Saturday, May 15, 2010

Profundity Through Ambiguity

Intelligence is a completely relative term - it can expand or collapse to describe different states of being or differing qualities and capacities in different people, or even different animals (as we judge their capabilities on the human model) - and its measurement is completely in the eye of the beholder. What may seem intelligent to one person may seem utterly "obvious" and commonplace to the next, and here we see the tailing edge of the face of obscurity that already hides in the concept, and how that hidden rider, itself a symbol of the hidden, covers the abstraction of intelligence in altering, swiftly-glimpsed (if only for second in the consciousness) pall or shroud, appearing one second and then disappearing the next, being both elusive and half in existence, defined and never defined. The links between ambiguity and profundity are clear. Within the overarching concept of intelligence there are crossed, in a knot, several different intersecting themes or abstract ideas, and some of these are cultural explanations, some are political, some are psychological and in search of a coming-into-being or narrow definition, some are completely (self-cohesive, self-sustaining) personal and subjective, taken from the subject's understanding, reason, or personal history. There are other rays or scattered points across the concept as well, different tangents that meet it and carry its colors at odd, fortuitous moments. Like any other concept it is defined in context and usage. Its meaning can be both absolute and relative, depending on its focus and orientation across several applications at the same time. An absolute structure of intelligence can be considered in relative ways by different subjects, and applied by them in relative manners. The concept in itself, as it is defined and agreed upon, is still of unbroken integrity, its semantic borders (that which hold it in absent space free of related or similar concepts) are still strong and clear, and yet it can be glossed and covered with symbols of relative value. Under these symbolic coatings or temporary meanings (applied in the moment, relatively, by fleeting consciousnesses, transient minds slipping through meaning and expression or communication) there exists the rigid architecture of an absolute concept, free of all external symbolic support except for the maintaining definitions of the culture or language - the definitions of its own internal logic, the ways in which can be oriented in relation to other words, other phrases, other meanings. In many cases, for example, the absolute concept of intelligence passes through different relative states of being as it travels in a conversation from one consciousness to another. Each consciousness involved in communication or an exchange of meaning (which is an illusion) colors the absolute concept (reflected in language, in symbolism) in different ways, depending on personal experience. What one person means by "intelligence" and tries to communicate in speech is never understood by the receiver in the conversation: one concept can only be linked to another in another's mind, there is no transition or exchange of absolute symbols, although the symbol in itself remains clear and well-defined in the minds of both the expresser and the receiver because of their shared culture, their shared language. There are in fact three concepts, and they never, ever meet - the concepts of the two independent subjects and the third abstraction, or objective definition. This, of course, can be also done away with. In the case of a concept that is in itself ambiguous in its own language or in its own culture one has the interpenetration of two ambiguous concepts across a pretended communication that is nothing more than a game of traded silences. Even the external, objective concept that is designed to act as a bridge for the two subjective concepts to trade shades of meaning and perceived affinities is too weak to serve its sole purpose. There are actions of giving and receiving, but these are pantomimes, illusions, behaviors that express other meanings or communicate things other than what is trying to be shared through language.

A concept like intelligence, although seemingly cohesive and integral, solid on the surface, admitting at times of only one definition and one formal usage, is in fact so riddled with lacunae of interpretation and subjective meaning that its employment as a vehicle of semantic transference from one subject to another is so suspect and faulty that it seems to appear immediately, in any usage, more as an illusion or seduction (political, sexual, psychological, dominative) than as a shared symbol, as an act or mime, an opportunity for an expression of faith, belief, emotion, irrational behavior, body language, etc. One wonders how many concepts there are like this, which mean one thing in one context and a completely opposite thing in another, and can in fact switch meanings or symbolic import so quickly between different subjects or in the course of a single conversation that the word seems to be mainly an ironic display of the inadequacy of language. However, at this point I am mainly interested in the use of the concept as a political or power tool, and its use to influence behavior, seduce, or gain attention from others. Intelligence, as a direct skill in life (or rather as a capacity which can express itself in reality through skills) appears in its usage as the motivating and controlling force behind actions which form a gulf between two individuals - and when I say "actions" I of course also mean words, which are implied possible actions or the implied understanding of personal actions which take place removed from the audience: that is, of capacities, powers, abilities. One individual is enabled by his or her "intelligence" to perform a certain skill (no matter what it is), the audience (considered in mass or singly) is outside of this realm, it either does not have the skill or the basic capacity (raw "intelligence", which in this space also goes by other names) to follow the actor's patterns of behavior, understanding, creation of meaning (mainly shared meaning, although "personal" meaning is often hinted at by the actor, always dwelling internally or hidden in obscurity in a conscious yet invisible location), or efficacy in dealing with reality or with certain internal and external mechanisms and structures of that reality - and this can be as a response to what seems, to the audience, to be "natural" laws of existence, even if they are in fact illusions created in the act of displaying intelligence, or through the will of the actor. There is that rootless, indefinable, but basically serene (and misguided) faith in the purity and effectiveness or efficiency (in the relation of will to object, desire to limitation) of intelligence that the audience has upon which is built first a concept of mastery and domination, and then a second over-arching concept of the reality of this mastery as a response to what must be essential, determined, indivisible challenges of life, the human condition, the laws of physics and motion, or morality and the concrete psychological regulations of human behavior. This is to say that intelligence, appearing as a capacity for adaptation, change, and mastery, defines, delineates and validates that which it seeks to overcome. It is the first step of intelligence (after perception) to force patterns to appear in the chaos of external impressions in order to derive structures of meaning which can be manipulated. Being aware, constantly, of this characteristic of the concept, however, also leads an audience of ambiguity to accept that which it can not understand for the travails and ceaseless struggles of human intelligence with the nature of the world, and with the challenges for evolution and domination (mastery through an applied technique derived from deduction, and then the mechanization of these human reflections and adaptations) that humanity must always encounter as it moves through a cerebral manifest destiny towards a prosthetic control of all elements. This is the accepted paradigm. However, how does one separate the truly profound and difficult to understand (for the ones with missing capacities, slow apprehension, or a "limited" intelligence - in itself a phrase and concept riddled with lapses in meaning, thinly stretched over phenomena) from the ambiguous or that which has no translatable meaning between selves, or no meaning in a standard, communicable context, or absolutely no meaning whatsoever?

It is an unfortunate habit of the mind, then, to accept (as I said above) the limitations of one's own intelligence as a validation of the ability of others to form meanings from their ruminations and their struggles with causes and effects, experience, subjects and predicates in the logical processes, or internal or external problems. One should, rather, immediately discount the meanings of others as eternally outside one's own apprehension or powers of comprehension, acceptance, education, or adaptation. If a meaning is subjective, native to another self, and placed in ambiguity (whether because I can not understand it, no matter how hard I try, lacking something essential - either the correct experience or the ability to withdraw meaning from those experiences, which include thoughts), then it is essentially eternally external both to my ability to experience it and my powers to derive meaning from it. I am forever alienated from it. It stands as a monolith, and it does not matter in that aspect whether it is solid, filled with teeming life and psychological drama, stress, or tension for another self, or completely hollow. I can not pierce its exterior, in the same way that I can not pierce the mind of another in order to feel its experiences, commune with its essential sensations, join with its will, or (in the end) dominate it so successfully that I control its every desire and dream. As a monolith it has the same basic meaning for me (outside of its internal, subjective meaning for its creator, which might not even exist - I have no way of knowing) no matter whether it is too profound and deep for my shallow reach, as I am limited by my natural capacities and sensitivity or breadth of comprehension, or utterly without meaning in any context, in any configuration or arrangement. There is the third and always present option - that of a subjective, personal meaning which is too subtle for translation into the common idiom of shared experiences (derived from culture and the hive or socialized mind) which we call language, even the languages of art. In any of these cases, however, the derived and utilizable meaning for me is the same: nothing. I can not understand it and apply it in my own life. What I am concerned with, however, is the immediate response to these types of meaning (or the absences that assume their shape, the vacuums inside of possible profundity) that gives them positions of power not only in determining the actions and thoughts of others, through mimicry (or attempts at the same, which are doomed to fail) and the "natural" acceptance of evolved, higher concepts and approaches being "better" mechanisms to defeat and/or process the challenges of reality, but in claiming the ascendancy of their meaninglessness to a standard of profundity in itself, as if what was ambiguous and impossible to grasp by any man is by that very capacity the exact center of the human condition, the best and most expressive reaction of man to the world he finds himself in. The appearance of meaning breaks off in a semantic borrowing from the truly effectively esoteric and complex in order to paint meaninglessness with the outward show or symbol of a legitimate reaction to existence. Thus, in order to appear profound, men lapse into meanings that can not be communicated, and either fall into self-created and eternally-renewing obsessive patterns of solely subjective meaning, or in frustration with their own inability to derive meaning from their experiences or form patterns of meaning that are legitimately precise and effective methods of handling experience and real challenges, seek the appearance of profundity in the labyrinth of meaninglessness - both the incommunicable meaninglessness of a semantic or symbolic breakdown between selves, a fundamental disunity and inability of language to bridge selves and transfer or translate internal experiences or thoughts (and a method of mimed communication that takes advantage of these weaknesses), and the meaninglessness of the absurd, of a sensibility that does not respond to experience at all, but only the capricious promptings of a malicious irony, a bitter inability to connect subjects and predicates, causes and effects, in any real way. This last form of meaninglessness - the absurd as cruelty, as a bitter self-castigating, self-isolating, alienating, and remorseless misleading of others - is of course one of the intellectual sins to which men have always been tempted, as the dogmatic faith of intelligence's ascendancy and the credulity of those of supposedly "lower" (it might just be a different breed of capacity, intelligence being determined qualitatively, not quantitatively as if it was a divine substance, an essential element) capabilities allows power and the hand of domination to those who can display a higher intelligence, even if the display is just a pantomime, an illusion. The important thing to realize is that in the fundamental disunity between different levels of the capacity of comprehension, meaninglessness looks very much like profundity. In our ceaseless search for those who seem to display mastery and a command of elements which we can not understand (or which we would rather not understand, for a number of reasons) we often hand the reins for determining the standards of human striving, culture, and meaning to those who can only retreat inside their own meaninglessness and hope that their audience does not develop an effective critical faculty.

U. Amtey
23 December 2004
04:27 CST
NP: Incantation - Decimate Christendom