Nathaniel on fluctuation

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

4:50 a.m. Definitely feeling better. A pretty good night’s sleep. Gentlemen?

What is on your mind?

For one thing, I seem to be gradually emerging from this particular bout of asthma. Things are getting easier.

What about your reaction to “Beat the Devil”?

[Last night, I rediscovered a bookmark to a site ( offering 60 noir movies, and decided to watch that one.]

I can’t say I much cared for it, though it had some funny lines. Like “The Cheap Detective” or “Murder by Death” [both starring a young Peter Falk, which is why I bought them] – basically a waste of time.

And – why?

I guess spoofs and take-offs bore me. It’s so easy to take potshots at other people’s creations, or even at entire genres. There’s something snide and vaguely destructive about it. I don’t like it, even if I like the actors involved, like Bogart here and Peter Falk in the other two.

It isn’t serious enough for you.

Well, I’m not sure that’s it, exactly. I love laughing, and some of my favorite movies are funny or have funny moments in them. “Galaxy Quest,” for instance, is ridiculous, and it is a spoof of the entire Star Trek series, but I saw it many times, and loved it.

Then, the difference? Is it between films, or is it between different states of you, depending upon different circumstances?

I’m not sure what you mean.

No. Before we get into it, record what you just realized about the process.

Okay. As I was writing that I didn’t know what the statement was driving at, I realized that in order for someone to do this work, they need to be able to write out stuff without knowing if it made sense. If you can’t express a sentence or a thought – or a long paragraph, sometimes – while not knowing if it even makes sense (let alone whether you agree with it), you’ll never be able to loosen control far enough to let something else in.

No, that could do with a more careful statement.

Yes, I felt that too, as I was ending the sentence. That’s another thing, you probably shouldn’t worry too much, “Is this me? Is this them?” For one thing, it is a more arbitrary distinction than you might suppose.

So, to restate more carefully. As you work, words come in, welling up, as I have often said. They come in all different levels of authority and sureness, and you can’t help weighing them in the process. Some thoughts seem frivolous, some seem like they must be obvious distortions, some seem like automatic responses – I have more than once finished a sentence, only to realize that the ending may be me rounding it off stylistically or by automatic association. When I suspect that, there’s nothing to do but to ask. Fortunately, the sooner you question it (right or wrong) the less damage done. If you don’t question it, you can string one association onto another, and lead yourself up the garden path, maybe for quite a while.

But on the other hand, sometimes you feel something coming through – sometimes you don’t even realize until you’ve written it out – that may be nonsense; may be somebody or something winging it, tap-dancing. May be. But you don’t know until you give it some running room. You have to be able to suspend judgment, either way.

You have to let the information flow, and let discernment follow perception. As usual.

Well, yes, I suppose it is that simple.

Spelling it out wasn’t a waste of time, though, because it spelled out a specific application of what you knew as a general principle. Always a good thing to do. Now, about different states of you.

Looking back. Okay.

It isn’t news to anybody that none of you are consistent. What may be news to some is that consistency isn’t always helpful or even appropriate. Consistency can harden into unadventurous rigidity, unable to cope very well with new circumstances. One of the circumstances that produces inconsistency is

I turned that sentence around somehow, didn’t I?

No harm done, we merely proceed, noting the momentary hesitation (that’s what it amounts to) that was that slight wrong turning. And – process – the easiest way to proceed is sometimes to restate where we were when it went wrong; an equally appropriate response, sometimes, is to go off on another tack, so as to avoid the distractions. Sometimes the one, sometimes the other. Use what works, and don’t fight it. You will have the inclination to do the one or do the other; try it, and see what works best, knowing that the easier thing is often (but not invariably, of course) easier because more appropriate to the moment.

Again, different states of you. it is an extension of the obvious fact that you are never exactly the same from one moment to the next. We need a good metaphor here.

Yes, we do, and I don’t have it. I get what would be needed. It would be a steady-state that nevertheless varied continuously. What about a carrier wave?


This is probably not accurate physically, but, basing my analogy on what I think is so, may serve. I gather that a carrier wave is a steady signal sent out that is itself modified, the modifications being the things that carry meaning, the carrier wave itself merely (merely!) providing continuity. So, our day-to-day consciousness while in 3D would be the carrier wave, and the fluctuations would be the information.

Let’s say the fluctuations would result from, would indicate, would embody, the information. Not a bad analogy. For one thing, it dramatizes why you can’t necessarily meaningfully distinguish between “your” input and “input from others.” You are having to judge the theoretical ownership from the information itself, thereby inferring (guessing) ownership. You can see that in the circumstances, rigidity beyond a certain point is not going to be a helpful trait. On the other hand, you will need a certain amount of rigidity (expressed as consistency) if you are to keep your bearings at all. As in all polarities, you will have your range, and it will be different from perhaps anybody else on earth, and so what? Or, it may be quite close to some, and you will regard each other as kindred souls even though in many respects you may have little or nothing in common.

So, employing your metaphor, which looks like it may serve, you can see that you will always have a core of consistency – the carrier wave itself – and you will always fluctuate – the input, the processing, the output, always going on. This is normal, desirable (what advantage in being unresponsive?). Only, recognize it.

Don’t think ourselves more consistent than we are.

Don’t think consistency an absolute virtue, for one thing. Recognize that you are meant to fluctuate. The very characteristics in yourself that you may deplore are part of your being, your voyage in 3D. Don’t allow yourselves to think you know better, and could have done a better job in construction, than those who made you.

Stop beating ourselves up for not being something other than what we are.

Yearning to be better, to grow, to develop, may seem to be the same thing as continual self-criticism, but it is not. Even if the appearances may be the same, as they often are, the reality is as different as could be. Aspiration seeks to grow, expects to grow, encourages growth. Self-criticism shrinks, in a way fears to know, expects nothing better. You see?

I do now you point it out. It is the difference between love and fear, in a new context. Expansion v. contraction.

Also faith v. lack of faith. Not, faith v. doubt, because doubt and belief are two sides of the same coin, seen from different angles. Belief / doubt within reason is always going to be a part of an on-going process. But lack of faith – often enough, what might be called anti-faith – has nothing positive or constructive about it. It leads nowhere. You might say despair is one of the deadly sins.

And I am led back to the question of why I don’t like certain kinds of movies even if they are technically well made. Some don’t lead on; they discourage.

No, you can do better than that easy generalization.

Yes, I can. At least, I hope I can. I sensed the insufficiency even as I was writing it. Well, let’s say, some movies exude (to me, anyway) a negative atmosphere.

Not it yet, or do you want to cling to movies with a happy ending?

Nothing wrong with a happy ending, as long as it is not obviously contrived or tacked on in a dishonest way. But a movie doesn’t have to end happily to end in a satisfactory way. “The Bitter Tea of General Yen,” for instance.

Still, press on a little more.

I suppose it isn’t as static a situation as I usually think it. The same movie seen at different times encounters a different me, so the equation is different.

That’s closer. And a given movie will be closer to your more habitual position, and so will satisfy more often. Another may match only a less usual, or perhaps a quite un-usual position, and so will be one of those exceptional or even once-in-a-lifetime experiences that change you or seem to. (Let’s say, they facilitate the change.) And of course what is said of movies goes for other things in your lives. Books, people, anything. They don’t meet an invariant carrier wave (which would indicate no signal), hence the interaction varies.

And it is six a.m. That’s enough for the moment.

I can’t quite see if you have rounded off the subject, or just stopped. In either case, our thanks, and till next time.


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