Rationality's not looking too good these days

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March 2003: You shouldn't exist / Multiplicity / And you?

Yes, I’ve heard what it was like in the 60s and 70s, and I kind of know what it was like in the 80s and 90s, and ... it’s better now.

You shouldn't exist

You don’t exist.
At least, logically you shouldn’t exist.
But neither should I.
And when I stop to think of it
neither should any of my closest friends.
So ... who knows.
Maybe we’ll get along pretty well.


At some level, truth is everywhere if you look hard enough.
That’s why (or at least one of the reasons) Tarot cards work, or the runes, or science:
they're lenses that (if you’re careful) let you discover at least some of a truth.
The lenses aren’t perfect – use them wrong and you get nonsense
or (worse) something that’s almost right but subtly wrong.
But conversely, it also means that there’s truth in everything
so you can look for it anywhere, not just where the light is good.

So it makes sense to look for the truth, the secret, the McGuffin ... in the way that I'll enjoy it the most.

Worshipping women as I do – I’d even say “adoring” but there are troublesome connotations there for some –
it’s no wonder that I tend to want to explore truths with them.
Fascinated by competence and power, of course I surround myself with amazing, strong, women.
Loving to flirt as I do, who is surprised that I’d tend to want to surround myself with
intelligent, intense women who are not only tolerant of my interests and pleasures
but often actively enjoy sharing, being involved in, and encouraging them?

I’m in a movie now.
I’m in the movie.
I’m making my own movie.
I’m making my own happiness.

And you?

Executive by day,
occasional club chick by night.
Diverse interests include
trance music,
changing the world,
and having fun.
I'm independent,
sane, amusing, mildly responsible
and what some would call free-spirited.
I live by my own rules and it works for me.
My life is full and wonderful -- and it seems to steadily get better.

And you?

June 2003: Everything seems fractured

Everything seems fractured. Work, psytrance, sex, political issues, imagination; they're all important, they all intersect, but I just don't see a holistic picture. Things have have broken into pieces with jagged of edges. The jaggedness, in turn, means intensity – and that's what's in common with all of these, the intensity.


Choosing to view the world as a movie could be a very powerful thing. It might let you step outside the standard ways of viewing reality and discover new possibilities. On the other hand, the cuts between scenes could leave you disoriented and, for lack of a better word, fractured. If you thought you were in a movie, you'd be very conscious of all the watching going on. Oh, yeah, you'd also be nuts, but you could probably hide it relatively well.

October 2003: Can fantasy stand against hegemony?

conquer the fear and jump into chaos. no! its not a secret forbidden world that only a few fortunate transgressive people can/must participate in. it's all of that but it is also a world anybody can enter. anybody can be sexy. anybody. its all how you define sexy, and so its all about how you want the fantasies to be.

reality will always respond to what you fantasize about and that can invert anything. and if you want, if you dare you can bring it into the daylight.

today, hierarchical organizations (consolidating corporations) and totalitarian states are even more powerful and hegemonic than they were. what can stand against them? belief in something else that translates to a different set of rules, so not only the ability to overcome fear to resist but also the non-linearity to avoid getting crushed by the power.

can fantasy – as in living out fantasies, not cute little books involving magic and unicorns – also fill that role?

there's power in unleashing fantasy. there's power in connecting people and finding shared fantasies. but fantasies – as with religion – are too often used as a tool of oppression: too many fantasies relate to things that are unachievable (being an anorexic model), and both the attempt to get there and the envy of those that have succeeded are harmful.

is it possible to construct fantasies that are liberating instead of repressive?

November 2003: Radically decentralized communications (yay, cyberspace)

I wonder how much of what's going on is due to cyberspace's ability to make distance less important. Most importantly, this allows people to find others with similar attitudes; and in numbers, there is strength. Once you discover others share your interests, it reinforces that this is okay; and so you're more confident – so for rare interests, that could previously attain critical mass only in major cities (or very liberal subcultures) (or very privileged individuals), there's now a chance at a broad base….

What, then, does that mean about people who grow up with this environment? I kind of sort of did just a little, but really not until early 20s; when I was a teenager (small town in Pennsylvania), and even a college student (Boston area) there was no escape from geography. By grad school, I had good net access and pervasive e-mail; and then of course by the time I had been at work for a couple of years, the pre-web "net" was in high gear (e-mail, BBSs, anonymous remailers, usenet, ...). Now geography became an additional opportunity ("munches" of people who tended to know each other online). But I was probably very largely "formed" already by that point.

I recently read a description of rave as "the first truly global youth culture"; same thing?

Throw in the fact that cyberspace's (current) ability to cross borders makes it harder to stamp these things out. We can't rely on this forever, of course (is the focus on spam a dry run for attacking other forms of speech?); but it's certainly the case right now. Now we have yet another reinforcing factor ...

How can we know anything when the sources of information (the media) have become instruments of propaganda? If we don't know the real facts, how can rationality really help us?

So: introduce some new variables ...

Radically decentralized communications (the internet, yes, but that's only one example: there are cameras on cellphones, for heavens sakes) make it possible to access information that isn't controlled by others. But the people providing it may be biased (or co-opted); and how to go from anecdotal information to real conclusions?

December 2003: Surprise Surprise

I hope someday I get to meet the cinematographer for our taxi rides to clubs: great lighting effects, darkened neighborhoods fog neon jarring transition sirens surreal music or silence. Not the director, necessarily; I didn't care for the hack technique of having taxi-drivers give backstory to avoid later inconvenient voiceovers. ("well, after the dot-com crash of 2000, office space got a lot cheaper here. Some neighborhoods didn't get yuppified. But ya gotta wonder how long it will last, huh?") Present the ticket and in you go etc. etc. Banal but for the ample cinematography.

Versatile, too, because it was a perfect look for technofetish, noir, cyberpunk, cypherpunk, or "darkwave", angles drawn from German expressionism but with decades-worth acidwash of irony and distancing, colors tinged by pot or e or chocolate or occasionally other things. Modified as necessary; just as shrooms were kicking in on the way to see the Camper Van Beethoven reunion concert somebody went by on a scooter and knocked the mirror off, as the cab driver motioned angrily opened the door and gave chase! the lighting suddenly became very Dario Argento as the three of us sitting in the back seat looked at each other and the now-empty front seat.

Much better cinematography than for the 50s black-and-white dystopian sci-fi movie I spent a chunk of my time in. [Which is cheesy, really: rectangular layout, straightforward colors, clean lines (almost socialist-realism style); perfectly suited for coming out of an escalator at SFO and zooming in on the loudspeaker as it announces "current homeland security level yellow; homeland security level yellow".]

And the props are great, too -- all the details are well thought out. At the DNA Lounge, the ATM sometimes flashes revolutionary slogans: "SUBMIT! OBEY!" "SURPRISE, SURPRISE, THE GOVERNMENT LIES!" "The U.S. Constitution isn't perfect, but it's a lot better than what we have today."

I remember one night dancing, at <<<thump>>> or Atomic, thinking in a very tight loop,

"I'm in a movie."

"I'm in the movie."

"I'm in the movie."

"I'm in the movie."

And then realizing I was sharing the thought with several others: a transgender sex worker who was a regular there, and at least two women who seemed to me like they were slumming hotties (and I use the term respectfully -- one had a t-shirt saying "Hottie" so I think they would not object):

"We're in a movie."

"We're in the movie."

"We're in the movie."

"We're in the movie."

January 2004: Illuminatus! Remixed (excerpt)

Three key societal trends provide the context: the rapid advancement of technology; the ease of global travel; and the increasing appeal of fundamentalist or non-rational religious movements. These trends took on a momentum of their own as various factions sought to influence or profit from them. Technology, for example, led to a new class of rich computer geeks who often identified as libertarian, with something of an anarchic twist due to the delight in games and pranks; these seemed like natural allies for the Discordians, at least until the "dot-com" boom converted the bulk of this group to comsumerism, thus making most of them (with the exception of "fringe elements" like the cypherpunks) unwitting pawns. By the early 21st century, all of these had accelerated to the point where they completely suffused everyday life; it's impossible to understand the world without taking into account religious movements such as radical Islam (the Taliban, Iran, Hezbollah, Wahabiism, Hamas), the Christian Coalition, orthodox Judiasm, the Lord's Army, Aum Shyrinko, neo-conservatives, extropians, etc.

Events were also shaped by reactions to the attempted immanetization. The most important immediate lesson was that the combination of drugs, technology, sexuality and/or mysticism can unleash an amazing amount of power. The "war on (some) drugs" and restrictions on key technologies (crypto, anti-circumvention, pharmaceuticals) attempted to cut down the chances of succeeding with this approach again, and Prozac capitalized on the semi-religious authority of psychiatrists). On the other hand, the net (Usenet and BBSs, and online chat rooms) brought the sexual underground up closer to mainstream: "alternative" culture was legitimized, and ordinary people saw online personals and Friendster as perfectly acceptable.

Communication issues do indeed become a fundamental problem in any hierarchical system. The reaction to Napster and other P2P networks clearly showed that the Illuminati realized the threat here: this dynamic appears to fundamentally favor Discordia. Since people are at the basis of the problem, removing people from the information flow might provide a solution; mandated and automated information gathering techniques (sensors/SCADA, financial transactions) and data mining were primarily developed in response to this.

January 2004: Hey man, is this a dream?

As the sample Olli Wisdom started his set with phrased it, “To infinity – and beyond!” [At the set's climax] a song built around the guitar part from Dire Straits “Money for Nothing” (with a minor change in the only lyric: “I want my LSD”) had the whole crowd playing air guitar.

“You gotta be able to ask yourself … hey man, is this a dream?”

When Olli played a song with a sample “Let’s all travel at the speed of light!”, it seemed remarkably plausible.

March 2004: A change is coming

A change is coming

Why be shrunk by fear when you can choose hope?
Why be manipulated by hate when you can choose desire?
Why settle for singularity when you can have multiplicity?

Control is an illusion and influence is possible.
Look for meta-level solutions.
Avoid false dualities.
Change is performative.

Worship the anomaly.

April 2004: A message

As we talked, she asked me a question: "Do you ever find that you analyze things too much?"

"Yeah, maybe," I responded. "Sometimes. Not sure."

We parted. And then ...

Until late
Asking myself
What she meant?
Why did she ask me?
How much is 'too much'?
Was this just an idle question?
Why am I thinking so much about this?
Is there some kind of a message here for me?

The next day, I ran into her and said, "Remember that question you asked me? I couldn't sleep all night repeatedly analyzing and re-analyzing the question and why you asked it ..."

"Oh," she replied sweetly, "you're such a flatterer. And did you reach any conclusions?"

"Still not sure. I'll need to think about it some more."

She smiled. "You do that."

July 26, 2004: Ideas matter

"rationality doesn't seem to be working too well these days," i said to jeannette. "you seem to be doing ok" she noted. "yeah, i have other skills. i can fall back on those. i'm ok and people underestimate me which i am told can be an advantage. but still i don't like it."

Ideas matter
sometimes strong enough ideas can shape reality.
every now and then art and beauty and philosophy and theory matter.
and maybe this is a time when bliss does too

the stakes feel higher than ever
(maybe it can only happen in times when desperation opens us up).
there are so many variables and i really wish logic worked a little better

but at the same time ...
art and beauty unleash a lot of possibilities
and that is a magic place to be.

maybe adding in happiness or bliss or joy or whatever the right term is ...
maybe that's the secret ingredient that makes it all different.
even if not, it's hard to see how it can be a bad thing.

trust is scary.

love is powerful.

Aug 1, 2004: Tarot reading

See also: Notes on the reading, Three readings

Aug 1, 2004: Scientists in an irrational world

It could be that the system's in equilibrium, that there is an n-way symbiotic synergy in which we all get what we want, a kind of perpetual multi-player 'scissors paper stone'. but that presumes rationality and i just don't see it. i had wandered around black hat talking to people about how 'rationality's not looking too good these days' something i thought would get a lot of pushback but instead got a lot of sympathetic "yeah's".

The analytical approaches I've taken in the past just aren't sufficient for me to understand what's going on. I've learned a lot, and now know how to temper analysis with empathy and combine it with experience; at what point does it become enough to understand?

you can be scientists in a somewhat irrational world. you just have to think about things at another level ...

it's a time to work on our skills and build our strength ("i think my role is probably to help you magnify your power," i told her) ... which is another way of saying that life was trying to teach me about the limits of analysis.

the world really does revolve around the high priestess. i always hoped (and liked to believe) I had the courage to accept it ... and i think that on the whole I am doing ok.

Aug 2, 2004: It could be the writing

when d said "it could be a message or a person" i thought to myself that this is a pretty good description of quite a few different people in my life right now. maybe it's just phrasing: it could be a message and a person. "this might have something to do with art," she said. "maybe it's the remixing stuff you were doing a while ago?"

"maybe the writing i'm doing these days?"

"it could certainly be the writing."

these women are so powerful i can't imagine anything more wonderful than being able to help them. in the abstract it hard to imagine that this is even possible -- they seem so far beyond me that it's hard to picture what useful i could do -- but i'm a rationalist dammit and can't deny the evidence.

is it any wonder i think i'm the luckiest person in the world?

Aug 3, 2004: Limits of analysis

OK, OK, I get it: limits of analysis.


Aug 5, 2004: In a vortex of possibilities

I'm pretty sure there's something going on.

Aug 8, 2004: A wonderful virtuous cycle

Maybe one of the most important things going on here relates to increasing the number and power of strong, independent, passionate women in the world -- the world in general, and also D's and my world. Perhaps my main role is to assist in this in various ways (most obviously helping and enabling), both directly and indirectly by supporting D. This is a pretty wonderful virtuous cycle, at least from my perspective.

Aug 21, 2004: End duality by worshiping diversity

The tarot is instructions on how to create the world. The Snake Sutra talks of how to transcend it. Many paths many truths and tantra describe how we can get beyond duality by having diversity and multiplicity instead – aka a multitude.

We’re trying to end duality by worshiping diversity.

A common thread in all of this (go, hackers, psytrance, theory) is awareness of the meta-levels – which just increases the intensity of everything.

We’re trying to hack the rules of the game. So are they.

Aug 21, 2004: Technology is a two-edged sword

Acid and situationism and Paris 68 and then the Sex Pistols and post-modernism smashed the duality to pieces – but that doesn’t mean that unity is the right answer. Instead, it’s multiplicity … people can’t see that “rejecting duality” is itself a combination of dualities, and so any system founded on that principal will be logically inconsistent.

Technology is a two-edged sword: even though it enables new possibilities it complicates the situation and complexity must be respected even if not feared.

A quote from hooks: “ There are many choices, many kinds of logic. I could make those events mean whatever I wanted as long as I was honest.”

Aug 22, 2004: It's all about multiplicity / Which goddess gets the golden apple?

Duality is problematic; strive not for unity but for multiplicity and/or nothingness

  • two’s not the answer; neither is one; zero, many, or infinity (“to infinity, and beyond!”)
  • post-modernism is right about this
  • “there are any number of right answers” does not imply “all answers are right”

”don’t think too much” doesn’t mean “don’t think at all”; D says “sometimes being really smart can get in the way” but doesn’t say that it’s a bad thing

There are multiple lenses, multiple maps .... I’m learning more about them and using them and thinking of the world that way – I’m not an expert in any single one but can recognize the experts and learn from them (and in turn help them in the other areas).

Nobody’s applied this kind of critical reading to many of these lenses. Post-structuralist post-colonialist, queer, feminist, connectionist … all these approaches to theory yield new insights.

D and I talked about unity and multiplicity. “With unity comes centrality,” she observed. “Potentially,” I said. “There might be some places where unity is right. The problem comes if you try to force it, you create an unnecessary unity.” But centrality is one of the costs that are easy to overlook.

Multiplicity: When it appears to be a choice between two things, there is almost always a third option (perhaps to “reject the choice” or even “defer the choice”) ... which means there are many options.

“It’s there in all the maps,” I finally said. “Tarot, go, theory …” I tailed off and didn’t run through the entire litany again. Eventually I added, “It all just seems very abstract.”

“Well, you’re an abstract slash,” she said. I flipped through a book on the fool’s journey to the description of The Fool as “utterly abstract and unsubstantial in nature”/

“So I’m told.”


In the 20th Anniversary Edition of Goddesses In Everywoman, Chapter 13 is “Which Goddess Gets the Golden Apple?” This is indeed a false choice; the right answer is “all of the above” with a flouncy twist of “golden apples for the house”.

Starring me in a hyper-post-modernist intellectual farce and/or satire and/or documentary, revisiting the fable of golden apple Kallisti, “To the fairest”. (sic) They kicked the choice to Paris, who basically sold it on the eBay of his day – to Aphrodite, with Helen of Troy the eventual payoff. It was a mess. But suppose Paris didn’t choose? What would have happened then?

Sakai would approve; chop chop chop on the golden apple leading to as many magical slivers as is needed, no cataclysmic distinction, the solution more than nothingness … but the least possible effort, magnified by nearly-infinite subtlety.

Continued in Eris and the anomaly

September 12, 2004: What do I want?

While I feel like I'm in things over my head, I'm not helpless: not only are there many people who are likely to help me get what I want, I'm also far from powerless in my own right. Depending on how you look at it, I'm either exploring or drifting.

It's all jumbled together ... how do I pick apart what's a first-order effect and what's a second order effect? How much can things really be separated?

September 17, 2004: Honesty is underrated

it seemed like i was getting better at abstraction. and the situationism / post-modernism / surrealism / critical studies / etc. influence from philosophy; "it's all in the connections", i mused in a meeting discussing dependencies between software components, and people marveled at the depth of the insight as i went on to explain that it wasn't just about the things (entities, objects, components) but now even more importantly about the relations between them. "wow," a friend said to me, "people are taking what you say really seriously" ... yeah; it was a good point, i deserved credit for it, but still it's kinda a weird technique, don't you think? still, whatever works.

causality is one kind of relation, one kind of connection. see? it's all in the connections.

i wasn't explicitly looking for a muse but the position is certainly open and has a noble heritage etc etc etc. we could make that work.

September 24, 2004: I believe

there are virtuous cycles all over the place ...

i believe in multiplicity (as opposed to singularity or duality or nullity), subtlety, beauty, art, philosophy, theory, rationality within limits, chaos, happiness, joy, love.