January 6, 2012 - December 30, 2011
Thursday, January 05, 2012
The Human Race
Wouldn't it be
great if we could all live like this? You know. Natural.
IA. I've read through the comments on the last post, not every
because young know-it-alls tend to be dull and repetititve, but enough
to understand that the central conflict of the human experience still
obtains. Human consciousness is the mother of all bitches. We glory in
it and we hate it. We aspire to understand the whole universe and we
also question our own right to exist. Why it's facile and frankly
idiotic to pose ape consciousness as somehow equivalent. It isn't.
Consciousness is not a switch, on or off. It's a scale. And only a fool
would try to propose that the consciousness of a cat or a dog or an
ape, or a jellyfish or octopus, is contending with the same order of
challenges. Dogs do not ask, "Should we be free individuals or units in
a system run by the smartest among us?" Apes do not create art.
Dolphins do not build cities or multi-thousand year landmarks to their
learning. esthetics, beliefs, and questions.
I get the current philosophical dodge. The kids are bored. Bored. They want something new to
happen. Because they don't understand everything that has already
happened. They're tired of the human adventure. They don't want any
demands placed on them. Thing is, that's just not possible. They live
in the midst of an experiment that cannot be stopped. Not even by a
tantrum that insists everything be slowed down and, if possible,
brought to a halt with all the gains preserved and all the sins frozen
or nullified. If only life were simpler... If only life were fairer...
If only life were more fun... and less boring.
Well, fuck boring. If you're
bored, you haven't been paying attention.
The story of the human race is not about an endless cycle of violence,
exploitation, predation, environmental destruction, and pointless
hatreds. It's about a series of hypotheses about how a self-aware
species should best organize itself to survive and flourish. We assail
ourselves with the fact that every civilization ultimately fails and
falls into ruin, We lament the recurrence and persistence of war. We
lavish hatrd and abuse on ourselves for the constants of human
weakness, neatly summed up by theologians we now despise under the
rubric "the Seven Deadly Sins." In the extremity of our self-loathing,
we even fantasize about the paradise of an earth freed from our
These are the diseases of consciousness, which is not a curse at all
but a plastic thing. We are questing for the best configuration of a
brain that makes every other look like a midget.
The social groups of other mammals don't vary much. Wolf packs tend to
be wolf packs. They tread the same ground and defend the same lairs for
thousands of years, no innovations permitted. Gorilla and chimp
communities tend to be similar, despite occasional instances of gross
internecine violence. But human communities differ substantially even
when they exist at a subsistence (read 'Stone Age') level. Yes, there is always a prospect
of war, but the relations among men, women, and children, elders and
juniors, are not the same. The samenesses relate to things we in our
modern arrogance have decided are variables -- the importance of
property, division of roles between sexes, the acceptance of consensus
morality -- but the differences are also instructive. Sometimes the
initiation of young males is cruel and brutal; sometimes the initiation
of young females is worse. Sometimes men are the oppressed ones;
sometimes the women. But even the most primitive of these cultures also
have a sense of the divine that sustains them. They honor dead
ancestors and apologize to animals they've killed to eat. So we decide
they must be wrong about everything that conflicts with modern
understanding. And we congratulate them on the cultural aspects that
correspond with our contemporary values -- cooperation, sharing of
resources, the relative equality of a hand-to-mouth existence by a
tribe that celebrates a modern cooking pot as a treasure, and the
indefatigable will to survive. Except maybe not so much the last one.
What's key to understand is that these are essentially wolf packs. But
human. They should be more alike than they are if we're just smarter
Worse than that, aren't they -- once the novelty has worn off -- boring?
Human civilization in the context of all these base mammalian societies
is an actual explosion. In a
split-second of earth time, the human race rose from hunter-gatherer
tribal life to the Hubbell telescope, putting men on the moon, tripling
life expectancy, and increasing its population from a few million to
six billion. This is an insult to the planet? This is evil? This is
Which other species is concerned about how many cheetahs and tigers
there are? Do dolphins care about the decline of whales? Do cats of any
size scrutinize bird migrations and wonder why this year's volume may
be less than last year's?
A few probably unwelcome truths:
War is a collision of cultures, which
kills people and then shares ideas, trade and prosperity.
Life is hard and brutal, no matter what species you belong to. Of all
large mammals, the only ones not "endangered" are mankind and the
animals he's domesticated for use in human society.
Without the something extra that human consciousness is, nothing you
think of as you, including all your most nihilistic bile, would exist
at all. Meaning you wouldn't
exist. At some level, you owe a debt to Attila the Hun, Ghengis Khan,
and Julius Caesar. That you regard yourselves as superior to those
barbarians is proof that human progress is not a fiction but a fact.
And the high gear that kicked in a couple thousand years ago, whether
you're an atheist or not, is the thing that made the individual 'you'
today an individual at all. Otherwise you'd be the guy with the penis
Of course, maybe some of you iPhone millennials believe you'd prefer
that. But, uh, think about it before you go nuclear in the Comments
Make no mistake. I understand why you hate and fear your own human
consciousness. But guess what. You'll be afflicted with it till you
die. Hating the rest of us isn't going to help. We're all in the same
fix. Row or get out of the boat.
The liberals are sick of it to the point of a mass death wish. Some of
you kids just have an inherited bent. Shake if off. Before you perish
of your own cowardice. The stakes are life and death. Which should
never be boring.
Sunday, January 01, 2012
No, I'm not THE
One. I am just one who has lived and learned.
MY. My last post of the old year created a stir. The
youngsters didn't want to be reminded that gray hairs aren't just signs
of obsolescence. I sympathize. It's indicative of how they've been
brought up. It will take them a long time to discover that life belongs
to those who live it rather than those who believe their fervent
impulses must be right because they're the ones who are experiencing the fervent impulses.
It's a strong tide to try to resist. Even one of my best friends told
me, "You can't be mean to your commenters." First impressions are
everything. Useless to tell him that I was simply telling the truth in
my lede when I said, "I feel like Neo at the end of
Matrix I. Do your worst and all I can see is digits in slow motion."
Another old friend tried to put things in perspective for me:
It seems Verloc was just a bit late and
missed the latest round of realizations of "all I know is that I know
nothing" a few months back. I cringe to think that people stumble onto
your site and instantly assume that you are a peer, that the playing
field is level, that much like little kids think, everyone is entitled
to their opinion and they're all equally valuable.
My favorite line from Fine Artist so far is, "Have you written any
I apologize to the commenters who thought I was being mean. Being mean wasn't
my intent. But I honestly don't care. The ones who sail in with their
childishly simple world views based on zero reading, zero knowledge of
history, and even less reflection on their own infinitesimal gravity in
the human story are just streaming digits to me. Sorry. So sorry. If
you want to be taken seriously, bring some baggage to the discussion. I do.
If you can't be bothered to read history, at least read me before you make an ass of
yourself lecturing me about things I've been caring about before you
I shouldn't have said I was disgusted? Why? Disgusted with
single-subject heroes who just know that everything is about Wall
Street, Jesus, phantom black female geniuses, tribes. or some other
unitary focus? uh, no. It isn't. Disgusted with know-it-all youngsters
who have pricey degrees but never read Shakespeare and think Picasso
can be dismissed because of what he said about art and what he did to
his hundreds of willing girlfriends? No. My own wife gets fed up with
the odd connections I make. She says I over-complicate everything.
wrong about that and she knows she is. She loves me because I strike
gold with my pointless connections far more often than probability
suggests I should. I make her laugh. Which makes up for all the boring
dead ends. And my many presumptuous pronouncements.
Here's the bottom line (a term I hate and almost never use, though in
this case it's appropriate). I don't mind being a target if it forces
you to put thoughts into words you have to be prepared to defend.
That's what I do. It's my contribution. Small? Sure. It's as as tiny as
your importance to the grand scheme of things.
But here's the rub. I'm a Christian. I don't think anyone is irrelevant
in the grand scheme of things. If I get just one of you to think, to try on a
new idea and wear it proudly in public, I don't have to get on TV to
enjoy my 15 minutes of fame. If I can nudge just one life toward the
better, I can atone for a legion of personal sins.
I bring to this effort what God gave me and what experience shaped in
me. Which may be far less than what any one of you wants and expects. I
myself have a very modest view of what that is. I can put 'a' through
'z' together and see patterns. You're free to disagree with my read.
But I also have a 40-year record of showing how I derive patterns from the
data. And not one of you can make the same claim.
I guess this should have been called Part IA, not Part II. I am going to defend the record of
the human race. Something a lot of you, left and right, don't think can
be done or should be done.
And I'm going to defend the United States of America, Texas included.
Frustrated black female geniuses notwithstanding. Just so you know.
Incidentally, the Mayans were not
predicting the end of human life in 2012. I've been studying the Mayans
for nearly 50 years. 2012 will be a year like every other.
Painful, fruitful, and then past.