Saturday, January 31, 2009

Structure is the glue upon which meaning can affix itself. Structure represents a deliberate coordination of stimuli in an overstimulated world. The resulting coordinated bundles of stimuli signify something simply by virtue of having been assembled (involuntary/innate meaning), and can additionally hold meaning from volition and subsequent external input.

Friday, January 30, 2009

Sorry, coming through, but I'm going to draft-dodge time if that's alright with you...
I don't intend for this to be viewed as an insubordination of sort, or even as a rejection of a system that I don't think makes much sense. Rather, I see it as a sensible adoption of a metric that is more adaptive for us in the long run.
If we continue to use time, well then, we all get old. Our number gets bigger, whether we like it or not. And does anyone want to be "old?" The connotations aren't pretty. We can escape, though, by dodging time just as Bill Clinton dodged the draft: we simply don't have to participate if we don't want.
There are other association metrics besides time that are inaccurate in other ways, which constrict our open minds, conflate unrelated issues, and produce judgment errors about what people should or should not be. For example, the Zac Brown band acknowledges one such oversight in their Chicken Fried lyrics: "There's no dollar sign on a piece of mind." You can't buy serenity: that you must earn with a different currency. Also, people assume there's some relationship between weight and happiness. For those who think being skinny is a unique predictor of happiness (in regression statistics, the equivalent of producing a significant squared semi-partial correlation), then please talk to all those unfortunate anorexic girls and ask them how much they get satisfaction out of a good meal with friends... So why do we allow time to dictate our perspective? The guys in Rent had it right when they asked:

"How do you measure, measure a year?
In Daylights, in sunsets, in midnights
In cups of coffee
In inches, in miles, in laughter, in strife.

In five hundred twenty-five thousand
Six hundred minutes
How do you measure
A year in the life?

How about love?

And just as money and weight are fallible prophets of contentment and happiness, respectively, so too is time a poor predictor for the "age" of a state of mind. I've been called "a baby" and "ma'am" within 24 hours of each other; the evaluations coming from a man 30 years my senior and a girl who has been around ten years fewer than I have; apparently they could not agree on how "old" I was. So instead of letting them duke it out, I think I'll negotiate my age and not worry about either label. I'll try to avoid labeling "older" or "younger" altogether, because I think there is even an age associated with labeling (and it's old age). You can only label something when you think you've got it figured out. In contrast, I plan to stay in an apprentice mindset- taking on new things and adjusting my thinking as the terrain changes. That mindset allows you to call something what it is- an approach I'd argue is more adaptive than assuming certain qualities or amount of knowledge accrued based on objective age. Plus, I'm pretty sure that an "apprentice" is associated with youth. So I'll stick with that. And being excused from the parameters of time additionally allows for us to be "opposite" things at the same time. Because I think dodging time is a pretty wise move...and yet I'm young.
But now I can be both.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

And he said, "I'll be fine, even if it takes some time. And when it does come at last, I'll look upon these days that passed, and smile."

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Let the pen that creates lie in the hand of the writer, not in those of his audience.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

A man has but one name, and this is the most important thing he possesses. Every action he takes is a deposit in his name bank, and so affects that which his name represents.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Citizens of Humanity*

The day before the highly anticipated, emotionally-charged BCS national title game, which our university's team was playing in, I excitedly asked another graduate student where they'd be watching the game. "What game?" they responded.
This slice is scarily a representative one of what it means to be a PhD candidate, or more generally, a graduate student: technically you are still a citizen of humanity...just, well... twice removed.
Let me backtrack. There is the saying that when you are in college (i.e. undergrad), you're in a bubble- not keenly aware of world events, important political issues, or frankly of the weather 50 miles outside the perimeter of Eden. Really all that matters is campus life, the school's sports teams' performances, and national holidays are only considered significant if they equate to a day off from class. And while this bubble may be impervious to the "real world," it seems the danger of such a bubble does not reach precarious levels.
Graduate school, on the other hand, affords the recipe for an actual jeopardous existence. Graduate life, of course, is not only safely sealed off from the real world; it's additionally sheltered from the events constituting campus culture (like, say, a national championship bid!) Effectively, we find ourselves in a "double bubble." And that is dangerous: for while the first bubble perhaps shields us from the unpleasant things of the world- thus a blasé bubble, a good bubble- the second bubble translates more to an armor to the serenity afforded by the first, outer bubble.
Sure, there is the occasional outlier grad student who's a triple threat- is up-to-date on the war on terrorism, attends all of the university's sporting events, and somehow still finds time to do groundbreaking research (I know this may not sound like a traditional triple threat combination to anyone outside of academia by the way :P)- but even this is a rarity. We graduate students are then a distilled population operating in a vacuum-like setting, supposedly generating relevant knowledge for those a world or two away.
So just as you have those distant cousins, once, twice, four times removed (whatever number pleases you), with whom you seldom interact, and to whom you're not really related in the kind of emotionally-attached, kinship kind of way, the bubble life of grad students- that is, the double bubble- requires that we qualify our citizenship of humanity with an *. And this asterisk reduces our relation to other citizens of humanity as citizens twice removed.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow, steal away from this important space, from day to day...

It is futile to attempt to control the past, for we cannot; in this sense, the past does not matter. The future, of course, does seem to matter: however, it does not matter today, for it cannot be directly controlled. The only thing that we really can control is today (ex. day n), and therefore today is the only time that matters; hence, the most important day of our lives. Likewise tomorrow (i.e. day n+1) will be the most important day of our lives...tomorrow (day n+1). So the future is important- or, I should say, will be important- but only as a function of the current day-at-a-time.
Furthermore, today is not merely a connector between yesterday and tomorrow- though we'd think so by the amount of time our thoughts spend in these two extremities. What if we simply extinguished the word of the three (yesterday, today, tomorrow) from our vocabulary where our thoughts dwell the least? How empty would we feel if we eliminated the crucial word (i.e. today) that fills the space in between yesterday and tomorrow? We'd probably be gasping for the word 'today' as we would for air if suffocating. It is only through this that we realize today is the most important time.