Sunday, July 13, 2014

A Career in Online Poetry Law, or, Insights into Bicycle Culture

Bean pods in the shade in the bike bike lane

Cicadas singing their summer songs stirred me momentarily from my blog slumber as monsoon thunder and wind sweeps across the desert.

Crunch of mesquite pods, buzz of cicada, rising monsoon humidity, back in the embrace of summer again

Life is often inexplicable in its vastness and random-seeming events. Getting older in some ways provides a focused view of this pattern: by turns joyful, sad, strange, and with a feeling of inevitability. The joys of your children growing up mixed with the pains of older friends passing on. So many questions, but with answers far between, and of particularly unsatisfying rarity are answers which stand up to reason and logic, backed by evidence and data, where one might stand in the bright light of an Arizona summer day and be confident in saying, "Ah, yes, now I understand, and my understanding is evidently true, backed up by facts, and demonstrable to others possessed of the faculties of reason and logic upon presentation of these facts." Things are not so black and white very often, though.

A pointer, a signifier, signage unneeded yet helpful: the dog bark is over there to the right

In younger days, when this getting-older process was a distant possibility, when the future appeared wide open and I could choose to do anything (although perhaps that is always true, on reflection), law school seemed like a good options except that I thought a career in law inevitably implied something morally compromised or hazardous. I thought that lawyers in their work primarily have to think up imaginative and effective ways to defend clients on par with a nuclear weapons manufacturer sued for releasing radioactive waste into an Arctic wildlife refuge causing a thousand polar bears to die slow painful deaths from radiation sickness and leukemia, on evidence provided by a Nat Geo film crew. Although law school sounded like something I could do, even something that an older friend and summer job coworker tried to convince me I should do, this narrow understanding of the job steered me away.

Dying century plant, symbol of mortality and aging in the desert

Now, however, long past the sensible time for attending law school, I've learned that the range of actual work that lawyers might do, the variety of specialization available on that career path, if you will, is enormous, with something for just about every interest, skill, and type of moral fiber. Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR), for example, is fascinating to me: lawyers working with conflicting parties to resolve disputes in ways other than litigation. Engineering law, patent law, Internet law, these all seem fascinating and challenging possibilities to me now. If I had known about them back when, I might have gone to law school. Well, not the Internet law part, since that was before Internet. But that's the way it was, and the way the future has unfolded, and I'm confident will continue to unfold: careers that are possible for my children when they reach that age will be in areas that don't even exist right now.

If I had been able to see the future back then, for example, and had run into the right advisor, I'm confident I would now be in Online Poetry Law, working with Internet poets on copyright and publication issues, fighting for the rights of the digital bards out there who need a voice and a friend in court.

Tree uprooted in recent storm beside the bike lane

This became so clear to me on this hot summer afternoon ride: our quest to understand questions truly important to us still exceeds vastly the answers we possess. About this aging process, about our career paths and choices, about where the missing 80% of light is in the universe, about the validity or lack thereof of ideas like "you are where you should be," "you are doing what you should be doing," "the answer is in the actions," and the error of using individual examples to invalidate or to deny the truth of the whole.

I've become highly sensitized to the techniques of rhetoric, marketing, eristic, and the stratagems used to win arguments by those for whom winning is mostly everything, and I find the methods highly unsatisfying. A quick read of Schopenhauer Art of Controversy will lay bare the more egregious and common methods. Nasty and common eristic does not sate me. I want to know. I want to be convinced by facts and data of answers which bleed truth.

Scottsdale Bike Stop, hidden in the corner of the Green Belt and Thomas Road, a good spot for bike culture

I think to myself, how can anyone be convinced by these debate techniques any more? Why are they still effective at convincing people of fallacious proofs of important concepts? Why do human continue to accept that the basically empty idea that one or some bad apples spoil the whole basket? "Oh there's a rotten/sour apple so all apples are bad," is ludicrous, but that pattern is reused over and over, every day. Scott Simon from NPR did it recently, blatantly. It's not valid. Over and over. 

Bicycle locking points (I think) at the Scottsdale Bike Stop (parts missing? metal thieves?)

I'm taking a step back and eating an apple, since many of them are certainly sweet, and delicious, regardless of single examples. The characteristics or actions of one individual do not invalidate a grand idea or beautiful belief. I think I learned that on this ride. And a possible corollary, or at least an associated neural firing, that bike culture is not really a specific version of this or that combination of peculiarities and perturbations arising from this sport or that city or this type of riding vs. that type, but rather one essential identifying trait, which is alone and in itself all we need: propelling a two-wheeled vehicle across the land under human power alone.

I want to know. I still yet have some things to attend to this summer which will preclude a normal blogging schedule. Some pleasant, some not so pleasant, some familiar and typical, some unfamiliar and strange. Some which I don't yet actually know. It's the state of not-knowing, but needing, I think, which compels us to fall back on argument, on tried and true debate methods used either on ourselves in our interior monologs or on different-others in the desperate attempt to cross the divide from here (not knowing) to there (knowing). But getting older has taught me this: if someone asks where that 80% of the light in the universe that's missing has gone, I feel bold and comfortable to reply: I don't know. I want to know, but I do not.

At this point, it's my preference for a scientist, or for that matter a poet-client of mine in an online legal matter, to show me glimpses of what might be the answer, shaded with uncertainty and doubt, but with hints of rightness, of correctness, via data or a metaphor, of pointing in what might the the right direction, instead of some bold and confident authority blaring in tedious forms of debate, of rhetoric, of marketing and eristic, The Answer.

My answers may be in my actions. On a bike ride, listening to the cicadas singing their summer songs, sounds a bit like truth to me, at times, on some hot afternoons in the shade of the mesquite trees, crunching my tires through the dry pods. I'm hoping for a more frequent blogging schedule sometime soon. Perhaps before the cicadas end their songs. We'll see. Ride on.