People say “I care about the environment” the way you might talk lovingly and with a hint of guilt about a plant in your home that’s not doing very well.

“Look at that sad plant. I really should take better care of it. Maybe it needs water?”

Yes, maybe you should. Poor little plant. If it had a voice, it would probably tell us “Hey! I’m dying! Water me! And make sure I get enough light as well!”

The environment is like a plant. But it is not a plant that lives in our home. It is our home and the basis for our ability to live. We are tiny little organisms that live inside the plant, feed off of the plant, whose existence and survival depends entirely on the plant. We’ve built a feeding machine that eats the plant faster than we ever could with our own hands and mouths. Our lives depend on the continued function of the machine. At the same time, however, the very mechanism that we believe to be the basis of our survival is threating our survival.

The environment is not like a plant. The environment is like a body competing with a growing cancer for nutrients. The cancer cells are practically indistinguishable from regular body cells, the main difference being that they blindly grow without restriction until there is no more energy for them to feed on. On their travels through the oceans and rivers of the body, they discover new areas for growth for themselves and future generations. Their will to live is what risks their eventual collective death.

The environment is not like a body. A body acquires meaning and identity through the ways in which it separates itself from and entangles itself with objects and subjects outside of its point of view. A body has a place, has things beside it and around it. The environment has no outside, no purpose, no desires and no opinion. The environment is an image that exists in our minds. It is real to the degree that its existence makes a difference to us, to human subjects. The environment exists for us.

The environment is a way for us to talk about ourselves indirectly. Every time we talk about the environment, we talk about us, about the way the world appears to human subjects as something that is separate from them, outside of them, around them. The environment is conceptually anchored in and centered around human life and human subjectivity. The environment is ours. It has no significance to anyone or anything but humans. Without us, there would be no environment.

The environment is not ours. The voice that harshly belts out advice on how to protect vocal chords, as if they were something separate from it, is only one out of many voices. The human subject that looks at the environment as if it were a plant that may be in need of our care is not a unified, collective subject. It is many, but not all, individual subjects acting in synchrony, together pulsating in an emerging heartbeat that is so loud, so powerful and overbearing that it drowns out dissonances, alternative ways of seeing. The environment belongs to the loudest roar.

I am roaring, too, and I don’t know yet how to stop. And even if we did stop, how would we continue after that? Shouldn’t we figure out the way forward before giving up prematurely on what we have, on something that is stable enough, at least for the moment? Can we still turn the ship around or do we need to abandon it? What would abandoning it even mean? I don’t know. But I believe that every choice, every action that is not just a continuation of a familiar melody, starts with a moment of instability, of uncertainty. It starts with an uncomfortable enounter with the terrifying prospect of freedom.

What makes our beloved touch screen devices so effective at trapping us in their glow is their reliance on our help. “Give me your thumb and your eyes, and I can take the burden of control away from you.” I imagine they would be even more effective if they also needed us to hum to them.

If music is order from chaos, it may be less surprising why creating it from too orderly a starting point can leave you with no sufficient chaos in need of being organized—a pointless point, like an empty bookshelf or a map that gives you an overview of all the positions on the piece of paper it is printed on. A path through a forest loses its appeal without the forest.

You can only create something that’s simple and to the point if there is some kind of point to begin with. “This could be a point. I think there is a point in here somewhere.” The outline of an object is revealed in the veil covering it as gravity pulls it further down aligning the medium with the substance it encountered as an obstacle.

Words give shape to the ephemeral, ungraspable, reducing it to what I’ve convinced myself I’ve identified it as, its fleeting nature forcefully overruled by the concretizing regime of persistence and persistability.

A bat flies in circles. Or am I presuming a regularity in the partially observed? I saw it over there going that way, and then, a little later, I saw it in roughly the same place again going the same way as before. Surely it hasn’t teleported its way back to where it started?

But I have to admit to myself that, by seeing it as a bat, I insert a pre-existing meaning. I hold the object of my experience captive within myself as a static, staticized, notion despite knowing that it persists through time, not by staying the same, but by being free to deviate from any imposed, imposable, pattern of regularity.

I approached it by forming a view of it that had the property of intelligibility, even predictability. But since its existence doesn’t depend on any particulars of any view I shape of it, it didn’t resist. It didn’t rush to correct my mistake. By succeeding at seeing, I have deprived myself of an encounter with the unknown. I have turned my face away from life and towards an object, a sculpture.

If I never held on to a thought, the only effect it could have would be the trace it left on its own.

Even in these paragraphs, it becomes evident that I have imposed a regularity onto my pattern of producing thoughts. While pondering the nature of the ungraspable, I have betrayed myself by attempting to give shape even to what I have essentialized as shapeless.

Naïvely, I have built a wall around shapelessness even though I knew that it can’t be pointed at without making it disappear. Every time you think you see it, you don’t. What I tried to prevent from escaping was already not there.

I have built a monument to my stupidity. Defeated, I shall engrave it with my name to remind myself who it was that fell for their own insight, that followed their tendency to give shape to things and ended up only giving shape to the giving of shape itself — a self-referential image of the failure to exceed a way of being through itself.

“Enough. Tear it down. Tear it down. Tear it down.”

But in that moment, I catch myself holding on to a fixed idea again. Like a spider that caught something in its web, I have caught my own failing to stop being a spider — a self-defeating catch. By destroying the monument, the piece of evidence of my continued failing, I wouldn’t really free myself, or anyone. But now it seems that the idea of moving past it may have become my next meal.

I need to practice letting go.

A transition!
We will be moving through a point of change!
Soon!

But a point is so short.
It has no height, no length, no depth.

We can see it up ahead already.
Let’s call it out!
The point!
The point!

We draw a box around the point,
install lights in another dimension,
help the point acquire size,
help it be visible.

It’s a period of transition!
We are in it!
The transition is happening!

.

The new here is here.

There is a new technique I’ve started using and applying to almost everything I do, just to see how well it works in practice.

Today seemed like a good day to share it, because it is still relatively new and exciting to me. In a few months, all of it will be so normalized and boring and uninteresting to me that I probably won’t have any motivation to talk about it.

(more…)

Imagine a world where people place a high value on sneezing.

It is difficult to know exactly what it is about sneezing that would make it so special to them. Is it the sensation? The intensity? The way it makes us think about the fact that the generally accepted physical limits of our bodies are really always in a state of relative flux, like the surface of the sun occasionally erupting and in doing so revealing another part of the star’s true nature, the one that isn’t governed by gravity entirely?

Sneezing. It is a force of nature selectively made accessible to us humans. A nod to the boundary between controlling and being controlled. It is at the same time something we do and something done to us. The doer becomes an almost passive collaborator, a mere participant, in the act that uses them as a temporary host as it masterfully transforms their body into an environment suitable for the sneeze’s fleeting moment of self-expression.

The appreciation of sneezing would change the way people look at, and experience sneezing. There would be better sneezes and less good sneezes, unskilled sneezing and elevated sneezing.

Some people would be very good at it and sneeze publicly, famous sneezers that people would pay money to see. There would be long lines of people highly motivated to get just a little bit closer to experiencing the ideal of sneezing as it is symbolized and embodied by star sneezers. You can hear a little amateurish sneeze here and there as the fans get excited. It’s okay to dream.

Sneezing becomes a specialized skill. A specialized skill is not a skill that you can specialize in; it is a skill that specializes in you, if you are the right kind of person. Sneezing may or may not choose you. Humans are but vessels to be inhabited by the divine.

Sneezing in public becomes something for people to scoff at. “Come on, seriously? Either sneeze in private or sneeze properly.”

As the appreciation of sneezing transforms it into something elevated, it increasingly removes it from its origin. A common sneeze is devalued. Sneezing just isn’t for everybody. It’s okay if you aren’t a good sneezer. Be satisfied with who you are. Find something different to do with your life.

Alone in the quietness of their home, far away from anyone who might observe and judge them, an ambitious person sits in front of a bright light, their eyes almost but not quite closed, their mind and body focused patiently on receiving a sneeze.

It is difficult to see a dark object in front of a dark background. That’s why you should smile when you are sad, so you can see the outline of your sadness more clearly.

My old tablet computer had a defect in its display that gave it a slightly green tint. I mainly used it for reading books. Black text on a white background, or rather: a slightly green background.

Eventually I got used to it.

My new tablet computer has a perfect display. The app I use for reading books offers a special mode that gives the paper a slight green tint.

I kind of like it.

Vacation days with no plans are a perfect opportunity to think about freedom. I have no plans, so I can do anything.

Anything I want. Within realistic limits, obviously.

But here is a question: Out of all the potential things I might want to do, are all choices equally free?

My answer is that they are not. And what I am only slowly beginning to discover and understand is that every time I do what I want to do, I may be fooling myself and I may think of myself as free when I am really not free.

Does that sound weird? Maybe it does.

But let’s start at the beginning: It’s my free day and I wake up.

(more…)