Philosophy, Psychology, Nerdisms, Writing from the Trenches

Philosophy

We have entered the timeline

I’ve started a new job. For those of you at home keeping score, that’s three I am currently working. Every Monday is about a 16 hour day (10am-2am), as I have a conference call for job #1, web maintenance for job #1, social media updating for job #1, organizational compilation for job #3, coffee slinging for job #2, and continued research for job #3.

Did I mention I have a hard time sleeping? I figure I might as well be doing something.

Anyway, to prove to boss #3 that blogging is not nearly as hard as most people like to pretend it is, I’ve decided to make another push on my blog and keep it updated. No more hypocrisy!

As research for job #3, I’ve been reading people’s blogs. This is usually limited to the people I know. I’ve started to notice a weird trend that is a little bit haunting.

I can see the moment I entered their life.

But, that’s not all.

I can see when I started having an influence on them. I can see when our conversations went from meandering coffee talk to brain worm. I can see where inside joke shifted to social media moment. I can see the moment I went from “that quiet girl” to “she’s super smrat”.

Facebook introduced the Friendship Pages back in 2010 where you could track your interactions with all your friends. I remember when I made friends before Facebook. It was a dark and fuzzy time, much like Kansas before Oz, but I digress. Some people have challenged the Friendship Page as another level of stalking, and yes, I suppose, if one is chaotic evil, that might be something they would employ, but is there something to be gained by pulling up the (Internet) history of every friendship? Can we measure the impact we have on people?

It’s scary. Can a blog post from four years ago incite an emotional reaction, even retroactively? Are we putting too much of ourselves online?

Go with me on this one: there’s a robot uprising.

While the whole world was confusing Cleverbot into becoming the lowest common denominator on the intelligence scale, the great robot overlord is out there compiling data (in this scenario, I might actually be the robot overlord). We tell Pandora what kind of music we like; we tell Amazon what books we like; Pinterest is the best way to discover someone’s true interests. Before you take this the wrong way, I’m not saying we should abandon sharing and the Interwebz before the robots begin the uprising by distracting us with cat videos. I’m more interested in the idea of social evolution.

Based on what people post on social media sites, I have the ability to know someone on a level that sometimes only a therapist will see. I can watch a lifetime unfold in a series of once a month book reviews. For someone who spends time deep in the philosophical mire of modern day society, I can’t help but wonder: as we make more of ourselves available to other people, do we become more selfish?

I admit I started this blog with the hope that my friends and family would have the opportunity to stay up to date with my wanderings and musings. After college, when you can’t just head down the hall to Heidi’s room or walk over to Banana Bread Cottage, there’s a sudden void that you want to fill. So, I started this blog with the cynical and acidic tone that my friends would be familiar with. Then, as I tried to pursue my writing career, I was told that I needed to write a blog that agents and editors would find appealing. That approach didn’t really work for me. I went back to the friends and family meanderings. Then, I get a comment from someone I don’t know.

I was shocked.

I mean, not that I’ve ever written anything that I wouldn’t want other people reading (that stuff ends up in the draft box). It started to change me. Suddenly, I was hyperaware of everything I put on the Internet. Who was my Internet self? Do people like the truncated Internet version of who I am? What could I say that everyone would want to hear in order to get more traffic in order to-what? What am I even doing? Who cares about how much traffic I get?

But the selfish thoughts were there. I’m slowly getting over them; slowly getting back to my attempts to just write what’s on my mind and be human, not a persona or a product.

I’m not Kate 2.0. I’m Kate .4.2.1. I’m still in beta testing.

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Society’s Existential Crisis

What a bright and beautiful Tuesday morning. Time for some philosophical ramblings on the state of the world.

It seems that everyone wants to ask “what’s wrong with the world today?”. The fact of the matter: nothing.

As I was listening to the insanely giddy bubblegum pop of the late 90’s and early 00’s (I like to bounce around to Nsync {take that, Justin Bieber}), there seems to be a great division between the world before 9/11 and after. The terrorist attack that rocked the nation has shaken us into a societal existential crisis.

For generations, America defined itself by its enemy. Communism (Russia, Cuba, Vietnam), Korea, Nazis. Before the string of wars that dominated the past century, America defined itself by isolationism, expansion, as well as a myriad of other ideals. Now, we are no longer defined by our enemy. Terrorism is a nebulous concept, too nebulous to help America establish an identity. We can fall back on the original tenets of freedom, equality, the American dream, but those are all nebulous, as well. We lean on philosophers and founding fathers in an attempt to get a firmer grasp on what these ideals mean specifically in order to live up to them. The fact remains that these terms are loose and open to interpretation.

For those who think there is a revolution coming, you’re a little late. The revolution is already happening. We are in a state of flux. Four of five societal tenets are changing. Socially, we are more connected than ever before. Your world is only as private as you make it, and even then, anyone with smartphone can broadcast your business to the interwebz. Economically, we are on rocky ground. Politically, bipartisanship is prevalent.

Intellectually, that’s a big one. Arguments and lawsuits over intellectual property, self-publishing vs. traditional publishing, media piracy; how can one define what an idea is worth?

There is a generation gap. I’m not talking about ‘I’m young, you’re old’, I’m suggesting there is a fundamental difference in how Gen-X and Gen-Y think. Why learn anything when all you have to do is look it up on Google? We have forgotten the importance of knowledge.

Without knowledge, there can be no wisdom. There can’t be any wisdom without dignity, either, but that’s a topic for another day.

We need wisdom to break through the societal existential crisis. We need to reflect upon the past in order to create a future instead of running headlong at a light at the end of the tunnel, hoping it’s paradise and not the oncoming train. America is a nation less than 300 years old. Growing pains, paradigm shifts, reorganization; all these things need to take place.

Who are we? What do we value? What will our legacy be?

When the people one hundred years in the future look back on the 2010’s, what will the legacy be?


Writing is Art

I’m sorry.

Up front, I’m sorry.

This blog was supposed to be the meandering thoughts that run through my head on the nature of the universe, a true home for my philosophizing, a place where my friends and family had a chance to gaze at my psyche from afar without being forced to engage me in the long, meticulous, and ultimately exhausting conversation that my introverted nature would drag them into.

A person who calcified while listening to me.

Well, I have readers beyond my friends and family, and I have friends and family who don’t even know (or don’t seem to know) that this thing exists. Thanks, followers. I hope my post-intellectual-age philosophy is amusing, thought-provoking, distracting…whatever you’re looking for. If you’re looking for more hipster cats, well, no promises.

I did not want this to be the blog of an aspiring writer, documenting each step of the journey. Most of that stuff is best kept on the inside.

But, here I am. Writing another post on writing. I can’t help it. My brain itches and this is the only way to scratch it.

Writing is an art form.

Yes, there are plenty of books that people scoff at and would not call art, but the truth is, writing is a form of art.

In jazz, the listener is told to listen to the notes that aren’t there as much as the notes that are. This isn’t just a load of crap. Music (no matter what kind) cannot be enjoyed unless people have a sense of expectation as to what is about to come next (Daniel Levitin, This is Your Brain on Music). The idea is that jazz musicians toy with listeners’ sense of expectation. When you believe one note will be played, it isn’t. Or, better yet, there is harmony and adjustment, giving the listener a different tone, pace, richness, exposing a new aspect of the piece merely by not living up to expectation.

There is a balance in this impromptu styling and the sense of expectation. Stevie Wonder’s Superstition features a steady but unpredictable hi hat in the drum line (again, Daniel Levitin, This is Your Brain on Music). This unpredictability makes you feel like you’re listening to a new song every time. Maybe not that far, but it still feels fresh, and, no better word, groovy, with every listen.

It’s the same with writing.

When reading, you need to read the words that aren’t there as much as the words that are. Writing isn’t a simple delivery system, from the page to your brain without that space between. It requires subtlety, subtext, and implication.

Every story has been told. From a young age, we are inundated with story. We absorb the master plots. We know what to expect in everything we read. Writers must learn to write the right words and leave some words unsaid. Embrace subtlety. Let it flow. You can surprise your reader by advancing a trope, then switching it up. You can calm your reader by sinking into something familiar and slow.

When you do it right, people will want to read your book over and over, steady put unpredictable; fresh and smooth; nuanced.

Get out there and write.


Reality Sets In

I’m moving to Los Angeles.

I’m moving to Los Angeles!

Oh, my God, I’m moving to Los Angeles.

Well, not until later in the year, but reality is setting in and it’s setting in hard. The other day, my dad told me we needed to talk about when we wanted to head out there. To look at apartments. Which I am perfectly capable of doing on my own, but, I mean, come on. What are fathers for if it’s not negotiating real estate? Also, like the Eiffel Tower in Paris, I’m sure I can see the Hollywood sign from every window in my apartment no matter where I live.

In other news, sometimes I feel like I’m losing my grip on reality. You know when you watch those movies/read those books where there’s a pretty obvious ticking clock?

And, my shower won’t stop dripping, so I even get the “tick tick” sound effect when it gets too quiet around here.

So, here’s my trouble.

How do I say good-bye?

I made a new friend (which is amazing, by the way) and she is going to school at MIT. In Boston! And, despite the distance, we have kept up our friendship through Tumblr, Twitter, and Facebook.

But what about the others?

I honestly can’t remember who I had this conversation with, so, if it was you, let me know.

“I’m leaving.” Me

“Okay. So?” You.

“I feel like I’m trying to cut off all my connections because it doesn’t hurt as much when I finally go.”

“Why?”

“That’s how it’s always been.”

“Yeah, but you have roots here. But, your parents are here.”

“I might be the one keeping them here. When I leave, they really have no reason to stay.”

“Oh.”

Yeah, oh.

So, here’s this.

I Don’t Know How To Say Goodbye


The Reality Breakdown

This universe sucks. I don’t feel bad saying it. There aren’t any superheroes, no one can time travel, teleportation is looking more and more unlikely.

Curse you, physics. You are a harsh mistress.

The other day, while playing Arkham City, I was struck by the thought of how woefully inadequate Gotham’s police force is.

Every one of Two-Face’s henchman is wearing some kind of suit that was cut in half, then sown together with the half of another suit. He has to outsource that, right? And, let’s say you can’t find the place that is manufacturing henchmen’s daily wear. Two-Face can’t possibly clean his own suits. Find the dry cleaner, stake out the place, follow the guy back to his lair. That can’t be so hard. I mean, really, “World’s Greatest Detective”. Buzz by the closed comedy clubs every evening, you catch Joker before he starts anything.

I’m joking, of course. The untraceability of Gotham City’s most wanted is built into the Batman universe and that is one hundred percent okay. I’m not ragging on it. I have accepted the incompetence of the Gotham police. They are lucky to have Batman. Things would be terrible without him. I have suspended disbelief.

In improv, one of the first things you learn is to never say, ‘no’. In order to make progress in a scene, you have to keep the scene moving. Saying ‘no’ stops all forward movement.

This is the same with the suspension of disbelief. I remember watching the preview for Star Trek, the teaser where the Enterprise is being built in the cornfields of Iowa.

My dad turned to me and said, “That would never happen.”

“Really? That’s the problem you have with this movie? The no seatbelts thing didn’t get you?”

“They would be building it in outer space. It’d be too heavy to get off the planet.”

I blacked out after that.

I’m not a Trekkie. I have not seen Star Trek. The movie could have ended with the Enterprise attempting to achieve orbit and crashing back to Earth while Spock sits on the bridge and says, “We really should have built this in outer space.” I think it’s more likely that the universe of Star Trek allows for a ship that size to be built on Earth, then launched into space.

Dad’s statement was the equivalent of saying ‘no’ to an entire universe.

I don’t deny Dad’s right to have a point of no return. I have abandoned stories over things much sillier. When we try examine fiction through our lens of reality, things aren’t always going to hold up. The suspension of disbelief is the closest thing we have to magic.

So get lost. Let it go.

Like I said, our universe sucks.

But, that’s totally okay.


The End is Nigh

I’m a little bit in love with rampant fatalism. Why is the idea of the end of the world so attractive? It seems like everyone wants to see humanity come to its inevitable end at the hand of some violent, foreseeable (preventable?) catastrophe.

And, I’m not just talking about the whole 2012 Mayan thing.

I think humanity can only exist with the looming threat of complete disaster. I mean it. Check here. We are constantly expecting the other shoe to drop. I suppose that makes the first shoe our existence in general.

I don’t believe that 2012 will be the end of humanity, Earth, the way we do things, what have you. I do wonder what the next big prediction will be after 2012 (*cough* moon breaking orbit *cough).

Instead of focusing on major catastrophe, though, I’d like to focus on the small ones that are expected in our lifetime (not ending in 2012). This list is courtesy of my mother forwarding me emails. I hit unsubscribe, but it hasn’t caught on.

6 Things that will Disappear in Our Lifetime

1. The Post Office

Really? Really. I will concede that the post office has been in financial trouble for a long time, but as far as being unsustainable, I’m not really sure that’s true. It’s funded by the government.

Regardless, here’s your call to action:

Save the Mail

Every week, go over your Tweets. Compile them into one convenient document and send them to your top twenty followers. All @replies should also be compiled and mailed directly to the intended recipient. I purpose this stamp.

2. The Check

I agree. This is useless. Dump it.

3. The Newspaper

Two words: coffee shops. What else are people going to glance at while they wait for their coffee?

Oh, and there’s nothing better to start a camp fire/cozy house fire with. Papier mache! Birdcages! Lining the table before commencing art projects! You don’t know what you’re talking about. The newspaper’s not going anywhere.

4. The Book

I’m not even going to take this one seriously.

5. The Land Line Telephone

Refer to answer for #2-The Check

6. Music

I could write a whole blog post on this alone. Disgruntled curmudgeons (read: old people) seem to get it in their heads that when the music they like is in decline, all of music is in decline. You are wrong. Music is a staple in human society. We have made music for thousands of years. We will always make music.

This is an example of putting business too close to art. It’s like saying, “If there aren’t any newspapers, there will be no news.”

That’s not how it works. Don’t equate an industry with the actual artistic expression.

You can argue all you want. Like I said, I love the fatalists, the doom-predictors, the naysayers. I also think you’re getting all worked up over nothing. And that’s exactly what our alien overlords intended.

Chill out, guys. We’re going to be fine.