Dust to dust

Drawing by J.
Old wizened trees gazing on forever
their eye-leaves slowly drifting in a velvet haze
extend their praise to blackness
while the grass tips bow with the wind
a thump is pounding closer and closer
the sound of footsteps come
to cut and hurt the trees until their wizdom-sap
oozes like thick black blood
but the creatures smile with glee
their pointed features pointing, their laughter steady
they suckle and suckle and suckle
until satiated they fall to the ground
the trees are not bothered
they've been through worse, have many stories to tell
they are saddened though
by the steady vampiric suckling of life
due to which the earth is salted and white as ice
its crystals are shimmering like diamonte
and this is the place
I was growing, ever changing
a very promising maiden
the orphanage near the woods
thought so at least
the woods so close to hand
it would be natural to become inquisitive
so i waltzed out with all my possessions:
just a matchbox
and an old economically unacceptable coin
what happened next and why i am undressed
my money gone and my body black
the charcoal crumbles
and the wind blows me away in the breeze.

Words and art by J.


The Bindu of a Naked Numbskull

Portrait of Thomas Aquinas painted by Carlo Crivelli, 1476
"How many angels can dance on the point of a pin?" is a question first asked by such truth-seekers as Aquinas in the glorious age of scholasticism, when metaphysical nitpicking, hair-splitting and name-calling were the order of the day.

Counting angels is not easy when they’re standing still, let alone jitterbugging on emptiness. And if the dimensionless point at the end of a pin were as infinitely rich in potential as the bindu of Hindu metaphysics, to count the angels you'd need some really tight air traffic control.

But if the point were a dome, and the angels were very thin, how many could dance on the head of a bald man?

Becoming bald is a process involving a diminishing number of hairs. But let's get specific. At the loss of which hair, precisely, can the label "bald" validly be applied? Or, if you're loading straw onto the back of a camel, what is the number of the straw that breaks the camel’s back?

Most if not all questions about moving from one state to another involve a paradox. According to the ancient Greek philosopher Zeno, motion is an illusion, and yet he sat on many stools. Paradoxes are like boogeymen: they seem scary and threatening but when you look closely they lack substance. Most if not all paradoxes emerge from the inherent limitations of human thought and language. Resolving them is simply a matter of accurate definition.

For instance, baldness could be defined as the mean headhairiness density of 0-2 hairs per square centimetre across more than 94.2% of naked numbskull.

Alternatively, we could apply a reductive definition paradigm based on recursion theory. If a full head of hair comprises, say, a million hairs, baldness could be defined as the phase transition marked by the loss of hair #999,678, and absolutely and totally bald, as the end-state marked by the loss of hair #1, i.e. the ultimate hair (hair #2 is the penultimate).

Similar methods can be applied to counting straws and camels.

Now if there’s no bijection, this post can draw to an ignominious close.



I came upon a golem
“encountered” one might say
eating dust as golems must
all bloody, muddy day.

I came upon a zombie
a zombie that I saw
gobbling brains ’til brainy stains
remained upon the floor.

I came upon a vampire
a vampire I did see
drinking blood that streamed in flood
bright red quite readily.

I came upon a werewolf
“awarewolf” as it were
hungry eyes saw my demise
my death, if you prefer.

I came upon the humans
in their global sauna
they ate a world and then they hurled
their guts out in a corner.

On the outside

Pacing the icy hallways and crystal corridors of the Fortress of Solitude, Superman pondered the meaning and purpose of his life. Frozen tears sparkled on his super-cheeks, for the steel-trap mind of the man of steel was corroded and tarnished with self-pity.

Alone. Sad. Tired. He ventured forth seldom those days into so-called civilisation. Alienated and profoundly depressed, he no longer sought to wreak justice upon the wrongdoer. Apparently indifferent to the plight of the undefended innocent, seemingly unaware of the cataclysmic disasters besetting a helpless world, the superhero disgruntedly trundled the polar passages, ruminating on the ingratitude of those for whom he had laboured long and mightily to protect.

And for what? The people of Earth had never been overly generous towards their saviours. Crucifixion for example seemed about as rewarding as a jab to the eye with a sharp piece of kryptonite. Which was why he'd been forced to keep his true identity a secret.

Resentment and bitterness permeated his super-soul. He felt used, dirty, discarded. Well, he would show them. No longer would he hide behind mild-mannered reporters. He would openly express his pride. He would come clean.

He would wear his underpants on the outside.


A sermon on vermin

MEDEA, lithograph by Alfons Mucha (1860–1939). At the feet of the sorceress are her children, whom she has murdered to spite her ex-lover Jason (he of the golden fleece!)
With a slap of your hand you kill the mosquito that alights on you for a quick meal. With a stomp of your foot you squash dead a cockroach too slow at scurrying away. With a deadly feather-duster or vacuum cleaner you destroy the spiders and their elegant webs painstakingly woven in the nooks and crannies of your home. For no good reason other than to test the speed of your reflexes, you grab and clutch to death a tiny, inoffensive midge flying through the air. With an ozone-friendly insecticide you murder dozens of ants clearing away the debris on your kitchen floor. Humming a merry tune, you place a deadly mousetrap in your pantry cupboard.

You think of yourself as a person with at least one foot on the path to enlightenment. You rationalise the killing as being acceptable considering the nature and insignificance of the victims.

Yet the cockroach is to you as you are to the sentient entity known as Everything, aka Reality. The ant knows you as well as you know Everything. The mouse in the mousetrap understands its agony as well as you understand the trials and tribulations that Reality inflicts upon you. Do you want Everything to treat you as you treat those you believe are “lower” forms of life?

Actually, the sentient entity known as Reality doesn’t always treat humans in ways that humans would describe as “gentle” or “loving” or “respectful”. Let’s not forget that every thing is as much a part of Everything as anything, which is why Everything treats every thing equally. The so-called “acts of Everything”, including droughts, hurricanes, tsunamis and earthquakes, continue to cause misery and death to humans, cockroaches, ants and mice indiscriminately.

What makes humans a “higher” form of life than, say, mice? It’s true that mice don’t build cathedrals as well as humans do. But humans don’t scurry or gnaw or reproduce as well as mice do. In what way is cathedral-building a worthier activity than gnawing, or reproducing for that matter?

The Summons of the Amulet

The gang were all there, in their usual spot behind the trees at the south end of the school grounds. They were talking about good ways to commit suicide and Tom said injecting air into your veins ‘cos that gives you a heart attack, and that’s how Bruce Lee died but they never found out who did it though.

Then Piggy said eating yourself to death, like in that movie where they ate and ate and ate and the one dude got sick and starting farting until they forced him to eat mashed potatoes and then they all screwed these hot young babes with ice cream and chocolate sauce dripping all over them.

The younger boys, JJ, Nose and Weasel said “Wicked!” and “Fully sick!” Nose got his name from the size of his nose. None of them could remember how Weasel got his name.

Just then the boys noticed Tom’s step-sister Suzie approaching. Her pale skin was dotted with freckles. She wore her frizzy red hair in pigtails. Her eyes lay deep and green behind spectacles with lenses the thickness of coke bottle glass. She had just turned seven and in her hair she wore one of the cute little bunny hairclips that daddy had bought her on her birthday.

In my father's house are infinite mansions

The material world, ultimately, is a network of inseparable patterns of relationships. Fritjof Capra, author "The Tao of Physics"
A pattern is a frozen process. A process is a freely flowing pattern.

A pattern is a static process. A process is a dynamic pattern.

A pattern is one form of structured chaos. A process is another.

In the material world/s, a pattern is structured chaos. The growth rings of trees, at a moment in time, are a pattern.

In the immaterial world/s, a process is structured chaos.The development of growth rings in trees is a process. Immaterial things like "Life", "Consciousness", "Self/Soul", "Thought" are processes.

Unstructured chaos is the primeval state. Structure is an emergent quality, i.e. structure isn't present or seems not to be present in the primeval state, but rather emerges or seems to emerge at a threshold level of complexity. Structure and complexity are correlated or seem to be correlated. The more complexity, the greater the potential for structure, the greater the potential diversity of structural forms.

Miscarriage of justice

The coppery smell of blood hung in the air within the narrow, blighted birth-chamber. "Not salvageable," was my father's judgment carelessly declared over the dying body of his youngest wife---thirty years his junior---on the occasion of my emergence into this world of pain. The next time we met was the day he died.


The Plughole of Nothingness

Mastress, a gnarled and nut-brown guru of indeterminate gender
“Uncanny, Mastress is it not, how the processes of consciousness conspire to emerge unwittingly, unknowingly and unknowably behind the Curtains of Myness on the Stage of Solipsism in the Life Drama now playing at the Theatre of Self,” said the Novice to the Guru, a gnarled and nut-brown mendicant of indeterminate extraction and inherence, naked but for a dubious loincloth in the early years of retirement.

Having spoken informally, in a cringingly nervous and offputting attempt at the easy badinage of one learned colleague with another, the Novice flinched then winced then cowered behind the large laundry basket that doubled as a small laundry basket on top of another.

“If that’s what you’ve derived from the Teachings,” quoth the aged Guru, imperturbably eating a banana,” then you have derived yourself. Ex nihilo nihil fit. As it is written, so shall it be...”

“But Mastress, if I am not for myself, who is?” implored the Novice piteously, “and if not now, then when?”

“Nobody, never. Or everybody always. Now go sweep the stair. Perhaps you’ll meet a man who isn’t there. If only he were you,” grumbled the Nut-brown querulously, dugs flapping mysteriously in a windless breeze.

Global warming's habit-forming

DetailDetail from Hungry Ghosts Scroll, late 12th century, Kyoto National Museum, Japan. You don't have to be Buddhist (or even human) to feel that life is pain and misery. But some lives are more painful and miserable than others. One of six lifeforms available to humans for reincarnation purposes, hungry ghosts (aka anguished spirits) can never satisfy their monstrous appetites.
If humans were to go away
Would nice terrestrials stay and play?

Were we to leave for outer space
Who'd stand and say we're in disgrace?

Fish don't know its paradoxic
Waste is food and food is toxic

No birds there be, or bees, or trees
Who realize we spread disease

We'd like to say with deep remorse
We're very sorry, yes of course

But where's the mailbox on the moon
To send the Earth a Get-Well-Soon?

To tenderize a tough old bird
Just cook her longer, so I’ve heard

But like revenge, or so I’m told
The Earth is better eaten cold.


Sign of success (dream)

I am employed by a firm of consultants. My office is in the middle of the alfresco dining area of a luxury hotel. I am happy. I feel good. I am not concerned about the fact that my office is in a terrible mess: papers everywhere, ashtrays full of butts and ash, and strange green caterpillars crawling all over the back of my chair.

The caterpillars have long, bristly hairs. Could they be dangerous? Are the hairs tipped with potent neurotoxins? Should I kill the caterpillars? I decide not to.

I find a sign on which most of the lettering is faded and illegible but I can read some of the words: "Director of Superannuation… in honour of… recognition… excellence…"

Two workmen enter the office wanting to affix the sign. We have a friendly conversation. I say "I'm amazed, astounded, really bowled over. Nobody tells me anything. It's the first I've heard of it. Without any inappropriate modesty I feel it is richly warranted…"

The workmen respond by saying they have known about it for some time--the fact that my achievements are to be recognised by means of the sign. The workmen go away. I go for a walk in the garden. When I return, the sign is no longer to be seen. I search my office, but the sign is nowhere to be found. The green caterpillars are still crawling on the back of my chair. I am not worried, or upset. I feel cheerful. I suspect the workmen may have taken the sign. But they probably have a good reason for doing so. I don't know what that could be.

President Bill Clinton enters the office. He is CEO. He knows about the sign. We look for it together.

"You are one of my best generals," he says to me.

The Guts and Toes of the Meaning of Life

Engraving by an unknown artist first appearing in Camille Flammarion's L'atmosphère: météorologie populaire (1888). The image depicts a man crawling under the edge of the sky, as if it were a solid hemisphere, to look at the mysterious Empyrean beyond. The caption (not shown here) translates to Engraving by an unknown artist first appearing in Camille Flammarion's L'atmosphère: météorologie populaire (1888). The image depicts a man crawling under the edge of the sky, as if it were a solid hemisphere, to look at the mysterious Empyrean beyond. The caption (not shown here) translates to 'A medieval missionary tells that he has found the point where heaven and Earth meet...'
We’ll get to the meaning (and purpose) of life later, but first we need to talk about guts, toes and strings.

Physicists tie guts and toes with string. Or to put it less simply, string theory is seen as a promising way to integrate grand unifying theories (GUTs) with theories of everything (TOEs).

GUTs are about unifying three of the four forces that physicists call fundamental. “Fundamental” means there are no others. "Fundamental" means that across the whole of the universe are no forces, powers or energies other than the fundamental four: electromagnetism, the weak force, the strong force, and gravity.

Every force is one of the four fundamentals or is based on one of the four. Centripetal and centrifugal forces, for example, are just gravity in the round. Nuclear energy is the strong force flexing its muscles. Radioactivity is the weak force at work.

Electricity and magnetism have been unified: they are different aspects of the same underlying force, electromagnetism.

Electromagnetism and the weak force have been unified into the electroweak. To put it less simply: electricity, magnetism and the weak force are thought to have once been the same thing, or at least, different aspects of the same thing.

And you're not wrong if you think this is all weird, strange or abnormal. In fact, renormalizing the electroweak was how three nerds (Glashow, Salam and Weinberg) earned their Nobel Prize.

The strong force keeps it all together. What is it? It is ordinary matter (as opposed to non-ordinary matter, called dark matter, which is believed to exist but about which we know very little). Specifically, the strong force binds protons and neutrons into nucleons, and confines quarks to their hadrons. (Jeez! It’s got to be true, you just can’t make this stuff up!)

It is thought that the strong and the electroweak were once unified but went their separate ways shortly after the big bang.

GUTs are about unifying three of the four fundamental forces. TOEs are about unifying all four. Unfortunately, the fourth fundamental force, gravity, has a mind of its own and continues to go its own way. Relatively speaking, of course!

TOEs aim to wrap all four fundamental forces into a nice, neat, tight, little parcel. And the best way to wrap a parcel is with string.

Le Club Nosferatu

nosferatu--Image from poster for the Werner Herzog movie---Nosferatu the Vampyre---starring Klaus Kinski and Isabelle Adjani. Apologies but I don't know the name of the artist.It was 3:00 am and they were hungry. Where could they go in the City to feed? There were hardly any people about and all the restaurants and take-away joints were closed. So after some debate they decided to go clubbing instead.

When they got there the music was pounding loud enough to burst the eardrums of a beggar sleeping in the alley out back. He clutched his skull and wailed piteously. The blood ran down his cheeks.

"Well that's handy," said Armand, "we can have a quick snack before we go in!"


A bad, bad feeling

Paulie was a skinny little kid with ginger hair and no friends. He lived with his mother in a ramshackle cottage on the wrong side of the tracks. His father had died in an industrial accident a few months after Paulie’s birth.

The kids at school teased him a lot. They called him “mommy’s boy” because his mother waited outside school most afternoons to walk home with him, or take the bus if they didn’t feel like walking.

Paulie’s love for his mother ran deep. She was always doing things for him, looking after him, helping him do his homework, stuff like that. And every year on his birthday she would bake him a cake and give him a present (even though they didn’t have much money) and sing “Happy Birthday” so that he could forget his troubles at least for one day.

Paulie knew the date of his mother’s birthday, but for one reason or another he never remembered in time to make her a present or a card. Her birthday would come and go and a few days later he would realize he had forgotten yet again. He would feel really bad about that, but only for a short while and then the bad feeling would go away.

One day at school it suddenly came into his head that it was his mother’s birthday that day. He was ecstatic that he had remembered. In art class he made a beautiful birthday card for her. He felt proud of himself for remembering, and he could hardly wait for school to end so he could hug his mom and wish her happy birthday.

Worlds without end

Drawing in René Descartes' (1596-1650) Drawing in René Descartes' (1596-1650)
"Treatise of Man" explaining the function of the pineal gland.
According to Descartes, cogito ergo sum: I think therefore I am. But aye, aye, aye, I’m tired of talking about me (i.e. I). Let’s rather talk about thought, without worrying about who is doing the thinking.

Thoughts exist. They don't exist in the material world, but they do exist somewhere. Thoughts are real. Thoughts are.

And what about feelings? Feelings are not the same as thoughts. You can feel happy without thinking of happiness. You can feel happy without thinking about being happy, or about whether the happiness is warranted, or about where the feeling of happiness comes from. Feelings don’t exist in the material world. But they do exist. Feelings are real. Feelings are. It’s unclear whether feelings exist in the same world as thoughts, or in another, non-material world.

Emotions: are they the same as feelings? Are emotions thoughts? Where do emotions exist?

Beatings for One Person Each

Painting by William Blake
Basil baulked at bulk-bashing
Preferring to inflict higher quality beatings
On fewer victims

Bernadette broke a sweat placing bets
Her bibliophilous solution-toed calculi
At longer odds and shorter jockeys

David the pecs was tortured to death slowly
His bibulous problem-head unwhole he
Glugged a bevvy of big-bosomed babes

Unsolved on ebay, watch: onsold
To unrealtor Esmeralda Glutz
Unreal water but no crusts in all her dusty huts

A sharp jab in the I

Demiurge, painting by SRS, oils on canvas, 50.5 x 40.5 cm. In the context of this post, "Where's Wally" would be a better title for this painting, "Wally" being the lost and/or non-existent Self.
According to Heraclitus you can’t step in the same river twice. Why not? Because no river is ever the same; the water is never the same – there’s always new water flowing downstream. (If the water isn’t flowing, it’s not a river). In fact, not only can’t you step in the same river twice, the same you can’t step twice into a river. Why not? Because there is no “you” that stays the same.

Physically, you’re always changing. Your body is never the same. Your blood is always flowing. Your heart is always pumping. Cells die and new cells are born all the time. And living cells are changing all the time: their biochemical processes only stop when the cell dies.

Nor is your mind ever still. New thoughts, ideas, imaginings are constantly emerging then fading away. And if you think you don’t always think, think again: you’re constantly receiving information about the “outside world” via your senses. Even when you’re asleep you’re monitoring internal processes such as breathing as well as external factors such as temperature. Your brain is a perpetual motion machine – neurons are firing all the time, in sleep and in wakefulness, even in coma.

Mysterious doctors treat peculiar diseases

The Reward of Cruelty, an engraving by William Hogarth, (1697–1764)
Oh, you’ll know them when you see them. Mysterious doctors have sinister laughs, and they rub their hands together in glee a lot. Sometimes they wear white coats, other times blue.

They say things like “mmmmm” and “tsk, tsk” and “tut, tut” and “say Ahh” and “what have we here”. They use words ending in “itis”.

They grow goatees to cover their pimply chins. Their eyes bulge. They have lots of hair growing in their nostrils. They have very bad breath.

Mysterious doctors treat mysterious ailments and peculiar diseases, including Housemaid’s Knee, Nutcracker’s Jaw, Wanker’s Wrist, Wondering Nipple, Quackenburger’s Dropsy, Hog-snout Syndrome, Thrush, Sparrow and of course virulent Monday-itis. Not to mention Ankylosing Spondylitis, Myasthenia Gravis and Sixth Nerve Palsy.

Mysterious doctors are adept at removing mysterious organs, and frequently recommend slicing the brain into disconnected halves (very callous, colossal corpses) — a sinister procedure requiring great dexterity.

For mysterious ailments mysterious doctors prescribe mysterious treatments, including but not limited to moxibustion, hirudotherapy and maggot debridement therapy (MDT).

The Binding Opportunity

The so-called "binding problem" of psychologists, neuroscientists, philosophers, metaphysicians and other horse-thieves relates to the proposition that some aspects of reality are processed in some parts of the brain, and other aspects in other parts of the brain. It's believed to be a Problem because the neuromancers cannot explain how datasets from different parts of the brain combine to form an integrated, holistic consciousness--whatever that is.

According to Revonsuo and Newman (1999) the binding problem is "…the problem of how the unity of conscious perception is brought about by the distributed activities of the central nervous system."

For instance, say that Jon sees a red balloon floating across a room. The quality of "redness" is said to be processed in one part of Jon's brain, the shape of the balloon in another, the size in another, and the movement in yet another. Where then, and how, are these qualities or qualia combined to form the unified experience ("red-balloon-floating") in Jon's consciousness?

dark sprite

What dark sprite pursues you down those corridors of ice,
that endless, lead to nowhere but the fear within your heart?

Dare you name the creature that has stolen your joy,
and insatiable in its fury ever thirsts for more?

We remember you in the golden time,
before the fall, when your soul untrammelled soared among the stars.

Please don’t go away; don’t leave us only with memories of your fierce dark mind,
the mysteries you create, the paths you tread where none has gone before.

I wrote this poem with a particular person in mind. Over a relatively short space of time, the person's personality and behaviour changed from light to dark, from loving to angry and hostile, from joyful to resentful, from kind to cruel. We've never found out what prompted the change, but we suspect it was a specific episode/incident in that person's life. It has been heartbreaking to witness.