"Taking himself seriously, so you don't have to."

An Epistemological Note

An Epistemological Note

 

How have I gained this information? How is it that I claim to know what I do? Excuse me for speaking in the first person, but it seems that the question requires it.

 

Let’s see… how does one catalog exactly how and why they came to know what they did? One could write an academic paper. One could cite sources. One could say “I read this idea here, and this is what that place is.” For purposes of rigor, that is good to do. It is nice. Useful to the reader. “Oh right, here is where it all comes from.” They can then begin the process of finding out for themselves if you were correct in your usage, if you followed the thoughts that the previous article correctly articulated, if you skewed a perception here or there, or if you read the thing at all. Where could those ideas be coming from otherwise? “Where are you getting this?”, you might ask.

 

Well. I will offer the best explanation I have:

 

I am a construct of all of the people I have known and all of the information I have taken in. (I wrote this line in a journal some years ago, and oddly enough, while glancing through Kurt Cobain’s journals, I found the exact same line. If it makes things simpler, imagine that I am quoting him.)

 

That is where I have gotten these ideas. In short, all of this is who I am. I can point you to my family, my friends, the people I grew up with, the teachers I have had, and the society in which I have lived. I could list all the books I’ve ever read. Every movie and video game. You could go on my computer to read everything that I have ever read. Every online article, every discussion. You could find records of my phone conversations. You could do any and every one of these things. Good luck. Sounds like fun. Spend your time on that.

 

OR

 

You could take my word for it. I do not understand how my brain works. Well, maybe I do. You see, I do have methods for how I take in information. I was able to “turn them on” a few years back. For maybe 6 years I’ve been able to determine how I receive information. It is intuitive to an extent. What I do is this: after a certain amount of reasonable dismissal, I accept all information taken in to be gospel. I “allow it to affect me” in the deepest sense I am able to control. Then that shit all swirls together over a long period of time, bouncing around referencing and cross-referencing, being brought back to consciousness in a new form, written down or not, put back into the dark to mull and simmer while I focus on practical things. When the time is right, when “planets align”, when the idea is proper and worth repeating, when it has reached a level worthy of communication, it comes out. I speak it or write it down in a place where others might read.

 

Some time ago, I gained a… different mind. Parts all at once, other parts to come with time, to utilize better. Some thoughts and obsessions and emotions do not die easily. Some are worth holding onto. I personally went through each thought and feeling I had and attempted to trace its source. I did. Took about a year of scrutinizing every thought before my brain could not take anymore. The ultimate source was… well, I lost my identity for a while. What was it? Possibly nothingness. Possibly a greater spirit. One could imagine anything. It would make for a good story, attempting to figure this thing out. Not something easily identifiable, in any case. And something that I would not enjoy repeating.

 

I utilize emotions toward remembering important things. I have noticed a natural paranoia. I identified it as an emotion, unrelated to things that were true or not. I have since utilized it in the form of a beneficial conspiracy that encourages me to do the things that I have deemed important and fulfilling. I utilize certain delusions for beneficial purposes as well. It seems that having some delusion is important in our lives, and that if one were cognizant of all thoughts and feelings, all truths at all times, things do not go well. People become uncomfortable, and by extension, so does the individual. Not much can be done practically in that case either. Thoughts relating to death or significance or meaning or causes or effects or other consciousnesses or insecurities or overt-confidences or minutiae or a thousand things under the sun that social adolescence slowly ingrains into one over a lifetime to be ignored. I am cognizant of these things and have chosen (or it has been chosen for me) to suppress them for purposes.

 

For what it may mean, here is an explanation for a couple sample paragraphs from one of my favorite sections, Unemployment:

 

 

To get back to the matter at hand: there are millions of educated young people (not to discount the older folks) sitting around, practically doing nothing. [Labor statistics are repeated on a daily basis on most news stations and in most newspapers. I happen to listen to NPR, and they have reiterated many times how many unemployed there are, particularly how many of them are educated college graduates. If this statement sounds foreign to you, though I have a hard time figuring out how, unless you've been living under a rock, then please go to census.gov and see. I don't claim the exact amounts, and so I believe a reference is unnecessary. But again, if this is foreign to you, check it out. This goes for any other non-deductive statement that I propose. The internet is there for a reason, and if you question my truthfulness on these things, look it up. If I am wrong, please tell me.]

 

Many of them have college debt, an education that apparently failed to provide them a better life of sorts, perhaps a menial job that lets them barely make rent and student loan payments. [Again, thoughts that have been repeated on newscasts and in articles everywhere. Besides, I personally know many people who struggle with this every day, graduates themselves. I struggled myself, by rights, and have seen this effect in action, of which I relate in this section. About making rent and the buying power of the wages they are provided, again, please open your eyes. Listen to the news stories. Read some articles. Look it up if you don't believe me.]

 

Some are completely unemployed, hanging onto whatever family or friends they can. Some begging on the street. [Again, people I have met firsthand. Personal stories of which would take too long to record, and of which are not the focus of this essay. The focus should rather be the reasoning by the conclusions are reached. Namely, that our system is unsustainable and does not provide what people need.]

 

What are they to do? Are we really lacking the ideas that put people to work? (We have reached the end of our necessities, and are closing in on the end of our wants.) [The major question here is a deduction, beginning with the all-too-simple idea of “what is to be done?” The question is then answered by necessity: finding food, finding water, shelter, finding a mate, etc. It is then answered by want: people like good food, a nice house, inebriants, privacy, freedom, equality, justice, etc. All of these things (material anyway) have been provided for many by their hard work and our economic system. Simply look about you and see what is available for consumption and you will see what I mean. Look into yourself and see what you actually need to survive, and what things you consume out of want, rather than need. Then see that all have these needs and wants, and that at some point, if what needs to be done is done, all could be provided for. This is an observation.]

 

What they are lacking is a sense of freedom. [This is the ultimate penultimate first want, or so it seems to me. Perhaps I am taking this idea too strongly to apply to all others, as a conscious want, but the fact of debt, the fact of wars of civil rights, the fact of greed, both freedom to and freedom from, the definitions of which I have learned from an essay by a friend, John Leonard. I don't believe he would have a problem with me using those concepts, as I believe he was not even the first to come up with them. But they do not require that much explanation, and the meaning can be found contextually by knowing the purpose of those prepositions. Again, the line of “what they are lacking is a sense of freedom”, is a deduction. In that, provided the assumption (I hope to Christ I'm not wrong on this, but I am damn well prepared to be to the death), that humans are animals that must do something, and that when they are unemployed and they produce little of value, it is a result of them lacking freedom to pursue what they would. The worry of which they feel ties them to the ground and prevents their best action. This is an inference of psychology, and something I found through introspection of myself. I hope that does not require a source. If so, I can point to a note I wrote four years ago that explains my feelings on this matter, if I could find it jumbled within a thousand other pages of miscellaneous writings. I could also point to the fact that when I had gained a sense of monetary independence, the malaise that afflicted me when “shackled” to debt had lessened. Therefore, I found that, freedom and subservience to none being the ultimate goal, when closer to that goal, one becomes more active. I don't believe I need a scientific, double-blind study to prove this fact, but if anyone would like to try it, good luck. The authority with which I speak here is that of one who understands his self. Perhaps not completely, but if it is coming from anywhere, it is there. And deductive reasoning, which again, I proffer all to keep me in check.]

 

When one is shackled to debt, all that one can do is attempt to find some way to make money, period. [Based on the assumption that money buys freedom. Is that not what everyone is doing? Or must I write an academic paper or perform a study to prove this single point? Though now that I return to the point, there is the possibility that money does not become the object but survival, or that of social standing. People have different motivations for everything, but the prevailing one, the one encouraged by our system, is that of finding money to reach that goal. People may do any number of things: drop off the radar and become travelers, mooch off of their friends and family, or die in the street drinking, or fighting to become a kingpin. Some avoid giving in to work averse to their character. A silent rebellion, where the man does not even know the enemy.]

 

Especially if it is averse to that person’s best inclinations. [The prevalence of inner-city violence, prostitution, drug-related trafficking and crime should come as no surprise. Again, something that I hope to hell I do not need to reference. Daily reports of violence and crime arise even in Kansas. I am not speaking here of specific instances, which would better justify citing a source for this information. I am speaking in generalities, appropriate for the subject, which I should reiterate, is one of the general.]

 

Someone who is an incredible artist should not be spending the most productive part of his life flipping burgers, and strange as it sounds, vice versa. [A deduction.]

 

The problem here is that (as it has been this way for the history of our country) no matter that someone can benefit society in the best way, our system forces them to find a monetary way. [This I have found through personal experience in my own life. Hearing of other people’s stories. Deducing parts. And a menagerie of everything, I have come to this conclusion. I have tried to show how this comes about, but perhaps I am not explicit enough. I will attempt to explain this fact with the simplest thought experiment I can think of: an alien lands in the United States with full knowledge of (hell, maybe I’m taking this example from The Man Who Fell to Earth. Good movie, by the way.) English, with a driver’s license, clothes on his back, and a few dollars in his wallet. (The alien in the movie, played by David Bowie, has powers that allow him to counterfeit money, making this example quite different. Would have been an interesting twist were that not the case…) So we have this neutral adult. His ability to do well in this world will be partly dependent on his sex, sexuality, and race. Generally speaking, were he a white male he would have a better time, but born-with factors play a large role. Anyway. He would hardly be able to get a job at first because he is without an address or phone. He would spend some time on the streets and probably end up at a community shelter. Without a community shelter, he would end up in jail, unless he was especially charismatic and made friends easily, but that is a personal characteristic that cannot be assumed or guaranteed in order to provide an accommodating society. With no record of education or work history, he would need some time within a community to prove, in some measure, that he is worthy trust. This would take some time. An estimate of that amount of time varies with the community, so I will pick a span of one year. (go ahead and run an experiment on that and get back to me when, after 5 years, with a lot of luck, you finally get funding. Spend another 6 months putting together the pieces and finding a proper subject and community. Spend a year watching the guy flounder about and fail repeatedly, without altering his trajectory. After all that, get back to me in seven years that you proved a time of 1.2 years. Congratulations. You are an example of what is wrong with our funding process.)

 

Anyway, so this guy, with a little luck, could pick his life up out of the community shelter after a year or so, get an apartment, and continue working in the service industry. The place he lives does not give contracts, as it is a halfway house. He pays a monthly rent that is more than he ought to. The landlord charges more because he knows no one else will take him in. “Being taken advantage of” is an economic and psychological possibility that increases the lower one stands on the social ladder, determined by wealth. He needs to work long hours in order to keep his apartment, so he does, because he is an industrious sort. Again with a little luck, and without no slip-ups, five years later he becomes affluent enough to find another job, one with higher pay and less hours. So he pays the bills and gets more free time. Soon he finds, through experimentation, that he is especially good at something. Anything, really.

 

That thing, however, does not pay much money. He does not get paid enough for being a good friend or a painter or a musician or a poet or a gardener or a farmer or a father or a mother or a journalist or a woodworker or a sculptor or a manager or an athlete or an inventor or a logician or a filmmaker or anything and everything that anyone has known to be their true calling; and of which all provide an intrinsic good for a society.

 

(Again, it seems I am making statements without providing proof. Especially with lists, they seem to require explanation again: poetry, sculpture, painting, music, filmmaking are all good as they provide art and culture. Good fathers and mothers are incredibly important; the guides for our next generation, again, an intrinsic good. Managers for bringing people together for large projects requiring teams, an intrinsic good. Athletes to push the limits of capability, to compete where most others cooperate and provide inspiration, an intrinsic good. Journalists speak of events and happenings and communication, an intrinsic good. Inventors to push our technological innovation to new heights, an intrinsic good of itself, though not without its pitfalls. Gardeners and farmers to make food, an intrinsic good. And logicians to push the boundaries of reason, an intrinsic good, though again not without its pitfalls.)

 

Too many possibilities for this individual. Too many possibilities for all individuals to do such good things. The possibility of people finding their true calling and becoming the geniuses they are is too low. I refer here to Virginia Woolf’s “A Room of One’s Own”, where she presents a great case for the creation of genius. So long as our species’ existence is assured, as well as it can be assured, this is the next evolution to which our society ought to aspire. In the case of our man, he is at best able to provide his intrinsic good (with compensation, allowing him to continue doing it) in the form of being a doctor or an engineer or an actor or a teacher.

 

Doctors provide an intrinsic good in that they heal the sick, though their ability to do so is terribly, unconscionably restricted through our present system. Engineers and scientists provide an intrinsic good because they find the best answers to our problems, though their ability to do so is also hampered by restriction of their choice of project to pursue, framed by that which would provide money, determined by the hierarchy above them. Actors provide an intrinsic good through their art and culture and exposure of our true motivations (something not unique to them but all artists). Teachers provide an intrinsic good because we would be dubious, uneducated rabble, or worse, without them. I am missing a few: construction workers, carpenters, administrators of water, sewer, planning, record keepers, librarians, cooks, brewers, and others who get paid for their services. They ought to be. They all, we all that provide intrinsic good for each other.

 

So, through hard work, a lot of luck, some good sense, an understanding of the system, a willingness to submit to its demands, and faith in its function for his benefit, he might, at a ripe old age, that of retirement, be finally able to pursue what he always wanted, that which he was best suited for. Unfortunately, he spent the best years of his life working a counter, in a job that he did not necessarily enjoy, but one that was certainly not suited to him. And dare I say, this will not do.]

 

This is not unique to the United States, however, and the only place in which people have been without this master have been those born into the higher class of aristocratic societies. [Also: monarchs, tyrants, celebrities, artists talented and lucky enough to set terms, and now, once again, the king capitalists.] By now we have reached the point where it is conceivable that this “sole monetary way” can be converted to “the best way”. [This “conversion” is the intent of this entire treatise and it is conceivable because I am writing it.]

 

Tracing my own ideas is not beneficial for others. It is an endeavor that ends in either all or nothing, with no identifiable results either way. There is little it could tell you. It is useful for personal realization: you’ll find that tracing ideas like that is a fruitless endeavor, and that it is more effective to take what you know, what you have determined to yourself to be that which is true, and take it to be gospel. I have taken this idea as far as it could go because I was not confident in the origins of those very ideas, that they could have come from places that held assumptions unjustified. Many of them did, and upon examination, I dismissed them. You could trust that I have done this, and take my words as such, or you could deny my right to speak with authority, which I cannot deny you. And if you are not convinced by this explanation, I believe there is little else I can do. I cannot spend my time continually responding to questions of this sort. There are too many other things that require my attention. It is more effective to focus upon them, describe them in as clear of terms as possible, and move on to the next idea.