Wednesday, 30 December 2015

cedant arma togae

I'm a huge fan of the American Declaration of Independence. To wit:

When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation. (July 4, 1776)

We live in an age of the Military Industrial Complex gone awry. In a word: we have lost control seemingly without ever having to put up a fight. And I don't mean "fight" in the normal sense but in the sense of putting up a defensive buffer between ideals we value as (democratic) human societies and those interests that dominate and tyrannize the whole political discourse by default.

I was channel-surfing the other day and caught bits and pieces of a Will Ferrell movie called, Get Hard (2015), that got me thinking about how far we've been willing go to allow others to determine the fate of our societies. Kevin Hart's character (Darnell Lewis) is trying to save Will (James King) from a group of White Supremacists, and he calls them out:

You know what? I got something to say to you all since I'm guessing this is the first time you've been forced to listen to a black man. You know maybe you guys should just calm the fuck down. Black people ain't tryin' to hurt you [my emphasis]. I mean technically I am right now but that's only because of what you were trying to do to the white guy. Think about that. Google "I Have A Dream" assholes.

Somewhere in all the shit that is currently flying all around us are the notions of human decency and human rationality:

Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. (July 4, 1776)

In Canada, we've just come out of a ten-year flirtation with, what did he call it again?, "the Harper Government". Throughout the whole tenure of Stephan Harper he gave us false choices between environment and the economy, between security and our long-held and beloved rights and freedoms. But the disdain for our society was always come by honestly (social programs are too expensive for us to afford). But thankfully, we were able to institute a new government "laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness." (ibid)

The "bravery of being out of range" (to quote Roger Waters), Canadians decided, is not only unsustainable but ultimately destructive to our ends of promoting good government and peace within and outside our borders. As human constructs trying to implement these two notions may be less-than-ideal, but they are a start.

They are our only defense against becoming victims of "Affluenza" and the Donald.


Monday, 14 December 2015

not even a five year old orphan

I doubt that there is a person alive over the age of puberty who does not feel in some way tainted by something "shameful" or "unflattering" in their lives for which they'd feel a certain moral responsibility. In my core, I know intimately these crippling feelings. I also know intimately the loneliness (and the desire to reach out as a result). But, apparently, there are people who seem incapable of perceiving such registers.

Kierkegaard the existentialist, I would contend, also felt this bile in his mouth. In White and Arp's Batman and Philosophy (2008), Christopher M Drohan, in contrasting the notions of Batman and Alfred on justice, writes:

In this chapter, the great Danish philosopher and theologian Søren Kierkegaard (1813-1855) will help us understand Alfred's loyalty to Batman. In particular, we will focus on Kierkegaard's work Fear and Trembling, in which he compares two fundamentally different ethical orders. On the one hand, there are those like Batman who champion infinite justice as their ethical ideal, while on the other, there are those like Alfred, who champion personal love, devotion, and faithfulness as the moral high ground. Although both ethics are noble in their own ways, in the end we'll see that Alfred's justice is superior, for, as Kierkegaard points out, "Faith is a miracle, and yet no man is excluded from it; for that in which all human life is unified is passion, and faith is passion." Whereas humanity may never realize infinite justice, we are all capable of being faithful to each other. Accordingly, Alfred, like Kierkegaard before him, understands that peace begins on an individual basis and that justice is served only when we treat each other with respect. (Drohan, Alfred The Dark Knight of Faith, p. 185)

The so-called Right, in Harper, in that ultra-nationalist party that was routed out in the regional elections in France recently, in their precious Trump and Christy, if fault may rightfully be found in them it is that infinite justice is the only thing they can afford to give us.


Wednesday, 25 November 2015

I love this song

These mist-coloured mountains
Are a home now for me
But my home is the lowlands
And always will be

Some day you'll return to
Your valleys and your farms
And you'll no longer burn
To be brothers in arms

Through these fields of destruction
Baptism of fire
I've witnessed all your suffering
As the battles raged higher

And though they did hurt me so bad
In the fear and alarm
You did not desert me
My brothers in arms

There's so many different worlds
So many different suns
And we have just one world
But we live in different ones

Now the sun's gone to hell
And the moon's riding high
Let me bid you farewell
Every man has to die

But it's written in the starlight
And every line on your palm
We're fools to make war
On our brothers in arms

Mark Knopfler

Tuesday, 24 November 2015

Sagittarius A*

Here I found five ravens dancing in the sky

I call the picture, Sagittarius A*

I've also seen the sea breathe in, at one with Sila

I call this, matins.


In the voice of...

Whenever I read or write anything I do it in a voice that seems fitting the sentiment and "zeitgeist" of the moment. For instance, an expired Twinkie (in the voice of Cleveland Brown, Jr):

Is it just me, or, is it dry in here?

But most my writing and reading preference tends to the real—fiction has proved yet, time and again, an elusive prey. -One day I hope to master the art of understanding the social "conventions" but I have yet to achieve such blessedness so as to sustain credible dialogue. But I digress.

My favourite voice is Anthony Hopkins. It is not just the 'dramaticality' of his voice  but the substance and cadence of his delivery. These words are not so much articulation as are appeals for mercy in the judgement from on high. In reading up to where

 = "The prayers of David, the son of Jesse, are ended."

real life is breathed upon the sacred words, for eg. those that begin Psalm 130 (in Hopkins' voice):

 "De profundis clamo ad te domine" (Psalm 130, The Sixth Sense)

or in the closing remarks of his aged Ptolemy in the movie, Alexander The Great:

His tragedy was one of increasing loneliness and impatience with those who could not understand. And if his desire to unite Greek and barbarian ended in failure... what failure! His failure towered over other men's successes. I've lived... I've lived a long life, Cadmos. But the glory and the memory of man will always belong to the ones who follow their great visions. And the greatest of these is the one they now... call "Megas Alexandros" - the greatest Alexander of them all.

as much as his portrayal of the psychopath, Lecter, whose interiority and impulse are casually betrayed during his lecture on Dante, or in the writing of the scented letter to Starling where his admiration for her is not so much her acumen (as he would say) as her tenacity (ever the one to dismiss that-which-is-not-him, not even in compliments). The drama belies the beauty of these words put together so thoughtfully and with careful deliberation.


Friday, 20 November 2015


In my long examination of the properties and structures of language, I have come to realize that a better analogy for the human brain might be that of a resonance chamber that registers electro-chemical activity along neural networks rather than molecular vibrations in the air.

Much like McLuhan's "medium is the message", this resonance chamber determines what it registers and conveys as meaningful. This McLuhanian feature, though, is of a higher dimension in that its adaptive qualities and general plasticity makes it dynamic and interactive more like an equation than a linguistic expression. In other words, this resonance chamber analogy allows such possibilities as music, poetry, political ideas, philosophy, etc. to be generated as meaningful patterns by the simple virtue that a self-same neuron (or, junction) has the capacity to serve a certain function for one dendrite and another, entirely different function for another dendrite that are attached to it.

There are notions of 'providence' and 'regulation' and 'intent' built into the system—ie, our sense of self goes hand-in-hand with the notion of self-preservation. These are necessary features because the resonance chamber is a two-way; external and internal stimuli interact to give us impressions that in turn emit a response of some kind. Purely internal stimulation would generate meaningful patterns by the very act of reflection: music, poetry, philosophy, or "self-narratives" (umwelts?)—these are emotional and/or psychological states that give further "evidence" of our agency and self.

My love of music (and I say "my love of") is that not only do I appreciate music created by others but I even attempt my own hand in music and derive great satisfaction from both. This process trains the "ear" to be able to mentally and intellectually cohere and/or deconstruct sounds rather like an ability to draw or appreciate visual art.

There is a mathematical idea or process called, "zero-knowledge proof" that allows all this creative process to take place seemingly without conscious effort. Ivars Peterson explains it like this:

The idea, a product of several excitedly interacting groups of computer scientists and mathematicians in the United States, Canada, and Israel, developed quickly. Initially, Shafi Goldwasser, Silvio Mical, and Charles Rackoff, motivated by theoretical questions concerning the efficiency and reliability of computer algorithms , worked out that it is possible to convey that a theorem is proved without having to provide details of the proof itself.
Manuel Blum extended the scheme to cover any mathematical theorem.
Blum's scheme is interactive. It features a dialog between the prover, who has found a proof for a theorem, and a skeptical verifier. The verifier can ask a special type of question that requires an equivalent of a yes-or-no answer.
An example from graph theory shows how the scheme works. Any network of points, or nodes, connected by lines, or edges, is called a graph...The prover has found a continuous path along the connecting links that passes only once through each of the 11 points on a graph and returns to where it started. This special type of path is called a Hamiltonian cycle.
Significantly, any mathematical theorem can be converted into a graph in such a way that if the theorem has a proof, then the graph has a Hamiltonian cycle. (Ivars Peterson, The Mathematical Tourist: snapshots of modern mathematics, 1988, p. 214-216)

Could consciousness (ie, us!) be a series/sequences of Hamiltonian cycles in a resonance chamber? The "prover-verifier" could be a particular, idiosyncratic constellation unique to each individual, each emotional/psychological state/impression, each individual instance of a completed cycle.