Archive for September, 2010

Songgrid 2

September 23rd, 2010  |  Published in Uncategorized

I did another one of these things.

It's surprisingly difficult to figure out how to work in this idiom. I dunno, I haven't quite figured it out yet. One of these days.

Auden on September 1, 1939

September 17th, 2010  |  Published in poesy

WH Auden's well-known poem September 1, 1939 has the lines

All I have is a voice
To undo the folded lie,
The romantic lie in the brain
Of the sensual man-in-the-street
And the lie of Authority
Whose buildings grope the sky:
There is no such thing as the State
And no one exists alone;
Hunger allows no choice
To the citizen or the police;
We must love one another or die.

Auden, in the foreward to the first edition of B.C. Bloomfield's W.H. Auden: A Bibliography, wrote:

Rereading a poem of mine, 1st September, 1939, after it had been published, I came to the line "We must love one another or die" and said to myself: "That's a damned lie! We must die anyway." So, in the next edition, I altered it to "We must love one another and die." This didn't seem to do either, so I cut the stanza. Still no good. The whole poem, I realized, was infected with an incurable dishonesty—and must be scrapped."

I like that.

Phenomenal Shifts, Antienlightenment, The Buddha of Asininity

September 5th, 2010  |  Published in idiocy, mouth-flappin, vanity

I had a "moment" the other day. It was a roughly instantaneous, completely internal moment I'll refer to as a phenomenal shift. I have had a number of such moments in my life. They're really weird. I shall attempt here to describe the events, in the hopes that perhaps (a) you, the reader, have had such moments, and will optionally relay to me the existence of such moments; or (b) we can verify, at long last, that I've lost my mind.

These phenomenal shifts are mysteriously Big Things for me -- though not immediately interestingly causally efficacious per se, they haunt my general worldview in weird ways afterwards, coloring the way I think about Being, the way I tacitly cleave the ontic joints of the universe, &c, &c.

I'm really curious about whether this is an integral part of the human experience or whether none of you have any idea what I'm talking about.

What are you talking about?

The first phenomenal shift I experienced took place when I was a little kid -- six years of age, give or take. I took a look at myself in the mirror and realized, at that point, that I existed. It is as though, prior to that single moment of realization, I had been an automaton, interacting with the environment but not thinking too much about it. Very much like a little adorable Roomba, perhaps. Subsequently, I realized that I was a thing in the world (whereas previously I merely was one). I remember vividly being really freaked out by this.

That sounds idiotic.

Yeah, Strawman Interlocutor, you're right. Jeez. Let's see.

As a little kid, I hadn't read Husserl or Fichte or much of anything, so I couldn't put realizations into any sort of conceptual framework. All I could do was stare in the mirror and marvel at the fact that I existed. And I did so. I would sneak up to the mirror and stare into it for extended periods of time. Day after day. Marveling at the fact that I existed, that anything at all existed.


So the crucial part of these "phenomenal shifts" is the single moment when you intuitively realize something big about Being, even if you can't immediately formally state exactly what that Something is. That's it. You're just minding your business and bam, you get hit over the head. With a Truth Pillowcase full of Reality Doorknobs.

I'm able, two decades later, to go back and couch this first, strange phenomenal shift in terms of my dubious oversimplification of some concepts put forth by Dead European philosophers. This is convenient, but not what I want to talk about here. The key, strange experience here is a sudden internalization of a fundamental part of existence -- namely, "I exist", or something along those lines.

So you're talking about Buddhic Enlightenment?


No, you are. Siddhartha Gautama sat underneath a pipal tree until he had a single moment of enlightenment, in which he

Shut up, Strawman Interlocutor, just shut up.

What I am describing is basically a dumbed-down version of what Buddha had after hanging out under his Boddhi tree, except instead of a wonderful, windless flash of Universal truth, I just get confused.

It's just as sudden, though -- an instantaneous, incorporeal tidal wave of nonpropositional and unreasonably inscrutable information.

So you've had more of these things?

Why yes, Strawman Interlocutor, I have. I've had a few of them in my life. The realizations have been similar -- suddenly occurring big, vague, remarkably affecting thoughts, not immediately expressible in language.

The one I had a few days ago occurred while I was brushing my teeth. I was thinking about a number of humans I've known very well and bam, it hits me. Something along the lines of "you are a human being who exists, and your actions and personality are known extremely well to these other existent human beings, with whom you have had real interactions".

I forgot that I was brushing my teeth and just kinda stood there for a while. Probably ten seconds passed before I was able to get it together and move again.

It sounds idiotic, stupid, and completely banal. That's kind of the point I think.

So what, I don't care, so what. I don't care.

There is, of course, nothing odd about a thought or mental state not being immediately expressible in language. I mean to say nothing here concerning the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis, concerning Wittgenstein, concerning Jerry Fodor, really concerning anything profound.

Again, nothing I say here is meant to be "profound". What I am attempting to do is convey the properties of a class of powerfully moving mental events which I have experienced a number of times.

That was all far too lucid and comprehensible, Karl. Would you mind muddying the conceptual waters a bit

Look, this is a very real mental phenomenon which has taken place in my flesh-and-blood brain a number of times, and it's wigged me out, and I'm wondering if it happens to other people (i.e. it's a part of the human experience) or if it just happens to me (i.e. it's a part of the guy-who-has-to-paint-his-face-like-a-clown-every-night-before-he-goes-to-sleep experience).