When text becomes art...
When does text become art?
I think that there are two roads by which text can become art, sketched out below:
The first road by which text can become art is by containing beautiful content. For example, words from the dictionary could be used in a very specific order, with the outcome being a poem, a love letter, or "Ulysses". Here the focus is less on typography and more on the vaguely defined "content" of the text.
The second road by which text can become art is by emphasizing stylistic parameters, a science which I call "Fontplay". As any aspiring "fontplayer" will soon realize, aesthetic perturbations only make sense within an exceedingly limited portion of "content space", and vice-versa. Despite this seeming parity of mutual constraint between content and style, it is the exploration of "style space" that facilitates rapid exploration of "content space", and not the other way around. The implications of this are that the train of thought runs on (or through the country of?) style, not content. Rearranging post-it notes or making concept maps to generate new ideas are two good examples of how syntactic mutational processes can induce directed semantic evolutionary change.
Indeed, the Syntactic (style) road actually encompasses the Semantic (content) road. Here are some arguments why this might be the case.
1) All books can ultimately be restyled in a different font, but it doesn't even make sense to ask if a font could be rebooked into a different meaning. Thus books (content) represent only one possible generalization of font (style).
2) Borges's Library of Babel contained an infinity of texts, differing from one another in their symbolic content. So if the set of all possible rearranged books in a certain font set is infinite, shouldn't the set of all possible content-by-font combinations then be transfinite?
3) John 1:1.
So perhaps the relationship between Content and Style is less like two parallel roads and more like a bike lane going down the median divider of a communication freeway. The bike traffic (message content) is surrounded on all sides by the car traffic (message style). Despite Newton's Laws, crashes between cars and bikes are usually more painful for the bike rider. In other words, illegible font or off-putting style can destroy the content of a text, but no aberration of content may ever sully an artistic style.
Some thoughts on decentralization
Allow me to briefly explain a simple scheme for the optimal development, elaboration, and maintenance of a decentralized system. Such decentralized systems include, but are not limited to: cryptocurrencies, academic research groups, and ant colonies.
In this organizational model, there are 4 stages placed around a clock. The clock symbolizes the fact that all organization is explicitly temporal - no logistical plan occurs save for the passage of time. The points around the clock are also the cardinal directions of a compass, symbolizing the orientation and direction of the project. The big and little hands of the clock are always rotating through the 4 stages. The little hand moves rapidly and repeatedly overpasses the slowly-moving big hand. The little hand represents the focus of each individual worker or subunit, the big hand represents the focus of the organization as a whole. If I could have represented a second- or day-hand in this drawing, I would have done so. Thus the following 4 stages are meant to be followed as a spatio-temporal fractal, not a "road map" (ugh). The 4 stages are:
1. Explore Options.
2. Design a System.
3. Evaluate Progress.
4. Fine-tune Parameters.
In the first stage ("Explore Options"), the individual or collective undergoes a process to discover what is possible. Individuals might do this on paper, small groups sometimes use brainstorming. In this stage, larger groups have the advantage of diverse and heterogeneous membership, allowing improved exploration of option-space In the second stage ("Design a System"), a quantitative yet flexible plan is decided upon. This is a challenging phase that seeks to integrate personal and collective ethical stances with socio-economic constraints. The third stage ("Evaluate Progress") is an ongoing proactive observation of self-function. Ideally the mechanisms of evaluation will have been prominently enshrined in the plan in the second stage. The fourth stage ("Fine-tune Parameters") involves updating, not reconstructing, aspects of the previous plan. Think "Evolution is a tinker, not an inventor" -- if things are truly terrible and really require reconstruction, then you can bring it up the next time we are all at stage 2.
The little hand moves through all these stages quickly, perhaps over the course of the day. In the morning, what can I do today? At lunch, how will I do it? At dinner, how well did I do? At night time, what will I do differently tomorow?
The big hand sweeps a slower circle through the stages. In the case of a human organization, theses stages might look like: What is the niche in the market that we are best able to fill, How will we fill this niche in the next 3 years, How will we know how well we are doing, and What kind of updates should we apply to our system to improve success?
In summary, the four fractal stages of decentralized optimization:
1. Explore Options. -- Outrospection
2. Design a System -- Revolution.
3. Evaluate Progress -- Introspection
4. Fine-tune Parameters -- Evolution
p.s. This drawing is Ethereum-centric because cryptocurrencies are exciting areas to explore many of these ideas about distributed socio-economic systems. Especially Ethereum, no? Inquire within.
Complex // Vortex
Def. 1, noun: A flow dynamic characterized by intense spirals, eddies, and turbulence.
Def. 2, verb: To agitate or chaotically mix a contained fluid, as a means to stir.
Def. 1, noun: An aggregate, often complicated or with multiple parts.
Def. 2,: adj., Difficult to understand.
Def. 3, verb: To combine, amalgamate, or bring together multiple entities, especially when the new structure has new properties.
It is hardly a quirk of language that some words are used as multiple parts of speech. Actually, I think that this linguistic fluidity speaks directly to the core cognitive processes that underlie our use of language. Perhaps syntax-level fluidity in speech ("word-part play") reflects a deeper and more fundamental sort of creativity than the mere rearragement of socially-acceptable word-modules. In the above Figure, two polysemous words ("Vortex" and "Complex") are juxtaposed to explore this idea. In the space between the two words, there is an emergent combination.....Vorplex.....
The task of the semantic innovator is coercive, fitting words together into a long linear jig-saw puzzle called "this sentence". The semantic innovator is like a parent trying to corral a group of unruly children into a very well-structured minivan. Whereas the syntactic innovator, at the risk of incomprehensibility, delves into the subconscious basement of language, emerging from the dark with glittering new speech forms and word-relations. The task of the syntactic innovator is similar to the work of a basic scientist - their work is obvious to the point of being esoteric, so crucial that lay people hardly understand its relevance. Why is the Government not funding theoretical adverb research like they used to? Won't someone speak up for hyphenated-adjectives and the civil rights of conjunctions and grammatical strange loops and run-on sentences?!?
Over longer timescales, this syntax-semantics bifurcation is a perfect example of "plus ça change, the more they stay the same". Imperceptible syntactic "mutations" within a language accumulate, and eventually produce new languages that can be partially translated into one another or even admixed together (as in the previous sentence). This is contrasted by semantic "mutations", which can apparently coexist perfectly as long as the basic structure of their language remains common and unchanged. If you believe such a thing as "meaning" exists, then maybe we only divine the "content" of a text when we understand it from multiple perspectives, or in multiple languages (though do see Boris Buden for a dissenting opinion).
Using new combination of words to convey semantic content is like changing the picture on your desktop background to reflect your current state. Using new syntactic forms is like modifying your operating system to both reflect your current state, as well as allow new classes of future modifications. In closing, if you find yourself needing to express some idea soon, you might want to:
Think outside of the. sentence
See on flickr @ https://www.flickr.com/photos/daniel_friedman/37000701326/in/dateposted/
The term "prelationship" describes something complementary to the idea of "relationship", for which I can find no adequate extant English word. While "relationship" summarizes the meaningful interactions between two people during the time that they know one another, "prelationship" summarizes the interactions that one acquires before entering into a "relationship" with someone else. Prelationship is a usually-unintentional period where people integrate their separately-ongoing love-experiences into individualized narrative about what kinds of "relationships" they want or deserve. "Prelationship" is to "Relationship" as Foreplay is to Sex.
A "relationship" can last one entire moment, night, year, or life; it begins at introductions and ends when one of the partners dies to the other. In contrast, a prelationship occurs in the evolutionary, embryological, and psychological interval between the Big Bang and introductions. Thus Prelationship must die when Relationship is born. The vibrancy of an individual's self-prelationship is what allows for a loving, consensual, and resonating relationship with someone else.
With whom are you prelating right now?
How do Ants work together?
1. There is no leader -- all decisions are made in an entirely distributed fashion. The queen lays eggs and plays no commanding or centralized role in the behavior of the colony.
2. Form and function are one -- ants make decisions based upon their experience of their environment, and their behavior changes their environment. Thus individual behavior (function) is dynamically in feedback with the structure of the ecosystem or nest (form).
How do ants find food?
1. It depends on the ecology -- where food sources are bonanza-like, you expect to see trail pheromone recruitment (like the Argentine ants). However when food sources are scattered and sparse, like the seeds sought after by red harvester ants, you do not see trail pheromone recruitment.
2. You have to lose it to find it -- if ants never followed trails, they wouldn't get anywhere together. But if ants never deviated from trails, they would never find anything new. There is a balance to be struck between the new and the old.
This image was created in google slides, for a Stanford program focused on science/art outreach.
The Pleasure Principle
Ego is the means by which Pleasure becomes Pain. Time is the river that this all occurs in.
The five lines in the middle of the drawing, read from top-to-bottom, represent the trajectory by which PLEASURE becomes PAIN. The dashed line down the center of the drawing is the perception of an event. The hump left of the dashed line is the expectation of the event, or the means by which one must obtain said event (e.g. waiting/smoking/drinking/walking/studying/meditating/fighting/talking/etc). The hump to the right of the dashed line is the perception of reward -- pain or pleasure, as it were.
At first (1st line, next to PLEASURE), the leadup to the event is not enjoyable (below the X-axis). Think of your first time smoking, or perhaps the activation energy barrier associated with first flirting to a now-lover. However after the event (right hump, 1st line still), there is a rush of reward! Mt. Dopamine has been scaled, your brain feels rewarded. This is Good. In fact it is the definition of Good.
Soon (2nd line, next to E), you begin to feel rewarded by the precursor of the event, though the event is still pleasurable. Think about it: wanting to go to a concert, then enjoying the concert. Arranging a date that goes well. This is a euphoric state, and is prone to positive behavioral feedback. This epoch, with proper care, can maintained much longer than many suspect. Exhibit A: old married couples still in love.
As the addiction progresses (3rd line, next to G), the pleasure associated with the cue is quite intense. In fact, moreso than the event itself Spending 30 minutes putting on makeup for that one Selfie. Stressing for hours about nutritional content of food you will eat in 5 minutes. The event itself has become a slightly negative experience, actually. Afterwards, what once was reward, is now regret. Is now shame. Is now what have you.
Not long after the event becomes displeasing, the cue becomes slightly toxic as well (4th line, next to O). Maybe there is a taste of disgust in their mouth, maybe it burns your nose a little more or a little less than it used to. The small vestigial positives of the event, like that friend group that doesn't support you or a pension that you'll die before seeing, induce the brain into a bizarre trance. Work sucks? Work more. Knee hurts? Run more. Nothing in the Universe is so opaque as the workings of the Mind.
At last, there is nothing enjoyable about the whole experience whatsoever (5th line, next to PAIN). The cue - perfume, baggie, or engine - now induces anxiety. The event itself is a reminder of past failures. Paralyzed by past inaction, inaction remains paralyzed. The mind is literally a slippery slope, here it has reached the bottom. Intra-cranial arguments occur at the speed of myelin, and unilateral consensus is often won by counterproductive neuronal mafias.
There is no moral at the end of this story. No call to action or Seven Ways That You Can Escape Samsara. Though it isn't meant to be a nihilist manifesto. I felt content and happy while making this image and writing these words. Think of it as a blood test -- if the results make you angry, don't blame the piece of paper. And this piece of paper (well realistically, for you, rectangle of electronics) is just a test. A test, but more like a challenge than an assay. I would hope that this piece of paper is a test, a challenge, for you to reconsider your experience. Start with just one facet at first, and remember that all sides of the cut gem gaze into the same stone.
Chromosomes are long tangled strings of deoxyriboproteinacious-ness that require constant emotional and biochemical support. The chromosome is a brilliant design compromise that excels in a host of information-theoretic, biophysical, and eco-evolutionary challenges.
All good things come to an end though, and chromosomes are no exception. The sequences at the ends of a linear chromosome are called "telomeres". "Telos" (τέλος) means "final" and "merοs" (μέρος) refers to a part of a whole. The teleology of the telomere is to play a role in guarding the chromosome from physical and informational decay. Telomeres are long repetitive strings of DNA built from the mantra-like recital of a short phrase, such as TTAGGG in vertebrates. Om Namo Telomere, as it were. A telomere to a chromosome is like the pencil's eraser to a child: a terminal, protective, nubby structure. It really is true that all's well that ends well; and specifically for chromatin, all's well-maintained whose ends are well-maintained.
The telomere is a physical teaching that we don't need to "build a wall" to isolate ourselves from stressful phenomena, that there is a dynamic way to move beyond conflict, that we can harmoniously coexist with damaging intra-cellular and inter-national forces.
The telomere is the bread in a gene sandwich; it is a frame that protects and enhances what is inside. The telomere is a life support system for the genome and an insurance policy for the organism. The telomere is all of these things, and more.
In conclusion, from the perspective of chromosomal integrity, the telomere is means to an end. But when you realize that the chromosome itself is just one way for a statistical-evolutionary system to realize fitness, then you'll find that the telomere is nothing but the ends to a means.
At some point, a finite amount of mass-energy is liberated from some constraint. This caused time and time caused the Big Bang (or maybe the other way around). Still today, mass-energy remains generously distributed throughout the Universe. While initially too intense to support the existence of even the most ephemeral atomic unit, the Universe rapidly cooled itself via dilution till it could sustain certain semi-stable energetic patterns called molecules. Molecules are transient stabilizations of atomic and electronic force fields. Molecules, like cowboys or quarks, do not follow any laws. Rather, through their impeccably-reproducible configurational compromises, they give the mere appearance of obedience. Starting their lives at a thermodynamic party in which it was just too vibrational to hear anything, the molecules decelerated, exploring new phases of matter. From plasma to gas, liquid to solid and beyond - at every step of this thermal relaxation, molecules discovered new styles of cuddling. The topologically-intuitive rules by which multi-atomic units form are inscrutable, the speed at which they act is unimaginable. Beyond the fascinations and vacillations of individual molecules, macroscopic aggregates of molecules acquire properties unfathomable to their subunits. Purely by dint of their size, these larger assemblages can, for example, gain the ability to become gravitationally relevant and sustain nuclear fusion. This actually happened. Many times over, distributed sparsely through a very large space. Think about it: Pillars of intergalactic radiation were blazing through observer-less emptiness, dust particles were clinging tightly to their electrostatic dreams, and stars were unabashedly swallowing each other. It was a wild time for us all. One specific clump of matter, Earth, is of unparalleled tautological importance. And so it was that through a cosmic conglomeration of carboniferous crud, our womb was born.
The white canvas around this drawing is the World -- vast and unexplored, imposable and improbable. The World is an answer to its own question. A spacious paradox that resists judgment like some sort of metaphysical teflon. We can never find meaning in the white space, rather we must draw our own meaning on top of it. Such is the World.
The black lines that circulate upon themselves are the physical structures of our Body. Call it cause-and-effect, call it cortico-striatal dopaminergic feedback neural circuitry, call it whatever you want. Or maybe try not calling it at all; see if it even exists without being summoned by your attachments to sensory stimuli. Such is the Body.
The four Red faces are the facets of our Mind. They exist as dyads of dichotomies, duos of dualities. This represents my empirical finding that the rational Mind will split hairs until it gets down to the atom, and split atoms until it gets down to the end of the world. Look at this gossipy quartet, chatting noisily amongst themselves all day. Are they really you? Such is the Mind.
The two Green faces are our true Self. One true Self gazes into our sanctum sanctorum, our soul. The other true Self is presented outwards into the world for all to look at, and for some to see. Over each other neither the inner nor the outer Self has priority, neither has seniority, neither has authority. Such is the Self.
This ant is rather consumed with the Sisyphean task of improving her "Self" in a deliriously-confusing and rapidly-evaporating world of pheromones. She eagerly follows counterclockwise along a sparse scent trail laid by what she assumes to be some other, more successful ant. Alas, there is no other ant leading the way -- our focal ant is reliving her own past experiments in walking. Locally, the ant's walkway appears to have two mutually-exclusive sides upon which to rest. However, conceptualizing of the entire Möbius walkway in her efficient brain, the ant realizes that any disagreement to be had about the path must stem from discordant reductionism, from two complementarily-limited ways of looking at the same one-sided system.
Consider that the trail pheromones are the traces of our worldly works, that the walkway's meander is the infinite rebirthing cycle of Samsara, and that the inevitable distortions of pheromonal phenomenology are Maya. The differences between the trail that we laid yesterday and the trail that we re-walk today are not "due to" Karma, this process is Karma itself. Karma is not a future outcome, a distant Something that you could ask for an extension from. Karma is the present realization that you realizing your present realization can only be due to past actions, themselves only due to past actions.