The Excuse

About

I’m saying what I believe is that existence is true. That stuff exists. And that, at the end of the day, past all the beautiful colour of language, life and opinion, that’s all I believe.

My disclaimer, you see. I plan on doing and saying lots of things that certainly won’t be taken under proper consideration – that’s part of the fun, you see. In a world of headlines, there are only a few ways to grab the headlines and related iconography. And on the off-chance that I operate one of those routes to acknowledgement, I’d like a place to fall back to. A little redoubt that says at least I tried to tell you. History is thick with people admirably defended by truth and purpose – having a heart, having a kind of statement unspoken. Well, this is my statement written.

I have a very simple view of the world, and one that I’ll endeavour to explain over the next lifetime.

1. All things are of equal value, if divergent in semblance.

2. Everything is trying to exist more and/or exist better. Evolution, kidder.

3. Everything is stuff that exists.

The weird thing is that those three points are actually just the third one. All you need to know is that stuff exists, and the rest seems to follow unavoidably. It’s terrifying, brilliant, and maybe a little disgusting. That’s philosophy for you, or thinking or whatever it’s called these days. You do it proper and you’ll almost wish you hadn’t. Almost.

I have other, personal, viewpoints that seem to follow from the basic three. Maybe they can help to explain. I believe in non-violence: I believe in getting rid of compulsion in the most absolute sense of one person forcing an action on another, unwilling, person. But I also believe that all viewpoints are right and, for various reasons, of equal merit at the time of their being held. Though there are ‘better’ viewpoints that will eventually replace ‘worse’ ones, this is a process of constant change and improvement that happens on an individual level. At any one time, any idea being held will be the best that that individual can come up with: at any one time, everyone will have the best idea. Best for them, at least. And you can’t ban a thought, so don’t try.

In other words, people will keep on doing what they individually need to do whether you like that or not. No only whether you like it or not, but in a total, truthful way. People have to live their lives. Yes, that includes the ‘worst’ people. And don’t get me wrong, I personally hate murders, rapists, evil-doers of all kinds. But this isn’t entirely about what I think. It’s about the broader fabric of things. We all live in our own heads and can only understand things as we individually come to understand them. So yeah, if you don’t want to get killed by a murderer, defend yourself as you think fit. Just don’t go pretending that the murder is some inexplicable force of evil. He or she is (was if you then killed them) a human being, exactly like you in core functionality. We all exist, we all want to make the most of it, we all do our best to achieve that end. This is the sense in which we are all the same. Some people will think that robbery, rape and murder will help them get the most out of life. Those of us who disagree should try and convince them of our alternative ideas, while also (if we want to protect ourselves – we don’t have to) making sure these others don’t cause too much damage in the meantime.

Essential concept for me: we humans (almost) always operate as individual units. Even when we’re working together, it’s still a bunch of individuals as well as the group they form. The existential self does not disappear, it keeps working. It never fully stops working until death. And every moment of work forms that person. Every moment of your existence contributes to who you will be, and not everything that happens to you will be easily within your control. Not all of it will be familiar. In fact, most of it will be largely out of your control and will be unfamiliar at first. You have to learn patterns, you often have to learn to influence your life rather than try to control it outright. Life is bigger than you. Life won’t bow to your whims. But it will listen to you, and it will respond to what you do. And you will respond to it. That goes for every one of us, ‘best’ and ‘worst’.

Like what I say above, that what I do won’t always be taken under ‘proper consideration’, all I’m strictly saying is that not all of you are me. And why would you be? It’d be boring (amongst other things) if we were all that kind of similar.

An important point, right: if you believe something you should really believe it. So if you want to go non-violence for example, then you really need to be trying hard to make sure that you never need to deploy violence. Don’t just say you’re a pacifist without thinking about it. Adhere to something meaningful to you, not a hollow puppet made only to entertain the kids. At the same time though, humans are not ideal beings. We can consider ideas, but we can’t always keep to them perfectly. It’s not what we’re made for. We’re made to survive and thrive (as a species) in most environments on the Earth’s surface, and we continuously remake ourselves as time goes on. One day, we will probably become strange non-human beings of perfection or near-perfection. I mean obviously we’re going to take evolution into our own hands. However, since we’re not at that day yet, I can’t say what that will be like. I’m one of us, and so also not perfect. All I can say is that knowing some kind of truth, knowing some kind of good idea, means that you should try and follow that good idea, and teach others about it.

But this is not just about people. This is about all of existence – life isn’t just humans. All of existence is trying to do what’s best, is continuing to exist. It’s all doing what it believes is right, so to speak. We’ve only come to be in the first place through those kinds of existential forces. Things that don’t give a fig about our daily joys or tribulations, from atoms and whatever else, swapping electrons n’ all, up through your bacterias and animals. Even rocks are doing what they’ve gotta do, and the universe, the existence is dependant on all of that doing and having done exactly what it did and does. It’s mind-boggling. Let me tell you, there are times when I wish I was a future being capable of dealing with this, and there are times when I wonder if I’d be better off not knowing. But bollocks to both. I’m here right now, I know what I know, I am what I am, and it’s important.

So that’s my mission statement. My core belief is in the truth of existence. Alright. Every part of existence is there together. I can talk in religious language, scientific language, atheistic language. Whatever language you want me to talk, I can at least try and learn it and do that for you. I don’t mind language, because a truth – if true – should hold steady in any language. That’s why in ideas terms I don’t like bashing anyone for the group they belong to. The only issue is the veracity of their guiding principles, and it’s in the nature of the truth for us to want it, for us to want to be right in a complete sense. So everyone will be trying to get to truth in their guiding principles. And that’s the same as me. So there will be room for us to work together to get to that truth.

Every group is trying to get to the same thing as every other group. All they end up fighting over is misinterpreted looks and sounds. And if you get it in your head that we are all looking for the same thing, maybe it’s easier to forgive a misinterpretation, and maybe it’s easier to understand others. Maybe the fighting lessens because it doesn’t help. And then maybe this would’ve been an introduction rather than an obscure disclaimer.

Stuff exists. Deal with it.

Does anyone else get tired of labels?

Political, Prosaic, Pulpit

I’m thinking ideologies and religions and politics and genders and all that stuff, but maybe some shopping labels too. I mean we wouldn’t need traffic light nutritional guidelines if all the food was in its freshly farmed or slaughtered form, or prepared by a trustworthy authority that’s not trying to pump us full of tasty tasty fats and sizzling stimulating sugars. Bastards.

I’ve been spending some time trying to work out what femininity is, and I’ve mostly been avoiding the masculine. I know enough already, I figure. But really, all you learn in research is that both terms are unhelpful. They’re social groupings that just don’t matter. I mean, grand scheme don’t matter. Like sure walking down the street right now reading this on your phone, or maybe sat at home listening to a loved one do something in the next room, or lying in bed listening to some filthy Lou Reed…then maybe it matters a little bit. But still not really. It’s not an important part of who you are, it’s just a filter that other people will try and feed you through, if and when they can. It’s not something you have to participate in.

I do it for fun, sometimes. I make myself a science experiment, probably way too obviously. I become the shy girl or boy walking into that club, that bar, that coffee place for the first time. That lecture hall, that fashion outlet, that library. I make myself look ‘interesting’ and do ‘interesting’ things, and I wait for people to respond. Sometimes I get real chats – people who find and love the opportunity to sincerely be themselves with another individual. Sometimes I get fake come-ons, brusque and lustful slurps of kisses or coffees, raised eyebrows, scowls, or timid and tender requests for books to borrow, seats to steal.

The identities I put on are not identities, they’re labels, uniforms. And I find it really…sad, that we have to act this way, or that we choose to act this way. That we get lost in posturing.

So much of what I read about masculine and feminine identity, for example, comes down to physical features and behaviours. But it’s like trying to say someone is bald – that semi-famous philosophical problem – how many hairs does it take? Because clearly you can be called bald even if you have some hair. It’s a vaguery of quantity and presentation that seems to defy conventional logic: the point at which someone becomes bald is relative to who’s looking, or who’s wearing or not wearing the hair. But mainly who’s looking I guess. It’s not so important to the one with the hair, they just feel more or less of a breeze. They probably don’t have much need for a name for how they look. They have other words, pictures, sounds, for their experience, what they think, how they feel.

So with masculinity and femininity – it’s a vague labelling to help other people understand who you are, and how they see you. It matters to them whether you walk how they want or have the curves they want, or the muscles they need you to have, the job they want you to work. In a sense, therefore, it’s not something you need to worry about at all. It doesn’t matter to you, you just have to be yourself and, hey, why not enjoy being yourself while you’re there? So what if someone else doesn’t like it? If they’re not involved in your life in any meaningful way, it shouldn’t matter. If they are involved in your life seriously…then why aren’t they taking you seriously?

Okay, sometimes being yourself will get you into trouble with the onlookers. They can imprison you, harm you, bully you. Sometimes. Basic line of defence there is the same: fuck them. You’ve got one life being you, so don’t let anyone shit that up. Being yourself can hurt but unselving is worse. The middle ground is, I guess, hiding in the labels people like without adopting them. The safe place, maybe, mostly, is that. Understanding the labels other people use, that you probably also have to use, remembering that a label is just that. Remember the you behind that peelable sticker. Behind that loose dust jacket.

Identity is something far more personal, and so far more nebulous than label. No name can fully describe, no traits, no long videos, books, audio recordings, nothing can quite encapsulate it fully except you having yours, you being you. And heck it’s something you can’t avoid. Unselving just hurts worst, it doesn’t actually break you. You continue being you, and having been you.

Sometimes I think labels are a way of people escaping their own totality. I’ve done a lot over the years I’m unhappy about, and that stuff doesn’t go away with time. Forgetting it for a while doesn’t wash it out of history. But hey, that doesn’t determine who I have to be, what I have to do, how I have to feel. It’s stuff I have to come to terms with, and carry on in spite of. And hiding, pretending, putting it off…that’s just running away from creaks in the floorboards, rustles in hedgerows, the call of the Moon. Life is something you have to live, you know. It’s weirdly self-fulfilling like that. All it asks is that you get properly involved in being…and being you.

Now, maybe I can’t make this properly engage with the debate on “identity issues/politics” but that’s because I don’t like having to be part of that warzone. I’m peaceful, I want happy, functioning folk, not holy corpses. Most of any debate seems to have become people demanding obedience and adherence from people who demanded that from them, because people demanded that from them, because people demanded that from them…ad nauseam. It’s a minefield in which most any opinion is wrong for someone. I just wish we could get back to the reality…you don’t need to have such a strong opinion about someone else’s life. Beyond wanting them not to shit on you, they’re really not your problem. And most people don’t want to shit on you. Scat porn is relatively exclusive like that.

It’s so frustrating as politics descends into nonsensical exchanges of buzzwords that have lost all meaning, discussions of gender, sexuality, patriarchy, identity, dissolve into a mess of offended males and females fighting for their right for other people to call them male or female…and that we seem to be unable to say “rape is wrong” and have everyone understand. We seem unable to say “racism is wrong” and have everyone understand. “War is wrong. Violence is wrong.” Or worse, we know these things are wrong, but in despair we suffer or indulge them anyway, the incomprehensible spewing mess of our existence drowning so many fractured minds…

I think we’re ordering. I think bit by bit humanity is helping itself to calm down and recognise a fair and universal understanding almost beyond description, but well within grasp. And on the one hand it’s so beautiful to feel that hope, more, that knowledge. But on the other, I am human and I am impatient.

Fifteen

Prosaic, Pulpit

The Flammarion Engraving. People have been aware of weird shit since before 1872, but this picture feels like a good illustration of what I’ve been feeling lately. There’s a point in any stage of society where the society’s members reach out for things they don’t understand, like space. Broadly speaking the engraving is about people theorising the existence of things beyond the sky. If we didn’t have astronauts and big-ass telescopes, that’d be quite a scary concept, no? A strange, unknowable existence beyond existence?

Well, here’s the thing: the problem doesn’t go away with the Great Humongous telescopes. We may have stretched perception even to the edges of the universe, but there’s still the barely appreciable question of what lies beyond that. Or beyond the multiverse. Or about the nature of infinity. And the idea of all the significant shit we don’t know has really been messing with my head lately. It’s not even about death yo, I’m just worried that when I die my capacity to work this out will be substantially reduced. I wanna know what’s going on. I want the next answer in the infinite chain of “Why?” questions we can ask.

Gah. I feel like the dude in the engraving. I’ve just poked my head and arm out into space and I’m taking these heaving breaths of nothing, it’s inflating my skull to pop territory and maybe I’m even burning from the fictitious fires of the Firmament.

I love what I do – philosophy that is – but really. This is the worst. The worst feeling ever, you know, when you reach a little too far and get off balance. I mean fuck. I’ll get over it but in the meantime I been dazed and confused so long it’s not true (wanted an answer, never bargained for you).

Here’s how it is:

Existence is self-justifying. In human terms anyway. It’s ironically similar to the Christian God as described by various medieval and early modern theologians, except it definitely isn’t a man, nor human, nor particularly comprehensible. Our slice of it is what’s comprehensible, the rest is clearly way out West. I mean, banditos ride through it regularly and burn down evidence of the crime. Tom Waits is there, getting money – they’re giving it away. It’s chaos, man. It’s so chaotic that all metaphors are borderline mockery, if it could be mocked.

Existence is more or less infinite. We can’t really look at infinity to check, but logically it makes sense. In the way that it made sense to various Greek scientist-philosophers that the world might be made up of small particles, the world might be round, the world might orbit the sun…that kind of thing. The way that Flammarion has someone poking their head through the Firmament. People who have no idea what they’re talking about, but 200, 3000 years later, someone exonerates their account. Kinda. Given the limits they were working under.

In short, your being aware – of anything at all – means that something is happening, something exists. If something exists, very quickly any kind of non-existence starts to seem impossible. Which, by definition, it is. Don’t forget that.

You want to quote the philosophy that says nothing exists except when you’re there to experience it? Get all Burroughsey on me? I’m going to Occam’s Razor that shit. What, the entirety of existence pops in, consistent, rational, scientific, just because you move your head? Or just because your ear develops as part of the natural course of things – which are what by the way? – and you can hear a little further so a few more noises have to exist? Sure, it’s possible. Likely however…I’m not convinced.

The point of that whole thing is quantum mechanics. Broad strokes: a thing (an electron I hear) could be anywhere until something measures it. But it doesn’t pop into existence, it exists somewhere, or exists everywhere and gets measured somewhere. Weird, but not temporary un-existence.

You’re going to have to do your own research and soul-searching on this but it’s probable that things exist, just because existence is the way of things. Linguistically for sure,  but it checks out in all that we know about human reality. We live, we die, when we die our parts are re-distributed through natural processes. No matter is created or destroyed. The big bang might have happened, and if it did all the contents were already there. Human existence…our little lifetimes, our big lifetimes: nothingness is pretty much irrelevant to us as humans. Us as matter…maybe it’s relevant. Maybe even to us as conscious entities. But in our capacity as humans it looks as though everything is in its right place. Suck it.

We are part of an expanding universe, and our interest in that is to further a stable expansion or evolution. Broad strokes. If you want to put that in God terms, we’re building the Kingdom of Heaven. Brick by brick but hey, better than nothing right? Never say I exclude y’all religious folks.

Good and bad, there are absolutely efficient decisions which tend to fall more or less along traditional moral lines. Killing is usually bad for example. It hinders the progress of evolution because we’re destroying when we can modify or redirect.

This stands up under scrutiny even if I’m not doing it justice right now. Once you get past the irritatingly subtle “the point of existence is to exist more” or “morality is just about getting better”, it really looks like it has legs. More so than most other propositions of an absolute philosophy or morality. Humans kinda are that simple.

And yet the point of the beginning of this post: it’s not enough. We might get the validation we’re looking for as humans, great. I’m terrified of not getting my “why”, the understanding, validation, value as a conscious being, or as the caretaker of billions of atoms that make up my body, if that’s what we are. The bigger, non-human question which probably extends beyond human understanding so…fuck. End of the tunnel? Where are the limits of existence or if there aren’t any then why the fuck? Infinity? Really? We start again at the end? We just exist in Aristotelian Prime Mover bliss?

I don’t know. Head sticking out here, my eyes haven’t adjusted to the dark yet, maybe I’m about to breathe in a vacuum. Goddang Flammarion has more to it than initially appears.

Let’s just take solace in the possibility that there are the equivalent to answers out there, and we just don’t have the capacity to know them…yet.