Saturday, February 21, 2015

Social Media and Reality

NO SUBJECT BETTER ILLUSTRATES the divide between social media and reality than subjective perception. 

Content: that strange, abstract world of symbols and images and complicated procedures overloading our brains ...  the rationale behind online sharing, an impenetrable language and a mysterious art-form directly related to our subjective experience of the world ... 

The content we share in the public sphere is a direct reflection of its author, inviting tempting speculation - some accurate, most misinterpreted through the lens of the viewer.

What we post online is also, in effect, the language of nature itself. It is thus impossible to ever grasp the full significance of the content others share without having a personal experience woven into the fabric of their experience. If we weren't there, we have no way of truly understanding their specific "spin" on the content being shared other than our own perception. Our interpretation of content in this respect is entirely abstract

Scrolling down Twitter Lane, skipping through Facebook Land, bouncing through Pinterest, and gliding through LinkedIn ... each site nothing but bits and pieces of complex interactions, inviting abstract ruminations and guestimations on the nature of the people and what they mean to say. Our interpretation of content we encounter online is directly tied to our world view. 


Mention the Economist and most people think of international news, business, finance, technology and the connections between them. Mention the fine arts and most people think of famous paintings and artists and the millions of dollars collectors pay at auction for an original piece of art that represents more than the sum of its parts. 

What makes this Andy Warhol worth one hundred million dollars?

The answer: Perception (of its value).

One "like" turns into two ... one follower into two hundred ... one CONNECTION into thousands ... one "moment" shared on YouTube turns into millions of views across multiple social sharing sites... 

New theories of the universe can arise as a result of considering the content people share. If Pythagoras were here today, perhaps he'd say "That which we post on the Internet is the measure of all things." 

Pythagoras was convinced that the cosmic order was based upon numerical relationships, and they imbued certain numbers and forms with mystical significance. They had special reference for "perfect" numbers such as 6 and 28, which are the sum of their divisors (e.g., 6 = 1 + 2 + 3). Great respect was reserved for the number 10, the so-called divine tetraktus, being the sum of the first four whole numbers. By arranging dots into various shapes, they constructed triangular numbers (such as 3, 6, and 10), square numbers (4, 9, 16, etc.), and so on. The square number 4 was made the symbol for justice and reciprocity, a meaning that retains a faint echo in the expressions of "a square deal". The triangular representation of 10 was regarded as a sacred symbol, and sworn upon during initiation ceremonies. 

The Pythagoreans' belief in the power of numerology was bolstered by Pythagoras' discovery of the role of number in music. He found that the lengths of strings that produced harmonically related tones bore simple numerical relationships to each other. Pythagorean ideas were endorsed by Plato, who in his Timaeus developed further a musical and numerical model of the cosmos. He went on to apply numerology to the Greek elements - earth, air, fire, and water - and to explore the cosmic significance of various regular geometrical forms. 

These schemes may seem primitive and eccentric to us today, though admittedly I've seen (and jokingly posted a few articles) linking such things as the properties of atomic nuclei, or subnuclear particles, on the basis of early Greek numerological signifiance, to things such as laughter (the Golden Ratio of Laughter).

The main value of any thought system - mathematical, philosophical, practical, or otherwise - is not necessarily its plausibility across borders, but the fact that inherently each system treats the physical world as a manifestation of concordant relationships. This idea is woven into the fabric of early philosophical rumination and reignites again when considering the nature and interrelatedness in the online content being shared across the Internet today...

Chardin's noosphere ... 

Each person has a theory as to why certain people share specific information (personal, professional, emotional, imaginational, analytical, critical, reflective, "for fun"), but no theory can account for the diversity of content shared for content is as complex as the number of participants producing it.

Logical measurement (examining patterns) can only yield a plethora of possibilities that must be filled in with conjecture. Any such estimation of a "greater significance" can only be imposed according to the mind construction the interpretation.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Love Letters

Je t'aime (2015)
Soph Laugh
Private Collection

Love Letters  in Sensuous Human Activity

The role of the Love Letter

What is the role of the love letter?  Is it that the love letter serves as an emancipatory instrument intended to serve a pre-objective domain? In other words, love letters free our minds beyond the ordinary or mundane toward those plaisirs de l'isle enchantée, spilling over (in classical baroque fashion) into the realm of the fantastical. 

Philosophers warn of the dangers of writing love letters for as instruments they fail to reconcile human subjectivity with actual life. Edmund Husserl warned that objective knowledge endangers our commitment to subject agency. 

I would argue that writing love letters reconciles language, negates empirical thinking, and revolutionizes human consciousness.

Love letters are the language of liberation 

Love letters fail to give an adequate account of how the negation of empirical thinking enables a sultry word to convey us to the proposed state of liberation. Sensuous letters do not give us practical life information, their purpose is not to convey a moral judgment. 

They are more similar in nature to a rebellious consciousness, which is pertinent to the salvation of human consciousness dwelling within. Love letters ignite a human being to the immediate, natural basis of primary perception. 

Love letters are more than the realities expressed in our empirical understandings, and it is this difference, or this excess, that enables love letters to show the contingency of objectifying concepts and empirically evident relations. Specifically, sensuous letters offer us access to a "fictitious world" that the realistic-conformist mind rejects. The love letter thus represents abstract truth relative to the facts of production because it helps to emancipate the senses and unshackle the instinct.

The inwardness of Love Letters

Love letters facilitate a sense of inwardness. They influence actual human lives for the better. Ultimately love letters are of practical significance; hence, by reconciling our desires with natural life we transcend social relations and enter into an imaginary realm; here we acquire an awareness that radical change is possible within actual practical activities. Thus, love letters retain a practical significance, even if they are far different from what we know about ordinary relations and conditions. 

It becomes difficult to explain how any literary discourse would finally result in the promised liberatory effects. If love letters participate indirectly in some realm of the spirit, then it is difficult to find any remaining excess that would motivate a liberation with practical activity. 

Love letters take us outside the realm of actual life. They are, in a way, more than the reality expressed in our empirical knowledge. 

How can an encounter with a love letter restructure consciousness in a way that impacts actual activity? A critic might restrict the answer for social cohesion. This explanatory lacuna provides us access to an inward or subjective domain, one that interchanges fact and fantasy.

The Ideal Love Letter

Our actual lives are defined objectively, that is, by a collection of real human events known through observation of the natural world and our encounters. When the encounter is limited to ontological limits of objective imagining, the sensuous love letter serves as an antidote to the domination of social norms by rationalism. This is why so many relationships flatten, they suffer from the disenchantment attributed to empirical thinking. 

Once empirical thinking connects the love letter to actual life-activity, the language is just what we expect it to become in ordinary life -flat.

Love letters create an alliance between the people exchanging them because there's a negation of the empirical thought, which restores subjectivity. 

Our awareness of the empirical flattening process is a significant advancement in the consideration of the love letter as a human sensuous activity. Making plausible the claim that love letters negate practical life, as we understand it, that is, as a reality contingently represented in the understanding by means of empirical concepts. 

Love Letters as Sensuous Items

As soon as love letters proceed to give empirical reality a sensuous claim, the whole of the sensuously presented context that gives an individual actual contact with the object of their imagination which metamorphosizes into a new set of determinate objects and relations. 

What we need, then, is an understanding of how love letters remain in the actual world, even as they negate forms of social context expressed within objective systems of thought. The liberatory function of writing love letters must remain within the actual life situation of the individuals exchanging them. 

So, if we were to defend our ideal love letter or our process of liberation, we must find some way to associate love letters with mediating sites of personal uniqueness that would reacquaint us with our peculiar life-worlds in a way that is never quite expressed within the objective languages of empirical knowledge and common social discourse. 

We could argue that sensuous love letters provide each individual with a dimension of embodiment beyond encapsulation by empirical concepts. We could claim that love letters, as sensuous items, literally exemplify natural bases of actual life that are inalienable and immediate.

The Nature of Love Letters

Love letters do not belong to the flesh of one's own body, but they serve as markers of an external world of things subjectively processed in human life. Love letters ignite one's own peculiar, sensuous embodiment and serve as a gateway for personal contact with all contingent things that are actual. 

This sensuously presented literary world is indeterminate from the standpoints of perception, thinking and measurement expressed in rational knowledge. 

Love letters are sensible in themselves, a life-world with incarnate subjectivity beneath the objective historicity of truth imposed by ordinary life interactions. The body life is isolated, unless acted upon. This does not indicate that love letters do not evoke actual sensations in the individual, but the experience is one of sense-perception and sensuous need, in other words it comes from nature. 

Sensuous Elements

Sensuous nature is the starting point of a love letter, it's one's own sense-experience that is shared. It could be that natural life as it is empirically known through sense-experience is witnessed subjectively in a sensuous way that hints at a presence of a non-objective, natural content that love letters display. 

The new language forms elements in the flesh of the body and opens the possibility of an arena of immediate acquaintance that is pre-perceptual and not expressed in any of the object languages of the natural world. Love letters function as life-enhancing bulwarks against the objectification that arises when communication is only used to control and manage real resources. 

What develops from the love letter is a sensuous awareness of flesh that remains separate from the contents of cognitive consciousness. It is an exemplar of illusion that narrates its own nature from the invisible flap of a wing to the personally exhibited context of flesh that serves as the hallmark of the visible absence.

Hence, the love letter shifts from being literary in the strict sense to an awareness of a pre-cognitive, an inner life-world of sensuous wholes, and then subsequently from the evidence of sensuous flesh feasting upon itself, to an awareness of unity with the received love letter. 

Understanding Love Letters

It is surely perplexing to reconcile human subjectivity with natural life by means of a descriptive aesthetics that depends upon the principle of the flesh's response to literature. This path confounds this writer's reason of what is peculiar and personal in finite human life. 

Aesthetic sensual experience, as described herein, arises from contact with the love letter, not from some escape through the supernal through a consciousness that transcends. Natural philosophers focused on the mind-body oppositions of the modern era, will find it odd to speak of a natural context beyond empirical knowledge. 

Confronted with a love letter, however, the natural philosopher recognizes the interruption of empirical thinking that leads to an awareness of actual life, a series of events that restore our belief in autonomous human activity. 

Saturday, February 7, 2015

A Smile of More

The decorum of the fête galante for the heart is a unity of the bourgeois (shining light), domestic (leisure), personal (arts), ostentatiously cultured (peignoirs and vases), and meditative qualities (dreamy cherubs) found in a range of expressions which shift our minds from gods to rulers to the glory of ecstasy materialized and reenacted for our indulgences, on one's china.

Symbolic in the fête galante for the heart is the direct expression of elegiac motive, consider Wallace Stevens

She says, “I am content when wakened birds,
Before they fly, test the reality
Of misty fields, by their sweet questionings;
But when the birds are gone, and their warm fields
Return no more, where, then, is paradise? 

She says, “But in contentment I still feel
The need of some imperishable bliss.

(CP 68)

With ingenuity and determination, the mind can extend the frivolous attitude associated with the dreamworld to the waking world by imagining a drama for the mind's pleasures ...


daydreaming, intention, responses, tensions, given in precisely vague, words selected for full expression of momentary feelings ... it is virtuosic that galantes can influence such profound sensations ... their lingering traces inscribe a subtle dialectic of the daydreaming mind ... and we realize how inherited forms function in the emotions and motives to become aspects of intention.

Gaining perspective on the nature of imagination itself, our meditative response to leisurely interests is simplified and simplistic, with the briefest of sensations that follow. Few words inspire intoxication that the mind does not respond to with eager sensibility. The nature of the mood evokes procreative gestures in an artful presentation of images emphasizing soul ...

A multitude of meditative acts incite, stir and animate the mind toward that which arouses it, coaxing it to prolong the inflaming with sweetness. Beyond the sentimentality, lies the desire for earthly feelings, without the compulsion to seek spiritual salvation.

The poetics of language evoke a smile of more but the meditation of their signs and conventions evoke a desire for permanence, a fusion of emotions and inherited poetic forms emphasized in the obvious.

Complimenting and opposing in the pursuit of pleasure, accepting life in nature and the laws of nature in us, a smile of more transcends refined feelings by means of minimal resources of language extending the scope to involve all human senses ... drawing nearer to a poetic style, our ability to synthesize these inspiring achievements is found in rhythmic tension

"We are two tree-trunks kindled by a thunderstorm" 

The myth of the burning trunks, which are bodies of trees, signifies the axis mundi, i.e., the axis of the world around which the cosmos is organized. The smile of more, the fête galante of the mind, the tree symbolizes the transition between the earth and her heavens. Her roots may be firmly planted in the dark of earth, but her crown needs light and space and belongs to the atmosphere.

Such is the dwelling place of the imagination ....

Sunday, February 1, 2015

Descending from Dramatic Inwardness

Defying historicizing contingencies is among our rarest images of inward freedom. Immune to the decline of authentic reading, personalities burst forth unmatched in language. These miracles of personality startle us with their eminence. The ironies they produce are too large to be seen clearly; despite their grandeur we peddle along propelled by their blazing highlights and intensities. Ardent admirers of their fresh profundity, the comic triumphs of literature forever establish our reliance upon genius.

Inventing through the agency of ironical powers, masters of language swirl us around in such a frenzy that every circumstance results in a matrimony of agreement. Wit and vivacity leads naïve gluttons. Tempered with silence and respect which their stories will inevitably excite, we remain directed toward foreign neighborhoods where amiable youth inherit kingdoms, resolve to take a husband or wife, mourn over melancholy events, and sloth around assuring us that all is well. 

As their lives unfold we are uniformly silent, assuring ourselves that with each turn of the page no ungenerous line shall ever pass our lips as we read along. No genius ever betrays that! Their pomposity wouldn't allow it. The endless vainglory propels le Gloire onward. Pausing one sublime sentence after the next, their stylistic economy befriends us, invites us in, and after many long speeches, earnestly woos us with their happiest satisfactions, disinterest in establishment, and continual courtship for our thoughts. 

The dance of the inward courtship, the poignance of falling in love with literature, the relationship and lineage that awakens our aesthetic sensibility exalts our soul's autonomy, eloquently beckoning us to dwell on with the warmth of the soft light the candle's flame enlivens. 

It is impossible to conquer passion. Strength, ardor, desire ... rewarded by their own favorable answer, expressed in real colour, which reddens our cheeks, a sense of obligation vows for our sentiments. We read on again and again until we feel gratitude, until a most unconscious arousal overtakes our regard and we again swoon along with the protagonist. 

Leaning against the mantlepiece with eyes transfixed on their faces, we catch their words with resentment, complexity, and surprise. Visible in every atrocity is the appearance of composure, lulled only because we allow their words to flow over us like a heavy blanket of amnesia. Forgetting ourselves we fall asleep with few of the salient aspects of our own personality. The acute inward freedom of individuation seems to be a giving way of our own subjectivity in favor of new moments. Irrespective of who experiences them, our minds feast upon their enduring insights. 

It is no wonder those insistent upon order were superstitious of books. 
There is some truth in what they say. 

Le Gloire, a misanthrope's intellectual comedy

Sir, These are delicate matters; we all desire
To be told that we've the true poetic fire. 
But once, to one whose name I shall not mention,
I said, regarding some verse of his invention,
That gentlemen should rigorously control
That itch to write which often afflicts the soul;
That one should curb the heady inclination
To publicize one's little avocation;
And that in showing off one's works of art
One often plays a very clownish part. 

Fierce aesthetic dignity, enchanted tirades, fascinating contrasts ... such are the splendor that belong to le Gloire. With lofty ideals which one believes to be his/her destiny or mission in the world, maintained at all costs, whether his/her own life or those of others, and no matter how many of the latter, le Gloire's quest ebbs and flows between satire and authenticity. Worthy of genius, the results remain, evident for those who wouldn't recognize a masterpiece if it were placed in their hands by celestially winged cupids. 

A Winged Putto Sketching Cupid
Bas-relief of children playing, in a landscape
After François Bouchet

What damage is done to the world should no one successfully persuade le Gloire to write? Social evidence of failed understanding abound, compelling right action. Unaware of genius, the world's mild amusements represent a drive for recognition, but not distinction. That which distinguishes genius remains acute. 

Appropriate to le Gloire is that repressed energy necessary for driving forth superb forces of tact and skill to walk among the treacherous and savage race of men. Without which Alceste is merely a monster of vanity, like Don Juan or Tartuffe. And yet where else would we have genius reside?, but in the head of a moral realist, a master of perspectivism. 

Swallowed up by libertine fate, the doom of le Gloire is the failure to produce which becomes prophecy without divine intervention. 

Why worry about the masterpiece? Each day it grows
More gullible the artist; unfulfilled potential leads him by the nose.
To find a lesser version would fill him with delight,
And if he saw the best, he'd doubt his sight.

Friday, January 30, 2015

Aesthetic pleasures and the mechanisms that support their blossoming

Aesthetic pleasures are inseparable from that which they fulfill, extend, or modify. One does not know - often never knows - for whom one writes. To struggle with Dante, Montaigne, or Shakespeare, to rise to the dignity of their grace through boundless temptations and false representations; to yield, at once, to the potency of their spell ... such is the vision of loveliness opened upon us. 

As my mind speaks these words, my thoughts suspend. Lingering in a haze of radiance, they burst forth again, little aesthetic spirits, ye happy souls whose dwelling only a glimpse gives. Orbs that mingle with earthward desire, dwelling upon every stage of the psyche, into the very depths of my heart. 

The giddy side, once tasted, eagerly traced above and below that which we mistake for memory. Life and essence are low, distant breathings of an existence too thrilling to listen to earthly sounds. Faint, imperceivable, subdued ... veiled under the influence of notes no language can express. 

Rising, gazing at the air around it. Gradually becoming transparent, with features, one by one, disclosing themselves through it. Trembling watching the progress of the apparition, half laughing like a thin mist, melting away. 

Rushing instantly toward it is our first response, but the arm of language holds us firmly back. The mechanisms by which rapture is heard collect themselves in a blaze of light that falls upon eager minds. Ascending into the air, their form fades away till it is seen no more. 

Leaving me in such repose as is possible, after such a scene, to enjoy. 

Social Media Madness

Why is social media our drug of choice? On the face of it, social media seems so much bigger than legal drugs sold in Colorado and Washington state: it does not cause aggression, it gives the user no hangover, makes everything seem interesting or funny, and appears to be a lot healthier. Of course at the dark end of the Internet, social media is though by some to act as a gateway drug, gets the user involved with criminals, causes social isolation and depression, and can lead to psychosis. 

Regardless of the supposed pros and cons of social media use, it certainly is the drug of choice for many. According to eMarketer report, nearly one in four people worldwide use social networks. By 2017, the global social network audience will total 2.55 billion. The popularity of social networking raises concerns that the use of less popular drugs does not; namely, how does the use of social media affect the quality of life and what sort of socioeconomic impact does it have? Given the widespread use of social media, the implications indicate it should be taken under careful consideration. 

Social Media and the Individual

The use of any drug starts with the same thing: acquiring it. In the case of social media this part is easy. Indeed apps can be downloaded easily and for free from most all smart phones, tablets, or devices. Every new upgrade offers more opportunities to become addicted. The ease of acquisition is perhaps the most problematic aspect of social media use from the individual's point of view. In fact, it appears that for most users the ease of acquisition encourages use in this regard: for instance, social media users can download an application, sign up (or sign in), and be online, usually within 90 seconds. 

Users of online forums report being concerned about the implications associated with the amount of time they spend online. According to Marketing charts, social networking eats us 3+ hours per day for the average American user. In terms of gender difference, female social networkers spend almost 40% more time daily with social media sites than men (3.6 hours -vs- 2.6 hours). Some other interesting demographic information indicates that: 

  • Low household income users spend more time than those with high household income (3.7 hours -vs- 3.1 hours);
  • Low education level users spend more time than those with high education levels (3.5 hours -vs- 3);
  • Business owners spend nearly 50% more time than those who do not own a business (4.4 hours -vs- 3 hours);
  • Senior executives and decision-makers spend 40% more time than those not in those positions (4.2 hours -vs- 3 hours);
  • Unemployed social networkers spend 3.5 hours a day on social media, versus 3 hours for the employed;
  • One striking survey indicates that 1 in 5 users aged 18-34 claim to spend 6 hours or more per day social networking.
Ipso research reported that among social network users, Indonesians and Saudi Arabians spend the most time, an average of 5.1 hours daily, followed by the Turkish (4.9 hours), Argentinians (4.7 hours), and Russians (4.6 hours). On the other end of the spectrum, social network users in France and Japan spend the least amount of time daily, at an average of 2.3 hours. 

Online survey respondents indicate that usage is highest in Mexico (91%), Saudi Arabia (91%), Turkey (90%), Brazil (87%), Indonesia (87%), and Argentina (86%). They are the lowest in Hungary (62%), Germany (72%), Poland (74%), Great Britain (74%), and the US (75%). 

Overall, 71% of respondents across the 24 countries reported using social networks for an average of 3.6 hours per day. 

Effects on health are certainly one of the major concerns for social media users, and also for society more generally, due to public health implications, so some discussion about these issues is necessary. Folk knowledge among social media users suggests that it is, in general, considerably healthier than either alcohol or tobacco, and rigorous studies into the long-term effects of social media use are still scarce. 

I take it for granted that social media users are aware that, for instance, driving and texting is not advisable. There have been a number of studies about the effects of (social media) texting and accidents. Some not so surprising statistics indicate: 

  • Text messaging while driving makes a driver's change of crashing 23x more likely;
  • Drivers talking on a cell phone are 4x more likely to have a car accident;
  • Talking on a cell phone can diminish a young person's reaction time to that of a 70-year old;
  • Answering a text takes away your attention for about five seconds. That's enough time to travel the length of a football field;
  • 94% of drivers support bans on texting while driving;
  • 74% of drivers support bans on hand-held cell phone use.
The effects of chronic social media use on health are much more difficult to assess. This is partly because the medical histories often include the use of other drugs, and partly because social media users often come from socioeconomic groups that are at higher risk to begin with, so the effects of social media use are difficult to isolate. 

It is clear that social media use increases the risk of certain derogatory effects. Health-conscious individuals can avoid the majority of these effects by using alternative methods, such as talking to others in person, watching the news on television, and reading newspapers and books rather than relying solely on digital content. Old school, maybe; balanced lifestyle, more likely. 

The conclusion we may draw at this point is that although there are various health risks associated with the use of social media, these seem to pale in comparison with the adverse health effects of alcohol and tobacco. While social media use is by no means harmless, people with no previous health problems are relatively unlikely to suffer major adverse effects (unless they get into an accident while using their phone), at least if social media use is used only occasionally. 

Perhaps the biggest risk is the possibility of some type of psychological addiction: social media use is the fourth (and growing) most common drug "addiction" after alcohol, tobacco, and marijuana. Whether this is reason enough to abstain from social media use altogether is another question; a question which requires discussion concerning the potential BENEFITS that the use of social media networking may have. 

Next post: Social Media Benefits