Skip to content

Sophistication

AIRLOOM

“Virtual reality satisfies man’s need to stick his head in a box.” – Oderus Urungus.

Sophism! A philosophy of ancient Greece that proposed the purpose of philosophy was not to establish the truth, but instead to convince other people of one’s claims. If the claims can be cast as convincing by evidence, fair enough, but if rhetorical trickery or a knock on the noggin carry the day then the sophist is the winner. A philosophy of ancient Greece, but the modern world is not without its sophistication.

Perhaps the sophists had the right answer.  Evidence and logic have their evident limits. We trust our senses and sensibility because we have no gnostic direct knowledge, not because they are the best tools for problem solving. Our senses deceive us night and day. We see the lightning… there is a pause… then we hear the thunder, and the knowledge that the lightning and the thunder happened simultaneously does nothing to change that they are sensed sequentially. This is just one of the many ways our senses seem lacking to their task.

Logic is equally lagging. An argument can be logical but false if it includes false premises. Incomplete information (you know, the kind you don’t know) incapacitates us. Infants and people who are asleep, these are not outliers to the human bell curve but are at the height of the hump. And yet infants and people who are asleep have cognitive patterns that are entirely a-logical. Infants do not possess object permanency (thus the delights or terrors of peek-a-boo). You’ve been to sleep, you know what dreams are. Mental error is infinite, leaving no room for the real. We use rationality to rationalize. And what’s so morally superior about the truth? Who are you hiding in your attic?

In the United States, February is Black History Month. Among the many contributions to humanity that came out of Africa are bipedalism, clothing, architecture, theater, cooking, tools that make tools, art, medicine and most of all language. These are the greatest inventions ever made.  Only the recent utilization of electricity has come close to the impact of these black inventions. But like all inventions, language has come at a cost. Whether it be gesture, sound or writing, language is never the thing it describes. Language is a representation of the world that is eternally seductive, forever turning our head away from the world that is not language. It is not clear if the human mind exists outside of language, making language a candidate for the delineation line between animals and humans. Language makes us sophisticated, it puts us in the toney class and separates us from a more direct experience of the non-language world. The world that all inanimate objects and all non-human animals experience every day.

The sophisticated world of today is taking away ever more of our ability to discern what is true. The mob courts of public opinion are weaponized with social media. Graduation rates from public education have never been higher and the quality of public education has never been lower. College degrees are easier to get and worth less. Our leaders can make the most self-evidently false statements and yet our nations lap it up as divine ordinance. The United States has never been dumber.

In the sophisticated world of today, good guys and bad guys are not recognized by what they do but by what others say of them. Plagiarism is what bad guys do but when a good guy does it, all is forgiven and quickly forgotten. Taking sexual photographs of underage girls is what bad guys do but when a good guy does it, all is forgiven and quickly forgotten. Internet trolling that makes innocents appear to be promoting fascism is what bad guys do, but when a good guy does it, all is forgiven and quickly forgotten.   And when the marching morons get it stuck in their melons that some guy is a bad guy, they’re a bad guy and there’s no redemption.  It’s clear that Saudi Arabia had a hand in 9/11, and so the United States attacked… Iraq, because by gum they’re the bad guys.  It’s clear that the United Kingdom has a problem with Muslims doing what Muslims do, and so the United Kingdom… banned the most peaceable and articulate critics of Islam from entering the country, because by gum they’re the bad guys.  Women around the world are being subject to genital mutilation, forced marriage, honor killings, stonings, being set on fire, acid attacks, second-class citizen status and more by Muslims, so feminists are criticizing… video game authors, because by gum they’re the bad guys.  The Islamic State is abducting children who are then sold sex slaves, or crucified, or beheaded, or buried alive, and so the White House is… waiting until the Islamic State gets a nuclear weapon and then they’ll get ‘em because by gum they’re going to be the bad guys. When the masses of asses – or the democratic will of the people, take your pick – get together with their torches and pitchforks, there’s no stopping them with trivial evidence and objective fact.  Some men are crowned with halos, some with devil horns, and the world gets slightly more sophisticated.

But the slide into sophistication doesn’t stop with occupations and opinions. This year (2015) TriLite Technologies will begin marketing a new sort of electronic billboard. Arrays of lasers will fire directly into the eyes of those nearby, creating three-dimensional images that do not require special viewing glasses. The science of directed sound was perfected twelve years ago (2003). The HyperSonic Sound device can project sound into human heads. If the TriLite and the HyperSonic are combined, a person would have option of viewing an advertisement or closing his eyes but would not be able to turn off the sound of the advertisement. You will not be able to escape.

Perhaps the sophists had the right answer but were asking the wrong question. It may be that as part of the real world, we have limits to the accuracy of how much we can comprehend the real world. No ruler can measure itself, no mirror can reflect itself, and the human mind cannot hold a full representation of itself and itself.  There’s no dry land to check the boat for leaks. Sophism says nothing is real… reality is what you can get away with… my country right or wrong… in sickness and in health… sophism is a commitment to the symbolic world, not a shattering of the symbols. Sophists believe in natural rights, specifically the natural right that you are in the right if you can convince others you are in the right. But that natural right is no more real than the rights of the State, of the clergy, of the wealthy, of the beautiful, of the mob. Sophism says that what is right is a brass ring that anyone can grab. Sophism says might makes right (an egoist might say might is right, if it is the egoist who is mighty).

Egoism has a different set of questions. Egoism asks: who is it trying to understand or change the real? Who is it that is real? And the answer is none other than myself. I am real. The reality of the not-me is at best secondary. While sophism disappears in a dog pile of deception, egoism emerges with its own one truth. “I am” is the only sentence, all others are commentary. Sophism says no one can know the truth, egoism says I am and can know the truth. Maybe we can’t get away from the lies, but we can decide which lies are likable.  Stop trying to unmask and decide which mask is of use – to me. Or even you!

- Trevor Blake is the author of
Confessions of a Failed Egoist and Other Essays
(Baltimore: Underworld Amusements 2014)

Do Not Worry About What Never Happened

Most things don’t happen. Compared to how many things don’t happen, only a few things do happen. But who worries about things that never happened? Most people.

The one that got away is a one that you got that never happened. The misfortune that came your way is a misfortune missed that never happened. We make our superstitions about how to cause or prevent an event in the future (and our best-evidence based plans) but when we worry about things that never happened, we burn down the forest in search of firewood. We should keep an eye open for patterns, but when things just happen they just happen. Do not dwell on the past. Knowing why things happen will not change the past, only our perspective on the past. And you can change that perspective without knowing why. We worry about what never happened to distract us from what is happening. That’s what the worry is for, of course. It has its place. Just don’t confuse one for the other.

Most living humans will never love you or hate you, but it seems mission critical that a few do. I encourage the egoistic aggrandizement of thinking most people need to have an opinion about you, but if you make your happiness and fear conditional on the opinion of others you are far from free. The thoughts and feelings of other people do have a physical existence within their brains, but never outside it. Actions alone can aid or aggravate. Opinions are a thing that didn’t happen and we can stop worrying about them.

All those regrets about things you did not do? You did not do them, so stop worrying. Their status of having not been done is not changed by your worry. Use that effort to do something now instead. At the minimum keep it to yourself about missed opportunities, nostalgia and regret. Yeah yeah, you could have had kids (or not), you could have attended to your health (or not), but that’s not what happened. Do not complain about things that did not happen. Nobody, including you, wants to hear it.

Getting worked up about ideas about ideas (about ideas about actions) rather than actions is emblematic of what people mean when they say the word “politics” with a sneer. The left, the right and all points in between have posts aplenty and tons of tweets decrying media portrayals of (insert minority of choice here). Too much this, not enough that, just right but for the wrong reasons, pro and anti and post and rad. If role models are so important then how can change happen at all? Innovators saw no one like them but innovate they did. And those who do have the positive role models but do not advance, how to explain that? Many millions mull over magazines and movies yet never mature despite all the motivation. Do not assume a stooped posture under the weight of a lack of role models – role models that never happened. Instead, stand tall and walk confidently forward.

Islam, and Christianity, and Judaism, and all the other mean-spirited ghost stories told by illiterate goat herders from thousands of years ago… didn’t happen. There is no God, no sin or sanctity. You are now free to act accordingly, having ceased to worry about a swamp-minded fable that never happened. Now that you’re no longer worrying about the afterlife, you can stop worrying about what happens after life. It’s called death and there’s nothing to worry about. When you’re gone you’re not around to be glad, anxious or even notice that you’re gone. That’s why they call it being gone. Do not worry about death, it will happen when and as it does. And death is one more thing that didn’t happened (to you… yet… ), so twice over do not worry.

Threats! Look out! A terrible thing might happen and you’re being told about it. You’re going to be in big trouble. You’re going to get beat up, fired, have your rent raised, get sick, be laughed at. That other human used words to describe the potential outcome of activities yet to be undertaken, and words are magically true. Take note of well-wishers, arm accordingly against antagonists, then for heaven’s sake refrain from worry. Words don’t matter, only deeds. And a deed not done is only a dilemma to a dunce.

It has never happened that shimmering celebrities, the politically powerful and the worldly wealthy worry about you. Worry about them is wasted worry.

I read an opinion that was not my own, and thought I had an obligation to respond.  I read a falsehood that was presented as truth, and I thought I had an obligation to respond.  I read a question that was not directed at me, and I thought I had an obligation to respond.  That obligation to respond is a confusions of my own self-importance with the opinions, lies and questions of others.  That obligation to respond is a thing that doesn’t exist, it’s something that never happened.

Actions do happen. People do stuff. I’m a people, so I should know. But collective guilt or collective pride is not something I have much time for. My ancestors fought to free slaves. Some of my ancestors, that is. Others fought to keep slaves. Go back far enough and some of my ancestors probably were slaves. I for one have never owned a slave. I’m against slavery without any guilt or pride about what my ancestors did. Collective guilt or pride is against the individual, and I am an individual first and last. The collective is a thing that never happened.

All rather abstract, I know. Let me convey some a case study, involving my friends H and F. F bought a book (and did not read it). H saw the book at F’s house (but did not buy or read it). H got mad at me for F buying a book (but not reading it) because of my “influence” over F. I, meanwhile, had not bought or read the book nor influenced F nor H to get mad about it. F, meanwhile, no longer speaks to me because I didn’t speak to a friend of his once or twice. I didn’t say anything (nor shun) and that non-deed was my undoing. And this other friend, M, told me bad, bad things were going to happen to me because of words and deeds I never said or did. To clarify, none of this is the case study I speak of. The case study of worrying about something that didn’t happen is my own – that I miss my friends who are not my friends any more. Their friendship is now something that is not happening. I should not worry about what is not happening.

- Trevor Blake is the author of
Confessions of a Failed Egoist and Other Essays
(Baltimore: Underworld Amusements 2014)

Je Suis Charlie

mcca

I will not submit to M’CCA (the Muslim Comics Code Authority).  Not when Muslims kill comic artists in the office of Charlie Hebdo magazine in 2015, not when Muslims bomb the office of the comics magazine in 2011, not when Muslims drive comic artists underground in 2010, not when Muslims and their dhimmidiots take comic editors to court in 2007, not when Muslims kill hundreds of people all over the world because of comics in 2005.  I will not submit to M’CCA.

Draw while you can.

- Trevor Blake is the author of
Confessions of a Failed Egoist and Other Essays
(Baltimore: Underworld Amusements 2014)

The Story of the First Christmas 2014

In the beginning God made man all messed up and prone to do bad things, which got God mad. So God cursed man and even killed everybody except one family in a flood. God was still mad but later said okay man here’s a second chance. God sent God to man as a sacrifice to God, which pleased God so it was all good. Christmas is that story.

Jesus Christ was the 28th or 43rd decedent of David. Those two numbers are pretty close. The important part is that Jesus was a decendent of David because not one or two but three prophecies demand it. But if there are one or two verses that say Mary was instead from the house of Levi then lighten up, okay? Listen. His parents Mary and Joseph were in Bethlehem, they were already there because that was their home town. Unless it was Nazareth. Yeah, Nazareth, maybe. One of those two. Either way, they went from Bethlehem to Egypt to Nazareth. Or maybe from Nazareth to Bethlehem to Jerusalem to Nazareth. Don’t get too hung up in the details, it’s not like the Bible is supposed to be perfect or anything. Jesus had to be born in Bethlehem because that’s what the prophecy says. Or almost says. Close enough. And He had to be coming back from Egypt from somewhere (unless He wasn’t) because there was this other prophecy that said so, or at least had some of the same words in the sentence. You have to grant me that. Galilee, that’s for sure where He was born. As to what really happened at Jesus’ birth maybe only His mother knew.

Just put all that to the side for a second. What matters, what really matters is that Jesus was born to be the messiah. Galilee is for sure where He was born, so just ignore that part where it says that can’t be true no matter how strongly it says so. Jesus was God made flesh, which God saidtwice – He would never do, and God never lies, so that’s a miracle right there. Jesus was full of miracles. He said there would be only one ‘kind’ of Christian, not thousands of denominations. Jesus said He wouldn’t give any signs, then He did – hey! He’s God, He can do that. You can’t do that, can you smart guy? Jesus came to save everybody, or maybe just some people. You never know so you gotta be good, He’s more powerful than Santa like that. Jesus said He’d always be with us or maybe not. Jesus always followed the law, except about what He could eat, washing His hands, the Sabbath, fasting, adultery, divorce, lying and stealing. Jesus even knew He’d be beheaded just like John the Baptist but Jesus used time travel powers and got crucified instead.

Okay you’re trying to use logic and science and stuff, big bang, you think you’re a monkey or something. Well this monkey has his mind open enough to believe that Jesus came back from the dead, which is the slam-dunk evidence He was the real deal. When the women went to Jesus’ tomb it was open. Or closed. He had all this holy powers on Him, so you couldn’t touch Him or you could but it’d be like wow. Jesus stayed on Earth for one day or eight days or forty-plus days or something, plenty of time for thousands of people to see him. That’s how we know He rose up into the sky from the Mount of Olives. Jerusalem. Bethany. Whatever, they saw it happen. There’s really good evidence for Jesus.

Merry Christmas!

PS: See also The Christmas Story by H. L. Mencken (PDF).

- Trevor Blake is the author of
Confessions of a Failed Egoist and Other Essays
(Baltimore: Underworld Amusements 2014)

Trevor Blake: Year in Review 2014

Today is 12/7, a fit day for celebrating what has gone on at ovo127 in 2014.

Egoism

Freedom of Speech

Are We There Yet? A Series About Changed Minds

Atheism

Art

George Walford International Essay Prize

  • gwiep.net word count: more than one million, two hundred and thirty-six thousand transcribed words.
  • More than twenty books and the complete contents of Ideological Commentary magazine (1979 – 1994).
  • Approximately 70,000 lines of code.
  • More than one thousand, one hundred files (text, images, etc.).

And for 2015?

  • A Man of Letters podcast.
  • “There is a great negative work of destruction to be accomplished.  We must sweep and clean.” – Tristian Tzara.  Thousands of photographs deleted from flickr.  After amassing 19,200+ posts at ovo127.com, all but a few dozen of the best are to be deleted.  Several Kindle titles removed.  Did some housecleaning, and even lost some weight.

- Trevor Blake is the author of
Confessions of a Failed Egoist and Other Essays
(Baltimore: Underworld Amusements 2014)