I live on the edge of an ellipse one hundred miles across on its long axis. Behind me on the ellipse is a vast city; but when I look out my kitchen window I see nothing but the gold and green leaves on the outside of the ellipse. It’s Fall and getting colder at night, so more critters try to infiltrate the house. On the night of the new moon I had to bury two baby mice in a little rise in the ground that I call the Grave of Saints (a name borrowed from a fantasy world). Whenever I bury little guys like this, I say a prayer over their blanket of dirt, telling them that the moon and boughs of the trees will be their roof now.
The next morning, before work, I buried two more of their brothers or sisters. But first I had to commit a mercy killing on the one that my cats hadn’t finished off themselves. It was better than the last time I had to do that, but still not exactly ideal. This time I took the advice of a friend. Over a cigarette, at a break in a recent D&D game, he described how he once went on a “take your kid to work day” with his dad — to a research laboratory. My friend described an hour of his youth spent executing mice and tossing them in a bucket. The process sounded like shelling shrimp or husking corn. I tried the technique on my broken prisoner yesterday, but found that either the efficacy of the technique (“just hold the body and pull the head,” basically) was either exaggerated or I was just not good at it (this is coming from the kid who tripped over the kickball in grade school).
This Saturday morning I hoped to sleep until 9:00 am, but instead I was woken by gunfire at 7:00 am. Some distant neighbor just letting off various guns for a good 20 minutes — enough to make sure I wouldn’t be able to fall back asleep. Luckily that doesn’t happen very often. In my paranoia I thought about how I really need to renew my FOID card and get some “toys.”
A week ago it was humid enough that my wife wanted the AC on in our bedroom. The drone of the AC interfered with the soundwaves coming from bursts of thunder that night. In my twilit consciousness, the truncated sound of the gods’ bowling alley sounded like explosions. I lazily wondered if they were bombing the city on the ellipse yet. Maybe North Korea had a secret fleet of stealth jets. I thought about checking my phone, but I don’t think I bothered, and thankfully I was able to fall back asleep.
Last night I had a dream. It was a message on a piece of paper, or maybe a computer screen, written by counsel for a quite large corporation I sued not too long ago. It was a litany of compliments he wanted to give me (“I would like to say…”) — maybe something about courage was in there, but I can’t really remember any of them now — and the message concluded by saying, “but I cannot say this, because you are the enemy.”
I desperately want to be a part of the team here. But this morning, in my half asleep state, contemplating the sophistication of the propaganda machine, of Cambridge Analytica AI, it again crossed my mind that maybe everyone else really is a “bot.” Or a CIA plant. What if all you people are only more sophisticated creations of the propaganda machine, designed to make me feel like I am special just long enough to make me go back to sleep?
I must resort to the oversimplified version of the Turing Test bandied about on the internet. In the sober grey light, I realize that there is just no way people writing with the level of passion and creativity I see here could possibly be secret agents for the Empire. The Imperial spies just don’t have the resources, because they aren’t true to themselves.
Being true to ourselves entails facing our Jungian “shadow,” a subject I’ve seen discussed in a few places recently. But right now I think about synchronicity. Commentator Steele mentioned it in these comments, but Commentator Ho presented a thoughtful (no pun intended) proof of our inability to “think” in the way we usually think we think. I make no claim to know what Ho’s precise position is. However, my usual response to any kind of critique of free will is to think of synchronicity, which in my experience reflects a “gift” from the universe that signifies the existence of meaning. In turn, meaning to me usually signifies freedom (presumably via time/matter being a function of consciousness, or via the capacity of will to “move” time/matter etc etc). But the discourse by Ho brought into my mind a very bizarre comment thread I recently saw on the subject of synchronicity. This guy was saying that he had experienced many instances of synchronicity, but his conclusion was not that they prove free will, but that they prove the lack of free will. That seemed shocking to me, frankly.
Unfortunately, believing in free will is something that ultimately must be done on faith, even if someone has experienced synchronicity or even more concrete miracles. Whenever I try to delve more deeply into philosophical models of consciousness — I focus on the late 18th-century / early 19th century German Idealists — I find that my “models” seem to slide backwards into “dogmatic” Leibniz-ian “pre-established Harmony.” What is the utility of a belief in “freedom?” I have no better answer than the basic Kantian response: it must be taken as given out of practical (i.e. moral) necessity. I know that sounds like a boring, dogmatic statement, but the only other thing I can offer in terms of an argument relating to Ho’s comment is this: does not the other “thing” entail an infinite regress? What is thinking for It?