The Pie
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The Pie

Old blacksmith’s shop in back/left, and old farm implement dealership/opera house/creamery in front.

I Kinda Like the Kintsugi Concept Over “Progress”

An Iterative Humpty Dumpty

This isn’t just a long post. It’s more like a short version of the e-magazine I’m working toward, which will have three regular sections, fitting graphics, and hopefully an easy print option for specific sections. Many decisions to make still, but the overall plan for it has been about the same for the last couple years. Priorities have turned attention to it on and off, as might continue, lol. “” is the intended name.

The 7th Pie is the reluctantly unfolding metaphor (I blame Stu and one other –oh and my parents, for my poor genetics and programming, lol. jk.) is Bumbleberry, as some of you might remember. Why Bumbleberry?

All I can say here is that this is a mix, and that we need a mix, and that Bumbleberry is a mix. Ours is a red berry, a blue berry, and a green berry or other green fruit, because substitution is okay for Bumbleberry pie. Red/blue/green is very important for ours. I’ll find out if Bumbleberry should be capitalized soon.

I tend to get a phrase in my head, then it multiplies with variations within a certain theme, cadence, and sounds, and all of a sudden there’s a poem of a few stanzas or a few dozen. I’ve also been seeing or imagining convergences around This Project, as regular readers know. Some of them are Stu’s, but I admit some of the observations are mine. Then I compulsively share them, often here. Here’s a new one that’s also one of those mothers (like for making apple cider vinegar, come on) that creates a short or super long poem, for which I finally have an illustrator after several months of tactical flattering. (Sheesh, that was hard.) Thanks, Sean.

I will unravel the meanings and expand it next weekend, but here’s the mother, and it holds a ton. All I’ll say about it today is that faux, foe, Foucault, and Truffaut all rhyme, and it’s all eww’s and oh’s with the names. This mother itself is an effing convergence if I’ve ever seen one. It might be my most favorite arrangement of twenty-five words ever. (I mean of mine. And ambiguity purposely lurks in it, like Stu and I like.)

(Speaking of compulsions, I decided you must know that this song is in my head right now, and that the winter scene pictured is also a most favorite thing. You really should go listen for a minute. Nevedmind the currently-implied sexual politics either way.)

So anyway…I don’t want you to be put off by the length here. Think of it as a soon-to-be-sought-after prototype of a monthly e-magazine that hasn’t established its art department (I actually have two illustrators, but we’re not doing that yet, and we still need a layout person). The essay below represents one section of the magazine, with the other two being more fiction/creative non-fiction. I’ll have the second section up later today.

Scroll down, skip around. If you could print this, and I’ve never figured out a good way besides copy/paste, I’d say circle stuff, make a couple notes, take a photo and send it to me to ask WTF like the kids do. Maybe WTH. When I was a kid, it would have been WTSH for “What in the Sam Hill?!” as Hell was considered too crude to mention outside of church, much like the content of Song of Solomon, I assume (because if it was mentioned, I wouldn’t have gotten it).

This was written mostly on Friday, November 19th, starting around 4 AM after I’d seen the lunar eclipse and as beautiful a starry sky as I can remember. A Barred Owl hooted shortly after I came inside. Nice. The Kurt Vonnegut documentary would open in theaters and streamers later that day. Some of you would know why I was thinking: If this isn’t nice, I don’t know what is.

I went and sat down at the computer to write, and an ad popped up with a fitting song. I knew I’d be writing about blending my interest in repair/restoration with the Japanese craft of kintsugi and then metaphorically with the concept of progress as gradual and iterative without destruction.

Kintsugi involves repairing ceramics with a mixture of lacquer and gold or other powdered metal, and it can actually add value to a piece. Very symbolic, especially since it relates to wabi-sabi, or the acceptance and even appreciation of imperfection in the very realest world.

To appreciate the fitting song I mentioned, you might first want to go back to around 2001, before the band wore out its coolness by repetition of stadium “alternative anthem rock,” let’s call it. Or maybe just go ahead and embrace your guilty pleasures from back then, free of internal or external conflicts about whether you’re just a poser pretending to not enjoy intentionally anthemic music with 50,000 other normies.

The song was Fix You. Yes, by Coldplay. Hey, I probably have about as much or more reason for despising the name Chris Martin as anyone, but the song fit, and I was only going to be dealing with windows and ceramics, not people, so calm down –it’s fine and it’s fun that it happened that way.

Shortly after I left teaching in 2008, I bought an old brick and block shop building in Morocco, Indiana, shown above. It’s actually two 19th century buildings connected in the back. One was originally a blacksmith’s shop and the other was a farm implement dealership and repair shop. The building(s) had mostly been used for repair enterprises since being built, although one served as an opera house and then a creamery for a while. Hundreds of square feet of the crumbling masonry walls have been repaired or rebuilt by the local mason since I bought it. I hope to spend much more time there again soon.

I started thinking about all this a few days ago, stemming from a fun conversation I’d had earlier with Amelie, the Wee Window Repair Apprentice that I mentioned last week (just above the poem at the end of the post). Amelie is an actual person, but she’s only five, so the apprentice label is an admitted exaggeration. She’s just pretty interested in what I’m doing at her and her parents’ place.

Last week I’d asked her if she’d seen The Wizard of Oz, because I wanted to use the damaged Scarecrow as an analogy for the windows I was working on. She smiled and nodded, then she scrunched up her face and shook her head to add, “I did NOT like the witch.” Of course, it wasn’t flying monkeys that tore up these windows, but we’ll return to that another time. Amelie got that I was sort of putting the Scarecrow back together.

I also brought up Humpty Dumpty, I suppose partly because I’m usually two or three stories up, and the window openings are usually large with low sills, like the 9-foot-tall ones at Amelie’s place, and I usually have to hang out a bit and push and pull on things that might break and cause a great fall. You probably get the connection. But this analogy was about the windows, not me.

Amelie and I decided that the king’s horses and the king’s men probably weren’t the best choice for attempting to repair Humpty Dumpty. We agreed that the horses probably just got in the way or made things worse, and that the king’s men were unlikely to have been familiar with repairing something so similar to porcelain. There was probably an alternative way to approach things. That’s really how today’s topic here got started, which has to do with alternative approaches, the Japanese repair art called kintsugi, and a more metaphorical use of kintsugi.

One of my favorite ever window restoration jobs

Relevant Aside Or A Little More

Amelie gets a little window training time in after school on every day I’m there. I work while Amelie asks about the how’s, what’s, and why’s. Yeah, it’s pretty adorable. Occasionally, she’s reluctantly demonstrated her pretty impressive piano playing as her dad gives her lessons at the grand piano. Occasionally her mom calls down from the balcony, speaking in French. It’s not my typical window repair scenario.

That French connection is mostly, if indirectly, why I’m there, because I’m not really taking on work unrelated to This Project right now, such as is the case for most window work. But Amelie’s dad, Dan, is my connection to Contemporary European Philosophy, which is the long way of saying French, in terms of the roots of Postmodernism, sort of aka Post-Structuralism, which must be understood in order to understand the intellectual (therefore social/political) world we’ll always being trying to assimilate and accomodate.

That movement was about, and persists in, reinterpreting language, meanings, and origins of cultural and personal programming. On one hand it was, and is, used to genuinely explore meanings, and meanings of meaning. In that way it’s like exploring why Scarecrow was made the way he was, and if it wasn’t fairly arbitrary, or nefarious in a way. Or it’s like pushing Humpty Dumpty out of a third-story window to see what his shell is actually made of and what’s inside. Questionable ethics there, but curiosity sometimes intentionally, sometimes unintentionally, kills things, as we know.

On the other hand, some people saw the Scarecrow as scary and Humpty Dumpty as just kind of weird looking and hopelessly fragile. So, some of the philosophical explorers, and especially some of the onlookers, have seemed more intent on killing Scarecrow 1.0 and designing Scarecrow 2.0 in their own image, so to speak, than really understanding underlying relationships and how things work.

And they seemed to have Humpty Dumpty 2.0 in mind already, so Humpty Dumpty 1.0 never really had a chance after he “fell”, thus the trampling and pulverizing under the horses’ hooves and the half-hearted attempts at crafting a repair by the king’s men. So it goes.

Or so it’s gone for a while. As with many things for us dichotomous hypo-potamuses, as Stu refers to us occasionally, we tend to think too close to the ground sometimes, or in all-or-nothing and otherwise binary ways. There are a few different ways to get off of that simplistic too-close-to-the-ground frame of mind.

Astronaut Frank Borman (born in Gary, Indiana) famously summed up our still-excruciating first NASA disaster as a “failure of imagination”, on the way to the purported Giant Leap. Today, with the Giant Leap and its replications around fifty years behind us, we still suffer from the same failure of imagination in the social sciences, as we seem stuck in time with 60’s/70’s assumptions and prescriptions. That includes the very old-fashioned and ill-fated Modernist idea of revolutionary reform and re-design (See the previous hundred years or so. And don’t see this as my implying no change is needed.)

We’re actually quite imaginative in keeping those 60’s/70’s ideas alive, the bread and butter of political battles, for our species which supposedly doesn’t live on bread (and butter) alone. Our political zookeepers seem aware that, in fact, we can be satisfied by bread and butter, and occasional red meat, but it’s the kind of satisfaction that soon leaves us wanting more of the same, or being dissatisfied, that dissatisfaction being the zookeepers’ bread and butter, as well as the majority of the Self-Actualization Empire’s, thus the vicious cycle of Ground Hog Decades and our being stuck in time.

We’re also quite imaginative in adapting certain bits of scientific and philosophical concepts to our pet propositions, making them sound more believable to others and maybe especially to ourselves — and maybe for the profit in it all, from a publishing standpoint. I guess I’m mentioning this partly because of my own personal pain and frustration right now, which will probably pass soon enough.

But also, I’m writing this, no kidding, right as the longest lunar eclipse since 1441 ends. That’s a century before the Scientific revolution is considered to have begun, which was with Copernicus’ new-to-most sun-centered solar system model. I’ve often used Copernicus metaphorically here as a jab at the moldy and stale bread and butter mentioned above, which was leaven by way of Self-rising flour (could you have resisted that connection?), before we learned so much about how a Self works these last twenty years. (Can’t help adding here that kintsugi also seems so have developed in the 1400’s, just before the Scientific revolution.)

“Oh, I see” (everyone)

Going back to the start of the Scientific revolution, I think of all the learned crowds, the scholars, the masters of the sky, that realized they’d known and had instructed countless others in only surface appearances — with a very wrong assumption about how it all actually worked. (And weirdly, we can thank Aristotle and his acolytes for the error, since a sun-centered model had been proposed by his time. There’s symbolic precedent for today, yes.)

There’s a recurrent cognitive crisis today that isn’t being taken seriously, and it has to do with the alchemy of spiritualized “truth” and scientific knowledge. Using *crisis* there makes that sound pretty negative and important, I know. I hope I don’t lose any friends or followers over this. Again, it has to do with being stuck in time. Call this a thought exploration for getting unstuck, even if you’re not inclined to accept that we’re in a mobius loop we don’t like and could escape (not thru attaining escape velocity or a revolution but…well wait).

Photo by Tangerine Newt on Unsplash (not really a mobius band but…)

Postmodernist philosophy/linguistics gave us both the ability to set aside traditional understandings, which is useful, and an esoteric shell game of meanings, less fortunately. As with previous times, but especially in the early 20th century, mixing a little esoteric language with scientific (mis)conceptions or analogies can seem to be the philosopher’s stone of health, wealth, pleasure and a pleasurable life (which can be two very different uses of the word pleasure). Hey, even Sir Isaac Newton pursued alchemy and the philosopher’s stone, so you’re not in bad company if you’re intrigued for a minute or two.

So many things today are such a sad and unnecessary repetition of the 1970’s, nostalgic romanticizing and favorite selections aside, clothed in the same self-serving esotericism as then.

Considering that our beliefs and actions set the framing precedents for the next generations, as so many Boomers have for the Millennials on, not that either group seems to get that, our ignorance of the evolution of those ideas, those half-hearted explorations into human flourishing and happiness, detoured by profit and short-term sensual and emotional opportunism, could be rightly called irresponsible to our children and to each other.

Previous generations, significant portions of them anyway, passed along war, slavery, industrial exploitation, sexism, materialism, selfishness, etc. This generation, briefly poised to pass along mindfulness, as in positive metacognitive awareness which opens the door to all kinds of new economic and relational understandings about human flourishing, may well be choosing instead the most backward abuse of philosophy, psychology, and science in general, in the name of profit, short-term pleasure, and power. Yes, that was another long sentence. No, it’s not just the patriarchy this time.

I think I’ll be able to feel the ire on the part of some when I send this, but it will be misplaced. (I know, that’s just an expression or a creative use of the word “feel”, and I like how it shows up here now, considering the theme in this section.) The Pie after all, the publication where this goes, stands for Pretty Interesting Explorations. Not being able to explore is akin to cultism. Hopefully most will welcome the observation and concern.

Maybe most are unaware of the movement I’m referring to, a close approximation of a very scarring but self-righteous 1970’s angle mistaking the possible for progress. The 1970’s could have been so good. Sigh. Please tell me here we don’t go again. I think we found out enough about finding ourselves and what’s really under that trope, and now we have the tools to understand it in terms of cognitive science (which does not cut out the heart, so to speak).

The Magic Is Actually Just Your Atoms In Your Head

We know that our goals and ambitions, personally or societally, come from permutations of the imaginative elements we’ve absorbed. To attribute them to much else is either narcissistic forgetfulness, more and more common it seems, or a carefully curated and motivated perception of magic.

M.C. Escher print “Relativity”

Contortions of meanings for words like “truth” (e.g. “my truth”) encourage the narcissistic forgetfulness. That is, assuming it’s true that I can make my own truth (that conditional phrase alone should snap us right out of the M.C. Escher world of postmodernism), and if I truly love myself properly, therefore am deserving of myself, at least for as long as it pleases me, you know, then I can and should forget the things I know that don’t serve what I think I want to be true.

And that takes us back to George Ade’s mocking advice to “Give the people what they think they want” — from a story in Fables in Slang, which I mentioned last time, and which drives our Stralfian world, according to Stu.

Fear is a surprisingly versatile impresario of biased evaluative thinking –about both how things work and how they should. That is, a certain kind of fear can short-circuit imaginations or assure us we’ve thought things through, or that we even have enough information to do the thinking, when we don’t. We fear the reaper, the creeper, and losing a keeper, Stu likes to say. Maybe that’s fine.

Most people over sixteen now know the amygdala isn’t some sex-related part of the body somewhere, I think. Either way, sadly, in ten years the popular awareness of it went from giving us a new perspective on our cognitive and physical reactions to mostly explaining why we’re not millionaires, or why our political foes are so ridiculous, or why we’re not writing that book and living our truth.

When I first started writing on human flourishing and brain function, I felt like we could understand ourselves better if we imagined an A.I. robot living in community with other A.I. robots. I still feel that way, and I’ll return to that framework here someday soon. The A.I. aspect implies continual learning as opposed to unchanging routines, protocols, heuristics, etc., kinda like us.

The functions of fear, love, pleasure, belief, devotion, and so on, can all show up in an A.I. mental model of our mind. The purpose of the comparison isn’t about the robots, it’s about us and understanding ourselves, as has been the case with computer science for decades.

It even helps us understand why we would come up with something like “my truth” and substitute it for “my tentative perspective” when that’s what we really mean (well, depending on how many of the fifty shades of blue pills we’ve ingested from Postmodern Philosophical Big Pharma, aka Self-Actualization Pyramid Schemes, aka George Orwell’s Pleasure Well, lol).

The use of an A.I. mental model is how we see the surprisingly-non-sexual-structure called the amygdala (I’m clearly intrigued by that word. Is it just me?) trying to run a lot more things than it probably ought to, even for its own sake. And of course, it doesn’t actually have a mind, so when I say “trying to run a lot more things…” what could I mean? This brings up the big problem with talking about us like we’re mostly just a transformed amalgam of circuitry and chemical pumps.

Thank goodness Stu came up with the concept of an inner Star Eye to make that framework feel better. Stu’s Star Eye addition to this model is really part of a surprising and surprisingly sweet, and okay sometimes sour, story, and even the story behind all of this story. I’m looking forward to putting that out here soon. (See more of its intro below.)

For now though, I need to gradually close this by going back to Humpty Dumpty and then to kintsugi, which is really what this essay was always getting to, believe it or not.

1920’s picture of Bug Stu and Allie working things out for 7th Pie Theory

I want to say “nothing is all-or-nothing”, and know that it’s as important and amusing to at least 14% of people as it is to me. We could call 14% the Minimum Viable Movement, even though I trust movements about as much as I trust the underlying culture that gave us descriptors like Minimum Viable _____. It seems to come from Minimum Viable Population, relating to ecological studies. There’s MVP (Minimum Viable Product), MVA (Minimum Viable Audience), MVS (Minimum Viable Service), and many others.

(Maybe my favorite creative MVAnything is MVBR, which I was not supposed to hear, but I did, and now they’ll know. It stands for Minimum Viable Back Rub. Get it? It’s okay if you’re thinking it might be a little sardonically suggestive. It is. Lol. Humies. So it goes.)

But the point is that I’m, we’re, not suggesting that we have some Big Solution or panacea or reasoned hope for Utopia in all this. That even goes for Stu’s elusive 7th Pie Theory, which no one knows much about yet — but which we’re inching toward here today as we get back to the heading of this last section.

I’m not suggesting, with that 14% reference up there, that this is some new special tribe-or-whatever-term-you-prefer publication. It’s not a new baa baa for the black sheep that so many of us want to cling to for our identity, or a new super-chic pen for anti-bougie boutique bohemians, not that I’m against that vibe.

No, as some of you know, the 14% comes from rounding off 1/7, which is a non-terminating decimal, like pi, of course it would be, yet another Convergence with Stu’s 7th Pie theory, since the 7th Pie means the baker’s display tray should hold seven, not just six, different slices of pie to choose from.

Sweet as that is already, we especially love the meaning contained in that mundane 14% moniker, since 1/7 actually has an infinite number of decimal places beyond the 14% that it bothers to show — as we all do, regardless of our signage and branding.

Somehow now I’m reminded of Dorothy and her friends standing in front of the Wizard of Oz as he’s just demonstrated what 90% of the Marvels of the Manipulation Mavenhood want us to forget. (Inquire within about my course to find out what that is, now $97 instead of the usual $9,997. jk.)

And that reminds me of the Scarecrow, which reminds me of Humpty Dumpty, which reminds me of kintsugi, which is an alternative to trying to come up with a new uber-Humpty Dumpty, or an uber-Eden, as Nietzsche, Ayn Rand, and their postmodernist counterparts would have us do, bless their little heart-and-brain connections.

Two photos above by Motoki Tonn on Unsplash

A kintsugi master could have put Humpty Dumpty back together with lacquer and gold, sure, and that’s very cool. But imagine what additional benefits there would be if the repairs were made with something a little tougher than their usual lacquer, so that there would be a little more give, a little more resilience, or a lot, in case of a fall or other suboptimal condition. And compare that to sweeping Humpty into the dust pan and bringing out brand new Humpty, maybe with some radical design improvements “you’ve always wanted to try” and were “pretty sure would work” or that you “read a book about.”

As complex interacting systems go, I’m pretty sure All-New Humpty Dumpty would have unintended unforeseen unfortunate experiences, and end up in pieces, perhaps damaging the floor, or something, this time when he fell, owing to some new design features that were incorporated, let’s say, that didn’t and couldn’t consider enough factors.

And maybe, on the other hand, repaired Humpty Dumpty, Iterative Humpty Dumpty, would not only incorporate just a few changes at time, slowly, but he’d also get to get off the wall regularly and do something else, which would provide him with relief of fatigue and maybe other experiences he’s more suited for than sitting on a wall so much. There’s a certain charm and even elegance to appropriate repairs. A kind of patina appears that evokes depth and soul, whatever soul is. I like it. A little change, a little improvement, and a lot of what’s been there. It’s not all-or-nothing.

The Real Point

To go even a little more metaphorical, I see that improved version of kintsugi lacquer as being metacognitive awareness, which is where society seemed to be headed ten years ago. That seems to be about 180 degrees from the current chants to “follow your heart, not your head” that’s being popularized by some of the Marvels of the Manipulation Mavenhood. I guess we could just call them M’s, to save time.

No wait. We should make it Heroic Marvels of the Manipulation Mavenhood, because they do tend to push the hero/heroine cheese, as Stu calls it. And that way it could be abbreviated HMMM, indicating it’s something to think hard about, with some skepticism –not just “Mmm, I like the sound of that.” I think that works.

Okay, “Next” as some of the kids these days say. Hmmm.

Thanks for reading. Here’s the link to the next section in this issue of The 7th Pie and C.r.e.w. Monthly (and it’s less than half as long, plus it includes a poem and my best artistic expression at the top!).





7th Pie Theory from Bug Stu and Allie Space-Owl. There are six pies represented in the American Economic Tray, and we need a 7th. It leads to a way funner way than the fray we have today — per Stu and Allie. And so long Postmodernism. And hopefully, so long Stralfs.

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T.J. Storey

T.J. Storey

Former teacher, Jeanne’s husband, Brandon’s and Elyse’s dad. No guru/no woo woo. Fan of how-things-work and what it means for our kids, theirs, theirs,…

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