Beyond the Myth of Sisyphus


Ever since Camus we have imagined Sisyphus happy, pushing his boulder
This “hero” accepts his fate and is devoid of hope
The perfect absurdist hero

What a hopeful chap that Camus, but such hope, he fails his own test
His boulder rests firmly atop his absurd postmodern hill

Camus can go no further, yet Sisyphus persists
Do not ask if he is happy (surely he is not)
Instead ask, does he accept his fate?

He ought to throw up his hands and beg forgiveness to the gods
Yet he persists
Why?

His actions speak for themselves
What do the actions of Sisyphus indicate about his beliefs?

What do your actions say about your beliefs?
What do you believe, really?

that pain is real, that suffering is real
that there is life, that there is death
that there is good, that there is evil
that there is truth, that there is knowledge

that truth is knowable amidst lies and deceit

that chaos is real, that order is real
that beauty is real
that God is … ?

For all our talk, we sure do act as if we believe

evidenced by his actions, there is only one belief Sisyphus holds
he fails — and he fails — and he fails
yet he tries again — and again — and again

It is as if the infinite power of the gods
to knock his boulder down back down the hill
has been matched by his stubborn refusal to give up

If the story is to be believed
Sisyphus once chained death and escaped the underworld
That is why the gods punish him

But clearly something still motivates him
He must believe that this impossible task is in fact doable
He once saw past the gods, he rejected them

I imagine his mind is freed of ego
and yet he is not happy, far from it
His torment is real — and – it – is – frustrating

He persists despite his
liberation from the unnecessary suffering of false beliefs
the gods of these traditions punish him daily
And he pushes against them eternal

He toils in a meaningless way
I do not see him as a hero nor as happy
I do not believe his fault was for defying the gods
No
Sisyphus once knew a path out of hell
His fault is a lack of wit and ingenuity,
a lack of wisdom and creativity,
to truly surpass what he must know can be surpassed

Pay Artists, Don’t Buy Art

Imagine a world where artists, rather than selling their artwork, were instead paid for their time; paid to work on art with other artists.

Imagine collaborative art projects with dozens, hundreds, or sometimes thousands of artists working together on large projects — imagine each artist being so well compensated that they give their solo work away for free.

Imagine large repositories of open art, free to all, to borrow and use for any sort of new project — friendships would be made, ideas would be born, and every artist could stand soundly on the shoulders of all those that came before — a culture would emerge where artists contribute to these vast and growing repositories of open art.

Imagine an economy where artists are in demand; teams of recruiters would persistently track every artist and seek to hire them for some collaboration or another. New graduates would be poached quickly, invited to join large art projects to work with the masters.

Imagine that as the demand grew, opportunities and new economic models would also grow, keeping all artists in constant demand, even as new people enter the field — a little talent and dedication would go a long way — it would not be a zero-sum game, it would be a continually growing field of artistic achievement, where we create the new economies necessary for the future to survive.

Venture capitalists would seek out groups of talented artists and pay them obscene amounts to start projects — imagine that an project would go on for years without any attempt at seriously monetizing the work, imagine money pouring in with only a vague sense that, “if this works, we’ll figure out how to make money later”.

Obviously, this imagined fantasy sounds absurd in the fine art world — today, galleries and artists do everything they can to sell “works of art” exclusively to buyers. Art is proprietary and unshared. To the winner go the spoils, to the loser nothing. This is a field where very few make a living, fewer still attain fame or fortune, and even fewer will (typically after their death) transform society through their art.

But this imagined fantasy, it does exist, this is exactly what the world looks like to the technologists, scientists, and artists that have birthed the Internet and the modern field of software development. From simple web pages to streaming media, smart phones and app stores — to social upheaval and ecommerce, society is continuously transforming — civilization is growing faster and faster as these technological artists create new economies and new opportunities.

We pay technological artists, we pay them for their time, and they are increasingly in demand.

By comparison the fine art world looks rotten to its core, as if it’s intent on poisoning its own future — this isn’t even a controversial statement — what is controversial is proposing an alternative.

At first blush we may think that artists are different from creative technologists. Even if that were true would it justify the abysmal treatment of art and artists in our culture?

Artists of all variety; musicians, painters, photographers, poets, … all of them offer a mix of creativity and skill — a blend of creative insight with technical execution. This is the life and soul of all art.

Today the technological talents are drawn to the forefront of change in society, shaping the future. Meanwhile, the non-technological artists are… relegated to the whims of a buyers fancy. The fine art economy is barely distinguishable from antique collecting, not exactly a space that nurtures innovation.

The future is being created now, and you won’t glimpse the future in modern art galleries.

Think about it — what will privacy look like in just a few years? What will governments look like in the future? What will corporations look like in the future? All of this is changing right now, and none of it in galleries.

Governments are being toppled, civilization and culture are changing faster than ever, if the artists are not the technologists then where– in the forefront of this rapidly changing civilization –are the artists?

Fortunately, there’s another way to look at this — the world is changing, the artists are fundamental to this change — they are not yet being compensated with the same demand of, say, software developers. Not yet.

Every day that an artists chooses to sell to a rich buyer, to partner with galleries and sell to the aristocratic whims of collectors — then that is another day our culture has failed to nurture art as an integral part of the social change that is happening, now.

Support art, pay artists, invest in artists, and stop buying artwork.

In a Dream

In a Dream by timwarnock

In a dream I heard the gurus talking with the anti-gurus, about inner gurus and outer gurus. There were priests and philosophers, holy men with flowing robes. There was much worship and ritual, talk of enlightenment and how to breath.

“Breathing”, I thought, I’m doing it wrong.

The dream reminded me of the psychonaut splendor of a drug induced mind. Altered states of consciousness, doors of perception swinging to-and-fro. The kind of experience that teaches a profound lesson: there are different states of consciousness, different ways of thinking, different methods of thought.

“Thinking”, I thought, I’m doing it wrong.

Can I awaken from this dream? To awaken, a mind needs not drugs nor gurus nor rituals. That’s all part of the dream. The mind need only awaken from its dream of ego, the thought of self. The mind can easily function without the thought of self, try it, let it go; and with it the gurus and drugs and rituals effortlessly fall away.

If it persists then nourish the thought of self such that it knows it is but a thought, and become as the dreamer dreaming — a wakened lucid dream — follow every desirous path of ecstasy and pleasure, all the way to transcendence.

I am the dreamer dreaming. I try and try to awaken from this dream, but the dreamer cannot awaken, for the dreamer is the dream, and ceases to be when awake.

In blissful silence the mind awakens, the dream ceases, and for that eternal moment, there is no dreamer.

There are no drugs nor gurus nor rituals that match such a state. It is a bliss of “breathing” and “thinking” in effortless harmony such that if there were still a dreamer, the dreamer would think, “this is right”.

The Universal Beauty of Mathematics

When I hear someone say, “I hate math” or “I’m bad at math“, I cringe slightly, and respond almost embarrassed, “I like math, it’s quite beautiful“.

I sometimes go on to defend my belief that there is no useful difference between art, math, and science — none. I’ve had this conversation many times with many people.

Is math beautiful?

Most people seem to agree in theory — and I hear (all too common) stories involving painful memories of math classes. As if the beauty in mathematics is out of their reach, perhaps only beautiful to some nerd minority.

I remember my own math classes when I was young, and I cringe again.

The teaching of Mathematics, a language to express the ineffable beauty of existence, is reduced in classrooms everywhere to a painful Pavlovian conditioning of forced computation.

Imagine for a moment, that instead of teaching children to read and write, that we instead forced them to copy (like little drawing machines) printed books but only one letter of the alphabet at a time. Never learning to read, just forcing them to copy all the A’s on page, and then to copy all the B’s, and so on.

So a young student begins with the letter A and painfully fills in A’s on a blank sheet of paper attempting to match them to the A’s they see in a printed book.

Teachers hold up answer sheets to make sure the young students copied all the A’s and copied them to all the right places on their practice page.

This is a very good copy of the A’s,” the teacher will say.

And then as they get older they copy more and more letters, A’s, B’s, C’s and onward. We do not tell them why they are doing this, we do not tell them that these letters have any relation to their spoken language. And whenever a student asks why they have to do this, we tell them, “because I said so“.

Eventually, years later, a student has copied all the way to Z and finally copies entire pages of printed books. This student can now graduate.

As this student graduates she expresses in angst, “I will never need to do this again, I hate letters“. And she is illiterate, and so is most of this imagined society that forces children to copy letters without ever telling them why.

But perhaps this student goes to college, and while in college she decides to learn more about these letters. She takes an advanced class in letter writing.

She wonders if there are more letters to write, maybe new letters that she has never seen before. She has heard that these letters contain beauty, but she cannot possibly understand how.

The class she takes is called “Letter Theory”, and the teacher begins by asking a simple question,

What is a letter?”

How absurd, the student thinks, obviously a letter is what she’s been copying her entire life!

The teacher goes on, “when we put these letters together they form words, like the ones I am speaking now

Shocked, the student exclaims, “certainly not all words are made of letters, there are so few letters and so many words that we speak

The teacher smiles and replies, “all words, all the ideas you have ever heard with your ears, every lecture, every song, all of it, can be expressed using combinations of letters

Years later, the student has learned about grammar, semantics, composition, literature, poetry — and now she finds beauty in the letters that she never understood before.

Letters are amazing, just as numbers are amazing.

Mathematics is the study of beauty, and it is expressed in numbers.

You need not be a great writer to understand and experience beautiful writing, and you need not be a professional scientist or engineer to understand and experience the beauty of numbers.

Imagine if only professional writers learned how to read, that is our current world concerning mathematics.

If you have never experienced the beauty of numbers, understand that your entire education has failed you, and you are mathematically illiterate. Most likely, you have learned only drilled computation, and perhaps touched upon Algebra or Calculus without any explanation of what you were actually doing and, most importantly, why.

If you believe you are bad at the computation that was drilled into you at a young age, you are not alone; if you believe you were good at those computational drills, you are wrong — all humans are bad at computation. All of us. Our greatest computational geniuses are slower and stupider than even the cheapest pocket calculator. We don’t hire humans to be computers, and we don’t hire humans to be printers — fortunately, we are not training humans to be printers, but we are training children to be computers (really slow error prone computers), and we are robbing them of mathematic literacy.

And if you are mathematically illiterate, you are also (necessarily) scientifically illiterate.

This failure to teach math results in widespread illiteracy, and an inability for many people to read and express the beauty of existence, a poetry in numbers that opens our eyes to the infinite beauty of life.

When we stare at the stars and express their beauty in words, we have religious mythologies — and when we stare at the stars and express their beauty in numbers, we have a scientific revolution. For tens of thousands of years humans have had scientifically illiterate explanations for the stars (pinholes in a celestial blanket), but with the language of mathematics those stars became far grander and far more beautiful than anything we could possibly have imagined.

It is in that moment where science, math, and art converge into a unified inquiry — the study of existence, the study of infinite beauty.

Ocean of Experience

We often speak of experience as a thing to be possessed or identified with, e.g., “I am happy”, “I feel hurt”, “I am in love”. We become the state of these emotions, attaching and identifying ourselves with these experiences.

But do you possess that which you experience? If you suffer, is it your suffering? Is suffering not universal to all that suffer?

Is happiness, sadness, love, or sorrow ever possessed, is it ever yours to possess?

Perhaps we do not possess sorrow or bliss any more than a drop of water in the sky possess the gravity that carries it earthbound. Our experiences are not possessions nor attributes to who we are, they are the process to which we live.

Realizing the truth of your experience, that those personal and profound experiences are not yours to possess, that there is no you to possess those experiences. You are as the drop of water hitting the ocean — you cease to be, and are a part-of and simultaneously one-with the ocean around you — vast and seemingly infinite.

The mind and body are a piece of a seemingly infinite ocean, as relevant to the universe as a drop of water to the ocean. Yet just as that drop of water experiences something as universal as gravity, so does the mind experience something as universal as love, sorrow, sadness, and bliss.

There is no ‘I’ that is separate from all that is, and there is no ‘I’ to possess that which is as universal as the experience of life.

Beautiful Ugly

It can be difficult to find Beauty in everything
There are times it is unknown to us
Our perception mingles with expectation
And we see only the divergence
The flaws from the expected Beauty

There is ugly in reality, it is everywhere
And there is Beauty– it is the paradox of life
That both are everywhere all the time
The movement of life assures this

So what are these aesthetics we cling to?
Perhaps an evolutionary morality
And we cannot help but to find and cherish
The beauty in all things

Mainly Mozart

Went to the penultimate show of the 2009 Mainly Mozart Festival. A nice pairing of Mozart and Tchaikovsky featuring the surprisingly lively St. Petersburg String Quartet.

It’s only the second time I’ve been, but I really love how the Balboa Theater has come together

Posted in Art

Blank Canvas

It starts as an illusion, a perfection of thought
An ideal for none to know

Unknowable as any hope
You were larger than life, yet existing
Only in my mind

The indelible mark of a souls existence
Is left not by serene hopes
But of the actions and reality
Of what they create

And every creation
Marks the end of the ideal
Beautiful flaws of existence

Exhibition

I see you in this place
On the other side through doors unknown
Detached and secure
A smile on your face
It stops those in the streets
Only to come closer
And marvel on the intricate
Details from every angle