Too often we hear that people were raped, or are depressed, or are suffering from being a certain religion, color, gender, or orientation as a matter of choice. To say that suffering of any kind is a matter of choice is one of the most absurdly invalidating notions I believe I have ever heard. No one chooses suffering. Suffering, for the most part, is a result of history. Heritable and learned factors that we encounter as children, long before any developmental hint of “choice.” The good news is that what can be learned can be unlearned. Even if we never encounter true “freedom” we can learn what is healthy (to do more of this) and what is unhealthy (to do less of that). That’s science. That’s escape from culturally learned absurdity and invalidation. That’s what I call freedom.

Cliff hanger

Until photography, all art was inscription, and showed the artist herself, honestly. Photography trades on the illusion of anonymity. An invisible gate to the noumenal. Bring back the inscribed surface by a mark and you can re-dis-cover the arrogance of its technology. Is this what we need?

In probably the most famous speech by a fictional character in the English language, Shakespeare presented the problem of decision under uncertainty. “To be or not to be.” That is, to continue or to change? Hamlet is suicidal at the time, stuck in emotion mind. As are millions, still. Yet the question persists whether to step off any more metonymous cliff? The artist faces it. The teacher. The business person. The therapist. The student. I myself consider it every day and can’t find the courage. Self-hate lives there: “The itch for death is like a turn in a wire.” The death of what for what? To overpaint a prior joy? Wherefore? By the time I hear the knock on the door, I’m already under the bed.

Where on earth did we learn to entertain this notion that an operation performed on a finite set will yield the same result when applied to an infinite set? I am personally convinced that a world is a collection of facts, which are finite, not of things, which are infinite.

I want a poem to be the kind of thing that someone reads and then says “what the hell just happened?”

I think the most important fact
in the world now is the fact that
an elected leader was recorded
advocating sexual assault
as a benefit of fame. It is our
present duty to repeat this
fact again and again without
fear or restraint. To inform,
by any means necessary.

What mad events led a single person to replace “God thinks, therefore I am” with “I think, therefore I am?” Self as divine context supplanted by self as inalienable right. Now we as acrobats and contortionists of “mind”…?

The absurdity of freedom leads logically to the absurdity of the fact-value distinction. If we conceive of a world of fact and a world of volition (freedom), the immediate question is: how do we manage to live in both worlds at once? Human bodies are a matter of fact, our values (volitions) supposedly a matter of freedom. But how can I truly be free if a choice to cross over from the world of volition to the world of fact might immediately be canceled by some fact there encountered, which forces me back to the world of volition. Am I doomed to freedom? And therefore not at all free?

There are a lot of people who think we have free will. Their explanations range from divine decree to belief in minds or souls. But they miss a fundamental contradiction in this assumption. If I had free will, truly, I could choose to give it up. Then I would not be free. Not being free, it is possible that freedom could be forced back upon me. After all, it happened once, why not again? So how free can I be when my free choice to give up freedom might easily be canceled out as soon as it is made? The notion of freedom automatically leads to an absurdity: the idea of a free being who can will the conditions of unfreedom. Like the idea of all powerful god who can create a rock so massive that even she can’t lift it.

For centuries, western authors have debated the so called “fact-value” distinction. This is the idea that values are fundamentally different from facts, and that no value can ever be logically deduced from any observed fact. This would seem to imply that humans, as the value speaking species, are fundamentally different from all other species. It would also seem to imply that there are two worlds out there: the fact based world and the value based world (sometimes called the kingdom of god), and that a human life properly understood is the occasion for the (very difficult?) ascent from the former to the latter. Authors like Darwin of course threw a metaphysical monkey wrench into the whole affair by proposing a model in which values are the evolutionary consequence of a whole bunch of valueless facts. This is no doubt why there is so much animosity towards teaching his theories in Trump-Pence voting communities. Where do you stand?