About

“Giving me a new idea is like handing a cretin a loaded gun, but I do thank you anyhow, bang, bang.”
 ~ Letter to Patricia Warrick (May 17, 1978), published in Selected Letters of Philip K. Dick, 1977-1979 (1993)

I’m a curious cat. Hence, the avatar I go by and the name of my blog, Marmalade my childhood kitty who was always up for adventure and exploration of the world. But every cat has a killer lurking inside. Keep in mind that I’m a hunter of sacred cows, not bothering to play with my prey since I’d rather put them quickly out of their misery.

I once thought of myself as a liberal, that is to say open-minded but moderate. I’ve been radicalized by experience and not by the nature I was born with. I’d rather live in a society of fairness and justice, a vision however that for the moment is a utopian fantasy. Radical, by the way, means what goes to the root, and so potentially to uproot and kill, although also to return to first principles and rebuild foundations. That is what I aim for.

For all my pessimistic realism and seeming cynicism, I’m deep down in my soul an idealist. What we say and do matters. On this radical path, One might call me an anarchist and a gnostic, in that I’m virulently opposed to false idols, false gods, and false powers. I’m a fierce defender of the truth, as I know it.

This has brought me to the radical imagination of what could be called apocalyptic revolution. Apocalypse in its earliest meaning referred to an unveiling and revealing, what in Gnosticism was understood as anamnesis or unforgetting. We have to remember what was lost, what was taken from us, if we seek to be a free people. As for revolution, it originates as an astrological term for cyclical return. We’ve been here before, in other moments of crisis and transformation. We can and should learn from the past for the past is never really past.

I’m an archaeologist of thoughts and ideas, visions and imaginings. I’m a gleaner of humanity’s rubble, ever looking for God in the gutter.

“In my writing I am a destroyer of worlds, not a generator; I show them as forgeries. I unmask them & abolish their hold, their reality. I show them to be bogus, an infinitude of them, like so many skins.”
~ Philip K. Dick, In Pursuit of Valis, p.151

11 thoughts on “About

  1. Dear Benjamin,

    Stop shooting! What a quotation you have deployed to set the tone of your “About” page!

    It seems that SoundEagle is amongst the first living beings to click the “Like” button and the very first to submit a comment here.

    Given that SoundEagle’s writing here is the very first comment on this “About” page since your blog’s inception, SoundEagle would like to wish you a new dawn and a satisfying journey of blogging in 2021 and beyond.

    SoundEagle hopes that you continue to do very well and find fulfillment in whatever you enjoy doing and savouring, especially through your (re)fine(d) blog as a creative and intellectual outlet to share and document your thoughts and opinions, and as a vehicle or medium to write about “all [your] pessimistic realism and seeming cynicism” via your being “an archaeologist of thoughts and ideas, visions and imaginings” as well as “a gleaner of humanity’s rubble, ever looking for God in the gutter”.

    Since your blog is named after your childhood kitty called “Marmalade”, SoundEagle would like to bring your attention to a very nice piece of music of the same name, one that SoundEagle used to play on electronic organ. This is a jazz composition by Yuri Tashiro. Given that there is unfortunately no video recording of SoundEagle’s playing, here is a substitute:

    Yours sincerely,
    SoundEagle

    • I had at least one other version of an About page, and it did have likes and comments. But I decided to change it and so the previous one was retired (put back into draft form, I think). This more recent About page is more about me specifically as a writer and blogger.

      It has been awaiting new likes and commentary, and so your christening is welcome. Your timing is also fortuitious because I accidentally had the comments turned off on this post for a while, until I realized it and turned them back on. Thanks for the music in celebration.

      • Dear Benjamin,

        You are about to receive even more comments and likes from SoundEagle here.

        I wonder which rendition of “Marmalade” you prefer. The first version has a faster tempo more in keeping with Tashiro’s original tempo, which may have been even (much) faster, about 166 crochets per minute, as far as I can recall. In any case, it needs to be played at 120 crochets per minute to convey the right atmosphere for this up-tempo piece. I feel that the volume for the drums has been set too low, and there is no variation in the choice of instruments, as though it has been intended to be played on a Hammond organ.

        The second piece has a much better instrumentation. I don’t mind that the player has taken a great deal of latitude with the tempo in playing the piece at a much slower speed.

        If music is your language and cup of tea, well then, one of my best posts to talk to you about music is the one entitled “🦅 SoundEagle in SoundCloud: Art, Music and Compositions about New Sensations, Love, Life, Country, Nature, Dreaming, Meditation and Spirituality 🏞🎼🎶“, which is published at https://soundeagle.wordpress.com/2013/03/10/soundeagle-in-soundcloud-art-music-and-compositions-about-new-sensations-love-life-country-nature-dreaming-meditation-and-spirituality/#top

        The said post contains a small fraction of my musical compositions. These compositions are by no means representative of my musical oeuvres, but they do serve some important purposes, as explicated quite substantially in the post. Please feel free to analyse and/or critique those compositions as well as my writing to your heart’s content at the comment section of the said post.

        Yours sincerely,
        SoundEagle

        • I maybe like the faster tempo. It seems to better capture the mood of the song. Thanks for presenting another link to your blog. I always enjoy it when someone offers something of their own personal creativity and talent. I’ll check it out. And I promise to eventually get back around to your other post. Actually, I plan on checking out some other pieces by you as well.

          I read your original comment again and noticed your making note of my beginning quote. Yeah, I like that. I’m an intellectual cretin. It’s not my fault; I was born that way. If you hand me a new idea, it’s your own fault. The ending quote, though, captures some greater essence to my approach not only to writing but to life. Growing up, I played soccer. I had no interest or motivation to play offense, despite my athletic ability.

          Offense requires being a good team player, which is not a talent of mine, even though I enjoyed playing a team sport. What I was good at was defense. My instinct is to assess what others are trying to do and stopping them from doing it. Then, after taking the ball, sending it up the field to the offense who will go for the score. My own talent lies in simply blocking something and then reversing the direction of play.

          This isn’t only a reactionary mode of behavior, though. It can be directly pro-active. When younger, I did often play fullback but also halfback, the latter being the bridge between defense and offense. In one game when the opposing team started with the ball, a forward would drop the ball to a halfback who was a giant girl who would kick the ball all the way down the field. Then all the players on my team would be forced to chase the ball back.

          I doubt I spent much time analyzing the situation for it seemed like a straightforward problem with an obvious solution. All that one needed to do was go to the source and stop the problem before it began. So, the moment the play began I ran straight at that girl and into the path of her kick. The ball was stopped with my body and that was that. I had defeated their evil conniving plan and the next time I did the same again. My fellow team members were then able to move forward right from the get go.

          This is an example of a good offense being a good defense. Defense may not be where a game ends, but it is where it begins. As such, that is my purpose in life. I don’t know that I’ll live long enough to see how this game of democracy and freedom will end. But, at the very least, I can do my best to stop to stop the opposing forces and change the dynamics of play, hopefully moving us toward a happier outcome in my own small way.

          Besides, there is an enjoyment to defense beyond what one accomplishes. Offensive position is all about action and, for obvious reasons, it’s literally goal-oriented. That is not the case with defense. For much of the game, the defensive players often stand around watching the offense do their thing, both their own team’s offense and the that of the other side. The defense has to be good at observing, to learn the behavior of others and so be able to predict them.

          Still, as defense is not merely reactionary, neither is it passive. To be an effective defender, one doesn’t just stand around waiting. But action, in a defensive position, first happens in the mind. It’s about gaining knowledge to be used and applied. There is little glory to it, of course. There is no excitement of running down the field and scoring a goal. There is no cheering crowd when you stop a score from happening. That is fine with me, in that I don’t have much interest in being the focus of attention.

          • Nice About page. I like your own preferred metaphor. Your blog is “a garden” to be cultivated and enjoyed, a fruitful bounty. And so that makes you the gardener. As for my role as a blogger, I’m a cretin with a gun. So, yeah, they’re basically the same. Cretins are important too!

      • Dear Benjamin,

        Thank you for liking my “About” page as I keenly await your “[g]iving me a new idea … [with or without the] bang, bang” by submitting your piquant comment(s) there.

        It is definitely happening by a deliberate but good intention rather than a fortuitous ricochet that I am once again returning to comment here. Since “[t]his more recent About page is more about [you]”, SoundEagle has been wondering what your logo and pseudonym (or altered ego) are. After all, people summon batman by projecting his emblematic logo with a large spotlight into the sky of Gotham city; whereas others recognize me by my usual Gravatar as well as by something that are more reserved for special occasion as follows:

        Show me your other side(s). . . . .

        Yours sincerely,
        SoundEagle

        • Marmalade the cat represents me because he is among my earliest childhood memories. He then survived into the years following my graduation from high school. He is my spirit animal. So much that I’ve learned about life I learned from Marmalade, not only an instinct for exploration and attentive awareness but also the simple enjoyments of life, from walking about in nature to taking a nap. But, admittedly, he didn’t contribute much to my literacy and writing skills.

          I’ve always loved cats, domesticated and wild, but particularly smaller cats (the Lynx was my favorite as a child). I’m fond of the saying, curiosity killed the cat, but satisfaction brought it back. The first part, curiosity, is the guiding light of my reading, research, and writing. Like many other mammalian predators, cats have that combination of intelligence and playfulness. Compared to dogs, though, cats have an additional quality of poise, the tendency to carefully observe and think before acting. Hunting for a cat is equal parts prowling and waiting.

          These days on the internet, I often go by my full name (such as on WordPress and Facebook) or, in some cases, a shortened version (Ben Steele on Youtube). But it was natural that, when I first got online, I often used Marmalade or Marm as a username. The very first username was actually MarmINFP, when I joined a Myers-Briggs discussion forum. That combined two major qualities of what it means to be me, but also maybe a symbolic way of speaking of the body and soul as a single thing, the embodied mind.

          Marmalade is not an online avatar and persona. I am Marmalade, as my childhood kitty lives on in my heart and soul. This is not merely how I present myself to strangers on these new forms of media. This goes to a common quality of INFPs. The dominant Introverted Feeling (Fi) typically demands a straightforward sincerity, not wanting to hide or deceive or pretend. I don’t have a separate way of acting and relating when I’m online, as opposed to when I’m with family and friends or while at work.

          You get what you see and you see what you get. If you’ve read enough of my blog over a long enough period, then you know who I am. I tend to be an open book or, to use another metaphor, I wear my heart on my sleeve. There is no other side of me, no other version of me, no “logo and pseudonym (or altered ego)”. What I write about on my blog is how I generally spend my time. I share my readings and writings, observations and experiences about nature, health, food, social science, and society.

          These are the same kinds of things my friend and I talked about this morning when we went for a walk along a creekside nature trail, a friend I’ve had since elementary school. Marmalade spent many years in this town as well, having visited the same creek. I prefer the familiar and consistent, the tried and true. Like a cat, I have my territory that I explore. And I’ve found, based on my nature, I have less and less desire to wander afar afield into the territories of others; or, when I do, for only brief periods.

          In light of this, there is a post I’ve been wanting to write. It’s occurred to me that I’m an extreme product of WEIRD culture. Research shows that WEIRD individuals are dependably consistent, a highly unusual trait for most humans in most societies. This consistency means that their behavior is far less context-dependent and, instead, motivated by abstract principles and general rules. For example, when asked if they would lie to a judge to save a loved one from going to prison, they are much more likely to say they wouldn’t; and, indeed, studies do show they are less willing to cheat even when there are no witnesses or consequences.

          This WEIRD bias is a rather new phenomenon in human existence, apparently shaped by heavy immersion in literacy (according to Joseph Hencrich). And it’s not clear it’s entirely a good thing. It’s based on rigid egoic-consciousness where identity is more determined by individuality than relationships or at least not narrow and exclusionary relationships as part of group identities (e.g., kinship). The relevant point is that I’ve long disliked or mistrusted the notion of people having multiple sides. I’m always looking for people’s true nature, partly an exaggerated carryover of the idealistic monotheism of my youth but specifically exacerbated by my INFP tendencies (i.e., my innate sense that everyone does or should have their own Fi core true self; a possibly false assumption that I idealistically project upon others).

          I don’t know if you’re familiar with Myers-Briggs or familiar with Jung’s typology that it was based on. There is a specific flavor to dominant Introverted Feeling (Fi). Some, like Jung, consider it the most inscrutable of attitude-functions. It is a potent force that seeks to psychically pierce the guarded walls of personas and outward behavior and peer into people’s souls. But, for that very reason, INFPs don’t worry much about anyone else figuring them out. Only another INFP is likely to grasp what it means to have an Fi truth or principle at the core of one’s being. But everything I am and do is consistent with my Fi truth. There is nothing else, at least not in my experience.

          It’s no accident that I used two quotes form Philip K. Dick. He expressed this same quality in his own writing. There was an inseparable overlap between his storytelling and biography, his fiction and nonfiction. In the ending quote, PKD describes himself as not someone who invents things but who removes the false and eliminates the illusory in order to reveal the truth that was already there. This gnostic aspiration is an old impulse going back to the Axial Age, the fertile soil into which the seed of the WEIRD was planted, if not to come to fruition until millennia later. This is what my own writing project is about.

          • Dear Benjamin,

            In other words, you are Marmalade personified. And I am glad that I have found you its sonic embodiment or representation in the form of Yuri Tashiro’s music.

            By the way, the Myers-Briggs personality test has been debunked and is unreliable, as far as I know.

            How much credence or credit would you give to this Ben Steele?

            Yours sincerely,
            SoundEagle

          • Dear Benjamin,

            Thank you for your impassioned revelation of your side(s). As for being WEIRD (Western, educated, industrialized, rich and democratic), I look forward to your submitting comment(s) to my “About” page regarding what you have gauged so far about this creature known as SoundEagle, who is now a pal of Marmalade.

            Speaking of Philip K. Dick, I really like some of his advanced and thought-provoking ideas in his books. The issues and implications of “The Machine” are very multifaceted and complex. In a very palpable way, the movie “Blade Runner” has posted some sobering questions and possible scenarios.

            In turbo-charging our vision and dream of the cybernatically enhanced existence in the near future, there are many things to ponder. For example, I would like to consider not only sensory enhancement but also the quality and longevity of lives, and not just human lives. Each year, so many trees are logged and made into Christmas trees for decoration, and so many fresh flowers are cut only to fade within days or weeks. I simply resort to decorating, once and for all and as best as I can, a small artificial tree, which I keep using year after year. For the same reason, I have a lot of life-like artificial plants, flowers and leaves indoors and they could last for decades as opposed to having real flowers lasting just a few days. Could we have perpetually living artificial plants and animals so that some of us don’t have to bid farewell to short-lived pets and plants as they age and pass away?

            Similarly, I really wish that I could have some “artificial” but sentient humans or robots too, something like Commander Data, the Bicentennial Man, Rachel in Blade Runner, or other advanced automata as seen in Sci-Fi movies, as long as they are free of the usual human frailties, follies, deceptions and irrationality, if not immortality. Alternatively, some benign, benevolent and understanding extra-terrestrials could be even more desirable, and could present the chance and means for intergalactic or even interuniverse travel, thus ending, transforming and transcending my meagre earth-bound, dust-to-dust ephemeral existence.

            In addition, I am interested in the intersections of art and science, of public and private spaces, of the cultural and the technological. Whilst I agree that technology offers enormous unexplored potential allowing emerging artists to express themselves in unprecedented ways, I do have certain concerns and caveats regarding science “reproducing” reality and artists representing it. In some of my posts, I have endeavoured to give a very good inkling of the kind of society that humans might be heading towards. Looking into the future, here is an entry in my sociology, philosophical anthropology and cultural history journal entitled “🎧 Facing the Noise & Music: Playgrounds for Biophobic Citizens 🏗🌁🗼“, published at

            https://soundeagle.wordpress.com/2013/03/02/facing-the-noise-music-playgrounds-for-biophobic-citizens/

            Pushing forward another 50 years or (much) less, we could indeed end up in the scenario as described in my said post. I am keen and curious about what you will make of my said post.

            Yours sincerely,
            SoundEagle

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