When I think of intelligence, I don’t primarily see it as something different people possess different degrees of. Rather, I see it as a kind of dynamic invisible shapeshifting that individuals can engage in in the realm of concepts.

A static mind, a mind that doesn’t grow through its self-shaping interactions with its world, is neutral in that regard. Knowledge can be neutral too, except for when in a given sitution, it opens up a path to get excited about and commit to.

The ability and willingness to commit to an intentional shape in a given situation. Flexibility, adaptability, playfulness. Differentiated shapes and patterns of motion for every occasion, every mood, every need, every intention. Like an octopus, just not always as immeditately spatial-physical.

We all have these abilities as humans. In human togetherness, what matters more than some abstract notion of intelligence as something related to problem solving, or even worse: something that can be measured, is the question: Do we bring life to each other’s lives?

I only realized a few weeks ago that when I drink coffee in the morning, there is often a point at which I feel like stretching, which makes sense because stimulants activate muscles, which makes them tense up.

Another thing that tenses up muscles is anxiety. Anti-anxiety medication does the opposite, and so do deep relaxation techniques.

“I feel like stretching” is an interpretation of something my muscles are made to do sometimes, just as “I feel tense” is an interpretation of something similar in a different conceptual context. One has positive connotations, the other negative.

Bottom up, top down. Activation, interpretation.

Our being is layered and wired up in circular ways and we don’t necessarily always have a clear grasp of the direction of causation in these loops we spin through.

An idea for something to practice together when spending time with people:

Every time a topic ends, instead of reaching for the next one, be quiet together. If a conversation meanders, end it.

Observe your desire to speak. Is it constant? Does it increase the longer there is silence? Does it come in waves? Are the words pushing your mouth open or are you freely allowing them to form and come out?

When your inner threshold is reached, allow yourself to speak, but only after taking conscious note of the conditions.

If it feels difficult and maybe a bit unnatural, it is worth practicing. Think of it as a kind of social meditation.

In addition to getting to know yourself better and growing your ability to make choices more freely, some of your friends may benefit.

I don’t remember writing this, but… thanks, past me:

< notes to future me >

look. this is the direction i want you to look in. trust me, please. you can only see if you follow your decisions even if they are always somewhat arbitrary. trust me not because you know that i’m right, but because there is no other way for you to see.

I’m not entirely sure what I wanted to tell myself, but this note reminds me of when I was 9 years old and took a moment to try to make it possible for my future self to remember what it was like to be me as a child.

Don’t grow up and think that you were probably just a child with no interesting thoughts, no rich inner life, no unique view of the world. If you can remember this moment, you’ll remember what it was like.

Well, it worked, child me. I remember. Thanks for that.

Concepts are like drawing a face on a cloud so you can see that it looks like a face.

Concepts are like using a lawn mower to measure the height of grass.

Concepts are like scrolling through an endless stream of #nofilter sunset photos.

Concepts are like giving your 11 children 3 names.

Concepts are like keeping the zippers with the millipedes.

Concepts are like taking a bath in a latex catsuit.

Concepts are like a disco ball looking at itself in the mirror.

power makes violence a home

power uses violence to create an inside

power has windows and curtains

power has arms creating distance between eyes and hands

power maintains a safe space for violence

power is fertile ground for shallow justification

power makes violence just

power makes justice directional

power makes violence necessary

power doesn’t know how and when to let go

When I am moved to speak, I don’t have the words yet.

I become a boat pushed onto water, wiggling with unguided potential.

I become an untrained runner hearing the starting signal, ready for a false start.

I become a bent match breaking without a spark.

If language is supposed to be a medium, a mediator, an adapter, how come it feels like a wall to run against, a hole to squeeze through, a confinement to burst out of?

Leuchtende Flächen strahlen mir in den Sinn,
jeder Ausschnitt ist für sich bedeutungslos.

Formen erscheinen mir durch Erinnerung,
mit der ich das Gewirr ertaste.

Die Idee der Ferne ist niemals fern,
sondern immer hier.

Dort bist du für dich
mir hier.

This is a post about collective action.

But let’s rewind to the beginning.

Bacteria are weird birds: instead of having a specific audible call that allows them to identify members of their own species — “Me! I am here! I am me! I am here!”—bacteria emit and receive an identifying chemical which tells them whether enough of their own kind are in the same place, in which case they can justify spending energy on individual action which translates into collective action (this is called “quorum sensing”, see video below).

One chemical for an entire species.

Within such a group, in and through their chemical language, they are all the same.

Human language is incredibly complex. Why would we need such a complex mesh of meaning to identify ourselves and identify others? We could also ask the question in a way that puts us in a more passive position: what justifies such complexity for the purpose of being identified, being made visible, audible to other participants in the medium of language, more or less consciously and intentionally?

One answer might be that identification is only one function of language and so you wouldn’t expect its complexity to be justifiable solely by that.

But consider the implications and consequences of identity rephrased not just as a superficial label, but as a characterization of who we are, how we relate to others, what trajectory we are on, who we share experiences with, what we want to work towards: by that meaning, it becomes difficult to draw a boundary around identity and separate it from aspects of life independent of it.

When I say, through my varied elaborately assembled audible or visible sculptures, strings of words, signs: “this is me, I am here” and, through the responses I receive, I feel seen and accepted: that is a connection, a first step towards acting together.

Birds find each other over long distances. “Come over here!”

Bacteria team up for collective action when they’ve reached a sufficient density. “We are many.”

And humans?
How do we act collectively?

Sometimes a hurt psyche doesn’t need the soothing touch of harmony bathed in rainbow light; sometimes what it needs is to have its particular shape and configuration matched by a relentless, shrieking thunder repeatedly covering up the seedling of hoping for release until through acceptance it grows strong enough to break through the ceiling, growing within, through, out of, and beyond it.

What I look for in a conversation, apart from just being together, is shared discovery, a collaborative extending, shifting, reshaping of our worlds, like putting two hands on a piece of clay, yours and mine, entering into a dialogue with it through the touch of our fingers, but instead of fingers and clay, there is only a complex web of traces we know how to follow, paths we know how to tread, up until the point where a step in a direction is suggested to us from the outside, the other, whose web we are given selective access to as a source of undiscovered associations, new paths that are neither mine nor yours but ours.

An excuse can be a sponge soaking up potential.
“I wasn’t really trying as hard as I could.”

An excuse can be a way of hiding yourself from your own view.
“I wasn’t really into it that much anyway.”

An excuse can be an inner contradiction.
“I wasn’t myself.”

With excuses we find ways to reject and at the same time justify what is and what was. If there is something that shouldn’t be, a suitable excuse can deflate the differential. By identifying a cause as an excuse, the effect becomes legitimized, rationalized, naturalized. “It may not be nice, but at least it makes sense.”

Saying goodbye to excuses can be painful.
“I really tried. And yet, I failed. I wish I hadn’t tried quite as hard. Then at least I would have an excuse.”

Allowing ourselves to care about some things, and especially some people, deeply, to leave no room for excuses, raises the stakes. What previously may have seemed like a game or a dream we could just exit and dismiss as insignificant becomes inescapably real. Real tensions, real failures, real successes, real satisfaction, real connection, real acceptance and acceptedness.

By growing out of excuses, we become able to open up to others.
“This is me. I am here with you. I care about you. I support you. I want you in my life. I want us to be real.”

Goodbye, excuses.