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It is too bad for the wood which finds itself a violin

This entry is essentially a continuation of “je est un autre” and I thank the handful of you who read it at least enough to give me “likes.” (“Handful” is right; myself as the “thumb” and four others. I suppose I really am “all thumbs.”)

Some of you will not click the link and read the previous writing. Others did, but may be scratching their heads and wondering “what was his point?” Let me summarize: (1) many have tried to critique Rimbaud but his work is so abstract yet poignant that we are left with many differing opinions; (2) like others, I think Rimbaud had many brilliant moments or “brainstorms” and was having one when he opined “je est un autre” (“I is another”); but (3) I differ from others in that I think Rimbaud was actually complaining about might be called a “capacity issue.”

His profound ideas and experiences vastly exceeded the capacity of words to convey to another (us) his experience. Since the days of Rimbaud (mid 1800’s) some philosophers (notably “phenomenologists”) have addressed this problem extensively as have early psychologists (“structuralists”) in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s.  The problem may be even deeper, as the renowned anthropologist Gregory Bateson (mid to late 20th century) has argued that this kind of consciousness should not be made available to conscious examination.  Since Rimbaud could not have known of the later work, we are left with the elegance of his poetry resulting from his struggles with the problem.

That is the article in a nutshell, but if you want more depth then you must read the original.  And, one more thing: if you are “brilliant” or have fleeting moments of “genius,” then you suffer from precisely the same challenge.

In this article, we build upon a less cryptic, but still debated, comment of Rimbaud: “It is too bad for the wood which finds itself a violin.” Opinions vary, but one popular one is this: what many consider to be a “gift” can be a curse to the one who has the gift. In Rimbaud’s case this would be his writing in general but his poetry in particular. He honored this expression of his feelings and insight when he permanently turned his back on poetry at age twenty never to revisit it again. Instead, he became a successful merchant (in particular as an arms dealer in Africa selling weapons to people who desired to kill each other).

In this article I will not explore the other abstract and a bit weird interpretations of “it is too bad for the wood which finds itself a violin”, like the one by some philosophers that claim Rimbaud was making a distinction between the material of an object and the form of an object. This might possibly be true, but it is like making a distinction between the DNA in one’s cells and how one’s life has developed. At one level it sounds rather profound, and is profound, but at another level one has to ask “so what?” I think, too, that they missed the point that the statement is a metaphor about “giftedness.”

I am no Rimbaud, but I resonate with this statement of his. Over the course of two years, I have built a small family of blogs that has a respectable level of traffic. (Nine years, actually, but the more serious work in the last two.) But since advertising typically pays $10 for 10,000 “impressions,” and I have 30,000 to 50,000 page views per year, I cannot “make a living” out of my blogs and my writings. ($50 a year is not enough to sustain me.) I am not asking for a “go fund me” page or anything like that, but if I do not find a solution to the problem of monetizing my work, soon I will give up (as Rimbaud did) for something more lucrative that likely will be even less memorable than being an “arms dealer in Africa.”

Something tells me, a hunch if you will, that I am not the only one in this position. Please do understand, at this moment, I am not speaking of a teenager or twenty something who believes they have something to say and makes one or two blog posts that sound suspiciously similar to 10,000 other similar posts. (And, I know that the young can have profound things to say; Rimbaud himself is the “poster child” for such things.) I am talking, though, of those dedicated individuals at any age or background who persist in writing entry after entry, poem after poem, but cannot sustain themselves on what little money, if any, that they receive from the blogosphere. I think I am not alone; I think many others face this same problem.

And, I face Rimbaud’s other problem (as I see it) as well: “je est un autre.” Who I am at my core, and what I have to say, only makes it out of my head and through my fingertips into the internet in the thinnest of slivers. It is these tiniest of slivers of which I speak in my piece “And When I die”   Sadly, the remainder will perish when my physical body does, unspoken, unwritten, and lost forever.

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Je est un autre

Are you familiar with the phrase “Je est un autre”? In English, it translates to “I is another,” and in French it is equally incorrect from a grammatical point of view. French poet Arthur Rimbaud wrote it when he was sixteen years of age in the mid 1800’s. His poetry became famous, arguably increasingly famous after his death, but he permanently abandoned poetry by age twenty and left France to pursue a (rather successful) career as a merchant and arms dealer in Africa.

What did the phrase mean? And, why did he abandon poetry, given his gift?

Rimbaud and Yahoo Answers

His poetry, and particularly this enigma “Je est un autre,” has been the subject of a growing body of speculation and commentary. I found this handful of answers on “Yahoo Answers.”

I disagree with the selection of “best answer” (which reeks of psychobabble), and think the better answer is the more succint “I was another… He felt like someone else…” Dissociation makes more sense than “a journey of imagination and an aesthetic evolution of its ingredients” (which sounds like pure, unadultered bullshit). Even “He s referring to himself as the devil. Remember Verlaine dubbed Rimbaud ‘the accursed poet.’” is better. That answer goes on to say “He goes on to say ‘tough luck to the wood that wants to be a violin.’ He s talking about nature and potential, and considering himself damned.” (Many sources translate this to “tough luck to the wood that becomes a violin.”  That’s an entirely different meaning, that leads to a rather similar conclusion, still painting the gift as a curse.)   This seems closer to the truth, but probably still misses the mark.  But the point is a good one: writing poetry but being unable to make a living can make one permanently abandon the gift in favor of the boring but more lucrative life of a merchant.

Rimbaud and the New York Times

Rimbaud’s work is a challenging topic, and Richard Hell’s New York Times piece on Rimbaud does well to note those challenges before wading into the mists where others have wandered. We note these important points:

  1. “One would have to be a genius oneself to grasp the full significance of Arthur Rimbaud, or at least have the ability to hold many opposed ideas in one’s mind at the same time and still function fully.”
  2. “Numerous writers have sought to demonstrate their qualifications along these lines by publishing studies of him.”
  3. “…the anecdotes of his contemporaries showing him as a drunken, filthy, amoral homosexualteenager who becomes a reserved, hard-working, responsible and respectable (if misanthropic and disgust-ridden) adult merchant and explorer.”
  4. “…his scornful and unhesitating permanent abandonment of poetry at the age of 20.”

(I am taking so much from the New York Times piece that it borders on copyright infringement, but do keep in mind that I am doing so for the permitted purpose of critique and review. I quote this initial passage out of order as I have broken it down for a purpose which should become clear momentarily.)

Rimbaud and Bateson’s Levels of Learning

One theme that recurs in my life is this article on (Gregory) Bateson’s three levels of learning. I strongly suspect that a better answer than the Yahoo Answers is that Rimbaud touched upon Bateson’s “Level III” of learning as described by Paul Tosey. Among other things, Tosey said this about Level III:

At LIII Bateson and Bateson’s (1998) conception of the sacred becomes important. They argued that some levels of patterning are so profoundly ecological that they should not be analysed cognitively; to do so would make them vulnerable to conscious thought.

Said differently, Rimbaud was having a transcendent experience (as hinted at by what I think was the best Yahoo answer: “I was another… He felt like someone else… ”) And, if it is true that (1) Rimbaud touched upon Bateson’s LIII (a “sacred” experience (or at least massively powerful “brainstorm”) which can be perceived as psychosis by others) and (2) that Bateson’s ideas about LIII are indeed correct, then Hell is profoundly correct when he states “One would have to be a genius oneself to grasp the full significance of Arthur Rimbaud, or at least have the ability to hold many opposed ideas in one’s mind at the same time and still function fully.” (Paradox, or “many opposed ideas,” is a central aspect of Bateson’s LIII.)

Then, again, maybe it is “psychosis” or at least “dissociation.” 🙂

Rimbaud, Bandwidth, and Binding Constraints

From a different, but not inconsistent, viewpoint, Rimbaud may have been attempting to identify what some refer to as a “bandwidth problem,” more specifically Shannon’s Law’. Stated differently, Rimbaud’s ideas and thinking and experiences overloaded the capacity of even his elegant poetry to convey what he was seeking to transmit to us.

Whether or not Rimbaud’s experience, or more likely a series of experiences during this early period of his life, were “sacred” is open to speculation. But SOMEthing happened that led to his poetry and this mysterious sentence that has inspired so much commentary. If not a “sacred” experience, then a brainstorm (could it be both?) touched Rimbaud, and he realized that the totality of his experience simply could not be reduced to words.

He had a “bandwidth problem,” and more specifically the words he could write along with his ability to transform experience into those words represented a “binding constraint.” In case you clicked that link and did not follow that explanation, let me give it a try: for any given situation, any “problem” you are trying to solve, if you are “optimal” and cannot do any better, then some particular factor or aspect of the situation must change to obtain an improvement.  Most of the time, one particular single factor is the “bottleneck” that must be changed to bring about an improvement in the situation.  In the language of mathematical optimization, this bottleneck is called the “binding constraint.”

Rimbaud and Phenomenology

The experiences we have can never be fully reduced to words. Arguably we, and Rimbaud, are in the domain of phenomenology.) Since the domain of phenomenology was developed from the early 20th century forward, and Rimbaud lived in the mid 1800’s when he penned the famous line, Rimbaud simply could not have availed himself of the literature of phenomenology.

One source describes phenomenology thus “Phenomenology is the study of structures of consciousness as experienced from the first-person point of view. The central structure of an experience is its intentionality, its being directed toward something, as it is an experience of or about some object. An experience is directed toward an object by virtue of its content or meaning….” This sounds suspiciously close to what someone might struggle with when attempting to examine his own thoughts, eventually drawing the conclusion that “I is another.”

In addition to the phenomenologists, an important early group of psychologists (in the late 1800’s, after Rimbaud) called the structuralists also struggled with this profound problem. The problem was so messy that a new group called the “functionalists” emerged in psychology and laid the foundation for behaviorism, the primary driver of most psychological research for at least a century.

A profound disconnect exists here: Rimbaud did not have the benefit of knowing what the phenomenologists and structuralists learned. Maybe if he did, then we would not have the benefit of his poetry. But, he didn’t, so we do.

If Rimbaud had read the writings of the phenomenologists, then he might have never have gifted this mysterious sentence to us which has been fodder for so much commentary, especially by those Hell describes as having “sought to demonstrate their qualifications along these lines by publishing studies of” Rimbaud and his famous sentence.

What Else?

We have more to say about this, as it touches us on many levels. But, for now, we will stop here. In the future, we want to write about where all of this fits in our life, and why. Part of it addresses why we may abandon, or at least reduce, our efforts at writing and blogging on WordPress to, at least metaphorically, follow in the footsteps of young Rimbaud who, at age 20, abandoned his poetry and (as Hell points out) “contrary to legend, Rimbaud ultimately did quite well as a merchant and weapons salesman, accumulating a small fortune.” (Does this last sentence seem ungrammatical? Is it a disconnect in my writing? Let’s pick that up next time.)

Sigh. Maybe I really do need to get a “day job.”  Or, said differently, “tough luck to the wood that becomes a violin.”

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Is Markdown a Curse or a Blessing?

Reblogs (and the “old days”)

Most of you know me primarily through my reblogs. At one time, I wrote a few astrology forecasts per month. It was all fun, and sometimes I would write more than one per week and sometimes I went for months without a post and the blog seemed dead. Periodically, my content would be reblogged by The Halau or Hocus Pocus 13 but I did not know enough to even say “Thank You” in the early days. (And a “shout out” Thank You to both of them for their support of my work for many years.)

Eventually I learned not only the etiquette of reblogs but also some of the finer points of the art, and my blog became ten blogs of varying topics, my content deployment exploded, my traffic exploded, and my life changed in a truly fundamental way. Essentially, I became a “professional blogger” except I am not making money at it (yet).

Professional Blogger or just Unemployed?

If I could deduce a way to make a decent middle class to upper middle class living out of the process, I doubt I would spend much effort in the pursuit of anything else.  In simple terms: I like what I do. (However, financial constraints may yet force me to get a “day job” unless I can find a way to monetize the process, maybe becoming a KDP author (or publisher?) in the process.

Which almost brings me to the topic of this post: Markdown (and Markdown editors). But, I still have more background (which might interest some of my regular readers). If you read “Critical Comments” last month, then you know what I am writing here is a successor to that and very nearly a “diary entry.”

Connectivity Problems and Platform Shifts

Some of my connectivity problems continue, and I suspect that the remaining problems have to do with neighbors who have occupied all of the available WIFI channels and beyond. This leaves me with a need for a newer better router (yet another router purchase), and I will likely upgrade my cable modem to a Docsis 3.0 16×4, maybe something like this .

I would rather wait for Docsis 3.1 modems to emerge.  I have watched this for months with much chatter but no actual hardware made available to the public  Thus I conclude that, since the Second Coming of Jesus Christ is likely to occur first, I must give up waiting on Docsis 3.1.  Maybe it is just more vaporware.

If you are not a technophile, or you are a technophobe, ignore the past few sentences. The rest of you understand that, overall, WIFI is beginning to fail as a standard in crowded urban settings and something beyond even 802.11ac will become necessary, probably something radically different (as different as USB is compared to the old RS232 serial ports for anyone that remembers those). Til then, I will have to find some way to hammer out a “limp by” solution just like others in my situation and hope that the cyberterrorists become too busy (dead, maybe?) to mess with us and disrupt our connectivity.

All of this (connectivity, bandwidth, computing power) is something I lusted after as a young man, and as other young people still do, but this technology is just a platform for deploying content: astrology for those who like it, photography, poetry, other writing, and sometimes other content.

In the final analysis of priorities, the existence of the technology is justified by the delivery of the content.

Different Platforms, Different Tools

Which brings us, almost, to “markdown editors.” As you know from my previous post, I had three computers go down. One, a Mac, has yet to be salvaged or replaced. I do have other Macs, and I can limp by with them for “Apple only” type software tasks until I have a better solution. I pulled the hard drive from my Windows laptop and turned it into a Kubuntu Linux machine, and I am using that very machine to draft this entry. I attempted to setup a new Windows laptop for “Windows only” type software tasks, but it was an utter disaster in terms of connectivity. I finally had to give up on it and return it for a refund.

I am still contemplating options on how to handle that. I do also have a satisfactory Windows desktop (the successor of a lineage that produced my main blog, Grandtrines, from 2008 forward) as well as a very fast Kubuntu desktop (six cores; 16 GB RAM, SSD, you get the picture: FAST). Sometimes I use the Kubuntu desktop for WordPress, but mostly I use this old laptop I am using now.

In the process of switching about 98% of my computing off of Windows (after literally decades of using Windows, and DOS before that) in 2016, and moving to a mix of Apple (Mac + iOS) and Linux (Kubuntu, which is Ubuntu with the KDE desktop), I found I needed to add a series of tools that are not quite of the “standard” mix. Exactly what is “standard” for Linux is difficult to say though easier for Apple (in the Apple universe, if it is not part of the “App Store,” then it is not standard). But, in any case, that brings us to our main topic:

Markdown Editors

One family of software tools that has grabbed my attention is “markdown editors.” For anyone interested, I will list several that I am exploring here:

Apple (OSX or iOS) only:

Linux (and sometimes Apple or Windows or both)

Other Editors

I also play with other editors: Eclipse (almost never since I do not code much these days), Evernote and variants (Nixnotes), Scrivener (doesn’t everyone who is (1) over 18 and (2) does anything more than the most casual writing, poets excluded? (I hope you do not have to ask why poets are excluded.  If you do, then you do not know of all the legends about songs written on napkins.)  However, L&L has me worried because they ceased their Linux development and I (and others?) need that to ensure portability with Mac/Windows), LibreOffice, Microsoft Office (almost every variant but mostly either 2007 or 2010 depending on which machine I am on), and bunches of others. (OK, that might have been a “run on” sentence. But I am letting it stand. Complain if you must, grammar nazis.)

KM Tools

I am also a KM (“Knowledge Management”) explorer, but I mostly like Evernote and The Brain (and sometimes XMind which I have working under Windows and Mac but CANNOT get to work properly under Linux). I play with other KM tools, also, but most of them seem kind of clunky (e.g. OneNote is ALMOST t here) compared to Evernote and The Brain.

Encrypted Text

I am also intrigued by a rather interesting cross-platform notepad replacement: Deadbolt . Deadbolt’s primarily claim to fame is to make life unpleasant for snoops who do not expect fifty character (or longer) passphrases to protect private notes. <smile>

(I really like the idea of some cyberterrorist type spending weeks or months of their lives trying to break a note of mine only to find a grocery list. How much sweeter can you get than that? If more of us did that….)

Which One?

Anyway, why FIVE markdown editors across three (four? five?) platforms? Because I will winnow them out over time and settle on one or two as a way to draft more content of my own for WordPress. And, if you have stuck with me this far on this post, let me offer that you might look into using a markdown editor to draft your posts offline and then just paste into the WP editor window. (This provides more creative control AND prevents lost material due to connectivity problems.)

Again, editors I am evaluating (and you might consider):

Minimalist Editors and Productivity

All of these have an intention to be “minimalist” editors with the goal of increasing writing productivity by eliminating distractions (unneeded “features”). This may, or may not, work for you. The Mac apps cost money and Ulysses is the most expensive (but has a strong “fanboy” (and “fangirl”) following). Typora is currently in beta but will be “for sale” at some point. Ghostwriter and Remarkable are open source (and can be “free” depending on your ethics / karma).

Downside to Learning Markdown (A History Lesson)

The downside: I have seen this pattern recur many time since the EARLY 1980’s (almost 1970’s). Wordstar had a somewhat similar marking system for bold and italics and such that predated the Internet (and links). It was supplanted by WordPerfect which users preferred because they thought it was cleaner with no “codes” (until the naive user discovers “reveal codes, and, to use a popular cliche, “there it is”).

Microsoft Word does the same thing but hides the codes better somewhere in RTF / XML. HTML used the same series of codes (bold, italics, etc.) but use of those codes was officially “deprecated” in favor of CSS (which did the EXACT same thing except made it more portable / flexible / complex). WordPress has the same scheme in their editor, and they are just hiding HTML (thankfully plain vanilla HTML which I can hand code as can many other) the same way Wordperfect did in the 1980’s (and still today). (Let us be clear: despite the popularity of CSS, MANY of us use the old HTML tags still, myself included.)

Markdown just seems like yet another variant in a long, long lineage of similar schemes, so “part of me” is VERY reluctant to invest too much time in it. Thankfully, the learning curve looks pretty flat, so maybe it is worthwhile. But, then, there is the learning curve of learning the editors (Byword, Ulysses, Ghostwriter, Remarkable, Typora) themselves well enough to evaluate them and discard them down to, say, two (one for Mac and one for Linux/Windows).

Conclusions

Despite my concerns about learning yet another tool that may soon be discarded in a long lineage of similar tools with the same recurring learn / master / discard drama, I think I am going to bite the bullet and learn markdown anyway.

Feedback welcome. Anyone else playing with markdown editors on WP?

Edit: (1) WordPress, itself, has an excellent little triple-platform editor called Simplenote (which can be very useful for keeping both (a) Markdown intended for publish; (b) more private notes about your writing not intended for publication); (2) “Remarkable” was a bit of a disaster for producing this blog post; Ghostwriter did a much better job (still have not fully tested Typora or the Mac apps).

Graveyard Shift – Friday Fictioneers Flash Fiction

Flights of Fancy

Every Wednesday we get a new picture prompt for the Friday Fictioneers, a writing challenge graciously hosted by our Fairy Blog Mother Rochelle Wisoff-Fields.
The task of the challenge is to write a story: beginning, middle, and end, in 100 words or less. You can find all the Fictioneers’ stories when you click on the Froggy. Please read, comment, and if you like, join the fun. Everyone is welcome.


frost-on-the-tombstone-liz

Image © Liz Young. Used with permission for this Friday Fictioneers Challenge only. Any other use of this image requires Liz Young’s permission.


Graveyard Shift

The graveyard shift is the hardest. You sit. You watch. You fight the enemy inside, the one that makes your eyelids droop. Only the hardest, only the best make it through this hour. But a woman’s gotta do what a woman’s gotta do. The reward will be worth it.

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Fiction: ‘The Gardener’

Writing on Tangents

37 - The Gardener Image Source: http://bit.ly/2poD8OV

Golden rays of sunlight drip from the sky and wash over her golden petals in a flood of light. She stretches her large green leaves towards it. The warmth is so sweet after the freezing night. Endless blue skies have replaced the cool twinkling stars and the morning dew quickly evaporates into the air. Even the grass appears more vibrant under the light of a new day.

Her sisters turn their lovely faces towards the sun.

She looks up into the blue depths of heaven. A little robin sits in the tree, his brilliant red breast puffed out as he lets out a trill of song. Bees flit passed her, zooming busily to their hive. The sweet scent of honey is thick in the air, making the day feel drowsy under the weight of its perfume.

A shadow falls.

She shivers with a sudden chill.

He stands…

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Ride Across the River: Soldier of Freedom in the Army of the Night

Outer Channel: A Blog for (reluctant) Starseeds and Wanderers

Dire Straits: “I am a Soldier of Freedom in the Army of the Night.”  That is a song called “Ride Across The River.”  While working on my usual posts, and leaving the Youtube player playing (on top of SomaFM, weird even for me), this song came up.  I found the lyrics to be galvanizing, especially that first sentence: “I am a Soldier of Freedom in the Army of the Night.”

Usually the idea of being a “soldier” is foreign to me.  I know many others have served, but that has not been my path.  Unless you consider what I have been doing for the past few years, writing on WordPress and reblogging the work of other creatives (astrologers, writers, poets, photographers) as “serving” as a “Soldier of Freedom.”  And with my chronic (and often severe) sleep problems, I suppose I would qualify for being a member of the “Army…

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Psychologist Carl Jung – The 11:11 Synchronicity

Superb material for novels and short stories! Awesome!

Openhearted Rebel

Compiled by Gregg Prescott, M.S., BodyMindSoulSpirit.com

Have you ever experienced an 11:11 synchronicity? Psychologist Carl Jung coined the term synchronicity, which many of us use on a daily or weekly basis.

Synchronicity is the coming together of inner and outer events in a way that cannot be explained by cause and effect and that is meaningful to the observer.
~ Carl Jung

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First of Its Kind Study Finds Cannabis May Be a “Miracle” Treatment for Autistic Kids

Openhearted Rebel

By Claire Bernish, The Free Thought Project, Waking Times

Autism could now be added to the lengthy and perpetually-expanding list of afflictions and symptoms treatable with the one product of nature shamefully prohibited by the federal government — the “miracle” palliative, cannabis.

One in every 68 children in the United States is now affected by autism, and the number of kids coping with the developmental disorder has been increasing at an explosive rate in recent years. With onset most common during infancy and early childhood, autism can impact social and communication skills and may cause repetitive or compulsive behaviors, among other manifestations.

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Inside the mind: Thought experiments

Rationalising The Universe

In today’s post we’ll be presenting a go-to in every theoretical physicist’s toolkit, the thought experiment. I’ll present its pros and cons while giving a few examples of noteworthy thought experiments across the ages. Thought experiments occur across the sciences and are by no means confined to physics, though the ones I’ve presented below belong to my favourite discipline. So without further ado let’s discover the beauty of what excellent work can be accomplished inside the mind…

What is a thought experiment?

A thought experiment starts, as with all experiments, with the consideration of a certain hypothesis. It then involves setting up a hypothetical scenario in ones head and uses the knowledge one possesses to think through its consequences in order to arrive at the result. Thought experiments are often used in order to ‘perform’ experiments which may not be feasible in everyday life, for example involving black holes or…

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