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.

the sometimes annoying serial property of my pockets

When leaving my residence I have to use an electronic keycard to exit the lobby. This means that upon locking my apartment door behind me, I have to go to to the elevator, push the proper keys to call it and tell it where to go ("first floor please", I usually say under my breath. It's not actually voice operational, but ever since reading The Intuitionist a while back, I can't help but see the time in elevators as being somewhat detached from my current timeline. Meaning that the possible outcomes while in an elevator are unbounded.), and then walk to the electronic pad to tap my key to exit the building. What agitates me on every expedition from my apartment is where to put my keys while waiting to reach the lobby. In my one pocket I have my wallet, in the other an iPod and spare change. Throwing my key in the iPod side causes a tangle with the headphones that I don't really appreciate, and throwing it on the wallet side can cause it to be tucked in between various folds -- almost as if my wallet has become a particularly heavy subject of a Lucian Freud painting -- requiring removing everything from that pocket in order to rescue my key. As a small side note about the iPod/Change pocket: my change in general is usually an unhelpful tag-a-long to my iPod pocket, spilling out when not needed, and remaining hidden when bills are not the type of money needed. Change is basically the friend that offers advice to watch out for a puddle after already stepping in it, or staying silent on the bus as you accidentally pass your usual stop. 

Let me be the first to acknowledge that merely holding my keys in my hand for the journey to the lobby is an option. But it makes me feel like I'm on a date and being forced to hold a drink for a partner that has decided their trip to the bathroom also requires countless social niceties on both legs of their journey. 

To the bigger point of all this!

This made me start thinking about things that are in parallel versus things that are in serial. I mean this in a pretty loose way, but, for example, with my pockets they are pretty serial: dump some things in the left pocket until it's full and useless, then move on to the other pocket and dump some things. There's no simple modification of my pockets that allow them to take on a new role. I mean this in a very serious way. Take for example a Murphy bed. In a room with a Murphy bed, I can literally have a dance party where people would not have the sensation of being in what is essentially my bedroom. The room acts in parallel. This is a stupid example, but if you think about the idea in a more subtle way it allows for two different ways to approach how we interact with a created stimulus and more importantly how we create objects (art, buildings, roads, etc) for others. We can either choose to create serial objects -- those objects that step someone through the experience of using it -- or parallel objects -- objects that take someones expectations and offers a facet of itself to that experience. I don't necessarily think one is better than the other, but I think we often think in a serial manner to what we create. Take a painting that is made using a very structured technique: it is only reasonable that as a viewer I will approach this in a serial fashion; my brain will fall in line with what it sees as part of the foundation of the object.

Oh. And the picture that goes with this is because I've been reading a lot about the possible proof to the ABC conjecture and this whole loose serial/parellel idea struck me like addition and multiplication where there seems like there should be this deeper connection between the two if I could just look at it the right way.

an object is the master of its domain

Objects become like leaders if they capture the imagination of a scene. This requires a particular contrast in the scene between the object and its environment; an environment that sets the object above what is in most ways typical for it. It belongs but it doesn't; the subtleness is a gentle swedish massage on ones brain. Take a bathtub for instance: we can make it mystical in appearance by perhaps filling it with marbles and setting it among wheat grass in a perfectly still and open plain. Contrast is in the eye of the beholder. Contrast is the compliment to the majority of a perspective. Making the perfect contrast is creating the perfect complimentary sub-perspective. Add the complimentary sub-perspective and the rest together and there is perfect unity; a nothingness with depth and energy, bounding along like kangaroos made of pure color. Red, or green, or blue; whatever your color preference is. The perspective of expectation with the perspective of an object forced from its default place: this is perfect contrast.