MOUNTAINS, WATERS, AND WHAT A CAT SEES WHILE STANDING ON YOUR SHOULDER

For today’s post, the first one in a while, I am going to write a little about one of my favorite things ever written. This bit of writing was originally in Japanese, so there are a couple different translations for the title. The book where I first read it has “Mountains and Waters Sutra” as the title, but I have also found it online as “Mountains and Waters Discourse“.

At any rate, the original title is 山水經, pronounced in English “Sansui kyō,” which literally translates to something along the lines of “Mountain Water Sutra” or “Mountain Water Scripture” or “Mountain Water Classic Work,” so anyways it’s about mountains and waters. It was written by a Zen monk named Dogen some time in the 13th century. According to the source I got this from, this text is part of Dogen’s principal work, “Treasury of the Eye of the True Dharma,” or as it was originally titled, “正法眼蔵(Shōbōgenzō)”.

At any rate, I like this text quite a lot. And I intend to at least attempt to describe why I like it so much, but I am not sure if I will be able to actually do so. A lot of it does not make literal sense, I mean, and furthermore, part of what I like about it is that it doesn’t make literal sense. Ergo any attempt to explain it may result in ruining the experience for another reader.

How can mountains walk? As I am not myself a mountain, I can’t really say.

Subjectivity is the text’s main theme, I would venture, though I am not sure Dogen would agree. At any rate, this is a picture of one of my all-time favorite kitties, Waymus Jaymus.

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Good kitty.

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I began writing this article over a month ago. I first got the idea to write it before that.

My original intent was to simply type out the text and add footnotes wherever I felt like it, explaining my interpretation of each paragraph. I had some difficulty with the HTML code necessary for this to work, so I ended up abandoning the project for a while.

When I finally came back to it a little over a month ago, I ended up only having a short amount of time to work on it because of other engagements. But I decided to work in something about how Waymus Jaymus likes to get up on my shoulders with the line about how soaring is always done freely in the mountains…

And anyways she does like to do that a lot, but unfortunately for her (and for me), she can only do that when it’s cold outside, and I’ve got on at least a couple layers of clothing. When I’m just in a t-shirt (as I generally am during warm weather, unless I go shirtless, of course), her claws dig in too much to my shoulders, and I have to make her get down.

I was discussing this with her this past Friday. I mean I know she didn’t really know what I was talking about, but I had her in my lap Friday evening, and I said to her something like “It won’t be long til I’m wearing more clothes, kitty, and you can get up on my shoulders again.” And to repeat, I know she didn’t actually understand what I was saying, but she purred and stuff, and after a few minutes, she hopped out of my lap, and I went inside.

I woke up around 4 am Saturday morning. That’s not all that unusual: I usually get up around 4 am during the week, but I do tend to sleep in until around 7 or 8 on Saturdays.

Anyways, like usual, after I got up, I went outside to feed the kitties… and I immediately noticed that Waymus didn’t come to eat with the other kitties. Which again, not unusual… sometimes she hangs out on her own for a while before she comes in.

But anyways, something told me to go look for her.

It was dark, so I couldn’t see outside of the old horse stall where I feed the cats. I turned on my phone’s flashlight and stepped out into the darkness, and about 8 feet from the entrance/exit to the horse stall, there was Waymus Jaymus, lying on the ground. She was meowing like she was in pain.

I reached down to pet her and discovered that she was mostly paralyzed. She could move around a little, but she couldn’t stand up or walk. And her eyes were wide open, and they appeared to be dilated.

It took me about 2 seconds to deduce that she had most likely been bitten by a snake. As this realization was a bit shocking to me, I had to go sit down and think for a minute.

I did some research with my phone and discovered that antivenin is pretty damn expensive, something like $500 a vial, and that a vet visit for a venomous snake bite could run upwards of $2000.

I also discovered that it takes a while for venom to get into a cat’s (or a dog’s, or a human’s) system, and that a cat might not exhibit any symptoms immediately following a snakebite, but some time later would start to experience paralysis, pain, and so on.

Which meant that Way Jaymus had most likely been bitten at least an hour or so before I ever found her.

Anyways, the optimal treatment in this case would have been immediately rushing her to the vet, paying however much it cost to get her some antivenin… and hoping for the best. Antivenin is not a guaranteed cure in all cases, especially when the venom has had time to get into the animal’s system.

But that would have been the best course of action. There were only two problems: the first problem was that I didn’t have $2000. And the second problem was that it was a little after 4 am on a Saturday morning, and the earliest any vet clinic around here opens on Saturday is 7:30.

So all things considered, I prepared myself for the worst possible outcome: that little Way Jaymus, one of my favorite kitties of all time, was going to die.

For the record, the feeling of impotence right then, that came with knowing that I didn’t have the money to get her optimal treatment, combined with knowing that optimal treatment wouldn’t have been available even if I had the money… well, it wasn’t a pleasant feeling.

I resolved to make her as comfortable as I could. I got a cardboard box out of the recycling pile, put some towels in the bottom of it and draped up the sides, and carefully put the mostly paralyzed kitty in the box. For the time being I left it on the ground next to where I found her.

As a sidenote, the articles I was finding online about cats getting bitten by snakes mentioned seeing blood on or near the cat from the bite wound. I didn’t see any blood on the ground, and feeling around on little Waymus’ fur, I didn’t find any matted blood.

So I felt a little hope, because if she had been bitten by a snake (and I am still about 99% sure that’s what happened), it was either a shallow bite or a bite from a small snake. Make no mistake, small venomous snakes can be deadly, it’s just that I was looking for every ray of hope I could find, and the fact that I didn’t see a big bite wound anywhere on her was a ray of hope, however dim.

So anyways, by about 4:30 or a little after, Waymus Jaymus was in a box stuffed with towels. I mention the time again because to repeat, even if I had had the money for antivenin, it would have been 7:30 before I could get her to a vet. And by then, if the bite was going to be fatal, the antivenin might not work anyway.

At any rate, every article I read said that other than taking her to a vet for antivenin, there was really nothing I could do to help her, other than to put her somewhere comfortable and preferably dark. And it was still dark outside, so I decided to do more research on my phone.

She was meowing a lot, and she was obviously in a lot of pain. For the next couple of hours, all I could do was sit there and hope she didn’t die. She didn’t, but things weren’t looking promising. Around 7 or so, after she had been through the worst part of the pain, from what I could tell, I picked up her box and put it in the hay barn, up off the ground and behind a gate, so no dogs could come along and bother her.

I hung around for a while, but seeing as how there was nothing I could do, and seeing as how I was tired from being stressed, I went back to bed for a couple hours.

When I got back up, probably around noon, I went to check on her. I was a bit upset to see her out of her box, back on the ground in the horse stall. She had mustered up enough energy to get out of the box, but not enough to get completely out of the horse stall.

I carefully put her back in her box (“carefully” because she acted like she might bite or claw me), and thankfully she stayed put that time.

The next morning, Sunday, she was in her box when I got up, and she was acting like she felt a little better, which I was glad about. There was one slight problem: I had her box in the same place I feed the cats, so I had to move it…

And after I moved her box, she sat still and let me pet her a little…

But then she got restless. She got up, got out of the box, and since I was just glad she was walking again (however wobbly), I let her walk around, and after a couple attempts of walking off into the woods (I don’t think she could see where she was going; I hope that isn’t permanent), she walked probably around 20 feet from where her box was sitting and crawled under some t posts that have been laid across a block of wood long enough for grass to grow around them and make them difficult to pick up. Waymus Jaymus crawled under there like she was crawling into a little cave.

And yes, I am aware that snakes like to curl up in little cubbyhole type places like that. At any rate, there weren’t any snakes in this little cubbyhole Waymus found, so I left her alone for the most part. She stayed there most of the day Sunday… it rained a little, but she didn’t get wet. I was hoping that if any water did drip through, she’d drink it… she hadn’t had any food or water in over a day at this point. I left her a little dish of water, and I think she drank some of it, but if she did she didn’t drink much.

She finally came out from under there when I whistled to indicate it was feeding time yesterday evening… but she didn’t eat more than a bite or two.

Same deal this morning, although she seems to be feeling a lot better. She wasn’t in her box when I first went to check on her, she was elsewhere in the shed, I guess roaming around. She was still a little wobbly this morning… here’s hoping she’ll eat more for supper tonight.

I really hope she pulls through. I think she will, but I don’t know for sure.

Here’s hoping, I guess. I will update this later, and maybe even write about what the post is supposed to be about, instead of about the kitty I added a pic of…

She’s a good kitty.

(And she’s fine now. Sorry it took me a while to add that.)

At any rate, since deciding to write this post, I have thought about the Mountains and Waters Sutra/Discourse quite a lot, and my interpretation of it has changed some.

For the record, I think this is inevitable: the text itself defies easy explanation, or at least explanation that narrows the meaning of it down to any one thing. As I mentioned above somewhere, my interpretation is not the only one.

But the past few times I have sat down to do this, one phrase from the text keeps popping into my head:

“The Buddha ancestors’ words point to walking.”

And I go for a walk instead of typing.

Gonna do that now, I think.

Be back later.

WHY I (TEMPORARILY) QUIT FACEBOOK (AGAIN), IN CASE YOU WERE WONDERING (WHICH, TO BE FAIR, YOU PROBABLY WEREN’T)

I am just gonna come right out and say it: I am a pretty big fan of “The Big Bang Theory.” People bash that show a lot, and often with good reason… but so what? I like it. It isn’t the greatest TV series of all time or anything, but it’s a funny enough show, and I like the characters (and even relate to them on occasion), so I like it.

At the very least, “The Big Bang Theory” hasn’t slowly morphed into a running political commentary nobody asked for, one that doesn’t even realize how far right of center its politics are, where every other joke positively oozes with unacknowledged privilege… at least not yet. That isn’t to say that I am necessarily repelled by TV shows and movies that are infused with political messages that often go unnoticed by casual viewers, because I’m definitely not… I guess I am just saying that I am glad “The Big Bang Theory” isn’t (intentionally) political, because if it were, I would probably not like it as much as I do.

But I am not here to talk about TV and movies I like or don’t like (or wax pseudo-intellectual about “liking” or “not liking”), I am here to talk about why I quit Facebook again .

And yes, it’s partially because a good 50% of what I’ve been doing there lately is read about TV shows and crap. The other 50% is split between being genuinely amazed and awed at the level of myopic egomania from folks who have convinced themselves that they are guided solely by “reason” simply because they reject religion and people virtually shouting at each other over politics.

Before I go on, I should say here that I have a great many things in common with the online atheist community. For example, I agree 100% that religion has no place in government, and that science education should not be compromised in any way because of anyone’s religious beliefs. To their credit, nobody in this loosely-organized online community disagrees with these ideas.

But there’s definitely a lot of disagreement in this community… and a lot of it is pretty silly, in my opinion. Many of the best things in life, like it or not, are completely irrational. Love, for one. Whether it’s a sad little crush yours truly still clings to, or the desire to legally bind yourself to one sexual partner for life (at least nominally), “love” doesn’t exactly make rational sense, if you think about it very much.

That’s not to say science can’t “explain” what “love” is. It can, or at least it can in a post hoc sense. I.e. science (ideally) can tell you after the fact *why* you’re attracted to this or that person (a lot of it depends on personality types), and it can predict to some degree which type of person you’ll be attracted to, but it can’t really predict which individual/s you’ll “fall in love” with.

Some scientists readily acknowledge things like this. Others don’t.

Some of them even attempt to correlate “science” with the way they treat other people. For many people in this online community, “political correctness” is somehow antithetical to science. If you discourage the use of slurs and epithets, these people believe, then you are (somehow) moving society backward instead of forward.

This online community is essentially a self-contained group of like-minded people, agreeing with each other and excluding alternative points of view. Which is fine, in my opinion… but somewhat ironically, this group doesn’t really seem to realize that it functions this way.

And if you mention anything about systemic racism to them, they’ll shout at you about “identity politics” until their political views become very hard to distinguish from the views of hardcore religious people.

And I don’t mean to disparage religious people. Some of my all-time favorite people are/were very religious.

Likewise, some of my all-time favorite people are/were hardline atheists. I just find it kinda hilarious when they mock things they don’t really even have the faintest grasp of, and their only argument is “I’m an atheist, so that means I know stuff.”

But I don’t want to waste this entire post griping. Or pretending that I (as in yours truly) am not (often) the instigator of the “virtual shouting” over politics mentioned before. And I can be a bit of a smartass when it comes to political stuff, though I generally at least attempt to be civil.

Fat *@#$in’ lot of good that does, tho. 🙂 It’s more fun to be a smartass, even when I am doing so rather obliquely.

It’s more fun than writing about depressing stuff like suicide, at any rate. Or birthday messages to myself, or uber-tedious attempts at philosophizing or clarifying said tedious attempts

It’s more fun to crack jokes. Even when (especially when?) people don’t realize they’re jokes.

Anyways, I quit Facebook for a while. Big whoop.

SO…

Hello internet. Again. 🙂

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Just in case you’re part of the 99.999% of all humans who have never read anything from my blog before, allow me to take you on a brief tour:

There are (currently) five major categories of articles (Books, Humor, Movies/TV, Philosophy, and Politics), although there is significant carry-over from one category to the other. Some of the “humor” articles have political references, some of the “politics” articles have jokes, etc.

Also, it should be noted that “Philosophy” is more or less my default category. I used it in place of “Musings” or something, I suppose, and many of the articles in that category are just me rambling about whatever happened to be on my mind at the time. You may have noticed that this article is categorized as “Philosophy,” well, that’s just my go-to category.

I am not a philosopher, is what I am telling you. And I don’t really have a well-defined “personal philosophy,” but it’s somewhere along the materialist spectrum, though I am not sure exactly where.

Perhaps you can tell me… here are a couple of “musings” I wrote that at least use the word “materialism” in them:

Here’s the first one…

And here’s the second one.

Moving on, my “personal philosophy” also includes a heaping dose of nihilism, but I would not describe myself as a “nihilist” per se. I.e. I agree that morality and “meaning” and that sort of thing are not an intrinsic part of human existence, but that is not (is *not*) to say that I don’t place any value on morality, nor do I contend that life has no meaning.

On the contrary, I contend that morality and “meaning” are two of the most valuable things about life as a human, it’s just that each individual person has to work those things out for themselves. People aren’t born with moral values encoded into their DNA, I mean. Morals are things people are taught by other people, and they vary significantly from culture to culture and person to person.

My own sense of morality was taught to me by my parents, grandparents, other relatives, friends, and so on as a child. And after that, by various books I’ve read, TV shows and movies I have watched, people I have interacted with from different backgrounds than mine, and even through music I listen to.

That particular song (click the link in the previous paragraph) helped me distill my own sense of morality down to one question, one I ask myself whenever I consider any issue, whether it’s a political issue or whether it’s something mundane, like whether to kill a non-poisonous spider I find in the house or just catch it and take it outside. That question is, quite simply:

“Does this cause harm?”

In the case of a non-poisonous spider coming into my house, the spider itself is not causing any harm, beyond giving me a temporary surprise/scare when I first see it. But ignoring it could lead to a spider infestation in my house, which could potentially be harmful… or at least gross.

So, the way I see it, this non-poisonous spider is not causing any harm now, but just leaving it alone *could* cause harm later. So naturally, I want to get rid of the spider.

So what should I do? I see two options:

1. Squash the spider.

2. Catch the spider (these things work amazingly well, btw) and take it outside.

Both of these options eliminate the potential harm of a spider infestation, but are both of these options harmless?

No. Option 1 snuffs out the life of a harmless spider, who didn’t do anything other than startle me. Option 2 gives that spider a chance to set up shop elsewhere and perform its tiny little spider function of catching and eating insects, who, unlike the harmless spider, may end up biting me.

So squashing the spider directly harms the spider, and has the potential to harm me. There’s no way I know of to calculate the actual odds that a spider I don’t squash will end up catching a mosquito (e.g.) that would end up biting me (those odds are pretty low, I would imagine), nonetheless, that spider can’t catch anything if I squash it. And mosquitoes carry diseases, in case you forgot.

As a matter of fact, I caught the non-lethal strain of malaria from a Korean mosquito years ago. Needless to say, it was not a pleasant experience. Maybe I will tell you about it some time. 🙂

So anyways, I generally try not to squash spiders that aren’t harmful to humans. Though I don’t hold anything against anyone who does, for the record.

Getting back to the point, my “philosophy” posts aren’t always about philosophy. But I like to at least tell myself that my own “personal philosophy” bleeds through, and that the reader will at least get some semblance of it as they read. The things I write about are meaningful to me, and hopefully they’ll find their way to at least a reader or two who can also derive some meaning from them.

Back to my flirtations with nihilism: the things that I find “meaningful” are only “meaningful” because I find meaning in them. On some level or other, I choose to assign “meaning” to them, or else they remind me of other things or people that have given my life meaning.

I regret that I can’t write the previous paragraph any better than that. I am not a philosopher, to repeat yet again.

I’m not a bad cook, though.

And since this particular aspect of my personal philosophy is also political, now is the perfect time to mention that I am also a feminist, and as I mention in the linked article, I don’t ever expect anyone to talk me out of that, though you are welcome to try.

For all practical purposes, I am a Democrat. In my personal life, I definitely have libertarian leanings, but I do not support the Libertarian Party in any way, shape, or form. (See here and here.)

That second article is one that could fit into the “humor” category (unless you support the Libertarian Party, I guess), but none of that stuff is inaccurate. Exaggerated a little, maybe (*maybe*), but not inaccurate.

And yeah yeah yeah, I know: not everybody who votes Libertarian just does it because they want “legal weed” or whatever. But there are a great many Libertarian voters who were attracted to the party because of things like that who don’t realize that the LP’s economic policies are further to the right than those of the GOP.

And just in case you didn’t realize this, DEMOCRATS are responsible for marijuana decriminalization, nine times out of ten. Gary Johnson’s medical marijuana initiatives in New Mexico were significant, but that goofy-looking SOB is also a big supporter of private prisons, which incarcerate thousands and thousands (and thousands and thousands) of non-violent pot offenders.

So yeah, I am a Democrat. And I am all for legal weed, for the record. And yeah, I have something of a personal vendetta against the Libertarian Party: they tricked me into supporting them briefly a few years ago. I went around telling people I was a “Libertarian” without really looking into their actual platform, and I am willing to bet there are a lot of people like that.

As to the Green Party, strictly going on ideology, I am probably a little more closely aligned to them than I am the Democratic party. But I can’t support them in good conscience because, quite simply, they have no chance whatsoever of making any sort of actual impact on the nation… other than (like the LP) taking votes away from Democrats.

Here’s another key aspect of my “personal philosophy”:

Ideology < practicality.

For example, the Green Party and I would both like to see single-payer universal healthcare become a reality in the USA. The Green Party and I agree that the ACA is far from ideal, in that it maintains a largely unnecessary (and arguably parasitic) corporate entrenchment in people’s lives.

Ideologically, the Green Party and I agree on the healthcare issue. But practically speaking, the ACA enabled millions of people in the USA to get healthcare when they had been denied it before. And practically speaking, for me to vote Green in the last election would have put those people’s healthcare in jeopardy, simply because a vote for the Green party would have been ipso facto a vote against whichever major party ended up losing the election.

Let me explain that:

There were four candidates in the 2016 election. Only two of those candidates (Trump and Clinton) ever had any chance of winning. I know that, you know that, and every American voter with any connection to reality knows that.

But before I start ranting and raving like my cousin Ronald, let me just provide a graph with 2016 election data and go from there.

President Trump got 46.4% of the popular vote. Clinton got 48.5% of the popular vote. Trump won because of how the electoral college works.

Just for the record, no, I am not going to blame third party voters for Trump’s victory, even though I am well aware of the results of Arizona, Florida, Michigan, and possibly other states that went to Trump by a narrow margin, where that margin was smaller than the percentage of third party voters. Johnson got way more votes than Stein in all those states, and to assume a Libertarian Party supporter would vote Democrat over Republican is a seriously misguided assumption. LP economic policies are not all that different from Trump’s, whether Libertarian voters like it or not.

As a sidenote, pay attention to how my “ideology < practicality” statement is essentially reversed in that article; i.e. the author admits that LP goals are being realized under Trump but insists that his personal ideology insulates him from being compared to Trump, and that simply because the author defines Trump as “aggressive,” that means he can’t be a Libertarian. But I will save that rant for another post. 🙂

Getting back to numbers, let’s ignore the electoral college for now and just think about a hypothetical election with four candidates, one where two of the candidates have no chance whatsoever of winning. For convenience’ sake, let’s just say that there are only 100 voters voting in this election, and we’ll round off Trump’s percentage to 46 and Clinton’s to 49. The remaining 5 votes will be split between the other two candidates. And just to avoid confusion (since the winner of the popular vote in 2016 isn’t President), let’s just call the candidates A, B, C, and D.

Follow me? OK:

Candidate A has 49 votes. Candidate B has 46 votes. Nobody has voted for C or D yet, let’s say, but the five people who haven’t voted haven’t decided who they will vote for, and none of those 5 voters wants to vote for A or B. All 100 people are required to vote in this scenario.

Assuming that the 5 remaining voters vote for candidate C or D, candidate A will win the election. And while those 5 votes were made with the intent of supporting candidate C or D (and made in good faith), the practical effect of those votes is to support candidate A’s victory.

It’s not quite the same as “support,” but it isn’t quite the same as non-support, either. If, hypothetically, candidate B is ideologically closer to candidate C or D, supporters of candidate C or D *could* have voted for candidate B, and thereby put a candidate in office that would support at least *some* of the things they cared about.

Look, I apologize for going on and on about this. If it wasn’t something that happens over and over again in presidential elections in this country, I wouldn’t flipping have to keep going on and on about it.

The sad truth of the matter is that *if* Donald Trump is still President in 2020 (and he probably will be) and *if* he runs for re-election (and he probably will), chances are he’s going to win.

I am basing that assumption on the fact that Republican voters vote Republican no matter what…

And also on the fact that “the left” is hopelessly divided in this country.

And during that election, there *will* be third party candidates, and they *will* be telling you, the voter, to “vote your conscience” when you go into the polls.

I would absolutely encourage you to do exactly that, with one addendum:

Voting third party (i.e. supporting a candidate with no chance of winning) in an important election, one that will have a huge impact upon the nation, is not “voting your conscience.”

It’s voting your ego.

Yuh-huh, it is, too.

And that’s all I am going to say about that right now.

Moving on:

To say that I have a weird sense of humor would be an understatement. I mean that sincerely. I have been told I have a “dry” sense of humor many times in my life, and more than one person has compared me to Stephen Wright, though that’s more due to my general low-key demeanor than anything else. (He’s way funnier than me, is what I am telling you.)

Anyways, I find funny what I find funny. I think this is hilarious, and I think the same thing about this.

You may not find either of those things funny… and if you don’t SCREW YOU!

(That was a joke. Humor is subjective. Tee-hee.)

Moving on to “Books”:

I haven’t written as much in this category as I should have. I spend more time than I should watching TV and playing on the internet, and not enough time reading books. Nonetheless, every now and then I guess that’s a good thing. Or maybe it’s not. I still haven’t written part one of this series, which is going to be me reviewing a novel I wrote.

Yep, I wrote a novel. You ought to check it out; it’s pretty good, if I do say so myself.

And on to the last category, probably my personal favorite category, “Movies/TV”.

The last couple entries in this category have been a little haphazard. But there are a couple I really like, such as this one about M*A*S*H and also this one about a Korean monster movie with political overtones.

My next “Movies/TV” post will (tentatively) be an informal Marxist critique of the Canadian comedy series Trailer Park Boys. Emphasis on “informal”.

And before anyone who didn’t click the “Marxist critique” hyperlink in the last paragraph gets confused, no, I am not a communist. All I plan to do regarding Trailer Park Boys is take a largely superficial look at the socioeconomic aspects of the show, how Ricky, Julian, and Bubs et alia function in the arguably minarchist environment of Sunnyvale Trailer Park, and how Sunnyvale relates to the rest of Canada, etc.

It’s going to be fun… at least for me, ha ha.

And if anybody is wondering why I intend to inject politics into an awesome and funny show like Trailer Park Boys, first of all, I am not injecting or otherwise putting politics into anything. Politics are already there, I just intend to take a look at them and tell you what I see.

Everything is political, on one level or another. Including apathy toward politics.

So anyways, thanks for reading, and I hope to see you in the comments section. For the record, I allow all comments from actual people. I delete spambot comments, but I allow literally everything else, including personal insults against me.

So… if you read something here that just really makes you mad, don’t hesitate to say so.

Have fun!

WE ARE LIVING IN A MATERIAL WORLD, AND I AM A MATERIAL GIRL

So, in my most recent blog post, I sort of obliquely discussed the philosophy of materialism.

I would have to do more research to confirm this, but the type of “materialism” I was referring to in that post most resembles dialectical materialism, but I am not confident that I would necessarily agree with everything in that particular philosophy.

In fact, what I am talking about might better be described as physicalism rather than materialism. I am honestly not sure.

At any rate, what I was (and am) talking about is the idea that everything in the universe is explainable through “material” or “physical” terms. And yes, that includes all types of “spiritual” and/or “supernatural” experiences.

My use of “quotation marks” there should not be misconstrued as reductive. I am not trying to delegitimize anyone’s subjective experiences, nor am I trying to say that things like religion and “spirituality” are useless.

On the contrary, I think both of those things can have an enormously positive effect on people at the individual level, and as long as religious people don’t try to force any of their views on other people, and as long as those views don’t oppress anyone within the religious group in any way, I have no problem whatsoever with anyone’s religious views.

Religion (and membership in any other sort of ideologically-based group) provides its adherents with a sense of community, a common set of values and beliefs, and so on. To repeat, I think that membership in such groups can have an enormously positive effect on people at the individual level. And heck, it can have an enormously positive effect at the group level, also…

Have you ever heard anyone say (or have you ever said), “I want to feel like I am part of something bigger than myself”?

That feeling, I would venture, is one that is common across all religious and/or ideologically-based groups. It’s also, I would venture, a feeling that is common to all (or at least most) human beings. The desire to feel connected to something or someone outside of and separate to one’s own physical self.

I certainly have this desire. And I have come to realize that my relatively recent (like in the past few years, I mean) attraction to various strains of materialism is a product of that desire.

This may not be immediately apparent — it wasn’t immediately apparent to me, at least — based on that last post I wrote. Someone could easily read that post as “human beings are just physical things, thoughts and emotions are just the result of physical processes, nothing means anything, we’re all gonna die” and not see anything more than that. That’s my fault; actually after publishing that post I remembered that I didn’t post it last July because it might be interpreted like that, and I didn’t quite know how to articulate how and why I didn’t intend for it to be interpreted that way.

I am not sure I can articulate it now, but I am gonna try:

I think it goes back to a phase I went through a decade or more ago when I was fascinated with transcendentalism, specifically its attempts to integrate/appropriate various spiritual traditions into one philosophy. This led me to Taoism, Buddhism, and Hinduism, though only in a philosophical/intellectual sort of way. I never converted to anything — in “the anthropological sense,” I remain a Southern Baptist — but philosophically (and more importantly, politically), I have very little in common with most Southern Baptists, beyond “love thy neighbor as thyself.”

Anyways, I have personal views and beliefs that prevent me from being able to honestly say that I adhere to 100% to any of the various philosophies and/or religions I have listed so far. I don’t quite “belong” in any of those groups.

That’s not me trying to prove I am special, or that the objections I have to various aspects of these philosophies and/or religions make me “unique” or something. I am just relating to you, the reader, that I don’t feel especially “connected” to any ideologically based group… although I am certainly “more connected” to some than I am to others.

So, what’s a person to do, once he (or she) has explored various philosophies, gone by various labels (I used to tell people I was a “Taoist,” for example), and subsequently found that he (or she) doesn’t quite “belong” in any of them completely?

Especially when this person acknowledges fully that he (or she) *wants* to belong to a group, because as mentioned above, group membership can have an enormously positive effect on one’s life?

Should he or she start (or join) a group of philosophical misfits, whose only reason for belonging to the group is that they don’t belong in any other group? Sure, one *could* do that…

Or, one could attempt to do what I am attempting to do, though I admittedly am not doing a very good job of explaining what I am trying to do: put every philosophy and every religion under one umbrella.

I wish I were able to articulate it better than that, but alas, I’m not. Let me try again:

The desire to feel connected to something larger than oneself can be satisfied (or perhaps “realized”) without even bothering to join any group. (And yes, I borrowed this idea from someone else.)

You *already are* part of something larger than yourself. You are part of the whole of humanity. You are a member of a species that inhabits the planet Earth, which is part of a solar system, which is part of a galaxy, which is part of the universe… which may be only one of many universes.

You are part of that. The process that produced lil’ ol’ you began around 13.8 billion years ago. It will keep going a looooooong time after you’re gone. After I’m gone; after everyone currently living is gone.

At any rate, that’s what sits at the heart of my own personal attraction to materialism: the desire to feel “connected.”

Does that make *any* sense whatsoever? Honest question.

A COMPLETELY NON-SCHOLARLY DISCUSSION OF MATERIALISM, WHICH, LIKE IT OR NOT, ACTUALLY CAN DESCRIBE PRETTY MUCH EVERYTHING THAT HAPPENS* IN THE UNIVERSE, FROM HERE TO GN-z11

*and what it can’t describe yet will probably be described at some point in the future, assuming humanity doesn’t destroy itself first.

Hi there.

If you’ve read my blog at all, like pretty much any post, you already know that my approach to blogging is haphazard at best.

And if you haven’t, i.e. if this is the first of my I don’t even know how many posts you’ve taken a gander at, well, you’re about to find that out.

Here is what is happening right now:

My brain is sending bioelectric impulses to my spinal cord, which provides a pathway through the muscles of my arms to my fingers.

These impulses compel my fingers to strike the keys on my keyboard.

The muscles in my hands and fingers have been trained by decades of interaction with QWERTY-arranged keyboards so that it is not strictly necessary for me to look at the keyboard while I am typing.

Most of that last sentence was typed without looking. I did have to fix a couple typos, but I did so without looking for the “backspace” button. And I did involuntarily glance at the keyboard a couple or three times, despite making a concerted effort not to.

Why? Because my eyes have become accustomed to glancing down at the keyboard.

That is to say, the muscles that control my eye movements have become accustomed thusly.

But back to the keyboard: after my fingertips strike the keys, the mechanism under each key sends a signal through my computer, and for every letter I type (and for every punctuation mark I type), the corresponding character appears on my screen.

When I click “save draft” (as I just did a few seconds ago), what I have typed is recorded onto a hard drive connected to the WordPress server, the exact location of which is unknown to me.

After I finish and publish this blog post, and you (whoever you are) read it, your computer, tablet, or smartphone will have sent a message the WordPress server requesting to access it, and the WordPress server will have replied by sending your device the data saved in the file on their server.

Forgive me if any of that is “off,” with regard to exact terms.

My point is that “blogging,” from the impulses that prompt my fingers to strike the keys on my keyboard to the light being focused by your eyes’ lenses (and the corrective lenses you may or may not have sitting in front of your eyes) on the retinas at the back of your eyes, to your brain interpreting the signals sent through your optic nerves (the awkward plurals here being a result of most humans having two eyes) to you having any sort of emotional reaction (from bored indifference to anger) to what you are reading is an entirely physical process.

Do I understand every detail of this process well enough to explain it? Unfortunately, no. Much to my chagrin, I do not in fact know everything.

I am quite limited in what I know. What I know is a result of what I have studied and what I have been taught, and the subjects I chose to focus on were largely a result of my environment and my own personal set of genes.

Which one of those two things (environment and genetics) played the bigger role is up for debate. And that’s a debate for a more knowledgeable person to comment on; my point in mentioning those two things is that they are both quite physical. Genes are actual physical things, I mean, and the environment one grows up in acts upon a person in an entirely physical way.

This includes the things that are said to one as a child. I was fortunate enough to grow up in a pretty positive environment (I have no complaints, really); I just want to state that before I continue.

Things that are said, like things that are typed, originate in the brain. The difference is that the muscles involved in speaking are a different set of muscles than the ones involved in typing. And also, of course, things that are said out loud are heard when sound waves strike the eardrums, and so on and so forth.

None of this is magical. None of this requires any sort of magical explanation.

At one point in human history, before far more intelligent and intuitive persons than I figured all of this stuff out, we believed things like this were magical.

They’re not magical.

My fingers striking the keyboard is not magical.

Your retinas sending images to your brain is not magical.

Your brain interpreting those images is not magical.

The emotions you feel or don’t feel are not magical.

Emotion. What a thing, huh? Despite all high-minded attempts to suppress them, they still dictate to us (to a degree) what we do or don’t do in any given situation.

But what are emotions?

They are neurochemical responses to external stimuli. And/or the result of our brains over- or under-producing this or that chemical, or various glands over- or under-producing this or that chemical, or the result of any number of physical occurrences within the body.

People who live with chronic pain, for example, may be more likely to suffer from depression than other people. And what causes any sort of pain? Either an external physical force (like getting punched in the face) or an internal malfunction of some bodily system.

Pain is a physical thing. And on the flipside, so is pleasure.

What is pleasure? At the risk of sounding like a broken record, it’s a response to external stimuli. Etc.

It isn’t magical, any more than anything else is. It can certainly seem to be magical, but it’s the result of physical processes, just like everything else.

It’s unfortunate that I am not knowledgeable enough to explain all of these processes in detail. But if you’re reading this, you presumably have access to the internet, and you can look all this stuff up for yourself.

Thinking of yourself as a material thing, as an object that has been acted upon innumerable times, as an object that acts upon other objects, as an object that consists of various systems that interact with each other, etc. has its advantages. It allows you to look at yourself and your actions in a much more, well, for lack of a better term, non-magical way. That is to say, you can begin to understand why you do the things you do, and you can control those things to a much larger extent.

Don’t get me wrong: you’re still going to lose control of yourself sometimes. Sometimes you’re going to do things you regret. Sometimes you’re going to say things you wish you hadn’t said.

But instead of blaming some irrational thing like “the devil” or else just throwing your hands up and saying “well, that’s just the way I am,” you can take steps to correct yourself and prevent the same thing from happening again. Or at least reduce the probability of it happening again.

That’s not to say that “rational” is always preferable to “irrational.”

Have you ever been in love? You don’t have to tell me or anyone else, but have you?

Doesn’t it feel good to be in love with someone? Doesn’t it feel amazing to become emotionally attached to another person, someone who seems perfect in every single way, even though it’s objectively quite easy for a disinterested outsider to point out that person’s many flaws?

Doesn’t it piss you off when somebody points out your love’s flaws?

In a world of billions of people, there’s a pretty significant chance that there’s somebody else in the world that is even more physically attractive than your love (like to you personally, I mean), but here’s the thing:

Being physically close to another human being, especially one you find sexually attractive, causes neurochemicals to be released in your brain (oxytocin, for one) that cause you to feel attachment to that person.

That’s an oversimplification, to say the least. If you find that or anything else interesting, I hope you’ll look into those things more.

At any rate, you are a physical being. You act and react entirely in the physical world.

Is there anything beyond the physical world we live in?

If so, what would it consist of?

Would it have to consist of anything?

Can you even conceive of something that consists of nothing (physically speaking) without employing a physical process in your brain?

Let me remind you that reading this and thinking about what I have written is an entirely physical process.

Is the unknowable worth thinking about?

Why or why not?

🙂

WHY I (TEMPORARILY) QUIT FACEBOOK, IN CASE YOU WERE WONDERING

The summer after my 10th grade year, when I was 16, I went on a trip to England with my grandma, her sister, her sister’s grandson, my grandma’s cousin (about my grandma’s age), and my grandma’s cousin’s grandson.

The traveling party was, basically, three teenage boys and their grandmothers.

We went on a bus tour around the south of England. It started in London, then went around to various touristy spots, then circled back to London. All in all the tour lasted around two weeks, and it was a lot of fun.

We went to Stonehenge on the tour. I remember thinking that it looked a lot bigger on TV.

There were New Age hippies there, like meditating in a circle or something. Which I guess was cool.

The other people on the tour were mostly other Americans. One older fellow, probably 80, maybe, approached me and asked if I knew how they got those big stones on top of the other ones.

“No,” I replied.

“Helicopters,” the old man said. His name was Blake.

I stood there kinda dumbfounded for a second before realizing that Blake was cracking a joke.

“I’ll be danged,” I may have said. “I never thought about that possibility.” I may not have said that at all, but at any rate I laughed and went along with the joke.

A few minutes later, I watched as Blake tried the joke on my cousin D____, the grandson of my grandma’s cousin. That makes D____ my third cousin? I honestly don’t know.

D____ didn’t quite get the joke, I don’t think. His reaction was different than mine, at any rate. He replied in more of a “humoring the old person” sort of way, as opposed to a “ha ha, that’s funny” sort of way.

“You sure are a nice young man,” Blake said to D____. “If you’re ever up around the Great Lakes, drop in.”

“I sure will,” D____ replied. “Thanks for the invitation.”

“And if you’re ever in the Rocky Mountains,” Blake continued, “fall off.”

Screenshot (143)

Do you recognize that fellow? That’s Alex Rogan, the hero of the 1980s sci-fi/adventure film “The Last Starfighter,” a film I am a pretty big fan of, mostly for sentimental-type reasons.

Actually, that might be Beta, the android sent to replace Alex while Alex was off in space, fighting the Ko-Dan Armada. Beta looks just like Alex, and his purpose was to cover up the fact that Alex was gone, so his family wouldn’t miss him.

It’s Lance Guest, I know that much.

If I hadn’t told you what film that screenshot was from, would you have known? I’m sure some of you would have… but honestly if I hadn’t been the person who took the screenshot, I’m not sure I would know, despite having watched “The Last Starfighter” about a hundred times growing up, and even after watching it again recently.

Now, if somebody had shown me a picture of a Gunstar, the type of spaceship Alex ends up flying around in, or of Grig, the lizard-y alien guy who pilots Alex’s Gunstar, or even a picture of Alex in his Starfighter uniform, I would probably have recognized it instantly.

But just going on that shot up there, no, I’m not sure I would recognize it.

***

Why must I spell it out for you?
All of the images you see
Are just a tiny part of me.
The images I see of you
Are just a fraction of what’s true.

***

I remember sitting with you under an umbrella. It was drizzling rain. We were sitting on the curb in front of that one convenience store on the opposite side of the block from Lotteria. We were drunk, as we often were.

You died nearly a decade ago.

***

I don’t remember the last novel I read. Which novel it was, I mean. I’ve started a couple in the past several months, but I haven’t had the attention span to finish them.

***

There was a barber shop a couple blocks away from my fraternity house in Fayetteville, years ago. I had happened to mention, among a group of fellows hanging out at the house, that I needed to get a haircut. Or quite possibly someone mentioned to me that I needed to get a haircut. At any rate the subject of haircuts came up.

A frat brother suggested I go to “Crazy Eric” to get a haircut. “Crazy Eric” was the barber at the aforementioned barber shop. Crazy Eric talked everyone’s ear off, I was told, and he had some pretty interesting ideas about the government, conspiracies, and things like that.

So I went. Crazy Eric’s barber shop doubled as sort of an antique shop, I think. There were all sorts of old antique-y things in there. Crazy Eric’s wife also worked there.

I got my hair cut by Crazy Eric several times. I tried to get him started on conspiracy theories the first couple of times, but he never really bit. He actually didn’t talk much at all while cutting my hair, which was kind of a disappointment.

***

Etc.

[INSERT CLEVER QUOTE ABOUT HOW A PERSON SHOULDN’T SIT STILL FOR TOO LONG]

So as I mentioned the other day, I am currently “on vacation” from my job. I didn’t actually go anywhere on vacation, I am just taking a few days off.

I am currently sitting in P.J.’s Coffee on the square in El Dorado, Arkansas. I just had a chicken fried steak, two hard-fried eggs, hash browns, a biscuit, and coffee for breakfast, from Johnny B.’s Grill just a couple blocks from here. It was fantastic.

I paid $2.48 for a 20 oz Dr. Pepper here at P.J.’s. “Good Lord” is exactly what I said when the woman rang it up.

“We do coffee here,” was her reply. Something along those lines, ha ha.

I sat in one of the comfy chairs and tried to get on the free WiFi, but the WiFi is apparently down today. I didn’t bother asking about it; I just activated my phone’s WiFi hotspot feature, put on my headphones, and started this up:

Yes, in the world of electronica and popular music in general, this particular video may be old hat by now. The Field has put out a newer album than this (“The Follower”) and anyways I hope he puts out another one soon. But in the meantime, his older stuff is still amazingly good, in my opinion.

There’s no point to this blog post, in case you were wondering. I am just typing whatever comes into my head.

“Philosophy” is pretty much my default category, in case you were wondering. I don’t exactly have any one idea or whatever that “informs” my outlook on life; it’s more of a mishmash of various things I have picked up over the years, from anything from religious and philosophical texts to novels I’ve read to movies I’ve seen (“Blade Runner” possibly being a bigger influence than, say, “Tao Te Ching,” for example, with “White Noise” by Don DeLillo out-influencing both of them) to Saturday morning cartoons (ask me about The Smurfs some time) to song lyrics to poetry to…

You get the idea, hopefully.

It looks like it might rain today. I hope it doesn’t; I am going to be on foot most of the day. When I’m not sitting in a comfy chair somewhere.

As I have mentioned, my current job requires me to do a lot of typing. And I am usually sitting when I type. I do the “standing desk” thing sometimes, but not as often as I should. I always get up and go for a walk after an hour or two of typing, but apparently I have not been getting up enough lately.

Pardon me if this is inappropriate to share, but I have developed what is apparently a “pressure sore” (a.k.a. a “bed sore”) on my ass, apparently from sitting too long in one position on hard surfaces. The chair at my normal work desk is an unpadded wooden chair, and my desk in my bedroom is one designed to be used while sitting on the floor.

To be fair, this pressure sore (no, it has not ruptured or anything) was first noticed by me after a long session of sitting at my work desk while “on vacation” watching TV on Hulu. I tend to shift my weight around as sort of a nervous habit while I am working, but I don’t necessarily do that while marathon watching “The X-Files” or “Rick And Morty” or “Twin Peaks” or “Peep Show” or what have you.

At any rate, yes, sitting in one position for too long on a hard surface can cause problems.

Hence my seeking comfy chairs today. 🙂

And yes, it’s disgusting of me to write about something like that. But that sort of illustrates (sort of) another aspect of my own “philosophy”: I find it’s best to be open and honest about most things, even unpleasant stuff like having a sore ass.

But I don’t share everything. Believe it or not. At least not publicly.

Sun’s coming out… wait, nope, covered by dark clouds again. I really hope it doesn’t rain today.

My academic advisor from college has told me many times that I should write every day. And I guess I have been writing most every weekday for the past… eight months? Writing for my job, of course, not writing on this blog, or fiction…

I wrote a novel, in case you didn’t know. 🙂

The main difference between writing for my job and writing blog posts and fiction and stuff is a pretty significant one: I make money writing for my job. I don’t make doodley-squat writing on this blog or writing fiction. At least not yet.

I don’t really expect to, actually. Make money from “creative writing.”

So why do it?

Good question.

I guess it acts as sort of a release valve for the constant internal dialogue going on in my brain. I guess.

I honestly don’t know why I like writing stuff like this. I guess I just do.

Etc. etc. etc. Blah blah blah.

I kinda have to pee. I think I will do that, then head on over to the liberry.

Thanks for reading.

***

So here I am at the liberry…

I had thought about writing a blog post about chess today, having something of a swollen head regarding that game, after finally beating a buddy from high school yesterday at online chess, following approximately 1,684 losses in a row to him…

Well, it hasn’t been that many, but he usually beats me. And I finally won again yesterday. I have beaten him I think… three times? Maybe four?

(Maybe two?)

We’ve been playing off and on for a couple years now. Plus, I like to play random people online.

It’s a hell of a game, I have to say. There are tons of openings and defenses and attacks and things that all have specific names… but I have to confess that I don’t know more than an opening or two by name.

Chess.com, at least when you play in desktop mode, shows the name of the opening you or your opponent is using, as well as defenses or whatever (you don’t see this if you play on a smartphone, at least not on my smartphone), and anyways here is the opening I used in my most recent victory against my buddy from high school:

After reviewing the game on my phone just now, this isn’t exactly the opening game we played… it must have been some variation on it. I played as white, my buddy played as black, and he moved his kingside knight to f6 on his third move, as opposed to moving his kingside bishop to c5 like the guy does in the video, as you can see:

InkedScreenshot_2017-05-26-10-57-18_LI

You’ll note that I drew over my friend’s username. There’s a reason for that:

While I am confident my friend would give literally less than half of a proverbial crap if I shared his chess.com username here, well, it isn’t my place to go sharing stuff here on my blog (or anywhere else online) about people other than myself.

Note that I didn’t draw over his rating, which is significantly higher than mine.

At any rate, stuff like that (the discrepancy between the video and the game screenshot) is why trying to study chess openings and defenses and things and memorize the names of all of them basically confuses the hell out of me. So I don’t really spend much time doing it, although I do scan Wikipedia articles about various openings that have cool names like “Giuoco Pianissimo” or something.

Which is what my dang comprooter said the game was. I couldn’t get the game to come back up on my computer, and I got tired of messing with it.

“Giuoco Pianissimo” is actually a variation of “Giuoco Piano,” I guess, and (I also guess) the particular game my friend and I was a variation of a variation, because every variation on Wikipedia shows black moving the kingside bishop to c5 on the third move…

And long story short, this is why I don’t even try to memorize the names of chess openings and whatnot.

Moving on… let’s listen to some more of The Field, shall we? Awesome…

Listen to that with headphones, not quite as loudly as possible, a few notches under “as loud as you can stand it.” Let it play in the background of whatever you’re doing.

Here’s an interview I watched/listened to the other day with The Field/Axel Willner:

He talks about how the human brain fills in the gaps, sometimes, when it expects to hear something, and how his music actually probably sounds different to different people because their brains fill in the gaps differently.

I love this dude’s stuff, at any rate.

Moving on…

I have actually recorded some low-fi electronica myself, if you can believe it. I say “low-fi” because I used a free drum machine app, inexpensive recording software, and a USB headset microphone to record it. Check it out:

“Sensory D” and “Chago” are both members of an imaginary band called Meander Kittens that is essentially me dicking around at home with guitars and whatnot. Sensory D is a rapper and producer, and Chago is a singer/songwriter.

They’re both actually me, of course.

Here’s a song Chago did a few years back:

The Chinese characters on the video mean “error” or “mistake,” and if you use their single-syllable Korean pronunciation (excluding the definition that often precedes Hanja readings [“Hanja” being the Korean term for “Chinese characters”]), they are pronounced, roughly, “cha-go.”

“Chago” means “mistake,” is what you should take away from this. Chago leaves mistakes in his recordings, partially because he thinks they add sort of a human element to them, partially because he’s flipping lazy.

Here’s Sensory D’s debut EP:

The video pic/”album cover” features every “instrument” used in the recording.

Meander Kittens have released quite a few recordings as a band on YouTube as well. The band members (all of whom are actually me, 99 percent of the time) tend to rotate, and so does the instrumentation.

Meander Kittens like to include at least one “cover” song on each of their albums and EPs, but they don’t always do so. Quality tends to vary on these “covers.” Sometimes they try to play covers as accurately as possible; sometimes they don’t.

Here’s an example of when they don’t:

Just in case you’re not familiar with the original version of this song, here it is:

The name “Meander Kittens” was made up by me many years ago, when I lived in Fayetteville, AR with a roommate, who also would probably give less than half of a proverbial crap if I gave his name here, but I’m not gonna.

We didn’t have a TV, and we had a computer in the apartment (it was his computer), but we didn’t have an internet connection. So, to amuse ourselves, we started creating fake album covers for fake bands using Microsoft Paint. “Meander Kittens” was one I came up with.

Here’s a song we recorded on his computer all those years ago, with fake album covers we both made as the video:

I’m playing guitar, bass, “drums” (beating on the computer desk with my bare hands), and singing, and he came in later and added extra vocals. The song sucks without his contribution, in my opinion.

Anyways, I am about typed out. It’s still kinda overcast outside, but I think I am gonna go grab a bite to eat somewhere.

Probly gonna try to find an umbrella first. Don’t want my laptop to get soaked.

I left my umbrella at home because Accuweather claimed it wasn’t going to rain today in El Dorado.

Time will tell, I guess.

***

It is now 3:13 p.m., and it hasn’t rained yet.

I spent most of the day just sort of walking around. Believe you me, I needed the exercise. When you sit still so long you get a bed sore on you your ass, you gotta get up and move around some.

Screenshot_2017-05-26-14-59-32

That route is from P.J.’s to La Villa and back, along with a short stretch where I walked the opposite way down NW Ave, thinking I was going to go bowling over at El Dorado lanes.

Luckily, I checked online. It was a little after 1 at the time, and I found out El Dorado Lanes doesn’t open until 4. So I guess it’s good I checked.

I turned around and walked the other way, up to the mostly empty mall.

LIGHT A ROMAN CANDLE AND HOLD IT IN YOUR HAND

So I haven’t updated my blog page in a while. You, Dear Readers (all three of you), will have to forgive me: I have a job which requires me to be on my computer typing most every weekday (a job I love and hope to keep a while), so after a long day of typing for my job, I simply don’t have the energy or gumption or wherewithal or whatever you want to call it to sit down and type even more.

My last few blog posts have been done after work (i.e. after devoting the biggest part of my quite limited brain power to doing the best job I can for the company I work for), and they came out even more haphazard and sloppy than these posts usually do.

I am on vacation from work at the moment, and since I am more or less in the routine of getting up, showering, eating some breakfast, then sitting down at my computer and typing, well, now seems to be the perfect time to write a new blog post.

Especially since something happened last week that I would like to write about.

I’m not one of those people who just flat-out abhors celebrity culture (q.v. this post from last year), but I’m not really all that into it, either.

Nonetheless, every now and again, I suppose I get a little emotionally attached to certain celebrities, sometimes without even realizing it… until they go and do something stupid, like asphyxiating themselves in a hotel bathroom or something.

Yes, you’ve figured it out: this is one of those “this is how Chris Cornell‘s suicide makes me feel” blog posts.

I’ve read a few of those, and the ones I read were really well done.

But this isn’t going to be like most of those. I didn’t know Chris Cornell personally, I don’t have any stories about “The Seattle Scene,” and I no longer harbor any delusions about “grunge” music being anything other than a fad, one where MTV helped a couple hundred mediocre nothing shit bands get famous by riding the coattails of the handful of “grunge” bands that were actually making music worth listening to.

Sorry if that upsets anyone. If I might digress, there’s a reason I don’t have a “music” section on this blog: the act of listening to and enjoying music is an intensely personal and subjective experience. I have often opined (at least to friends and on social media) that there are actually only two (2) genres of music. Those two genres are:

1. Music I Like

and

2. Music I Don’t Like.

And the “I” here is me, and it’s you, and it’s your significant other (if you have one), and it’s everyone you know.

For example, I can’t explain to you why actual literal tears have actually literally streamed down my cheeks at around the 4:30 mark of this song right here. I can’t.

There aren’t any lyrics. It doesn’t remind me of anything in particular. But something about the way the sounds are arranged makes my brain release a flood of neurochemicals that cause actual literal tears to actually literally well up in my actual literal eyes.

It’s happening as I type this.

This particular song may very well do nothing whatsoever for you. You may even be put off by it. This may actually literally be the worst thing you have actually literally ever heard.

That’s OK. I’m sorry if you don’t like it. I wish I could explain to you why I like it (and the album it’s from) so much… but I can’t.

I just do. It randomly popped up on YouTube one day while I was listening to The Field while working, and since “Fuck Buttons” sounded interesting, I listened to it. And I found that I liked it bunches and bunches.

If you’re one of those “that ain’t real music, that’s just a buncha comprooter noises” people, well, I used to be one of you. All I can say is that there’s lots of really cool comprooter noises out there that you haven’t heard, and you’re the only person missing out because of your, well… snobbery.

And sure, my characterization of most “grunge” bands being “mediocre nothing shit bands riding the coattails of a handful of good bands” or whatever I said also counts as “snobbery.” But it’s a slightly different sort of snobbery: I listened to those bands, I became obsessed with those bands, I bought CDs by those bands, I even learned how to halfway play a few songs by those bands on my guitar. I’m not just dismissing those bands outright; I am intimately familiar with the music those bands produced… and quite frankly I don’t like much of it any more.

You’ll notice I’m not naming any bands here. There’s a reason for that, and it should be obvious, but just in case it isn’t, here’s the reason:

Just because I, Michael Nathan Walker, don’t like this or that band anymore, that doesn’t mean that anyone else is “wrong” for still liking them. It just means that I don’t like them anymore.

That’s all.

That’s it.

The vast majority of “grunge” bands have shifted from “genre” 1:

“Music I Like”

to “genre” 2:

“Music I Don’t Like”

in my own personal brain. That’s all it means; it means precisely nothing else.

So relax, please.

But let me get back on track. Or, actually, let me rewind 20+ years to the mid-1990s, when “grunge” was in its heyday.

This was before I even owned a CD player, I am almost certain. I am almost certain that I ordered three cassette tapes from either Columbia House or BMG, and that they all three arrived in the mailbox on the same day, in the same package. The three tapes were “Nevermind” by Nirvana, “In Utero,” also by Nirvana…

And, you guessed it: “Superunknown” by the band Chris Cornell was most associated with, the band that made him famous, Soundgarden.

I had heard two songs from “Superunknown” on MTV, “Spoonman” and “Black Hole Sun.” And I liked both of those songs, “Black Hole Sun” especially.

I will now share a still shot from that video, just so there will be a Chris Cornell-associated pic that appears as a preview for this post. Hopefully, at least… I am not very good at coding, and I have no idea how to set the preview image for these blog posts. It seems like the one closest to the top of whichever post is what appears, even if the pic is from another post. Heck, once I re-shared a post on Facebook, and it showed a friend who commented on the post’s avatar in the preview. So I don’t know if this is going to appear correctly, but here’s hoping:

You member that video? I member…

There’s a link to the “Black Hole Sun” video just above the pic, in case you missed it. Click on the purplish “Black Hole Sun” text up there.

As you are undoubtedly aware, there are tons of videos on YouTube that are just images of album covers with the entire album in one big track. I was actually going to try and link full album videos to the titles of the three “grunge” albums I got on cassette, but I couldn’t find one for “Nevermind.” “Bigger name” acts like Nirvana (or at least the record companies that control all the rights to their stuff) often have people working for them that take videos like that down, and anyways I couldn’t find a full-album “Nevermind” video on YouTube, so I didn’t bother looking for “In Utero” or “Superunknown.” As you may already know, I just linked to the Wikpedia pages for each album.

But while I was looking, I found this video. It’s a video of a guy playing guitar along with every song on “Nevermind.” And if you want to learn how to play every song on “Nevermind,” maybe you should check it out.

If not… nevermind. 🙂

As is usually the case on these posts, I have yet again gone off track a bit. So let me back up:

When I got my first copy of “Superunknown,” well… other than “Spoonman” and “Black Hole Sun,” well…

The majority of the album fell squarely into Genre #2. I.e. I didn’t like it.

It was too complex. The songs were in weird tunings. There were weird time signatures. Etc. I was learning to play the guitar at the time (I am still learning, BTW)…

And there weren’t any songs on it that I could play. Or even wrap my head around how to go about start playing. Or even appreciate, really.

If that dude that played all of “Nevermind” made a video where he played all of “Superunknown,” even just the rhythm parts, I would be impressed, to say the least.

The point is, I didn’t like “Superunknown” the first time I heard it. I was a weird kid, one who prided himself on liking weird things… and it was too weird for me.

That changed over the years, though. It was an album I kept coming back to. I am pretty sure I also had a CD copy of it at some point. The more I listened to it, the more I was able to hear how those weird time signatures and weird tunings and weird vocals worked together, and maybe as long as a decade after I first heard it, it became one of my favorite albums.

To get back to being a music snob vis-à-vis “grunge” bands I used to like, and for that matter a whole slew of other bands I used to like when I was a teenager, “Superunknown” is still just as kick-ass and amazing now as it was the day it was released. It’s a high-water mark of ’90s guitar rock, all sub-genres included.

The album is simply amazing, from beginning to end. But now we’re getting back into subjective territory. I may as well tell you blue is the best color and then get pissed off when you disagree.

So I am going to stop with that sort of thing, and get back to the real reason I am writing this: to record for all the internet to read how Chris Cornell’s suicide affected me personally.

I found out the morning after it happened, before I started working. A Facebook friend shared a story about it.

It didn’t really bug me at first. I posted several Soundgarden songs on Facebook and Twitter, and I listened to all of “Superunknown” while I was working.

And it messed with me a little then, I guess. Chris Cornell’s lyrics were always sort of bleak, borderline nihilistic, etc., but there always seemed to be a hint of irony to them, sort of like “yeah, the world’s gonna end, bad stuff is going to happen…”

I don’t quite know how to articulate what I mean.

Let’s take “Black Hole Sun.” The song’s refrain goes

“Black hole sun, won’t you come
And wash away the rain
Black hole sun, won’t you come
Won’t you come?”

The chorus is basically expressing the hope that the sun will collapse into a black hole and bring the world to an end. But look at the video, with all the funny faces! It was all in fun, it seemed like. I mean, people joke about that sort of thing a lot. Surely you saw these bumper stickers last year in the run-up to the election:

I mean sure, there are probably a few people sporting bumper stickers or t-shirts or whatever with that slogan on them that actually literally want a giant meteor to actually literally destroy the Earth…

But most people don’t, I would venture.

And maybe Chris Cornell really didn’t want the whole world to end. I actually doubt that. I won’t get into dissecting lyrics or anything, do your own research. Start with “Superunknown.” You owe it to yourself.

I just mean… I mean…

I didn’t expect him to actually be suicidal, is what I mean. And it came as a bit of a shock to me.

And if that weren’t enough… this video eventually turned up on my news feed. It’s Chris Cornell playing the song that made Sinéad O’Connor famous, “Nothing Compares 2 U.”

And he did a hell of a good job at it, I must say.

It was around this point that Chris Cornell’s suicide really “hit home” for me. And it was for a reason that didn’t have anything to do with Chris Cornell or Soundgarden or Audioslave or Sinéad O’Connor or even Prince, who you probably know wrote the song in question.

See, I’ve sung that song before.

I taught ESL for a couple years, several years back, in a small city just outside of Seoul,
South Korea called Gimpo or sometimes “Kimpo,” depending on who you’re talking to. The reason the G and the K are pretty much interchangeable there has to do with how the Korean language is written, and let’s just leave it at that.

(Also, “Kimpo Airport” is mentioned several times on the classic T.V. series M*A*S*H, and I think Hawkeye and the gang actually go there at least a couple times. But I digress.)

At any rate, when I lived in Gimpo, I would often go out with friends to Noraebangs (“norae” means “singing” and bang [pronounced “bahng”] means “room”) to drink beer and sing.

It’s fun, don’t knock it ’til you’ve tried it.

And for a decent amount of the time I lived in Gimpo, I was seeing a young Korean woman I was pretty much crazy about.

And I sang “Nothing Compares 2 U” to her at least once or twice. I could pretty much nail the whole song, except for the “all the flowers that you planted, mama” part.

And long story short, she died pretty much the same way Chris Cornell did.

And I don’t want to write about this anymore.

Thanks for reading.

Here’s Norah Jones (someone whose music has helped me sleep many a night in the intervening years, incidentally) singing “Black Hole Sun.” Enjoy.

ETC. ETC. ETC., BLAH BLAH BLAH

So anyways, a while back, a Facebook friend suggested that I take a personality test.

Actually that’s not quite true…

My friend made the observation that I tended to make arguments based on feelings rather than purely on thinking, and that was reflective of my personality type, or something to that effect.

Admittedly — despite assurance from my friend that there was no reason to — I took a bit of umbrage at the observation. In retrospect that reaction may have been proof that my friend’s observation had some merit: this “umbrage” — my own “feelings” regarding my friend’s observation — prompted me to ask my friend where I might take a personality test to determine whether I actually have the personality type — the “Feelings” part, at least — that my friend claimed.

So my friend provided a link (I will find it later and add it; right now I am thumb typing in Gmail and I have a crap signal), and I took a short quiz, asking how I would behave in certain situations, what I think about this or that, etc. etc. etc., blah blah blah.

There are 4 main categories on this personality scale, and each category is split into 2 parts. For clarity’s sake — it may not be clear now, but it will be in a minute — I will list the 4 categories and their 2 parts.

Category 1 is whether a person is Introverted (I) or Extroverted  (E).

Category 2 is whether a person relies on Sensing (S) or iNtuition (N).

Category 3 (the one that made me needlessly take temporary umbrage) is between Thinking (T) and Feeling (F), and

Category 4 is between Judging (J) and Perceiving (P).

(Regrettably, I am not knowledgeable enough on this subject to go into any more detail on these categories. Search for “Briggs Myers Personality Types” for more detailed info.)

At any rate, I took the test. I answered each question as honestly as I could — including ones that asked about “feelings” — and this was my result:

From the four categories, this test determined that my personality type is

INTP:

I — Introverted
N — iNtuition
T — Thinking
P — Perceiving

My friend (who is ENTP) pointed out that my overall score on the “T/F” section was pretty close to 50%. Nonetheless, for no good reason whatsoever, I felt somewhat vindicated that “T” popped up in my quiz results over “F”.

The INTP personality description was pretty on-point, for the most part, and seeing as how the website listed “Albert Einstein” among the most famous INTPs from history, well, I can’t deny that I liked my test results.

Something else kinda stood out: INTP personalities are (I think) the most rare of the 16 types on the scale. Something like 3% of the population has the INTP type, I think I read.

Long story short, a couple weeks ago, after I took daytime cold medicine at night and couldn’t go to sleep, I got up and played around online, looking for entertainment.

I ended up taking the personality quiz again. And bear this in mind:

The first time I took the quiz was in the middle of a work day. My brain was geared up for thinking, acting rationally, doing what’s best for the company I work for, etc. And remember, I got “INTP” with the “T” just beating the “F”.

The second time I took the quiz (a couple months after the first time), my nose was running, I had a fever, I was loopy from cold medicine, and it was about 3 in the morning.

Long story short, this second time, the results were a little different. This time around, I got “INFP”, or

I — Introverted
N — iNtuition
F — Feeling
P — Perceiving

as my result. And again, the “T/F” section was pretty close to 50%. The other categories — like the first time I took the quiz — were all skewed heavily to one side.

So, based on these two tests, the “I” part is a definite yes, the “N” part is a definite yes, and the “P” part is a definite yes. The variable is “T/F”.

The description of the INFP personality type was also pretty on-point, vis-a-vis yours truly. There was only one thing I took issue with:

INFPs, according to the website that had the quiz and whatnot, always see the good in people. They believe that all people are good at heart, and so on and so forth.

I do not — do *not* — believe that. I believe that some people are just basically rotten. I believe — actually, I know — that some people wake up in the morning looking for a way to screw people over. I know that a great many people in the world screw people over every day that goes by and feel absolutely wonderful about it.

There are, in fact, terrible, terrible people in the world, people who absolutely salivate over the suffering of other people. People who thrive on that suffering, people who are even motivated by it.

But at the same time, I recognize that these people *must* have something fundamentally wrong with them. It may be something genetic that makes them be awful, maybe they’ve been hurt before and are now taking it out on others…

And etc. etc. etc. blah blah blah.

It isn’t exactly that I “see the good” in “bad” people…

It’s more like I pity them.

And I guess if you get right down to it, the difference there is merely semantics.

Again, though, something stood out about the INFP personality type as well:

It’s also pretty rare. 4% of the population, I think the website said. And the most famous INFP from history (which how they determined this is even more of a mystery than how they determined Einstein was INTP)?

Shakespeare. As in William.

And no, I ain’t no Shakespeare. But with my liberal arts background, and my abilities with verse and whatnot (I can iambic pentameter with the best of em), well, I am closer to Billy Shakes than I am to Allie E. any day of the week.

Either way, I’m somewhere in between two of the most uncommon personality types, INTP and INFP.

And I have to say… looking back on my nearly 37 years…

That explains a whole hell of a lot.

Etc. etc. etc., blah blah blah.

TL:DR

Something for Richard Dawkins fans to think about:

“Postmodernism” is a term for a branch of literary theory that questions the validity and certitude of every narrative and every assumption and pretty much everything there is, including itself.

One would think — at least I would think — that this sort of skepticism (skepticism of everything) would appeal to Dawkins’ followers, at least the ones who like Dawkins primarily for his writings on atheism and skepticism, but it doesn’t.

Why not?

Well, Dawkins, in his criticism of postmodernism — which postmodern theory pretty much requires that one question it — has not actually criticized the basic idea behind postmodernism. What he has done is criticize and lampoon one aspect of it, the aspect of it that questions modern science, that is to say the aspect of it that questions the way modern scientific concepts and assumptions are expressed through language.

Have I lost you? Let me attempt (yet again) to tell you what I mean:

Language itself — as in the words I am using to attempt to express what I mean here — is a product of whichever society or culture it arose from. The words I am choosing to use right now are not only the product of millennia of various cultures and societies developing and re-developing their medium of communication into modern American English, they are also a product of my own personal experiences with language and language use. There are a great many cultural artifacts metaphorically “buried” in every single word I am typing.

Postmodernism — as it applies to literary theory and criticism — is a way to “unearth” these bits of history and culture, and to examine why they are there and what assumptions were “buried” with them.

This is the basic premise of all literary theory: to examine the words we use and why we use them.

Literary theorists and critics use postmodernism and other theoretical frameworks to figuratively dissect a wide variety of texts, from novels to films to (the narcissist in me hopes) blog posts to — you guessed it: scientific writings.

That is to say, these texts — including scientific texts — are scrutinized regarding not necessarily *what* they say but *how* they say it.

To obliquely reference Marshall McLuhan, the “message” is not being criticized, but the “medium” is.

Richard Dawkins — in what he would apparently have you believe is his infinite wisdom — has gotten this very basic premise of literary theory ass-backwards:

To hear him tell it — and to hear many of his followers tell it — “postmodernists” and other literary theorists are not merely questioning the language used by science and scientists, but the concepts and theories science and scientists promote.

He’s convinced thousands and thousands of people that “postmodernism” is “anti-science,” when in reality that simply isn’t the case at all.

The ultimate irony of this is that he is essentially doing the exact same thing many creationists do when they claim that evolution — a theory no “postmodernist” actually doubts, I would wager — means that our grandparents were apes and that sort of thing.

He is — and has been for years — misrepresenting a very basic concept that he feels (quite needlessly) threatened by in order to discredit it.

Creationists do that, also, just over a different type of theory.

To conclude, if you want to say literary theory is esoteric and of less practical value than science and scientific research, well, you may have a point. I would even — despite my fondness for language and words — agree with you, from a pragmatic perspective.

If, however, you really and truly believe that postmodernism and other branches of literary theory are “anti-science,” all I can tell you is that you have been misled, much in the same way creationists have been misled by misrepresentations of evolutionary theory.

Ironic, ain’t it?