7.2 A New Planetary Metaphor for My Psychic State

I have a new metaphor for my psychic state.

Most egos in society center around some industry or job. These are the known roles which support society. These are the “good citizens.” The members of these roles often form into groups and defensively oppose other groups. Say the Writers’ Guild wants to oppose the Hollywood studios for whatever reason, for example. In each group you have the more talented people and the less talented people. Since the more talented people are rather versatile, they need hide behind no defensive scheme such as a guild because they can earn their money and reputation by talent alone. But most people in a societal group will want greater assurances of security, and so they tend to erect defensive walls around what it is they do, trying to make it seem like something special. The reputation of the profession becomes valuable in its own right and members want to experience the profits of its reputation.

When too many professions depart from the mainland, as it were, of pure markets, in which you sell a service at market price with no job security, society can feel corrupt. A powerful body can influence politicians through the democratic process of withholding their votes. With enough influence, the guilds (I might as well call them this) make politicians learn not to mess with them. And their influence is not all about money, by the way – probably more important is people’s sense of belonging to the group – for example, a “gun owner” member of the NRA may be very passionate and his NRA status is far more important to him than how much money is spent trying to win his vote. Because the majority of people don’t have the talent to sustain them in a world based purely on reputation, and because of the critical fact that the average person is not happy unless they’re above average, membership in groups threatens to become the dominant factor in how people vote. When this happens, politicians can hardly resist the pressure from the organized groups to pass laws which favor their group at the expense of other groups. Politicians therefore seem to have an inherently schizophrenic job, having to split their loyalties between doing what’s best for the country and passing laws which favor the groups which got them elected. Even the idea of “doing what’s best for the country” doesn’t make sense after a certain point (in the end it’s just a line on a map), but that’s a different discussion.

So we’re faced with a world in which the many roles which sustain society, in their sense of righteousness, form little islands apart from the mainland. The further they get from the mainland, the more corrupt they may become. What allows them to get so far from the mainland is if they’ve acquired a monopoly status on their field.

What happens is that the original job they were performing becomes conflated with the particular practices which have developed as a way of life on the distant island the profession as a whole calls home.

Now to return to my original topic, about my new interpretation of my psychic state. I felt the sense of the corruption I refer to rather early in my life. I associated it with several things. First, my father was a lawyer and the “breadwinner,” for better or worse, and I certainly sensed a strange island-like effect associated with the law. The law is a fascinating topic, and there is still room in it for brilliant minds as you can tell from interviews with the justices of the Supreme Court. Hopefully that will never change, because then the laws will change based on which family you happen to be a member of. But nonetheless, my father’s law practice operated in peculiar ways which in the end were to be traced to the insular (“island-like”) practices of being a lawyer in Southeastern Pennsylvania. The “way it gets done” in Pennsylvania is particular and it does depend a bit upon your connections as opposed to purely your talent as a legal thinker and doer. At any rate, I did not like experiencing two “versions” of my dad, the robotic legal version and the happy-go-lucky outside-of-the-office version. The robotic version always seemed like it had something to hide, and I did not want to become like this.

The second institution I had problems with was, of course, school. “I’ve tried never to let my schooling interfere with my education.” I should have kept Mark Twain’s comment close to heart. The quality of basic education is a factor of enormous concern and debate nowadays. In tenth grade, I committed the “original sin” of feeling like school was not helping me and demanding that I understand it before proceeding any further, which in effect meant that I stopped doing school work. I thus became an enemy of all those members of the educational profession who happily fortify their defensive island far from the mainland. School must obviously be broken up into categories, that between the public 1st through 12th grades, and “The Academy,” “higher learning,” a.k.a. colleges being the most prominent. Nonetheless, one’s efforts in high school correlate with how a college perceives its applicants – these islands are connected, in other words, by at least that small bridge of how well you do in high school affecting which colleges you may attend.

Losing faith in The Academy was a big loss for me. It remains true that despite a widespread “corruption” of sorts in the academy, huge numbers of very intelligent people still enter and remain involved with it. Not to mention the valuable pieces of paper they issue, sometimes holding monopolies on certain professions (lawyers, doctors) entirely.

So what’s my new metaphor for my psychic state? Most people focus on one role because they don’t want to make enemies by being members of opposing groups. Their ego, therefore, finds an island and sticks to it. I’d like to use the metaphor “planet” instead of island now. Each planet is the home of a type of ego, and each ego has a place in society and thus the planet can sustain its members economically. Now my ego was shattered many years ago. What I found was that there is truth everywhere. Each development on any planet has a ripple effect throughout the whole universe, but the effect is generally ignored on the home planet because it interferes with its simplistic mission of selfish gain.

To be sensitive to the various ripple effects is a different process from living on one planet and ignoring all others. I live in the space between planets. I have no clear route to social success because many of the planets have a monopoly on their type of professions. But I do understand how the habits of the different groups affect one another, so I may be able to act in a way which benefits the whole without making great allies in any of the parts, since they are selfish and narrowminded. When acting, I make progress on many fronts – I understand both atheism and religion, for example. However, progress is slow because I must consider all of the parties involved before acting. All actions must be filtered not by a single type of consideration, but by the many considerations (planetary bodies) which make up the whole. Hence the slowness and peculiarity of my actions.

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7.1 The Journey of a Million Miles

“The journey of a million miles… falls short of its goal by nine hundred and ninety-nine thousand miles. That’s not to pass judgment on the one thousand miles that did get covered, though. I honestly don’t know what to say about those.”

— Fine, whatever, I’m quoting Myself.

I have my basic self, physically and mentally about what you’d expect for a 35-year-old. I have my knowledge, the experiences I use to create the lens with which I view the world. This knowledge has been what I’ve wanted most. My weaknesses are how unknown and unspecialized I am. Having focused on knowledge, I didn’t gain traction where people would recognize value in terms of career and employment, nothing to put on my resume, as it were.

Which leaves the network of personal connections I’ve built up over my life. Since many of those connections read or at some point may read this blog, it’s hard to know whether to talk about the network objectively (“it”) or subjectively (“we”). In my pursuit of truth, I often ask the question, if I peel back all of the layers, what am I really? What is the situation really? If the answer happens to be, “Well, it’s not so good,” then many people will not really want to know. Therefore, the truth versus whatever it is people want to know and want to talk about – they are at odds.

In the best case scenario, the truth is something people want to know about, which solves the problem of having to keep at least two different stories in one’s head, one being the truth and the other(s) being the preferred narrative(s) of the audience who happens to be present. Nonetheless, I would venture to say that it’s impossible to live life without needing to know the preferred version of reality of the people one needs to rely upon for material and emotional support. Modern industry has created an economy where it is at least possible not to have to deal with too many other people, although the people who thrive are the ones who can get along with other people when they want to. It’s more possible today than it ever was to avoid knowing what other people want. But it’s still helpful.

Thus the people who thrive are the ones who can keep more than one narrative about reality running in their heads at the same time. I should say that I’m not alone in lamenting this state of affairs. Many people suffer severe depression, and I would not be surprised to discover it’s because they can’t figure out which of the narratives they must keep in their head are true, versus which are nice delusions used by other people unconsciously, specifically that they might ignore the truth. The rest of the untruths are propogated by deliberate deception, either with the notion that they are either “white lies” or calculated treachery, which could be either to achieve important goals or simply because evil is fun. But let me confine the discussion to untruths about which even their propagator is deceived.

One argument in favor of traditional religion is that they may be delusions, but they are better delusions than whatever else is out there. They have stood the test of time and history and it is possible to see the various behaviors which result from believing them by looking over hundreds, sometimes thousands of years of evidence. You know what you’re getting with these, in other words. Anything newfangled, therefore, is worse than anything with a track record, spotty as such track records often are. The most powerful upstarts of the twentieth century – State-Managed Communism (Soviet Union) and National Socialism (Nazis)- demonstrate clearly the risk of trying out new things. All told, the old is not to be thrown away despite its falling far short of the high standards we (people, I mean) are capable of setting for it.

In fact, religion could be re-examined per se as the “History of Illusion.” This would give us a great insight into the basic ways in which people delude themselves. Since people might be studied objectively, as objective facts, (despite the study-ers inability to escape the fact that they too are human – unless you’ve been talking with aliens recently, but that’s an entirely different discussion,) the history of religion ought to be one of your prime sources, and indeed the prime source for understanding how people delude themselves, what purpose it serves, and what we might do about it in our own lives.

I mention all of this because there is a great divide between religious believers and secular people which is symbolic of the great schism in the collective psyche of our times, which in my case is to be described as being between meaning and fact. Religion gives meaning. Secular science gives fact. It would be nice to say there is no conflict between them, but I have not found that to be the case. The tragedy of my life is that I know no one who crosses these boundaries, because that would be where the productive work of my life could come from. Now I complain about my own case, which arguably brings me full circle…

This blog is the result of my occupying a space between meaning and fact. Since I have no one else in this space with me I send it out in to the ether, into cyberspace. I’m not trying to diminish the value of a blog, per se. For someone in my condition, it might be just the ticket to a better life. However, I can do nothing else, except study and read and continue to congeal my reality in spite of all the odds which say a lone person can do nothing.

At the same time, dumping my problems onto other people is also unlikely to resolve them. As Jung said, “a million zeros all added together never adds up to one.” (in The Undiscovered Self, I think) He means that nothing can be conceived by a group which was not first conceived by an individual. Thus I assume that its meaningful for me to forge my own self, to be both the blacksmith and the weapon. And if you think that is cause for going insane, try being called insane (which I have been) and still proceeding anyway out of the conviction that you’re right. I’d venture you’d have to be “beyond death” to survive in that condition, that your cause must be more valuable to you than your life.

Well, if nothing else, my writing skills are improving dramatically, and I will need that skill to make a game.

One question about the game is whether I can be the blacksmith for it without any help. It’s unlikely. I simply must climb the mountain one ledge at a time. Not to mention, because I have nothing else to do, it increases my motivation to do boring stuff. The journey of a million miles falls short of its goal by nine hundred and ninety-nine thousand miles. That’s not to pass judgment on the one thousand miles that did get covered, though. I honestly don’t know what to say about those.

6.6 More Speculation About My Video Game

I’m hoping my life will be more than just a cautionary tale. “Don’t try to be a hero, kids! Look what happened to Zach. He tried to save the world, and nothing happened as a result.”

Nothing at all! You can even read about it on his blog.

I decided to ally myself with nothing in society, not the business world, not the academic world, not the religious world. I don’t even have a car. I’m therefore set back both physically and socially. Since I didn’t have a real plan for how to proceed under these conditions, I always decided to pursue truth first and to hope that other answers would fall into place. Unfortunately none have, and thus the life situation I face today.

The idea of pursuing the truth assumes that it is not readily accessible. My worldview confirms this, since much of it is assembled from esoteric pieces of information accumulated by dedicated research over the years, and other parts of it I have had to make up entirely to fill the gaps in the picture. By “make up entirely” I simply mean that I have come up with hypotheses which fit the data. The lack of an available hypothesis for any given problem, apart from my simply not having discovered said hypothesis – is attributable in the world either to a lack of ability or to the lack of interest. I consider myself to have strong abilities in certain areas, and therefore my solutions may simply be the result of unusual ability. What has been harder for me to understand is why so few people I know are interested in the problems I care about.

I do have precedent in this matter, however, which alleviates at least some of the tension. My heroes Carl Jung and Robert A. Johnson both experienced the same loneliness and odd feeling associated with solving problems few people even seemed to care about. Knowing about them has helped me enormously.

But my truth, it seems to me, is mainly of interest to myself. And I must try to find a job or some mechanism by which I can enter the future without worrying about money, which is a friend when one has no others.

It remains for me hard to ignore the fact that I have refused to interact with the insitutions which one might think would be of great value to me – the academy, the business, and the religious/spiritual center. I have a few ideas how to go about beginning my interactions with such, but it seems my motivation must go through a cycle of dissolution and coagulation many times before I can settle on the answers to what might otherwise seem like relatively simple questions. The pressure of time and money could, on the other hand, make me do something, anything, and thus increase my motivation accordingly, but I would hope this doesn’t happen too quickly, since the sheer fear of time and money, well, it may be a pipe dream, but I’m still hoping my life means more than that.

Nonetheless, time and money are problems which assail us all. To the extent I’m hoping to escape them out of the conceit that I’m special or that my great spiritual journey ought to be worth something with regard to time and money, I can see no difference between myself and the next guy, who believes he ought to be free of his worries about money because of the strenuous nature of his situation.

That the meaning of life should be reduced to money, and hopefully, not coming across as too isolated and scary to be able to deal with people effectively – I doubt anyone can blame me for feeling a little bad about this, despite that in many ways its inevitable for a large section of the population, aging men with no children and no reliable family connections in particular.

I might speak about my video game too, since it often comes up when I wonder what I should do. I retain an interest in the subject. I have no connections in the field, nor do I know how my current talents might be of use to someone in a position to employ me. As to the original vision of the game – it started simple, and involved basic skills such as writing and music composition, and of course programming, all of which I’ve tried to improve upon. I’ve probably improved my writing abilities the most, my programming abilities next, and my musical abilities the least. The other side of the game idea was the prospect of artificial person simulation, most commonly called A.I. or “social A.I.” This idea remains intriguing to me and worth continuing to talk about.

My long term goal with social A.I. is to deeply understand the links between the archetypal psyche as laid out by Carl Jung and the means by which it might be simulated in a computer program. Because the simulated worlds are themselves varied, what constitutes reasonable behavior on the part of an artifical person in that world changes too. But it could nonetheless be argued that all of the genres of fiction constitute isolation chambers in which the dynamics of specific archetypes of the unconscious are played out. Of course, if specific genres of fiction are good enough for their large fan bases, it means that even within these so-called isolation chambers the dynamics are sufficiently complicated to compel living people.

If the dynamics are complex enough for people, then it’s obviously a difficult if not impossible task to get computers to mimic the experiences. My intuition about how one might do it involves vast networks of details being reduced to a very small number of categories. The hope is not entirely far-fetched when you consider that the Catholic Church managed to reduce the nuances of the process of God’s work of salvation to the steps necessary to complete the Mass. Without regard for all the Protestant objections to the way the Catholics do things, Roman Catholicism is a very ingenious system with many interlinking categories with clear relations to one another. The Mass is an expression of a very important part of the human collective unconscious – whether or not your rational analysis has any use for it, it still has the power to profoundly affect those who participate in it. It was not created by rational consideration but with respect for things which have power over us nonetheless despite later attempts to explain them rationally.

To some extent it’s precisely the fact that the Church has an ideal place for everything which makes it seem charmingly obsolete in today’s matter-of-factly overcomplicated world. But from the point of view of video games, “a place for everything and everything in its place” makes things much easier to program. And the Church does survive, even though in a diminished form from the grandeur of its heights in the Middle Ages, so it does still matter to a large number of not entirely stupid people. What is this foundation which it provides people? Can it be quantified, used in a game which simulates the effect people’s going to Mass has on them?

I don’t know if the questions I’m asking are destined to get me anywhere with regard to how to design a game. But I still need to ask them, because I’m driven by the same force which wanted me to make a game in the first place. By asking these questions I expect to see into areas of consciousness (unconsciousness, truth) which will edify me even if they cannot be turned into a game, which outcome I consider highly likely. Since the beginning efforts to turn silicon into flesh have faltered. I’m not even sure what the motivation is here, but like the Mass for its followers, it motivates me regardless.

I must continue in the line of questioning which compares the world as seen by the Roman Catholic Church to what might be possible to simulate in a game. The dream of creating a robot is very old. I think it must be related to an intuition people have about themselves that they’re not so complicated after all. It would be nice to be able to show that more of us is robotic and programmable than we commonly think. I wonder if it’s because I find so many people intoxicated with what I think is a delusion about how free and unpredictable they are. Instead it is just their projection of their shadow. They are only fascinated by the endless variation of their free will because they are too stupid to recognize the patterns in it.

On the other hand, I don’t want to bring a monster to life simply because I want to rain on their “stupid” parade. So long as I’m not harmed by their delusion, why would I want to take revenge on it? Is there another, more profound reason to create a robot? Companionship jumps to mind – instead of a dog, a real live robot. I also can’t help but notice a power complex going on here. The possibility of having power over an intelligent creature is very tempting? Traditionally it’s not the power to control but to create which obsesses the creators of the robots in the stories. I’ve got to read Ovid’s Metamorphosis. I think I’m missing out on something important here.

6.5 For God so loved the world…

I’m just talking about some things which are important to me here. It’s not structured as a particularly effective essay because the emotional content is too raw, and it’s doesn’t matter, because…

My blog is the Wild West right now. Something created me, I don’t know why, and as an emotional being not knowing why takes its toll. But the world is so large and complex that it rarely needs my personal emotional condition. Mostly it’s a machine which will probably continue to run after I die. Now this blog here is big sky country. There’s not many people around, so it’s hardly different from the world itself in terms of no emotional investment.

But back to the question, why was I created? To ask why is to insinuate purpose, which means conscious thought on the part of the creator, who unfortunately reveals no sign whatsoever of being conscious. Therefore, I was created, and there’s nothing more to it. I type these words, and the typing is followed by the decision as to whether to post them. All the sadness comes from the presence of desire, if any. In Buddhism, desire is associated with illusion, and as such it is devalued. In Christianity, the passions are taken to be inevitable, but there is comfort in the idea that some God out there not only has a plan, but it involves people, and therefore people matter to God. The hard thing for me about Christianity is that I just don’t feel saved. “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”

Unfortunately it doesn’t ring true for me. First of all, if eternal life is anything like this life, then no thank you! Of course, it’s confusing what is meant by God’s having a son, let alone only one, to begin with. I don’t personally have kids, so I don’t know what it feels like to have a son. Therefore, the basic connection to the meaning of God’s sacrifice is lost on me. I have the evidence of other people, and their sons are generally speaking valuable to them. We have to imagine God somehow as a family man, a single father raising a child. God loves people more than he loves his son, however. There is, of course, a hitch to the thought, that you must believe in order to be granted eternal life. God doesn’t love those who do not believe.

For my part, I’m affected strongly by the sentiment, by the possibility of God’s loving me. The psychological effect of believing is something I cannot doubt. I personally would feel great, loved, capable of enduring great hardship, because the feeling of belonging, of being loved, of having a great though invisible ally in God, would counteract all the hatred I receive from my “fellow” humans beings. Indeed, because the source of this hatred is by no means easily detected, it makes perfect sense to withhold judgment until all the facts are in, and to be able to wait until the final day, when all the facts are in. But it is going to require an emotional immune system, which is the main reason for the power of the scripture, that it provides this immune system.

Now what is “believing” all about? I don’t believe in Jesus, per se, so to take the scripture completely at its word, God doesn’t love me, since he only makes an offer to those who believe and apparently has no interest in other people. But let’s ignore this interpretation for a second and try to take the passage as seriously as I can. Perhaps “believing” is more related to what I referred to, that it’s about not judging events until all the facts are in, which may take enormous faith because of how long a person must wait before all the facts come in. (The faith in this case is that what doesn’t make sense on the surface does in fact make sense. Faith that appearances are not the whole story.)

In exchange for this believing the reward is eternal life. Now as I said, taken at face value, it’s not a very attractive offer. I suspect I’ll get further from a metaphorical viewpoint. One thing Christianity traditionally offers is the possibility of being part of God’s plan, of living a life more meaningful than if confined to one’s personal goals and desires. Strangely enough, for those people whose personal goals and desires are being met, the idea of another, different life would seem not to be very attractive. In my experience, so long as a “lower” level of desire and instinct is gratified, no higher level, i.e. that of a spiritual existence, is necessary. That complicates things, because it suggests that all spirituality is for the “losers,” the ones who got defeated in terms of having their basic desires met. Is the offer of “eternal life” meant to overglorify the rewards of a spiritual life, to gratify the ego of people who need to still feel good about themselves, having abandoned their original attempts at living a happy life, possibly because they just failed outright? It’s a tough question.

Arguably the church took a massive revenge on all the people who found it naturally easy to meet most of their original core desires, by becoming a powerful political and financial force. If it couldn’t have it’s own core life, it made sure to accumulate a monopoly on the spiritual life. This is something Friedrich Nietzsche pointed out, although he didn’t use exactly the same words.

The idea that spirituality and religion are for “weak” people cannot be ignored. The person who honestly wants to know about the value of spirituality should not have to wade through a mass of opinions accumulated by people who, having abandoned their original carnal mode of life, need to compensate their loss by exaggerating the value of their new life. The seeker of truth at least deserves to be warned about this type of person. I don’t advise getting rid of this type of person, just that it’s dishonest to make a show of costumes and cathedrals, powerful relics and mysterious rituals when your true motive is merely to compensate all that you’ve given up from your other life. It’s just a different form of material and carnal greed.

Anyway, the promise of “eternal life” would seem to appeal to such “losers,” which means that to unearth its true value, I must dig deeper. One thing I should mention is how different a person will act in this life if he believes he will receive eternal life when its over. Heroic behavior becomes quite possible then. It’s just like the traditional notion of serving something higher than yourself. In my case, I feel that just living life takes enormous effort. This low level pain makes me want it to have the most impact it possibly can. Thinking that I matter in a higher way makes the difficulty of being alive much easier to bear. It’s quite possible that some people such as myself simply need to feel as if what they do matters in a way larger than the consequences to their mere physical body.

To want to contribute to something larger than yourself actually makes biological sense. The thing which perpetuates life is not me but the genes I carry. These genes only require the physical body for temporary transport. My own soul, the particular combination of traits I carry – biologically it’s really just a vessel for the various independent traits, the Noah’s Ark they happen to be aboard for now. The Ark is disposable, from a biological point of view.

Continuing with the biological discussion, even the Christian mythos makes use of it in demonstrating the degree of God’s love by indicating that he had to sacrifice his son. Now children are the mid-point between selfishness and serving something larger than oneself. To serve and nurture your own children is quite selfish, but parenthood still feels like a giant sacrifice of oneself to one’s child. This is the basic mechanism of biology, that the physical body of the parents becomes second in importance to the health of the child. Morality in our culture does not seem to distinguish between the selfishness of being a parent – that you would serve your own genetic material – and the selfless behavior which being a parent involves.

From my perspective, biology is not the end-all be-all of reality. But when it points out obvious failings in the way we derive our morals as a society, I think they should be noted. The cowardice of our society is in failing to confront the degree to which being a parent is a selfish thing to do. There is no help whatsoever from traditional Christianity, because it even uses “God’s only son” to illustrate its other points about right and wrong, good and evil, and the meaning of life. A system such as this, which uses a biological metaphor at its core, ends where biology ends – at that ambiguous relationship between selfishness and selflessness fostered by having children.

But still, what is this “eternal life” all about? I’m not sure. If I were able to believe that there were something more than my own psychology involved… but that’s just it. What could be better for my psychology than to believe in such a glorious thought – that eternal life is possible? As I said, in my case I’m not sure I want it. What would I rather have? I would rather have the absolute confidence that my life as I live it “matters,” a confidence I certainly cannot claim at this time.

But in what way do I want it to matter? What exactly does it mean to matter? What does it mean for life to “mean?” Despite not knowing exactly, I would nonetheless replace “eternal life” with “a meaningful life.”

Furthermore, a life of meaning might be of great use to me and a terrible tragedy to someone else. Now there’s a real philosophical question for you. What if a meaningful life to you meant the rape, murder, and pillage of the world around you? Not even the Christians are immune to this type of horrendous bloodlust – these are not two separate questions, one for seculars and one for supposedly more noble Christians – it’s the same question all around.

Being granted “eternal life,” or in my case, “a meaningful life,” may mean crushing any opposition to that life. In other words, what if even the highest and most spiritual goals of mankind are merely disguises for the conquest of our neighbor’s “less meaningful” and “less eternal” lives? Does that mean we’re “screwed?” Well, if we thought we could get away with a life where we never had to harm a fly, then yes, it probably does mean were screwed. We might have to put “World Peace” onto the heap of unhelpful ideas along with Santa Claus and the Tooth Fairy. If never having to put away childish things was your idea of a good life, then yes, thinking this way means that you’re screwed.

For those who refuse to put both the possibility of harming your neighbor and the hope for life to be meaningful onto the same table – why? Do you think that a life where no one ever beats anyone else and no one evers gets harmed is possible? Or do you think that one’s meaning of life can’t possibly have anything to do with how one fares in life’s various ladders of competition? Do you think that a person should be able to feel their life to be meaningful completely apart from anything related to winning and losing against other people? Do you think a person should therefore be able to renounce everything without feeling like meaning has been sacrificed as well? After all, at some point, almost everything people have is subject to some form of competition.

How well do you think that the people, who claim to suffer no lack of meaning to their lives, hide the truth that it is their successes and the consequent failure of others “less fortunate than they” which makes them happy? Certainly it’s taboo in our culture to admit as much, but the question is, to what extent is it true anyway? Equally important – what would our society lose if we relaxed the taboo and let out the devils of, well, of actual truth?

Most people’s meaning comes from either the truth or the delusion that they are better than somebody else in some way. What do we gain by trying to hide this truth? Steve Jobs? The Wonder Child who can do no wrong? Eternal childhood? Eternal adolescence? How much of our great civilization rests upon the fulcrum of this taboo?

6.4 Town Hall Meeting

It’s another slow day. A lot of thoughts simply can’t be rushed. My psyche is like a giant assembly hall with all the voices competing. If I have people in the outer world to discuss things with, the meeting can go much faster. But I currently have no one, and thus all the little voices in my head talk to each other at their own pace.

So I meet my obligation to blog by writing this late at night, having given my psyche the whole day to settle on something worth saying. Certainly there is a feeling of frustration waiting for the slow voices in my head to finish speaking, but in a large part that frustration is unwarranted. I’m practically carrying the entire world on my shoulders, and in such a case it is wrong to ignore any of the voices present. When the stakes are extremely high, all the voices which wish to speak must be allowed.

This town hall meeting continues. I simply have nothing to say to the world right now. Tomorrow may be different, but don’t count on it. I can only meet my basic obligations at this point.

6.3 Describing a Lamp For Fun and Profit

I’m definitely not having a good day. All the coherent thoughts flee my grasp.

My commitment is to write at least two paragraphs, though.

I will therefore talk about the red desklamp which is anchored to the ledge in front of me.

The lamp is not on. It appears to have been made in the 1960s or 70s. It is one of those with the clamp and the arm so you can position the lamp wherever you want to. The arm attaches to a cup-shaped red metal thing with slits going up and down the cup for ventilation. The cup is angled upside-down at about 30 degrees and in the center of the bottom, facing upwards, the twisty switch points out. The switch is about an inch long, 1/4 inch in diameter, black plastic, with ridges for grasping. You turn it and the light goes on.

The red cup is attached at the other end to a red dome expanding outward to a maximum diameter of about 8 inches. The cup exposes the socket. The bulb is screwed in and protrudes out into and is sheltered by the dome. The inside of the dome is white. The aluminum arm has two sections, approximately 16 inches long each, with two springs on each one to hold it in place. There are black plastic triangular shaped loosening and tightening knobs at either end of the arm. The clamp at the other end of the arm is two black plastic components connected by a perpendicularly bent metal screw. The adjuster on the metal screw allows for the clamp to grab and anchor to ledges of various widths. Along the whole length of the lamp is clearly visible the black power cord, which carries the two wires the lamp needs to make a complete circuit. The cord descends out of sight behind the desk.

Hanging from the twisty switch is a gift bag I bought because it has a color drawing of a cute cat on it. The cat has the shell of a lady bug. The bag is about nine inches tall by 7 inches wide.

Overall, it is not a very good lamp. The springs are too weak to hold it where I want it. But I appreciate its machine-like quality, how it symbolizes humans’ effort to control nature, I guess. It’s anchored to the ledge, and by allowing me to describe it I am anchoring myself to the core notion that I am still in touch with my faculties.

6.2 Faust, Part Two

Scene One, [Prologue] A Beautiful Landscape

[FAUST, lying among grass and flowers, exhausted and restless, trying to sleep. Dusk.
SPIRITS, graceful little shapes, hovering and circling round.]

ARIEL [his song accompanied by Aeolian harps]:

When the blossoms hovering
Rain on meadows green and new,
All earth’s children feel the spring,
Bright with universal dew.
Come then, little elfin spirits,
All alike to help and bless;
Ours to heed no sins or merits
But to pity man’s distress.

You, round this mortal’s head circling in air,
Heal now his heart, in noble elfin fashion:
Soothe its fierce conflict and the bitter passion
Of self-reproach’s burning darts, make clean
His soul of all the horrors it has seen.

— Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (translated by David Luke)

What caught my mind’s attention was “self-reproach’s burning darts”.

As you know, I’ve been pondering about how to create a computer program which simulates an artificial person. In doing so, much attention falls onto how the various instincts might be simulated. To a certain extent the instincts simply run in parallel with how you might simulate an animal – horse, dog, what have you. These instincts are the first force in a person which needs to be simulated. However, part of a person’s growth is to learn to repress the various instincts in subservience to social norms and authority. This second force asserts the need to focus on others, on the group, on the complexity of the life’s social game. It’s immoral to receive without considering that others may want to receive too.

In this scene from Faust, however, the need to repress the core instincts in service to society is being replaced by a third force. A hymn is invoked to cure Faust of his repressions, of “self reproach’s burning darts.”

What is going on here?

To become socialized, Faust must have repressed his instincts so completely that he’s become tormented. Thus a new need has arisen which cannot be solved using the socially appropriate method of repressing the instincts. The instinct to repress must itself be repressed, and to do this the spirit Ariel calls upon little subtle spirits to “make clean his soul of all the horrors it has seen.”

In normal society, the “right thing” is something people approve of. But for Faust it has put him practically into a coma, creating nothing but “horrors.”

To learn the rules of socialization, an individual consciousness will likely make many errors and mistakes about what and how much to repress in its natural self. Moralizing is often the result (if not always the result!) of a lack of natural ability in the area about which one moralizes. In my case, I felt I learned the “rules” of society the hard way, for many of which I had no natural need whatsoever. They were probably imposed upon me by people who projected their own shadows and thus the need for stringent rules, while for me a perfectly natural kindness, sensitivity, and grace would have sufficed.

If your natural intelligence exceeds the average in any given area, the “rules” can just as well turn into “horrors” when enforced upon you by conformists who don’t take the time to notice that you were already doing it perfectly well to begin with. Generally, your image of yourself will be formed by your relationship to the average or norm. But there can be a lot of misplaced moralization, where you spend a lot of time being on guard for sins you are not in fact likely to commit, simply because you are surrounded by folks who have an incredibly difficult time with something which comes perfectly naturally to you. You don’t realize how much better you are at that thing, in other words.

Eventually, Faust has suffered enough from “self reproach’s burning darts.” He must reactivate areas he has shut down long ago. The repression always originates in the chaos of childhood. When it comes time to reintegrate past repressions, I find myself as an adult in emptiness and isolation, vaguely resentful at childhood events and assumptions which seemed to have happened at a much busier period in my life. The same people whose opinions weighed so heavily when I originally formed my conception of myself are completely gone now. It seems that “self-reproach’s burning darts” can cancel an instinct which has never formed an original healthy expression to begin with. Perhaps necessarily so, or they wouldn’t be burning.

It’s really when the crowd goes away that one starts to wonder whether one can’t reintegrate long forgotten hopes and desires. There may be a connection between the moment when the crowd decides that you are obeying the rules and when it leaves finally. I certainly haven’t overcome my original relationship to that crowd. Middle school seems like the time when it first appeared. A bunch of peers and elders approving and disapproving of your actions. The illusion of a “right way” to behave, and the astonishing amount of personal liberty and preferences I was willing, or was perhaps forced, to sacrifice in order to conform to it.

I lost all track of my original self. The only thing that mattered was how well I was conforming to the right way. Besides how well I was conforming, however, two problems naturally arose: What if there were more than one (mutually conflicting) right way? and What if the approval gained for following the right way weren’t worth its sacrifices?

The genius of the scene in Faust is that Goethe realizes that Faust’s problem is not one which can be solved with a hammer, with crowds, parades, and trumpets. Heavy-handedness is out of the question. Why? Because Faust is a different category of person. I hesistate to say “higher,” because it raises the unnecessary question of his inherent worth. But he is more intelligent than average, and there’s no aspect of his problem he is not capable of handling himself, given patience and room. He needs no moral sargeant whipping him into shape. No formula can work, except the delicate play of the many little nature spirits.

Any one-size-fits-all solution could be considered masculine. Men, it seems, have too many tasks in life. They therefore seek above all reusable tools, psychological or physical. Little nature spirits symbolize the opposite of the one-size-fits-all tool. Even the subtle move of one nature spirit will be noticed and reacted to by all the other nature spirits. Nature spirits “make clean his soul” by making little advances and immediately observing the results. There is no assumption that the action which worked once will work twice. There is even a very careful awareness of the phenomenon of one-size-fits-all temptations, that anything which happens to work twice must be that much more carefully guarded so as to avoid the masculine pride which begins to swarm around such a device.

All of Faust Part Two seems to be written by these “little nature spirits.” In the end, it’s the complexity of the world itself which demands such an approach. I had mentioned the Dogma of the Assumption of the Virgin made official by the Catholic Church in 1950. Although they are probably largely unconscious of it themselves, the Church seems to be admitting the necessity of the feminine way of approaching the world’s problems. It’s really about what I said above about the special guard you place on anything which happens to work twice, because of how quickly the masculine mind will want to exhalt the effective tool, which confirms Thoreau’s adage about the great mass of men leading lives of quiet desperation.