Thursday, September 30, 2010

Goodbye September. Hello Apartment. Here Goes Nothing.

So September has been a pretty good month I guess. I've been working at this barista job since the seventh, and oh guess what I feel pretty comfortable with it now. I want to drink more espresso and understand it more. I want to get really good at pulling shots and noticing the nuance of their speed. I want to make good drinks.

But at the same time I find myself getting really really irritated with people and their silly drink orders. It comes in flashes. Someone comes up and orders 'two skinny grande mochas with sugar free hazelnut and whip'. Boom then my brain explodes.

You and your elaborate drink orders! You make me crazy! But hey, drinks. Whatever. I make them.

In other news, I applied for an apartment today and it went through it seems. I'm going on Saturday to sign the paper work. Seems like I will have the keys as early as Sunday, maybe Monday. Boom, there goes my skull.

I sure haven't been having very much time to pursue this new essay that I'm working on. I want to write. But the time. I'll perhaps begin the serious writing tonight. But reading. I read on the bus. That is nice I like that.

But I need to be doing more writing.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

If Only I Were An Artist

I find that I move faster than myself
I can't stop because it isn't possible
I probe myself with words because
There is nothing else to do

I move with everything else
Like the world as itself
A thing that means nothing
It means everything only
To the things inside of it

The innards are the most important part
The flowing pieces that make up the whole
The stop and start of the juice and the parts
But a whole has no regard
For itself or for otherwise
It isn't something to think of

It simply is
We all simply are
Just how we need to be and how we are

What does it mean to understand?
If we simply are then how do we become?
What is this
What am I

I'm a monster

As I have heard before
That no one needs to be a human
That we wish we were men or women
But we aren't
We are aberrations
Not because we are savage or unknown

But because normality is a lie
A fiction at best
A place where we will never go
Normality is heaven
Heaven isn't a place

Life is a palace
I am king
We can all be kings
We can all exert our sovereignty

If only we were willing to go to war
We could think of something lovely

We could feel ourselves loving life
We need to love everyone
War needs to be okay
Not because violence is good
But because struggle is necessary

The war needs to be within our own minds
The war needs to be in our neurons
I won't stop this terrible life
I don't have a choice
I will keep up the fight against myself

I will keep loving you all
Because I want one of you to love me

I won't stop smiling
Because I spent too many years being afraid of teeth

I hate what I've been told
About life and love
And I won't stop trying
To understand it all
Because I love the way empathy settles my mind
And fills my heart

I love it all
For all its confusing complexity
Because to give up on understanding
Would bring too much hate
And imply too much insanity

I don't believe in insanity
And think that irrationality is a lie

Isn't everyone doing the best they can?
If you really believed that
Then how could you hate?
How could you give up on understanding?

If you really doubt the existence
Of stupidity and insanity
Then doesn't empathy know no limits?
Doesn't empathy become everything?

If you really believe
In something like struggle
If you really believe that life is hard
Then don't you need to sacrifice yourself
To the altar of empathy?

If you reject the commonplace explanations
You must embrace forgiveness
You can't fight others
Because you haven't even tried
To understand

I'll crush you
If you think you can condemn me
Because I don't want to condemn anyone
I want to feel for you

This is for the love of life
And the sympathy I feel
For every terrible thing
For all the violence
And all the hate

Were all caught up in the parts
Of this moving whole
This frightening swirl
Where we have lost sight
Of how much sadness pushes us
How much fear hurts us

For all the empaths
Reach
Don't stop
Keep apologizing
Keep smiling
Keep loving

Because no one is worth your hate
Everyone is worth your time
And everyone is worth
The extension of your imagination

Living Fast, Breathing Hard

Everything happened quickly today. I got up at 7 something and went to look at a studio apartment on Summit and Republican. It wasn't the biggest room, but it was nice enough that I felt like I wanted it. Plus the location was great. So tomorrow I'm going to put in an application for this apartment. Whoa. What is going on here?

I'm very excited and very nervous. Lots of new life is happening every day. Life moves fast right now. It moves differently than it has before. It doesn't stop. It moves.

I found myself doing what my friend Phil does (shouts out to Phil in Korea). I breath hard. I go hah ho hah ho hah ho hah ho. If that in any way reads like hyperventilating. That is the point. To use hyperventilation to express what I feel like right now.

I am just very excited and very nervous. The landlord said she wouldn't show the apartment to anyone else because she knows that I want it.

Here goes the adventure that is living by myself. Despite how expensive it is, how lonely it is. I don't care. I want to do something new and exciting.

Turns out that I do it everyday.

blah blah blah blah blah.

Can't wait to have my own desk that faces a window so that I can continue with my own thinking.

I do my own thinking everyday. I smile at everyone and I say hello and goodbye. I am the ultimate politeness machine. I hope that I exude that friendliness that every customer service representative should. Yet I strive to maintain my mental independence. I live hard within my own mind. I think hard within my own mind.

I stock bottled water every single day. And I scowl and laugh at every single bottle of water that I ring up. I want to move through this world with awareness. And I try. But it is hard. Because the bottom line is that I don't even know how to look at most things. I don't even know how to think about most things. I need to be vigilant against my own biases. I need to keep trying to think better. I want to think differently, and hopefully better.

I'll keep being myself. I hope that I can keep my perspective on myself and my life.

Fortunately I have my friend R.G. Collingwood to help me keep my perspective on myself. And luckily it seems as though Nicholas Carr is also giving me tools to help me keep my perspective on myself in this contemporary world.

Carr is doing a great job of helping me think about neuroplasticity in the contemporary world. Life changes us. Experience changes our brains. We are mostly our brains.

But I can change my experience. I can change my brain. I can change my mind. I can become stronger than myself.

I believe in you.

Short Fictiony Prose

Sometimes when I walk into a dark room I just know that there is something else there. I put the key in the door and I feel every little ridge sliding into place. I turn the key because I know I want to find it. I want to find that other thing in the room. I walk into the room and I don’t even turn a light on because I just don’t care anymore. I know what this thing looks like. I know what it feels like. It doesn’t feel soft and it doesn’t look friendly.

When I walk into the room my mind does this thing where it turns into several octopuses. It turns into a blue cloud and it lets all of its dozens of tentacles go in every direction. My mind becomes a blue fog because it wants to feel the space. It wants to know exactly where this thing is and exactly what it wants from me. But this isn’t really about what this thing wants. This is about what I want.

I wanted more than anything else to be eaten by something in the dark. I wanted this thing to walk towards me and breathe all over me. I wanted it to smell me without my knowledge. I want something to devour me. Something to take that kind of initiative and really just kill me. I would probably feel its teeth in my shoulder. I want to feel bones splintering. The sound would probably be one of the most remarkable things. The wet crunching of bone entering flesh that had never been there before. I want these teeth. These large and only felt teeth. I want all of them to come out of the dark. I want the hot breath to be mixed with these teeth. I’ll feel it all. I won’t scream though.

Like I said, I knew there was something waiting for me in the dark. I walked in because I wanted to be the one in the dark. I stood in the room and I didn’t reach for the light switch. I didn’t reach for the umbrella that I knew was next to the door. I didn’t reach for anything at all that resembled a weapon. I wanted to be eaten this time. I wanted to be the one that was pushed into my own life. I wanted to be the one that would be broken in all directions by a dark force.

Every night I came home and I knew this thing was in the dark. I turn on the light and I felt it moving. I felt it come towards me and disappear into something else. It would penetrate my imagination and make me think of it. I would be in the dark and it would be in different shapes and different forms. It never really exists until I imagine it. But at the same time i know that it has a definite form. It exists as a cave beast. It exists as something with spikes on its head. Something with spikes on its head but something that doesn’t even exist.

But on this night I wanted to let my imagination devour me. I wanted to let it rip my flesh and just let me die. Just let me die by these things in my mind. That is all I want. All I want is to be consumed by these things that will never leave my head alone. I want to be consumed by these things that exist within my bones. They will break free from the inside of me and show me the teeth they have always had. Then I’ll finally be able to feel the teeth of these parts of me that I love so much. I’ll be able to set myself free from this body that can’t consume itself. This mind that holds itself back from really thinking what it wants to think.

Monsters in the dark. If I gave them the chance to eat me they would. If I didn’t reach for the light switch every single time they would be able to rip me up. That is definitely what I want. I want to be in the dark with my carnivorous mind.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Doesn't Everyone Just Want Everyone/Someone to Love Them?

So I was just thinking about a few things. For one thing, I was looking at an online dating website where there is a section called "I Saw U." People go on this section and they write about how they saw someone in a certain part of the city and they say things like "oh I was walking on such and such street and saw you with your such and such dress and you looked great and we smiled but I didn't say hello. Lets hang out." Or they say something like "oh I was at this concert and we danced together but you left before I could get your name. Lets get coffee?"

It is basically a place where people can vent the frustrations that come from having fantasies of attractive people. What they are like. What they do. Who they are. How great it would be to know them. How great would it be to know them?

Not knowing people, yet seeing them, is so strange. All those clothes and styles. All that presentation and allure.

This also reminded me of a novel that I read a while ago. But I seriously cannot remember what it was. Maybe it was a short story. But in any case it is bothering me.

But the idea expressed in the fiction was this: that everyone wanted someone who would love them and care for them, and that there were so many hundreds of thousands of people in this world, that everyone should love everyone and someone. But people didn't want everyone to love them. That there were all these people who could satisfy each other's loneliness, but that that isn't how it goes.

How are there so many people in the world, and so many of them potentially lonely, yet so few of them able to find each other? What comes between these people? What prevents them from finding one another and feeling less lonely? At the very least they could feel alone together. Which sounds better.

This part of this website reminds me of what it is like to see beautiful strangers that you think you want to know. And that makes me think of how concepts get in the way of people. We think people are beautiful, or that their clothes or hair are great, that they look charming or exciting. People look certain ways.

But when we get to know someone do they still look those ways to us? Yeah, I guess people can still look certain ways when you get to know them. But it is different from how they look when we don't know them.

What I'm getting at is that when we actually meet someone they feel a certain way. They don't just look certain ways, they feel like something. They have a palpable shape in our lives and in our minds. Something about simulation and mental modeling.... People feel a way in my mind.

But I dunno. I find it all very odd and frustrating. The masses of people all around me and the difficulties of getting to know them.

I also wish that I could remember who wrote this thing that I'm thinking of. Who wrote about this loneliness that no one is assuaging. Why don't all these lonely people come together?

Because it is too easy to say what you don't like. Too easy to say that this or that person isn't your type or whatever.

This was a spur of the moment post. Who knows what I'm talking about.

Oh and then I googled all the novels I have read recently, which isn't many, and found the passage. It is from Haruki Murakami's Sputnik Sweetheart, which is probably my favorite novel I have read this year. Great novel.

If you care to search on google books, you can find the passage on page 179 of Sputnik Sweetheart.

Why do people have to be so lonely? Why do people have to not connect with each other? Why is it so hard to feel close to other people? Lots of reasons. I suspect language and mental modeling have something to do with it. Depersonalization, as a super loose idea. Who knows. But I want more connections. Maybe I should be more talkative and loving. I already am I think. But maybe I should be pushing myself harder to be loving and talkative.

Here I go.

Struggling to Execute This Essay

This essay I'm working on is challenging me pretty intensely. I have a rough outline right now. I can't decide if the whole thing needs to fall into four or five sections. Sections two and three might need to collapse into one another. Oh. Yup.

As soon as I wrote that line I realized that it had to.

Errr. Or maybe it doesn't. Oh. No. It doesn't. Now I just see that part II need to be a part general statement about how art is useful for both artists and the community. Then part III will be a series of ideas about how an individual can attempt to become an artist in his everyday life.

Yes. The parts will remain separate.

This essay looks like it will be pretty big.

But that is good. It'll be nice to have a work in progress. I hope I can find the time to finish it, with all this working and all.

I also started reading a fascinating book today. The Shallows: What the Internet is Doing to Our Brains by Nicholas Carr.

Hard for me to imagine someone who is doing a better job at merging all of my interests: neuroplasticity, contemporary culture, the transformation of minds in society. Most importantly, I feel like Carr is doing what I am describing as 'the genealogy of the modern mind'. He is describing what minds are like in this exact moment in history.

Work is fine. The apartment hunt is not so fine. But my reading and writing are going well. So what else really matters? Well, the short answer is lots of things. But my reading, thinking, and writing is keeping me going.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Some Notes For Next Essay: Collingwood, Searle, Language, and the Art of Life

So my time has been mostly occupied by work. But on the bus I have been making steady progress on Collingwood's The Principles of Art, and I can't believe how fruitful it is proving to be. Collingwood is handling some of the most fascinating questions and posing some very compelling and exciting answers. I'm so tired it is hard for me to even begin to think about it all.

But generally i am pleased because he just explicitly told me that all of our gestures, actions, and words could become a form of art. Which is precisely what I wanted him to say. My last major essay 'The Science and Art of Minds' probed that question, and I'm so happy to have Collingwood on my side with this idea that life itself can be an art form. I so badly want to find ways to be creative in my own life, and sometimes feel that my writing isn't satisfying enough. I want to find ways to explain how all life and decision making can be creative, how empathy and compassion can be creative. So on and so on and so on. Just like I wrote in that post called 'On Creativity', I want it all so badly. I want that artistic spirit.

I want words like fire.

I want life to be like flaming language.

I just mean that if every gesture can be language, as Collingwood says, then I want all my movements and actions to be powerful and expressive language. This is basically what I wrote about in my essay called "Social Progress and Personal Progress: Expanding the Unconscious Repertoire and Densifying the Content of Action." I want every action to be artistic and expressive. Every single action.

Impossible.

But I want this passion to be my goal. I want me to push myself to be constantly creative. Every word. Like I said, impossible.

Collingwood is making me so hyper aware about emotions and their expression. How exactly they interact with the intellect. What it is that the imagination is.

It is absolutely fascinating what Collingwood is doing in The Principles of Art. I can't even believe it.

But I generally am very interested with his idea about the imagination as a intermediary between emotions and the intellect. Imagination is the space where our emotions have been consciously recognized, but have not yet been fully intellectualized. We are able to imagine and hold sensation in place, but are not yet fully intellectualizing them, abstracting them. Art is the imaginative expression of our emotions. Not the intellectual expression, but the imaginative expression. And no, I don't fully grasp this distinction yet. I have so much work left to do with Collingwood.

Collingwood also says that all art is language. But that language is a much more general phenomena than just words and speech. Bodily movement is language. Every gesture is language. I find it interesting because Marco Iacoboni, the UCLA neuroscientist, also claims that language is fundamentally connected to hand movements. So I think Collingwood has a surprisingly contemporary view on what language really is all about.

I am also curious about how Collingwood talks about what the artist expresses is what everyone else already knows or feels. Sorta. He said, I think, that the artists job is to articulate the experience that he/she is going through, but that he is thus trying to remind other people in society what they are experiencing. The artists can become a voice for society, or something.

But let me just say what one of my main questions is right now with this work: if the artist is essentially using language to imaginatively express his emotions, and he is expressing a common sort of social experience, then how does John Searle's work in Making The Social World relate?

John Searle believes that all of human social and institutional reality can be explained by language's ability to bring certain realities into existence. Searle discusses 'status functions', meaning things that function in our own society only because people regard them as functioning in that way. Their status is the only thing that allows them to function in society. A great example is money. It has no real value. But everyone regards it as having value so we can trade with it. But one of the main things is that people don't have to be consciously aware of status functions in order for them to work.

Searle believes that most social/institutional reality is brought into being by 'status function declarations'. That when we declare something to be the case it thus becomes the case. When we say 'this is money' or 'this fence signifies the boundary of my property', we are literally bringing those things into existence. We are not discovering the fact that money has value, or that our property extends so far, we are literally making those things socially real by declaring them to be so. Thus, Searle claims that the status function declaration is responsible for the creation of all human institutional and social reality. What a huge claim, right? I find it somewhat compelling though.

So, my question is this: given Collingwood's concern with language, and his idea about how the artist expresses a common experience of the people in society, is it possible that what the artist is expressing is his feelings about the status function declarations that are framing his experience in society? Is the artist perhaps the person who discovers how his emotions are structured by his surrounding social environment, which is constituted by status function declarations?

My inkling at this point is that these questions are inadequate. I haven't yet finished The Principles of Art. I have about 50 pages left. I know that there is a relationship between what Collingwood is saying and what Searle said that needs to be articulated. But I can't do it yet. But given what Collingwood says about language, and the artist's relationship to society, it seems undoubted that Searle's work on the structure of human civilization has to have some implications for Collingwood's theory of art, which extends far into life.

Another thing: I think that Searle's work definitely has huge implications for what I have written about as 'The Genealogy of the Modern Mind'. Basically, if I am talking about how a theory of mind needs to be constructed in light of social/historical knowledge, then wouldn't this notion of status function declarations be useful in articulating precisely what sort of social information needs to be taken into account in order to construct a genealogical theory of mind? If I am saying that we need to think about how history structures minds, then doesn't this idea of status function declarations let us understand exactly what the structure of minds is? I think so. Very curious. Searle will likely be of great use to me.

Jesus. I sure do have a lot of weird ideas right now that I can't track down very clearly. My thinking is evolving in weird directions right now. Very exciting directions.

Calm it down now. That was a freestyle. Just wait til I sit my ass down and really write it. LOL just a little R. Kelly there. I was listening to that part of a song and it seemed appropriate.

When I really get around to studying and writing this stuff it will be great. But right now these are all vague connections that I am starting to see bubble up. I'll articulate them in the next few weeks hopefully.

I cannot wait to see how Collingwood wraps up The Principles of Art. Hot.

Monday, September 20, 2010

One Hundred Phrases for One Hundred Posts

1.This is my 100th post on this blog.

2. Good job!

3. I am pleased to have been able to write as much as I have.

4. Since March this blog has been a major thing for me.

5. It has felt fun and exciting.

6. It has been a unique way of expressing myself in a variety of ways.

7. It has let me have write journal entries with greater speed.

8. It challenged me to write philosophically.

9. It challenged me to write about the things I was reading.

10. It gave me a way to challenge myself.

11. It has been less of a part of my life in the last three weeks.

12. And I think that is fine.

13. But in August it was such a huge thing it was unbelievable.

14. But now I'm a barista and I don't have as much time for writing.

15. I will soon.

16. But right now my barista job has prompted me to look for an apartment.

17. I need to find a place to live.

18. Once I get some routine going then I can start thinking about my own thoughts again.

19. Because right now I have been thinking a lot about other people's thoughts.

20. Like 'What kind of coffee does this person want?'

21. Or 'How does this person say the best way to make coffee is?'

22. But all of that involves my own thoughts as welk.

23. Like, 'How do I best make coffee?'

24. Or, 'How do I learn to best make coffee?'

25. And then I did it.

26. I'm starting to gain a lot of confidence in my ability to make coffee and to do it well.

27. Steaming milk, pulling shots of espresso.

28. It is actually sort of fun.

29. It is very dynamic and fast paced.

30. I can move like the wind.

31. Or like some sort of gelatinous body.

32. I look forward to the fluidity of my physical movements.

33. I like seeing myself doing something automatically.

34. It pleases me to know that my body is capable of moving without my mind.

35. I read about these parts of the brain once.

36. Soon only motor areas need to be activated.

37. Initially my brain has to utilize more areas to pack a shot.

38. But soon it will all be in the motor cortex.

39. I don't know anything about brains.

40. Me and a friend talked about brains.

41. Is it dangerous to think in terms of brains?

42. Isn't it powerful to think in terms of brains?

43. Do I care about the power of these brain words?

44. BRAINNNNNSSSSSS.

45. WORDDSSSSSS.

46. BRAIN WORDSSS.

47. So says the zombie professor within me.

48. I am just ready to get back to writing.

49. I suppose today I felt for the first time like I could do this job for a little while.

50. At first I was like oh jesus I need to get out of here.

51. But now I feel like oh okay I could do this for a little while.

52. I suppose my main priority is simply to find a place to live now.

53. I'm looking into sharing houses with people.

54. Having my own apartment would be expensive.

55. But I don't know.

56. An indefinite series of days/weeks that will hopefully become more definite.

57. I'll find something.

58. Then hopefully I'll be able to pursue my creative projects with renewed vigor.

59. Collingwood's The Principles of Art sure is feeding my brain.

60. New lines of inquiry.

61. Diverse lines of inquiry too.

62. Challenging lines of thought.

63. Theory of Imagination.

64. Where do you get off, Mr. Collingwood?

65. Are you really so learned?

66. Are you really so potent?

67. I suppose my task is to be a judge of that.

68. How do you speak so effortlessly about the successes and failures of all the greatest philosophers?

69. How am I to speak of you so effortlessly.

70. The task is to get beyond Collingwood.

71. The task is to transform until I don't need to struggle with him anymore.

72. But I have a lot of struggling left to do.

73. I'm still in the thick of his thought.

74. Some day I'll hopefully be past him.

75. Some day I'll be able to have my own thoughts that contain his thoughts.

76. Or perhaps not.

77. August sure was a month of my own thoughts.

78. I wrote a lot.

79. A lot came out of me.

80. I just let it happen.

81. Mainly because I had the time and freedom to let it happen.

82. But right now I don't feel like I have the time.

83. Every time I write I feel my hunger for apartment searching.

84. I need to find a place to live.

85. Whether with people or with myself.

86. It is funny, I actually stopped writing after number 83.

87. I stopped to look for apartments online!

88. LOL!

89. But I'll find something.

90. I know I will.

91. I need to find something so that my mind can keep flourishing.

92. I need to make it so that my working and living is easy enough that I can do my own work.

93. I want to do my own work.

94. I've been able to read on the bus.

95. That has been really nice.

96. But what I need is to be able to write.

97. What I need is to make it to 200 posts.

98. I suppose that is the big deal with this 100th post.

99. And a good question to ask myself.

100. Will I be able to make it to 200 posts?

101. The 101st phrase, which is simply for good luck, says yes.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Immediate Life, Temporary Life, Future Life

I haven't been writing very much since I started working at this barista job. And that is fine. All well and good I suppose. Just very odd and confusing. Most things feel pretty odd right now.

That is fine I guess. It seems like I am just reverting to the same platitudes. 'Things are hard', 'I'm confused'. I don't even know what I've been saying anymore. I can't really express myself very well about what is happening to me right now. And that is the point of this whole journey. Was to get confused. To lose myself in my own life. To lose touch with knowing how to think. To be uncomfortable.

But the most interesting thing is the contrast between the theory and practice of that idea. It is really easy to read about how uncertainty is important. How putting yourself outside your comfort zone is a good thing and how it will help you think differently or whatever. All this theory of uncertainty. I've been exposed to a lot of it. But jesus this practice of uncertainty is way different and way harder. It hurts to be so unsure of what is going on. To really be this frustrated. It is a serious challenge.

And I don't know how to express what is going on in my mind or in my life. That is the immediate life I am referring to in the title. It is escaping my understanding. Life is happening too quickly for me to get a grip on it. Good, I suppose.

The other thing that I have been reminded of is the temporary nature of this life I am leading. It is totally temporary. It obviously won't be this way forever. But it is just impossible to tell what will come next.

Thus the temporary and future life I'm referring to. It is hard to feel the temporary nature of this time in my life because it feels so immediate and so demanding.

But there will be a future, undoubtedly. No stopping it. And that is good. I guess I feel pretty good writing about this frustration. It has been tough to write, just because I've been occupied by other things. And I should be doing other things even now as I write this. But whatever, I'm doin my thang.

I'll be fine. Just gotta keep moving forward.

I want to reflect soon on This is Water and I also want to reflect on metaphors of war. I have a lot of thoughts silently brewing in my mind, even if I don't have the time or energy to express them right now.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

My False Awakening Waking Paralysis Dream

So I had this dream that was really strange. I had a false awakening, and in that false awakening I had waking paralysis.

False awakenings are when you think that you have woken up, the bedroom appears to be your normal bedroom, but then it turns out that you are actually still dreaming. False awakening.

Waking paralysis is when you wake up and your body can't move. I think this is a somewhat well documented phenomena. Your mind is fully awake and alert, you are awake, but your body can't move for a period of time. People often panic or something. But yeah, waking paralysis.

Also, I have really been thinking a lot about astral projection because of this dream. My past with reiki and yoga introduced me to a lot of things about astral projection, and I still find it very curious. If you haven't heard of it, astral projection is a self-induced out of body experience. People believe that in addition to our physical bodies we possess something called an astral body. And that there is a place called the 'astral plane'. A spiritual sort of realm where your astral body can travel. Some people think we have like 7 bodies or something. Astral body, physical body, emotional body, etherial body, so on. I forget.

But anyways that is the necessary background to what happened in this dream.

This dream had three parts. I know one of them came first, and then I can't remember which of the other two happened next. In the first scene I was in a huge room that was whitish gray. The walls were composed of giant slabs of something. Giant squares, like sidewalks are built of squares. The walls were soft though, I think. They may have been concrete. I can't be sure. But the room was enormous. Hundred foot ceiling. Huge panels on the walls.

I was flying in this room. And more interestingly, I was flying with another person who I knew was my 'master'. Whatever that means. He was someone who was a guide of sorts. And we were flying together, but not fast or forward or anywhere in particular. We were floating in a circle around each other. We were orbiting each other sort of. We were talking, but I have no idea about what. Frankly this scene of being in this huge room with my master was only a flash. I only recall one moment of orbiting with my master. I don't know what he looked like, but I know that he was there, and that he was my master.

I find that all very interesting because reiki and all that, martial arts, yoga, there are relationships that are like master/student type. Reiki masters, yogis. Perhaps not. But often the term master has these connotations of martial arts, spirituality, etc..

But then I was pulled from that space. I went to another layer of the dream. And this is where things get blurred between the other two aspects of the dream. This room with my master was the highest layer of the dream, and I know that happened first. Also, I remember one thing my master said. As I was being pulled from this top layer of the dream he said 'We'll talk about this next time we are here'. And then when I got pulled out of that layer and I was in the next layer I said 'But we aren't always here'.

Then the blurred two layers. But I think that the next layer was me in a white bedroom. And after this white bedroom was the false awakening paralysis.

So after I was flying with my master and I suddenly left that scene. He said we would talk next time we were there. Then I think I was in an all white bedroom with a king or queen sized bed. A big white bed with a white comforter and white walls and what bed posts. The bed posts had white balls on the edge of them. And when I said 'But we aren't always here', I was looking at one of these balls on white bed post and I was touching it with my index finger. I was talking to my master in this white room even though he was no longer there. It was like I had been pulled into that white room so suddenly that I was still finishing a conversation that had begun in the large white room.

Outside of this all white bedroom there was another room. And I knew that my mom was in that room. I don't know what she was doing there. I am pretty sure that we talked together, but I don't remember about what. But I knew I was going to talk to my mom. I'm sure I did.

Then I was suddenly no longer in that bedroom. I was in my bedroom at my aunt's house. I was lying down on my left side. My eyes opened very suddenly, and I couldn't move. I think this was still a dream, but I'm not sure. Maybe I really woke up and had waking paralysis. But for some reason I think it was a dream still. This was my false awakening where I had waking paralysis. I dreamt I woke up and had waking paralysis, but I think I was still just dreaming.

But in any case, when I had this false awakening I had a bizarre sensation of something extending out from my body. With astral projection people believe that your astral body and your physical body stay connected by something called the 'silver chord'. Sounds weird. But in this waking paralysis I had the sensation that there was a chord rapidly extending out from my body. Imagine what a spool of thread sounds like when it rapidly unravels. Imagine what a spool of thread feels like in your hand when it rapidly extends. Then imagine a giant invisible thread unraveling from the front of your body. Lying on my side the whole front of my body felt as if it was being pulled forward by the unraveling of this chord. I don't know what was going on. But in this false awakening I immediately thought that the unraveling I was feeling/hearing was my silver chord unraveling as my astral body moved through the astral plane. Really weird stuff. That was the final layer of the dream. I forget what happened when I woke up. I don't remember waking up. Or when it was or what it was like. But in this last part I definitely couldn't move, and definitely felt/heard an invisible chord unraveling from the front of my body.

Some people think that waking paralysis is caused when you astrally project during your sleep and then suddenly wake up. The idea is that your physical body can't move until your astral body returns to you. So if you suddenly wake up while your astral body is out of your physical body, then you will feel waking paralysis.

This was all really weird. I hardly ever dream. And this dream was quite bizarre and layered. It has really got me thinking about astral projection and potentially attempting it. Or trying to attempt it.

Psychoanalytic interpretations of dreams annoy me, which I think is funny. Because clearly they are legit and can be interpreted in those ways sometimes. But I dunno, it is tough to do. Sometimes it is easy to do. I just wish spirituality could be real in any way at all. I wish astral projection was real, or reiki was real. And that might be. I don't write them off. But it is just hard to know.

Weird dream.

What the Heck is Happening to Me in This 21st Century?: Trying to Craft the Contemporary 'Modern' Perspective

Well I feel like I have been handling this topic in my recent essays. Especially my essay 'The Genealogy of the Modern Mind'. I think that essay really honed in on this idea of figuring out what is going on in the present. I described it as 'coming up with a diagnosis for present minds'. But now I want to just explain and reflect one of the moments in my personal life where this whole idea became imperative.

I wanted to write this after me and Rob left Borders books on 8/2/10. I got my duplicate title this day. It was five days before I left for California to then move from Seattle. Rob and me were spending time together, hanging out. We decided to go to Borders books and just check it out. But the experience at borders was really strange for some reason. We encountered a lot of weird books that spoke to the strangeness of contemporary culture.

Either way at Borders there was a bizarre mixture of cultural insight, like Virus of the Mind, The Shallows, and other psychology books that were trying to understand the effects of contemporary culture, and cultural inversion, like Abraham Lincoln Vampire Hunter, Look at This Hipster, and lots of other weird novels and pop culture books that reflect what Foucault calls 'The Age of History'. A book called 'Writing Jane Austen' really reminded me of it. Literature that has turned inward on its own development. Obviously there are new novels being written that are great in their own right. But many novels just sort of are running with what other novels in the past have been. Many of these novels seemed to be representing representations. It was not just a novel in its own right, but a novel that is written about another novel.

I'm not saying this is bad. But it just demonstrates what Foucault takes about in The Order of Things and what Baudrillard talks about in Simulacra and Simulation. They both talk about cultural 'inversion', 'implosion'. Where culture turns inward on its own development. This is what I really felt when I was inside this Borders looking at all these strange books. They were cultural inversions. They were existing in 'The Age of History', where the history of novels and writing governs the state of contemporary living. How do I grapple with this? How do I figure out wtf is going on? How do I use that knowledge tactically to construct myself now? How do I be modern right now?

So at this bookstore I was just like whoa what is up with all these books. All these books about old books. All these inverted representations. And Foucault's definition of modernity came to mind. Foucault talks about modernity as an attitude, a philosophical ethos. He says that it is a concern for the self in the present moment in relation to history. Once I understand history, how am I to understand myself, right here, right now, in this historical moment? So this moment in Borders, surrounded by books about old books, I felt that I didn't know how to be modern. I didn't know how to understand the present historical moment. How am I to find to figure out what is happening with minds in the present moment? This is hard for me but I think it is a worthwhile question.

I'm not sure what else I can really say about this or what I want to say about this. But this is one of the crucial questions that my essay 'The Genealogy of the Modern Mind' is all about. How can we use theory of mind to come up with a diagnosis for the state of present minds? How can we use history to figure out what is going on here? How am I to be modern in this totally strange cultural moment? Isn't culture weird right now? I think culture is weird. Maybe culture is always weird. But doesn't culture now seem weirder right now? Has it reached a sort of critical mass where it has 'inverted' or 'imploded'?

I don't really know. I just feel a desire to be modern. To understand myself in relation to history. To be able to give a decent answer to the question: What the hell is happening to me? Why is my experience in 2010 so weird? What is the deal with this twenty-first century?

I don't know. After I read The Principles of Art I think I'll read David Harvey's The Condition of Postmodernity. Who knows. Cultural change will happen all the time.

I don't know how to figure any of this out. But I'll continue the chain that I began in "The Genealogy of the Modern Mind." I'll keep chasing these ideas on education, the humanities, modernity, and the history of thought. Who knows.

I want to be modern. I want to understand why I am living these ways. Why anyone is living these ways.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Everything Fascinates Me

So tonight was a nice night. I had a very enjoyable dinner with my cousin and his wife. Delightful people. Shouts out to them.

But more importantly I found it to be a reassuring thing to do, reassuring people to see, after this strange week. I started my job as a barista this week. Worked 9-6 tuesday-friday. Lots of standing and learning of new things. The hours are fine and I know they are normal working hours. But it is an adjustment to make. And the work is an adjustment to make. Life is just blowing my head up right now.

I suppose that is why I am making this reflective post have that title. Everything is totally novel right now. Life is totally novel. I like to think and talk about how we need to pay attention to life. How we need to try and act and think as if though everything is novel and how we are always transforming. This idea of perpetual novelty. I think I wrote about this on my a priori imagination post of 6/13. No, it was my post called "In Defense of Thinking A Lot" from 7/11/10. I wrote about 'The Quest For Endless Novelty'. Which is hard and perhaps not a very realistic idea. Or maybe it is. Maybe it would be possible for us to be constantly rethinking ourselves and our lives and to make everything novel. To make each day and moment new and engaging. Seems like an unlikely goal, but perhaps something to strive for.

But regardless of how this idea will pan out in the rest of my life, there is no choice right now: everything is totally new. Everything is blowing my mind and demanding that I pay lots of attention.

Everything is fascinating me right now. I get off the bus and I'm walking down a street and I say whoa where am I. I know exactly where I am. I know exactly where I am. But I don't at all. Physical space looks and feels different all the time because I am different. Because I'm changing all the time. The Matthew Dear song 'Gem' he says "Who can I talk with today? Why am I still the same?" I find that lyric totally fascinating. Because I never feel the same. I always feel different. These days everything is fascinating me because everything is so new. I hope I don't ever lose this feeling of novelty. I do hope that I'll come to a place where life is less confusing, more familiar, and makes more sense. But I don't want to lose this fascination with all of life. I want to be taken with it all the time. I want it to make sense and then I want that sense to stop making sense so I can make it make sense again. I want to go through cycles of thinking and not thinking, suspecting and doubting.

I want to live.

So here I am. Living.

Apart from my working I have had some other interesting things going on in terms of my reading and writing.

I just published a 13 page essay called "The Science and Art of Minds: Theory and Practice in the Social World." I find it exciting because I'm starting to hone in on the issue with theory of mind. The way that it conflicts with what it is really like to have a mind and to interact with other minds. I, unfortunately, got really tired and sloppily finished the last section of it. I can't find it in my heart to go back and revise it. I feel the desire to move onward, always onward to new projects. It is really interesting to me how I never go back and revise any of these essays. I push and push until they are finished, and then I just hit publish post and I don't look back. I often correct typos and stuff, but I rarely add new sections or do major reworking or rewriting. No need to really heavily edit these things I suppose.

I feel like at this point I'm somewhat incapable of articulating the whole of what I'm after. What are all these different threads I have been pursuing? And how do they all come together? Can theory of mind really be the locus of it all? Can theory of mind be where it all comes together for me? Because I know that everything I have written on this blog, mostly all of it, probably all of it, amounts to something coherent. It all comes back to something. And I'm starting to think that it all comes back to theory of mind, the humanities, and education for the political, social, and military world. It all comes back to theory of mind and education in the humanities. Hmm, I think so. I also think it is coming back to the idea of living life as an art. And how we need to embrace this idea of the 'aesthetics of existence', and what would be the best ways to do it.

But in other notes. I finished that book Sex After Fascism: Memory and Morality in Twentieth Century Germany. Really fascinating book. Dagmar Herzog really has reminded me of how powerful history can be, how philosophically potent history can be, how thought provoking history can be.

Generally the argument of the book revolves around how social 'memory' functioned as a means of regulating morality, and specifically sexual morality, in postwar Germany. She is arguing that the New Left movement of the 60's constructed a 'memory' of the Nazi period that framed it as purely repressive. And that this sexual repression is what caused the Nazi periods brutal crimes. This picture, however, is historically unsound, Herzog argues. She argues that Nazism actually did quite a lot of loosening of sexual morality. They encouraged premarital and extramarital relationships, so long as you were not Jewish or part of another persecuted group. The conservative sexuality that the New Left rebelled against, she believes, was actually formed in response to Nazism loosening of sexual morality. She argues that postwar conservative politicians attempted to return to more traditional notions of family, chastity, etc.. The New Left, therefore, was not really rebelling against Nazism's sexual repression, but against a form of morality that was established to combat Nazism's loosening of sexual morality. She then goes on to explain how the reunification of Germany prompted another shift in the use of memory for the regulation of sexual morality. But this time it was the memory of '1968' and all the connotations of this year and the New Left.

One thing I find particularly interesting is here frequent use of the terms strategy and tactics. She discusses Foucault's work only very cursorily, but clearly has adopted some of his ideas about thinking of the social world in terms of war and struggle. This lends some credence to the things that I wrote in my "Society's Implicit War" essays. Generally, the idea that all social order can be analyzed in terms of war and violent conflict. I just found it interesting how effortlessly, or unselfconsciously, Herzog referred to all of these political and social struggles in terms of strategy and tactics. I suppose it is very common for us to use those notions to analyze much of life. But who knows. Fascinating book. I'll have to spend a little time looking at the table of contents and stuff. History is hard.

But now I'm reading something that will be contributing more directly to my interests and my research. I just today started R.G. Collingwood's The Principles of Art. I feel excited because my preliminary skimming and reading suggests that Collingwood believes that art has quite a lot to do with all of life. So I am hopeful that it will help me clarify my thoughts on 'the art of living' or 'the art of minds'. These phrases that I'm using to talk about this stuff. The creativity and intuitive nature of life. Or how I want life to be.

But anyways, I haven't been writing much since I started working. But this rapid fire reflection felt really good, and I think that The Principles of Art will be a very fruitful book for me. Holla.

Friday, September 10, 2010

The Science and Art of Minds: Theory and Practice in the Social World

I fell apart at the end of this essay. There is so much to articulate here. But I'm so tired and can't muster my thoughts right now and want to be done with this one. I finished it. But there should be sub sections in each chapter, but I can't do that right now.

Table of Contents:
1.
Military Theory and the Relationship Between Theory and Practice
2.
Life and Decision Making as the Art of Minds
3. Theory of Mind as the Science of Minds
4. The Conflict Between the Art and Science of Minds
5. Uniting the Science and Art of Minds: Zen and the Creative Application of Principles
6. The Content of a Theory of Mind: Science and Genealogical History
7. The Application of a Theory of Mind: Theoretically Supported Study of Our Own and Other People's Experience

This essay has been prompted by my essay of 8/30/10 called 'The Genealogy of the Modern Mind'. In that essay I tried to argue that theory of mind needed to be conceptualized as a fundamentally historical project that should be focused on the study of the humanities. I tried to explain how history was essential to the construction of a theoretical body of knowledge about minds. I then tried to argue that this body of theory should be applied primarily to the study of the humanities with the goal of acquiring synthetic experience that would lead to an increased capacity for empathy and judgment.

I am now realizing that I can perhaps frame these difficulties in terms of science and art. Frankly, I think that these two terms are inadequate and are partially escaping my grasp at this point. But the general idea is that with theory of mind there is a noticeable tension between theory and practice. Theory of mind seems to amount to a body of theoretical knowledge that is constructed primarily out of scientific and philosophical evidence. But the application of that theory is not clear. So when I say the science of minds I am generally referring to the creation of systematic knowledge about minds. But I think that the real application of that theory can only happen through daily life and decision making, through the art of minds. And right here I am exploring the idea that daily life and social decision making can be considered an art of minds. If that phrase is appropriate. At this moment I sort of like it.

I suppose right now I'm not necessarily exploring the historical component of theory of mind. I do believe that I made some alright arguments about why history has to be incorporated into theory of mind. Interestingly, I think it needs to be incorporated at both levels – both in the construction of theoretical knowledge about minds and in the application of that theory to the study of the humanities.

But here I suppose I am more interested in exploring this relationship between technical knowledge (science/theory) and practical and creative living (practice/art). I want to explore this relationship both generally and specifically as it relates to theory of mind. First I am going to explain how military theory initially introduced me to the theory/practice, science/art dichotomy and the solution that I favor. Then I'd like to elaborate on this idea that theory of mind is somehow the science of minds, and that real living and decision making is an art of minds. After that I'll try to use zen to explain how the science of minds can be applied to the art of minds (i.e. how theory of mind can help us make better decisions in the social world). After that I'll attempt to more clearly restate the ideas that I first came upon in my GOMM essay. I'll try to explain succinctly how theoretical knowledge of minds needs to be constructed of both scientific knowledge about brains/minds and from historical knowledge that tells us about the contemporary states of minds. Lastly I'll try to explain more clearly how this theory of mind (which is both scientific and historical) should be applied to the study of the humanities with the goal of improving sensitivity, empathy, and intuitive judgment.

Military Theory and the Relationship Between Theory and Practice
So the conflict between theory and practice, and some solutions to the problem, have been highlighted by my work in military history. Military decision making has two traits that make it valuable in this discussion of theory and practice – it is a field that involves an overwhelming amount of practical decision making, and it has been subjected to a plethora of theorizing. This makes it a very useful field for gauging this relationship between theory and practice. Another important thing to note is that military practice is often about decision making. Because my main concern here is the theory and practice of social decision making, military history offers a nice lens for this focus on decision making.

There are two military theorists that I want to discuss, both of which I learned about from Jon Sumida, Alfred Mahan and Carl von Clausewitz. Both of these authors were concerned primarily with the education of command ability – they wanted to figure out the best way to train people to make difficult military decisions. Both authors were also concerned with how theoretical/technical knowledge could be used to train the decision making ability of commanders. The biggest problem in educating command with theory has to do with the role of language: theory relies entirely on language, while command decision making relies mostly on intuition, which is decision making without the aid of language and rationality. So the problem becomes bridging this gap between the strictly articulable nature of theory with the intuitive nature of command decision making. How to use language to train a form of decision making that doesn't rely on language?

Then the question for military theory becomes that of intuition. How is intuition trained? How do you train this creative and intuitive form of decision making? The short answer is experience. You need experience in order to get better at intuitive decision making. So then the crucial thing becomes the relationship between theory and experience: How does theory help describe experience? How does theory help us learn from experience? How does theory help us replicate/synthesize experience?

Mahan and Clausewitz both posed different sorts of answers to this question of how to best use theory to learn from experience. My understanding of Mahan is rough and only second hand from Sumida's book. My understanding of Clausewitz is a bit better because I have read large portions of his writing. That being said, Mahan believed that technical and theoretical knowledge could be used to help us learn more from actual experience. Further, Mahan also believed that history could be a source of experience that theory could help us learn from. Mahan believed that by learning the technical and theoretical aspects of command, and applying them to the study of historical and real experience, one could learn to exercise the art of command. So for Mahan the study of scientific ideas was meant only to improve your ability to exercise the art of decision making. Sumida compares Mahan's views on theory and experience to zen. Sumida says that zen similarly provides rules for conduct, but that they must be applied only loosely and leave room for judgment and creativity. I'll explore this comparison to zen more closely when I talk about theory of mind more closely.

Clausewitz also believed that theoretical and technical knowledge was useful only so long as it facilitated an education that was grounded in experience. Clausewitz, however, believed that history could not only help us learn from experience, but that history could provide an adequate substitute for experience. He believed that historical study combined with intelligent theoretical historical surmise could provide a synthetic experience of sorts. If we were to study history with the intention of reenacting/simulating the thoughts of past commanders we would be gaining access to the difficulties of high command and thus a synthetic experience.

So based on what Mahan and Clausewitz said about military theory I want to make a few things clear. 1. Military decision making is about the social world and therefore cannot be a matter of applying rigid technical or theoretical ideas, but rather intuitive decision making. 2. Because military command requires intuition it has to be trained primarily through experience. 3. Theoretical knowledge thus has to be directed towards either the acquisition of real experience or synthetic experience. 4. Because it is about intuitive decision making it is akin to an art form, the art of command social decision making.

So then, military theory offers me a model of how to conceptualize the relationship between scientific/theoretical knowledge and the art/practice of decision making. I want to import these general conclusions to what I am calling the science and art of minds. I'm trying to explain how there exists a similar gap between theory and practice with theory of mind. I think that decision making in the social world, like in the military world, has to be intuitive and creative. This means that experience is also a valued commodity in the social world just like it is in the military world. I will therefore argue that theory of mind has to be directed at the acquisition of real experience or synthetic experience. And I think that because social decision making is intuitive and creative, and because it revolves mainly around minds, can be considered an art of minds. So then from here, using this model from military theory, I'm going to talk about how to unite the science/theory of minds with the art/practice of minds. How to unite theoretical knowledge about minds with their practical engagement in the social world.

First I'm going to dwell for a bit longer on this notion of social decision making as the art of minds. Then I'm going to spend some time with this idea of theory of mind as a body of scientific knowledge. So I just want to really ground these terms art and science in theory of mind. From there I will explain the connection to zen more clearly. After that I'm going to rehash what this has to do with a genealogical theory of mind that is aimed at acquiring synthetic experience for the purpose of becoming more sensitive.

Life and Decision Making as the Art of Minds
So how is it that life can be considered an art form? Is it possible that all of life and decision making can be an art form? If so, can it be considered an art of minds? My sense for all of this is yes. Life can indeed be an art form, and it can be an art form that is executed as an art of minds.

I think there are probably two different things I want to talk about to make my case for this. I think this is probably weak evidence, but I'm very new to this idea that life is the art of minds. But I will talk about Foucault's notion of the 'aesthetics of existence', and then I'll talk about Collingwood and the few parts of The Principles of Art that I have looked at.

Now in The Use of Pleasure Foucault discusses ancient Greek sexual practices. He talks about how their major concern was not to master their desires, but to use pleasure. They were engaging in self-disciplined use of food, alcohol, and sex. This self-disciplined engagement with pleasure was meant to build a beautiful reputation. Foucault claims that they were engaging in this disciplined lifestyle so that they could have a beautiful reputation in their community that would then allow them to exercise political power with more authority, and it would allow them to leave a beautiful legacy for future generations. Foucault says that this can be called an aesthetics of existence. Why does art need to stop at painting, sculpting, or the other accepted mediums? Why can't life itself become a form of creative expression? Why can't life be an art form? The ancient Greeks provide some strong evidence that life can indeed become an art form, that it is possible to try and beautify your existence for yourself and for those around you.

Now accept for a moment that life can indeed be an art form. Accept that there is such a thing as the aesthetics of existence. Ask the question, How would this aesthetics of existence be actualized? Or how is any aesthetic affect realized? It would be realized in the mental world. How could this aesthetics of existence exist anywhere other than in minds? The art would be taking place in the mind of the individual that is trying to build a beautiful reputation and existence, and it would take place in the minds of the individuals who recognized that someone had achieved a beautiful existence. In short, based on this short line of reasoning I feel comfortable concluding that life can be considered the art of minds. It would be a way to produce a beautiful life both in your own mind and in the minds of others.

But I will corroborate this slightly with what I have read in Collingwood's The Principles of Art. Collingwood basically says that art has to meet two criteria: it has to be expressive and imaginative. I think that Collingwood also says that art has to be 'language' of some sort, which does not mean just words. Anything can be language. Now what is to prevent me from thinking that life and the decisions that are made in life cannot be both expressive, imaginative, and linguistic? Well, my essay On Creativity was a lot of fun to write and I really feel like I made a good case that all of life, language, and decision making could be creative. I also feel that life and decision making can be expressive, imaginative, and creative. I plan on reading The Principles of Art once I finish what I'm reading right now. But even my skimming seems to suggest that life itself can be an art in Collingwood's eyes. Furthermore, with Collingwood's emphasis on minds, I have no problem concluding that living and making decisions in the social world should be considered the art of minds.

I also want to point out real quickly that I have already said in numerous places that minds function intuitively. That the art of minds is not something that could happen deliberately or rationally. We have to learn to do this sort of expressive and creative social interaction on an intuitive level.

Now let me talk about how theory of mind is more so the science of minds.

Theory of Mind as the Science of Minds
Now here when I am talking about science I mean it in in its most general form. Even with that being said, I fear that the term doesn't quite apply to what I'm talking about here. But I'm talking about science as the production of a systematized body of knowledge that is supposed to achieve the full explanation of a phenomena, and often the prediction of that phenomena, and even prescription for action within that phenomena.

So is theory of mind really a science of mind? For one thing I can say that theory of mind draws primarily on scientific and technical information. Theory of mind typically uses the results of neuroscience or psychology, and also utilizes armchair thought experiments. But in any case, theory of mind is an articulated body of knowledge. Alvin Goldman does say explicitly that he is trying to create a comprehensive theory of mind. What that means, I'm not sure.

In this section I'm going to make a quick concession: I think this term is 1. eluding my grasp for the most part, and 2. probably inadequate for what I'm trying to talk about.

Basically I'm just saying here that theory of mind is an articulated body of knowledge that relies primarily on scientific evidence. And it is therefore in contrast to the actual practice of minds.

I think that calling theory of mind a science of mind will make more sense if I explain the conflict between the science and art of minds.

The Conflict Between the Art and Science of Minds
What I'm trying to talk about is how theory of mind is a clearly articulated body of knowledge about minds. It is always rooted in language, in articulation. And seeing that real interaction of minds functions primarily on an intuitive level (i.e. it functions without language), there is conflict between the theory and practice of minds. I am using the terms science and art to highlight the conflict between the theory and practice of minds.

Having established that engaging with minds can be an art, I want to figure out how to contrast that well. Mahan talked about the art and science of command. So I am talking about the art and science of minds. But I don't know if that makes sense.

But again, the point is this: theory of mind is an articulated body of knowledge that does not translate into real action in any clear way. Theory of mind is incapable of providing any kind of prescriptive action for the real world of minds. So there is a clear conflict between the theory of minds and the practice of minds. I want to specify the pragmatics of theory of mind more clearly. That is why these terms science and art are useful right now. Because I'm trying to explain how social decision making is an intuitive, creative, and expressive process that is akin to an art form, but that theory of mind is a systematized and articulated body of knowledge that has no direct connection to actual practice of minds, which is something like a science. So I'm using this dichotomy of science/art to explain how I want to turn theory of mind into a practical guide to daily living. I'm trying to unite the science and the art of minds. I'm trying to make it so that theory of mind can help us exercise the art of minds. I think this can be done. But it is tricky. I'm struggling with it, obviously. As I should be, right?

So generally the conflict is between theory of mind and the practice of minds: theory of mind is a clearly articulated and scientific body of knowledge, but the practice of minds is an intuitive process of social interaction that does not rely on language or reason. Theory of mind is like a science, while living in the world of minds is something like an art. Theory of mind does not lead to any obvious form of action. So I want to find a way to make this science of minds helpful in the art of minds.

I'm going to move on and try to clarify how I want to do this. I'm going to explain this unification of the science and art of minds in three sections. First, I'm going to scrape the surface a little bit with a reference to zen. Then I'm going to talk about how I want to reconfigure the body of theory that a theory of mind would use. Then I'll talk exactly about how I think it should be applied.

Uniting the Science and Art of Minds: Zen and the Creative Application of Principles
I only want to briefly compare this whole thing to zen. I haven't read nearly enough on zen, so I won't even try to make this clear or long. But I will say that when I read Jon Sumida's book on Alfred Mahan, Inventing Grand Strategy and Teaching Command, I was struck by the way that zen can be applied to this issue of the 'science' and 'art' of something. Sumida describes how Mahan's views on naval command were similar to the way that zen approaches formal propositions. Mahan believed that formal rules could not be rigidly applied to command decision making. They rather had to be used as a set of principles that allowed room for flexibility and creative judgment. Zen regards moral principles in the same way. Zen has a certain number of things that it holds to be true about good or proper living. But these rules are never to be rigidly applied to life. They are to be applied loosely, flexibly, and creatively. Judgment is supreme, and rules are only useful so long as they aid in the process of judgment.

I think that theory of mind should have a similar goal in mind. I think that theory of mind should come up with a series of propositions about the ways that minds work. It should explain as best we can how they work, and how we can interact with them. But theory of mind can never be prescriptive, so it needs to be an aid to judgment. The social world is about exercising judgment in relations of minds. But I bet theory of mind could be an aid to judgment in the social world, the world of minds.

But what principles should theory of mind use? Let me explore.

The Content of a Theory of Mind: Science and Genealogical History
I think that a theory of mind should consist of at least two elements that are somewhat distinct. The first is what theory of mind typically revolves around: scientific and philosophical evidence. Theory of mind typically draws on evidence from psychology, neuroscience, and general philosophical arguments. These traditional elements are crucial to theory of mind, obviously. The discovery of mirror neurons, neuroplasticity, all kinds of psychological experiments–all of this offers a lot to a theory of mind.

But I believe that a theory of mind also has to contain historical information. It needs to use genealogical historical methods to try and figure out what exactly is going on with minds in the present. It needs to figure out what minds in the past were like, and use that information to determine how minds have developed historically, and exactly how they are functioning in this historical moment. Culture has so much to do with minds, I don't see any way that a theory of mind could really function without historical study.

So I'm proposing that the content of theory of mind needs to be expanded to include historical information. I argued all of this in my essay 'The Genealogy of the Modern Mind'.

The Application of a Theory of Mind: Theoretically Supported Study of Our Own and Other People's Experience
So, I've told you in these last two sections that theory of mind needs to be regarded as a loose set of rules and principles that are to be intuitively and creatively applied in the social world as aids to judgment, and that a theory of mind can't possibly be adequate unless it uses historical evidence in conjunction with scientific evidence and philosophical argument. Now I just want to explain briefly how I think this theory of mind should be used as an aid to the study of our own and other people's experience. I think that the study of our own experience can be accomplished through mindfulness and reflection, while the study of other people's experience is to be found in the humanities and in social interaction. The goal with all of this talk of theory of mind is to make it so that theory of mind becomes part of our unconscious decision making apparatus. We need to make it so that theoretical lessons are absorbed into the mind at an unconscious level so that we can simply act those ways intuitively.

I think that the best way to absorb theory into the unconscious is by engaging in deliberate reflection on our own thought and deliberate simulation on other people's thoughts. In other words, we can't make our actions reflect our theoretical values unless we are willing to engage in mindfulness and empathy. Unless we take the time to really think about our own minds and think about other people's minds we won't be able to intuitively enact our moral values.

So we can use theory of mind to equip our minds with a conceptual tool kit that is both scientific and historical. We would learn about simulation theory, about mirror neurons and empathy, about social classifications, about the history of our thought. But that theoretical knowledge about minds isn't any good unless we can somehow transform it into the art of minds. It isn't any help unless it helps us live differently in the social world. We act intuitively in the social world, so we need to use it to transform our intuitive behavior. I think that is best done through reflection on our own experience and through the acquisition of synthetic experience from the humanities.

I'm so tired from starting my new job and from being stressed out and confused. I can't think clearly and want to publish this essay. I'm exploring fruitful things here. I'm articulating good stuff about how theory of mind needs to be reconceptualized both in terms of content and pragmatics. But I don't care to chase this post anymore. I want it to be done. I'll leave my original notes below. I'll stop here.

Original Notes of 9/1/10
- Theoretical ideas and being primed to learn from our own experience
- Mahan and learning from our own experience
- The humanities and synthetic experience
- Sensitivity
- Judgement

Zen and principles as guides to learning from experience. Principles as a means of creativity. These are some questions prompted by GOMM

This is really about the theory of mind. What are the propositions that theory of mind elaborates? And what are there use? What is the body of theory like? What is the use of that body of theory? Theory of mind has to be a zen like project.

Life is an art. Theory of mind is a science. But. Just like Mahan and Clausewitz, you can't have this type of theory for minds. You need a theory of mind that 1. helps you learn from real experience better and 2. helps you gain synthetic experience

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

My First Day at UW Coffee Shop Becomes Family Reflection

So today I started at University Bookstore Cafe. Nice day overall. I took the bus there and I took the bus back. Bus rides are a pain and it makes the commute longer. As my parents and others probably know, a commute turn a 9-6 job into a 8-7 job. Oh well.

But I'd like to start off this reflection with my experience getting off the bus. It was raining but the sun was still shining as it set. I had my headphones on and I was listening to Lil B's "The Age of Information." The rain was very visible because of the direct and low lying sunlight. I was walking down a hill back to the house and had a strange feeling and some strange thoughts. I felt like I was somewhere that I hadn't been before, or that I was someone different than I had been before. I felt like I lived in Seattle and like I had a job in a coffee shop. I was walking down a hill in the rain with big headphones on just feeling different. Feeling like the moment was singular and that it was encasing me. It was defining everything that is happening to me right now. The rain. The first day in a coffee shop. The bus. The walk. The feeling is hard to really explain. Because it was so total. It was so singular and so all encompassing. I felt like something that I hadn't been before.

Then as I got to the bottom of the hill that song changed. Perhaps this caused a shift in my thought or perhaps the shift was coincidental, but my thoughts turned to my family. I'm further from them than I have ever been before. And for some reason in that moment it was more of a noticeable sensation than it had been in the past month. Perhaps my settling down in this area feels more concrete now that I have a job here. I was at that moment listening to How To Dress Well's song called 'Can't See My Own Face'. The song is clearly romantic and about love. But for some reason a certain line made me think of my family. The line went: "Whatever it takes just to make it through. I want you to know that I will always love you babe." Like I said, clearly romantic. But the point is that I love my family and i miss them. Shouts out to mom and dad in Farmville. Shouts out to my sister in Baltimore. Who knows what the hell I was doing moving out here.

And interestingly this is a question that I am asked often these days. People ask where I come from and I say oh I moved from Maryland to Seattle about four weeks ago. It hasn't even been four weeks. But what the hell am I doing? What the hell is happening? Not that I have some overwhelming sense of regret or some sense of panic about doing this. It is something I'm doing. Hard to say more than that. I took a shot moving out here. But a shot at what? A shot at a new life, a new social world, a new personal world. But what all of that will be like, how it will come about, what it will look like, what it will feel like, is all to be determined? I think that once I find an apartment I'll be a bit more grounded. Maybe. Tough to say what really is going on. What I'm really thinking or feeling. I just love my family. I've been far from them physically for the last four or five weeks. But today I felt far from them mentally. Working a whole day at a new job made it all feel realer. It made the space feel realer for some reason.

Dear family, I miss you, and I'm doing fine in Seattle. I suspect that the progress out here will be slow and steady. I'll work one day after another. Hopefully I'll make friends and become a better person. But I do regret being so far from you. With my ambition to move I hadn't quite realize what I was doing. How could I know what I was doing? It was a shot in the dark and I knew it. But now things are becoming a bit more illuminated out here. Life is starting to feel a little bit less surreal. The distance and the difficulty of seeing each other regularly is starting to feel more real. A regret, maybe, probably not. I suppose I have to keep going forward with my life. With what I'm doing, what I want to do, or at least what I think I want to do. Who knows where I'll end up.

But we'll keep talking.

This didn't really end up being about my time at work. I used a cash register. I rang people up. I learned how to heat up sandwiches, mini quiches, bagels, etc.. What a life? What a weird job and a weird feeling. I'll be getting barista trained by Caffe Vita, the location in Capitol Hill. That will come in the next week or so. Good stuff. A fascinating skill set to have.

Perhaps the only thing I know right now is that in five years I'll be able to tell people that after college I moved to Seattle and got trained as a barista. But for now I'll just have to keep living this life without being able to say exactly what it is that I'm doing.

As soon as I said that thing about what 'I know right now' I felt weird. I felt strange because it made it seem like I didn't know what to say. Or I didn't have anything to say. And my immediate thought was 'well I'm working on an essay right now where I'm certainly saying something'. So the question becomes this: What are these things that I know how to say and these things that I don't know how to say?

Because clearly the things that I'm writing about are about me. This essay I'm working on is called "The Science and Art of Minds: Theory and Practice in the Social World." I'm chasing down the problems/questions that I tried to tackle/raise in my essay "The Genealogy of the Modern Mind." And let me declare, quite emphatically, very seriously, that these essays are about me. I struggle with myself and my own mind, and these essays are me trying to sort all of this business out. These essays are me tackling myself. Trying to create myself.

So why do I find it so easy to think that these abstractions are somehow about me? Perhaps they make it easier to deal with life, with the physical distance between me and my family, the emotional distance between me and all these strangers. Perhaps the abstraction makes it easier to stomach all this. These real connections that are so far from me, and these new and nonexistent connections are all around me.

I'm loosing track. In short, I miss my family. I long for new social connections in this new place. And all of this feels very uncertain. Oh well, at least I have a job to fill much of my time now. Hopefully it doesn't get in the way with me finding an apartment.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Ebey's Landing Adventure and Some Notes

Well today was a very nice day that had lots of interesting talks and experiences. Me and my aunt went to Ebey's Landing on Whidbey Island. We took a ferry from the mainland out to this little island and went hiking up this big bluff, all along this wild coast line. Really nice skyline. I took some pictures. They will be up on facebook eventually.

Basically you park near this beach, and the first half of the walk is about 2 or so miles up hill. We walked up this hill all along this cliff side. Really interesting to be walking up a cliff. Farm land on one side of us, and Puget Sound all on the other side of us. Then the second half of the hike you go down hill and loop back around the shore.

But the real wild adventure had to do with my aunt's dog. We brought her dog, Flotsam, on this hike. He is thirteen years old, so is an old boy. 91 in human years! But anyways, about halfway through the uphill hike he starts getting noticeably exhausted. He often breathes hard, but he was breathing much harder than normal. You could see his sides moving really rapidly. Really rapid and hoarse breathing. So we sat down and rested with him a few times. But it got to the point where we were concerned that he wasn't gonna be able to make it the rest of the way. It was quite a wild few moments. Just really seemed like this dog was not gonna make it. But we waited for like 30 minutes and he was able to finish the uphill version of the hike.

Then we got to the descent down to the beach and he was booking it. I guess gravity helped this dog out a bit, and he was also pumped to get down to the beach. I was scampering behind him holding on to his leash. It was quite a site to see this dog running down this hill after he had been nearly passed out at the top of it. But we got down and he jumped into the water and cooled down. For the rest of the walk back he was totally fine. Then me and my aunt had a nice dinner together once we got back into a town. Then we took the ferry back and here we are.

Sometimes I feel like I am bad at narrating my daily life. Because that was a really long and really adventurous day, and I feel like I just gave it a short description and yup thats it. But whatever.

It makes me partially curious because I was talking to my aunt today about how I have an interest in writing fiction. That is something that makes me curious. Clearly, I want to be a dynamic thinker and writer. I want to be on all the frontiers. But yeah, I suspect/fear I won't be able to write fiction well. But I will start trying to do it. I'll just start writing single scenes, single moments, single fictional instances. See how that goes. I'll start imitating my favorite writers in the hopes of getting a sense of how they write, with the hopes of moving on from there.

But either way I am pleased with the amount of nonfiction that I produced last month. Quite a lot of it! And I think some of it was of a decent quality and so that is good.

The two most substantial things to reflect on were my Society's Implicit War essays and my most recent essay 'The Genealogy of the Modern Mind: History, Theory of Mind, and Self-Directed Neuroplasticity'.

WIth the SIW essays I feel like I have a lot of reflecting left to do on military history and its general applicability to life. I finished reading the Society Must Be Defended lectures and that definitely contributed to my understanding of what is going on in Discipline & Punish. But for me Foucault didn't really answer the questions he put forth. But I mean, he did. He definitely did. The question is: is war and military struggle an appropriate way to analyze power relations in general? do the notions of strategy and tactics apply to daily life? and can they offer me some kind of meaningful set of analytical tools? The answer he implicitly relies on in Discipline & Punish, as well as Volume I of the History of Sexuality seems to be yes. But I don't know if these notions of strategy and tactics are still present in his later ethical work. That is why I'll have to read all of Foucault's books and then return to the ethical period. Get a grip on this stuff. Foucault remains a work in progress for me (LOL OBVIOUSLY!).

But my Genealogy of the Modern Mind essay prompts a lot of questions that I think I can tackle pretty soon. With Foucault and military history I need to read more before I answer those above questions. But with the GMM essay I can ask the following questions: Can the humanities really be considered the study of human minds? (yes). What is the difference between thought and experience, and how does the notion of mind fit into these ideas? What is the relationship between the science and art of minds? Is it fair to talk about theory of mind as the science of minds? Is it fair to talk about life as the art of minds? How will my reading into zen (which I plan to undertake) influence, corroborate, or problematize these ideas?

Generally I think I am trying to explore how theory of mind needs to be used as a zen like set of principles that are loosely applied to creative living. My aunt brought up the good point that the humanities should rightly be considered the study of human experience. Minds, yes. But experience more so. And I think that in my essay on GMM I lost touch with this a little bit and wasn't able to articulate the pragmatics of synthetic experience enough. Perhaps I did. These ideas have just gained a new sort of critical mass. A new interwoven complexity. And I really want to tease out their connections and figure out how to articulate them more precisely. But I need to do a lot more reading.

I need to figure out what graduate program to go into. I am now thinking that I want to write my dissertation on Collingwood. I think there are a number of things that I could do with him, and I find him really compelling. I plan on reading The Principles of Art soon. That will be a great thing to read I think. But anyways, I am not sure how to articulate any of this stuff right now.

But I believe I'm working on an essay called "The Science and Art of Minds: Technical Knowledge and Experience." I say I believe because it is a tentative title, and I have yet to do any writing except outlining. But it will be an interesting sort of exploration. A good topic to essay on.

Essaying is a verb.

Over and out.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Fog Fog Fog

My mind feels different than it has before.

It feels foggy. Super foggy. It feels like it doesn't know how to think anymore. This happens to me sometimes. I just lose my ability to express myself in a coherent way. Intellectually I lose my ability to express myself. I become clouded.

It typically happens after a large bout of expression. And that is basically what all of August was. And that I capped the whole month off with my essay on 'The Genealogy of the Modern Mind' seems like quite a big deal. Quite a big bout of expression. I had forgotten, or it had not been entirely clear to me, that theory of mind was my central concern. Although that is what seems to be the case. Also, I hadn't been able to articulate that the proper domain for theory of mind was the study of minds. Just like Clausewitz's theory of war can't be separated from the study of military history, is the theory of mind inseparable from the study of minds? Is the humanities really the study of other minds? The answer to these questions seems to be yes. But I'm still struggling with these types of conclusions.

Also I just have so much more reading to do to really make these things sit well with me. To make such rash and large conclusions about something like theory of mind seems unsettling at this point. It seems like I shouldn't be making such large and bold conclusions.

But seriously, how can a theory of mind really be a theory as we think of scientific theories? How can it be useful? Doesn't it need to be turned towards improving intuition in the relations of minds? Shouldn't it be contributing to Foucault's project of changing the way that minds relate to one another?

Theory of mind and education. Aren't these people talking about this? Almost certainly. Like I said, I just have so much literature left to get into. So much more to figure out, so much more to ground myself in. But I suppose that is the forever conclusion.

Whatever. Enough reflection. I'll be moving onward with this project sooner or later in some form or another. But right now I'm intellectually lost.

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