Notice: I will make minor edits to these whenever I feel like it, and no one can stop me.
Unlike mine, your remains are good. Whatever's left of you after life puts on a hard grinding, you're good. So in my view I'm not doing anything more than making an observation of the logically inevitable.
It was the most innocent age filled with the least innocent things, because we both had something there to shock, to confound with the depravity of the world. Now I think we've been immiserated by time.
Everything awaits. That's the problem. The past's comfort is its solidity, or so I thought, but I thought without looking to the future—I never really have, prefering to unfurl one strand of thought, pretending to stretch it out into time, too paralyzed by the innumerable options, all left to choice, and the innumerable enforcers of said choice who would, at my inaction, eventually "heave out a sigh" and tell me I must work or starve; I cannot continue my game of avoidance beneath the gaze of all these people; I must earn the right to continue, by swimming a little farther ahead of the tide, sacrificing for the Red Queen, and always fighting lest I slip into exiled sterility—and now I see the future is an infinite and grotesque bizzarerie that lies heavy on us all, pushing us back against the stone of what is done, demanding at the same time that more be laid. You must construct additional pylons. You must pick of my fruit and plant of its seeds or be shaken from the tree. You must, or be kicked from the swinging balustrade, fall into Heaven or Hell, either way cast out.
But I wanted to let you know I appreciate you even when I'm not obligated to. In the absence and void of memory you stir my mind, you ripple a bit on the surface of the lake, from whose soup a thought agglomerates, and the thought is of you. Or as much of you as of the lake, the cursed lake because it belongs to me and I can never give it away.
You shouldn't be concerned with what you should do, let alone what you should think. If the enormity of what's to come confounds you, remember, you'll only ever live one life at a time. And if that's too confining, the restraint too mind-boggling, the arbitrariness of the kind only a vengeful Demiurge could conjure, then you'll be pleased to know that by drawing inward, you can fold outward, and in this there is the peace of mutual contradiction. What is is not, and what will be already is. By recognizing this, you do what you never really will.
Anyway, I'm not sure how detailed you intended the thought experiment to be, but I think it actually demonstrates precisely why generalizations are useful/convenient/common and why humanity should strive to move beyond them by observing and then altering our environment. If you don't generalize, you're stuck judging on an individual basis, which isn't the best strategy; if you're anywhere but the most cosseted of modern societies, eventually you'll run into a situation you can't take the time to accumulate firsthand knowledge of, render judgments about, or act accordingly towards. Like the snake. You can judge everything in the forest on an individual level, but once you move from rocks, grass, and trees to snakes, you're doomed.
That said, imagine you had a theoretically perfect book on snakes. You wouldn't need to suffer a type I or II error; you could spend fundamentally the same amount of time (a moment to check the book) to yield a more accurate answer. Who knows? You could befriend a non-venomous snake and partner up with it for buddy-cop forest shenanigans. The book I'm talking about is the scientific method. Making observations about snakes, ensuring they stand to scrutiny, performing empirical validation, and circulating your findings will eventually ensure that, in generations' time, the latest edition of The Savvy Individualist's Snake Manual is just that extra bit closer to the aforementioned ideal. I think working towards that book is the project of human society and a just purpose for human technological innovation.
There's also a moral dimension to this. All of the above could just as well be about a log as a snake, since I'm just talking about the instrumental value of more accurate judgments (a partner for buddy-cop forest shenanigans). If the snake you're facing deserves any moral consideration of its own, then to judge it, or even act on a judgment, that's inaccurate is a moral failing. I'm not sure how to rectify this, because if the snake is venomous, it can very well kill you, and at that point self-defense (the easiest resolution to moral conflicts) may not be applicable. If you get a bit interdisciplinary, I believe that, if you're going to act towards something, you ought (i.e. have a duty) to have adjusted your Bayesian prior as much as possible. If that means you went from 100% sure the snake is venomous to 75%, that's still enough to justify shooting it with an arrow/etc. But to stop at that 100% value without even trying to collect and analyze evidence is negligent, and in the case of a snake you would've realized has a 10% chance of being venomous, murderous behavior.
My dearest friend,
How do you fare? I feel almost as though I hardly know you, of late. Yet it's a testament to your character I still write these letters. I jest, I jest! In seriousness, I do worry after your health. Were I less learned I might tell you to mind your humors. Regardless, I know the human condition is frail, moreso in these modern times; we are being punished by the Divine, I tell you. Just three days ago a young man was struck dead outside Montpelier's. Surely you remember the nights we wasted away in coffee and repartee there! I miss the revolutionary spirit of those days. Another story: just last night I attended a social function. Yes, how unusual of me! Your laughter aside, the music, if such it could truly be called, was infernal. I felt I had tripped to hell.
But what would two stories be without a third? Like the wings of a bird without its body, a fine chassis lifted into flight. I admit this to be a strained simile, but I use it purposefully, because the matter is avian in nature: my pigeon Jonathan. Again I can hear you laughing somehow through the page, but bear with me. I truly do believe these times are changing in a way beyond all mankind. Last week I sent Jonathan on missive to our friend the Burggraf—yes, that one. He is part of my inspiration as to this new paradigm of thinking; he has been agitating, lately, against the élite in Prussia. Like it were the 1780s again! Nevertheless, I'm getting ahead of myself. You'll learn of the Burggraf's intentions soon. The matter concerning Jonathan is that he returned rather late, perhaps three days or so beyond expectation, and oddly speckled. Naturally I thought it to be soot or somesuch and brushed at it, but it has yet to come off to this day.
Moreover, his behavior completely changed from then on. Where before he was content to lay in his cage, within a day he had destroyed it. I have no idea by what means! Do you remember our time in Virginia when we thought we had witnessed witchcraft? Rather, it was a so-called confidence scheme...ever so common in those United States, them being nigh-lawless and all! But this time it seemed like the work of a dark hex, I swear it, not just for the curling of the wrought-iron cage doors, nor the scattering of woodchips over every surface, but—take it on faith—a mysterious symbol etched into the bottom. Magick, I tell you.
Ever since, Jonathan has perched all around the house. I only come here in the summers, so it's not as though my precious materials have been endangered, though some have. Yet Jonathan's behavior has struck me. He has seemed much more intelligent, less bird than man, perhaps even beyond that, behind his heavy eyes. This has demonstrated itself in his disruption of my every activity. I was practicing my fencing technique (lest I grow dull...clever, eh?) and Jonathan rushed to bite my ankle as I brought up my forward guard. My épée nearly ran me through! Needless to say I wrangled that damn bird and nearly killed it! However, the loss was mine. Jonathan would go on to survive. And to write.
You see, ever since he broke free of his cage, Jonathan had entertained the habit of writing. I say it casually but know the revelation was initially very unwelcome. That anything but a human being ought command the King's English sent shudders up my spine once the clues grew too much to ignore: ink missing from my pots, bled through on my desk as though gripped by...talons, rather than fingers. The final straw was when I returned home early from an excursion and saw him writing a letter, by the loosest measure of the phrase! I rushed at him in madness and grabbed the parchment away. It was addressed, oddly enough, to our Burggraf. Perhaps he had been going through my earlier correspondence? Regardless, I couldn't glean much else from it. Not for failure of deduction—I am a master thereof, as you know. Jonathan swooped in and threw the letter into the fireplace. That was when I knew something had to be done.
I plotted, I tell you. Birds are naturally more agile than men, and in this case, seemingly fully possessed of tactics and strategy. I thought I was very clever and made a big bluster about heading off for a few days to study some new phenomenon: electricity, I believe it to be called. That night, I returned as silently as I could to head off Jonathan once and for all. This had begun to take a toll on my social availability, I must confess. But Jonathan was ready. As I slipped in the front door my eyes received their final vision.
In a flash of revelation it was spelled out: Jonathan, glorious bird, was destined to usurp mankind and rid the world of our desecrations; and I saw them all: the Moloch of technology, of intricate clockwork inlaid with blood, gemstones mined in squalor, misguided supremacy, the destruction of nature, the subjugation of everything for the veneration of nothing—the abandonment of God. Now, in this Age of Revolutions, a final revolution would reverberate like a smoothbore fired from a musket, gripped by talons gleaming with intelligence, at the head of yours truly.
As I closed my eyes to rest I saw something so peculiar I hardly felt the coming embrace of Death. Just as quickly as he had shot me, Jonathan was hunched over my desk again, writing in his curious way. I couldn't lift myself off the floor, so in prone form I asked Jonathan what he hoped to accomplish now. Because he, for all his intelligence, lacked the faculty of speech, I didn't receive an answer before I died. Had Jonathan written it out for me, it might have read oddly like this letter. In fact, all this letter would now lack is this humble admonition: watch the news from Prussia. A Burggraf there will help usher in the conquest of all humanity.
To see the stars, look to the skies. Ave avis!
It's stupid to attribute most, even many, advances of science to a specific or determined effort. There are too many moving pieces: people involved, coincidences (not just in terms of opportunity to experiment, but the results of those experiments. Turquoise, e.g.), random nonsense or noise; and it's probably not even possible to capture everything (Laplace's demon and stuff). Here I agree with Feyerabend. But I think that science is powerful precisely for that reason—and in fact, that reason is the very point of science. Everything must approach and circle around the ideal in our imperfect, entropic, and decaying world. In the case of science, its ideal must be approached this way. If it could be definitely stated it wouldn't be the goal of science. Even if lacking in explicit motivation or direction, humans are engines that fire in certain ways. We assume that objects have permanence, act according to laws and rules with their own permanence residing in their own domain, believe we can plumb the depths of the universe by experimenting and calculating on our sad little rock. The scientific method is not set in rock (or stone), but if it didn't incorporate the key advances of the Scientific Revolution, which had been and are being developed for all of human history: naturalism (those rules and laws), empiricism (the reason we can know anything at all from our vantage point of a blip on a blip on a blip), neutrality, logic (not just the deductive but the axiomatic, without which we'd be left to babble incoherently), induction, observation, and all the rest; it would not be science.
Doing is nearly undoing, and to the end we slough and stave, more, and more, and more before the sheer face of Death. At last we come upon him and he says, "Behind you you have bled and bled a trail to me, but all bleeding joins me the same; by what are you bled, and for what trail?" and the only answer is unanswerable, so we join Death in grateful silence.
Imagine a sculptor. As he creates his art, he executes upon his vision with the poise and grace necessary to draw an image from the clay. He works with it, not around it. When he truly does his best work, and brings his idea from his mind out into the world, he enters a state of complete clarity and resolution, making any number of precise movements, not thinking, letting his scalpel move his hand just as much as his hand is moving his scalpel. He is going with the Dao.
I wish hippies could come back.
I mean, we've already reached a point where no individual, through initiative alone, could reinvent (or circumvent) the technologies in use in Western society. Even a hundred years ago, if I were to fuck off to the woods and dedicate my life to study, I could probably mimic society well enough for my purposes—to live off the land and provide my sine quibus non (shelter, food, water, etc.) and avoid the government or anybody trying to Ruby Ridge me. Nowadays I'm not sure I could do the same. Even if I had multiple lifetimes to spend on the task. And we're approaching a point beyond even that, where with AI (and other things) we'll eventually have shot too far along our current trajectory, as a species, as humanity, and every member will be doomed by their membership. Just one man (Elon Musk) is going to beam EMFs across and through all of Earth to interface with potentially hundreds of millions of brain implants; this is expected to happen soon in real life. It's insane. So I wish, I just wish, we could see a movement believing in something so simple as the supremacy of love, or content to just do psychedelics and chill out. It seems there'll be no chilling out, for any of us, until the end cometh.
What happier times were those,
though I did not know them then;
nearer were my many woes,
yet I faced them with many a friend.
Dispassion is natural wont
for any, like I, without heart—
to renew that natural font
I must reunite what is apart.
When beauty makes restive way
it takes a toll on all men,
but 'tis the start of today;
that our sun will rise again.