(this blog is a continuation, and won’t make much sense until you read Easy, and perhaps even still not then)
Dear Almost Very Powerful Person,
My not knowing who might be responsible for your brilliant inspirations has no impact on the likelihood of their existence, of course. I’m not vain.
I am rather proud of the fact that I do know that all things done have do-ers: there is no otherwise. And the beauty of human inspiration led me to believe, before, even, I met those German math students, that there must exist some class of superhuman do-ers, some party that is responsible for our flash of brilliant inspiration, and for food tasting so much better sometimes, for the peace that surpasses all understanding, for the lyrics to Blowin’ in the Wind, etc. etc. More recently, life said to me: here, have a ludicrous explanation in the form of a frozen pork chop (that saves your life).** And so I have spent much of the time since then trying to figure out where such things come from — an answer better than just ‘the sky’ — and I have found out some things but not much. And then I spent quite a bit of time trying o understand these few things I did figure out, better. But I still couldn’t tell you much about who they are, the do-ers of these things done.
But I would like to? And I am trying to tell you something they have shown me: that in life there is a hard way, and an easy way, to do any difficult thing.
The hard way is the way we force through ourselves, that we push and push through circumstance, like a spoon through a log;
the easy way is the way we are given,
that is easy.
So 1) all things done have their do-ers, and 2) inspiration is such a fickly thing!
Why aren’t we capable of everything we are capable of at all times? Don’t we instead have two kind of capability: the kinds of things we can always do, and the kinds we can only sometimes do? The latter being the most wonderful things: the empathy we didn’t think we had in us, the wolf call we let out in the street in the middle of the night, as the bars empty out, the solid feeling of our body when we’re best at our sport. That come from the place where the color of your parachute must be.
One time I sang exactly like Odetta, for example– but this is not always possible for me, although I practice everyday — so into the sometimes group it goes. There are so many times when singing exactly like Odetta is not an option for me—it’s tragic, really—and if I want to, I’ll have to wait for inspiration to allow it, or gift it to me, you might say.
However, I feel pretty confident that at anytime I could do some of the math we learned that year in Berlin, always, although I can’t now say exactly what that would mean– what do you really do in real analysis, exactly, besides Fourier transforms and defining integration? I can’t recall; remembering things being something that moved to the sometimes group a few years ago (but I have the book around somewhere, so I’m not worried).
Let me set a point, above this explanation and connected to it by some number of puppet strings:: most things we don’t understand aren’t connected. They’re connected to something else.
Should one of the epi contact me, would it be them who did? Not a trick question, but doubtless no.
Right now I strain my ears a little, in case I should hear their voices in the hallway, but I don’t. What would bring me news of them from halfway across half of the world would have to be a machine: a telephone or TTY of one sort or another, that had taken in some fashion as input their intention to communicate with me. A telephone or TTY of one sort or another that I would contact back, with my intention to communicating with them. A telephone or TTY we would have to simply trust did a faithful job in translating our respective intentions, but which need not. If it didn’t, at some times or at all times, there would be no way for either of us non-machines to know, short of traveling to be within earshot of each other, where we might speak, or sing, or pantomime, i.e., actually contact one another. At such a meeting most likely we would dispense with the machines—or maybe not, since they were the type of people who might enjoy pulling the logs from every link in that chain and diff-ing every version of our respective messages.***
Especially if there was pizza.
I was on the phone with a woman the other day who did not know what the phrase “face-to-face” meant. “We’re speaking on the phone,” she said. “Is that what you mean?”
“No,” I said, “face-to-face. It means in-person.” I had to just hope she knew what in-person meant, as it would not have been polite to say, as I wanted to, “No, I mean your face seeing my face, one face pointed at the other face, my sort of lined up with, you might say ‘facing’ your face? Your face, it’s that the thing on the front of your skull, remember? You put your phone on the side of it.” (It’s funny what you feel like you can say on the phone that you wouldn’t say to someone’s face.)
And so when we look at the actual complexity of a lame-o transatlantic phone call**** that didn’t even happen, we see that almost our contact is an illusion. Unconsciously we imagine we do incredibly difficult things—like project our voice across ten thousand miles or more–but we don’t at all do we. Never have and probably never will. We’ve done and do and will do instead very easy things, like speaking to machines quite close to us while being insane (convinced we have superhuman power). We rely on such machines and others like to help us pretend.
I personally don’t like pretending unless I know that I am doing so, in which case I usually pretend to be a psychic in the employ of law enforcement, or an ex-supermodel enjoying an early obsolescence, or both.
(All three are fun at parties, but I sense others’ tastes might differ. Losers.)
Even if you don’t mind pretending that things are other than they are, please still try taking this “local view” of causality. It makes the world feel so much more real. And even if that doesn’t happen for you, there are yet still reasons to look for and be aware of such illusions around one. Although at first it might sound depressing or self-defeating to give all the credit for anything you do that seems to too amazing to simply … something else, it is quite the opposite. When we are no longer distracted by imagining we are accomplishing things we aren’t, we can actually accomplish real things … that we just aren’t yet.
(Actually accomplish them. It’s not even difficult. What a relief that would be to many people, and how much their psyche needs that relief.)
Literally, you have then exactly two problems: anything in your arms’ reach, and where to put your ams. Welcome to easy.
DEGREES OF FREEDOM!!!
There’s someone running around on the street with a flashlight for those of you who might be keeping score at home. Oh— it wasn’t a flashlight, it was a car that was about to come down the street but thought better of it? Or was parked and turned its lights off and on for a second?
I have a vague hunch that the CIA is happy at this time, and that is never a good thing. Oh good, it passed.
*a listserv, which had an epilog
***this is what happens when I don’t write for months, you get paragraphs like this.
****Lame-o in contrast to the other awesome things we do with our mere phones.
You’re going down, causality. Man the hearse.
(Is this epoch’s technological revolution math’s revenge?)