?

Log in

No account? Create an account
entries friends calendar profile Previous Previous Next Next
who do you say that I am? - shadows of echoes of memories of songs
j4
j4
who do you say that I am?
This is mostly in response to something kaet said about www.amihotornot.com and the LiveJournal Valentine's Day thing, but it's also things that I've been wibbling about to other people in email, and it was going to be said eventually, so it might as well be said now.


I was saying something about this to somebody else on email the other day, only about quizzes rather than about popularity-contest stuff. Actually, I'm going to quote exactly what I said, because they probably wouldn't mind, and it was my words anyway:

I did a crap "Which box can we put you in?" internet quiz, which was supposed to tell me whether I was a goth or whatever, and it told me that I didn't fit in any box. I laughed so much at that, and nobody else thought it was funny. They were, like, "That's a really cool result!"


Everybody I know seems to be completely into the internet quiz thing at the moment, it's doing my head in. It's, like, "Which tube station are you?" "Which colour/animal/city/fruit/film are you?" "Which preposition are you?" FOR FUCK'S SAKE! It's self-definition gone mad. And then I end up doing the quizzes anyway because I'm bored, and I find myself getting dragged into them. "No! I'm not a wolf really, I think I'm much more of a ... a cat!" or "Yes! I *am* Dream from Sandman! That's so... *me*!"


So that's what I said. It's not just that I'm bored, though -- although I like to tell myself it is. Like when you tell yourself that a tarot reading or something is just a game, but secretly you want to believe in it and you know you're going to be affected by the results. I think part of the reason I do the quizzes is that I secretly want to have my opinions of myself confirmed ... or to get "good" results so that I can laugh at them and say "That is such a joke, I'm not like that at all, these internet quizzes are a load of rubbish anyway". It's one of those things where you can believe in it as long as it gives you the answer you want.

I'm currently having a bizarre "Desert Island foo" email conversation with one of my cow-orkers. Yesterday we did "What 5 vegetables would you take with you to a desert island?" -- today it's been "What 5 cheeses...", and "What 5 things to distract you from being hungry". It's just another symptom of the same thing -- "High Fidelity" syndrome (it existed before the book, of course, but the book expressed it so well, the way the protagonist lists all his records and his broken hearts in much the same way, and he knows it's sad and pointless, but he does it anyway, because it provides structure). We need to make lists of things, to state our position in the universe -- it's like adding more and more co-ordinates, in more and more dimensions, endlessly refining our definitions of ourselves, adding more dimensions in case we've missed something important.

<aside>This ties in with some of the things I was going to say the other day about "I have never", although others of the things I was going to say (about peer pressure and suchlike) don't really fit in here. But a lot of the reason I think people play "I have never" is that they want to list what they've done, what they haven't done, where they can place themselves in the grand order of who-has-done-what. Am I hot or not? Am I dodgy or not? Am I relatively experienced, or relatively inexperienced? Where would you rate me?<aside>

And the questions remaining to be asked are infinite. What shape of glass would you be? Which flavour of ice-cream? Which major chord? Which minor dramatist of the late 19th century? What does your handwriting say about your taste in clothes? Who uses the most pronouns in their usenet posts? Who posts the largest volume of crap to livejournal?

Who would you sleep with out of Hollyoaks? Who would you sleep with out of your cow-orkers? Which five people would you take to a desert island with you? To which five people would you send anonymous tokens of affection, assuming you only had five heart-shaped clichés? If you have to count, it doesn't count. List your friends in order of attractiveness. Let us put you on this graph, and we'll tell you how much you're worth. Mene, mene, tekel, upharsin. All in all, you're just another bit of writing on the wall.
Read 20 | Write
Comments
From: kaet Date: February 14th, 2003 09:46 am (UTC) (Link)
Mene, mene, tekel, upharsin.

:). A phrase Daniels often learn.
From: ex_lark_asc Date: February 15th, 2003 07:52 am (UTC) (Link)
What does it mean?
j4 From: j4 Date: February 15th, 2003 11:37 am (UTC) (Link)
It's the original "writing on the wall": see Daniel 5:24-28.
beingjdc From: beingjdc Date: February 14th, 2003 10:26 am (UTC) (Link)

I'm not mad on quizzes in general, but...

A cat, yesterday
You are a cat. Purrrrr!


Are You a Cat or a Snake?
j4 From: j4 Date: February 14th, 2003 01:56 pm (UTC) (Link)

Re: I'm not mad on quizzes in general, but...

<giggle&rt;

Okay, that quiz is really sweet...
jiggery_pokery From: jiggery_pokery Date: February 14th, 2003 04:20 pm (UTC) (Link)
We need to make lists of things, to state our position in the universe -- it's like adding more and more co-ordinates, in more and more dimensions, endlessly refining our definitions of ourselves, adding more dimensions in case we've missed something important.

You're definitely onto something there, almost certainly something profound. I wonder if this sort of introspection tends to affect people who are more likely than others to be interested in maintaining some sort of public blog or journal. I also wonder if this is more likely to be common among people who have rejected established religion (me, for one, and I think you said you had too).

Very interesting perspective on "I have never" - certainly one I hadn't seen before and one which makes a lot of sense. I briefly had thoughts in my mind when I was playing it as to whether the logical conclusion of the exercise would be for us all just to go through some sort of purity test and shout our answers out. *imagines drunk people shouting Yes! Yes! Yes! No! Yes! No! Yes! No but I'd like to! ad lib*

Unrelated question: I frequently find myself taking a URL like http://www.livejournal.com/users/jiggery_pokery/friends and trying to select the jiggery_pokery/friends part to replace it with some other username. Unfortunately a good quarter of the time I only end up selecting iggery_pokery/friends and so looking at new usernames with letters j prefixed. For instance, there does exist jj4. Given that you too are of the be-j-prefixed username, do you ever find this a problem?
j4 From: j4 Date: February 15th, 2003 06:06 am (UTC) (Link)
You're definitely onto something there, almost certainly something profound.

It's something that I keep running up against no matter what I do or where I go. I really wish I could set it down seriously, somewhere more lasting than LiveJournal, but I seem to alternate between feeling like it's all too big to say, and feeling like it's all been said before and is too obvious to say.

... I also wonder if this is more likely to be common among people who have rejected established religion (me, for one, and I think you said you had too).

I think that's a symptom rather than a cause -- the problem with established religion is that it generally only seems to operate on one or two sets of axes; it discounts all the rest as unimportant. In a way I wonder if that's a good thing -- if the whole point is that most of these ways of defining/analysing/locating oneself are irrelevant, and the only one that really matters is (for example) our "relationship with God." However, I find it impossible to discount all the other things that I know about myself -- I know that I'm the sum of all the experiences I've had, all the people I've known, all the things I've seen and thought and felt, all the beliefs I've held, the books I've read, and so on; those things are what makes me a multi-dimensional person, rather than just a pawn on the chessboard where God plays the Devil, or Good plays Evil, or however a particular religion chooses to express its ultimate dichotomy.

(At this point I'd normally just say "moo" and lapse into self-parody, but this is something I often think about and while I recognise that a lot of it is derivative and obvious, it's not something I want to dismiss out of hand as mere pseudo-philosophical ramblings.)
jiggery_pokery From: jiggery_pokery Date: February 15th, 2003 05:41 pm (UTC) (Link)
This is fascinating stuff - please keep thinking about it and I know that I for one would be fascinated to read what you wanted to share about it. I have a vague feeling that the process of self-exploration is far more valuable than the actual conclusions reached and that the results make little sense without having performed the self-exploration - and, because people's self-explorations will produce different sets of results, people will produce different and personal sets of results.

More power and respect to you for performing the self-exploration process. :-) Keep going!
j4 From: j4 Date: February 16th, 2003 11:49 am (UTC) (Link)
I have a vague feeling that the process of self-exploration is far more valuable than the actual conclusions reached and that the results make little sense without having performed the self-exploration


We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time.
(T. S. Eliot, from Four Quartets: "Little Gidding")


In "The Matrix", Neo gets knowledge and skills uploaded into his brain. "I know Kung Fu!" he says, after one such upload. He's wrong: he doesn't know Kung Fu, or any other martial art. He knows a series of moves -- but without having gone through the process of training, without having travelled the hard path of learning (both learning about the art and learning about himself, for in the end they are one and the same) he doesn't have the skills required to use that knowledge; he still fails to best Morpheus at Kung Fu, and he still fails the Jump. He only gains the knowledge he needs to become The One -- to become truly himself, to become real in a world of illusions -- by the hard process of trying, failing, losing everything to find himself.

I believe that when we travel, when we learn, we do so primarily to find ourselves at the end of our road, to learn about ourselves. "To arrive where we started / And know the place for the first time." Seeing new places helps us to see in a new light the place that we should know the best -- our own interior landscape, the vast plains of our minds.

There is no shortcut to enlightenment ("A circle", says Stoppard, "is the longest distance to the same point") because we are already there; all we have to do is learn to know it.
j4 From: j4 Date: February 15th, 2003 06:15 am (UTC) (Link)
I seem to have forgotten to reply to the other bits of your comment, sorry...

Very interesting perspective on "I have never" - certainly one I hadn't seen before and one which makes a lot of sense. I briefly had thoughts in my mind when I was playing it as to whether the logical conclusion of the exercise would be for us all just to go through some sort of purity test and shout our answers out. *imagines drunk people shouting Yes! Yes! Yes! No! Yes! No! Yes! No but I'd like to! ad lib*

<grin> Something like that. Although I think there's a certain amount of ... thrill? not sure that's quite the word I'm looking for, but I can't think of a better one ... in having the answers dragged out of one.

The idea with purity tests, apparently, is to administer them to a group of people, and (presumably) hear everybody's answers. When I try to think about it now it sounds awfully tedious, but I suspect if somebody proposed the idea I'd be joining in with everybody else -- to prove (to myself?) that I'm not afraid to admit the things I've done? Or just to carry on plotting my co-ordinates?

Unrelated question: [...snip...] do you ever find this a problem?

Er, no, can't say I've ever noticed it. I'm not quite sure what you mean, actually. I don't tend to wander round the journals of people I don't know, though, because statistically there's a high likelihood that they'll be full of the semi-literate ramblings of 14-year-old goths...
(Deleted comment)
j4 From: j4 Date: February 15th, 2003 06:10 am (UTC) (Link)
I am an ejde....I really don't worry about other labels because in the end, it's only the ones that I give myself that tend to hurt the most.

Really? I find it's the other way round -- the labels I give myself are the ones I have control over; they're the ones that are sometimes helpful to me in sorting out who I really am, and they often serve as useful shorthand for telling other people things about myself that I want to tell them. It's the labels that other people give me that hurt, because as soon as they label me they're limiting the way they see me.

and surely no-one really plays "I have never" seriously...it just seems to degenerate to that point in the evening and drinking enjoys the compnay of silly games.

Um, I'm not sure what you mean by playing it "seriously". It's the fact that it's played at all that seems to me to be indicative of some kind of instinct to list one's experiences, to rate oneself against other people, and so on. I'm not saying that people consciously take it any more seriously than they do the "Which animal are you?" quizzes and suchlike, but it's interesting that people so often seem to return to that kind of thing.

we'll add it to the things to do and simonb's birthday.

<sigh> If you like.
ewx From: ewx Date: February 15th, 2003 05:39 am (UTC) (Link)

I'm reminded of the Polyhedral Formula, F+V = E+2, which in two dimensions only makes sense if you consider the "outside" of a shape (for instance, a box...) to be just another (infinitely large) inside. By that interpretation, being outside any box really just means you're in a (larger) one that also contains all the other boxes and that the quiz author was too dopey to notice existed (probably they're stuck in a small opaque box somewhere).

I'm also reminded of a B5 episode, but I have said too much already.

j4 From: j4 Date: February 15th, 2003 06:20 am (UTC) (Link)
I'm reminded of the Polyhedral Formula, F+V = E+2, which in two dimensions only makes sense if you consider the "outside" of a shape (for instance, a box...) to be just another (infinitely large) inside.

I don't think I understand ... that is, I certainly don't understand the equation, and I don't think I understand the explanation. Is it the sort of thing you could explain to somebody who only has GCSE Maths?

By that interpretation, being outside any box really just means you're in a (larger) one that also contains all the other boxes and that the quiz author was too dopey to notice existed (probably they're stuck in a small opaque box somewhere).

I think you've just put your finger on one of my deepest neuroses. ... This isn't necessarily a bad thing. The sense of panic I had at the image of all those boxes within boxes within boxes -- it gives me a physical sensation of something like vertigo just trying to think about it -- is an interesting thing to have found in my psyche.

I'm also reminded of a B5 episode, but I have said too much already.

<sigh> I really am going to have to watch B5, aren't I? sion_a raves about it, and it sounds like the ideas in it are things that I'd really appreciate; it's just that the whole crinkly-foreheads-and-bad-acting thing puts me off so much.
ewx From: ewx Date: February 15th, 2003 07:58 am (UTC) (Link)

First in three dimensions. Here's a (not very good l-) picture of a cube:

A cube has six faces (one on top, one at the bottom and four round the sides); eight vertices (i.e. corners - four at the top and four at the bottom); and twelve edges (four at the top, four at the bottom, and four vertical ones up the sides). If we add up the number of faces and vertices we get 6+8=14, which is two more than the number of edges.

Here's a tetrahedron instead:

Here there are four faces (the bottom face and the three sides), four vertices (one at the top, three at the bottom), and six edges (three round the bottom and three going up to the vertex at the top). Adding the faces and vertices we get 4+4=8, which is again 2 more than the number of edges.

It turns out that this relation faces + vertices = edges + 2 holds for all polyhedra.

Finally, if we just look at a square on a sheet of paper:

There are clearly four edges and four vertices (corners) but we only get the two faces we need for F+V=E+2 if we count the outside of the square as one face. For a square this isn't particularly interesting but it's more useful for more complicated diagrams.

(If you have two totally unconnected squares then it doesn't hold either, but I think we can sweep that under the carpet for the purposes of deconstructing silly quizes.)

j4 From: j4 Date: February 17th, 2003 05:00 am (UTC) (Link)
Wow, thank you for explaining so clearly! Makes much more sense to me now.
sphyg From: sphyg Date: February 15th, 2003 08:48 am (UTC) (Link)
Which episode?
ewx From: ewx Date: February 15th, 2003 10:07 am (UTC) (Link)
I was thinking of CTI and the distinction YKW makes between identity and label. It's a while since I've seen it though l-)
From: ex_lark_asc Date: February 15th, 2003 07:22 am (UTC) (Link)
Emerging from centuries of intellectual domination by the church, Europe's enthusiasm for reason and science was unstoppable. [...] This new fashion in ideas swept away the old world view of a divine order and resulted in the conceptual separation of mind from body, and the elevation of measurement over feeling.


This is from that Nick Duffell book I keep evangelising about at the moment, talking about the effects of the Enlightenment un European culture. I'm reading it as fast as I can and will lend it to you as soon as Andrew's read it too - the fact that you're (mis)quoting Pink Floyd at the end of your entry there is really, really making me think you should read it since as far as I can tell the entire album and film 'The Wall' is complaining about exactly the same cultural complex you're running up against here.
wintrmute From: wintrmute Date: February 15th, 2003 05:15 pm (UTC) (Link)
I was wondering about the (almost) floyd quote too..

My view of the album/movie is that it was about someone who had been defined by his actions and his past, and was trying to break free of this.
But it's been a little while since i saw it last.
j4 From: j4 Date: February 18th, 2003 04:14 am (UTC) (Link)
Jeez, you're all really over-analysing the Floyd quote. For the record, I've never seen the film of The Wall, I've only once or twice even listened to the album all the way through, and didn't particularly get any feel for it as a great work of conceptual philosophical genius with Deep Meanings About Life... I just like the title track and one or two other tracks off the album. So I think psychoanalysing me on the basis of my relation to the film (based on one deliberate misquote of a lyric that's so well-known it's practically just a decontextualised meme) might be barking up the wrong tree. Or just plain barking. :)

Read 20 | Write