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I’m one of those who liked a lot the finale to the first season.

Season 2 as a whole has been something else. A key aspect is that Nic Pizzolatto didn’t even attempt to follow up on what Season 1 represented, and instead decided for something completely different. If you ask which one was the best season, everyone, including me, will say that the first was simply better. So, for someone who saw the first, didn’t think it the best thing ever and so is considering whether or not to watch the 2nd, it seems the answer is straightforward: if you’ve watched season 1, and that one was better, there’s no real necessity of watching the second too since you’ve already seen the best it had to offer, unless you’re a fan. I’m sure that’s the rationale for a lot of people. Yet it’s the wrong one, because the two series are so different that they deserve to exist, and be seen, independently. There’s still the same fingerprint, it’s like two unrelated books by the same writer, but that means season 1 doesn’t effectively overshadow or replace season 2.

But then the finale itself mitigated this point of view I had, because in the end the merits of the series seem to evaporate, somehow. I think the whole finale has been conceived as a reaction. Same as End of Evangelion was a reaction of the director to the assault of the public. It’s like Pizzolatto decided to give the public the finale they demanded, something fitting a canon, an active reaction to the criticism.

Up to episode 7 I kept reading critics about the overwrought dialogue that I justified in the other blog post, and criticism about characters, and the omnipresent accuses of misogyny. I’d toss all that away, but the finale managed to make all these things worse, and so making them more tangible even to me. What annoyed me the most is that both plot and characters were railroaded toward a form I’d call “plot karma”. As if instead of telling a story, the point was to give a demonstration. So having these characters locked into a fixed plot karma that doesn’t follow actual karma rules, being disrespectful of the audience’s preferences, but wanting to prove and impose its moral relativism.

It’s disappointing because if the first season felt so fresh and different from everything else, this one traced a trajectory that lead right back to the derivative Hollywood writing, with its pre-determined patterns of plot twists. Especially watching Ani being pushed to the sidelines for the second half of the episode not only is infuriating to watch, but also radically incoherent with the character. If season 1 finale had its own flair and defiance of conventions, season 2 follows the ineluctably of fixed-pattern writing, with characters trapped in their mandatory pay-offs. So after a season of earning the public’s sympathies, they end up surrendering to the fact they are only movie-like characters, as fake as everything coming out of Hollywood. “Plot karma”, or things being locked into a too obvious trajectory, with dialogues that start the episode whose only purpose is to foreshadow everything that will follow, leading-on. As if the show has been chocked to death by the audience’s demands and expectations.

I feel like I’m being very wrong, but that’s what I got from this finale: the idea that Pizzolatto hated the audience’s response to the first season, and so decided to lash out with rage, feed the public with the artificiality they demand. Instead of offering them the bliss, he offered them a virus, working as an antidote and triggering a negative response.

So: the idea that all this was deliberate. A disruption. Forcing the public to watch, and so triggering a kind of rebellion against the thing they are watching. And refuse to accept it.

But beside this hidden, probably non-existent layer, remains instead the explicit theme: the dreamlike, fatalistic experience of things moving toward a single point/ending. Omega Station (the title), as the ultimate point, impossible to escape. Omega Point as the predetermined destination that all these characters are locked in.

Observe Velcoro in the whole end section: spellbound, as if observing himself doing things, instead of doing things. As if he’s sitting next to YOU, on the couch, watching himself in True Detective. Until he looks up to the trees, and observes these tightening plot limbs closing in, closing in. Narrowing as a cage, all around him. Out there in the open, yet claustrophobic. As if reaching past the layer, to the writer and the audience, asking “is that it? really?” Yes, really. I’s written right here.

And so, I imagine, the desire to break this spell, deny it. Demand characters to be more than contrived puppets stuck in their predictable and cliche-ridden patterns, just because the plot karma demands so.

Like Frank, Pizzolatto decided that rather than sitting idly by while his empire was dismantled in the inevitable backlash, he’d burn it all to the ground.

True Detective, Season 2, Episode 5:

One day you might find cause to ask yourself
what the limit is to some pain you’re experiencing

you’ll find out there is no limit at all.
Pain is inexhaustible.

It’s only people that get exhausted.

I have this new program, see.

Because my powers of influence
are so meager in this sublunar world of ours,
I try to limit the people I can disappoint.

And I make sure to know the difference
between my obligations and somebody else’s.

Note: That line has been pointed at, across medias, as bad writing because of “who talks like that?” My comment to that is: bad writing that comes around and it is good. No one asks for realism when realism doesn’t add anything. There is not intent for authentic dialogue there, and so no fault.

True Detective is “written”. Charged with meaning, an artificial world. It’s set after the world has already ended. All characters are afterimages on a stage, manipulated as puppets without choice. They are only alive because they suffer. Episode 5 is a distillation of why human beings are utter shit. It’s literally post-apocalyptic setting.

Malazan, The Bonehunters:

‘Nothing can be done,’ Heboric said. ‘We each fall into our lives and that’s that. Some choices we make, but most are made for us.’

Both True Detective and Malazan switch focus from characters to environment, and back. How one shapes the other, and back. Environment as character. How one is a domain within the other.

‘Heboric’s chosen this path, but it’s not by accident. Sure, it’s a wasteland now, but it wasn’t always one. I’ve started noticing things, and not just the obvious ones like that ruined city we passed near. We’ve been on old roads – roads that were once bigger, level, often raised. Roads from a civilization that’s all gone now. And look at that stretch of ground over there,’ she pointed southward. ‘See the ripples? That’s furrowing, old, almost worn away, but when the light lengthens you can start to make it out. It was all once tilled. Fertile. I’ve been seeing this for weeks, Cutter. Heboric’s track is taking us through the bones of a dead age. Why?’

‘Death and dying,’ Scillara continued. ‘The way we suck the land dry. The way we squeeze all colour from every scene. And what we do to the land, we also do to each other. We cut each other down.’

Whoa, look at that title. The concept I wanted to describe is fairly simple, though. Here we go.

This spawns from a discussion over at Bakker’s blog. I wrote there a lot and about many different things, but the bottom line is that it’s about different facets that belong to the same cluster. Specifically about what I wanted to write here, it seems to me that from whatever angle you look at this you’ll always end in the same place/conclusion. The yarn untangles pretty easily just as long you keep pulling.

The discussion was mostly about ontology, epistemology and Truth. All essentially the same thing, since they imply a way to judge things objectively, and how we can reach an agreement about what can or cannot be known.

Postmodern Maximalism is essentially a writing style, the wikipedia entry about it doesn’t help since it underlines “excess” and “redundancy”, where both of these are completely wrong at describing why Maximalism offers an interesting perspective. Maximalism is a method that makes things appear as if they slow down until they are frozen in time. The observing eye goes through everything on the scene, leaving out nothing. It’s an utopian attempt at seizing a moment for what it is, stop time and analyze everything. It basically defines the failure at observing everything and it also reveals that in order to seize the moment, you need pages and pages and pages. More time, endlessly. A single moment whose description requires a dilatation of time much, much greater.

The epistemological uncertainty is a solid point, arguing what is authentic and what isn’t, is not. Maximalist description is a desire for a truer form. It tests the boundary of what can be done, it underlines the limit. But it’s not a way to include everything because you can’t decide what’s important. What’s inauthentic is the idea that certain things are not needed, that they do not play a role. (The ideal of) Maximalism doesn’t dull the world with excess and redundancy, but it ENRICHES it, makes it flourish and bloom with meaning, flowing in all directions. Every word is important and has purpose.

The important point is to understand that the purpose of Maximalism is to defy a boundary and FAIL. Showing what is not possible to achieve. That you cannot fully grasp a single moment. And that to possibly do it you’d always need more time, exponentially. Formally it means that to analyze information you always use a greater amount of it. In a similar way Bakker’s Blind Brain Theory explains consciousness as founded on a series of heuristics whose purpose is to remove the majority of information. If consciousness had a full access to the activity of the brain then it would be COMPLETELY PARALYZED. Analysis paralysis, that for example David Foster Wallace often binds with Maximalism. They are the same thing. Time frozen because you are lost in the process. Every single instant exploding out in a myriad of states, all fundamental, all unavoidable.

We started from ontology and truth. I use a scheme because it is powerful and reveals the real contradiction that we live in. The dichotomy is BEING / KNOWING. If you are on one side you cannot achieve the other. Mutually exclusive. With the theme of ontology we always fall back in the contradiction where to state something you need to rely on some bigger picture. If you say that everything one can say is just a cartoon, than to say it you rely on another cartoon. Recursively. And we observe this similar recursion and paradox everywhere. Why is it so? Because it’s a reproduction of the observation itself. We merely see echoes, infinite reflections, mise en abyme, of the same original state. This original state is self-observation, as I write often. In order to observe yourself you need to exit yourself and see yourself as if from the outside, object of observation. This is the original split, the first separation between observing system and observed system. It creates a double, and so the original dichotomy that we can then shape in the various ways, like body/soul, or being/knowing I used above. A threshold, a boundary. Ontology reproduces a similar problem because it can never unify a truth. You are always separated from a concept and its unity, from a middle state and a pure, ontological truer one. Which means you cannot cross from a state of knowing to a state of being, because knowing builds up the barrier.

(The Blind Brain Theory says consciousness doesn’t have any idea of the actual processes in the brain, since it can only access a very small amount of information. In the same way we know the writer’s mind, so this consciousness, creates a story by removing all detail. Creating meaning, linearity and purpose where there’s actually none. A place of the mind, not of the world. Writing is always a process of FALSIFICATION of reality. That’s why maximalism is instead an inversion. It isn’t about excess of superfluousness but an attempt to reach a more fundamental truth and escape from the falsehood that otherwise binds all. Though, it is granted, you can’t expect literary critics to be smart enough to understand this…)

If you are really radical about epistemology and ontology, then you reach a point where you cannot say anything. It’s as if knowing you cannot know, and so a deeply nihilistic stance. You know the impossibility of things. But I see this as a profoundly IMMORAL, UNHOLY position to take. Because it’s extremely partial and not at all radical as it wants to be. In order to define nihilism you need to rely on absolutes. Like having endless time. Like the hypothesis of true knowledge that lies always deeper. But the point is that in order to enable nihilism as a legitimate stance, you have to rely on cartoons that are far more abstract compared to everything else. Nihilism doesn’t rely on crude realism, but on idealism. The idea of unachievable perfect dimension, and so sorrow because you can’t go there. It’s a failure to reach and to be, but justified by this distance from truth. Truth being the most abstract and most stupid cartoon. As if the will to avoid speculation just threw you toward the wildest speculation possible. In order to know you have no Free Will, you imagine a place where Free Will truly is. And so a lack.

Nihilism relies on a idealistic and false idea of reality. It relies on cartoon abstractions that it wanted proved wrong in the first place. How do you come out of all this? You come out because the world doesn’t give you a choice. Free Will is a possibility because you are negated a choice, if you accept the paradox. Do we know how the world really works? No, science will lead us there. How long will it take? We don’t know. But then we realistically and pragmatically know that “many” of us will be dead by then. Timelessness is not a thing that belongs to life. We are bound in time. Life imposes on us choices now. You don’t have unlimited amount of borrowed time. You can’t delay a choice until you have all the elements to make a wiser one. In the same way you cannot wait forever so you know better what kind of true role you have in this world. Time is limited. And, in the same way, the brain works with heuristic because full access to information would paralyze all activity.

The same as epistemology, there’s the hypothesis of an ultimate truth that will invalidate the one we have now. The same as in science a new theory replaces an old one. On the horizon there’s always an ideal elsewhere that is more true and more complete. But are we there? No. Will we be there? No, because we’ll be dead. Time binds us again. It’s a boundary that is imposed on. A limit that creates a partiality. A slice.

I say this limit creates Free Will, and limited knowledge creates choice. Same as a character in a book cannot stop on his tracks and think he’s a character in a book. Any less we can do that too. It’s part of a different reality we don’t belong to. It’s knowledge that is possible only if a boundary is crossed, but we don’t get to cross it, and we won’t later on. As single individuals, as well as a species, we are limited by time (and knowledge). Idealistic absolutes like a “science” that explains all, or the ultimate “Truth”, these are the real false gods. The real cartoons in this picture. They speak to us from the other side of a reality that binds us.

And so this is why I say this creates the possibility of relative truth compared to an ultimate one. Or Relative Free Will. A point of view that is bound by time. That becomes true because we don’t have the choice of reaching out and defy the limit of time. This is honest and moral because it makes us equal and empowers us. It makes us human instead of super-human, or compared to super-humans as nihilism or other forms of false realism would pretend.

After I finished reading “The Magus” by John Fowles, and while in the process of wrapping up my review of it, I found out two things that I knew would eventually lead to this follow-up. The first is that I compared a few key passages of the book, between the original version and the revision, and I decided that not only the revision is much worse, but that Fowles must have HATED the book, somehow, as if belonging to a young self he now despised and and decided to reject, to the point of defacing it through the revision.

I have the feel that “whoever” wrote The Magus wrote it in a moment of inspiration and enlightenment. My thought is that the older Fowles lost some of that clarity and so, in reading again his own book, found himself as separate from it. Like a foreigner. All the changes I found in the parts I compared are for the worse, and in some cases so bad that they utterly destroy the strong points of the book.

But on the positive side I also found out that Fowles, two years before the publication of The Magus, published another really interesting book titled “The Aristos: A Self-Portrait in Ideas”, and this is particularly important to put in the light of The Magus since the two books are directly connected. The Aristos is like the last episode of Evangelion, it reveals the very naked structure of The Magus, stripping away from it characters and story. This happens SO RARELY and, because so, it’s like finding a diamond. Writers never fully reveal their tricks, they never remove the curtain. You are not allowed to see how they work, how the creation comes alive. And for the kind of reader I am, this is the hidden aspect my attention is actually always on, the rest being a distraction. So I’m always excited when the CIPHER to a book is offered so plainly, and generously I guess.

The Aristos is like finding The Magus’ spellbook. And feeling like you’re reading a forbidden text that should have been kept secret. Something only for initiates.

In my review of The Magus you could see that one of the quotes doesn’t come from the book, because it comes from The Aristos, just a little trick on my part. The book is actually not that easy to find nowadays, but I have a copy. Horribly, the preface reveals it’s a goddamned revision. AGAIN. Fowles decided to rewrite this too. The big problem is that I searched all over the internet, but couldn’t find the original version. On the other hand the revision is only two years older than The Magus itself, so there’s always hope Fowles did not yet lost that clarity I’m after. Though his own words in the preface sound ominous:

This edition contains new material, but it is shorter than its predecessor and, I sincerely hope, much clearer. One other criticism of the first edition I fully deserve. There was an irritating swarm of new-coined words. These I have almost completely abolished.

I WANT THE IRRITATING SWARM OF NEW-COINED WORDS. Damn you, Fowles, I’m after your enlightened self that you lost on the way! So here I am with a book I have now the feel has been emptied of its full power and inspiration… I’m convinced that the unrevised version would be so much more important for me, but I’ll have to do with what I have.

Regardless of “what it might have been”, the book is indeed amazing. The Aristos is basically a philosophical book that lays out plainly Fowles’ mythology. Literally a godsend:

The book you are about to begin is written in the form of notes. This is not laziness on my part, but an attempt to suppress all rhetoric, all persuasion through style.

And the actual beginning is one of the Best Ever:

1. Where are we? What is this situation? Has it a master?

It proceeds from there, with very simple inferences. In some ways it reminds me, more than Wittgenstein (to which this is often compared), of geometry. Setting a few basic rules and then use them to build a system.

The trick is to at least remove the illusion of ambiguity.

Still in the introduction, there’s this passage:

I believe this is one of the great heresies – and tyrannies – of our time. I reject totally the view that in manners of general concern (such as the meaning of life, the nature of the good society, the limitations of the human condition) only the specialist has the right to have opinions – and then only in his own subject. Trespassers will be prosecuted.

In my opinion, this reads like a declaration of Post-modernism. To cross barriers and contaminate. To shift the focus. Only this way, for example, you begin to see that some mythology patterns have common roots in different religions. Not simply because of cultural relations, but also because they still originate from the human condition, and so they also all lead back there.

So even in reading The Aristos I go through Fowles’ philosophical points and trying to validate them using my system of reference. In the end the pieces of the puzzle (of the human condition and Reality) are not endlessly wiped and rewritten as it may seem, but they are repositioned on the bigger blackboard.

3. All that exists has, by existing and not by not being the only thing that exists, individuality.

5. The forms of matter are finite, but matter is infinite.

This is again similar to the foundation of the last episode of Evangelion, but also the root of the Law of Form of Spencer-Brown that I often quote. More importantly, the common “pattern” Fowles describes is coherent with the true nature of man. The starting point: the Big Bang that is the origin of the human condition, and that so precedes the Big Bang of physical reality (since we assume the world preceded the human life, but here there’s an obvious contradiction to what I just said that was deliberate, let it not distract you).

A bit like the basic “I think, therefore I am”, often used as a starting point for philosophy for kids because it’s intuitive. Individuality on its own doesn’t exist. It exists when it is observed, and so it requires self-observation. Meaning: only an individuality can recognize itself.

This is intuitive because “we are”, and “we feel”. It’s a basic point because individuality as an abstract concept starts as our own individuality. The fact we are alive. The fact we fear death. The fact we have a beginning an an end, that separates us from everything else (and so creates our individuality).

So we perceive ourselves because we observe a basic distinction between us and the rest, a dividing line. That dividing line is the human condition, or its Big Bang.

Yet we must know that while our individuality is finite, the world and Reality are whole and infinite (as Fowles says at point 5). And we mis-perceive the world and ourselves because we are part of that continuous, infinite thing. We perceive individuality, but we are a continuity.

(form The Magus)
I had the sense this was the fundamental reality and that reality had a universal mouth to tell me so; no sense of divinity, of communion, of the brotherhood of man, of anything I expected before I became suggestible. No pantheism, no humanism. But something much wider, cooler and more abstruse. That reality was endless inter-action. No good, no evil; no beauty, no ugliness. No sympathy, no antipathy. But simply interaction. The endless solitude of the one, its total enislement from all else, seemed the same thing as the total inter-relationship of the all. All opposites seemed one, because each was indispensable to each. The indifference and the indispensability of all seemed one. I suddenly knew, but in a new hitherto unexperienced sense of knowing, that all else exists.
There was no meaning, only being.

Fowles proceeds explaining that the upper world follow rules that are indifferent to the individual. And Good and Bad, Pleasure and Pain, exist because our individuality creates them. We become the measure and balance of what otherwise is neutral and unconcerned. In the relation to us things become good or bad, pains or pleasures.

The Kabbalah’s spiritual “physics” (and Evangelion in its own way) says men come to be from God’s light as separate entities because they were divided by a barrier called “egoism”. It’s the exact same idea. We are driven by desire, because it is created by individuality. Egoism is self. If you want to see this in a more creative literary form you can try read some David Foster Wallace’s short stories titled “The Devil is a Busy Man”, on the technical impossibility of true altruism. In Kabbalah’s physics the egoism is literally the human condition, you can’t avoid it because doing so would undo you as a “man”. So the truth of the condition isn’t obscured as a mere attempt to persuade people to well behave.

17. Man is an everlack, an infinite withoutness, afloat on an apparently endless ocean of apparently indifference to individual things.

14. Man is a seeker of the agent. We seek an agent for this being in a blind wind, this being on a raft; the mysterious power, the causator, the god, the face behind the mysterious mask of being and not being.

I inverted here Fowles’ order because the second is consequence of the first. You can find a positive or negative cause. The positive, like in Kabbalah, says that even in happiness a man feels some lack, the need for a greater purpose that gives his life meaning, spirituality. Desire can never be fulfilled, or the fulfillment is always momentary. The negative cause instead comes from pain. Man wonder “why” all the pain, what it is all for. Something that may justify, and maybe excuse, it all.

33. We build towards nothing; we build.

34. Our universe is the best possible because it can contain no Promised Land; no point where we could have all we imagine. We are designed to want: with nothing to want, we are like windmills in a world without wind.

But again, the immediacy that we feel about these thoughts still origins from our nature as individual. An original separation that in religion is “from god”, or from Eden or whatever literal manifestation of the abstraction. But we know that even from a “scientific” or logical point of view that separation does exist, and it happens the moment we observe (and feel) individuality.

So Fowles’ image of a raft (individuality) in a blind wind and endless ocean (the continuity of the world) preserves the truth of the human condition. And so life as a “passage” from an Eden and toward some promised land. They are just separation from the world as it actually always is. The flux of a process.

Then he continues stating this is the best of possible worlds, or: The necessity of hazard.

24. I am is I was not, I might not have been, I may not be, I shall not be.

25. In order that we should have meaning, purpose and pleasure it has been, is, and always will be necessary that we live in a whole that is indifferent to every individual thing in it; and the precise form of its indifference is that the duration of being and the fortune during being of each individual thing are fundamentally but not unconditionally in hazard.

26. What we call suffering, death, disaster, misfortune, tragedy, we should call the price of freedom. The only alternative to this suffering freedom is an unsuffering unfreedom.

22. A god who revealed his will, who ‘heard’ us, who answered our prayers, who was propitiable, the kind of god simple people like to imagine would be desirable: such a god would destroy our hazard, all our purpose and all our happiness.

These few points unify two important concepts. One I was discussing here, quoting another passage from the Kabbalah (scroll to the second quote block), and about the necessity of partiality (individuality) and pain to be able to also partake with freedom. The other is about my discussion on free will. Or the problem of free will in a deterministic world.

The description I made is very similar to Fowles’ necessity of hazard and his hypothetical mythology that comes next, that I quoted partially in my The Magus review (go to see it). “If there had been a creator, his second act would have been to disappear.”

The same basic trick of the act of writing a story. The writer disappears, creates a fictional world, characters can only be believable as long they don’t know the world is fictional and act on their own will and individuality.

More importantly, this is abstraction and metaphysical and even religious SPECULATION (and the reason why no one is usually interested in this I’m writing), but the personal position of an actual scientist, guess what? It’s identical!

Here’s Sean Carroll, who I follow on internet because he’s one of the pioneers of modern science with also a role in helping the explanation of very complex new theories to the general public.

The search for certainty in empirical knowledge is a chimera. I could always be a brain in a vat, or teased by an evil demon, or simply an AI program running on somebody else’s computer — fed consistently misleading “sense data” that led me to incorrect conclusions about the true nature of reality. Or, to put a more modern spin on things, I could be a Boltzmann Brain — a thermal fluctuation, born spontaneously out of a thermal bath with convincing (but thoroughly incorrect) memories of the past. But — here is the punchline — it makes no sense to act as if any of those is the case.

Maybe you are a brain in a vat. What are you going to do about it? You could try to live your life in a state of rigorous epistemological skepticism, but I guarantee that you will fail. You have to believe something, and you have to act in some way, even if your belief is that we have no reliable empirical knowledge about the world and your action is to never climb out of bed. On the other hand, putting aside the various solipsistic scenarios and deciding to take the evidence of our senses (more or less) at face value does lead somewhere; we can make sense of the world, act within it and see it respond in accordance with our understanding.

Now compare that quote from Carroll to this back from Fowles:

36. We are in the best possible situation because everywhere, blow the surface, we do not know; we shall never know why; we shall never know tomorrow; we shall never know a god or if there is a god; we shall never even know ourselves. This mysterious wall round our world and our perception of it is not there to frustrate us but to train us back to the now, to life, to our time being.

74. I do not consider myself an atheist, yet this concept of ‘God’ and our necessary masterlessness obliges me to behave in all public matters as if I were.

The first part of point 36 reads like the title Carrol gave to his blog post: “What I Believe But Cannot Prove”.

(I consider this explanation as radically different compared to the famous Pascal’s Wager. As that’s more like a selfish, pragmatic bet that doesn’t actually help understanding; where understanding is the goal, opposed to just convenience. And for sure we cannot infer what is to gain or lose.)

We are, as human beings, in a transition, but this essence is ETERNAL. We do not have a place to reach. We will never have it. The origin and end, like birth and death, make the transition possible as a place, defining it, but then they stay outside experience. Our essence is about staying in this transition (process). And accept it for what it is.

42. Look out of the window: everything you see is frozen fire in transit between fire and fire. Cities, equations, lovers, landscapes: all are hurtling towards the hydrogen crucible.

The consequence of this, both for Carroll and Fowles, is that we are forced to use our free will, like I say in my post. We are forced to think as if we are atheists, in Fowles’ words, with our attention focused on our time being. The now. Our actual responsibility on this world, the effect our actions have on other people. Our own responsibility, our own free will, our own limited judgement, given that “we shall never know why; we shall never know tomorrow.” It’s entirely on us.

The driver of a lorry carrying high explosives drives more carefully than the driver of one loaded with bricks; and the driver of a high-explosive lorry who does not believe in a life after death drives more carefully than one who does. We are all in this nitroglycerine truck.

And the last point (of this section) Fowles writes is a thing of poetry and absolute beauty that almost unifies Lovecraft with the movie “2001: A Space Odissey”:

76. I live in hazard and infinity. The cosmos stretches around me, meadow on meadow of galaxies, reach on reach of dark space, steppes of stars, oceanic darkness and light. There is no amenable god in it, no particular concern or particular mercy. Yet everywhere I see a living balance, a rippling tension, an enormous yet mysterious simplicity, an endless breathing of light. And I comprehend that being is understanding that I must exist in hazard but that the whole is not in hazard.
Seeing and knowing this is being conscious; accepting it is being human.

I’m archiving here what started as a forum post.

CAVEAT: This is only partially related to the GamerGate affair, in the sense that it’s specular but not linked, if not because of the bigger themes of racism, misogyny and everything. So, Quinn is not involved, games are not involved, yet we see the EXACT same thing that happened on Quinn, yet this time the situation is specular in the sense that the supposed “feminist” target here is found “guilty”, instead of rising shields on her defense.

This requires to step slightly outside gaming and into literature, in particular the fantasy/sci-fi subgenre.

As in the Quinn case, but in much smaller proportions, this thing in propagating across forums and blogs. They even named it “Benjanungate”.

Two forums threads going on:

The gist is that a famous feminist blogger who used to write extremely vitriolic reviews of books, calling out the authors in kind of Sarkeesian way, if only a thousands times more bluntly and aggressive, was outed as being also a writer who’s now starting to get published. The two identities online were kept well separated, with the writer’s blog being instead extremely mild.

The point is: in this one case the smear campaigns were initiated by this supposed feminist, instead of against her.

Why is this important? Because it highlights the terms of the discussion, where this feminist battle crosses over to WRONG territory. For me it’s extremely confusing to differentiate where are the good arguments, and which battles are actually worth fighting. So seeing the mirror image of the ambiguous Quinn affair can help see where things that started good become instead very wrong.

Consider also that even if she’s considered on the “wrong” side pretty much universally, I still think there was a whole lot legitimate and interesting about what she used to write. Yet she falls in the category of “feminists we don’t need”. In the sense that she is the living proof that you can do a lot of wrong even if the principles were good and sound (just one, as an example, she often pointed to the “whitewashing” of book covers, where ethnic people were still made white to sell more books).

So she had merits, if you understood her angle. Yet she made everything possible so that you wouldn’t understand it. This is the problem with these kinds of feminists: they do everything possible to be misunderstood and be vitriolic. They antagonize. So theirs become gut (legitimate) reactions to otherwise complex problems. Yet a legitimate act isn’t automatically a good one. So is “feminism”, good principles that sometime only produce setbacks.

“the tactics she used don’t often change minds, they generally only serve to solidify stances.”


(probably more)

Also relevant:

Just a link to an article, whose theme is already a delicious example of Looping Worlds and wheels within wheels: Reading Wallace Reading.

“Do you have like a daily writing routine?”

Oh well, please bear with me. I don’t want to offend anyone, but see the category, this goes into “mythology”.

A big part of what I seem to do on this blog is about recognizing some recurring patterns about the most disparate things. The world is incredibly complex but sometimes I recognize these common patterns, and in the end there seem to be a smaller number of them. Whether “true” or not, these patterns have a significant explanatory power, so by using them I often understand other aspects I otherwise would miss. So, even if dealing with a rather complicate and sensible matter, I’ll naively describe another of these patterns.

Obviously, this specific one isn’t a novel problem. In fact I bet a common reaction about the recent news has been: “Oh shit! AGAIN?!” It’s more or less like parents that come back home and find that the kids are fighting again.

One of my basic intuitions, many years ago, was that the core of the Israeli–Palestinian conflict could have been represented by another type of conflict that is just far more widespread and common: mind/body dichotomy.

The pattern I’m describing here is that, rather often, large social structure, like organizations, nations, religions and so on, often exhibit general models of behavior that exist within a single human being. It’s as if a social body is indeed a conscious body, with all the shortcoming, conflicts and problems of an individual human being. As if parroting an actual person.

So it’s as if you can “project” on this larger social body the issues that usually belong to a single person. Having a metaphoric power. But, actually, from the original perspective of Kabbalah, it is curious to notice that what I described as a metaphor, for them it’s LITERAL. Since the physical world is strictly illusion, what you see reflected outside yourself depends solely on you. Literally, the Israeli–Palestinian conflict is YOUR FAULT. Really specifically yours (or mine), as a single individual being. If people are dying it’s because of what you’ve done today. It depends on you, you monster.

See this video and notice it’s from 2006:

Even this video presents its own dichotomy: Israel versus Nations. Explaining (since all Kabbalah terms are strictly symbolic) that Israel = desire for unity & spirituality, and Nations = striving for mere self satisfaction.

When I came to my own intuition about mind/body I didn’t know anything at all about Kabbalah, but the pattern is rather similar. Getting closer to the point, more than mind/body, this is a conflict of the more “rational” side of the mind, and it’s “emotional” side (because usually rationality = mind, and emotion = body, we’re just switching tools and shapes using the same pattern).

Now. Take Israel. Would you put it on the emotional or on the rational side of conflict? Israel represent rationality. It’s the modern nation. It’s recognized by the western world and legitimated as so. It has the military power. It’s more culturally “developed” (not a quality on itself). Israel represent the official institution that is clearly defined and recognized. Its forms are rational, overt forms. Explicit.

Take Hamas. Terrorism in general is emotional. Religious fundamentalism is especially symbolic and non-rational. It’s an emotional push, it’s less directed. Despite terrorism is really NOT tolerable and can’t be justified, it still has a form of legitimation: when people are so hopeless and feel crushed in a corner, they leash out, with blinding rage and despair. Terrorism comes out of desperation. It is never justifiable, but it can be understood. It just has very deep motives, buried down, away from the rational light of history. It’s the irrational beasts lurking in the dark. A monster. It broods and incubates, till it bubbles up. And explodes, apparently unjustified.

Another step forward: more than simply rational/emotional, I can describe this conflict as taking the form of another rather widespread condition: a panic attack. What’s the most obvious trait of a panic attack? That it is extremely counter-productive. And irrational. You literally can’t explain WHY it happens and WHY it ruins your life now. You just want it to STOP. The panic attack is indeed the result of a deep conflict between the rational and the emotional mind. Or: identity versus rational. Identity, in this definition, is what can’t change. It just can’t. It can’t be moved at all. It’s what you are deep down, regardless of all your struggles. Rationality instead is the part of the mind that goes “social”. It’s the part that wants to be included in the world, that bends under external demands, like the desire to be successful, popular and so on. That needs to achieve and perform. This side is also the only side the external world is interested in because, to reproduce itself, it needs vessels that are uniform. Alike. Society reproduces itself when it can conquer cells and make them like itself. Transformed into something usable. Reproducible. So society forces a conformity. Otherwise, if you don’t bend and conform, you are banished, a thread, become outcast. The rational side of a person STRIVES HARD to conform itself, to become as society demands. And this obviously puts the identity side on a very strong pressure. Because identity just won’t move. What happens then when you have two things, one that won’t move, and another that pushes and pushes hard? That this thing breaks apart. It literally comes to pieces. And it can take a lifetime, if you’re lucky, to bring those pieces back together. Hence all kinds of problems, from drugs to psychological meltdowns and everything else. People break because they are pulled apart in two different directions.

Back to the panic attack. A panic attack happens when the rational mind has pushed (and violated) the needs of the emotional mind so deep down that at some point the emotional mind just EXPLODES. A panic attack is literally the emotional mind sabotaging the activities (and needs) of the rational mind. It’s a bomb. It destroys what you want to do. It stops you. Obviously, it’s extremely counter productive. It arrives at the worst possible moment, as if your body HATES you with a passion. And you, because conscience is the rational mind, you HATE your body with a passion. Because your body doesn’t listen to you, doesn’t respond the way you want and keeps sabotaging what you need to do. The body is your enemy, as if it’s a stranger, that you don’t understand and works against you.

Now, back to Hamas you can notice that all they do is EXTREMELY counter productive to their own causes. If their demands are legitimate, in many ways, THEIR ACTIONS throw all that legitimacy to shit. They do the worst possible to their own cause. If this was a tactical battle, they handle it in the worst possible ways because they just keep making their own position worse and worse. Why so stupid? Because it’s irrational. It’s the emotional side that has been crushed so hard against the corner that it is only able to leash out with rage. Just blind irrational rage you’ll never be able to justify rationally. It doesn’t make any sense, and at some point you just wish you could erase them from existence so that they just fucking stop, and be done with it. And that’s Israel’s answer. Either you stop NOW, or I fucking obliterate you.

The other aspect about Hamas, if you listen to what they say, is that what they say is extremely… childish. They won’t stop launching their toy rockets that do ABSOLUTELY NOTHING if not justify Israel ACTUAL killings because it would be like “giving up”. Kids don’t give up. Ever. And then they say they’ll UNLEASH THE APOCALYPSE. Which is extremely serious and ominous. But also so childish again. Why? It’s irrational again. They speak through symbols because they are an emotional side. They are arrogant because kids are arrogant, especially if cornered.

And then it all seems to bog down to another: who started first? If you stop then I stop too. NOPE, YOU STOP FIRST! BUT IT WAS YOU WHO STARTED! And so on, like kids.

In Infinite Jest, David Foster Wallace played explicitly with this pattern working on multiple levels. Buildings that become alive, conscious. Forms that are shaped-as, but that also become. Prosthetic bodies. The MIT thing from where Madame Psychosis plays her night drama is shaped like a brain. In “The Broom of the System” the town is shaped like a human profile, and by the end of the book it actually comes alive. Again in Infinite Jest the human double bind that is often described in various forms represent what I just described in the Israeli–Palestinian: a vicious circle. Which is the symbol that opens every chapter. “Annular”, is a keyword of the book. If in a single person the anxiety’s double bind is a vicious circle that seemingly goes on forever dispersing endless psychic and physical energy, this becomes the inspiration to create a kind of vicious circle that, based on trash (which also is a psychological projection), can produce actual energy to power the whole of United States. Forever. Annular Fusion. And “annular” is also the shape of the conscience in the mind. And annular is the structure of Infinite Jest, the book itself, looping on itself. Ending where it starts (but missing a year). It’s both parody and projection on the large of what happens instead “within”.

The same suggest the Kabbalah in that video, but literally (the spiritual self and its struggles projects the physical world and its struggles), and the same I described, more metaphorically, with the Israeli–Palestinian conflict.

Is the real annular fusion the ring of self-consciousness that leads us to feel trapped in our solipsistic cells?

Whether you believe in the hard form of projection (Kabbalah), or the weaker, merely metaphoric and symbolic one I described, I think the form of the pattern I just described can “explain” why this conflict goes on forever and seems at the same time completely ridiculous and yet so dramatic and unsolvable. Because it’s just so deep in all of us, and it’s out there, reminding us the way we are. No so different, or “better”, as we like to think. Nor stranger, or so far away, and “safe”, really.

This means that the Israeli–Palestinian conflict won’t be solved by just putting each in its own territory. That’s only fuel for the worst to surface again and again. The conflict will be solved when they’ll be able to be together (a mind can’t do without a body, go figure), realizing there’s no difference between them, and that to live in happiness they need each other. You know, brothers and sisters, and all that rhetorical banality.