Starving Child in the Wilderness Revisited


Michael Stuart Kelly

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Deanna,

Are there any cliffs you can fall off?

In my story, the protagonist discovers the kid after being a crotchety jerk (with inner doubts) and publicly supporting a position that if he came across a child in the wilderness, he had the moral right to pass it by and let it starve even if he had plenty on him at the time. 

The antagonist (his girlfriend) is a sociopath who actually believes this and has been slowly getting disillusioned with his gradually developing squishiness on being a hardass sociopath (she calls it being true to his principles). He has become more interested in human nature as it is without any ideology.  Her view of selfishness and a Randian-like philosophy is not his. In other words, they have grown in different directions.

She has developed a need to prove to the world its hypocrisy wherever she finds it. That is a big component of what drives her.

One example is that she seduces the local preacher after listening to him preach about honesty. (She and Stretch are at Devil's Courthouse for a reason I'm not clear about yet. But they do interact with a local preacher.) 

And it's his baby she abducts and leaves on the path when she knows Stretch (her boyfriend) will go by it. Obviously, this will have to be at a time nobody but Stretch is going out there. In fact, at evening before night. (Ah... details... details... :) )

She wants to see if he will walk on by or be just one more hypocrite in the world. Of course, when he sees the child, he can't leave it there. As he starts to help the child, she shows herself. A huge argument ensues where she threatens to throw the child off the side of the mountain. And she does. Stretch follows grasping for the basket the baby is in and, as she tries to detain him, she falls off, too. They land on a ledge on the side of the cliff. Stretch and the baby almost fall off, but she falls to her death. Stretch has broken his leg.

Out there on the ledge as night envelops him, he himself has become a child in the wilderness. He protects the baby as best he can realizing that he and she will probably die. He can't move too much due to his broken leg. As the dawn comes up, he sees it differently than he has ever seen it. He lets go of all his previous thinking and just lives in that moment, using his own mind to see and think and feel.

For the first time, he looks and knows with certainty he belongs in the universe, even though he will probably die soon. And he fusses over the baby. He feels that he is part of all that, and has a transcendental experience of total serenity.

Then he gets rescued (the preacher with some of his peeps, who has his own emotional issues with this situation :) ) and eventually becomes the godfather of Melody (the child). But he stays crotchety, does not convert to Christianity, but becomes good friends with the preacher.

There's more, a lot more, in fact. For example, he's a whittler who is trying to make a small wood sculpture wedding a flame, an angel and a dollar sign and having one hell of a time with it. And more stuff.

But one of the reasons I did not write it at the time was simple. I could not create a character who would leave a child on a path in the wilderness without being a cardboard cutout of a Snidely Whiplash kind of villain. :) And I did not want to create a two-dimensional character. Also, for the life of me, I could not find a compelling desire for Stretch to get out on that damn path all by himself at evening. :) 

Most of these questions are now answered and I am working out the final outline. I believe the actual writing will not be all that difficult since I have learned a hell of a lot about style, reader emotions,  metaphors, wedding the familiar with the new, surprise, anticipation, and so on over the years.

Anyway, do you know of some little trodden path around there? Some offshoot? One with a cliff where a person can throw a baby off of, but with a ledge on the side to catch it? :) 

I'm not adverse to making something up, but it would be nice if it were real.

(btw - Thanks for your interest. I normally don't put my brainstorming out in public.) 

Michael

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6 hours ago, Jules Troy said:

Fatten that big juicy baby up, they taste better, just ask the witch from Hansel and Gretel!

"Come kiddies! Let's go eat the goodies, the goodies, the goodies..."
"Da, is good, ya!)

("Hansel? HANSEL?")

 

("Eh, you're mother rides a vacuum cleaner!")

 

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On 8/7/2007 at 7:08 AM, Michael Stuart Kelly said:

Starving Child in the Wilderness Revisited

There is a debate going on at RoR about a photograph that was posted—one highly pertinent to the starving child in the wilderness episode I was engaged in a while back. I continue to be disturbed about this—not about the issue so much as about the fact that nobody in Objectivism-land has any real answer, but everybody has enough of one to hurl insults at each other. It bothers the hell out of me that the role and rights of children are not well-defined in Objectivism.

First the photo, then some background, then some thoughts.

http://i28.photobucket.com/albums/c242/objectivistliving/Vulturewanting_a_meal.jpg

This photograph was taken in 1993 in Sudan by a photographer named Kevin Carter. It was first published by the New York Times, then all over the world. Carter won a Pulitzer Prize for it in 1994. He also took his own life at 33 years old in 1994. In 2004 an HBO Documentary directed by Dan Krauss of Carter's life was filmed: The Death of Kevin Carter - Casualty of the Bang Bang Club. The film won several prizes but was only nominated for an Academy Award in 2006 (for some reason).

http://i28.photobucket.com/albums/c242/objectivistliving/KevinCarterAtWork.jpg

This is a famous picture of Kevin Carter at work.

Carter received a great deal of criticism at the time of the vulture photo for not putting down the camera and helping the girl. Guilt over this is usually given as one of the reasons for his suicide. I looked into it and the story is quite a bit more complicated than that. Here is a Time Magazine article (Sept. 12, 1994), The Life and Death of Kevin Carter by Scott MacLeod, that gives greater perspective. There is a series of articles here, The Ultimate in Unfair. The Time article is included and so is another intriguing one, "The Atrocity Exhibition: A War Fueled by Imagery" by Charles Paul Freund in Reason, June 1999. The quote below from that article sheds some light on the moral issue.

Let's put this in a more visual sense. Below are a couple of photos from Carter's daily fare in Sudan:

http://i28.photobucket.com/albums/c242/objectivistliving/KevinCarterstarving-boy.jpg

http://i28.photobucket.com/albums/c242/objectivistliving/KevinCarterchild.jpg

What do you do when there are so many of them? Here is an experimental video on You Tube that more or less gives a depiction of the inner torment of such a photographer:

. Also, if anyone is interested in seeing what Carter looked and sounded like, here is another video on You Tube:

.

Moral considerations and some things that bother me

The problem that most irks me on the discussion of this affair is the charge that people let their emotions override their philosophical principles. Added to that, some self-proclaimed custodians of Objectivism claim that any thought of the child's welfare on a philosophical level is a form of altruism (in the Compte sense). That is pure bunk.

 

Hey, I knew Kevin Carter. Though not as well as Ken Oostebroek the unofficial leader of the "Bang Bang Club". (Shot dead in a local township skirmish). Adrenaline junkies they all seemed to be to me and by reputation, also by his admission heavily into cocaine. A photojournalist always will get into those dilemmas: be a pro and get the pic - or get involved and try rescue someone; I don't think there's a hard and fast moral answer, sometimes one can do something in the moment and does so. Maybe times one can do both. In 'normal' circumstances, it's the sacrificial altruists who will turn inhumane, and altruism which engenders dehumunization. An altruist who could walk past an abandoned child. The same of the person who abandoned it. Never the rationally selfish, aware of value in human life and its proper state.

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Tony,

I barely remember writing that.

But I am very happy with my phrase "self-proclaimed custodians of Objectivism."

:) 

On the issue itself, it took a long time, but I finally came to realize that empathy is not altruism. Empathy is an element of human nature and prompts oxytocin in the brain among other things. Saying empathy is evil is like saying huger is evil. They are just parts of the nature.

Altruism is a philosophical construct that uses empathy to blank out other parts of human nature and justify enslavement.

Treating one as the other is a fundamental mistake I see all the time in O-Land. And I believe this is Rand's doing. In order to cut through the altruistic philosophical bullshit in the culture while she was alive, she had to take a color picture and make it black-and-white in order to make the real issue stand out. After all, she saw the country she lived in change from one form of dictatorship to another based on people not seeing the issue.

In short, there is nothing wrong with having and feeling empathy. There is everything wrong with using altruism as an intellectual weapon to rule others.

Just like there is nothing wrong with selfishness as a trait of nature. There is everything wrong with using an intellectual construct based on selfishness to blank out parts of human nature and enslave and cause harm to others.

Rand did not do that (except in a few times, starting with her callousness to Frank, Nathaniel and Barbara--and we all saw how that turned out :) ), but way too many of her followers do. And they call it virtue.

That's what my whole problem was back in the day when we discussed the starving child in the wilderness. It's wrong not to feed starving babies if one can. It's just plain wrong. Hell, the brains of all higher life forms respond to calls of distress within their own species. Often, they even respond to calls of distress in other species.

But it's also wrong to force people to be human in order to turn that into a bait-and-switch to enslave them.

Back then I didn't have the words for this, nor even thought out ideas. Now I do.

We are human beings and philosophy must stem from that. We are not individual blobs without a species or context to be formed by ideological rules. Such rules and principles are for parts of living, not elements to replace human nature.

Therein lies wisdom for me. And that's exactly how I use Objectivism.

Michael

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An added thought. I obviously dealt with the concepts in my previous post. We can call them what we want. The concepts don't change.

But there are semantics galore, especially in the biological use of the term "altruism." And that is a label problem, not a conceptual one.

One of my favorite semantic muddles with altruism is by William Flesch in a book called Comeuppance. He coined the phrase "altruistic punishment" to essentially signify heroes kicking the asses of bad guys--when the heroes are not involved with the villains or victims. In Flesch's view, the heroes have nothing to gain and everything to lose, thus their acts are "altruistic." 

I take a different view since I hold we all have individual vales and species values. What Flesch refers to as altruistic is actually a group value, that is at root species value, like justice. (Note that justice does not exist in reality for an individual stranded on a desert island--it only exists as an idea in that context. Justice only comes into existence as lived reality when another human comes into the situation.) But that is a long discussion for a different context.

Still, it's all about human nature.

Michael

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22 hours ago, Michael Stuart Kelly said:

Tony,

I barely remember writing that.

But I am very happy with my phrase "self-proclaimed custodians of Objectivism."

:) 

On the issue itself, it took a long time, but I finally came to realize that empathy is not altruism. Empathy is an element of human nature and prompts oxytocin in the brain among other things. Saying empathy is evil is like saying huger is evil. They are just parts of the nature.

Altruism is a philosophical construct that uses empathy to blank out other parts of human nature and justify enslavement.

Treating one as the other is a fundamental mistake I see all the time in O-Land. And I believe this is Rand's doing. In order to cut through the altruistic philosophical bullshit in the culture while she was alive, she had to take a color picture and make it black-and-white in order to make the real issue stand out. After all, she saw the country she lived in change from one form of dictatorship to another based on people not seeing the issue.

In short, there is nothing wrong with having and feeling empathy. There is everything wrong with using altruism as an intellectual weapon to rule others.

Just like there is nothing wrong with selfishness as a trait of nature. There is everything wrong with using an intellectual construct based on selfishness to blank out parts of human nature and enslave and cause harm to others.

Rand did not do that (except in a few times, starting with her callousness to Frank, Nathaniel and Barbara--and we all saw how that turned out :) ), but way too many of her followers do. And they call it virtue.

That's what my whole problem was back in the day when we discussed the starving child in the wilderness. It's wrong not to feed starving babies if one can. It's just plain wrong. Hell, the brains of all higher life forms respond to calls of distress within their own species. Often, they even respond to calls of distress in other species.

But it's also wrong to force people to be human in order to turn that into a bait-and-switch to enslave them.

Back then I didn't have the words for this, nor even thought out ideas. Now I do.

We are human beings and philosophy must stem from that. We are not individual blobs without a species or context to be formed by ideological rules. Such rules and principles are for parts of living, not elements to replace human nature.

Therein lies wisdom for me. And that's exactly how I use Objectivism.

Michael

Michael, I'd say altruism "begins at home", so to speak. Only one element is the sacrifice of others to oneself (e.g. enslavement), the initial one that kick-starts the process is "self-abnegation". Self-sacrifice. Negating - everything one is as human and thinking animal - everything one knows, values, physically feels and has emotions of - or 'the self'. That's first cause of the effect of enslaving others, then, to negate their humanity also.

A long consideration I've had is that the longevity of altruistic self-sacrifice is pre-intellectual, simply owed to the basic pleasure one normally experiences when helping out someone on certain occasions- which come up not that frequently in normal life. (Rand alluded to that pleasure also, when someone goes on their independent way after aiding them). Why it's pleasurable is because you saw and evaluated their plight, acted freely without thought of reward and reciprocation, and now see the other person back on their feet again as is their proper condition - and most of all, knowing that neither of you have any further obligations to one another. Neither owns the other. There is no duty and co-dependence, just a benevolent interaction. All great so far. It felt good to rescue that wilderness child and eventually see him/her thrive. It could not have happened without your intervention. But the choice to act was not for the emotions it extracted, ( I guess as a secondary, as Rand would say) - it was all about the child and its sorry state, wrt your life values that instantly prompted the emotions. 

When the pleasure becomes a need, an addiction, and tied to a moral duty is where the problems begin. I mentioned the adrenaline junkies that everyone knows something about. Naturally, adrenaline flows when one sees/hears one is in danger (etc), all the senses are heightened unbelievably in readiness and self-protection, "feeling alive" - as is said. Place yourself deliberately in constant danger in order to artificially create that incredible high, and it's quite certain that one will get addicted to the adrenaline (and need further drugs to maintain/come down from). I recall now that rush in hazardous situations on the job, though didn't get as carried away as those other guys were.

I must surmise that anyone can also be an oxytocin junky.  Again, by forcing the situations to arise, the need grows for more. The brain slows down the supply when over-activated too often. Which translates to more sorry victims found or supplied, regularly. Which, psychologically, must at some point follow with disdain and contempt for, rather than empathy with and benevolence for the general 'other', humankind. Then one probably stops feeling anything for anyone, the "dehumanizing". Examples I've known with several  individuals, (who in compensation, learn to socially "fake it" to others, making an ostentatious display of a 'compassion' they can't feel any more). An extremely unhealthy state for most people, who'd normally back off before that point - except - that they are additionally assured that living for the other over self is "being moral". Now they are dragged into the process, morally and quasi-pleasurably. Feel good - do good. Notice how the cancelers and social justice wokists etc., get their kicks from finding or inventing more victims and punishing their so-called persecutors. They have an insatiable need for human misery. Looks like the cause of the sorry state we can see around us.

 

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Tony,

There is an element you didn't mention (as I believe you haven't seen it in full yet), but I don't want to discuss it within this context. I'll just mention it, though, to not be a jerk and keep everyone in suspense. :) 

The response to distress is not related to reason. It is an end in itself just like eating is to quell hunger. It is part of our nature. It's pre-wired. So any pleasure coming from that comes from the pre-wired part of our brains.

Of course one can become addicted to an excess of that just like one can become addicted to an excess of food. But in the big picture of human nature, this is only about 5% of the story.

This is a long topic, though, so I prefer to leave that for another time. 

In the current context, you said: "Notice how the cancelers and social justice wokists etc., get their kicks from finding or inventing more victims and punishing their so-called persecutors. They have an insatiable need for human misery. Looks like the cause of the sorry state we can see around us."

Amen.

And there's another point. Even though they preach altruism (as philosophy), these are some of the most uncharitable people on earth. (Definitely not empathetic.) This has been proven over and over through psychological studies, normal statistics, charity surveys, etc.

With respect to altruism, the neurochemical for these assholes is not oxytocin. Their underlying emotion is not warm and cuddly when they think about the poor or the helpless.

It's more in the area of serotonin mixed with cortisol and other juices, that is feeling superior to others and being aggressive about it. :) Or just plain old outrage (where cortisol and some other neurochemicals go through the roof).

Reason is the last thing on their minds when they look at others. Also, these are not happy people. They never will be.

And if they happen to be Alec Baldwin, they will go out, shoot someone, then blame it on others. Hell, if that dude came across a starving baby in the wilderness and there was no one around or no one to later applaud him if he helped (that is to see him virtue-signal), that dude would probably shoot the damn baby to get rid of the inconvenience. :) 

Michael

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21 hours ago, Michael Stuart Kelly said:

One of my favorite semantic muddles with altruism is by William Flesch in a book called Comeuppance. He coined the phrase "altruistic punishment" to essentially signify heroes kicking the asses of bad guys--when the heroes are not involved with the villains or victims. In Flesch's view, the heroes have nothing to gain and everything to lose, thus their acts are "altruistic." 

Comeuppance looks like a good, deep read.  The author has made a fair bit of the book's front matter viewable at Amazon.

In the LA Review of Books in 2012, Flesch reviews "Pathological Altruism."

Paradoxes of Altruism in the Digital Age

(emphases added)

Quote

[..] 

One contributor to the book, Bernard Berofsky, sounds just like this when he suggests the following about altruism and the ego:

Suppose that the psychological egoist is right. We are always moved by self-interest, even if self-interest leads us to form altruistic intentions, intentions to help others, viewed as means to promote our own self-interest. Thus, in a deep sense, there is no altruism.

Berofsky is skeptical of genuine altruism because of something called “kin-selection.” The idea, developed by William D. Hamilton, George R. Price and Robert Trivers and popularized by Richard Dawkins in his book The Selfish Gene, takes genes, not organisms, as the crucial agents behind biological behavior. Only those genes survive that either contribute to their own survival or at least don’t significantly handicap the prospects for their own survival in a brutally competitive natural environment. Altruism seems by definition to represent a drag on fitness, a serious handicap in the competition to survive and reproduce, and so altruistic genes won’t survive in the long run. Since, according to selfish gene theory, an organism (like you and me) is just a gene’s way of making another gene, what organisms do will always tend to benefit their own genes. Laying down your life for your child, for example, benefits half your genes. Parental self-sacrifice is then ultimately self-serving, from the point of view of the genes disposing you to self-sacrifice. You may feel altruistic, but your behavior is at bottom governed by the selfishness of your genes.

[...]

Why is correction of others, even of our bitterest enemies, so important to us? Why do we want them to see that they’re wrong? Why do we jeer at them instead of being coldly indifferent to them? How is our bitter, even murderous hatred of another a strange and perhaps pathological but still genuine sign of the respect we owe that other person as a human being? What makes our enmity towards that person so bitter, an emotion to be felt rather than merely a problem to be solved? Human cooperation requires not only empathy but an expectation of empathy from others. We become indignant when we feel that they are not meeting that expectation.

 

Altruistic punishment is always in one way or another punishment of a failure of another’s empathy. I am baffled by your indifference to the wrong you are making me suffer (or making another suffer). I am confronted with a contradiction in terms when I attempt to empathize with your refusal to empathize, or (as is more generally the case) when I attempt to empathize with the mistaken modes of your empathy. Empathy is one of the most absolute human experiences, rather than the second-order experience it has too often been analyzed as being. “I should even die with pity to see another thus,” the suffering and broken King Lear complains, as though pity is a deeper, more powerful emotion than the thing it pities, and as though he needs the pity of others even more than he needs not to feel the grief he is feeling. He survives his grief, but he would not survive grief for another who is feeling what he is feeling.

 

 

 

 

 

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On 10/28/2021 at 2:01 AM, Michael Stuart Kelly said:

Tony,

There is an element you didn't mention (as I believe you haven't seen it in full yet), but I don't want to discuss it within this context. I'll just mention it, though, to not be a jerk and keep everyone in suspense. :) 

The response to distress is not related to reason. It is an end in itself just like eating is to quell hunger. It is part of our nature. It's pre-wired. So any pleasure coming from that comes from the pre-wired part of our brains.

Of course one can become addicted to an excess of that just like one can become addicted to an excess of food. But in the big picture of human nature, this is only about 5% of the story.

This is a long topic, though, so I prefer to leave that for another time. 

In the current context, you said: "Notice how the cancelers and social justice wokists etc., get their kicks from finding or inventing more victims and punishing their so-called persecutors. They have an insatiable need for human misery. Looks like the cause of the sorry state we can see around us."

Amen.

And there's another point. Even though they preach altruism (as philosophy), these are some of the most uncharitable people on earth. (Definitely not empathetic.) This has been proven over and over through psychological studies, normal statistics, charity surveys, etc.

With respect to altruism, the neurochemical for these assholes is not oxytocin. Their underlying emotion is not warm and cuddly when they think about the poor or the helpless.

It's more in the area of serotonin mixed with cortisol and other juices, that is feeling superior to others and being aggressive about it. :) Or just plain old outrage (where cortisol and some other neurochemicals go through the roof).

Reason is the last thing on their minds when they look at others. Also, these are not happy people. They never will be.

And if they happen to be Alec Baldwin, they will go out, shoot someone, then blame it on others. Hell, if that dude came across a starving baby in the wilderness and there was no one around or no one to later applaud him if he helped (that is to see him virtue-signal), that dude would probably shoot the damn baby to get rid of the inconvenience. :) 

Michael

Michael, This is something I enjoy discussing, nevermind we've been round and round before. i try to think about what ~the purpose~ of those bodily responses is; obviously, one would think, they are 'designed' (by evolution) for the survival merit of the individual. Of the species? I am not so sure.

If the individual survives, when many do - so does the species, after all.

Of course I'm in agreement with AR on the nature of altruism, not to be confused with kindness, as commonly believed. Where there's altruism and an altruist, can't coexist long those good things, compassion and benevolence and so on (however she put this). Psychologically, I think it is, one's human nature resists one doing anything without involving free will, or contrary to one's choice, which means without recognizing some *value* in an act. That is Duty. Dutifulness and obligations inevitably lead to resentment. "What do ~I~ get out of this?!" And disdain - "Humans are an inferior lot to be so needing of me, so dependent on others".

Again from Rand, altruism must logically result in: a) self- sacrifice, or b) sacrificing others. ( c. both alternately).

Because "the 'other's" importance above oneself, has never been challenged - explicitly - people will go on acting that way and angrily or meekly accept the doctrine as the cost they pay for living.

I was imagining walking through a wilderness and coming across a baby. Let's assume I have no concept of "child", never seen one and never heard about them and their vulnerability. It could appear like an alien species. Let's assume it suddenly let out a huge squall. I would leap away in fear. This thing is angry, sounds and looks fierce. Who knows what it might do?

But over there, is this idyllic scene of another kind of being frolicking with little beings, which give me emotions of warmth and empathy. I have to go and join them. Presume again that I have no concept of "Bear". A brown bear and her cubs ... I won't be heard from again.

An illustration of reason (sense-perception, conceptualism) and one's conscious (and subconscious) "value-judgments" being the essential prerequisite of emotions: critically, of *which* emotion in a circumstance. We have many, and many degrees of their intensity. One sees (etc.) some entity or situation, and identifies what it is and its value/disvalue. The self-constructed, self-programmed, mental-emotional state is what then sparks off the necessary and appropriate brain chemicals which set off physiological responses, which alert the brain-body to potential harm or an anticipation of pleasure. That this process happens in a flash and automatically, might give the impression of the emotions 'knowing' - before, or despite one's mind. But that causality is all wrong I think. There isn't inherent knowledge, one has to know something in order to know more, and emotions (very) simply ¬track¬ one's induced and learned knowledge. You have to know in order to care, briefly.

 

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52 minutes ago, Michael Stuart Kelly said:

Tony,

But the reverse is true also.

Can you, Tony the human, survive if the human species goes extinct?

:) 

It's not either-or. It's both.

Michael

It isn't about a select individual, but: if "the individual" has his survival mechanisms built-in as one sees he does, 10, 100 or a hundred million individuals can survive, and better than "survive". (In unforced co-operation, with the benefit of each one the primary).

Obviously, *I* would not exist without the human species having come into existence, and wouldn't exist if it went out any time soon.

 

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4 minutes ago, anthony said:

Obviously, *I* would not exist without the human species having come into existence, and wouldn't exist if it went out.

Tony,

Do you know how many Objectivists don't believe that in their hearts?

Oodles.

They say they believe it when shown (because they kinda have to), but deep down, it just doesn't grok.

:)

Seriously. I've had people tell me the human species doesn't exist. The only thing for them that exists is individual humans. They can't see it's both, not either-or.

(btw - That's the power of core story. It turns off reason and observation when an individual leaves no path open to challenge it.)

Michael

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19 minutes ago, Michael Stuart Kelly said:

Tony,

Do you know how many Objectivists don't believe that in their hearts?

Oodles.

They say they believe it when shown (because they kinda have to), but deep down, it just doesn't grok.

:)

Seriously. I've had people tell me the human species doesn't exist. The only thing for them that exists is individual humans. They can't see it's both, not either-or.

(btw - That's the power of core story. It turns off reason and observation when an individual leaves no path open to challenge it.)

Michael

Surprising, Michael. Objectivists understand the primacy of existence better than any, I thought.

That doesn't place "the species", the natural requisite for one's own life, to be the prime ¬value¬ one must hold, but existence-wise it sure came first and last.

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Just now, anthony said:

... to be the prime ¬value¬...

Tony,

This goes back to the goal and standard discussions that never end in O-Land. (Is one's own life a goal as value or a standard of value?)

I see all this in a much simpler form.

One cannot value anything, not even a self or a species, if one does not exist.

Only living things value.

:)

So existence is not a value. Metaphysically, it's everything. Epistemologically, it's an identification, not a value.

In value terms, I suppose one could say it's the whole enchilada. But that is, in my mind, misidentifying the issue. That's like saying a human is a type of white person. That doesn't make any sense. It's the contrary. A white person is a type of human.

So existence is not a type of value. A value is a type of existence.

Without existence, there is no value.

(This is basic hierarchical knowledge 101.)

Michael

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On 10/29/2021 at 11:18 PM, Michael Stuart Kelly said:

Tony,

This goes back to the goal and standard discussions that never end in O-Land. (Is one's own life a goal as value or a standard of value?)

I see all this in a much simpler form.

One cannot value anything, not even a self or a species, if one does not exist.

 

Michael

Well, you are pointing to existence preceding man's existence/nature (his metaphysics), which in turn, precedes each individual's (concrete) life. Fine by me.

And of course: Man's existence is the unique necessity of, source of and rationale for, "value".

Man's "nature" is what needs to be lived up to (You know - by the individual's volitional cognition, virtues, values, choices, actions) -

-and that gives necessary cause for Rand's abstraction, "man's life"- one's *standard* of value; the metaphysical standard for each to refer to and measure by, epistemologically. A life fitting to man's nature. Aiming for and maintaining that ~standard~ of value is the precondition for him placing supreme objective value in his own life. Lacking this objective standard as his goal and achievement, one's claim to selfishness/egoism would be subjective and baseless. So it renders as meaningless, self-referencing and self-contradictory to assert one's own life as the 'standard' of value (while, simultaneously also one's *highest value*). According to what standard of reality...?

Or: Anything I choose and do is evidently right and good because my life is the referent of right and good!

 

 

 

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  • 7 months later...
On 10/25/2021 at 12:28 PM, Michael Stuart Kelly said:

Are there any cliffs you can fall off?

In my story, the protagonist discovers the kid after being a crotchety jerk (with inner doubts) and publicly supporting a position that if he came across a child in the wilderness, he had the moral right to pass it by and let it starve even if he had plenty on him at the time. 

Devil's Courthouse "virtual hike" in a 360° YouTube video:

 

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William,

Thank you very much.

I love the name Devil's Courthouse, but I am going to have to invent a place for what I have in mind. I need a longer, more isolated path and places to fall off it. The video you posted made that clear to me.

I will share something with you because you made this gesture. I write everyday now in my journal. I am going through a system called "Method Writing" by Jack Grapes and I wonder where this has been all my life. I am practicing how to write like I speak. It's hard, too. Formal writing style is so much a part of me, it's like second nature. 

For instance, I could have written the first sentence of the last paragraph as follows: "Because you made this gesture, I will share something with you."

That's not a bad sentence and it is in the correct written order (dealing with you first, then me), but I just don't talk like that. I don't think anybody does. I speak like this: "I will share something with you because you made this gesture."

I'm learning how to do both from Jack. One is not better than the other. Each has its place. But now my awareness is open to the difference and I am writing in my speaking voice every day just like I used to practice scales on my trombone. It's a wonderful feeling to be in the saddle again and know what the hell I am doing.

 

On another note, earlier today (yesterday to be technical) I finished reading a book called "The Defining Moment" by Chris and Kathy Riley. The book also opened my mind in a way I did not expect.

A defining moment divides the life of a person (or a fictional character) into before and after. A fundamental change happens due to this defining moment, which can be a trauma, a life-changing decision, a spiritual revelation, a break-up of a relationship, a huge loss or gain, all kinds of things. The important part is the person was one way before the defining moment and is different after it.

Obviously, people have many defining moments in their lives, but a short story should have only one or very few at most. (A novel can have many.)

 

With "Melody's Edge," I was stuck, but at least I had worked my way to include a kind of transcendence I had not contemplated before. Now I want a feeling of transcendence in every story I write. Rand certainly used it. For example, Dagny's response to Richard Halley's music or the first John Galt Line run. 

I was making a critical error, though. I wanted the moment of transcendence to be a kind of catalyst. It isn't. Transcendence in my meaning is a reward. (God, I am stupid. But I keep plugging and eventually get it right.) 

As an aside, I never read Kant directly before. I relied on Rand's opinion of his work. But when I opened the Table of Contents of The Critique of Pure Reason, lo and behold, the word transcendence is all over the place. I think I'm going to get me some Kant, by God. I still may disagree, but I've got to see what he says.

Does he mean transcendence as a feeling of elevation and expanded awareness as I do, or is he talking about a metaphysical realm where no feeling exists? I'm going to let him tell me. No more relying on others. I am going to read this sucker, and the Critique of Pure Judgment myself, even if I have to drink gallons of coffee just to stay awake.

 

Now for a different kind of moment. I am going to do something right now and I hope I will not regret it. I will quote myself from my journal earlier today (yesterday to be technical). These journal entries are not for public consumption and they are not polished. Like I said, they are like practicing scales on my trombone back when I played.

This is not the full page, only the part that is relevant to what we are talking about.

Quote

... as I sat down, I had to fire up Scrivener and get started on this journal entry. I felt compelled to. This thing is exiting me.

So what is lighting the fire under my butt right now? Well, I finished “The Defining Moment.” And that led me to finally understand the short story form I have been seeking all my life.

I have to get this down while I am thinking about it, but I doubt I would ever forget it. Like it or not, this epiphany is a defining moment in itself for me. 

I always learned short story structure in terms of the different parts like exposition, climax, and so on. Or a spine like one day something happened, and because of that this thing happened, and because of that this other thing happened, and because of that this other thing happened, until one day this new thing happened that changed things. And ever since then…

I could do this on command, but they did not fulfill me as a writer. But now, if I include a defining moment as the motor of my story, I can use any of these techniques and all will be good.

With a defining moment, I see a before part, the moment part, and the after part. Also there are reactions from the protagonist and others in the story. Finally, there is the impact the defining moment has on the situation, not just the character.

As with all fiction, these do not have to be told in chronological order. But, at my level of writing right now, I think it will be a good idea to keep to chronological order for a few stories.

Like I said, I believe this epiphany is dividing my life into a confused author of fiction before to a productive one after.

Will I finally finish Melody’s Edge? I believe I will. I can finally see the end of the process in my mind’s eye, even though I still can’t see the events. I have decided on one thing, though. This will be a short story, not a novel. 

I was going to turn it into a novel as a cop-out on the difficulty I was having. Back when I projected this story, some 15 years ago, I made a promise to myself to not write or publish anything until I could get how to do story right. As the poet said, fifteen years is a long time… But now I’ve got it down.

Later I have to come up with Hew’s defining moment and see where his experience on the ledge and spiritual experience of transcendence fits in, but now I know what to look for. God, what relief!

 

Don't you find it odd that I wrote that on the same day, out of nowhere, you posted this video?

btw - I keep changing the name of the protagonist. Right now it's Hew (he does wood sculptures). Before it was Stretch. 

Anyway, enough of that. 

I gave you a peak backstage, and note, I don't give anyone a peak backstage. But you earned it with that video.

Once again, thank you.

Michael

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I want to leave this link here for my own convenience later.

Last night as I was going to sleep, I remembered a story I had written several years ago. When I woke up, it occurred to me that my description of short story in my journal entry is exactly what I did: a defining moment with before, the moment, and after, and there were reactions and a moment of transcendence.

The name of the story is Lethal Guilt and I wrote it back in 2011.

I wish I could say I followed my inner star and so on, but the truth is I didn't have a clue about what I was doing. I only knew what I didn't want back then. That's why I never wrote another one like that. I couldn't. That thing came out in one quick session. I revised it for style, but I did not change the core or the events. I wouldn't have known why or how anyway.

But I'm happy with myself that I did that. I was glimpsing my future and flying by the seat of my pants, going on nothing but raw feeling.

And I pulled it off.

Not bad...

:)

(As an aside, I am allowing myself to use clichés like "didn't have a clue" and "flying by the seat of my pants" and so on. I'm in "write like I speak" mode. I'm not aiming at anything higher in this post. If I were, I would change the clichés to something more colorful, maybe theme-related, with irony and so on. But that is not my main interest right now. Nailing the core is the good stuff. The rest is polish.

An example. Here is how I would make such a change with the last two sentences. I'm tinkering with the motor right now. The rest is body work and the paint job. Then I would go back and see if I could seed in subtle references to a motor vehicle as a metaphor during the text.)

Michael

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Posted (edited)

I can't remember if it was Michael who introduced me to Descript. It has some amazing features. Here is an example.  On desktop Twitter the link to Descript deploys the entire 'composition,' which here contains Michael's text rendered to speech ("Hopeful" Guy voice from Blakify), with a final approach to an airport, plus a waveform on top.  I am considering doing a version of the voice reciting in Brazilian Portuguese, but I am not smart enough to correct the translation.

I think I have posted this before. All  things considered I am more likely to hike to the Devil's Courthouse than I am to hike our stand-out local mountain, Mount Cheam.

This video was quite the experience the first time I viewed it (it's from 2018, a promo for the folks' abilities to deliver 3D visual pow).

 

My favourite local mountain is the one with fangs, Mount Slesse. A site of legend and tragedy. 

Mt-Slesse-Image-800x313.gif

 

Edited by william.scherk
Lard the goose
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