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If You Like This Orange…

If you like this orange you must like that orange. Well, maybe. Tastes change, and maybe I already had an orange a little while ago, and maybe I’m not in the mood while someone else would be glad to have it, so it doesn’t follow that because I liked this orange I must like that orange.

Comparing oranges and oranges seems like a set of two objects, but it’s really four. There’s you, there’s the orange, there’s the other orange, and there’s the perceived relation between you and the two oranges. When it’s just you and the oranges, things usually find a simple way work themselves out.

But when someone else comes into the room it’s seldom oranges and oranges. Other people are ever ready to tell you what you like. If you like this orange you must like that apple, because they’re both fruit. Nah, can’t stand apples unless they are baked. It doesn’t matter that they are both fruit, I don’t care for apples. Then the helping helpers will infer the inverse. If you like this orange you can’t like that apple. Watch me – I’ll like an apple just to spite you, or choke it down because there aren’t any oranges to be had.

The nonsense comparisons just get more nonsensical. If you like this orange you must like that color orange, you must! That’s the way it’s always gone! Well, I say if you like this orange you must like that porcupine. See how silly it sounds? As long as someone sees that fourth object in the set, a connection between the two things and you, they will hard-sell you that the orange and the very-not-orange are fully fungible.

That fourth object in the set, the perceived relation between the other three, gets its power from being invisible and assumed. The assumption of relations in the set overpowers all the other objects in the set. If you like this orange you are an orange-ist, because there’s (a) you (b) the orange (c) your liking of the orange and (d) anybody that likes that orange is an orange-ist, that’s the relation between you and the orange caused by your liking it. The invisible fourth object in the set, the assumption of a relation, is now a stand-in for you. You are no longer a person who in one place, in one time, in one way, liked an orange. You are are an orange-ist.

If you are friends with that guy / read that book, and that guy / book exposed that idea, and that whole other guy with that idea did that thing, then you did that thing! The four step process of replacing the man with a mannequin is the start of superstition. Religion is realized in the replacement of the representation for the real. Hard to believe that belief is so beleaguered but right here on this very planet in this very year there are nations where if you draw the wrong cartoon, read the wrong poem, or question the wrong answer, you go to prison. Or worse.

Here’s how they make the rotten trolly run. If you said this one thing this one time then you believe – no, you are – this other thing. A clergyman is not only a clergyman, they are a Good Person. Good People do Good Deeds, and if the clergyman doesn’t do good deeds, or if he does bad deeds, well, he’s still a Good Person. All four stations of Goodnessity are there: the clergyman, the Good Deeds clergymen are associated with, Good Deeds associated with Good People, and halleluia! clergymen are Good People. And oh my but the four stations of Badnessism are there as well. If you tell that one joke then you’re a Bad Person. That joke has the Bad Word in it, Bad People use that Bad Word, Bad People do Bad Deeds, so you did a Bad Deed!

It’s four things. You, that thing you like, another thing and the proposed connection between the things. That connection is presented as more important than you. The evidence shows that nothing is more to me than myself. I’d not be here to tell you if this was not the case. What other people think and do about me has its influences, but I don’t confuse that with right or wrong or especially not Rights and Sins. Egoism is the school of thought closest to my own, and that association draws from my own luster.

The pressure to be packed in a package deal comes in many forms. Don’t like too many kinds of art or music, be part of a scene. Don’t hold political or philosophical views, be a member of a party or a school. Don’t be online, be in a social network. And most of all don’t have a yen for truth, beauty and strength – be spiritual.

When the crowd crowns you with a trait, you’re trapped. To be identified as a whole by one of your parts is cutting. Oh you’re a massage therapist? I have this pinch in my back. You’re a car mechanic? You know, my car is just outside. You do stand-up? Tell me a joke, funny guy. I heard you’re a porn star, is that right? Let’s see those tits. So you’re a professional wrestler, eh? I like that other wrestler better, the nice guy. In every variation we are made out to be not ourselves but the thing other people think you are. Man, that dude’s a racist. Heil hitler, you cartoon-drawer! Her over there, she has a suicidal level of self-hatred and is an active enemy of all women. She quit her job to be a mom when she was in her 20s. There’s something just creepy about that family down the hall, they’re always happy. Yeah, they’re Mormons. Fake vegan meat supports the aesthetic of carnivore culture. No one more intolerant than the loud champions of toleration, no one more ready to divide than the unifiers of diversity.

In the United States, a slave knew he had a place: that of a slave. In India, an Untouchable knew he had a place: that of an Untouchable. The modern moral minders, starting with Stalin onward, developed a different delineator. If you are seen to stray too far from the approved set of beliefs, you have no place. You are to be stripped of your job, your career, your credentials, your home and your money. The Good Guys in the White Hats are ever vigilant for any infraction. Call them the improperatzzi. What a remarkable coincidence that the virtue they advocate is the same as the group they are a member of.

I can’t say I judge all men in all moments anew. I’ve also decided to not ask you to do so. That sounds too much like work. I don’t have the time or energy, much less the inclination, to always cast aside generalities, stereotypes, and biases. In this very essay I may lump a whole spectrum of people I disagree with into the base categories of liars and fools. But you and I both know some people are just jerks, and some people are solid citizens. I’m a member of some groups, a friend of others. Everyone I don’t like has me in common. If it suits me I’ll give you a chance, but maybe I’m busy or angry that day and you’re just going be hidden behind what I think of you based on some other thing at some other time. You’ll live. My opinion isn’t even all that important to me.

The troubles come when people decide that those who are different aren’t to live. Except for liars and fools, everyone on the planet knows that the Religion of Peace currently holds the title belt for murdering those who think or act differently than they do. I keep hearing that there’s a majority of Muslims who aren’t like that, but I also keep not hearing about what they are doing to enlighten their brothers and sisters who keep misunderstanding Islam in the same way, century after century. Maybe the numbers are there for the majority to reform the minority, but let’s see some action. A sound public shaming is a good start, and in this regard I do my part. But again – I limit myself to that most pathetic and un-magical of all activities, writing, when I disagree. The beheaders, the child-rapers, the enslavers, the kidnappers, the hijackers, the perpetually grieved – the Muslims – not so much.

There’s no controversy, only a nontroversy. A man can like music by ADULT. and Mildred Bailey. A man can know a great deal about far right politics without being of the far right. A man can be interested in beliefs about UFOs without believing in UFOs. The scolds and the bullies secretly know this but don’t want you in on their game. They know what is bad for other people because they’ve seen the evidence – but somehow, they saw the evidence and didn’t suffer from the exposure. They are good enough to tell you what’s good for you, but you aren’t. No thank you, you pinch-faced busybodies, I’ll decide for myself what I like and do and think and believe. I’ll even take my lumps for the luxury.

The heart wants what the heart wants. So does the groin. I’ve made up a name for those who think otherwise: quantisexual. A quantisexual is deeply invested in quantifying sex. Who can have sex with who, what the arrangement is named, who shares that name and who doesn’t. Who is doing it right, who is doing it right but for the wrong reasons, who is doing it all wrong. Not satisfied with the real-life cooties you can get from sex, a quantisexual invents forms of ritual contamination and cleanliness. If you have even one stray thought about your own sex, you’re bisexual. If you’re bisexual then you’re queer. If you’re queer then you have to support all the other queers in all their queeriosities. Even if you don’t have sex at all there’s a whole slew of cooties you can accessorize yourself with like ‘cis’ and ‘demisexual’ and ‘asexual.’ The name for a thing becomes more important than the thing itself, like sheets being more sexy than what goes on between them. The alphabet soup of alt-sex has more rules and restrictions than the Roman Catholic Church. Quantisexuality is a fetish. Hip hip hooray if you were born that way or if, by pretending it’s your thing, you get to join the right in-groups. Sex will go on without your names for it.

Standing at the rich banquet of life, far too many go with a cuisine they’ve been gifted by someone not even alive to share the meal. Only these foods go together, and only in this order, and in this amount. Not because to do otherwise leads to sickness or death, but because, well, other people might… see… See what? Me getting a few of these and a few of those, concerned less than they, enjoying more than they. You do go on if you must keep kosher, hold halal and avoid fish on Friday. All the more for me, pal, or maybe I’ll just have a bite and be done. What we do and like isn’t limited to one item from column A and two items from column B. Life is not a family meal or a package deal. Beliefs and interests are all a big mess and probably not very important, so pull them together in a way that makes sense to you. Just don’t insist I sign on to your supper club.

The thing you like is the thing you like. You didn’t used to like it, and maybe you won’t like it later. You don’t have to explain or understand it. You don’t have to get my approval for it. If it stops working for you, you stop working for it. Move on, and I’ll be doing the same.

- Trevor Blake is the author of Confessions of a Failed Egoist.

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)