Reflecting


"They're already loosing steam."

If you want to learn what I think, ask me, then wait, perhaps for a very long time. If you want to know how I feel, ask, then prepare to wait even longer. I am a walking echo chamber, filled to the brim with contradictory, often conflicting perspectives. I remain steadfastly uncertain, humbled in my acceptance of the tenacious indecipherable surrounding me, eternally teetering on the forward edge of another great unknowable. In lieu of knowing for sure, I question. Of course I exhibit preconscious, essentially autonomous behaviors, though I'm hardly aware enough of them to explain them to myself, let alone to anyone else. On the scale of the grand action/reflection dichotomy, I'm sitting somewhere inside the mirror, considering.

My preference for reflection makes me a lousy fascist, for fascists value action, even reaction, above all else.

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MagicUnderpants


"I ain't telling nobody."

I knew today would become extraordinary the moment I reached into my underwear drawer and found my MagicUnderpants on top. I don't know how this pair earned its designation. Perhaps they just look more distinguished than all the others, but I knew when I purchased them that they would become my favorite. And the have. When wearing these babies, I fly confident that my airplane can't possibly fall out of the sky. I sense that parking karma will lead me around all day, leaving empty parking spots adjacent to front doors. Good things happen to me every day I wear my MagicUnderpants.

My other pairs just don't seem to do the trick and I do not know why.

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Religion


"Time might tell whether my relationship with religion proves wise or clueless."

Like most of the people inhabiting this world, I don't consider myself religious. I was raised in white middle class America which some report as not possessing a culture. I attended a white bread, right of center Christian church in my youth but never noticed Jesus attending. I identified as more a Just Visiting distant relation than a full member of the congregation, though I'd always volunteer to help set up or tear down the multi-purpose room. The doctrine eschewed smoking, but my dad smoked. My mom could wax irreverent about the dichotomies between what was preached and what was practiced and I guess I considered church as somehow distinct from religion, certainly from spirituality.

I thought bible lessons allegorical, unconvincing as literal truth, useful perspectives but certainly not holy writ. I thought that if The Bible was the literal word of God, God needed a decent copy editor.

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Thinking


"I grab just where I think it is only to find that it must be somewhere else instead."


Before you begin reading this posting, please reference Google (or even Bing!) and look up the definition of Thinking.

I'm fairly certain that most readers did not accept this invitation, but it hardly matters. Had you refreshed your memory with the formal definition of Thinking, I doubt that you came away any clearer about the meaning of the term. Google or Bing! Images related to the term Thinking, and you'd be no better off. Light bulbs, empty dialogue clouds, and photos of people scratching their heads greeted you, didn't they? If effective communication relies upon those involved sharing a common understanding of the topic's meaning, we seem to be sunk before we've even begun considering Thinking as our topic of the day, but since I'm really investigating the many facets of cluelessness, we might be starting at something close to exactly the proper spot. At least I think we might be.

I've thought of myself as a thinker all my life. I hold no advanced degree in thinking, mind you, but I've nonetheless thought of myself as more of a thinker than anything else.

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Feyness


"The net result of learning should properly be a slightly higher class of cluelessness, never Feyness."

In the days when The Muse and I facilitated workshops, we studiously avoided introducing any sort of lifeboat drill-type exercises into the curriculum. These were the sorts of games requiring the group to expel someone from the group, the kind of "play" we commonly see on so-called reality television programs. We never believed that these simulations very accurately portrayed real-world situations. Quite the opposite, we thought them suggestive of tactics relatively useless in anyone's real world workplace. Besides, they tended to make the learning space unsafe, and our primary watchwords for our workshops were, "Safety First." If we could not create a safe learning environment, we would be culpable for inhibiting deep learning, and nobody attends any workshop so that they can hold their facilitators culpable for inhibiting their deep learning.

Learning seems to require some sense on the part of the aspiring learner that they might have a decent chance of actually learning something, that they could not possibly leave the experience without having found something useful for themselves.

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Vastnesses

vast
"We seem imbedded in Vastnesses wherever we stand."

The Muse and I live in The American West, a territory defined by its vastness. She hails from the Upper Midwest, also vast, but more two-dimensionally so, though the sky there amply fills in for soaring snow-covered peaks when galleons of thunderstorms spewing lightening float overhead. We lived for a time just over the Maryland line from Washington, DC, in a tiny municipality shoehorned into scores of small towns and aging neighborhoods which summed into a claustrophobic kind of vast. We currently live in a small village poised upon so-called foothills which almost anywhere else in this world would easily qualify as a vast mountain range. We seem imbedded in Vastnesses wherever we stand.

I was born in a small town and raised in a small city, each of which passed for vast for me in their time, later to find themselves relegated to some more minor classification.

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Grudges

grudges
"I finally decided that maybe I could live with myself again, so I did."

Grudges have become badges of honor, honoring some past insult. We wear them like deep sea diving boots, hardly handy for tap dancing, or even walking around. They seem to ground us but tend to sink us instead. Still, social and political movements feature grudges as a part of members' required uniform. One cannot join without prominently displaying their grudge. Stadiums fill with supporters seemingly present to show off their personal grudge to others, some competing to demonstrate that their grudge is bigger than anyone else's. Just as if they could fix the past by dragging a particularly wounding part of it around with them, they engage in a kind of group primal therapy, howling at their common misbegotten moon.

It might be that nurturing the memory prolongs the past slight's life.

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Mediocrity

Mediocracy
"To pursue it might be to forfeit any possibility for ever experiencing it."

Throughout recorded history, mankind's unending quest for good enough has been goobered up by a few over-achievers, who, having reached a perfectly satisfying meadow halfway up the mountain, insisted upon turning their walk in the woods into some kind of extreme sporting event. They pine after that rarified, stony space above the tree line, where winds whip around lightening bolts. They want excellence. Their search seems endless, their lifestyles, downright obsessive. They become relentlessly proud owners of dissatisfaction, ever ranging even further upward. The rest of us, perhaps a little cowed in the presence of such seemingly misguided determination, feel moved to move no further. We're suddenly much more attracted to gratitude for what we've already achieved and acceptance of the way things currently are. We'd rather nap on our already acquired bed of laurel than go searching for unlikely eagle feathers.

I've noticed that business seems to have gone downhill since embracing the theology of excellence.

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Breaking

breaking
"I figure the whole truth will be better approximated in a volume to be published ten years from now and surrounded by enough context to bring today into clearer perspective."

Early yesterday afternoon, my Facebook Feed announced the latest breaking news. I followed the link to learn that this particular piece of breaking news was a lengthy analysis of news expected to break later that afternoon. Experts waded in to explain background and foreground, some even projecting the effects this impending breaking news might have once it actually broke. I wasted five unredeemable minutes of my afternoon on this floss. Later, the news the earlier announcement predicted, came to pass as breaking news, which washed over the late afternoon as no surprise, an anti-climax whetted by overlong anticipation. The earlier broadcast captured the gist of the actual event, with some details probably unavoidably miscast. The final breaking story, though, had by then lost much of its potential impact. I caught myself skimming through the details, more seeking to confirm the earlier implanted news than to broaden my understanding.

Breaking news might by necessity be about ninety percent distraction.

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Convictions

convictions
"As if to keep the universe in proper synch, you have no clue what's going on with me, either."

I'm driving that car you're trying to pass. Yes, I know the road looks clear ahead. It's a clear, sunny day. You zoomed up to ride my rear bumper and you're gesturing with both hands in frustration. I know you want me to drive faster. I'm not trying to act as obstinately as I must appear. What's wrong with me? A grave shortcoming. I'm driving at the speed limit. We've passed two speed limit signs since you started crawling up my tailpipe. Perhaps you were too distracted to notice? I'm noticing for you, I guess.

Why? Why can't you coerce me into driving more recklessly?

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Paradox

paradoxelephant
"I consider an improvement anything that might shift it into even a slightly more malleable form…"

Paradoxes can make us stupid, but also uncommonly wise. Alexander demonstrated great wisdom when encountering that stupid knot prophesied as determining his fate. Rather than choose to untie or not, he rent the knot in two, rendering it absolutely irrelevant, forever thereafter neither tied nor untied. Few of us show such presence of mind when finding ourselves in a paradox's grip. Few of us ever seem to realize just what we're dealing with, so we trot out one of our half dozen or so trusty problem solving strategies, none of which could possibly produce the faintest twitch of surrender in even a low-order, run-of-the-mill paradox. The paradox is never the problem not realizing what we're facing turns out to be.

Damned if you do and also damned if you don't hardly circumscribes the range of available choices, of which there exist in any instant an infinite number from which to choose.

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Dichotomy

zenos-dichotomy-e1515427608294
" … it's subsequent sortings all the way from every here to every there, to the end of every line"

With his Dichotomy (illustrated above) the Ancient Greek Mathematician Zeno proved long before any of us were born, the logical impossibility of moving between any here and any there. While his logic was sound, his conclusion, curiously, was not, as I just demonstrated by walking all the way downstairs AND BACK! Logic works like this sometimes.

In my youth, I took a job as a bull hand dancer in an asparagus factory. My job involved performing the first sort on freshly blanched asparagus passing along a conveyor belt. Lift truck drivers in blue hard hats would dump huge steaming bins of the stuff replete with everything from chunks of fence post to freshly steamed snake and mouse carcasses which needed to be removed from the stream, and not only because they wouldn't fit into the little white containers which would later be flash frozen, labeled, and rushed to the frozen food section of local grocery stores. The first sort was rough, nothing like fine finish work. I'd yank out the obviously awful and line up as many spears as I could given the conveyor's speed. A long line of secondary sorters beneath my position on the conveyor performed ever finer sorts, resulting in containers capable of passing the quality control inspector's gimlet eye at the far end of the line.
Dichotomy works like this.

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Expectations

Expectation-Quotes-1
"They're disposable just after they seemed like the only possible One Best Way."

The above quote might qualify as one of the most clueless utterances ever. To act without expectations seems to be a recipe for not acting, but then I might not quite be Zen enough to comment. I cannot imagine acting without expectation though I recognize that expectations probably encourage most of the cluelessness in the universe. Still, expecting seems a perfectly human feature that leads us all into considerable trouble. I doubt that just omitting the expecting amounts to anything like sage advice. We are the ones who lead ourselves into the bulk of the temptations we encounter, but I can't quite believe that we're automatically screwed because we continually expect.

Like with cluelessness, the problem might not very fairly represent the problem. How we cope with this feature might hold some clue about what to do short of stifling one of our primary motive forces.

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Presuppositions

bmatebwcover
"… they still bite more than they ever bark."

When did you finally stop beating your dog? The best accusations come imbedded with presuppositions, unstated premises, darned near impossible to counter. This dog accusation "presupposes" both that you have a dog and that you sometime in the past started beating it, for how could you possibly stop beating your dog if you'd never started beating it in the first place? But wait! You say you do not now nor have you ever owned a dog? So much the better for the accuser, who can play The Denial Card. I mean, if you won't even admit to having a dog, how much further from repentance could you possibly be?

I frequently see this dance initiated as a means for tangling rather than resolving differences. Notice how the accuser avoided making any actual accusation.

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SmartVSDumb

dumb-vs.-smart
"Like Mad Magazine, but, you know, real."

I've learned more in my life so far from Alfred E. Neuman than I have from Albert Einstein, and Neuman is a fictional character. I sometimes fancy myself a smart person. Just how dumb is that? I might conclude my summertime inquiry into cluelessness right here. Einstein, as insightful as he doubtless was, couldn't hold a half-melted birthday candle to Neuman, entertainment-wise. Can you imagine Spy vs. Spy in the hands of the celebrated physicist? People seem to require some absolute stupidity to attract their attention. A graphic novel about the history of 20th century physics was stickier than everything else I'd ever read on the subject. Eggheads love to read comix. What do stupid people read? Oh, the really stupid ones don't read, or … can't … read, which renders them social pariahs to all those to can and do read.

Some of the stupidest people I've met in this life held advanced degrees from prominent universities. Some of the smartest, failed to graduate high school.

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EditingAuthenticity

genomeediting-pencil-01
"I wonder some days when human existence will be edited out as altogether too messy."

I recently read about some study suggesting that gene editing doesn't work quite the way I'd thought it does. It's not a simple matter of snipping and pasting. Genes resonate changes more deeply than a simple delete or paste metaphor might suggest. Unanticipated mutations sometimes result. The connections appear to be much more complicated than our present understanding leads us to believe. Our modern day gene splicers might in the future seem no more skilled or insightful than a medieval medicine man does to us today, all leaches and humors and stuff.

We live in The Age of Editing. Forget about original content, repurposed content reigns now.

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Song-righting

song-righting
"They only ever seem right after seeming just wrong for the longest time."

I wrote my first song when I was in the 4th grade. It was stupid and derivative and absurdly simple, but I'd just taken up playing a guitar and like everyone else in my generation who came into close contact with a guitar, I found that it magically turned me into an accomplished poet and brilliant social commentator, at least in my own mind. The trance quickly became self-reinforcing. The more songs I wrote, the more I wanted to write, with no saturation point visible or audible from within the spell. I thought myself doing very well. I grew up to "be" a musician or, more accurately, I grew up to be a song-righter. I was never that accomplished at playing the guitar, avoided covering others' tunes, and stayed close to my own songbook. I never was anything like a human jukebox but I always wrote songs.

My earliest songs seemed indescribably precious to me then. I've forgotten most of 'em. A few through the years, though, seemed to stick and became an alternate identity for me.

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Conditions

conditions
"What in the heck am I supposed to do here?"

I swear that there's nothing I can't do if the conditions are right. When the conditions are wrong, though, it seems that there's hardly anything that I can do, or at least that I can do right. Now, if my nose were more sensitive to sniffing out right conditions, I'd belly flop much less. I belly flop plenty. I'll own this little inability, though I might claim that my training's been complicit in complicating my life. I've been more trained in how to do things than I was ever oriented in how to sniff out conditions, even necessary pre-conditions. Conditions seem to take up their position out on the far perimeter of my activities. I often forget to check for their presence before I begin and even when I remember to check, they're likely to slip past me.

Gregory Bateson spoke eloquently about context, the great unseen influence. He claimed that one could arrange a space such that the arrangement itself subliminally informed those who entered it.

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SubjectivelyClueless

subjective
" …reviews prove unreliably subjective …"

The eyeglass fitter at my optometrist recounted how she's worn these contact lenses designed to reshape her eyes while she slept. They worked, eventually reshaping her eyes to 20/30 acuity, which objectively rates as even better than the normal 20/20. Having had glasses since she was a little girl, the fresh correction left her feeling disoriented. She could not imagine how she could drive a car with vision like that. Her eyes finally corrected themselves to something more like 20/20 and she could see just fine again. Her story highlights the difference between the objective and the subjective worlds we simultaneously inhabit. The quants calculate best while the rest of us rely upon fuzzy felt-senses, which might well uniquely interpret for each observer. Perspective matters to us who live in the subjective world. We're extremely context-sensitive in ways the quants could never calculate.

The Style section provides lists enumerating various bests: best movie, best bagel, best baseball player. Your preferences might well vary unless you've figured out how to subjugate your tastes in preference to the popular ones, a slick trick, indeed, and one the media seems determined to help each of us master.

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A Mentor Passing

jerry_weinberg
"He didn't need to say anything else."

I suppose that Estranged stands as a valid phase of every mentoring relationship, for these sorts of associations were never chartered to become eternally continuous. They serve as leg-ups, nudges to help someone over some hump and somehow putrefy if overly prolonged. I think that both parties understand from the inception that the terms of engagement won't allow for real friendship to emerge, though the exchanges always seem warm enough.

My relationship with Jerry Weinberg, who passed yesterday, lasted about fifteen years, which is long by any mentoring standard.

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Truth-ish

TheWholeTruth
" Truth was never as popular in junior high as most every lie, and so grew up rather shy about its native social acceptance."

Would you prefer that I lie and promise to tell you the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth when the whole truth usually has a few elements besides the truth imbedded within it? The truth of the matter might be (must be?) that it's never wholly whole, but only because it can't be. It can't be because us humans tend to be unreliable recording instruments. We seem prone to seeing what we anticipate rather than what's actually there. We remember what doesn't shut us down rather than what we experienced. We are subjective beings, never objective observers, and so prove unreliable conveyors of any absolute, truth being prominent among them.

Yet we still, sometimes smugly, believe ourselves capable of discriminating between a truth and a bold-faced lie, and we are not always incorrect in our assessments.

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Electronics

bm-01-9780080519944
" In trust we trust. Amen."

Our new car, The Schooner, has very few moving parts. I expect in a few years to be able to buy a car with absolutely no moving parts. Once, cars were mostly moving mechanical parts. No longer! Now they're smart, or at least much smarter. Many of the formerly laboring mechanical parts have up-sold themselves into management positions thanks to the marvels of electronics. Our new car is a thinking car. It anticipates for us so we don't have to. It's not rocket-scientist brilliant or anything. It just maintains vigilance where ours might wane. It helps keep us safer and just that little bit saner, too. It almost seems benevolent, a friend.

A friend until something goes wrong

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Books

Books_0
"I never feel more here than when I am immersed in some author's somewhere else."

I read a lot of books, well over a hundred a year, maybe twice that. I rarely remember anything I read, not in any detail, but then I try to avoid the types of books requiring me to remember much. I almost exclusively read fiction because it seems much more real, although there's not really any genre BUT fiction since even so-called non-fiction gets filtered through authors who perhaps unavoidably fictionalize whatever they put down, wrapping their stories in the trappings considered appropriate to "real" storytelling: hero, journey, challenges, and triumphant return. I consider myself an exacting reader in that I only rarely finish a book unless its prose pleases me, either in construction or concept. I consider myself to be a prose chameleon, my own writing quietly influenced by whatever I happen to be reading at the time, so I'm careful to quickly discard trash. I read all the time.

I'm in and out of the library several times each week, often daily. I scrupulously return any book I've finished the same day I finish it or the very next day at the latest. I always figure someone might be waiting for me to put it back into circulation.

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Whom

belltolls
"Never give them a passing thought," …

This week, a Facebook friend (a designation with which I intend no derision) asked me who I wrote for, by which I interpreted him to mean, who do I imagine reading my stuff. His question sparked quite a bit of old tinder because I never could find an answer to that seemingly perfectly uncontroversial question. I once again encountered what I consider for me to be a fundamentally unanswerable question, though it gets down on one knee and seemingly begs for a response, and a straightforward one at that. Certainly, if I write, an object of my efforts must be present, if only in my mind. There isn't and I don't.

I realize that by admitting this omission, I might be violating a first principle of marketing: Thou Shalt Have A Target Market, except I'm not marketing, but writing.

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NothingMuch

zeroinfinity
"We're here in the middle, comforted by the edges we imagine constraining us."

I understand nothing about as well as I understand infinity, by which I mean, hardly at all. Like infinity, nothing can appear in a surprising variety of quantities. I can experience Plenty of Nothing as well as NothingMuch. Likewise, infinity can come in any of, dare I suggest, an infinite number of discrete forms. Even Forever After might hold a shorter shelf life than Ever And Ever, for instance. The concept that neither nothing nor everything comes in specific single-serving packets should set me back on my heels. It might be that this explosion of variety never comes into play until one thinks they're experiencing nothing or everything. Then, a multiverse appears.

Some mornings, I rise convinced that I have nothing to say.

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TwistedMetaphors

Metaphor1
" … seemingly, suddenly, self-licking ice cream cones."

The VP of HR called me into his office to discuss a troubling complaint he'd received following my last workshop. Two participants had taken umbrage at a metaphor I'd employed, insisting that it clearly demonstrated that I was racist. Pretty certain that I could not possibly be fairly characterized as racist and curious about where this conversation might go, I showed up, though I arrived wary. I'd gotten tangled up around misunderstood metaphors before and felt fairly certain that I understood where this conversation would go, for there's no counter-argument to anyone's firm conviction. There's also no way to fix this sort of past. I sat quietly as the VP failed to explain my error to me. I hardly mounted any defense. I knew before I showed up that I would not be asked back to deliver another workshop.

I permanently deleted that metaphor from my patter.

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