they fell back into the water, and the mass of creatures converged upon them, eating everything. They were even able to consume bone, which is why I was careful to use the bite-resistant sample container. They ate everything — eyes, sinews, hair, bone, and teeth — and left only the contents of the intestines. Three minutes, maybe, after the event began, all that remained of my comrades were five heaps of dung on the bottom of the pond, which I could see through the clear water.”

“In my opinion, we encountered a world that stayed in its Triassic-like state but for some reason, kept earlier creatures around from the Devonian era. These evolved, but instead of becoming new creatures, became more effective versions of themselves. The planet may have simply been too rich with life to squeeze creatures into new forms. Needless to say, this explained why we saw few larger creatures. These nasty little attack-worms normally feasted on the blind and idiotic invertebrates who moved randomly and so, inevitably, ended up in the pools where they were eaten. But any larger creature that came to drink water would have been destroyed immediately, so the parasites blocked further evolutionary potential.”

The prosecution fulminated in a corner. Seeing this, the judge asked, “In your mind, did you do anything wrong?”

I pursed my lips. This smelled like a trap. “The question is not in my mind, your honor. Human reasoning comes in three varieties: deference to the individual, or individualism; deference to the group, or collectivism; and deference to principle, logic, knowledge of nature, science and other abstractions that reflect an understanding of how the world works. Ironically, while the first two are purely social determinations, religion and philosophy belong to the latter, because they too are based on principles of how our world is composed and how acts in it tend to resolve, and from that, how to make the most of what we have. I defer only to science, somewhat, but even more, logic.”

“There was no way to save those men once they went into the pond. At that point, they had to be considered infected because of the presence of a parasitic species in the pond which our science does not yet know how to counter. For me to touch them was to risk exposing myself to the parasite, and it was more important for the safety of those to follow that this information be passed along. Their loss was a result of their choices.”

At this point, the courtroom returned to an uproar. Blaming the victim! Desecrating the dead! The energy returned back to the lifeless room. The bailiff hustled me out because he was afraid that the crowd might attack. But I knew this was theater. The real attack would come through the judge who, apologetically shrugging, would explain that from the necessity of keeping the group together, I, too, had to be sacrificed. And that is what happened. As it turned out, the ship taking me to an off-world penal colony suffered a fire, and had to crash-land on a distant moon, putting me right back to where I started. But that is a story for another time.

The pact or the contract

Saturday, August 30th, 2014

magna_carta

A pact can be broken, but so can a contract. The pact is, in a certain sense, unofficial, whereas the contract is “official.” However, nature does not operate according to a standard of official/unofficial conduct. What is a contract but a formalistic pact?

The pact is to the contract what the laws of nature are to man-made legal law. The law of nature is more powerful and authoritative than man-made legal law, so too is the pact greater than the contract. How?

Power and authority are maximally effective when they remain potential, not when they are enacted directly. The threat of violence is more effective than actual violence. A threatening look is more potent than jumping up and down and screaming. At that point one looks ridiculous and impotent.

Imagine two machines. They both result in the same function. However, one machine does less for the same result. Which is the more efficient machine?

The contract violates the first law of power and efficiency by adding caveats rather than subtracting excess. Authority is enacted too directly. The contract assumes, if not for the contract, the members entering the contract will inevitably screw each other. Right from the get-go there is implicit distrust and suspicion.

The pact operates on the basis of belief and trust. Belief and trust are more powerful than skepticism and doubt. Skepticism and doubt adds caveats. Belief and trust streamlines. Power is a result of streamlining.

The pact is more truthful about reality insofar as it is honest that if a person is set on screwing you, they will do so regardless of a contract, or they will find a way around it through sophistry. There is no such formality in the pact. It requires the leap of faith.

Businesses and companies use contracts but posses and tribes use pacts. How is authority and power maintained in a posse or tribe without a contract? It is regulated through ceremony, initiation, and threat.

Take the mafia. Here you have an entirely separate world and social system that operates outside the law. Because of this, it has no real recourse with regard to contracts. They call themselves men of honor, and everything, regardless of semantics, operates according to the pact. You can imagine the humor, after a solemn and intense initiation ceremony, when a member becomes a made-man, once he is kissed by the Godfather, in walks the HR man to have him sign here, here, and here, initials here.

The mafia self-regulates. Even the biggest Dons can be taken out if they get out of control and violate the rules of their organization. When a member of the mafia undermines the mafia, they undermine themselves.

The contract is another manifestation of our insistence on certainty in a thoroughly uncertain world. Only faith and belief can answer uncertainty. Sophistication, formalities, and higher standards for what is considered knowledge has much more to do with allaying our existential fears, than it does with better navigating reality.

Again, the contract assumes we can control reality. We cannot. To say that we can provides a false sense of security. It implies you are a scoundrel. Why would you want to enter into a project with another scoundrel? From the get-go, the contract implies an adversarial relationship. The pact is honest and streamlined. It makes no such assumptions of control and suspicion.

When a contractual project works out, that’s the way it was supposed to work, and you can attribute success to a piece of paper. When the pact works out, you beat the odds, and you can thank fate and the Gods. The downside to a broken pact and a broken contract is the same. The upside to the pact is much greater and this is the advantage of the pact. United we stand, divided we fall.

The basis of law is justice not obedience

Monday, April 21st, 2014

enforcing_the_law

In order to gain perspective, it is useful to divide the world in two: those things that were created by man and those things that were not created by man. Buildings and trees both exist, but buildings do not grow out of the ground. It is civilization on the one hand and wild nature on the other.

Similarly, there are two sets of laws: the laws created by man and the laws not created by man, the laws of nature. Within the laws created by man we can include official laws, but also unofficial laws such as etiquette or custom. The laws of nature include physics and laws of necessity such as eating food and drinking water in order to survive. The laws of nature are impossible to break. Man-made laws, on the other hand, can indeed be broken if one chooses to break them. Deeming something legal or illegal does not carry the same force as a law of nature.

With this in mind, we may ask: what did man do before man-made law and how did man conceive of law to govern society in the first place? Who wrote the first laws? They had nothing to refer to; someone had to divine them first. A book of laws did not just fall from the sky.

At some point, people simply used their minds to work things out in reality. By observing nature and paying attention to how people interacted, they bottom lined it and created official laws for how man could act in accordance with reality and the laws of nature. Thus the first man-made laws were created.

People first used their minds to divine what was right and just, and second, recorded these observations as official codes of conduct. What is right and just is not dependent on what is deemed official law or code, rather, it is the other way around, laws and codes are dependent on what is right and just as divined by the mind. Man-made laws are always secondary to the laws of nature.

What is right and what is just, is primary, and what is lawful is secondary. The goal is to have the secondary in accordance with the primary. But, again, a law is not right and just, merely by virtue of the fact that it has been recorded or deemed as such. And on the other side of the coin, something may be wrong even if it is technically legal.

To resort to justifying what is right or wrong by referring to law or a hand book is the “I was just following orders” alibi. It is a convenient way to shut off your mind, obey your master, and ignore the grand scheme of things. To do what is right and just, even if it be unlawful, or to refrain from doing wrong, even if it be lawful, is a responsibility too great for many men.

Plato noted this many years ago when he pointed out that wisdom is not found in a book. Any man who merely recites what is written down as justification will be a burden to his fellow man. The upside to records is that experience is streamlined and we do not have to suffer the folly of our ancestors. The downside is that we do not experience these things first hand and we take things for granted. We move further and further away from reality itself.

The mind becomes feeble when it relies exclusively on records and codes of conduct that are “just so.” Eventually, people begin to base what is right or wrong on what is law or custom, rather than the other way around. A law based on a law, based on a law, eventually begins to have no grounding in reality.

Apply this logic to the Bundy Ranch situation or to the Weev situation. Who is acting according to natural law and who is acting according to man-made legal law? Imagine it was the days before laws or books or writing, who looks like the aggressor and who looks like they have righteousness and justice on their side? In fact, the federal government is not merely using a single, simple law as justification; they are using law based on law based on law. It is a labyrinthine mess of precedent, statutes, provisions, additions, citations, ABC, and XYZ so far removed from nature and reality it is not even funny.

The story of history and civilization could be seen as the tension between what is right and what the official man-made law is. Many a hero was made by breaking the law. The law is always secondary to what man feels, in his gut, is right and just. Man-made law can be broken whereas the law of nature cannot. What is right and just produces the law and is the basis for law in the first place.

To reign in hell

Thursday, October 11th, 2007

to_reign_in_hell

As is known to those who take the time to think on such esoteric topics, it is impossible to know the good without the bad. There is a middle state, without judgment, where nothing much matters, but too much lingering here and one discovers a kind of personal entropy: since all decisions are equally of this middle state, there’s no point making any decision. Linger in the stream and let it pass. Of course, in that state, there is also none of the reward of accomplishment.

Making choices after all defines us. From the simplest satisfactions when we choose to clean our homes or organize our lives in a better fashion, to the greatest choices, when we stand our ground for a principle or ideal, choice makes us feel alive because in it we are exercising the capacity of life. This capacity is at its simplest level motion, and at its most complex motion through the world of ideas. We feel alive when we encounter a choice and make a good one. We feel dead when we shirk from these choices, even if we’re “comfortable” with our warm homes, cars, video games, pornography and serving-size packaged prefabricated foods.

Excepting such a middle state, we live for making choices toward what is good and avoiding what is bad. As with all judgments and categories, these exist in a spectrum from simple goods like a clean house being superior to a filth-hole, to complex ends where we prefer a society that is not failing to one that allows us excess of comfort. Our choices are informed by our knowledge of what is good, or what ends in an order that is beneficial to us, and what is bad, or what results in less organization and less beneficial aspects. Disorder is another form of entropy, one that is fatal to individuals and societies alike.

Our knowledge of good and bad is entirely dependent on experience, although we come pre-programmed with some knowledge. Snakes are for the most part bad, in our genetic heritage, and depending on where our families originated, there may be other primal fears and primal desires. Germans seem to like order and cleanliness over all else, where to an Italian, a warm house full of good food takes precedence. What we all share that is not learned is a knowledge that some things will end well, and others will not. If we are attuned to ourselves, we become uneasy deep in our gut when we are part of a course of action that we suspect will not end well.

We wonder if indeed our universe learned by the same method, since our thoughts and their maturation so resemble the processes we see in nature whether planets forming from circling gasses or species adapting general principles to specific environments. Our furthest conjecture might envision a nothingness so absolute it is not even an empty space, only an absence in totality, which at some point through a routine error was able to recognize two parts of itself as distinct, and thus created “space” so both could exist. Is the universe made of thoughts? It certainly seems as if it acts that way.

In John Milton’s “Paradise Lost,” the most beautiful of angels so made Error and rebelled against an all-seeing God, and was thus cast into a Hell, dividing existence between Heaven and Hell and their mediate zone, this mortal space of time and body we know as “life on earth.” Satan, cast among the wreckage with his fellow rebels, reflects on his fate with the stolidity of a Greek tragedic deity: It is better to reign in hell, he surmises, than to serve in heaven. From error comes new life, and from Satan’s fall comes what we know on earth as the significance of choice between good and bad. With only heaven, there was no need for such choice, and through error, the universe expanded.

When we return from our spacy conjecture to the reality of our present time, we can see a parallel construction: without certain knowledges, we are unaware of how what transpires will end. A child will not be concerned when people around him or her are taking methamphetamine, because that becomes in that child’s experience “normal”; in the same way, a child can be inculcated to live around any population or behavior, but this does not mean such behaviors will end well or poorly. In the same way, we who grow up in a certain society know it as “normal” and must actively assess its tenets and actions as to how they will end.

But our experience limits us, and in this we see the wisdom of hell. Most grow up in the normalcy and do not second-guess it, but accept its failings as a matter of course and do their best to dodge them. Fewer than one percent of all people question the actual direction of society or its future impact. Among those, only a few have either sought or seen hell and remained mentally intact enough to process it.

Of course, hell takes many forms. Some find hell on the battlefield, others in a broken home, and still others in crime or economic desolation. Others find it more subtly in the interactions of people. Win an award, get a promotion, make a work of art, or get famous, and suddenly you find that your friends are retaliating against you. Or sniping, expecting you to pick up the check and not care about the damage they do to your house. In the quiet moments after such events, when the puzzled mind attempts to diagnose the situation… and one realizes that other people can be motivated by revenge, small-minded envy, and even a simple parasitic desire to steal.

Having seen hells created by humans, or even the hell that a solitary human can bring to us, we become more critical of any potential action. Our sphere of good expectations has been violated, but much as Satan in discovering hell found a certain liberation, we find that we are disassociated as a result from an illusion. We no longer believe that all is well no matter what we do. Through the impact of horror, and by seeing the empty and false motivations of others, we realize not only that we are in the driver’s seat of our own lives, but that there is no guarantee things will work out alright on their own — more likely, they’ll turn out terribly, since many of the people in command have the same revengeful outlook as the others in whom we discover anew hell.

In the same way an inexperienced Satan could not know the power of his own choice, because he never had the chance to screw up and get thrown into hell, modern people are inexperienced and know not hell. They are virgins of true depression, true fear, and true horror because they have surrogate experiences of pleasure and pain within a system that doesn’t vary — although it postpones all of its biggest disasters much like it puts its trash in landfills, criminals in prisons, toxic waste in oceans, incompetents in government. They get excited by a change in job, and get depressed by a broken car. But do they face real horror or victory, the chance for change not in an event within their lives but the form of those lives themselves?

Until one knows hell, one cannot look into the structure of things. Behind the visible, behind the immediate, there is the way elements of a situation interact to perpetuate it. To see hell is to realize how those things bring about negativity. To see hell is to wish to know the only way to avoid it is to tackle these difficult and complex but rewarding invisible structures. Any idiot can bash an attacking wolf on the head, but how many can realize the misdirection of an upstream tributary disrupted a hunting ground and brought on the wolf? Or spotting an error that does not attack like the wolf, but leaves out necessary things, laying the groundwork for future failure. To see hell is to realize, like Satan did, that the visible is only part of what must be considered.

To realize hell is to see that the invisible world must be tackled. We cannot exist in the solely visible world, where tangible concepts are presented to us and we vote upon them or buy them but never change the structure of society. The visible world is what humans create for one another, with words and symbols and flags. The invisible world, more than what they say they mean, is the future results of their actions as designed. The invisble world is what will determine the difference between heaven and hell long before the impact of decisions past makes those states come about.

Critical thinking, or the ability to analyze complex structure where there is no single supporting idea (linearity) but a balance of all points balancing all others (architectonic), is the rarest of abilities in our world. It requires thinkers who dedicate time and energy to understanding, but it also requires a vision of enough hell to desire heaven. It is not surprising that our best thinkers, writers, leaders and artists warn us that our society is a path to hell, and most repeat those words and change nothing of their behavior or political outlook. They haven’t seen hell, because hell is invisible until its consequences are felt. For those who can predict those consequences, hell arrives early.

The ancients considered critical thinking to be intelligence. They knew that with enough practice and indoctrination, marginally intelligent people could be made “intelligent” in a narrow field with few tactics that need applying. You can teach almost anyone to be a computer programmer, because most of the “thinking” is responding to variants on already-known scenarios and memory work to find the right matching piece in response. It’s like fitting shaped blocks into holes. Our smart people today are singular function linear thinkers, of a partial intelligence that allows them to excel in one area without an ounce of critical thinking, and for this reason they do not recognize hell. They must be shown hell, and this is why our authors and thinkers try increasingly to represent it.

Yet for those who can make the trip from a heaven of ignorant blithe oblivion (modern living) to a realization of not just personal tragedy but the poor design of a civilization leading to inevitable future hell, the experience is life-changing. Small cares fall away. The yawning gap between perception and reality that will swallow us becomes apparent in all that we see. When this wears off, we become accustomed to enduring situations that are so poorly designed it is clear they will end badly, but most people blithely march onward into them. They are ignorant of hell, visible or invisible.

In contrast to our product-oriented media, which tries to make different hells (war, ghetto, sodomy, drugs, AIDS) seem appealing because of their lack of rules, those who have experienced hell have a different look in their eyes. They want to get away from it, because they realize that while the experience of hell is revolutionary, living in hell is not — it is tedious, both in daily endurance and in knowledge of its certain failure. People who have seen hell tend to find wisdom in traditional family roles, in intangible pleasures like creativity and learning, and in removing themselves from the city to contemplate insignificance under a boundless night sky. They have seen hell, and realize that our modern heaven on earth leads to it, and they must escape.

But of course for most it is too late. They don’t have the time, and they don’t have the brainpower at hand, or the learning, to see hell, much less the invisible hell. This is why in our society, 90% of the people are oblivious and 8% are busy profiting from hell while only 2% are actually worried. Hell is easy to avoid, now, because they are worried about visible hells like war and anarchy. Our society of course as an all-inclusive place is bias against genius, because not only do they not need including, but they resist efforts toward norming. It detests those who rise above the crowd as they are both socially and bureaucratically awkward to explain to others. This is why few voices speak out about what hell awaits us, but these tend to be the smartest and most experienced voices.

When one has experienced hell, the world expands most prominently into two options: the choice to continue on a path to hell, or the choice to head elsewhere. For those who have not seen hell, the idea of hell — “freedom” to a teenage self-indulgent Satan in Heaven — seems appealing. But to those who have seen it, hell is not only not appealing but not rare. It is mundane. The freedom of hell and the oblivion of heaven lead to the same place, which is failure, and the determination of the experienced is to avoid both. Much as the universe recognized its own emptiness, and Satan saw his own failing as liberation, we can find liberation in looking unblinkingly into hell, and then steeling our resolve to choose another path.

Pariah

Thursday, October 11th, 2007

ancient_remains

It occurs to me that you cannot put a dollar value on truth. People pay for “information,” which is true knowledge, but not for a sense of truth itself, that is to say, an assessment on a situation that cannot be solved by raw information itself. What about a column of numbers can solve the questions of life, or invent where there was nothing before? Truth is not information, which means it must compete with news-entertainment. News-entertainment has no obligation to truth, as its goal is to interest people not educate them, thus truth is entirely cut out of our modern equation.

This is probably for the best. No one wants to be caught “selling” truth. Psst, buddy, wanna buy the secrets of life? Interestingly, this would probably be an optimum way to hide the best truths we have, as only those to whom no one would listen would buy truth from a streetvendor in a trenchcoat. Truth is effectively reduced to this level anyway, since spending time caring about truth instead of what sells puts you at a disadvantage. The only space our society has for truth-seeking is as a hobby. Yes, in your spare time, hunt down that truth. In the meantime, people want televisions with genital-activated remotes! This Is Important.

We don’t know what nature is. To some it means green ridges of trees outside the subdivision. To others it’s wide open spaces somewhere they still have such things, like in Africa or Appalachia or on the moon maybe. Still others use it scientifically to refer to “nature” as all those wild and wonderful chemical reactions that somehow result in things as varied as bacon for breakfast and the emotion we call “love” (note: love can also not be sold, only the symbols of it, in which a brisk trade has been flourishing since the dawn of humanity). Nature if you really think about it means the universe all together, as this big mysterious process that has somehow brought us into existence from the void.

Nature, as this big process, is better understood by us as “rules” or tendencies than as a physical thing. How do you fist fight the universe? It’s not going to come if you challenge it. It’s already there. Nature in this sense stops for no one, because all things are governed by its rules, much like we cannot help that we act sometimes like our parents, even if we drink until we slur our words. Fight nature is like challenging language to a debate. Nature stops for no one and will just as happily roll over us like a Sherman tank as it will bless us with long and happy lives.

What decides who lives, and who dies? Gruff scientific types bark out something about “Darwinism” and the Christians, holding their severed genitals in latex-gloved hands, sing in angelic voices that God decides everything and we can just go along with it, hum a favorite tune, think of England and enjoy it as best we can. What decides who lives or dies is how well that someone is adapted to nature, or the universe, or reality, or truth, if you want to get picky about language. Whatever it is – it is what is – and those who figure it out live and those who don’t die or have other bad consequences. Another way to put it is that if you smear bear pheremones on your ass and bend over in front of a grizzly, don’t be surprised if you get sodomized.

Each of us has a world in his head. This world is like our outside world, but it is our memory and perception of it, and like a photograph of a summer day it captures a certain angle of gist of reality but not reality itself. That world is the conduit through which we experience reality, because the instant that passes must be stored as knowledge, and all our knowledge comes from our senses as filtered through our judgment. So life becomes a process of having a more accurate world in one’s head (truth) or finding a world one prefers, whether drugs or television or religion or incoherent, neuter-positivist thinking (everything will work alright if I just get a Gold Card). Our internal worlds all have different degrees of truth to them.

When an internal world moves far away from rationality, the mind does not have a problem with it. Only later when the physical body has to deal with the negative consequences of an irrational approach to life does the mind get reminded that it was off-base. If someone neglects to prepare for winter, they cannot will their way past a lack of firewood or food. They die. Similarly depart people who try to find buried landmines with sledgehammers, feed bears raw steak, or smoke while filling up their tanker trucks. When people lament the inundation with functional morons that is a hallmark of modern society, it is too easy to point out that getting a job, credit card and apartment is much easier than surviving a night in the forest, and quality of humanity has declined inversely to the rise of technology.

To be a pariah, in this time, is to assert the kind of truth that can kill people who do not understand it. If you see a room full of people confronted with a new baffling object, many will pretend to understand it, others will pretend to be disinterested, and still others will actually investigate it. The last group is the smallest. These are the ones who act deliberately. Deliberate people are not surprisingly unthreatened by the idea of reality existing and themselves having the possibility of assessing it incorrectly and thus being penalized. Those who are not deliberate, and are not sure their vision of reality is accurate, are threatened and simultaneously invent fantasy worlds in which to mentally reside and become underconfident.

It is this conflict of worlds-within-worlds, or mental visions of the world at large, that humanity finds itself stranded, because with the enhanced capabilities of intelligent life comes great demands for accuracy in perceiving the world at large. It is a race for the intellectual ability to see life as it is, and while the winners do not get rewarded at the instant they complete it, they gain an endurance which far outstrips the ability of those who are in denial (fantasy worlds) or shirking the task (underconfidence, laziness, dishonesty). The winners become pariahs in the illusion-worlds of others because to have a winner present who can remind them of reality is offensive, and they see truth itself as intolerant, elitist, even hateful.

So for now society is upside down, because the winners are pariahs and the losers are kings. The people who live a lie find it easier to adapt to this upside down world because they don’t expect truth or logic in the first place, and are generally so negative and underconfident they gladly settle for a few basic things crowned with gaudy distractions. These pariahs are the ultimate realists, and they laugh at the losers. You think you’ve stolen my power? they say. You think your fantasy world somehow changes the fact that the world is out there, and for all the theory we can concoct about relativity or ideals, it is acting as it normally does? Reality is on my side.

I am the laughing amoralist, our pariah says. I am the one who not only understands reality but likes the way it operates, having looked far enough into the levels of its complexity to see why it does what it does, and to realize that in the long term that type of order is better than our human wishes. Morons would make the world out of dessert foods and gold, and then lapse into an entropy of ambition because their imagination ends with riches and sugar. Pariah-realists are glad for the coldness of winter, the difficult of valued tasks, the rarity of good things. I am the laughing amoralist, our pariah says. You think you’ve got me cornered in your illusion-world, but really, all you’re doing is digging your own grave.

The summation of this situation is a cascade of summations which add up to a great weakness: a species is born, becomes powerful, and drifts into illusion that lessening its power at the same time the forces it set into motion with its wealth become dangerous. It has exported its strength to its external mechanisms, where machines or learning written down or social constructions, and now what is inside has atrophied and become flabby. The force of will and self-discipline and confidence that is needed to create in this life is draining away, being replaced with a short-term-cycle of desires counterpointing fears leading to a will only toward escape, distraction and other activity that dissipates focused energy. It is a path to doom, for those who take this illusion as reality.

When all the lights are extinquished, and when there are no frontiers toward which one can run, the illusionists will have to face what the pariah has long kept inside, which is the nature of the beast which affirms the need for conflict in life and for predation and struggle. We accept reality and its adversity, us pariahs, because we know that the machines and mass media and popularity contests of society made it easier to pick illusion over reality. Our endurance builds and we grow stronger, while the illusionists become more dependent on the illusion. The illusionists see only their machines and social order, and beyond it, there is the monster and the beast within. Pariahs have the beast within and so do not fear the forest, whether outside or in our souls.

For those who uphold the illusion, time is running out as the impact of humanity’s changes on the planet and on itself are being seen. The illusion is flickering as if its projector was short of oil or dropping a bearing; the illusionists themselves are losing strength, and have no way to regain it, since the illusion was always untrue and waited only time to reveal its transparency. And the pariahs, long kicked around and denied because they saw a world outside that world on which others agreed, aka the social illusion, are gaining power as consciousness of reality comes back.

The pariah, the laughing amoralist, turns to the illusionist and says, Well, you’ve had your run, and it’s not coming back for awhile, because it’s now apparent that you’ve blown it. Just like George W. Bush had presidential power unchecked until he made a disaster out of that power, the illusionists have had their day, and through their own actions and not those of another have proved themselves incompetent and destructive. Reality has always been there and it gains strength, showing us that the laughing amoralist pariah was right the whole time. Seeing that, the pariah says offhandedly, “And you want to be nice to us, for we are the ones who will make your graves, now that winter has come.”

The First World War

Sunday, August 27th, 2006

open_skies

Before we become depressed by the horrors of our time, let us imagine it — from the perspective of the natural world…

Of all the birds, Rock Dove remains a mystery. His spirit is elusive, and any time a rock dove is seen, you can feel that he is winking, sharing a mystery. And here is his story.

Long before the dominion of humans, birds ruled the earth because of their powers of flight. The first birds took advantage of this and were fierce, giant predators that descended at screaming speeds to carry off their crying victims, as all knew that once in the air even escape meant death by falling.

Over time, some of these vicious predators started wanting the easy life, and living off fruit and nuts like the infinite tiny mammals they plundered, and these grew numerous because it is far easier to find seeds and berries than it is to hunt all day for several moments of howling pursuit in which the small creature chased is often blessed by a nearby hole in the earth.

From these birds came the pigeons, and from a particularly freewilled tribe of otherwise cowlike pigeons came the spirit that became Rock Dove. Like his pigeon cousins, Rock Dove liked the easy life, but as if recalling some lost ancestor, his spirit loved the thrill of pursuit. As rock doves are smaller than hawks, however, this time the thrill was in evasion.

Rock Dove was a powerful spirit, and engendered many birds, but at first they were far from inspiring: black, bold pigeons with broader wings. Rock Dove, when he dreamed, dreamt of more powerful wings and faster flight, and over time all the new rock doves in the world had these bigger wings. This started the first world war, as we know it today, because this made them bigger and more visible targets for eagles.

From his roost in the darkness of the aether, Rock Dove saw the daily fight when eagles dropped from above on silent wings and carried off another bird with plaintive creel. The others huddled closer on their branches, but Rock Dove went deeply into his dream. In his dream he saw thinner bodies with the same proportion of wing, and as the new generations of rock doves were born, this came about.

Now faster than most birds, rock doves could dive under the eagles in pursuit and make it to earth where eagles were loathe to dive (you try rushing at a small target among spiny cacti or sharp dry twigs; your own weight becomes an enemy if you so much as touch a splinter at that speed). In his timeless sleep, Rock Dove grinned. On flat rocks and empty limbs across earth, rock doves sent forth their humming song.

Far above, the Eagles also dreamed, and the war went from a sitting combat to active. “We’ll take them at their roosts,” voiced the Eagle-spirit. “They’re sitting ducks, if you pardon my pun.” The next morning rock doves everywhere pecked at food and were taken — from the leafy twigs of trees, from their resting places on the rocks and amidst the pebbles. Rock Dove frowned in sleep.

The losses were massive — or magnificent, if you were an eagle. Blood stained the flat rocks and vacant limbs of the prairies. In darkness Rock Dove grimaced. He had lost a generation, at least, of his best, sent to their deaths against something they could not have expected. His claws tensed on the branches of earth. While his heart was sick, his spirit was not, and Rock Dove dreamed again — a dream of fighting.

Thus was the first race for military technology born. The few remaining rock doves huddled in safe places, hatching eggs that brought forth brown and then tan and then light grey-tan offspring. These were thinner, faster and lighter than their parents, and best of all, they were hard to see.

Rock Dove knew in his dream that our eyes — any ideas — must be designed to grasp the gist of a situation without getting enmired in detail quickly, or they are useless in a world of fast-moving prey and predator alike. When an eye looks at the mottled surface of rocks, or the speckled skin of trees, it sees the pattern and not every detail. And now, as he dreamed it, rock doves fit into that pattern.

Above eagles crowed in victory. “We have obliterated the enemy,” said one triumphantly. But their celebration ended early when they found rock doves no longer easy to catch, and had to move on to other birds and tiny mammals. These in turned dreamed in fathomless sleep and began to change from their bright colors into the dusky spectrum of earth. It was no longer easy to be an eagle.

Rock Dove remains in his sleep, watchful but aware there are some things he can only outlast but not directly fight. So it is with war. But in the first world war, he had triumphed despite defeat, because his spirit did not give in where his heart was weak. So it is with all wars: your losses will be sorrowful but if you stay on the path of your dream, your victory — even despite defeat — will be eternal.

Suddenly it is clear not only how to dry our weary eyes, but what we must do in the future…

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