Archive for August, 2007

A World With No Rules

Posted in Speculation, Weird on August 30, 2007 by Patrick

I like to think about things that everyone takes for granted in new ways.  For example, rules.  Everyone always says “You’ve got to have rules.”  Even so-called mavericks like to say (and god, I’ve said it), “You’ve got to know the rules before you break them.”

Why do we need rules?  To control behavior?  But if that’s the case, then that implies that there’s something in humans that is irrational and randomly swerving, and rules keep us straight.  Neither of those assumptions seems true to me.  Even a lunatic can construct a chain of cause and effect for his or her actions — they might not seem rational to us the sane, but they’re connected at least from the lunatic’s perspective.  And rules certainly aren’t just made to govern the insane, or only they would have to obey them.  No, it seems like the rules are made to govern the sane — in fact, a true lunatic might not have to obey the rules in the same way, under our laws!  So the sane are, by definition, rational, and have rational reasons for doing things.  Why, then, rules?  Are there certain kinds of rational reasoning that are more acceptable than other kinds?  Sure, maybe, but acceptable to whom?  And by which chain of reasoning?  And can we judge the reasoning that leads to the judging of the original chain of reasoning, with another chain of reasoning, and so on?  There’s really no ground to stand on.

The other need for rules, to keep people behaving “right” — well, that works well, doesn’t it.  No, it certainly doesn’t.  Crime fluctuates, but has nothing to do with the establishment of rules — instead, it has more to do with economics, civic identity, and so on.  In other words, you give people rational reasons to behave “well,” and they behave well.

Moreover, if we all obey the rules all the time, we can never change them, because we can never test a new rule that might be better.  Or, if we do change them, we must therefore do it blind.  Again, even the American legal system enshrines this method of changing rules — one way to challenge a law is to disobey it and challenge its legality in court.

Maybe it’s not so much a matter of rules themselves, but obeying and regarding rules mindlessly.  For example, last night I found myself — driving home tired — stymied by some construction.  Someone earlier had swerved into the cones marking the new lanes of traffic and scattered them randomly about.  There was no path through them.  What do you do?  Get out of the car and rearrange the cones?  It’s against the rules to park in a street, even at 3 AM.   Drive over the cones?  Not optimal.  Try to pick your way through them?  Back up and find a detour?  Every option breaks the rules.

Rules try to take the places of solutions.  A solution is something you figure out yourself; a rule is a solution calculated by others.  But rules ignore contexts.  And all meaning derives from context.  A life without rules might be the only kind of life that’s truly meaningful.

What a terrifying thought that is.


Ooooh, Music

Posted in Music on August 20, 2007 by Patrick

I like this band a lot.

Been working on the piano lately.  I’m taking lessons, practicing daily, and actually beginning to learn.  Kind of cool, actually, to develop a skill.  I was thinking of writing something about how to learn things, but I don’t know how I’d go about it, or who would ever want to read it.

So I’m working on publishing my second book right now, talking about bidniz and all. I’ll keep you abreast of developments, but the book won’t see shelves until August of next year, roundabout. So be patient.

A video of a Welsh actor reading “Taliesin”

Posted in Language, Music on August 3, 2007 by Patrick

Here’s a video clip of Welsh actor Ioan Gruffudd reading one of the “Taliesin” poems.  “Taliesin” is the name given to a Welsh bard and cultural hero.  He’s also an archetype for the transforming sorcerer and the protean bard.  The clip is in Welsh, with subtitles.

Part I, Part II

Overall, this is a good example of an incantation.  Taliesin identifies himself not just as the master of secrets, but as the metaphor itself — he has been all of these things, and all of these things are Taliesin.  Taliesin identifies himself as the “is” in metaphor.

Via Boingboing — Who’s Minding the Mind?

Posted in Speculation, Techniques on August 1, 2007 by Patrick

The New York Times published an account of recent studies about psychological priming.  We learned about this back in college, as I recall — if you’re primed to exhibit a certain behavior, you’re more likely to do so.  Not exactly rocket science, I guess.  Still, this paragraph is interesting:

Using subtle cues for self-improvement is something like trying to tickle yourself, Dr. Bargh said: priming doesn’t work if you’re aware of it. Manipulating others, while possible, is dicey. “We know that as soon as people feel they’re being manipulated, they do the opposite; it backfires,” he said.

Yeah.  Well, maybe that’s all magic is — a way to tickle ourselves.  Still, no . . . I’ve seen magic have effects that can’t be explained by mere psychological tricks.  Even if it were all psychological, though, it’d still be darned valuable.   After all, if we prime ourselves to notice opportunities for jobs by doing a spell to get a job — the result is the same.