TITLES (0001- 0029 May/June 2007)
Different words/items counted: 1860
Observation makes a difference (and vice versa)
0004 - I, there's the
0005 - The
art vs. Art
Are you an amoeba?
- Five secrets of success
0012 - President Jesus
0013 - The power of song
0014 - Style
0015 - Poetry alive and
Desire and will
0022 - The
Alienable rights and required duties
0024 - Creating the future
0025 - Why we exist
0026 - The rhetoric of
0027 - Poetry defined?
0028 - The
quality of your life
06/27/07 (#0029) Vacation notice
I knew that. - the Ed
H. Other, spelled
with an "M" as in "Mother". I'm too busy doing what needs to be done to
stop and think what I am doing here. Which does not diminish my joy one
You're carrying out you genetic programming and
that feels good and right. What can I tell you? Enjoy! - the
The Nutshell is putting on an itsy bitsy teeny weeny
yellow polka dot bikini and heading for the beach. Back July
06/26/07 (#0028) The
quality of your
Which of the following best describes your
understanding of your role in life?
A. You're trying to survive by your
wits and will in a hostile and predatory world.
B. Trapped in
a meaningless Kafkian enterprise you're trying to create a bubble of
meaning to anchor your life to.
C. Somebody set this world going and you're
just doing your part to keep it going.
D. You're going with the
flow, getting what enjoyment and nourishment you can from life as it
E. You know the world can be made a better place to
live, for yourself and others, and you're trying to do something about it.
You're a citizen of the world, enjoying your privileges in it and serving its
needs, working for a prosperous future.
G. You know exactly what's wrong with
the world and you're going to fix it (if they'll let you...).
Why? Oh, nothing in particular. Just thought I'd ask...
somewhere between D, E and F - in various proportions on various
06/25/07 (#0027) Poetry defined?
Here is something to
think about. So far you have produced the following:
Total Words: 6777
Total Punctuation: 901
Total Other Text: 127
Total Paragraphs: 498
So what's to think? But thanks for
keeping track... - the Ed.
What exactly is poetry anyway?
In common speech
when we say "poem", "poet", "poetic", etc., the idea that's foremost in our
minds is "romance", something vaguely associated with beauty,
truth, unrequited love, moonlit nights and grandiloquent tragic
heroism. We have Byron, Shelley, Keats and the rest of the 19th
century romantics to thank for putting that cast on the popular notion
A poet is, presumably, someone who writes poems. But what is
a poem? It eludes definition: it is often relatively short, but there are many
book-length poems; it may have a regular rhythmic and rhyming form, or it may be
completely free-form; it may be intended to be heard as spoken or sung,
or it may be intended to be seen as a pattern of words on a page; it
may be an expression of the writer's feelings of the moment, or it may be simply
an observation and reporting of an event; a poem may be lyrical, satyrical,
ironic, comical, tragic, dramatic, didactic, romantic, or nonsensical. So
how can you tell a poem from any other piece of writing?
In fact, there
is no boundary between poetic and non- or un-poetic expression -
it's a continuum. The aim of the poetry seems to be elegance, effectiveness and
economy of expression through precise and artful use of words. Well, big
deal. This is the aim of all good writing. Is poetry
particularly good writing? Some of the best writing in the
world is classified as poetry, so is some of the worst. Is there, in fact, any
such thing as poetry or is there just good and bad writing? Here's my take on it:
if you come across a piece of writing that is superbly organized,
compact, clear, jewel-like and carries a potent message in a penetrating form - you may call it a
poem, even if it happens to be the grocery list or the fine print on the back of
06/23/07 (#0026) The
rhetoric of fiction
with fiction is that it is not the reality. Of course, that is also it's
chief virtue. It seems to me most "serious" fiction falls under the rubric of
rhetorics, with the author artfully re-presenting the world of his/her
experience in such a way as to bring out for the readers the structure
and meaning s/he perceives in it. It's an argument for a particular point of
Unless it's a pure entertainment piece with no pretensions
to offering insights into anything, fiction needs to be read as
critically as any report on the state of the world but this is made difficult to
impossible by the fact that the author is intentionally messing with our heads
and hearts. There's a shamanistic aspect to the rhetoric of the novel
(or any of its visual equivalents like film or stage drama): the
form provides enough space for the shaman in charge to take the reader apart and
put her/him back together again, reshaped. Many lives have been changed by
novels, for better or worse. But fiction is not reality. Caveat
The only reality we have direct knowledge of is our
personal experience. Everything else is second hand or inference. A novel sets up
a "virtual reality" which becomes the reader's actual if
illusory experience akin to a dream or a hallucination with the boundary
between illusion and reality deliberately blurred. Caught up in this illusion,
we do not want to read critically. But if we wish to deepen our
understanding of the world, we have to let go of the illusion and analyse the
06/22/07 (#0025) Why we
schools of existential thought are a) that there is no reason for existence
and it has no purpose or meaning, and b) that there is. I belong to
the second school because I find the first one depressing. That leaves me
with the question what exactly is the reason for existence? As far
as I can tell, the only conceivable reason for existence is the
Capacity for enjoyment requires consciousness and,
judging from the presumably unexceptional sample provided by this
planet, the universe is evidently busy evolving ever higher forms of
consciousness. Where it will all end up is beyond human ken - here is where
religion comes in with answers that reflect our hopes and aspirations.
As we well know, existence is not exactly edenic. There are hellish
aspects to it as well. But existence is about creating possibility
for enjoyment - enjoyment is not guaranteed. The possibility of joy is
what ultimately drives the evolution of the universe. Indeed, if joy were
guaranteed, there would be no reason for all this vast and elaborate apparatus.
06/21/07 (#0024) Creating the future
Congratulations on reaching
0.22002200220022002200... % of your goal! (Actually, I had no idea that was my
goal... - The Ed)
In this issue you almost had me agreeing with you but that
third paragraph is a philosophical bombshell. The last two sentences mash (or
smash) together the laws of karma, Western fatalism and Stephen Hawking at his
maudlin worst. Give me a break ...universe in a nutshell, indeed!
Perhaps todays rumination will cast some light on
that overstuffed third paragraph. - The Ed
don't see why we have a DUTY any more than we have a RIGHT to anything. I
think we choose to impose all that stuff on ourselves. For better or
worse, and sometimes even for the better. -mzq
"Choose" is the critical word - see below. - The
In a probabilistic universe there
are no guarantees. There are, of course, probabilities - from virtual certainty
to virtual impossibility - which, to the extent that we understand the present
circumstances, we can estimate. Generally, this works well enough for practical
purposes. This is not surprising since we are well adapted to the world of
our experience. We have a practical knowledge of what the
probabilities are - some of it inherited with our genes, some of it
learned. This knowledge allows us to make useful predictions about the
Now here is a fact that is nothing short of
miraculous: Not only can we predict the probable future, we can actually
change it! We can alter the spectrum of probabilities to make the
future come out closer to our heart's desire. In other words, our
desire can be an aspect of the present
circumstances determining the probabilities of what happens next. Can
be - not is. To
become effective, our experienced
desire must be first converted into a decision (will) to act.
This is the miraculous part: we can chose to act or not to act, we can
choose to act in one way and not another, and our choice changes the
probable future. This is true creation: intentional shaping of the yet
course, creation, exhilarating and hopeful
as it may be, is a perilous act. No matter what we choose to do, there are
still no guarantees. We must be always prepared to deal with the
06/20/07 (#0023 ) Alienable rights and required duties
Contrary to the
American Declaration of Independence, we do not have any
inalienable rights. Not to life, not to liberty, not to pursuit of happiness,
not to free speech - in fact, not to anything. The universe does not give a hoot
about our demands for whatever rights we may claim.
universe, there are only two ways to get what we want: either you go
and get it for yourself, or else someone gives it to you. In a civilized society
we agree to grant each other certain rights for sake of order, peace and
prosperity. It's called culture and law. The rights we grant each other are
agreed on by consensus - there is nothing inalienable or absolute about them.
They are not intrinsically ours - they are given to us by others and can be
taken away by others.
On the other hand, like it or not, we all have
duties which we neglect at the risk of extinction. Duty to keep ourselves alive
and healthy, duty to the wellbeing and future prosperity of our species (which
includes the duty to take care of this planet so that it can continue to
sustain us), duty to use our minds to figure out where we want to go from here
and how, and perhaps the most fundamental duty of them all: to enjoy ourselves,
each other and the world. Punishment exacted by the universe for
neglecting these duties is harsh and merciless and not always fair to the
individual though in the large scheme of things a natural justice prevails. This
is a lawful universe though its laws are probabilistic, not
absolute. Once in a while you may get away with murder, another time
you may be punished for a crime you did not commit, but it all
comes out even in the end.
06/19/07 (#0022) The
73 years ago, at
approximately 9 AM Central European Time, I survived the ordeal of being born
into this world. In the course of the next 65 years or so I did not learn much -
enough to fake it as a social animal but not enough to deal with my fundamental
In the most
recent few years I finally got down to the brass tacks and did
some serious thinking. What emerged is no less than a cosmology concocted
to account for the world of my personal experience. While it provided a
good fit for everything I could claim to know so that I could at last clean up
the mess in my mind and hang everything up in its proper place, it left me with
an ultimate dilemma. It led inevitably to two, and only two, possible answers to
the most fundamental question of all: why is there something rather than
nothing? One answer is that there is a transcendental, eternal desire, the cause
of all existence, driving the evolution of the universe toward ever more
complex forms of consciousness. The objective? The greatest possible enjoyment
of being. The other answer is that there is
no reason for there being something rather than nothing. The
universe and its evolution are absolutely meaningless.
these hypotheses are equally tenable.
Neither can be proved or disproved. Logically only one of them can be
true (they are mutually exclusive). But which one? The second one has the advantage of
simplicity - it passes the Occam's razor test. On the other hand, it does nothing for me
in my search for a meaningful life. I much prefer the first hypothesis - it has
infinitely greater explanatory power (for one, it allows for and explains free
will). It opens up vistas of potential joie de vivre and offers
hope and purpose. That's good enough for me.
Different but equal?
There's a mechanical complication standing in the way
of complete equalization of the sexes - the genital apparatus. Until we develop
some "brave new world" technology for manufacturing human beings in
vitro directly from DNA, we're stuck with some people being assigned to the
child-bearing function, specifically people with wombs, sharply distinguishing
them from the people without wombs.
Mechanics aside, there is a much more
significant difference between sexes: the psychological difference. Its origins may be
rooted in the physiological difference and the long history of relations between men
and women before the technological and cultural revolutions made it possible
for women to start liberating themselves from their dependence on men.
However, its significance transcends its origins. It offers two distinct
perceptions of reality - the feminine and the masculine. The two together create
a possibility of deeper understanding than either one could achieve on its
Interestingly, it appears that the potential for development
of a feminine or a masculine psyche resides in all humans. Femininity or
masculinity are not absolutely determined by gender, they are the two
extremes of a continuous spectrum. We are all to some extent androgynous.
Nevertheless, I believe we profit greatly from the creative interplay between
the feminine and the masculine - it would be a loss to erase the
distinction. The price of keeping it, however, must be
paid in the logistics of division of labor - masculine and
feminine persons are not equally suited for all jobs.
06/16/07 (#0020) La difference
Once upon a time, not so long ago, in fact, the
last time I looked, women were only good for pleasuring men, bearing and raising children and household
chores. They were not considered to be fully human. OK, granted,
not all of them (it never was true of all of them) and
the number of women claiming full humanity on par with men has been and is
What it is is that in the survival of the fittest
game the importance of brawn and aggression has greatly diminished and the
importance of brainpower has greatly increased. But even more significantly, the
importance of the sexual difference has diminished. Life is no longer mainly
about procreation and continuation of the species - it is mainly about
fulfilling our human potential for conscious experience and creativity.
Sexuality has been subordinated to that now primary objective. Sex is no longer
just for making babies, indeed, it is no longer required for that purpose.
Now that we are
becoming all equal in our humanity, men and women, and procreation is not
the primary objective, obviously heterosexuality looses its cultural status
and significance. We are becoming sexually homogenized. We need not look
for genetic causes to explain the homosexualization (and generally, pansexualization) of humanity.
It is inherent in the equalization of the sexes.
complete loss of the distinction between sexes would be, in my view, a
tragedy. Women are good for pleasuring men (and vice versa) precisely because of
that distinction and I say vive la difference!
06/15/07 (#0019) Frozen blueberries
I owe it to
the posterity to reveal a marvelous discovery of mine. You know how frozen
blueberries do not even remotely resemble fresh ones, in appearance, texture or
taste? In fact, after defrosting they look and taste cooked. Yuck! (I hate
cooked blueberries as much as I love fresh ones). Well, pay attention -
here is how to bring dead frozen blueberries back to life.
I hope you
like hot cereals because a hot cereal (such as Bob's Red Mill multigrain cereal)
is the critical component in this project. I didn't use to like hot cereals when
I was a kid, but now I love them, which is how I stumbled on this method of
frozen blueberry revivification. It's wonderfully simple: cook your cereal
normally to a somewhat thinner consistency than you like, then, while it's hot,
dump in a good bunch of hard frozen blueberries and stir. Two things happen: the
cereal which normally takes forever to cool down to where you can eat it without
scalding your mouth comes down to perfect eating temperature in no time flat;
and the frozen blueberries defrost yet remain plump, firm, and cool - a
credible facsimile of the fresh fruit!
I have my theories why this
works but I'll refrain from inflicting them on you. This method also works
with frozen cherries and with frozen peaches. Go forth, enjoy, spread the
06/14/07 (#0018) Naked
There is no difference [between desire and
will] because I did not think of such a question.
and I defined them so as to distinguish between them - The
On the other hand it would
make a good summer blockbuster: William Shakespeare in
a posthumous affair with Desiree Clary (and Napoleon).
Whatever happened to
Wittgenstein? Didn't he direct just such a spectacle? -
Wittgenstein (r.i.p.) and I have no
quarrel. He didn't have the answers either... - The
The nude as an idea and an art form is made possible by the fact that
we wear clothes - most of us, anyway. Why do we wear clothes? Because we're born hairless
(except here and there). We need clothes for warmth, for protection, for distinction,
for decoration and, questionably, for [im]modesty. Note the "im" in the
square brackets - it's there because clothes are used both to hide and to flaunt
the sexual aspects of the body. However, both these functions currently apply almost
exclusively to females in their nymph-hood. Contemporary men,
when in their normal attire, vie with each other for extremes of
grunginess, ugliness and grossness.
It's decidedly not cool these
days to look good if you're a guy. The rule in the "western" cultures
seems to be: women must be super-attractive and men must be super-repellent.
That's how the sexes are differentiated, clothes-wise. I rather
think this is a reaction to the rise of the gay culture. But then
we have the phenomenon of the "metrosexual" - the actually good-looking male who
is not gay. Perhaps this is a counter-reaction to the appropriation by the gay
culture of the right to look good.
In any case, clothes have
become a permanent aspect of being human. We have become as dependent on these
synthetic pelts as hermit crabs on their adopted shells. If we discarded them
now, the civilization as we know it would crash and we would perish. We can no
longer survive without clothes just as we can no longer survive without electric
power, oil, capitalism, atom bomb or internet. We have become
semi-synthetic beings, partly biological, partly manufactured, and plugged
06/13/07 (#0017) Desire and will
In answer to the question you never asked,
here's my take on the difference between "will" and
"Desire": the consciousness of a need - of something
necessary yet missing; the direct experience of incompleteness, of a
"Will": the conscious intent to act with
a specific purpose (to satisfy a desire).
Desire might be described as
the beginning of all things - without desire nothing
would happen. On the other hand, nothing might be described as the mother
of desire - it is the quintessential void, the lack of everything.
is necessary but not sufficient for anything to happen. It is a state,
a pre-condition. Intent or will is the necessary generative force that actually
makes things happen in response to the desire.
Where does will come
from? How does it make things happen? Excellent questions. If you know the
answers, let me know.
06/12/07 (#0016) Ecstasy
state of having bootstrapped oneself out of
and beyond one's historically established limitations and boundaries
(physical, intellectual, emotional). In most cases, these
limitations and boundaries are self-imposed
- bootstrapping merely requires conscious recognition of the facts on the
ground, something that may be precipitated by an intense experience such as
falling in love, radical failure or rational cognitive therapy.
But not all of
our walls are
of our own making. Some of them
are virtually absolute (we cannot substantially change our height, even
by surgery). Some have been imprinted in our genes or deeply planted by
early childhood experiences. They are represented by well
established structures in the brain against which we keep bumping,
powerless to tear them down. They may, however, be torn down for us, or at least
temporarily disabled, by external forces such as psychoactive
chemicals, usually with shamanic assistance. That's when we
experience true ecstasy. Our consciousness actually travels
outside the confines of our established self, out of the
familiar territory and into a world totally new and strange filled with
possibilities we could not have even imagined.
This kind of
out-of-self experience is akin to becoming bicultural (except for those for
whom becoming unmoored from their established self is a terrifying
experience that drives them even deeper into their ego shell). There's
an irreversible loss of the parochiality of selfhood. The psychedelic
generation saw in this the cure for all the world's ills. Unfortunately,
contrary to popular belief, ideas are powerless in themselves. Raising
consciousness cannot by itself change the world. What we need to raise
is the desire and the will
work for the change and to keep working until it
becomes reality. For better or
06/11/07 (#0015) Poetry alive and
I just heard there's a
biopic of E. Piaf in the works. Mining the past for stories has ever been our
Poetry has been in the news recently for one of the least poetic
of reasons: big money. $200 million to be specific, now available, thanks to
Ms. E. Lilly, to support this literary genre worldwide. There's been much talk.
Poetry, it has been alleged, is dying as an art. Poetry has become a sterile
exercise for academicians. Nobody reads poetry anymore. Maybe $200 mil can
finance a campaign to make poetry relevant and readable. Etc.
It is true
that many if not most poems published in the New Yorker (possibly the
only general interest magazine in the world which still regularly publishes
poetry) are intellectual verbal puzzles for which I have no time, no patience
and no requisite scholarly background (I'm bad at crossword puzzles too).
Yet I am not a totally unpoetic soul. Indeed, it was news to me that poetry
is moribund - I find it almost everywhere I look in abundance and
bursting with life.
It's not the poetry, it's the definition of it as
a "literary genre" that is
dying. What has happened is that poetry has gone multimedia. Yes,
poetry as a purely linguistic exercise had, has and always will
have an important place in culture (it can be huge fun) but against
the expanding world of poetic possibilities its share of our
attention inevitably must be shrinking. $200 million worth
of spotlighting won't hurt, but as long as we're just talking
words, it won't help, either...
06/09/07 (#0014) Style
Style. Can you buy it? Can you wear it?
What's it worth? Can you afford it? Do you need it?
There are those rare people who are at all times utterly
themselves. Their innermost self and their public persona are one and the same. They live in complete
harmony with themselves. Never at a loss how to act, what to say,
they simply express what they feel, directly, spontaneously, genuinely and easily. They lack any guile. What they
do have, without trying, is style. Their
style is simply the shape of their soul as it expresses itself unhindered by
any masks in their words, thoughts and actions. Some of these people can be extremely attractive,
some horrifying, all of them disconcerting.
As for the rest of us, we need to consciously put on
a synthetic style to establish our public identity. Especially if we are
not sure what our true identity may be. Or would rather not know. Or maybe as an
aid to becoming what we wish to be. Or, in the extreme case, as that which we
have become - when we have become the mask we're wearing with nothing behind
Initially, we pick up a style by imitation from family and
friends. It may or may not suit us. Prefabricated styles are readily available
in the price range from free to fabulously expensive. We can use them as
crutches and/or status symbols until we find our own true style - that
degree of harmony between the inner and public selves that allows us to act
consistently without having to think about it.
06/08/07 (#0013 ) The
power of song
Since when did the neo-cons become "ultra
Profit was incidental and desireable but not
The neo-cons have/had a power/culture agenda which
aimed at protecting sources of oil and defending/extending western colonization
a la Israel.
Profit was not
essential?? I doubt that love of humanity is what motivates the neo-con
is my particular pet quirk. Thirteen being my lucky number, off we go
under its happy spell.
I was perhaps sixteen or seventeen, still living
with parents. That morning the radio woke me up as usual but what I heard -
still half asleep, savoring the last dregs of a dream - was far far from
usual. It was a young woman's voice, singing - but her singing was like nothing
I had ever heard before. Her clear, resonant, full throated voice was
naked, fearless emotion - a soul laid bare, nothing held back. That voice woke
me up to a state of deeply conscious wakefulness - it was as if until then I had
never been really awake.
The singer was not identified
after the song ended. But with that one song she changed my life. For many
years I kept listening for her voice, hoping to find out who she was,
without luck. All I knew about her was that she was French - that was the language
of the song. Ultimately, I did discover her identity - Edith Piaf, the
Parisian street singer who rose to fame between 1936 and 1948 then flamed out. I own
a full set of Piaf recordings, and I love them - but you know what? It's not the
same as it was that morning when I was a teen.
I wonder to what extent
who we are and how we live is influenced by the music we wake up to? Especially
in our formative years? And why don't we have anyone like Piaf around? Actually,
I'm sure we do, but any Piafs that may be out there in the world are flying well
under the cultural radar which is simply not tuned to them. Not even
06/07/07 (#0012 )
I know at least one person has read the
Nutshell, in fact, all of them. But for some reason, she did not click on
firstname.lastname@example.org to comment. I
think the problem is she has my personal e-mail address and used that
automatically. But if you're responding to the Nutshell please
click the red link above. Thank you. That's all the business for
So how would Jesus do in Iraq if he were in the White House?
(Not in the least a farfetched idea - he'd be in by a huge landslide if he
ran). I am talking here about Jesus the man, as we know him from history,
not Jesus God Almighty who, presumably, could fix Iraq and everything
else with a snap of his fingers if he wanted to. Jesus was a man with a
profound understanding of the human nature and with a personality and charisma that
commanded respect and love of the common people he liked to be with. (So much
so that the Established Powers became seriously alarmed by his popularity). These
are not qualities our current President [George W.] can be accused of, his claims of
being a follower of Jesus notwithstanding. I think it is fairly safe to assume
that President Jesus would not have started a pre-emptive war with Iraq in the
first place. Not because he was against war in principle but because he would
have found a more effective and less destructive way to deal with the threat of
Iraq - besides being able to evaluate that threat far more realistically and
honestly than W's cohort of ultra-capitalist ideologues for whom "good"
and "profit" are synonymous.
But what if Jesus were to be elected in
2008, with the Iraq mess firmly in place? I suspect he would take some radical
actions to resolve the conflict between the Islamic and the "Western" cultures,
to get at the root of the conflict and expose the festering fear and hate
feeding it. He would likely do the same for the Suni-Shiite and Arab-Israeli
conflicts. Assuming he would not be resorting to miracles, in the course of his
eight year administration he would only be able to plant the seeds of peace in
the hot spots of the world. The rest would be up to people of good will. Of
course, chances are pretty good that we would be back at it within years or
months after the Jesus administration.
06/06/07 (#0011) Five secrets of success
just visualized it: for securely
grasping 3D objects, four points of contact is the minimum
required. That's four fingers, or, three fingers and a stop, like the palm. But
the fifth is totally unnecessary. I have no idea how many fingers are needed to
securely grasp a 4D object and I'm not going there.
Four Secrets of
Success! Don't ask, they're secret. But I'll tell you anyway because I hate
secrets and it is my secret mission in life to destroy all secrets. Starting
with the Four Secrets of Success. Why they're secret, and who's guarding their
secrecy - that's another secret but it will have to wait for another time
because today I'm blowing the lid off the Four Secrets of Success! Got your pads
and pencils? Here they are:
1. Desire (yours)
2. Energy (yours)
Intelligence (yours), and
4. Support (from people and
That's it. Yes, that's all there is to it. Now go forth
and succeed - just pay attention to the details. It's all in the details,
where, they say, God meets the devil. The battle between God and the devil
can get tedious. So much so that I think we need a Fifth Secret of
5. Endurance (yours).
06/05/07 (#0010) Why
This makes exactly as many Nutshells
published so far as I have digits at the outer edges of both my
Does that make this number special? No, but it's a "handy" (so to
speak) counting unit if you have a lot of stuff* to count. More curious are
those digits growing out of the palms of my hands. Why five on each
hand? OK, two is not enough, really, for effective grasping. But three
does the job. Whether four is better than three is debatable - depends on
the design of the grasping unit. It might add some versatility to some designs
but a really economic design should be able to do everything with just
three well designed and related digits. Except play piano. Or a flute, or a
guitar or most any musical instrument. For making music one can't have too
many fingers. If we had twelve on each hand, we'd make good use of them. But we
only have five - why five? In a well designed general-purpose manipulation tool,
fourth finger may not really be necessary and the fifth is almost
counterproductive. And special purpose manipulators (such as music players)
require as many digits as music calls for (hence orchestras). What
absolutely requires five, no more, no fewer, fingers to execute? I can't think
of a thing**.
The fact that people and a lot of other creatures, like
apes, racoons, lizards and dinosaurs, have five fingers per limb, may be an
evolutionary accident., or it may be meaningfully related to the fact that
a lot of flowers have five petals. I rather think the latter. There's
something about number five...
Of course, there's
something about every one of the smaller numbers. Even some huge,
monstrous numbers have individual peculiarities which make them stick out. I
wonder if there are any completely undistiguished numbers that have no strange
unique properties whatever (other than being smaller or larger than every other
number)? I bet there aren't.
But why five?
Publisher's Note: "stuff" is an archaic term for "shit".
** Publisher's Note: "a thing" is an archaic
phrase meaning "shit".
Are you an amoeba?
"...but never, never on a Sunday, for Sunday is my day of rest." (Mellina Mercouri - whatever happened to
OK, it's a day of self-indulgence and not doing
anything I don't wanna. So this is the new publishing policy for the Nutshell
: Never on a
Sunday! On the other hand, one should never say never, so I reserve the
right to publish on Sunday if the spirit moves me. As if anybody
Here's what all this shouting into empty space is about: it's a
proof of my existence. It may also be a proof of your non-existence.
No, that's wrong. Actually my existence prooves your existence. I can
only exist by distinguishing myself from everything that is not me. So there must be something else besides me in this
wilderness after all. All that is not me, namely, you. QED. Now the
question is: what are you up to? You can't destroy me any more than I can
destroy you because we cannot exist without each other. But there might be some
disputes over the boundary between me and you - where exactly is it? Where do I
end and where do you begin?
I just thought of something. If you should
split, like an amoeba (for all I know you are an amoeba) then you would
no longer depend on my existence. One of you could devour me entirely and,
as long as there was the other, the world would not cease to exist! What are you
up to? Are you splitting?
Damn! I don't think I can split - I'm too
well integrated. Doomed by a stupid amoeba! How horribly
Until tomorrow, if there is one,
I was sick yesterday, OK?
Believe it or not, there are actually things that take
precedence over the Nutshell. Besides dealing with risks to life and limb,
there is the matter of obligations to friends, lovers and family. This is
followed by my duty to myself to use what talents I have in the
most effective ways. Then come the Mechanics-of-Life: maintenance of the
infrastructure, utilities, fiscal arrangements. After that, there is the package
of education, entertainment and recreation - in other words, fun stuff. Next,
adequate rest. the Nutshell trails last. But not least. After a day of doing
what I must, should or want to, the Nutshell
provides an escape into another dimension - of unplanned and
unrestricted spontaneity of thought.
05/31/07 (#0007) Unsatisfied forever
Only too much is enough. Perhaps not even
This may be true of other animals as well, but
homo sapiens as a species is the epitome of insatiability. There
are individuals among us, particularly among the old and about to die, who
claim to be content with their lot and maybe the are. But many of us, and not
just the young, resent any limitations on our dreams and desires. Our ambitions
are never satisfied, as related by many a folk tale. We will not cease our
pursuit of happiness until we overreach ourselves and often not even then. We'd
rather die than be satisfied.
Well, that's evolution for you.
It continues to test all possibilities for increasing capacity for conscious
experience. Here on Earth, we're the species at the leading edge of this
evolutionary drive towards higher consciousness. And we haven't got here by
being satisfied with who we are and can do. Should we ever find peace and
happiness, that will be the end of us - another evolutionary dead
05/30/07 (#0006) art vs. Art
A clarification. In yesterday's musings about art what
I had in mind was, of course, Art with capital A.
The regulation garden variety art with small a (illustration, portraiture, journalism,
advertising, decorative arts, entertainment, etc.) lies well within the
spectrum of linguistic communication devices. Like all languages, it has its
rules of composition and its set symbollic vocabulary. Its meaning and
intent are usually clearly evident. This is consumer art, an ancient
and honorable craft - we need not look down our noses at it. Not
infrequently it possesses some aspects of Art - that certain je ne
sais quoi, inexpressible in words. There is no hard boundary between art
and Art - they coexist happily in many if not most works of art. Indeed, capital
A Artists often resort intentionally to the language of art with small
a to catch our attention in order to confront it with the
So, if you can describe and explain it, it may well
be art, but it's the parts you can't put your finger on that make
05/29/07 (#0005) The inexplicably undescribable
Why do we do art?
Here's one theory: because language is inadequate.
literary arts -
poetry, story-telling, oratory - play with the language itself, trying
to force it do more, to transcend its own limitations, to find new
dimensions. The non-linguistic arts - music, dance, construction, decoration -
already free of the restrictions that language imposes, rush in to fill the
great need to express the liguistically inexpressible.
From the earliest beginnings, the human languages have not been able to keep up
with the human need to communicate. They never had the
capacity to contain the fullness of the human spirit. This is not
surprising since language is a thing of our own invention - it is necessarily
something less than its inventors and constructors. Try as we may to adapt it to
our needs, it will always fall short. We need something beyond language to
bridge the gap.
Does that make art a kind of a
No. A language is bound by the universally agreed on rules of grammar
and a set vocabulary of defined symbols. We can construct languages
using vocabularies of sound, movement, images, or structures (and
have done so) but these languages also, though they may extend the possibilities
for communication, cannot fully meet our need. Art begins where
all language fails. In art there are no rules except those embedded in our
individual natures and desires. And there is no vocabulary - there are only
attempted evocations of feelings and experiences beyond the reach of
any defined symbols.
In other words, if you can describe and
explain it, it's probably not art...
05/28/07 (#0004) I,
So I took the Sunday
off. Deal with it.
thoughts on lucid dreaming. Dreams, as such, are as "real" as any experience
and to the extent that they are "real" they can bite. They have physiological effects
- they stir up emotions. Should you work yourself up into such a state that
you burst a vessel and die, well, you'll never know for sure whether you died while
asleep or awake. There goes the basis for distinguishing between a dream and
"To die, to sleep. To sleep, perchance to dream. Aye,
there's the rub". If Hamlet thought about it a little more lucidly he would
surely realize, especially after viewing poor Yorick's skull, that once the
contents of that skull decompose and cease to be functional, there is no
infrastructure left to support such activity as dreaming. Or thinking, or
experiencing at the level of human consciousness. No, there's no chance of
dreaming. But suppose consciousness is not a function of the brain? An
argument can be made (I won't go into it here) that it is the other way around,
that the brain is a creature of consciousness. The "I" that once peered
out of this now empty skull through it's now long rotted out eyes may not
remember anything of the personality that was the function of the
brain (memory, too, is a function of the brain) but it may still be here,
in this world, peering out of other, still functioning eyes, experiencing life
in all its glory and horror. I, there's the rub...
05/26/07 (#0003) Observation makes a difference (and vice versa)
Can something happen without it being
To say that something has happened is to assert that the world
has changed. But if no change has been observed what grounds have we
for saying that something has happened? At most we could say that
something has happened even though we can't see any
change. But we have no reason for saying even that. We don't know whether
something has happened or not and it doesn't matter - it made no
We often assume, or speculate, that something has happened
that we did not directly observe. Yet we do not make such assumptions for no
reason at all - they are necessary to account for something we did
observe. Directly or indirectly, an event has been observed as a change in
the world of our experience.
It is true that much that happens in the
world escapes our individual attention. To any one of us, it's as if it did
not happen. But the world as a whole "knows" that it has changed whether we
notice or no. The change in the world constitutes an observation
in itself, just as the chemical changes in our retinas and our
brains constitute an observation of changes in patterns of light and dark.
Nothing happens, no change can occur, without it being observed by the world
(which includes, but is not limited to, us human beings).
It would seem
that an "unobserved event" is an oxymoron.
How do you distinguish between dreams and waking
There are instances of "lucid" dreaming when we are absolutely
convinced that we are awake. In my experience, this conviction is more akin to a
temporary confusion - failure to observe the difference between the dream and
the world of waking experience. Sooner or later something highly improbable
occurs forcing me to conclude that I must be dreaming. I can confirm
this by waking up (though sometimes with panic inducing difficulty).
Once in a while a similar situation arises when I am, presumably, awake. The
difference is that, in this case, I cannot wake up at all. I am trapped in
the waking "reality". So that's my test: I can wake up out of
a dream. I can't wake up out of the "reality". And I cannot escape it by
denying it or halucinating or falling asleep - the waking "reality" still bites.
It has predictable consequences.
Which is why I tend to
take waking "reality" seriously and discount the dream experience, however
(#0001) First entry
First question: why are you reading this?
1. You are a compulsive
reader and will read anything in front of your face.
2. You are a wannabe writer and are following Hemingway's
instruction: "read everything".
3. You're hoping this
blog contains something new under the sun.
4. It's nice
5. You're wondering where I'm going with
I'll tell you: I don't
This much I do
know: it will be short. Most ideas will fit into a nutshell - this is
So what's on your
mind? I will publish
what's on my mind and the most interesting (and shortest) comments (if any)
on (mostly) daily basis although I reserve the right to disappear for indefinite
periods of time without notice.
comments, ideas, questions, images to