Sunday, December 30, 2007

wintery mix/winter remix

i cleaned my closet, and when i got all the way down to the floor i was rewarded with almost three dollars in change and about a teaspoon's worth of sand, which, in late may, must have dried to my skin and then fallen away into some shoe or bag or the lining of some swimsuit.

tonight it's wintery-mixing, but i remember summer.

[i'm still working on my paper. i've come to a sort of impasse. i'm thinking about akrasia. soon i'll have to put it aside and start studying for the ethics comp.]

Monday, December 24, 2007

(good luck.)

you sea! i resign myself to you also-- i guess what you mean,
i behold from the beach your crooked inviting fingers,
i believe you refuse to go back without feeling of me.

we must have a turn together, i undress,
hurry me out of sight of the land,
cushion me soft, rock me in billowy drowse,
dash me with amorous wet, i can repay you.

sea of stretch'd ground swells,
sea breathing broad and convulsive breaths,
sea of the brine of life and of unshovell'd yet always-ready graves,
howler and scooper of storms, capricious and dainty sea,
i am integral with you, i too am of one phase and of all phases.

partaker of the influx and efflux i, extoller of hate and conciliation,
extoller of amies and those that sleep in each others' arms.

i am he attesting sympathy,
(shall i make my list of the things in the house and skip the house that supports them?)
i am not the poet of goodness only, i do not decline to be the poet of wickedness also.

what blurt is this about vitue and about vice?
evil propels me and reform of evil propels me, i stand indifferent,
my gait is no fault-finder's or rejecter's gait,
i moisten the roots of all that has grown.

did you fear some scrofula out of the unflagging pregnancy?
did you guess the celestial laws are yet to be worked over and rectified?

i find one side a balance and the antipodal side a balance,
soft doctrine as steady help as stable doctrine,
thoughts and deeds of the present our rouse and early start.

this minute that comes to me over the past decillions,
there is no better than it and now.

what behaved well in the past or behaves well to-day is not such a wonder,
the wonder is always and always how there can be a mean man or an infidel.

walt whitman
song of myself

[the holidays combine two difficult and strange/beautiful things: family and winter. the latter sometimes makes me sad, the former, cranky. in the context of either i sometimes become a version of myself that i don't particularly like. i forget, when i'm this person, to live by the meager list of conclusions that i've arrived at-- to note causes and withhold judgments, most especially regarding others.]

Monday, December 17, 2007


boston is an adventure these days. walking anywhere feels just a little risky. it requires preparations! boot laces must be solemnly secured, mitten holes mended. you can daily spot the fallen, done in by some bit of black ice or an aborted attempt to hop a snow bank. the streets echo with the disappointed groans of those who have miscalculated the depth of one of the slush puddle that can be found at the base point of every lowered curb. only about half of the sidewalks were plowed or shovelled, and the rest have been trampled to varying degrees-- ranging from wide swaths of mightily compacted slush to tortuous foot-narrow dotted lines. you have to move carefully. and it's marvelously quiet. oh! that pleasantly slight air of danger. i glance at my bike every time i leave my office where it sits, propped safely up, more, in all honesty for it's own protection than for mine.

and where i'm always going is where i think i can write the most and best. all i want to do is recount a particular little philosophical conversation with insight and precision, to make some modest and incisive contribution to it, and then just run right up the center and spring effortlessly into everything above and beyond it. that's all. what i'm going to settle for is an earnest if slightly muddled interpretation of what someone said and a couple of earnest if slightly muddled suggestion for saying something more usefully specific.

i'm going to post my paper here when i'm done with it.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007


hi. it's finals time, and i haven't even gotten my ideas ordered enough to make a blog post of them, let alone a polished version of a final paper. i'm going to be writing about what it means to have a reason to do something, and what it means to have a capacity to do something, and how they're related (but mostly how they're not related). but until i can get things straight, here's something unrelated but provocative by susan blackmore, from the anthology What We Believe but Cannot Prove: Today's Leading Thinkers on Science in the Age of Certainty.

‘i believe that it is possible to live happily and morally without believing in free will. as samuel johnson said, ‘all theory is against freedom of the will; all experience for it.’ with recent developments in neuroscience and theories of consciousness, theory is even more against it than it was in his time. so i long ago set about systematically changing the experience. i now have no feeling of acting with free will, although the feeling took many years to ebb away.

but what happens? people say i’m lying! they say that it’s impossible and so i must be deluding myself in order to preserve my theory. and what can i do or say to challenge them? i have no idea- other than to suggest that other people try the exercise, demanding as it is.

when the feeling is gone, decisions just happen with no sense of anyone making them, but then a new question arises- will the decisions be morally acceptable? here i have made a great leap of faith (or, more accurately, this body and it’s genes and memes and the whole universe it lives in have done so). it seems that when people discard the illusion of an inner self who merely acts, as many mystics and buddhist practitioners have done, they generally do behave in ways that we think of as moral or good. so perhaps giving up free will is not as dangerous as it sounds- but this too i cannot prove.

as for giving up the sense of an inner conscious self altogether- this is very much harder. i just keep on seeming to exist. but though i cannot prove it, i think it is true that i don’t.’

[in addition to thinking about capacities, i also talk to people. in fact, i talked to people this very weekend. and danced with them, too! for photographic evidence please see the set called 'monochrome party' (or any set, really) here.]