Submissions Photo


Where's the hole in that donut gone now?

Pretend for argument sake there exists a real world independent of one's sensory portals. Suppose that world to be accessible to a single individual. (What the word accessible means in this context is not clear, since to experience reality implies cognitive perception, and all cognitive perception as Homo sapiens know it is filtered by sensory instrumentation. Hence there is no direct sensory perception of the world as it is, the noumena of Kant. But assume for argument sake one did find a viable method to pierce the veil of the phenomenal layer to the noumena.) How could that reality be conveyed to those unable to see it? What would they think of the conveyer? The prophets of the Old Testament, men like Elijah and Elisha and Amos, Jonah and Jeremiah and the rest, give an inkling of what the experience might be like.

What if you were the prophet? How would you approach the conundrum of expressing your access to fellow human biocomputers in a language with no universe of discourse extending to include the aspects of the noumena? Your problem is opposite the error of belief in existence simply because of a name, an error aptly illustrated by R. G. H. Siu in The Tao of Science by asking, What happens to the hole in the donut once the donut is eaten? Unfortunately for you, the two problems look the same from the outside.

Common human behavior presages a following of those who find the expression of another's reality to be reality, without any direct experience of it. The confusion of emotive bonding with direct knowledge is so generic to Homo sapiens as to pass without notice. Except you, like the mathematician with a concrete idea tied to no physical equivalent but expressible without ambiguity, would know they didn't get it. And then what? Metalanguage to dissect the linguistic inadequacy? New language to express the inexpressible? Is it possible to plant the idea in the cognitive function of other humans? In mathematics, this is certainly possible, but the range of cognitive extent of mathematics is accessible only to a small group of those with the requisite mental ability. The remainder of humanity is too mentally undevelopable. For you, having no ready linguistic tools at your disposal, the problem is more severe.

So you are left with few tenable choices. Develop a new paradigmatic language, which could take generations if not hundreds of years to come to fruition, or work within something like mathematics, limiting your reach to a handful with the requisite combination of intellectual capacity, patience and ability to concentrate and remember. Both might provide the distinct advantage of Whorf's thesis, creating a new breed with a new worldview molded by a new linguistic structure modifying the cognitive filtration of experience. Feasibility is the issue.

Another alternative is to reach out with metaphor and subversive linguistic modification in a new literature. In this case, the potential audience could be larger. The downside is that no longer is it possible to know whether the concept is transported to the other. Nor does this approach provide the potential longevity and scope of scientific theory, as a simple comparison of Newton and Shakespeare makes evident to those who are educated. To those who don't understand the statement, it is suggested that your education is closer to ceremonial certification. (Note that this is a scale, not a dichotomy.)

Since at this point in the twenty-first century the corporacracy extends to the major publishing houses brimming with blind and dumb automatons squeezed from tubes of universities freshly inculcated with Newspeak slogans to co-opt literary experiment for the numbing of those who might have the potential to gain from fresh visions, the task encounters an insidiously egregious obstruction. Experimental literature has become a put-on, co-opting honest experimenters like Gaddis or Pynchon in service to commercial bloating of the egos of would-be intellects, allowing them to skip the original visions of the experimenters for the mundane pap and prattle peddled as experiment.

Pseudo-intellectual nonsense and praise of mediocrity in literature follow intellectualizing other mindless activities, like elevating football and baseball and golf to formidable mental exercises or praising cliché, here-today-gone-tomorrow rock music and other pop trash as though it were for the ages.

Into this you step with something startling and new. It is left to you to set yourself apart from the pretending bilge. The question becomes how to avoid the quagmire.

What is Fiction?

The newspaper is fiction, as are the newscast, the speech by the President or any other politician, the official government economic indicator, the unofficial and the quasi-official economic indicator and all associated numbers and statements regarding it, the balance sheet of a corporation, the history you were taught, the economic construct you learned, the financial explanation or political rubric to which you subscribe, and everything that can be swept into that giant variant of fiction called social science, including psychology and the oxymoronic absurdity, political science. All of these must be approached and judged as different genres of fiction, just like the novel, the motion picture, the television series.

Presentation is as much a part of fiction as content. Presentation of the work tells the viewer whether the work is to be considered "real" fiction, that is to say, fiction to be believed, or "unreal" fiction. A perfect example is the difference in the way a US newscast might present US derived economic indicators versus those derived by the old Soviet Union. No matter how absurd the fiction, if presented within the appropriate framework of Official-Speak, a dialect of Newspeak constantly bombarding citizens, it becomes tautological by virtue of a twisted internal logic.

Bombardment also has the power to create believers. How many who are repeatedly exposed to a commercial crediting a deodorant with improving a golf game will come to believe it? Certainly the ceremonial magic transferring sexual power to special automobiles holds sway in our culture. Nor is the clash of belief with what might be termed reality so uncommon, as illustrated by the dissonance of a porker who considers herself svelte and denigrates fat sopranos.

This special framing of fiction within a particular cultural interpretation of reality is nothing new. All the major religions present axioms that are accepted without question by their adherents and seen as ludicrous nonsense by outsiders. These superstitions are built on mythologies that claim miraculous demonstrations of their reality, events that never materialize within one's own lifetime, though some brands of organized superstition implement a process whereby such fantasies are ceremonially certified real. Of course, all this constitutes a particular genre of fiction. The sermon and Mass are special forms of performance art for delivering blessed esoteric pronouncements and experiences to the faithful.

Much of what is called journalism is not approachable as anything other than comedy. Some is higher comedy, as when an announcer attempts to present some event through a given time-variant nationalistic worldview. Generally pretentious and always tedious, these comedic pieces are most humorous when viewed from a distance of time or culture. Returning to an example, a historical piece about the economy in the decade of the sixties would not be the same if presented from the Soviet Weltanshauung as from the US Weltanshauung, even though both might represent the same "facts." From the perspective of time, both grow increasingly laughable.

So the comedy is in the presentation itself. The performance cues consumers as to how the work is to be accepted, never mind the content. For this reason, there are many genres within news presentation.

One of the most entertaining of comedic news events is the gaggle of uninformed pundits arguing, debating or simply discussing topics about which they have no understanding and for which they have no basis for opinion. The most appropriate image is the talking head. A favorite routine is a fat, brassy clown dressed in loud, dissonant suit, shirt and tie, forcefully proclaiming he could not recall when the public seemed so disconnected from economic reality in the face of "objective numbers." In fact, disconnect between citizen insight into the economy and official government numbers is common, testifying to the selective memories of these journalists. As when Ronald Reagan tried to persuade US citizens that there were many jobs by reading advertisements for such skills as CICS programmers, about which he himself doubtless knew nothing.

However, more entertaining is the fictious concept of "objective numbers," presented as handed down by some deity, though if the "objective numbers" had come from the old Soviet Union they would no longer be objective. The funniest part is that the one mouthing the pronouncement has little to no idea of how these "objective numbers" come to be. Never mind that they are subject to constant revision, deserving the modifier officious rather than objective. They are themselves fiction, obtained via incantation and other ceremonial magic based on a particular brand of economic mumbo-jumbo and for interpretation via the underlying brand of economic superstition from whence springs the mumbo-jumbo. Mathematics is brought to bear to certify the ceremonial magic, though mathematics itself may be used for any sort of nonsense. Witness numerology, a "science" to which Isaac Newton subscribed.

Death Of The Written Word

Most news events come under the rubric of performance art, not literature. Only newspapers, novels, comic books, most computer manuals, magazines of all types, in general most printed work falls into what is here meant by literary fiction, at least as used by editors for major publishing houses and by agents. There are some written works that are not fiction, but they tend to become outdated rapidly. Examples are phone books, maps, directions, prices in catalogs, television and movie listings, restaurant menus, recipes, automobile manuals, some computer manuals, posted gasoline prices, other requisite tedium upon which society depends for regular functioning. The reader ought to be able to extend the list. Essays, histories, social science, law, the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, these all are fiction. Law is a special case, since it is meant to be applicable as written, which one who challenges the veracity of the tax code can learn to great chagrin. The difficulty is that law is constantly mutating in its application, both over time and with deference to the powerful ones who defy it under special circumstances.

That humans prefer performance art since it requires no active processing of words in a written state can be taken as obvious, the oral tradition being easier to ignore while passing through the ears. It is likely the case that this derives from the inability of most humans to read with comprehension anything but the simplest work. This applies to those with college education, graduate school, law degrees, business degrees, engineering degrees, almost any ceremonial certification, with few exceptions. The problem is not vocabulary or syntax, though these can be stumbling blocks, but instead the ability to think clearly enough to recognize general arguments outside keywords and buzzwords to sort through to the idea being expressed. Assuming there is such. There exists a strong tradition in journalism and politics and law and religion of stringing together syntactically correct sequences of words without semantic content. This is indeed the hallmark of the so-called social sciences, as well as of much contemporary philosophy.

Perhaps this is the real reason for the retreat from the written word. The visceral reaction is easier to induce from oral polemic with visuals than from written harangue. Politicians and media pursue gaggles, not solitary thinkers, depending on the numerous not being thinkers, instead manipulable with images and key-words chosen for unthinking effect. The disability of anti-think of masses of Homo sapiens is by now well assimilated in the corporacracy.

The key to control is provision of mass consumables. Things lure into debt to ensure indentureship allowing little time for reflection on conditions until they become noticeably oppressive. Add to this plenty of planned leisure. The idea of planned leisure for quieting masses has been understood for ages, but with new communications technology it is offered on a massive scale. To invest it with the canons of erudition, the pretense of noetic depth is added so that the consumer feels at the stepping stone of genius. This is in keeping with a society in which ceremonial certification by higher education is guaranteed to all citizens through a course of study from which any difficult matters are pruned. Hence the mythic dichotomy into two types of intelligence, the analytic and the intuitive, called up by those who fail to see that they are the one and the same, a failure resulting from never personally experiencing either. This is the intellectual equivalent of the implication that the reason one fails to enjoy football is because one fails to understand the rules, much as one fails to appreciate the beauty of differential geometry because one fails to comprehend tensor bundles on smooth manifolds.

Retreat into banality is easily understood, since the majority of citizens are too shell-shocked by the twentieth century to consider contemplating life in the twenty-first. But no matter how one retreats into pap glorying a mythic past, the future is the already present, waiting to hand one one's head. And so popular culture is a palliative and a place to hide, offering those hiding pseudo-shelter as they must venture out and face a hostile world full of technology whose workings they cannot begin to fathom, which they can barely operate, and which promises relief from quotidian odium only to add to it, trapping them within its web of inner logic. They become slaves, to technology, to socially induced consumption, to corporacracy for which they are cattle to be herded, milked, and penned. All the while they are left with no manual to guide them, without wherewithal to understand one were it before them, and blind to their true condition.

Interestingly enough, this condition has led to the death of the written word as a means to present new visions, with the masses left only to the devices of corporate media: television, motion pictures, talk radio and popular music radio of personally preferred genre playing ditties the stations are paid to play by the corporations that create and distribute the stuff.

All this is part and parcel of the indoctrination program that begins with so-called education, forced for at least twelve years and then encouraged for at least four more, at the end of which time the citizen is to go out and service the debt already worn like an albatross around the neck, an albatross soon to balloon into an elephant. This is real life, the real world, and it is no wonder the US is perhaps the greatest zombie culture of all time.

Literature Again

Literature should be a slap in the face. It should provide a manual to guide a course through the dross littering the social byways. It is in part the new job of literature to destroy the illusion of freedom and liberty and free enterprise fostered by the corporacracy. Unfortunately, this becomes increasingly difficult as the stranglehold of propaganda tightens. As Benjamin Whorf would note, language influences thought and the language of the corporacracy is Newspeak.

The subtle danger of the corporacracy is censorship of literature and other written work falling outside the correct worldview. This is affected by withholding the official stamp of certification through control of a marketplace manipulated rather than free, unless one believes that payola and outlet ownership are not control. This censorship runs deeply by virtue of control of the media by conglomerates supported by educational establishments both for youth and adults that foster groupthink and correctness of vision, not free thought or curiosity. Perhaps this will backfire in a sickness unto death, but probably not. Paul Goodman laid bare this trend decades ago in several famous works, currently out of print though remaining in demand.

The great difficulty is that one must write to a small audience. The vast majority of citizens neither possess the requisite intellect nor the ability to pierce the veil of misinformation to get at the noumena of their own reality. Literature must be for those who can grasp higher entertainment.

This is another dichotomy, higher and lower entertainment, hinted at earlier. Higher entertainment is that which takes pleasure in thinking. This is discouraged by the corporacracy. Thinking is to be done as little as possible, and only in the appropriate setting. More and more that setting disappears. It is not required anywhere before college, and for the most part is not required in college. Publishing companies encourage writers to ape the screen, mostly of the television or blockbuster film ilk, and discourage anything that might require the reader stop and experience, understand, or make sense of sentences, words, characters, events or scenes. And most are happy to oblige, readers and writers alike.

Why fight it? Integrity, that out of fashion notion called upon by politicians when they are caught cheating, stealing or worse?

Some would say to make money, but to write to make money borders on insanity, as one has a better chance of winning lotteries. Some do make money, but never because they write excellent prose or tell interesting stories. And many who have made money who wrote well, like Mark Twain, made the money in other ways. For Clemens, it was the lecture circuit, an early form of stand-up comedy.

If you believe that skill at putting words to paper will help you sell books, you have not read the bestsellers. If you have read them and continue to believe it, then you cannot write and so might have a chance (albeit infinitesimal, but still better than if your prose jumps off the page).

To make money, buy a franchise, become a plumber or electrician or auto mechanic or other skilled worker and start your own company, start a small business contracting to the DOD through the mechanism of the SBIR program ("Thank God for the government, they'll buy anything"), make or sell ecstasy or crank, become a physician or faith healer or shaman, practice law. All of these are surer paths of gaining money and contribute more to society than writing.