Monday, July 28, 2008


"Now, I have asked myself, what on earth could this thing [music] be for -- why are so many people doing this? I've made up several theories.... One is a cynical theory and that is that music is very much indeed like language but doesn't mean anything and so it gives you a feeling of thinking. It uses up parts of your brain that normally are understanding stuff, but without the unpleasant consequences of understanding. So music is relaxing in the sense that it exercises the part of the brain that has a drive to think by thinking about things that are meaningless.... The cynicism is saying that thinking is actually unpleasant and so people like this thing going on that relieves it." -- Marvin Minsky in "Computer Music Journal"

Marvin Minsky

copyright Wikimedia Commons/Steamtalks
Easy listening music is difficult for me to take. Its purpose I think is to remind the listener of music but not actually to require of him/her what music generally requires: attention and recognition. (Here's a rule of thumb: if you recognize the artist, it's not easy listening music.) The interactive nature of music is what appeals to me. I don't want to be reminded of it; I want to be involved in it. For this reason, pornography is also a bore. What, after all, is more interactive than sex? (Well, okay: music.) If the only purpose of a photo or a film or a piece of writing is to remind me of sex, it is of no interest to me; I'd rather do it than contemplate it. Still, it's of great interest to a great many people, because it's safely uninvolving. Again, its appeal to many is its means of losing me altogether.

I find Minsky's theory (one of his many, I remind you) unfactual but true. That is, I don't believe that music is meaningless either for its creators or for its listeners, since it is a form of communication among them, and also because (I feel) it somehow stimulates the communication of the individual with him/herself. However, Minsky's theory seems to explain my reaction to easy listening music, as well as to pornography. These things relieve their participants of, well, participation, while exercising those parts of their psyches that have a drive to communicate in the way both music and sex communicate. In either case, it may simply be that despite the urge for expression, the would-be expressor has nothing to say!

copyright Wikimedia Commons/IntroSpection
On the Internet I have found, among other things, photographs of penises. I am sure the model penises are attached to guys, but the pictures don't show to whom. The people who enjoy looking at seemingly disembodied penises don't care to whom they are attached. They are not parts of people but independent objects. They are not even parts of idols; Typ, Atyp and Ob are all missing. I won't speculate about the uses the pictures' admirers find for them, although they must be fantastical, as pictures are, after all, only pictures, unless of course they function as icons. Penises, however, are NOT only penises. Those which are not attached to people are useless; they have no independent lives. Neither have those which ARE attached to people, despite all the old jokes. (Is a penis an extension of its man or is a man an extension of his penis? Are those of you becoming excited by reading the word "penis" imagining a specific person who happens to possess one?) As Maria Muldaur and her predecessors sang, "It ain't the meat, it's the mo-tion.... It ain't the wave it's the o-cean...."

The glorification of the general blurs the individual into nothing more than a part of the body politic. Maybe this is why Buddhism never impressed me; I don't fancy being God's elbow (and to be fair to those of you who believe God is within us, I don't fancy God's being my elbow either). The glorification of the part degrades the individual from which it is extracted and who is, after all, not separate from the part. Zoom in, zoom out. Perspective is all.

nice guy, not for me

copyright Wikimedia Commons/Tsui
Are we still talking about love? Do we have a definition yet? (Did we really expect one? Ask your teddy bear.) Oh dear, we've rambled. I'll admit we did so by design. However, by way of rambling back, I leave you with another short(er) excerpt from Tzaddik:


Once upon a time there was a monster. This monster's name was Love. In this monster's name people enslaved one another, caused one another unspeakable (and sometimes very satisfying) anguish, did one another irreparable and often fatal harm, and occasionally, not without reserve (on the part of the participants and of this chronicler) made each other very, very happy.

[Japanese] Emperor Gozu (posthumously deified as Susanoo-no-Mikoto) kills a dragon to save Princess Inada. Artist: Utagawa Kuniteru.

copyright Wikimedia Commons/public domain

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