Bigsley the Oaf


Posted in Uncategorized by bigsleytheoaf on January 10, 2012

Hi All!

A confession: writing in my blog often makes me feel arrogant. I think that sometimes I go a little overboard and the teleological-speculative aspects of my writing take over. Sorry about that. I’m not even sure why I write. I do know that I feel great pain, that the pain accumulates over time, and that when I write I feel less pain for a little while. Good enough reason for me.

Please read my last post. Also, please ask me questions – not just on this last post, but in general. I’d love to know what you all would like me to talk about. I will answer all questions that you write as comments to this post.

– Chris


6 Responses

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  1. blue said, on January 13, 2012 at 4:11 am

    here’s a question from a couple posts ago, re:

    ”You know deep things. You know your mother and father, even if you’ve never met them. And how to walk. And how to make the sound “fffffffffffff.” You know how it feels to slide your penis in a woman (even if you’re a woman!) and how it feels to take a penis in your vagina (even if you’re a man!) You know love. You may not know that you know it, but you know it. You know what that means. You KNOW what love means. You KNOW IT. I am adamant about this. Your history is not disjoint from love. It has left its mark on you.”

    i actually kinda forget what it’s like between times (of sliding my penis into a vagina)…and sometimes it’s not even good as a feeling (weirdly), it just feels good molecularly to ‘be’ in that situation. do you mean somehow that the image _is_ the act? is that why i know how a penis in my vagina feels even if i don’t have one? wittgenstein has some stuff on ‘pain in someone else’s body,’ linguistic empathy turned into a material pathos…but i feel like you’re headed somewhere else.

    why love? is love special, or maybe the most human emotion? what about that as of yet unnamed emotion you feel when you stand on an overpass looking at cars whizzing by?

    finally, one thing that you haven’t mentioned is laughter…for me that’s at the top of that list.

  2. Graham said, on January 13, 2012 at 6:37 am

    I find your essays increasingly fascinating. They seem to be reaching ever-upwards towards some central point, a point that can only be approached or explained obliquely. Is this true? Do you feel like you conquer the same mountain over and over, or that you move from place to place? What did going to Rumble do for you? What is the key experience, the motivating factor that makes you want to return and bring others along? To me, it is a sacred place, a sort of secret church.

    I also sense that deep down you believe that humanity is not doomed, that it will rise up and become better, more protective of the weak, more understanding of the stupid, more intentionally explanatory instead of obfuscatory. I do not share your belief, at least on a large scale. I.e. it’s possible to love a person, but not people. You can love your cat but not cats in general. You can create a small community of respect and values that lasts for your lifetime, but doing something meaningful on a beyond-human scale is impossible, undesirable, ineffably vast and beyond understanding. Do you feel, like MLK, that the long arc of the universe bends towards justice, that society improves? This seems to clash with your other belief that it’s natural — even inevitable — for war to come and go, for societies and countries and empires to rise and fall. How do you justify these two seemingly disparate beliefs?

    I know that you’re a highly sexual being. Do you feel that your love of women or need for women is a projection of your ego and your own personal desires, or something wholly giving and devoid of suffering? Your essay that ends “Cut your lines!” I feel is particularly brilliant and a sly and understated way of explaining the Four Noble Truths and the necessity of the cessation of suffering to achieve some sort of lasting peace.

    I tend to view your writings as neither good nor bad, neither offensive or preaching to the choir — rather I see them as revelatory towards understanding both you as a person and you as a thinking, empty vessel. What is the nature of your pain? Why write at all? Do you suffer from analysis by paralysis? A long time ago someone we both know said Actions Never Conquer Interpretations, a motto that (I think) asymptotically approaches truth. Is writing, baring your soul, freeing pain, making beauty, is this interpretation or action? Is there a difference? Does it matter?

    You are a good man. Never stop speculating. To be arrogant is to know you have to tell: embrace it.

    • bigsleytheoaf said, on February 6, 2012 at 5:27 am

      SO MANY QUESTIONS. I will get to them! They are burning in the background, everyday.

      Thanks for the kind words! I’m truly grateful that you’ve followed my blog for as long as you have – that you actually read it – that you’ve given such consistently good/well-intentioned feedback (e.g. constantly urging me to give MORE EXAMPLES which I am so bad at, but which I totally 100% agree is something worth aspiring to, and which I hope you’ve seen some improvement in). I appreciate it more than you can know.

      I do really feel like my interest in creating this blog as a THING has grown, recently. My ideas have been flourishing, recently. I want to get it all down, as much as possible, as quickly as possible, somehow. Probably all this is related to The Pale King, which I’m almost done.

      AHHHH! See you in three days!

  3. Graham said, on February 28, 2012 at 2:18 am

    I just noticed your response! This blog is definitely a THING. You’re constantly chipping away at the armor of complacency with the SWORD OF ISOMORPHISMS BLARRRGGGGGHHHHHH

    But yes: it’s also been consistently getting better! The writing, the ability to connect/empathize with the reader, the humor, the paucity of falsity. It’s all there, wherever *there* is, and whatever *it* is. It’s a triangle implied by three dots.

    I hope we meet again soon. I’m also increasingly being driven by your efforts at pulling out truth teeth to start writing again, to diversify my intellectual portfolio. Also you have unwittingly located the line for the front of the 2012 Rumble invites: it will read “Transcend Telos”, but I haven’t decided on the central image.

    • bigsleytheoaf said, on February 28, 2012 at 2:33 am

      I hope we meet again soon, too! Thanks, as always, for your kind words. La!

      Regarding “Transcend Telos” – I think that it’s worthwhile to note that I don’t think the Telos/a teleological “mindset” is something to be transcended in general (as in – by everyone) – rather that it was/is a big part of my own overcoming of self/personal path (and also, I think, a part of yours – and a lot of people I know from MIT). I think that a lot of people are stuck deep in some (spastic) form somewhere, in which case it would be best for them to overcome -that-. E.g. somebody who is really into celebrities, someone who is part of a specific philosophical “tradition,” someone who is too attached to a given chess opening/system, someone who is interested in a certain type of mathematics for purely academic gain, etc. I think that the degrees and types of transcendence required by people varies a lot from person to person (though I have no idea why I think these are “required”). E.g. someone like Brandt could probably do with a lot more specifically mathematical education – some appreciation for the idea that truth can be deductively deep and beautiful (I think he is frustrated by “false deduction” found everywhere around). I don’t know why Brandt comes to mind – but I guess it’s because I think that he’s the person who pops into my mind as specifically -not- needing to transcend a teleological mindset (yet?).

      There’s also a difference between being attached to the idea of telos as -such- and being attached to a specific telos. The difference between being attached to one ultimate good (God, “Happiness,” Social Value, etc.) versus being attached to an attempt to find the ultimate goods (which is what I was guilty of, before). The big revelation for me was the idea that I don’t actually need to figure out the central principles of a context to interact with it – a simple example being Chess – you don’t need to fully “understand” chess to play it well (though the seemingly foolhardy attempt to “understand” it completely has led many to mastery of it – e.g. Karpov).

      But anyway, I’d be honored if “Transcending Telos” is some part of the theme of Rumble, as it’s been a big part of various shifting of ideas this year so far, a defining element of the Seattle trip, and generally worthy (I think!) of discussion. It’s a very humbling idea, and I certainly need as many of those as I can get…

  4. Graham said, on March 3, 2012 at 7:41 pm

    I find the following incredibly hard to think about, but I’ll try to put it into language:

    Seeing Secret Chiefs 3 was revelatory in a couple different ways. There is of course the surface-level revelation that “wow, they can actually pull off these tunes live!”. Going below that, there’s the realization that in spite of (not because of) their technical virtuosity, the parts and notes they choose somehow “serve” the song, instead of merely stroking their own egos. This is an ultra-common pitfall in technical music, as in basically every guitar-based prog rock band (Dream Theater, Steve Vai, Nile) the “solo section” is clearly labeled in both the performers’ and listeners’ minds. “This is the part where they show off.” Or in the chorus: “This is the part where there is a singable, catchy melody that repeats a multiple of 2 (but not more than 8) times.” What’s apparent is that these musicians’ virtuosity lies in technique only. There’s no realization of what the point of the song should be, apart from highlighting their skill. The telos of a song doesn’t live on the level of abstraction where the song resides, but moves up/down a level to where we are aware that the song is being played by a person, and this is who we focus on/idolize/despise. We could say that the ego of the band gets in the way of the song, somehow. We cease to hear the song, to appreciate it freely. We hear it in the context of the virtuosity of the players, and the song fails, because it doesn’t engage us the way the players do. It’s like the song is the full moon, and the band is pointing to the moon, saying “look at the moon”, but because their voice is so pretty and their hand is so shapely, we look at their finger that points, instead of to what it is pointing.

    Traditionally the crux of going to a show (in many peoples’ minds) is to see the band as people, to revel in the personality and skill of the players. You want to get to know them. You get their autograph, fawn over their devil-may-care social attitude, go backstage and have a beer with them. And the other stereotype here is the modest musician who can’t take a compliment. This is because she knows that it’s not about her. The fans, in her mind, are experiencing the show on the wrong level. The show’s telos is the display of personality, to the common fan.

    And then SC3 comes out, dressed in robes and masks that obscure the personality. There are no lyrics, and they don’t speak to the crowd between songs, and don’t bow at the end of their set. They are very good musicians, technically speaking, but that’s besides the point. What they are doing is transcending the telos of the “show/musician as idol” gestalt. To play in service to the song, instead of having the song service your playing — this is transcending musical telos. Each song has a goal which is defined by the structure of that song. They might play a surf-rock version of the theme to the movie “Exodus”, in which case a trumpet gets the powerful brass lead, while the drums and guitar hold back and maintain a steady, Californian 4/4. Or they might play in a tuning based on the harmonic ratios of Pythagoras, in which case the song may have a highly mathematical structure, which hands off a melody between different harmonic modes and different instruments, which are all tuned to just intonation, an old non-equal-temperament method of tuning instruments, based on simple whole-number ratios (E.g. the just intonation ratio between a note and its fifth is 2:3). There’s something going on here which can’t be explained in terms of “the goal of the music”. It’s like each song is a hidden dark-matter shape, which lies out of bounds, and its shape is elucidated over time by each instrument probing at this shape — sometimes the shape pushes back, sometimes it yields. Gradually the shape of the song is further realized or further obscured. It would not be an exaggeration to say that for the first time at a live show, I felt like I experienced the songs directly, not through the filter of the band’s personality. In this way, the best compliment I could possibly give to SC3 is that they are transparent. The form of the songs are self-generated, and the generation itself is worn on the band’s faces, obscuring their eyes and heads.

    This is exactly why I think Trey Spruance, the creative force behind SC3, will not explain his systems that he designs that ultimately lead to songs. He doesn’t want you to know, because you’d be missing the point. The point, the goal, the meaning of the songs is not in how they are written. And my apparent idolization of Spruance is anything but: I’m interested in the moon, not Spruance’s plans for a rocketship. I’m intentionally using the moon as in Zen cosmology it is a metaphor for enlightenment. The lesson from this show is not to look at the finger.

    And I’m still circling around the central point I want to make. Perhaps that’s best. I’ve been interested in “serving the song” for a long time now — my electronic moniker, scion eidolon, means “servant/heir to the spirit”. Darshan Pulse, the name of my current project, references this idea as well — Darshan is a Hindi term that roughly translates to “divine seeing”. It’s used to refer to the idea that worship and experience of the divine can only happen when one is physically standing in front of a representation of a Hindi deity. That’s why there are so many temples and bas reliefs throughout India. They are *not* idols. They are pointers towards truth. And Pulse refers to the fact that physical presence is required. You have to be there. You have to see. Tu dois servir.

    So I have to move past the Verse Chorus Paradigm. I can’t use it, and I can’t refer to it through its absence. It’s a form that allows egos to be stroked, because everyone understands it. You listen to the singer sing the chorus and you love them. Or, you note that their approach defies the VCP and you love them for their “out-of-the-box” thinking. Either way, you’re not hearing the song.

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