“…and there, against the wall, without obstructing rag or leaf, you may look your fill upon the foulest, the vilest, the obscenest picture the world possesses–Titian’s Venus. It isn’t that she is naked and stretched out on a bed–no, it is the attitude of one of her arms and hand. If I ventured to describe that attitude, there would be a fine howl–but there the Venus lies, for anybody to gloat over that wants to–and there she has a right to lie, for she is a work of art, and Art has its privileges.
I saw young girls stealing furtive glances at her; I saw young men gaze long and absorbedly at her; I saw aged, infirm men hang upon her charms with a pathetic interest. How I should like to describe her–just to see what a holy indignation I could stir up in the world–just to hear the unreflecting average man deliver himself about my grossness and coarseness, and all that. The world says that no worded description of a moving spectacle is a hundredth part as moving as the same spectacle seen with one’s own eyes–yet the world is willing to let its son and its daughter and itself look at Titian’s beast, but won’t stand a description of it in words. Which shows that the world is not as consistent as it might be.”
This graphic tracks the evolving, cross-pollinating disciplines of Complexity science, also called complex systems science. They are an essential and transformational course correction against the scientific tradition of oversimplifying virtually everything in order to avoid overstating ANYTHING. In fairness, you have to have a lot of information about a lot of different things before you can apply the lessons of complex systems.
“There’s no love in a carbon atom, No hurricane in a water molecule, No financial collapse in a dollar bill.”
– Peter Dodds
Below is a brilliantly straightforward exploration of many of these concepts
Or: I risked my life for ugly sandals.
When I entered college I was a naive, disorganized, and eccentric person. This was also true when I left college – but that’s not really the point of this story. Also, I didn’t know I was naive, disorganized, or eccentric when I arrived or left for that matter. After my grindingly lonely adolescence, I was overwhelmed to be in such an exciting and rich social environment. The amount of human contact was dizzying. I lost any academic focus in favor of people, People, PEOPLE! But I quickly encountered a problem: Everyone seemed to be a factor of ten cooler than me. My new friends were constantly doing things like bicycling across South America or spending six months roughing it in India or hitchhiking cross country with a knife strapped to their hip. I am a bull moose introvert and a lover of comfort and safety. I was morbidly introspective yet lacking any real self-knowledge, as I had no life experience. I was embedded in the new age spirituality of the time and I thought I was about 8 paces from enlightenment. This in no way conflicted in my mind with doing lots of drugs and being fairly promiscuous. I certainly never imagined that I was something called high functioning autistic, or ADHD, with a lengthy list of phobias and rigid behaviors.
I simply felt that I didn’t measure up to community standards for coolness. I would have to become more courageous and daring. I began keeping an eye open for a situation I could use to toughen myself up and bolster my street cred and my cool quotient. I soon stumbled into/engineered one.
Random Sex and Ugly Footwear
Most of my new friends were sort of clothes optional people and social nudity was not a big deal at all. It all started with bunches of us swimming naked in the pond that surrounded the chapel. We’d all tromp down to the edge of the water, throw our clothes off and dive in. I remember a well-known member of the art faculty joining us at least once. I also remember a look crossing his face that I now interpret as “Did I just ruin my career?”
Afterward, we’d throw on just enough clothing to walk around in public and head back to the Kappa dorms where everyone would hit the showers together. As I look back and remember standing in the girl’s shower, being soaped up …by girls, I realize that times like these are impossible to appreciate properly while you are still being included in them. The whole dorm became defacto clothes optional much to my delight (and almost definitely to the distress of others). We also took to sunning ourselves naked on the concrete porches of the south-facing upper floor in Kappa. In response, the buildings and grounds guys in their little golf carts started incessantly driving back and forth across that field on countless emergency missions that all required offroading past the naked chicks to save time.
One weekend, a sort of friendly acquaintance, David, came down from Gainesville, (a small university town about 2.5 hours north on Highway 75) to see Dale, the (female) RA of the dorm (and regular member of the nude swim team). He brought a really cute girl named Diana with him. I’m not quite sure why, but we all ended up sitting around in Dale’s room naked, and smoking dope, exactly as our parents had hoped. I sprang a sudden diamond-hard boner that remained in place over hours of talking and laughter. I didn’t feel any shame or awkwardness, possibly because it was a “Life is Wonderful” boner rather than a “Let’s get it on” boner. In the 2 or 3 hours since meeting each other, Diana and I “hit it off” to the point that we climbed out the window to the “porch” at midnight and spent a long, weird, not very comfortable, yet sexy night on that balcony. I remember receiving a blowjob at dawn and looking up to see Dale’s two owlish female neighbors peering at us, in flagrante delicto, through their window blinds – in a distressed yet very attentive sort of way. I came close to giving a gentle wave hello but opted for pretending I didn’t see them. Sleeping outdoors on a slab of concrete is chilly and unpleasant even in Florida so Diana and I rose early, shuffled naked through Dale’s room, and off to the women’s showers for a hot and soapy fuck to warm up.
Diana and I had a nice morning before I wished her and David safe travels and they hit the road for home. Diana might easily have left my story so thoroughly at this point that I could have forgotten her long ago but for an absolutely terrible “good idea” that soon struck me. Continue reading
Clouds crashing into pikes peak like waves in the ocean
Hjalmer Georg Lundstrom, my Grandpa, in his mid-teens shortly before the 20th century.
Created using the popular Deep Nostalgia AI app.
This is maybe the oddest moment of my life but it is far from the most important. It is an indelible, insoluble small mystery shaped like a child’s brag. What I love about this story is that it offers no really sensible resolution, nor does it actually appear to mean anything in particular. It’s merely absurd and impossible but obvious to the naked eye, on an otherwise ordinary Spring day. This story takes place in Greenville, South Carolina.
I was at school, in gym class, playing baseball. I was 10 years old, I was small and blond – with big glasses – and notoriously bad at sports. I came up to bat dreading the usual failure and the indifferent contempt of my team-mates.
There’s the pitch, I hit the ball solidly. It sailed away from the baseball diamond all the way to the playground where it hit the middle of a HUGE tree as tall as a four-story building, and too big for me to put my arms around. The ball went THOK off the tree as I ran. As I neared first base there was a huge splintering CRACK and the tree collapsed cinematically across the playground which, thank god, was empty of kids.
The game was called on account of amazement.
I was actually carried on the kids’ shoulders into school… into the gobsmacked principal’s office for the coach to inform him. The next day the school had to hire guys with chainsaws to come and cut it up. It loudly took the entire school day. I sat through my classes listening to the chainsaws singing of my glory. As we left that day (and forever after) the carved up parts of my tree were stacked in a huge pile at the far edge of the playground like the bones of Goliath.
It was an enigma that came to visit me in front of everyone like a dazzling celebrity giving me in particular finger guns and a grinning wink. There you go, kid.