Scope and Fantasy
Thoughts after a trip to Miami with some tech people
Upon visiting a new place, upon seeing and hearing certain young people thinking legitimate thoughts as they grow, and caring—upon looking in many directions, and seeing my friends looking in unexpected (old) directions, that is: ahead or downwards, a discussion on Scope and Fantasy, not unintentionally an acronym evoking “San Francisco”.
Every time I talk to people, everything seems so simple in a frustrating way which should inspire hope but doesn’t. I’ve been told by older people who have worked for a long time and who are committed to a great impassioned cause, even a life’s calling, that being in the same place for a long time causes one to stagnate. So last week I went to Miami to see a new place and to meet some friends. Now I’m back in Birmingham, and in two weeks I’ll be going to San Francisco to live there for a while with a tech company.
The way that not being in the same place for a long time inspires non-stagnation, perhaps as purpose or passion or the experience of meaningfulness, I thought was by contrast against good things and bad things taken for granted. In a lifestyle of monotonous repetition, what is repeated is no longer questioned, and there is no impetus to change it, nor even to exchange it for something different. In the past, I have also felt driven toward growth by being around new people, to whom the old stories justifying my stagnation meant nothing.
Yet now it seems so easy to convince anyone of anything, though maybe they are not really convinced, or if they are, still hate me and what I seem to stand for. It is easy to be not even wrong, less easy to assert something boldly. Still, I somewhat hate being wrong.
Somehow I find myself surrounded today by tech people, who have not explored certain paths which occupied all my time when I was young and always seeking. I prayed intently for wisdom like Solomon’s, or to know everything; then I prayed again in regret. I became interested in the sacred, then in the esoteric. At times the sacred permeated the mundane and lost a lot of its profundity. There were other such childish things, I think.
There was an infinite looking above and below, in the sense of “as above, so below”; so really it was just a ceaseless looking in every corner, but where to look is still a choice, and it is strange to look very very very far in any direction. Incidentally, I was recently invited to write a preface to an artwork—a compilation of photos inspired by such a hermetic theme. The artists did not speak of these things at all like the hermetic texts, for example. There was rather a fondness for pattern (the easily noticeable kind that becomes tiresome after a while, and doesn’t seem that profound), and things with the aesthetic sense of “building bridges” or “changing the world”. Maybe a step different, like “building bridges across bridges” or “changing the world of the world”, but still quite the same. Yet I wouldn’t criticize (actually actually, not just to be polite or anything because they might be reading this) the passion project of two great friends, having fun and doing something amazing, as great friends often do.
And when I talk to tech people, especially founders of supposedly great companies, there is what was a terribly disconcerting sense that they don’t get it at all. They don’t even know everything; holy shit! But how childish of me, who doesn’t know everything either, not even enough to never be surprised or disconcerted, and who sits here doing quite a lot of nothing, though tech people are sometimes willing to hire me for various things. Maybe I can make something great if I know something others don’t, but I so so so so don’t care about most things, maybe because I’ve known about them for a long time. Or maybe I can make art, which for a while I thought most people wouldn’t understand, but now I think many people would, but then for whom do I make it, and why?
Alone, or with people who have been around me for a very long time and understand me thoroughly, like my parents, it doesn’t even feel bad to be stagnant. But it feels a little bad to be pushed, and quite bad to be rejected. And so I convince and convince with stories which some don’t understand and which some understand but don’t believe and which some believe but still hate for various valid reasons.
Why/why not Miami? Why/why not San Francisco? Why/why not your company, your motives, your dreams, your whole way of being, your disposition, your personality? And the answers are terribly disappointing. Having been traumatized, having never lived a happy childhood with loving parents in the suburbs, having gone from thing to thing, learning peculiar lessons to escape each current pain or to achieve each subsequent pleasure... enough to live by, even to build a solid character, to say the least.
Yet the tension is apparent in a mismatch of scope during conversations. “Why” has many answers, from the most proximate to some extremely distant or abstract. But what is given is very informative, and there is not always one correct scope inferable from the context of a conversation or anything like that. When the scope that you care about is distant from the scope that I care about (e.g. that is most immediate and tangible to me, that is easily present to my consciousness, that I think matters...), everything feels so wrong. What are you even doing? Why are we here? There’s nothing to say, and nothing to do beyond games. And yet you won’t even play with me.
Fantasy because fantasy is what isn’t immediate. Fantasy proceeds from the immediate, but our immediates diverge because of that tension in scope. Making the world better, seeking good weather, seeking better opportunities (but for what?), having fun with good friends every day (but who can be a good friend?), etc. How can we plan together if to each other, our immediate desires are a fantasy beyond fantasy? Yet of course they wouldn’t seem so to either of us, who only each feel an inexpressible tension like “why don’t they care about what I care about?” or even more simply “why are we so similar, yet not the same?”
Often, maybe it is because I don’t care enough about you, and you don’t care enough about me. If what matters most is actually some deep-rooted trauma I have, of course neither of us see it. I do not seek it out. You do not seek it out. We continue to talk about trivial things that we think we might care about, but which don’t matter a lot at all. Yet that trauma could be anywhere—mine, yours, the world’s, the future’s... Well there are many philosophical traditions dealing with this kind of thing, schizoanalysis and characteranalysis and various other theoretical frameworks and psychotherapeutically inspired analyses. These aren’t often good frameworks of interaction either, and conversation in them too often becomes conversation about them rather than about anything relevant, perhaps due to their immaturity, or perhaps due to something more profound. Again I shrug them off with an ironic wave.
Will I never befriend anyone but those who intuitively agree with me on what matters? So far, perhaps my parents, a few older people, people who behave naturally and not as a character in a childish fantasy with bad scope. But I do behave as a character in a childish fantasy with bad scope. Who will play with me? Of course I will not teach you how.
The days go by, and there’s nothing much to do, yet I am not wholly satisfied. Simply put, maybe I just want to fall in love, or to have a good friend whose presence is pure and joyful, and devoid of unresolvable struggle. I prefer being alone to being with anybody I know except probably my mother, but I think it’s just because I hate everybody I know right now. I would rather be with a good friend or a lover than alone. Yet this is only fantasy.
Too many people whom I get along well with communicate with me in a different scope. We understand each other, or at least what each other says, but do not actually care about the same things. So there is justification on justification, and a whole story about our relationship which we perform, and we never relate authentically. We get along because we have been through or thought through the same things, and we can talk productively about all those things. We are so similar at a point, yet completely different in totality. We already agree about all the things that can be expressed directly (even directly indirectly), but the tensions created by differences in scope are only patched up haphazardly.
And so, for example, everyone unhappy seems so obviously wrong to me, yet we all agree that they are right in their own way, because indeed they are. Or I hate you, but we all agree that we are friends, because indeed we are. There are various such things, which do not create a composite fantasy world to beautifully and correctly perform, but which create the real world, differentiated in scope without static relations, nor rule nor pattern, complicated and nuanced beyond theatrical representation.
Well, there are things that are easy to understand, even beautiful things. I read a theory book and see that it is true, a fiction book and see that it is prescient and astute, with many analogs and applications in reality. I see the application of something true and good and see that it works. I see someone who is correct about an important thing succeed. Still I do not change my mind about what matters, and I might even disdain all these things.
Well, who will laugh with me then at these things, when that laughter is completely wrong and inexplicable? I do not want to suppress my laughter, nor to laugh alone. Who will hold my hand and smile though the world might end tomorrow or something, and we both see it and know how we might save it, yet we would rather hold each other’s hand and smile than save the world? This is an even more childish fantasy.