Ambitions

Dec. 23rd, 2008 11:30 am
[personal profile] lhexa

From the following words my next project will take its form.

-----

I have begun to write myself. I began long ago, when to find myself I gave myself words. I originate in a wandering style, though you now read me at the end of a long reduction and exclusion. Having risen, I became someone who walks; having thought, I became someone who errs. So I grew capable of humanity's ways. Having seen, I became someone who overlooks; having written, I became someone who revises. So I learned the rudiments of denying and altering my being human, by envisioning and articulating myself otherwise. Ultimately, I ceased to envision myself, thus ceased the struggle to exist in both my words and my images. The final image -- the enduring, greedy image -- shows a boy, on his knees, in a row in a section on a floor of a vast library, wanting to read it all. I am not mistaken in hungering, but I have made my mistake in hungering without limit. Thus I write. The following are two of the questions to be answered in me. Where does my arrogance end? And how far do my ambitions extend?

Insanity is a problem on which I have made some progress. I have followed our most central metaphors until they loop into something dangerous: I have let high be good until goodness is vacuum, and bright be intelligent until intelligence burns away vision. We who try to be human carry humanity onward, following its errors and reconceiving its forms. We are subject to its reasons and prey to its unreason. We are those responsible for shaping history forward. My ambitions extend into certain of our common ventures, whether or not you recognize their common ground. And I may easily overextend: I return too often to that lofty mood in which concentration ionizes and diverse fantasies present themselves, from ideal little social responses to scenes of grand triumph, with me to decide which of them will enter the first stages of the progression from fantasy to dream, from dream to ambition, and at last from ambition to reality. It is a difficult decision, because I already have many responsibilities, both mundane and internal, and hesitate at one more. Yes, I am responsible to my fantasies, for to deny one that I have kept is to be untrue. I am responsible to my dreams: they nourish me, but I must nourish them as well. Most of all, I am responsible to my ambitions.

Midway through high school, some time after discovering philosophy, I wrote a list of what is good. It was hardly the only list I had written, though most I had the good luck and good sense to discard quickly. (My writing, like my life, traverses such lists, often to arbitrary effect. But I may write and live better.) This one, however, was too grand and too meaningful: I wrote it well. This was a list of values, of things worthwhile, sparkling destinations, and however much I reassured myself of its provisionality I could not afterwards outdo it. I still remember that list's beginning in a single entry, and its slow expansion over the course of a few months to include nine items, a philosophy and an ambition nestled within the nine. I also recall the order of its contents' inclusion, save for knowledge and beauty, which were added together. Now, I even realize how the list's final entry halted any further expansion, though for a long time such realization stayed beyond me, thinking as I did that my time off the ground could be nothing but good.

Now, however, my ambitions must acquire better forms, and I have lived with the old ambition too long to simply discard it. Instead, the list will be refigured. As far as my concepts go, the list's contents are easily reshaped, despite being a part of me. They have as yet little form but what I have given them. There are other concepts, call them animated ones, that were and are more difficult to refigure. I once had to acknowledge a spiritual crisis in the following terms: "To fully understand something I must embrace it and reject it in turn, and I have yet to..." The ellipsis anticipated years' worth of doubt and self-disgust, as I argued and pleaded with an idea that preferred me in its teeth. Luckily, I have since moved on to a fuller way of involving myself with what I value and what I cherish, dangerous though such involvement may become. Here is my way of refiguring the list: If I truly believe something to be good, then I should be willing to avoid parts of it, claim some of it as my own, and, where I am willing to devote myself, pursue it.

-----

I was once a philosopher outside the scholastic cage, but that does not mean I was a good philosopher. Self-indulgence and arrogance -- a far more encompassing arrogance than remains now, an arrogance like an atmosphere, in which to breathe -- were my guiding vices, ones which easily competed with the paired virtues of creativity and civility. I may have accomplished rare feats of learning, but my styles of discussion, writing, and thought degenerated as they developed. Again and again I created a system or argument like a labyrinth, subtle, winding and many-pathed, to be learned and then escaped. Oh, I had points, I had profound and central points! But you could only reach them tired and lost. And so it was that I, coming finally to face the reality of philosophy in this world, before which I could be at most seminal (and in any case minute), at last lost myself and tired myself out: by my lack of wisdom and lack of reason I failed philosophy. At last I could only breathe to it: I will understand you by rejecting you. I will deny you, I will fear you, and I will flee you. Where wisdom is lacking, a declaration of what one will completely reject is an act of either arrogance or despair, and I despair in silence.

Yes, I know avoidance well. Not only to find myself do I lose myself. When something internal hungers after me, such as a sense of unending intellectual and emotional debt, I also move to lose myself, both in the world and in my mind. I travel until the signs become unreadable and the entire ecology of rationality becomes something external to me, leaving me with the quiet things, myself among them. Even if I did only skirt insanity this last time, with delusion avoided -- really, Lhexa, avoided? and this "writing myself" undeluded? -- I still suffer from familiar aftereffects. Here are the ideas become something more than geometric, no longer fitting together; here are the emotions that assemble into something charismatic before another person, but tug and gnaw at me watersnake-like when I am alone; here are intellectual powers sparking at random, talents spending themselves uncontrollably, and a woven identity unravelling. My entireties are connected: I cannot distinguish between my good and my evil. Fortunately, when it comes to what to avoid, I do have a central thesis from which I can draw many implications: I have gone insane, thus I am not a philosopher.

Comparable to the places I am to go are the places I have left behind. Prior to the tower of physics, there was the basement burrow thereof; before the warmth of friends, there was the cold university; before that place's harsh realizations, there was the soft isolation of high school; before the flowering of pride, there were my first declarations of identity; before the city, there were the mountains. Each site gave me treasures which I might yet lose somewhere in the space of a tired silence, if I do not ensure that I can always recover them. More, I find I should go far afield in recovering what I value. The treasures of my life are never so much kept as cached, memories, insights and emotions hidden for future need. I do not need to possess myself, nor keep what is mine. It is not mine by virtue of placement, nor am I myself because I am the person at hand.

Please forgive me as I speak of myself. I may be the only person to whom I can give words. You and I converse, if we converse, along the thin border between a person and the world: we supplement each other's senses. If my speech must reach you from further away than most, then you hear it from beyond your usual range, just as I am so often brought points of light from unimagined distances. My friends are the colors, and every reunion restores some pigment to a gray world, a hue lost while, blind to myself, I follow my voice. My friends will forgive me when I run on, and who else has a word in what I can recover? I have a burrow, a little Maupertuis of my own. I have what sustains and nourishes me. I have clothing that suits me. I even have a tower of theory and experiment to ascend regularly. What I claim as mine I need only describe.

I feel I came into this world by climbing down from a tree. What are my words? (Small thing, be still. Let yourself be nourished.) I know the easiest emotion to exploit. You can seize it. You can shape it. You are not wise enough to choose otherwise, so I know. (Even Dr. Cavell? Even your friends? Yes. And I am willing to do an evil thing for the sake of a human scholarship.) There are as many territories for the action as there are distinct people on this planet. I might see through your very eyes if the chase takes me behind them. (I would tell you of the place of ice. It too moves. Let me take you there in a story.) I have found my two high niches in the ecosystems of rationality, ecosystems where nothing human has yet appeared nor will appear. (Want to know what kind of affection exists in an animal's gaze? Ask which animal.) I walked to a high point and launched myself to the void, which shivered me apart. What did I see in the ascent? (The third and most dangerous hound, which led and still leads the pursuit of youth, which may harry me from my own, I named Ambition.)

The pursuit will be long.

-----

My list of what is good contains happiness, freedom, knowledge, beauty, love, wonder, honor, and flight. I now follow Kant in omitting life.

Like you, I spent much of my childhood hiding. Everything worthwhile in me started out vulnerable to sight, weak against nothing so more than coming out too early: such are the games, aspirations and worlds of a child who knows to keep the clay of himself away from all calloused hands. But perhaps I learned my talent of stealth too well, and became a material no longer under any others' hands. I do not know. Now there is a need to look back as far as I can see, to find out when I first began to arrogate what was around me, when I began to involve my very identity in everything I learned. Of the creations of my past, what survived, and what fell into ruins? I can only undo myself to the extent that I continue myself. My wreckage is my foundation. I know where to find it.

Even in childhood I inhabited places behind and beneath: behind fences, beneath manhole covers, behind sealed trapdoors. I remember many such places: the deck of my grandmother's house, under which I would crawl and sleep; near the opera in the mountains, the cramped loft where I delved into fantasy worlds and the little gullies where I created them; the shadowed mesquite paths which so excited my imagination, beyond the schoolyard fence; the long culvert whose first traversal required much courage, among whose side tunnels I found the place of cockroaches; the platform for storing old curtains, its trapdoor eventually sealed, but afterwards reachable from the sound booth through the space between walls; my shrine beneath the overpass. There were other places, and among these others a specific one relates to my ambitions.

I often skipped high school. My favorite place to skip classes, usually in order to think, read or sleep, was the highest landing among the dozen or so staircases in the huge complex. Being the only landing letting onto the roof (another place I enjoyed) this was the only protected one in the entire school. A high wall resembling a chain-link fence divided the next landing below evenly in two, and unlike that to the roof the wall's door was always locked. The wall did not, however, extend to the ceiling. By climbing diagonally up the stairs' railing I could reach the perpendicular railing of the top landing, and clamber right over it, the twenty-foot gap below becoming less fearful as I gained experience with the climb. At some risk I could enter a space that resembled, but only resembled, a cage, for when I entered it my thoughts took motion within a vaster realm. By climbing into that space I caged the school, and could for a short time be safe from its appetites. Behind that wall of woven metal I was a philosopher. In that place I weighed institutions on scales better balanced than any I had been shown. I thought well and abstractly, though a strong sense of danger and isolation remained. And there I considered each entry of the list of values. Hidden, scared and alone, I contemplated goodness.

I believe I have left many dreams idling in that dusty place. To study there safe from school was, among other things, to learn arrogance: to learn, as Thoreau put it, that it was I in all the philosophers who glimpsed a new truth and wrote it down from its high place. But the other side of the talent also needs learning: that it is you, humanity, and you, reader, who see from behind my eyes when I am fully understood. Your brilliance might someday shine from my words, and your stupidity might speak through them. So I admit: I too own a garden of untouched vanities, one with very high walls. I built, or rather wove those walls (as the cage of my school was woven, from metal and fear) to keep you -- a universal You -- away from the self I cultivated in that garden. In the time I kept You away I nearly mastered everything arboreal: I learned how to take root, how to feed myself on light and fundament, how to grow, and how to bloom. My ambitions now are to attempt something higher.

Morality should often be secretive, for morality is vulnerable while it is maturing. For now, I hide myself and my morality in open view, in words illegible to all but me. What is not yet readable may become so, and what is not writable as well, if one develops one's skills to match humanity's. My being uncomprehended is only humanity's incomprehension. It is a small thing.

-----

Who I am cannot yet survive abstraction. My attempts at picturing myself -- attempts made before I chose between style and vision as methods of self-creation, thus attempts to combine the two -- turned on me and became monstrous, so that I next had to write weapons against them. In one such attempt, I tried to convert a capacity for flight (which I foolishly called draconic) into a gift for others, into an ornithopter many could fly, but I built it before realizing there were intimacies between flight, insanity, and my specific evil. In another such attempt, I thought to make myself the equal of one of this world's histories: I conceived in myself a vastness and a vacancy suitable for an entire human endeavour, namely philosophy. But to complete myself I must undo a mistaken myself. I can no longer simply decide what I will become, which is to say that a decision is now only an initial stage in the transformation. Rather, I must limit the limitless within my appetites and personality: I must give my greed for knowledge an intelligible form, then my virtues and vices an isolating particularity. I need limitation, constraint and form, else I die mediocre. So: I set out! I am thus bound.

Call mine the crisis of insanity. As far as my ideas are concerned, am I divine or not? What powers of shaping and reshaping do I possess? These forms of fisher and fox, how much may they be me? My impositions have already begun to take shape. I have found, and will find again, parts of identity situated in the past -- I mean not only my little past -- there to be left discarded, claimed for my own, or pursued as though alive. Learn as we may, we still do not know how we are to become.

A fantasy that has been kept, but which cannot nourish you, becomes a delusion. A dream that has been held back from influencing your life becomes a vanity or conceit. An ambition that does not become reality is simply a failure. But I have been a mere staging ground for such creative processes too often: now, I want to no longer value everything worth valuing. I carry the hope that someday there will be things, good things, that I can see and like without arrogance, for I do not extend to them. They will be things beyond me. It is the hope that there will be that which I can fully not be; it is an answer, it is not the only answer: arrogance ends where I end.

Date: 2008-12-23 05:45 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] lhexa.livejournal.com
I want to be worth reading. I want mine to be the words that call you out of despair, as Nivardus' tale once did for me. Despair is total, yet I exited mine. Nonetheless, the result of my departure is that I can only converse with my friends from a distance, my words received away from myself; more, when exchanging words fully meant with anyone else, I must do so from somewhere unseen -- from an unobserved regard, perspective, or involvement -- no matter that we speak face to face. What am I, to be liked? What am I, to be read?

For the time being, however, it is more urgent to ask: In what sense can an idea exist in our world? When this question seems trivial in either direction, think of our reliance on the fact of approximation, the fact that, as it were, drives a wedge between perfection and completion. What is perfect is approximative: it accords to only some, likely few, standards, while what is complete is subject to all. Perfection is a first approximation, whether to goodness, reality, or divinity -- a zeroth-order approximation, in fact, for perfection is not even linear. Deny perfection, be true to your origins, and be true to your existence as a potential full solution to your circumstances. You who were begun: complete yourself.

I cannot craft myself masterfully. In this world there are no masters of the art I envision, only journeywomen, journeymen, and many amateurs, all waiting for an external promotion called understanding. There is no mastery because the requisite activity, though a not natural art, cannot be trained, any more than an injury can be trained to heal or a child can be trained to grow. The necessary activities take place somewhere behind and beneath my actions: yes, I write myself, but my skill in writing produces only external, unhidden works such as this one.

If you -- you, who make half my sense, for it takes two to make sense -- were to fathom what I put so much ingenuity into making understandable, an otherwise internal self-reading, self-writing, self-flattery and self-rebuke, then you might easily be tempted to object. Would you try to teach me a calm acceptance of who I am? Then, your reading being superficial, you counsel what is superficial in me without regard for the change below.

Date: 2009-01-09 09:32 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] spottylogic.livejournal.com
I really want to respond to this in a way that sounds constructive, informed, useful. I really, really can't, though. I can take apart the paragraphs for meaning, that's not a huge challenge, at least on a sentence-by-sentence basis, but so much is elided...the experience is almost precisely halfway between viewing a self-portrait drawn in a hundred different shades of colored pencil, none of which have leads, and trying to decode an encrypted message without a codebook. In the first case, there's a rich meaning, but it's not visible, except through vague impressions, which can't reflect the hues the artist had in mind. The second just can't be done, the speaker and the audience don't have a common reference.

Even trying to respond without that common key makes me feel shallow, small, a little abused even. There are moments where it feels like that is the intent, particularly when the implications are there that I'm just not the right man to see the emperor's kimono.

No-one can describe ALL of who they are, the observer-observed problem rears its head - in describing yourself, what you describe changes. Every personality is like a constellation of images reflected in a diamond, each one a little different, the result of a precise cut or a tiny imperfection, and a good percentage of the images are looking at each other, reflections of reflections. But then you get lost in describing the diamond itself, not the creature reflected in its facets.

Why resort to this level of secrecy, if not to hide? The natural philosophers and alchemists wrapped their secrets in a code without a key, as a way of concealing their craft from outsiders, as a way of testing newcomers. It's true that with simple declarations of "I am, I enjoy, I am hurt by..." you might not ever actually finish describing and outlining what you am, but that's surely a kinder thing to do than showing someone the outside of a pot and asking them why they can't taste the contents.

*sigh* I've known you for a year, and I don't know you that well...but that's human nature. People are black boxes, you can guess what they're like by the behavior they exibit, but you don't know what engines or structures made them so. I know Whines *fairly* well, but only through years of observation, there was no set of questions I could have asked him that would let me understand the black box that drives him, only careful handling, observation and experimenting. I feel--I want to say I "know," but that's presumptuous--that you're trying to define your own black box, the system of internal mechanisms and thought-pathways that guide you, but it's still as concealed as it was before, without a genuine desire to crack the box open, expose the parts to the air.

I'm sorry I'm sounding a little agitated. I have a similer problem reading James Joyce, but I would, and have, thrown Joyce across the room, I care nothing for him and he certainly has no love for me. I want to understand what's important to you, because I *do* care about you, but I do not have the sense that I've been given the tools to understand, and I'm back in the 24th row of an English Lit undergrad class, trying to understand the prologue when the professor is having an intimate conversation with the entire fourth chapter.

Date: 2009-03-08 04:13 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] lhexa.livejournal.com
I very much appreciate your comments, despite how long I've taken to reply. Sometimes (as now) it takes that long to feel prepared to respond. While in a couple of respects your impressions are wrong, I find it important to grasp why it is that people have such impressions, and so far you're the only friend who has made an effort to articulate his lack of comprehension. I'm grateful for that. You touch on the subject of self-definition and self-knowledge, but what probably isn't apparent from your experience with me is the time I have spent on those very problems. So, please forgive a note of impatience in what I have to say.

Your impression of the entry being written in code is flat wrong. For something to be written in code, some vital piece of information has to be withheld, a piece which would allow the reader to decode the writing. Still, in my case there are two pertinent aspects of the entry which can leave the reader without information. First, I refer to (and do not tell) stories from my life four times, though in each of those cases I establish the stories' significance to the entry. Second, and more importantly, I refer often to statements from past entries in this journal. I count twelve explicit references, and there are enough implicit ones that I do not want to count them. The fact that I make such references (particularly the implicit ones) is worth warning people about, but also vital to the writing, since I can do far better than write myself in an episodic manner. Less notably than those two elements, there's one paragraph (next-to-last of the second section) that can only be clarified by future entries in the project, but that fact is indicated on structural grounds; also, there are two points where I refer to the Rime of the Ancient Mariner without naming it, which I worried about during the writing but could not find a good way around. Barring the one paragraph I mentioned, all others can be clarified by other paragraphs within the entry.

You misunderstand me when I speak of secrecy and hiding. I have experienced that the most accurate, most precise and most dense statement of myself that I can produce will be the least understood. While I do have some stake in being hidden, I have also found that the single best way to do so is to be truthful about myself. I've wondered often about the reasons for this, but that subject is tangential. To reiterate the points again: no information is withheld, and what I hide I only hide in open view. I allow people to deceive themselves, and I note when friends and acquaintances misunderstand me by the points at which they become incurious.

I do not write with the intent to not be understood. I never have. The lack of understanding I see from friends has actually been a point of frustration for a long time, now, though I only recently resolve to be less passive in making myself understood -- thus my starting to ask people outright for comments. When receiving questions from friends I do my best to answer: I welcome them.

Unfortunately, there is another aspect of my writing which has nothing to do with writing in code or being secretive, namely the way I structure the main entries. I use a purpose-driven, rather than a point-driven structure, if that makes any sense. Because the purposes tend to be ones of shaping and wording myself, they become highly accessible to me, but far less so to anyone else. I'm not sure if I can explain that structure any better than this entry (http://lhexa.livejournal.com/44993.html) does -- I would appreciate whatever you have to say there, as well.

Fortunately, I am developing better ideas about how I can make the entries more accessible to others without compromising their purposes. Every comment I receive detailing a lack of understanding is helpful, because that lack of understanding is actually a complex thing. I do not think I can compensate for it in my writing style without hearing it repeatedly articulated. So for that reason, and because I still want to hear what you have to say on the actual content of the entry: please try again.

Date: 2009-02-28 12:22 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] broken-bokken.livejournal.com
Where does my arrogance end? And how far do my ambitions extend?
Those are such weird words to me, arrogance and ambitions, as soon as I think about trying to define the former..."arrogance" would boil down to one's overestimation of one's own abilities, I guess? But there's that connotation of pride to it, which is another thing I'm suddenly having trouble defining without overlapping with that definition of 'arrogance'. That'll require a lot more thinking for me to come up with anything on, especially when you note that responsibility to your ambitions...Responsibility to ambition, which would result in motivation to carry out those ambitions, but aren't ambition and motivation more or less the same thing?
Some poignant memories...
My being uncomprehended is only humanity's incomprehension. It is a small thing.
Do you think you're exempt from the incomprehension of yourself? I'd say that, assuming it were possible, as soon as someone knew every aspect of twho they were, who that person was would change as a result of that knowledge and they wouldn't know any more (and that's assuming the person had the mental capacity to actually absorb and comprehend the running flow of sensory input from their senses and all of the moment by moment psychological impact it was having). Or were you simply referring to your self-expression not being comprehended?
As far as my ideas are concerned, am I divine or not?
Again, what's divinity?
In what sense can an idea exist in our world?
It doesn't seem like a trivial question, but the rest of the paragraph makes it seem more like you're asking in what sense an idea couldn't exist in our world, what are the limits of reality as a medium for communication...responding to this has done a good job of burning out the speech centers of my brain, heh.

Date: 2009-03-08 04:39 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] lhexa.livejournal.com
That'll require a lot more thinking for me to come up with anything on, especially when you note that responsibility to your ambitions... Responsibility to ambition, which would result in motivation to carry out those ambitions, but aren't ambition and motivation more or less the same thing?

I use "arrogance" in the sense of "the tendency to arrogate", that is, the tendency to claim things without right or argument. There are a large number of matters in which I will claim authority and disregard outside criticism; in particular, I have found that this tendency holds in matters of my own identity. Unfortunately, a corollary to that tendency is the fact that my identity extends too far -- thus the wording of the last paragraph.

That'll require a lot more thinking for me to come up with anything on, especially when you note that responsibility to your ambitions...Responsibility to ambition, which would result in motivation to carry out those ambitions, but aren't ambition and motivation more or less the same thing?

No, I don't think so. An ambition is a motivation which is both part of a person's identity and within a person's ability to accomplish, even if distantly. Both of those restrictions bring in the notion of responsibility.

Do you think you're exempt from the incomprehension of yourself? I'd say that, assuming it were possible, as soon as someone knew every aspect of who they were, who that person was would change as a result of that knowledge and they wouldn't know any more (and that's assuming the person had the mental capacity to actually absorb and comprehend the running flow of sensory input from their senses and all of the moment by moment psychological impact it was having). Or were you simply referring to your self-expression not being comprehended?

I don't think I'm exempt, partly because of the tendency you describe, and partly because I already see that my present understanding has implications I don't know -- but I meant the latter. I found (and this was actually a surprise) that my friends shared a universal difficulty in replying to what I wrote in this journal, which led me to identify that incomprehension with humanity overall. So a present goal is to see how humanity's incomprehension can develop into comprehension, even as I am (following one of your comments in your own journal) protected by that incomprehension.

Again, what's divinity?

That's answered by the sentence that follows it: "As far as my ideas are concerned, am I divine or not? What powers of shaping and reshaping do I possess?" If those powers are unlimited, I am fully divine, and if they do not exist, I completely lack divinity. But neither of those cases are true.

It doesn't seem like a trivial question, but the rest of the paragraph makes it seem more like you're asking in what sense an idea couldn't exist in our world, what are the limits of reality as a medium for communication...responding to this has done a good job of burning out the speech centers of my brain, heh.

Those four paragraphs were edited out of the entry, since they detracted from it, but I left them as a comment because I thought they might still clarify things for some people.

Anyway, the two claims in which the question could appear trivial would be that ideas are convenient fictions or (far less commonly, nowadays) that ideas exist in a realm equally real as the world. If the question doesn't seem trivial to you, that's good. I think the fact of approximations (as opposed to the misunderstanding of them that goes into the "convenient fiction" idea) defeats both alternatives. It defeats the idealist perspective because approximations are not exact, and the nominalist one because approximations are, to put it glibly, inconvenient.

I think you did a good job of responding, anyway, since you hit on some of the most important statements. Thanks!

Date: 2009-03-14 08:50 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] broken-bokken.livejournal.com
I use "arrogance" in the sense of "the tendency to arrogate", that is, the tendency to claim things without right or argument. There are a large number of matters in which I will claim authority and disregard outside criticism; in particular, I have found that this tendency holds in matters of my own identity. Unfortunately, a corollary to that tendency is the fact that my identity extends too far -- thus the wording of the last paragraph.

Ahhh, that's a far more useful definition, and pretty much makes everything else I said pointless and out of context. Yay, language! So in saying that arrogance ends where you end, you're stating that any form of identity results in an unjustified claim to authority?

I don't think I'm exempt, partly because of the tendency you describe, and partly because I already see that my present understanding has implications I don't know -- but I meant the latter. I found (and this was actually a surprise) that my friends shared a universal difficulty in replying to what I wrote in this journal, which led me to identify that incomprehension with humanity overall. So a present goal is to see how humanity's incomprehension can develop into comprehension, even as I am (following one of your comments in your own journal) protected by that incomprehension.

I wouldn't have been so surprised--you're writing about an area that's really ephemeral and hard to mentally convert from words into meaning. Writing is taking me longer and longer every day: I'm constantly discovering new connotations and ulterior meanings for words. With what that tends to do to English sentence structure alone, the difficulties of comprehension begin before the ideas even make it into someone's mind to be turned over and contemplated.
Yeah...this is what's making my brain try to shut down and deal with the information it has now before attempting to take in or communicate any further, but there's the same obvious flaw in the information I have now. All I can seem to convey right now is comprehension of my incomprehension of the totality of my comprehension (I think I got that right...), which boils down to nothing. Again, one of those seemingly paradoxical vicious cycles I've yet to find a word for that seems to pop up whenever I approach any kind of epistemology.

That's answered by the sentence that follows it: "As far as my ideas are concerned, am I divine or not? What powers of shaping and reshaping do I possess?" If those powers are unlimited, I am fully divine, and if they do not exist, I completely lack divinity. But neither of those cases are true.

Interesting...seems like you're right, offhand, just because that kind of divinity would be impossible to achieve absolutely. But then I question where that divinity stems from in terms of significance to a "divine" individual, and maybe that's what you're getting at...I might be completely off, here, but let me see if I can bang out what I'm thinking at work...
(effing character limit)

Date: 2009-03-14 08:51 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] broken-bokken.livejournal.com
Such powers of shaping and reshaping the world would be divine, because for them to be absolute, it would entail supernatural (godly) and, as far as we know, impossible bending and breaking of physical laws (being able to predict exactly what will happen as the result of an attempt to shape the Universe a certain way seems to be the big bad limiting factor there to me), right? You could say, by that definition, that we're all completely lacking in divinity for the same reason--no matter what we do, what we try to shape or reshape, it's impossible to absolutely predict what's going to happen as a result of those actions. And I find myself thinking that divinity must stem both from the person's initial goals and expectations and the results of their attempt to realize those goals and expectations. If your ability to predict the future is a limiting factor, the one you could control would be the initial intent of your actions...and we can guess at the approximate effects--is this where the significance of approximation comes in? Because if you define the intended effects of your attempts to shape and reshape the world around you, your desires (still not sure if I should be saying "desires" or "expectations" here--pretty sure they're different things, but I'm in the process of working out exactly how and why), one gains in divinity because no matter what the end result of your actions, it'll be closer to your original intent than a specific, desired result?
I might just be pulling that out of there because it seems like such a far more clear, straightforward way of expressing the idea that of expectations leading to suffering through disappointment on an individual scale because one's attempts to realize those expectations are never perfect unless one defines perfection approximately...so the more approximately one wishes, the more fulfilling whatever the result of those wishes will be, because the end result will be far closer to the original intended one. So someone could increase their divinity by failing to form any kind of expectations prior to attempting to shape reality, assuming divinity stems from a combination of intended result and end result rather than ability to produce end result (I'd imagine still probably impossible for a human being without some kind of sci-fi style brain surgery--that would make a neat story).

Date: 2009-03-16 02:28 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] lhexa.livejournal.com
Well, I have an easier question to answer, because I just want to know how divine I am with respect to ideas. For that matter, ideas of conventional divinity fall apart, because if some person appeared to break the laws of physics, that would indicate that the purported laws are wrong, not that they can be superseded.

...Is this where the significance of approximation comes in?

Yeah. Approximation, in effect, increases the power of ideas (it extends them to situations previously intractable), while at the same time weakening those ideas with added assumptions.

I'm not quite sure how to consider the area of desires and expectations, though I don't think you're right in equating more inexact desires with greater divinity. More likely the greater your ability both to shape your desires and to shape the world to meet your desires go into divinity, and only seeking one of the two leaves out an essential half of the work. Also, divinity is a matter of kind, not degree: controlling a hundred persons is no more divine than controlling one (oneself), but understanding and guiding oneself is more so than controlling any number of people.

Date: 2009-03-16 02:17 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] lhexa.livejournal.com
So in saying that arrogance ends where you end, you're stating that any form of identity results in an unjustified claim to authority?

No, many such claims are justified. In saying that I stated that the domains of arrogance and identity coincide, so if in some matter I find myself arrogant, that means I am involving myself (my own identity) somehow, and if some area is an aspect of identity, then chances are good I will make arrogant claims within it.

Writing is taking me longer and longer every day: I'm constantly discovering new connotations and ulterior meanings for words...

*nods* That's a hurdle, but I do think at some point that multiplicity becomes a thrill, as you discover that you can create new connotations, senses and subtexts in certain passages.

Again, one of those seemingly paradoxical vicious cycles I've yet to find a word for that seems to pop up whenever I approach any kind of epistemology.

The best claim I can devise for dealing with those cycles is that knowledge is not reflexive: if you know something, it does not follow that you know that you know it.

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