Clockwork Philosophy

A Crisis of (Creative) Faith

My dear and long suffering reader, recently I’ve been experiencing something akin to a “crisis of faith.”

As you may or may not have noticed, the world-wide-inter-web-net of late has been largely lacking in my singular form of linguistic legerdemain. While I’ve wanted to write prodigiously, I’ve been experiencing a real sense of “stuckness” when it comes to getting the ideas to flow.

It’s certainly not fear that stays my hand. Any trepidation to inflict my verba enim on an otherwise innocent and unsuspecting public has long since been disregarded. I honestly believe that the cause of this impasse is the belief that my efforts will bring no value to those unlucky enough to have been intellectually assaulted by my senseless scribbles.

As I said, a crisis of faith.

You see kids, for me, “value” is far more than a buzzword adored by the marketing intelligentsia, Saint Don of Draper and Our Lady of Perpetual Brand Awareness. It’s the reason I do what I do.

The interwebz are replete with exemplars of vacuous drivel, pseudo-intellectual rubbish, long on loquaciousness but short on substance.

Note: It’s not lost on me that some may believe that my work falls into just such a category. Just so. I defer to your worldly judgement on such matters while simultaneously remaining hopeful that such a reality be false. One can dream.

I’ve always attempted to infuse as much value as I possibly can into my work. My language may seem odd, esoteric and even frustratingly impenetrable at times, but I assure you that my point is not to confuse or to annoy. The effusiveness of my language comes from a deep love and – if I may employ a horribly overused term – passion for words.

Language is like a tapestry, and I consider it a crime to not avail oneself of every thread in that tapestry. It may ask a little more of the reader, but perhaps that’s not a bad thing. For too long we’ve been fed a diet of vacuous, dumbed down phraseology and irrelevant logorrhea.

To better illustrate my point, allow me to quote from an past essay of mine:

“And therein lies the difference, my dear and long suffering reader, between the way I write and the empty and roundabout twaddle we’re forced to endure on a daily basis: My words, while occasionally obscure, actually mean something. Quite often the vacuous effluvia spewed by politicians or corporate drones is designed to distract or deceive the audience. It’s most often used to make the speaker appear more intelligent, or to “answer” a question without actually answering it.

In my case, some may believe that I use words such as “effluvia” to impress my readers, but I assure you that is not the case. As I’ve already stated, I love words and I believe we do ourselves disservice when we limit our usage to such a small subset, the venerable Strunk and White be damned.

As a marketing copywriter, I often struggle with keeping things “simple” in the interests of efficiency. Indeed, the advertising industry relies on something called the Flesch-Kincaid Grade Level to ensure that the language being used is accessible to the largest audience possible. Ideally, the reading level of most marketing materials should score between 80-90 on the measurement scale, which corresponds to a Grade 6 reading level. The lower the score, the more difficult a piece of writing is to read.

In case you’re wondering – and being creatures of curiosity and perspicacity you most assuredly are – this essay scored 51.3 on the Flesch-Kincaid scale, or the equivalent of a Grade 11 reading level.

I’d like to think that readers like yourself, when encountering an unusual word, will be inspired to look it up and thereby educate yourselves, as I often do. I believe that people are much more intelligent than they are given credit for, and that much of the problem with people not wanting to read online is in fact a self-fulfilling prophecy.”

Good lord on a tin bicycle I must have been in quite a mood when I wrote that. Well, sententious and preposterously self-important as it may be, the point stands.

What was my point? I’ve strayed somewhat from the gravimen of my text it seems. Ah well, one doesn’t necessarily need a destination to enjoy a journey and all that. However, your time is valuable and I’ve used up enough of it. Let us return to our purpose.

In much the same way that I once wrote an 800-word essay on the reasons I was unable to write an 800-word essay, this lovely ramble through the wilderness of language is a way to try and break through the self-imposed creative block that had resulted in my “crisis of faith.”

Self-imposed? Oh yes dear reader, invariably such barriers are inflicted by one’s own beliefs, not by outside forces. We look outside ourselves for validation and praise to try and bolster our spirits, when in reality the solution can only be found within.

This essay is my way of trying to push past my creative block, of exposing my concerns about providing value to the harsh light of day and allowing it to wither away. Limiting beliefs thrive in the dark after all.

Crisis averted? One can dream dear reader. One can dream.

Clockwork Philosophy

We Are One

#Create365 – January 5, 2019

Ladies and gentlebeings, I have a passion for words. Hardly a surprise I grant you, but the form that passion takes may be somewhat surprising. I’m not just enamoured with “pretty” writing – words that are clever and sound nice rolling off the tongue. My heart sings for powerful writing – words that speak to meanings far deeper than their literal interpretations would suggest.

I also love discovering words that convey wisdom and profundity, especially in unusual media, places often overlooked by others.

I hope you’ll allow for just a moment to “trip the geek fantastic” and share something with you that I believe carries wisdom far beyond its original intended purpose.

On February 4, 1998, an episode of the science fiction series Babylon 5 aired for the first time. This episode, called The Paragon of Animals, was written by the show’s creator, J. Michael Straczynski.

I won’t go into detail about the episode as it would require a great deal of backstory from the show itself, but it talked about the creation of an alliance of worlds. Think of it as something like the United Nations. This alliance needed a Declaration of Principles to govern its actions and mandate.

While we did not see the entire declaration, we were treated to a reading of its preamble, and the words penned by Straczynski and by extension “written” by the character G’Kar are incredibly powerful, and meaningful for our modern times.

The universe speaks in many languages, but only one voice.

The language is not Narn, or Human, or Centauri, or Gaim or Minbari.

It speaks in the language of hope.

It speaks in the language of trust.

It speaks in the language of strength and the language of compassion.

It is the language of the heart and the language of the soul.

But always it is the same voice.

It is the voice of our ancestors, speaking through us, and the voice of our inheritors, waiting to be born.

It is the small, still voice that says, “We are one.”

No matter the blood, no matter the skin, no matter the world, no matter the star:

“We are one”

No matter the pain, no matter the darkness, no matter the loss, no matter the fear:

“We are one.”

Here, gathered together in common cause, we agree to recognize this singular truth and this singular rule: That we must be kind to one another.

Because each voice enriches us and ennobles us, and each voice lost diminishes us.

We are the voice of the Universe, the soul of creation, the fire that will light the way to a better future.

We are one.

What if similar words were spoken with passion and honesty at a convention of the world’s leaders? Forget the conventions and niceties of diplomacy, what if we simply spoke in this way? With simple elegance and basic kindness as the underlying foundation?

Can you honestly imagine any of our current leaders, regardless of their place on the political spectrum, speaking these words AND MEANING THEM?

No… me either sadly.

Some will argue that such language would never work. They contend that humans are too flawed, too ambitious, for such a concept as this to ever take root. It’s dismissed as naive, or even childish.

Perhaps it is. But then, have we ever, honestly tried it? And if we’ve never tried, how then do we know it would never work? Humans may be accused of many things, but omniscience is not one of them.

These words were written for a science fiction series, something that most would dismiss as frivolous entertainment. And yet, those 200+ words speak with more power, more truth… and more HUMANITY, than most of the carefully crafted speeches to ever come out the mouths of the world’s leaders.

There is so much hate, distrust, lies, half-truths and opportunistic interpretations to be found in today’s society. In a world where governing bodies attempt to ban words such as fetus, transgender, vulnerable, entitlement, science-based, evidence-based and even diversity from being used in public discourse, or cause them to be used as terms of division, it can be easy to lose hope. However, there is also an astounding amount of love, kindness, joy and wisdom to be found, if we choose to look for it.

Allow me to conclude with the words of another character from Babylon 5, Ambassador Delenn, played by the incomparable Mira Furlan:

“We are all born as molecules in the hearts of a billion stars. Molecules that do not understand politics or policies or differences. Over a billion years, we foolish molecules forget who we are and where we came from. In desperate acts of ego, we give ourselves names, fight over lines on maps, and pretend that our light is better than everyone else’s. The flame reminds us of the piece of those stars that lives on inside us. The spark that tells us: ‘You should know better.’ The flame also reminds us that life is precious as each flame is unique. When it goes out, it’s gone forever. And there will never be another quite like it.”

I suppose, in the end, whether in our glory or in our folly…

We truly are one.

Clockwork Philosophy

Where Silence Has Lease

#Create365 – January 2, 2019

Dear reader, when was the last time you experienced silence? Our 24/7/365 world is a cacophony of sound, both natural and man-made. As a result, many humans seek an escape from the seemingly endless din.

If you’re like me, you’ve probably never really experienced true silence. Also, if you’re really like me, then you’re probably a clone and you have some SERIOUS explaining to do.

Anyway, it’s true that many of us crave the blessed peace of silence – or at least, what we think is silence. Even what we refer to as a “silent” room is not truly silent. There is always noise of some kind, even at a low level, and this turns out to be a very good thing indeed.

You see, humans cannot function in true silence, that is, an environment rated at a sound level of 0 decibels or lower. Silence can be psychologically damaging to the human creature – even more damaging than a remake of “Encino Man,” if such a thing can be believed.

In Minneapolis, Minnesota, the Orfield Laboratory houses something called an “anechoic chamber,” a room so soundproof it’s in the Guinness Book of World Records as being “really hard to spell.” No seriously, it’s listed there as the “quietest place on Earth.”

The chamber has a decibel rating of -9.4 dBA, which is like an MBA, only cooler. The room itself is comprised of one meter thick fibreglass acoustic wedges, double walls of insulated steel and 30.5 centimetre thick concrete, making it 99.99% sound absorbent. Tests confirming this were conducted using the sound of trees falling in the forest with no one around.

Studies done in this chamber have revealed that humans subjected to such low decibel levels actually begin to hallucinate after a short time.

It’s been reported that the longest anyone has been able to endure in the room was 45 minutes. Longer than that and participants run the real risk of mental breakdown, or the sudden enjoyment of country line dancing.

Interestingly, studies have shown that nearly identical deleterious psychological effects can be generated by having otherwise healthy humans attempt to read the “Terms of Service” document included with typical consumer electronics. There is a famous case of Mr. Ernest Q. Swiftdongle Jr. of Marietta, Georgia, who made it all the way to page five of an Apple “Terms of Service” document before succumbing. Paramedics stated that what was left of his brain, “looked like rancid mayonnaise.”

Anyway, the anechoic chamber was not originally designed as a torture chamber (though the IRS has apparently shown interest as a venue for audits). The chamber was designed to study how human-shaped humans use sound to orient themselves to their environment. Even the most subtle of sounds help us navigate and make sense of our world, according to the research.

The room has also been used by manufacturers such as Harley-Davidson to develop quieter motorcycles (really), and by NASA to test how astronauts can better function in outer space, which can be thought of a REALLY BIG anechoic chamber with stars, planets, Klingons, etc.

Isn’t it funny how we all crave silence, and yet, if we actually found it, it would drive us mad? Obviously what we really want is tranquility – a break from the hideous hoo-ha we find ourselves bathed in daily, from the squawking of talking heads to the bleeps, warbles and buzzes of our electronic overlords, desperate to share with us the vital intelligence that someone, somewhere, has just posted a cat video.

The soft gurgle of a stream, the rustle of leaves in the wind, the songs of birds… these are sounds we can live with. They’re not only natural, but they seem… unobtrusive somehow, as if the sounds blend seamlessly into the peace and tranquility of natural life.

Your “La Cucaracha” ringtone? Not so much.