I know a girl she’s very cold / she smiles sometimes / she wears all black / she listens to very dull music / she doesn’t smile too much / she listens to just the right music / she’s very skinny & she smokes / oh
I know a guy / he lives on a hill with his girl / he came from some suffering place / his brain is so well-ordered / he dances rarely / he wears t-shirts / he smiles big & goofy / oh
I know a girl / she’s made of candy / if you eat too much of her, you get a toothache / she has colorful hair / she smiles a lot / she has good circulation, but she gets cold sometimes / your arms fit around her real nice / oh
I know a guy / his face like a stamp / circle glasses / curvy smile / reads all the “right books” / hot girlfriend / probably isn’t happy / doesn’t seem too happy / sweatpants, sweatshirt / real casual / oh
I know a girl / she’s a tragedy in wait / she’s slowly rotting / she’s gonna collapse and then what / to the streets with her / a ghost waiting for her dream to come / she could have been happy so easily / oh
I know a guy / neurotic / brookline jewish / reads / reads / reads / dunno what he loves / if he loves / dunno why he keeps living / oh
There’s a lot I don’t know.
I have a big big thing I want to say, and these ten+ years of writing have been an attempt to say it and goddamn it I keep feeling like I’m getting close but then I’m not any closer – not any closer – not any closer – it’s like
CAN’T YOU SEE YOU’RE LIMITED
JUST STOP, EVERYONE STOP
it’s like it’s like
way out past nihilism where there’s something real again, that’s where we can meet, but we can’t meet there unless you go through nihilism – can’t you see that it’s the gulf separating you from what really is?
If you stare into the sun your eyes will burn, but if your eyes stray too far from it you will see only shadows and reflection, so where to look?
Close your eyes and look into yourself, deep deep
DEEP DEEP DEEPER DEEPER
Nothing comfortable, ever -
Every anxiety, every sigh, every pain, every breath, is a chance to finally turn yourself inside out and goddamn it
WHY CAN’T YOU SEE THE BIG THING?
WHY CAN’T I SHOW YOU THE BIG THING?
Is there a word which generalizes the following concepts?
I’d like to refer to these as thought disciplines. Each carries with it certain properties which relate the thinking efforts of an individual to the efforts of a community.
In science, one conducts experiments in order to gain data, which data is communicated to the community. One also forms hypotheses which model the data and which are used to guess future data. If one can form reliable hypotheses, these hypotheses are promoted to “theory.”
In mathematics, one combines statements which are known by the community to be true to form new statements which the community collectively knows to be true. Such a combination is known as a “proof” and its validation is distributed among trusted members of the community.
In philosophy, one examines the basic stuff of thought/experiment and attempts to communicate the results of this examination to the community. If the individual members of the community can validate the examination by repeating it on themselves then such an original examination becomes part of the basis of the community’s collective system.
In religion, certain members of the community (priests, monks, etc.) examine spiritual phenomena, validate it via their own internal processes, and then communicate this information to the masses, who may or may not be allowed/able to contest/examine this information on an individual basis.
What properties belong to the intersection of these disciplines? Each has an associated community. Each has an accepted means by which products of thought can be validated and then disseminated within the community. Each has an additional means of dissemination of these products to the “masses.”
What properties differ amongst these disciplines?
The structure of “authority” differs.
Scientific authorities are “scientists.” If you disagree with a scientist you are likely to be shot down rather quickly. However, unlikely many religions, science has a fairly low bar for entry. Because the content of science is material and because material is observable by most, most have the necessary means to participate in science in at least a cursory way.
Mathematical authorities are “mathematicians.” The minimum requirement to become an authority you must understand the underlying rules of mathematics (logic). As soon as one understands the basic rules of logic one can begin validating proofs. However, to become a successful mathematician (a high authority) one must also make major gains in intuition about what is true. One must not only prove things but also prove interesting things.
Philosophical authorities are philosophers. However, if you disagree with one of my philosophical beliefs then we are likely to belong to different philosophical communities. Because the basis of philosophy is individual belief/understanding, a difference in opinion is likely to result in a communal rift.
Religious authorities have no unifying name. It’s unclear how to become a religious authority, especially a powerful one. Because religious authorities deal with difficult and painful topics in a way that attempts to be at once idealistic and concrete, it is not always clear what personal properties lend themselves to such work.
These disciplines also differ with respect to the way they structure knowledge, and the types of knowledge (content) with which they deal. I’ve often said that science and mathematics are subsets of philosophy, with mathematics the servant of science. Religion is perhaps a superset of philosophy.
What I mean by this is that philosophy deals with the totality of thought, including relationships between thoughts. E.g. a proper philosophical question might be “what is meant by ‘red?’” Another philosophical question might be “if I believe X and I believe Y, should I believe Z?”
Mathematics deals only with relationships between thoughts. Mathematics does not deal with the basis of perception or with thoughts themselves directly. Instead, mathematics talks about how ideas might be combined to form new ideas, or teased out into component ideas. In mathematics we can say: “If X is true, then Y is true,” but we can never actually say whether X is true or not.
Science deals only with relationships between thoughts, across people. If you believe X and I believe Y, who is right? The answer is: s/he who can reproduce evidence of their belief. Mathematics serves science because mathematical truths are scientific truths, but not vice versa.
The knowledge structures of religion are perhaps a superset of those of philosophy. Every statement in philosophy (and hence every mathematical and scientific statement) is potentially a religious statement. I believe that religion has the capacity to speak of things outside the realm of personal experience, however (higher things – e.g. things in the realm of interpersonal experience/transpersonal experience).
We can summarize this hierarchical theory of thought disciplines as follows:
Religion > Philosophy > Science > Mathematics.
Have you ever noticed how much friction there is between these disciplines? Atheist philosophers/scienties ABOUND, the religious scorn the secularism of existential philosophy & the sciences, and I have heard quite a few scientists call philosophy “stupid and impractical.”
Of course, in my experience, almost all who scorn another discipline do so in the darkness of their own ignorance. It’s only by opening ourselves up to the principles of discipline inherent in each of these structures that we can explore space unboundedly. Until then, the blind lead the blind…
Words That People Use That They Don’t Know the Meaning Of and When They Are Said It Just Confuses Everyone
misogyny, misandry, racism, sexism, ethics, capitalism, liberal, republican, life, evolution, rational/irrational, alcoholism, addiction, category theory, death, time, Quantum Physics, utility, schizophrenia
I started this:
I really like it. Send me your microcaptures & I might add them if they’re good.
(the password is “bigsleytheoaf”)
About a week ago, my friend Paul  and I decided to perform a little metaphysics quiz! We asked about 200 of our friends, family, and colleagues to answer ten questions:
Do you believe in the Universe?
Do you believe in Objective Reality?
Do you believe in Time?
Do you believe in God?
Do you believe in Gravity?
Do you believe in the US Government?
Do you believe in Causality?
Do you believe in Consciousness?
Do you believe in Spirit(s)?
Do you believe in Love?
We had gotten pretty high and were having a discussion about whether belief in Objective Reality was useful. I said that I really didn’t think so – even from a purely epistemological standpoint, believing in something Objective/External wasn’t necessary. Either a belief/statement could be reduced/linked back to some set of observations (and thus is Subjective) or is not. In the latter case – where does this belief come from?
Perhaps belief in “Objective Reality” is actually an external part of the self. If I believe in God, perhaps it is another part of my “I” besides my Subjectivity.
We wanted to see what our friends believed in. As it turns out, not too many of you believe in Objective Reality (more on that later). We thought it would be funny to use a SurveyMonkey survey, since this is pretty low-brow and business-y, to ask about a really highfalutin set of concepts!
First of all, thanks to everyone who answered! There were 92 responses (including Paul’s and my own), which represents about half of the people we asked. SO AWESOME.
Summary of Results
Please see the end of this document for all the data we collected.
Some interesting observations immediately spring up!
Almost everyone believes in Gravity! ~93.5% of people say that they believe in Gravity. Two people do not believe in Gravity. This is the most popular existential entity, followed closely by the Universe (90.22%). Nothing else even comes close!
Here are the positive response %s in order:
93.48% – Gravity
90.22% – Universe
83.70% – Love
79.35% – Consciousness
79.35% – Time
72.83% – Causality
50.00% – Government
42.39% – Objective Reality
19.57% – Spirits
13.04% – God
One really important thing to keep in mind is that all of this data comes from my + Paul’s friends and family. This is important, for instance, when interpreting the fact that only 13.04% of you believe in God, whereas (supposedly) the percentage of the US that believes in God is somewhere around 90%.
Distribution of belief:
Here is the distribution of “Yes” answers. The number of the left is the # of yes’s – the number on the right is the number of people who answered with that many yes’s. The average person believed in something like 6.7 things.
0 — 0
1 — 1
2 — 2
3 — 1
4 — 8
5 — 16
6 — 16
7 — 30
8 — 15
9 — 2
10 — 1
The distribution of “No” answers (no nihilists! – your average person does not believe in 2-3 things):
0 — 15
1 — 16
2 — 37
3 — 14
4 — 5
5 — 4
6 — 1
7 — 0
8 — 0
9 — 0
10 — 0
The distribution of “I don’t know” answers:
0 — 20
1 — 25
2 — 19
3 — 17
4 — 7
5 — 2
6 — 0
7 — 1
8 — 0
9 — 1
10 — 0
Please see the second footnote for correlations. I don’t think this analysis is very interesting, because obviously more people are going to believe in Gravity & X, since more people believe in Gravity…
Please see  for weighted correlations. These are interesting! Basically I just took the correlation % and divided by the expected % (% of A * % of B). E.g. the weighted correlation of “God and Spirits” is 1.277 – which means that 1.277 times more people believe in both than we would have guessed from each individually (expected). These results are interesting!
I’m not going to go into the analysis myself – you should read the data!
About 10 people contacted me with some form of “I don’t know how to answer these questions” or “I don’t know what you mean by believe.” The interesting thing about belief and metaphysics is that what you are willing to say you believe in is a description of your metaphysical system . From a psycho-linguistic perspective, we might even say that this is a good definition of metaphysics – literally just a map of what people are willing to say they believe in.
I am sympathetic to these people, believe me! I understand that defining “belief” can be difficult. That’s the entire point of this survey! If it were easy to define belief, then we could probably all agree on what exists and what doesn’t. The point is precisely that it varies so widely for so many people. There are almost no overlapping responses . Interestingly, TEN PEOPLE said they believed in everything except God and Spirits. Huh! Massive correlation. I’d love to do some sort of cluster analysis of this data, if anyone knows how to do that.
To some degree, this set of responses is a pretty good map of the metaphysical character of the people me and Paul know. These results aren’t entirely unexpected. A decent number of our friends are scientists/atheists/etc. They believe in the Universe and Gravity and physical shit. Few people believe in God & Spirits. I’m glad so many people believe in Love, though
Obviously this survey has a lot to do with me + Paul and the people around us. I think that the most important conclusions to draw are contrasts with our own expectations. I didn’t expect everyone to believe in Gravity! Paul obviously didn’t expect such a low % of people to believe in Objective Reality. I’m tired. Hopefully you enjoyed this exercise. More to come (next up – Epistemology!)
I tumbling of words
Did not want to be alive forever
When I was in the coffee shop earlier today there was a woman in a yellow skirt, and her friend was in a blue skirt. The skirts were long and elaborate. I have never known women like that.
I’m going to kill myself when I’m 63.
I do not believe in Objective Reality.
I could probably love them.
Required Reading: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IsUsVbTj2AY
#1 – 0:00 – Close-up of hands playing piano w/ trumpets blasting. Immediately reminiscent of old-timey classic BS like Frank Sinatra and whatever. They want you to take this seriously (piano is a serious instrument – JT isn’t using synths or an elaborate production team – just piano + trumpets). One weird thing is that you can’t hear the piano – you can only hear trumpets. It’s a strange effect to have an image of his playing piano but not actually hear it – causing immediate cognitive dissonance and a feeling that his playing is somewhat casual (though I’m not sure why it causes this feeling).
#2 – 0:00 – 0:02 – We zoom out to see that JT is in some sort of hotel room. He’s either rehearsing or playing casually (for fun), though the mood is serious. This video is in B&W which implies more old-timey feeling + that this is SERIOUS. There’s a drink on the piano and an empty champagne flute, implying that there was a party, or someone else involved at some point (probably an attractive woman). He’s wearing a ruffled dress shirt, which implies that this is early morning or mid-day – perhaps this is the same shirt that he was wearing the night before.
#3 – 0:02 – 0:03 – Another cut, now we can see guitars in the background, and we notice that his tumbler is empty. On 0:03 we hear JT go “oooh” which sounds a bit like he’s orgasming or something, and this lasts into the next cut.
#4 – 0:03 – 0:04 – Same angle as #2, but zoomed out, now we can see the guitars and JT yawning or some shit? Wtf is this hand-to-mouth motion? Is it implying he’s tired? That shit’s just sloppy.
#5 – 0:04 – 0:07 – The longest cut so far, probably because they want us to focus on the scantily clad woman in the background, who throws up a pillow and kicks her legs. This woman is obviously a sex kitten and is wearing very few clothes, despite the fact that JT is receiving a back rub. This implies that the woman has no sense of propriety and is undoubtedly freak-y. She is also probably upper class as she is so casual around “the help.” This is setting up JT as a sort of ALPHA, which is of course necessary to the vibe of the whole thing. This video is part of an ongoing effort among mainstream media producers to emotionally + spiritually castrate your average male while simultaneously filling your average female with feelings of inadequacy and perhaps lust? I’m not exactly sure and this is conjectural anyway. Also of note is that this scene bears the first repeat of the refrain: “I be on my suit & tie shit, tie shit, tie,” which continues into the next cut. There’s some heavy drum + bass going on and a nice glissade. The glissade implies a sort of heavenly aspect, as this scene is the first element in the construction of the JT universe as some sort of impossible-to-occupy but ultimate Zone. The important thing about these lyrics is that they’re establishing that this is “suit and tie shit” which means that it’s SERIOUS. You can’t be JT and fuck around – though there’s a bit of a fun or like, half-joking undertone (cuzza the expletive). What exactly is “suit and tie shit?” This is a very uncomfortable question, and I’ll come back to it.
#6 – 0:07 – 0:09 – JT receiving a backrub, with an inscrutable look on his face. He seems a bit unkempt (heavy eyelids, tousled hair), probably due to fucking aforementioned Sex Object, and dude seems pretty relaxed to boot. We can’t see the masseuse, though she seems to have dark skin.
#7 – 0:09 – 0:12 – Another long cut. Here JT is pouring booze & has unbuttoned his shirt for some reason. He’s RELAXING, but this is serious relaxation (B&W + he’s not smiling or having fun or anything). It’s important to note that in the first twelve seconds we’ve already established three important symbols which will recur throughout the video – MUSIC, WOMEN, BOOZE. This is how JT relaxes – he plays some music, has sex with women, gets a massage, then drinks booze. I’ve long wondered whether there are explicit monetary relations between the music industry and the alcohol industries. If you ever listen to mainstream rap, there are a lot of songs that might as well be alcohol commercials (SHOTS SHOTS SHOTS SHOTS SHOT SHOTS!). Does JT actually drink much? I doubt it. He probably spends most of his time working on his music, fucking models, etc. Why would he drink? I wonder if he does LSD or smokes weed, or if he has access to even better drugs. If JT doesn’t do GHB he probably should, since it’s pointwise superior to alcohol. I wonder if “rich and powerful” people know this. I think this cut would be much better/more interesting if he were expelling some dark-colored GHB out of a syringe into a red party cup.
#8 – 0:12 – 0:15 – OK this is genuinely weird, and I didn’t notice this the first few times I watched the video, but in this cut JT is being pushed on a bed into a space which has the stereotypical light + dust effect of a recording studio/performance space. The implication here is that he’s such a FUCKING PRINCESS that he can’t even be bothered to get out of bed & go to work, so his manager or agent or whatever has to hire some swarthy men in blue-colar attire to push his bed (from the hotel?) into his performance space. The lyrics accompanying this section go “can I show you a few thangs, a few thangs” and span the next cut as well. Presumably these are sexual “thangs,” though it’s unclear why showing someone “thangs” requires “suit and tie shit.”
#9 – 0:15 – 0:18 – Another strange scene for a number of reasons. JT is relaxing (still relaxing) and looks over to see that his beautiful + high class blonde friend has made her chess move (???). OK, why are they playing chess? What’s the implication? Is it a tongue-in-cheek jab at being smart like the new-rich still play chess (or pretend) because they know it looks cool or something? There’s no way JT is good at chess and NO WAY that woman is good at chess. Is it some sort of abstract courting gesture? He doesn’t seem to be paying much attention, in any case, though when she moves his attention comes back to the game, and there’s a very strange wipe transition (someone walks in front of the camera). This implies that they’re in a busy space where people are working, but he’s still relaxing + goofing off like a fucking asshole. I guess this is “swag?” Acting like you’re a princess who drinks + makes the underpaid masseuse hang out with your unclothed hot GF who’s probably saying bullshit + then can’t even get out of bed to do his job + then PLAYS CHESS POORLY instead of like practicing or helping set up or some shit. UGH.
#10 – 0:18 – 0:20 – JT leans forward towards the chess board and removes his sunglasses from his head, implying that he is daunted by the move. But the implication is that he doesn’t even care about this game, anyway! No one watching this video can possibly believe that these two people are good at chess – do we even think that they know how the pieces move? What is he concerned about? Perhaps this scene is supposed to represent a sort of metaphorical realization that JT needs to actually prepare for this show he’s putting on tonight. This makes sense in the context of the next cut.
#11 – 0:20 – 0:23 – OK maybe they were playing chess to kill time before their instructor got there? JT + the blonde are now dancing side by side (there’s a strange filter on the scene which cuts off the top + bottom of the frame – is this supposed to imply that we’re spying on them or something?). There’s someone with implied african-american ethnicity standing off to the left, snapping his fingers. It’s interesting – there are three separate scenes in which there is “help” – the masseuse, the two guys pushing JT in his bed into the studio, and now this scene where he + the broad have some sort of dance instructor – but in each case the ethnicity of the help is occluded. This is undoubtedly because whatever company produced this would not bear to imply that the (lower-class) help is of any particular ethnicity. JT’s white and the broads are white, but we can only guess at the ethnicities of the help. This has to have been intentional. This cut is accompanied by the words “little baby cuz” – JT’s singing to a woman. WOMEN. WOMEN ARE SEX. SEX SEX SEX UGH. This song is riddled with blatant objectification – he calls the woman “baby” here, and later he refers to her (or her ass?) as “it.” The B&W old timey vibe that they’re setting up (more on this later) allows this. You can’t be contemporary and objectifying – you have to hearken back to a bygone era where this thing is OK. This is great because it lets the viewer feel simultaneously exhilarated (either by vicariously objectifying if male or being vicariously objectified if female) while also comfortable that this isn’t related to anything “real or current.” There’s a bit of an irony in that some of the old-timey elements of the video (e.g. JT’s smoking – coming up later – and drinking + B&W) are contrasted with hyper-contemporary (though still classic) architectural styles, clothing, etc. It creates a subtle feeling of dissonance – when is this even taking place?
#12 – 0:24 – 0:26 – “I be on my suit and tie shit” – Now we see JT REALLY trying to relax, because he’s in the presence of JAY Z. JAY Z is black. DO NOT FORGET THAT HE IS BLACK. THIS IS IMPORTANT. IT IS IMPORTANT THAT YOU REMEMBER THAT HE IS BLACK. Because this video uses his blackness like it was a fucking trump card my GOD. JT feels so awkward trying to relax as much as JAY Z, but he can’t even fucking come close at ALL. He’s like a stuttering neurotic highschool pimply nerd next to JAY Z. Look at JAY Z’s glasses! Look at his shirt. Look at his lean! Look how his arm is way out over the back of the soft WAY extended, holding his drink out, finger pointed, leaning back, LEAN. Shittt. WTF is JT eating, cereal? LIFE cereal? I think that the cereal-eating thing is meant to really bring home the fact that JT is white. JT is so smiley and happy here, because he gets to hang out with JAY Z who is really cool. There’s a subtle implication here that JT can never ever be as cool as JAY Z and that JAY Z is some sort of godlike figure capable of infinite repose & sophistication. Shit I can’t tell if this is all in here or if this is just some sort of weird latent racism I have. Who knows? I suppose I’m getting close to the line between analysis & subjective reaction, but whatever.
#13 – 0:26 – 0:28 – OH SHIT LOOK HOW COOL + REPOSED.
#14 – 0:28 – 0:30 – OH SHIT EATING CEREAL, LOOKIN NERVOUS.
#15 – 0:30 – 0:32 – OH SHIT RELAXING + WATCHING BASKETBALL.
#16 – 0:32 – 0:34 – JAY Z slowly + luxuriously moves his big cigarette to his moist + sexy high class lips. SO CLASS. WTF is he wearing? How does he get so fucking relaxed? Relaxation is definitely an important element of this video. The song up to this point is so mellow + repetitive + nonsensical – everything is fuzzy + dreamlike – you’re meant to be slowly rocked into a comfortable goo-like state where you can’t even help but dream about what it would be like to be either:
Rich + successful + white JT who gets babes + drinks + gets pushed around on beds.
Rich + successful + black JAY Z who lays back and smokes cigars and drinks and is so fucking swag 2themax.
Rich + successful + hot broads who are just straight up fucked and love it.
OK I’mma stop here cuz I’m tired + this shit’s exhausting + I want to let thoughts stew. Maybe I’ll redo this tomorrow.
Have you noticed how difficult some cultures make it to have sex? Contrast this with dominant media which frames society as a neverending drunken sex party. Have you listened to any rap lately? Every song on the fucking radio is about men + women fucking/falling in love/etc. Different shades of objectification/symbolification, sure – but all working towards the same premise, which is that you should be getting laid more/experiencing more love. You aren’t. So you work! This coupling of resistance to concrete sex with constant production of abstract sex is precisely the means by which certain classes are manipulated to work.
It is simple.
When I say that you are beautiful, what I mean is that
Your facial features tell me things.
Your skin is flawless, but it is hard and cold to the touch.
Your eyes are clear, but they are empty of sentiment.
Your heart is strong, but tired.
I desire to wrap you in layers of silence,
Bear you, swollen like a sick fruit, down into the echo chamber
Where you may experience yourself forever.
It is simple.
When I say that you are beautiful, what I mean is that
Your physical touches my heart.