Monthly Archives: April 2013

Apart From Solipsism, We Have the World

Descartes started this solipsism nonsense. I didn’t. Or, at the very least, Descartes’ suppositions on existence superseded Gorgias, who first used the term. Our post Enlightenment world, influenced as it is by both Descartes and Locke, has upheld solipsism as an ideal of empiricism for so long that it’s difficult for us to envision another way. We think, therefore, we are. By extension, as long as we keep thinking, we will continue to exist.

This is a strange conceit. Solipsism is, at core, a philosophical construct wherein the individual views himself and the world around him using only his own inner experiences as a reference, with the obvious assumption that he couldn’t possibly step outside his own experiences. I’ll repeat: it’s a strange conceit, and it’s not likely to occur in reality, not in its pure form, anyway, unless a person is suffering from a narcissistic personality disorder. Still, those who espouse cold rationality generally toss it out as an accusation in the same manner that they call down logical fallacies like curses on would-be debaters who slip into them. That one is a pure solipsist is rarely true; yet, dare to make an argument from experience and you will be accused of being one.

Cold rational types seem to have forgotten that the brain is a complex machine. The way it processes experiences and then uses those experiences in decision making is not exactly a mystery, but it isn’t fully understand, either. Pop science writers have attempted to narrate this mystery into sound-bites—ineffectively, I might add. But the fact is, at some level, we are wired to make decisions off experiences. Our brains grow wiser through error and correction. We are better able to make decisions after a lifetime of experiences than when we’re young and less experienced.

Going back to my initial statements, scientists attempt to prevent experientially based interpretations—that is, interpretations made from biases—from skewing facts. They attempt to be anything but solipsists, in other words. They do this through testing and retesting and through peer reviews. Of course, they aren’t always successful because they’re relying on an empirically based model that has its roots in solipsism. The scientific method uses observation and experience and inductive reasoning to produce theories about the natural world. This method rejects a broader perspective, such as can be gained through intuition or faith, for one that’s achieved through the basic solipsist tenets.

While humans are rarely true solipsists, they fit the defintion to the extent that a) they’ve been heavily influenced by empirical philosophy and b) their brains are wired to learn from experiences. I bring this up because a strange irony occurred earlier this evening. I was accused of using solipsism after I made an argument from experience—not a great argument, mind you, but the kind I tend to make in blog comments. However, the experience of which I wrote, of learning to rely less on the left hemisphere of my brain, has actually given me a broader perspective, one that has expanded my mind to more than an empirical way of thinking. I’ve come to trust in emotions, intuition and faith as valid aspects of the human consciousness. In essence, my empirical model of inductive reasoning through experience, which is a solipsist’s method of reasoning, has been tempered by its own forces.

If you’re a little confused, don’t worry. So am I. It’s past midnight, and I’m sleep-deprived. But you’ll notice an odd juxtaposition if you read the start of the post, where I claim that cold rational types pull out the insult “solispism!” when people make arguments from experience. What’s truly odd about it is that cold rational types use solipsism by default because they’re in love with the scientific method. This leaves me shaking my head. Human beings are a strange, complex lot with generally disordered minds. They aren’t honest about how they make decisions, most likely because they can’t take a peek into the cogs of their own minds. They don’t intentionally drop information for processing in their prefrontal cortices. Hence, they are unaware of how very illogical they can be.

And so I’ll openly admit, with all the awareness I possess, that I have used and will continue to use solipsisms. And I will use inductive reasoning and still be illogical. I will make arguments off my experiences, whether they happen to be the experiences in the lab or in the library, and I’ll use observations to conclude that my experiences don’t appear that different from the people around me. Then, I’ll reach for the dreaded emotion and intuition to make sense of my experiences on a deeper level. After all, as a solipsist, I’ve learned how necessary not being one is.

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Modern Fiction: My Filters are Broken

Modern fiction tends to force itself into absurd positions. The writers thereof cling to a philosophy that is ultimately insupportable: a pretense that they aren’t writing words on a page that tell a story. At some level, modern writers actually believe they are creating worlds that can be experienced with the senses. As an extension of their human frailty–that is, their lack of godlike powers–they then place limits on the way their audience will experience their worlds. Readers must only view these mini creations through 1st- or 3rd-person limited perspectives. Because of their frailty, the powers that exist at the top of the pyramid in publishing and in creative writing programs have written a Constitution of Rules for All Writers to Follow, Lest Point Of Most Holy Restricted View be Violated.

In order to avoid violations, writers undestand they must never use sentences that are too declarative or knowing. Their narrators aren’t gods and, therefore, there are many facts of the story-world that they will opine about, but that they couldn’t possibly know with absolute certainty. So they hedge with weak words such as “feel” or “seem.” After a while, though, the text slips from grasp like water because it’s seeming rather than being. It seems there is a story with facts and such, but it’s difficult to tell, really, when one gets down to it. How does one tell after reading a book whether anything exists at all? One pinches oneself and is still unsure.

Those at the top of the pyramid have been roused from sleep to add a few amendments to the list of rules. New Amendment 1: Thou shalt not use words that filter the necessary sensical experience for your readers (e.g. seem, feel, look, hear, see). New Amendment 2: This amendment reinforces the pre existing rule of thou shalt not use declarative sentences because neither you nor your narrator is a god. New Amendment 3: Thou shalt use declarative questions aimed at the reader, for the purpose that the reader will believe he/she is the one asking the question (e.g. Why did those pimples have to infest her chin right before her police academy graduation, wondered Stacey? Her fellow cops would never take her seriously now!)

This author, although she is no rule follower, decided she should check her own text for filter words. No, I decided I would do that. I’m only schizophrenic on Fridays, and today is Saturday. I checked and found a handful of filter words here and there–not too many. Look turned out to be a troublesome word in my text, yet often necessary for orientation. I cut out about half of them and probably left my story a mess of awkward phrases. To be honest, I was quite pleased with myself, having so few seem and feel and touch type words–not because I’m a rule follower, mind you, but because….I want my story to contain strong language? Yes, that’s the truth!

But then I read a blog post, in which somebody had added know to the list of filter words to avoid at all cost. Didn’t that defeat the point, though? The point is to never allow that anybody knows anything because we’re trapped in limited perspective boxes where no god dares to tread. Sigh. I threw know (and then knew–darn those irregular past tenses) into my global search function. Imagine my astonishment when I discovered I had used versions of this verb over 500 times in my less-than-300 page book.

Apparently, I do, after all, have a god complex. I believe I know things. I’m obsessed, in fact, with knowing things. And owing to my obsession, my characters also believe they know things. Or they really want to know things because they don’t know what they need to know to survive in this world I’ve created for them. As soon as they know things, they’ll be all right. I’ll be all right. We’ll all be able to breathe a little easier before we step out into traffic.

It seems I’ll be cast from polite writer society now. I removed as many knowings as I could from my text, but I couldn’t throw them all out. I didn’t want my characters to panic. This whole debacle of filtering has made me feel a little iffy about my place in the writing world. I need to hear voices and touch people, if not look up from my computer to truly see them.

The bells are dinging. The food on the stovetop sends an acrid smell to my nose. The shouts of laughing children fill the air. I run my hands through my tangled hair. I taste fear at the back of my mouth. And I am done. I am done. For now anyway.

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My evil side is currently drafting legislation that will require politicians and scientists to be publically flogged and/or shamed daily for their crimes against humanity and/or for opening their mouths and speaking in any language other than Klingon. A practical-minded person asked me if this would violate their Constitutionally protected freedom of speech, to which I answered, “Why ever would you suggest such a ghastly idea?!” Flogging doesn’t affect the mouth area in the least. As They Might Be Giants once wisely sang, “People should get beat up for stating their beliefs.” I might have added something like this to the lyrics: “Especially when their beliefs are wrong.” But, yes, I already understand that the extra line doesn’t quite fit the song meter.

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If All Else Fails, Blame It On the Monkeys and Proceed From There

I went through meltdown after/during last week because I couldn’t take my husband’s advice to disengage. He could see where I was at, and he recognized the lunacy from the days when he built websites. At a certain point, when nothing is working, it’s time to walk away from the computer. It’s time to take a walk, eat some actual solid food (as opposed to liquid diet of coffee and milk), take a nap. Play with the dog. Play with the kids. Scratch that. Run far, far away from the kids because while you were working, their interruptions have helped push you to the breaking point. As sweet as your littlest is when he needs to hug and caress you every 30 seconds, it has turned you into your worst misanthropic archetype. You can’t stand people anymore, and you will bark at them if they ask you innocent questions, such as, “Won’t you come to my elegant dinner party wearing your Galadriel costume?” You will possess all the fearfulness and none of the grace of Galadriel. If the planet Earth unexpectecly exploded, you would cackle with glee until you were obliterated along with everybody else. But then you would be all right again once you were stardust.

Did you notice the little trick of transference I did there? I’m not the evil one; you are. In any case, my book formatting hasn’t been going well. Of course, if somebody had forewarned me that CreateSpace’s Internal Review process was FU, I might not have stressed so much. I might have saved my document as a pdf and examined it carefully with my own eyes to see that it was perfect (except for that one pesky thing, grrrr). I might not have melted down into my pure essence. Then again, if I hadn’t lost the only beautiful, glowing, carefully constructed blog post I wrote all week, I might not have turned into a puddle of goo, either. I’m kind of sick of this metaphor of melting–you? Oh, and don’t ask what happened to the blog post. I might melt cry.

If it weren’t for all of the above, I might have recognized my success in having aced a difficult math test last week. I might have given myself bragging rights. But I didn’t. Instead, I was despondent. I was pissed, to be honest. No matter how much relief giving up traditional publishing and writing fiction offered my addled brain last summer, I can only conjecture that I still have bitter roots of fiction embedded deep within my ego. Consequently, succeeding in one lowly math class is irritating me. For one reason or another, success is never actually success to me. Succeeding at the calc 3 level or above might do it for me. But, no, it won’t because I might have to arrive at graduate level math/engineering courses in order to feel successful. But, no, that won’t do it, either. I don’t know what will. However, I’d like to break into the nonfiction arena. Maybe if I could write for Wired, I would be at peace with the universe.

Yeah, I doubt it.

In other news, my cover, which I’d thought would never be finished, is mostly finished, aside from last touches in putting together the cover template. Yes, that’s it up above. My daughter Emmie drew it, designed it, and put it together on the template. She wasn’t certain she wanted to do it–she had no idea what was expected of a cover artist. However, I told her to create a line drawing that was design-oriented, and that’s what she did. I apologize for the enormity of the picture. I’m working on the gallery computer, and its browser is so out-of-date that it has decided it won’t allow me to make any changes at all to the image (or, perhaps, my impatience with it did the deciding).

In conclusion, when all else fails, and you have to learn book publishing/formatting from the ground up, when your blog posts vanish into the ether, when you must rely on artists to do what you can’t do, and when your images simply won’t load as you want them to, BASH THE MONKEYS! The monkeys are always at fault. And then whistle a little tune. And if none of that works, lock yourself into whatever private room you have and sob. And don’t forget to utilize hysterical hiccupping. Children do this for a reason. It feels awesome (most likely owing to the restricted oxygen, which makes you feel above-it-all)! And if nobody is there to hear you, you don’t have to worry about sounding/appearing foolish, or otherwise manipulating others into feeling sorry for you at the sight of your face, blotched as it is with tender teardrops.

That’s all. Next week life will be better.

p.s. I just swapped in the final image so the old one wouldn’t show up in searches.

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