Gaia is the word for "unity-of-life-processes". The experiment here is to unify the various threads of voice and sense of self together into an undivided unity. Spirituality, economics, politics, science and ordinary life interleaved.

Thursday, July 29, 2004

You know you think too much when...

... You buy and read a copy of Plotinus' neoplatonic classic, The Enneads, just because you happen to be feeling down.
... Your idea of kareoke is whistling a thirty-second phrase of a Bach fugue again and again in order to pinpoint the exact tonal shifts one by one.
... You keep a blog about other people's ideas about other people's ideas.
... You talk on the phone whilst playing Super Mario whilst watching Reality TV whilst listening to classical music on the radio with the kettle on
... You laugh at yourself when you think too little.
... Your idea of a relaxing holiday is reading Proust's tome, Rememberance of Things Past, on a green hillside somewhere.
... You look forward to old age so you can get some proper reading done.
... You try to sing nursery rhymes in the three different languages you speak poorly, translating as you go.
... You philosophise about cats.
... You read Economist magazine "just for laughs".
... You write stupid pieces like this and actually publish them on your blog.

'Reasonable, probable and necessary' blogs

Read a motherjones magazine article about blogging which, although it exclusively concerns the "blogosphere" of "political palmphleteering", neatly captures the somewhat shady character of this form.  (I will never intentionally publish this stuff, despite and perhaps because of the techno-paranoia that some net-based Singularity will one day suck up all online data into her all-consuming Gaian maw... ahem... anyway...)

Young men writing rebarbative prose against utterly forgettable issues is a synctium of modernism in a way.  Here to stay, etc etc.

I want to reflect instead on the context of a blog.  I guess by micro-level daily contextualisations it might be possible to form a decent idea of a person and times, but it's a hard road.  Proust took one-and-a-quarter million words to do it.

And then there's the medium itself: the Net.  It would seem to be an intrinsically postmodern thing.  Timothy Leary did a characteristically specious diagram once in the late 80s 'demonstrating' how the number of realities one is exposed to on the net, compared to TV and print before it, increases exponentially.  I disagree.  The number of illusions, delusions, faux amis, and frauds is what exponentially increases.  Reality was never less discussed than in the welter of opinions that is the net; and the sinkhole of judgementalism must be the blogosphere.

So are blogs an intrinsically political form?

Last night I did some reading on a yahoo group about integrity.  One of the wise things that stuck with me was that integrous behaviour at the most basic level of expression is an act of courage that, in the eyes of the actor, seems "reasonable, probable, and necessary".  These ordinary and kind words belie the level of courage required to be moderate in one's views in a apparent world of extremists.

But moderation alone is an impersonal aim without the corresponding personal transformation.  In political terms, the tendency to interpret information in terms of a feminist, ecological, marxist or other idealistic paradigm gives rise to solutions that are highly hypothetical and which rely the world being other than it is now.  When these theories deny or override real-world experience the tool ends by becoming the master.

In the philosophy of science it appears the question has apparently been decided 30 years ago between Kuhn and Karl Popper.  Kuhn said that science progresses discontinuously, so a monolithic and unified Science was not possible, and therefore science should encourage her mavericks.  Popper asserted a monolithic, communal, and economically-driven science - but, deeper to the heart of the issue, also portrayed human fallibility and our flawed nature with a gentleness and humanity that endears him to us still.  So while techno-omptimists pretend that Kuhn's argument won the day, the precise rendering of actual scientific reality that Popper philosophised over has become more and more so.  And ultimately a full picture of scientific progress seems to emerge from a blending of the two views, which is always a highly personal and heartfelt matter.

How scientests come to moderation is revealing.  According to their nature, they are communal or individualistic, Kuhnian or Popperian.  But it is in their personal lives, in their conduct, integrity, and good-heartedness, that many scientests achieve greatness.  I cannot imagine of a single person who could criticise Einstein for meanness of spirit.

As all this applies also to blogging.  It is a highly personal matter, not a political one.  It is an expression of generosity and caring, in the sense that one must reveal enough of oneself as is "reasonable, probable, and necessary".  And reveal no more than that!

Tuesday, July 27, 2004

Positive Sci-Fi

The thing about science fiction that frustrates me is that I finish m0st modern novels in depair, depressed by the story and deeply sad that such technical brilliance and 300 pages of writing could come to this.  Why is sci-fi so profoundly negative?

The audience of sci-fi books (as distinct from the visual sci-fi medium, which has remained popular) has not changed in thirty years except for having grown 30 years older.  The cynicism and disillusionment in sci-fi is palpable.

Worse, publishers, perceiving the deep darkness of spirit in the genre, now promote authors whose negativity makes them seductive to the audience.  For instance, Alastair Reynolds, a remarkable writer and dreamer, puts out incredibly negative stuff under a pretense of goth-cyber-punk black humour.  But I know when I finish his books and feel crestfallen for hours afterward that this is bull and sci-fi is in a sad way.

What is the source of this?

I think it has to do with the evolution of overall themes within sci-fi.  Sci-fi reflects on the whole field of science freely.  The essential theme underlying science fiction for the last thirty years has been human ignorance and fallibility.

In itself a recognition of limitations such as buddhism teaches is ennobling.  But too often in sci-fi the limits are fears arising from paranoia, not cautions arising from wisdom.

The essence of the problem seems to be that science fiction has no acceptable way to recognise the significance of the heart and the human spirit.  Reductionism deletes the anomalies of caring and courage; or else reduces them to caring becomes an evolutionary affiliations and courage becomes the survival of the fittest.  This hikacks the context of stories themselves, which is to entertain the moral senses as well as the physical, weaking science fiction at the root. 

No wonder young readers turn to Star Trek and Star Wars for a universe that retains its sense of wonder along with the integrity of its characters.

Here are a few positive influences in modern sci-fi.  Note especially Kim Stanley Robinson's powerful and morally-strong Mars trilogy, and Maria Doria Russel's The Sparrow and Children of God, both skilful science fiction works.  Partly it will be seen that the motive of the writer herself organises the same theme and material with consideration for shared human values. 

Contrast these writers with the skilled, excellent but disempowering Paul J. McAuley, Adam Roberts, Robert Reed, Ursula le Guin and many more of their sad ilk.  The latter seem to unfortunately be as forgettable these days as Roger Zelazny and Poul Anderson were in the seventies.  For a good sample of Alaistair Reynolds style, try the depressing and dazzling 'Diamond Dogs'.

astonishing scientific discovery du jour

I one read a concatcenation of definitions of Life, starting with Heraclitus in the 6th century and ending with Eric Drexler et al. Possibly this is one of those words whose meaning expands or contracts according to the capacity of the thinker.

Here it is at

For me the most mind expanding definition of Life was from a science book, by whom I forget, which gave a new context on the now-commonplace notion of Life as Digital Information; the context was that Life is any orderly chemical system that emerges in a physical range of the dissipation of heat. The attempt to situate Life in thermodynamics reflects the wider desire to contextualise the complications of reality into ever simpler terms.

Anyway, until yesterday I drew the line between Life and not-Life at DNA replication. That is to say, RNA enscription in viruses in my opinion is not life. But I was reading John Robert Marlow's novel Nano as I walked down a street when I learnt something remarkable: we have lifeforms that don't even have RNA!!

I had to stop and take a few deep breaths at this revelation. The implications are too astounding to go into here and now in detail. Suffice it to say, if bacteria operate the macrobiosphere that we occupy, it is fair to assume that nanobes, atomic sized lifeforms, in turn manage the microbiological level of the biosphere. But the thing is, these critters are machines. So now the simplest explanation for the existence of squillions of little robots in and on everything is that they are an ancient form of nanotechnology.

For glossies of these, go to:

For context:

Thursday, July 22, 2004

Moody bitchy day

Wouldn't it be nice to be sunshiny-positive about good and bad events, willing to see the silver lining in the greyest cliche, acting in the relaxed knowledge that,  just for today, one's abilities are maximised and utilizied to the fullest of one's abilities?

Today is not one of those days.

I stop for a coffee at Gloria Jeans.  I list how I feel in a few short sentences.  Then I try and simply write my thinking down.  I write: "I seem to be quite stressed and confused today."

Finally, I get out my to-do list and cross off most of the items.  That feels good.  I write an introduction for a non-fiction book that I have been daydreaming about writing for a couple years.  That feels good too.  So I look out at the pouring rain and don't feel so maudlin all of a sudden.  Just moody and bitchy.  Best not talk to anyone.

This is the first entry for my blog, Gaia Writer.  I am a writer, novelist, poet and former journalist, so being all writing one would expect it will feature some cool stuff sometime soon. 

'Gaia' is my shorthand for the novel I am writing, 'Return To Gaia',  a near-future adventure thriller.

follow me on Twitter