winterkoninkje: shadowcrane (clean) (Default)

Communication is important to me. In relationships, in housing, in life. I think this is part of the reason why linguistics attracts me so. I also think this is the big reason why ldap has been so irking (see, documentation is communication too). And communication is, in many ways, about understanding, about conveying a certain ineffable factor of one's consciousness to others, and in so doing binds you to them, makes community, makes society.

I've been reading a lot of Transhuman Space recently. Unfortunately two of the books I recently got which I was looking forward to have been, imo, poorly done by the standards of SJ Games. (Both by the same author, so it may reflect more on his skill/style than on SJ Games.) But the two others I've read so far, Fifth Wave and Under Pressure , have both been quite entertaining.

And they've also gotten me thinking. Not quite so much as the core book when first I read it, but still thinking. It's funny how even just a few years can make what was once bleeding edge seem somehow quaint, seem deep allegory for exploring questions of the self rather than a future almost disturbing in its reality. Is it that the world has changed so much in those intervening years, or is it merely that I have myself?

Certainly I have changed, at least in degrees. I was thinking earlier and have decided that perhaps I should like to live forever. For those who've known me, you would know that this is quite a change. I have always thought before that I should not like to live overlong; tales and stories of the supernatural, of the undead and of illicit pacts, I have taken true to heart: there is a deep sorrow in immortality, more a cursing than could ever be thought of as blessed.

Now don't get me wrong, that I should come to desire long life is not because of fear of death. Rather it is from an abiding curiosity. Humanity is the strangest of creatures to think of itself with such great importance. And yet humanity is a moving target. Even in just the last century, look at all the changes in how societies are driven, in our capabilities to manipulate and explore our environment, in how we even conceive of ourselves and our place in the world and galaxy around us. Imagine what another century will bring as David Pulver and so many others have. Imagine the century after.

And think not of being born to those centuries but rather of having lived through all the changes to bring them about. Imagine taking a higher view and witnessing the evolution of all of humankind, and think of grabbing the very essence of "humanity" in your hands and moulding it, of redefining the very corpus of your life and place in existence. For what are our bodies if not tools through which our spirits make manifest our desires upon this world? And does it not make sense to want for such work the best tool one can fashion and is equipped to wield? And how can one take such a view and not wish to stand back and witness the grand experiment, to gaze upon the unfolding era and bear witness to the marvel that is eternity?

I'm not sure how long I've been a transhumanist. In truth, before these past few weeks it's not a label I would have ever thought to self-apply. But at the same time, I've had many of the same thoughts before, if less well articulated. I've always been into body modification, not just for the aesthetic of piercings or tattoos or corsetry, but for the very principals behind the term. Certainly a great portion of bodymod I find incredibly attractive, but bodymod is not just about attraction it is about aesthetic in the broadest sense of the term, it is about not taking one's body for granted but rather viewing it as a work of art itself and as a vessel free to be restructured. In many ways it is about treating the body as a temple, not as an inviolate sanctuary as the straightedge and religious circles would, but from the other side: as a blessed thing which should be decorated and honoured.

But as I mentioned, it is not only about beauty. There is another half to aesthetics that is oft overlooked, a darker side which some find too disturbing to even consider for fear of questions it may raise about themselves. I speak, of course, about the grotesque. There has always been something richly appealing about things which ought appall but which are rather disturbing in their beauty. There is another area for which I lack a term, but has to do with corruption. Those who have looked at the images on [livejournal.com profile] urban_decay know exactly of what I speak. There are some forms of bodymod which fall more in these latter categories than in the lighter ones. Certainly some are done simply to shock mainstream society, but others are about exploring those unsavory questions, about laying open the assumptions we bear which make of a thing unthinkable and yet also enticing.

I think that as a species we are overfond of creating for ourselves small cells of comfort in which we can live and need never question the walls we've built around ourselves. Certainly the alternative, to know that we are at once the greatest and least of beings in the universe, to question not only our place in society but the very strictures of society itself, to be forever uncertain, always questioning and not ever receiving answers, to think that we may not be alone between the stars in the gift of higher thought, or to embrace that fact that we may quite possibly be the only sapient beings out there and yet know the insignificance of that fact as the machinations of planets and celestial bodies churn ever onward in spans we are unable to even comprehend of— certainly the alternative is almost inconceivable.

And yet we so delight in such thoughts. Every culture has questioned its place in the divinity of creation, in every era there are those who would refute common wisdom and think of a larger model with which to view ourselves, our planet, our reality. Imagine what a thousand thinkers who were persecuted for that crime would think were they still alive today. What would Galileo say about postmodernism? What would Socrates think of sustainable living? Would Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. wish to colonize Mars?

Lately I've been feeling out of place with myself. I'm not sure I feel like going into that just now as my hour is almost up, but it's something that has been weighing on me. I'm beginning to think however, that perhaps it's time for an overhaul. Perhaps it's time not merely to change, but to redesign who I am. And yet the question remains, who will I become? Or even: who am I? What do I hold dear that gives meaning to my actions? Should I pare down to these essential things, or are even those subject to modification? What meaning would any of my beliefs have if they can be so freely alterable? Can I be said even to believe, or is it but fashionable thinking? Or is there no meaning, but merely an aesthetic, a free moment of thought caught in an expression of flesh that it may be conveyed to others?

And now, the hour is over.

Date: 2006-07-23 12:44 pm (UTC)From: [identity profile] vi-tritch.livejournal.com
"you don't have to be different. you have only to be more completely who you are."

Chapters?

Date: 2006-07-23 10:24 pm (UTC)From: [identity profile] winterkoninkje.livejournal.com
Well yes, I suppose that's true, but they amount to much the same thing for what I mean here.

not chapters

Date: 2006-07-27 03:22 am (UTC)From: [identity profile] vi-tritch.livejournal.com
it seemed appropriate. i think i've been navel-gazing too long lately.

Re: not chapters

Date: 2006-07-27 10:24 pm (UTC)From: [identity profile] winterkoninkje.livejournal.com
It does seem. Omphaloskepsis can be important from time to time. So long as you realize it for what it is, it shouldn't be a problem.

Date: 2006-07-24 06:04 pm (UTC)From: [identity profile] knighteddawn.livejournal.com
"Life is not about finding yourself. It's about creating yourself."
—George Bernard Shaw

It is interesting, but how many of us envy God? Quite a few, I would think. An entire style of Japanese art arose on this principle. Many people try to become gods through religion, hoping they will find such a position after this life. Those with less faith these days are turning to transhumanism, a more rational religion.

Others, who have not the faith for the one nor the optimism for the other, determine to make gods of themselves as far as mortals can. Nietzsche comes to mind.

In my case, I wish simply to live. That is enough for me.

Date: 2006-07-24 08:58 pm (UTC)From: [identity profile] winterkoninkje.livejournal.com
Ah yes, a fun quote.

I don't think that it's an issue of envying God, though there are those who do. Many of those you present as examples are ones who do not even believe in such an entity in order to envy it. A Buddhist does not envy YHWH because they seek enlightenment, the question isn't even germane to them.

Though I'm curious which style of japanese art you're referring to.

Date: 2006-07-24 09:31 pm (UTC)From: [identity profile] knighteddawn.livejournal.com
By envy I do not mean to imply jealousy, but rather envy in the senese of having a desire to be like. Envy may have been a poor choice of words, but the thought is the same.

To argue that a Buddhist does not envy Buddha in this regard, then, would be silly.

I seem to have forgotten the name of the art-style in question, but I'm fairly certain it flourished during he Edo period.

Date: 2006-07-24 06:59 pm (UTC)From: [identity profile] xuenay.livejournal.com
"I choose not to jump under a car when I see one driving across the road - does that make me fear cars?" Indeed, a desire for an immortal life doesn't require a fear of death.

You seem to have interesting thoughts. Friended you, hope you don't mind.

Date: 2006-07-24 08:52 pm (UTC)From: [identity profile] winterkoninkje.livejournal.com
You seem to have interesting thoughts. Friended you, hope you don't mind.

Dankje, and no, I don't mind.

There's a difference between fear and avoidance. It's a relatively universal tendancy to avoid death. I think however that many, perhaps even most, people fear death— not in an all-consuming way, but when it is presented to them as an immediate reality. The very question of the cessation of one's being, the unknowable divide that has led to numerous spiritual theories and consequently the worry of being on the wrong side of those theories, the worry that the reaper will come and tear them away from all they love... these are what concerns them. Consequently fear of death would be a common reason to seek to prolong one's life, though certainly not the only one.

If people did not fear death but just accepted it as something to avoid, then why would there be such consternation over suicide and euthanasia?

Date: 2006-07-24 10:04 pm (UTC)From: [identity profile] knighteddawn.livejournal.com
BTW, I'm curious about your name. It's either in some foreign language (likely to be Germanic), or it's something along the lines of "Winter k on ink je". .je I recognize as the country code for Jersey, though I find the connection unlikely. I've also thought that "konink" (or "koninkje") could be related to OE "cyning" (siimilar to Du. "koning"), or "king".

Anyway, many suicides are simply not beneficial to society, and therefore their stigmatization serves a sociological function. I don't really think fear is much of an issue in it. The problem with Euthanasia, on the other hand, is one of ethics—is it ethical to kill someone to put them out of their misery?

I was reminded of this question while watching Sand Pebbles last week.

Date: 2006-07-25 01:39 am (UTC)From: [identity profile] xuenay.livejournal.com
I'm assuming it's "winter king", as it's similar enough to the Swedish konung and the Finnish kuningas (both meaning "king").

Date: 2006-07-25 06:47 am (UTC)From: [identity profile] knighteddawn.livejournal.com
Interesting that Finnish borrowed that one from Norse. Not too surprising, though.

Anyway, I never assume that Americans know Scandinavian languages.

Date: 2006-07-25 09:14 am (UTC)From: [identity profile] winterkoninkje.livejournal.com
It's Dutch. Literally "little winter king" which is the word for "wren" (the bird, also my name).

At the same time, it generally doesn't benefit one to commit suicide and so it's not like there'd be waves of people doing it without the stigma. As for the ethics of euthanasia, I think that only becomes an ethical question because of the fear and stigma associated with death. If a person requested to die because of their misery (whether by their own hand or another's, to assuage the issue of "murder") I don't see how there can be an issue if there is no ill in death.

Date: 2006-07-25 09:18 am (UTC)From: [identity profile] winterkoninkje.livejournal.com
-je is the diminutive, btw. winter+koning+je -> winterkoninkje

Date: 2006-07-25 03:28 pm (UTC)From: [identity profile] knighteddawn.livejournal.com
Ah, I see. So the Dutch is no longer koning, but rather konink? At any rate, where'd you pick up Dutch?

The reason it's a matter of ethics is because often people want to die when they have quite a bit of potential joy before them that they simply cannot see. To take a literary example, how many of us think Romeo & Juliet were doing the right thing when they killed themselves (particularly Romeo)? If one is old and sick, suicide is understandible from at least one viewpoint. If they are young and vibrant, on the other hand…

Concerning euthanasia, consider viewpoints like the Buddhist one which considers harming any living creature a sin. Is killing something out of mercy justifiable in that world-view?

I really don't think fear of death is what has created these norms—sociologically, it is only fairly recently that losing young men to suicide did not "harm" the state in some way. It may also be worth noting that sometimes there was a double-standard, such as in the Indian suttee phenomenon. This would be unlikely if simple fear were the driving cause behind suicide stigma.

Date: 2006-07-25 11:28 pm (UTC)From: [identity profile] winterkoninkje.livejournal.com
The Dutch for king is still "koning", it's just that when you apply the diminutive the GJ cluster becomes devoiced (i.e. becomes KJ). So king is koning, but little king (or kinglet if you prefer and english example of a diminutive) is koninkje. The J is a palatal glide by the way, i.e. a Y sound as it is in German, so KJE sounds a bit like "queue" in english (the word-final E becomes unstressed much the same as it does in German and so has a sort of "uh" sound).

I don't really know Dutch, much as I'd like to, I only know the pronunciation and a few phrases. I picked it up from a girlfriend of mine whose parents were from the Netherlands and who was raised both there and in the States (and Mozambique). One of these days I might take the time to learn more, though there are countless languages I'd like to learn and, alas, so far I haven't found an excuse that would let me use my knowledge of Dutch. Also, for what it's worth, I'm a linguist so I tend to pick up bits of languages whenever I encounter them.

As for Romeo & Juliet, I would say that they are more of an example of suicide than of euthanasia. And while theirs is certainly for a dramatic flare, after living with severe clinical depression and having many friends with the same or similar conditions, I firmly believe that those who have not suffered from those conditions are unequipped to fairly judge the "potential joy" in one's life vs the suffering they must endure to reap that benefit.

Insofar as longevity is concerned, I do not believe that one should live as long as there is potential for happiness, but rather that one should live so long as their quality of life is sufficient. To hold onto the chance for some tiny bit of joy through the path of great suffering indicates to me a shortsightedness and— perhaps fear of death isn't quite the right term, but something very similar to it. I believe that life is sacred, however I do not believe that it is the most sacred thing and must be sought at the expense of all else. In fact, I believe that such a thing actually desecrates the sanctity of life.

Certainly for issues of the more common and transient variety of depression suicide is often the result of premature judgement, but there's a major difference between the depression caused by the loss of a loved one or similar, and the depression that results from brain chemistry that one must contend with for the whole of their life because there is no cure.

Which, somewhat ironically, brings us pack to some of [livejournal.com profile] xuenay's thoughts on transhumanism. Due to the links between various forms of mental disorders and intelligence and creativity I don't think it'd be prudent to simply eradicate the problem if/when we have the capability to do so, however it would be nice to have options for controlling the disorders that do not resort to the shotgun approach that's currently used in psychopharmacology.

While Buddhism does consider harming any living creature a sin, many Buddhists I've met both understand and sympathize with suicide. While they believe that if one commits suicide it indicates a lack of enlightenment and will result in the individual going through the cycle of reincarnation (perhaps for a very long time), at the same time Buddhism teaches compassion for all suffering and many take that to mean that while suicide leads to suffering (for loved ones and because of reincarnation) sometimes it is less suffering than one would have had, had they not done so. Fallibility is not a sin, it is just saddeningly human.

Suicide et al.

Date: 2006-07-26 03:33 am (UTC)From: [identity profile] knighteddawn.livejournal.com
Ah, interesting. I do not know any Dutch except, now, "winter", "koning", and "-je". Anyway, if you ever want to learn a little Norman (specifically Jèrriais) I'd be happy to share the love.

When you say you are a linguist, that means to me that you have a PhD in Linguistics and/or are working as a Professor of Linguistics at a university. Is this your case? (If so, where do you teach/what was your dissertation on?) I, myself, am no linguist, but an avid philologist with a Linguistics minor (mostly out of convenience).

I meant Romeo and Juliet as an example of suicide. I do not consider Romeo or Juliet to have been suffering from chronic depression. Moreover, having lived with (long ago) "clinical depression" and having known many others who have as well, I will be among the first to assert that in most cases [and indeed in my own], with proper intent and endeavor, such poor outlook can be overcome and life can be dramatically improved for these people—to the point where, for most, suicide is still a very real tragedy for them. Indeed it is true, however, that because future is by no means assured, no one can ever know how happy they could have been. The same applies for those who make poor decisions (but remain alive) and suffer for them.

I think we are agreed that there are worse things than death, and I am not in favour of prolonging life beyond its capacity to be productive and/or enjoyable. I do not, however, sanction euthanasia or simple suicide. I believe there must be better ways to go out.

I disagree with you that there is no cure to the type of depression you speak of. I personally have been cured of it (a deceptive term), and I know others who, like myself, have found a cure. There is, to my knowledge, however, no medical cure. It's an illness of the mind and heart, and it is there that the solution must be found. It's been well-put that, usually, "suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary problem".

Agree that there are major problems with psychopharmacology. As a general rule, I will not touch drugs. I take vitamins only when I'm already sick (or about to be) or severely taxed and likely to get sick. I take other drugs only when prescribed, and I generally try to avoid prescriptions where possible. I do not touch painkillers. Maybe I'm just being reactionary to my youth on ritalin and desipramine, but I feel that often the "cure" can be worse than the disease with all this.

Fallibility is simply mortality. It is the falling which is arguably a sin (depending on how one defines sin).

Re: Suicide et al.

Date: 2006-07-27 10:47 pm (UTC)From: [identity profile] xuenay.livejournal.com
I'd say that there do exist cures for brain chemistry-related depression, but they only work well for a limited segment of the population. While anecdotal hearsay is always more than a bit suspect, I've heard stories of people who've been more or less depressed for as long as they could remember and whose entire lives have turned to the better after getting the right medication.

In general, though, I agree that psychopharmacology still needs a lot of work. (Or the delivery methods for the medicines do, at least - there are already lots of ideas for better medicines, if only they could be targeted at specific parts of the brian.)

Re: Suicide et al.

Date: 2006-08-01 08:15 am (UTC)From: [identity profile] winterkoninkje.livejournal.com
if only they could be targeted at specific parts of the brian.

Which is precisely the problem. At present all out knowledge is based on trying things and seeing what works and what doesn't. We lack a sufficient model to be able to make many predictions beyond supposing that similar chemical compounds will behave similarly (even guessing how similar or how they'll differ is beyond us).

Which is not to say that drugs are ineffective. They can be quite effective for many in the population. The problem is that because we don't fully understand the mechanisms behind how they work and so are unable to narrowly target the sources of depression, there are many side effects. Since how severely those side effects alter one's life are subjective, just as with the depression itself, only individuals can decide whether the costs are "worth it".

As an example, most antidepressants have the side effect of diminishing libido. How much that will affect one is going to depend on hat their libido was like beforehand (too depressed to have one, too horny to think straight,...) as well as how much of their identity they base on their sexuality.

For some people the side effects are irrelevant or barely noticed, for others the cure is worse than the disease.

Re: Suicide et al.

Date: 2006-08-01 08:06 am (UTC)From: [identity profile] winterkoninkje.livejournal.com
When you say you are a linguist, [...] Is this your case?

Not as yet. I've only a bachelors on the subject, though it is my intention to get the doctorate and become a professor. On my current schedule it'll be about six years until I'm applying for positions. The undergrad institution I went to requires a thesis of all students, however. Mine was on the effects of gender on phonetic disambiguation of syntactically ambiguous clauses, which built off of some studies by Ilse Lehiste (http://www.ling.ohio-state.edu/~ilsele/).

I think it is important not to conflate recovery with a cure, or either with treatment. Through adjusting one's thinking it's possible to overcome depression and go on to live a non-depressive life. However, at present, we don't know of the mechanism behind such recovery such that we can reliably induce such recovery. The shotgun approach to psychopharmacology is sufficiently effective that we can provide a partial treatment, and often good therapy can be instrumental as both treatment and leading to recovery, but neither rightly constitutes a cure.

I don't think that this will always be the case. I think as time goes on and our knowledge grows that we will be able to provide better treatments. However, depression is as much a lifestyle as it is a disease and so recovery lies in changing ones actions and not only in adjusting neural chemistry. I think that drugs can be helpful but that it is important to regard them as a tool not as a solution and that in so doing we must weigh the good that thy provide with the total cost to do so. Until our knowledge in that arena improves greatly, there is much ill to be weighed against the good.

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