Tag Archives: assumption

Darwinism (or DarwinIsADouche.com)

I have a love/hate relationship with Darwinism. I love the idea, application and process of evolutionary theory – one can’t, and won’t, deny the beauty and mind bending revolution of Chuck’s vision (especially taking into account the arse clenching theology of the Victorian era). Yet I hate with profound passion the ubiquity of it as a metaphor (incorrectly, more often than not) and the misplaced faith in that metaphor as an ultimate endorsement. As a metaphor it’s usually employed to prop up lazy reasoning and convenient beliefs; Darwinism intoned in the hope that through its power it will lend an argument credence, a statement validity or, more commonly, imbue some cynical societal prescription, guaranteed to cure our indulgent ills, with the power of evolution’s place in the firmament of scientific and intellectual certitude.

Again, I’m not picking a fight with Darwinism, rather the casuist plodders who employ it as a wagon of expedience for their preferred convictions. That Mr. Darwin coined the term ‘Survival of the fittest’ to describe his theory makes me want to weep and rage in equal measure. Ironically On the Origin of the Species suffers from the same problem the Bible does in the hands of their respective fundamentalists; a problem anchored in the refusal to recognise how embedded in the assumptions of the times the writers were. Darwin was a product of Victorian England, at the height of an empire that sought to benevolently conquer the world for its own good, because, obviously, the English were the pinnacle of civilisation. It was their duty as the highest representative of the human race. The believed cultural supremacy of the times is perfectly captured in the penultimate sentence of Darwin’s most famous tome: “Thus from the war of nature, from famine and death, the most exalted object which we are capable of conceiving, namely the production of the higher animals, directly follows.” The arrogance and assumption, not to mention the hideous anthropomorphism of nature in its entirety, contained in that one sentence is quite staggering. But, and this is quite important, in our relativist wisdom we are quite capable of contextualising that statement within the prevalent cultural standards of Darwin’s lifetime, taking from it that if you stick monkeys in one end of a habitat, given an opportune environment, you might get Andy Warhol out the other. Which is my point – it isn’t the survival of the fittest, it is the survival of those with the most opportune mutations in that environment.

The word fittest is highly dependent on context, deeply in need of qualification. The way we use it has far too much of the smell of triumphalism about it; that those that fall are unworthy, and those who remain are right. It is putting the cart before the horse on a quite impressive scale, leading to conclusions based on a syllogism; they didn’t make it, we did, thus we are superior. A beautiful example is capitalism vs. communism, as Norman Manea wisely said, “Yet on the other shore, a self congratulatory society took the collapse of the other side as a vindication.”

Our vesting ‘Survival of the Fittest’ with power beyond its context has given us some pretty fucked up ideas of what the survival of a thing actually means, not to mention the context it survives or dies in. We have to save the ecosphere due to our biological need of it, because we’re quite important, being a higher animal, but the lower animals that can’t hack it in our climate altered wake, urban environs, polluted waters, fenced rural landscapes and zoos kinda deserve to die, coz, like, it’s survival of the fittest, right? Except for rats, as no one really likes rats. And pigeons, of course, being, as has been demonstrated, just airborne rodents… though what do we do with the fucking flying foxes? Is an actual flying rodent somehow exempt from our wrath simply because it doesn’t, y’know, fuck so much? The specious logic applied to sustain this illusionary narrative leaves us chasing our own brains round the inside of our skulls, demanding of us the unsavoury necessity of a shorter syllogism: we’re atop the food chain, thus the fittest, so we can’t be wrong. So… pandas? Fuck ’em.

We are the pinnacle of evolution, we are the duly ordained of nature; accordingly it’s our duty to show the way to the rest of the ecosphere… Hang on, I’ve heard that reasoning somewhere before… wait, wait… if a table has four legs and that thing I’ve been sitting on has four legs, then the thing I’m sitting on must be a table.

Okay, I feel better.

It’s a bit weird attributing, in a fundamental way, such high importance to being able to do some neat things with our thumbs and neo-cortex. Maybe it’s because we’ve come to see evolution as a kind of race; if we’re at the front of the pack then we must be doing well – though it’s a bit much that we’re refereeing the race we’re running in. Quid Pro Quo, Clarice… no, shit, I mean Quod Erat Demonstrandum… No I don’t… Ah, fuck it, caveat emptor, assholes.

The sublimely ridiculous thing is that most of the stuff we do – economics, science, even much of our art – works against a fundamental tenet of sustainable evolutionary practice: they consume more than they produce – a fine case of robbing Peter to pay Paul. As Daniel Quinn observed of the folly of our cultural practices: natural selection doesn’t eliminate you immediately, it eliminates you eventually. Our problem is that we’ve got our timelines all mixed up, making us unable to see over the chronological horizon.

Survival of the fittest indeed.

So we use the shortcut of ‘survival of the fittest’ to bless arguments with the power of  Evolutionary Theory while, with deep irony, practising behaviour that only promises to make of us a case study for the next species that happens to grow thumbs. Evolutionary Theory still remains a beautiful and true description of what we see in the biological world around us, but ‘survival of the fittest’ as a metaphor sucks. It sucked then and sucks now. I quite like the idea of setting up a website dedicated to the failure of Darwinism as a metaphor: DarwinIsADouche.com, for all the Darwinarcissists out there. Though, on consideration, I’m pretty sure the server would immediately crash from the sudden surge of Dawkinites and other, less articulate Fundamentalists.

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New Things

It’s funny how new things bring states and sensations that are not only hard to predict but are usually counter to the intended effect. We often say we’re seeking change just for the sake of it, throwing ourselves at something unpredictable in an effort to shake something loose inside us. But when we choose something new, be it music, a shirt, some new place or situation, the idea is to bring on a specific change – there usually being some really specific ideas involved, highly conceptualized results desired. Irony wins again! We get what we asked for instead of what we wished for: we’re quickly immersed in new, sometimes uncomfortable, and always revealing, perspectives.

I bought a fairly expensive zip-up hoodie a couple of months back, it was a concession to myself as I was feeling like shit and thought that indulging in a fashion ubiquity, one I’d been slightly guilty and embarrassed about liking, would improve my mood – I would, however briefly, be street cool. Instead it just made me feel old. Which was okay, actually. Kind of helpful, in fact. Ultimately the hoodie just made me feel exactly as cool, fashionistically speaking, as I’ve always been, which would accurately be described as un.

It’s a small example, I can totally do better.

A while back I made a couple of pretty big changes, circumstantially and philosophically, in an effort to bring on the tumult of life. It was meant to disrupt and then sand blast the chaff away from my psyche and soul, leaving me raw, fresh and totally sensitive to my new surroundings. I think in my head I would be hotter too. It was meant to reveal the real me, all undimmed and radiant. It was to be dramatic: transformation through trauma. [aside: everyone was to be terribly impressed]. Instead the tumult and turbulence not only failed to manifest this being but actually subsided below normal levels, consequently bringing to the surface aspects and vantages that I’d hoped would be the chaff.

Intention seems to be blind and perspective wears cleats (it needs traction to properly leverage the kick to the nuts, you see). Plus, everyone should be aware, irony is a motherfucker.

Perspective is definitely the thing and people, annoyingly enough, are the key. People are the changing perspective that takes a static image and make it all swooshy and 3D. They keep on moving around you, looking at the same things you’re looking at, and saying stuff, fucking up the clear sight line you thought you had to the horizon. I realized, at some point (let us pretend it was long ago), that my penchant for solitude to aid clarification and enlightenment, was often just retrenching. Remove the hard stuff from your view and you don’t have to work so hard to focus around it.

I don’t mean to bash solitude, me and solitude have totally got each other’s back, it’s just that if you’re using solitude to abridge your existence rather than adapt it the time would be better spent with your hand down your pants (I don’t mean to bash masturbation… oh, wait…). I reckon, after one has taken one’s space in order to facilitate a process of inner harmonization, if that harmonization can’t take contact with people then it’s not harmony, it’s just humming with your fingers jammed knuckle deep in your ears.

By consequence choosing someone new in your life is a huge thing; the instant, unforeseeable perspective jars and quests at you, forcing knowledge both ways, through the sieve of evolving personal context. It’s said that the great thing about a new person in your life is that you get to retell all your favourite stories, reveling in the fun and drama. It seems to me that it’s the shake up they get under someone else’s gaze; these old truths, myths and legends getting a good airing so you can see which bits have rusted and fallen off. The bits that fall off tell you stuff in quiet, clunky whispers no one else can hear.

Our stories always change because the end is forever different. I love getting the chance to hear my friends tell new people stories I heard years before – spot the differences and figure out what changed and why. I used to think it was lying but it’s really the opposite of that.

So coming to know someone is ultimately renewing, allowing a triangulation of selves that promises or hints at all sorts of stuff in the past and future. It can be really disconcerting stuff, no matter how cool and exciting, but only if you venture a certain distance into that new relationship, embracing it and being willing to live with it’s redefinitions and challenges. And that’s why the gods gave us orgasms. It’s a balance thing.

Telling Truths

I’ve been tagged with a meme by a blogger who I’ve come to really enjoy reading: phoenixaeon, a gently introspective blog I’ve become increasingly attached to over time. ‘Memes’ equate to online chain letters (however inaccurately named), something I grew allergic to at primary school, but this task interested me: say ten honest things about myself and then pass on the task to seven blogging friends. I’m not going to do the latter, for various reasons, not all good, and the first… well that’s the hook. I was thinking about truth telling in this context, on and off, as I was digging trenches yesterday and it really caught my interest. Now, I could bash out any number of ‘true things’ about myself (I seriously contemplate, almost daily, the sense in wearing undies with the seams on the inside [1]) but what actual use would knowing that be to anyone in my life? Does it require revelations of a more intimate nature (unexpectedly catching glimpses of myself in mirrors often freaks me out quite seriously [2]) in order to be worthwhile? Intimate knowledge is what others have presented with this meme, yet I can’t help but ask the same question: what use is that knowledge to anyone in my life? Sure it allows people to get to know me better, but not for any good reason. If someone wants to know me better they only have to ask me questions (I take answering personal questions very seriously: honesty or nothing [3]), one way or another they’ll get a better idea of me.

I’ve told various truths about myself, in previous blog entries, that I was surprised to be comfortable with. I assume that truth telling in this capacity is what other bloggers, phoenixaen included, are partaking of: truths as a process of personal revelation, where the telling is more important than the told (my 4th to last relationship failure was a relief [4]). But, for me, the process of these truths emerging mattered deeply to the process. I’m not sure the generation of ejaculatory truth is something I’m capable of doing with any particular feeling. I wonder at the worth, for me, of telling such truths out of context. I like answering questions and having questions answered, and I like telling the truth, but delivery matters enormously. It’s not just about the money shot. Context binds truth to it’s own ends, so if you’re controlling the context you’re controlling the truth (I hate, fucking hate, post-modernist philosophising [5]). So when I control the context as much as I am now, what truths am I actually telling? What can a reader take from this? (I’m not going to tell you [6]).

I’ve always thought that truths about people are more interesting when you know something about them that they don’t. Not something they don’t know you know (that can be as dangerous as it is interesting) but something they themselves don’t know.

The act of telling the truth can be one of subtle deception – the little omissions that unbalance a story or confession make the truth told a lame creature, lacking in it’s natural power. These are the truths most of us tell, I think. Not necessarily out of a desire to deceive but rather of a desire to protect ourselves. It’s like a peace offering, an enticement: treat this truth well and more perfectly formed ones will follow. Look for what is absent in a person’s truth and you might see what they really want to tell you (I used to look down my friend’s top when we play-fought [7]).

Personally I opt for white noise; tell a lot of truth and you can effectively bury the relevance of it in an avalanche of information. The point of the avalanche is not concealment, per se, it’s a weeding process of sorts. Only those who are listening will glean important information, putting together larger images – truth as a jigsaw puzzle. (I often place my words in the anecdotal mouths of others [8]).

Knowledge, truth and meaning, three interactive concepts that warp each other with their variable gravities, are deeply malleable things (I like being smart but I envy the clever [9]). I was talking with a friend of mine the other day about capabilities: psychological studies have revealed that the hallmark of true incompetence is the inability to question one’s competence. It simply never occurs to some people that they’re terrible at what they’re doing. That can be frustrating when encountered, but it occurs to me that the more dangerous prospect is someone who is exceedingly competent at something yet, also, never questions that competence; there’s an obsessive potential there that could crush all before it. At least the incompetent fall over.

The essential quality for knowledge, truth, meaning and competency is doubt. Doubt is the element that gives dimension to a concept, it makes you move your head to better see the side of a thing, to better understand how much you can’t see. Doubt slows you down and makes you better appreciate whatever quality and quantity of truth you’re lucky enough to encounter.

(Three of these ten truths are lies [10]).

Possibly a little smart arse-ish at the end there?

Static on my Gaydar

My gaydar sucks.

“She turned you down?! Probably a dyke…”

“Um, well… technically she prefers women to retaining large amounts of water.”

I went through a period, in my late teens and early twenties, when I developed a succession of crushes on unsuspected lesbians. I’d get all smitten and full of crush only to discover (once quite embarrassingly) that it just wasn’t going to be. And while this is a surprisingly ego saving method of rejection (it’s not you exactly, more your penis) it seems to have left its own particular scars on my psyche. Until I have proof (of the undeniable variety) I assume that anyone I like is gay. If I hear the term ‘partner’ instead of ‘boyfriend’ from a girl I get suspicious and, depressingly, a little turned on. If after that point of ‘partner-dom’ I later hear reference to a previous boyfriend, I move them into the ‘possibly goes both ways’ column – which is a cool column, in theory if not practice.

I’ve had a couple of girls change teams after being in a relationship with me – something I’ve always presented in as positive a light as possible when it comes up at parties.

“You turned her gay?!”

“Apparently I was the pinnacle of her masculine experience so, resultingly, she’s had to broaden her gender horizons in hopes of attaining more expansive experiential peaks.”

That starts to sound hollow after seven or eight repetitions.

The world likes balance. Thus it makes sense that gay men have developed a succession of crushes on me. I can’t blame them for this, apparently. According to some commentators a history of dance training and an ability to articulate myself is tantamount to wearing leather pants and growing a handlebar moustache.

“Dude, it’s your hair” said my brother, “it’s just kinda happier than other hair”.

I thought this was a ridiculous theory but as my hair has slowly disappeared from my scalp, my arse doesn’t get pinched quite so often. So I had gay hair. Which, ironically, my arse paid for.

This balance of liking and being liked by various gay elements of society seems to have affected my gaydar. I’m fairly good with men, which doesn’t help me, but suck at women, which really doesn’t help me. ‘Are you a lesbian’ is not a great ice-breaker – trust me.

I’m told that the upside is that such ‘depth of character’ gives me the appearance of sophistication. Women really like sophisticated, articulate men who can dance. This, I’ve discovered, is because such men are engaging, graceful and non-threatening.

Because they’re gay.

People wonder why I don’t go out much.

Petting dos & don’ts

I feel great nostalgia for the pets of my childhood. I’m convinced that Rosie the labrador was the greatest dog that has ever lived – and I don’t mean that I’ll just stick up for her memories and life out of loyalty, regardless of evidence of other doggie greatness, I mean that I believe, fully and unreservedly, that Rosie is the greatest dog that has ever lived. I have kick-ass anecdotes made entirely of love and awesomeness that have never been surpassed. Feel free to test me, it is a competition.

Recently I stayed at home with my parents for a couple of months (a frankly embarrassing length of time for which I have several excellent excuses) which gave me ample opportunity to observe and interact with the current dogs, all personal-like. They’re two yappy little motherfuckers (poodles by breed, of the size that would comfortably fit into the tumble drier), called Mort and Sophie. They’re apparently unrelated, a recently learned factoid that made me feel a bit guilty for the multiple slippers I’ve thrown at Mort every time he starts humping Sophie.

“They’re terribly intelligent, darling”, pronounces my Mother when I question their dogworthiness. “At least Sophie is, Mort can be a tad retarded on occasion, but honestly just look at his coiffure.”

They emerge from the local dog-groomer bi-monthly, smelling very nice and looking ever so pretty, something I can’t deny, yet it throws into strange relief the memories of me and my sibling’s getting our hair cut at home with such paraphernalia as bowls and scissors, until, near grown, we fled home hoping to discover a social life undetermined by our weird looking heads.

“Stay still, dear… oh no, look what you made me do,” tolled the social death knell.

So some envy may have biased my failed relationship with pets, generation 3.

The dogs were taken to ‘Obedience School’ for some training, yet all they seem to have learned is to wait, sitting down, as their food bowls are put in front of them, whimpering until the key word is uttered and they can chow down. They pretty much just stare at you blankly if you expect them to do anything else.

Honestly, they’re idiots. Occasionally cunning idiots but, as I’m fond of pointing out to my mother, cunning doesn’t necessarily denote intelligence. My nephew can cunningly and consistently crap his nappies 2 minutes after they’ve been changed, no matter how varied the changing times or places. Very impressive, but the important thing to remember is that it’s his pants that are full of shit.

But embarrassment catches me up and pokes me in the sternum with the stiff finger of ‘so you think you’re so smart’ once more: My parents were away and I had to go around to theirs and hide the dogs in the laundry. Easy enough to do, you just have to get these beef-jerky treat things and bribe them into the laundry and close the door, they always fall for it. This stops them spending the next two hours yapping at the neighbour’s butterfly infestation. While I was at it I figured I’d try that discipline thing and get them to wait for their treat while reinforcing my obvious superiority. Firm commands of ‘sit!’ and ‘stay!’ were successful so down go the treats. Sophie and Mort are swapping their eyelines between the jerky and me, almost vibrating with the need to devour the food. I wait just a few seconds, getting a momentary feel for the joys of power over lesser creatures, before generously saying ‘eat!’. But they just sit there staring at me. I say, ‘Go on, you can eat now’, then, ‘go!’, ‘eat!’, ‘food!’ ‘alright!’ They just stare at me dubiously, like they’re thinking, ‘come on, we’ve got like one trick, stop fucking around and give us the word already’. I’m just staring at the beef-jerky saying random words, ‘yours… consume…  now… hairdrier… shamrock… sphagnum… …um, please?’

I eventually had to kind of push them right to the food and make encouraging noises and eating sounds while rubbing my belly. It was quite embarrassing for me and obviously confusing for the dogs. I swear they were looking at me differently afterward.

I asked my mother today, when I swung by to welcome her home, what the magic word was. Apparently  it’s ‘okay’.

I’d been hoping for something like ‘menopause’.

I don’t think I’ll give it another try, I really couldn’t cope if it didn’t work out again, the implications would be difficult to blot out. And those poodles can generate some pretty mocking looks, the bouffant bastards.

Coffee Conundrum

My mother bought this coffee machine, this turbo-charged make your own cappuccino monster that makes me feel socially, economically and culturally spoilt whenever I use it. Which is totally beside the point. It’s something I’ve become proficient in using, despite my ill defined reservations about it’s symbolic importance in my life. Thus I found myself, a week back, making a coffee for my father when this creepy guy I hesitate to call his friend, turned up. His relationship to my father requires some sort of qualifier, like golf-friend. Or, buddy. Acquaintance, I’m definitely more comfortable referring to him as an acquaintance. Because he’s creepy, you see. He’s the sort of guy, after he has died in some random traffic accident, that turns out to have a collection of unwashed children’s underwear in his basement, yet this discovery elicits only revulsion, not any particular surprise.

Creepy.

So, Creepy Dave turns up on Sunday morning just as I’ve volunteered to make my dad a nice latte, yet he doesn’t ask me to make one for Creepy Dave, which is fine by me as, much like girl cooties, creepiness holds the fear of contagion. Instead, my dad just makes him a quick cup of instant (an abomination in the sight of the Lord, assuming of course that the Lord lives in the suburbs and has time for sighting such things) and takes it out to him on the front porch, saying to me in answer to my query, ‘Don’t worry, the instant will do’.

I’m standing there, making my dad’s coffee, thinking about what I’ll say when I take it out to him. When I hand it over, owing to the beautifully crafted froth, Creepo will see that he got second class caffeine. It pops into my head that I could manufacture some sort of excuse on behalf of my father, ‘Treasure it Pops, it’s the last of the coffee after Psycho-cat widdled on the beans’, thus alleviating his social awkwardness. But it quickly occurs to me that, actually, it would be alleviating only my social awkwardness. My father feels no such awkwardness as Creepy Dave is, as far as I can tell, like one of those kids that follows another kid around because he likes/covets/envies them, tollerated and accepted by the object of their attentions with a mix of pity and narcisism. Just a guy he plays golf with who may or may not copulate with the dead off-spring of wildlife as a hobby. All this because my dad is an honest guy – had Creeply had the sack to ask why he didn’t get a flash coffee, my dad simply would have told him. He can be that kind of honest; honesty of a sort that disinclines one from asking questions one quite probably does not seek the answer to. This makes my dad sound like a bit of a part-time bastard, but he’s not. He always seeks to be kind, believing this to be an essential life practice, but also believes all actions, at base, are best conducted honestly.  So his kindness keeps Creepster turning up but his honesty affects his etiquette.

I wonder if I should aspire to that level of honesty. It may involve a level of emotional and social engagement that I’m not all that comfortable with. I’m honest with those I like, while those I don’t like I simply don’t engage with in a way that would necessitate communication where lying of any significance could be said to take place. Meaning that the lies that do take place are of the variety of head nodding when one might shake it instead, or feigning a certain level of comprehension simply so the talker wont attempt to explain it in any further, deathly detail. Not so much lying as social lubrication. I appreciate being lubricated that way myself. Is that prevarication? Am I creating subspecies of comfortable lies to make a higher level of honesty unnecessary? I don’t know. What I do know is that my particular genus of honesty and kindness wouldn’t lead me into a position of having Creepy Dave on my front porch every Sunday looking enviously at my damn latte.