“Let’s just say I was testing the bounds of reality. I was curious to see what would happen. That’s all it was: just curiosity.” Jim Morrison
Curiosity is the coolest mindset you can have. You don’t need mental programming, therapy, upgrading, shifting down, or an article about how to wash your hands.
You need curiosity — it’ll cure all your boredom, pull you away from the screen, make you look out your back window and wish you were outside playing in the big wide world of reality.
I woke up this morning at 13.30, this afternoon, I went to bed last night at 05.30 am, today.
Coffee and Cigarettes
When I sat drinking my coffee I saw an article feed in an email. I clicked on a headline from Remington Write, “Let’s Pretend we’re All in Second Grade”, I like Remington Write, her writing, her thoughts. I get a feeling she’s a person who wants to get on with being a human being, an artist, a person who spent a lifetime honing the art of curiosity, and then the damned algorithms came along, had babies and produced the monster we know as Artificial Intelligence.
She sees this, and uses her curiosity to fight the fire-breathing dragon on the mountain. The dragon is out to kill curiosity. It’ll beguile you and keep you locked into a screen that promises rewards. Just keep clicking through, skimming articles that you don’t really want to read — just want for the reward of a return reader. Then they’ll skim your article for you, and clap. Tiring, not inspiring.
I’d love to go to the mountain and kill the dragon. But you know, curiosity killed the cat, and I’m not Hercules.
It took a while before local councillors convinced the retired Hercules that the town’s people needed his help. He’d finished fighting monsters, and was too busy staying home experimenting with his feminine side — a part of the story that classicists like to leave out.
Hercules found joy in making cupcakes and tea for his wife, wearing her clothing, and watching baseball in the evenings while wearing pink fluffy slippers.
For some reason, the orthodox view of classicism couldn’t allow students to know that the muscle-bound, hammer-fisted Hercules also enjoyed music, cooking, the cut of women’s clothing, and the gentle arts of understanding his feelings.
Scholars thought he’d finally fallen off the cliff, but the heroes' story, too good to leave out of the curriculum of life was tapered down to brutal battles that are easily understood — like World Wrestling on TV.
After a while, and a lot of nagging from councillors Bean, Territowel, and Bacon, Hercules saw the light. He realized the rest of the town are a bunch of wimps on the take, riding on the back of any promising looking snake that happens along. They needed saving — again. So he sacrificed his soul to the burning fires on the mountain.
The Samurai, elite troopers of the Japanese Feudal society, traditionally retired at 38 years old. They were then ordered to put down their sword and study art. Their masters had an inkling that by studying the art of tea-making, or flower arrangement, painting, it would allow a big tough Samurai soldier to finally get in touch with a part of himself that was missing, his feminine side. His art and his curiosity about life. It might teach him to stop slicing people up and wake up to the joys of nature and life.
“Let’s Pretend We’re All in 2nd Grade”, made me think about how these algorithms are so brutal. Like snakes that slither between the floorboards, they play on our fears, they stop us in our tracks, and we focus too much on them.
Just the thought, “What if we all…”, made me start thinking properly.
I pondered, drank coffee, curled and shaped a nifty roll-up from my pack of Old Holborn, poured more coffee, lit the roll-up and puffed with curiosity.
Reading the first couple of lines of Remington Write, she tells us, “Fair warning: this is me hauling out the old soapbox and megaphone again because there’s this thing going on and it’s getting worse.”
That made me remember long ago, in London. The first time I walked into Hyde Park and stopped at the spot known as “Speakers’ Corner”.
Black leather shoes on soap boxes, sore throated voices, spittle dribbling on unshaven chins, walk two yards and listen to the next point of view. Booming voices that made me walk away quickly, find a soft-spoken opinion that piques the curiosity. Stop and listen.
I thought these people were bold. They put themselves out there in a public place, knowing that most visitors came to heckle and ridicule them. Some of them were ready for that, they had done their thinking, read their books, and studied their prose.
Their swords were sharp, and I saw many a heckler get tangled up in verbal combat, the parry of a sword-like-thought made them buckle at the knee, and the speaker, ruthless with his or her words, thrust straight and true into the heckler’s mind. The heckler limped away wounded, vowing to return with potent knowledge.
Remington’s leading line before that, “Or, here’s a bold thought, let’s just read stories that interest us and write interesting stories, k?”. I like that. It’s a good thought that prompts the mind to look around and search for interesting ideas. So I did. I thought about algorithms, Hercules, art, writing, and how much I too have fallen victim to statistics — the dragon’s warning report, “ if you don’t buck up, start churning words out of that machine, I’ll make sure your stats slide, you’ll suffer, you’ll fade, nobody will know who you are…”
But the ponderous thought tells me, they will know. The ones who love to read. Those curious souls that live all over the world, the ones who are so enraptured by the sound of the wind, cloud watching for fun, stopping to look at colours that somebody placed together on a canvas.
The power of thinking, the places it leads us to, private views of other worlds that we want to share and compare — we just know others have been there, too. Let’s compare, my thoughts with yours. Show me yours, I’ll show you mine.
Thoughts like ghosts from the past, travellers from the future, wondrous worlds of glory and places of sadness. Human experience beyond the flickering wings of the dragon, but to be lifted on the back of fantasies of why?, and how? Or when?
To share thoughts, soap box thoughts, where prose and ideas have been pondered first, swords of the mind sharpened by reading the curious thoughts of New York Streets. To catch their nuanced feelings, and to hear the rhythm of their voices. Not to skim and scan where the brain simple scooters on, like the wind on a flash of a subway car.
Be still and write. Be interesting, because you are.
The dragon tells us again and again with its algorithm talk, that we have to do what it says; write and read very quickly. No time for curiosity, understanding, meditations on a poem, or god forbid, people going back to art galleries where they go into trance for hours at a time.
The Dragon, like Dracula, can’t withstand the terror of a room full of mirrors, a gallery with soulful paintings — or a paper book with people’s lives hidden between the pages.
Algorithms can’t read paper, or canvas, nor can they read our thoughts, our Samurai sword. I have many books, many thoughts, bring it on, baby.
It was pleasant, I was lucky. To have my thoughts caught by a few words that made me think. To let the burning tobacco go cold, and my thoughts warm with wonder. Instead of statistics, I looked at the trees out my back window, and thought about the Autumn wind that makes them bend.
Let's Pretend We’re All in 2nd Grade Remington Write