In Texas, plain speaking is valued because it is the fastest way to get a group working toward the same goal. From that accord, we get all good things, from barn-raising to symphonies. It fits that a place which still has memory of the frontier, like Texas, would be a place to be both straightforward and philosophical.
As part of this tradition, there’s a Texas way of saying that the truth is unpopular and so rarely seen by most people. “If you don’t have your head up your ass,” the sentence begins, and then presents that rara avis, truthful representations of reality. It’s a simple rhetorical device to say that if you have your head up your ass, you can’t observe reality around you, so those without cephalic insertions are those who can see the world and adapt to it.
Philosophers, in a time before they all started posing at being academics and tried to make their work look like science, spoke a similar plain truth. If you observe the world, they’d say, you can see it works consistently, and you can test your memory of how it works to discipline that memory, and then you can predict the outcomes of what you do.
In decadent times we call this lowercase-c conservatism, or the idea of an organic worldview — that we aren’t separate from nature, that nature is inside us, and that nature reflects a sensible and far-reaching “informational” order. Like children, we recognize that nature is consistent and so if we learn its consistency, we can manipulate its response. This both avoids negative consequences and lets us play, and build upon what we have to have more.
We say informational order because the patterns of nature are consistent between energy and matter, and even thought. Our brains take in multiple inputs, form a response to each, and within each response form multiple possibilities. The brain then tests each possibility and each response, finds the most likely, and spits it out.
In the same way, energy expands to fill every option for its transfer; in the physical world, much stuff and many creatures are created, then tested against the whole of their environment. This primitive, thoughtless, blind, mechanical method produces all beauty and all horror in the world. It produces horror because it does not have a guardian ego that looks over each possibility before it is rendered and questions, “Do I want this tree root to penetrate this barrel of toxic waste? No, that will end in horror; stop it before it happens.”
The lack of a guardian ego means that it can never be confused, and reach a stoppage where it has no means to move forward. It just does what it does blindly and so cannot be confused, and because it’s decentralized, can never be conquered by having its leader captured and at the behest of the captors sending out false messages. Like all machines, stoppages are its mortal enemy, as they destroy efficiency and require outside intervention.
To not have one’s head up one’s ass is to recognize this simple truth of reality. The past predicts the present; we live from memory of how the world has reacted, and use it to predict how it will react. Ultimately there is an objectivity to our knowledge because reality will determine whether our ideas have merit or not. Nature seems cruel to us because it loves the decisive but when we analyze it, decisiveness is a property of information itself. Without decisiveness, no significance occurs to changing values, symbols or patterns.
When we have achieved the knowledge of what it is to have a head free of rectal insertion, we can extrapolate from it by thinking carefully:
If you don’t have your head up your ass, you’ll find something you like to do with your brain. Whether this is making furniture, designing rockets or writing poetry varies with the individual, but what matters is that you have found significant value in exercising your brain like a muscle and making it both more disciplined to reality and more playful with reality.
If you don’t have your head up your ass, you’ll reach out of yourself and find meaning in the world at large. Idiots confuse this with finding reasons to make others happy; it’s not that simple. You will be reaching out to the whole and trying to find a place within it, whether that’s caring for a patch of ground or organizing people into more productive groups.
If you don’t have your head up your ass, you’ll want a career that both supports you and your family, and also gives you something you like doing with your time. You won’t try to drop out of society and survive in a food service job or cubicle-slave generic work. You will recognize that having no power does nothing; the realities of survival remain unchanged. You will need money and a way to spend your time enjoyably, so instead of running away, you’ll attack.
If you don’t have your head up your ass, you’ll make the world better in everything you do. You realize that most things are disorganized, most things fail, and most human endeavors are chaotic and withour purpose. You will make reality visible to others, organize yourself and others, and drive toward accomplishment no matter how menial it seems. You impose efficient order and destroy confusion where possible.
If you don’t have your head up your ass, you’ll recognize that your life is more than your youth. Life is an ongoing process which follows a curve that peaks in the middle and tapers off. You’ll want to improve the whole time, but ride the pattern.
You will grow old and die. You will no longer be fascinated by the stuff that’s cool when you are younger. So, live your young life well; hold on to your innocence, relish your pleasures thoroughly, and spend no time raging against the machine — instead, make yourself powerful and leave adult confusions until later.
You will want to get married, have a family, and become a vital part of a community, unless you have genetic problems. If your whole family are alcoholics with deformed limbs, your dad was a gay pedophile and your mother a kleptomaniac prostitute, ignore this section. Otherwise, you’ll want to gift life with better-quality humans by finding among the opposite gender a good friend you can love, and making kids that improve on your own design. Love starts with love for the world, and as a subset of that, you can appreciate others and find one that forms a friendship that grows into partnership with physical attraction.
You will not try to deny aging and become a perpetual manchild or womanchild who chases the empty illusions of things that were great when you were a kid, hoping this keeps you young. It won’t. Even more, it will make hollow all the good you found in those things. You will instead keep that which is still relevant to you and abandon the rest gratefully to the void of time.
You will not deny the need for thought that includes the future and past. You will think ahead in time more than the next paycheck and design your life around long-term goals. People who cannot face death are terrified of long-term goals, and so our entire society loves “living for the now,” but instead, you will live for the now, the past, and the future.
If you don’t have your head up your ass, you’ll discover what Paul Woodruff calls “reverence” or “the capacity for awe in the face of the transcendent.” This means that you lift your head up from your everyday life and think how amazing it is that life exists, and, balancing that, how important it is that we realize stewardship of the world that no longer controlled us the minute we invented fire.
If you don’t have your head up your ass, you’ll understand the wisdom of “praise God and pass the ammunition.” Whatever your religious beliefs, you’ll recognize that we define our own fate… and if we screw it up, and destroy ourselves and our world, no universal force is going to stop us or shed a tear. We will not exist and that fact will not be noticed.
If you don’t have your head up your ass, you’ll recognize that we are all what we are, biologically. We cannot make ourselves into great performers or thinkers if we lack the talent, and there’s no point pretending. Not all of us can be rich or super athletes. We need to find a way to accept where we are and not resent others, and equally, not resent ourselves when we place ourselves ahead of those who are not finding their way in this world.
If you don’t have your head up your ass, you’ll recognize that life is inherently communalistic. What your neighbor does affects you, whether it’s burning tires in his yard or preaching lies. No act exists without consequences, and no person is isolated from others. Your business is his business, and vice versa.
If you don’t have your head up your ass, you’ll recognize that positive and negative are oppositional forces which together create the reality we can enjoy, so in total, they’re “meta-good.” This makes it necessary to do some ugly things in order to achieve beautiful ones, like you must defecate after you eat. Efficiency is the process by which you minimize expenditure on the ugly by mastering it and getting through it quickly so that you can create and enjoy the beautiful.
Many people like to talk about maturity, but that is problematic because maturity means conformity to an adult order few understand until they’re older, and even then, are hopefully not so beaten down that they must adapt to a lowest common denominator compromise to avoid offending others.
Life is meant to be enjoyed and while you will conform at any time that conformity is logical, conformity for conformity’s sake and anti-conformity for anti-conformity’s sake are both ego-drama. The above observations are not so much maturity as realism that applies at any age, and can make your life less of a chore and more of an adventure.