Saturday, 15 August 2009

Singing in the rain of happening

Facts happen. Wow man, you're wisdom is deep! Seriously, this is what you need to know; the problem is that we are supposed to confuse this in order to see it! I'm not joking: to see clearly we need to see through clouds and mirrors, but then we got trapped in the means we used to go through.

Back to the beginning: facts happen. Do you find this issue deserving attention? If yes, you're metaphysical enough to find this already entertaining, if not, give me just two minutes more.

Humans, including you, are intrinsically engaged in this question. It started for good reason: our old mates needed to forecast the behavior of herds to prey, so we exercise cognitive skills, then we improved with imaging social dynamics in groups of similar mates with articulated cognitive skills and suddenly, without even being aware, your big buddy brain develops layers of questions, abstract scenarios of enigmas and ....that's it: in few millions years, from chasing antelopes, you developed a metaphysical itch. Surely this is the waste of time that only bored and inconclusive intellectuals can afford to enjoy (I totally agree), but the interesting thing is that every man suffers from this itch, just most of us prefer to call destiny (with) different names.

It starts to itch when we want to know. When we want to understand what's going on. We want to know how to do this and that, we want to know the rules of the game. It doesn't matter if your cake is more investment banking or the latest crazy nutters with guitars, the urge to scratch is there. We can try know to make a discourse good for both. Say that the scratch is understanding the nature of happening: how is made the flow of facts? What is the structure of the consequences we call "happening"? Is it a chaos or a destiny? Am I here because I decided it or I bounced from this and that randomly? You don't need to scratch your chin professionally to ask yourself questions on this tune. Am I going in the right direction? This pretty much the question.

The first option is to consider facts in your life as events with an underlying sense, a logical connection of meanings: now it's happening this because this is the essence of my / my parents / grandparents / ancestors doing. It's ok and fine. It can give you satisfaction or annoyance. The problem is that we live in a very complicated environment. You need very powerful stories. When you believe in a story, you believe that this story is connection of facts in your life. A story more powerful than the bouncing of facts. Conflicting facts. Stories are told and even the most interesting story has some flaws. And when a story is flawed, is still a good story, but it can hold all the falling facts. Some facts simply are not bounded by the story. They happen regardless the story. And when a fact happens outside of the story, you start to see more and more. In a blink, you're not interested that much in the story and you see only facts and facts, just dropping of facts. One more mere fact, one more that's it, that's just it. In a sudden facts are atomic drops simply falling.
It happens you found yourself in your shoes more or less randomly. But at a certain point at seventeen / twentyfive / thirtyone/ .../ you embrace your life and take your way. We are drops? Fine, but I'm a conscious drop. Maybe the plot told to me is fading and fictional, maybe it's not "true", but I, as a drop,as the unity of my "drophood",am here. And I decide what to do. Facts are falling in my life, but my reactions, my decisions, my will are real, they're really mine. I'm the conscious drop, I'm awaken. I'm.

But you're still falling. Facts are still happening. You are right, you're wrong. You win, you lose. Sometimes you see the connections, sometimes you bloody don't. And what is your certainty that this time you are getting right? Well I'm an awaken drop! So: you are a conscious drop and you are falling precisely where you want...Interesting. And this time you decided with all your heart to fall down. Wow big man, you are spirited! Decisions happen.

We know we are living in a society that bomb us with several messages, from parents expectations, to commercials, from religions to partners, everyone is manipulating our mind. Still I'm what I'm. I'm the refined product of a civilization that poses as biggest good your capacity to self-determine events. I agree. And this is a good thing. No matter how manipulated is our common sense, it's good to be in charge of your life. It's good to strive to understand what's going on. I do consider this good. But this doesn't mean we need to trick ourselves.

Take science. I consider myself more a scientist than, say, a priest (much more). I do believe more in quantum mechanics than in the trinity. And exactly for my scientific education, I know I'm falling. Down. I know that science is a good explanation, but it's not the knowledge of the falling. It's a story. It's the most realistic story about the falling, now. But we don't necessarily take the most realistic story as the most convincing, It's a choice. It's a taste.

We know a lot about minds, we always did. Now we know a lot because of science. Other times, other tastes. But one thing is sure: you need to understand minds to do things in human realms! We know a lot about minds and we know a lot about all the ways our minds try to fool us (hope you see the comic side of this sentence...). We know we fool ourselves. In the good way. We are made to fool ourselves, because at their core, minded animals are self-foolers. They are not telling something wrong, they are just telling.We are telling.And telling is the human way to fall:fooling.

A bit upset? Don't, please, my friend. Stories are just the entanglement of our falling. We live in lies in the sense that we live in dreams:that's not bad!
Still unconvinced?, try this. We are falling, right? We know we are falling down (with the knowledge you prefer, science? ok. Internal wisdom? fine. Religion? your choice, but it's ok). Now take the last jump. We are the awaken drop, aren't we? Cool. But, you see, we are drops of happening in the universe as your falling thoughts are in your mind. Your mind is the universe of thoughts that happen to fall in your consciousness. But I'm really thinking what I'm thinking! Sure. And the world is really made of facts that happen.
Facts happen. Your thoughts happen. We need stories to happen in order to be humans, to be ourselves;but don't get trapped in the trick. We happen as stories. You're falling, because you happen, because you're a fact, because you're one drop more.

Still dubious? My very last advice:"Dance monkey,dance!".

Tuesday, 11 August 2009

A psychotic bean: or how I stopped worrying and love Insanity

No matter what are your relations with a computer, if there is a psycho in the room, it's you; don't point him. Computers are like crystal: they are a logic, sleek sequence. All the fuss, the drama comes from the good old human beings. Why? I'll try to guide you to the early stage of madness (what a wonderful effort: centuries of psychiatry, political correctness and madness is all you can say???).Anyway…
What is a psychosis? Well, it's a bean in your pocket! An imaginary bean, of course. You have this fictional bean in your pocket, which is pretty ineffective. What can a bean do to you? Nothing! Ok, don't rush. It can't do anything, now. You have this bean in your pocket and you think to it. It's a funny, harmless thing: nobody can see you. Are you sure? Why that hand in the pocket then? Are you playing with a ghost bean??? No,no!! And you leave the hand from the pocket (First action caused by…the bean!). What a silly person! Of course it's just your imagination...Forget the bean now and come back to proper business.
But you can't. The bean is still there. You try to think to pleasant memories, to plan the new venture, to dream about those beautiful legs...The bean is still there. You change your trousers and the bean is still there. You drink till excess and before losing consciousness … the bean is still there. One morning you wake up and you realize the bean is growing. Alarmed, you walk nervously, trying to hide this shame and apparently nobody cares. Relief. Hang on a minute: a bean plant is coming out from a pocket and nobody cares?!? It must be me!!! Oh god, I’m insane! Of course! But it doesn’t matter: you realize is just a plant growing in your pocket, but besides this, nothing really has been affected.
Day after day your plant grows, you get used to this strange sensation, of this massive plant. You walk trying to maintain your balance; it's difficult, but you manage it. After two years from the bean started to live with you, you know a girl. She's nice. You see each other and it's ok. You still take the same train and still the bean plant is there, but who cares now? It's summer you almost forget this gigantic plant, whose top is far, far away. Then, suddenly, a person stops you and annoyed asked you to move away that thing; it cast shadows on such a beautiful day. What??????? My imaginary plant casts shadows??? Real shadows??? A physical barrier to sun beam???? My bean???

This is more or less what happened with your mind, when it starts to wander. But why does it even start to wander?
Well, you can say that we aren't exactly Turing Machines and we are not that sequential. Our parallel informational processes often conflict. But there is more. The cognitive architecture in charge of representing the surroundings is not only making a cognitive draft of the environment: it’s building the environment itself. We humans inhabit a dense, articulated virtual environment, made of trees, roads, mountains but also legends, principles, poetry. How is that? That’s possible because the cognitive architecture implemented in your brain and extended in the social environment is actually made for wandering. The environment, we inhabits, is made of a multiplicity of narration, with entangled plots. A Von Neumann tale is quite boring; it would be even delusional, if just it could. Instead we are fine with richer stories. Actually we are only in richer stories. Don’t worry if your imagination is quite fervent, you have just to realize that every human being is psychotic in comparison to a rock or a Von Neumann machine . It's just a matter of degree, but we are all a bunch of psychotic monkeys (to be honest: we are precisely a multitude of sociopathic primates).

Thursday, 6 August 2009

Conceptual Domination: the Chinese way to viral expansion

The generic assumption is quite simple: every kind of human domination has a conceptual side. You exert your power through cultural tools and technological weapons,that implement concepts. One of the most common ways is simply massive conceptual production. A good example is the movie industry: though the US State didn't specifically try to dominate the world via Hollywood, the scale of this sector contributes to expansion. You build a channel;your goods and your ideas go through. When it reaches a critical point, you observe the reinforcement of the expansion: just because it's Hollywood, it sells (and of course just for this it can be refused).
The Chinese model is more subtle. The Chinese way to conceptual domination aims to accede the target system, to reach the core value of the conceptual architecture and to sinicify the host. I'd like to be more neutral and less politic: the movement is viral, the chinese conceptual warfare moves as an alien virus to the system and progressively it deconstructs the scaffolding of the target via concepts.
It's a classic the linguistic or ethnic assimilation but I prefer to discuss two assimilations with more conceptual degree: Catholicism and Tibetan Buddhism.

If you are not to accustom to catholic theology, Catholicism is Christianity a-la-Rome. The Roman declination is not a characterization or a lovely tradition: it's the core of Catholicism. Indeed the Church is catholic, apostolic and roman. If you're catholic, you can be a misguided, degenerated, perverted but if you are apostolic and roman, it's better than to be a nice dude who doesn't give a fluff about Rome. Seriously (and sometimes it is the case). Why??? Lots of reason, but basically the Church is the paradigm of vertical governance, hierarchy grounded in just one single point: Jesus saved the humankind, but to communicate, to witness this miracle and mystery he decided to delegate to one single representative, the Pope. And the definition of the Pope is bishop of Rome. Extra Ecclesiam nulla salus (Outside the Church there is no salvation). You can be a good bloke, a Satanist, a sheep; it doesn't matter, if you're catholic, you're roman. Can you imagine the disappointment of the top catholic management when they started to see the Chinese party ordering catholic priest with no connection with Rome: no designation, no consultation, no knowledge NOTHING. They began to babble that it was unfair; they claimed that they could be good Christians, but not catholic, because "technically" speaking, only the Pope and his proper bishop can order proper catholic priests. Technically speaking, it's impossible to be a catholic priest and not be ordered by a proper, roman bishop. And what did the Chinese party do? They ordered more priests. Now the Catholic Church is trying to sort the mess out; they said that they could recognize the party priest as "100% catholic". But the point is, whenever there is a friction between China and the Vatican, the Chinese party starts to order more priests...

The second chapter is even more conceptual. Ok, you're Tibetan; you believe in Tibetan Buddhism; you're spiritual leader is the Dalai Lama. It happened Tibet, Tibetan Buddhism and the Dalai Lama (as they are now!) are considered as hostile by the Chinese Party. What happened in this case? First the Chinese Party recognized in the '90 its own Panchen Lama (the second spiritual role in Tibetan Buddhism). In the '95 The Dalai Lama simply recognized as the real, proper Panchen Lama, another child. Ok 1 -1, it's a draw? Not really: the Chinese Party (and in those times the chief of the forgotten region of Tibet was Hu Jintao, current Paramount Leader of the Party) took custody of the Dalai Lama chosen Panchen Lama. Since then the Panchen Lama has never been seen in public. There is more than a rumor is now dead, but this would be more than an embrace for both sides. For the Chinese Party it is not exactly good for reputation to kill leaders of opposition factions when they are teenager. But it's even more serious for the Dalai Lama: how could the spiritual leader chose a Panchen Lama with such a short life? It's easy for you and me, poor secular observers, to say: "technically" speaking it's not Dalai Lama fault. But I don't believe in reincarnation. If you're a Tibetan Buddhist, if you're conceptual system is made of Tibetan Buddhism, you expect the choice would be more appropriate. On the table now it stands only the Party chosen Panchen Lama. Oh, before I forget to mention: the Panchen Lama is highly involved in the process to recognize the next Dalai Lama, when the one in charge dies.

Wednesday, 5 August 2009

The lord of the meanings: governance of significance

Once upon a time the lords of the world were the now almost extinct race of capitalists: they ruled on the production means: indeed once who owned factories and machines was rich and powerful. Today you rule if you master meanings. An example? The venerable president Obama. He listened to the noise and caught the tune, so he was able to start to rhyme. Rhyming is a good (even not exhaustive) sign of mastery. If you rhyme with a meaning, you get in tune with the sound of concept and this not necessarily coincides with knowledge of definitions and spelling. What really is the meaning of a concept is defined by the meaning users. Using a meaning is doing stuff with it and the range of things you can do it is defined by the world set up by the lord of the meanings.
But how these lords became lords? What kind of battle did they fight? What privilege did they buy?
The governance of meanings is a process of transformation of significance. You refine, alter, change, evaporate and crack meanings. Put it this way: the first lords of the meanings were the warriors able to speak and to lead other warriors; this speech warriors stored concentrated power in words and stored in legends and tradition. Aristocrats and priests preserved the stories, guarding and worshipping. When the stories became too heavy several generation of pirates freed the significance in the entrepreneurial spirit of capitalism. Finally the technological advances evaporated capital of significance in fast, decentralized, public meanings. Nowadays you don't really need to buy or own meanings (well, in theory you can and you charge others and ask to prosecute the meanings thieves. In theory). Meanings, in the deep of their essence,don’t exist.Meanings are the web of relations and mutual reference to other meanings, in space and time: an infinite fugue of reference whose insubstantial vortex is . With language we have access to all the wonderful, transformational potential of humankind (ok, most of all): we need just to ask for. With the right words.

P.s.:if you wonder whether this story is true, bear in mind one thing: its solidity lies on its truth

Saturday, 1 August 2009

Do you believe in meanings?

A refusal on a stigmeric fugue.

First of all: a dispute about the existence of something is more a linguistic charade than a risky enterprise. Nonetheless this kind of philosophical enterprise very often can delight and entertain.
When you argue about existence of things, you are engaged in philosophical battles; from a scientific perspective you are just (!) re-shaping the language you use to describe a phenomenon; for practical purposes it’s very tricky to find the sense of these argumentations: it’s difficult to see the difference. Think about the case of god. If you’re a believer, this is per definition the most important topic; you conduct all your life inside the paradigms of this topic (or at least you should). And if someone doesn’t believe in your topic, you are quite upset (or at least you should). Your approach to this opponent is simple: annihilation. But suddenly the human taste for unnecessary stupid actions prevails. You start to annihilate others for much lesser important reasons: non-existent mass destruction weapons, Balcanic murders of archdukes, a cheating wife (though divinely beautiful). What is the lesson? We are out of scale: reciprocal annihilation can come from every sort of belief (reciprocal love as well, but nobody is interested in positive news, but the argument doesn’t change…). So, even if the existence of god is per definition the most important difference in a system of beliefs, practically it doesn’t make us to diverge so consistently: we can live together with this difference (we should). The point is that, no matter how important you think a topic is, you’ll end up messing your own beliefs.

Fair enough: god is the sense of your life or a cultural figure. But: what about meanings? Can we really consider them as a cultural figure??? At the end, they are the ground for cultural figures… Well, precisely as god is, if you are a believer.We need to clarify our minds at this point and as usual when philosophy gets too philosophical, we come down to earth (we should), precisely on the very ground and start look at ants and termites…

Ants and termites are involved in complex behavioral patterns using codes of pheromones (a chemical signal: basically ant’s sweat). They can build huge, complex, articulated buildings (on challenging locations like trees, with ventilation chambers, arches: really good stuff!) only by dropping mud-balls covered with pheromones. No single termite has the minimum clue of what she’s doing; nobody is orchestrating or supervising anything at all. It’s just the self organization of a bunch of insects, driven by a decentralized set of rules: drop your mud-ball if another mud-ball is nearby. Where is the plan of the nest? Who’s in charge? Well, the answer is: technically, there is no plan at all and for sure nobody’s in charge. It looks like a college party…

Where are our meanings then? Meanings are stored in our environment: think of all the signals you encounter (it’d be the same in the wild, just tag a legend to a tree…). Now try to tag not only in space but in time. When you were very young you couldn’t speak: you didn’t have enough tags. Afterwards, step by step you started to amass a huge quantity of tags and labels; you built your own nest of meanings, interacting with others’ nests. Before even realizing it, you are thinking and speaking and you are the wonderful anthill of meanings you call “my-self”. Ok. But now I think and speak I master meanings… Correct, but what exactly are you mastering? Are you controlling meanings? You interact with meanings, you can also create new words, but this is not controlling meanings. It’s something like “you decide, you think, you play” or it’s more: the character you call “I”, built in years through the connection with others nests of meanings, this “I” character will play on the stage opened by similar interactions with others nests.

Oh my god! That means I’m a fictional character and my life is a story written by others. Half true. You did write your story, it’s just that the concept of author is more fading than you thought, not the storytelling itself. Secondary, we do look at our stigmeric storytelling, and we do interact with it; it’s just not the hierarchical supervising of a boss.
In conclusion if you stop to believe in meanings, it won’t change that much. As when you don’t believe in god, you still can be a good person or live together with believers (you should).

Ok. If it’s this way, why even starting to thinking something like that???
First: exactly the attitude of wondering about existence of things, is a good feedback of your capacity to interact with meanings, it’s a good exercise. Second: if you turn meanings inside out, you discover a new side of the meaning. Third: I’m a philosopher and I do this for living.