To be transient is to not last. It is the opposite of permanent. But permanent, like infinity, is a useful concept that does not present itself in reality. Nothing in our lives can be permanent because we are not. Life is transient. When we feel this transience there is often a pull to connect to those things that seem to us rooted in eternity. The mountains or the desert or the sea. But mountains rise and crumble, the deserts grow and shrink, and though the sea has been here longer than any desert or mountain it has been very different in different times and even it will not last forever. Eventually the engine that powers the tides will weaken and fail as the moon drifts ever farther from the Earth, its gravity pulling upon our sea and air less and less.

If we cannot turn to things then perhaps we can turn to processes. The mountains may die but life will go on. The great, unbroken chain of life in which we are one small link. It may even be possible for it to outlive the transience of this world, migrating across the stars long before the tides die and sun grows red with senescence. It is a comforting thought. That we might spread across a thousand worlds and go on until the ends of the universe. But there is an end. The universe itself is not free from transience. There will eventually come the day, unimaginably far from now, when each atom is too far to ever again interact. When all that is left is black holes slowly evaporating into endless night. Unless some fringe theories are true and those singularities are secret seeds. Each, or perhaps just those massive enough, will someday gave birth to their own big bang. The ultimate graveyards of our universe, the monsters that devour even the light that crosses their path, will be the mothers to new ones. And perhaps the black holes created in our universe have inside them the laws of physics that birthed them stored away like the genes lying in the heart of a seed. The code may be altered, mutated slightly, by the furious energy that is the birth cry of a new universe, but it will be largely the same. In this way the universes themselves may be evolving. Changing with each iteration, and the direction they would take by rules of natural selection is that those with more black holes would outproduce those that produce life. Thus the universal generations would tend toward more and more star creation which means more complexity. More life. A great chain of life and complexity in which the entire history of our world is but one link. One tiny, infinitesimal link. But a link nonetheless. A part in something permanent.


This one's a toughie. Not because there's is little to say but because there's too much. The subject of government has been one of constant debate and study for the entirety of truly recorded history, starting around the 8th century BC when people at last began to record for posterity the lives and beliefs of themselves and those around them. But those nearly three thousand years of discourse point to one oft overlooked definition of government: the eternal human project.

There's two ways people often think of government. The first is to not. To take not just government but our current form as a given and to unconsciously assume it's always been like this. The second is to think of government as something humanity sort of stumbled into, or perhaps was even trapped by. Neither is true as the idea of government, the idea of regulating ourselves to work more effectively together, goes back to the beginning of our evolution as a eusocial species. But, for three thousand years we've been experimenting and evolving ever more complex and sophisticated forms of doing this. Hopefully as our knowledge and methods improve we will continue to see the continuance of the trend we have seen in the Western world for the past couple centuries of increased freedom and happiness for ever larger swaths of the population. But, we must be vigilant, because evolution does not favor what is best but what survives. Throughout history there has evolved many governments that were and are fierce, predatory organisms. Red in tooth and claw. In the world today such governments are coming ever nearer to an endangered species, but those genes will always be in the pool of ideas from which governments are formed.


One could call science the art of splitting. From the atom to the genus, science works by breaking things down and studying how the smaller and smaller pieces work. But in reality much of these splittings are arbitrary, they never exist as strongly in nature as they do in our minds.  Take the split between alive and dead, so fundamental to so many sciences. But yet, in practice, the closer one looks the more this split falls apart. Is a virus alive? It's little more than a string of chemicals able to hijack the reproductive action of a truly living cell. Even in the macro forms of life like ourselves, the division between life and death is much hazier than we like to admit. Over the years there have been numerous attempts to define death, from the cessation of the heart to the absence of brain activity. All have been found faulty. The only truly reliable indicator is rot. 

In the end we must accept that death is not a binary state that begins at a certain second, but rather one end of a spectrum. But, we cannot do away with the idea of death. The split between living and dead is crucial to our understanding the world. This is why science is the art of splitting. Because these divisions do not exist in reality. Therefore it is up to us to invent the dividing lines that best aid us in our understanding. In other words, when we split nature what we are doing is engaging in an act of imagination meant to enrich and better our understanding of the world. And if that isn't art, then I don't know what is.


The elaborate saddle joint of the wrist, alongside its partner the thumb, was our gateway to consciousness by opening for us the path of tool use. It is also among the first places to develop arthritis. The knees take first place. The knees that, along with our spines, must support a lifetime of upright, bipedal walking that they were never designed for. Walking being among the latest evolutionary gambles that led to us. This uniquely human form of locomotion is far younger than our wrists and far, far younger than our back and legs which struggle to accommodate the change. These new, untested features are still prone to bugs, and are greatest points of failure. But, they will not be fixed as these are the changes that brought us to the intelligence that sets us apart from all other life on Earth. And with that intelligence came ways to compensate for our failures, to remove their narrowing effects upon the gene pool. We have freed ourselves from the harrowing processes of natural selection. It is our greatest victory, but it means we have to accept what we have as the final version. There are no more patches coming from the manufacturer. If there's something that needs to be fixed, we have to hack the source code and fix it ourselves. It's a risky move, especially considering we only learned the language not so long ago. But, when a potential bug fix could save thousands of lives, it's a risk we must accept.


The dual meanings of peculiar are in truth facets of one meaning. On the one side it means to be unique to the subject being discussed, on the other it means unusual or strange. But what is it to be unusual or strange except to be in some way unique, and to possess uniqueness can only mean be other than usual. These two facets when melded together create an ability to describe nigh near anything, for what cannot be whisked away under the far reaching umbrella of those descriptors? What cannot be buried underneath the innocuousness of peculiar? Simon and Garfunkle captured well this capacity for burial when they sang of a man's neighbors freeing themselves to ignore his loneliness and eventual suicide by simply simply dubbing him 'A Most Peculiar Man.' Or, to take a more startling example, there was the one time popular euphemism for slavery as 'The South's Peculiar Institution.'


In today's world the harder question to answer is not what is a product but rather what is not a product. So all consuming, so reactive, a system is capitalism that it is nigh impossible to escape it. Even the attempt to escape, real or fantasized, is turned around and fed back into the system one hoped to decry. Hence the factories churning out Guy Fawkes masks and Che Guevara t-shirts, or the burgeoning industry of tiny home construction.

Not to say that capitalism is a bad thing. It's an admirably nimble and reflexive system and perhaps the greatest spur to human ingenuity short of war. Plus, no one well versed in 20th century history could still advocate for its one time rival, the fully state run economy. When one hears that for the entirety of the Soviet Union's seven decade existence it never once manufactured an adequate supply of tampons or sanitary pads, one can clearly see the remarkable efficacy of the free market. But, one can't help but wish it was not so all pervasive. That there were some avenues of life beyond it's purview. Some places still free of price tags.


A perilous gesture the invitation. While the vampire seems to be the only variety left still upholding the practice, in the folklore of old is what a common trope that all denizens of the night and the wild, from the mischievous to the nefarious, could not simply barge into one's home despite their otherwise awesome powers. They had to be invited first.

These stories date back to a time when hospitality was king and when the ill treating of a guest was one of the most heinous acts a person could do. It is perhaps easy to imagine the point of the tales. To serve as gentle reminder that one must after all set some limits on one's courtesy. Some doors once opened are nigh impossible to close.


Why is it that we humans so love to tell a good tale? What is the point of stories? They take up an inordinate amount of our lives. Thanks to television the majority of Americans are able to spend the vast bulk of their leisure time immersed in stories, a luxury that for most of history was afforded to only the literature upper class back when those terms were largely synonymous. What good does it do us? There are many answers. The one I choose is George Eliot's: "Art is the nearest thing to life; it is a mode of amplifying experience and extending our contact with our fellow-men beyond the bounds of our personal lot." We love stories because a good story is compressed experience. A great story is years of the authors life and thoughts distilled into a single nourishing tale. We grow richer in the only way that really matters when we collect stories, for the only substitute for a wealth of stories is a wealth of years and that is a wealth much harder won.


The seemingly quintessential human invention, regulation. The idea that there are invisible lines which must not be crossed. That our behaviors must conform to certain standards enforced by nebulous entities, either governmental or corporate, each of which is, of course, illusory. No matter what invisible entity the bringer of justice pays lip service to there is only us humans in this world, there is no such actual thing as a government, and it is always an individual who carries out each step of the punishment. A person called a judge tells other people that this one person must be put inside a prison and he is obeyed because everyone present has agreed that they will do what the judge says. Once inside the prison that person is prevented from leaving by other people who do so because by so doing they are given pieces of paper with which they can secure their necessities because all have agreed that these pieces of paper can be used for such things.

It may sound as if I'm criticizing these institutions. Nothing could be farther from the truth. While I believe it is important to know and understand the true nature of these and all institutions as simple illusions of consensus I still recognize them as being the most necessary of illusions. Ones that I believe we should all agree to pay lip service to for the alternative is far worse. If we hope to all work together for the betterment of all, as we not only should but our biologically predisposed to courtesy of our eusocial evolution, we must agree to set limits on our behavior and to enforce those limits against those who would break them for their own profit by the pain of another, this being something else we are predisposed to thanks to evolution. For evolution has imparted us with dueling instincts. On one side we are made to work together for humanity would not have survived if not for the tribe, yet on the other we are made to seek out our own advantage above all. Hence the regulation. To stop those who would seek to profit by destroying everything. As the body must work to keep cancerous cells in check. And there, in one comparison, the idea of regulation as a human invention breaks down.

Regulation is not a human concept but the natural evolution of any system that attempts to harness individual components working of selfish instincts toward a greater good. Any sufficiently complex organism has created a breed of regulatory cells, the lymphocytes, to seek out and eradicate any cell that seeks to reproduce and thrive in a way that harms the organism. A process we call tumor formation, but which the cell might call getting theirs. Similarly, in a wasp nest there are wasps who patrol the hive in search of rebellious workers who may be attempting to lay their own eggs. These eggs, if left unchecked, would create males with whom the all female workers could mate. Since the queen's power comes from total domination of reproduction, this would be the ultimate blow to her power. So we see that regulation is a natural phenomenon. And, like all naturally evolved phenomena, it is often exploited.

There is one crucial flaw in the idea of regulation. Someone has to be given the power to enforce it. Some component of the system is put above it so as to monitor for behavior that goes against the system. But who monitors the monitors? When the hives are studied, the wasps who root out illicit reproduction are those most likely to be committing the crime. As for organisms, lymphoma is one of the most common cancers. The parallels in human history are legion.


We tend to think of a mathematical function as an operation. A number goes in one end, things are done to it and then another number comes out the other end. This definition is nice but not all inclusive, there are many functions that fall outside its umbrella. Technically a function is a relation between two sets. One set is all the numbers that can go into the function, and the other is all the numbers that can come out the other side. The function can (hypothetically) be defined by drawing a line between every number in the first set to the resulting number in the second set. I've been saying numbers but, and this is key, it doesn't actually have to be numbers. Being a relationship between sets is all that really matters, not what those sets are. The crucial discovery, and when mathematics really took off, is that the members of those sets can be other functions. As soon as we begin to analyze functions working on functions, things can take off exponentially. And, as in so much, what was true in mathematics is true all the way up the chain to our workday universe. If you're talking about physics or programming or even art, as soon as new inventions can work seamlessly off the old you hit the inflection point and things begin to explode. Because no one, not even the best of us, can really build all that much by themselves. In science they call it 'standing on the shoulders of giants' and in the art world there is always the old adage about great artists and stealing. Real progress only starts when we all begin to build off each other.