Suffering Tortured Networks

connectors twistedThe world twists us, with all the cultural inertia we inherit, with all the cultural inertia those within our spheres inherit, torturing our realities into what is sometimes hard to recognize. Social networks magnify this beyond our geographical familiarity, connecting us with those we would not otherwise interact with – an improbable thought for those who have grown up with this interconnected world, a sometimes nostalgic thought for those who existed before the Internet came into being. Algorithms control what we see, shoving us into the echo chambers of our choosing, dooming us to a perception of agreement.

This was all lauded at one time as a great democratization of information, of how it would change the world in ways that would be popular – and in this, it ended up being true where consensus will make fake news possible if only because people lack critical thinking skills that somehow escaped insertion in the indoctrination of formal education systems. Pieces of paper abound by people who followed a straight path and who did no more, who know nothing but what got them past batteries of multiple choice questions and glorified essays on topics graded sometimes with critical thought, sometimes not.

Processed like cheese, graduates come out homogenized and appropriately boring – perhaps, through good fortune, they become insightful in the areas they have studied in, but this does not translate to being insightful in the useful things in life because nobody seems to think life is important enough to talk about outside of the speakeasys of what social contact happens outside of formal systems.

We watch feeds of people arguing, jumping to conclusions, sharing things with catchy headlines that they did not deign to read the substance of. Reading to argue, emotion begets emotion and rationality is left behind. This scene from 2001: A Space Odyssey immediately comes to mind:

Given a new tool for communication, we seem pretty intent with beating each other to death over differences of opinion, the meek becoming exactly what they hated in others and unable to see it in themselves. Good intentions abound, right actions are lost in reactions to reactions to reactions to reactions… so much so that no one actually remembers the actions that started it.

Our tortured social networks have a guided evolution this way, marketing wanting to sell people things that they want on pages that people are more likely to visit because they agree with. Fights are good business on the Internet; more advertising impressions.

And now we see that the democratization that the Internet brought us magnified our social faults more than our ability to affect positive change. Or is it not too late? Can we untwist these networks?

Perhaps we’re just not ready for our own technology.

Wrevolution

See as time goes by ...“That we were slaves I had known all my life–and nothing could be done about it. True, we weren’t bought and sold–but as long as Authority held monopoly over what we had to have and what we could sell to buy it, we were slaves.”
― Robert A. Heinlein, The Moon is a Harsh Mistress

A sullen young man with ideas once wanted to change the world, wanted to be a part of the progress based on a vision of the future – like many young men, ideally like all young men. What young person doesn’t want to make the world a better place?

But what, exactly, is a better place? A measure of environment is in order – unless part of the financially elite, the view out of the front door of the house walked out of is to trade time for a dream – and a social narrative impacts that dream. Maybe it’s a house with a white picket fence and 2.5 children – the latter being painful for women, so I imagine they round down. Maybe it’s simply not to be living from paycheck to paycheck like a single parent might, maybe it’s to go to college because the social narrative told you to. Maybe it’s to join the military to get ahead – trading time, sweat and the potential for blood for a narrated step up.

The economy is the manager you work for, the company store will sell you everything you can afford to forget your manager is fickle and controlled by algorithms and people who don’t care that you spend your life being a productive member of society. But what is productive? Is productive for a corporate entity the same as productive for yourself? If you care for a system, does the system care back? When’s the last time a bureaucracy gave you a hug, made you feel warm and fuzzy? When’s the last time a corporate logo stopped by and told you a joke? When’s the last time you didn’t feel defensive in a world so easily offended? When the world twists you, it still wants you to be useful.

Time. We measure ourselves in time. Some say time is money, but all things being relative, how much value does your time have? The sand runs down the clock while you try to climb up it and eventually, you get tired. Some people go longer than others, climbing to different heights, having started from different heights, but unless you claw your way to the top of the sand in the upper chamber, you’re covered in sand – and if you, somehow, find yourself on top of the pile… you find yourself being sucked down the hole as you stand on that foundation of sand.

That, too, is how we measure revolution – not the violent upheavals that sometimes come with it which we keep as landmarks in history books, but the things that lead up to them that aren’t as interesting because they lack the prerequisite blood, and maybe sex, that keeps people enthralled. One person’s death seems to be more important than the saved lives of hundreds, if you follow the modern media – the bloodier the better.

One hand onlyRevolution isn’t the upheaval, the violent revolutions only happening when peaceful revolutions are too improbable. The clock of sand isn’t based on gravity; it’s an ellipse drawn in the sand. It’s the snake that eats itself, Ouroboros. Pi has little meaning here, it’s all relative.

Revolution is a process, change being inevitable. The latin root of the word, revolutio, is ‘a turn around’ – but that isn’t seen between the landmarks in history that are taught in schools; the precis version given of blood and sex – not sweat, not changing minds, not the small things that creep through societies connecting people. The revolutions have been televised since there was television, the revolutions are happening right now. Not all are good, not all are bad – and the moral relativism that makes people fight over them is about as meaningful as the change itself.

Tyrants only bleed when the masses have bled, but the only tyrants that exist are those that are allowed by the masses.

“Revolution is an art that I pursue rather than a goal I expect to achieve. Nor is this a source of dismay; a lost cause can be as spiritually satisfying as a victory.”
― Robert A. Heinlein, The Moon is a Harsh Mistress

 

The balance of society is never centered, it’s always moving one way or the other, shifting in the sand. And this is why it’s folly to pursue revolution as an end, as an absolute, as a goal. In youth and through age, most do not know this, passions fueled by the change that they want to see in the world when…

Well, the world doesn’t really care. It doesn’t need to be saved; it doesn’t want to be saved. All that can be done is to make the revolutions peaceful.

And that means not being a jerk.

 

Thanks.

Crows RockI suppose it’s in the air, a spirit of thanks – and really, after writing here for a year, I have been pleasantly surprised by the empirical data compared to what has been my ‘main’ site for over almost 2 decades.

Thank you, people who follow the blog and people who have liked my posts.

I’d tried the experiment before with OpenDepth.com, but that was more of a finding of voice than anything really worth keeping – so I didn’t. And since I write about so many things, as a human I have my fingers in so many pies, it used to be much more difficult to decide where I publish what – and sometimes, that meant I didn’t write at all. Over the past year, I have an instinctive understanding of what should be here and what should be somewhere else.

Thank you for your help over the past year in this. Please continue reading, sharing and commenting.

Twisted


Driftwood
Some treess are allowed to grow straight -a tree might have stable light, stable water, stable ingredients with no tropisms that would cause them to twist. They are not safe; they are cut industriously to make other things by the toolmakers, to build things. This is so true that they are grown for that purpose, to be used for industry like so many other things. Their corpses are to be found straight and true somewhere, sometimes bent, hammered, screwed…

And then there are the survivors, those whose circumstances twist them, winds might break them, rivers may wash them away – their bones persist, washed into an ocean, their roughness worn away by the incessant massage of ocean currents and waves, their character revealed in the process.

People do not collect straight pieces of wood, they are not drawn to them – they are drawn to the gnarled and twisted driftwoods.

And yet society tries to cultivate people straight and narrow, repelled by that which is twisted until it’s character is revealed years later when it no longer lives.

Lost.

Ocean caveIt’s been happening so long that I don’t know when it started. I might start in one chapter, then remember a preceding chapter or a later one. There is a thread of commonality, a series of  knots tied together sewing together a life – earlier, rough and uneven, the frankensteinesque. Later it becomes smoother, and more types of weaves hold it together, but what they hold together is common.

It never presents itself as new, even when new is what I seek – a way out of a cave I find myself in, perpetually climbing through one to another, an aqueous Sisyphus, swimming… always swimming away a place I no longer belong, always to another place -the coarser knits where I was looking to belong, the finer and more even stitches were I simply moved to get away from not belonging. Always leaving behind things once held dear – why else would I have them? – always making myself lighter, more agile. Always moving, always growing, like the lobster that keeps growing a new shell. As conscious of things as ever, yet never quite knowing when something begins or ends. Thinking it does doesn’t mean it does, thinking it doesn’t doesn’t mean it doesn’t.

It all flows, landmarks shift in the ocean. Nothing is constant. There is never a way to go back; there is never the same place to go back to. A lifetime of sandcastles on beaches lost in time. Retrospect evolves.

There was a point to all of this when it began – when did it begin? – and there were thoughts, emotions, passions. Lost, gone, empty shells outgrown; ambitions achieved, dreams attained, dreams forgotten, lives touched, lives lost, lives gained. The faces of enemies shift into those of friends without morphing. Cages change from those rusty to those clean, to the gilded, to removed every time only to reveal a different cage.

At any point it makes sense, and yet together it makes none. And when together it makes sense, that point in time makes no sense. The future that shouted now whispers conspiratorially, the past that was not there is now there.

It is good to be lost.

Grief

GuiltWhen we lose someone, we feel varying degrees of sorrow. There’s no real scale; it’s the common wisdom of counseling that there are varying scales of sorrow and that some who have a mental illness feel things more… but that’s all based on how we react to emotion and is hardly an empirical measure across different people.

We all feel things differently.

Here’s my thought: When we lose someone, we lose everything that person meant to us – consciously and unconsciously. We grieve this loss, sometimes without even understanding the losses involved, and now and then we are reminded of the loss. It’s only when we come to terms with what was lost that we can move beyond grieving. The things that remind us are the things we need to address – not necessarily to forget, but to understand what exactly was lost.

As they say, you do not know what you have until it is gone – but the depth of that is lost in a two dimensional expression, and is impossible to communicate to others without the context of that loss. The more complicated the relationship, the harder to communicate – the more commonality, the easier.

In a way it’s very strange to me that it took me all this time to figure that out, and in a way it makes sense that it did.

And it was a great lesson from a candle that burned fast and bright in my own life, and one I shall not forget – and shall cherish.

It’s only when we learn the lessons we need to that we evolve beyond grief.

Solitude/Relationships (Advice to a Young Man)

Trust?The first person you have to trust is yourself. This means you have to be able to depend on yourself first, then others.

You have to stay open and appreciate the people you have close to you. You might stay close with them, you might not – there’s a whole bunch of stuff that happens in life that can drive people close together or far apart.

Some of it can be good or bad, either way – you can get stuck with the wrong people close to you for parts of your life, as an example, or you might drift apart from some of the good people.

Life isn’t very good at making sense, and it has the capacity to drive smart people crazy. It does sometimes – and sometimes, smart people just don’t act normal (there is a difference). Nobody knows exactly where that line is, but people go to school and draw it with big fat neon crayons. Stay on the right side of those lines – the side where you’re not considered crazy by people in white coats armed with neon crayons and diplomas signed by other people with diplomas who got them, eventually, from someone without a diploma if you go back far enough.

But back to people leaving. They leave, new ones come in, new ones become old ones, some die, some move away, some change (or suddenly you find out who they really are…).

In all of that, you have to be your own rock. You have to be that one person that you can depend on, and you also will be the one person that others depend on – if only one person who you might even know or appreciate, or a crowd of people that you despise.

You’ll figure it out. You don’t have a choice. But remember, enjoy what you have while you have it, and understand it’s not yours – that at some point, it might disappear – but you’ll have the memories to smile at, the people who you absolutely wish the worst on, and you’ll move through life in directions you won’t expect.

The only thing you truly have is who you are; you do not yet know that completely, you will explore it as you grow older. You will think you know who you are at points, and then you will learn something new – it happens fast at first, it slows over time as you stay true to who you have found you are. One day, you will look back.

And one day you may give advice to a younger man.

Adapted from a conversation with a teenager.