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CROSS TALK

Edward Williams

Month

July 2008

64) Ecstatic

—–I posted the following comment in response to a piece by Paul Rodriguez, entitled “Artificial Intelligence” at The Ruricolist, last week. Then I couldn’t leave the subject alone. So a free ranging expansion is indulged in below. The same subject, in an even more oratorical fashion, is lavishly explored in a currently posted poem, “Dialogue with the Unconfessed” at my other blog Stage Poetry Company.

—-Comment on The Ruricolist: “The idea that thoughts arise in the brain can only be dealt with as long one ignores that it is really only an idea itself. Just because it is repeated so often as to be dealt with like a statement of proven fact does not diminish it’s essential character as an idea. All ideas are forms of thought, and cannot be shifted into the category of deductions. So it is a category error to glide from idea to idea-maker (brain), and not look for an agent that links them. There is a mysterious third party involved in whatever synthesis has occurred, between thought and brain. The idea that brains cause thoughts is patently a category error, a reversal of conjecture; because the two things have no demonstrable connection, outside the laboratory that conflated them (science). This is what I think on this subject: thought is more likely what causes the brain, as mind causes body. It infuriates me that one even encounters such conundrums as “artificial intelligence.” “
—–Endless trial and error certainly does not constitute a method for obtaining truth. Only it can overwhelm and exhaust, with directed and prejudicial studies. But one experiment is sufficient in this arena, where thought and the brain are being considered together. For one can take away thought entirely, and still have the brain. A dispassionately considered brain, in a dish. Conversely though, one can take away the brain, piece by piece, and never find a thought. They don’t correlate. More to the point still, one can live with their thoughts endlessly without consideration of the brain. I am showing these two things are fundamentally not related as by cause and effect. Do not barge into my study, and shoot me now! I am showing the two are not in the same realm. I am thinking about my brain! Lesser minds might leap to the thought that the brain is the author of thought. Hmm! Pretty stupid idea–I mean that is the kind of quick association only an idiot would come up with. But, the the idea that thoughts arise in the brain is, beyond being idiotic, also convicted at the outset of being, guess what! first an idea, occurring before the brain is figured into its scheme–you might say. Voila, I have defeated my own brain.
—–Something though, continuously holds and redrives this idea, that the brain authors and manufactures thought, now in depth psychology and its step child: neurophysics. Obsessively, thought will ask the chronic, the boring old philosophical question about itself: where did I come from? And look, dumbly, for an origin, as if it could see itself happening. I am sorry this is happening to you, thought is saying–forgetting its once imperial authority, forgetting even how to phrase the question so it’s middle term does not slip into a black mirror. Forgetting the obscurity from whence it arose!
—–Yet it must be recognized that it is an idea that has set up this circular argument, in which a body of science is amassed, this scientific method based on an assumption, that has allowed one to posit a relationship between mind and brain. Always it is felt, and it is seen, that this working truth is transparently a leap, a tautology, merely subsequent to a hope, and suddenly it seems quite flimsy. I grow cold, and face a failure of thought itself, which I know can always exist without the physical. And I am backing down from the task that immediately faces thought, which is solving itself by means of itself. Sure, thought has an identity problem, but it is not solved by shoving it into the vessel of the brain.
—–Facing the thought itself that this thought is first an idea, and only by fiat attributed to the brain, causes what you might call, fashionably!, a system failure. A heavy load of guilt will result, a shirking of primordial duties, and an abnegation of the immediate flash fear that this idea has an author. Like yourself. One should have to face the bare origin of this idea. And attribute the idea that thoughts arise in the brain to another category. Like, as what seems like the weakest, or the chanciest, choice of all–to the category of a sheer thrilling assumptions, a flicker, a first inkling like of being born wholly into mystery.
—–This indeed must have parallels, and even be of an historical origin, this mistake.The history of the world seems recoverable in thought, like in a reverse serial. Somewhere it happened, this idea like in general, with no author (yes, this is the impersonal devil of historical inquiry, which will always come face to face with its bait), that thought seems to have a relationship with the body so intimately that it must therefore somehow direct the body, a conclusion that devilishly, and entirely, shifts the ground. Because the next step is, forgetting how we got there, to reverse the cause and effect entirely. Simply put, the idea that thought belongs to, or is associated with the brain isn’t the same idea as that thought arises in or is actually a product of the brain. The thought that the brain is the actual creator and province of thought is clearly a leap, and like going through a mirror. A shortcut, and a short circuit, and these circuits are now multiplying, because technology is driven by nature and runs in its marrow.
—–The bodiless imagination, like a poet, can say anything. Don’t I know it. These are thoughts that only arise once there is a brain to deal with. Try as you may you cannot get around the mysterious origin of thought, and find the agent and call it a brain. Much less a ganglia of neurons; you might as well call it a computer, for all the accuracy that has. The truth is, the mind has no analogy, and is compared to everything in its time. Thought itself quite clearly precedes any necessity, any history, any failing, inquisitive person, though they be already reeking of life. If it has configured an explanation for itself, then a configuration is all it has, an idea shot through with holes, which is hardly foolproof, a theory of itself as having a fanciful origin–or better yet, a dull materialistic origin, that will put a stop to this inquiry! But, I repeat, hands flying in the air, right now as I type it, emphatically, explanatory ideas of the origin of thought are not made of the same thing, not of the same caliber, as the idea which is synonymously thought itself. Thought is a reiteration and no body. What produced it? Or preceded it, in any scheme and any order of creation. Surely, not a brain. Please do not make me laugh.
—–I must go on a little longer. I must rephrase. Like The Ruricolist, this subject kills me. It was thought that thought of the brain, mind produced the configuration of a body, creation coalesced. Then, mind and body both existing and performing in apparent tandem, specific formulations were possible as to what the correlation between them could be, ideas arose as to the relationship of these two realities. Always it was obvious which was lord, and had priority. Then, astoundingly, as if in an apostasy of historic forgetfulness, the idea arose that the brain produced thought. An absurd, and yet sort of bold and exciting, for its sheer impossibility, reversal of the truth.
—–One must only transfer a certain familiar facility of mind to this area of sheer philosophy, for this area may be in dire neglect, I fear (though I do not know, for I only live on a sidestreet, half a block from the moon–and have such a limited palette, or drawing tablet, often feeling I should be more . . . poetic!). But–
—–Right now, I think the question becomes comical, and is: where does the brain come from? Keeping in mind that we have a tool, thought, reason, we may be able to find out where the brain came from. It may turn out to be a miracle. For in fact it is the physical that is the unforeseen, the dumbshow, the miraculous, appearing as if a result of thought. Thought, which is established, obviously, before one can think to, say, employ it, thought!–with which a person starts. And returns to, over and over, no matter how vibrantly it has achieved a life. One is not given these meditations by virtue of having a splendid body to inhabit; one does not grow a mind, though we are synchronized now, I see. But the mind indeed might, for all its heroic striving and tripping difficulty, grow a body. I just don’t remember, but I am ecstatic–and that is the perfect word for it.

63) NARRATOR

—–A good deal of the action, and the accompanying bravado, that is to say the secondary chatter surrounding the action, is generated by the continuous inability of the sensitive, first person narrator to understand that the people he is dealing with are not equal to him, in their powers of reflection. And a good thing, too, that must be!, he himself reflects, some safe and sufficient time later, in another, truly self-conscious work. The thoughtful narrator, he keeps making narrow escapes in life, and you might say from life. He looks back to see the splattering of tomatoes that have been hurled at him, and the laughter haunts him terribly. The misunderstood narrator, though speaking always in his own voice, framing it “I think,” and “I saw” , but still he keeps trying to include all the distracted, grungy others, and to see what their interpretation of reality might be. And why it is, given that interpretation of reality that they must continuously and silently shoulder, they still could be acting the way they do. And that is not half as awkwardly put as it deserves to be. It is hard to keep all these factors in mind, it is truly like juggling, and these are the serious narrator’s thoughts, all in the air, as he walks back home, down the street by that same old moon, once again, lucky to remember where he lives. But the truth–arriving in his thoughts, just as his shadow graces the front step– is that his interpretation of reality is the only one possible; and the truth is further, these others have none.
—–Yet, it is the expectation of normalcy, of an exciting and meaningful reality, that drives this narrator. He will go out, and mingle with those he must consider to be more human than himself. The expectation of the sensitive narrator, who can be quite judgmental, in his assessments of what other people are sorely lacking, is followed by an even worse continuous lack of actual experience–available to him, say, in a day. Before that grinning moon, and the sound of people’s air conditioners, come to speak of a closing down. Frustration! This is what causes the furiously alert narrator, who feels it must be that these others are avoiding him, to lace and even poison his own speech, lay traps with words, get strident, fall deathly silent!, and propose the impossible. The reckless narrator will use these stubborn dummies as if exemplars, positioning them in debates that go beyond them, but stinging them with side remarks that fatally wound them. He will describe the exact dimensions of his wild, ivory covered prison walls. Not only that but he must tell you– just because he can see you are holding your ears–the deprivation he, the sensitive narrator, suffers, of only getting to see a slice of the sky, to only hear the crack of thunder and hear the rain dripping on the pipes, to see the boot heels and then the glowering of the guards, and get maybe an hour of debilitating exercise in the prison yard.
—–“Can this be real?”, he will say.
—–The chronically jubilant narrator is watching, and insanely maintaining the watch, for there is no reason for it but expected revelations are nearly put into shape, nothing can kill this idle hope to which he clings. But even this hope and the shape it is forming are not synonymous with his deep background thoughts, where he keeps his nascent identity. Oh horror!, that would eclipse him, if he had to actually think like up front (it is hard to put this) what he is, um, currently thinking–no, this clash and the demonic urge to phrase it, these are experiments in flying! Words fly to his aid. Words make him giddy, always did, they must be stuffed with something halfway transcendental. The insouciant braggart, and perfect child, this born narrator is totally trapped, with no way out of a world that is so ill-defined it is like a roadside flower, wilting. Or a lopsided moon, sloughing through the hazy night sky, as he, hands in pockets, shuffles away. The next mood must be . . . exhilaration.
—–For as you can see, he is faithful as a narrator, to the sense that he is serving the truth. Very far is he from questioning whether there is truth, for to him that is an inborn operating principle. There is no other way to put it, he says. The following day, he says it another way entirely, to fit it in. Always, vitally adhering to the truth, he must keep the descriptions of reality (reality is what he seeks!) accurate to a tee. This is why the true voice of the absolute narrator is speaking when . . . he speaks like a poet, like with a forked tongue. The highly poetical narrator is reckless with the truth, for the sake of it, he says. Describing reality, when he cannot exactly find it, involves some guesswork, I am sure. But his guide is not an Indian, nor a Professor, but history buried in words, or rather the cadence that summons, like blood rushing to the surface, the life of these ancient tropes; for again, the language, the guttural breath, is on his side. And temptations surround this first person narrator, so out front with conjectures, to which he of course occasionally succumbs. And royally. The choice of adjectives is often his, and sometimes it is a vote in the soul as to whether to shade the shadows rose or blue. Opposites of course are closer than any middling term in between, even philosophers know that. The most delicate, and the most cold, moral sensibility must the winning narrator have, in order to not sow doubt and inspire corruption in his fallible, awestruck listeners.

62) Freeze Frame

61) CATERING

—–There seems to be a constant, infuriating imbalance in the way we attempt to cater to others, only to find them ignoring us, in the wake of it. Situations, in other words, do not flow thematically, and life’s transactions, both petty and profound, never involve an equal exchange; but you always give one thing and get quite another, give away gold and get chintz. But turn around, and the other person sees it exactly the opposite. Life suffices to the end that somebody, if not both parties, will be feeling slighted–shafted, short-changed, or maybe feeling altogether like a bandit. No one is encouraged just by the spectacle, because everyone is too involved in it. And if most everyone is slandered, or stiffed, then all the merrier . . . I say. For the truth is, we are all first-class martyrs, and best at irony; we give away what is valuable, and receive in return what is random and has been castaway. Kindness, I have noticed, is not repaid with kindness; not on my scorecard, in either direction. Thoughtfulness is never matched in the occasion where it is present, but met instead with bluntness and brutality. But, hurrah– this is the way it looks to everyone; no one escapes. We give away what is worthless to whom we give it. And the others, they receive what is valuable to them, but not from us, but some untraceable suitor. It’s like some crazy airport terminal, where everyone takes the wrong luggage. Isn’t it? But they go on, for who can admit they are getting deeper into chaos, emotionally? So it is demanded, life remits all things, in the order that adds up to: confusion. Ah, life. Hurrah, I say. People do not communicate, they do not trade with the same money, so to speak, nor think or judge with the same set of understandings. But people are busily engaged nevertheless, I have observed them. They get along splendidly, really, and are unbelievably courteous, really, and they concoct great dramas, no matter what, because the superior reality is:  mostly they find each other very unnerving, I mean attractive, I mean impossible to fathom. What a society!
—–I should calm down. I am trying to cater to your wishes, and it seems to be working, so I kind of store up the credit, if you get what I mean. But I must be a child, for here I am getting rebuffed when I try to call in the exact same kind of favor. I never get the return even in proportion to the effort I made in the original catering. And this word catering doesn’t describe it, either. Certainly not the pastry I get in return, the deluge of tears, the confiding, in overdose. You are out of context, I want to say, I only meant to talk abstractly! But hell, do you have to know a person, to claim them?
—–“Here, watch this purse while I go have a smoke,” the imperial miss requests. I sit there like her servant, staring at her purse. Sometime later, now in her good graces, I attempt a little inquiry, as I am her proven and trusted . . . companion, we will call it, and what does she do? She pours her heart out, it takes only ten minutes–which, thereupon, you might say, with one sympathetic look, I turn into tears and the scene is consecrated, so to speak. This isn’t working, I am thinking, in my habit of trying to phrase reality right as it happens, as if . . . Oh what the hell, I misjudged it anyway, a mere minute later she is totally embarrassed. But only briefly because someone, a person way more real than I, has just caught her eye. People hire you, and then fire you for what appears, to you, to be the very same reason. Are people ungrateful, or did I over value and misunderstand the nature of my service to begin with? Above all, will life ever provide me with material other than inferior, novelistic moments?
—–Well yes, really I should calm down, because there are other whole categories of human behavior. For instance, here is an opposite imbalance–an imbalance of a type opposite the ones where you always seem to be in the loss column, I mean. Let’s do it dryly. People are deemed valuable in the role of praising you; but you tend to recoil if the very same person, on the heels on that praise, as you bask it in, offers anything resembling criticism. You heard that right. Or even advice. Advice–it ruins the mood. The ascendant mood that infuses the requirements of your vanity.
—–Yes, now we are talking. The very same people whom you assume as comprehensive readers, and claim all things for, in order to build them up in your own esteem, as your own all-knowing audience, requiring only that they have looked at the page, or turned a page, those readers–you are immediately dissatisfied with, if and when they open their mouth and say anything specific. Because, invariably, when they get specific it tends to show something perhaps a little measured. They might even reveal they like you for the wrong reasons, and that is the worst thing of all! And if they purport to be editors, or helpful critics? Presto, if they try that they risk their own reputation as comprehending readers! They jeopardize their membership in your fan club, so to speak. They will always have to preface any admonitions with “now, you know how much I love and respect you,” –just so you will even begin to listen to them. But if they continue, ”so in this case, I think you are making a mistake,” this you certainly don’t want to hear, as you are basking in the words “love” and “respect”, and cranking them, those words, up into powerful general compliments that can withstand any complaint, say, by others. Drink it in. Flattery is so powerful it deafens you. And once a flatterer is secured, he or she best not become a traitor. Oh, I know this so well!
—–Then again, switching focus again, being a fan isn’t easy, either! Catering to someone (there is that word again) only makes you an ingrate, a climber, a dissembler, it doesn’t give you status or authority, or the ticket that admits you into their presence of established authority. Much less require them to listen to you, and your fawning–should you get the floor anytime soon. Which is not likely.

60) Vicariously

—–“Finally, I get what a balk is,” I said to her. I was talking baseball.
—–“It is when the pitcher starts his pitching motion without taking his foot off the rubber, and instead of making a pitch, he goes and throws to first base.”
—–“Oh, really!” she said. I could tell she wanted me to tell her more.
—–“To pick off the base runner who is on first, you see. You can’t do that; you have to take your foot off the rubber before you throw to first, or it is deemed pure trickery and a balk.”
—–I set the scene more completely for her. Alex Rodriguez was on first-base, and when he saw the pitcher start his motion, he, Rodriguez took off running like a man possessed, for second base. But the pitcher, after already starting the pitch, threw to first base. But! He never took his foot off the rubber.
—–“Up and threw to first base,” I said.
—–“You are not allowed to even raise your arm in the beginning of a pitching motion and take your foot off during the motion,” I explained, “ because when the runner sees that you are beginning the pitch and have still got your foot of the rubber, they are free to try to make it to second during the pitch.”
—–“Really!” she said. It was amazing she was that interested, but I guess I made it so vivid for her it was like . . . exciting, or maybe she was excited for me, vicariously.
—–The whole thing was totally clear when they showed it on the instant replay, I told her. They showed it four times, I told her–it was undoubtably the clearest case of a balk, and the easiest to see happening right when it was happening, they ever had. I mean, though I have heard these definitions many times I never got the grasp, I guess, until I saw it so clearly in this replay. The thing is, you can look like you are about to start your pitching motion, and then quickly take your foot off the rubber on the mound, and throw over to first, like all in one motion. Andy Pettite is good at that. In fact, he picked off a runner at second in this very same game, whirling and throwing and ditching the rubber all in one motion. But you can’t do what the Mets pitcher did to Rodriguez; which was to clearly start his pitching motion and then just direct the ball over to first, instead of making the pitch itself.
—–“That is overt, obvious trickery,” I said, “and called a balk. So now you know.”
—–“So what is the rubber?” she wants to know.  And I realize she hasn’t been listening to me at all. Looking at me the whole time, and not hearing a thing I was saying.
—–“The rubber,” I say, “is the tie-breaker you play in a sports match, when the games are even and you need to declare a winner.”
—–“Oh!,” she says, “now I get it.”

59) VERTIGO

58) Straitjacket

—–It started out as a taunt, and I just kind of got nudged into another perspective, and I started saying to people: “questions not asked in this life don’t get answered in another, you know.”
—–It seemed appropriate to announce to people, as a vast, challenging proposition. You just don’t get to find out the truth, because you were born. I am always trying to get a view from heaven. I mean if and when it turns out someone is right, say about the nature of reality, the fossils and flowers, the springs, so to speak–are they going to hold it over your head, and gloat? On the contrary, if it were me, I think I‘d resent others just getting this superior knowledge, like wholesale–when they never even searched, and they didn’t do a single thing, in life to earn it. It would be just unfair, I hear myself complaining, that the same prize of an explanation is handed out, like to everyone, when some of us were toiling as in a mystery, and others just went sunbathing. Well! These are lowly human emotions!
—–Maybe I will be big about it, or won’t really care. Maybe I won’t have time.
—–“Questions not asked in this life don’t get answered in some other life, you know”, I said to the guy sitting next to me at Montys Krown. He looked at me quite sympathetically. “No, I mean it,” I said, “you can’t just be a god-forsaken hedonist your whole life.”
—–“What’s that?” he asked, of course. I launched this subject, as I said, like a taunt, and it was an expression of my own indolence, I was in a fog– after listening to this folk rock band. Their smooth sailing lyrics were couched in insipid paradox, their metaphors were cheap wine, and the band members so laid back, I thought they might, they should, slow down to a floor display. They were proposing life and death questions, like for amusement! So I framed it this way: they have their day jobs, and you don’t earn answers to questions you never seriously work to get answers for, like in some other life, like a prize for a contest you never entered. Nice guys, but I was disgusted.
—–I went into the other room, where they serve the drinks. And onward with this theme now in thoughts, to get real results. Life is a minefield of mysteries, questions trip up answers that are further questions, it’s so much fun–but if you never got into the swing of it, and you aren’t full sail into the mystery, then you can’t earn, I mean you can’t qualify, you aren’t in any way prepared for a fully cognizant type afterlife. That is what I think.
—–If it got to that. God, now this makes me tired, just thinking of how much application it has. Because it erases all those suffocating universes that elite minds have been preparing, like in a dish, or in a primer, a set of understandings. How close have they ever pegged the real universe, these . . . dabblers? I mean the one that contains both this sordid world and the beatific one after this one, where we have earned our stripes, survived death, and are newly flourishing . . . leave it at that.
—–The comical problem is there is no general population to inhabit this finely imagined general universe, because all the people who never thought about such things at all, are not even there. They were blipped out, when you forget to include such things as most people really care about. It is too exclusive, this college campus or country club of an afterlife. Ha! What a sort of big mistake is this, to make truth contingent on relative sophistries, and pretended excellences of mind?
—–No one can get an answer to a question they never asked. That is where I started. What they do get, though, more mundanely, and perhaps threateningly, is an answer exactly to the degree they did brush up against a question. You see a glass darkly? That is what you get, a dark glass. Take this tack. Yes, say people do get answers to the questions they managed to ask, and then, if there is another existence for them, have to live with them. Sounds like a hell of insufficiency, and simpering! Maybe I shouldn’t be so scornful. Once again, pity is the only recourse, when dealing with humanity in general. “Humanity in general” though is not what anyone has to deal with. It’s dealing with specific people that is problematic; and there, I rear up to say, one has not just the right, but the responsibility, to throttle any obvious ingrate.
—–Hey! You could say that since this life is mystery, what follows this life is liable to be the slam dunk total answer to that mystery. The very one central core question, however you clumsily put it. I mean that will be the leading feature. Answers! It will be a holiday, a grand reversal. I am sure you can follow this! I’ll say that to the degree a person squarely faced the mystery here, they live in its explication there. Pillar to post. (Metaphors invited.) This is what it must mean when one says that people who have died, have got their reward. They found out what it was all about, as if a nice big revelation was what awaited them, as a prize for death, and now they know what life was really for, and why they did sit on the beach, watching the sailboats. (Short stories welcome.)
—–But, I kept asking the kicker– did that laggard person even ever frame one general inquiry, and ask about this broadscale everything that your favorite authors, and your corny folk singers, keep hinting at? Hell, your authors only make hints! Their language is half-rotten; their cadences deadly and a death knell in fact. I say, do people really merit salvation at all? Or suddenly become in need of it, just because they are besieged by doubts, and flail about in pain. . . oh, stop! I mean, I am sorry but, folks, why supply people with answers, who never asked for them?
—–This is harsh. Okay, I have another idea. How about flimsy answers to their own passing concerns; answers to the questions on their own level, within their own arena. Patches on a sleeve. That would be to their liking, they could smoothly adjust and would hardly notice, if, for instance, they were dead. People get to go to a phoney heaven made of their own expectations, which were based largely on worldly frustrations, with now and then a flicker of wonderment. Ha! This is the way they treated life, as if it wasn’t a miracle, but a sort of field of limited emotional opportunity. Just ask someone and they will tell you, this life is poorly suited to them–in particular. A different time in history, maybe, a few breaks the other way, maybe, but the way it goes, no. Getting through, and getting some laughs. Inwardly, they deserve better. This is harsh again, but I have a scheme in which they aren’t going to get better, they are going to get exactly the answers to the small questions they did ask. For I say, the stakes remain ultimate. Trapped in existence, if you try to wriggle out, you make your own straitjacket.

—– There is no other place for any of us, that we can successfully imagine or construct by science or art. It isn’t as if in the next life one finds out which theory of how the universe was made is correct, or whether evolution isn’t just a theory but actually the way nature operates. Somehow this all seems quite childish. It seems like school, when we are all out of school. What is the actual history of the solar system? At the end of alternatives, what seems most correct to say is that there is no history to the solar system at all, by any reckoning except . . . what is established in thought–which is structured retrospectively. Truth rolls out in a revelation, always backwards goes the insight. What does one get for the attention they deeply gave to life, for the continual investment, or unwavering faith. It should be the difference in a person’s earnestness in regards to possible truth, regardless of their capacity by another’s standards. It seems quite obvious that all understanding is provisional, and that life is about having a perspective. So when I trivialize existence with narrow minded behavior, I want to say I don’t deserve another life, I am spending all my capital right here. My fears will turn out to be unnecessary, but my assumptions and biases will be made foundational. How’s that! You, and I, will find out what it would be like to actually live in world that was really the result of these evolutionary processes so smugly endorsed, like they were superstructures behind eternity.
—–Like they were untempered by beauty and unrefined by sentiment, and, what is really unholy, unwatched by any creator.

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