Thursday, January 08, 2009

Noise Reduction

Snug against a olive-green column, I'm at Panera testing the new noise-reduction ear-buds I just purchased. Cheapest brand (Philips) and yet with the music playing -- I really can't hear anything around me. This public space is transformed into a sanctuary ... well, almost -- between songs, I can hear a muffled chatter. Muffled just enough I think, to be able to ignore it. The "noise reduction" technology seems to consist of the "ear-plug" style ear-buds, coupled with a little bit of gentle white-noise. Mr.Philips recorded himself blowing into microphone, and called it worth another 15 bucks. I wonder how much better the Bose ear-buds are?

Moby, The Rain Falls And The Sky Shudders.

Works well enough. Anyway, the sanctuary starts within, right?

Right. Mulling over so many dark, little thoughts. Can't figure how to act in a world that, if I'm honest, leaves me in a state of constant bafflement. And if I ride waves of convention, I feel listless, I feel disingenuous --

I've been reading over, thinking over, a theory of the steps toward a religious life: first, the aesthetic life, then the ethical, and finally, and for only a select few, the religious life. It's a progression of the self, from being ruled by passion, to rule by ethics and social agreements, and finally by faith in God --

I think one thing we can agree on is the absurdity of the word "God." The closest I can come to saying what I mean is: "That which transcends that which we exist within," and then it becomes a problem of inadequate pronouns.

**Product Update: there is a slight electronic flicker-click in my right ear-bud. Is it picking up a cell-phone? Annoying.**

I feel voices in me disagreeing with the word "transcends." Why must their be something that transcends the world we exist within? I'm not saying there must be -- you can trust me to never say (at least when I'm in a sober mood) what must be -- but I am saying that we believe it to be so. Think past the language we use to describe our thoughts about the world (something, I know, not everyone is convinced we can do). We learn early to look at the world outside of us as a mostly predictable environment that we exist in, are a part of. We believe in this unification that upon reflection seems possibly to be a trick of the trick of consciousness. Of language. But we believe in it. We believe that as we move across space, the predictions we made a moments ago will hold here as well, as long as the conditions are similar. A continuity of space & time. No, not on a micro or macro level -- only on the level I'm currently knowing, the one in which we live and move and have our being.

This unity of the world, this continuity, this world-ness, "transcends" the particulars that compose it.

I've long held that living "ethically" means two things: first, living with the ability to sympathize, living "isothymically" (living with a desire to be equal to everyone else)(a term coined by Fukuyama in The End of History and The Last Man); and, second, acting with the future in mind. Both require a good imagination. I guess that's a way of saying a proud person, or an evil person, is suffering from a deficient imagination.

We believe, whether because of conditioning, or because of observation, that when we die, the world continues -- not in the way we imagined it, the way our minds represented it to us, but in the way that it "is"...

Unity, though, is also an act of the imagination? The ability to see something as a distinct, unified object. (A little Sigur Ros coming on now, layered over a cottony blanket of white noise, layered over muffled chatter and some distant saxophoning.) So, if all imagining humans died right now, would all the world dissolve into nothingness? We don't buy it. There'd be the world, though oddly devoid of all connotation. And, yes, we believe the earth would still be a ball, upon which an animal could act by an instinct that would cause it to function correctly, oh, imagination, oh say, unification. Who's doing it? Something still transcends. I can keep taking out potential characters, and the oneness will still be there -- even if I reduce the universe to a slovenly spin of rocks in the void, they still collide, still operate according to some system -- and that, my friends, is unification. Is an act of the imagination. We believe it. And so we can't escape belief in this thing we often call "God."

Or a sense of the meaning of the world. Or a sense of the heartbreaking loveliness of sympathizing.

Our own impending deaths. What dream, or lack of dream, may come.

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