A Quote From Jaron Lanier: "The Problem with Magic"

“To the degree big data can seem magical it can also be spectacularly misleading. Is this not clear? Perceiving magic is precisely the same thing as perceiving the limits of your own understanding.

“When correlation is mistaken for understanding, we pay a heavy price. An example of this type of failure was the string of early 21st century financial crises in which correlations created gigantic investment packages that turned out to be duds in aggregate, bringing the world to indebtedness and austerity. Yet few financiers were blamed, at least in part because the schemes were complex and automated to such a high degree.

“Naturally, one might ask why big business data is still so often used on faith, even after it has failed spectacularly. The answer is of course that big business data happens to facilitate superquick and vast near-term accumulations of wealth and influence.”

Who Owns the Future? by Jaron Lanier, p. 115, emphasis mine.

Sentence, Part I

It's a Sentence; that's all it is.

“The Word that is spoken is not the Way.” -Lao Tze, Tao Te Ching  “Ἐν ἀρχῇ ἦν ὁ λόγος, καὶ ὁ λόγος ἦν πρὸς τὸν θεόν, καὶ θεὸς ἦν ὁ λόγος."-John 1:1, The Bible

I've been sentenced to write a single sentence, and I can tell you for starters that the Peace Corps was born and so was I on March 1, 1961, but it was a good six months before awareness dawned and another few years before I knew myself to be a self, although only three months after the six I was talking and pointing at billboard signs and confusing them for “the Big TV,” or drive-in theaters, until at eleven months in February of 1962 I could finally walk and get somewhere without assistance and actually have the means whereby to begin interpreting the incessant dreams about Nazis chasing me through yards and over porches as I would attempt to recall which yards I knew so that I could snake my way through back yards and thus be rid of this German attack on my person while my legs refused to move more than a few inches at a time, and usually not at all as I crawled on my belly toward glass doors, which would later cause me to wonder if I wasn't the reincarnation of an American soldier or a Jew attempting to avoid prison camps, which may in part explain my early proclivity for business-related regimens and how I wind up a credit analyst at age seventeen even though it was a job that required a bachelor's degree while I hadn't even officially yet begun college, and it turned out I was not actually cut out for accounting anyway once I was enrolled and underway, so that after the second class I wandered into a philosophy course and realized – if that's the right way of expressing it – that this was my “calling,” if that is the right way of expressing that, but even long before that, as I say, the dreams began and it was walking that enabled me to at least begin to think about where the spirit, as they say, inhabiting this body had originated from, something I wonder about still, even as my dreamworld solidifies ever more so after nearly fifty years (I'm fifty today) and even the earliest images take on a new earnestness and clarity that I would have thought would actually be on the downswing by now, but no, I remember as though it were yesterday, despite the fact that I have no idea where certain of my pairs of shoes are, the way in which these images not only of the Nazis but also of, for example, the trap door in the basement of some room at the airport would fall out, somewhere in sight of the escalator, which I guess they must have already had in 1962, since I'd find myself tumbling down it, sometimes on a steel slide and sometimes just kerplunk onto bails of hay, and down there would be a witch very much like the Wicked Witch from the Wizard of Oz only truly sinister and she'd try to catch me and I'd see her eyes glaring at me, green in the dark, not wanting anything but my soul, and I knew that whatever else occurred I could not let that happen and so I would run away, away, away to a series of metal vaults within which were erected massive pipes that I'd find myself hiding among, sometimes picking at gunk that had built up on their surfaces and hoping for light that occasionally emerged from from behind the steel walls so I could move further in the direction that I seemed pre-determined to move in, although I had no idea and didn't even, yet, so far as I can recall, speculate upon the causes of, since that struck me then – I was about a year old – as ridiculous nonsense and that if there were a God, God must have a hell of a sense of humor but that maybe there was and perhaps one day I'd know what it emanated from and why it chose to manifest itself to me in what then seems a torrid (and horrid) fashion, replete with mental lacerations which would later be taken out upon my physical person as well at the hands of these strange adults who seemed to be in charge – loosely understood – of my physical person as I went scuttling about, often feeling more than remotely like an ungeheuer Ungeziefer, but which at that time I probably would have referred to as an enormous insect and later as a giant vermin, but for then it was enough to know I was but a bug and that this couldn't really be the beginning of the story of a life since the trappings were much too humble, the surrounds much too wondrous, to actually be the only place I could be as I fell in with the others who had befallen my fate, equally clueless at bottom when it came to what we were “really in for this time around,” as I might now playfully and a little bit cynically put it, and yet likelihood of any of a number of possible states of affairs was equally plausible to me as would be any others, I surmised, and so I didn't futz much, or tried not to, over either the imagery or what the imagery might portend with respect to reality: reality, that ephemeral “some such,” always evasive except within the context of the dreams that contained no intermediary, just them and me and me knowing that they were actually a part of me, even when I thought through the trap door long enough, and made it through the pipes and the metal walls back out to some other spot where Dad would get tattoos and I would eat corn dogs and spit them up and then attempt to run away from both my father and all that life with these two adults therein represented, even though I knew even then that it was unlikely to materialize in some kind of wild freedom since even, at that age, had I liberated myself from Mom and Dad, I still would have had needs unmet although in retrospect and on balance I realize the not-having-them-met-by-them would only have led to somebody else very likely more attuned to my proclivities would possibly have swooped me up even though had they not, and even if I had had to run away again several additional times in order to find so-called “good” parents, a different lineage, so to speak, would have sprung up, and so even now I can't but think that the pipes and the trap doors and the tattoos and the corn dogs were more-or-less my destiny, as silly as that word sounds in this context, and that had I not had had all of those dreams and waking life experiences, the ones I did up until that point, I mean, that I would not have become the guy who later had two very specific sons and who married three very specific women, and had a very specific drinking problem that still comes and goes, and who likewise developed several other recurring “sites,” as I'm wont to say despite their purely representational nature within my dream world, “to” which my dream states lead me from time to time no matter how much time lapses in between the last installment thereof and the latest, like this one where I'm in a house with an elaborate walkway all up and down its exterior, including and, as we might say, beginning with a ladder that I either have to hop up a bit to reach or else find a barrel (and there's usually one present) to start my procedure up the iron-wrought lattice-wear that houses gardens and secret passageways that eventually and inevitably lead to the same old door, white-chipped paint and glass panes, through which I have so often entered, possessing the skeleton key as I do, after which I stumble through a storage room until I see a light across from it, and once emancipated from within wander down two floors to where these secret rooms bathed in green light that creeps through the doors linger and wait, although once inside the light is unusually bright, and outside from which stand rolling corrugated garage doors that function almost like EMS vehicle entrance vaults, and from which I have on several occasions found entrance, like the one night when I was shot in the leg near the parking lot famous mainly for its stabbings, and yet wound up in that very familiar space with a triage that always resembles a dental office to me, although the gurney-like structure upon which I am therein laid is overlaid with brown leather and the medical instruments resemble neither those of dentistry nor those of a surgical room, although they are likewise not so gruesome as any of the scenes from Dead Ringers, and there is always a sense of acute chill that makes the experience slightly bone-freezing although it becomes even colder when the doctors with the black rubbery framed head ware walk in and begin poking and prodding and anesthetizing me, often enough, before they wheel me off to some recuperating room, which is usually about the time when I gain consciousness of the fact that this building is not all medical, and that it is annexed to a college, and that it houses in fact women co-eds who all seem to go to sleep in white but patterned flannel pajamas, some rooms of which I not only occasionally rent for my own purposes, but also in order to rent out beds since it is a dormitory type of setting and some of the rooms house upwards of twenty-four female co-eds who, yes, occasionally smuggle in their boyfriends, and to which I have historically, upon most occasions, turned a blind eye not so much because I think doing so is good for business, as much as because I know that adults have needs – and they are always adult inhabitants, except on those rare occasions when I wind up sleeping with an ex-wife in one of the rooms (which one, varies: both which wife as well as which room) – and that those needs, when met in my rooms, give me a refreshing sensation of being human and not monstrous and of contributing in some small measure to the “general happiness,” whatever that is supposed to look like when examined in great detail, and also does of course not hurt business and so constitutes a kind of win-win in my ultimately rather simplified economic, if not economical, mind, and that, despite the fact that it sometimes nets me only a fleeting feeling of having also thereby somewhat vicariously had the pleasure of the pleasure they presumably are experiencing, am able to walk through the halls with a clear, steady head and toward the front door which is never exactly available to me until I enter first by traversing the grounds externally, after which I do this, that, and the other thing and then move on to the other side of the hall which I presume lies to the south, and whereupon I am led through a wall – yes, through it – into a space that both resembles Manhattan, at points, and yet at most others does not, because while the grime is certainly present, as one sees, say, near Harlem and above on, say, the West side, this vista allows me also first to enter a walkway, a greenery if you will, with a neatly cemented and sparkling path that butts up against a five-unit apartment complex where each unit is extraordinarily large by housing standards at least in this part of the world and probably in most since the minimum number of bedrooms is four, bathrooms three, and one unit in particular, in which I sometimes “live” (“live” in quotes because I am ostensibly speaking of my dream world), has an enormous laundry annexed to it on the south side: six washers and six dryers, two of the six washers being front-loading, but the rest of the room an eggnog yellow in color and cracks on the walls and a general feeling of its having been around since no later than the early 1950s, with special electric units attached to the west wall where the breaker units are mounted, sure, but other stuff of unknown significance is attached as well, and outside of which one can wander into a small wood with trails that butts up against sudden suburbanite roads and homes, usually ranch-style houses with red or white or green cattle fences and large trees that sometimes seem to lead back into the area where the Nazis like to trace me with their bandana-equipped rifles although after exiting the large medical/dormitory building on the campus adjacent to the apartment complex I own it then seems utterly harmless although an easy place to get lost, which often propels me out to a highway by way of a small school, but the highway is so large, with a traffic circle in the middle, that often I am led to search for bus maps which I can only sometimes muster, and hence with equal frequency run into a grocery store or convenience store or gas station and ask for schedules or other kinds of help, usually around dusk or dawn, but oftener at dusk, and this sometimes requires me to wait in the middle of an area with which I preternaturally (since I've been here many times) regard as alien, until a bus with red and green lights pulls up and a driver encourages me to get on so that he can stay on schedule and so that I can collapse in a seat and not worry for a bit where exactly the bus will head, which typically leads to me awaking, at least for a time, with the relatively firm understanding that this is just a brief hiatus in my dream world trip, and so in fact it does happen that I always wind up back in my dream world again, this time dumped off by the bus at a new locale, whether new in the sense of constituting a new piece of scenery in my dream world or just a return to another portion of the old dream world that is non-contiguous with where I had found myself the evening (or morning) before, and while this never seems to produce overt cries of discomfort due to disorientation from me, it is clearly less than satisfactory as the new scenery emerges and I am left to wander through a downtown area (or two), or a dirt road, or an empty lot (usually the one where the stabbings occur), or just head toward the beach or the airport before I am aware even of the fact, within the dream, that this is a dream, and that here I create the world, which is alternately comforting and discomforting upon reawakening again, and in the latter case when the dream in question was one that wound me up, fresh off the bus, flying: flying here, flying there, but always so, so, so so very happy to know that I really can fly, at least within the context of the dreams themselves, and being able to express this fact, with deep affect, upon those who inhabit my dream world themselves, until the awe on their faces over what I am able to do that they are not, captures them and they thereby seemingly see that I have a talent that is enviable, although as soon as I sense that they know it, I almost think simultaneously of how ludicrous it is for them to even care, since the world is full of birds and I simply happen to have a bird-like, an avian, capacity that partially links me to them, while in most respects still linked to our own species, and yet that makes me wonder to what extent we can ever adequately demarcate what it is that makes something a part of one species and yet most certainly not of another, like the black swan “problem,” as it's sometimes put, and yet why worry about that when you are in the midst of revery of the knowledge of the fact that you are indeed – this time, at least – flying: flying so high and with such an awareness that nothing nor nobody can convince you otherwise, until you awaken and realize that the history of your so called flying dreams begins with you simply staring up at a series of tall trees, swaying, the wind blowing, the sky gray, and you flapped gently at first to see if somehow doing so would enable you to transcend the biosphere, the ground, for a while even though you had no idea that there on that beach, oddly populated by the swaying trees that had no right to be just where they were, the overpass to your left and your sense of direction obscured, you eventually beat and beat and beat your arms until a helicopter appears with rescue apparatus to help swimmers caught in a gray and white tidepool and you almost witness your body floating near but not quite upside the helicopter and your hair is wet from the moisture in the air and you know that this is going somewhere, baby, somewhere, although you're not sure where exactly, and so once you land and find yourself actually walking over that self-same overpass it brings only a sense of additional knowing one's immediate environment which, in this case while a dreaming one, led me into a long stretch so familiar that it feels almost as though I had lived within its bounds during the course of a separate lifetime (I was about twelve when this dream occurred) and frequented the strip malls like an addict who wants to imbibe more and more of the junk house aspects of this modern world into which I have been thrust, with all the yellow and blue and yellow and green and yellow and red flashing signs and the hideous telephone poles everywhere and the endless opportunities to stand on corners watching the lights change and change again, often with absolutely no inclination whatsoever to proceed, and yet sooner or later proceed I do, as though some force is reminding me that ahead is something better, something I must get to, some destination that will cause me to awaken from this dream-state, awake or asleep, and that I shall find what it is that I have been looking for, but then the U2 song comes to mind and I realize that I still haven't found what I'm looking for and that most of us have not and so we continue to look but try out thousands of faces in the process hoping that one will cause other faces to smile and then begins the money game because we like it when people make us genuinely smile (and equally hate it when they assist us, for our own psychological reasons, in causing us to, “fake-smile”) because then we have temporary relief from the haunting sense that while we all intuitively know that we should be behaving cooperatively, most of what we do is non-cooperative or, it is cooperative in a mitigated sense of that concept only, namely one enabled by le esprit de competition, or spirit of competition, which forms amongst spirits only a distorted mirror into which each may look only to find a distorted spirit staring back, namely one's own, because we know that the truth only comes when we can look at one another honestly, and baby we are worlds away from that day's nascent approximation, so that in the interim each can freely share her or his dream stories and hope that a sufficient overlap will create a new social network and we will all lay down the sword and pick up the rose, shorn of thorns, and perhaps even lie simply in the dream-fields knowing that they are closer to us than the external world with that intermediary of “sense-data” or whatever you choose to call it: the smog that makes it difficult for me to relate directly the feeling, the haunting feeling that arises when I dream of walks over asphalt and think of the labor that went into that and how, aesthetically and environmentally it all fails, although people, workers and designers, gave their lives calling into existence a vision that doesn't work, that doesn't make us feel comfortable in our skin, and so we have to scratch it and try again as attested to by all these new dreamers who talk “green-lingo” and use neologisms as if they are afraid that otherwise they might go out of style, and yet that has the inherent weakness of all stipulative definitions in that each one's obscurity makes common-place usage impractical, at least at first, at least before we call upon the marketing machinery to come and create new unneeded desires unless we can approach these psycho-drama pros can actually cut through all the fear-talk that works so well and instead touch the deeper but less emphasized or apparent nerve that lies concealed within us, the one that does genuinely hope for decency, where decency is not defined in Christian terms (“proper sex” being the apex unto which that myopic view of world and self ascend), but in terms that can only be created or re-appropriated once, metaphorically speaking, “blind eyes have been healed” (but that metaphor has run thin, and its association with Christianity renders it problematic in any event) and we can begin to see that the flying metaphors embedded within our dreams give us a self-imposed opportunity to fly in the non-dream-life portion of existence, not with wings as much so as with, “free spirits,” but that sounds so mamba-Pamela that something has to be done about that, and so I heartily refer to Jung as an antidote of sorts to skepticism, even though not everything he says needs to be a matter upon which you agree, but rather, he will say a thing or two that will make you think twice about the way in which you have organized your mental life thus far – oh the tyranny of language! – and you may actually come out seeing, say, even a cloud a little different, and after all, when you think about it, if you're slightly intoxicated or happen to have eaten, say, a rib eye steak dinner at Pappy & Harriet's, then you're also likely to view the cloud differently, at least a little, from the way in which you may otherwise have viewed it, and wow when you think about that you can go on to think about how very different must be the way the others around you, even my good friends circling around me as I type, are viewing the same objects that we are both at least passively observing, from quite possibly radically different perspectives, and nobody is at fault, and nobody is anxious to correct the others' impressions, although occasionally it might seem appropriate for one of us, particularly fascinated by, say, the way a stain looks on a surface since it resembles the bust of, oh, I don't know, let's say Fred Astaire, wound up looking quite like just that to one of us, so we pause and attempt to appreciate and usually do and then we all smile and realize that looking together occasionally brings us closer together, although granted it does take a real looking and not just an “uh-huh” polite acquiescence, each occurrence of which is of course, as we all secretly know, a denunciation of life since we failed to use our voice(s) to articulate exactly, or as nearly as possible, what it was that we were actually thinking, and so things get clogged within us, and clogged within them, and then the “triangulation” begins during the course of which nobody is deep-down comfortable even though we do simultaneously feel a surface-comfort because we get to talk rather freely in such contexts – some call it gossip, but what if what's said is true? – and so it goes, and so it goes, and so it goes, and most of us at various junctures feel a tad trapped into on the one hand professing our devotion to, say, Buddhist principles, while on the other, equally quickly, we feel a tinge, or a tad, or repulsion not at the Buddha principles per se but at the feeling that we, despite the safeguards, just cannot measure up (a Christian sentiment), and so we engage, some feel guilty later for having excoriated an aspect of a friend's identity in the name of “honesty” (was it, really?) and then on goes the dance, like the ones you maybe did or did not dance in high school, and I speak mainly from hearsay because I was too busy being a good Christian (to the extent of teaching Bible studies, on campus – so much for the plea for prayers in schools: we had them gratis, and so can you if you're in school since after all, who's gonna stop you from mumbling a few words and doing whatever's going on in your head anyway – I mean, really, who can stop you?) and consequently attended zero dances, which was okay except for the big finale I also bowed out of, which sat none too well with my high school sweetheart, although I'd already replaced her (to speak crudely of transference) with the woman who would become the wife of my youth and even into my thirties, sorta, but that's complicated, and yet, amazingly, not as complicated as are my dreams which still mystify me and sometimes cause me to become insomniac since I just don't want to go there, partially because upon awakening I'm disappointed that waking life is not nearly as vivid as what transpires in my dreams where, presumably indeed, as previously mentioned, I am in absolute control since each transition represents not something (to me, at least consciously, although this was not my view in my youth, and hence certainly affected the quality of the dreams I had then) that then represents something else, but instead represents, at worst (or best, depending upon your point of view), a gap between the slumbering me and what reels I call up on my own private screen, one to which nobody in the whole wide world, save me, and g-d (bleh) is privy (he/she's a spoiler), like this one in which I was walking downtown (I'm now about age seven) and see all these “really cool” (then) shops that made me stop and stare at things like watches and necklaces and even Christmas trees and little velvety lavender gift cards for girls whom I could see giggling over who might purchase one of them for one of them, and then the guitars and the tambourines and the kazoos and the guitar picks and the flutes and clarinets up in the corner and the little white and powder-blue horizontally striped ski caps that would look so cute on various of my girlfriends' faces, and how they must sometimes stand there and shake in front of the window-panes and smile and giggle and point and tap their toes and wonder who it was, who it was that would bring such treasures as tokens to enable them to understand that others saw just how adorable they are and all that they have had to put up with, already by age thirteen, and then on a wintry night some dude – like, say, me – might come up and filter through their imaginations (back to three dimensions, eh?) that I, or some other dude, was him, the one, “the one,” the prince, and then I'd gather my thoughts together, my dream thoughts, mind you, and I would continue down the path toward the theater on the south side of the street, on the corner, ever mindful of all the offerings on the marquee, but never, up unto this day, venturing in, just an observer, just wondering, looking, watching couples huddle and always standing across the street waiting to see if anything unusual happened, and usually nothing did, and they'd go in and yet sometimes line up and I would wait, tall awkward boys and little spirited girls in pink corduroys trying to make each other happy and usually succeeding, at least momentary, before they'd get their popcorn and drinks and candies and go in to fight the dark into seats while I was stand outside envisioning what excitement they must be anticipating, and sometimes chewing on licorice, a foolish smile on my face, knowing somehow that this is what normalcy is, or that at least this was an approximation thereof, and I'd be content, still in my dream, and then turn a right-land corner where I knew of an optometrist's office about midway down the block that was always closed, no matter when I arrived, and so I learned to just knock knock knock on the door until somebody would appear, usually a pretty blonde with a twirled-up hairdo and a white blouse, blue eyes and cat-eye black glasses and glossy pink lipstick and almost like Ground Hog Day as soon as she'd appear I'd catch in the corner of my left eye the face-front of the jewelry shop next door, and the next thing you know I'm looking at sapphires set in gold settings, intermittent diamonds, rubies, diamond bracelets too overwhelmingly brilliant for me to comprehend, black pearls and rose gold, both of which remind me of my grandmother, and then on to the real find, the emeralds, Chatham or real, that dumbfound me with their brilliance, their impenetrable depths, and in part of my dream-field I would realize that, in some sense, I could linger right here forever, attempting to plumb their depths, but not really ever able to, it hits me that I could use them as a catalyst to plunge deep into the grassy fields they somehow often enough led me to imagine, places where my body would feel free and those of my lovers, and we would sing and dance nude – no white gauze trappings – and suck on red-fruited figs and wine and cheese and bread (yes) and speak nonsense like John Steinbeck in Junius Maltby, and from there go on either to make love or not, after which there was a picnic basket to be collected, usually with checkered-green cloths and an empty assortment of glasses, bags, dishes, and off we would wander until the spell was broken and I'd move onto the next window that always appeared nondescript but stood (stands) directly across from a gym on the north side of the street while beyond the nondescript shop stood a field largely composed of dirt, but if you looked up and to the right you'd see a convenience store, but this one wasn't (isn't) open twenty-four-seven (in fact, it's never open – it exists only in my mind), and so it was that I'd find a vehicle there that I just knew was mine, or presumed it was, and usually upon approaching this vehicle, whether or car or a truck or a motorcycle or sometimes even a boat, they would appear, those guys who for some reason thought I meant them harm, and perhaps I did unknowingly (who knows what?), and so they would take the preemptive strike which, as a kid, really hurt, a lot, but now when those dreams recur enough has happened in my waking life to make me, even as I think upon the dream episodes now, take it with the proverbial grain of salt, since testosterone is as good an anesthesia as most others – it's just that in most surgical conditions you can't muster it up, which raises design issues – and gets me now through the beatings relatively unscathed in the physical pain department since “this too shall pass” and one way or another I'll emerge from the dream or the so-called “reality” and continue the spirit journey, although by invoking again the notion of “spirit,” I am in no way attempting to appear mystical (whatever that means), although I am as a matter of fact one-sixteenth American Indian and the rest Scottish and blah blah blah, if you catch my drift, but I don't think bloodlines should be the kinds of measurements that they are anyway, although it is sexy to have a French girlfriend, I must admit, and instead we might do better to focus on what people do, rather than what they say, but I suppose that might hit the reader later if at all, like on around page 87 or 99 or 62, 62 being the page number where it hit me when I was reading this really weird book that I had no interest in reading called Think And Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill, and I never, ever would have read beyond page three if it weren't for the fact that a living legend, Art Kunkin, had encouraged me to give it a go, and lo and behold, on page 62 something did click but I don't know what it is, only that it would not have had I not begun with page one and made my “own way” (a yucky phrase) and found whatever it was I was looking for on page 62, which is when I said something in a cursing vein out loud, threw the book aside, decided immediately to “change my life” (whatever that means), and met a man who told me he'd give me an unbeatable deal where I could lease-to-buy a home although he also told me he liked running whore-houses in Philadelphia and so there ya go, but there ya go when your bottom is falling out and your wife, well, let's forget the wife (pullease), and then that doesn't materialize but you still have faith in page 62 and you don't know why, you can't even quote a single page from it, it was a build-up effect kinda like sailing out on a fishing boat and watching the anchor suddenly get thrown out into the sea while you watch and realize that something's up, kinda like g-d does to me sometimes, and you try to understand what comes next and even though you never quite do, you still go with it because – heh – what's the alternative, and then you don't know whether you're back in your dream life or if you really are that spirit, in the body or in the spirit itself, and then you say, “Now that makes no sense: you're not in a spirit, you are the spirit,” and you sorta feel like right there you've answered your own question, but maybe not completely, and then years later you find yourself writing like this at maybe seventy words per minute (slow), and maybe this is how Salinger felt and why he became so reclusive, because nobody understands “this” mania, but in my case it's not mania, that's what my psychiatrist assures me and I trust him (I've checked him out and went to a dozen others before I found him), so then maybe, I think, it's just a case of Salinger drawing different conclusions from the gifts, once he found them and put them into words, but perhaps that is naïve, although I am sure when it comes to this one, namely the fact that he lived and died his own life, as did David Foster Wallace and Spalding Gray and Ernest Hemingway (a bunch of dudes: I'm aware, and I could add the true drunks, like for example Dylan Thomas and Edgar Allen Poe, but why bother, really? – baby, the list continues), their reasons for passing away are at least at a remove between the relationship between what I write and “this spirit,” me, which, although it still sounds heavy when I put it that way, quite, isn't really so intended, and I still think most people are smart and so can dissect it for themselves if they really want to, which is part of the particular joy of reading and writing that I know I at least have always immensely appreciated, and if you've gone this far into a single sentence and are still reading, then my guess is that you kinda get that joy too, although I dunno, you could be doing it for a hundred thousand different reasons, like competitiveness, curiosity, “boredom” (doesn't figure into my vocabulary – I should highlight that word and reverse it as unacceptable in my Microsoft Word dictionary), and on and on the list could go, but here you are and here am I writing what I hope will be a nifty little sentence that gets you to think, oh, I don't know, about things like semantics and symbols and language and the world, like an old puzzle I used to put up on the boards, or not a puzzle quite but more like a diagram that represented everything that is in a triangulated form: World / Mind / Language, which I stole, I later realized, from another philosopher whose name I can't think of right now but anyway his book is called Spreading the Word and he's a very big shot within my profession and I even heard him speak once at a conference, in DC I think, when another big shot (Gibbard) came out with a book closely aligned to my own area of inquiry, moral theory and the history thereof and moral psychology, and announced Gibbard to be, hopefully, the next big “to do,” so I assumed they'd spent lots of time together and that made me wonder to what extent spending a lot of time together accounts for the “brilliance” we attribute to one another, and to what extent it's just vacuous brilliance, and I suppose it was at about that crucial moment that I came to see that even within the hallowed temple of philosophy, the love of wisdom, persons play a role that none of my previous education prepared me for, and yes, indeed, when I learned this fact, albeit (“albeit”?) a social fact, I learned a great deal about young-man maturity and threw a huff up against academia simpliciter, as I had earlier done with Christianity simpliciter, now (...to be continued...)

Genealogy Shards - At Long Last

Lawrence Udell Fike, Jr.

Last edit:  August 22, 2016

Family Members:  Please contribute by sending me corrections and expansions. Mail to: fike@larryfike.net

In Scotland, at a time presumably many years prior to March 28, 1890, William David Scott Polson married Agnes Jane Lowe. For it was on that date that their thirteenth child, Ena Scott Polson, was born. She died on January 8, 1965, and was cremated on January 13, 1965. She and her husband, Benjamin Abbott Flowers, were married on May 3, 1915, in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Chicago, Illinois, and as of March 25, 1999, the certificate of their marriage is in the possession of Kenneth Abbott Novak.

Benjamin died on February 27, 1934, and was buried in Acacia Park Cemetery on Irving Park Road, also in Chicago, Illinois. He had been a member of the Masonic Lodge, and so had a Mason’s burial ceremony. (William David Scott Polson, Ena’s father, is buried in Wanderer’s Rest Cemetery in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.)

Two of the thirteen children of William and Agnes moved to Vancouver Island, British Columbia. One of these two, William Burnette Scott Polson, fathered thirteen children by two wives, including two sets of twins who died very young. He died of abdominal cancer and is, to the best of my knowledge, buried on Vancouver Island. The other, Charles Darcey Polson, was I believe buried on Vancouver Island on February 10, 1940. There is more information on these two sons who moved to Canada, presumably in jottings from a book titled Physiology For Young People, copyright 1884, 1885, and 1889 by A. S. Barnes & Co., that was in bookends on the end-table of Bernice Ena Novak’s residence at the time of her death on July 9, 1998. Later I’ll try to get this book from Kenneth Abbott Novak, now in possession of it, and expand that part of this genealogical tracing.

Ena Scott Polson, now Ena Flowers, bore three children fathered by Benjamin Abbott Flowers: Bernice Ena Flowers,born May 30, 1916, in Chicago, Illinois, and died July 9, 1998 at Beverly Hospital in Whittier, California; William David Flowers, born July 23, 1918 and died August 28, 1976; and another child, who died in infancy. I do not have any dates or other information pertaining to the birth and death of this third child. William married Evelyn Truher, who was born on March 17, 1918, and died October 31, 1975. The reader can see that William, or Bill, died very soon after the death of Evelyn, his beloved wife. After her death, he wrote me a series of extremely bitter and profane letters in which he denounced Christ ( whom he had for years before professed to be his savior), and suffered a series of heart attacks in close succession. Since I was only fourteen years old at the time and yet he chose nonetheless to send me several long, detailed, and bitter letters that one would think suitable only for an adult audience, it can probably be inferred that he was not of sound mind -- a fact that may comfort some who might otherwise be troubled by his denunciation of his faith.  The letters he wrote me are long since lost.

William and Evelyn had two children: James David Flowers, birth date unknown; and Diane Carie Flowers, birthdate also unknown.  My understanding, however, is that Diane Carie's second marriage was to Bob Pierson of Elkhorn, Wisconsin.

On October 23, 1937, Bernice married Edward Leroy Kane, who was born January 28, 1918, and who died on October 31, 1985. (Both Evelyn and Edward Leroy Kane [Sr.], then, died on Halloween, exactly ten years apart.) Bernice bore the following children fathered by Edward Leroy Kane: Edward Leroy Kane, Jr., born in Chicago, Illinois, on August 5, 1938 at 5:45 a.m. in Cook County General Hospital; Robert Neil, born in Chicago, Illinois, on July 28, 1940 at 5:45 a.m.; Sharon Belle, born in Chicago, Illinois, on September 1, 1942 at 9:30 a.m. and died November 15, 1970, arriving Paso Robles Mar Memorial Hospital at 6:25 a.m. (buried November 19, 1970 in Los Gatos, California) [married at time of death to Floyd Bechler] ; and Gary Allen, born in Lincoln, Nebraska on June 19, 1945 at 12:15 a.m.

On December 3, 1948, Bernice remarried, to John Walter Novak, Jr. (born November 22, 1912; died in Los Angeles, California, on June 8, 1969), and gave birth to Kenneth Abbott Novak in Whittier, California, on July 27, 1955 at 7:30 a.m. in front of Beverly Hospital (in a taxi cab).  Kenneth Abbott's first marriage was to Diane Serna, and they together have two daughters:  Jennifer (born June 4, 1979) and Melissa (born June 22, 1981).  Kenneth Abbott later remarried to Yolanda, and they together have twins Elizabeth and John, born March 15, 1994.

After they wed, John Walter and Bernice Ena initiated adoption procedures for Robert Neil, Sharon Belle, and Gary Allen.  Ed, Jr., eventually went to live with his father in St. Paul, Minnesota.  In the adoption paperwork, all children were listed as having been born in Chicago, Illinois.  As mentioned above, however, Gary Allen was actually born in Lincoln, Nebraska.  Because of this, Gary Allen's adoption was not finalized.  In 1959, Gary Allen was taken to Saint Paul, Minnesota, where the intention was to leave him with his father, Edward Leroy Kane, Sr. -- this is the first time Gary remembers ever having seen his father.  (The story that Bernice told me on at least six separate occasions was that Edward Leroy, Sr., had in fact left her when she was very close to giving birth to Gary.)  On this trip to St. Paul, Gary also met his brother, Ed, Jr.  When Gary became aware of the plan to leave him in St. Paul, he objected so much that he was allowed to move with the family to Los Angeles, on condition that he retain the Kane name.  The apparent reason for this condition is that family difficulties had begun to be associated with the Novak name, and for practical reasons John Walter ("Johnnie") thought it best for Gary to retain his birth name.  Hence is it that today the surviving children are called by the names Edward (Ed, Eddie) Leroy Kane, Jr.; Robert (Bob, Bobby) Neil Novak; Gary Allen Kane; and Kenneth (Ken, Kenny) Abbott Novak.  John Walter's concern to limit the expansion of the name "Novak" can be interpreted radically differing ways, since he himself had changed his name from the Polish name, "Dowiarz."  He had therefore already encountered some issues surrounding the significance of names.

Although much still needs to be filled in, my own immediate genealogy continues as follows: In Tijuana, Mexico on May 22, 1960, Sharon Belle Kane wed Lawrence Udell Fike, who was born in Phoenix, Arizona on June 23, 1943. I was born at General Hospital in Los Angeles, California, on March 1, 1961, at 11:13 a.m.. My brother, Aaron Bill Fike, was born Arron Bill Fike in Wichita Falls, Texas, on December 22, 1964. My sister, Patti Lynn Fike, was born in General Hospital, Los Angeles, California, on November 5, 1966.  (My dad and I are usually called "Larry."  I also am called by private family nick-names, and increasingly people now simply refer to me as "Lar," pronounced, "lair.")

I married Laura Denise Altman on August 16, 1980. The marriage ended May of 1984. I then married Mitzi Gayle Sheppard on January 29, 1987. That marriage ended in divorce on December 15, 1992. She adopted and now retains the name Mitzi Sheppard Fike. Our son, Ian Lawrence Fike, was born in Babies Hospital, New York City, Upper Manhattan, on Friday, September 13, 1991, at 11:24 p.m.

I married Stephanie Catherine Pruett on December 25, 2007.  Our son,Lawrence Udell Fike III, was born on October 11, 2006 at Arrowhead Regional Hospital in Colton, California.  We were divorced March 18, 2013.  My parental rights over Lawrence Udell Fike III were removed entirely by the Honorable Lisa M. Brown of Clark County, Nevada on September 16, 2015, after a 5 day trial.  Custody was given to Connie Marie Harris, the maternal biological grandmother of the child, the biological mother -- Stephanie Catherine Pruett -- having no interest in retaining custody.

Much of the history of the Fike, or paternal side of my family is yet to come.  I have already mentioned that my father, Lawrence Udell Fike, Sr., was born in Phoenix, Arizona on June 23, 1943.  But even beginning with his parents, the record on this side of the family is in a state of disarray.  On my birth certificate, my father's listed age is incorrect (it states that he is 20, whereas in reality he was only seventeen; my mother was eighteen -- see above) .  My father's parents are Udell Wayne Fike (died December 7, 1998, and buried December 10, 1998 at the Veteran's Cemetery in Phoenix, Arizona) and Martha Ellen White, born Martha Ellen Wooster, but who was then adopted by Edna Ida Scott.  My father's sisters are Patricia Elaine Vrtis, born Patricia Elaine Fike on November 6, 1951; and Beverly Lynn Smith born Beverly Lynn Fike, October 7, 1954, in Maywood Hospital, Maywood, California.  My father died on July 21, 2000, the same date on which I narrowly escaped being bitten by a rattlesnake while trailing running by jumping off of a cliff.  He was hit by a van while out bicycling late at night in his final home town of Fort Smith, Arkansas, where he is now buried.  I presided over the details of his burial.   My siblings did not join me.  I paid for everything, although later I was partially reimbursed by his widow, and hence my step-mother,Della Cook, also of Fort Smith, Arkansas.

My sister Patti Lynn has six children:  Krystina Marie O'Brien, born September 25, 1985; Allyson Hagler, born January 23, 1991; Ashlie Hagler, born February 5, 1992; Tracy Hagler,  born June 7, 1993; Holly Hagler, born December 14, 1994; and Alton Hagler III, born September 20, 1996.