Matthew T Grant


Tall Guy. Glasses.

Perhaps Yours Are Not the Eyes for These Posts

When you read these posts, you may say to yourself, “What the hell is this stuff? What’s he getting at? How can anyone take this seriously?”

These posts may be meaningless, absurd, and frivolous to you.

But maybe I’m not talking to you.

Think about a time you heard a song that you found horrible, or a movie that was ridiculously sentimental or preposterously plotted.

Maybe it just wasn’t meant for you.

As writers, it behooves us to think clearly about our audience. For whom are we writing?

As readers, it behooves us to think about ourselves and, when confronted with something that does not speak to us, or even disturbs and insults us, to consider that other possible self for whom it would be soothing, inspiring or enjoyable.

Enlightenment lies on the path between this person (this person, right here) and that person.

Addendum: On Twitter I follow a number of people with whom I disagree. Every time they post something appalling, I think about unfollowing them. I don’t, because I don’t want to close the door on the otherness they embody; I don’t want to live in world that is merely a painstakingly constructed reflection of myself, my biases, and my dreams.

Review and Rehearsal

Several years ago I read J. Allan Hobson’s The Dream Drugstore: Chemically Altered States of Consciousness and though I found the book somewhat frustrating, as I wrote in this review, I did learn a thing or two from it.

First of all, I learned a little about the neurochemical states that mark the transition from waking consciousness to sleeping and then dreaming consciousness. (The book is mainly an exercise in mapping the neurochemical footprint of alcohol and various drugs to various aspects of these states.)

Second of all, I learned that relatively little scientific research has focused on exactly what goes on in our heads while we are awake. One attempt at this that Hobson describes involved hooking subjects up to an electric pulse generator and, whenever the subject felt a pulse, he or she would write down what was going on in his or her head at the time.

Perusing the data thus collected, Hobson (or someone very much like him) concluded that most of waking consciousness consists of two activities: Review and Rehearsal. On the one hand, we are reviewing past events. On the other, we are rehearsing what we will say or do in future circumstances (I’m assuming that certain categories of fantasy would fit into this latter category).

So, what are you doing right now? Reviewing? or Rehearsing?

The Web of Intentions

2881902001_9445c69839_mJohn Battelle recently pointed out that Google is compiling a Database of Intention (strictly speaking, he pointed this out back in 2003).

Said database is comprised of every search ever entered, every list of results every tendered, and every click-path thereafter taken. Referring to AdWords, AdSense, and Omniture, he additionally pointed out that an ecosystem had blossomed around this pure, though recently attenuated, signal.

One implication/assumption of his insight: Wherever we feel that humans are expressing intent, business(es) will grow.

To put it another way: When I know what you want to do, I can make money by facilitating the accomplishment of that need.

Although there were some who disagreed with Battelle, the many comments on the post demonstrated the concept’s potential primarily by playing with it. For example, some said the Web also constitutes a database of “What I’m listening to” or “What I’m eating” or “What I just saw.” Furthermore, someone also pointed out that all the commercial information on the web – “What I actually bought” – significantly completes the intention picture by capturing which intentions actually led to thing businesses care about most: realized revenue.

This all took me back to 1995 when I was teaching Hegel to Middelbury students and told them that the world wide web was the true realization of Hegel’s “Phenomenology of Mind” because, in the totality of the web, Spirit (“Geist” or “Mind”) represented itself to itself in an unprecedented manner. (In his characteristically grandiose fashion, Hegel had implied that this self-representation was happening in his book.)

The web is the medium of our lives and increasingly a medium where fusion overcomes immersion. As such, the Web doesn’t just archive what we’re looking for; it archives much of what we actually do. Not just, “This is what I said,” but, “This is what I’m saying.” Not just, “This is what I saw,” but, “This is what I’m seeing.” Not just, “This is what I thought,” but, “This is what I’m thinking.” Etc.

Many years ago, I saw some German dudes talking about how private videotapes constituted the greatest recorded catalog of everyday life ever assembled. The web has absolutely superseded that by creating “not just” a database of intention (in addition to a database of videotaped qoutidiana), but a database of consciousness itself.

Any idears how we could make money off that? Wait, somebody already has!

Image Source: quapan.

Just a Moment

3044226914_b639b96df9_mWent to see a jazz trio called “Fly” last night: Mark Turner (saxophone), Larry Grenadier (bass), Jeff Ballard ) drums. Their performance reminded me how much I love improvised music played by intuitive and gifted people who know how to spontaneously combine harmonic complexity and dynamic subtlety with a searching and startling lyricism.

Just as we’re taught that a line contains an infinite series of points; music, for it’s part, shows us the infinite divisibility of time. The limits of this division are set, on the one hand,  by the frequency of tonal or rhythmic variation attainable by the musicians and, on the other, by the patience, attentiveness, and perceptual acuity of the audience.

Events apparently never exhaust the between of instants, which always allows for ever more vanishingly brief happenings. By contrast, a moment is not a measure of time, but a state of consciousness. Music, like the music I heard that night, ebbs and crashes around this moment of awareness causing us to ask not how soon is now, but how long?

Image Courtesy of overdrive_cz.