An Excerpt from Bastard Virtues

by
Daulton Dickey.

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Imagine sleeping.

Or trying to sleep.

Or lying in that state between sleeping and awake, a sort of light REM sleep.

Then imagine your phone rings.

Or someone pounds on the door.

You lie in bed for a moment, wondering who the hell’s bothering you.

Or maybe you know who it is.

Maybe you don’t want to answer the phone—or the door—and so you lie in bed.

Then, perhaps out of curiosity, you leap out of bed and grab the phone, or open the door.

Now imagine your cousin Rodney.

He wants your help.

Go into town with him and bail out his son, your second cousin.

Was it even possible to bail someone out at three in the morning?

Imagine thinking it over.

Or acquiescing and throwing on your clothes and shoes, grabbing your keys and wallet. Half asleep, maybe, you say you’ll go, but you don’t feel like driving.

You’re in the passenger seat now.

Racing down a county road.

No streetlights.

It’s dark.

You’re still trying to wake up, maybe. Rodney talks, spews the type of bullshit he’s known for spewing.

Maybe you listen, maybe you don’t.

Maybe you regret agreeing to this, maybe you’re happy to help.

But why’d you agree to do it?

At three o’clock in the fucking morning.

Rodney’s racing to town.

To bail out his son, his worthless son.

You’re going faster, faster. Continue reading

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Ceci n’est pas une pipe: How One Man Strives to Alter Our Perceptions. But Who is He?

by
Daulton Dickey.

I.

“It’s not a question of reality; it’s a question of our perceptions of these convergences we call ‘reality.’”

If you encountered the man who calls himself Buddha Jones on the street, you’d find little reason to acknowledge him. He’s one of those people who seem to blend in, nondescript in every way, almost generic in appearance.

He’s sitting on a bench in a park a few feet from Lake Michigan, gazing at seagulls. They hop in a sort of chaotic line dance. If they’re following a pattern, it’s indiscernible—at least to someone who doesn’t specialize in ornithology.

“They might be following a pattern,” Buddha says, “at least as far as they’re concerned. [Psychologist B.F.] Skinner found that pigeons will detect patterns even when none exist.” He hisses as he inhales smoke, then sighs as he pushes it out through his nose and mouth. “Those findings extend to people, by the way,” he says. “We’re pattern seekers, and we’ll sometimes find patterns that aren’t there.”

Buddha Jones is one of those people you might know for decades without pegging who he is, without pigeonholing him, without finding patterns, if you will, to enable you to discern cohesion in an otherwise aloof personality. His stories often contradict one another—his father died when he, Buddha, was in his thirties, for example, or he never knew his father; each story he tells, each facet of the life he chooses to share eventually emerges as either a creation or an exaggeration—or a combination of the two.

“People sometimes call writers professional liars,” he says. “That’s bullshit. Writers, and I’m talking about fiction writers here, make shit up, but there’s a difference between a lie and making something up.”

What’s the difference?

“Writing is algorithmic,” he says. “You follow a pattern, replace variables with values you’ve appointed. The point is to entertain or enlighten. Or trick.” He grins. “Or to shock or offend or whatever. To lie is to either avoid consequences, real world consequences, or to illegitimately obtain something, or someone, you want.”

But are the two behaviors mutually exclusive?

“Of course not,” he says. “But a writer sets out to tell a story, for whatever reason, or maybe to play with the notion of storytelling. Look, at the end of the day, a writer’s job is to emulate this hallucination we call ‘reality.’” He curls his fingers in air-quotes whenever he utters the word “reality,” something he never fails to do.

Why does he do that?

“I hate the word,” he says. “‘Reality.’ It misleads people.”

In what way?

“In my experience, people tend to assume ‘reality’ is this objective thing that exists independently of people, that we’re somehow passive participants in this thing we call ‘reality.’”

So then what is it?

“It’s a product of billions of neurons modeling an incomprehensible amount of information every second of every day. Each of us experience ‘reality’ differently because it’s ultimately a product of our brains.”

At this point I make a face without realizing I’d made it.

“You don’t believe me?” he says. “Drop some acid. Or drink some whiskey. These chemicals will literally alter how you experience ‘reality.’ If chemicals affecting your brain alter your experience of ‘reality,’ then isn’t it evidence that ‘reality’ itself is a product of experience?” After a long pause. “Which is itself a product of cognitive processes, of our brains?”

He had picked up a stick while we talked, and now he’s drawing the Mona Lisa in a patch of sand surrounded by grass. The picture would impress you: by utilizing nearby dirt, he shades the woman’s face, creating an almost three-dimensional picture, or a sepia etching.

On finishing the picture, which took only minutes, he tosses the stick aside and slides his boot—khaki work boots—over the picture, leaving tracers of a worn sole where a depiction of a woman’s face once lay. Continue reading

Guest Blog: Emergence: An Excerpt from In Defense of the Mind

by
Phoenix.

There is an idea in the philosophy of emergence that states that systems become more and more complex, and more and more properties “emerge” as a consequence. The driving force behind this growth and growing complexity is essentially, creativity.

I think there is a strong link between this conception and that of the mind.

I argue that our minds, which are subjectively creative, are contributing to an overall system (or systems) that is becoming more and more complex as subjective realities interact more and more with reality in general.

In other words: The more that people think and feel and be, and the more their minds connect with the world, the more complex that the overall system of existence increases in complexity, due to the creative potential of the mind.

Again, I want to come back to my idea of potentialities, and infinite potentialities. Our subjective minds are capable of coming up with many novel ideas and possibilities, and this process seems to be becoming more and more complex, as more books of literature and philosophy hit the market, as culture as an organism continues to evolve and continues to grow. Knowledge itself and the discovery of new knowledge also leads to this complexity. We can’t take for granted that even if there is only one objective reality, there are many subjective realities, and those subjective realities are contributing to the creatively growing organism that is humanity. Creative properties are “emerging” in this complex system of humanity, and it’s a remarkable process.

So, as an example: We started off in Western culture with myth, the myths of the Greek Gods. That slowly became more complex as the Pre-Socratics started philosophizing, and then knowledge continued to expand with the knowledge of Plato, and then Aristotle, and then all of the philosophers from the Roman period, and so on, down to the Medieval scholastics, and it goes on and on. There is a classic argument that a person must become a specialist in a field of literature, because there is simply too much literature now. This is a sign of an increasing complexity. Continue reading

Wittgenstein, Art, and Random Prose: Excerpts from Notes and Journals

by
Daulton Dickey.

Oceans above and eyeballs below: the slant of the horizon twists and sways. Nothing forgotten, nothing forgiven. The detriment of the darkness settles on the hands of gloom. Night cracks. Fright moans. Terror settles into the white gold, a diamond crusted experience.

Daulton sits on a windowsill staring at the sky, all loose and soiled, cracked and broken. Fear and anxiety courses through him. Trees in the distance rattle and crack, and the oceans churn and spit out waves that break and collapse onto the starry evening.

—–

The diamond maze
The din of haze
Mocks the crooks
In superior air

Shadows splay
Darkness stays
In meadowless brooks
Behind the trees

—–

The superior air of the sanctuary in the sky cracks bolts and stows jolts and splays shadows across the faces of buildings and the hazy maze of cemetery trees. Through spirals of fire fucking wood in a funeral pyre, the rate permeates in nostril cells. Bile glows and bows inward, upsets the system and rusts the machinery. All parts are glowing and fatigued, and the darkness lingers and sways—air batted between trees.

The world in an eggshell hooks the yolk and cooks the fat, and daylight cracks and drips, staining the planet with opaque sulfur. Charcoal roasts the dawn, spawns the fawns, the dour-like opinions of inward looking faces.

Lightning blasts the kerosene and gasoline burns and bubbles and burps a cacophony of slivers and terrors and sounds melting the earlobes and scarring the prefrontal cortex. That atoms grow and merge and explode, that neurons tremble and shiver, that all life is a dream funneled into the gaps of nothingness frames hallucinations nestled into a head of sweat forming in the brows of agnostic spinsters.

Blow the horn. Slow the storm. Strong arm the national fervor. Sell the whores. Replace the stores. Burn the engine in despair. Sell the machine to repair the rotten eggs and the faceless cunts and cocks breeding ignorance and death. Fuck the lame and suck the stable. Cannibalize Cain and dismember Able. Chew the gristle of fantasies until you’ve secreted their proteins. Then discard them. You don’t need them anymore. Continue reading