we never became who we are. and some other tangents and life experiences.

There's a lot of takes on the Coming of Age story. The moment that one transitions from childhood to adulthood; the moment a person becomes themselves in some important way. I've decided I don't really like this idea; I think it is rude to the process that is the majority of ones life. The simple fact is that the one thing that has changed consistently since the moment I popped (dropped?) into this world is the amount of time I have been alive. That's just a simple little (true) statement. My personality and how people view me is just an averaging of my behavior (with a couple outliers thrown in there for good measure) with a weight applied due to the fallacy of memory. I am not taking this moment to discuss human development, or act as if humans as a biological system don't go through some startling changes in the first couple decades of their time on this Earth (small tangental geek out). I fully respect the massive transformation that the structure of the brain undertakes during this time and how through it's various imprints creates dispositional representations that are triggered through emotion, semantic markers, chemical pathways and other means in order to massively influence my process of decision making and action in the world. Most of the time this is all going on with me being completely clueless of why I am actually doing something, and most of these sub-routines are shaped early on in life/development. 

A small aside on my current beliefs concerning the Mind and the troubling Self.

I've always thought about consciousness as residing outside of the body in a type of plane; a field, like gravity. I took my line of thinking from a very amateur view of physics, with consciousness being a sort of probability wave created as an emergent behavior of my neural network. There's all kinds of conscious states that I could be in, but at each moment, the wave collapses in a particular way and I'm brought into a particular conscious state. I suppose I saw this conscious plane sort of drifting through my brain; a bit like when I used to get X-rays taken of my teeth at the dentist and they'd stick these plastic prongs in my ears and pull my head up to keep me still. Consciousness I see like those pins. Or maybe it's more like peaking out of a manhole cover where consciousness is the street suddenly crashing into ones head from all sides. But I've been forced recently to take into account the body into this whole equation, and how it plays into ones conception of self. At the start of it all, a human brain was a tool to keep the body alive -- help the body find food, people to have sex with, spot animals that would kill it -- and it would stand to reason that the feedback my body is still giving my brain now about my environment, has as much to do with who I believe I am as are my love for playing basketball or looking over large mountain peaks (sidebar: I got jabbed in the eye very hard a few days ago -- my eye was bleeding with my contact getting shoved so far behind my eye that it didn't come back out for a full day -- and I thought that if the doctor told me I was going to go blind, I was going to jump on a plane and fly somewhere that I could look at a range of tall snow-capped mountains. In my head it was a very dramatic movie, with great cinematography: the camera framed me looking out over mountains in Tibet, or some other place that would invoke, superficially of course, a sense of spirituality (in my vision there was a german shepard next to me, which I assume is some subconscious thing where I find them to be the most stoic of the dog breeds) and the scene slowly faded to black. You can clearly see that my daydreams can sometimes be crushingly formulaic and speak to the immense amount of trashy cinema/tv I have consumed). So as before where I saw the mind and self wrapped up in this probability wave flickering around my ears with the intensity of an angry swarm of bees, I now am thinking about it more in a womb-like way, with my body getting in on the action, too. Cradled by consciousness, is how I would put it. I still hold to my probability wave idea, but the action of collapsing is putting on a full outfit of clothes now, opposed to just donning a cap. I'd also like to throw out that the pace of perceived conscious states play heavily into how I perceive the passage of time and how interesting I find myself at a particular moment. I definitely can look at myself and notice I am being particularly boring, with my consciousness ticking away like an old grandfather clock while a whole family sits on poorly upholstered couches, in silence.
Though these structures are most drastically impacted and formed during our early years, they are anything but permanent. Brain damage aside (this guy seems to always come up during these discussions) the Mind, and self, really comes down to the feedback loop between brain and body. The self rises from that beautiful little ferris wheel that evolution has set up for us. And so what bugs me -- and I admit, it actually pisses me off -- about when people make comments about people becoming who they are, is that it seems to throw away the fact that we are continually becoming who we are; it is a comment that throws away the fact that when we show up in the present there is already a new "us" waiting in the wings. The feedback loop that is us, is always happening.

Karry Mullis describes in his book Dancing Naked in the Mind Field about how he was able to turn on and off a lightbulb attached to circuit that used his skins conductance as a switch. He found that when he thought of naked women that his skin conductance would increase. Think of a naked woman, light on. Think of grocery shopping, light off. Skin conductance is a pretty base response in the body. It actually has been shown that a persons skin conductance changes before they make a decision, indication that their body already has an idea of which decisions are better or worse for them. That Karry could manipulate this through imaging certain visuals, is maybe not so impressive. But there's other examples of people tackling their deeper set processes. Take for example Vipassana meditation and the idea of sankaras. A sankara is described as a cycle of thought that you continually find yourself in that does not have beneficial outcomes. Through repeated exposure, sankaras become more deeply engrained in our psyche, making them harder to escape. One part of Vipassana mediation is that through meditation we can learn to unburden ourselves from these sankaras (note: I've tried one of these courses exactly once, so this description may be about 50% accurate, and gloss over many things. Also my aunt coincidently just sent me this link). 

In the first couple decades of my life, a brain has been given to me that allows me a foundation to interact with the world. Some base processes and environmental inputs that set up some beliefs about how my body works in the world. But it is a block of wood, really. It is through living my life that I'm given the opportunity to find what is possible inside of my mind and continually become myself. It's almost as if we are born with a handful of legos. Over the course of some years we learn how they can click on top of each other. What works. What doesn't. How bad it hurts when you step on that one that blends perfectly into the carpet. Then one day comes and we say "Ah, these are legos" and we can suddenly go and start building whatever we want. This point, the launching point, is where I am given the opportunity to learn to be a conduit for myself. It is not the point where I became anything.

the day the moon turned 6

Some people, called the Mayans, said something about the world ending in 2013. Or that's what the moon heard. There's a flagpole that some tiny little things from Earth planted right above her left eye that catches radio waves and they vibrate down into her brain where little quips and nonsense rattle around in her inner ear. The moon shakes her head and groans at these revelations that come dancing into her mind. She's been spinning and spinning in a hissy fit since her 5th birthday and now, exactly one year later, she glances around to see if any of the other cosmological features are paying any attention to her. They aren't. These phases pass for young things like the moon. They wax and wane, so to speak. Orion glances over and shakes his head; he once held his belt high above his head for almost 2 years trying to get Cassiopeia to pay attention to him. He would spit on her in gym class and cut in front of her in line for the bus, but she wouldn't even seem to notice. She'd look around like he was a ghost: a boy made of points, spread far and thin. This is a time when he swam in an ocean that he called his, and she floated above him; both below skies that only held clusters of ideas. His points are dense now and that was a long time ago; he must have been 11 or 12. Now he his filled in and his belt is in the proper place. 

When the moon first learned to speak, when she was just turning 2, her voice yanked tides around the cosmos; abrupt and erratic. It was the sound of uneven stones bouncing down spiral staircases. The smooth rhythmic tone that is her voice had not yet been found, just as her place in this dark ink called space has not been found. All the ink in the world and nothing to write.

She spins and cusses under her breath, waiting for everything.

there is some truth over there under that sudden feeling that ripples like heat on highways

 

I babble on about truth a lot. I use that word: truth. I throw it around and swing it from my mouth. It seems like such a natural word to sum things up: what we strive for to have be part of the things that are important to us. If someone asks me what I find pleasing about a piece of art, I will answer "truth". If someone asks me my purpose in life, I will answer "truth". 

I realize, though, that the word is pretty tainted. It's like "awesome". I've always felt that awesome when used appropriately is a great word; it can be so dialed in to something that elicits not only admiration, but fear and apprehension as well. Unfortunately the sentence "that ______ was/is totally awesome" is a phrase that is heard far too often (I say it. I admit it. I probably even throw a "like" in there for no reason whatsoever.) and it bastardizes what the word can mean at its heart. Words, of course, change based on usage and repeated context so that over time they contain their own histories; their own skeletons in their closets built of letters. 

Truth, as a word, has many skeletons I've come to realize. For instance, people living through the 60's can associate it with a social movement where everyone spoke of The Truth. For me, then, to use the word I need to step aside, shake out all of its pockets, give it a shower, stand it against a wall, and have a little photoshoot. Maybe apply some eyeliner to its tired eyes. I need to pose it and present it for the word I find it to be.

So what do I think of when I think of truth?

I think I first started talking about truth in the context of incompleteness. I've always been drawn to Kurt Godel's theorems of incompleteness, one of which states that any formal theory that contains basic arithmetic, will have statements that it can create, which will be true but unprovable as such. In order to place this unprovable truth inside of the theory, the theory must be encapsulated in a new theory. This new theory, however, will have further unprovable truths, so that we must go on and on, encapsulating till the end of time, never having created a complete theory. For me, I saw this process as the process of being human. If we think of any system as begin analogous to formal theories as laid out in the Godel's theorem, we can think about ourselves as a system (we contain arithmetic, don't we?). And this system, us, has statements that are true but we can't prove. These can be spiritual. These can be about love. These can be selfish. Whatever these statements are, though, we must encapsulate ourselves inside a new self in order to allow that truth to be part of us. We must create constructs -- cultural objects -- to support our truths; to reflect the proof that we have created for ourselves.

In this first look into truth, the word really came to me, I didn't go looking for it. It floated out of the language of the theorem itself, and nestled into my lap; a word dressed as a friendly cat. It lead me to the idea of Truth, the full encapsulation of a theory, as being this thing that we can never touch. We aren't meant to. Truth will always be truth with a lowercase 't' for us. Yet we buttress it over and over again through our lives, hoping to eventually climb the enormous tower it is and look out from the vantage point it provides.

At this point I started to move away from the idea of buttressing and building, since truth is slippery and doesn't really afford continuity in the way these metaphors imply. I started thinking about dimension. Dimension in the way I'm thinking about it, is a portion of a perspective. A single dimension contains a way that we look at the world. We have a dimension for how we treat strangers, a dimension for how we care for a friend, a dimension on our feelings towards pit bulls. At any one particular moment, a moment at the intersection of many dimensions, we have a view of the world with each of the dimensions giving a portion of the perspective we hold. And I think the move towards truth is the continual shifting and broadening of dimension. It is taking the day and turning it a bit to notice the corners you can look around, the flatness that you once saw as being complete (like Flatland itself). 

But dimension in this sense is not how I think of physical dimension, because dimension in this sense means that new dimensions can swallow up or replace entire sets of the dimensional space I am in. As I find new dimensions and build on the truth that I have experienced, these dimensions can make superfluous or unnecessary previous dimensions. I think about it like opening a box and finding my whole childhood in that box. All of it. Or peaking in the fridge and seeing the view from Voyager 1. The pieces added don't have to be smaller than the space that seems to be available for them. Truth has a way of making small spaces larger than any space I have ever been in. Larger than any space it has made itself known.

The ending point of this search for truth in this light, is a point in time were my perspective is dimensionless. Where there is no coordinate system, but just a moment in time that is perfectly smooth. I think about how people who believe in God say that He is love. If I were to believe in a God I would think He should also contain Truth. Perfect and complete. And saying Love is Truth, is something that I can chew on. Because love is something that seems to have rightly occupied humans since they could first stand and look one another in the eye. I also think about other religions where to be awakened or enlightened is the goal that is sought after. To be perfectly present. And this also echoed in the idea of dimensions to me; to cast something completely away is sometimes just the same as being engulfed by it.

Whether it is Love or Presence, I think we all seek Truth. And what we value in our lives, what we love in our lives, what we surround ourselves with in our lives, are those things which bring us closer to truth.

when something sad becomes perfectly inline with the past

March 3rd, 2005. 9:43 AM. Coffee shop on corner of Pike and 11th, Seattle WA.

"I met her right over there by that dumpster." A man named James is pointing across the street to a single blue dumpster hogging the sidewalk kitty corner from where he is sitting. His finger is narrow and delicate; an icicle holding desperately onto the wheel well of a tropical car. If we follow his finger, draw a dotted line like so many instruction manual diagrams, and rewind 10 years, our line would hit a single spot. The spot exactly half way between two people, turning the same corner, looking up as they almost bump into each other. Our line would sit right there in the middle of two eyes that have just seen each other for the first time. It would sit there anxious and waiting; a vibrating muscle in a racehorses leg as it waits for the gate to open. This race has not been lost or won, yet. It has not started.

"I wish I had gone some other way home that day". James pushes the handle of his coffee cup causing it to rotate in its saucer. His friend across from him just nods and stares out at the rain.

August 2nd, 2008. 4:13 PM. Bar on Marion Street, just off of E Colfax Ave, Denver CO.

A woman sits at the outdoor seating of the bar, using her thumb to blot out sections of the sidewalk across from her. She closes one eye hard and pans her thumb down the sidewalk, people and entire parts of buildings popping in and out of view. She stops at a certain point. Her thumb is cutting a perfect tunnel entrance from her vision. Racing down this tunnel, there are twists and turns, her thumb the conductor for a slideshow of time that sits in its lap all smudged with fingerprints. So many finger prints. We pull up to a vignette -- a scene perfectly domed with the actors in a spotlight in the darkness. A young girl is holding the hand of a man. He is on the phone and starring down the street as he lets loose short sentences. His eyes oscillate between small slits and round sockets of something like fire. He finally drops the girls hand to gesture at a point he is making. He walks out of the frame, out of the tunnel and into the darkness. The girl stands alone: a single pane in a triptych whose other panels are a long dirt road through a forest and an empty parking lot illuminated by a buzzing halogen light.

February 21st 2001. 2:01 AM. 18th and Columbia. Washington DC.

Ryan stumbles home; his feet jog and slop in front of him. What looks like a stone, but if examined closely would reveal itself as a worn piece of broken cinder block, lays along his path. He gives it an off balance kick with his toe and it clatters against the brick of a building. The sound wave is like a heartbeat: clack, tick, tick, tick. A sound formed on a uniform background of grays and an endless nighttime ocean; a figure of stone floating on its back as it stares into a low hanging cloud. The sound is the turning of pages. Click, tick, tick, tick. Moving backwards through chapters on chapters to a boy sitting on a sidewalk curb, his toe thoughtlessly trying to burrow into the concrete of the street. His thumb is trying to keep up with his toes -- jealous maybe of the big toe and its need for balance, which is jealous in turn of the thinking thumb and its need to hold on to something -- flicking at the pages of a journal. The ink is dry and iridescent, a ballpoint pen emptied onto lined pages.

The boy looks down at a trail of dirt marking the way to a storm drain and sets the pages beside himself. He places a stone on top of them and walks into an empty street.

we all pray to something or another

 

I have a friend that I've known since I was in middle school -- I probably knew him before then, but other memories like playing Homeless Bears with my sister (an activity that dictated wandering around like bears, pretending that we were homeless. We were very literal in our naming of activities) has clouded them. Let's call him Mr. Max to hide his identity: MM for short. The thing about MM is that he has the uncanny ability to get me into an argument about what on the surface can be a very mundane topic. A vision: high school Tolo. Tolo, for those uninitiated or being from the East coast (this is not a dig at East coasters, I think the term, however, is a regional one), is a school dance where boys (soon to be men) invite girls (soon to be women) to dinner and a dance. A vision within a vision: MM and me sitting on a deck outside a house, after having picked up our dates, alone, arguing over whether drug testing in the work place should be enforced (side note article here). (A vision within a vision, within a vision: this particular Tolo did not end with either of our dates being even remotely pleased or having a good time. Everyone ordered only appetizers for dinner and I think we asked for the check immediately. We then proceeded to sit in near silence. It was, in fact, one of the more awkward experiences of my life, somehow becoming more awkward in adulthood as I realize how little I grasped the full crushing awkwardness of it during the time; I was probably playing with my silverware the entire time trying to figure out why the number of tines on a fork were decided as they were (this you can read about, of course, at you leisure here).) If I remember correctly he was for it and I was against it. I don't remember our points to back up our positions. What I do remember, in what was one of many (and I mean MANY. I have debated the following with MM at various junctures of my life: The validity of knowledge bases coming from reductionism, the proper placement of a togo coffee lid in relationship to the cup, generalizations versus specifics when creating lines of reasoning, pornography preferences and their meaning, whether people who enjoyed the Waking Life were stupid, the purpose/point of dedicating ones self to something) arguments, is that MM had put in the time to form an opinion WITH FOUNDATION on all of these topics. For instance with the placement of the coffee cup lid -- and I agree with him on this one -- he was quite adamant that the drinking hole be on the opposite side from the cup seam. This was to avoid the very small occurrence of a drop of coffee slipping between the lid and cup due to the space the seam created. 

I would hope that everyone would be as lucky as me to have someone like MM in their life. Because between arguments about brown versus white eggs in grocery stores, there were obviously (see list above) questions that had a weight that mattered to me. Here are a couple things that thinking about MM bring to mind and I just feel like writing about them:

Our Binary Selfs

It strikes me how often arguments can have two very distinct positions. Sides as they are. And not just arguments, but most thinking that we do tends to be along the lines of negative/positive, front/back, for/against. It's as if we have a massive coin collection of our ideas, showing the face that we align with. I think one of the reasons that MM could always draw me into a debate about most anything (see: the rise of fixie bikes) is that he didn't really collect coins. Instead of a binary thought process it was like we were in this huge lake slapping the water to form this wave that perfectly supported something inside our heads. And who doesn't like slapping water? I think as humans we are predisposed to break things apart and categorize. To sort and chop up. (Oh, you magnificent brain!). This saves energy for your brain by making life a bit of a Choose Your Own Adventure game, where you reach what you perceive as crossroads and choose between left or right. Heads or tails. One thing that my debates with MM taught me (see: proper ways to cook an egg and whether an One Eyed Egyptian Special is a valid technique.) is that seeing only crossroads is making shortcuts. Not that shortcuts are all bad, but realizing that you are taking them is important. Our brains are made to save energy by creating defaults for us to fall back on, but we can choose to look at all our interactions past the default.

The Joy of Disagreement

MM could make me really want to punch him in the face sometimes. That calmness: almost impersonal. But then there was this piece of me that one day saw what was happening; saw The Operation. Because good argument is like an autopsy of a murder victim (I don't know why that just popped in my head as the analogy, but it does bring to mind some article I was reading about actors who specialize in playing dead people due to the rise of TV crime dramas in the US), where each participant gets to make conjecture and check against the available information spread out before them (The Body in the case of my analogy). I think finding people who you disagree with often, but can approach the argument in this fashion -- not attacking personally or standing behind rhetoric -- are some of the most worthwhile people to spend time with discussing ideas.

That's all I have to say about that right now. And pay attention next time you put togo lids on your coffee: there really is a right way to do it.

that is SO funny

 

In Thai, the number "5" is pronounced "ha". After the 10th or so text message of getting the response "555555", I finally had to assume it wasn't just some mistake like typing a "1" instead of an exclamation mark. Up to that point I just assumed the 5 key was shared by some common Thai character that was missing the proper shift to have itself heard.