A Non-Essay

Ernest

What right have I to write an essay, if I have done little of it, and that of the terrible sort? Fortunately, it is not my intention to write good poetry, but rather to express myself with as much freedom as possible, giving myself the freedom not to give a damn about what has been said over the millennia over the proper use of words, sentences and textual structure. I will publish this without even proofreading, much less editing it. There is very little organization to it, so start and continue from wherever you want. Laziness? Yes. But there is a point to it, which I hope I will have illustrated by the end.

Puta! And I say this with all the respect I have for the women who must recur to such a job to survive. In fact, whatever this text is, I hope it could be more like them. And lets us not be too sexist to forget the male prostitutes out there. For better or for worse, (wo)man’s sexuality is not an area that can be compartmentalized. Locating itself at the fringes of society, they end up mixing up with all the other aspects society has tried to excrete.

What a self-referential and self-conscious text this is. If this is postmodern madness, genius, both or neither shall be for you to decide. The text is what is. I wonder what it looks like in your eyes.

I write this with a sort of twisted enjoyment. I delight in the reactions this could cause people. Indifference is one that I would like to avoid. I also fear that those who love me may stop doing so after they come to see what lies beneath my façade. I tell myself that if it is true love, they will love me all the same. Boo hoo. Freud always said that being honest with oneself is a good exercise to practice every now and then. Whatever this text does or does not bring out of you, keep in mind, does not only reflect a truth about me, but about yourself.

How have I ended up in this state of undecidability between a prolonged adolescence and the positive and negative bearings of paradox, or any combination of them, is an interesting story. As far back as I can remember, I was a normal kid. But kids are like little drunks. Their perceptions and their perceptions of others’ perceptions are a trip on acid. It is over the years that the instability started to accumulate. Perhaps there was already a predisposition in me. It might be in you too. I have relocated to so many countries I have lost track, and I am but a youngster. Unlike most of the other fish, I wouldn’t stay in school, but left myself go with the current.

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I have seen cultures, I have heard languages, I have tasted cuisines. So is it hard for me to move? You should start getting used to paradoxes soon enough.

No. Wherever I am departing from and arriving at, I do not have strong ties to these places.

Yes.  Wherever I am departing from and arriving at, I do not have strong ties to these places.

Life experiences are like different rectangles. Along one axis is depth of experience, along the other, breadth. There is a tradeoff. Gaining more of one usually means giving up gaining more of the other. It is rare to find a square. I come to you as a funny rectangle. Odds are, you are vertical, I am horizontal.

One of the benefits of my rectangle is that I can see how different things can be, where you might be more likely to take them for granted. My blindspot lies in the duration of the observation. When you look at a zoo animal, I compare it to all the other ones I have spotted. When you look at the one or two zoo animals you have observed over an extended period of time, you can appreciate the difference between that animal today and yesterday or maybe a year ago. We might be saying the same word, but our sentences are different.

Globalization has its own way of making people more provincial or specialized, however you see it. It exposes us to worlds barely heard of by our ancestors, and it is precisely this which drives us into a our own isolated worlds. Yesterday we were boxed in by limited options. Today, we are boxed in by the infinity of choices. Our neighbors today are not those that found themselves in the same situation as us, but those people, halfway round the globe who out of millions of choices, has made ones similar to ours.

As our universe continues to expand, we watch other galaxies get further and further away, more and more complex. Even specific body parts have multiple specialities and sub-specialties because all that knowledge doesn’t fit in one person’s head. The explosion of information has us drowning in it. If we can’t make sense of it ourselves, then how can we even communicate these things to others? Even great scientific minds like Hilbert and Einstein talked passed each other while speaking the same mathematical language. What is left for those of us who want to talk about things so complex as society, with no language nearly as exact as mathematics?

Digging deep into one subject is fine for our current economic and pragmatic needs. But the structure of knowledge has a more complex layer which we have not reached and which will eventually be at the forefront of pragmatism. Today we still have reductionism, tomorrow, holism awaits.  We are narrowing down our study to very specific parts of a machine. But it is only by looking at the big picture that we can see their true nature. The understanding we can have of a couple of buttons on a keyboard is limited if we don’t have knowledge of their place within the system. We must have at least a general idea of the computer and its parts and functions if we are to truly understand the few buttons we wish to specialize in.

Now stop and notice the transition from the first paragraphs to this. Chaos and order have danced around, both in content as in structure. Structure is the pattern that is given to content. But if you wish to take a higher perspective you will not that structures themselves can be organized in a superstructure. The structure becomes the content to be structured by the superstructure.

I had anticipated a direction which this so called poem would take. I started off writing with no idea of who I would end up reaching the end point. In accord with the message, everything is interconnected. All problems, all puzzles, all questions, are related to each other, sometimes very indirectly, yet is almost a cliché that a tiny element (or system) such as a butterfly can flap its wings and have massive effects around the planet. We most stop examining things in isolation. Clarity and exactness have been taken too far.

I wonder if anybody will continue reading at this point. Here’s a heads up of what might come in the following paragraphs: a Wittgenstein reference and consideration for what the future might hold with Clare Graves’ theory in mind.

Ludwig would despise my mixing his life with his philosophy, but study his thinking and his biography to see an insane dance between chaos and order.

Dali does Escher

As for the Clare Graves part, I am interested in the development of those levels which are beyond the ones he has explored. For those of you who don’t know he wrote of mankind and individuals as going through a non-deterministic series of levels. Each previous level is at least partly conserved and overcome by the higher levels. As with the rectangles, the goal isn’t just to get far up on the hierarchy, but to develop each level adequately. The first level is about physiological survival. The second becomes about investing energy into forming and sustaining a basic social order which becomes differentiated from the rest of nature, the real world: a small tribe, family with mystical and animistic elements. The third happens when there is excess energy and the individuals can differentiate between himself and the tribe and decides to conquer others and/or other tribes. The suffering of the weaker and the inevitability of death even for the strong brings about the desire of permanence, salvation. Here we enter the fourth level in which absolute order is seen hidden behind everything. From here we obtain reason behind thought, mathematics and laws behind nature, an eternal soul behind the human body, God behind the universe. It becomes all about focusing not on this life and the transitory, but rather, the logos, the infinite and adjusting oneself to it. Eventually salvation no longer seems to be a priority and rather the self becomes the focus again. Having learned from the fourth level, he decides to focus on exploring his needs while calculating that he must takes others concerns and viewpoints into consideration if he is to succeed. This does not mean that he is generous, but rather, that he gains understanding of others behaviors so as to not bring about their anger and violence. He also learns the rules that direct the world of the material uses the understanding of these principles to direct the arts, to use nature via technology, to govern any system from the body to a country. Eventually the fifth level becomes overly focused on the system he wishes to control for his power and neglects other factors, which undermine the very power he desires to obtain. Among these is nature. He exploits nature as a tool and his fellow man as a consumer or an employee (just another factor he manipulates for his goals), messing them up and ruining the very factors that gave him strength. He realizes he has submitted everything to his calculations, typically, as mere means to his goals and forgotten about the intrinsic worth of others. He decides to invest his material and nonmaterial resources in giving power to those who don’t have it, especially those affected by his actions and that of his peers at the fifth level. Here we have the strength of the multicultural, anti-discrimination, environmentalist, liberal and socialist projects, and the values of emotion, love, art and peace take priority over reasoning and self-interesting. The strengths of the sixth are also the weaknesses that send it to the sixth level. The sixth level realizes that good intentions aren’t good enough to solve problems of the world and the world is far complex than it had anticipated.

So begins the second cycle of six levels. Each level parallels the one six levels below it, the same spot in the previous cycle. The seventh level becomes about figuring out the huge puzzle that the world, the self and everything is. At this level comes the realization of the interconnectedness of everything, the concepts of complexity, chaos and systems theory. Clare Graves’ theory itself is an expression of the seventh level. It seeks to overcome the relativism common in level six with a hierarchical pluralism. Everything seems to be possible to organize in this systems. Different cultural conceptions of time, theories of ethics, psychological theories, governmental structures, sexual maturation, scientific theories, brain development, religions, history, literature, artistic currents, philosophical ideas, everything seems to be explainable and analyzable by considering anything big or small as the ongoing product of the process of a system. Each system in turn can be seen, itself, as a product of other systems. This permits access to a novel myriad of perspectives, which as usual, is what brings about the next level. Globalization and the information age are great manifestations of the seventh level. The difference between the first level and seventh is that the first is about physical survival, while the seventh is about cognitive survival. In both, the world around seems so daunting. It is worth noting that complications can drive people or systems to the previous level, also known as regression. Health is to continue climbing the ladder while having a solid foundation in each level. The seventh level eventually has to deal with the information overload. The human mind cannot fully understand itself, much less the entire world around it. It must find new ways to cope, act and experience the world besides the useful cognitive tools. As indicated by the previous cycle, the seventh level’s survival goals transition into the eight level (an odd number, thus collectively oriented level) in which a new form of Tribe is formed, perhaps a global, planetary one. We will probably witness the reemergence of mythology, mysticism, animistic spirituality with components of all the levels that have contributed something since the second level. This will probably mean the infusion of a spirituality into complex technology, cognition, art, science, psychological and social development.

I must study politics and war that my sons may have liberty to study mathematics and philosophy. My sons ought to study mathematics and philosophy, geography, natural history, naval architecture, navigation, commerce, and agriculture, in order to give their children a right to study painting, poetry, music, architecture, statuary, tapestry, and porcelain.

-John Adams

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