Sunday, August 2, 2015

Beverly Hills Jews



Starbucks Coffee, Olympic and Doheny, Beverly Hills

- I sent your picture to a friend. "A typical Jewish Intellectual", she said. Are you are a "Jewish intellectual"?
- Jewish by ethnicity, not practice. Intellectual? That charge I don't think I can escape.
- Then she asked, "This isn't the Beverly Hills Jew you're always talking about?" Are you a Beverly Hills Jew?
- Don't you have anything else to talk about?
- No.
- I did most of my growing up next door in the Fairfax area. My mother lived for about a decade in Beverly Hills after I went away to college.
- And you live in Beverly Hills now.
- If you call it living.
- Who was that woman pounding on the window?
- What window?
- Here in Starbucks. Yesterday. Don't you remember?
- You mean Leah. How could I forget Leah.
- Are you going to tell me about her? Why was she pounding on the window?
- She was taunting the rabbis sitting at the round table.
- Ah.
- You're happy because you're back on your subject, Beverly Hills Jews.
- Your subject too. You've told me the only people you're sure read your stories are government spies and haters of Jews.
- You're in luck. Leah is fine material.
- How do you know her?
- I was at Ralphs market one night around midnight waiting for the Guru to come out...
- The Guru of Beverly Hills. The guy you live with.
- Yes. Leah, outfitted in the costume of an orthodox Jewish woman, long plain skirt, peasant blouse, and covered hair, was going around to every man on his way to or from his car asking whether he was Jewish and if he was did he want to marry her.
- Was she serious?
- Yes. But aware as well she was being entertaining. Before she went crazy she'd studied music at an elite academy in New York. That was long ago. She was about fifty now, divorced, with three teen-aged children. Ex-husband and children have gone to court to get a restraining order against her visiting them. The Guru has one too now. So does Starbucks. Probably the rabbis too.
- Why was she pounding on Starbucks' window?
- I'll get to that. Leah at last came over to me, asked me her questions: am I Jewish, will I marry her? At that moment the Guru came out of Ralphs. I told her, here comes your perfect husband. He's an orthodox Jew and crazy like you. They started talking and soon had it all arranged. They'd get married.
- No!
- Yes. There was a slight problem however. The Guru was already married, his separated wife in constant telephone contact. But that was no problem two adult human beings couldn't handle. Sadly, it didn't work out.
- Why not?
- Leah demands money and personal assistance from everyone she meets. She has artistic and business projects. She takes being Jewish seriously. Follow the rules set by the group, be aided by the group in accordance with those rules, do something good. Unfortunately somewhere along the line she went crazy, developed this maniacal anger appearing instantly when anyone refused any of her demands for assistance. The family threw her out, got their restraining order. At the time of meeting her at Ralphs she was living in an apartment paid for by family and on a thousand dollar a month allowance from them. That's no more.
- What happened?
- She got worse. She tried to seduce the Guru's eighty year old mother whose mind is gone.
- Thus the restraining order.
- Yes. Then she decided the carpet in her apartment was dirty so she tore it up and rolled it over the balcony to the street one floor below. She got evicted, and was to be seen wandering up and down Doheny demanding aid and services from everyone, from the rabbis at the Temple across the street, from me, from anyone going in or out of Starbucks.
- Her family won't help her?
- Apparently not. So do you know who she ended up staying with?
- How should I know?
- The Holocaust survivor down the street. Ninety-two years old, and not Jewish. She introduced me to him outside his house, had him give me a copy of his book. I was instructed to make a TV mini-series out of it.
- Was he in a concentration camp?
- The worst, Auschwitz, for about a year. I knew of the book's existence but hadn't come across it before. I saw on the back cover it was published by a marketing company. That was strange. I'd read enough of these memoirs and didn't want to read the book, especially since, as the author explained, it'd been co-written by a professional writer. The two had met when they both worked at the old Beverly Canon Theater, long only a memory, where the Montage Hotel is now.
- How is the book?
- Nicely written. I'll have to be Jewish intellectual for the rest of my answer. I hope you don't mind.
- Not at all.
- Philosophers like to play with the question, what is the human species' primary characteristic? Language, tool use, upright posture? Foresight? Or is it the ability to deliberately forget, as I myself once thought? Or better, is it mass killing? No other animal makes such a habit deliberately getting together to kill. I'd choose the last as a better answer. It brings together almost all the special characteristics. More than bringing them together, it organizes them. We humans are able to look ahead to forgetting ourselves in acts of group killing aided by technology.
- Isn't that also your definition of evil: deliberately doing what you know as an individual is wrong for the sake of rewards acting in a group?
- Nice that you remember. It is.
- The specific characteristic of the human species is evil?
- Do you doubt it? The Holocaust memoir of Leah's host was published by a marketing company. In the marketplace of life mass murder would be the human being's trademark. Life is characterized by growth and reproduction. With our mass destruction we have to be the life form most incompetent at life.
- So we're evil.
- You said it. Here's the part of my explanation you won't like, the Jewish intellectual part. If in Nazism the individual is the agent of the group, in Jewish life the group is the agent of the individual. The group is the storehouse of the rules, is the tool the individual uses to remember. But the individual makes his deal directly with god, not with the group. The Holocaust isn't special as a mass killing, mass killing is the characteristic of human beings. But it is special as a model, a paradigm of evil.
- Why?
- Because the Jews, acting as Jews, are logically incapable of evil. In Jewish life the group is the tool of the individual. Evil requires the reverse, the individual lowering himself to being the tool of the group, forgetting what he knows is good, getting in exchange rewards of group conformity. I brought this up because this model or paradigm has no applicability to the old man's Holocaust memoir. The previous ones I'd read were full of grief, confusion, anger, with the knowledge the tool of their memory, their group, was being destroyed, with disappointment and shock the rules weren't working. This book, however, was written with ironic detachment, a story of cleverness and resourcefulness that reminded me of Homer's The Odyssey more than anything else.
- The old guy committed the crime of not being Jewish.
- All I'm saying is reading the book I felt a flatness, the absence of the model, of the attempt of evil to destroy its opposite.
- So Leah is living with the Holocaust survivor down the street...
- Yes. Last night leaving Starbucks on my way home I saw a crowd gathered around the old guy's house. A police car was parked in front. You can guess what happened.
- They'd arrested Leah?
- Taken her away. One policeman, two social workers, one long-time friend of the old guy who'd driven him a few times to speak to organizations about the Holocaust, and four or five concerned neighbors. The younger of the social workers explained to me: the law allowed the police to take someone who appeared dangerously unstable to a hospital for observation, and that is what had occurred. She went on:
-They can hold her for about a week, then she'll be out again. Back here maybe. We're concerned for the old man's safety. His rib was broken the last week.
- Do you know Leah's family?
- No, but my partner has spoken with them.
- They can help her, they're rich, right? Her ex-husband the vice-director of the country's biggest Jewish organization, her brother a Beverly Hills doctor? That's what she told me.
- How are you involved?
- I know Leah. I've met her host. I have his book. I'm a concerned neighbor too. I'm worried that Leah might hurt the old guy inadvertently like a big dog lying down on an infant. So her family won't help anymore?
- No, they're tired of her.
- Tired of her? I've heard that before. The free market in action. If someone doesn't make money, it's at the individual's discretion whether it's better to see your mother dying on the street outside your window or to pay out a little cash to avoid the eye-sore. Leah's family evidently chose to save the cash and watch mother die on the street. The eye-sore parades up and down Doheny, demanding respect and cooperation from everyone, is denied by everyone, everyone except this last of the Holocaust survivors who takes her in, putting himself in danger. The man who the Nazis couldn't kill the Free Market might.

Further Reading:
Try To Stay Home
Beverly Hills Stories

Saturday, August 1, 2015

Machines & Consciousness



1.

 - Physicists agree that the conception of matter they use, particles in movement, fields which move particles, is incoherent.
- Incoherent how?
- A thing is an idea: a collection of sights of certain shapes and other qualities that remain over time. A billiard ball is round and hard and heavy. That the ball stays in the same place or moves, we imagine through the idea of energy, which is a packet of invisible movement that is passed on from one ball to another, or one ball to itself. We can't imagine how that passing on happens.
- Why do the physicists say?
- Matter is crazy but it works. Einstein solved the problem of passing on at a distance presented by gravitational force by imagining curved space time, but no one can really imagine it. String theory, likewise. There are speculations that all of nature is a set of fields of energy which influence each other, a continuous merging, but the problem remains how the movement of force is communicated to things. We still can't imagine it.
- What can we imagine then?
- That our mental life is as it appears to us.
- How does it appear?
- As conscious. That means things, and awareness we are seeing things, or imagining them, or remembering them. We have perception, and awareness of perception at the same time.
- What is awareness?
- Yes: it is not simply a perception of perception. It is also the source of movement of our own body, and understanding, looking down on what "stands under" us, the movement of other bodies along with our own.
- How?
- We take responsibility for constructing over time, in our own history, the things we see.
- For making our perceptions.
- Yes. When we stand above and look down on it, in every thing we see a history, one sight after another. Then when imagining matter passing on energy, or energy passing on movement to matter, we incorporate elements of our experience of consciousness. It is a kind of stop and go at once, and it confuses us.
- The stop being the ideas, the definitions of a thing. And the go, awareness of movement that we get from consciousness.
- Yes.
- But matter is not conscious.
- No. We can't conceive of material science except as of things carrying on their backs little packages of consciousness.
- Crazy but it works.
- It works, but what are we to think when our science is setting out to prove consciousness depends on the material world?
- We're to think it's crazy too, but it works. What do you think?
- Physical things with their backpacks of invisible movement have nothing in common with mental things: love, beauty, truth, friendship, sympathy.
- How would you describe these mental things?
- As products of consciousness, they are movements.
- From where to where?
- From a world seen mechanically, which we want to escape, to a world of full awareness. We deliberately create the future out of the past.
- And when we are afraid, or angry?
- We carry packets of movement on our backs and pass them on to ourselves. We are passive, material like, we don't create.
- Can we imagine the world doing what we do - I mean, when we are going somewhere?
- We can, and many people try. The problem is, we can't know whether there is any pattern to the way we go back and forth between doing things in the world, and being conscious of ourselves in our achievement of getting out of the world. There may not be any rule. How well we take care of our confusions of being lost in the world depends on the world's response to our attempts. If we imagine the whole world acting like we do, attempting to get out of itself, there'd have to be a world outside it which it responded to, and we have of course no idea what that would be.
- So we don't know if the world is creative. And if we don't know, we can't imagine the energy of the things in the world being the world's conscious choice how to move things into better arrangements.
- No.
- But it might be a case of crazy but it works.
- Works how well? We don't know whether or how natural laws change or stay the same. Our economic structures appear like natural laws, and we believe they are unchanging things. We can ask whether state capitalism or federated cooperatives are more natural to human beings, but our answer might depend on when and for how long. We don't know.
- The movement we know from consciousness is the history that makes our perception of things, together with willing. How does the world look if we leave them out?
- As we see it when we are in love. Whole, unchanging.
- Everything that happens in the world is lined up and taken responsibility for as our perception, named as one thing, and loved?
- That's one way of putting it.
- Then what is matter and energy and the science of making predictions of how they affect one another?
- Something crazy but works.
- How does it work? Why does it work?
- Imagine we human beings weren't as we are now, organized by profession, social class, wealth, race. Imagine we were in the condition of nature as it is before it is made into a machine. What if I asked a human being, accustomed to making things in cooperatives, loving to give things away, if it were possible for people to live like we do now, whether it would work?
- I guess the question would arise, what did you mean by it working?
- I'd answer, it is done for its own sake.
- Our society is crazy but it works?
- Yes.


2.

- In Plato there are a couple of interesting arguments for the immortality of the soul.  A thing can be destroyed only by being changed into its opposite. Light to dark. Cold to hot. And life to death. Dark also can be changed to light, hot to cold, and death to life. Things which have parts can be taken apart, things which have no parts cannot be. The soul has no parts, therefore it cannot be taken apart. The soul has no opposite, so cannot be destroyed.
- Why do you bring this up?
- One way of looking at a machine is as taken apart life. A machine works with dead parts, each with their back packs of soul like energy. Can we imagine consciousness appearing somehow from reassembling the back packs of energy?
- A soul isn't supposed to have parts. It is either there or not.
- Have you thought about why?
- I wouldn't think of trying.
- I've already given you the answer, or one of them: if consciousness results from taking credit for the movement of one act and perception after another, to be still, when understanding that movement, it is essential that it be "one". It makes "one", and itself is what it makes.
- So though it makes itself out of pieces, what it is, when made, is one, not pieces?
- Yes.
- It goes when the pieces fall apart.
- Yes.
- And the pieces are not conscious.
- No. Science works with selecting things and putting them in relation, looking for a regular result, one kind of thing with another. The learning we arrive at is something like consciousness, arising out of putting ourselves together.
- Are you saying the world is conscious?
- No, only that the way we learn about the world, become conscious of the world, is the same way we become conscious of ourselves.
- And when we learn about another person? Is that becoming conscious of them too?
- We call it sympathy, love, concern.
- Consciousness, love, knowledge have the same form?
- Yes. Now Plato told this story, I'm sure you've heard it. Prisoners are chained in a cave watching shadows projected on the back wall of puppets paraded in front of a fire outside the cave entrance. They think they have real knowledge when they can successfully predict when one shadow follows another.
- I read it in school.
- The prisoners don't know themselves, each other, or the world. They cannot take responsibility for doing anything with what they see, or with the people they watch with. In the same way, when we make statistical studies of language, or of a population of people, with the intention of understanding how language works or what makes people tick, we are obtaining a kind of knowledge that does not involve consciousness. It is not scientific.
- What is it then?
- People getting together to make themselves into the machine they imagine some day will be made conscious. The soul is gone, replaced by a community of parts, each a statistician, each wearing the back pack of energy, bits of impersonal knowledge assembled in relation to the totality of other bits of impersonal knowledge.
- A kind of death.

Continued At: A Division Of Labor


further reading:
If You Can't Program It It Isn't Real
How Do You Make A Computer Not Want To Be A Computer?
The Cultural Foundation At The Tel Aviv Shopping Center

Legal Crime

This is the story of two brothers and what is known as legal crime.

If banks sell investments to their customers telling them they are good and at the same time invest their own money in bets that the investments are bad, that is a crime. Exactly what category of crime is not immediately obvious to those of us who are not lawyers. It is obvious to lawyers, however, and the government may or may not get around to prosecuting the banks.

Legal crime is also in my family, and I wonder how much my experience is unique, how far business life has corrupted private life. Here is my family story:

One of my brothers, his name is Todd, was the executor of our mother's estate. His full name is Todd Miller. He is an architect in Ventnor, New Jersey. The estate wasn't very large because Todd and my other brother had earlier transferred most of the family property into their two names to avoid paying inheritance tax. When our mother died Todd wrote to me that though I would be the only beneficiary there was hardly any money left after his expenses, and if I demanded an accounting he would pay his lawyer to take the entire estate in his legal fees. That is what he did. Legal crime.

With immense banks doing it in an immense scale you can be pretty sure no one bothers with the legal crime of a Ventnor, New Jersey architect like Todd Miller, A.I.A. of QMA Design & Build.

But legal crimes sometimes do get corrected. Even big ones. The actual present Constitution of the United states was one such legal crime. The Articles of Confederation required the vote of all the state congresses for its amendment. The Constitution, however, required ratification of only 10 out of the 13 states, and by popular vote, not by the state congresses. It was "legal", but not at all if you look into it, but who was looking into it?

However much of the crime was atoned for by the 1st and other amendments in the next years. Now the U.S. Government has also gotten involved in my own family's small legal crime, and maybe there will be a little correction.

The American Embassy is making me an emergency repatriation loan. To qualify you have to provide the names of people who you have contacted and will not help you return to the U.S. from abroad. I am abroad. In Budapest. I gave them the names of my brothers.

The government very, very much does not want to make this kind of loan, and the Embassy has made it absolutely clear to me. I have mentioned to the Embassy my brother's legal crime and suggested they collect for me. They scheduled a telephone call between me and my brother to occur on the Embassy grounds the next week.

The telephone call is not a success. It's been 5, 6 years. My brother makes small talk. I answer politely and wait for him to offer to return the money, not force the government to make the emergency loan. He doesn't. He suggests I stay in Europe because it is cheaper. He seems to have no understanding that everyone is not a millionaire like himself, and that being in a cheaper place with no money is not an advantage.

Probably the banks are the same way. Everyone is a millionaire and it's all a game.

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Why Leaders Lie

Image result for greek parthenon blueprints

- This is what Stathis Kouvelakis, Professor of Political Theory at King’s College London, and member of the Central Committee of Syriza, the governing party of Greece, said about his government's recent meeting with and capitulation to the demands of the EU after Greek voters by referendum overwhelmingly instructed them not to:
At that meeting you saw an extraordinary thing happen: the head of the victorious camp accepted the conditions of the defeated camp. This, it has to be said, is something that’s unique in political history. I don’t think we’ve ever seen this before.
In the year previous you could read on a Greek anarchist website that it would be a mistake to count on any representative of any party including radical leftist. No matter who they were, they'd betray you.
- Why?
- A couple of reasons. First, imbalance of power between the leaders and led. People with power understand and admire other people with power. The led are powerless, are literally in the power of the leaders. The leaders have more in common with other leaders, even of opposing parties, than with the people they are supposed to represent. That's the first reason. Second is the problem of representing, representing not in the political sense but in the sense of making an image, playing a role, creating an impression. The more a society demands from its members that they play roles for each other, the easier it is for their representatives to pursue an agenda opposite to the interests of the people.
- Why?
- A father and teenaged daughter are having a dispute. Father and daughter both know a young man. Daughter likes him and is interested in seeing more of him. Daughter finds out father has forwarded to the young man an email from daughter that mentions him. She is displeased. If father is going to continue passing on her private words to other people she'll simply have to stop having personal conversations with him. Father replies that he was exercising a parent's normal concern and interest in his children's lives. 
- A daughter is in the power of her parents, and can't control what her parents do with her words, whereas her relation to the young man was of friendship, and free, at least potentially, of power relations. She wanted to keep the relations apart. I'm on her side. No friendship has a chance unless the other person to sticks around long enough for friendship to develop. That means making a good impression, being in control of impressions. Her father's interference denied her that control. She was right to object. It would be nice if we didn't have to take such considerations into account, but teenagers know they do, know how important first impressions are. You argue, then, that the Greek government treats the Greek people as children in their power, treats the representations they gave of themselves in their referendum as of no importance, to be done with as they wished, to be made the subject of their own representations?
- That's from the side of power. Powerlessness is generated from the other side too. Once the people set out on the path of making representations they feel compelled to allow their leaders their representations too.
- Because we all do the same, and we feel that to demand anything different would be hypocritical.
- Yes. 
- But the teenaged girl would tell you if you asked that managing representations was just at the beginning. Real friendship is something else.
- The leaders have the led in their power and disdain them for their powerlessness. The leaders aren't their friends. 
- And compromised by making representations in their private lives the people lack the confidence to call their leaders out for their public representations. Somehow control of information is as legitimate a social undertaking as being honest.
- Or legitimate just enough to confuse the issue and delay response.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Compassion & The Story

- The Millennials: they have no compassion.
- Remember when we were the younger generation and what the older and wiser said about us?
- You think there are no differences?
- Sure there are. Those who came of age in the year 2000 and after are more social, cooperative out of self interest, are less political except in protection of their freedom and demand for tolerance.
- They are ambitious.
- In a word. But do you know why they lack compassion?
- Why?
- They have no stories.
- Everyone has a story.
- Are you sure? There are only a few kinds of stories: those that end in death, those that are of wandering and returning home, those that are of falling in love and making a home. Do you see anything in common?
- What do they have in common?
- A story is an account of movement from place to place. A story ends when movement ends, when there is no longer any reason or possibility of movement. When we were kids the talk was all peace, love, understanding, beauty, truth...
- I remember.
- These words refer to states of inaction: they are reflections, bring to mind awareness of a good relation to the world.
- They tell us we are at home. I get it.
- To feel at home requires character, requires that we have a certain character that the place we find ourselves in suits perfectly, suits so perfectly we don't have to do anything. These feelings are the end of a story.
- But what is character?
- Habit. Habits are strengthened by repetition. Habits give us capacity to do things, but also take from us capacity to do other things. A body builder does well lifting weights but not at ballet. Ambitious people aim at achieving freedom from the restraints of character. To be able to do whatever is required to succeed, whatever is asked of them by others without shame or hesitation. They have no character, and consequently have no home.
- But they do have homes. They are about the only people these days who have their own place to live.
- Millennials seek freedom. They'll do what's required to get rich. There isn't a special place or person for them, because being changeable themselves, so are the places and people appropriate to their different selves changeable. What kind of stories can they have if there can be no end?
- They can still die.
- But the significance of death in those stories was in the failure to get home. Dying without trying to go home is not a story.
- Then what happens?
- Why do people want freedom? To have the power to do things. What do they want to do? Presumably not satisfy desires, that's not the Millennial type. Millennials are ambitious. They want to acquire things, not for the pleasure of use, though that comes along with it. Possessions, and especially money, are sought as symbols of power.
- They want political freedom to exercise power to acquire symbols of freedom to exercise power...
- A circle. They distract themselves from sight of this meaninglessness with entertainments, games, intoxications. For them homes are geographic places with walls that protect these activities. They go from activity outside the home to activities inside the home. They don't stop, and they don't notice they don't have a story because they keep recycling activity with others outside the home to recovery activities within the home. Ambition however can have a kind of story.
- What's that?
- Deliberately acquiring more and more symbols of power and freedom.
- If we don't have any reason to acquire power to be free for its own sake what reason can we have to acquire more power to be free for its own sake?
- None. But you see, there is a kind of character to the ambitious, despite their claim to be entirely flexible in their pursuit of more and more symbols of power. They get good at the politics of acquisition, but get very bad at everything else, finally reaching the point that the words describing what we feel when we are at home have no meaning.
- Love, peace, truth.
- On the other hand when you feel yourself struggle on your way home you don't want to be free of the demand to go home. Taking such freedom upon yourself means a loss, means literally the loss of home. Once you know what it means to be unfree and struggling you can share what people feel who are in similar circumstances. You don't blame or dismiss them as losers in the game of acquiring freedom and power, don't pretend they are practicing an arcane form of freedom unfamiliar to you. You certainly don't blame anyone for not having the character of acquiring more and more symbols of the power to acquire, which is a deviant, deformed character that can never find a home.
- The only people who have compassion for others, who can see them in their stories, are those who have stories themselves.

The Way & The End



The way is unimportant, everything is in the right choice of end.
The end is unimportant, everything is in the way it is sought.

There is no contradiction. The end to be sought is general, and tells us to be concerned with how we do things: to make life good, beautiful, true. This way we do things also cannot be determined in particular statements of specific actions. Both the way, and the end, share this quality of resisting general definition.

One proverb is about the openness of the way, the other about the openness of the end. We pay attention to how we do things when we are told that ends, particular achievements, possessions, cannot tell us what to do. We pay attention to ends, when we are told that particular paths, careers and ambitions, have no meaning in themselves.

We should do things in a good way, and that way leads to being good, speaking truly, and acting fairly.

But this statement of combined clarification is too open. When we are told the ends are not essential, look closely at the means, we can imagine for a moment we will find in the means a replacement for the essence we have been disappointed in finding in the ends.

The same is true when we are told that the means, our ambitions, are inessential, not good in themselves; we hope to find in the goal the lost essence.

The proverbs deceive us. And the general statement that both ends and means must be left open, controlled by a general good that cannot be defined, leaves us restless and dissatisfied. Which is as it should be, because it tells us nothing, gives us nothing we can hold onto to change our lives. The imperatives, “change direction”, “give up on particular ends", "give up on particular means", we understand. But what can we do with “do it right” when we are told we can't define what is right and we are not told how to do it? It is a bad way of instruction. So: proverbs.

Monday, July 27, 2015

Bad History


Pico della Mirandola

(Continued from Cannibals & Capitalists)

- Let's go back to Pico della Mirandola. How many people invented their own myth like he did? And what a myth! After god had made all the things in the world living and not living, he wanted to make a living thing that could see him as he saw the world and its things, but the  problem was, all the types of things had been used up. Being a god meant for him not only being immortal but creative, so he figured out a solution: make man able to change his character and adapt to any place. That has to be the best story ever told.
- And it’s not finished.
- That’s what I thought. Finish it.
- We’re not only made to change ourselves. We’re made such that the first way we change ourselves makes us worse.
- Why? Is there some special way in which we have the ability to change that makes us first bad?
- That’s right.
- And what is it?
- In each other’s company.
- So if we kept away from each other except to reproduce we wouldn’t go bad? Is that possible? What about mothers and their children?
- It's not possible.
- We teach each other to be bad. How?
- Being pained and frightened into repeating the same actions in the same situations created by each other’s company.
- We reverse god’s making: we make the world we live in the same and our character unchanging it in.
- Yes.
- How does that make us bad?
- Because we the unchanging are destructive of those of us who remain able to change.
- How did they avoid it?
- By teaching each other how to learn.
- If we’re teaching we already know how to learn.
- We remind each other to learn.
- When we stop reminding each other, that first fatal change we human beings make in our place and nature is to destroy ourselves, destroy our ability to change our place and nature.
- Yes.
- Sorry, I like the way Pico began his story much better. Something tells me going on doesn’t get much happier.
- Would that something be human history? When people stop reminding themselves of good they immediately start destroying what good they’ve achieved and then some, move towards absolute destruction of themselves and the world around them.  Sometimes even in our personal history we can see it happening. We live through a period in which we are reminded to learn into a period where that stops and we immediately set out on destruction.
- And we’re living in a destructive period now.
- We are.
- How do you know? You once told me that in your youth you wrote a couple of autobiographical novels. Is this one of their subjects? What happened to them?
- Family and friends I left them with destroyed them.
- Some family and friends. Why did they destroy them? The period of history failed to remind them to be good so they went bad? And bad destroys the good in contact with it because it interferes with the practice of the bad?
- The books weren’t so good. But more or less, you could say that’s what happened. Among the destroyed manuscripts was the beginning of an essay on rhythm and melody in music. Can I tell you about it?
- If it relates to how you know we’re in bad history.
- A song is sometimes called a number. As we count, we move from one number to the next. There is a rhythm. The numbers are different, but they are all alike in being numbers and not something else. Uniformity and change. That is what we mean by rhythm. Ok?
- Ok.
- In the rhythm of a dance, our steps are like counting numbers. They are all alike in being steps, but the move us into a different place. Uniformity and change. Melody is made up of different notes. The steps of a dance always return us to the same place, but the notes of a melody tell a story about what happens when we do something new.
- Songs repeat their melody.
- They do. They make a rhythm of repeating the melody, as dance makes a rhythm of the basic story of each step out into the world. Melody sits on top of rhythm in a song, comes and goes. Do you see the application to what we were talking about?
- The application is that “the default state”, as we put it in the mechanistic language of our bad times, of the human species is to do bad first. But we can dance that default state bad into good by overlaying it with the story of melody. And the story you’re going to tell me now is how that is to be done.
- There is such a thing as bad music? Music that is not only badly made, but is anti-music, is destructive of what music is capable of encouraging and inspiring?
- Music that positively makes you bad. Some music definitely makes me feel bad. So Yes. Go on.
- Music that is anti-music is music constructed to make you forget stories. Stories remind you of failure. Destroy the stories and you destroy the reminder. You can start over fresh.
- How does the music do that?
- By the song being the story of melody being repeatedly undermined by rhythm. There are many ways of accomplishing this, for example, an overly sweet melody is followed by a brutal, often syncopated rhythm.
- I think I know what you mean. And bad history?
- Rhythm without melody.
- Rhythm destroying melody.
- Yes.
- Do you know what?
- What?
- We need a new myth. Pico della Mirandola’s story starts out encouraging and inspiring, but the way it’s turned out…
- Well, after god had made all the things in the world and all the creatures, and made human beings capable of changing themselves and their place in the world, he took a rest and looked over what he had done. He wanted to say, It is good. But it wasn’t good. Human beings took a few steps in the right direction. They had invented dance and music which they used to remind them not to do bad. But they needed something more. Something to remind them to sing the right kind of songs. He racked his brains, for this god had brains, along with everything else necessary to being a god. He racked his brains, asking himself what could remind people to sing the right kind of song. Wouldn’t that have to be another kind of song? And then the poor creatures would need a song to remind them to sing that. What was to be done?
- Can I finish the story?
- If you can help god out of his difficulties.
- God, having given us the gift of music, gave us…
- What?
This.

Further Reading:
The Atrophy Of Good
_______________________
P.S. "Without music, life would be a mistake. I would only believe in a God who knew how to dance." - Friedrich Nietzsche

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Cannibals & Capitalists

Image result for alchemy

"The occult is what is hidden. But not to everyone. Wherever there is something hidden, there is necessarily someone who knows."

- This time is going to be wild.
- I can't wait. What are we going to talk about?
- Talking things.
- Robots, computers.
- No. Things, like a philosopher's stone which when put next to copper turns it to gold.
- By talking to it?
- Yes. God created the world by talking. Some things have this divine power of speech and can talk other things into being things more like themselves.
- Which things?
- All things that already resemble each other. In astrology, the stars move us, in alchemy, the philosopher's stone changes copper to gold.
- That's just talk.
- God created the world by talking.
- You said. How do the stars talk us to our destinies and how does the philosopher's stone change copper to gold?
- By being like human beings who as Pico della Mirandola said are the creatures that, made by god after all other natures and places in the world were taken, were given what was left, no particular place and a nature unlike any other that remakes itself.
- So a science that could place the right thing in relation to other things would be as it were reconstituting what god did, creating man with no fixed place but with the ability to remake himself?
- Yes. An alchemist places things together in the world as if he was god making man.
- And releases in things the power of self-change man has from god? Wild is right. Is there more?
- A lot more. Ready?
- Why not? It's all fantasy anyway.
- Don't be too sure. The philosopher's stone put next to something like itself makes it more like it. The power of resemblance is the power of speech, since speaking is a kind of doing something that changes how you see the world. Giving something a name says what kind of thing it is, and that guides you to seeing other things of those kinds easily related to that kind. How you talk about the world changes how you see it. We see the world we've named. A name is a habit of seeing. As a habit is part of us, is our character, our second nature. Something we have a name for is part of us, is in us as a habit of seeing. In that sense the world we see is already "us", composed of our words resembles us.
- And when we continue speaking using those words we make the world resemble us even more. Our words are philosopher's stones to the world we see with their aid. By the end of the sentence those words have made the world even more like ourselves. God made us philosopher's stones to the world, transforming the world we've named and so already part of us more and more in our image. The alchemist plays god by arranging for a thing to become self-making by putting it in contact with resembling things. Alchemists teach things to talk. What next?
- Say we are not alchemists but anthropologists and studying one of the last uncontacted tribes in the jungles of Brazil. We are very enlightened and civilized. The tribes people have magical rituals and superstitions. They pretend they are gods. They believe that twisting a model of their enemy will twist their enemy. They do no experiments, are not scientific. But we don't judge. Our models of the world also change how we see the world. We test a few of our models, not close to all, and almost never do we test our social models. We do not test our idea that society is a marketplace of things exchanged between enemies. We don't challenge the assumption that violence is more fundamental that sympathy. These life-models are our rituals, stories we tell ourselves over and over, and return to after disappointments.
- Are you saying that we are all stupid uncontacted tribes people and American market speculators, therefore we should simply leave each other alone? We're all good folks, all us cannibals and capitalists. All of us are following god's precedent in creating man. We're all ordinary god-like things that speak each other and the world around us into being more like ourselves and so perfect ourselves.
- No, and no again to that!
- What are you saying then?
- Wild enough for you so far?
- Come on.
- Alchemy is a science of experiment that puts one thing next to another, choosing which to put next to which on the assumption that the right resemblance will release self-making speech as resemblance draws forth more resemblance. The science of experiment we practice is different, though it too puts one thing next to another and waits to see what happens. But we aren't trying to be gods making self-making men. We measure the change in each of the things put next to each other from one time to the next. We look for laws of change.
- The things don't talk to each other. We do the talking.
- Yes. Now the Renaissance philosophers experimented not like us but with their god-like power of creating talking things. They were searching for the best way of doing this. If things could talk themselves into existence, why could not our knowledge of things itself talk more knowledge into existence?
- How does knowledge talk?
- In the same way naming speech does. One kind of knowledge recreates itself finding other knowledge that resembles it already. One philosopher-Alchemist, John Dee, thought he had found the knowledge equivalent of the philosopher's stone.
- And what was that?
- A symbol that he claimed combined all the most significant other symbols. Each symbol set in train a self-creating of similarities in the world, and locked all together, this performed simultaneously, would give us the original god-like power of naming and creating the whole world that Adam had before the fall.
- This experiment, thought experiment really, put knowledge cues next to each other, and waited for one to work upon the other, in the alchemist's way of experimenting, not ours. How could we experiment on self-making in our way?
- The alchemists were following the formula of ritual: set up the situation that is repeatable to get the result you want: security or power. The alchemist serves us a world that suits people with the knowledge they already have. Our kind of experiment would give us different worlds to respond to with different languages. We'd look at how self-making itself fared with those languages and conditions. We'd come to know something about how self-making worked. We'd learn the laws of self-making. What was good for it and what not. Whether the particular self-making language we have is worse or better than others. Like setting a ball in motion on an inclined plane, we'd drop one kind of self-making in the world and see where it got to, what happened to its powers of self making; and then, changing the plane's angle of incline, try it in another situation.
- The cannibals in Brazil have the alchemist's science. A rudimentary science of self-making with the aid of magical objects and social relations established and recognized by gifts of things, things that they've talked into being part of themselves. Still, it is a science. And what about us? We have our experimental science serving technology, true, but no science at all of self-making. Or we do, for isn't capitalism in fact science of self-destroying? Where is the kind of technology you're talking about, a technology of good?* Or do you think you're an alchemist yourself and are talking it into existence?
- No comment.

Further Reading:
Bad History
_____________________
The Technology Of Good

Friday, July 24, 2015

Marriage, Philosophers, Politicians



It's too dangerous for politics to reflect philosophy because politicians cannot be philosophers. Philosophers don't want the compromising job of politician and cannot get the job even if they did.

Philosophers, as their ideas are absorbed and their lives imitated, create an atmosphere of good nature which limits the damage politicians do.

Two conclusions follow. First, beware of leaders who use ideas, religious or philosophical, to justify their actions. They don't know anything about it. Second, realize that philosophers' lives form a model politics never meant to be generalized into institutions.

In a marriage, if husband and wife are philosophers, they live as models to each other and so limit the damage they do to each other in the politics of holding the marriage together.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Principle Of Sharing + Exception Of Private Property + The State = Class War

Chapter 17, The Technology Of Good



From an evolutionary point of view, higher intelligence seems to be maladaptive rather than adaptive. Biologically successful organisms have a rigid character and are well adapted to a certain environmental niche. If higher intelligence helped adaptation you would expect it to have arisen over and over again. However, it didn't. It arose in a single, not particularly successful organism, Homo Sapiens. And while the human population exploded, human societies developed in a way that has caused enormous damage to the environment. The human race could destroy itself and much organic life as a result. (Noam Chomsky, 1998 interview)

Continued from Killer Metaphysics

- "Principle of sharing + the exception of private property + the state = class war." Can you go into that a little?
- If we have private property, and a central control of government, the led do not share ownership with the leaders, the led are the private property of the leaders. This means the leaders can speak creatively with other leaders, in what we called the deviant path of creativity*, but not with the led. If the period of being the leaders' private property was scheduled to end, like children are for a time subject to authority of parents, this might work. Love of parent for child insures that the status of property is always subject to higher consideration of shared life, of universal principle. Love requires individual knowledge through individual experience, as a word of a language is acquired through a history of action in relation to the world. When there is no actual personal relation the universal principle is not satisfied and there is no real creative life. The leader can speak creatively with the other leaders, but in relation to the led he can only pretend love. He lies, for their own good. The lie, as something unnatural but producing a temporarily desirable result, imbalances the leaders in relation to their own creative life among other leaders. They tell more lies to calm their imbalance and quiet the demands of the led for the fair treatment they are not receiving, for not getting the treatment they would have been getting had they been truly loved.* Leaders become addicted to lying**, to pretending they are managing the led for their own good when that is strictly speaking impossible. Instead they are perfecting efficiency*** of their management of the led, like addicts working out the most reliable and quickest means of acquiring their drug.
- And leaders, sharing power with each other, and lying to the led both to quiet their own qualms and the dissatisfaction of the led who are deprived of property rights in becoming the property of the leaders, is what you called class war.
- Yes.
- But is there any difference if we imagine workers own their workplace and homes, workers elect workplace leaders and residents elect community leaders who elect federations of leaders to make larger scale decisions? Won't any leader, no matter how quickly recalled, or how rooted in the community, be subject to this process of class creation?
- Unless one condition applies: the right, and practical capacity, of individuals to withdraw from community and workplace, the right and capacity of community and workplace to withdraw from higher level federations. If there is a contract binding the led to the decisions of the leaders who represent then that contract must be subject to be dissolution at will.**** Keeping promises depends on the prior keeping to the universal principle of sharing. No sharing, no promise. No sentence has been spoken if their are no words, no words without universal principle.
_________________
The Golden Rule & The Deviant Path
** Addiction & Property
*** Unloved, the people are lead by their leaders in the only way they can be led, not creatively but "efficiently", that is, whatever things the people are thought to do they are managed to do more of faster. See Hannah Arendt, Totalitarianism, Doing For The Sake Of Doing
**** Promises
What Is Debt?

Comic Book Heroes

Image result for businessman icon

- Walking here with my friend our talk was about doing for the sake of doing. You'd compared it to compulsive repetition, a kind of madness. Instead we should do whatever was necessary until we changed our relation to the world to a way we liked enough to stop doing things for a while and rest. She disagreed. For an artist the goal is in the process itself. What do you have to say?
- Take an example. Washing dishes. If I said I needed clean dishes to eat off of I wouldn't be doing it for its own sake.
- I enjoy washing dishes. It's a matter of attitude.
- The attitude that there is an art to it. You can wash the dishes haphazardly and not be overly concerned, if you are doing it to get clean dishes to eat off of. But if you are doing it as an art, each act of inattention will jar you with the unwanted, misarranged, unartistic results: splashes, noises, collapse of piles, etc.
- You think doing things for their own sake requires you maintain some kind of order?
- Yes. And what for?
- What for what?
- What is the order for, if what you are doing is for the sake of doing, is an end in itself?
- If you want to enjoy the process that is just what you have to do.
- Then the purpose is to enjoy the process, and the process has to be done in accord with that goal.
- But the goal of enjoyment is in the process! Why does it matter that the form what we do takes comes from outside, even if as you say it does?
- Because what we do in one aspect of life affects other aspects of life, affects life in general. Not paying attention to the order behind our actions we’re going to get into difficulties.
- If art is not for its own sake, even if we find enjoyment in the process, what is it for?
- Art produces models of finding happiness, or failing to.
- What kind of happiness?
- Being happy in not doing anything, in being in the right relation to the world for a while. The satisfaction of making art arises from knowing that in our art making we are acting in accord with the model our art is making. We are on the right road, learning how to stop doing things for a while and be in a relation to the world that is sufficient for itself.
- We shouldn’t do things for the sake of doing things, but for its own sake we should learn to do nothing. We should learn to do nothing for the sake of doing nothing.
- Yes.
- You must be kidding me.
- I’m not.
- Fine. As I said. I don't need, don't want all this theory about models and states of rest and doing. Tell me why I have to have it. What are the difficulties you threatened me with? Why doing my art for art's sake do I need to know someone's guesses why and how art works?
- There are two ways we do for the sake of doing. One is private and the artist's: by having the doing itself be satisfying. The other is public and cooperative, and involves the doing for the sake of doing working against desire's satisfaction and repressing it. The artist's way is harmless. The public way, far from it. In the book* we were talking about last time,** the one about bureaucracy, the anthropologist David Graeber asks why it tends to expand. The bureaucrats’ own attempts to reduce bureaucracy regularly result in more employees and more oversight, their trying to achieve greater efficiency results in less. The financial industry now dominating the economy was the best example of bureaucratic expansion. He explains the stupidity of bureaucracy in the class relation between master and servant, where the master makes no attempt to understand the servant, while the servant, in self-protection, must closely observe the master. He explains that blindly acting master bureaucrats applying their rules senselessly are taught to see their work as sacrifice of their own enjoyment. For a bureaucrat, if you do work because you like it you are doing something wrong, you are not working. Doing work for its own sake means you can't expect anything else from it outside of it.
- Obeying the rules is going against yourself. I hate that Freudian stupidity.
- In the third essay of the book Freud makes his appearance as Graeber analyzes the revolt against rules in comic books and comic book based movies.
- What's the bureaucratic connection?
- Failure to sacrifice yourself to work unleashes dangerous but fascinatingly attractive forces that have to be repressed for the world's safety. Comic books really seem like they are made and consumed for their own sake, to have no real application to the rest of life apart from the money they generate. Yet comic book heroes like bureaucrats enforce the rules, defend the world order. And comic book criminals reflect the bureaucrats’ desires to act outside the rules, desires amusing though they be that have to be repressed. As the comic book heroes live in their own world, so the bureaucrats live in their own world of doing for the sake of doing.
- Artists doing what they do satisfy their desires. Bureaucrats and super heroes doing what they do repress their desires. Why do they desire to repress their desire?
- Graeber suggest it might be to get out of the real world into the game-like world of doing for the sake of doing. I don't find that argument convincing. When you were growing up, did your family had a dog? One day when you came home he was acting guilty. Looking at you, looking away, looking back, whining a little. And then you saw the mess he'd made. Was he feeling guilty for being caught breaking the rules? Or was it the opposite? He knew he wasn't supposed to make a mess, he should repress his disorderly impulses. But he had done it anyway. He didn't care about the rules. His real relation to you was not about rules after all. He loved you. The guilt he felt was his confusion about both wanting to love you and not really wanting to obey the rules.
- The Freudian wants to repress his desires for the sake of rules, the dog wanted to be allowed to repress the rules for the sake of love.
- Yes. Two kinds of guilt. Rules that we've accepted are broken in both cases. One guilt is on the assumption rules are good and wanting to break them is bad. The other guilt is based on the assumption that the rules are bad, though we’ve agreed to them by force, and wanting to break them is good. In both we're confused.
- One guilt works to repress the rules for the sake of desire, The other guilt works to repress desire in the name of the rules. Is that right?
- Right. Now apply this to what was said about the bureaucrats. In their relation to the public, bureaucrats are masters, the public slaves. In this master-slave relation bureaucrats sacrifice their human nature, their natural wish to help others and solve problems. But as managers and participants in bureaucracy, in their relation to each other, they see their own rules as what should be sacrificed in the creative act of reforming them, in writing new rules and hiring more public servants. Bureaucracy is one kind of doing for the sake of doing. You didn’t want to look closer at the order inside that made it possible. Have I showed you that one variety at least of what was inside has consequences which even an artist might want to pay attention to?
- Massive bureaucracy and financial collapse.
- Bureaucracy in its relation to the public sacrifices personal desire, in its relations among itself sacrifices the rules. This is a lot of sacrifice. And where does it come from? How did sacrifice of desire, this most complex of private matters, become the foundation of the most public thing there is in life, a bureaucracy?
- Don't ask me.
- And how does guilt come in? The dog did something wrong. What wrong did the bureaucrats do?
- Does the anthropologist say in his book?
- Not directly. The answer is in his earlier book on the history of debt. Exchange in the beginning was only between enemies. Friends make gifts. When a transaction between enemies remains incomplete on one side, there is said to be a debt. Since debt originates between enemies, behind every incomplete transaction is a threat that violence will be applied to compel its completion or to punish. The debtor thinks of himself as half dead, buried in a violent relation to his enemies, unprotected by his friends; he feels as if in making the deal he has become an enemy to himself.
- Debt makes you feel guilty. But which of the two kinds of guilt?
- Both, depending on whether you think that you committed this crime against yourself by an enemy's compulsion, or that you are wrong in not wanting to pay.
- Depends whether you still believe in love, laugh at Freud's belief love is a delusion, a regression to being in the womb.
- Thoughts and practices build upon each other: from debt, to guilt; from guilt, to sacrifice; from sacrifice, to bureaucracy. Loaning people money under threat of violence creates a psychological change (guilt) which in turn supports the social structure (bureaucracy), which has nasty consequences like master-slave blindness, stupidity and constantly increasing inefficiency created in the name of efficiency.
- Bureaucrats do for the sake of doing. They practice an art for art’s sake. They sacrifice themselves, either the part that desires to go against the rules, or the part that protects the rules against desire. To bureaucrats the public is in their debt. The public has not provided the answers required until proven otherwise. The public's debt is enforced by threat of violence, establishing a relation between bureaucrat and public of master to slave. And the bureaucrat like all masters is stupid, blind to the reality of the servant’s life. Master bureaucrats, in their relation to other master bureaucrats, sacrifice the old rules and the part of themselves attached to them in the creation of new rules and bureaucratic opportunities. And all this emerges from within that doing for the sake of doing we started with.
____________________
* The Utopia Of Rules, David Graeber
** Lies Created In Violence

Monday, July 20, 2015

Invented In Violence



- I’ve been busy reading. Two more books, one by a Greek economist, the other by an American anthropologist. Both are recent.*
- What do they have in common?
- They're about how people act in large groups. The American, David Graeber, writes about bureaucracy, the Greek, Yanis Varoufakis, writes about international trade and finance. The anthropologist says that group members obey rules under threat of violence.
- And you don't agree?
- Of course I do. We’ve said the same thing many times. For all I know the anthropologist is getting his ideas from us. He says that when, under threat of violence, you obey a rule or force others to, you are not allowed to act with full human respect and understanding. He says further that groups pretend they are reasonable and impartial, and this is never true. Organization men and women lie by rule, but at the same time have to obey the rule ordering them to say they are not lying. Now the book by the economist describes large financial groups acting with a different kind of violence we've also talked much about. After WWII the United States had more to trade than its trading partners, so it decided to help Germany and Japan recover and be able to buy more from America. This worked, but by 1971 the United States had stopped having more to trade than the other countries. It had spent too much money on wars and tax cuts for the rich. Another strategy was come up with: the government printed money and borrowed, and the financial organizations figured out a way to make up their own money in the form of loans other countries could invest in. There was nothing behind these investments except the sense that American institutions could get away with anything because of the security provided by the military, and the well tested ability of business to get the government to act in its interest. All concerned lied about what they were really doing, as the anthropologist explained all bureaucracies do. They lied because to lie is obeying one of their rules. They lied about what they were doing, but how they ended up doing it they couldn't have said even if they wanted to. They had acted in the blindness of that other kind of violence: not the violence of being coerced into obeying rules, but the violence of investing in this new way because everyone else was investing; the violence of recklessly acting without real knowledge, not even following rules, the violence of acting together in the heat of passion, each following the other's lead like a panicked herd, each animal responding thoughtlessly to the movement of the others. My question to you is, how are the two kinds of violence related, if they are, the violence of the herd and the violence behind obedience to rules?
- They're related. Rules are created in violence, the violence of the herd is how rules are formed. In the economist's story, financial institutions, all investing in the same kind of loans based on nothing, doing this without apparent forethought, established the rule, "this is what is to be done", which then after many repetitions could be calmly followed. Reasonable explanations offered for what they were doing were simply lies repeated by rule.
- In fact it was reasonably safe for the financial groups themselves since their ability to get the governments to act in their interest and save them had been tested and confirmed.
- Nonetheless it was a lie that it was in accord with the ostensible rules of how they operated, or that how they operated was in anyone else's interest but their own. 
- Economist Varoufakis says the system collapsed in 2008 because the groups involved created their own money to add to the game of loans based on nothing. Others say the financial groups deliberately redirected the behavior of the herd, started a panic for getting rid of these loans as previously there'd been a panic for buying them. The government paid the financiers' debts, allowing them to acquire the property left as collateral or sold cheap by those not so fortunate. The question I asked you was, how are the two kinds of violence related, if they are?
- Violence, in terms of communication, is what?
- A lie.
- Yes. New rules, justified by lies, are invented in violence. A lie undermines any possibility of cooperation.  People want to know why they do things with each other, not just obey rules and lie in obedience to rules. If you can’t cooperate, see and benefit from the real person you are dealing with, you are left with no other possible action than thoughtlessly following rules and forcing others to. Violence of herd behavior is what forms the rules of the group. And the blindness that acting with violence involves hides from the liars the fact that they are liars. Once individuality has been damaged, once ability has been lost to act on one's own experience, the only security to be found is within the group. Even the violent stampede of the herd is glorious and reassuring when it can be expected to end in the safety of new rules.
- Violence is against the individual in having to obey the rules of the group, and violence is the means by which a group acquires the rules in the first place. Thanks. That's what I wanted to know.
- Don't you want to know how we might otherwise live without obeying the rules of a group?
- No. 
- Why not?
- That is a practical matter of making people materially safe so that they don't have to do violence against themselves following rules of groups they didn't choose to belong to. And people who participate freely in groups, not having lost themselves, don't panic each other creating new rules and new lies.

Further Reading:
Comic Book Heroes
_______________________
* 'The Utopia Of Rules', David Graeber
'The Global Minotaur', Yanis Varoufakis

Friday, July 17, 2015

Chronometricals & Horologicals

Image result for ships chronometer

- Novels of ideas: the ideas are reaching, but never get there. They aren't good enough.
- Are they better in philosophy?
- No. But philosophy is at least so clearly off. Inapplicable. Useless.
- Literature has only bad ideas, philosophy is useless.
- Do you know why I like talking with you?
- I have good ideas?
- Your ideas are funny.
- Laughable funny, or funny strange?
- Laughable funny. But strange too sometimes.
- And laughable is good? Ideas that get somewhere, even if it is only a laugh?
- No, not if it is only a laugh. I've been doing some reading...
- Let me guess: novels of ideas?
- Right. "Pierre", by Melville. And Musil's "The Man Without Qualities".
- Which theme are you following: brother-sister love, or is it nihilism?
- Alright, yes. The connection between the books is widely known.  
- Do you think that the ideas of Melville and Musil are bad?
- I do. But bad can be good. 
- When bad teaches.
- Yes. Teaches how to recognize bad.
- And what mistakes have you learned from these novels?
- You and for all I know the whole world anticipate me in seeing the nihilism and incest. But I've found something else.
- And that is?
- Remember the philosophic pamphlet that Pierre finds left behind in a hired coach, "Chronometricals And Horologicals"? God and society have different times. God's timekeeping is Chronometric, its timekeeper is set to Greenwich time no matter where in the world it is taken. Society's timekeeper is the Horological, set to local time, with different times corresponding to the different latitudes. Trying tell time in society by god's time brings you to ruin. Better to compromise. This is an absolutely commonplace idea, though the timekeeper analogy is amusing. My idea is that the novel goes much beyond this statement of compromise, and presents all possible combinations of compromise or its lack dealing with god and society. First of the combinations is compromise both god and society, each adulterating the purity of the other. Don't give everything away, but do a little charity, and be sure you don't harm. A commonplace, as I said. Saying Yes to both god and world. Second, you can also say No to both. Be unconventional and defiant of society, take a stand as an accuser of god. Be a nihilist and existentialist. And third is one more possibility: or do you already know this too?
- Let's see.
- Incest, brother-sister love. We're not talking about sexual acts, though physical attraction is involved.  Love is in the service of god, and here is love. Added to which is society and the world, the special brother-sister kind of society that is outside the world. To have a brother is proverbially to be born with a friend, is to be born into a natural society. A society whole and irrefutable.
- Saying Yes to god and society works out very bad if you don't compromise. And if you do compromise it is not much to get exited about. But if the society in which you love is the natural society of brother-sister, there no need for compromise.
- So you're ahead of me there too.  Pierre seems crazy because he practices at different times all the combinations of compromise or not of god and society. He is a doomed idealist and he is a nihilist and existentialist. He compromises the truth for the sake of social convention and he practices an uncompromised love of his sister. Well? Is that a good idea or not?
- I like it. But what do you plan on doing with this combinatoric analysis given that you've decided that philosophy and novels have only bad ideas? Do you hope I use it?
- Use it and be funny. Musil is funny but in the wrong way. He takes an ironic attitude to his ideas. He works them out precisely but knows they are limited. In his big novel he writes:
He is a man without qualities...There are millions of them nowadays...What he thinks of anything will always depend on some possible context -- nothing is, to him, what it is; everything is subject to change, in flux, part of a whole, of an infinite number of wholes presumably adding up to a super-whole that, however, he knows nothing about. So every answer he gives is only a partial answer, every feeling only an opinion, and he never cares what something is, only 'how' it is...

For Musil, that is the human being in society. For what we are in god, what is our "soul", another passage from the novel; much longer, but worth it:

This is a word that has already appeared frequently, though not precisely in the clearest of connections. For instance, as that which the present time has lost or that which cannot be combined with civilization. As that which is stirred, not only into repugnance, by a murderer...As a love of metaphor and simile with many people. And so on. 
Of all the peculiarities that this word “soul” has, however, the oddest is that young people cannot pronounce it without laughing. Even Diotima and Arnheim were shy of using it without qualification; for that someone has a great, noble, cowardly, daring or base soul is something that can just about be asserted, but to say outright “my soul” is something that one cannot bring oneself to do. It is distinctly a word for older people; and this can only be understood by assuming that there is something that makes itself more and more felt in the course of life, something for which one urgently needs a name, without finding it, until in the end one reluctantly makes use of that which was originally spurned. 
And how then is one to describe it? One can stand still or move on as one will, the essential is not what lies straight before one, what one sees, hears, wants, takes hold of, and masters. It lies ahead, a horizon, a semicircle; but the ends of this semicircle are joined by a sinew, and the plane of this sinew goes right through the middle of the world. In front, face and hands look out of it; the sensations and striving run along ahead of it; and no one doubts that what we do there is always reasonable or at least impassioned. That is, circumstances external to us demand our actions of us in a way that is comprehensible to everyone; or if, involved in passion, we do something incomprehensible, that, after all, is still something with a way and a nature of its own. But however completely understandable and self-contained it all seems, it is accompanied by an obscure feeling that it is merely half the story. There is something the matter with the equilibrium, and man advances in order not to sway, like a tightrope walker. And as he advance through life, leaving behind him what he ha lived through, a wall is formed by what is still to be lived and what has been lived, and in the end his path resembles that of a worm in the wood, which can twist any way it likes, even turning backwards, but always leaves an empty space behind it. And this dreadful feeling of a blind space, a space cut off behind all the fullness, this half that is always still lacking even although everything has become a whole, is what finally causes one to notice what one calls the soul. 
One thinks it, feels it, has premonitions of it all the time, naturally, in the most various kinds of surrogates and according to one’s temperament. In youth it is a distinct feeling of uncertainty, in everything one does, as to whether whatever it is is really the right thing. In old age it is amazement at how little one has done of all that one actually intended. In between it is the comfort of being a hell of a chap, efficient, and a good sort too, even though not everything one does can be justified in every detail; or that after all the world isn’t what it ought to be, either, so that in the end all that one has done wrong still amounts to a fair enough compromise; and finally some people even think, away out beyond everything, of a God who has the missing piece of themselves in His pocket. Only love occupies a special position in all this; for it is in this exceptional case that the second half grows on. The loved person seems to stand where otherwise there is always something missing. The souls unite, as it were, dos a dos, so making themselves superfluous. This why after the passing of their one great youthful love most people no longer feel the absence of the soul, so that this so-called foolishness fulfills a meritorious social function.

- He can't resist making a joke of the soul.
- Yes. But the wrong kind of joke, ironic, defensive. Musil said the problem wasn't that we were too reasonable and neglected the soul, but that we were not accurate enough in our examination of the soul. You've just read an accurate examination, no doubt. But what good is it? It is still partial. It makes a joke of the soul. It should be the other way around, the soul should make a joke of the world.
- Can it?
- Think of brother-sister love. Love is of god. If love is to be also in the world, not mere contemplation or religious experience, it has to be active. Something has to happen. The things brother and sister do can be physical, but better, they can be telling stories of what happened out in the world, told to and for each other once back in the private world of brother-sister love.
- And those stories are funny. Not ironic defensive funny, but relieved to be away from the world funny and back in your own private brother-sister society.
- Yes. What do you think?
- I'm not sure funny stories can support a novel of ideas or philosophic masterpiece. Are you going to try?
- I was going to suggest you did.