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life more abundantly

I did research for this lj entry. and I found out that I am not sure I have much to add to the current scholarship on cafe gratitude except that I have walked past it many a time on my forays down to bryant street to make a left for the various things I go down bryant street for and I always thought oh funky little mission cafe I should stick my head in there for coffee sometime. I had no idea it was legendary. all you need to know about it can be gleaned from its yelp reviews which indicate that rugged individulistic meat eaters often have no sense of humor whatsoever and in fact will fly into indignant rage over a bit of sesame flour and a tomato.

it's true. go see. most interesting is how difficult it seems to be for many to order a plate of food by saying something like "I am Fabulous." really, it stirs the poor beleaguered, berated-by-their-superegos masses to great agitation to be asked to say something like that out loud, in public. I think the owners might have made their point right there.

the only other thing I feel I must point out is that it is more than slightly ironic that a company dedicated to spreading the gospel of abundance charges prices for its food that make it available only to the privileged few. on the other hand, a lot of work has to go into making raw nuts and vegetables resemble lasagne and chances are they pay their staff a living wage. if not, well then there's further irony to muddle the whole precept.

I must thank tahari and b-who-has-no-lj for treating me to lunch there. we were going to sit and learn visual basic together--that is, b was going to facilitate tahari's and my learning it and we did manage to learn a few general things about computer languages before deciding that the noise level was a bit high to make actually listening to what each other were saying too difficult, so we retired to a small outlying branch of the san francisco public library, guided there by the latest technology through neighborhoods that I had never even seen before.

san francisco isn't very big. I could hike the perimeter in a couple of days, crisscross it several times in a couple more, but for some reason I have worn trails into the sidewalks in a relatively well-bounded portion and never stray beyond, say, the haight to the west or twin peaks also to the west and the excelsior to a certain direction south although on the other side of town to the south lie more neighborhoods I have never seen but you get the general idea and in fact most of my walks take me either to the castro or downtown and then some variant on the long way home in order to make them worth the effort, cardiologically speaking.

but this drive took us through some very nice neighborhoods that will forever be beyond my means to live in but that's ok there are other neighborhoods and ways of living I just have to be a little more creative.

hopefully learning visual basic will help. the actual learning of the language would not make a good story in any way that I can think of that is if you cared about variables and constants and objects and classes and methods and operators and statements and things of this sort you'd know about them already and if you didn't care about them it would bore you silly to hear about them although I know I often go on about them at length here which might be why I am not an internet sensation yet.

the company though was delightful and we are going to make a weekly habit of this, working our way through the most elementary microsoft volume on the language and then perhaps moving on depending upon what moves each of us about this whole business of creating systems out of cryptic terms and having those systems do things like display a window and a button that says "click." honestly, successfully writing code to get the button out there and clickable is one of the most rewarding experiences I've had although microsoft makes it almost too easy with VB.NET and I almost miss the way in which you have to think your way through labyrinths of incrementing indexes and for() statements in order to, say, alternate the colors in your table through sage, wheat and sky. in VB.NET you choose the colors from a pop-up list and you're done.

also I'm very anal about my code and ASP.NET, which can generate HTML out of VB statements, sometimes does things differently from the way I'd do them but I've been assured that there are ways to get it to do what you want it to do instead of what it wants to do.

see there I've already wandered off into the nuts and bolts of this whole systems creation idiom that most people don't care much about.

systems, though, are pretty cool to think about. my friend felipe tried to turn us first year rhetoric students on to systems theory and the third body problem in which gravitational forces and their resulting effects can be calculated fairly easily if you have only two massive objects interacting with each other but if you throw in a third things get completely out of control and you are reduced to calculating percentages of probabilities instead of formulae for certainties and of course there is much there for a reader of postmodern whatever to get quite excited about.

for all I know they've solved the third body problem by now. I haven't kept up on the research. TOO DAMNED MUCH TO KEEP UP WITH!

here are some notes on Christopher Alexander's The Timeless Way of Building, which I bring up because he too is talking about systems and especially constructed systems and according to what sorts of principles things should be built. he's talking architecture, but of course one could take that as concretely or abstractly as one wished and one would still be well within the bounds of what Alexander is writing about.

"the quality that can't be named" is Alexander's stand in for that which has been named variously in western metaphysics the real, the unconscious, the divine, pre-linguistic experience, sense, and the approach of the other, among other things I am too tired to think up now. if you are lost now it's ok. so am I. so I copy and paste:

The quality which can't be named is approached from postmodern, textual, psychoanalytic and buddhist-inflected viewpoints and found to be that which is alive, at once divine and ordinary. There seems not much difference between what Alexander is writing about and the event of the approach of the other to the degree that it is other absolutely other to language and yet specific and punctual even as it touches the fringes of infinity. Whether the quality can be conceived as a process seems possibly betrayed in the title in which we have a 'way of building': the way is already the style of the process which is building, but the question of ethics has to arise not only at the interface of building and humanity, but at the frontier between building and place, between growth and homeostasis.

Thus the question is not only what systems of arranging space allow one to live without hindrance, but what sorts of livings without hindrance allow all other beings to live without hindrance. Of course the question becomes more complex when one factors in the trauma of the loss of language to name anything and the necessary result of being set adrift without foundations and in what circumstances is that desirable and in what circumstances is it entirely unethical. Of course we are writing about architecture here, so suffering is not perhaps uppermost in our minds, but the constant sprawl of suburbs into wilderness and the alienation between the two would seem antithetical to a way of building that "is nature" or is true to the internal forces which drive its necessary methods of being built.

Through page 84 there is no talk of the dissolution of the boundary between internal and external although other dichotomies have come under fire; authenticity seems the motivating factor and yet he speaks of the quality that can't be named as "egoless" and there has to be a point at which one asks whether the other absolutely other is also the dissolution of the boundary between life and death but not in such a way that violence then rampages those structures which life has built but in such a way that the structures themselves hang in balance with their own finitude and their own responsibility for not covering over the mortal wound that marks not only flesh but all that is. To be able to die is to be utterly exposed and the shivering of the whole delicate universe might be the silent plea to keep the ego and its imperialisms in check.

Is that enough? If we play at the boundary of life and death is it enough that it is our own death we assume, that we wear like a hairshirt, and not that which we inflict upon the other? Who has written that rule, that it must be this way? In the face of the other, the self is lost. If this is true, the other is also lost, and the point at which they meet is the point at which they are exposed to their common fate. This is where and why I worry that the play of the self in the field of foundationless signifiers forgets their concrete effects, which are the events that take place at the very surfaces upon which they play.

To build can be to kill. Humanity is not only vulnerable but ruthlessly exploitative as a defensive reaction against this vulnerability. This is what the imperialism of the ego and the doctrine of rugged individualism both espouse: a covering over of the traumatic mark left by the incursion of the other absolutely by writing the proper name across the wound as a kind of suture, but one which instead of simply healing the wound turns it into an aggressive metastasizing tumor: the power of knowledge and the god-given right to name everything in the universe.


huh. I used capital letters like I was expecting to use this somewhere or something.

in any case you know you've been in good company if you come home and write a novel.

there. how's that? if you're still with me, leave a comment guessing the number of comments this post will receive.


( 1 comment — Leave a comment )
Jul. 19th, 2007 05:53 am (UTC)
Yes, you have been in good company if you come home & write a novel.
( 1 comment — Leave a comment )


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