3.30.2009

I'm lucky, I thought, that this decision means for me what all of your decisions have meant. Nothing less (by choice) and nothing more (by definition). The mere--though how inconceivably not-mere--conversation reaffirms it since its very existence presupposes the achievement of a goal I once told myself was unattainable.

I'm lucky, I thought, to have been "given" the "chance" by god, Bog, and the rest to make the "right" choices--properly understood--in the "right" contexts. Like Ms. Taggart, I realize that tomorrow is not an abstract understanding of impending difficult decisions and relentless quagmires. Tomorrow is another day of my life--another opportunity to demonstrate my love of knowing, beyond any doubt, the fact that I exist and understanding its implications.

I'm lucky, I recognize, to have found someone else--and how!--that understands the unintended evil, but evil nonetheless, behind the suppression of desire, behind the sacrificial slaughter of pleasure to asceticism, behind telling someone to withhold "I love you" not because it isn't true but because people believe that truth can be offensive.

I'm lucky, I recognize, to comprehend so clearly A is A and that which happens happens. And whatever "A" chooses to represent, it will be "nothing more" than proof of what I already know--because nothing more, in that sense, is possible.

I'm lucky, I know, to have a glimpse of your beautiful rational faculties even from hundreds of miles away, to have my lifevalues inexorably intertwined with yours, and, most importantly, to understand that no matter where our choices lead us--or to whom our choices lead us--my "luck" in life would have been remarkably lessened, and perhaps impossible, without your charm.

I know that regardless of your choice--not to discount my rational self-interest in the matter--my luck does not end where your decision begins. I love you because I love you. The recognition of that "I" is not choice-dependent. It is a constant, an absolute within the context of the recognition of my existence. It is, necessarily, a value-laden realization that whispers softly but with fervent desire:

Pssst! It was always lemon. And it always will be.

3.25.2009

You have a lot more power than you realize and a lot less power than I realize. It's as if, metaphorically speaking, you're not living up to your potential and, at the same time, I'm giving you too much credit--and neither is necessarily a negative (at this point).

Weird, eh?

Not if you consider absolute truth within a context.

Non sequitur
(or is it?):

Words have meaning. Ideas have consequences. Nothing operates in a vacuum--especially culture and love.

Non sequitur (or is it?):

I once professed that I could never be offended. How naive a statement. It was, I suppose, that I could not understand the concept of being so deeply moved by a remark--mere "words"--that it would cause me emotional distress. It is a mockery of the term "offend" to use it in a non-personal context. No one is offended by a wardrobe malfunction at the Super Bowl or nativity scene in the town square. People may find those displays distasteful or inappropriate or "gross" or scary--but not offensive. A "people" cannot be offended. Only a person can be offended. And an offense comes not from experiencing something you do not like but from a violation of your values by someone you trusted not to do so and whose opinion you value. Consequently, it is impossible to be offended by a known scoundrel, a person without the capacity to control his or her language, or your known enemy. That being said, it seems silly to take offense to the truth or a statement made with a lack of knowledge--assuming the statement is recanted once the knowledge is available. These criteria leave very few experiences that fit into the "offensive" category, but they also acknowledge that truly offensive statements are not something to be taken lightly. With these constraints in mind, consider what it means to be offended: You are, essentially, betrayed--though that word has some interesting connotations about motive that I do not (necessarily) intend--by someone you trust through an experience that violates one or more of your core beliefs--values that you have "grokked" honestly by your rationality that guide your life. To be offended is not to acknowledge that you derive your self-esteem from someone else's opinion. It is, in fact, a recognition that your values are what drive your life, and that you take those values very seriously. A violation of those values, even in jest, is not tolerable. As long as it's not a reoccurring theme, a joke may be forgiven as a slip of the tongue or repudiated quickly by mentioning that the joke isn't all that funny--some things are just too important.

Non sequitur (or is it?):

Fundamentally, all I have are my actions. The corollary of that statement--as much as I dislike Kenneth Burke--is that "words are symbolic action." My "word," in fact, is a metaphor for my integrity and honesty and love of justice. Stripped of all other bartering tools, my reasoning mind gives me my actions and my symbolic actions as a means of dealing with other people. Therefore, I take both of these very seriously.

Non sequitur (or is it?):

I consider myself to be a very honest and open person. It is not in my rational self-interest to evade truth or reality. I often spend hours--if not days or months--critically reflecting on different aspects of my life searching for contradictions, false conclusions, and outright evasions. To date, I think I have a fairly high success rate, and I only continue to improve.

Non sequitur (or is it?):

The foundational criterion for someone to be considered my friend--the one value on which all my other criteria are built--is that he or she trust me. I'm not speaking about classmates, acquaintances, roommates, or even people with whom I hang out occasionally. I refer only to the few people with whom I have a close enough relationship that I have earned their trust and trust them in return. This point, however, does not imply that we agree on everything or that our trust is a substitute for our own judgment or that the trust is infallible and perpetual. Trust, like all relationships, is based on values within a context. If those values change or if the context changes, then the trust must be reevaluated. What I mean by trust is the knowledge that our relationship is built on common values: "Love, friendship, respect, admiration are the emotional response of one man to the virtues of another, the spiritual payment given in exchange for the personal, selfish pleasure which one man derives from the virtues of another man’s character." What you trust is that I have no ulterior motives for our relationship, that I am not manipulating you as a means to an end, that I am not sacrificing your life for mine for any reason. What you trust is that we deal with each other not as beggars, looters, second-handers, or murderers but as traders. "A trader is a man who earns what he gets and does not give or take the undeserved. A trader does not ask to be paid for his failures, nor does he ask to be loved for his flaws. A trader does not squander his body as fodder or his soul as alms. Just as he does not give his work except in trade for material values, so he does not give the values of his spirit—his love, his friendship, his esteem—except in payment and in trade for human virtues, in payment for his own selfish pleasure, which he receives from men he can respect." Without this level of trust, there is no friendship. Acquaintance, yes. Someone to hang out with in group settings, perhaps. But I cannot trade my value with anyone who believes it is a faulty transaction from the beginning.

Non sequitur (or is it?):

It is often pointless to be angry or resentful, so I'm not. And I won't be. I love life too much to waste it with any form of regret.

Non sequitur (or is it?):

There is a nuanced philosophical difference between "expect" and "deserve" that I want to explore later. This note will remind me to do so: You may deserve something you don't expect, but you cannot expect something you don't deserve. This idea has some interesting implications for love and relationships, methinks.

3.08.2009

on emotions and knowledge

Emotions make life worth living while, at times, challenging us to question our rational faculties by putting them at odds with our feelings. (A man who claims control over his emotions is not a liar but neither is he a wordsmith. Men no more "control" their emotions than they do their hunger. A rational man understands hunger and acts accordingly. The man who "controls" his emotions understands them and also acts accordingly. And just as men may change their eating habits, decide when and how to eat, and learn to manage their appetites, so also can men change their emotional habits, decide when and how to act on their emotions, and manage their emotional appetites.) Far too often, when an emotion conflicts with our rational decision we conclude one of two things: either our emotions are irreconcilable with rationality or the decision we made was incorrect. While the latter might be true--based on a proper understanding of "emotion"--the former is necessarily false.

"Your subconscious is like a computer—more complex a computer than men can build—and its main function is the integration of your ideas. Who programs it? Your conscious mind. If you default, if you don’t reach any firm convictions, your subconscious is programmed by chance—and you deliver yourself into the power of ideas you do not know you have accepted. But one way or the other, your computer gives you print-outs, daily and hourly, in the form of emotionswhich are lightning-like estimates of the things around you, calculated according to your values."

Emotions, though, are not as immediately rewritten as a logical construct. Emotional response builds up over years of programming. Eventually, some logical processes become automatic. That is, they become emotions.

For instance, if a man continually finds high values in someone's character, he grows to love that person. It is impossible for him to love a stranger since their values are unknown. (Unless our hypothetical man ONLY values physical appearance--which I suppose is possible but unlikely.) But as he gets to know the stranger (Betty) and identifies the values, he gains pleasure from the interaction. Over time the pleasure becomes such a positive experience that the man's mind decides to automate the process to conserve logical processing power. His mind formulates the emotion "love."

His love is necessarily conditional and necessarily contextual. If the conditions or context change, then the man becomes confused and may even decide that the changes are enough to stop loving Betty. But even as he consciously understands that it is no longer in his rational self interest to love, he finds it incredibly difficult to halt his emotions. He might become distraught, angry, or otherwise fed up with feeling "that way" for someone who no longer deserves it.

If a newly formed conclusion stands in opposition to an emotion, you have to understand why in order to make a value judgment about both the conclusion and the emotion. Note:

"Learn to distinguish the difference between errors of knowledge and breaches of morality. An error of knowledge is not a moral flaw, provided you are willing to correct it; only a mystic would judge human beings by the standard of an impossible, automatic omniscience. But a breach of morality is the conscious choice of an action you know to be evil, or a willful evasion of knowledge, a suspension of sight and of thought. That which you do not know, is not a moral charge against you; but that which you refuse to know, is an account of infamy growing in your soul."

(In our situation, Betty represented herself as pure--as pure as a South Carolina snow storm in March. Betty was, in fact, a whore. And when the man found out, he decided not to love her. His was an error of knowledge. He had no way of knowing that Betty's representation was, in fact, a misrepresentation. He is neither God nor Greg House; therefore, he is not omniscient. He cannot be blamed for giving his love to someone who was hiding her true character. If he decided to ignore Betty's whoreishness even though it deeply conflicted with his values, then he would also be committing an act of evasion and, ultimately, a breach of morality. But for the sake of this argument, he's making the (right) choice to no longer love (ugly) Betty.)

The man's emotions conflict with his decisions because the automated processes of his mind are confused by their new orders. They had been programmed to accompany being around Betty with the values that caused the emotion love. Seeing Betty resulted in pleasure, and the man's body liked it--was addicted to it--as we're all addicted to pleasure. The man must now struggle to reprogram a computer that does not want any such reprogramming. It wants what its always had: Betty (as a representation of an achievement of values). His mind can certainly be reprogrammed. Over time the new logical processes--Betty as a representation of misrepresentation--will over write the old code.

(It's hard to say if the old programming ever goes away. It depends greatly on how deep the attachment was and the will of the programmer. Its as if the programming is written in ink. Sure, it can be erased, but it almost always leaves traces of its previous message.)

Of course, the man's automated processes do not stop receiving orders during this entire process. They start writing new reports about "love" and how it actually sucks. His brain goes emo. It creates a new automated logical process in the form of the emotion fear (of attachment). The hypothetical man finds it difficult to form new relationships because he's overly suspicious, paranoid, and afraid of abandonment. He certainly enjoyed the pleasure of loving Betty, but he also wants to avoid the pain of having to experience another break up.

Its a vicious cycle but not one that's impossible to break. His rational mind keeps up with the reprogramming and, over time, his emotions stop conflicting with his conclusions--but it doesn't happen instantly. It can't and shouldn't.

Consider the ramifications of emotions forming as quickly as logical conclusions. Emotions form over time because we're fallible. That may seem contradictory, but it is, in fact, a fail safe mechanism to help us deal with the world. We do not know everything, so our mind gives us time to find out, to make multiple rational conclusions, and to make sure that our investment is worth the emotion. And, yes, we are sometimes rewarded with emotions for situations that turn out to be something other than they appear. These situations, though, should not be used to damn our emotions but to damn the people that evade reality. They are literally messing with our minds by perpetrating lies. In falling victim to these evasions, we make an error of knowledge while they breach morality.

3.02.2009

Sometimes I feel like we're middle school boys, you and I, sitting in our backyard playing with a junior chemistry set. I glance over at you and excitedly declare, "OK, now try this!" Our mixtures occasionally create beautiful little puffs of smoke and we stare in awe. Just as often, though, our experimenting results in annoying explosions. And not the cool kind of explosions, either--the Michael Bay kind that merely distracts us from what's actually happening. But whether we see the colorful flashes or the frightening detonations, it's difficult for our adolescent minds to determine how they came to be. We're ultimately messing with something we don't understand, that we want deeply to understand--that we need to understand. But unlike actual chemistry, we can't learn it from a book or a professor or those naughty sites on the Internet that our moms tell us to avoid. (Yes. Those naughty chemistry sites.) We have to learn it by causing more explosions. And more puffs of colored smoke. And even more explosions.

Now if only we had started when we were actually in middle school...

3.01.2009

"[The argument about words versus actions] is not important. It doesn't matter which signs/clues are more important, because what's most important is whether they have fun together, whether they make each other happy."