Cluster-Blah

So this afternoon was crap. Not horrible, just a few things that added up to a big fat “well, HELL”.

The phonescreen for a job didn’t happen because of scheduling problems on their end; then my big-ass TV died for the 3rd time in its 8 yrs; and I had a minor scuffle with my favorite.

Things are good with him and me, though. The TV ain’t fixed, and probably won’t be for a while…and I’m certain the phonescreen/interview will happen in short order.

Not the end of the world, or even the end of the street (I have no idea what that means), just, well, there it is. A big, fat “well, HELL” of an afternoon.

No Reason to Reason

Critque is such a rational response. It’s also kind of one-note, boring.

So, rather than harping on the Benighted One, I’d rather consider those things which are orthogonal to logic, those things which obliterate reason. Fear, panic, doubt, rage are all things which fit the bill, but they’re pretty much one-note as well.

Consider Joy. Consider also memory, smell, tricks of light.

Last month, I went with Jerry to the Half Moon Bay Nursery, a great place for all sorts of amazing plants (amazing to me, some of the stuff that grows in the Bay Area, even after ten years here) and ideas for home and yard. I went along just for the ride, but ended up bringing home a large tomato plant, already potted in a large pot, already staked to a support cage. I could have done all these things myself, but it ended up being cheaper to buy it already-done. Go figure.

So the first thing I did, as you are supposed to do (it’s Oral History as much as anything), I ‘suckered’ the plant on each existing shoot below its first fruit-bunch, those clusters of pretty yellow flowers so at odds with the jagged green shapes of the plant. I came into the house to wash my hands and caught the smell of the plant on my hands. It’s a mustard-y tang and one that your first reaction to is to get away from. But I smelled it again, because I wasn’t a 39 yr old San Franciscan in 2003 anymore, I was four years old, in Pennsylvania, with my great-grandmother in her garden. Morning air, ankle-bites of dew as I walked through the plants, an oblique sun throwing long shadows—I didn’t understand at the time how my shadow could be longer than I was tall!—my great-grandmother in a cotton floral-print housedress carrying a metal bucket.

Great-grandmother, “Nanny” we all called her, taught me to make apple pies when I was three. After she died—when I was six—I was the only one who could teach my mother how to make them like Nanny did. I remember noticing whitish marks on my finger nails, asking Nanny what they were. “Flour”, she said laboredly, as she rolled out a piecrust across her kitchen table. The marks, I was to discover later, were just plain old scuff marks.

But to this day, like this morning, whenever I think about her, I look at my fingernails. And of the hundreds of times this has happened since the woman died in 1970, every time there has been at least one scuff mark that I could look at and think, “flour”. She exists, and she is with me.

Coal stoves, the coal chute and coal bin in her basement. Burning the “hairs” off of chicken parts over the gas flame of her “new” stove. Psyanki. Delft-blue of her china pattern. Big, rounded “ice-box” with an enormous lever-arm handle. The overripe, shriveled plum inside that fridge that prompted me to tell Nanny that it matched her shriveled skin.

She laughed and told everyone what I had said. Encouragement for candor? Can I thank her for my hallmark, trademark bluntness? I like to think so. I thank her for so much anyhow.

I often think of the three generations of ancestral women—Marie, my mother; Mary, her mother; and Tekla/Teresa, Mary’s mother—as the Three Graces of my childhood and adolescence, examples of the beauty, charm and grace of being Alive within your own life.

Love exists because I have seen it, touched it, known it. More than five senses exist because love has illuminated those faculties and, in kind, those faculties make love that much more real when it happens.

Existence exists? Who cares. The things atop it are real enough. Intuition, anecdotes, outsized reactions to minutiae, the play of light and imagination. Creativity. JOY.

No reason any of that should exist, but it does. The pinnacle of human achievement is in the Irrational. I know this in my bones, but I can’t prove it. Proof is a rational thing.

And logic is a pretty flower that smells bad.

:8)

Existence Exists

I would not have continued on with the objectivist argument had a good friend of mine, whose opinions I respect considerably, not challenged me on my opinions. I could go on all day about it, but it turns out I don’t really have to. Objectivism is single-rooted, so all that is required is to challenge the validity of the one root—and objectivism’s self-inconsistent relationship to that root—and the whole thing falls.

All double-quoted text is from Ms Rand herself, from a Playboy interview in 1964.

“It begins with the axiom that existence exists, which means that an objective reality exists independent of any perceiver or of the perceiver’s emotions, feelings, wishes, hopes or fears. Objectivism holds that reason is man’s only means of perceiving reality and his only guide to action. By reason, I mean the faculty which identifies and integrates the material provided by man’s senses.”

She starts with an axiom? An axiom, in a proof, is something that you take to be true without question. The Rational Apologist is asking us to make a leap of faith. Irony?

She goes on to say that the only perception we have is the rational mind, but then admits we obtain information through our senses, not through our rational faculties. Which is it? If we are beholden to our senses, and in fact trapped by them, how can we know, one way or the other, if there exists an objective reality outside our senses? And if so, what worlds exist that our senses cannot detect? Does ‘green’ exist for the colorblind? Is infrared pretty?

Then, when asked about religion and its constructive value: “Qua religion, no — in the sense of blind belief, belief unsupported by, or contrary to, the facts of reality and the conclusions of reason. Faith, as such, is extremely detrimental to human life: it is the negation of reason. But you must remember that religion is an early form of philosophy, that the first attempts to explain the universe, to give a coherent frame of reference to man’s life and a code of moral values, were made by religion, before men graduated or developed enough to have philosophy. And, as philosophies, some religions have very valuable moral points. They may have a good influence or proper principles to inculcate, but in a very contradictory context and, on a very — how should I say it? — dangerous or malevolent base: on the ground of faith. ”

Ummm…her own axiom. Hello. But she says, quite absolutely, that she doesn’t believe in God. Contradiction. In any closed system, axioms ARE god.

And,arguably, religions are LATER forms of philosophy, not earlier ones. I don’t slight her on that one; the concept of memes and their propagational viabiility did not exist in 1964.

And finally:

“PLAYBOY: Can’t Objectivism, then, be called a dogma?

RAND: No. A dogma is a set of beliefs accepted on faith; that is, without rational justification or against rational evidence. A dogma is a matter of blind faith. Objectivism is the exact opposite. Objectivism tells you that you must not accept any idea or conviction unless you can demonstrate its truth by means of reason. ”

Prove an axiom. Any axiom. And I will take it all back.

Promise.

My friend Vince, when I described Objectivism to him, showed him the Rand Playboy interview:

Vince: My problem with it is, that I actually prefer to think for myself, and prefer to take responsibility for myself Jeff: well, objectivism supposedly advocates being reponsible to the self. Vince: perhaps to the self, but doesn’t sound like FOR the self.. there is a difference

Amen, Sister.

An Artist in Copehagen

A young family from Copehagen.

An artist doing sketches.

He’s from here, but lived everywhere. His father was Indian. He has a friend in Sweden he will visit later in the year.

He is sketching the couple’s young boy and offers him candy. He talks with the couple. The woman asks to see what he is drawing. He shows her. They talk, and the artist promises to come visit them when he travels to Europe.

The woman complains that the boy will not sit still long enough to be properly sketched and painted. The artist promises that he will draw the boy when they meet again in Copenhagen.

The family slowly approaches, one by one, as increasing familiarity somehow also increases curiosity, or at least diminishes the barriers.

The artist asks the boy his name. The boy does not understand English, may not understand any language yet. The father understands some English, but less than the young woman does.

His name is Julius, the father offers, Conqueror of the World. The artist laughs as the parents laugh, together.

The artist has managed in glimpses and starts to capture the face of the boy. He apologizes and insists it is just a quick sketch, even as he hands the sheet of paper to the family as a gift and a promise of their future meeting in Copehagen.

Haikuesday!

Andrew Sullivan, in his “I’m Camille Paglia, but without the testicles” style, wrote weakly and incorrectly about the bears.

My friend Matty & my friend Aaron got their picture on gay.com in an article about bears.

A few weeks ago I wrote about Lazybear 2003.


It’s a very beary Tuesday!

“Woof, Grrrr,” go the bears.
Personal space not allowed!
Grope, Sniff, Paw, Grab, Grope.

Body Politics!
Don’t need no stinkin’ muscles.
Castro Clones passé.

We don’t look like them.
You don’t have to look like them.
Instead, look like us!

Facial hair aspired.
Gym memberships not required.
Flannel is desired.

Deodorants, no!
Natural is the way to go!
Don’t shave it off, yo.

Say no to nair, Bear.
No razors below the neck,
and sparely above.

“You know, God’s a bear,”
overheard at the Lone Star.
Can’t make this stuff up.

Bears are quite jolly.
Bears are very welcoming.
Good thing I’m hairy.

Others could learn a
thing or two from the bear camp.
They’re a lovely bunch.

The bears could also
learn some things from the others:
Smooth is not a sin.

Healthy can be good.
Morbid obesity bad.
All should be welcome.

Hug a bear today!
Read some from the Book of Woof.
Just be yourself, Grrrr.

Ayn Rant

I just got an email from someone who liked my Sullivan entry, but found my references to Objectivism “interesting”.

He also sent me a link to a 1964 interview with Ayn Rand.

Mind you, when I wrote the last entry, I had only a cursory knowledge of—and distaste for—Objectivism. It always struck me as something mean-spirited and lonely.

Turns out, unfortunately, I was far more correct that I ever wanted to be.

She was one cold bitch, so much so that perhaps death provided a warming trend.

Her responses are full of inconsistencies, conveniently nebulous edges and outright contradictions.

I feel sorry for her; I wouldn’t have wanted to be inside that head. She is a classic case of someone who has lost the knack for being a Generalist. She took that to an extreme, believing that the so-called internal consistency of the framework of Objectivism somehow proved its correctness.

The effective radius of her voice just makes all that kinda sorta evil.

Just my Rational Opinion. Can I go to Objectivist Nirvana now?

Pulpitry of the Penis

Andrew Sullivan is a turd.

Sorry, was that too vulgar? Let me try again: Andrew Sullivan is a pedantic turd.

In a recent Salon.com piece, Andrew Sullivan discovers bears. He gets almost every point wrong, but that’s beside the point here. It’s all good; everyone should know as much as possible. Education is a good thing.

These are tough, tough times for Andrew. His conservative president “comes out” as a social engineer after all, taking the worst of conservative politics and the worst of the liberal excesses and combining them into one mean-spirited, greedy push to piss in the pool of general good will. The President thinks this kind of education is a good thing.

Then the Pope in Rome “comes out” against homosexuals. Comes out? Andrew is learning this just now. Again, education: a good thing.

What makes Andrew as insufferable as the old man in the dress, and the tedious good-old-boy-asskisser in Washington is the large effective radius of his voice. Thousands read his daily attempts to find for himself a comfortable, less chafing position as he rides roman through life on the twin horses of who he is (gayboy in bondage) and what he is (Catholic in bondage—please forgive the redundancy).

However, rather than finding a way to let one of the horses go, or just stop altogether so he can see where he is, where he has been, he spends most of his time trying to coax his readers and the rest of the world into line, so that he has to steer less, so that he hurts less, so that he can talk more, unimpeded, the good of the readership and the resultant configuration of the world be damned.

I don’t think he does it intentionally. He seems to have to work very hard to be who he thinks he should be, a good catholic boy, a fiscally responsible man. A shepherd. I just think he has no mental bandwidth left over.

Andrew Sullivan, and the Old Man in the Dress, and Dubya, all suffer from the same trickle-down bullshit, a diarrhea of the ego that makes them cranky and makes them believe that, by simple extrapolation, what’s good for them is good for everyone.

Andrew enjoys being a Catholic with all its attendant pageantry and theater, that much is certain. He enjoys it in the ways my Catholic mother warned me against, what our parish priest growing up warned us against: Pride. The individualistic pride that comes with being a member of the longest running revue in Western Civilization. We were taught that God is an Absolute and that in the face of that, humility must be maintained. Nothing is equal to—much less greater than—the Infinite, right? Education. Lessons. Good stuff. Good math, at least.

Well, the hunchback cannot see his own hump, as the old wisdom goes. The Pope and the Prez don’t approve of Andrew’s Hump.

Education is a mirror and a lens. As a lens, it focuses on the past, the present, the future, to show you your place in time, your place in the world. As a mirror, it shows you what you are, who you are and who you have the potential to become.

Andrew wants to educate and sophisticate us non-cognoscenti. The Pope wants to remind us of the Old Lessons: nothing new under the sun when your patent & copyright portfolio is as huge as the Church’s. The Prez wants you to learn that his people are better than you and have earned their special status.

Look at Andrew’s description of himself: fiscally conservative, socially progressive.

Social progress comes from unlearning all of those things we “learned” too quickly, too soon or under duress. Xenophobia. Voting with the stomach. Fear. Self-loathing. “Nice” equals “Good”.

It’s a big syllabus, and even a much more modest education program would consume significant resources. All education efforts do. Always.

That’s where Andrew hides his lie. His big, fat, almost-objectivist lie. He wants people educated to the script of his Play for Today, but he doesn’t want those efforts to cost him. The hubris of objectivism and “I’ve got mine, you go get yours” weave through his words, choking off the truth of the matter.

Society emerges from us all, each and together and even when we’re at odds. We make it all happen. Society is, by and large, a self-sustaining organism which has evolved its evolvability, but it is steerable. Civil rights. Women’s rights. Emancipation. Miscegenation.

Mr. Sullivan wants us all to take our hands off the wheel, even as he guns the engine and tries to downshift.

And he’s doing it all by remote control, of course. He’s a smart fellow. Smart enough not to get in that car, anyway.

Fucking Up

As in, “when” did the fuckup happen?

If you’re like most people (and in most ways, I am), your fuck ups tend to be those times when you were not thinking, or you were thinking but you weren’t paying attention. Or you were thinking, but your heart was making more sense, at a better clip, than your head was.

Regardless, it’s understandable that you fucked up. Others will try to soothe you or ameliorate the negative situation. That’s what friends and the wholesale-decent people do.

But suddenly I have hit upon a different kind of fuck-up. No, no grand new discoveries here. What I mean is that I’ve noticed something about a certain class of fuck-ups that deserve/warrant/klaxon-sound their own category: when you know better.

I’m not talking about premeditation. I’ll leave verbiage like that to lawyers and to others who are so in love with the Letter they have no respect for the Spirit.

No, I mean when you know you’re in a bad situation, when you’ve “been here before” and yet you continue to fuck up. AFTER the big, initial fuckup, you continue fucking up. There’s that moment of choice when, while it’s easier to continue fucking up, you know better. You simply do. Apply your own criteria for right and wrong. It’s not about preaching Good and Bad here. It’s about not only sensing that internal nudge your truthsense is giving you, but LISTENING to it as well. And then setting out to change the external world appropriately.

I have felt like a total fuck up many times, in both the Beforetime and Aftertime.

But I only beat myself up when it happens in the aftertimes.

In the beforetimes, you fuck up because you take a chance, a risk. You put your heart out there. Or your reputation. Your career. Whatever. It’s just a chance you take. Your heart gets broken and you feel like a fuckup. Your reputation—such as it is, in my case—gets dented. Your career ends up in the mailroom because you don’t know How To Succeed in Business. Life is life and Fair sometimes isn’t.

In the aftertimes, though, you’re just a shrew, or a prick, or a timid little rodent.

In the aftertimes, you know the guy’s a fuckhead, incapable of the things you need from him, and you continue. You abnegate, you rationalize, you learn silence, you learn sanctimoniousness, you do everything but the right thing because you’re a fuckup because you want the wrong thing: to remain with him. Ohh, have I been there. I was a fuckup.

You tie your reputation and your personal-brand to your career, and you elevate yourself relative to others not because you’re genuinely better, but but because you’ve dehumanized THEM, made THEM to feel or appear less, categorized them into a group because you don’t want to give any one person anything to call you out on. You don’t want challenge, because only peers can challenge and you’ve just set out to convince the world you have no equal. I did this just a few weeks ago with my experiences at Lazybear. Round ‘em up into a group so you can categorically dismiss them. And I learned my lesson in the same weekend. I learned that a group of people is not a Group of People, necessarily. A haughty pose set me up above the rest, and I was a fuckup. To my credit, I hope I have gotten it across that I know I fucked up and set the external world aright for myself.

“Face the universe with good intentions and your efforts will be rewarded.” I heard that in the unlikeliest of places, on a sci-fi show (Babylon 5), by a former fuckup of a character, G’Kar.

Hello, my name is Jeff and I have been a fuckup. And so have you.

Pat yourself on the back if you’re a fuckup in the beforetimes because you have been contributing positively to the universe and to yourself. And find a friend to kick your ass hard if you’re a fuckup in the aftertimes, before it’s too late.