Formal Systems 1

June 24, 2008

A: Why do you have a fetish for formal systems?

B: Because I love bondage.

A: Sometimes, you scare me.

B: I know. Let me explain.

A: What? Your S&M fetish?

B: No. Bondage.

A: What? You want to tie me down?

B: No! I want to bind you in a formal system.

A: You want to marry me?

B: Not that formal system! Although consent has something to do with the formal system I have in mind.

A: I’m not sure I like where this is going.

B: Relax. I promise I won’t hurt you.

A: What if I formally request it?

B: You always want the last word, don’t you?

A: Guilty as charged. What’s my punishment?

B: It depends on your penal code.

On Optimism

June 23, 2008

A: Do you honestly believe that our species will ever be free of its barbarism, violence, and cruelty?

B: Sometimes, when I’m feeling pessimistic, I do not.

A: Yet you counsel patience. You believe that, with time, our species will learn how to coexist with its environment and with itself. Aren’t you being a bit naïve?

B: I don’t think, necessarily, that naïve is the right word. You must remember that our species has only been around for 200,000 years. We are young, and learning, and — hopefully — growing.

A: Yes, I agree that we are learning. But the forces of ignorance are strong. And our tribalism, which takes the face of nationalism today, is an inherent aspect of hominid species. Tribes work for their own interests, usually at the expense of other tribes. This is not in doubt. This is a fact.

B: Yes, this is a fact.

A: And do you honestly believe that we will be able to overcome our tribalism and be able to view ourselves as something other then either American or European or Chinese or Arab or Muslim or Christian or Buddhist or —

B: Yes, please, stop I see your point.

A: Then you also see that the the differences that tribalism engenders — and the conflicts that arise from those differences — are perhaps written into our genetic code. Tribalism is our genetic inheritance. And, as such, we cannot escape it.

B: Pandora kept hope in the box.

A: Hmm. Interesting. I never thought that you were a closeted optimist.

On Transpersonal Consciousness

June 18, 2008

A: You like to think of yourself as a neuron.

B: Metaphorically speaking, yes.

A: Don’t you value your individuality?

B: What do you mean?

A: Well, a neuron does not know itself. It has no identity.

B: Correct.

A: But you have an identity. A personal history. And you have emotions.

B: Correct.

A: But if you are a neuron in the mind of Gaia, what do your history, your identity, and your emotions matter to her?

B: Not much.

A: Do you find comfort in that?

B: My beliefs — whether metaphorical or not — have little to do with my personal comfort.

A: But your belief system seems to function as religious belief systems do.

B: How so?

A: You believe in a proposition that cannot be tested. Whatever the big G — be it God or Gaia — your belief that you are a neuron in its mind, or her mind, cannot be tested.

B: We’ve been through this before. Metaphorical beliefs are not subject to the principle of falsifiability.

A: Fine. But religious beliefs are supposed to bring comfort and solace to those who believe in them.

B: Truth — whether metaphorical or not — does not function like a security blanket.

A: Then what does truth matter? Why don’t you believe in illusion and magic?

B: But I do believe in illusion and magic.

A: But illusion, by definition, is a false perception. And hold on! I didn’t say truth brings comfort! I said religious belief brings comfort and solace!

B: Then I guess my belief that I am a neuron brings me comfort.

A: Even though Gaia doesn’t give a rat’s ass about you?

B: And does the Creator of the Cosmos give a rat’s ass about you?

A: I’m not so narcissistic to think so.

B: Nor am I.

A: Your Gaia does not know you exist. And yet it brings you comfort to think yourself an impersonal and unimportant part of a whole that does not — and cannot — recognize you.

B: Apparently.

A: I sense a contradiction. You recognize your individuality. And yet what makes you you — your soul, if you will — has no bearing on the whole of which you are a part.

B: “Generations come and generations go, but the earth remains forever.”

A: I get the reference. Its from the book of Ecclesiastes.

B: Yes! All is vanity! “There is no remembrance of men of old, and even those who are yet to come will not be remembered by those who follow.”

A: Why is it that whenever I back you into a corner you hit me over the head with the Bible?

B: It makes me feel better.

On Passion for Appliances

June 10, 2008

When was the last time you were excited about your toaster? Or your microwave? Or how about your vacuum cleaner?

Having lived with electric appliances all my life, they don’t inspire any excitement or passion when I contemplate them. They are conveniences. Tools. As long as they work and save me time, fine. But I’m not going to get starry eyed and chat with my friends about how great my microwave is.

Ditto for computers. (And cell phones, MP3 players, Blackberry’s, hand-held video games, …)

Having used computers all my life, I’m as indifferent to them as I am toward my toaster.

Here at Microsoft, the drones are supposed to show passion for computers and for technology. Even when they are poorly designed and make life a living hell.

Me? I just can’t seem to muster any passion for an operating system (having used dozens). Or for a programming language (having used dozens). Or for a word processor (…).

It’s hard to feel passion for an appliance. And it’s even harder to mask indifference as passion.

Maybe that’s why I don’t bother to try.

Nietzsche on Christianity

June 9, 2008

When we hear the ancient bells growling on a Sunday morning we ask ourselves: is it really possible! This, from a Jew, crucified two thousand years ago and who said he was God’s son. The proof of such a claim is lacking. Certainly the Christian religion is an antiquity projected into our times from remote prehistory; and the fact that the claim is believed — whereas one is otherwise so strict in examining pretensions — is perhaps the most ancient piece of this heritage. A god who begets children with a mortal woman; a sage who bids men work no more, have no more courts, but look for the signs of the impending end of the world; a justice that accepts the innocent as a vicarious sacrifice; someone who orders his disciples to drink his blood; prayers for miraculous interventions; sins perpetrated against a god, atoned for by a god; fear of a beyond to which death is the portal; the form of the cross as a symbol in a time that no longer know the function and the ignominy of the cross — how ghoulishly all this touches us, as if from the tomb of a primeval past! Can one believe that such things are still believed? (The Portable Nietzsche)

Unfortunately, such things are still believed.

Although I recognize the need for mythical narratives, much Christian mythology — yes, Christianity is a mythological system — is just plain silly.

Why does the Supreme Intelligence of the Cosmos favor credulity?

Why does God require faith? And why should skepticism be a sin?

The elevation of ignorance and credulity to virtues is what makes me hostile towards most religious systems.

N O 1

June 5, 2008

I   /   O

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O   \   I

C J C : A M O + D A O = …

June 3, 2008

A   M   O

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O   A   T