Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Counting the Omer: Netzach (Patience, Eternity)

[warning: very stream-of-consciousness]

As usual I start off by going to the opposite pole -- impatience, the transitory. Thinking about the evolution of technology towards immediacy and how it produces in us a radical impatience, a small-scale anger that triggers at any millisecond delay between us and the digital response we seek.

Sometimes my mind feels like a Wall Street trading pit (do they till have those?) Furiously aggressive and competitive shouters battling each other over tiny differences in abstract transactions, trying to gain some small advantage here, shave some seconds there. Giving themselves early coronaries. Like Wall Street, little actual value is created from all this passion. Presumably it's all in the service of making a shitload of money that will be enjoyed some other time, a time that never seems to come.

I think somehow the effort to create coherent selves (which serve to allow us to not be trapped by every local temptation) gets too caught up in status seeking, and becomes a kind of frantic competition. It's a disorder of volition, a condition where long-term goals and short-term behaviors are too separated to support each other. Patience may be a way to connect the levels.

Patience in a way requires faith, a belief that in fact things will improve, that they'll work out even if we don't get every little thing done, that goals will get closer, even without impossible exertions and emotional flipping out. Eternity is in no rush...by allowing a little eternity to filter into our daily lives, we can moderate the unhelpful proddings of all the things we would like to do and don't have time for. Too much eternity is overwhelming, I suppose -- how the hell are you supposed to get anything done if you think about the ultimately trivial impact of our actions on the universe? But a little is good, it lets you downscale the concerns that loom so enormously.

"Things happen of their own accord, or not at all." -- Gene Wolfe

I don't know, patience can bleed into passivity. Gregory Bateson's was derisive of conscious purpose, as somehow un-ecological or unsound. Easy for him to say. It's the comfortable who can zone out into some kind of cosmic holism, secure in their estates. The rest of us have to scramble for a living, and we need goals and plans if we aren't to be slaves of other people's.

One more thought on eternity: like atheism and anarchism, it is a concept that is defined by negation (in this case, of time), and is thus hopelessly infected by what it seeks to deny. Time is even harder to avoid than god or the state. Yet all three of these concepts make a certain degree of sense, if only as asymptotes or attractors that draw us forward.

3 comments:

TGGP said...

Have you read Julian Barbour's "The End of Time"?

mtraven said...

I haven't -- looks interesting, I will check it out.

You might like the book "Good and Real" by Gary Drescher that is cited in one of the links. E. Yudkowski said it was almost too close to comfort to his own writings.

Veg said...

"Time is even harder to avoid than god or the state."

I'm not sure if time is more insidious than gods, states, or any other BIG things in our culture, as we (constantly) culturally construct our world(s) with encompassing entities within which we swim, sometimes purposely, sometimes aimlessly, and in swimming through our individual and collective lives, we inevitably take the water for granted, then thinking it completely natural, and often superior, on those very rare occasions when we think of these socially useful fictions at all.