How to Write an Award-Winning Novel starring… The Pulitzer Prize for Fiction

(image via wikimedia)

Originally posted on Dysfunctional Literacy:

In some ways, it’s better to write an award-winning novel than to be a best-selling author.  You might make more money with a best-seller, but in a few years your book could be forgotten, lost in the ash heap of other replaced best-sellers.  On the other hand, if you win an award like the Pulitzer Prize, your book will be on that list forever.  Even if your Pulitzer Prize winning novel isn’t read much after a few decades, the title will still be on the list.  As long as there are literary critics, there will be a Pulitzer, and as long as there’s a Pulitzer, your book title and name will be on that list.

Reading a Pulitzer Prize winning novel isn’t always easy.  In 7th grade I was forced to read The Yearling by Marjorie Rawlings.  Yeesh!  Does anybody read The Yearlinganymore?  Back then, I disliked it, and I haven’t gone back to see if I was wrong to dislike it.  In 9th grade we were forced to read To Kill a Mockingbird, but at least nobody hated it.  If kids hated it, they kept it to themselves.  Even then, students knew it was wrong to hate that book.

As an adult, I read The Killer Angels by Michael Shaara because I went through a Civil War phase (without growing a long beard and dressing up in old musty uniforms).  I read The Shipping News because everybody else in my writers group had read it (but I don’t remember a thing about it).  I recently read The Road by Cormac McCarthy and The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz.

Writing a novel that’s considered for a Pulitzer Prize isn’t easy either.  An author usually has to do more than just tell the story.  An author has to use literary devices that catch readers’ and judges’ attention.  If devices like symbolism and figurative language aren’t enough, authors then have to throw in some literary gimmicks too.  A gimmick is a device that’s easy to do but doesn’t really add anything to the story.

For example, some Pulitzer Prize winning novels (The Road and The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao) don’t use quotation marks for dialogue.  Maybe leaving out quotation marks makes dialogue more meaningful than dialogue with quotation marks, but I’m not sure.  I’ve always used quotation marks with dialogue.  That’s how I was taught, but I’ve never won a Pulitzer Prize.

The Road also used nameless characters like “the man” and “the boy” (I probably shouldn’t have put them in quotation marks since the book doesn’t use them at all).  Plus, there was a double space between every paragraph, even the one sentence dialogue paragraphs that didn’t have any quotation marks.  I don’t know if The Roadwould have won a Pulitzer if the characters had had names, or if the spaces between paragraphs were normal, or if the author had used quotation marks.  It still probably would have been a good book.

The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, along with no quotation marks, used several other literary gimmicks.  The novel had really long sentences with lots of Spanish and Dominican slang thrown in too.  The story was told out of order from several different characters’ points-of-view.  Plus, there were lots of nerd culture references.  Even though I’m a fan of nerd culture references, I thought there were way too many nerd culture references in this book.  Even nerd writers for The Big Bang Theory probably think there were too many nerd culture references inTBWLOOW.  I’m not saying you need to use nerd culture references to win a Pulitzer.  You need to pick a topic and drown your novel in references, like Donna Tartt did with the topic of art in The Goldfinch.

But if you want to emulate a Pulitzer Prize winner for fiction that uses a ton of literary gimmicks, try  A Visit from the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan.

A Visit from the Goon Squad uses six literary gimmicks (that I noticed):

  1. Telling the story out of order.
  2. Switching points of view (3rdto 1st to 3rd…)
  3. Switching tenses in various segments (past to present to past…)
  4. a chapter of only power point/ flow charts (don’t use an e-reader for this book)
  5. lots of stream-of-consciousness
  6. And the worst gimmick ever… 2ndperson present tense!  I call it the worst gimmick ever because I tried using it in a college writing class, got yelled at by my writing instructor for using it, and then two months later Bright Lights, Big Citybecame a bestseller. Now I’m biased against 2nd person present tense.

At any rate, six literary gimmicks is a lot for one book.  There were so many literary gimmicks, I expected the author to resort to the 1st person present tense narration death scene.  I was wrong.  Instead, she used the 2nd person present tense narration death scene.    I hate being wrong.

Having so many literary gimmicks in one novel makes it look (to me) like the author is trying too hard.  My writing instructor might have declared that using all these gimmicks took away from any merits A Visit from the Goon Squad had as a story.  But he probably would have shut up once he realized the novel won a Pulitzer Prize for Fiction.


What do you think?  Is using so many gimmicks good story-telling, or is it trying too hard?  What other literary gimmicks have you noticed in award-winning novels?  How many literary gimmicks should an author be limited to?  What literary gimmicks do you dislike the most?  If you were limited to one literary gimmick, which one would it be?  If you had a choice, would you rather write a bestselling selling novel or a major award winning novel?

Dysfunctional Literacy

(image via wikimedia) (image via wikimedia)

In some ways, it’s better to write an award-winning novel than to be a best-selling author.  You might make more money with a best-seller, but in a few years your book could be forgotten, lost in the ash heap of other replaced best-sellers.  On the other hand, if you win an award like the Pulitzer Prize, your book will be on that list forever.  Even if your Pulitzer Prize winning novel isn’t read much after a few decades, the title will still be on the list.  As long as there are literary critics, there will be a Pulitzer, and as long as there’s a Pulitzer, your book title and name will be on that list.

Reading a Pulitzer Prize winning novel isn’t always easy.  In 7th grade I was forced to read The Yearling by Marjorie Rawlings.  Yeesh!  Does anybody read The Yearling anymore?  Back then, I disliked…

View original post 860 more words

‘Managing Expectations: Locke on Moral Mediocrity’

Originally posted on Footnotes to plato:


The title for this blog post comes from the name of a lecture I recently attended given by Catherine Wilson as part of the London Lecture Series held by the Royal Institute of Philosophy on the 20th February 2015.

Before I examine and comment on the content of the lecture, I will first include a brief introduction for those not familiar with Locke:

John Locke was among the most famous philosophers and political theorists of the 17th century.  He is often regarded as the founder of a school of thought known as British Empiricism, and he made foundational contributions to moderntheories of limited, liberal government. He was also influential in the areas of theology, religious toleration, and educational theory. In his most important work, the Essay Concerning Human Understanding, Locke set out to offer an analysis of the human mind and its acquisition of knowledge.’ – The Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy

Locke is well known for his argument that at birth, the mind is a blank slate or ‘tabula rasa’. Indeed Locke defied Cartesian philosophy which postulated that we are born with innate ideas and instead argued that we gain knowledge via experience and sense perception.

In a lecture which was both stimulating and challenging, Catherine Wilson described her aims as being firstly ‘ to show how Locke implicitly rejects the Stoic claim that the philosopher is able to unlearn or staunch emotional responses to events in life and the claim that ideals of virtue as such can be a motive to moral conduct. ‘

She developed this by describing the way in which Locke’s moral philosophy strives towards an account of human nature which is both ‘realistic’ and ‘adequate’ and does not depict reason as superior to feeling.

Wilson outlined her second aim as ‘showing how this shift is associated not only with a moral-theological shift from an emphasis on justice and retribution to ‘sympathy’ and mercy but also with Locke’s aim to secure normativity in the face of the materialistic hypothesis’ .

It is also interesting to consider what influence Locke’s experience as a physician had on his moral philosophy. I particularly enjoyed Wilson’s suggestion that perhaps regularly dissecting brains had some impact on his view that matter is the fundamental substance in nature (materialism). He rejected the Cartesian view that there exists a detachable, incorporeal soul – which can think even when independent of the body – arguing instead that we have no evidence for the existence of incorporeal, cogitative substances.

I personally found the most interesting aspect of this lecture the apparent conflict between Locke’s emphasis on the ‘unique correctness of Christian morality’ and his materialist and empiricist outlook. As Wilson put it ‘despite – indeed because of – his suspicion that we are hedonistic machines, he needs the Christian revelation with its carrot-and-stick approach to defining and cultivating virtue’.
This talk was free and available to the public, you can watch all the lectures held as part of this year’s ‘History of Philosophy’ series here:


by Kenneth Harper Finton ©2015


The results of the polls have come in. We asked which play by Shakespeare was their personal favorite out of:
1) Mephistopheles
2) The Runyon, or
3) The Beggars of Serendip

The overwhelming favorite was Mephistopheles.

Why? It sounds like a Shakespearean title. Never mind that Shakespeare never wrote any of the above.

This is the essence of bullshit. People want others to think they know what they are talking about.

Bullshit (also known as bullcrap and horseshit) is a common slang term meaning nonsense. It is always misleading, false, or disingenuous. The English sometimes call it bullocks.

Bullshit does not have to be completely false. It is often used by notable politicians to convince the public of a point which the politicians themselves know very little about. When an outright lie is inappropriate, bullshit serves to save face and makes the speaker appear to be knowledgeable.

We know the origin of bullshit. It is developed in the intestinal tract of a male bovine. The earliest mention of the slang term was in the Concise Oxford English Dictionary just after the turn of the 20th century.

T.S. Eliot wrote a poem between 1910 and 1916 called “The Triumph of Bullshit,” however the word “bullshit” does not appear in the text of the poem. Eliot never published the poem. It was not published until 1997. [Eliot, T. S. Inventions of the March Hare: Poems 1909-1917 (Harcourt, 1997) ISBN 0-15-100274-6.]

The Bullshit Asymmetry Principle

This scientific principle was formulated in January 2013 by Alberto Brandolini, an Italian programmer. The Bullshit Asymmetry Principle (also known as Brandolini’s Law states that “The amount of energy needed to refute bullshit is an order of magnitude bigger than to produce it.” Brandolini, Alberto. “Bullshit Asymmetry Retrieved 1 March 2015.Retrieved 1 March 2015.

Society, in general,  is overwhelmed with a vast abundance of bullshit. It is hardly possible to step into the street these days without running into vast gobs of it. It is printed on billboards and signs. It has infiltrated our media, influenced our artists, and completely overwhelmed our philosophical thoughts.

The poet wrote:
“The harvesting of dreams
Born in the fields of endeavor
Is like two fish that swim upriver
Against the tides of solitary imagination.
In the portals of time, you will find
Regulations take no prisoners,
Heal no illness and reap no consequence.”

This is all total bullshit. It is far too inherent in much modern poetry.

Harry Frankfurt’s Concept of Bullshit

In his essay On Bullshit (originally written in 1986), philosopher Harry Frankfurt tells us that bullshit is different from an outright lie. The liar, he says, knows about the truth, perhaps even cares about the truth, but deliberately misleads us. However, bullshit itself does not give a whit about the truth. It only seeks to impress us.

In order to lie, Frankfort says, a person must know the truth and falsify it. On the other hand, bullshitters cherry pick reality and make up the facts that suit their purposes.
The anti-science attitudes in modern society is a great breeding ground for total bullshit. With the advent of instant communication, people are expected to have opinions on almost everything when most people do not know their posterior from a pothole.

Gerald Cohen wrote an article called “Deeper into Bullshit.” In this work, he contrasted the kind of bullshit Frankfurt talked about with nonsense discourse that is disguised as being perfectly sensible. Bullshit can be produced either accidentally or deliberately, Cohen writes. While some deliberately produce bullshit, others can also attempt to relate the truth, but produce nonsense by mistake.

A person deceived by bullshit often repeats it without the intention of deceiving others. The results of this are often seen in political platforms and broadcast by the media round the clock.

In our glorious past, not so long ago, bullshit was spread upon the fields to fertilize and nourish the next generation of crops. With the demise of the agricultural society, we have transformed this useful product into something that now only fails to nourish but actually maims our world.


By Kenneth Harper Finton ©2015


Is the universe itself a brain? They certainly have a similar look in these pictures. That might not prove that it is a brain nor that it has intelligence, yet everything we know about the workings of nature and the universe in general seems to have a masterly and thoughtful aspect about it.

Mathematics are human tools used to calculate facts and events in the natural world, but the math systems themselves seems to work because they uncover pre-existing patterns that follow universal laws and principles. Does that mean that mathematics came first and we humans simply discover the underlying equations? This does appear to be the case.

We view the world emotionally

How we view our world and the universe about us plays an important part in our emotional well being. It is impossible to envision a life without pain and suffering, as these things are natural tools essential to our survival. Without pain, we would not know what was bad for us. Without suffering and loss, we could not value happiness and gains properly.

To get to the actuality – I will not call is truth because we can only paint a local image of what we observe – to attempt to describe our world, we have to get beyond our emotional feelings and throw out the dogmas that our religions and limited visions of how the world really works have created.

Our emotional natures reflect upon our own demise and often creates negative emotions when we think about our temporal stays as existing beings.

I published an article in Helios about the near death experience of a young girl who was certain that she was about to die. She put if his way:

 “… when a vision of absolute nothingness rises before my eyes with the sudden damning conviction that there is nothing after death and our life is but a tiny spark in the midst of eternal meaningless darkness. The thought of such insignificance and meaninglessness is so daunting, and the idea of the world carrying on irrespective of our existence so unbearable, that our mind hurries to close the idea up again, with the result that the vision or realization disappears as soon as it appeared, leaving only the cold clammy feeling of an uncertain dread in its place. The realization of our miniscule existence in the enormous scheme of things can’t fail to be accompanied by a lack of faith in the meaningfulness of our insignificant lives. It’s an idea probed time and again by writers and artists alike, yet it is one that can yield no answers. It causes us to question the nature of existence itself, and the justification behind its repetitive mundane pursuits.”

I remember being a child when Jehovah’s Witnesses came knocking on the door to spread their gospel according to their teachings. They said that “Millions now living will never die.” By this they meant that the world as we knew it was coming to an end  and a new world where death was vanquished for the faithful believers was just around the corner.

In one form or another, that is the message of most of the world’s religions. They offer either a heaven or an altered state of consciousness where death is no longer something to fear or fret about. Because people want to believe this, such religious dogmas take root and are used by organized religion to control the minds, emotions and lives of the believers. The masses want a God of understanding and love who will want to keep their experiences in living memory. They want heaven for continued experience and Nirvana to be more than a rock group.

The question then, is there anything else that can give solace in our emotional quest for everlasting life? Would we even be pleased with an eternal life from which there is no escape from the  essential suffering and loss that is built into existence itself?

Is it necessary  for our life experience to be recorded infinitely or continue eternally for the soul to be happy with its lot? Probably not. We humans forget many things and our memories are often faulty. Some mundane events do not seem to be worth the remembering. Our own experiences disappear into memory and we lose track of the mundane details. In order to save our better experiences for later times we developed writing and drawing pictures and photography.

Is the physical matter that exists and in our world a record of events and actions that have occurred in time and space? It seems obvious that this is so. We reconstruct our history from past events and experiences that left a mark on time and space.

We can experience the reality of this ourselves. Our movements and actions make changes in the outside world that are recorded in memory as events and experience. Actions are recorded in the world outside ourselves as well, as we change our world physically every moment. We ourselves change physically from moment to moment.


We can with a minimum of effort reduce and simplify the world enough to show that we exist in a continuing process of conscious and unconscious awareness. This too is obvious by nature of our minds and status as Homo Sapiens.  That this is true of all of nature is my best educated guess.

Giving the attribute of awareness to inanimate and non-living chemicals is a stretch for some people. We equate awareness to higher forms of life and intelligence to those mammals with brains and nervous systems. Yet, most processes are not what we would call conscious processes, but unconscious processes.

Underneath, the unconscious goes about creating process independently of our intellectual understanding. There is a difference between that we consciously know and that which is unconscious process that keeps the intellectual consciousness alive and builds the world itself.

We need to redefine that which we term to be the mind. If the unconscious mind was actually non-conscious or unaware, it could not function with the degree of precision that we observe.

Transmissions of information and transformations of matter into energy and back again take place in the smallest of events from chemical bonding to electromagnetic attractions. To my way of thinking, this can and should be defined as being a mental process, something controlled and actuated by a mind that is obviously different from the human brain. In other words, nature itself thinks and creates without need for the self-awareness. Nature is constantly experimenting with new forms and redesigning the old.  Nature itself is still learning, as there is an infinite amount to learn. The urge to unite and compound, to create new elements for more advanced compounds is nurtured by nature. The instinctive and unconscious desire to be more than we can be by ourselves alone is the driving force behind evolutionary change. This is obvious through the very fact the nature has been producing matter and life for billions of years, long before self-consciousness arose in the form of the human species. Our self-reflective species did not cause the universe to exist. Time and space arrived before human cognition.

The Unconscious Mind

The unconscious mind is much more powerful and capable than our conscious awareness. Procedural knowledge is a set of procedures, instructions, algorithms, and patterns that are capable of being implemented, but these processes are difficult to describe. The world remains very mysterious because of the sheer volume of information that is present in procedural action at any given moment of time.

In more technical terms, waking consciousness must process information serially, while the unconscious brain circuits can process many streams of information in parallel. The unconscious mind handles many tasks simultaneously.

People act in goal-directed and skilled ways without even being aware that they are doing so. Unconscious forms of perceiving and learning had to precede the first steps in human evolution.

Cognitive research has revealed that automatically, and clearly outside of conscious awareness, individuals register and acquire more information than what they can experience through their conscious thoughts. (See Augusto, 2010, for a recent comprehensive survey.)

To me this means that the universe does have a mind. It is a part of the process of conscious awareness that has produced us. I am calling that mind the Infinite for several reasons:

1) We cannot have the finite without an Infinite because something has to have no beginning and no ending, even would it ultimately be a void of nothingness.

2) That within this void of nothingness the world has become actual and finite.

3) That from the beginning of the appearance of time and space, mathematical laws and principles, geometry and rudimentary emotions in the form of prehensions of energy and mass governed the emergence of process including the conscious process. The laws of nature precede nature by necessity. They cannot develop or evolve gradually over time. They are an abstraction that pre-existed before nature. These mathematical laws, principles and geometries preceded the appearance of matter and energy because the elements followed the laws dictating the geometry and physics of the universe. Therefore, these physical laws must have existed first in in a dimension that has no time nor space, no beginnings and no endings because that is the only way they could be made manifest independently. This is the 1st dimension. It is a singularity that must immediately be doubled by its counterpart, the 2nd dimension, to be made manifest. This creates the dual nature of the world.

4) The materials that build the universe, the matter that exists in our physical world, holds a record of events and actions that have occurred in time and space. Our movements and actions make changes in the outside world and are recorded as events and experience. We change our world physically every moment. It is recorded on objects and entities outside our personal selves as well, as we know from moving something or breaking something, or influencing the world about us.

5) Vibrating patterns makes up events and changes from energy to matter leaves a record of its temporal being. Though these events are temporal, they can potentially last eternally because time is a mirage. Frequencies are in time and space, measured wave lengths that vibrate in certain patterns. Though they are manifest in time, time itself is still a mirage. Time and space are dimensions that appear within manifested natures. Manifest nature is the record of thought made actual.


All events and objects have frequencies, as they are vibratory in  nature. These frequencies are well named, as they are repetitive motions in waves in a particular time and space. Having entered into time and space, they paint not only a temporal event, but perhaps an Infinite event as well because one is the other.

Infinity is in a dimension without time and space, but time and space are recorded within it. You and I are living proof of that. We can be certain that all time is recorded and stored in the infinite dimension, since infinity has room for all probabilities and is the source of the actualities. The material world shares a common source in the infinite

Particles and waves, the building blocks of matter, are informational packets that only exist in actuality while being in relation to other particles. They must relate to one another to share in the material world.


The information in these packets passes into the unconscious mind working to organize and record experience. It is stored in material actualizations before the advent of life forms, as awareness forms conscious entities with different levels of awareness. Among these conscious forms of awareness are the intellectually self-aware forms that we call our ‘personal realities’.

Thought is information connected by electronic impulses. It is sourced and ultimately originates in that dimension where Infinity dwells. This can be called the zero dimension. From zero dimension, there need be no passing of information as it is all contained there eternally. It is the mind and thought that organizes what is brought into being, as particles are not needed to understand the highest dimension (which is also the lowest, being non-dimensional). This is the place from which all information originally springs.

What does this mean and how can it effect our emotional lives? Does any of this impact our fear of death and change?

Perhaps we have lost the idea of heaven but gained the concept of eternity. At any given moment we can learn to manipulate our negative emotions and ease our sense of loss and helplessness by realizing that we live in a pseudo-reality common to all things living and non-living. Our thoughts are neither positive nor negative. We are the ones who give them value by arbitrarily assigning them value. At any moment, we can invoke and still our thoughts to quiet the duality of our existence and peek into the eternal dimension where all of nature is one and divisions are non-existent.

The world of ideas and thoughts is infinite. All things exist in a field of probability that contains all possible actualities. Like a hologram, all pieces of the big picture are contained in the smallest part of the picture. When an action is made, that field of probability collapses upon itself to become an actuality. That actuality is made manifest in nature and the record of it is nothing but a vibrational mirage that is can be observed from infinite points in space and time.

In this manner experience is born in a timeless dimension and brought into the world by interconnected series of events that continue to experience being long before and long after our temporal existences became evident and actual. Ultimately, we are the experience and the experience is eternal.

Memory is a tool of awareness, a process that continually blinks in and out of existence with observation and relationship to other temporal events. Our world and universe is the physical counterpart of an infinite experience that never began and will never end.



220px-Lead_Photo_For_Category_(mathematics)0-41319275833666325Perhaps “relation” is the wrong word for what is thought in ecological ontology.  There’s something too ghostly, too incorporeal, about relations.  Everything in the entire cosmos could be still and there would still be relations.  Things would be to the left or right or one another, so many miles or light years apart, larger and smaller, and so on.  Yet ecology, above all, thinks beings in interaction and becoming.  While interaction is a form of relation, the concept of interaction captures a certain fleshiness of how beings hang together in ecologies that risks being lost with the signifier “relation”.

Beings in ecologies interact.  This is a mundane and obvious observation, yet maybe one we don’t often pause to think through.  First, even at a distance, there is always a materiality of interactions.  Every interaction requires flesh.  There are no incorporeal or ghostly interactions.  Two entities at a distance might interact.  Indeed, ecology often and primarily thinks interactions between beings at a distance.  The novelty of its thought consists in showing or tracing how two entities that appear to be unrelated– say frogs and cars –in fact affect one another in an assemblage.  Their interaction is not, of course, an immediate one.  It is not a direct touching.  Rather, there is a fleshy or material mediator that passes between them, surmounting time and distance:  the car’s carbon emissions.

read on!

Even symbolic and linguistic interactions require flesh to occur.  They require an atmosphere, for no sound can travel in a vacuum, or electro-magnetic signals, paper, smoke, or any number of other mediums.  With ghostly relations, nothing passes between; but in interactions there’s always a material passage.  And because interactions not only unfold in time but require time, nothing is ever immediate in ecologies.  Nothing– so far as we know at present –can occur faster than the speed of light.  We’re all familiar with the letter that arrives too late.  The lateness of a letter is the mark of its flesh, its materiality.  Letters must travel, whether they be conveyed by speech, on paper, or electronically.  They require time to proliferate through the ecosystem of a society like the circles produced in a pond after the throw of a stone.  In another register, it could be that unexpected tragedies are now approaching us as a result of flesh currently traveling our way.  Who knows whether a gamma ray burst that occurred thousands of years isn’t currently making a journey to meet our planet?

Ghostly relations change nothing in the entity they relate.  The entity remains exactly as it was before whether it is to the left or right of another entity, whether it is this close or that far, whether it is larger or smaller.  With interactions it is entirely different.  Entities affect and are affected by one another in their interactions.  Bald eagles interacted with scientists and farmers through DDT, causing shells to thin and reproductive rates to go down.  In turn, all sorts of plants and animals are affected positively and negatively as a result of the absence of these birds.  Perhaps other populations of organisms grow because they’re no longer prey for a particular predator.  This growth, in its turn, affects a whole host of other organisms.  Ripples proliferating throughout the water of an assemblage involving birds, plants, rodents, farmers, crops, scientists, chemical formulas, factories, and a host of other entities.

monet-haystacksIn interactions we encounter a certain plasticity of entities.  No entity is exactly what it seems to be at a particular point in time, for every being is sustained in its qualities by a certain field of relations.  Even something as solid as a rock or a lump of lead is sustained in its qualitative being by a field of interactions.  Change the pressure to which the rock is subject and it becomes molten or folds in new ways or its grain is transformed.  That lump of lead on Venus becomes molten and evaporates.  Permanence is a function of a relatively stable interactive field.  Change the sendings of flesh that populate that field and the entity will undergo a qualitative change.  Even the color of entities is the result of interactive fields.  Entities display the colors they display as a result of the wavelengths of light their surfaces interact with.  Color is an event, not a fixed feature in entities.  Look carefully.  Contemplate a colored object as lighting conditions change.  You will witness the color change.  There’s a reason Monet painted his lily pads and hay stacks in series of paintings.  He sought to paint the event of these lily pads and hay stacks, their becoming.  It’s not that these beings appeared to change color.  They really did change color.  Entities then are teeming with powers, with capacities, that we scarcely know for we only encounter them when they are unleashed as a result of an interaction.  And it goes without saying that while many of these interactions will leave entities unchanged as they will merely actualize a property or action, others will transform the very powers of the being as in the fictional case of Seth Brundle being spliced with a fly.

Often entities interact with one another not only occasionally or as a one time event, but in relations of feedback.  One entity sends flesh to another leading it to actualize itself in a particular way.  The receiving entity, in its turn, sends flesh to the sending entity, leading it to actualize itself in a particular way.  Like stars orbiting each other in a binary star system, the two send matter back and forth to one another in an endless cycle and in doing so both undergo a co-evolution and form a system in which their respective actualizations are relatively stable and enduring.  This is what is called “negative feedback”.  We can think social assemblages along these lines.  We wonder, why is it so difficult to change social assemblages even when they are so oppressive and painful?  This is because there are dense fields of negative feedback interactions that more or less maintaining the pattern of the social assemblage.  We seek to intervene, to disrupt and change those patterns, and interactions occur to erase the trace of our action, maintaining the patterns of the assemblage as they were before.  These feedback mechanisms occur at all sorts of levels.  There are the noisy feedback mechanisms of police and military that discipline those events that disrupt the social assemblage.  There are the subjectivizations that form persons, creating dispositions to behave, think, and feel in particular ways– despite the intentions of those subjects –that maintain the ecology of the social assemblage.  This is what Bourdieu called habitus.  The person might avow, for example, feminism at the level of their conscious thought, but their bodily dispositions indicate the functioning of patriarchy at a sub-personal level.  There are the ways in which forms of life are locked into an ecology of energy, labor, and technology that makes it very difficult to live otherwise.  There are media outlets that perpetually reinforce reigning ideologies.  Sometimes there’s just the distractions of things like social media and entertainment that perpetually distract, drawing attention away from intolerable circumstances.  We should not work from the premise that ecology inherently denotes something positive.  All ecology denotes is an ontology of interacting entities in fields of dependency, where some interactions and the stabilities they produce might be desirable, whereas others are quite horrific.

Larval Subjects .

220px-Lead_Photo_For_Category_(mathematics)0-41319275833666325Perhaps “relation” is the wrong word for what is thought in ecological ontology.  There’s something too ghostly, too incorporeal, about relations.  Everything in the entire cosmos could be still and there would still be relations.  Things would be to the left or right or one another, so many miles or light years apart, larger and smaller, and so on.  Yet ecology, above all, thinks beings in interaction and becoming.  While interaction is a form of relation, the concept of interaction captures a certain fleshiness of how beings hang together in ecologies that risks being lost with the signifier “relation”.

Beings in ecologies interact.  This is a mundane and obvious observation, yet maybe one we don’t often pause to think through.  First, even at a distance, there is always a materiality of interactions.  Every interaction requires flesh.  There are no incorporeal or ghostly interactions.  Two entities at a distance might…

View original post 1,086 more words


By Kenneth Harper Finton © 2014, rev 2015

4874028-portrait-of-thomas-jefferson-2-dollar-note“We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”   

 – Thomas Jefferson

This famous quote by Jefferson, the opening line of The Declaration of Independence, has long been the battle cry for freedom and equality.

Since the time I was a child, I felt chilled by the power and the wisdom in these words. I never doubted for a moment that these words were true because I wanted them to be true.

Is this really true?

Is it self-evident that all men are created equal? What if we substituted ‘gorillas’ instead of men.  Are all gorillas created equal? Are all snakes created equal? What about women? Are all women created equal as well?

This declaration says that all men are created equal. What it fails to reveal is that the instant this life is created, some are more advantaged than others by DNA, parental wealth and upbringing, and the social circles into which we are born.

What of “inalienable rights?” 

Are these natural rights derived from natural laws? Natural law and natural rights are not interchangeable. Nature itself knows nothing of rights. Nature simply creates and destroys and recycles the materials to create again. Where are these “inalienable rights” in nature?

The idea that there are natural rights was constructed by the Greek Stoics. These rights did not apply to nature, but to the social world that man created. The Stoics held that no one was made a slave by nature, but that slavery was an external condition imposed by society. These Stoics were among the first to declare the equality of men. They declared that there was an inner part of the human being that cannot be restrained by either the body or imprisonment. That this inner spark cannot be delivered into bondage was revived by the Reformation and Martin Luther.

Immanuel Kant claimed that natural rights were derived by reason alone, but Kant failed to realize that this kind of reason is also a human construction. That there is a right to life and liberty became a popular theme in philosophic thought.  John Locke declared that natural rights were:  “… to Life, Liberty, and Estate.” [i.e., property].

HitchensonFrancis Hutcheson 

In his Inquiry into the Original of Our Ideas of Beauty and Virtue (1725), Francis Hutcheson wrote: “For wherever any Invasion is made upon unalienable Rights, there must arise either a perfect, or external Right to Resistance . . .  Unalienable Rights are essential Limitations in all Governments.” 

Knowing that one person’s rights were often in conflict with another, Hutcheson said, ‘There can be no Right, or Limitation of Right, inconsistent with, or opposite to the greatest publick Good.”

In an attempt to prove that there are inalienable rights, Hutcheson said, “Thus no man can really change his sentiments, judgments, and inward affections, at the pleasure of another; nor can it tend to any good to make him profess what is contrary to his heart. The right of private judgment is therefore unalienable.”

I find this unconvincing. We have private judgments and opinions, but these do not have to be inalienable. We are not born with opinions or judgments. They come from our experience, our learning, and our social bias.

Thomas Paine (1731-1809) wrote about natural rights as well. In his book Rights of Man (1791) he recognized that if rights were promised by a charter or a constitution, this would mean that these rights could also be revoked. The right would then become mere privileges:

It is a perversion of terms to say that a charter gives rights. It operates by a contrary effect—that of taking rights away. Rights are inherently in all the inhabitants; but charters, by annulling those rights, in the majority, leave the right, by exclusion, in the hands of a few … They … consequently are instruments of injustice. The fact therefore must be that the individuals themselves, each in his own personal and sovereign right, entered into a contract with each other to produce a government: and this is the only mode in which governments have a right to arise, and the only principle on which they have a right to exist.

Benjamin Tucker (1854-1939) was among the first to abandon the case for natural rights and declare that there are only two rights (1) the right of might and (2) the right of contract. The right of might only existed until it was overridden by the right to contract.

180px-Erich_Fromm_Erich Fromm (1900-1980) argued that some powers over human beings could be wielded only by God. If there were no God, no human beings could wield these powers.

An early libertarian view of inalienable rights was laid out in Morris and Linda Tannehill’s book The Market for Liberty. This book attempted to fuse capitalism with anarchy and is known as anarcho-capitalism. They claimed that a person does have a right to ownership over their life and property because they invested a part of their life into it. By doing so, they made it an extension of their life. However, if this person uses force to the detriment of another person, then they lose that right to ownership and they are required to pay a debt: “Rights are not inalienable,” Tannehill wrote, “but only the possessor of a right can alienate himself from that right–no one else can take a man’s rights from him.” The Tannehills believed that there is such a thing as natural rights and that our society would be best off without governmental controls. [See:]

Rights Are an Idea

Logic dictates that rights are an idea, a human construction, not a natural law. Rights are freedoms we have demanded from the established order and we have fought battles to protect these rights by social laws.  Rights are only as strong as the society that grants these rights and they can change with social evolution. Rights and entitlements are those things the social establishment allows us to have, those freedoms given to us by political laws.  They change with the political winds. Nature is free, but we are not free so long as we subscribe to a social contract for our cooperative existence. Our social contracts attempt to displace nature as the rule maker as much as is humanly possible. We are a part of society. We subscribe to social contracts and the laws governing our behavior to coexist in the greater world.  These social laws are local and change as we move forward in time.

TJquoteJefferson said that there is a right to “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”

These are not rights at all, but rhetoric designed to inflame the masses and instigate revolution.

Does nature respect the right to life of the individual?

List examples here: ___________________.

Beginnings and endings are the order of time itself. We exist in order to perish.

The right to life is not a natural law, but a human conception based upon conflicting values. If there is a right to life, then war is a violation of those rights, as is execution and murder. Social values are conflicted by individual interpretations as to what a right to life might entail. The first assumption that is made is that there is a right to life–when nature makes no such assumption. Having agreed to the fallacy that there is a right to life, they must then make exceptions to this right for war, executions, self-defense, madness, irresponsibility, abortion, etc.

How much simpler it would be if God and Nature were not brought in as arbiters of human morality and we accepted the basic truth that we are responsible for our world and the entitlements that we enjoy.

The right to liberty is given to us by society as well.  Society may take our freedom and put liberty at will, should the governing bodies decide to do so.

As to the right to the pursuit of happiness–this is an a priori right that we can give ourselves and establish within the confines of our own minds. We create our own happiness and we may pursue it or not at will. Even if our liberty has been removed and our lives are scheduled to be forfeited, we may still pursue and achieve happiness.

Rights come and go.

They must be earned.

They must be fought for.

They must be accepted into social law to have any meaning at all.


by Kenneth Harper Finton ©2014


The Perpetual Search for Truth

I have learned not to trust anyone who tells me they possess the truth. I have no doubt they think they do possess truth, but this thinking does not make it so.

A myth is a widely held but false belief or idea. If the world itself is viewed as a myth, then we cannot help but generate new mythologies no matter how scientifically rooted our knowledge becomes.

Myths are associated with traditions and religions. There are twelve major religions in the world today–Baha’i, Buddhism, Christianity, Confucianism, Hinduism, Islam, Jainism, Judaism, Shinto, Sikhism, Taoism, and Zoroastrianism–and all of them have adherents who think they possess the truth.

That alone shows us that truth is subjective.

Religions serve many purposes, but three main human longings form the basis for the hold of religion over the populations: 1) the thought of death 2) the purpose of living 3) the advancement of social constructions.

We, like most of the spectrum of living things, have an instinct for survival. The self-aware human realizes that they will perish from a very early age. People often accuse young people of feeling that they are immortal, but nothing could be farther from reality. They come upon the realization of their potential demise early on and are often highly troubled with the thought.

It is understandable that we wish to continue as long as possible, but sooner of later, we will come to realize that nothing lives forever. We find that fact to be depressing and begin to wonder what the purpose of life really is. “Why,” we ask, are born but to die?”

Enter religion and mythology,

Afterlife–concepts of heaven and hell, the idea of eternity Nirvana or unity with the void– are common components of religious belief.

Some people desperately want to believe that they and their loved ones can persist long after their time on Earth has come to an end. Religions and individuals develop mythologies to satisfy this deep-set urge to persist and continue their personal identities in another place and time. In scientific circles, ideas of multiple or alternative universes where other forms of ourselves exist in other planes seem to satisfy the need for perpetuation in some people. After all, in infinity are not all things possible?

Potentiality, however, is not the same idea as possibility. It behooves us to remember that infinity is in another dimension. In nonexistence nothing at all is possible. Again, we meet with duality and the limitation of expression. The preceding sentence has a double meaning, as nothing is not only possible, but the basis of all things.

Since we obviously have an identity, then we exist and therefore we are not Infinite. We are temporal beings. The price of existing seems to be the possession of a beginning and an ending.

It is hard to fault people for these beliefs. It seems so natural to want to persist through eternity, despite the likelihood that we would grow so bored and stagnant that we would want to curse of our immortal existence after an unreasonable amount of time had passed.

Too many wonderful lives end too quickly in our short life spans. It is the stuff of tragedy, confusion and the ingredients for despair. Our emotional human natures call out for a scape goat for the horrid things that happen to us and those around us.

The first in line for blame is generally God, the Devil, or Mother Nature–social constructions that we have made to explain the harshness of reality in our short,  lives filled with both tragedy and comedy. Religions teach us not to blame God for the evils that occur, but many allow us to blame the Devil. Mother Nature is concerned with nurture and growth, so she is not to blame in many religious dogmas.

So what if the Earth opens up and swallows us whole or the currents sweep away the innocent child. So what if the tornado cripples the town or an accident breaks the back of the best athlete your village has ever known, turning him into a paraplegic vegetable. It is not the fault of Mother Nature. It is not the fault of God. “Who are we to know the ways of God,” is often the answer we are asked to swallow.

Satan is the ultimate scape goat in the Judaic/Christian belief system. There is something in us that wants to define and personalize evil and hate. What better construction for the ages than to have a benevolent and caring father figure at war with the unholy forces that cause harm to ourselves and our loved ones?

Thus we build our myths. God, the father, is built upon the structure of the nuclear family. Satan is the source of all evil.

So what is the reasonable explanation? What new myths should we construct to explain the inhumanity of man to man and the eternal war against the mechanisms of nature? Shall we create a myth of alternative universes or parallel worlds? Should we speculate that Infinity all is possible, including the recording and storing of all identities and experiences? Surely this is a possibility, as in endless time most all potentiality becomes possible.

We can only speculate upon the reason, if any, for existence to be apparent. The big question of why there is anything at all when nothing would do so well is answered with the realization that nothing is real but the infinity of the zero dimension.

Yet, there is the question as to why a world, be it real or illusion, exists at all.

The answer, of course, is that it exists and does not exist simultaneously. There is only experience and the awareness that makes that experience possible.

Infinity precipitates all things. Nothing becomes real, because nothing is real. Once experience begins there is no stopping it. Once movement defines space and contains enough duration to be felt and observed, an entire universe is born.

Experience itself might be the purpose of the observable universe, if it must have a purpose at all. However, there is no need for a purpose. Purpose is a human construct and value. Why would the universe need a purpose? Experience is in itself enough. Experience preceded our human values and will succeed and outlast our values.

The human mind is born without experience. Experience is learned from trial and error. Would not the universe itself, born without experience, do the same?

What happens if experience comes to an end? What happens if all motion is stilled and all space and time disappears? Does the universe itself end? Will experience begin again as it did in a beginning? Or did it never begin in the first place?

The only way out of the conundrum is the latter. It never did begin and it will never end because it did not begin. This thought seems to be the only logical answer. Nothing exists is a dual term, not an expression of the ultimate nihilistic thought. Because nothing exists, we have an existent universe.

If experience is the source of all events, all events are experience. They carry no blame, no cause, no system of evaluation. Being is for the sake of being and all things that we emotionally react to are not purposeful, but essential for the experience of being.

How, we might ask, could it be any different? I can see no way that it could be different. As in life we have to deal with the good and the bad, the evil and the good, so does the universe at large.

You might ask yourself what you would change is you were in charge of designing the universe. If you were the creator of all things, what would you change? Would you make things so we all beings live forever? Would you eliminate pain and suffering and man’s inhumanity to man? Would you prefer the constant temperance of a summer’s day to periods of tornados, hurricanes, earthquakes and tsunami waves?

Personally, I would make a small change, should I design the world. I would prefer that dogs live as long as we do. I have always found it absurd that elephants and parrots and turtles have century long lives while dogs are lucky to make it to age fifteen. Yet, even that might be too much to ask. By loving our pets and losing them, we are prepared for greater sacrifice and sorrows to come later. If we are to live in this world of gain and loss, we must experience both. So it is with the universe at large.

The world changes about us and we change with the changes. The sun shines on all and the rain falls on everyone. Some of the most destructive forces in the universe have created the temperate planet on which we live today. The Earth itself was struck by a sister planet the size of Mars about three and a half billion years ago. That collision almost destroyed the Earth, but without that occurrence, we would have no moon.

Without the moon we would have much smaller tides only pulled by the Sun. We would have much shorter days of between four and eight hours of daylight. We would have much longer years because it would take well over a thousand days to orbit the Sun. We would have much darker nights with our shortened days without the reflected moonlight to shine upon the planet. Without that cosmic cataclysm life would be much different on Earth, if it existed at all.

A universe without change would be impossible, as change is inherent in the very design of movement. Movement begets change. Change begets loss. Loss begets sorrow, sorrow begets new joys.

Infinity is unknowable. It is the zero dimension. One dimensional entities exist everywhere at once. Two dimensional entities begin the march of time. Three dimensional entities begin the march of space. Four dimensional entities combine time and space into events.

Awareness is essential for dimensions to exist. The zero dimension must then be the primitive form of eternal awareness that makes events possible. It contains no mass nor matter nor energy. Infinity has no place in time, no place in space, yet it is the source of all things that become manifest and worlded. The mathematical patterns and physical laws that govern the interactions of things must either precede existence itself or they are discovered and made manifest through trial and error through the eons of time that infinity encompasses. It is possible––even likely––that mathematics and physical laws are two dimensional entities, like lines and circles on a flat plane that appear everywhere at once and establish the rules for further dimensional events. We write equations in two dimensional spaces and conceptualize them in three dimensions or more.

Dimensions are the blueprints and scaffolding in the building of existence itself.






by Kenneth Harper Finton ©2014

Making Something of Nothing 

QUANTUM PARTICLESWhen we finally realize that we live in a quantum universe where time is non-existent, then we can begin to assemble the conceptual tools to understand why we perceive a past history and a potential future. If all is in the now, then all time past, present and future have to be included in that eternal moment.

In an eternal now, time is not a factor. Space and time is created by particles taking on mass traveling at less than the speed of light.

The mechanics of this concept are like quantum particles in nature. The past materializes through observation and measurement and is experienced from different points in space-time. It is not dependent upon the individual perception of our limited waking consciousness, but upon the awareness that perceives and feels material being. In fact, the addition of awareness to the primal primordial soup of existence is the big game changer.

In my understanding, awareness is essential to the very making of the material world. It is not a product that comes into existence gradually as nervous systems are developed, but an integral part of the building blocks of natural phenomena. With consciousness added, value is determined––positive values that attract and negative values that repel.

The attraction of elementary particles to one another is the same pattern as the natural law that is seen in feelings and love.

Feeling is the sense that allows two objects to recognize and react to one another. SELF REFLECTIONA point must know itself in order to be a point at all. A point has a potential for awareness, but there is nothing to be aware of. It takes an effect from another point for awareness to feel itself. That effect creates a polarity which sets the stage for movement.

In very simple terms, movement eventually creates space as the points become lines and eventually recross their own points of origin and become circles. The awareness that was present in the point is now present in every every possible place the point found itself in this new dimension of space-time.

The only way we can have space-time is to be aware of it. Without awareness, it would not exist in any dimension. This awareness is not a thing. It is almost impossible to define because it is not a thing. It is not a spirit or anything tangible. It is not energy or mass, but that which makes energy and mass possible in the worlding of the universe.

Space-time is created by the point intersecting its own starting point, creating an orbit.

A line is simply a point that mFive_point_stencil_illustrationoves, adding the dimension of time–which is measured by the same awareness. The same point is made manifest over and over in the appearance of the line, the difference being the dimension of time and eventually space. This is the secret of duality. The same point is everywhere at one moment.

There is, then, a universal field, which is a universal sense of feeling based on attraction and repulsion that permeates and creates all things. This sense of feeling is present in these same elementary particles and the feeling becomes known by an awareness that is timelessly eternal.

This timeless and eternal awareness is the source of things. By allowing space and time to be measured, awarenesss enters into existence––a process that occurs  simultaneously and eternally in many places at once. The perception of movement and the feeling that influences these particles and waves results in space-time.

Physicists have been looking for the Higgs Boson Field that they believe allows the that slows the pure energy of photons to slow enough to be imparted with mass. This slowing allows an environment where wave particles can slow enough to obtain mass, congregate and join together.

Their formation produces a sense of space and time. The Higgs Boson particle is often called the God Particle. Recent experiments in particle colliders actually seems to have found this particle, but there does seem to be more than one form to this particle that creates a universal field called the Higgs Field that allows energy to become mass.

Space-time exists in an eternal now, a pseudo moment that holds all that ever was and that which will ever be. Because time itself is relative to movement and speed, a photon begins and ends at the same moment, much as the Higg’s boson does. We  measured the duration of a moment differently  because we measure the duration from our viewpoints.

As humans, it appears to us that there is a past and a future because we live and operate in a time and space that travels at a particular speed and we view ourselves as being in a particular region of space-time.

We are able to discern the artifacts and traces left by events that occurred in what we see as ‘then’, even though it takes place in the eternal now. We are in differently defined sections of space-time experiencing some of the infinite numbers of experience that can come to being in an world of infinite possibility.

Space-time occurrences are not defined by us, but by awareness. What we define as individuals is infinitesimal. The part does not define the whole. The whole defines the part.eternity symbol

While this eternal awareness is observing and creating that which we see as being in the past, traces of the particles and waves from that observed portion of time and space can be seen from other sections of space and time can be  that also exist in the eternity of now. Our perceptions create the world we live in just as the perception of the world we live in creates us.

The universe can be viewed as a perceptive awareness that behaves in a quantum fashion. Its only task is to experience and create new experience. It is everywhere at once and nowhere at the same moment. It both exists for us and does not exist at the same moment and there is only that one moment. Nothing came before it and nothing comes after it.

That simple point of awareness that exists everywhere is not aware until there is another point of which to be aware.. One point is dark and one point is light. They must appear to be different to distinguish themselves from one another.

This light and dark energy slows to become light and dark matter in a universal field we can call the Higgs Field. By passing through the Higgs Field, they take on mass and create a space-time continuum.

The dark matter is invisible and cannot be seen because it does not react to light matter. It is not sensitive to light, but to gravitational attraction, the essence of feeling.

This gravitational attraction is made manifest by awareness. One primal form of awareness is the gravitational attraction itself.

Consciousness has no mass. It only needs an awareness of another and in that awareness of another an entire universe is built. It exists in potentiality and comes into existence dependent upon the point of space-time we find ourselves materialized within. Individually, we are but one small facet in the infinite number of potentialities that consciousness makes possible.

This process does not begin, but it has always been in the moment we call now.




by Slo-Man ©2014


Now is the season for death. A death that will bring life once again, but for that life we must die now. This is the season for love. A love that will take you further apart, but for that love, this love must die.

The present is doomed. The past misunderstood. The future? The future is known. The future is death. The thing we call love is filled with the thing we call hate. The one and the other are equal to the eye.

The chill winds blow and the ill winds whisper their sweet murmurings of deceit. The body cries how! How did this happen? Did you not see the signs of decay? The glimmer of gathering gloom, the lengthening shadows?

Leave now, she cries, as the red bleeds from the trees and the swirling miniature tornadoes chase your feet, scampering puppy-like just out of reach of your toes.

The wind tears at you and the eyes tear. You turn away hiding the hurt, your voice is silent, the shoulders are straight, painfully straight. There is warmth somewhere, far away.

The first signs of implosion are not seen, not felt. The world is just a place where happiness is earned, where love is not a right, and sadness runs free every day.

The past doomed you. The present buries you. The future, when it comes, will relieve you. Think of the past with love, think of the present with sadness. Think of the future with no regret.

Let the red bleed from the trees. Let it show the way. Let the light change from a glorious brilliance to a dull grey. Let it all happen. Let it flow with no hindrance and no let.

Now is the season for death. A death that will bring love once again, but for that love we must live now. This is the season for life. A life that will take you from love, but for that life, you cannot die.


dsc02818.jpgNow is the season for death. A death that will bring life once again, but for that life we must die now. This is the season for love. A love that will take you further apart, but for that love, this love must die.

The present is doomed. The past misunderstood. The future? The future is known. The future is death. The thing we call love is filled with the thing we call hate. The one and the other are equal to the eye.

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