The idea of the salt trick (the original idea, anyway) is finding the mental trick to get myself to do the things I need to do. Algorithms for human living.

Ritual seems to be a useful tool. The tea ritual gets good results pretty often. I'm hoping it's more the ritual than the drugs in the tea (theobromine? [edit: nope, theophylline]). I don't want to be dependent on drugs.

I once applied the tea ritual to my job, and good things came of it. I'm reluctant to do that regularly, though.

My deep fear, and I think I rationally support this, too, is that if I became successful at my job, I might forget to worry about, and put effort into, things which are more important.


A bad artist who doesn't know any better will point to Picasso, or Monet, or van Gogh, to defend his bad art. You can't limit art with your narrow definitions, he'll say.

It's true; great art defies rules. This is because art is so richly complex a concept that any clean and rigorous definitions we try to come up with for it will be hopelessly naive. We're not smart enough to correctly draw boundaries for art. Every time somebody has set rules, a great artist has come along and broken them.

So we cannot set rules on art, yes?

Here's the problem: bad artists can break rules, too.

The reason we try at all to set rules is so that we can tell good stuff from crap. We're pretty sure there is a difference between good stuff and crap. So we try to decide what that difference is. When we've come up with an answer, though, it's always been wrong, or at least shortsighted.

But just because we can't codify our standards doesn't mean we should pretend we don't have any.

What do do?

Art isn't alone in this. There are many kinds of endeavor which fall into a problematic category: an endeavor that almost definitely has value, and ought to be undertaken, but the practice of which either cannot or should not be quantitatively evaluated regarding its value. Art falls into this category. So does education. So does philosophy. So do many things.

With any of these things, we end up, at any particular point in history, either trying to constrain it with ridiculous rules, or allowing it to produce huge quantities of utter crap. Sometimes we get creative and manage to do both at the same time.

I have a daydream that there exists a possible solution to this dilemma. I keep trying to figure out what it is.

I'm probably being shortsighted.

But it would be nice if we, as a civilization, knew how to talk frankly about the difference between breaking the rules because the rules are wrong, and breaking the rules because you suck.


Neologism Needed

Suppose you could come up with a field of mathematics that is to graph theory what the calculus is to arithmetic. I think that when we find a proper understanding of quantum mechanics, that new field of mathematics will be the language it's expressed in.

Look at a Feynman diagram; it's a graph.


What If

You theists say that there is an omnipotent, omnibenevolent God in charge of the Universe. The implication is that that's a good thing.

You atheists say there isn't.

What if you're both partly right?

What if there is no omnibenevolent God in charge of the universe...

...but there should be?

If that were the truth, neither one of your viewpoints would take us in the right direction.