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26 December 2010 @ 07:55 pm
The effects of marijuana on attention span would seem to be of a different order than the effects of some random interruption, like checking email. We tend to do an activity as long as it interests us, and when we become bored, for one reason or another, we look for something else to do. If we are not very productive in a given situation, it is because we are not enjoying the business of the moment, and any distraction which is readily available will suffice to put us "off task".

On the other hand, marijuana gives one the subjective feeling of increased interest in the task one is performing, and so I would think that its effect would be the opposite of the effect of these random distractions, which come about precisely because of our boredom.

The trick to being productive is to find something which you really enjoy doing, I would think, rather more than avoiding one or another incidental pleasure. No doubt marijuana has an effect on productivity, but I do not think it need always and everywhere be bad. On the other hand, no one could deny that marijuana does not abet us in specific tasks. I would not want to have a surgeon operate on me while high -- but it is rather because it would make him hesitate and second-guess himself, I think, than because it would cloud his thinking.

Another thing to consider when thinking upon the way a drug effects our work, is what dosage of the drug we are using. One cannot assume that a large does will simply do more of the same thing as a small dose. One has to ask, whether the drug affects our ability to speak, or our ability to come to a decision, or in short our ability to perform any of the members of a given class of action. The best way to proceed, I would think, would be to consider whether or not we would want somebody to carry out some business for us in that state of mind, based on our own experience doing such things.

There is no doubt that marijuana in high doses makes it difficult to work. But marijuana seems, for me, to activate my capacity for speaking and thinking (it is as well to say this as it is to say, "activates the language center of the brain" -- since these "centers" are just Aristotelian capacities in disguise). My evidence for this is that I become much more talkative, when I am high on marijuana, than I would be when I am sober. Or at least I feel more talkative. Some measure of how talkative I am, such as how much I post on livejournal or facebook while high, would suffice.
24 December 2010 @ 12:54 pm
Aren't you ashamed? Shame comes upon all letters which begin, "Aren't you ashamed?" Our thoughts are for crusade, and a crusade is war. And so we too are driven to our war, and those with whom we war must also take up war. Anger is our tinder: in this tinder is the human flame. In human flames we see a kind of light, and it is all the light we know. We must hate everyone who does not love the lovable, who makes an evil out of good, who makes us evil men.

The words of other men are always madness, and as we repeat them, to madness we succumb. I see evil everywhere, in good things and in evil things, in seeing good and evil things. The truth is that nothing is good but God, and God is good because God is not good. There is no joy in the possession of eternal things, because eternal things cannot be had. The number one, which must be beautiful if anything is beautiful, is obvious and simple -- too trivial for joy. And thus all boring things.

The hand that washes sin away is stained with sin: if God has touched the world, God has been profaned. All bodies and all words are wretched. Love is wretchedness for every wretch who loves. If something has been seen, it has been stained with light, which stains the eye who sees its light. All hope is to be found in silence, but even this, I cannot say.

I am a fool to think, in the end, and a fool to write. You cannot help but answer echoes with an echo: "These echoes are inane." And so the echo, too, must be inane. I have been drawn into hatred, by hating hatred. The only thing is to withdraw and be alone, to utter no word, to think no thought, or if any thought, no thought of passing things. And yet I would not be alone alone! I too am stained by love, and in my love am drawn towards love. A stone cannot resist the pull of stones, and so must sink, like every stone.

Let us love only those which cannot love or be beloved! Let us turn our minds to solemn things! Let us utter only what is true! You see a darkness in me, or potency of darkness. You see a sputtering flame. "Then let us ignite this flame! Let this flame burn as bright and solemn as an angel's sword! Ignite the stone, and make of stone a star! In unholy things there is much that is holy, in the unlovable much that is beloved!"

How much would we suffer? In suffering is our salvation. So let us suffer, as your Christ did suffer. Let us each expunge ourselves, since only self-offense is without sin. (For who can be offended by himself?)

"You have not listened to the word!" Oh I weary of listening to words! I hoped for meaning beyond words. The truth is, there is nothing. Then let us love this nothing, let us think this nothing, and in loving it, love nothing, and in thinking it, think nothing. For silence is the greatest gift of God.

I would be for you the greatest vision of this evil, so that seeing evil, you will see that you are evil too. Do not retreat from sin behind your love. For in your sin, already there is love. The family is not good, nor friends, for there can be no good in loving evil things, and all of us are evil things. To make evil is evil. To destroy evil is evil. The only thing is not to act, and yet from action we cannot abstain. Our knowledge of this evil is great evil, and yet ignorance is greater evil still. We cannot end the thing which we have not begun. Our only hope is beyond hope. Our only good is beyond good. Our only love should not be loved.
24 December 2010 @ 12:08 pm
I weary of the world, and all its wicked men. I weary of our quest for pleasures and for wealth, for esteem from those who honor it, for love from those beloved. I weary of these goods which are not good, and those of us for whom they’re good. Vanity reflects on every mirror, and stains itself with sullied light. God must be a distant thought that does not live or love, since every love must frown on those who do not love, and as this frown cannot serve love. Let us hasten to the world of beasts, who do not know they hate, and so do not know hate. Let us tarry there awhile, asking after pleasures that were made for us, but not made by us, by a maker who desired above all that these conceits would lead us to procure for him more servants like ourselves, whose duty always was to serve and so preserve a likeness of himself. We have been slaves of this eternity, and our mass more than any mass must fall, and in this falling fail. Our great conceit is love, by whose means we endure our present pains and then in pain give birth to greater pains. What weariness is there in motion, in an order past our order, in a rank that never breaks its rank! For love we fought and killed what others love, who fell and died for love. What goodness can there be past goodness? Justice is another’s good, and injustice our own. When every breath is sin for sin, when all our sustenance is life for life, what good is sustenance and life? The only good is to renounce these goods, and yet, we must admit, that this good is not good. A fall comes from a fall, and gravity has brought us ever down. Heavy is the head that wears the crown.
23 December 2010 @ 03:11 pm
One dimensional motion is motion along a line extending infinitely in two directions -- motion, more precisely, along a real number line. (Could we say that 1/2 dimensional motion is motion along a line extending infinitely in one direction?) Well we imagine a space which can be put in exact correspondence with the real numbers. The zero point is the center of that space. The zero point is the "beginning" from which the object (a particle which occupies a point on the line, which point corresponds to a real number) departs, either be moving forward or backward. "Forward" and "backward" are not defined in terms of the center. Moving towards or away from the center does not correspond to moving forwards or backwards. Or maybe we can say that to move forward is to move ahead of the center, and to move backward is to pass behind it. Our particle has a front and a back, in the sense that there is something ahead of it and something behind it. Then movement forwards and backwards is defined in terms of the particle? But a particle faces in some direction, and for the particle to move forward is for the particle to move in the direction it is facing, whereas for the particle to move backward would be for it to move opposite to the direction it is facing. Only when the particle moves forward or backward, it changes its orientation, and then what was ahead of it is behind it, and what was behind it is ahead of it. But a particle cannot "turn" or "reorient" itself in 1-dimensional space, since reorientation requires motion along a perpendicular dimension, it would seem. So the particle can "walk" backwards or it can "walk" forwards, but it cannot turn around. In 1-dimension, "ahead" and "behind" never change. There is progress and regress, and these terms are never ambiguous.

So we select the zero-point to correspond to the place where the particle starts. One can move towards or away from the zero-point, and one can move forwards or backwards. If a thing is moving, then its location depends upon the time. ("Time is nature's way of keeping everything from happening at once." Or if we speak of motion at all, we presuppose time, because meaningful speech cannot be contradictory.)
23 December 2010 @ 11:56 am
In the beginning there was nothing. Because there was nothing, there was not even a beginning. The Contradiction settled over everything, and it was like the wind, the spirit and the breath. Our sages are afraid of nothing, and they do not call its name. They do not think of it. They do not read it. In the Book of Ages we find this sentence: "In the beginning there was nothing." Nobody begins the Book of Ages. The Book of Ages is hidden, arcane, secret, sacred. Nobody begins at the beginning, for to begin at the beginning is to think of nothing, and to think of nothing is to become nothing.

"What strange power is there in this nothing?" Sli had asked this question. The second chapter of the Book of Ages begins here. Few have ascended to the second chapter, and fewer still begin at this question. Sli himself would not read the question, after he had written it, nor would he think of it. Our book, which is not the book of ages, begins with this sage, Sli. Sli is the mighty. Sli is the wanderer. Sli has seen the beginning of all things, and will not speak of it. Where Sli walks, the earth splits in two, and from the crevices arise the crystals which glow, they crystals and their flowers.

The Discourse of Sli is the Book of Divisions. It begins:

"Three are the crystals which glow, and seven are their flowers. Ten are the seeds of their combination, and from these ten arose the worlds. Tintagel is the center of the crown. Tintagel is the zero. All things come from Tintagel, and all things return to Tintagel. In Tintagel is the life, and in Tintagel is death."

Zufi, in his commentary on the Book of Divisions, speaks of the fragments of the language of Sli. The language of Sli is the language of fire, which has no syntax, no grammar, and no meaning. The language of fire is silent thought, and behind the silent thought of this fire we discern the beginning of which none think or speak.

"Many are the worlds," said Zufi, "And yet they are all one. Tintagel is their center. Tintagel is their limit."

The city of Tintagel, the mystical city, the secret city, the city of doors, the city of the ten, the city of constellations, the city of light, so the sages call it, both those whom we remember, and those who have passed beyond, behind, under, and in between the Memory. All men draw upon the Memory. All men live in the Memory. In the Memory men have found their words, reflections of the one forgotten Word. The animals live with the word, but they do not live by it. Men live with the Word, but they do not live by it. As Zufi said, "Tintagel is hidden in our words. Tintagel is the meaning of the Word." And Sli had written, in the Book of Divisions, "The city of Tintagel is the city of the image. The city of Tintagel is the city of the mirror."
21 December 2010 @ 01:32 pm
Cross-multiplication is the bastard child of a proper theory of ratios. With what right do we treat meters and seconds as if they were numbers, so that a meter (or ought we to simply say "meter") divided by a meter (meter divided by meter) is one?

There are 12 inches in a foot. Or we could say, a foot is 12 inches. If we write that out, we get:

(1) 1 foot = 12 inches.

So now I can divide both sides by 12, and I get:

(2) 1/12 foot = 1 inch.

So far, so good. Now what if I divide both sides, not by 12, but by 12 inches? (It is awkward to say that when we divide an inch by inches, both the inches and the inch cancel.)

We would write this:

(3) 1 foot / 12 inches = 1

Or we could divide equation (2) by 1 inch, and then also we would have:

(4) 1 foot / 12 / 1 inch = 1.

So now is 12 multiplied by 1 inch equal to 12 inches? What does it mean to multiply a number by an inch? I know what it means to multiply a number by 1, but I am not sure of this. And why when we multiply 12 by 1 inch do we get 12 inches and not 12 inch? (Perhaps that's just a linguistic problem.)

It makes far more sense, as far as I can see, to present the matter this way. We take equation (2) seriously -- that is to say, we hold that 1 foot *is* 12 inches. But then we have to divide both sides of this equation (which is really an identity) by 12 to get that 1/12 of a foot is an inch. Now how can we divide something which does not seem to be a number by 12?

So my confusion comes down to these two points:

(1) What is the difference between 12 and 12 inches?
(2) Why is it that we can divide a measure (12 inches) by a number (12)?

It seems we can go back and forth from numbers to measures and from measures to numbers.
20 December 2010 @ 11:21 am
We begin with distance and time. Some things are farther away from us, and some things are closer to us. Some things take a long time; some things are quick. How long did it take? It came in the blink of an eye, or we walked all afternoon. Dinner will be ready in an hour. And how far did we go? Next door, or across the street, or downtown, and so forth.

We begin with ourselves. We are apt measures of many things. We discover time through changes in ourselves. I am hungry now, and now I am tired. These are "events" -- they come upon us. And outside it is not still. The wind shakes the branches of trees, which bob and weave about, but keep their place. The sun appears on the horizon, and its height increases. Clouds float across the sky.

Why all of this? Why do things move?

It is necessary that we get clear as to what we mean by motion. Motion is change in place, and not without time. Like all change, motion requires time. Nothing can be in two places at once, so we think, and even if something were in two places at once, this would not constitute motion. Or perhaps we should say this, that anything is in as many places as it has parts -- but a thing with parts can be at rest.

Any change occurs over time -- there is the time before, during, and after the change. Motion is a special kind of change, which occurs across or between places. "Occurs" -- if we say that motion or any change occurs, we are referring to its time. But isn't this clear? The ball was here, and I threw it over there. There is no description of motion without a change of tense. Or at least here tense is peculiarly apt.

Now things occupy space, and since space contains things, it is natural to ask how many of a certain thing a given space contains. We imagine that a given object occupies a specific and constant length, width, and height. (We suppose, perhaps naively, that the motion of a thing does not affect how much space it occupies, though it does affect where it is.) So when we lay a ruler end to end, we say that so many rulers "fill" a dimension of a fixed space. "Dimension" -- we think of dimension in terms of contrary pairs: forward and backwards, up and down, left and right. Again, we are the measure -- or the measure begins with us.

But how do we measure time? We might say that we measure time in terms of days (which is a very natural measure of time -- much more natural than minutes and hours) -- or in terms of years -- or as the moon depletes and replenishes its shine. But if we ask whether every day is the same length, however, we find ourselves confounded. For what will we measure a day in terms of, to determine that every day takes the same time? (Time, unlike space, is not evident. For space is given to us all at once, or at least much at once, whereas time, beyond the present, is something only anticipated or remembered.) And how will we determine that the measure of a day is itself constant?
28 November 2010 @ 01:22 pm
"But most do not do these things, but fleeing into reason believe they are philosophizing and in this way good, doing something like sick men, who listen attentively to their doctors, but do not fill any of the prescriptions. So that neither will these be well of body who so doctor themselves, nor those well of soul who so philosophize." (1105b15)
25 November 2010 @ 06:40 pm
The enjoyment of meat, I think, would make of me a reluctant vegetarian. I ask myself, on the one hand, how it can be right that another must suffer for my sake. And yet naturalism, or theism, call it what you will, makes me reluctant to grant the animals themselves are immoral. If they are allowed to eat each other, then why am I not allowed to eat them? I cannot quite convince myself that wolves and bats are evil. Life itself I hold to be a good, and it is bad whenever anything is robbed of life. From this it follows only plants and the plant-like are innocent, for only they live only from themselves. But the rest of nature is in exile from this "from itself", and lives all by another. For us, to live is to live by, to live on, to live from.

We live on others. We are parasites. And we rob others of their lives, which is bad. And yet we might comfort ourselves, by supposing that it is only bad for them. Aren't there, then, things which are bad for us? "Yes, but you have just confused yourself about the bad and good. There is, aside from what is good and bad for anything, that which is good or bad in itself. And what life is good for, ultimately, is life. So even though particular lives are for another, life, as such, is for itself."
24 November 2010 @ 10:46 am
Being is a residue. Being is what is left when everything particular is abstracted. (Is it particulars that are abstracted, or qualities, or particular qualities? We pick them off like scabs and all that is left is the wound.) Well put it like this:

John runs.
John is running.
John is being running.
Being is running.
Being is.

Through a series of transformations, we would arrive at this statement again and again: Being is. The word being stands in the place of the thing, of the particular, of the what, the word is, stands in the place of the universal, the general, the action, the process, the how.

Or however we work out the logic, this is the general form of a statement, the bare assertion:

Being is.

And what is it we assert when we assert that being is? Do we assert anything, or do we assert nothing at all? Hegel, so it seems, supposed that we assert nothing, and this led him to the conclusion that the thought of being and the thought of nothing are the same – that being becomes nothing. (And the becoming goes on to become other things.)

Language has these resources: we can talk about beings and we can talk about things. And so we can also ask questions like this: are all beings things? And are all things beings? And what is a thing? And what is a being? And is there being, apart from beings?

Is there being, apart from beings? This question arises from the feeling that it is one thing to be a being, and it is another thing for a being to be. To put it crudely, when we say, “Being is,” we think we say that something is something, and we distinguish between what is and what it is. (What is something, is being, and what being is – is being. But we could have also said, “Being is to be.”)

When we say the word, “being”, we think that we refer indifferently to anything. A being is whatever is – perhaps even whatever can be. Or: anything that is (can be), is a being.

(If something can be a being, nonetheless, there is this temptation to say that it is not a being, when it is not a being, but a mere thing. Things are not necessarily beings, though all beings are things.)

But there are other difficulties: we say that a being is (a being is a thing, etc.) – we use this word is when explaining being. Then aren’t we explaining being in terms of itself? Being is – being. Being is – to be. Beings are – things. But not all things are – beings. Some things are – other than being. It seems we must take being for granted. All other things can be defined in terms of it, but it cannot be defined either in terms of the others or in terms of itself. Being is the term in terms of which everything else is understood. (But then we can leap ahead of ourselves and say: all things are understood through being – so that if we could understand being, we would understand everything.)

There is something terrible, then, about tearing down the edifice of being, about breaking being up into nothing. Because being holds forth to us the prospect of a way, through language, into the heart of everything. Or it is as if language had a great secret to tell us. And when it turns out that language has no secret, if it turns out this way, or that the secret is merely the scaffolding of everything signficant, but is not itself significant, we cannot help but feel we have been cheated, since we expected great things, but discovered nothing.