The Local Yarn

Jason:
If I asked you to say “Hi” to your band mates would you: do it, say you would then not, or tell me you wouldn’t?
Caroline:
My band and I only talk through music; it’s the only form of communication we know. But tonight I will write a guitar solo that delineates me saying hi to them from you. I will call it “me saying hi to them from you”.

Caroline v. Daredevil Album Release Show

“I wish it longevity so that it might find shabbiness.”

Jillette’s Wipeout Test

“If every trace of any single religion died out and nothing were passed on, it would never be created exactly that way again. There might be some other nonsense in its place, but not that exact nonsense. If all of science were wiped out, it would still be true and someone would find a way to figure it all out again.”

We might call this the “wipeout test”. It is true that no religion would pass it, and that the laws of physical science probably would. But interestingly, this doesn’t actually say anything about a religion’s value or truth. It just reflects that a religion is more purely(2) a product of complex relationships between particular people.

I can illustrate this by applying the wipeout test to Canadian Culture, for example. If every single trace of Canadian Culture died out and nothing were passed on, it would never come back. This is because Canadian culture, like a religion, is the product of a complex history of the interaction of millions of limited human perspectives and their relationships. This says nothing about the value of Canadian culture. It doesn’t make sense to say that because of the wipeout test, Canadian Culture is somehow “false”.

Of course, many religious people would prefer to think their religion and gods are uniquely knowable apart from the people that describe them. And of course this is what Jillette is pushing back against. But I think maybe there are, or could be, things — contingent, irreproducible things — stories, cultures, even gods — that are valuable to us, and help us understand true things about ourselves, even though they would never survive Jillette’s test.


  1. Via kottke.org
  2. Science, too, is, in large part, a product of complex relationships between humans.

Changing Hands

This is an idea for an art installation.

Dozens of volunteers hold their arms up through closely-spaced holes in the floor of the room. You cannot see any part of the volunteers except their arms, which appear to be growing out of the floor. Each arm is sleeved in a different, random colour.

If not otherwise occupied, the arms sway from side to side, gently feeling around them.

A hundred-dollar bill is being passed from hand to hand all around the room.

Visitors to the installation may walk through the sea of arms.

How to be Permanently Beloved as an Artist

Produce writing, music, or artwork targeted at young children. Indulge in an atmosphere of optimism, playfulness and innocent wonder. Inject adult sensibilities where appropriate.

Be sure to make friends with children who enjoy your work. Respond to their letters, pose for their photographs, do them nice favours.

Spend an intermediate period of time out of the limelight while your original audience goes through adolescence. This is your “naptime,” the siesta of your career – enjoy it while it lasts.

Enjoy a new wave of attention as the kids who grew up with your work rediscover it as adults.

Enjoy making friends with more children, as parents begin introducing their little ones to your work, only partly as an excuse to vicariously re-experience it for themselves.

Always use your powers for niceness.