Saturday, February 21, 2004

There is something about rain that brings up a vicious streak in me. I was walking along, and noted a struggling car. I reflected that it really only takes a tiny nudge to completely derail many things in our everyday lives. No one thinks about this, but a tiny push on the back wheel of a bike could be fatal, fifteen pounds of pressure through a fingertip can break the skin via fingernail. Any object heaved at low relative velocities onto oncoming traffic could spiderweb windshields. Our environment is held together by fragile strings of vulnerabilities that no one ever tests.

It's perhaps fortunate the psychopaths are so bad at planning. It is only the high functioning individuals with social disorders like me that are real threats. Thankfully(and predictably) I am far too attached to my environment to threaten it much. The phenotypes that are likely to do so probably died out very early. Sometimes, though, it all hangs by such a fragile thread.

It would be so easy sometimes, to put down my plans, put down my attachments, and succumb to the nihilism that waits outside the borders of values and feelings. Science is a two edged tool, and it saws at your shiny ideals as it clears away the superstitions and fears. And you can't decide that your values are inviolate, not and hope to remain within science. Accepting a weaker form, a science that says nothing about the things you care about, isn't just less rational, or a compromise. It's nothing.

Understanding requires that you accept new information. No matter where it lands. I have learned three times now, that I was truly and fully wrong about the world. And each time I have felt a terrible draining loss of purpose and hope. Each time I have seen my previous actions in the light of new eyes, and seen how useless, misguided, or counter-productive they were. It's crushing. Every time, some tiny part of my mind that still seeks for truth, while I'm mourning the loss of my last life, says, "good." It's good that I realized. Good that I can change. It hurts, but I would rather be hurt by the real world, than go unknowing into the dark night, trusting maps I'd drawn to mislead myself, to keep things the same.

Some things always survive. I'm not my body, or my mind, or my memories. I'm not my values, or my beliefs or even my loves. All of these things have passed on in part or whole. But I am still here. I am the direction of my life. I am what acts like I do. I am the center of the system that becomes more and more like I have always wanted to be. And while that may go in directions my past selves may not have seen, it is driven by a core that remains much the same. I remember the first time I woke up from a dream, and cried because it wasn't so. I don't remember the dream, I remember the moment. I remember how it moved me from what I used to be, to what I am. That difference is where my identity can be said to reside.

Many people, impressed by materialistic explanations of a deterministic universe, complain that it leaves no place for choice or free will if we are predictable. I don't understand this objection. I am my history, and I will be my future. How could I act any differently? Perhaps if I were outside myself, or could see all that was and will be, I would seem a small sad wind-up toy. But I can't, and I'm not. I'm the highest of the highest, a brilliant example of a brilliant species, reaching up for the first time from the muck and the dirt and the rage.

I've been telling people for years that I plan to save the world. And by hook or crook, I will. It's not a specific injunction, nor a clear declaration of one plan. I won't allow the world to remain as it is. There are too many things I don't like. That's it. It's a simple decision really, best expressed by Thomas Harris in "Hannibal" through the excellent Clarice Starling:

"The world will not be this way. Not within the reach of my arm."

I couldn't tell you how I'll end up. And I couldn't say what kind of world it will be when I am satisfied. But I trust in the direction of my life. I will trust that when a Justin Corwin stands, and says he's done, he can look back, and draw a line that connects his opinion to mine. I am sure that I can sort out the details as they come up. the only real problem is determining what direction to face in, and deciding what kind of person I am. Or will be.

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