Writing & Naming: the Medicine of Acquiring Knowledge

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Through the work of writing, I have learned first and foremost that nothing is what it tells us it is, because there is always another level, another way to play at naming, with reality, to bend untruths to be more true, as medicine, as savior, as demon filtered for taste, as a ritual mark of remembrance of tensile perceptual realities, disputed, fought for and reclaimed. There is a line after which language becomes less a tool for understanding and more a mechanism for undermining it, but that line is constantly in motion, and in language, as in physics, we now understand “reversibility generally does not exist”, as per Poincaré.

Writing teaches a person about language, in a very deep and sensory way, but language also teaches a person about existence in the human sense, existing as a human being, as an individual who is capable of not only perceiving and manifesting, but also articulating an identity. That, to some extent, is our most recurring, most insistent, most necessary and yet problematic, reason for engaging in serious explorations of language usage: how to articulate the untestable reality that is the human self.

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Does Anyone Know What Capitalism Is?

Is capitalism legalized greed or an organic model of resource allocation?

Capitalism is “survival of the fittest”… capitalism is rooted in the idea of merit; everyone should be compensated according to his or her contribution (to the common good?)… capitalism is about the movement of capital; the more it moves, the richer everyone gets… capitalism is an upgraded feudalism, where the capitalist is an overseer of an abstract terrain made up of investments, not of arable lands… capitalism is democracy; the free spirit of an open society requires capitalism to support the liberties of individual citizens, and protect against government overreach… capitalism is virtue… or, capitalism is the absence of virtue…

These are just a few commonly held ideas, not all compatible with one another or with reality as we know it. Depending on point of view, we find ourselves favoring or opposing some aspect of something we call capitalism, with sometimes radical swings in the underlying reasoning of our political philosophy — we being Americans, generally. And across the world, the same questions come up time and again: one nation’s democratic marketplace, rising tide that lifts all boats, is seen from a poorer nation as an upgraded feudalism, a new age of empire.

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Internet Access Must Be a Human Right

Access to the internet must be a basic human right, across the globe, for a number of reasons. First of all, legitimate, transparent democratic processes of government require in today’s world that information flow freely and that citizens be empowered to share information and to find information, according to their choices and their needs.

Socio-economic barriers to such free flow of information are just another kind of information control that establishes dangerous demographic stratification into privileged and marginalized groups. Governments across the world are using web filtering technologies to censor the information available to their citizens and crack down on dissent.

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The Evils of the Purge: Crushing Dissent & the False Promise of Finality

The Khmer Rouge sought to establish a red Khmer empire in Cambodia, with some ambitions of expansion beyond the nation’s borders, by stamping out any human life or mind that varied from the project, as narrowly conceived by Pol Pot and his murderous regime. The “killing fields” that ensued, with the mass slaughter of an estimated 1.5 million people, were an attempt to establish a new break in time, the time before and the time after the purification —as the regime proposed— of all Cambodia.

Beyond Utopia, it was a lust to fashion a paradise built on millions of purgatories. It was the paradox of a violent Heaven, a wisdom of intolerance, a corrupt purity, an abstraction drowned in the blood of innocents. In order to establish absolute power, either for themselves or their ideology, a purge was undertaken that would attempt to eliminate nearly all people of learning, leaving by one count only 4 highly trained Cambodian legal minds remaining.

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Empathy is Not Prejudice

EMPATHY IS NOT PREJUDICE: it is the ability to imagine the point of view of the other. Without this ability to engage in thoughtful outreach, beyond one’s own personal realm of experience, and empathize with the human situation of the other, no jurist can begin to understand the human meaning of the arguments made in their court, and objectivity remains wholly beyond their reach. Empathy is not sympathy.

Sympathy means feeling what the other feels, experiencing grief at the other’s grief, loyalty in kind with the other’s loyalties, taking sides; empathy is the ability to comprehend the meaning of another’s experiences, and does not entail adopting or sharing the other’s views. Empathy for a judge means the ability to see how both parties arguing before a court could arrive there based on legitimate human experiences and assertions about the protections and provisions of the law.

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The Creative Approach: The ‘Other’ Evolving

The creative approach to language, the expressive urge, the impact of a whim to let the unseen meaning come to be seen, come into the light: to write creatively, one must know how to think without the limiting slant of convention, and this means to recognize, to fashion, to come upon new forms and counterweights, new allowances, and to effect bold innovations in the way words and sounds and currents of meaning are matched and provided for…

To think about achieving new cosmologies, to think outside the geometry of the known (or presumed) universe, we must first come to the understanding that rule-based thinking is designed to leave us with thoughts that re-affirm the underlying preconceptions, the rules…

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Everyone is Alone, Sometimes

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Everyone is alone in the world, separate from all else, at all times, and never truly capable of saying with certainty that things could be otherwise. This is both a fundamental existential problem and a flawed way of looking at human relationships. It is true: each individual is separated from the world by his or her perceptions, but: there is a reason why human beings cooperate, why we integrate ourselves into larger social fabrics, why we maintain relationships from birth to death, or for as long as possible.

We are “social beings” is a common way of saying it. The human being is the “grammatical ape”, a talkative species that uses codified sounds to create and transmit meaning and to build a community of individuals, ideas and voices, in which the individual can benefit from having connections as well. The “human” is an idea, not a fact, another way of looking at things, and so we should not even go as far as to say that the individual is apart from everything else, as we cannot define totally what it is that makes us a group in which that is true, aside from DNA and appearances.

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Unrelenting Soft Power: the Secret to Obama’s Poised Leadership

Lead by example. It’s a simple idea, and one that tends to be fully realized only by those who are most able. You lead by demonstrating the best qualities, because you are able to — 1. because you have them; 2. because you are in a position to do so; 3. because you are confident both of your ability to embody these qualities and of the qualities themselves, their virtue and their efficacy.

Soft power works, because one is able to use the social force of virtue —rooted in actual qualities and demonstrable value to those concerned— and because one shows proof of being closer to shared goals than the other party, leading the other party to follow one’s lead.

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Poetry is a Vehicle of Meaning, Necessary Now as Ever

Helium.com :: Poetry is the frontier where language in use comes in contact with future meaning, and in the process, when best executed, brings a wealth of transcendent truths into the present. Poetry is relevant to all uses of language, though there may be trends that suggest popular culture is looking to new forms of poetic activity to replace specific old models: many musical artists now play the role of mythic historian or wandering troubadour, but poetry is not confined to these purposes.

The art of the rhyming couplet, the frenetic ebb and flow of iambic pentameter, sometimes seem in today’s language environment more a distraction than a vehicle for delivering meaning across time. Poetry now resides in subtler places in more intricate and interrelated forms. It seeps into political discourse, into rap, into the dialogue between two characters on a movie screen, often for brief moments, then pushed aside by a mass of prose and fact and circumstance. But this is not new and it is not hazardous to poetry’s survival as a concentrated art-form fashioning new molds and opening new horizons.

It has always been the case that the oracular function of poetry, looking deep within or to the far reaches of the known and knowable, happens at the edges of the prosaic, at the fringe of our collective normalcy, in a place where in direct proportion to the intensity of the vision we confront those basic truths of our existence we often prefer not to engage.

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