A FORMAL DECLARATION ABOUT MY POSITION ON GOOD/EVIL
This is my trickster position: good and evil depend on who you are and what the circumstances might be. Killing is the right thing to do sometimes and very very wrong other times. If your culture gives you a handbook, read it -- then burn it.
This is my shaman position: it has nothing to do with the universe. Good and Evil are constructs for and by people.
In the end both positions are the same position. Evil is something bad for humans. Good is something good for humans. Usually as individuals rather than as a whole. (They call it “situation ethics.”) The mountains do not care. Nor does the Milky Way nor the grizzly bear nor the earth worm.
This point of view, that humans are NOT the center of the universe and finally don’t matter except to themselves (there is no God and if there were it would not be anything like humans), is sometimes called Deep Ecology and -- since humans almost always find some way to put themselves in the center in spite of saying they won’t -- DEEP Deep Ecology. If there is no human to watch the galaxies or define the quark, are they still there? There’s no one who can witness. There’s no one to say it matters.
However, as a guide to what one ought to do in the world, the idea that probably works approximately the best is to do what humans CAN do (but usually don’t) which is to enjoy creation, which leads to its protection. That witnessing bit helps, plus some art. A little sympathy for fellow creatures couldn’t hurt.
Barrus and I essentially agree on all this stuff. Sometimes I’m a stand-in for a lot of imaginary readers out there and sometimes I’m myself, but only as imagined by Tim. He doesn’t really know me, though I give him lots of evidence, even a few secrets. I don’t really know him either, which is his point. He says the reader and I know nothing of reality. But the difference between most readers and me is that I don’t believe there IS a reality. It is not knowable. I agree that chaos is simply an unknowable order, perhaps on different terms than we can ever conceive with our little meat brains, electrochemical strands insulated with fat, one little bit that looks like a seahorse and another little bit that looks like a chambered nautilus and other little bits that are nearly indistinguishable to anatomists, except in terms of what they do to interpret the sense information we get from the world, which we discover only by destroying that bit in a mouse.
The strange thing is that a person who pays attention can FEEL the difference between the Sacred and the Profane, which is the title of a seminal book by Mircea Eliade because that’s exactly what he proposed, where he started. When you stand on holy ground, your impulse is to take your shoes from off your feet and stand there humbly barefoot as Tim’s grandpa did. The highest places, the lowest places, the places of transition -- you can feel the sacrality, even when it is metaphorical and emotional. No one knows what makes these “places” sacred or why we can feel them. One key seems to be extremeness, another is transformation, a third might be fusion with someone else, even for a moment. But you CAN feel them.
Liminal time and place, over the threshold, is where the musicians play, the children play, the people worship, and ceremonies transform. Is the overlap between Tim’s circle and my circle liminal? I would say yes. You’ll have to ask him what he thinks and what he feels. It’s high trust because it’s with guards down. It’s high risk because anything could happen. But we can feel it.
When I was working on my thesis, I spent a lot of time chasing the idea of “felt concepts” and I’m still after them. Suzanne Langer wrote the best stuff. I was trying to get at the thinking that is beneath ordinary perception, maybe accessed by dreaming. The way babies think just before they acquire language. I’m afraid of drugs (and other things). But I’m braver than most about thinking the unthinkable, so I write, which is sometimes more revealing than reading. Sometimes the concepts are like magma, under the earth, pushing it up. Sometimes they are like virga, the rain that evaporates before it ever reaches the ground. I don’t doubt their existence. Felt concepts. People call it intuition, gut-feelings, instinct, and other inaccurate terms.
When coming to good/evil through these concepts, one meets the necessity of rational thinking, what some call “moral calculus.” So many of our best stories are about doing something that “feels” wrong but is rationally just -- or maybe the other way around. They are as hard to bring into alignment as justice and law. Justice and mercy are not hard to reconcile: they interpenetrate. But Justice-and-Law or Mercy-and-Law do not even touch each other. They are completely different. And Evil doesn’t have anything to do with any of these systems.
Tim identifies Evil as Power and surely it has power and surely power with no restraints or mercy becomes Evil. Bad for human beings and other living things. Who is to say that timber and trees do not suffer. Can’t you feel them?
Tim knows more about suffering than anyone should have to. I know nothing about the level of suffering from bone destruction and implants. He has been posting footage from the end of WWII when the local Germans were forced to walk through the prison camps where the people had been reduced to skeletons. The faces of the bourgeois witnesses are stony but plump. If anything, the witnesses look stunned and a little resentful. The faces of the skeletons are skulls. There is no expression. They do not scream, not even when the well-fed man in a workman's cap scrubs out their butts.
But many would say that the true evil is that though Eisenhower forced the world to look, photographers documented the atrocity, and many have written books about it, there are still people who deny that it happened. They insist that no humans have walked on the moon. They claim that there is a God and they have a personal deal. They are mad. They are indifferent to suffering or reason or “felt concepts.” That is human evil. Rule-based. Faith-based. Power-based. Denying. And repeating holocausts every day.
The universe is indifferent. The universe doesn’t care. But some humans care a great deal. The difference is in the humans, not the universe. We cannot depend upon galaxies to improve human society.
I agree and disagree. The universe does not care.
But that is different from arguing that there is evil in the universe.
This brings me, perhaps, closer to spirituality than I want to be, but here's the gig that prevents that.
I really, honestly, truly, sincerely believe that the universe is 99.99999999999% evil. Most humans into spirituality go the opposite.
That is NOT to say there there is some small fragment that is good because I have no idea what the antithesis of evil is.
Human are so insignificant in this that I would call them subsubsubmolecular. Even an electron has relevancy because without the electron, you have something utterly undefinable because I can't think of a substance that is devoid of electrons. Although there probably is one or several. The analogy is simply to quantum mechanics. Humans to the universe aren't even there.
I don't think it's evil that is the question. It's that tiny grain of sand somewhere that is not evil.
Humanity is as evil as it comes.
All of it.
As far as people go, there is no tiny fragment that is an opposite. This would be at the level of matter and anti-matter. Purely conjecture. Yet Hawking and Penrose come as close to it as any human has been able to go. The philosophical is stuff I reject out of hand. It's silly. Most of it is a waste of my time. Mainly because it's foundations are historical and history is a reference to the past (I think Mary has a romance with the past and I'm not saying that is good or bad but it only is) and no one has been there to examine it. The construction of black holes is relevant as is their behavior. We know so little. Humans are like duuuhhh. Not the brightest light bulbs in the universe.
A Brief History of Times barely skims the surface. It's the only book I've ever read that is slightly relevant (a lot of it is a waste of my time). Most books are just silly. Humans love silly.
History doesn't interest me much. It's just wrong. But we base all our values on it. The word we does not really mean me but if I don't include myself in that most humans become offended and when they get offended they mainly waste my time. Mainly, I go through life tiptoeing around what people believe in (I try not to laugh so they don't look in my direction because stupidity is what one has to endure 99.9999999999% of the time.
Stupidity and evil.
Now, there's a thought.
"Killing is the right thing to do..."
Umm... We differ on what is a right thing and a wrong thing.
Things only are.
But I believe the universe is fundamentally and basically evil.
I assume most humans believe it is basically good but I really wouldn't know because I am not that really all that interested in humans or in whatever they think good is. Or bad. Really. I am interested in how to survive them and their stupidity. That feels relevant.
But I just assume my reality and human reality are different. It only is. I rarely let them know this because then I get lectured and lectures are a waste of my time. I turn them off. I smile like I'm listening but I've heard all those tapes before. This means I am antisocial. To put it mildly. I would say I am social because I smile. I smile because I want to survive humanity. I feel like an alien who walks through a sea of basically stupid slugs who have most of the power. I don't know them but I don't want to know them. Most people (I think) spend their lives attempting to connect. Writing is the art of mastering human symbols. That is all it is. I have no romance for it or with it. It's only this one thing some humans do. I spend my life interpreting and attempting to get around stupidity. People think (from my work) that I am interested in connecting. I go out of my way to make then think that. The reality is that I am more connected than I want to be and I am usually interested in not being connected to humans because I find them stupid and a waste of my time and I would rather make things than know them.
My job is to interpret. But I do that to survive. Not because I believe what people believe or even feel. Humanity basically repulses me. Yuck.
Here's a secret. Human babies REALLY repulse me. Been there done that nononononono run, Tim, run. Children themselves have little brains. Adult humans are bad enough. There are VERY few children on the planet who would not waste my time. Their brains are just too small. We don't engage. I pretend to like them. Because if you don't, adult humans will punish you and punishment wastes my time.
"Stand there humbly..."
Ummm -- I am not so sure about the humble. But what I do with that is to say to myself when I see it (about a zillion times a day) is that: oh, this person sees a lot of nuance in life.
Not that I agree with it. But I can say that the fact that they see it is relevant to them if not to me. In other words -- I give you that -- but it doesn't mean I need it or that a thing is relevant to me. Humble schmumble. What I say to myself (really) is that whoever said that is probably a writer because they are so intent of expressing human emotion.
Which is very paternalistic. To assign emotions to other beings.
I am not saying it is good or bad or right or wrong. I am saying writers do that. I can do that. But it is mainly a waste of my time to do it.
Symbols. Humans are very involved in symbols. I am typing them now.
Reading and writing don't interest me that much anymore. I know those symbols.
At the moment (and this will change -- is changing but I don't really want to share it because it would drive most humans gaga) I am interested in what pixels do.
Television interests me but only the snow you see humans describe as static.
Actually, these are electrons scattered through the universe by the big bang. I find what humans describe to be static quite fascinating because THIS is history. It's evil. t