Nobody likes to admit their theories don’t work. This is one of the worst things a person could do, especially when they have been trying to build their theories for a very long time.
It would seem to me that our world is hostile to theories. That is, at least novel theories, theories that seek to find new terrain and see new things, create new things as well.
But I’ve been doing some digging and some thinking, and I’ve realized that my theoretical constructs fail because they are not robust enough and because the world, in my experience, can be not just unpredictable, but openly hostile towards the novel and the new, or the peculiar and different.
What exactly is my theoretical construct? Well, that’s a valid question. I’ll illustrate by talking about some fun things that happened yesterday.
I was wearing my sunglasses so I could shield myself from the blows of the world, and be more genuine. I ended up going to a bookstore, and talking with the guy at the front there. My theory was essentially, that I could gain some significant knowledge from this man (at least in that specific instant). Maybe he could point me in the direction of a good book. A book that would challenge me.
I kept asking him relevant questions, and he kept putting me off with his rhetoric. He clearly wasn’t interested in my words. He wasn’t interested in my ideas. To him, I was just a customer. He did some other mean things as well, which started to put me in a sour mood, though I tried indeed to keep myself calm and not let it bother me.
So I finally found a book, this one on divine things and scripture, looking inward, and I told him I’d come back for it.
In the meantime, I was carrying my toy dragon Spark with me, for comfort, and since I’d given away my healing stone.
I went to the art museum, had a decent conversation with the guy there, only to realize I wasn’t really having a decent conversation. It felt stilted. This was what I wanted to challenge: the stilted nature of our conversations in day-to-day life. Do we ever talk about anything besides what’s on the script? Apparently. It took the magic out of the exhibit A Strange Feeling.
Now, all of these may seem like little things, but they add up.
Anyway, to make a long story short, I went back to the book store, but stopped at an American Indian store first, because my interest was piqued. I’ve always been fascinated by this people, and I wanted to show that.
But it seems that that wasn’t going to happen: I wasn’t going to test my theory that I could be kind and give a group of oppressed people at least something good, something they deserve.
Because when I asked specific questions about Native American myth and the spiritual significance of horses, I got curt replies. Very short and abrupt, crisp and plain. I found out that they did indeed have a book on Native American myth, as I’d asked for, but I discovered this on my own. She didn’t point me in the direction. My feeling was she didn’t want to be open with me. I can’t hold that against her, when she was the worker and perhaps even owner of the store (educating a random person on Native American mythology isn’t part of the job description), but I was trying to do a good thing. I ended up feeling like a nuisance.
I went back to the bookstore, thinking of the failed encounter of the museum, thinking about the person that didn’t even let me hold the door open for them, all of this boiling over and adding up, and bought the book. But first I asked if they had anything on Native American mythology.
He curtly pointed to where they were, curtly replied.
And this did me in. I’d had enough at this point. The only theory I was testing was that the external world could be flexible and could show something less rigid than the formality of buying things, but clearly this theoretical construct was wrong. So, I went to the section, looked around for maybe a minute, and then said I’d had enough.
I went back up the front to purchase the book. I don’t remember exactly what I said, but I was pretty fucking pissed. So, I asked sarcastically what is the right way to buy a book? What better way could this process be streamlined and thus, boring and lacking connection and depth? Do I have my receipt? Check. Do I have my book? Check. Is that the right way to buy a book, just be a dick all the time?
I also told him I get sick of certain attitudes: That is, the attitude that everything must be strict and lack wonder, that all we do in this culture is buy stuff, we don’t ask insightful and intelligent questions.
Anyway, I left … only to realize five minutes later that I’d left Spark at the bookstore.
I went back, having no idea that the worker there had a grudge against me. I walked in, listening to music (Face Down by The Red Jumpsuit Apparatus, a song about having enough of mean people, of all things), and so I didn’t hear him, as I was just looking for my dragon. When I finally heard what he was saying, I realized he was telling me forcefully to leave the building, as he’d had enough of my attitude. He opened the door and I went out, but then I went back in, and told him in an assertive way, “I came back for my dragon,” which he’d put behind the counter and didn’t have any immediate desire to give back to me, it seemed.
He gave me the dragon, said the same thing from what I remember, and I told him, “You were rude too.”
And then I left.
Wow. A lot of tense moments, a lot of hopeless moments. What on earth was I testing?
I described some of my theories I was trying to test, one being, is the world really flexible and creative, but I’ll go a little more in depth that you’ve seen my (failed) theoretical constructs in practice.
I believe the world is open. I believe the world is open-ended. I think the possibilities are endless, if we just dial in.
But alas, society has sublimated my theories to obscure books that no one’s going to read.
Anyway, to be clear, I know that my theories are a muddle. They aren’t fully formed, because there is a lot of theory baggage and things I haven’t thought fully through yet. But when I study complexity theory, quantum mechanics, the philosophy of mind, Buddhism, etc. etc., I start to pick up that this world isn’t all it seems to be behind the appearances, that there is wonder. And I seek to test that, seek to essentially, see the deeper reality, whatever that may be.
But my theoretical construct fails, for reasons like the day I just described. Much of the social world that I encounter is institutional and unimaginative, uncreative. Which forces me to sublimate my theories all the time in my writing. Which I won’t do, I’ll keep exploring, my theories don’t work yet, but they will, but … yeah. It’s difficult.
Indeed, my construct fails because the world as I encounter it isn’t very flexible. It’s algorithmic, whereas mine is creative. We’re overly logical, whereas I seek to be metaphysical.
So where does this leave me? Well of course, I’m not going to give up. I keep testing my theories, but not just testing them of course, but also revising them and editing them, and trying again. I don’t give up. I keep up the effort.
I know my theories are good theories, and thus, this isn’t why they work. When we live in an apathetic culture, and when the novel is considered deviant and unwanted, and threatening, of course this is going to happen. But in complexity theory there is an idea that you must explore in terrains, but also much eventually exploit your knowledge and ideas, if you are to be successful and balanced. I like exploring, and I’m always exploring anyway, because I like it, but there are times where yes, I’d like to exploit what I have, what I know. But it seems that when I exploit what I know, my theories and my theoretical baggage, I get mixed to negative reviews and reactions. The world becomes unstable. This is unfortunate because I can see creativity in action. In fact, as a way of sublimating my impulses, I came to the conclusion that I can say whatever I want in public, using words and language. And it’s fun. But it’s also troubling, in that you never know when someone’s going to freak out at you or throw you in the hospital.
It’s discouraging for sure.
So that’s why my theoretical constructs fail: In my limited domain, possibility isn’t an option, until I can figure out how to see the deeper reality and challenge the external world back, and test my theories efficiently. I’m going to keep challenging all of this, as I must, I may, I might, I must, but it’s going to be difficult.
So wish me luck.