Granny, get your chequebook out

Granny, get your chequebook out

On May 19th of this year, the [happy] Prince Harry got married. We all saw the boy in his Saville-Row-Dege-&-Skinner-tailored-frockcoat-of-the-Blues & Royals, soldierly, bold & brave— pride of Britain. He looked so charming— & his wife Meghan in something that looked recycled, it was according to Elle or something, but nevertheless sparkling, elegant, belle of the ball.

It was a day for doleful Brits to dote on their traditions, a day for fantasizing, to remark how fairytale Britain continues to be, how magic still spouts from the root of ritual, where princes marry, turning successful, rich, Hollywood actresses into princesses. Britain, having its very own, live action rom-com. Even the weather behaved. God? Buddha? Jehovah? Allah? All in agreement for the afternoon? A fantasy the royal family have become exceptional at curating. I half expected headlines to rhyme Markle with sparkle; I wouldn’t know, I didn’t bother to read them.

There is no room for criticism, no attention given to the unpatriotic in the run-up & especially during such events, all such killjoys are rebuked.
An old school friend of mine posted on Facebook, something along the lines of: why are people complaining about Harry’s wedding, can’t people just let people be happy. I know I should have held my tongue, but I kindly commented that it may probably be something to do with the cost to the taxpayer. Within minutes an obviously copied & pasted list, to Harry’s defense, ready prepared for someone like me, was plastered beneath my criticism, it read (I copy & pasted it to retain it in its original Helvetica & Inherit fonts & truncated ellipsis or double period):

•Volunteered for 2 tours of Afghanistan.
•Set up Invictus games helping wounded service personal.
° Numerous unpaid charity volunteer appointments all over the world.
•Family brings in 400 million a year in private revenue that under the “ sovereign act 2011” the government keeps £360 million of.
•Family brings in £1.8 billion per year in tourism.
•Country better off by £2.1 billion a year.
Remind me how the wedding is waste of tax payers money ?
° The wedding is paid for by the Royal heritage and private funding not the tax payer and that includes her dress!
° The tax payer will pay for the public security not private security. The same way the tax payer pays for public security at football matches etc.

Dont [sic] be a zombie and believe everything you see and read on the Internet, do a little research before sharing propaganda. Like it or not, the Royal family is a British tradition and icon.
Let’s not forget that most the twats complain about spending tax payers money are the ones who sit and sign for that money every Wednesday or daft liberals who haven’t got a clue about reality.

Shared from another source..

Not wanting to play the bull at a barn door routine, without the facts to memory & knowing if I simply made the “Afghanistan was a pointless war” speech, I’d get nowhere, I kept my gob buttoned.
This whole list plays the patriot card, which is every card in the deck of a patriot. If you don’t just agree, you are suspected of hating your country. I admit, I (sort of) hate my country, because England is a joke democracy, because of our, not only tolerance, but love & admiration of our monarchy, who utilize public spectacles, with public money, to garner public support; Joe Public is expected to lap it up like a good subject. It’s an embarrassment. I sound so puerile, but it’s just so bloody obvious.

After a handful of Google searches, on just the first point, there is enough to charge Harry with wasting tax payer’s money & maybe even for getting his granny to get her chequebook out. The wedding was estimated at about 40 odd million, Lizzie could cover that with the wave of a silk-gloved hand.

Of course the above list explains (in detail?) how the cost of this lavish propaganda event, had already been covered— ah but…
What about Harry’s service in Afghanistan? Well this is quite revealing, if you’ve any moral scruples to gauge the pressures of war on the innocent, which the red-faced, gammon-like supporters of the protectors-of-the-realm, don’t have. The implication from the list is that he did something noble by serving, by protecting his country from the big bad Taliban. What people forget is that we were never attacked by the Taliban until we invaded their country, America was, yes, our ally, but never Britain.
Invading Afghanistan brought about all terror attacks in England, since. Just let that breathe a moment…This is common sense. The July 7th attacks in 2015 when 53 were killed & 700 plus injured; Lee Rigby’s murder; & of course last year, the Westminster Bridge attack, leaving 6 dead & 49 injured; The Manchester Arena bombing, leaving 22 dead & 129 injured & finally the London Bridge & Borough Market attacks, leaving 11 dead & 48 injured.
We can assume on firm grounds that Harry felt it right to go to war with a country that had never threatened us directly, a country that the main attacker of our ally, Osama bin Laden wasn’t even a citizen of. Happy Prince Harry did 2 tours after all & ended the first one only because an Australian newspaper got wind of him fighting there . I don’t know the inner mechanics of Harry’s thinking, but he seems to have quite enjoyed being one of the boys in uniform. He went back. I suppose he ain’t got much else on. Charity? Yes, that’s easy when you don’t have to make a living, when you are more symbol than cog in the machine. When the money comes to you, you never have to move in its direction.
I didn’t want to bring his mother into this, I perhaps it is bad form, but she would surely have been ashamed of him for fighting in such a fruitless war, after all the good work she did & the humanity she displayed in her short life.

Well, if the human price isn’t enough (& for many it isn’t—collateral damage; inevitable consequence of war. Just plain humanity!) if it isn’t enough that a royal, an emblem, a supposed symbol of UK identity, felt it correct to fight in a war that exacerbated, no, instigated a concerted effort to attack the innocent people of Britain, then we can tally the cost.
There isn’t any concrete, irrefutable data on this, but plenty to rouse suspicions. In 2013 the Guardian published an article, quoting a book by Frank Ledwidge called Investment in Blood, that “on a conservative estimate” it was costing 15m a day & up to that time was at 37 billion . How many royal weddings would that pay for? The war has continued since then & continues now, no doubt at roughly 10s of millions by the day. The Queen & her family don’t pay taxes, so they haven’t footed a single penny for the cost of that war. They just sent their brave prince.
So not only has Harry condoned a foolish, ugly war that brings fear to UK streets, but moreover condoned & taken part in a war that has turned swathes of the Muslim population against British citizens, Muslims who were born & raised in the UK, some even sneaking off to join ISIS. He has condoned & taken part in a war that, because of the void caused by destabilizing the political & economic structure of Afghanistan, enabled the rise of ISIS. He has condoned & taken part in a war that may have paid for everybody in Britain to have a wedding at their local church & a damn good buffet reception afterwards, to have helped stabilize the budget of the NHS, housed the homeless, put a little extra in the pay checks of working people who visit food banks every week.

But what I have failed to mention so far is that the people who defend Harry aren’t really defending Harry as such; they are really defending their interest in something that gives them a sense of identity; they are wooed by the flash & bang of a ceremony. An excuse to watch famous people swan about in fancy clothes. It exposes how reliant people are on small talk round the water cooler. Something to lighten the fatigue of Monday morning. Little do they realize how muddy the facts become? The likes of Harry & his guests have nothing, or at least little in common with Wendy & Bill, blue collar workers, scraping a living out the skid marks of society.
The list quotes 400 million in private revenue, money the royals bring in through tourism; as if tourism exists only because the queen might be sat on her throne in Buckingham Palace. According to the UNWTO Tourism Highlights of 2017, France, Spain & Italy all topped the UK for International tourist arrivals. France & Italy have no monarchy. What could the pull be? Actually culture: art, architecture, food, atmosphere? When was the last time you heard someone say they are visiting Spain to maybe catch a glimpse of King Felipe VI? Who knows the name of a monarch in Europe? A monarchy is not what people necessarily visit a country for. Were there no monarchy, then tourists would still visit London, only we wouldn’t have our laughable democracy; we would actually be a democracy.
Because of the UK monarchy, people associate British people with royalty, they have this skewed idea of what British people are like. Having lived in Korea for nearly 10 years, I have come toe expect, when people first meet me & discover I’m English, to mention royalty & gentlemen. I dislike that my identity is tied up with a bunch of potentially inter-bred, aristocratic, millionaires, who have little will to improve the quality of life for the poorest in the UK & gentlemen.

There isn’t a slid figure, only estimates, as to the royal’s wealth. “Forbes reports Queen Elizabeth has an estimated private wealth of $530 million.” So we can assume Charles & his cohort of cousins & what-not are in that ball park, making the royals worth billions of untaxable revenue. Most of their wealth comes from inherited, private lands . When the Paradise Papers were released it was found the Queen had been keeping millions in off shore accounts .

It is moreover, a myth that the royals don’t interfere with government. The Guardian, after a 10 year battle & a personal cost to the paper of 10s of thousands of pounds, revealed that Prince Charles had been writing to various people in government, including then Prime Minister Blair, on a range of topics he has no authority meddling in. Here is a sample, just one very damaging & worrying paragraph from a large cache:

Dear Prime Minister,
It was very good to see you again the other day and, as usual, I much enjoyed the opportunity to talk about a number of issues. You kindly suggested that it would be helpful if I put them in writing — despite the Freedom of Information Act!

This sort of influence goes above what a royal, other than the Queen perhaps, in her weekly meet up with the PM, is expected to push. In fact, it is generally understood by most people that the monarchy shouldn’t attempt to press a matter at all, they merely stand as an identifying symbol of Britishness, a tourist magnet; they shouldn’t be writing personal letters, in order influence policies in a direction favourable to their opinion, which is clearly what Charles does in the ominously titled Black Spider Letters.

No irony wasted in returning to the fallible list’s conclusion, to hold the mirror up (except I’ll switch the font):

“Dont be a zombie and believe everything you see and read on the Internet, do a little research before sharing propaganda. Like it or not, the Royal family is a British tradition and icon.
Let’s not forget that most the twats complain about spending tax payers money are the ones who sit and sign for that money every Wednesday or daft liberals who haven’t got a clue about reality.”

Drawing the line on the “originals of faith”

Drawing the line on the “originals of faith”

i recall mentioning somewhere in my previous essay, influenced in large part on Browning’s salacious (raunchy) Red Cotton Night Cap Country or Turf and Towers, that there were a number of topics, or more accurately, ideas, which the poem raised, for me. These ideas are more accurately, exercises in strong misprision. Here’s another (not about sex or Atheism though).

There is, in part III of the poem, a chunk of verse, in which Browning makes a sort of false start, he makes as if to go “into the originals of faith…as apprehended by mankind…” but which, if tackled “would too distract, too desperately foil inquirer.” Rather than express his reasons directly, Browning opts for a series of rhetorical questions, a common tactic of Browning’s; seldom a poet who chose the exoteric option. It’s the sensible option however, taking the long, elliptical way round the problem: faith is no easy topic, especially its origins, after all.
As i see it, Browning’s option to take the long way round might reveal more about the originals than we may suspect. For though he tells us in the opening lines

Now into the originals of faith,
Yours, mine, Miranda’s, no inquiry here!

it seems to me that Browning is, with this rhetorical circumscription, illustrating that this is a literary matter, a strategy.

The first question he asks is:

……………………..How may analyst reduce
Quantities to exact their opposites,
Value to zero, then bring zero back
To value of supreme preponderance?

This is complicated; i’ve been scratching my head over many a glass of soju with this one. It seems to me a sort of inversion that still manages to be what it was originally, an inversion that toggles 2 scales, remaining both. This appears counterintuitive, but Tim Morton may provide us with an example.
Morton explains in an interview with Verso books (which i highly recommend, so here’s the link) that the maxim “the whole is always greater than the sum of its parts” never sat quite right with him, but that, instead “the whole is always less than the sum of its parts” is better, more exacting. Using a fresh example, we can reveal it to be more inclusive of everything than when everything is “always greater”.
If we take the hand as our example & say the hand is greater than the sum of its parts, then we give precedence to the hand over what it actually does, how it is composed, its evolution; we have stationed its objective unity, above the importance of its form & function, which takes a step closer to subjectivity (if additional incentive is required). Once the hand is less than the sum of its parts we interrogate what those parts are: the joints, muscles, veins & arteries, the ability to grip, touch, perform skills, eat, wash, learn, the everyday interaction it enables us to have with objects. The list could go on. In fact, we get a new list of wholes with which we might dismantle into more parts, themselves wholes.
Lessening the whole we strategically maneuver ourselves into a better vantage point from which to appreciate the details of a thing, the wider environment & ultimately the composition of reality. Try this with anything.
So there is this oscillation back & forth between the micro & macro, toggling two scales: bringing “value to zero” then “zero back to value of supreme preponderance” although, with our example, the “supreme preponderance” will be the renewed sense of importance that the dismantling of wholes into parts has for us. It becomes a process whereby wholes are continually dismantled, creating for us an active partnership with objects & how we see them.

This, if we go back to somewhere near the beginning of the poem, relates to something Browning writes: “‘Heaven’ saith the sage ‘is with us, here inside / Each man’”.
Heaven is a macro-concept, a vast, other realm— spiritually proportional to our best guesses, but if it is here in us, it still retains those properties, & the slightness of our corporeal form is still as it is, except the idea of Heaven here, conflates man with the abstract, thus reducing it, while expanding man. The value of zero toggles again.

The next question is “How substitute thing meant for thing expressed?”
i’d answer this with, synecdoche (aside: WordPress spell check is very bad, it doesn’t recognize synecdoche & would have it changed to Indochinese— perhaps WordPress is telling me that everything in this essay is nonsense.), metonym— figurative language in general.
We are slap bang in the territory of the above question, but we have moved from value to motive. Kenneth Burke in A Grammar of Motives (which i don’t have a copy of here in Korea, so have had, to my shame, pull from Wikipedia) defines synecdoche as

“part of the whole, whole for the part, container for the contained, sign for the thing signified, material for the thing made…cause for effect, effect for the cause, genus for the species, species for the genus.”

Figurative language is useful, if we know how to use it for our benefit. For those uninitiated in the language or jargon of a topic, analogy is a door in. The Italian physicist Carlo Rovelli spoke about the importance of analogy in his profession recently in a Guardian interview. i pulled a brilliant quote from that interview:

“In the elementary grammar of things, there is no distinction between ’cause’ and ‘effect’.”

Which again might have something to do with the togglability (my own shoddy neologism) of scales; for the context i have distinguished here.
It moreover foments emotional change. Take the change in emotional register of ‘the police’ & ‘the boys in blue.” As ‘the police’ the image is one of authority, obdurately bureaucratic; but as ‘the boys in blue’ there is something approachable, trustworthy, on-our-side about it. The authority is defused & there is something compatible with welfare.

Browning substitutes direct confrontation of the “originals of faith” problem & in doing so devises a set of questions that bring literary strategies to the fore. Might Browning (perhaps against his own inclination) be hinting that the “originals of faith” were literary inventions, a literature, at once symbolic & moralizing? An illustration of our organic susceptibility to art?

Browning offers a metaphor: “the wire thread through that fluffy silk men call their rope.”
The wire gives structure, strength & durability, it is unseen, of zero value to the eye, but without it there is no rope. The rope for me, works in tandem with Browning’s use of the word meridian in the lines

Since one meridian suits the faulty lungs
Another bids the sluggish liver work.

The association isn’t a strong one, but both rope & meridian put me in mind of lines. At the opening of Browning’s poem Prince Hohenstiel Schwangau The Saviour of Society Hohenstiel says

………………………………………………..…I’m rested now
Therefore want work; and spy no better work
For eye and hand and mind that guides them both,
During this instant, than to draw my pen
From blot one—thus—up, up to blot two—thus—
Which I at last reach, thus, and here’s my line
Five inches long and tolerably straight. (my italics)

The line is of immense importance, you will struggle to complete a whole without it, it is the most fundamental part of most (if not all) works of art, all structures, the first mark made in architectural plans & in building or carpentry; without it what is a poem or novel, a philosophy, even an equation. It is a reason why Robert Okaji’s line from his poem, One

I am Brahman
the straight line, the upright being

is so moving; it is the foundational aspect of the line, basic yet encompassed by unlimited potential— single yet composed of a multiplicity of words, which in themselves are vested with the power of arrangement & rearrangement, as Brahman is not a single entity but should be considered as an amalgam of all things under a single title; we can takes ourselves back to Morton’s flipped maxim.
Browning could be hinting that rather than worry & discombobulate ourselves with worrying about the origins of faith, we might be better considering the origins of art & literature: the simple line.

The line is a compositional element. George Santayana explains in The Sense of Beauty (a veritable bible of aesthetics):

“It is found where sensible elements by themselves indifferent, are so united as to please in combination. There is something unexpected in this phenomenon, so much so that those who cannot conceive its explanation often reassure themselves by denying its existence.”

Santayana then illustrates to those who cannot conceive with 4 longer & 6 shorter lines, seemingly indifferent to artifice. With these 10 lines he shows how 3 different faces in profile can be created: one grumpy, one handsome & indifferent & one grinning deviously. The differences are clearly evident, no ambiguity. The line triumphs in expression.

Burke proves a suitable reference again— for concluding. In his short essay Literature as Equipment for Living from his book The Philosophy of Literary Form (which i do have to hand) we find a strategy for the utilization of literature in the pursuit of welfare. i like to think that, if Browning had read Burke, he’d have said something to the effect of “that’s bloody bang on the mark that is kiddo, what a clever fellow you are, let me buy you a pint.”
Burke zeros in on the proverb (a single line) & thinks “why not extend such analysis of proverbs to encompass the whole field of literature.” It is no wonder this affected a relation to Browning for me— there is that word analysis, where Browning has a hypothetical analyst wonder about zero values & their preponderance.
Burke goes on the say

“could the most complex and sophisticated works of art legitimately be considered as proverbs writ large?”

Yes, they may very well. Why not let the line speak for the whole while you’re at it.
i think Burke gives us pause here to connect the dots i am trying to lay down: that the micro can, in place of the macro, represent it in some measure, & because it can be simmered down it can be brought into daily usage. Furthermore, with the handheld version of the behemoth, the manageability enables an active participation with its potential, because analysis is easily accomplished; the line is self-evident, engageable.

“The point of issue is not to find categories that “place” the proverbs once and for all. What I want is categories that suggest their active nature. Here is no “realism for its own sake.” Here is realism for promise, admonition, solace, vengeance, foretelling, instruction, charting, all for the direct bearing that such acts have upon matters of welfare.”

(We could say a lot about this list but i am aiming to stay under 2000 words.)

Here Burke provides how he envisions the active “place” of the proverb working in this context of the microcosm of great art & literature. Essentially, Burke seems to want to make literature available to people (same reason he had quarrels with Marxist terminology), because of how it can affect welfare as it becomes more available. i’d argue this is what Browning is considering when he decides to skirt the “originals of faith” topic.
Avoiding this, focusing on the line, man avoids “struggling with uncongenial earth and sky” & instead

…tread[s] the surface of the globe,
Since one meridian suits the faulty lungs,
Another bids the sluggish liver work.

In other words, our newly discovered simplicity enables corrective pairing. i take it to be self-evident how valuable this is. i don’t feel it necessary to go into it at length but leave the reader to go into this themselves or in the comments section.

Overall, i class Browning’s rhetorical questioning as a strategy for overcoming. i could be argued that Browning is advising his reader on a tactic for tackling his own works, which are mighty & complex, perhaps another time.

The humble line is available to everyone. We can invert it. It can play against its own strengths. We can build upon it confidently. We can work around it. It is the foundation. The baby steps to greatness. A unit in the welfare of individuals & even communities.

Take your time with it, invest in it, with it; never take it for granted— you just might discover how it affects you, & it’ll probably be in ways you never imagined.

Renovation-aesthetic

(Remember, what follows is opinion, as always in these essays, it is not an incontestable truth.)

Renovating-aesthetic

The following passage is from Robert Browning’s Red Cotton Night Cap Country or Turf & Towers:

Have you, the travelled lady, found yourself
Inside a ruin, fane or bath or cirque,
Renowned in story, dear through youthful dream?
If not,—imagination serves as well.
Try fancy-land, go back a thousand years,
Or forward, half the number, and confront
Some work of art gnawn hollow by Time’s tooth,
Hellenic temple, Roman theatre,
Gothic cathedral, Gallic Tuilleries,
But ruined, one and whichsoe’er you like.
Obstructions choke what still remains intact,
Yet proffer change that’s picturesque in them;
Since little life begins where great life ends,
And vegetation soon amalgamates,
Smooths novel shape from out the shapeless old,
Till broken column, battered cornice block
The centre with a bulk half weeds and flowers,
Half relics you devoutly recognize.
Devoutly recognizing,—hark, a voice
Not to be disregarded! “Man worked here
Once on a time; here needs again to work;
Ruins obstruct, which man must remedy.”
Would you demur “let time fulfil his task,
And, till the scythe-sweep find no obstacle
Let man be patient?”

In short Browning is saying, the ruin obstructs the progress of time, & in consequence, life; the work of man— the shell-of-what-was worked for prior generations & it is in its nature to continue to be of use. In its disused state, “picturesque” yes, but as he says “little life begins where great life ends.”
Browning’s protagonist Monsieur Leonce Miranda, renovates an old priory inherited from his father, called Clairvaux. Rather than live in a comfortable Paris apartment on the Place Vendome, Monsieur Miranda opts to renovate the ruin & house his love Clara de Millefleur there.
There are scenes in which Monsieur Miranda ascends the tower & surveys the land; the tower at Clairvaux becomes a metaphor of self-mastery, of working on oneself, of noting the inner mechanics of self, as if the labour expended on the task compensated for the stain of sin.
The tribulations of Monsieur Miranda make the renovation of a priory ironic; what was Browning saying about religion, owing that Monsieur Miranda’s efforts fail? Browning has some interesting speculations in religious matters, which i may go into in another post.
(Aside: Though the poem is by no means one of Browning’s most popular & can prove a difficult read, it is worth the effort for his diverse, unexpected speculations & the strength & ease of his line. Moreover it is an interesting approach to a long poem, being a conversation between Browning & his friend Anne Thackeray. The critic C.H.Herford called the style of the poem “special versified correspondence”. Browning borrows some of the journalist’s methods in the telling of this story. Browning is an overlooked Victorian in my opinion, worthy of more devotion, with a much more interesting vocabulary than say, Tennyson, who is a lesser poet.)

Why leave a ruin to the ravages of time? i can only speak for England (but i’d hazard to say the same concerns most cultures): we do it because we suppose in the ruin is relic & relic is a matter of identity, it connects us with an authenticity, a chapter of our history that we take pride in, that we amalgamate together to compose our cultural identity. Why we venerate periods of time few really understand, & even with such scant understanding, find indomitable commonality, becomes stranger to me as i get older— nationalism is built on such monuments. Why we have made family fun out of dungeons is very peculiar. It discombobulates to think the largest exodus from a war torn nation, since WWII is taking place across the continent of Europe, & idle landmarks are preserved for passive Sunday outings & the country is deemed full.
England is full of ruins. i remember some outrage about Tesco (a supermarket chain) renovating an old church & people were saying how disrespectful it was, yet they don’t care when the chain-pub Wetherspoon’s turns a stone masons or cinema, or any other 2nd grade listed building, into a pub. The church was idle, a business moved in, employed people, provided a service to a local community, made a use out of it: “vegetation soon amalgamates.”

Roger Scruton made a documentary some years ago called Why Beauty Matters, for the BBC. His concern, that “we are losing beauty, and there is a danger that with it, we will lose the meaning of life.” because, he continues, “[beauty] is not just a subjective thing, but a universal need of human beings.”
i don’t entirely agree with Scruton. He relies heavily on a spiritual dimension that establishes the talent & vision in the artist, suggesting that in tandem with talent, there is an element beyond the will of the artist.
He oscillates between examples of modern ugliness, starting with Duchamp’s urinal, & what tend to be irrefutable examples of high art, often Renaissance works that people don’t usual have a leg to stand on when criticizing, part-of-the-canon art; such as Botticelli’s The Birth of Venus, which, if i am honest, i think a horrible painting. When he says things like true art (& beauty) “show the real in the light of the ideal” he just shoots himself in the foot. i don’t see how this isn’t subjective, which he says true art isn’t, it is revelation & realization of a universal, irrefragable truth expressed through the aesthetic.
What is the outcome of such a upholding? Does art not fail to change in response to the ideas that we fall prey to?
In his hometown of Reading, Scruton tours abandoned offices & a bus station built in the 60s, on the premise of Louis Sullivan’s edict “form follows function”. The buildings are plastered in graffiti, a wrecked eye sore. “No one wants to be in them” he explains; they are ugly. However, he takes us to a relic of the past, an old forge turned café, lovingly restored, full of people. You get the picture.
i see much the same in Jeju where i live. The old native houses sell without struggle & people, though they take a great deal of hard work to restore, put the effort & capital into the endeavor. However, we might contest, that our beauty is informed by what we are told is beautiful & that demolished, disused buildings, whatever their history, don’t have to remain so, if we only alter our perception of what is generally regarded as beautiful. Is a structure aesthetically valuable because of its history & decoration, or can the use it is put to, the cause it works for, not be the object of its beauty? Surely a worthy endeavor with enough effort can elbow an aesthetic leaning into the renovation? If a ruin can be renovated then surely an ugly factory built under Sullivan’s tutelage can be beautiful in its usefulness?
The historical landmarks Browning asks his friend Anne to picture, are not languishing unwonted due to ugliness, they need only reformatting for a new purpose, they need less attention & could have maximum effect. Imagine Buckingham Palace, rather than packed with paying selfie obsessed tourists, full of refugee families. Instead of Saint Paul’s Cathedral serving up the diatribe of Christianity, imagine if it housed the homeless on London’s streets; same goes for the numerous cathedrals across the whole of Europe. Idealism, yes; but this is what Scruton thinks high art does to us.
Do we really have the space available in this overpopulated world, to be as finicky as Scruton is saying our sense of the aesthetic is? i am not challenging beauty’s importance, but that it isn’t a matter of what Scruton determines is important based on art that is canonized as high art by an elite. i don’t particularly wish to defend Duchamp or Damien Hirst, why do i need to— i certainly don’t think Scruton sees the whole picture though.

Interestingly, a short sub chapter of George Santayana’s The Sense of Beauty is titled The Influence of the Passion of Love. In this chapter Santayana expresses something deeply profound that “If any one were desirous to produce a being with a great susceptibility to beauty, he could not invent an instrument better designed for that object than sex.”
But sex is not constricted to the act of copulation, the effect of our desire for it is the same effect that instigates our sense of beauty for things or devotions, it becomes a blanket term: “If the stimulus does not appear as a definite image [a lover], the values evoked are dispersed over the world, and we are said to have become lovers of nature, and to have discovered the beauty and meaning of things.” Including art.
Returning to Scruton’s question of why beauty matters? We have an answer. Beauty endows things with a sort of “sexual passion” (as Santayana puts it) thus we are attracted to them & give them value. This is probably just Plato’s Eros termed differently; i think Santayana goes into more depth though.
It may be a monstrous thing to say & i may risk making myself very unpopular, but beautiful people, models or actors & the like have an advantage over others when they walk into a room, they are responded to with our gaze, a mark of value that jumps ahead of any knowledge of who the person is— don’t judge a book by its cover we say. We don’t aim to but sometimes we slip up with the parapraxes of our attentions.
I have always thought it a genius move on nature’s part to make the infants of any species, cute. What is cuteness if not a sort of evolutionary reaction to the possibility of neglect or loss, designed to elicit the cooperation of the environment; to get people to care for you, educate, feed etc? How many times do we see in a film, someone who hates kids take the kid under their guardianship?

i always like to get something about how the poet fits into this & we do of course. We poets & writer-types are all mining each other in some way. i acquiesce to the charge, it is probably called learning.
i’ll read a poem, it jolts something in me enough to want to make use of it; there is a theme or subject the poet raises & i think to myself “i like that, it’d fit snugly in something i’ve been working on, but i could make it more in my aesthetic register.” The thing extracted feels so connected with something we would say but never got around to thinking yet, it feels natural to borrow it for our own circumstance. No compunction necessary.
What would be the opposite of this? A sort of inverted aesthetic, where the poem is so terrible we ache to set the balance straight. Would this reaction still begin from an aesthetic point? Does the bad aesthetic of a crap poem teach us how not to write a poem & in the negative influence retain some aesthetic if only indirectly?
Eliot as we know was a great borrower, the greatest i’d say. His borrowing was a sort of renovation of the towers of the past, giving them a lick of paint & some new curtains.
i don’t think it necessary to borrow from that towering past, i’ll take what i can learn from it, then alter that new information. This is more interesting & cogent, not spraying graffiti over it, more noting it & writing what it left in the gaps, which is pretty much everything it isn’t & could never be; in that way it doesn’t only get re-contextualized it gets a new format too, enough so it wouldn’t recognize itself. My sense of its beauty is in the “sexual passion” for it, masked as my attention, my respect to still let it take me under its wing, even if the influence ends in challenge. It is partly our challenge of the past that enables us to keep our feet firmly in the happenings of the present.

Next time you’re out at an art gallery or buying pottery in an antiques shop, reading a poem or even about to eat a cream cake, i hope your hounded by the feeling of a “sexual passion” for the object; however, remember it may not be an idea, but mechanism— the trigger of beauty.

Our HD nature

(There are probably a lot more i could have talked about, some of it left out purposely, some not. i want these piece to be, ideally, between 500-1000 words, i failed this time, but i am trying. i want them to be diving off points for extended dialogue with those interested. It is odd though that as these ideas for think-pieces arise, a whole synchronicity of material unfolds & tidally moves toward me, making it hard to ignore & so the pieces expand.)

Our HD nature

There was not long ago (i think it is still played sometimes) an advertisement on TV, here in Korea (& perhaps elsewhere; maybe you know it) for a new fandangled HD-flat-curved-screen-Oled-TV.
Much to my embarrassment, i don’t recall if it was Samsung or LG, the model or any of that stuff i neither need, watch nor have the money to buy. i tried to search Youtube so you could watch the advertisement & i could prove its existence, but i failed so you’ll just have to take my word for it.
What interests me, is how the company tacitly express a lot about the relationship between nature (or what Tim Morton would term the symbiotic-real, which i’m quite fond of) & man (or maybe culture might be a better dichotomy)— perhaps not even tacitly, as the indelible aplomb of marketing attempts to sell the product by illuminating the crossing triumph of man’s organic threshold with technology.
The advertisement’s music is a piece i recognize, on the tip of my tongue, but for the life of me… It is rooted in African tribal chants & drums, it has an epic, authentic sweep to it, but not quite, there is something just slightly off about the authenticity.
This music plays in tandem with wide vistas of various terrains: the dorsal fins of sand dunes, rain-forests dripping in beads of rain just after rainfall & verdant valleys goose-stepping into snow-capped mountain ranges. Among these grand landscapes, a solitary figure gives the spaciousness depth, complementing the mass of saturated colours & naturalness: a Masai (i think) warrior searching distances; a Native American on horseback riding away from us; a Peruvian profoundly opening their eyes (i made this one up)— people whose authenticity means they’d never be able to afford such a technical feat as a convex TV; they’d have nowhere to plug it in for a start.
From the comfort of suburbia, white, rich people, with houses seemingly made of nothing but glass which opens out onto a curated nature— even those cooped up in expensive apartments— taste authenticity, they become endowed through their attention of authenticity, more authentic themselves, through a sympathetic effort, so long as they own this TV. Dressed in their purified white linen & cashmere, matching their mother of pearl teeth, they are an embodiment of betterment through symbiosis with authenticity.
Woven in this woof of superficial authenticity, is a leopard in its natural environment, which walks across the façade of the TV inexplicably planted there, paying no mind to it, until it flicks on suddenly with an image of a leopard almost identical, if not the same leopard, causing the leopard to jet out a terrified, defensive roar.
The TV is set into the natural environment, a picture of the environment on its screen, camouflaging it, symbiotic in its relation; an inevitable outcome, man’s emergence from the organic, via his technological triumph; boasting a clarity the eye can see but not replicate itself. There are no borders on the TV, suggesting no borders with nature (the symbiotic-real), freed from the demarcations of technology, yet containing nature, creating new demarcations, or rather toppling old barriers, long overdue a kicking. We can have it all.
But it isn’t symbiotic with nature, nor is it the symbiotic real realized in an object that entertains & informs. The TV’s commercial & the TV itself, tacitly boasts the besting of nature, because it functions, through its crystal-pristine-pixels, its HD-fat-saturation, to be an improvement on the quality of what the eye perceives. This damages our expectation of what reality delivers, it is a divorce from what the eye perceives; it is like arriving on that beach in Bali you saw in the tour guide, or on that travel blog & finding the susurrus waves scrumming beer cans & condoms.
The tech is not imitating nature, it is taunting nature to catch up with it, else risk obsolescence.
But we are, vicariously, the eyes for & of nature: nature substitutes a consciousness that is aware of itself (for itself) & allows us to maintain exclusivity of that consciousness & with this, as we stack our limits for advancement, have gotten around to creating what the eye cannot itself do. This is a form of evolution, i suppose. If we cannot improve the function of the corporeal, let tech do it; even in the minor annex of entertainment. The microscope enables us to peer into the microscopic as the telescope does the opposite. Tools are one thing, entertainment is quite another. Are these companies telling us they can sell us a reality realer than reality because we don’t have the technology, in the flesh, to see as well as their technology can?
That is what i am saying.
It is the technological boast of an advancement, missing the mark because, the purpose, the selling point—that the TV can give us an accurate, if not better appreciation of our environment through greater pictorial clarity— is, simultaneously, deriding the environment & even our tools of perception (our eyes) as inferior compared to the product’s achievements. A result of this is that our expectations can never match what the TV is alerting us to. The TV is representative of a significant amplification of authenticity, yet in the process it devalues, through excess, the authentic. It has shit where we sleep.
We see something similar in tourism. Foreigners want to escape to an ideal of paradise they have resolved themselves to, erroneously, from what they are told constitutes a paradise, which is in fact not the actuality. However, the reality is sustainable so long as the illusion, the amplification, persists. But if one understands the realities of a paradise: the excesses that strain the local populace, access to water being one; the buildup of unrecycled waste, due to the stretching of a paradise’s limits in answering the call of foreign desires; the lack of prospects for locals other than crap jobs in the tourist industry; the exorbitant increases in rent & land costs, owing to hoteliers with huge capital moving in, meaning locals can’t afford to live comfortably, having to secure second jobs to make ends meet; sometimes, a large percentage of facilities are tailored for tourism, locals uncomfortable or simply seeking a rest from the touristic, find it difficult to do so— i think i read that there was only one cinema in Venice.
Paradise under these considerations, becomes more problematic & less appealing.
What i can’t resolve is, if an artist or poet is guilty of the same mistake, or if this even is a mistake or simply imminent? i don’t know if i want to be judgmental & risk hypocrisy. i am being deliberately ambivalent as to how i feel about all this.
In painting a landscape or depicting it in language, there is distortion, there is a stylistic element brought in to form the content of the work, to elevate the thing in itself to artistic expectations.
If we were to be simply, natural, organic entities, existing without attachments, in our environment, we’d find less usage for technique or technology. Yes, it exists, it is of use, it is even essential, but has fundamentally practical necessities. It is not abundance but need that the tool or the artifice provides for the integrated, practical human. The artist in this system would observe & leave it at that, it would be enough, wouldn’t it?
Well, probably not. Because to see is to test the instinct to reproduce. The artist isn’t just content with mimicry, it is the skill that it takes. There is always a certain egotism between the artist & their subject.
So what of the cave paintings found across the globe? Is the authenticity in the primitivism of the style? Were their reasons any different from our own? Was there egotism in their endeavor, a quest for a transference of mortality into immortality, or just an attempt to quell boredom? As we come closer to more absolute correction of the thing itself through style, do we actually inch further away from accuracy because we are over-compensating, in an ego tousle with the organic, as with the exorbitant saturation of TVs & digital cameras?
The poet is under similar pressures. The word in itself is a poor replication of the thing it represents. Take any word & line it up with its object or subject & it has little substance without the a priori knowledge that comes with knowing the semiotics of the language the word comes from. If i write the word 사랑 & ask you to, from the physicality of it, determine its meaning, it would be but a guess, unless you read Korean & have a basic vocabulary set. This word is an emotion we all know, all struggle to interpret or rather, interpret based on the context of our experiences— it is the word love. Yet we receive it as an ambiguous symbol because we are ill informed by the physicality of it in space.
But none of this matters: humanity is the great anomaly from the offset. As soon as we attempted the replication of that which we witnessed, we parted ways from nature, in some sense, because it became a form of domination over our environment; a form of taking the environment with us where we move & reproducing it through memory into art.
Any imbalance has been countered by the very act of replication. In our replication, in the evolution of representation, we remain tethered in some way to our origin, to that which delivers us from starvation & gives life meaning. Just as our dreams, when we give them our attention, are founded on very old symbols & stories, so our attention to representation through art & tech & whatsoever, is an attempt to maintain a bond with something inching further away in actuality, but maintaining a hold subjectively.
We cannot escape the hold the ecosystem has on us, because, taken for granted or not, we know sustenance comes of the soil, all the ignorance coalesced into its most disastrous form, cannot separate use from this truth; it is pushed deep down at an instinctual level, where the will cannot touch it.
i imagine a distant, dystopian future, where there is no longer a nature, or rather, it is so removed from the city it is unknown to its denizens who have become nigh digitized. Children, inexplicably, doodle extinct animals & plants, even flowers they’ve never seen on the new iPad & show them to their dumbfounded parents who remember something & call them beautiful.

Plagued by the fact & the facts of life

Near the end of Camus’ The Plague, Dr. Bernard Rieux says “But, you know, I feel more fellowship with the defeated than with saints. Heroism and sanctity don’t really appeal to me, I imagine. What interests me is being a man.”
After reading this, my skin & bones, the rhythms of my organs, the coursing of my fluids, became acutely apparent to me— i realized absolutely that i am a person, an individual, part of a collective, a wider community that despite the cultural nuances & affinities that set us apart, is composed of what i am composed & capable as i am capable.
Regardless of the plainness & brevity of Rieux’s discovery, it is perhaps one of the profoundest moments in literature. It has accompanied me daily since i read it some 2 weeks hence. i actually gasped, letting out a howl of joy, after reading it. It brought me closer to something i have been incapable of formulating in words, overthinking it, i had failed to give it structure & realization, until now. It was so simple, right there in the plain reflection of the word man. By which i mean a shortening of mankind.
i couldn’t have met with it at a more critical time: i have never been more intrigued by my humanity; more thankful of the sheer unlikeliness of it.
Have you ever stopped for a moment & intuited your humanity, taken the deep measure of it & noted the absurdity of being what you are, how, where & why you are? Forgotten about the influential, ancillary by-products of our humanity: God, religion, spirituality, politics; nothing of so much dilemma or purpose; just the bare fact of your existence. What i mean by the bare fact of existence, is a co-operation of intrinsic potentials for understanding the fact of life & the facts of life, not as opposing principles of a [wo]man or Man’s characteristics, but essential ingredients in the remedying of problems.
i marvel at the fluke of it, the banal miracle of it. Maybe it takes a reader to arrive at this insight; for me literature, is the purest medium for substantiating thoughts of this caliber. Culture is after all, imminent in society & whether we know it or not, informs the method by which we can understand our place in it & our creation of it.
In The Plague Rieux & Tarrou, are stand out characters. It seems no coincidence to me that their names, though physically dissimilar, rhyme. & furthermore, rhyme with Camus. They are literary aspects of Camus: one, devoted, plain, honorable, utilitarian & the other, romantic, talkative, fanciful, mysterious. Both of them saintly in their respective aspects: one unaware of it, one all too aware & searching; both with their own methodologies.
Rieux, lives according to the fact of life, whereas Tarrou lives, in pursuit of the facts of life. One is stationary, comfortable, the other, a wanderer.
People can be categorized according to these distinctions. There are those content in the simplicity of devotion to an ideal, which can be family, career (duty or calling) or faith; & those who are unsettled, always alert to the duplicity of experience & the continuity of learning through a mixture of experience & study. Both have something of the calling about them, but they breed quite different characters.
However unalike they seem, Rieux & Tarrou have a common aim: plague.
The plague, whatever metaphorical, metaphysical or pathological form it takes requires the combination & co-operation of both the fact & facts of life. Our plague in question is not necessarily one dimensional, though it may be; it may take one, or combine numerously: it can remove us from the need of one another through suspicion or fear of infection; it can be the abuse of power, to profit from catastrophe, to cause catastrophe for personal gain; the application of punishment in unequal measure to wrongdoing or the punishment of God or nature; it can be minor or major misunderstandings; the inability to love or an overwhelming need to love at all costs; it can be ignorance of your & by extension, others’ humanity—in short, it can be any problem.
There is no use surmounting a problem, without something to live for on the other side. This usually works in tandem to fill a gap left open by the problem. We may survive a terrible illness due to the skill of virologists & doctors, but it is the support, love & friendship of those around us, that give the survival meaning. This is Cottard’s major problem: he has no purpose, he is desperately in need of the Absurd, or simple human contact, which he gets from plague & which he didn’t have before plague. In tackling plague, it is more formidable a problem if the fact or the facts of life, go it alone— they must unite, & advise each other as Rieux & Tarrou, do so succesfully.
Rieux & Tarrou as archetypes of Camus, puts me somewhat in mind of William Blake’s The Marriage of Heaven & Hell, for me, a crowning moment in man’s insight about himself.
“1. Man has no body distinct from his Soul; for that call’d Body is a portion of Soul discern’d by the five sense, the chief inlets of Soul in this age.
2. Energy is the only life, and is from the Body; and Reason is the bound or outward circumference of Energy.
3. Energy is Eternal Delight.”
To make the link to Camus, i’d say Rieux is the Body & Tarrou the Soul; Camus, the Energy & Reason. i suppose Northrop Frye would say this link is inevitable owing to the template of myth featuring & structuring all literature.
There similarity in character strikes me too: they were both consistent in their goals & pure in character: working & reasoning for the betterment of people. They were concerned with people & did their utmost to reform society, while simultaneously informing it.
The archetypes are not separate however, there distinction is made only when we anatomize the whole man, using a sort of mythopoeia to dissect in order to understand & formulate strategy, to counter ruination or plague. What i mean is, knowing the function & category of each part in the whole, enables us to better portion out tasks for each part, so as to deliver more effect blows to the ruination or plague.
Tarrou is not a doctor & Rieux is not aware of his saintliness, but only his duty. Together they form a formidable unit to cope with both the body & the soul of the populace.
So what am i getting at? Well, don’t be, solely a mindless body, or merely a mindful soul; fail beautifully to issue yourself the character of one who divests themselves in just the fact of life, or only the pursuit, of the facts of life. Realize your humanity in its corporeality & the extension of the uniqueness of that corporeality being a capacity to think. Thinking is an extension of humanity that is not permitted an animal. An animal reacts, it doesn’t have the means to perceptively alleviate its problems or enjoy its life with the strategies enabled by the density of a consciousness that can reason, enjoy, love, perceive & more.
It seems so daft & obvious to say all this. But i bet many people haven’t considered the uniqueness of humanity & taken that they possess a unique part of it, too much for granted. This is an error & the remedy allows us to enjoy ourselves & others with greater insight & intensity.

Facebook is not sentient

This is not a defense of Facebook, but it is a criticism of how we think about it & act in a world where it is no longer seen as a company but a silicon appendage to the functioning & entertainment of society.
i have often heard people blame Facebook, even a couple of times recently, & i too in the past have been to blame for this, as if it were an annexation to the reborn old gods, a jacked in, downloaded addition, an upgrade, broadband brained & USB ports plugged into the world, where its fingernails might otherwise be. But what use has Facebook for fingernails?
People blame it for their addiction, they blame it for its existence, for its affect on them, for diverting their attention. i sort of understand: we like a scapegoat, someone to shift the blame to, then we don’t have to take responsibility. Unloading the blame on something for our drifted attention & difficulty concentrating, makes a malady of the problem, it becomes more serious & necessitates a push to act. It’s a bit like a crime committed by a mad man: the clinically insane man who commits the crime, though guilty, is cleared of any conscious wrong doing & the efforts of the law, are to fix the man, not punish.
However, Facebook isn’t sentient, it is a tool, a system of communication that we pack with friends & loved ones & yes, new acquaintances we met in a bar in Thailand, but who we have grown weary of, because they post too many selfies, had more holidays than us, or perhaps turned out to be someone with vile & heinous opinions on matters that are important to us.
We wrestle with Facebook, we blame it yet we cannot give it up, which we again blame on its gravity, suspending us in its orbit. But this is not why we are obsessed with it, we are obsessed with it, because we are obsessed with ourselves & the ones who we love.
Facebook is not sentient, it does not have opinions, it has no regard for human dilemmas, not even Zuckerberg is Facebook, he is a man. He doesn’t think like Facebook, because it doesn’t think, regardless the emoji & the algorithms.
Facebook is not one of the new gods. We are to blame if we filled it with undesirables or if we chose to click on it & indulge in its scrolls of abundant, spur of the moment & poorly fed content. Our content, the content of brains full with the garbage of boredom. If the algorithm spews out crap, that is not Facebook’s fault, it is because you are prone to acknowledge too much nonsense. Like the brain’s plasticity for memorization the algorithm too alters with the patterns of content you choose to entertain.
Facebook allows me to meet people with a knowledge i don’t possess & i have been introduced to many poets, thinkers & what not because of the people i chose to fill Facebook with, it has been a tool for good in my case; i have managed the content, to an extent.
Living so long, far from home, i started to utilize Facebook after a few months away, because i didn’t want to sever my ties with family & friends. i could speak with people in real time, my breakfast is just before Europe’s bedtime, my evening, just after breakfast in England. It has been useful in this purpose, it has kept the bonds of friendship.
Blame yourself for your addiction, because you filled Facebook, it asked nothing of you, its mouth zipped up with code.

i don’t mean to sound angry, but i do mean to sound curt. i am thinking a good deal about responsibility these days. We enjoy a great many freedoms nowadays & need to realize where they are & what they enable us to do & how we might live our life with them. i seem to be stumbling across a lot of self imposed barriers.
As always, the comments are below to disagree or to expand the discussion.

A tousle with a Keyboard Warrior

A tousle with a Keyboard Warrior

‘Keyboard Warrior’

(Footnote 1. i. A Person who, being unable to express his anger through physical violence (owning to their physical weakness, lack of bravery and/or conviction in real life), instead manifests said emotions through the text-based medium of the internet, usually in the form of aggressive writing that the Keyboard Warrior would not (for reasons previously mentioned) be able to give form to in real life.
ii. The term is a combination of the word ‘keyboard’ (the main tool by which the person expresses his/her latent rage) and ‘warrior’ (due to the warrior-like aggression, tendency towards violence, headstrong nature and propensity towards brute force as a means of resolving conflict rather than more subtle means dependent on finesse).
iii. The Keyboard Warrior seeks to use the power imbued in his ‘weapon’ to effect death and destruction (in a strictly-metaphorical sense) upon his foes (other virtual identities he has encountered on the internet). In essence, the keyboard (ie. text input ability) allows the keyboard warrior to manifest his true warrior nature in a safe and removed environment, from which no real-life repercussions.
iv. Keyboard Warriors are generally identified by unnecessary rage in their written communications, and are regarded as ‘losers’ by other virtual identities on the internet. (The Urban Dictionary))

is thankfully a derogatory term. On hearing it i/we & the Urban Dictionary (here’s me hoping we are on the same page) think of a lonely, white, middle class person, in the suburbs, with super-fast Broadband, between 16-30 something, living at home, jobless &, between meals, preparing for the impending Tory apocalypse & adding to their George Monbiot shrine, whilst scouring the Internet for the best Hentai/Anime porn sites featuring their most loved cartoon & video game characters so they can wank their wrists cramped in an addictive, time sensitive schedule of ecstasy ———y’know, to fill the time between 2 p.m. & 4 a.m all the while probably wearing a t-shirt with some witticism on it like Star Whores or I am Beta than You. They used to be greebos, but have slightly grown out of that late 90’s fad.

With that out my system i can move on to why ‘Keyboard Warriors’. Recently i was character assassinated by one of their kind. An old pal of mine had put some meme about how to maintain your mental health at work. The guidelines were pretty obvious, stuff like, Make sure to take your breaks, Drink plenty of water, Do some stretches, Get some fresh air every now & then etc. Nothing much about the meme really suggested this was aimed at anyone other than John Smith Quotidian who suffers a crick in his neck from gawping at a screen all day, or any of your work-a-day folk with the woes of full time employment. My friend, had furthermore, tagged his chums, who assumedly shared the burden of their boring, daily graft as there was a lengthy hahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahah, which my friend had annexed to the close of his tagging spree.
Nothing about it was remotely to do with, or aimed at, those with severe mental collapse, schizophrenia, bi-polar or some such serious ailment; not even common depression seemed implied, just an average range of things, which my friend seemed to find funny as such options were denied him, so they seemed banal & yet impossible— benign in total.
i chimed in, & said something like you can also just get on with it & realize if you don’t you’ll have no food or shelter & no guitar strings when you thrash them snapped. My friend laughed at this & saw my point. i replied again i think sometimes people just need to suck it up. Now it is important to note the context, which is provided above, before we move on & in addition that i said people, a generalization, meaning the entire human race, but in tandem with the context suggests normal, admittedly stressed, but not chemically imbalanced people with serious ailments.
So you can imagine my surprise when his younger brother (the Keyboard Warrior) came along & said that mentally ill people can’t just “suck it up” they have chemical imbalances that prevent them from dealing with things (i am summarizing in my italics as the feed was eventually deleted, so i couldn’t quote this all verbatim). i thanked him for the chemistry lesson & said something else to piss him off. Then his girlfriend & a vegan PETA type joined in claiming that i am ignorant, i hate the mentally ill, that i am evil, i am a dreg on the brewery floor (i am being hyperbolic, they just insulted me generally) & more besides, which i didn’t memorize because, to be frank, it was all a load of guff.
i tried to explain myself, the context which i responded to & some other stuff about an ex of mine who had bi-polar, i apologized too; but nothing would stop their assassination attempt, which was very successful.

i had tried to make the whole discussion about the acceptance of work (the context), about how English people complain so much about work & should try to mirror the way work is viewed by Asian cultures. Wouldn’t budge. i remember him saying this isn’t about work or something along those lines, which of course, as you can see above, this is very much what the whole shebang was about. He brought up Aokigahara, the Japanese suicide forest, stating that he doesn’t want to live in a country where people commit suicide because of over work, which fairplay, but the place does get 4.2 stars on Google Reviews, so it can’t be that bad a place. Again though, recall the context

(FN2. This made me quite annoyed as i dislike it when a Westerner with no experience of another culture thinks they have the moral authority to criticize its customs, without knowing enough. This is Western thing).

Rather than fuel any anger or resentment, i started to doubt myself, was i a hater of the mental ailed? Was my comment to my friend somehow insensitive? i scrolled through my comments, re-read the meme, but could find no room for any charge against me. i became upset, i felt bullied. Suck it up! i told myself. Ok, so i shouldn’t have provoked him, but he also had no right to intrude on a perfectly harmless conversation between two old friends & subvert the wave length we were on, or did he? Is that how the world works for these people? Is this how it should be? A panopticon, a Big Brother within every informed person, ready to pounce & do us the service of correcting us, of policing our moral compass—can they swoop in from where ever & put everyone right, a super hero cracking skulls with a qwerty keyboard, plugged into a modem for power & masked by a VPN, to keep their identity a secret, about as subtle as Clark Kent’s specs.

The next day my friend came to my rescue, i hoped he’d be the trusted voice of reason to defuse the antagonism, as it was his brother & maybe he’d see i’m not the kind of person to spit on crippled people or urinate in the letterboxes of the mentally unstable. He reiterated that they have misunderstood the context & that they had no right to say such things to me. They then attacked him, saying much the same as they did to me. Turns out one of these two Keyboard Warriors didn’t work, can’t hold down a job for longer than a few months, due mostly to laziness, the other apparently actually having depression (which, remember, i didn’t actually insult directly), but nevertheless, apparently guilty of milking that a bit (not my assessment, i never even met the person) & pretty much matching the introductory depiction of them, not toe for toe, but enough (again not my direct assessment, because i don’t know these people).
This feels like a rant but is something resembling truth, if only because i can’t quote anyone, because the exchange (which i receded from like a middle-age hairline) got very nasty & by the next morning had been deleted. i do have a point to make, even though i think i’ve been making one, i hope;— it is, what is the driving force for this behavior? One of them actually suffers depression, but their behavior did little to nothing to make me sympathize with them. That is surely either a desire to make enemies, to shoot oneself in the foot, or hypersensitivity which led to a sort of blindness to the intentions of others, but if this were the case, why go like a bull at a gate & not try to see what is going on? Too many questions. So sorry.
i’d put it down to excessive moral policing, which is founded on the democratization of opinion & the protection of that. People have started wars for democracy & this is the cowardly, microcosm of that. For democratic conditioning infiltrates all aspects of people, not only their systems, by their etiquette & their manner of discussion & opining— centuries of democracy have evolved in psychological reflexes, ways (i can’t say for certain) that seem little studied (i hope somebody can point me in a direction for material on this).
Democracy means everyone has a right

(FN3. de·moc·ra·cy
(dĭ-mŏk′rə-sē)
n. pl. de·moc·ra·cies
1. Government by the people, exercised either directly or through elected representatives.
2. A political or social unit that has such a government.
3. The common people, considered as the primary source of political power.
4. Majority rule.
5. The principles of social equality and respect for the individual within a community.
[French démocratie, from Late Latin dēmocratia, from Greek dēmokratiā : dēmos, people; see dā- in Indo-European roots + -kratiā, -cracy.)

couple that with an over-sensitive, egotistical brain, which judges itself infallible because it has the internet to prop it up, to help it react, with a speedy rebuke, in real time; then we have people who use that for achieving & defending moral superiority, to the point where they are so hell bent on being morally perfect, they don’t consider the context & make spurious, emotionally fueled claims about a person’s character, using an ill-inflected medium as the platform for their rhetoric. Facebook is no place for an argument, it does not accommodate for the subtleties that are tone of voice, inflection, hand gestures, facial expression. Facebook is an arena of egos & little productive, without co-operation can be achieved through it.
The liberal has learned a few tricks from the conservative: yell loudly, respond angrily, but there is a difference: the liberal overwhelms with tons of facts, from various sources & smugly counters anything the stupid conservatives thinks, whereupon the conservative should, so the logic goes, crumple under the sheer gravity of knowledge & be converted to the light of liberalism.
However, such a process of dehumanization is dangerous. i have read in Facebook statuses that people who vote conservatively are apparently, soulless. i mean, conservatism has an immensely ugly side, but the voters are strung along by whatever scapegoat or lies are filtered to them through the small window of media they relate to: TV & tabloids mostly;— they are just people, who go to work, raise a family, have a pint on the weekend, watch football in the pub & whatnot. They are ordinary

(FN4. i must add here that i am not one of these people, the average Joe thinks of me as one of the over opinionated yobs of the liberal intelligentsia, but since living away i have changed & i have to express this, not directly, but through a new manner of reaction to this charge, which is fine— i was never a Keyboard Warrior though, i spoke to people & used what i knew & read to try to help people see something. Was i right? Probably not, i should have been more skillful in my method of delivery, but i was young & volatile; i’ve since deodorized that side of me).

Ok, so this yell tactic makes sense, it is a natural thing to do, it is what children do. The problem being that, when you have a democratized public opinion, who is right & wrong? Because somebody can sit at a computer, sight reading articles ticking them off for ammunition, bookmarking them, like a loaded gun, does this make you an authority? In March 2014, there was a Guardian article titled ‘Keyboard warriors’ have taken over climate debate, Bill Shorten says Shorten who is still the Leader of the Opposition in the Parliament of Australia said the following

“In this age of self-publishing platforms, it has never been easier for people to broadcast their opinion to the world – regardless of its veracity or foundation,” he said.
“On scientific matters, this means any outspoken blogger can pit their anecdotal ‘evidence’ and ‘commonsense’ reasoning against years of painstaking, peer-reviewed research.” (https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2014/mar/17/keyboard-warriors-taking-over-climate-debate-shorten)

He hits the nail on the head.

For arguments sake, as a tactic, these Warriors would not agree to this charge but might raise the right to argue as justification for their opinion & explain they are informed enough to defend that opinion. But this becomes defunct if you won’t even pay mind to the context, which, if altered, if not agreed upon, means the information they spume becomes invalid. What are you even doing then? i’ll tell you, you’re turning people away from what should be a shared progression for a more informed society, who can use information to eradicate falsities & lies. But still, an agenda persists because of the right to opine, regardless of the lack of information a person has harvested from available sources.
It feels, when you’re on the receiving end of their vitriol, as if they want only their opinion to watermark forums & Facebook feeds. We the opposition, can be discounted in much the same manner as conspiracy theorists discount doubters, by saying you don’t get it, or that you are ignorant of the truth— myopic to the realities they seem to have extrapolated from the same information. Their opponents might as well be in parenthesis. An aside, inessential to their purpose, but necessary enough to be present, if only to give the mirage of an unbiased discussion. It reminds me of Kim Seung-hee’s For Nomads series, a verse of which goes

What seals me
within these parentheses?
Who is it that is secure
only when I am within these parentheses?
What is it? Who is it? Why this fascism of desire
below this old horizon
that is held up wholly
by these parentheses? (For Nomads 5, Kim Seung-hee)

This is what it feels like to be put down (attacked is a reasonable word to use) by a Keyboard Warrior, to be barred in parentheses. They need an opponent to be combative, you take the role of cannon fodder, sometimes blindfolded, for their reactionary impulse. They cannot diet from argumentation, the dull repetition of their anti-social life compels them; like my mother who tells me the mundanity of office work means when the coffee & biscuit trolley comes around, you always tuck in— she now works from home.
Now, i’m not saying tackling issues online cannot be a necessary part of society, but it must be approached with a better tact. People don’t like feeling stupid & certainly don’t want to be overloaded with facts that have no relevance to them. There needs to be coercion through understanding. & a realization that the answers for some is not the answers for others, but that a common ground must be discovered

(FN6 This is what i’ve always understood the appeal of Socrates to be, that he didn’t know how we could arrive at truth without a lung collapsing tirade of questioning, which may not get there, but is something.)

i’d like to say i have an answer for this, but i don’t, at all, & i can’t even articulate all i’d like to say, because, it seems as if everything comes back to something, which should be & is, a wonderful freedom of modern society: that we can have an opinion & that if it isn’t totally free of barriers then it isn’t free at all. i think that is right.

Let me know your thoughts. This needs to be discussed i think. The logical (not necessarily correct) conclusion, for me at least, is a gauge with which to measure a person’s take on a matter. This raises the problem of class & privilege, education & the baloney of higher intelligence (which is notoriously difficult to gauge as i hope is a little clear by now) & neglects the autodidact, who can often school themselves adequately enough to hold their own. But if we are to be sensible thinkers, we cannot override the work of experts, we have to initially trust them & do our utmost, if we want to be opinionated, to learn as much, from as many points of view as we can— which seems to contradict what i said earlier about overloading a discussion with irrelevant “facts”. This to me suggests that the platform we use to talk & what we talk about should be selective, to avoid know-it-alls interrupting & debunking what they don’t know enough about. What to do when you vertiginously spin at the mercy of a tornado? Dunno. We can only, tolerating & respecting each other, try as one to muddle through.

Powerless But Free?

Tim has the uncanny ability to see beyond the usual way we connect things to each other & what those connections mean & say something not only insightful & smart but something essential to us making better choices with the information that is out there, bombarding us or waiting to be found. To but it bluntly, he’s good.

On ‘like’ culture & what it says about us

i have been thinking about this for quite some time, years even & lately i have been plotting out ideas for essays & have finally took all my scattered notes, brought them together into something cohesive & hopefully of some value. Here goes.

On “like” culture & what it says about us.

 

In one of Krishnamurti’s This Light in Oneself lectures he speaks of the ending of thought, of whether thought can end. His conclusion is that it is impossible. i therefore wonder what he would have thought about the clicking of a ‘like’ button, which i want to talk about, as i have come to view it as an indicator of our intolerance to thinking & its end in the daily dialogue that we are having in our heads, but failing to share with those we are passively entertained by. i can’t speak for him, but as he was a great advocate of dialogue, he would have been dismayed with the opportunity we are passing up.

i have been blogging a few years now & came late to social media. This has lent me a perception that most people think hyperbolic: that it magnifies the temporality of our achievements & the inevitable wringing of hands for the next thing we don’t know we want. Let’s begin by looking into what we are saying when we click that ‘like’ button.

 

First i must clarify what kind of ‘liking’ i am speaking of. If your friend has uploaded 50 photographs, selfies, of themselves in their wedding clothes, or even of themselves sitting watching television, i wouldn’t say this warrants a thorough response. Though i might contest that a written compliment is more engaging and emotive than the robotic hitting of a button, which even a dipping bird could perform. No, i rather have in mind a work of some kind, which has been developed through effort, time, research; has originality, has inspired you or made you think differently; a work of quality, an achievement; not merely a robotic outpouring that can be easily imitated & reproduced without criteria.

i must stress that i am not advocating that we must think all products of creation valuable. The quality of a piece, though personal, should act as the gauge by which we decide whether to dedicate more time & energy to what we have read, seen or watched. i would never profess to say this is better than that; though i am confident in my own perceptions regarding something i experience, which guides my decision to engage the creator of the work with critical praise, my own perceptions or something of value i feel contributes to what they have developed or offered us.

i could write a list of criteria but that would be belittling & the aim of this essay is to illustrate to the reader that we are all able minded enough to contribute to a dialogue with one another, especially if you spend much of your time reading articles, magazines, or journals related to a particular subject.

Criticism is something that is often misunderstood & it is an incontestably egotistical enterprise to ‘troll’ somebody’s ideas. To be critical of something that was well written is to do justice to somebody’s efforts. There isn’t an ‘unlike’ button, thank goodness, as this would be a cowardly admission to attack somebody; as if attacking someone with the distance of the internet between them isn’t enough.

Time is something we have more of than we really allow ourselves. If you cannot spend 5 minutes writing a comment, expressing something you have thought, which may begin a dialogue & help contribute to the value of somebody’s work, because you have a mental list of websites you want to flick through, because you have a list of fail compilations or daft videos involving cats, or because you need to scroll through your Facebook, Twitter or Instagram feed, all in place of actually having an opinion, then what are we saying about the value of opinion? Is it because of our apathy toward each other that Michael Gove can believe & expect us to accept his ridiculous statement that people in this country have had enough of experts?

i have been disappointed numerous times by the pithy, uninterested responses from people i have made the effort to speak with. & i try to think, why? Are they so busy? Sometimes they have posted a few things in a single day, that’s marvelous, but of what value is that quantity, when the quality of your response is so weak, due to filling your additional time considering the next post, without a care for what people have to say regarding it. i would attribute part of this to an egotistic assumption that the more you write the more capable you are, perhaps; but isn’t it more indicative of how capable you are, to have something to say in response to people’s criticisms, or the associative material they might reply with such as anecdotes?

When some have responded, it isn’t engagement but acquiescence, which seems more like an evasion. It is much quicker to just agree with you and appear amiable, so you’ll return again to their future work, than to actually supply information on the content or actually answer your question.

Perhaps it is polite ego. If i don’t have a strong profile, which they regard as full of important endeavours, a profile they don’t think will advance their prospects, nor increase their status, then it may tip the balance of their responses. i am pleased to report that this doesn’t seem to be an issue i have stumbled across too often with people, especially those who know what they want to say.

This kind of behavior is usually committed by them that aren’t really sure of what they are trying to do, maybe testing the waters, or that rare breed who think that they are already geniuses & don’t need to engage or explain themselves. These sorts of people can be very difficult to speak with as, like a conspiracy theorist, they can say that your criticism is misunderstanding: you just don’t get it, you don’t see what they see. However, i would warn everyone to be vigilant of the unconscious influence of this regarding of oneself; it is a fine line between aplomb & humility.

Embarrassment is potentially a major contributor to the ‘like’  button attraction. Nobody wants to be shamed, or to say something stupid, because they are ill informed. But through the mask of the button they can associate themselves with a culture they may be new to. The negative aspect of this, is that it may indicate they are pretentiously affixing  themselves to a ready made image they want, which ‘liking’ offers them, as they can be seen to be in the know.  But if you can develop the humility to probe rather than hover, it can be a sound method to accelerate your knowledge of something. It moreover gives the creator of the work ample opportunity to keep the agility of their mind well oiled, to put their talents into action & avoid being misunderstood.

i remember a lad in my literature seminars who would constantly ask questions, even when he heard a student say a word he didn’t understand, he’d interrupt to ask directly what does solipsism mean? or what is Avalokiteshvara? & i recall people raising eyebrows or huffing in annoyance, which he either paid no mind too or didn’t catch their insult; however he perceived other students’ responses, i am certain he felt no embarrassment.  i admired him, for 90% of students never uttered a word in those seminars & it was clearly, fear of embarrassment, mingled with some shyness i don’t doubt, but definitely some were just disinterested in study.

But i say now to people who want to learn about contemporary poetry, modern philosophical problems, politics, art or anything whatsoever that there are people who know about this stuff who are willing to talk about it with you, just ask them. If we just ‘like’ something, mindlessly, then we are failing to take advantage of an opportunity to annex more seriousness to the topics, so important to what differentiates us from animals & makes our experience of this world so much richer. There is a part in Paul Thomas Anderson’s The Master when Freddy Quell is listening to one of Lancaster Dodd’s recordings and Dodd says you are not an animal. Biologically we are, but our consciousness isn’t.

 

If what you have perceived, be it a short story, painting, photograph, poem, essay or article meets a high quality, has a standard that has kept you engaged, then it must have taken some effort. It no doubt came from an experience with value to those that experienced it and they have had the talent to transform the experience into something that allows us to share their experience. This should not be taken for granted. The poet Wallace Stevens never did, he expressed how precious it is for the quotidian to become a poem; & Theodore Roethke would break down sobbing with joy, his legs literally buckling with the ecstasy of having fit form & function together successfully.

It is dangerous, if taken for granted, as we risk contributing to the blunting of societal reception to people’s work and experience, perhaps even shooting ourselves in the foot if we have a creative impulse we want to share through blogging or by submission of work to our favoured mediums’ variety of magazines & journals. Look at political demonstrations as an example: why don’t a lot more people, even though they know war is wrong take part in demonstrations? Because of the cliché surrounding the type of ‘hippies’ or ‘tree huggers’ that organize & attend such demonstrations. By pressing ‘like’ we are using about as much thought as people who discount participation on the grounds they don’t wish to be associated with a certain sub culture, & for reasons that cannot possibly outweigh the severity of the problem in need of support.

i have often heard it said that we have surpassed the intellectual demarcations of our ancestors, perhaps we have, but seeing as literacy is at its highest in human history & there are more people with a higher education than ever before, it seems an admission of ignorance and failure every time we ‘like’ an intelligently composed document or art work rather than contribute to its value with questions & additional perceptions that are thoughtful & considered. i am not asking people to know everything, nor am i expecting, neither urging anybody, who knows nothing about a subject to contribute clumsy opinions for the sake of it. i am saying, within the locality of your sphere of interest you should be forming opinions & if not, questions that can increase enjoyment & knowledge as well as enabling the creator of the work to see meaning in what they have spent time working on.

My main contention & something i urge you to think about are the consequences of our repetitious actions. How much does ‘liking’ with so simple an action as pushing a button affect our perception of things? How does it determine the future of ideas & our skepticism & ability to think for ourselves critically & acutely, & finally how does it affect our attention span?

This is by no means an exhaustive study & i have almost certainly missed numerous factors of importance & that is why i wrote this, because i think a dialogue on this (dare i say it) problem, is in need of being addressed. Please consider what i have said here & contribute to the discussion.

I wonder how many people are going to ‘like’ this essay?

 

 

 

goose in a bottle

goose in a bottle

i recently stumbled again upon the old zen riddle of the goose in the bottle:

a long time ago a man kept a goose in a bottle. it grew larger & larger until it could not get out. the man did not want to break the bottle, nor wish to hurt the goose; how would you get it out?

if you’re unfamiliar with koans, as you can see above, they deal with an impossible impasse, where you must make a decision which will lead to no good end. one of the characters or objects is usually imprisoned or dangling from their teeth & should they answer the question inevitably posed to them while they teeter between dangle & mashed limbs, they will plunge to a messy end. no doubt in this koan we are the goose & the bottle is either our illusions or neuroses getting the better of us. managing to answer in a way that zings in your head  lightens you, it is a little bit of satori, not all satori, but enough for things to aum.

i am writing this as i recall reading it years ago in d.t suzuki’s essays on zen & though entertaining it for as long as my undeveloped mind could i never came up with a satisfying answer, but i did come up with one the other day.

more than this i was curious how people respond to this riddle, can you be as zen as possible & give a satorical answer, or like me will you have to let it foment for nearly a decade? send me your answers to satisfy my curiosity, please.