Humans are the only (to our knowledge) beings capable of intentionally imagining a fictitious or fabricated reality.
• Imagine you’re in a desert. There’s nothing but greasewood brush, tussocks of bramble and strange looking cactus, bulbous nodes dangling off platter sized palms like testicles on a dying mule. Overhead, buzzards like drones circle your desiccated shape, a shape barely wide enough to cast a shadow. You step aside an unsuspecting boulder to have your calf bit and pumped full of rattlesnake venom. No warning. No baby-rattle susurration before the strike. The agony hits like a hot brand. You stumble and fall, your breath squeezed from your chest. A sensation like molten mercury seeps up your leg. The beast bites and slithers off, content in the knowledge that, though you won’t be its next meal, you will most definitely feed a fellow high desert compatriot.•
OK. Did you go there? Did you read along and imagine your/their plight? If so, then it was your imagination that provided the empathy you felt for this unfortunate soul lost in the desert.
Empathy is your imagination placing you in the situation of another.
Empathy is you commiserating with, through the virtual world of your mind’s pictorial capability, another being, human or otherwise.
You can imagine, therefore you can feel another’s suffering—virtually at least.
It is due to our expansive, our far-too-large-for-our-own-good brains that we have been cursed with the ability to empathize with another creature. We can imagine their pain. Their suffering. Their soul crushing loss or failure, or shame. Our imagination gives us this ability.
Altruism is our ability to share, often to our own detriment, our personal safety, wealth and prosperity. Why would we ever do this? Dogs don’t do this. Dolphins, chimps, corvids—species with advanced intelligence, even consciousness don’t do this. Only humans go out of their way to ensure another’s survival. Why?
Because we can imagine how it feels to be that other being.
OK, Mudge, you claim ambivalence rather than kindness. But at least you’re a polite ambivalent. (And didn’t you recently claim kindness as a goal? Which you retracted, yes, but I think the label stuck.)
As to making a worthwhile point—on any topic—all opinions matter equally, which is, as we’ve determined, not at all. Yours, piled high and reeking, would at least provide philosophic nutrition to worms, weevils and woodlice.
You posted a set of nice lyrics; hard to imagine they weren’t part of some sonnet or modern Shakespearean knockoff. I would point out that simply by acknowledging your appreciation of such a touching piece, you expose a human side that, although you state such sentiment has bled away, I think not.
Our recent conclusion that intelligence correlates with misery garnered numerous counter arguments. Here’s my rebuttal: Although the tally of those miserable on either side of the IQ curve may be equal, the quality and variation of misery on the high side and, were the weight of grief totaled (intensity + complexity + recurrence), our side would tip the scale. (If that’s not a Pyrrhic victory I don’t know what is.)
On the subject of writing about the philosophy of existence, upon reflection I’d say my personal intent is therapy. Vaporous thought is one thing, but persisting one’s ruminations, for me, allows logic to overlay the mystical. I gain perspective this way. Not to mention that rereading such pontifications, later in life, often provides a chuckle or two.
Writing fiction used to be me dreaming on paper. These days, given my blooming narrative enlightenment, attempting to create something of beauty is now my goal. Although also therapeutic, writing is a challenge and when executed well, proof that my faculties are still somewhat intact. In highlight, there’s nothing like being in the *flow*, the slipstream—time fades away, I exist only in the moment, the story. That feeling comes all to rare, but when it does, it’s euphoric. You should try it sometime (grin).
I’ve convinced my “writing class” that they need to deliver 1000 narrative words by the 4th of February. One has complied and I’ve already waded into that one, red pen slashing. As I edit, I’m reminded of my own neophyte writing those years ago.
“Boy, you sure are brutal.” My first contributor patted me on the shoulder. “But all your comments are spot on.” I’m surprised at how effortlessly I see what needs to be changed. But this is all ground-level stuff. The elevated techniques, levels two and three and beyond, that I’ve mentioned in the Writer’s Log, are much harder to communicate and learn. These core writer’s skills, when they’re missing, stick out like a blue tie at a Drumpf rally.
Time and practice. Starting out, such advice always appears short-sighted, “well, duh.” Only after actually putting in the long duration effort, and then measuring one’s progress by analyzing beginners, can one acknowledge that dogged regimen is the only way to excel—at anything. I started this writing endeavor at age 55. You, just turning a half-century, I wonder what skills you could amass were you to apply such a theory. (Is Vet-Tech still in your cards?)
Concrete ideas are always so much easier to discuss. Can you build a birdhouse from clear plexiglass? Should Lunists & Martians leverage lava tubes as habitat? Would artificial floating ocean islands, SeaSteading, be productive and useful or a waste of resources? It’s fine once in a while, but getting wrapped up in continuous existential conundrums, oy, let’s go fishing for monkey-faced eel or hunting for peyote or something, anything…
You, sir, are one of the most enigmatic personalities who swims in these semi-anonymous waters. The net is nothing if not strong opinions voiced with impunity, don’t you think?
I hear your appeal to elevate the word “tribe” to mean actual, honest-to-god, tribes of native humans collected together for survival and cohesion. I hereby relinquish my use of the term for specious purposes (and I have used it frequently over the years). However, as you attempt to convince us that your curmudgeonly ways permeate your actual life, I call foul. As evidence I call forth this very repository of hypocrisy and your comments forthwith. Not even Gandhi himself could be more polite and considerate when addressing some of the just-as-strong opinions voiced here against/about our correspondence.
You sir, are a nice guy.
Regarding your supposition that intellect begets misery I would wholeheartedly agree. I’ve mentioned this very concept within these pages. I went searching and found this: https://anonymole.com/2017/06/21/how-smart-are-we/ and, in fact, if you search for “unhappy” here you’ll find a set of posts that pertain to this discussion. Basically (and I do mean that in its purest form of the word) the smarter you are the greater capacity you have for [words that reflect misery]. And happiness is about as far as you can get from intelligence.
On to my chosen topic of the moment: Peanut butter.
Seriously. I have this fascination for the origins of food. Where the hell did peanuts first come into culinary usage? (South America/Peru). Sesame seeds? The Fertile Crescent (where they may have been the first oil-pressed crop). Pistachios? (Afghanistan, as are hazelnuts). Turkeys, Tomatoes, Turmeric, Tilapia, Tapioca, Thyme, Turnips…
We don’t often consider food provenance but I do. Italians and tomatoes and polenta, Irish and potatoes, Asia and their peppers, all of it barely 500 years old, all of it “stolen” native foods. While humans have obviously been cultivating and consuming these foods for millennia, we rarely consider how recent our spice, nut, fruit and veggie basket has filled out due to globalism. The point I’m slowly getting to here is that, although we love to share food-culture across the planet and, I suspect, eventually, Terran food will be a thing (as opposed to Lunar or Martian food), we refuse to admit our global humanity; the tribe (ahem) of Homo Sapiens Sapiens.
Music, dance, art, food — all of these things tend to unite us. Although, like yourself, I don’t really give a shit about humanity as a cosmic entity, I still like to contemplate grand problems and propose grandiose solutions; they’re like puzzles, intricate quandaries that beg for analysis, elucidation and answers.
And so, in our wretched profundity, embittered by our self administered flagellation, were you to envision a day where your contempt for mankind, as compelling as it might be, is tempered by something, some occurrence, some transformation that renders humanity tolerable—what might that event be? Clearly, sagacious beings before us have gazed upon mankind and hoped someday that our species could elevate itself above its petty differences and see the universe as a frontier only we, humanity can hope to explore. Do you see such a possibility, in some future epoch? A globally shared peanut butter sandwich?
Aw, hell. Fuck that. I’m just yanking your chain. I’m trying to see how many 9+ letter words I can get into a post in remembrance of your dead blogging site.
Oh, and ZorkerBorg? Yeah, fuck him. I despise that pissant, the lucky prick that he is.
Happy dead of winter,
[PS: You’ll notice that if you end a post on a Fuck You tone, few people are wont to comment. I did this intentionally as I wanted to see if both yours and mine both elicited the same disgust. It appears to be the case. I wager that if we end our next correspondences with rainbows and ribbons, we’ll get a different response.]
[PPS: For Mr. Van Helsing, “The Peanut Butter and banana sandwich, or peanut butter, banana and bacon sandwich, sometimes referred to as an Elvis sandwich or simply the Elvis, consists of toasted bread slices with peanut butter, sliced or mashed banana, and sometimes bacon. Honey is seen in some variations of the sandwich.” Wikipedia]
In acquiescence do we relinquish a piece of ourselves to the other side? Is compromise a sign of weakness, or wisdom?
I hear your 2019 summer campaign to battle your own existential apathy, which you overwhelmingly won in the completion of your self-made challenge to document, as a sirens call to a muse I’ll never understand—the Canadian teen-com “Fifteen”, has afforded you some well earned, if unexpected, adulation from various members of the cast of that ignominious cavalcade of petulant pulchritude. Congratulations.
I mention your Quixotic pursuit as you, in contrast to my opening statement, most certainly did not give up in the throes of self-doubt and a certain bet against you (your $1000 remains a debt you may still collect provided you adhere to aforementioned stipulations).
And as I mention your triumph, I can’t help but consider our recent epistolary exchange and how we both appeared to have come to the conclusion that living at the “N’th” level was untenable. And that at least the N-1 level must be embraced in order to not dwell in a perpetual, self-induced living hell.
If what I’ve read on your NFTA blog is indication, I would applaud your expansion of N-1 and hope to read of your pursuits along that vein.
I did, however, begin this treatise with another point in mind regarding complacency. One I hope that, were you to once again take up the pen, you might apply in Ningun 2.0, which is, specifically, writers can never let their characters enjoy a drop of extended comfort.
Dorothy can never, truly, feel comfortable while she travels the lands of OZ. Luke may never enjoy perpetual peace. Frodo must forever endure an unrestful soul. Alice cannot be allowed to put her feet up and take a weekend off. Harry’s Christmas platitudes are mere lozenges dosed with laudanum designed to lure us into languid, lazy lassitude in preparation for the next heavy Hagrid-boot drop.
Briefly, we can never let our characters rest. Readers must feel compelled to turn the page to learn what calamity awaits our hero. Constant, relentless trepidation must permeate our writing. This technique dominates my thoughts as I continue writing on my next major novel effort.
In contrast, for our actual lives, I wish you nothing but placid, Avon waters serenity, dragonflies and water-skippers, ribbon ripples and pareidolianparadolian clouds drifting through your country-picnic days of 2020.
I despise these vapid Webby type contrivances designed to stroke the poles of bloggers and web developers since the late ’90s. My walls are lined with ribbons and placards of all the awards I’ve won. To add another is more nuisance than accolade.
(Mole dear, your wall is covered with posters of the Partridge Family, not web awards.)
Oh, right. Damn, that was the life I was GOING to have having dedicated my thirty’s to learning web languages and becoming a published web author. Alas, none of that panned out. I ended up working for failed startup after failed startup. (Geeze, maybe I’m the accursed one…)
OK, OK, here we go: Thanks TomBeingTom for, you know, calling me a female fox and obligating me to reply else I feel the heel and potentially miss the opportunity to flash my programming prowess, albeit, 20 years too late.
That, my friends, is some of the first C# I wrote back in late 2002 when .NET first came out. And what did I apply myself to building with that great new language? A blog of course, or rather: Web Log, as no one called it a blog back then.
I managed to post more than 500 entries into my custom made blog over the next 10 years until my server’s harddrive failed and I quit trying to fool myself that I would ever win any praise as a developer. A living career, yes. Awards, never. (I did make copies of everything, I’m not entirely daft.)
My first ever “blog” post in January 2003: (I used XML as a storage format — pretty prophetic, no?)
Blogging became more of a personal diary. But after things fell apart, I pishposhed about until I thought I’d better get back in and WordPress was a platform that seemed easy (free) and open (and free) and so I joined up (because it was free) in 2009; or so it says on my account page, I can’t believe it’s been that long.
Anonymole came a few years later in 2012.
The rest is all documented here in the pages of a subterranean gadriosopher (gatherer of knowledge). When it comes to life histories, brief is best. So, in short, I learned to code, made a blog, wrote some shit, the end.
But, hey, thanks AGAIN TomBeingTom for being the first to shine a bright light onto my failure as a web developer. (Kidding) [No, not kidding.] (No, seriously, I’m kidding.) [No, I’m not kidding at all, this is heavy shit. I think I may have to write another letter to Mudge begging to be consoled, placated at least, uncomfortably petted? Ya see, it’s all about bloggers getting stroked!]