A Tragicomical, Unsophisticated Blog about the Weird, the Absurd, and the Banal

Sunday, March 10, 2013


There is an article that I revisit every so often because it amuses and inspires me. Well, it's not really an article, exactly. Every year, the Edge magazine asks a few hundred scientists, artists, and thinkers to respond to the question "What is your favorite deep, elegant, or beautiful explanation?" and last year there were 194 answers.

My favorite is from Prof. Tania Lombrozo of the University of California, whose brilliant response "Realism and Other Metaphysical Half-Truths" basically says that there are particular assumptions we have to make every day for our world to function, like Realism, Other-Minds, and Causation.

So, I thought I'd step back and evaluate my own deeply held and indefensible assumptions. To wit:

1.) ... Realism, Other-Minds, and Causation. Okay, not very original, but they are a few concepts that I find infinitely fascinating, particularly the latter two. You take for granted that you are not the only mind in the universe and that there is an external world, but there's no really good way of proving that solipsism is false much less ridiculous, but you do anyway. Why? Moving on.

2.) Linear continuity. Tomorrow will come. What I do now will have some effect on whatever happens next. Sort of causation, but a little more mundane. Whether I want to or not, I'm hurtling into the future and the past becomes richer and deeper while the there's a little less of what comes after. Eventually, I'll have to reckon with my procrastinations.

3.) Daily karma. No matter how many times I've seen the contrary proven, I can't shake this belief that suffering and hard work will ultimately pay off, even if the ultimate reward is completely unrelated to the work and suffering etc. Sort of against the idea of causation in a strictly logical sense, but works the same way, I think. Or maybe I believe in magic and just call it something else.

4.) Garlic and cloves can make anything tasty. Enough said.

5.) Eventually, I'll buy a house and have kids. So far, I have no idea how that will be accomplished, but I'll get there.

6.) The day I don't triple check to make sure I locked my car, apartment, office, etc. is the day I will find myself the victim of avoidable misfortune.

7.) If I don't record the date above everything I write in my notebooks, all semblance of order will crumble and something awful will happen.

8.) There's someone listening to my thoughts. I don't really pray, but I will make requests and try to bargain with some sort of divine appellate court. For an agnostic, it's very odd. So, I think as if I am composing a letter to someone.

9.) My car will start tomorrow. Hopefully.

10.) Eating spinach will miraculously improve my health.

11.) Probability is not as powerful as fairness. If I've flipped a coin ninety-nine times and it always ends up heads -and knowing that it is not weighted - I'm  certain the chances are better than 50% that it will fall tails next. It's just fair.

It's a Sunday afternoon and I've spent most of my time reading, playing video games, and cooking with Anna.  I have one less hour than normal because some bastard invented daylight savings. If I had my way, we'd fall an hour back every weekend.

This post is a day late. I am going to go cut more vegetables.

Saturday, March 2, 2013

What Happened to a Third of My Life?

I've been having stormy dreams, lately. Literally. Whenever I wake up, I go through the motions of re-hydration, brushing my teeth, getting ready for work and suddenly I'll remember that I survived a tornado while I slept (or EH's driving. Much like that incident in Nantucket... because of which we will never speak again).

For a very long time, I didn't remember any of my dreams, but now they hit me every morning, a block of ice shattering over my head. There was a zombie invasion the other night. Before that, I experienced my first teeth-falling-out dream. The latter all happened in the middle of a guerrilla firefight while my Boss yelled at me about not having the appropriate amount of bullets on hand to fight off an insurrection. Somewhere in there I got shot and had to bandage my wounds in a filthy bathroom straight out of Silent Hill, reminding myself that I was pursuing other careers and, sooner or later, something would work out.

This is all unusual. For most of my life I've just taken it with a shrug that I somehow lose eight hours every day to unconscious amnesia. If I did remember my dreams, it was all flashes of the Strange, unmoored from anything having to do with my waking life or even tangentially significant. So I just forgot.

Like most writers in college, I became obsessed with Stream of Consciousness writing for a while, convinced that if I just wrote rambling prose, it would be somehow significant. This was all ironic, since my thoughts are usually ordered and sluggish, a few steps behind everyone else, and I'm not familiar with dreams. One time, a writing teacher, Sergei, just shrugged off a story about dreaming and said, "Come on, it's a literary trope. And everyone knows that dreams don't mean anything." Like that, I was Free.

There is one dream, though, that I remember from childhood. Actually, I'm not sure if it was a dream or if it was just me being a weird little kid. I was standing in my backyard thinking about infinity. I tried to imagine space and time expanding around me in all directions and throughout history, pushing my six-year old mind to the limits and beyond. Suddenly, I became extremely depressed. I'd somehow stumbled into an existential crises as a pre-adolescent and it bothered me. That summer, I went to see a doctor and for the first time I realized that Depressed wasn't just an adjective, but a disease.

These all should be nightmares, but they aren't. I'm not horrified or terrified (the genre freaks out there will know the difference). They just are Strange.

I hope this trend continues. I regret that I can't remember many of my dreams and I want those eight hours back. It seems fair, considering how sleep deprived I was in high school and college.