Blogpost: Mental 404s and a Headache
I have a cranium splitting headache and I can't focus on any programming. Taking the opportunity to relax and and write out some thoughts on art, tradition and other stuff from bed.

So, I feel dogshit. But, I’m lying in a bed with a hot water bottle and a bit of free time, so I can’t really say it doesn’t come with its blessings. I must have slept about 14 hours last night, but waking up every few hours. And as a result, the moment I sat down to get working, I stared at the screen like a zombie and I could barely parse what I was looking at. So I’m just writing just now, with no particular structure in mind, trying to let my brain mellow out while it feels like my skull is getting kicked around. I only have myself to blame, I probably put way too much effort into learning to draw yesterday. My brain is not used to visualizing, I’m probably lucky not to have an aneurysm with how hard I was concentrating.

Lost Tradition

I just thought I’d throw some random thoughts I’d had the past few days down as they came to mind, and this was one of them. Nothing I say will really have any serious thought or belief behind it, mostly just idle pondering. In short, don’t take any of it seriously or even as worthwhile.

In general, I think I’m very forward thinking now. I used to have a lot of love for tradition, and I had a negative attitude towards the modern day. Neocities is a good example of this, a love for the disorganized, chaotic, beautiful expression during the yesterday of the web and a disdain for the hyper-commercialized web of today. But I think that despite the fact that I think modern culture is far from ideal, it’s not correct, or at least not enough to retreat into the virtues of the past. The past is just as morally anaemic as the modern day. Morals are dictated by collective human nature, and I can’t really say whether or not I believe humans themselves can ever become ethical creatures.

No one person or group has complete control over culture, even in an isolated sense, if you can even imagine a world without the hypertextuality of culture. The key problem with my worldview was how much agency I assumed everyone had. I’m not a determinist by any means, there must be some choice and will available to us, but I don’t often look at people anymore and imagine they are really in the driver’s seat of their own beliefs and lives. I don’t look at myself that way either. I used to think belief was a choice, but it’s a lot more obvious to me now that choice has little to do with it. I exert my will, but it’s just one variable in an equation pages long.

A heavy topic, so if you’re sensitive maybe you want to skip to the section on art interpretation, but recently I read a piece by Elizabeth Bruenig on the death penalty. Now, I’m not a Christian, so I don’t have the same sensibilities, nor do I necessarily agree/disagree that the death penalty should be abolished in cases like this, that’s not the point. The point is that I’ve never read about any criminal as awful as this man having a happy childhood. Their lives are permeated by horrors, and then they bring untold horrors into the world. It verges on impossibility to feel sympathy for someone like this, but it becomes a stranger situation if you consider agency in the act. Horrifying childhood is a motif in every event like this, it suggests that experience– an experience they have no control over, is enough to drive someone to become this evil.

In the face of that, how have experiences which you and I have had shaped us? You’re not immune to propaganda is a meme everyone on the internet throws around, but it’s not something that will ever lose its grasp on my mind. Experiences, symbols, art, everything shapes us. A variety of entities are well aware of this, everyone from your mother (god bless her by the way, she probably means well) to Raytheon will exploit it for their gain. So when you have had only good/bad experiences with any collection of ideas, how much of your thought is determined by a will for reason? And the issue then arises that as you hate a collection of ideas, you throw out practises which are good for you as well as anything which is bad. You do not subscribe to a tradition, or an ideology, a religion, an idea so much as it appeals to you and you appeal for it.

So I’m now desperately trying to find the pragmatic middle ground between tradition and reform. Certain lost practises that are worth reviving, some symbols worth archiving. I think a couple of these are prayer and meditation. I don’t know if I believe in any god, I’m an agnostic, but a simple prayer as ritual does give me a little more resolve. Even if I am just directing my pleas towards pure chance, it feels self-reinforcing to pray for strength. It also gives me something to do in situations where I simply feel powerless, such as when a relative is in hospital, or even when I am in dire need of aid. Meditation just gives me some way to train concentration and memory, rarely something as abstract as “spirit” like prayer, but that is more than enough to make it worthwhile. And while I use neocities and my friends in real life can’t tell if I’m a luddite or in love with technology, I do like to embrace some of the technological innovations being made nowadays. Just some of them.

I’m trying my best not to cite a bunch of authors and philosophers in writing this just now, I just want it to be off-the-cuff. There’s no need to treat idle thoughts like they are deserving of a bibliography.

Art Interpretation

I’ve also been wondering recently how much people really interpret the art they take in. Yesterday I read an article about David Bowie and the themes behind his work. I’ve never really been that into Bowie, although I’ve had friends, family members, even exs who were. I liked some songs I’ve heard, like Girl Loves Me from his album Blackstar. It was really cool to hear the language and colloquialisms of A Clockwork Orange made into lyrics. Also I’ve heard Heroes, who hasn’t, it’s a great song.

But the article got a bit more dark than that (sorry, I think a lot of this post will be dark, maybe I’m just a bit morose because of my headache). I don’t think anyone I’ve ever discussed Bowie with has mentioned just how enamoured with the occult he was. It was a pretty fascinating read to see someone who was so prominently in the public eye including so many references. It’s one of the strange things about art, if we’ve never heard of some concept, how much of our critique of art is worthwhile? We’re in the dark and we don’t even have a clue about it.

After all, I’ve known some massive Bowie fans, but they’ve never even mentioned it. It makes me wonder whether they had a clue at all. In fact, even online it seems seldom discussed. It seems like such an important part of his career to mention, incredibly significant to mention in the grand context of his oeuvre. But it just goes unnoticed.

That’s why the thumbnail for this post is Spirited Away. I get some of the universal themes, but when I watched it, it felt rather alien to me. I’d imagine this was because of the fact have absolutely no knowledge of shintoism. I really liked it, in the way it evoked some emotion and it was quite fantastical. But, I take most of pleasure from interpretation, and I couldn’t do too much of that, it felt like eating a full meal and still feeling hungry.

So what’s my point? I don’t have one. But I’m ill, and I have nothing to do. So I’m going to go read up on some shinto and rewatch Spirited Away. I last watched it a couple of years ago, so it should be fun. I hope you’re having a nice day if you read this far, or if you didn’t.

Last modified on 2022-05-13