January 31, 2004

Green Tea and Citrus

No one has ever asked me how I came up with the name for my blog. The truth is: I didn't. Sarah, my ex-special ladyfriend, was visiting and surfing the web:

"What are you reading?" I asked.

"That article you linked to about copyrights..."

"I didn't think you'd find that interesting."

"You found it interesting, and thus I find it interesting by association," she proclaimed.

I simply recognized the brilliance of the phrase and thus iba was born on January 18th, 2003. After we broke up I thought about renaming it. I thought about it a lot. After I was told I was living in the past I thought about it even more. But it is the perfect name (even if I don't manage to actually be interesting very often) and my reasons for changing it would be petty and spiteful.

I've been reading The Future Does Not Compute by Stephen Talbott and it has a lot to say about the past. He says it is a mistake the try and make human decisions about the future by trying to extrapolate from the past. He makes a very good point:

Ask yourself about the critical decisions in your life. How did you choose your present vocation? There are, of course, very sober ways for doing this. Begin by taking a few psychological tests to inventory your skills and aptitudes, personality type, likes and dislikes, character, stability, financial requirements, geographic preferences, physical characteristics (strength, endurance, handicaps), and so on. Then align this inventory with a similar analysis of all the possible vocations (basic skills required, profiles of the most successful people in each vocation ... ). Finally, identify the closest fit and (presto!) there's your future -- presumably a well-adjusted, profitable, and happy one.

But, no, something's not right here. Have you, or has anyone you know, ever made an important decision by weighing all related factors, adding them up, and then obeying the sum? This is not really your future we're talking about; it's your past. The real question is, what do you choose to become -- despite what you are now? What future not already embodied in the past will you embrace? Of the great figures of history, where would they be if they had merely hewed to a reasonable future? Joan of Arc. The first black in a white Mississippi college. The first woman doctor. The soldier who dives on a hand grenade to protect his comrades -- what sort of a future is that? Yet we honor him.

Or take marriage. Shall I choose a wife reasonably, because all the indicators point to our being well-adjusted and happy, or shall I plunge into a future I cannot fully see, but that I am strangely, mysteriously, drawn to, dimly recognizing something of myself (but not yet myself) in my partner? Is there really a choice to be made between the perfectly compatible marriage of the inventory-takers and the reality cited by Adolf Gueggenbuhl-Craig? Marriage, he says, is

a special path for discovering the soul .... One of the essential features of this soteriological pathway is the absence of avenues for escape. Just as the saintly hermits cannot evade themselves, so the married persons cannot avoid their partners. In this partially uplifting, partially tormenting evasionlessness lies the specific character of this path.

Every question about the future -- every human question -- is like this. We strike out into the unknown, with a hope and a vision perhaps, but without an adequate "basis" for our decisions. After all, a perfectly adequate basis would mean the decision was trivial, because divorced from questions of human destiny. Unfortunately, however, broad areas of our lives have fallen under the spell of the computational approach, where we imagine the computer -- the past -- to hold the secret of a future that is, therefore, no longer a future.

I have spent so many years under this computation spell trying to discover my reasonable future that breaking the spell required more than a simple kiss. I have spent so much of my life trying to quanitifying the intangible, to digitize it and then sum it up and thereby protect myself from the unpleasant and unpredictable that I lost my way. Call it an occupational hazard for nerds. Sarah, you helped me find my true path in this life again, even if I haven't the slightest clue where it will now lead.

I'm having trouble bringing this rambling about my inner whatnot-ness to some sensible conclusion or point. I feel like the Del Griffith of blogs. What the hell was my point anyway? Oh yes! The Name. It is a good name. A fine name. I can't imagine ever changing it.

And now this sentimental fool will leave you with a poem about the waxing moon and hope...


The moon, grown full now over the sea,
Brightening the whole of heaven,
Brings to separated hearts
The long thoughtfulness of night....
It is no darker though I blow out my candle.
It is no warmer though I put on my coat.
So I leave my message with the moon
And turn to my bed, hoping for dreams.

Posted by thom at January 31, 2004 06:37 PM | TrackBack

I am flattered beyond words that you recall the incident so well, and that you kept the name, and- well for a lot of things.

You're far more mature than I, but I am pretty good at helping people find their path. It's because I'm off to the side, shoving, raving like a madwoman, scaring the living shit out of most everyone. I'll never travel it with anyone, I guess. When you get a little farther along you'll heave a big sigh and be grateful (trust me, you will) to have escaped with your life. You might be exhilirated by your brush with the devil. But don't come back looking for another round...

Posted by: Beakie, the Devil at February 4, 2004 06:41 AM

aw that's the poem from my journal! how very special. and i guess beakie is your ex? i can't say i've ever dated the devil, but i imagine it would be hott. literally. haha okay that's a terrible joke but i just looked at her photo and she is pretty hot. go figure.

Posted by: sugarcoma at February 6, 2004 02:54 PM
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