Authorrachit

Last Moves

Step One:

Find a way to inform you of your upcoming baby.

Step Two:

Ask you the question again.

Step Three:

Come up with the best possible defence of why you shouldn’t do it.

Step Four:

Debate.

Step Five:

Ask you the question again.

Step Three:

If yes, kill you.

Those would be my steps. Yes, it’s over simplifying a really complex situation, and ultimately, an emotionally painful action.  But, your life is yours to live, and I’m a firm believer on that policy. By the way, I’m saying this all with the risk of potentially facing the following sentence, if someone was to catch us (well me, you’d be DEAD):

Criminal Code of Canada is 241(b):

Suicide

Counselling or aiding suicide
241. Every one who

(a) counsels a person to commit suicide, or

(b) aids or abets a person to commit suicide,

whether suicide ensues or not, is guilty of an indictable offence and liable to imprisonment for a term not exceeding fourteen years.

So I don’t take that lightly. Maybe I’d be selfish and play some more games of chess with you, beat you a few more times before calling it a life, but I would grant you your final move – just moving your piece for you.

(An interesting side note, attempted suicide was actually an illegal action in Canada before 1972. So before then, if you were caught trying to call it quits, and you failed, you could be sent to jail. Thought that was kind of silly, but showed some divine respect of life at the same time.)

But to keep with your basketball analogy, I threw you a crisp pass, while you were standing wide open for three in the corner, and I believe you ducked and let the ball hit a guy’s beer to the floor. So I’ll pass again – what would be your conditions for helping me play your last move?

Murder, she wrote

A history of instinct prefacing consciousness in our evolutionary past presents an illusion of control in the human world. As we discussed on the topic of free will, the actual merit of control falls more accurately on a continuum with our genetic programming on one end, and our will to influence that programming on the other. And in this struggle of perceived control, one element of programming pervades all of our decisions: our instinct to survive. From where you live, to what you choose for your job, to what you eat, to who you love, there’s a baseline survival instinct guiding our decisions. So before we get to the assisted part of the youth-in-asia discussion, let’s talk suicide and Dean Potter.

How does the behaviour of suicide fit into that instinct to survive? As silly as it may sound at first, suicide can be thought of as an evolutionary adaptive behaviour. As elaborated on in this article, evolutionary neurobiologist, Denys deCatanzaro, quantified, measured, and discovered correlational proof of the following mathematical relationship of suicide:

Ψi = ρi + Σbkρkrk

  • Ψi = the optimal degree of self-preservation expressed by individual i (the residual capacity to promote inclusive fitness);
  • ρi = the remaining reproductive potential of i;
  • ρk = the remaining reproductive potential of each kinship member k;
  • bk = a coefficient of benefit (positive values of b k ) or cost (negative values of b k ) to the reproduction of each k provided by the continued existence of i (-1 ≤ b ≤ 1);
  • rk = the coefficient of genetic relatedness of each k to i (sibling, parent, child = .5; grandparent, grandchild, nephew or niece, aunt or uncle = .25; first cousin = .125; etc.).

People are most likely to commit suicide when their direct reproductive prospects are discouraging and, simultaneously, their continued existence is perceived, whether correctly or incorrectly, as reducing inclusive fitness by interfering with their genetic kin’s reproduction.”

Suicide is adaptive when we remember our evolutionary behaviour has it’s foundation set in a social, and not an individual, society structure. So where does Dean Potter fit into this? Lets put or romantic hats on for a second. When Dean Potter continually adventured into unexplored land, eventually diving to his death, people often claim such behaviour as having a suicide wish. But, to me, and I’m guessing yourself too, this is a perfectly poetic life philosophy. One to strive for. One that is truly anti-programming. To keep with the Myth of Sisyphus analogy, instead of suicide at the bottom or in the middle of the hill with no means, energy, or will to keep pushing, Dean Potter went out on top (well, literally speaking, he went out on the bottom).  Beyond just pushing yourself to live without fear of death, I think there’s something poetic in the conscious action of taking your own life when you’re at a high Ψ. When you know the book has an ending, it’s more profound to write your own final chapter after conquering whatever you decide was meaningful to you. In the case of Dean Potter, he had already partially written an ending, he just didn’t know when it was being published. For me, I relish the idea of sometime in the future, when I’m content with life, things I’ve done, or have wanted to do, having a goodbye party with my friends and family, and taking the dive to embrace the absurd.

Now on to the whole assisted part of the suicide discussion. You asked a bunch of questions at the end of your post. I’m going to steer away from the ‘resource-allocation-medical-utilitarian’ discussion, and also away from the ‘categorical value of human life versus the right to autonomy’ one, because I think we both are pretty pro-euthanasia/autonomy. But if you are still interested in venturing into that area, here‘s a great debate on the topic. Instead, I’m going to answer your last one. Yes, I would kill you if you asked me to. What’re your conditions?

Pain without meaning

Can you have good without evil? Pleasure without pain? Do you need a spice of anguish to really appreciate the romance of life? A classic philosophical question that’s been raised and asked throughout human existence. And as you mention, on one extreme, a life devoid of the understanding of sorrow, suffering, a broken heart, one without a little Toska Seasoning (trademark pending), reeks of boredom. But on the other end of this imagined dichotomy, a life with a constant slew  of anguish is by in it’s own accord, insufferable. So here, we arrive at this ‘b’ word again. Is there a happy balance somewhere in between? Let’s say there is. The obvious follow up is how do we get there? We often discuss these conceptual dichotomies. And a general, and obvious understanding is we can’t balance a weightless idea: there isn’t a scale that measures 50 pounds of suffering to 50 pounds of joy. So how do you actually go ahead and evaluate something that isn’t quantifiable?  Here’s my stab in the dark. Much like you have to put yourself in the position to appreciate a piece of art, you need to put yourself in a position to reflect, create, and internalize the story of your own anguish and happiness. It needs to be interpreted through a romantic lens, different for each person, with their own hindsight story telling.

But how do we look through the right lens to colour meaning in our lives to begin with? In a world with no clear message of why, without a faithful dive in an imagined explanation, ultimately, we are left to make meaning in life by our own convictions. There are tendencies in our programming that incline us to stamp meaning on certain things more easily than others: babies, love, food, and babies, to name a few. But beyond that, and even within that, lies a rainbow of possibilities to make meaningful. We can romanticize Toska, and I am definitely in that ship called Titantic. But what if you aren’t? What if you don’t? What if art doesn’t tickle your fancy? Then what? Then, that Toska is just pain without meaning. And pain without meaning is gruesome.

Toska kinda sucks

Before we romanticize, lets speak some science. The link between creativity, in its more raw form of coming up with novel ideas frequently, and mental illness is an established one. However, your interpretation is ever so slightly off. This correlation is typical between manic-depressives (bipolar disorder), and not depressives (unipolar). The evidence for the former is almost overwhelming in case studies from history (Ernest Hemingway, Virginia Woolf, Beethoven, Mozart, Vincent van Gough, to name a few), and even from just a quick Google scholar search of the topic. The unipolar depression topic is one up for debate on the merits of whether it should be considered a separate disorder altogether, or if it should be considered on the spectrum of bipolar disorder. However, what does remain clear from the evidence is that the creative process does not occur during the depressive episodes themselves. It comes from the elated moods that follow them. It’s a subtle difference, but an important one. And it’s a bit easier to express from the romantic spin of the conversation..

The tortured soul saunters the emotional playground of the human cavity. The wandering above a comfortable height, and down beneath a comfortable bank, flutters the psyche with a variety of human experience to pick and play from. When swimming below, the pressure of existence and the worthlessness that follows does not contextualize itself in usefulness to produce art. It pokes. It slices. It bleeds. And the blood flows as relentless as gravity forces a feather to fall. It drowns up the emotional void with a sludge of despair, draining and swallowing. A sudden blissful gasp of air to see the sun shining above you, the clouds floating gleefully in the blue sea sky, offers up a sense of temporary release. Here, you are free to float in the sea of emotions’ past below you. You have a necessary push to express the volcanic spectrum of possibilities, ultimately realizing it won’t be there for long. The outlet becomes a channel for the whirlwind explosion that rumbled below clogged up all the while.

So now we’ve cleared up the ordering of the creative release, lets discuss another point you bring up, and that’s about worth. Is going through the despair worth the potential creation you can output? It’s difficult to determine really. Ultimately, it’d be determined by the artist / do-er themselves. To go back to the discussion we had last month about the pursuance of originality in art, we concluded that the journey of the artistic adventure is the ultimate reward. Realizing and internalizing this as a way of living, however, is not simple. And especially not simple when swimming with mountains of pressure weighing you down sporadically Tuesday through Friday. People get lost, and to some degree understandably so, in finding a meaning of their outputs, often through the judging eyes of their peers, or their targeted audiences. And here, a ruthless world of worth arises. For all the Justin Vernon’s out there, there are thousands of “untalented” bipolar artists. Are their lives not fulfilling if not successfully distilled into acclaimed form? The other layer of this discussion is the layer of what we want to describe as a fulfilling life. You chose to use the word ‘happiness’ to define this fulfillment. And it gets thrown around a lot to coincide with states of being, from moksha, a buddhist, Eastern religious concept of eternal content-ness, to a general feeling of euphoria, achieved by sex, laughter, drugs, in it’s more raw sense. It’s become so loaded that I don’t know how to really define it myself – so I won’t define it just yet. But to answer your question more directly, is feeling Toska sporadically, and intensely, and often, worth giving up your own definition of happiness? No. It’s fucking miserable, and I’d like to hope I’d pursue my artistic desires regardless of what they produce, and for whatever audience that would drown me with boo’s or cheers.

 

Original NFC Post 2.0

Let’s stick to some unorthodox posting methods. Below is a conversation exchange we had after your last post. I think it can stand alone as an expansion on our discussion itself, but for the lazy reader(s) out there, here are a few highlights of some of the major points that we made:

  1. Originality is valued and interpreted differently as the ‘do-er’ of the piece of work, versus how we judge other people’s final product. As the ‘do-er’, we should not be concerned about the perception of originality in it’s final work, and rather just focus on the journey and be true to your own “special sense” of your original thoughts along the way – whether significantly inspired by others or not.
  2. Analogously, you can judge your own legacy from a third party perspective, similar to how we judge other’s work. However, this again falls to the same argument of not concerning yourself with the destination and perception of your work.
  3. And finally, how this fits into the larger scope of balancing originality versus other ‘gains’ that factor into our overall decision making.

It’s a lengthy exchange, but definitely worth the re-read.

Valentin Peretroukhin, [05.04.15 13:25]
post is up

Valentin Peretroukhin, [05.04.15 13:25]
sorry for the delay

Valentin Peretroukhin, [05.04.15 13:26]
I ended up talking much less about science than I thought I would

Valentin Peretroukhin, [05.04.15 13:26]
I think this sets it up fairly well for the hipster angle actually

Rachit Chakerwarti, [05.04.15 13:30]
read it

Rachit Chakerwarti, [05.04.15 13:35]
One comment: feels like it lacks substance in the point. I get the academic corrollory you’ve made to add to the discussion, but where on the line are you actually dancing? Try your best to narrow in the answer to he ‘b’ word? What are examples of people who push on either? Where do you stand on it? I think it’s easy for us to just say “B word bro. Duh. End of discussion”, but what’s more interesting is actually trying to scope out that line, and see where you stand on it. For example, with vegetarianism, yes it’s a balance of practicality and moral utility, but instead of just highlighting that continuum, take a stance on where you think the dance should be drawn – whether it’s from your own perspective, or from a policy/society persepctive.

Rachit Chakerwarti, [05.04.15 13:38]
i think it’s a general point on how we should approach the whole ‘b’ word issue

Rachit Chakerwarti, [05.04.15 13:38]
we’re both guilty of it

Valentin Peretroukhin, [05.04.15 13:38]
yeah i agree, this is more of that question back and forth that we talked about before

Valentin Peretroukhin, [05.04.15 13:38]
take a stance, don’t just throw up a question

Rachit Chakerwarti, [05.04.15 13:39]
or just say ‘it’s somewhere in between’, where in between?

Valentin Peretroukhin, [05.04.15 13:39]
I thought this post could tie in nicely the issues of culture and originality we talked about

Valentin Peretroukhin, [05.04.15 13:40]
also simply identifying this trade off is not that trivial i think

Valentin Peretroukhin, [05.04.15 13:40]
the main idea is that there isn’t a right spot to be on this spectrum

Valentin Peretroukhin, [05.04.15 13:40]
but that culture greatly affects the range in which you can travel

Rachit Chakerwarti, [05.04.15 13:41]
but we did identify the trade off on originality earlier in the discussion, this is just another example of it specifically with academia

Valentin Peretroukhin, [05.04.15 13:41]
no I dont think we talked about the legacy angle

Rachit Chakerwarti, [05.04.15 13:43]
that’s a specific take on how you judge your own products, versus how we judge other’s

Rachit Chakerwarti, [05.04.15 13:43]
taking intention of originality out of the picture

Valentin Peretroukhin, [05.04.15 13:43]
i dont think so

Valentin Peretroukhin, [05.04.15 13:43]
i think wes anderson intends to be original and intends to leave behind something that’s uniquely his

Rachit Chakerwarti, [05.04.15 13:44]
well, if ‘being original’ is tied with the legacy of his products, then sure

Valentin Peretroukhin, [05.04.15 13:45]
i think it is, just like if you listen to the beatles now, it’s nothing particularly special

Valentin Peretroukhin, [05.04.15 13:45]
but they created new genres of music, because they wanted to be original

Rachit Chakerwarti, [05.04.15 13:48]
right, but your point to that was that as an artist/decision maker on originality, that it shouldn’t matter what the result of the product is (original or not), it should be the intention of the pursuit. Then, I said, take intention out of the picture, and think about how we judge other people’s work and qualify originality as a variable of importance. Maybe we should give it less importance. Now, with legacy, it’s how someone would imagine they would judge their own work, ‘x’ years into the future. How much would they value that the work was original and not mainstream?

Rachit Chakerwarti, [05.04.15 13:48]
or perceived as original and not mainstream

Rachit Chakerwarti, [05.04.15 13:49]
my point is that it’s in the shell of the same point on judging originality and it’s importance, just shifting the perspective

Valentin Peretroukhin, [05.04.15 13:50]
yepp, agreed. I think I’m coming at this in a more first person angle of the artist/scientist, whereas you’re looking at it more objectively in a cultural view

Valentin Peretroukhin, [05.04.15 13:51]
so for me, originality becomes more of a bet of long term payoffs and it’s hard to separate it from intention

Valentin Peretroukhin, [05.04.15 13:51]
because originality without intention is just accidental

Rachit Chakerwarti, [05.04.15 13:53]
right, but that goes back to your initial point you made, that from the perspective of the individual, it shouldn’t matter as much about the outcome for being original for originality’s sake, it should matter that you intended to try to add your own flavour to whatever it is you tried to do

Valentin Peretroukhin, [05.04.15 13:54]
right but HOW MUCH flavour?

Valentin Peretroukhin, [05.04.15 13:54]
a little? or should I start wearing pink pants and cheese blocks for hats like GaGa?

Rachit Chakerwarti, [05.04.15 13:54]
well that comes down to who you are as an individual

Rachit Chakerwarti, [05.04.15 13:54]
what speaks to you

Valentin Peretroukhin, [05.04.15 13:55]
im not sure about that

Rachit Chakerwarti, [05.04.15 13:55]
this is your point bro

Rachit Chakerwarti, [05.04.15 13:55]
!

Rachit Chakerwarti, [05.04.15 13:55]
lol i’m devil’s advocating your own thesis

Valentin Peretroukhin, [05.04.15 13:55]
what I mean is that it’s not genetics or bread into anyone

Valentin Peretroukhin, [05.04.15 13:55]
it’s a conscious decision that depends on so many factors

Valentin Peretroukhin, [05.04.15 13:56]
and lady gaga or wes anderson could have, in a parallel universe, just as easily become much less ‘original’ artists if they chose to

Valentin Peretroukhin, [05.04.15 13:56]
with their own flavour still

Rachit Chakerwarti, [05.04.15 13:58]
Right, but i think it’s more purposefully vague when it comes down to the ‘do-er’ of the actions. I interpreted your perspective from, as an artist/researcher/contributor, the intent of contributing something unique should matter most to you, depending on the landscape of the field, what you find fun, what inspires you, etc. But, if the final product comes across as a revolutionary piece of work, or just a try hard trying to be ‘like Mike’, it shouldn’t matter to the individual. The pursuit of the journey should matter, and not the result

Rachit Chakerwarti, [05.04.15 13:59]
how we judge them or their art is a different perspective

Valentin Peretroukhin, [05.04.15 13:59]
I agree with the last sentence, definitely. But there is still definitely this originality factor to consider.

Rachit Chakerwarti, [05.04.15 14:00]
that point actually kinda tells you that you shouldn’t be worried about your legacy

Rachit Chakerwarti, [05.04.15 14:00]
that’s as irrelevant as the individual desitinations of your pieces of work

Rachit Chakerwarti, [05.04.15 14:00]
it’s the collection of them

Valentin Peretroukhin, [05.04.15 14:02]
Right, so even if legacy itself is not in the forefront of your thoughts, the long term vs. short term ‘gains’ certainly are

Valentin Peretroukhin, [05.04.15 14:02]
and in the limit, long term gains are basically the way the world views you and your work

Valentin Peretroukhin, [05.04.15 14:03]
Also, as a meta point, we’re basically art critics

Valentin Peretroukhin, [05.04.15 14:03]
Who want to take sides for entertainment value

Valentin Peretroukhin, [05.04.15 14:03]
Instead of just give in to the inevitable ‘balance’ of the world

Rachit Chakerwarti, [05.04.15 14:07]
‘gains’ is a completely different part of the equations to why you produce what you produce. If you’re isolating the variable of originality, then under that point, it shouldn’t matter how the world views you and your work – it should only matter to you.

Valentin Peretroukhin, [05.04.15 14:09]
Interesting, so are you saying you’re not a Utilitarian anymore?

Valentin Peretroukhin, [05.04.15 14:09]
replace the word ‘gains’ with the word ‘utility’

Rachit Chakerwarti, [05.04.15 14:09]
no

Rachit Chakerwarti, [05.04.15 14:09]
that’s when you isolate ‘originality’

Rachit Chakerwarti, [05.04.15 14:09]
as a variable

Rachit Chakerwarti, [05.04.15 14:09]
and base the discussion on that

Valentin Peretroukhin, [05.04.15 14:10]
so how does originality work into utility then?

Rachit Chakerwarti, [05.04.15 14:10]
it’s in contrast to it

Rachit Chakerwarti, [05.04.15 14:10]
or it can be

Rachit Chakerwarti, [05.04.15 14:13]
Actually, it doesn’t necessairly have to be. Your individual pursuit of art for being the ‘original you’ should be for that persepctive alone. To put it into ‘utility’ perspective, i get the most self satisfaction and ‘happiness’ when i take that perspective of publishing any pieces of work attributed to my name. But, sometimes there can be arenas where ‘selling out’ and following the crowd makes more sense in terms of maslow’s lower pyramid gains, so the utils for my ego are diminished and the ones for my survival are replenished

Rachit Chakerwarti, [05.04.15 14:14]
i define utilitairianism differently than the classical interpretation

Valentin Peretroukhin, [05.04.15 14:14]
I agree that it doesn’t have to be in contrast to it, that’s my point with the long term vs short term stuff

Rachit Chakerwarti, [05.04.15 14:16]
yeah, but if you are to isolate the originality point, based on the purity of the pursuit, you shouldn’t, hence the existence of the ‘starving artist’

Rachit Chakerwarti, [05.04.15 14:17]
so what i think this highlights is the balance is from this pure ideal and real world ‘survival constraints’, and not an originality spectrum —— all of this being from the ‘do-er”s perspective of course

Valentin Peretroukhin, [05.04.15 14:17]
ok

Valentin Peretroukhin, [05.04.15 14:18]
that’s an interesting meta point

Valentin Peretroukhin, [05.04.15 14:18]
you break out of the spectrum

Valentin Peretroukhin, [05.04.15 14:18]
and say no, the only way to live is in the ultra-original

Valentin Peretroukhin, [05.04.15 14:18]
ultra-violet

Rachit Chakerwarti, [05.04.15 14:21]
not ‘ultra original’ that’s misleading, as vague and as cliche as it sounds, ‘as long as you’re true to your own orginal voice in your pursuit of your work’ —- which you may find your voice dances the inspiration/plagairism line, for example you are obsessed with The Beatles, and you end up in a cover band for them – it shouldn’t matter how ‘original’ or ‘unoriginal’ you’re perceived, but the fact that your intention of your work was as true to your original voice

Rachit Chakerwarti, [05.04.15 14:21]
(PS, this is all stemming from the point you made on your post)

Valentin Peretroukhin, [05.04.15 14:21]
yeah I see how it is

Valentin Peretroukhin, [05.04.15 14:22]
I don’t know if I fully agree with that because I think there is no ‘your original voice’

Valentin Peretroukhin, [05.04.15 14:22]
p.s. I’m almost done season 2 of breaking bad now

Valentin Peretroukhin, [05.04.15 14:22]
and I think I know where all of this is going

Rachit Chakerwarti, [05.04.15 14:23]
where?

Valentin Peretroukhin, [05.04.15 14:23]
I think Walter White’s character is going to evolve

Valentin Peretroukhin, [05.04.15 14:24]
they’ve already dropped the ‘you don’t know me’ line a few times

Valentin Peretroukhin, [05.04.15 14:24]
and I think that’s my main point

Valentin Peretroukhin, [05.04.15 14:24]
or main jist

Rachit Chakerwarti, [05.04.15 14:24]
evolve into what?

Rachit Chakerwarti, [05.04.15 14:24]
all characters evolve

Rachit Chakerwarti, [05.04.15 14:25]
well in the good shows at least

Valentin Peretroukhin, [05.04.15 14:25]
so reconcile that then

Valentin Peretroukhin, [05.04.15 14:25]
you say true original voice

Valentin Peretroukhin, [05.04.15 14:25]
but then all characters evolve

Valentin Peretroukhin, [05.04.15 14:25]
what is left of the true original voice?

Valentin Peretroukhin, [05.04.15 14:25]
(p.s. this is like the basic Greek philosophical idea of how can change be possible)

Rachit Chakerwarti, [05.04.15 14:27]
i think it translates more to ‘for the sake of the pursuit’

Rachit Chakerwarti, [05.04.15 14:27]
why did you climb mount everest?

Rachit Chakerwarti, [05.04.15 14:27]
just cause vs. for the accalaides

Rachit Chakerwarti, [05.04.15 14:27]
accolades*

Valentin Peretroukhin, [05.04.15 14:28]
that’s fundamentally not utilitarian

Rachit Chakerwarti, [05.04.15 14:28]
but i’d argue that there’s ‘utility’ / ‘happiness’ in that perspective

Valentin Peretroukhin, [05.04.15 14:28]
that’s just another accolade

Rachit Chakerwarti, [05.04.15 14:28]
sure

Valentin Peretroukhin, [05.04.15 14:28]
it’s not ‘just cause’

Rachit Chakerwarti, [05.04.15 14:29]
i mean, to some degree

Rachit Chakerwarti, [05.04.15 14:29]
you’re not aware of it

Rachit Chakerwarti, [05.04.15 14:29]
it’s whether you meta-analyze your decisions or not

Valentin Peretroukhin, [05.04.15 14:30]
utilitarianism is about that analysis. if given two options, how should you decide?

Valentin Peretroukhin, [05.04.15 14:30]
if you admit ‘sometimes you do things ‘just because” then you admit utility is clearly not the only way to reason

Rachit Chakerwarti, [05.04.15 14:32]
sure, so i made a decision about pursuing art for the sake of the pursuitearly on in life, and thinking about it rationally I realized i’m setting myself up for more satisfaction / utility in the future from having this perspective

Valentin Peretroukhin, [05.04.15 14:33]
this is an interesting point, whether or not originality can be woven into a utilitarian perspective

Rachit Chakerwarti, [05.04.15 14:35]
also, i think there’s a difference in the pursuit of utility versus the reality of utility based on your decisions. You more often than not don’t make rational choices, but you are in pursuit of trying to simplify your world to gain u

Rachit Chakerwarti, [05.04.15 14:35]
‘utils’ from it

Valentin Peretroukhin, [05.04.15 14:42]
I think the reality is that sometimes you make decisions based on some framework you’ve set up (based on utility, religion, family values or otherwise), sometimes you make decisions because they are the path of least resistance (i.e. ‘status quo’), and sometimes you make decisions because of your genetics. The third category is the ‘just because’ category and it may speak to our over-emphasis on consciousness and its role in

Valentin Peretroukhin, [05.04.15 14:42]
‘rationality’

Valentin Peretroukhin, [05.04.15 14:45]
Most of the time, it’s a combination of the three

Valentin Peretroukhin, [05.04.15 14:51]
you still in London?

Rachit Chakerwarti, [05.04.15 14:51]
agreed

Rachit Chakerwarti, [05.04.15 14:51]
yeah

Here’s to Those Less Original

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IMG_1890

Originality and the Blue Collar Worker

The lull between the podcast recording and the next post is the time you and I search for the next original topic. The new spin on free will, or droning on privacy – being original is kinda important to us, and sometimes kinda hard. But luckily enough, the search ended with the hunt this time around. So Valentin, let’s talk Originality and the Blue Collar Worker.

“Find your passion”, “be the unique you that you’re supposed to be”, “find your true voice” … the cliched words spewed in one form or another at every high school graduation ceremony. Individualism, the father of originality, is an ideal we love to preach. But for good reason – the uniqueness of individual thought has lead us to a spectrum of human achievement: the inventors of the first tools, explorers of the new world, the creative eruptions of the industrial revolution, the artists of the cinema, the new understanding of consciousness, and the list goes on. But, as in almost all of our discussions, there’s that B word that always gets brought up. So I’m going to cut right to the chase, what would we want to balance originality with? Is there even something?

“Be a follower”, “listen and don’t speak up”, “be a good role player” just don’t have the same spazazz to it. But the funny thing is though, most of the world ends up being an ‘unoriginal follower’, than an ‘original leader’. And there’s a problem there between the message and the reality. The world needs the blue collar workers to clean our drains, fix our roofs, pick up the roadkill from the streets, and more than that, we need to be able to recognize the people that do those ‘dirty’ deeds. Yes, the world does need inspiration & creative leadership, but the balance of the messaging needs some reweighing. The worker bees need some recognition. Or maybe, just sexier marketing.  But, that’s not the primary point I want to discuss. And since this worker bee movement does have some legs on it (Mike Rowe, from the television show,’Dirty Jobs‘, is making some headway for one), let’s move on to bigger and harder battles in shifting this originality balance.

Originality and art almost go hand in hand. The artist that produces the next piece of genre changing, revolutionary artwork receives recognition for the original thought that construed it to existence. But, when you ask artists, where they get their ideas, the use of the word “inspiration” often comes spilling out. Inspiration, as the most recent law suit dished out to Robin Thicke by the Gaye family, dances the line with plagiarism. And it is at this point, in the balance of the spectrum, where I raise a flag. Most artists dance this line and move it ever so incrementally. This dance does still require an original thought mixed in with the ‘inspiration/plagiarism’, but seldom gets recognized. The collective consciousness of hip hop artists of the late 80s moved the music genre into existence, mostly by ‘plagiarizing’ or ‘getting inspiration’ from each other. Yes, there were a few leaders of the movement that paved the way for the rest. But the rest, played an ever so crucial part to the movement as a hole. So I say, we recognize more of the less ‘original’ worker bee artists of the world, and maybe alter the quote, ‘great artists steal’ to ‘most artists steal, and that’s cool’.

What say you?

Do you trust my feelings?

Recommendations are a tricky feat. They come as a necessary tool as any aspiring tasteful consumer needs to decide what books, movies, music, paintings, museums, etc, make the cut into their life. And you’re right, a good recommendation comes down to a mutual connection of empathy. Can I relate to the types of people making a recommendation to me, and trust that my emotional experience of the art will match the one of the recommender? But, I ask thee Valentin, are we doing recommendations right? Before we get there though, lets briefly talk about expectations.

Recommendations set expectations. And expectations colour your experience of consumption. Now, this is different than a blind recommendation you mentioned, This is the recommendations based on a critics review, or a number rating out of 10 on IMDB. This isn’t a “just watch it, cause trust me bro”. Now lets take movies as an example. If you watch a movie going into it with expectations of it being an all time great after hearing amazing reviews, your experience is much different than watching it knowing only the name of the movie. Now, I realize I’m not saying anything you haven’t heard before. Of course, expectations matter. But, if you are to experience art and consequently judge that experience, I would argue it’s best to minimize these expectations. In an ideal world, we would experience all art blindly, and base our judgments from the experience and not the ideas of it set out beforehand.

Now on to recommendations. If we so have to to communicate my thoughts on an art piece, whatever the medium, what would be the best way to do so? We get a plethora of critical styles, from analyzing the piece in its place historically in the medium, to the what and how of the piece itself, or just a thumbs up or a thumbs down. One thing that I think is missing in making recommendations is highlighting the emotion of the piece. As I mentioned in my earlier post, emotions are the universal currency of art. So if we are to use words to critique and consequently recommend art, I suggest introducing an emotional intensity scale, or emotional state analogies to communicate opinion. So Valentin, how do you feel about that?

Re: Iguanas and Art

I’ve missed this pulpy goodness. The unbeknownst, unrestricted world of creative fiction proved to be much more prone to insanity than expected. Not to say that we’ve given up on it – in a more optimistic light, we’ve chosen to let the art flow naturally through our citric veins. And from this deepened appreciation of the written art form, we’ve begun the dive into this weird, almost undefinable concept called Art.

Now before pulling out the scientific lens on this elusive word, I want to talk about its place in my life. A lifetime of trying to understand ‘what is’ and ‘why is’ has left me anywhere from confused, to depressed, to intellectually stimulated, and often nihilistically neutral. Art, in it’s most loose understanding, transcends these questions. The moments of losing yourself in a Salvador Dali painting, jamming to a funkadelic D’angelo song, tearing up in the first ten minutes of Up (guilty), or just immersing yourself in the cascading shower of a thunderstorm are moments where these questions don’t matter. They transcend the why, the what, and the how — in these moments in time, you just don’t care. And that’s why it is so powerful. Cross culturally, works of art and their authors, that induce these feelings are revered to a godlike pedestal.

Now, to pull out the scientific microscope, why is this so? The core of this kind of transcendent feeling is the experience of a deep emotion(s). This is where the subjectivity of art comes into play. What kind of art, or in what format of art, relates to someone on this level is highly dependent on the eye of the beholder. But, this subjectivity can still be measured … to a certain degree. And we already try to do this. When a piece of art, in whatever shape or form, sheds this deep emotional connection to the shared consciousness of a critical mass of people, it climbs the collective pedestal. As you highlighted, the ‘mini-olympic’ arena of art galleries try to showcase these select pieces of art in a meritocratic fashion.

What the previous paragraph demonstrates is one ‘variable’ that is at the core of the meaning of what Art is – a collective emotional connection. One of a series of variables (ex. another variable would be the unrepeatability of an art piece). Keeping this spectrum of what constitutes Art in mind, I want to pay attention to this ’emotional currency’. I realize I am steering the conversation away from where you initially intended – the cross cultural examination of art and it’s place in different societies. However, where I want to direct the conversation towards is inherently tied to a cultural analysis. That question is how language shapes art.

The subjective emotional transcendence that a piece of art facilitates, often can’t be described or communicated. Words aim to recreate and resemble the experience of an art piece, but fall short. So, I present thee Valentin, with a couple of questions: is there a ‘right’ vocabulary to discuss art? Is using “this is the best song ever” a wrong way to discuss music? Does one need to develop a stronger descriptive and emotional vocabulary to properly understand and appreciate Art?

~ R

Effective Slippery Slopes

The quantification of a phenomenon/idea/issue invokes the inner nature of a scientist, math nerd, and analysis junkie, that both of us quite evidently are. But, there are limitations even for the best of things in the world (except for the raps getting W’s – can never get enough of that! #WeTheNorth). When we try and quantify a concept like privacy, instead of creating a potent signal, we end up with more noise. The reason for this is the lack of grey area that gets considered when we translate an interconnected, complex, evolving issue into a number. Yes, these data points may be used in the discussion as a loose feeler for the current state of the given issue, but I don’t think it’s effective beyond that.

Other than trying to strut my natural fanciness, I bolded effective for a reason. I spoke earlier about slippery slopes and their relationship with issues laced with rapid changes and unpredictable futures. What I meant to highlight here is the question of the effectiveness of using slippery slopes as an argumentative tool in order to make a decision on a policy issue. Earlier, I stated that discussing the end of the slippery ride (for example, in the privacy and drone issue, murderous drones raging rampage over our world), is indeed an effective tool to help us underreact in the future by overreacting now. And as you highlighted, the drone in this case, would symbolize a “dead canary” and not a “red-herring”. However, this effectiveness isn’t always the case. The factors governing its utility were brought up in a discussion with the God of Never From Concentrate. I’m fairly agnostic on the whole God thing, but here we must refer to our boy, Mr. Aakash Sahney, as the God of NFC, because if it wasn’t for him, we would’ve never met and NFC would’ve never been born!

So what are these factors that determine the effectiveness of using a slippery slope argument in policy decision making? Or in terms relating directly to our conversation, when is bringing up drones in a discussion about policy a “red-herring” and when is it a “dead-canary”?

One issue with slippery slopes is that we don’t often know where we are on the slope. The end of the slippery slope in the argument against slavery was “maybe we’ll have a black president one day” and that is now, as we reflect on it, the view after a majestic “mountaineering expedition”. The main point in this case is to consider whether we are considering the end of the climb or the fall at the end of the slope, when using this argumentative tool in practice.

The second more pressing issue with slippery slopes is that our legal system has a natural balancing system ingrained within it. When public opinion does a slow 180 on an issue, for example instituting prohibition in the early 20th century, the law was adapted to this change. When we realized that it was a failed policy, and public opinion completed the rest of the pi revolution back to its original state, we changed the laws accordingly. So being experimental with new and/or radical ideas can be highly useful without considering the end of the slope, as we can rely on this natural balancing nature of our legal system. The obvious flaw in this argument is when a marginal dip down a slope has irreversible damage. For example, we take less risks on policy changes that pose potential death risks. This riskiness typically gets brought up in discussion when we’re dealing with infringements on basic fundamental rights — we can use the set of issues outlined in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms as our set of essential rights. When the consequences related to the change in policy on an issue results on an infringement on one of these rights, we move the cost-benefit analysis from a utilitarian discussion to one that’s more categorical in nature. A stark example of this is our policies on animal testing are discussed from a much more utilitarian viewpoint than any issue related to a potential human death, like euthanasia (not youth in asia to be clear). To further narrow my thesis I mentioned in my last post, slippery slope arguments are effective tools in discussions on policy changes, only if the consequences of the policy change result in either a direct infringement on our essential rights, or a reasonable path can be drawn to reach an infringement on these rights.

The question of whether drones fall under this or not, we shall leave up to the discussion on our podcast next week!