Saturday, April 30, 2011

Down to Earth

I've spent the last couple days going kind of insane. I'm over it. I'm thinking about my future, and how to make it a good one. I'm thinking about the best moments in my life, and how to live up to them.

By a very rough reckoning, I think I can make it back to California and start attending Mira Costa again in Spring 2012. I'd like to do that and I think it's a good goal. I'll need to work, save, and keep a certain amount of discipline. I'll need to make plans...

More later.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Transhuman space cadet

I want us to remember Earth, and that we are of Earth. I want us never to forget our history, what we've been, what we are. As long as we remember these things, we can go anywhere and become anything and our humanity won't be squandered.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

In which your writer has a life. Not really though.

I'm going to try something different: I'm going to write about my life here. Maybe it won't add to what I'm trying to accomplish. Maybe I'll decide to take it down after a little while. Either way, it seems like a good way to shake things up, and maybe to shake loose some of the ideas I seem to be having such a hard time expressing.

Let it be known that I'm a bit of a scrub. Or a whole lot of a scrub. Or just all scrub. I'm sitting in front of my computer monitor on the floor of the room that my friends are letting me stay in, typing with the keyboard on my lap. I don't have a job, and lately I've very nearly stopped trying to find one because the project seems hopeless. I don't have a driver's license, and I'm not currently making any effort to get one because it seems pointless since it's going to be a very long time before I can afford any kind of vehicle. The owner of this house, who rarely visits, doesn't even know I'm living here, and if he found out then he'd probably either kick me out or raise the rent.

My two housemates are gracious friends who allowed me to move into their home here in Wichita, KS when I could no longer stay with my family in California. I didn't want to move with my family, so I moved in with them in stead. I failed training at the job we were all so sure I'd get when I came here, and I haven't been able to find another one. The situation is awkward, and I've been informed that I'll have to leave if I don't find work by the end of next month. If that eventually does come about, I'll have to choose between going to live with Dad in New Mexico, or going to live with another friend in my home town of Oceanside, CA. I prefer the latter option, but I'll only be able to manage it if Mom or someone provides me with the money to get there. My favorite option, of course, is getting a job, saving money, getting a license, getting a car, and finally starting to build a life for myself. I would like to move that life back to California, when I can.

This is a bad situation for me. It's the kind of situation in which I stop trying to make my life better, and occupy myself with the perpetual distractions provided by my computer, by books, by what goes on in my own head, and even by sleep. I badly need to stop letting myself waste time this way and make a stronger effort than I ever have before to dust off my resume, shine up my attitude, and apply for 10,000 jobs a day. Maybe I'll get an interview.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Death and significance

It has been far too long.

But here I am being brief.

If I start to make you sad, I promise there's a happy ending.

Death is a three-pronged thing: a possibility, an eventuality, an option, all three faces turned toward us at all times. It makes the conscious life of a humanbeast a disturbingly sealed-off thing, not only in the crowded space of the skull, but in the worryingly brief duration between birth (approximately) and death (which can also be an approximate sort of thing). It seems quite absurd that one's own consciousness should at some point be simply extinguished, but if the conclusions I've offered so far are accepted, everyone's will be, eventually. The first-hand memory of every joy and sorrow and every brilliant insight any of us ever experience will be purged from existence with no sensible trace. This hard little truth doesn't do this for everyone, but it does it for me: it makes me want to ask, what's it all for, if it all just goes away?

I've learned to channel such thoughts outward, to turn away from introspective reverie toward the larger world we all share and experience in our own special ways. The world is bigger than me; my life is bigger than me. The events captured in the perishable and imperfect record of my memory didn't just effect me, and my responses to them were not just ornaments in my personal perspective; everything I have ever experienced has effected my behavior, and continues to do so in some small way, and everything I do makes some kind of difference in the world. I move things around, and people move around me, talking, laughing, yelling, smoldering, wondering, wishing, loving, giving, accepting. This effect I necessarily have on the world around me, along with everything that can be inferred or interpreted from my sheer existence, is the significance of my life, my significance, the outpouring of my tragically delicate and preciously unique field of experience into the world beyond it, the mark of this organism's constitution and history upon the invincible memory of reality as a whole.

To recognize my own significance in this way is to take a step outside of that worried, self-absorbed world of introspection, and to understand that my doomed (maybe not dramatically so at the moment) consciousness is not all there is to me. Though all of my cherished learning and the sound of her laughter and the touch of her skin and the Milky Way seen from a dark mountain and Boingo and Cohen and the Femmes and the Scissor Sisters will eventually be forgotten by me, they have touched a thousand lives, in ways I'll never know, through the ways that they have moved me.

But I don't care about every little effect I have on the world. No number of changes I make in circumstances that I do not value can make it seem any less ridiculous that I am here now, when I consider that I'll be gone tomorrow. When confronted with the tragedy and cruelty and waste and misfortune that the human condition seems to make inevitable, the slice of of my significance that stands up to every evil, that keeps the light of life burning, is that which I have with respect to the people, places, things, practices, the members of every ontological kind, that I love.

Enough for now. I'll go on about love in future entries. It'll rock your face.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011


In my previous entry I wrote about a concept, commitment, that's very important to both the moral and spiritual sides of my philosophy. Today I want to say a little bit more about the similarly important concept of engagement.

I originally began scrutinizing this concept because I wanted to give the clearest possible expression to my idea of appreciation. The more I am openly engaged with my situation, the better able I am to appreciate what I have. To the extent that I am accepting of the realities that I am faced with, that I am ready to let go of old ideas and assumptions, and that I can really let things be what they are without casting about for rationalizations and excuses, I am openly engaged with my whole situation, and able to appreciate what I have within it. To the extent that I cling to an image of myself or my future, that I refuse to accept the realities I am facing, or that I flee from circumstances that I know I'll have to deal with eventually, I fail to engage openly with my situation, I neglect and abuse what I have, and I thereby generally fail to appreciate it.

If this sketch of the relationship between engagement and appreciation seems more poetic than philosophical, it is because engagement is most easily expressed metaphorically, depicting relatively abstract attitudes toward perceived circumstances and possibilities as though they were physical interactions with concrete objects. I don't think this is a coincidence; I think that engagement in general is understood and experienced through metaphor, because we begin to internalize these gross physical behaviors at a very early age, and build our understanding of and inclination toward abstract concepts through a kind of imaginative interaction based upon them. I'm currently working on a speculative developmental account of engagement that can give a more solid sense to the concept, and to the essential roles it plays in motivation, appreciation, and love.

In the broadest sense, my engagement with a state of affairs is just the totality of my behavior toward it. This is an extremely general sort of relation that straddles the divide between the subjective and objective, as it encompasses perception, attention, construal, appraisal, and deliberation, as well as physical and social interaction. My innermost subconscious behavior toward the most abstract conceptions and my strenuous efforts toward concrete goals are both kinds of engagement. Engagement can be said to take place at many levels; a useful classification might label them sensory, perceptual, evaluative, imaginative, deliberative, verbal, physical, social, institutional, economical, and ecological. While I am awake, I am constantly engaged with concepts, memories, possibilities, expectations, my own self-image, my immediate physical environment, and all of the circumstances that constitute my total situation. For the purposes of this blog, I'll usually be writing about more subjective levels of engagement with persons, possibilities, or situations. At that level, it is almost always better to be more openly engaged than less so.

An attitude, in this context, is a pattern of engagement.

In all honesty, I don't know if all of this terminology is helping or hurting me, and I'll be a little surprised if anyone has read this far. Much of what I've said here may ultimately be a kind of scaffolding that I can safely cast off once I've found my way to a message that need not be expressed so tortuously. Until then, I'll be trudging along with these ideas in tow.

I really need to go to bed.

Parts of this account are based, however crudely, on the theory of conceptual metaphor, which falls within the very successful paradigm of embodied cognition that characterizes much of contemporary cognitive science.