Fifty Gallon Drum

(Another notebook dump where the yammers have gathered like little critters nesting in the walls.)

-:-

They didn’t drain the swamp, they drained
the brains. Are the valves not properly labeled?

-:-

The day will come to grind it
And tomorrow comes behind it
Too bad you can’t unwind it
Take comfort where you find it

-:-

I think people who identify as skeptics are overreacting to the error of blind faith, which they rightly fear when they see it take hold of others. They overcompensate in their belief that blind faith is the only kind there is. But evidence is accepted on a reasoned faith—that subtle errors or deliberate deceptions have not slipped into the conclusion at hand. In the end: a little leap of faith, because facts are endless and it is literally impossible to consider each and every one. Reason cannot function without both faith and skepticism.

Faith on its own will likely run rampant without the skeptic to keep it in check. Skepticism on its own is just a brute prejudice, slamming doors shut for whatever notion it latches onto as valid, not at all unlike blind faith.

The third leg of reason’s little stool is called curiosity, or wonder.

-:-

They dismiss the supposedly irrigorous logic as magical thinking, as if the intellect was the retainer and not the retained. As if thinking itself is not magic!

-:-

They say you should choose your fights but I never find any I like.

-:-

How many nihilists does it take to not be?

A nihilist is an eternalist who has resolved the first of the two errors.

A nihilist walks into a bardo…

-:-

We working class white people who do not think ourselves the powerful oppressors of others should still contemplate the level of privilege upon which we operate: I can drive to the store and never have to think about being pulled over, arrested, or even shot, after having been seen doing nothing more than driving down the street.

-:-

When it comes to the sun I try not to look at the bright side.

-:-

If you’re somebody, you better watch what you say.
If you’re nobody, it’s better to keep it that way.

-:-

Worry is an outlier indulgence, mentally going to the place you are afraid you’ll end up, while the remedies to impending troubles are left neglected, undone.

-:-

The knees, they do a thankless job
Midway twixt the heel and hip
Protruding like a misplaced knob
To cap the pavement when you trip

-:-

Sometimes I stick my head in an empty 50 gallon drum and speak loudly the things that might otherwise go here.

-:-

Not being nothing, space fulfills form. Not being something, form fulfills space. Not two, yet not not-two. Not something, not nothing.

-:-

I’m not a pull-string
talking doll, y’all, but
sometimes the things
I say: no way.

The phrase automatic
on instant recall, someone
come finish this for me
okay?

-:-

A lot of people take things for granted, but in stores they call that shoplifting.

-:-

I wonder what would happen if they pressed all my buttons at once and I collapsed without recourse into a short-circuited heap of malfunctioning habitual responses.

-:-

Knee-deep in needy
wit’ a dolly made a hay
all she wanna do be holler
golly all a day.

(to be accompanied by banjo and Jew’s harp)

The Chameleon’s Dish

At Breakfast
I interrogate objects
for their hidden meanings
suspecting that everything is
a sham, though not to
the point of paranoia
I forget to eat

By Lunchtime
the objects no longer appear
as an organized effort to
accomplish existence, more
a plate tectonics masquerading
as real estate, a hint of confession
in the chaos yet not enough
to justify a declaration of suchness
I am, by now, very hungry

In Midday
my need for food is sounding
peculiar song-like drones
but there’s silence as well
like a cosigner to the deed
conspiring with a growling gut
this calling, this appetite is making
arguments that seem capricious
and I wonder if the eating
might not cause more problems
than it solves

At Dinner Bell
my stomach is a gust of craven mara
despot of my being, and I yield
ladle out some stew
sitting in the sand upwind
of the cook fire, where
all these elaborations dissolve
under waves of taste sensation
I know I must realize precisely
this, or I’ll have to get up
and do it all over again
probably, tomorrow

Come Evening
a pine branch pops
in the embers and the sparks fly
up, absorbed like nourishment
into the hungry black
belly of night

Title is from Shakespeare, Hamlet III.2 :

CLAUDIUS
How fares our cousin Hamlet?

HAMLET
Excellent, i’ faith, of the chameleon’s dish. I eat the air,
promise-crammed. You cannot feed capons so.

Alternate title: A Day in the Life of a Neophyte Yogin

Exquisite

A refinement of the tastes is a projection of superiority orchestrated by the ego. Its cost/benefit boils down to a reduction in opportunities to experience sensory pleasure of the many things beneath one’s high standards vs the enhanced enjoyment of pride.

This axiom is countered by the argument that quality is an actual phenomenon, that some things really are better than others. But qualities are themselves projections of the mind, which in human beings tends to be dominated by the ego.

[slops a dab of gruel into a crude bowl]

Now eat your breakfast and quit complaining.

Gnawing

Understanding is alright
as far as prisons go, though

not understanding is better
than misunderstanding.

One foot follows the other.
Once movement is begun

it is difficult to stop,
hence, the strange treasure,

the halting dissonance of
“I don’t know.”


Knowing things obviously is fine and necessary. The insight of the East is that attachment to knowledge as the vehicle of truth is an error. We gnaw at what we know. We can never leave well enough alone. Is truth something that would submit to such nonsense? Consensus maybe, but consensus is just an agreement to stop arguing. To stop gnawing.

Photo: my old bird-feeder, nay rat-feeder.

Occult

A dream world, where money is thought to be real and intelligence is the artifice of enmeshed gears having turned, is now fully realized within the vacuum of the cloud by machines incapable of wondering exactly what happens to you when you die.”

The meaning of death is that you can’t think your way through it, and meaning is something always arrived at by thinking. So it’s kind of confounding, a paradox, and a bit frightening because we depend on thinking to get through everything. And yet, some of us want machines to think through things for us in a kind of dereliction of duty, a kind of meta-mistake where we shift responsibility for increasingly important, mission critical activities to a churning host of algorithms which we think can’t make mistakes. If that is an extension of our own thinking (the one place in the universe where mistakes can happen) then it isn’t necessarily bad, but it must share space within the same confines.

“I think, therefore AI.”

Thinking likes knowledge, the accumulation of correlated things, but wisdom just wants to see clearly. Wisdom has no bonafides, it shuns accomplishment. It sheds credentials the way a snake sheds skin. You see clearly. The material which appears when the light shines, it appears to the wisdom in you. If you want to reflect upon it afterward there’s nothing wrong with that, unless that thinking supplants the view. And that is what thinking tends to do. It is sometimes called reflection because thoughts can become the cause of more thoughts, leaving us even more removed from the glimpses of wisdom which are endlessly obscured by that wall where the pride of intellect displays all its trophies. In this sense, the material world, the world we embrace through thought, becomes the occult. And AI is just one of the many monsters hiding in its darkness.


Update 20170925 – Aside from my dark ramblings about death and the forces which obscure wisdom, this:

“Should Zuckerberg or Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey be summoned to Congress and peppered with questions about the inner workings of their companies, they may well be ill-equipped to answer them. Because while they might be in control of the broader operations of their respective companies, they do not appear to be fully in control of the automated algorithmic systems calibrated to drive engagement on Facebook and Twitter.

And they have demonstrably proven that they lacked the foresight to imagine and understand the now clear real-world repercussions of those systems — fake news, propaganda, and dark targeted advertising linked to foreign interference in a US presidential election.”

(emphasis added)

Also, the irony of having to have a Facebook account to comment on this article.

mommy, there’s nothing to do

it’s change that makes things different
from the things they used to be
and restlessness that makes us wander
sea to shining sea

it’s craving makes us want for want
and claim it all as needs
the things that clutter up the yard
rusting in the weeds

it’s worry makes us preempt war
with wars we have to wage
and thinking makes it seem okay
to justify the rage

it’s peace that makes us fidget
in a darkened, quiet place
and boredom yanks us to our feet
to run the human race


Here’s my workflowy note that led to the above verse:

It’s easier to think your way into
war than it is to fight your way out,
but mommy, there’s nothing to do.

… which is very much connected to this:

All of humanity’s problems stem from man’s inability to sit quietly in a room alone.
―Blaise Pascal, Pensées