Exercising Ideas 06/10/21

I bit the bullet and fell asleep with the kid last night. 7pm hit, the boy began to snooze, and I followed suit. I woke up with him when he needed to drink milk, then fell back asleep again. All told, I probably got 8 hours of sleep last night…way, way more than I’ve gotten in the past few weeks, maybe months.

As such, I feel refreshed.

I recently read this great piece by Adam Lehrer over at Safety Propaganda on the art and life-ending crime of Saul Fletcher. The TL;DR of the thing is that we shouldn’t try to erase people or their art because of the horrible things they did in life. It’s a drum that I’ve been beating for the past several years, and one that becomes more and more important to engage with as time goes on.

What is the value in engaging with art or thought that goes against your core beliefs?

There was something B said on the last episode of CONTAIN, and I forget where he was getting it from (Han, maybe?) but the gist is: “you engage with nihilism to see if your ideas have any value.” G over at Rune Soup puts it this way: “if it’s real, it can take the pressure.”

Everything in the universe is subject to entropy, and that entropy is increased if it isn’t exercised. Your body is one. I passed a YT video yesterday that said “Sitting is Destroying You.” I don’t like that, but it’s true. Easy food, easy leisure, all of that will give you cancer. We tend towards it for the same reason we tend towards Snickers bars: we could really use those things back when we were hunting/gathering. Calorically dense foods and rest were things our body would have needed when we were tackling mammoths all day (I’m pretty sure that’s how we hunted them).

The same goes for your mind. There is an epidemic of depression and anxiety these days, and lack of exercise and poor diet have been correctly identified as two of the culprits. But I believe stagnation of thought to be a big factor in this, too.

Think of your mind as having many warm beds. Many, but not infinite. We’ll go with five. At any given time, five core beliefs can lie in those beds. In the meantime, other ideas are prowling the perimeter. They can smell the food those sedentary ideas are consuming. They grow increasingly jealous and sinewy and feral. Meanwhile, the ideas that you like are sitting and becoming cancerous. While the bad ideas are leaning out, the good ideas are growing fat. They’re the “bugman” office workers of the ideosphere.

You set up a perimeter of electric fence and machine gun turrets to shoot down the bad ideas if they ever get close. Your mind is in a constant state of war in this way, besieged on all sides by werewolf thoughts. In the back of your mind, you know that if one of those fuckers breaches the fence, the weak ideas inside will be eaten, and that terrifies you.

Those fences are rhetorical structures that loop back on themselves to keep you correct 100% of the time. The machine gun turrets are sarcasm and personal attacks. Anything to keep the atrophied ideas inside the fortress safe.

Art is a communion with the outside. You open the gates and venture out. You live in the wilderness for a bit, you grow a beard (if you can do that sort of thing), you lose weight and, even though you know there’s a warm bed waiting for you, maybe you spend a night or two in the cold, out amongst the rabble. In this way, the ideas that have taken up permanent residence in your head are exercised (not exorcised) and made to exist within an ecosystem.

There is a downside to this. On one of those expeditions, one of your core beliefs can and probably will be torn to shreds by a feral thought, and that thought will sneak into your fortress and sleep in the previous belief’s bed. Many such cases. But this is a a way of being within a system, and it keeps your mind healthy, and it keeps the gears turning. The flow continues.

You have to engage with thoughts and art that you find distasteful. You have to venture out and actually risk something. If not, all your best ideas will have no immunity to the outside world.

But I’m starting to mix my metaphors.

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