Mute Button

Maybe it’s seasonal — I really hate the darkness of winter — but I find myself sufficiently discouraged by the debate side of blogging to “hit the mute button” for a while. It isn’t the first time I’ve felt like withdrawing from what too often amounts to a tug-of-war. I didn’t blog at all in 2017, in part, because of that.

For months now I’ve been thinking of ending this blog (or taking another break), but I like having the outlet to express myself. I don’t do Twitter or Facebook or Instagram; I like to write about stuff. Whatever stuff strikes my fancy (which apparently breaks a Blogging Rule about focusing on a single topic).

My problem is that I’m tired of debates that go nowhere.

I want to be clear this isn’t about having people agree with me, or even the idea that debates need to end in agreement.

But I do feel they should end in understanding.

Ideally, they end with agreement on common grounds and recognition of different assumptions that result in different views.

For me, the best result of a debate is: “Ah, yes, I understand why you see it that way, and your view is valid given your axioms. I do not share those axioms, so my view differs for X, Y, and Z, reasons.”


I’ve been chewing on my options for a while now…

I could take a break, but I have that need to express myself.

So I thought, maybe what I should do it close comments on this blog and withdraw from commenting on other blogs (since I see it as not fair to disallow comment here and then go comment elsewhere).

And that’s basically the plan.

I’m mostly going to stay in my little corner of the interweb and mutter to myself about whatever strikes my fancy.


I’m going to try leaving comments open for a short (and I mean short) period — maybe a week or ten days (or maybe just 24 hours). And I may put in an occasional utterly chatty appearance elsewhere.

Or not. I’ll see how it goes. I’m definitely an “all or nothing” kind of guy.

Bottom line: If you’re used to me making an appearance on your blog, this explains my making myself scarce (if you even noticed). In turn, feel free to unfollow or ignore me.

One truth is that I want to devote what little interest and energy for blogging that I have left for writing. On several levels I’m not sure how long I’ll keep doing this — it would be neat to have 1000 posts (123 122 to go). (It would be kind of cool to post #900 on New Year’s Day.)

Mostly, given the political and social situation, my soul is screaming out for an end to conflict and polarized thought.

I just don’t have it in me to debate things anymore.

Stay mellow, my friends.

About Wyrd Smythe

The canonical fool on the hill watching the sunset and the rotation of the planet and thinking what he imagines are large thoughts. View all posts by Wyrd Smythe

36 responses to “Mute Button

  • SelfAwarePatterns

    Sorry to hear that Wyrd. The discussions won’t be the same without you. But I can certainly understand debate fatigue.

    • Wyrd Smythe

      This was originally a much longer post, but I decided to skip getting too detailed. Suffice to say I’ve been involved in some weird and disappointing conversations in the last few months. I long for discussion that moves things forward, but that only seems to happen with the most innocuous topics. To be honest, I’m as much frustrated as fatigued.

      • SelfAwarePatterns

        Sorry if it was me. I know I limited participation in some topics you wanted to discuss, both an attempt to minimize acrimony and somewhat representing my own fatigue in certain areas, but I always wondered if that was the right way to handle it. Maybe it wasn’t.

        Anyway, I’ll miss our conversations. You’re always welcome if you change your mind.

      • Wyrd Smythe

        One of life’s greatest minefields, for me, anyway, is navigating the line between my own feelings and wants versus those of others. Personal feelings are one place we’re most filter-blind, and I’ve always found it tricky distinguishing, in myself, between the possibly selfish versus the legitimate.

        I seriously considered doing a fade without saying anything, just because I’m not entirely sure what’s right here or how to best say what I’m feeling. I just know that I don’t have the energy for all out tug-of-war anymore. Back and forth over ideas, sure, but that seems a hard level to establish.

        I will say, mi Amigo, that out of all the regulars, there’s a reason I follow your blog and have enjoyed many of our conversations. To some extent you’re getting tossed out with the bathwater. (I admire your ability to deal with some of that bathwater equitably.) As I mentioned in this post, one of my traits is that I’m a “feast or famine” kinda guy. When I do a thing, I tend to go all in.

        That said, I’m still smarting over conversations like this. I have no idea WTF happened there. I found it especially weird given the second paragraph of that post. It seemed almost a demonstration of what I’d written. (I’m guessing your reaction must have been, “Oh hell, here he goes again with that shit!” 🙂 )

        I think there’s a reality for all of us involving a fear of granting the other party’s points in a hot debate for fear of a “slippery slope” — that it leads to having to grant the main point. I believe, though, that finding points of agreement, and validating reasonable arguments, lets things progress with the ultimate goal of fully understanding each other’s mutual positions.

      • SelfAwarePatterns

        Thanks Wyrd.

        On that conversation, it does seem like my opening sentence poisoned it. If I was going to participate, I should have just done it, not sniped about it. It made the rest seem rancorous when that wasn’t its intention. Sorry!

        On finding points of agreement, you’re right. I should do it more often. It’s easy to forget when we have several conversations on the same or similar topics. In those situations, I have a tendency to skip the preliminaries and get straight to the core issue, but that’s a habit I need to break.

      • Wyrd Smythe

        Apology gratefully accepted. Life is such an eternal learning curve, isn’t it? I’m in my mid-60s, about to start taking Social Security, and I’m still trying to figure this shit out as I go. (I guess that’s what makes it an adventure. It sure makes for a lot of mistakes along the way.)

      • SelfAwarePatterns

        Something tells me I’ll be learning (or often in my case, re-learning, which is to say, making mistakes) right up to the end of sentience.

      • Wyrd Smythe

        We can only hope!

        (One of my great fears is losing my rationality. My dad died of Alzheimer’s, so I’m intimately familiar with how that looks and feels. I’m adopted, so there’s no genetic connection, but, OTOH, I have no idea what genetic time bombs might lurk.)

      • SelfAwarePatterns

        Maybe I should have said until the end of sapience. 🙂

        I did 23andMe several years ago, mostly out of curiosity. It had some interesting tidbits, but overall mostly didn’t tell me anything about my ancestry I didn’t already know, and those services since then have developed a bad reputation, but the report did include a section on any diseases associated with my specific genetics.

      • Wyrd Smythe

        I’ve thought about those for a long time, and just about when I’m thinking I should make the effort, they start getting all this bad press. Since I’m adopted, I have no clue about my origins. It would be interesting to at least know that much. Having made it this far in life, I’m not that concerned about time bombs anymore. General old age or lifestyle will probably take me out at this point.

        A favorite line (because it so applies) from a favorite Jimmy Buffett Song (Fruitcakes): “You treat your body like a temple. I treat mine like a tent!” 😀 😀

  • James Cross

    If I like this post, does that mean I would rather you be mute? 🙂

    • Wyrd Smythe

      Given that’s your “bon mot” here, it wouldn’t surprise me if that’s exactly what you’d rather.

      • James Cross

        In that case I won’t like it.

        Before you go, in your causal posts somewhere, did you express thoughts on mental causality?

        Can the mental be causal? Would it have arisen through evolution (or otherwise if there is another way) if it had no causal effect?

      • Wyrd Smythe

        “Before you go, in your causal posts somewhere, did you express thoughts on mental causality?”

        No, I didn’t. Those posts were strictly about physical causal systems in contrast with numerical logical systems. I think Lee and I touched on it in a comment discussion.

        “Can the mental be causal? Would it have arisen through evolution (or otherwise if there is another way) if it had no causal effect?”

        Depends on exactly what you’re asking.

        I think it’s causal in the sense that I’m about to actually go eat a banana after having thoughts about going and eating a banana.

        I think it’s absolutely not causal in the sense that my mental content is restricted to physical causality. Both my imagination and my dreams are wild.

        I think it’s causal in the sense that the brain operates according to physical causality, which, at least in some ways, does limit mental content.

      • James Cross

        I mean in the banana sense. That would make the mental physical since it caused the action of eating the banana, correct?

      • James Cross

        By that I just mean only the physical can affect the physical so the mental must be in some way physical.

      • Wyrd Smythe

        This gets into epiphenomenalism and the mysteries of consciousness. It’s a Gordian Knot of a topic people have chewed on for a long time without real success. I see both this field, and the field of high-energy physics, as currently “stuck” awaiting new insight or discovery to move forward.

        I just can’t think about stuff like this these days. There’s so much hand-waving in politics and social discourse, that I need to focus on concrete topics I can wrap my head around. I need reality.

        There’s a “just so” story by Kipling about how the elephant got its trunk. Basically a crocodile grabbed his nose and stretched it. My mom used to read those stories to my sister and me when we were kids. There’s a line from that story my mom always acted out with plugged nose (as if the croc had it): “Dis id doo buch bor me!” (“This is too much for me.”)

        It became an oft-quoted line in our family and it describes my feelings these days.

        “Dis id doo buch bor me!”

      • James Cross

        “This gets into epiphenomenalism and the mysteries of consciousness.”

        It does, indeed. And now seems very critical to me to the mystery.

      • Wyrd Smythe

        It does seem a crux of things. FWIW, I wrote this back in 2013. If nothing else, it suggests a way an immaterial “soul” or mind might have access to the physical brain.

      • James Cross

        I’m leaning now to a more direct method of access. Mind is a complex EM network generated by ion flows possibly in the apical dendrites with a feedback to the same currents. The EM wave directly can modify the neural paths. It comes from the physical brain and also can directly modify it.

      • Wyrd Smythe

        That, from outside the skull, we can detect EM brain waves has long interested me. I do wonder if, within the compact mass of the brain, there isn’t some effect that electrical activity does have. (A fanciful idea I’ve played with: Is it possible there’s a very complex standing wave inside the resonant cavity of our skulls that factors into consciousness?)

        The objection about interference from external fields is well taken, but [1] brains evolved in a quieter environment, and [2] there is evidence magnetic or electrical fields do have some effect. Still, if EM plays a big role, I’d expect that role to be more apparent by now.

        FWIW, I suspect the “magic” lies more in the analog properties of the brain. I’ve read that the rise and fall times of the pulses neurons emit might contain information, and certainly their duty cycle seems to. There is also how the synapses themselves are active devices with memory and feedback, so seeing consciousness in terms of neuron-as-logic-gate models seems to miss a lot.

        The model seems way more complicated and may well involve low-level electrical dynamics (if not quantum ones).

      • James Cross

        “Is it possible there’s a very complex standing wave inside the resonant cavity of our skulls that factors into consciousness?”

        That is my thinking. For one thing, with a feedback process to neural paths, it would provide an straightforward explanation of how mind can affect body. It also would explain the somewhat unified appearance of consciousness.

        There have been some holographic mind theories floating around for a while but they have tended to be associated with quantum mind theories. I’m into some areas where my knowledge is shaky but I think EM fields can have holographic properties too. If so, it could provide a mechanism of creating representations of the external world.

      • James Cross

        After writing this I started looking up some things relating to holographic mind. Of course, the name of Pribram jumps out. But it is not at all clear to me why there is any need to invoke any quantum effects to hypothesize holographic principles may be used in the brain. Dragging in QM seems to over complicate the theory without any obvious gain. Also, a lot of people writing in this area also want to drag in ESP and all sorts of other stuff that isn’t required for the basic theory.

      • Wyrd Smythe

        “I think EM fields can have holographic properties too.”

        What do you mean by “holographic properties” here? What exactly are you attributing to the EM field here?

      • James Cross

        As I said, I’m on shaky ground as far as my knowledge in some of these areas.

        Let me quote from Wikipedia:

        While magnetic and optical data storage devices rely on individual bits being stored as distinct magnetic or optical changes on the surface of the recording medium, holographic data storage records information throughout the volume of the medium and is capable of recording multiple images in the same area utilizing light at different angles.

        Additionally, whereas magnetic and optical data storage records information a bit at a time in a linear fashion, holographic storage is capable of recording and reading millions of bits in parallel, enabling data transfer rates greater than those attained by traditional optical storage.

        The idea is that consciousness uses EM fields in a similar fashion possibly creating multiple “frames” of consciousness that evolve temporally. Some of the frames may contain everything that is possible to be consciousness but by the time the current frame forms only selective portions have been retained. In the mean time the next frames are forming essentially in the same space. This could all relate to the temporal coding found in neural signals. This would almost be like we are filming a movie and showing it at the time by on the fly developing the next frames just before they need to be shown.

        But as I said my understanding of some of this is weak.

      • Wyrd Smythe

        Okay, you mean holographic like holograms. (The holographic principle is a whole other thing.)

        A hologram is a recording of interference patterns — a key characteristic being that any part of the hologram contains all the information, but at lower resolution.

        I do think memory and processing are distributed in holographic fashion or something like it, but I don’t know what role, if any, EM fields might play in that.

      • James Cross

        Correct. Holographic principle as in the The Holographic Principle wasn’t what I meant here, although it is interesting in its own right.

        I think the fact you can in many cases destroy big parts of the brain (although some are definitely critical) and maintain memories and functioning suggests information and processing has to be distributed in some way as opposed to kept at discrete locations.

      • Wyrd Smythe

        Yep, exactly. My mom suffered some strokes that took out parts of her brain, but she was able to retrain other parts to take up most of the work.

  • Lee Roetcisoender

    Like I always say Wyrd, rationality is a discrete binary system just like the immune system. The immune system is not mind, even though it is a form of consciousness. As a system, the mind possesses a higher intensity of power and therefore a higher degree of self determination build into the system. As a result of this dynamic, mind has the capacity to be prejudiced, bigoted and biased, whereas the immune system does not.

    As with the system of mind, when confronted with something new, the immunes system contrasts that unknown against it’s own catalogue of what is known. Those knowns are objective knowns which correspond to an objective reality. If the unknown does not match, the immune system immediately begins creating an architecture of anti-bodies until a match is found with which to fight of the unknown pathogen.

    Mind works exactly the same way with one fundamental distinction. When mind is confronted with something new, the first thing mind does is contrast that unknown against a catalogue of perceived knowns. Unfortunately those knowns are not objective knowns, they are subordinate knowns, which simply means that those perceived knowns are subordinate to the “power” of interpretation (self determination) which the mind possesses, hence the word subjective.

    Good luck Wyrd, and remember: The singular, targeted objective of power is control, not some of the time, not most of the time, but every time. In order to be objective, one must be willing to forsake the ghost of rationality and be willing to listen to the still heart of persuasive reality, and then be persuaded by that reality. If RAM is true, reality is eerily quiet, whereas the appearance of reality is anything but quiet and still, just the inverse is true. The appearance of reality is one noisy, loud, busy, wild and untamed place, all of which leads to the diversity and novelty of the expression.

    Peace, Mark 1:15.

  • rung2diotimasladder

    I’ll be here reading what you have to say…except for posts directly about math and baseball, which I don’t know enough about to follow.

    • Wyrd Smythe

      Heh, yeah,… no one likes my math or baseball posts. 😦

      Although, per your post, those are two of my favorite interests and/or hobbies. Which now has me pondering what the difference is between a hobby and an interest. The degree to which one participates in an interest, perhaps?

      My interest in baseball goes pretty deep, but I don’t play it at all, so maybe the hobby aspect is just in watching it. (Catching 162 of your own team’s games a year, plus other team’s games sometimes, plus postseason, is certainly an investment of time.) Whereas Flamenco or photography are things one does at least as much, if not more, than things one just studies.

      • rung2diotimasladder

        I’m surprised “no one else” likes your baseball posts. I would guess that there are a bunch of baseball fans out there who simply haven’t found your blog yet. Not so surprised about math…but even there, it’s just a matter of finding the right audience. Perhaps a niche audience. 🙂

        The difference between a hobby and an interest…hm. I’d agree that degree plays some role there. Maybe hobbies tend to be active, interests passive? Watching baseball vs. playing baseball? I dunno. I suspect there’s more to it than that. Especially when you’re talking about watching 162 baseball games a year—that would seem to cross over into “hobby” territory if you ask me.

      • Wyrd Smythe

        I think the problem with the baseball posts is they aren’t on a sports platform. Those who are interested in baseball flock to sites with lots of bloggers writing lots of articles and even more people making comments. Active community versus some guy out in, to borrow an appropriate metaphor, left field with his occasional baseball posts.

        But the audience is quite large. Certainly much larger than the math audience, and they, too, have more established sites (or well-known expert math bloggers). On some level the math posts are more for me to make sure I understand it by trying to write about it.

        I think active versus passive has a lot to do with hobby versus interest. One might say I’m interested in baseball, and I also have a hobby of following my team. In addition, I have (or had) a hobby involving writing lots of Python code to process baseball stats and make charts and reports. (That hobby has tapered off since I accomplished at least a version of what I set out to do. A better version would be a major investment of effort.)

      • rung2diotimasladder

        Yeah I guess you’re right. There’s a price to be paid for being a jack of all trades.

        As for hobbies vs. interests—even without knowing what python code is, I’d agree that that seems very much in the hobby category.

      • Wyrd Smythe

        The flip side is that kind of general and foundation knowledge made it easy for me to survive a changing workplace. Although I worked for The Company for 34 years, I had a variety of jobs during that time. (I change positions, on average, about every seven years. My Seven Year Itch.)

        Python is a modern computer programming language. Definitely a hobby! (The baseball-related code alone is nearly 100,000 lines of code. There’s at least that much, if not more, in other projects.)

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