Sunday, January 27, 2008

The Last Homely Homey's Homely Home

When I was fifteen, I read the Jr Tolkien trilogy, The Lord of the Rings, and I loved it. In fact, I would say that those three books cast an exceptionally long shadow over my imagination and my education. From them, I learned much. In the first book, there is a chapter entitled, "The Last Homely Home," and it seemed like a stupid title for a chapter. Given the high or low seriousness of the books as I read them, what was a wordplay title doing there? Later on, in the second book, I learned two cool words, and I'm not alone in learning these words from The Two Towers: "flotsam and jetsam." At fifteen, I didn't really get the fact that the author meant those to be different words with different connotations, that he was contrasting the things that float away and the things that are thrown overboard, but I still learned two new words. The next year, when I was sixteen, I learned another new word, "homeboy" and "homey." This was 1978, and the person who taught me the words was a Caucasian of my age who came from a bit of South Carolina.

I re-read those books as an over-educated adult -- last year or the year before -- before I begin to forget all the things I learned in school. I was struck by the homoeroticism in them, like everyone who doesn't fall under their spell is, and I was struck by the political theory enunciated in them (it's scary, folks), and I was also "getting" a lot of the Anglo-Saxon professorisms in the books. Many things in the books are because of standard features in Germanic story telling, or things that seem like standard features when we don't have much that survives from these Germanic tales.

The word "homey" goes way back. It goes back before you heard it in a song, and it goes back before that. It goes back at least to the 1940's. I don't have a problem with the word, in fact. Unlike other slang, it steps into a hole in English and fills a need. Remember that any time we find a "first usage," the word already has to have some currency, if there is any depth to the term at all. Unless the first usage is, "and by this I mean..." the person who uses it first is assuming that people already know what it means. Of course, with some words the meaning is so obvious that you can forge ahead without usage, but I doubt that such would be the case in those first jazz songs in the 1940's. These are songs, after all, so they probably aren't trying to build a new set of words. The point is that other languages have their pisano, and English has nothing but "countryman," and that -- let's face it -- is so diluted and nebulous that it doesn't give any sense of friendliness at all, and friendliness is the point of "homeboy" and "homegirl" and "homey."

In Tolkein, the "last homely home" is this standard feature. It's assumed to be, anyway. If you were heading out into the waste land or the wild wood or the deep forest -- all terms that mean little to us -- you would have to look forward to a long trip where anything might happen, and so the person who lived at the last possible place before the waste would be a person who would be expected to entertain, supply, and love up on travelers. We do have a modern corollary to "last homely home." It's "last rest stop for next 80 miles" on the highway. Suppose you were about to take the highway through Death Valley or through Idaho. You would have a serious need to restock, resupply, relieve, and replenish yourself before you headed out. There is a vague sense of dread when we see these highway signs. You have to ask yourself serious questions.

So, the person who actually lived there had to be ready. People would be coming out of the wild needing practically everything, and people would be going into it having forgotten almost anything. There were loads of social codes, too, about what happened to people who refused aid to travelers. This is the infamous "hospitality code" that goes into Greek literature as well as Germanic. Basically, it's just a theme that everyone needs if they're going to make it in a world with bad maps and slow travel. The thing about "homely," though, is not wordplay as much as curmudgeonly point-making (like in "flotsam and jetsam"), because Tolkien was pointing right at the fact that a "homely" person is a "homebody" and a "girl you leave at home." In other words, a homely person is a person you don't parade.

Is it good to be homely? If so, I'm up to my waist in heaven already. Tolkien was fighting a rear guard action and lamenting the changes that had long ago occurred.

How do we handle hospitality now? With the hospitality industry, of course. If you are coming up to the scary highway sign, you don't pull into the first driveway. You pull into the "service station." If you are weary and need rest, you go to a hotel. There, you pay the host a set fee for specific services (or a not-so-set fee, if you look at your bill in the morning (I'll bet you thought opening that mini-fridge door was just curiosity) (you might have thought that flipping by the porno movie was innocent)). The rest station provided by the state is better, perhaps, if you consider only $1.25 for a Snickers bar better than $1.95 for a Coca-Cola, but don't look for a bed, climate control, or ... what's that other thing?

The other ball I have in the air in this essay is the "homely" thing, so I'd best come back to it. There is no question that, by Tolkien's time, "homely" was an insult. It did begin innocently enough. There were girls who went on the promenade, and there were girls left at home. (See the agony of being left at home in "Cinderella?" That's not the source of pain in Ashputtel.) It is the sin of vanity (from pride) to want to go stomping around to be looked at by other women (and the cute men), but it is the sin of being unwanted to be told to stay at home. The moral conflicts with the psychological and biological. Cities created the "homely" by creating miniature environments for display. While Robert Burns is talking about girls on display at church, and George Eliot is talking about the non-vain girls being vain on their way to church, and Fielding is talking about the church promenade as a place for woman-on-woman fighting, the urban setting makes the park, and the park makes the promenade. In the US, we have the mall promenade (and it's even done in a circle), or we have "cruising" on "the strip." Either way, it is ceremonial display, and the homely person is not invited.

Today? Today, though, we're all on display. There are no homely people. There are no homely homes, and there are no homely people in them. The city and the town's restrictions have been lifted. Hooray! We can all promenade! We can all stroll and achieve that great goal of being looked at. With the advent of and blogs, it's possible for anyone, male or female, to do a little photo matting or manipulation, or even to do none of that, and safely display just about anything. Before long, someone might even look. It's not, however, the looking that matters. It's the showing. (This looks like a kindred spirit. It just goes to show that I'm more of a cliche than I thought, but so is everyone else.)

What, though, is missing? Why am I fighting a rearguard action, myself? What is it that preoccupies those of us, "between two worlds, the one dying, the other overpoweringly preborn?" I have my own elegy, here, because there is every bit as much lost between the promenade and as there is between the code of hospitality and the hospitality industry. Something is gained. Of that we have proof and no doubt. However, there is no person in place. Just as the hotel porter now is compelled by productive code rather than ethical code, so the gawker is compelled by an interior and non-social impulse. The person who looks is looking privately, and the object of the gaze never gets the benefit or penalty of the display. The person who displays does so privately, and she or he never gets the interaction and negotiation that is part of the prom.

Puppies learn from their litters how hard to bite when at play. Adopt a puppy too soon, and the dog will bite too hard or not learn how to play. There is a reason beyond reproduction that we don't want to be homely: it is a social and cultural education. Similarly, there is a reason we want the last homely home to welcome travelers, and why we punish with the Erinyes those who demand payment for doing what is their duty. The human interaction, unforced and yet impelled (and I could do "impulsion and compulsion" as a chapter title), is necessary and not merely a luxury tax.

Monday, January 21, 2008


Despite feeling like the bottom of a dredged channel, I'm going to attempt to write in praise of vagrant metaphors, shiftless paradoxes, and approximations. The title of this post is most emphatically not related to my subject, although it might be a pretentious fourth cousin by marriage.

'See how without confusion it is
all that it is, and how flawless
its grace is. Running or walking, the way
is the same. Be still. Be still.
“He moves your bones, and the way is clear.”' -- Wendell Berry, "Grace."

Come on in, we've got the truth surrounded, the phenomenologists suggest from the other room. You cannot hold it in your hand, and your hands are hardly true, themselves, but they are the boxes around which you contain the hands you imagine you have. You have precision only in your own imagination, and there is any other precision only in the out-there somewhere. The real is up on the shelf that you can't quite reach.

Oh, no. No fear: I'm not going to get into all that rot. Tulips have streaks, and you can like them or not. It's none of my business how solid you think things are. It's enough for me to start with a scary word like "phenomenology" and a scary jangle like the previous. I don't want to spend any time doing that particular treadmill dance.

No, it's enough for me to say that I, the Geogre, have had little rest in the concept that all my concepts and percepts match, that there is an ideal that I can know, and that there is a real that I can know without a category or concept. I'm plentifully puzzled by Wittgenstein, and I do not know if the blue house is blue, really. I do not know what I would do, if I met a man who was blue, too, because words might fail me, and then I'd really make a lot of noise.

I have to give credit for these thoughts to Jimi Hendrix. I got one of his CD's on sale a couple of days ago, and I finally put it in the car CD player today. It's hard for me to be in a receptive state for exciting music when I'm in my car or at home or at work, so it can be a while. Mainly I just listen to Wimpy Hill music and wait for Garrison Killer to come on the radio, when I know it's time to take my Geritol to help with my iron-poor blood. (Hey, it beats listening to Hawaiian nose flute music on subscription satellite.)

So, I was listening to "Purple Haze" and "Wind Calls Mary" (and Mary never returns the calls), and I noticed that both songs have incredible amounts of hiss on them. In fact, they're both absolutely awash with "bad" recording technology. Compact Discs are digital things, and they are absolutely faithful, and that means that they reproduce everything from the master tapes, and that means that the noise you hear on a Hendrix CD is the noise that was on the tape, and not the noise produced by a piece of your sock that went rogue and landed in front of your record needle.

I hate the fact that this hiss was present and that it was so precise. The CD meant that I could hear things that I had otherwise not made out. For example, at the end of "Purple Haze," there is someone-not-Hendrix saying "Purple haze! Purple haze! Purple haze!" Whoever he was, he sounds ridiculous, retarded, and revolting. I preferred having a hiss there, a hiss of imprecision, not the hiss of precision. It's better to have the ambiguity as a part of the process than as part of a clean, mechanical injection.

Ever heard "Wild Thing?" It's great, right? The band involved, the Troggs, were too drunk to speak, just drunk enough to fight, and too stupid to compose, and yet this great song comes out of a five and ten cent studio. Great guitar sound, isn't it? Listen on a CD, and you can tell where that guitar sound comes from: it comes from the snare drum rattle. The drums weren't isolated, so the "fuzz" is actually bleed through. Weren't you happier not knowing that?

You know the beginning of Sergio Leone's masterpiece, "A Fistful of Dollars?" There is a great theme song by Ennio Morricone. Whoowahai! Whoowahai! Great!

I heard it on a CD, and, unfortunately, I could make out the male voices. They are, I am sorry to say, saying, "We can fight! We can fight."

I will avoid, at all costs, hearing the flying monkey guard song from The Wizard of Oz. I do not want to know that it's not "Oh-ee-oh, Oh-eeeeee-oh."

You know, I think I'm happier, now, in my older age, in having not even a small, vague, squishy clue about truth. Or rather, I am happy because I have a vague clue, but no proof. I have an approximation of a truth, and that seems a great deal better to me than one that has been inked in.

The healthiest dogs are mutts. The most beautiful people are generally mixed "race." Heterogeneous is most often strong. At the same time, knowing only somewhat, having the operative misprision, the effort that results in nearly there, is immensely comforting to me. I can live in a room whose color may be blue. If I need to get up to the very top shelf to get to the real, I can jump. Otherwise, I prefer to know that I don't have a handle on things.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Ask not for whom the dinner bell tolls

"To me, nature is... I dunno, spiders and bugs, and big fish eating little fish. And plants eating plants and animals eating.... It's like an enormous restaurant." -- Woody Allen, "Love and Death."
The sad fact is that, as Bertolt Brecht wrote, "Mankind is kept alive by bestial acts." The other morning, I went out very early with my dog, and it was extremely quiet, as it is out here in the pre-industrial world, and I could hear lowing from a distant slaughterhouse. Today, I went off to Wal*Mart, and in the parking lot was a pickup truck pulling a trailer with a couple of beef cows in it, and they, too, were lowing periodically, probably about the rain and cold.

It is fashionable to worry about the unfree cows, to try to liberate them, to imbue them with rights and intelligence, but it's also true that beef is as we have made it. I was once out toting a shotgun. I would call it "hunting," but nothing I do with a gun can be called "hunting." I hunt the way that Prednisent Bush philosophizes. Anyway, we city boys were out walking through a vast field, and there were some moo-cows coming along the fence line, and we were between them and the fence, and a very bad time it was. The herd stared and stamped and walked and leaned and pushed and pushed, and we were back to the fence about to get crushed. The one farm raised member of the "hunting" party came along, looked at us with disgust, and shouted, "How! Hyow!" at the cattle. The assembled cattle looked... well, cowed... and walked off.

Cattle are stupid. We made them stupid. We bred them for idiocy. We bred them to be docile. We succeeded. Your modern farm cow is as close to a protein refrigerator on hooves as we can make it, and we can make it very, very like a refrigerator on hooves indeed.

At the same time, it's impossible to get away from the fact that life and nature is not merely a restaurant. It is the back room of a restaurant. It is the walk-in freezer of the restaurant, and we murder to survive.

Don't you dare think you can escape this by munching veggies, either. Oh, no you don't. You can make yourself 80 lbs. underweight, with body odor that can make the air congeal, with teeth as flat as a Kansas shadow at noon, but you're still killing. You're not just killing the plants, either. You're prying the ovaries off plants and popping them in your yapper, you think. The fact is, you're also using animals. You're using them in the production, in the fertilizing, in the transportation, and often in the cooking. Now, of course, you can go for the serious ahimsa thing, where you don't "eat anything that casts a shadow." You can gather only yogurt, sea kelp, and the excrescence of various molds, and, if you can keep from cheating and not go bankrupt, you can wag your finger at the rest of us and revel in your superiority.

However, the economical way of eating, the efficient way of eating, and, for whatever it's worth, the natural way of eating is meat and fish and poultry and any small squeaky thing we can strangle.

That leads me to a couple of very old fashioned points.

First, we have to remember that Peter was told, in a vision, to kill and eat (Acts 10:13). Despite our own desire to cause no injury, to not survive by death, to not manufacture our bodies out of the bodies of other living things (with or without faces), it is an inescapable fact. It is, like the origin of evil, simply not something we can argue. No matter how paradoxical it seems, eating living things is how the system works.

The Talmud says, "It is beyond our power to explain either the prosperity of the wicked or the afflictions of the righteous," or so I'm told. It is just one of those things.

However, because every animal has a life, every one has a personality of its own, because each has emotions, or enough of a simulacra of humanity to make us believe it is a person, we have a responsibility. My second point is that gluttony is one of the seven deadly sins for a reason. The capricious taking of life is the only crime worse than taking life. Killing a hog to eat one strip of bacon is a sin. On the farm, it would be immediately palpable, this crime. Not only would the killing take work, it would be intimate.

Because we now get the supermarket, the restaurant, the drive-through window, because the cow has become the patty, we have a higher moral calling to waste nothing. We are trapped in a sin, because we don't know what has been wasted already, and we are conscious of this sin in a general disquiet that leads us to believe that there is no freedom except in soy plaster disguised as a burger, stir fry of chutes and legumes, and industrially processed bacterial cultures. We feel the pain, the guilt, and the crime of living in a sinful system, where we are gluttons whether we throw the food out the window or clean our plates. We stare and wonder, is it waste to eat more than we need, or is it waste to leave any on the plastic tray?

I cannot endorse the option of the communalists. I wish them well, but I haven't the ability to go live on a closed estate where we can raise our own food.

I can, however, be irritated at Christmas dinner, when my brother was asked to say the "blessing" and repeated the quick pace mantra he heard from my father, who used to blurt out a modulated string of syllables. At the very least, when you sit down to eat, you can thank God for the life of the animal that was sacrificed for your food, you can ask blessings on all who toiled on the food from the field to the table, and you can be conscious that sacrifice is part of life.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Reasoning with the Earth

I'm on a roll here, with at least four hilarious posts in a row. I'd like to continue that level of hilarity by talking about puberty, cancer, and death. Get your weight lifting belt out, because you'll need it from all the laughter.

"Naturam expella furca licet, usque recurret." -- Horace, Ars Poetica

I noticed this morning that I've developed arthritis in my right hip. My poor dog is eleven years old, and she, too, has arthritis in her right hip, so the two of us match in that regard. However, I can give her expensive pills that have her frisking about like a puppy, while all the NSAID's are contraindicated for me, of course. Why are they contraindicated? Because I have a mechanical heart valve. Why do I have one of those? Because I had heart surgery in 1998 to follow up on surgery from 1969. Why did I have surgery in 1969? Because I am my family's genetic sin eater or my mother's litter's runt.

Now, when I was seven years old and having open heart surgery, and very risky heart surgery (and once upon a time that would have been a tautology (very funny link, there), but now the modifier is necessary), I was told frequently that I was being "brave." I thought not. I thought I was merely being manly -- which meant, of course, being stoic. I was uncomplaining. I've since made up for it by a stream of whining that could make a corpse run away, but, at the time, I was a 'brave little Geogre.' I assume that the three week coma was brave, too, but, at any rate, I then wanted to prove my manhood -- despite the fact that I would not possess manhood for four more years or so.

Later on, there were more things to do, more surgeries, more indignities (presuming one has dignity to be negated, and I've always found dignity to be a bit of a burden), and I decided, after becoming a man, that the events would hurt as much if one complains or not, but that complaining might mean getting medicated, so I might as well make a pest of myself. That was my attitude for a cholecystectomy (I think I was one of the datapoints for that article), and I actually had a fairly good time flirting with the nurses and getting zapped with morphine during that operation, but I soon reversed my attitude. You see, there's nothing brave about it, but there's nothing cowardly, either.

Forget your Susan Sontag books and just think about how we use volitional language when we speak of disease. The point to disease is that it's involuntary. You cannot be brave or fearful or happy or sad in regard to the disease. The disease just happens. It's biology. You can't have it because of moral failing or foolishness, and you can't have it for virtue or strength. After all, there are virtuous people dying young and villains living to great age, smokers and drinkers like Winston Churchill and bystanders who die of mesothelioma who never went near a cigarette.

The body is morally neutral. You can kick nature out with a pitchfork, Horace says, but she'll seep back in. You can argue all you want with biology. You can tell it that it shouldn't do that. You can put up a law. You can tell it to do something else, instead. The body will obey, to a point, and then it will go back to being what it is.

Think about teenagers. Their bodies are illegal. Literally, a teenager's physical body is a violation of the law. A youngster told me that, in high school, his school had put on a production of Quills. I gasped. No, I said in shock, you simply couldn't have! That play has nudity in it, and high school students can't be naked. In fact, no one under 18 may ever be naked, even if attempting to be nude. A 17 year old who drops his pants at the beach is not only violating the usual laws against public disturbances, but any tourist who captures the scene out of the corner of the frame is guilty of pornography. A minute past midnight on his 18th birthday, and he can take a picture of his naughty bits with his telephone and send them to all his friends.

In the case of girls, it's much worse, because a girl does not desire to become a loaded weapon. She does not choose to be taboo. She does not choose to be the object of covetousness. Like the paradoxical wretchedness surrounding virginity, this is potent so long as it is undesired, and yet those are the years that a girl will most learn how to see herself. It is when the gaze of the law and society is most telling her that her body is an offense. She can't opt-out, either. It just happens.

The final act for most of us, at least on earth, is death. I have thought a great deal about how it is frightening precisely the way that disease is. The most common reaction would be, "I'm not ready."

It doesn't matter.

It doesn't matter if you prepare for death or do not, if you are at peace or turmoil, if you are 85 or 15, if you are calm or frantic. No qualifications are necessary for dying well or poorly, and no skill is involved. Just as with achieving puberty or arthritis, you will face the thing because it is neutral. It is not good, not bad, and not sentient enough to be indifferent.

There is no good I can imagine for these matters. I believe in the afterlife. It is part of my creed. However, death looms for all, believer and unbeliever, but we are all born with a death sentence. We are all born with a sentence upon us to mature, age, and die, and the only good I can see from pondering these matters is relieving ourselves of judgment.

If you are reading this and are young, remember that you are not as different as the glare of society tells you you are. If you are middle aged, just realize that the diseases and maladies you suffer with are just normal, and you couldn't have prevented them and yet been yourself. If you are thinking of death, don't rail at its injustice. Anything that happens to all of us, the good and bad alike, cannot be anything but neutral. You cannot win the argument against biology, and you cannot reason with the earth.

Monday, January 07, 2008

That One Kind of Disease

Another general fault in conversation is, that of those who affect to talk of themselves: Some, without any ceremony, will run over the history of their lives; will relate the annals of their diseases, with the several symptoms and circumstances of them; will enumerate the hardships and injustice they have suffered in court, in parliament, in love, or in law. -- Jonathan Swift, Hints Toward an Essay on Conversation

So it may have been, then, that such conversations were themselves a sort of illness. However, we now speak of our illnesses together. Of course, we have treatment groups, discussion circles, web forums, and all sorts of informal and formal groups to meet up with one another and average our diseases. By pooling them, like mad insurance companies, we ameliorate them.

More than that, though, we can also share a disease in another way. Do I have proof for this? Yes, I do.

Loads of folks have wondered what, exactly the obsession is with "divas" and the miseries of celebrities. I've wondered, as well. I have preferred not to think too ill of my countrymen. After all, I know that Faustina Bodoni was all the rage in 1728. Poor Ann Cargill washed up, naked, with an infant in her arms in 1784. People were interested in Edmund Kean/Carey's parentage. Don't even ask about John Ruskin's "salon," Christina Rossetti's company kept, or, the greatest of them all, Byron's affairs and postage (Leslie Marchand has a nice long bit on whether a spurned woman sent him hair from a particular part of her body or not).

In other words, it's not new. Inside Access has always been with us, and the prurient and vain interest in vain and pallid celebrities has been a lamentable fact of society for ages and ages. I would imagine that Eloisa was the Britney Gwefani of her day. In fact, we can go back to the scandal of Thisbe wanting to sneak around with that boy at the trysting tree, if we want.

Not, of course, that I want to conflate drunken pudenda exhibition with romantic tragedy. In fact, the big stories that kept being told, like Abelard's, have something else involved than just shame and misery, as shame and misery are commonplaces. Nor, though, do I accept that people like to watch Chistina adopt Madonna's babies because they are themselves leading degraded lives and want to look down on someone.

Instead, I would like to see celebrity as a show that appeals to pity and fear. Audiences to these real degradations can cheer for the heroes and heroines, can shout, "Oh, no, Lindsay! Don't go out with him!" They can invest in the stock of the celebrity, much like people playing rotisserie league baseball. Every Monday, thousands of people, mainly men, turn to the sports page and feel that their investments have paid off variously by seeing professional athletes performing across teams in various sports, while that night millions of people, mainly women, tune into television shows to find out how one Perilous Pauline or another has fared with her rehabilitation and how another Glamorous Glenda has married.

There is another quote, and I can't be sure it's accurately attributed, much less offer a citation, but I heard it this weekend on a quiz show. Supposedly, T. S. Eliot said that radio is a device that allows thousands of people to listen to exactly the same junk at the same time and yet still feel lonesome.

I worry about that quote, because I cannot imagine Eliot, who ditched his Americanisms as thoroughly as he could, using "lonesome," or "junk." At the same time, the sentiment of the quote sounds right for Eliot, and right for me. In fact, it is an acute observation. Those who watch television or listen to the radio are experiencing precisely the same things at the same time, and yet they do so passively and yet feel entirely alone. The television set, more than the radio set, says, "You are the only person in the world, and I am showing this to you." Couples sit on the couch together, and each sets eyes on the television, each receiving a private experience. Like audience members at the theater, the television viewer is constructing a private experience out of stimuli that force themselves upon her.

Lonesome, though? Despite longstanding principles, I looked the word up in the dictionary. Oddly enough, the dictionary saw a distinction between "lonesome" and "lonely." The former is more affective. A person who is "lonely" is only sad at definition #3, where a person who is "lonesome" is sad right off the bat.

Eliot's radio has the listener feeling sad, where I would have said that the television victim is merely lonely. Such a person is unconscious of being lonesome. However, like a big barmecidal plate of Splenda, the privately constructed hors d'oeuvre leaves the viewer even more empty than before, because now time has passed and appetite increased. The viewer, therefore, needs even more spectacular scenes, perhaps.

When we watch the miseries of the celebrities, we get the miniature engagement of catharsis, but with no communal sense to exercise it. The classic model of tragedy requires not just pity and fear (or fitty, if you prefer (and let no one think that these operatic plots belong only to Hollywood celebrities, for the rap world's "beef" operas are every bit as involved)), but also an elevated hero. The causes have to be mighty, and the consequences have to be extraordinary, if we're to have true tragedy, and that means that more than the personal has to be at work. Even when German Expressionist film did kammerspiel with things like my favorite film of all time, The Last Laugh, or the Italian neo-realists did things like The Bicycle Thief, the themes were consciously shaped to be beyond the personal, and the artists worked at creating elevation to the subjects (although they denied it). No. To be tragic and pity-ful, we need there to be something social that we can do or have done to us.

This is the crisis of loneliness, not tragedy. By all receiving the same story, we have a temporary involvement and a permanent vacuity. Our own participation is confined to either wagers of good will or seeing ourselves in the celebrity.

On the other hand, we can participate with that other great paradox of loneliness: the web. Here, and I include myself at this very moment, we can pursue individual courses and believe ourselves utterly self-determining, and yet only show free choice, not free will. If we take the final step and contribute and "create content" with Wikipedia or a forum, we toss in our little bits of self into the giant bucket.

We again average ourselves. We pool ourselves. We take comfort in the fact that we are all alone together and that we are individually like the rest.