Tag Archives: Philosophy

Consciousness Versus Momentum

Like the moment when the brakes lock
And you slide towards the big truck
Pink Floyd

This morning I fell down some stairs.

I was carrying a recycling tub overflowing with plastic bottles,  a small sack of cans mixed with bottles and cans perched  on top. The bag spilled, sending some of its contents cascading down the stairs. Oh, great, I thought, and started to resume walking when I tripped, taking me and the recycling tub tumbling down the stairs, banging into the door at the bottom that leads to the outside world.

I was more shaken up than hurt, though it could have easily been  the reverse.

During the fall, it felt like I had no control. And maybe I didn’t. Time feels weird during such episodes. I was aware of falling, or at last of knowing the fall was imminent.

No, that’s not quite right. Imminent seems to imply a time right before, offering a temporal window, albeit a narrow one, where a decision could be made. I think my awareness was when the fall actually began, the process already in motion. Regardless, where did it go during the whole fall? For being conscious seems to not only imply awareness to me, but some kind of agency as well. Yet, during the fall itself I was aware (or maybe half-aware?) of  the fall but unable to consciously do anything except let the momentum play out.

This does not mean necessarily that I did nothing. We have reflexes and instincts that kick in. Those two things can operate a lot more quickly than our consciousness, which is comparatively slow. In fact, so slow it might be a safety feature of our brain to rely on our training rather than our thinking in cases of potential bodily harm.

Think quick is a nice thought and part of our idiomatic vault when we throw an object to someone, but is thinking really involved in such cases. Or is that another example of reflexes kicking in based on how our bodies have been primed?

It certainly felt like there was nothing consciously that I could do during the fall. I was a passenger in my amusement park ride body. Presumably if it had been a longer fall, that would change. That my brain just needed more time to process things in order to generate a sufficient agency response.

Or would it have just been a longer ride?

The Art of Not Bitching

I’m trying to work on my not bitching.

I don’t think I do a particular lot of it  and I’m fairly stoic about most things. But it nevertheless creeps in, displaying as a jerk-ish comment,  commiserating gripe, or perhaps a common ground conversational piece.

Sometimes it’s over something petty, like the cash registers not yet being turned on when I want to buy coffee because the one person on the whole staff who has that magical power hasn’t showed up yet. Sometimes it’s something more significant, like when the leader of our country does… well, there’s a whole lot of bitch potential there.

And there’s also a lot of in-between: all the things that happen during the day-to-day to annoy my sense of what should and should not be the case.

Sometimes the bitch is justified. Sometimes it’s not. Maybe most times it’s not. But it doesn’t matter if it is or if it isn’t with respect to the question of To bitch or not to bitch.

I think the answer is one of effect rather than justification. And that’s how I’m trying to look at my life more: cause and effect. Look at it that way before good and bad, right and wrong, and other perhaps well-intended but somewhat vacuous, or at least subservient, terms.

I make a snide comment at the above store or rant on twitter or maybe just mutter to myself as the guy on the road cuts me off when I was doing “everything” right and he is “obviously” just being a–

But then what? The bitch, sure, but then what? What has it accomplished? How has it helped my situation? More to the point, how in the world could it help? There is no real action behind it.

I suppose I could talk to the manager directly about giving someone else the authority to turn on the registers, or bring a petition X to Twitter regarding Trump’s latest shoe drop, or get the license plate of the unsafe driver to report to whomever gets such reports.

But I will do none of those things. For when I start putting them into actionable terms, I force myself to face up to the fact that I was bitching just of the sake of bitching, without the intent of doing anything at all.

And that’s not how I want to live my life, and certainly not how I want to advise kids to live theirs.

Time is way too short to have on-paper-only beliefs and speak empty words.

If a belief doesn’t encourage you to take action, it’s a bullshit belief.

If a bitch doesn’t accomplish a damn thing, then it isn’t worth a damn.

We need to aim our bitching higher. We can’t remain satisfied with Facebook Likes and creating self-indulgent memes that go viral then evaporate. If there is something truly worth bitching about, then it’s truly worth the effort to try and fix it.

Which is exactly what I am trying to do, both with this post and myself.

Time as a Process

It’s a great time-killer

I’ve heard the phrase time-killer a lot. I have used it myself.

Often it seems to be used to mean something good. Something fun to do while maybe something not so fun is going on. But the last time I read it, in the context of a positive review for a video game, I had a visceral reaction of horror to it.

Time dies quite expediently on its own without needing any help from us.

I started thinking about how we use the word Time and different prepositions associated with it, such as:

On time (but not usually off time, at least not as an opposite)
Overtime (but not usually undertime)
In time, just in time (but not usually out time or just out time)
Nick of time (but not usually of time by itself)
out of time (but not usually in of time)
down time  (but not usually up time)

Think about what the meanings of the prepositions are and what that seems to imply about our conceptualization of time. Often it appears to be something separate from us, acting on its own accord, waiting for us to make use of it. Or, perhaps more telling, like this

Filling time (but not so much emptying time)

which seems to view time as a container…

But I wonder if our current models, such as time as an arrow, stream, container, dimension, and so on are all flawed by their assumed external characteristic of time. Even when relativity and personal time is mentioned as being locked onto the person, the subjective, time is often referenced as “slowing down” or “passing more quickly” depending on the perspective.

I’m thinking time might be better viewed in process terms. Consider this:

You turn over an hourglass and the sand starts running out. You have until the sand is depleted to live your life. The sand sometimes falls with greater ease and greater abundance. Other times it gets clogged or bottlenecked, trickling into the waiting bottom.

Our old model might say when  it is finished that it look “longer” than the  expected hour or maybe it emptied “sooner.” But that is vacuous wordplay from a life perspective.

The hourglass doesn’t take 65 minutes, 55 minutes, or One Perfect Hour to empty. It doesn’t take 5 years or 5 seconds. For what measuring device would you use to state such a thing, without that device itself needing another device  for confirmation, ad nauseum?

Instead, the amount of time it takes is nothing other than the process of sand running out having completed. There is no need for additional description of time expenditure and in fact such a model rejects such forced additions as being meaningless.

We never die of old age. What we die of is processes ending.

A 70-year-old man, for example, didn’t die because he turned 70. But he might have had a heart attack and his heart beat number 2,859,401,002 was his last. The beating heart process stopped. So it goes with other life-critical biological functions.

If my thoughts are correct here, then temporal-impacting thoughts necessarily shift from the weirdness of time “slowing down”  or “stopping”  to something far less abstract: did your heart beat or not?

And how many beats do you have before your process is complete.

The Hidden Assumptions of “Why” Questions

Why are we here?
Because we’re here.
Roll the bones!
– Rush

As a philosopher and armchair scientist, I live for the Why. My curiosity is ravenous and devours anything remotely piquing it.  In pursuit of knowledge I am constantly asking Why this or Why that, neither of which ever gets fully answered, but instead sends me scurrying off into other Why pastures.

Why is the most powerful question in the world, foreshadowing What and How and Where and When and all the other wonderful one-word thought-starters.

But  with that power comes the dark side of assumption that can jeopardize the integrity of our line of questioning and subsequently our answers.

Some examples:

  • Why are you queer?
  • Why are we here?
  • Why don’t you eat meat?
  • Why is there something rather nothing?

What do the above four “Why?” questions have in common?

Each seems to hold an assumed (that is, biased) standard that the question Is playing against. This means that instead of being an objective, knowledge-seeking question that it appears to be on the surface, it is a leading one.

Why are you queer, for example, seems to assume not being queer is the default,  axiomatic even, and contrastedly that being queer requires “explanation”. So by asking the question  in such a fashion, we are already shaping the answer into being a certain kind of answer: one that offers explanatory value only within the narrow confines of its assumption.

And renders any so-derived answer questionable.

The Flapping Wings of my Personal Butterfly

My last post was inspired in part by the well-documented and somewhat self-evident Butterfly Effect.

Indeed, most of my thinking is in response, one way or another, to this concept. For when I reflect on my actions, I am concerned first and foremost with their effect. Underneath that focus there is an assumption of some level of  agent efficacy that may or may not exist.

The things we quibble and quarrel about, like Good and Evil, Accountability and Blame,  Morality and Righteousness, God and Country, are shallow and somewhat vacuous intellectual romps compared to the really hard and far more fundamental question of just how much a flapping butterfly wing matters.

On the one hand, proof of mattering is all around us.

That may not seem so obvious when we describe the Butterfly Effect as the flap of butterfly wings on one side of the  globe causing a Tsunami on the other side. It may even sound absurd. But it becomes less so when we call it the more technical sounding Chaos Theory and look at it instead as simply saying that a small change can have huge effects down the road.

And it becomes immediately personal when viewed in terms of us existing at all.

“Us” in the plural sense, certainly, when you realize how many extinctions have occurred, but here I am meaning “us” in the singular sense: you, me,  and other would-be agents of change.

For when I reflect on my own existence, I can’t help being awestruck at how amazing it is that I am here at all. My presence might not seem like a particularly grand effect when viewed by someone other than me, but from the biased perspective of JD Fox, it is an inconceivably huge effect

But  the other hand is present, too:

Effects can be easily wiped out. One vote makes a difference. But an opposite vote cancels it. The flapping of wings can have an effect. But  the flapping of other wings can negate it. I am here, but I could have easily never been.

Such things in no way disprove the butterfly effect, of course, since those negations are also reliant on the small changes of long ago and act instead as further proof.  But they humble me, as I not only look at myself, but I look at the systems and processes involved.

The further out we move our lens, the more the effects, however huge,  get negated.  Trump’s insane tantrum-tweets, Kim Jong-un’s childish missile-waving, and all the other imbecilic, get-out-of-my-sandbox acts that spin us into hysterics are to the universe like a drop of water clinging to the edge of a pail.

That’s been left out in the hot sun.

Determining Freewill and Freewheeling Determinism

I love the cartoon above, even though I think it is wrong. Or, maybe more accurately, misleading, which is often worse than wrong. The caption is especially problematic, as it forces the otherwise brilliantly provocative cartoon into an unnecessarily limiting conceptual box.

It preys on fears of determinism by drawing our attention to the inevitable “end result” rather than the choices made along the way. In doing so, It trivializes the details of that along the way in a fashion similar to how believing the ends justify the means diminishes the moral content of a given action.

Indeed, we could rewrite that latter ethical claim into an agency claim of the “ends neutralize the means.” But by doing so, we are apt to miss three interrelated points:

    1. Freewill can never be absolute (or what freewill is not)
    2. Freewill requires determinism to exist (or what freewill we have)
    3. Freewill in any meaningful conception of the word exists only in the along the way (or what freewill we need)

One of the problems with language is that we sometimes  put words together to form a conceptual picture that seems viable to us, but isn’t. We will even stand our ground by saying that we can conceive of it being the case, so it must be a valid concept,  when really we can conceive of no such beast. Instead, we are just deluding ourselves, confusing our masterful ability to  conceive of conceiving with that of the conception itself.

Here’s a couple of examples to flex our thinking around this issue:

  • I want to study the pure forest. So can you please cut down all those trees so they don’t get in the way of my thinking.
  • I want to see what pure blue looks like. So can you please take all that color away so it doesn’t distract me.

Absurd, huh?

Yet we often assign such absurdity to things involving thinking, saying nonsensical yet specious phrases like “pure thought” or “I think, therefore I am,” where both think and thought are imagined to be capable of being  parceled out from the environment  and viable on their own.

THINKING IS ALWAYS ABOUT SOMETHING

It can be about objects, about other thoughts, or about itself. But it has to be anchored in some way for it to even exist. For if it isn’t, what exactly is thinking doing? How is operating? What is happening?

The same goes for freewill.  Absolute freewill sounds nifty, don’t it? The supposed ability to do whatever you will. But what exactly are you doing when invoking such a power? How is it operating? What is happening? The very moment freewill is exercised, it is at the same time necessarily being limited – determined – by the thing under its will.

Consider it this way:

You want to build a house. You might choose straw or wood or brick. But that choice will then limit what other choices there are and so on. The original choice might be expanded to include stone or 1001 other different kinds of materials, but the limit would still be in play. Sure, you can change your mind, which would be another example of exercising freewill, but that would just mean the limit changes form, and not that there is no limit in play.

The limit, of course, is a form of determinism.  For it determines what the outcome can and cannot be, like whether or not the wolf’s huffing and puffing can blow your house down. Our body itself is a limit, as, for example, we can’t breathe underwater, making living underwater difficult and problematic.

You might think, oh, but that’s not a conceptual limit, for I can imagine a being that can breathe underwater as well as air. But so what? That changes nothing. For if you live underwater, the living underwater limits apply instead of the living on the land limits. For if they didn’t,  what exactly are you doing when you exercise the will?

DETERMINISM IS NOT SOMETHING BAD

In fact, we rely on determinism to do anything — to will anything — at all. For If things set in motion didn’t behave a certain way, or at least were likely to behave a certain way, our will would actually be meaningless. It would be just a hope, a pray to the Gods, and not a will of any kind.

Yet determinism gets a bad rap because we don’t like the idea of our fate being dictated to us. So much so, we look at the cartoon and say poor ignorant cow, he doesn’t realize whatever choice he makes he will end up being turned into hamburger. Well, last I checked, all of us will eventually die, so at least that much is already determined for us.

And that’s a pretty big determined. So are we just ignorant cows. Maybe.

But what if we take death out of the equation? I don’t mean imagine a case where we don’t die. Rather, I mean not having death be the ultimate marker of the vitality of our choices or as the litmus test for freewill.

I’ve been playing around with inventing  models that I think might  best illustrate the  coexistence of choice and fate, of freewill and determinism. I’ve been trying to understand not only how they relate to each other, but how we can find meaning in that relationship.

THE TUBE:

Instead of focusing on the gruesome end of us and cows, let us travel along the walls. Round off the ceiling  and floor. Tilt the room. it is no longer a room, but a tube.  Imagine a ball thrown hard into the tube and it banging from side to side as it travels along its downward path. It’s going to end up wherever the tube leads, whether  to death or assorted stops along the way like a new job or boyfriend.  However, the route of its sideways travel itself is less predictable. That’s close to where our freewill lies.

THE BOILING POT:

We boil a pot of water to cook our pasta. Some of the molecules will be vaporized right away. Some will do so over the course of the cooking. And some not at all, unless we keep the pot on and at a high enough temperature. Regardless, while it is easy to predict that the water will boil, it’s far more difficult to predict which specific molecules will vaporize and when. That’s where our freewill lies.

Now with both scenarios, one could argue that individual route and individual vaporization, although difficult to predict, would not prove impossible to do so, if we had access to all the information. So isn’t every part of along the way just as much determined as the end of the tube?

That could be the case. And if it is, I might have to agree with Spinoza’s necessitarian assessment. There would not only no meaningful choice that we could make, but there would be no real choice at all. Such choice at all levels would only be illusion.

But my gut tells me there is something else going on that is at the heart of the freewill we need. Something that presides over the strange yet necessarily required interrelationship of freewill and determinism.  And no, I’m not talking about God, as that would simply take us back to Spinoza. Instead, I am meaning something far more sacred and profound:

RANDOMNESS!

Random Thoughts on Randomness – Part 1

“The most beautiful order is a pile of things poured out at random”
–Heraclitus
(Appropriated from Professor Metcalf’s Facebook Page)

Random Thought being a redundant phrase, of course, since all thoughts are necessarily random. For if they weren’t, you wouldn’t be able to think what you think you think.

But before I self-involvedly put out there my thoughts about that, I thought I might self-indulgently talk about this quintessential quandary:

Which came first, the chicken or the egg?

Now, we can take a look at a question like that and try to answer it as one or the other. Or declare it a circular reference without a determinate answer. Or push the answer back before  chickens or eggs onto other questions that would have to be answered first. Or we could just say “God only knows,” and mean it either literally or snarkily.

We could have debates, hold prayer meetings, and take to twitter with our views, being champions of this or that or Him.  Maybe make some Pro-Egg flyers or Believe in the Chicken posters. It would be kind of cool to see candidates trying to appease both sides, or The Trump signing an executive order declaring both eggs and chicken are fried, so there!

Yet, any such factious (or fractious) thinking would already be moving away from the most important, the most philosophically interesting, thing: The question itself.

For answers are never that interesting. They are boring in fact. And don’t even exist, for that matter, unless maybe you’re a blind faithy, fox-news-only kind of person. But then again, if that is so, you don’t so much have an answer as have simply delegated the question to someone above you (literally and snarkily).

So let’s move back from the egg-chicken details and think about what kind of question it is. Although it is phrased as “which came first”, I hear it first and foremost as a causal question rather than a temporal one. Who made who would probably be a more accurate representation of it, but so goes the idiom.

In causality questions, what’s at stake? Why does it matter? That is, why does it matter to us? Well, for starters, the stakes are a lot higher than chickens or eggs. When we assign causality, aren’t we really assigning independence to one thing and dependence to the other?

Is the chicken dependent on the egg  or is it the other way around? Independence and dependence both shade Will. I will leave out Free from that Will for now, as that four-letter word typically adds a whole level of nonsense to these kind of discussions. Right now we can think of Will as just like it sounds: the ability to make things happen, put things into motion.

By the question, are we assigning Will to one thing, and mere obedience to the other? Is hatching the willful act and the chicken coming out just obeying what was set in motion? Or is the laying where the will resides and the egg just following orders.

We see that the chicken and egg question really is about that common but oh so vacuous term freewill.

You might argue that eggs and chickens don’t have will, or that they might have will but not freewill and/or hatching and laying are instinctual not intentional or something else in a similar putting-our-bag-of-bones into some sort of privileged position where we act and do things consciously (yet another, like freewill, somewhat vacuous and frequently unhelpful term).

But such arguments take swipe at the wrong thing. The right thing is our very conception of action and reaction, of which the chicken and egg are mere props for our thinking. But if chicken and egg are too low on the food chain for consideration, we can simply replace them with Mother and Child. Or even better, how about God and humankind? Or physics and humankind?

For that’s really to where we want to roll back, isn’t it? What, if anything, came before God? What, if anything, came before the Big Bang? Like with the original chicken and egg question, the answer itself isn’t as important as what’s at stake.

And that stake of course is the meaning of life: The mattering of it all, or of any of it. We think, perhaps, that if we push things back to some assumed unmoved mover or uncaused cause we can then bring such duly clarified meaning forward. The meaning, however, hardly needs to make such a journey. Indeed, trying to do so would be a fool’s errand.

Instead, the meaning of our lives derives neither from the divine nor natural order, but in the inherent randomness each of us possesses at any given moment.

—–

Other possible Parts as I work through my thoughts on this:

Spinoza’s God and the Necessitarianism Obstacle

Reconceptualizing Randomness

Ball in Tube Analogy

Molecule of Water in Heated Pot Analogy

Abolishing Absolutes and other Phantasms

Limited Randomness: As Free as Will ever gets

Ninth Place

I ended up in ninth place at the Cabin Fever Spelling Bee on Saturday.

I know this because my husband diligently kept track. I must admit such knowledge made me feel pretty darn good about my performance. Maybe not as good as winning would have, but with my bar set on the floor at “please don’t let me be the first one out,” the losing felt like a win.

Still, I lost on a stupid word.

Pomegranate.

Well, to be fair, I reckon the word itself isn’t stupid. I love language far too much to slander any contribution to it, even rather bizarre new entries like twerk or old ones from my generation like tubular.

But still, from a thinking about thinking viewpoint, the misspelling possessed a couple of levels of most curious mental freezing.

The first was with the word itself. Although I occasionally get paid for writing, it’s not yet been the kind of paid that extinguishes the necessity of having to eke out a living by doing all sorts of non-writing things. One of my current such eke’s is stocking groceries, which includes handling a yogurt with the aforementioned fruit on the bottom.

I must have seen that word hundreds upon hundreds of times, yet I couldn’t spell it when called upon to do so.

The second was with what I actually did spell.

I spelled the last part g-r-a-n-i-t-e. Which may have been influenced by us now living in Vermont, but still…  even as I spelled it that way I knew it was wrong; I just couldn’t think of the right way. Yet, where did this feeling of wrong come from, if I ostensibly did not know the right way of spelling for such a comparison to be made?

A reasonable answer would be that it was not a case of merely not knowing, but more a case of not being able to bring that knowing up to the conscious level. It might seem here that the shorter sentence of I couldn’t recall would suffice and mean roughly the same thing as my more verbose sentence with all its nots.

But it doesn’t and doesn’t.

For recall makes it sound like the conscious part is the only part involved in thinking; like we reach into our bag of memories and mental whatnots, and once we do, once we make the retrieval, that is where thought happens.

But thinking is what our brain — our entire brain — does, 24/7. We are thinking whether or not we think we are thinking. Sometimes, though, all those thinking parts aren’t always the best at communicating with one another.

So the part that thought about granite, compared it to its no doubt knowledge of the correct spelling of pomegranate, and finally advised, nope, that’s not right, failed to take that extra step and provide the correct spelling to what we typically refer to as consciousness.

Although frustrating at times, subconscious thinking is one of the things that makes writing so fun for me. Even when I plan, I never know for sure what will come out; what the unconscious parts of me will think is important enough to nudge me in that creative direction.

For instance, when I started this blog entry, I thought I intended to write about the weirdness of how things are spelled and pronounced in English, hoping to have an excuse to use The Tough Coughs As He Ploughs the Dough by Dr. Seuss in such a discussion.

Or at least use the word gallimaufry, which is a neat word that I had never heard before and the person sitting next to me spelled correctly. She knew it as the title of a book on obscure words she had recently received. It means a confused jumble or medley of things.

But all’s well that thinks well and I included both anyway, appearances of gallimaufry notwithstanding.

New Year’s Gay

Yes, this is another gay-affirming post. But it is also about dark matter, hyperloops, giant drill bits, collecting dung, and English as the dominant language for science.

I just wanted to mention the gay part upfront so that any homophobes who may have unintentionally stumbled upon this blog can flit away to the safety of their sandboxes where they can bury their heads and wait for Fox news to come on.

This post started at the Laundromat.

Well, technically, significant parts of it started way before that, but I will say it started at the Laundromat just for the sake of narrative clarity. Regardless, I found myself stuck there with the horrible misfortune of not having brought anything to read.

Now the nice thing about places that often require a great deal of waiting is that they tend to have reading material strewn about. It may not always be the preferred choice of such things, but it is there. As such, I can typically make do, having an eclectic enough yearning for learning that I can find things of interest from a variety of sources.

Just the other day, I read a most fascinating article by a biologist on the abnormal shift in the rutting patterns of deer. This was at the Mazda dealership, in a hunting magazine outside my usual perusing of periodicals called North American Whitetail.

As luck would have it, the Laundromat had something more straightforwardly in align with my tastes: the November 2013 issue of Popular Science.

Sad to say, I’m not smart enough to do science, or at least do it justice. Lot of the math behind the cutting edge leaves me in question mark land. But I can usually — somewhat — grasp the significance and implications of, say, a discovery, even if some (much) of the technical part goes over my head. If nothing else, I can go “ohhh” and “ahhh” as my understanding, dim as it may still be, is illuminated.

Dark matterDunkle Materie — is an entire intellectual orgasm worth of Ohs and Ahs. If you study philosophy and/or religious studies, you should want to pay some serious attention to it. Basically, it would seem, based on things like galaxies rotating faster than what would be expected and other gravitational effects that would require more mass — more material — in the universe than what is visible, that something is missing.

Something that takes up about 85% of our reality.

Another way of putting this would be that we are woefully ignorant — in the dark, to squeeze in a lame pun — of 85% of the universe. That’s a mind-tripping large amount of an invisible something making up the vast majority of, well, everything.

The way the article describes the current hunt for the elusive dark matter is too good an analogy not to share. It is like going after the invisible man. Say the invisible man were a jogger. You believe he is likely to jog down a certain street that has other joggers on it. So you watch the street. Watch and watch and watch. Because it is probable that at some point at some time during his daily jogging, he will happen to bump into another jogger, thus giving evidence of his presence.

You watch, and hope, and pray for that bump.

Other articles didn’t leave me quite as spellbound, but were nevertheless fascinating:

The fifty-seven foot wide drill bit tearing into Seattle ground with a force that would bring tears of joy to Tim “The Tool Man” Taylor’s eyes.

A proposed Hyperloop transportation system that seems like something straight out of science fiction, but is close to becoming reality. I could be wrong in my imagining here, but I’m thinking of the contestants in The Running Man traveling down those high-speed tubes and ejected onto the stage.

Profiles of some of the worst and best jobs for scientists. Worst were things like Dead Moose Dissector and Bush-Meat Market Data Collector (i.e. collecting dung). One of the best, and my personal favorite, was Extreme Product Tester, which should be self-explanatory.

The short bit on English being the current international language of science made me think how we evolve as a human race and how easily it could go in some other direction. We who speak English as a native language tend to expect the world will always understand us. What if we suddenly found that to be taken seriously as thinkers we had to write in Chinese?

Okay, so, that’s the science bit of this post, and on to the gay content.

But a prelude to the gay content is straight content, as the contents are linked. And it’s from the same magazine I’ve been talking about here: Popular Science.

As I flipped through the pages I came across an ad for Lee jeans. Now this was Popular Science, not GQ or Sports Illustrated, so the heterosexual context was more low-key. But still, in the picture, hanging on to the male model’s arm, was a woman, looking up at the jeans-wearer with adoring, relationship eyes.

They were not doing anything sexual, yet the image clearly indicated a heterosexual predisposition. A predisposition subtle enough that people with a similar predisposition might not notice it any more than right-handed people regular notice that the majority of desks in classrooms are designed with them in mind.

But I notice.

And I try to remember this when my culturally-instilled self-loathing tries to emerge and tell me I’m “too out” or “flaunting it” or in some other way acting in a fashion deserving of restraint. I try to remember this and think “Are you kidding?”

If anything, I’m not out enough, not forward enough, not yet bold enough in my proclamation of self.

We soak in heterosexuality. It is flaunted in subtle and not so subtle ways. So much so, it is not recognized as the flaunting that it is, or even that it is. Instead, it is typically absorbed without awareness into our subconscious and sweated out in policy-making that might seem at first glance — which is far too often also the only glance — as neutral, objective even, but actually isn’t.

So what is to be done about this? What can be done? What should be done?

Well, for starters, we of the LGBTQ community can speak out more. I don’t mean speak out more against the status quo of heterosexuality or against the subtle pervasion of homophobia. Although of course we can do those things, and we have been doing those things, and we should continue doing those things.

Rather, I mean we need to speak out more for ourselves.

We need to move away from being a persecuted class into being that of a liberated one. We need to become less concerned about how others view us and more concerned about how we view ourselves. Acceptance by others is a benefit, but acceptance of ourselves is a requirement.

These are not unrelated or incompatible notions. For the more rock-solid view of ourselves we have — and the more we assert our natural right to express it — the less damage the fickle weather of the majority can cause us. What does a mountain care about either sunshine or thunderstorm?

My 2014 goal is to market my writing, and myself, with the artistic honesty and integrity both deserve. With that in mind, I have created New Business Cards.

New Business Cards

Let the New Year begin!

Exiting

There’s got to be just more to it than this
Or tell me why do we exist
I’d like to think that when I die
I’d get a chance some other time
Iron Maiden

I missed the exit.

We were going out to dinner and then to a movie. Which we rarely do because of cost. But Gary rarely turns 46, either, so we thought we’d make the night one of those rarelies.

The I-89 North ramp was closed so the department of transportation could blow up a ledge. I’m a bit foggy on the whys and other details of detonation, except for that it likely will be closed for a month. I think I could probably blow up something faster than that, but hey, no one asked me. I also think I might have tried to time the blowing things up with not having construction also occurring on the detour route going around the ramp.

But again, no one asked me. That’s okay, though, as people rarely ask me anything anyway. At least they don’t ask me things I want to be asked, like Would it be okay if I gave you some money and publish your work?

And besides, I had planned for it — we had planned for it — and left in plenty of time.

But exit 10, which was now an exit closer than usual since I went around the initial ramp before getting back on the interstate at Exit 9, came up faster than expected. I can’t say for sure why it did this, as I’m pretty sure that for the most part Exit 10 traveled at us at the same 65 mph that we drove at it.

“Weren’t we supposed to turn there?” Gary said, being right as he usually is about such things.

Now the blessing and curse of Vermont is all the gorgeous land. Miss an exit, and you’re frequently stuck traveling for several miles of it.

We nevertheless did make it to the next exit and had planned on navigating via non-interstate roads back to where we needed to go. However, getting off at the exit trapped us in stop and go traffic where stop dominated. So much so, I had one of those ideas that are much brighter at the time they occur than in the dim glow of the afterwards.

“I’ll get back on the highway and take us back to the exit we missed.”

Which might have been closer to a bright idea if the U-turn I made taking us in the opposite direction of the exit ramp we were on led us South. But the opposite direction in this case curved around to the not so much opposite direction of North.

We did eventually make it to dinner at the Depot Street Malt Shop. It took two exits further North and the same two additional exits back South again, for a grand total of four extra exits, to do so, but we made it.

We also made it to a showing of Gravity. Not the showing we planned on being shown, but a showing nonetheless, and one in 3-D, which is a good way to view things since that is how we view things.

The movie is good enough to deserve a good review.

And by good here I mean thoughtful as well as favorable, as in addition to cool effects it has philosophical layers to it which Gary and I talked about afterwards, with him adding insights I hadn’t thought about, which he usually does.

My life has been full of missed exits.

I missed an exit and stayed with a girl for five years. I missed an exit and ended up studying engineering. I missed an exit and dropped out of college. Several exits went by unnoticed but just as surely missed as I drank in a fugue state lasting several years, pulled over on the cold shoulder of life’s road.

Oh, I eventually got back on the road and found new exits.

I’m with a guy now. I’ve studied philosophy and graduated from college with a 4.0. I’m drinking mostly coffee now and trying to keep my car moving as well as pay more attention to signs along the way.

But damn, if I don’t feel old and wonder if it’s too late to really get anywhere; that there are no more exits of any consequence.

I act like it isn’t and like there are.

I volunteered at the Burlington Book Festival. I’ve started volunteering at RU12. I got appointed to the Montpelier Conservation Commission.

I am constantly looking for other ways that I can be in life motion, as the only way to find the next exit is to keep driving. But I’m also constantly racked with day-to-day doubt about not only the drive-ability of this used soul of mine, but the underlying metaphysical meaning of it that may very well not underlie it at all.

There has to be more than the force of gravity that anchors us to the world. Something inside us that pulls us not down but forward.

Sandra Bullock found her something when she had to.

I’m still looking…