2017-10-31 - This was a rambling-but-interesting piece I wrote some years ago. Enough time passed that I forgot I had written it, but its core concepts remain familiar.
The passion of the reader ∞
Greetings reader. As much as I would like to insert a dialogue describing my many hours of internal discourse regarding this text, I fear I would lose myself in the attempt and not fully be able to produce any "content". That being said, perhaps a few strong suggestions would suffice to aid in your read.
Firstly, while the underlying depth of this work has no real order, this text does have structure. Even though it can be broken up and put to use in sections, I intend it to be read in full, in order. This means that no part should be considered without understanding the whole. While any small section may appear to be able to stand on it's own merits, I cannot encode every section, every paragraph and every sentence to do so.
Secondly, I believe that a work of the mind is meant to be a fluid thing just like the mind, even when such contents are recorded. This work is not a static text meant to remain unchanged. It's content is not meant to exist without constant challenge. I could easily see this work being revised regularly.
Lastly, I make no attempt to follow any outside conventions. With small things such as grammar, I follow my own code. The structure of the work, the tone of the voice and the overall feel are my own. If this work needles at your writer's morality, I recommend you set it down and make an attempt to separate yourself from those reigns before continuing, otherwise no internal benefit may be gained through completing the read.
Read to learn. Don't read to see words and be told things. Read to compare to, and contrast with, whatever is already inside of you.
Intentions for this work ∞
Let me begin by stating my intentions in the creation of this work. I believe that it is useful for me to outline things to both prepare my audience and to also create a path for myself. At this point, I endeavour to write this freehand. I intend to write as i think.. participating in something which might be understood as 'thinking on paper' (see My Zuihitsu). I would like to dream that it is possible for me to start, to write and write, and then to reach an inevitable conclusion without having to shuffle content or rewrite things. I realise that this isn't realistic, as I have a habit of constantly rereading my work and making corrections. Still, my habit of writing things as they are presented in my mind will be a major component. The other component, and more vast in size I'm sure, will be the recording of mental 'cud'.. material which has long been locked in internal dialogue.
Come to think of it, what I will most likely do is create themed sets of paragraphs and fit them in some sort of order. I do have a significant amount of other writings which may be put to rest somewhere in the body of this work.
I certainly hope that I don't veer too badly from my main focus at any point. I realise that I have a tendency to do so with the writing style I tend to use. My style of thought and writing is, in my opinion, extremely useful but equally dangerous to a delicate thread of thought. One technique I will capitalize on will be the copious use of footnotes. I do not wish for all of my readers to be constantly switch between text and notes. Surely there will be those who will need to do so to glean some hint of understanding from some of my more obscure writings. However, for those of you who do not feel the need, you need not read the notes.
Thus far, I have stated that I wish to record my thoughts, both prepared and spontaneous, but I have not outlined the content I wish to record. Some authors use the written word as a method of venting, others as a method of teaching. It is extremely difficult for me to solidly define my motivation, but I will take a stab at it right now and hope to completely settle the matter before I end this work. I suppose that in a sense this work is like fathering progeny. I manufacture something from the loins of my experience -- something which will live on in my place after my death. I hear that this is a form of motivation for many people in many trades. Artists create masterpieces of all shapes and sizes. Scientists invent and make a name for themselves. All in all there are many different ways to create a legacy.
I am not creating this as a legacy.
Some people -- And I do not mean to appear distant -- are born, and are shown a pretty little world. These people develop skills and ideas. They learn to love something, it could be anything I suppose, and they strive for perfection in this act. They live for their calling and find it's pursuit to be the most fulfilling endeavour.
I am not motivated by love for this.
Still others appreciate the experience of an activity in and for itself. They diversify their life's goals. In fact, variation itself is their goal. They pick at anything and everything, boldly learning and growing -- reaching not to pioneer new things but to taste of every option.
This draws closer to my reasons.
Above, I spoke of integrating some of my previous works into the body of this one as a method of both fitting in new content and of putting to rest those unsewn threads. Perhaps this is a major motivation for me. Perhaps it is a way of completing, or at least furthering, a long history of efforts to product something like this. I must say that this work is intriguing, and it's completion will be quite satisfying, but I feel chained to the necessity of it more than motivated by the ability to create it.
I recall a story I was once told, about a prisoner who was somewhat renown among his peers for having stayed the longest in solitary confinement. He described the experience of being alone in the dark, of having nothing but his thoughts, of being driven to insanity in that cell. His 'trick' was to, just as he was entering the cell, pull off a button from his shirt, and throw it into the room. He would then, during his long stay, slowly and methodically pat the floor in search of his lost companion. He would duplicate effort with his search, and would calmly pat and pat. He would not think of where the button was thrown or listen in that direction. He would not use efficient broad sweeps of his hands to search. The reasoning is that he would be calming and directing his mind by using a slow and methodic pace. It would become so focused that the time would pass more imperceptibly.
Similarly, in life one must keep focused -- keep busy methodically living. This is itself a goal for many. Skip back a number of centuries and you would say that the methodic life is generally the stuff of peasants. However, I'm sure it can be applied to any person at any time. It feels as if this is a tool used as a second-to-last resort -- the last resort is to become a recluse from life. This tool feels like an act of hopelessness and desperation.
Another related story, and I apologize for the perceived duplication, is a ritual performed by spiritual persons -- Tibetans I believe. This ritual would involve a single person who would be sealed in a clay structure. This house would be specially built just for the event, and was designed to completely seal the resident off from the outside world. It would be naturally sound proofed, and was constructed to block out all light. I'm not certain of how fresh air was delivered, but that isn't important. Food would be delivered through a set of small double-doors -- not doors as such, but imagine air locks but for light. The entire affair would allow the scheduled delivery of food without letting in any light. The food itself was a simple but hearty porridge of sorts, and was infrequently but regularly adjusted with a spoonful of honey or some other such thing, but that too isn't important to my example. I imagine that this building looked like a plain sandy box made of bricks with smoothed seams. The residence is intended to have the one person living in it for a full year.
[2017-10-31 - I actually recently noticed some wikipedia articles on these (and similar) revolving light-doors are, and maybe one day I'll find them and note them here]
Imagine how a person changes when they are left to their own devices for a full year. Some amount of preparation would allow the participant to ground themselves at least for a short while -- like the solitary prisoner hunting for his button. There would have to come a day when the person runs out of pre-recorded material. I imagine that this same feeling runs through a great many people. This feeling is what I would imagine strikes a person on their deathbed -- a sense of detachment and longing. A sense of openness and understanding.
The one year ritual would be ended by punching a pinhole through the ceiling. The shock of full sunlight would be far too much for the resident, who would go blind with such exposure. Day after day the hole would be gradually widened until the person's eyesight normalized. The resident would be lifted out into the world pale and calm. All the time spent in the dark leaves a person quite white. All the time spent to oneself leaves one Enlightened.
I have spent a significant amount of my life to myself even surrounded by population, learning and understanding the world within a framework of my own design. I have lived a thousand lives, running through uncounted scenarios to gain some semblance of understanding of the way things, and people, work (and don't).
It is very possible that my internal dialogue, having remained internal for a long length of brooding, is only meant for a perfect, imaginary world, and as such would not be applicable in any real sense. Truly a frightening thought, but one I must dismiss or face insanity.
Before I lose complete track of my train of thought, let me bring up what I was discussing earlier. I spoke of the motivations people have for the things they do in life -- the subtle purposes of existence. I would like to be able to define my own motivations for following through with this work. I have toyed with a great many thoughts, but never have I fully presented them to an audience. I suppose some logical combination of the above reasons must be found in myself. Honestly, and I say this with a detached perspective, I am coming to realise my qualification for writing and feel that this stands tall as my main motivation.
My influences and methods ∞
It would be considerate of me to be able to cite at least the important few authors or works which have granted me my small knowledge of the act of writing. I'm sure I've read a great many books in my life, but I haven't a concrete enough memory to be able to describe the full picture of my influences. Like many people, I have read my share of the more common works from the great authors. However, when I think more carefully, I realise that in fact I have not read a great many of the common great works. I have not, in fact, been exposed to the understanding of a lot of them. Sure I have my tiny share of Shakespere and a smattering of forgotten works from schooling, but it was not as if I had much of a grasp of things back then compared to my current ability. I have had a history of reading philosophical, psychological and spiritual books, as well as having a keen eye on fantasy fiction and a smattering of tactics and logic-related works. Additionally, I've had an interest in language and communication as well as several forms of psychology and sociology. Perhaps this means that a person who has read the same works will be better suited to, or more accepting of, my works.. I'm not sure.
Perhaps I am influenced by my ignorance of the great works. Does this mean I am less contaminated by regimented schools of thought? Perhaps I am then left alone to consider things which I believed to be new frontiers. I don't believe that this ignorance is my only influence. I did find a great deal of enlightening material which I'm sure spurred me to further thought. One or two books had author notes which described the act of writing and the methods of motivation. One such note spoke of a goal of writing four to five pages each day no matter what the level of motivation may be. It spoke of writing for the act itself and of a long process of editing and re-editing.
I have no intention of doing things this way -- to edit and re-edit just to keep in practice the act of recording. This is not some foolish effort to contradict the good methods used by others. Perhaps I am going to learn things the hard way. Perhaps what I am doing now is what many countless other authors have started with and have moved away from. I haven't a clue if this will work out or evolve into another writing method, but it is my gut feeling that I will be able to motivate myself and at least begin this work with this method.
While originally I had been writing this on my HP 200LX palmtop, maintaining the ability to write down any fanciful daydream without prior notice, I have moved away from this. On that note, perhaps I should pour over mindset and surroundings for my writing. However, I'm not certain of how useful this would be as an aid to interpreting my work, so I'll avoid it.
Above, I spoke of reading works with author notes that struck a chord in me. It's funny that whenever I sit and really read a known masterful work, that I find myself reading passages which are so similar to other works. These authors all deny the recognition of their ability. They claim that they are mere children compared to their progenitors. Always there is an air of patience and impatience about their work.. a description of a great struggle to create it. Dilemmas such as the author and the work's relationships to the "rightness in the world" are considered again and again. It really seems to me that the most brilliant minds suppress themselves far more than others ever could. All of these authors write under a sort of philosophical duress.. as if they were philosopher kings who are "right" for the position and yet would not wish the position for themselves, or truly for any other.
I too face these demons. I wonder at how many truly brilliant minds have come before me. I scare myself with the thought that perhaps I ought to walk in their shoes for a time, or perhaps I ought to carry on someone else's legacy. I wonder the same thoughts I am now able to see recorded in centuries-old texts. Strange that I see all about me what has been locked in internal discourse for many years. What am I to do? From what I understand, I appear to be continuing a journey where most of the authors I have been reading seem to have ended theirs. By saying this I am not comparing myself to those others, nor am I evaluating their work. I fear that when I walk along a path that appears to be parallel at least in style and theme to the work of another, and that other ceases at some point.. I worry that perhaps I too will be find some compelling reason to not continue. Am I to struggle with topics left unpublished? Is there some fate I am to face which I too will be compelled to not write of?
How many others have or do face what I stand before? I am enthralled with the thought that there may be even one other who has been where I am now. I struggle with the worry that perhaps I should find, or even create, such a person.
Surpassing a great man ∞
(And by "man", I gladly include any person who rises to a sort of obvious greatness)
It seems to me that the work of one great man pouring his entire drive into a life's work will easily outdo a hundred generations of a hundred followers toiling to better him. Imagine Socrates. As I understand, he spoke with Plato who was then compelled to write in his own voice and teach others. Many generations of students have been exposed to the echo of these dialogues. Pause and imagine how many persons have tried and failed to even reach the even meagre understanding Plato had. How many people and how many generations have conspired to make better meaning of long-dead conversations?
I am not motivated to compare myself to any great man. I mean to demonstrate that a single perspective absorbing a spectrum of understanding and distilling it into a single work may be better able to enlighten another than a library of recorded conversations. Perhaps this is because the one work seeks to contemporize others and bring it closer to their language of thought, and perhaps then the language of thought used by their contemporaries.
Maybe this distilling can be seen as a method of combining the efforts of many greats who were in reality strangers to one another and perhaps not compatible in life. I believe this distilling has happened again and again in various ways.
On the contemporization of an older work ∞
On understanding ∞
There are several methods which may be used to reach understanding of a work. One may read the work alone or one may discuss it with another while reading. Still others will do as I have done, which is discuss core ideas without involving the original work or even knowing of it. Many discussions will surround author influences such as economic, cultural, political and religious persuasions.. even involving history or discussing the author's predecessors or mentors.
I'd like to say that this text is intended to be read alone, but I can't. My intention is that this work is to stand alone and be a toy to entertain introspection, however I must leave it open for interpretation and discussion at least as a means to improve it.
Certainly some ideas could be and perhaps should be extracted, explained and discussed, but I feel that it would be much easier for the individual to read and re-read to understand, rather than discuss and argue and re-explain things time and time again.
Some sections have been and will continue to find a page all their own, and in this way I hope to evolve them in ways which would not be possible within the constraints of this single article. Contemporization is the first example.
I'm not really certain how well received this work would be if spoken aloud, but it feels to me that I have written in the same voice I would use if I speak. Moreover, I find myself drawn into speaking as I read, something I rarely do. Intriguing.
It is understood that a function of the human is to hold an internal dialogue as one reads. Literally, the parts of our mind which are involved with actual speech are stimulated by mere reading. It can even be shown that some people flex their throats as they read.
Being told an interpretation is less valuable than discovering one's own. This influences my concept of contemporization. I suppose this is a core truth in Learning some sort of complex spiritual-philosophy as well.
I have been a part of discussions which sought to piece apart single paragraphs -- even single sentences -- from some texts. It appeared to me that this effort was truly lacking in greater wisdom. I could not find fault in the persons themselves, as they were students "following orders" as it were, but I question the entire driving force which seeks to educate those persons. My inner mind questioned the understanding gained by these students. Surely they ought to read and comprehend the body and spirit of the work without finding un-resolvable sentences and arguing themselves to exhaustion again and again. A single confusing point should be understood just as one sees a jigsaw puzzle with a missing piece. One imagines the missing area with information gleaned from the remaining puzzle. If one cannot do this, then what value does the affair truly have?
It's one thing to learn some specific thing, and quite another to gain greater and more general understanding. The real value is to comfortably integrate ideas within the framework of one's self. This is not the memorization of philosophies, but the True and Passionate knowing and loving and trusting of them.
One of the major goals of contemporization is to remove grammatical hiccups from a text to avoid such arguments over syntax. This is done both with the contemporization of the grammar and with the contemporizer demanding consistency in the final work. One must not be bogged down in the reading of a work by inconsistent structure. This problem may also be seen in compilations, where multiple voices appear.
On writing ∞
Part of the quest for creating an easily re-contemporizable work is having a consistency not only throughout the work itself, but to have a sort of obvious writing style that could be seen as approaching the universal.
I believe this style spawns from a mental flow and basic understanding of the subject. There is a difference between the writing of a good researcher and the writings of a passionate philosopher.
Certainly one could see that language itself will become a barrier to higher understanding for future generations. The obvious aside for a moment, let us assume that the language itself is understood by the later reader.
I suppose one obvious aside is that there is understanding and there is Understanding. There are often subtleties in a text which are probably beyond future generations.. those who are neither peers nor contemporaries to the author. Good writing, in my opinion, should be able to communicate to non-peers and even non-contemporaries. It should even survive translation and perhaps even transliteration.
The next step in helping to maintain clarity over time is to remove obviously contemporary phrasing. At the very least this starts with removing things like catch phrases, popular phrases or references to contemporary times. Texts which rely on a contemporary -- cultural or temporal -- bond between the writer and a reader can be disastrous. I believe authors who lean heavily on this are communicating more fully to their immediate audience at a sacrifice of the greater lifespan of the true understandability of their work. An author who idly uses contemporary sayings to further elaborate a point risks polluting the understanding of a reader if that reader is not familiar with the phrase or style of writing.
As I suggested, such phraseology is a potent tool, and can aid in speaking on complex subjects. This is exceptionally important to make "real" contemporary ideas to a contemporary audience. I can see this with preaching and politics. Ideas have to be made to be important for the here and now and the current audience for action to be begun.