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Wednesday, December 26, 2001

Truth and Beauty

My Christmas day ended up rather unexpectedly long and multi-faceted.

Garrett* and I surfed Kanaha in the morning. It's the first time I've been there without a sail -- the usual thirty second wind-powered zip out to the waves took instead ten minutes of paddling (and then again to get back to shore later). On the plus side, having the nearest rocks ten minutes away from the waves makes for a nice low-stress outing. Too many long-borders, though. Didn't expect to see such a crowd on Christmas day.

After a shower and a nuked Costco Lau Lau, I wrote the first lines of code to implement a project I've been working on for... oh... a decade or so. It remains to be seen whether these are truly the first lines of code, or just the head of a false trail. I am both discouraged and encouraged by the fact that the solutions I am coming up with seem much too simple.

Come evening I joined Laila to a sort of hippy party down the street from her place. I'd expected to be a ghost there and to leave out of boredom within half an hour, but strangely I ended up knowing a handful of people there, and a handful more knew of me and consequently accosted me with various forms of verbal communication (though I don't know I would rate more than one or two such instances as a conversation, substantial temporal durations notwithstanding).

The most perceptually extended of these encounters was a content-free verbal interchange with a man named Romeo (ro-MAY-o, not RO-meo) who true to his name has slept with pretty much every woman on the island. He speaks entirely in meaningless abstractions about spirituality and psychology with occasional references to collaborations with "world-class scientists", all part of a well-practiced and confidently delivered script which apparently buys him awe and sex when used on women (I'm told his script does not change) and I guess he just uses the same script with men to keep in practice, and perhaps to pick up new buzzwords for his repertoire.

By this point in the evening, though, my bullshit meter was already welded to maximum, having crossed paths again with the fellow Garrett* and I met a couple of years ago who has made his living for the last fifteen years getting the rich and gullable to invest in his perpetual motion machine based on spinning magnets -- a device who's prototype has been days away from completion in all of that time. He never falters in his apparent sincerity for this endeavor, though, so it remains an open question (amongst a wise few -- note that most assume he is actually on to something) whether he is aware of his own deception. It is a clever device--it transfers energy across the border of human intuition, so that most anyone can understand how it creates energy from nowhere, and relatively few can understand where it's really coming from.

Third in our parade is a fellow who goes by the name Zen--or who Laila calls Cupid. Picture a boyish, curly-haired blond fellow with a Venice Beach physique (except for the missing tooth front and center) spouting cookbook mystical "all is nothingness" rhetoric. He travels with a world-renowned yoga instructor, who at the time was sitting cross-legged in a chair in the corner staring intently at the ceiling (I am not making this up).

I also met the blue-green algae guy who imported Shanti some time ago. Compared to the three above, I have nothing good to say about him.

All of these men are very popular with the ladies, whatever that tells you about the latter in this particular crowd. Though it was quite a physically attractive collection of women--likely attributable to pragmatic correlates such as few sit-down day jobs amongst them, little TV, insufficient funds for culinary gluttony, and a notable percentage of walking and hitchhiking in lieu of car ownership. Add a preference for wispy cloth merely suggestive of clothing (many sarongs) and it was a superficially beautiful scene.

Our neighbor from a few years ago, Kiva, was there. She has hitchhiked everywhere on the island for the last twenty years--I don't know that she's ever driven a car--but last year she was assaulted, and managed to escape with her chastity but not without some broken bones; I didn't press for details. She still hitchhikes everywhere, but now only accepts rides from women and people she knows. Not a happy turn for the historically benevolent Maui culture. I offered to drop her off on my way home. Meanwhile Laila had met and made friends with a new woman, Julie, and offered to put her up for the night to save her the drive to Lahina at 2am. When I arrived at Laila's to pick up my car with Kiva in tow, it turned out Kiva and Julie knew each other well. I feel it's just a matter of time before I know everyone here -- we got a wrong-number phone call the other day, but it turned out we had just been talking to the person they were looking for and told them she wasn't home but could be reached on her cell phone. [It was then we realized Laila's number is only one digit off ours despite her being fifteen minutes from here.]

We all talked a while at Laila's, Julie eventually faded into the polygonal loft and I dropped Kiva off a few thousand feet above sea level, up Olinda road, in a similarly polygonal home with no furnishings but a two inch thick foam futon mounded on the floor and a two foot tall harp with a broken string. She's recently sold her larger harp to cover living expenses.

I arrived home around 3:30am, opened my windows to let the wind blow through my hair as I snuggled in my feather comforter and thus ended my nineteen hour day. But for a single Santa's hat on someone's head at the party, I don't think an onlooker would ever have guessed it had been Xmas.

The spiritual, emotional, and aesthetic suppositions of this crowd are exaggerated, but not really qualitatively dissimilar than those ubiquitous amongst our species. Beauty, passion, and inspiration are assumed orthogonal to rationality, or perhaps even at odds with it, so much so that if a rational explanation becomes apparent, the essence of the thing is considered vanquished by its cold and mechanical replacement.

It is a shame the two do not live better together in more people's minds -- that the passionate fear rationality, and consequently that the rational come to disrespect the passionate mentality.

I feel with these people, who's passion I do value, my mere presence would inevitably and insidiously reveal to them the inner workings of their own magic, and in so doing extinguish them, leave them cold and depleted. They are on the wrong side of the curve, where each insight of genuine truth fights the presuppositions upon which their passions are falsely based, and so genuine truth becomes their quiet, subconscious enemy.

I wonder if a thread could be spun to the other side, bit by bit to carry them over to where knowledge of their own magic empowers and inspires them to do even more, rather than simply spoiling the trick.

I wonder how much such knowledge is already coveted and kept secret within their ranks as tools of manipulation; how much intentional deceit exists--consciously leveraging other people's mechanistic wills in order to satisfy one's own subconsciously mechanistic desires.

Such a soup of big and little fish, and depending on the angle you look from the sizes all change. It's a carnivorous game of happiness pursuit built on an economy of cherished delusions, a carnival of unwitting shysters all afraid to play a fair game.

Welcome to the human race, I guess. Nothing new to see here -- move along please, move along.

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Simon Funk / simonfunk@gmail.com