Tuesday, December 19, 2017


My intent is embodied in my words and my actions. If I say something with a twisted motive it will be communicated as being twisted even if I get the wording of the statement right. Judgement has two branches: consideration and pronouncement. Pronouncement is embodied in the act. Consideration is not. Punishment follows from conviction, not trial. I know that if I say something with a wrong motive I am corrupted by it, because the fullness of the intent is embodied in my words. 

Joel Fry

Monday, December 18, 2017

A Poem

My Ancestors

I walk through the jungle under my feet
where my African ancestors walked
before they encountered my white ancestors.
There were no boats then.  They met later 
under the careful guise of work, baiting
traps and fishing, bringing up children, skinning
animals, one industry away from a spell.
Sometimes I see a Sarah Lawrence College
graduate on the internet lecturing a truck driver
on the finer points of political correctness.  
Some people have no sense, or couth 
for that matter—no raising.
I wonder when this storm will blow over.
When will we all gather around the barbecue
pit and share a hog to celebrate the end
of a hot summer?  I can still hear the lumberyard 
supervisor tell me, “We were raised poor,
Fry.”  He brushes back his black hair
across his dark scalp, a Cherokee or a Creek,
but when I ask him if he’s an Indian
he chuckles.

Joel Fry

Friday, December 15, 2017

Answer To A Question

On Quora someone asked if there is any proof of consciousness. This was my answer: Pain. Pain occurs to me. Also, it occurs to me that it’s Friday. Emotions arise into awareness. Thoughts occur to awareness. This means there is a self, a you.

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Argument For The Soul #1

Reactions to anger are universal, and yet each human brain is unique. When someone becomes angry he may cuss, throw a fit or hit someone. Also, anger is translated into other languages to have the same meaning. This indicates angry reactions are the same when given a stimulus.

If I have four different kinds of computers which each have four different kinds of hardware I may still run windows on each computer. This may be analogous to a universal reaction to anger. But the brains of humans have no physical way to make reactions to anger universal. The only way to accomplish this would be to incorporate a soul.

Scientists have proven that not all patterns of brain activity which produce anger overlap. So from a purely material vantage there should be no reason to believe that reactions to anger should be universal.

Addendum: I think this may have been debunked since each pattern that evokes anger in the brain may trigger an autonomic response.

Joel Fry

Sunday, December 10, 2017

Response to Sadhguru

Wait a second. Only a finite number of things may be known. If ignorance is always ignorance of something then ignorance is finite--unless those finite things may be combined in an infinite number of ways. But I suppose one could be ignorant of nothing as well.

Poem: Perspective

I can criticize laughter if I want to.
I can dip myself into your narrow acumen,
all the weight you carry in your brain,
which weighs nothing to me.  Does an increase
in intelligence mean an increase in awareness?
Asking is my fault.  And by my fault I see the horse
in the painting and the pasture of stars outside,
which is background without any other perspective.
I hope my wishes and my pleasures never meet.
I draw from your mouth an old phantom.
No one can hear me descend to your warm
depths, least of all you.  My gaze gets lost 
in my focus.  It follows the houses I see whenever
I want to see.  The woods I imagine repeat
a breeze my mind can almost feel.
Tell me what I’m doing wrong on the right side
of longing.  You’re on a trip to visit the worldwith me and no one can tell us no.

Saturday, November 25, 2017

More About America

The Founders created freedom for themselves. That freedom depended on the labor and bondage of others (both free men and slaves). Our society is sick on both the left hand and the right because we have inherited--not racism--but a blindness to the suffering in the rest of the world which (unlike here) people did not bring upon themselves. Leprosy is still a great problem in the third world, and yet it is a curable disease. It is especially a problem in India, yet India wants to have a space program like ours. We have infected the rest of the world. The "you-can-be-anything-you-want" attitude has infected other nations. You can't be whatever you want. And until we solve some basic problems down here we should forget about a space program. Teflon is nice, but it could have been invented without a space program.

Friday, November 24, 2017

The Eye

I've shortened this: You have to be Stoic. You have to stop caring FIRST so you can do good. Once your eye is on the dollar it is on nothing else, because your eye can be on only one thing at a time.

Thursday, November 23, 2017

A Response To Current Conceptions of Mind

He who lives on little enjoys much.  People suffer, not just because their needs aren’t met, but also because they try to meet the wrong needs—needs they do not possess.  The less one needs the less he suffers.  We are told today that we need a great deal of socializing.  But just as your body knows what it needs and will remind you, your higher mind does the same.  Solitude is much more of a need for me.  
       If a person needs to travel his mind will remind him.  I have never been possessed of such a need.  Similarly, I never have the need to photograph anything, even though I enjoy looking at stunning photos.  But I have been told that I have these needs, which never come up, by people who think it inhuman not to have the need to roam and “see new things.”  Indeed, nothing I can see is new.  Seeing itself isn’t new, so how could the objects of seeing be new?  And yet I’m never bored.  I am sustained by surprises and astonished by the mental rotation of made decisions because of my nature, not because anything is new.  A depressed person is not surprised.  Of course, sometimes we need things we feel no need for, but too many people are told they need things simply because the person speaking has that need.  Being told that I would benefit from traveling would be a better approach.  

Philosophers assure us we are all walking on the edge of ruin, staring into our own mortality, but since I inhabit more than one place these things don’t always apply to me.  There is no abyss except in one’s mind.  Instead, I hear the traffic passing in the 
distance, the jet passing overhead, which vanishes into my empty bedroom.  I hear the train blowing its whistle at night and I am reminded of the stark, still darkness that never changes, the only thing no one can talk me out of.  This is a joy.  This is common, not unique.

I spend my life in darkness, often being neither awake nor asleep, but always in the process of waking, ascending into the infinite hope of a new day, where there are no rungs, only waves.  As I say in a poem, “I grow older in what I hear than in who I am.”  Everything I need is found in what I possess.

Sam Harris is right to point out that consciousness is divisible.  But as long as I am conscious what Aristotle said also applies: The whole is greater than the sum of its parts.  This means that the whole is something completely other than the sum of its parts.  My ability to speak, and certainly the message I am conveying, is a process or a synthesis of processes.  The process of speaking is more than just the sum of the parts of speaking.  It is the integrated whole, the process of those parts acting together.

If I learn early on that snakes eat rats then my brain will form a connection between rats and snakes, so that the thought of rats leads to a thought of snakes.  It will become obvious to me that snakes eat rats, so that when someone says, “Snakes eat rats” this fact will register as being obvious.  So the way in which things are learned effects one’s sense of connectedness as well as his sense of what is obvious.  The fact 
that certain things are obvious to almost everyone means some things are established with the same amount of certainty.  In fact, there is a good reason to believe that obviousness is shared in the same way by all, since the response to an obvious fact is universal.  The fact that someone else has a different brain makes little difference.  The process of appraisal is the same.  Different methods of learning could result in the same associations.  One child could read that snakes eat rats.  Another could see the drama played out.  Ideally, if the lesson is learned in more than one way more than one connection could form in the brain.  This would lead to greater associative power.

The human brain is the most complex thing in the known universe.  So perhaps all the levels of complexity in the known universe can be accessed using the brain.  But certain things can only be accessed in altered states.

To see is to recognize.  If you show me a painting that has a boat in it and I don’t recognize the boat I won’t see the boat in the painting.  To recognize is to remember.  I will only be able to see the boat if I remember what boats look like.  To what extent does a newborn infant see the world?  Is qualia based more on the brain’s structure or the way in which one learns the world?

Concentration, for the most part, is the act of holding onto thoughts so they can be analyzed.  Concentration requires active retention.  Active retention can be tested.  
Sometimes concentration is produced without my approval, as when I want a glass of water because I am thirsty and cannot get my mind off the glass of water.  I call this 
passive concentration.  Sometimes I produce concentration, as when I try to retain the lyrics of a song.  I call this active concentration.  Thus, there is a self that retains thoughts.

And yes, free will is possible.  If I decide to go on a diet, not because of some desire to lose weight, but based instead on a conscious appraisal that I am fat, that decision may deaden my desire to eat lunch the next day, so that when the next day comes I will choose to forego eating lunch based on the expectation that I would forego eating lunch, which was in turn produced by my decision to go on a diet.  In this way I can produce my own desires.

If someone is addicted to a drug the drug has ahold of him.  He does not have ahold of the drug so much.  Breaking free is a matter of working one’s way out of a finger trap, not a matter of letting go.  It involves a dance of calculated resistance and finesse.  Likewise, if I have an epiphany the truth takes hold of me.  Later I take hold of the truth to write it down.  I hold it up to the light to analyze it—the light everyone uses to perceive a problem.  We are all possessed of ideas, delusions, suspicions, speculations, and other mental formations which we must wrest from ourselves and examine.  Until we do this they cling to us without our knowledge of them.

In all this one sees the great importance in how things come about, how they are learned, and how they occur to the individual.  If one can master his expectations and transcend them he can go far.  If one can unlearn bad habits and learn new ones, life will open itself to him.  Initiative isn’t for everyone.  Hitler, Stalin, and Mao took the initiative.  And it may very well be good that more people don’t.  But for those who know how to restrain themselves, learning new ways is a necessity.

Tuesday, November 21, 2017


The mind is a room lit by fire. Your house is not engulfed in flames.

Monday, November 6, 2017


The hero is prized because he exemplifies how a certain pleasure is worth any amount of pain to acquire. Odysseus did not perform a Hedonic calculus before he decided to set out on his sea voyage, nor does any hero.

Saturday, October 28, 2017

Letter To a Friend

Dr. Moore,

Back when I was a student at Auburn (in 2000-2001) I read a book called What The Buddha Taught by Walpola Rahula.  I found the book to be incredibly dark.  One of the chapters was called The Doctrine of No Soul.  In it the Buddha breaks down consciousness to its component parts and notes that a soul or self is not to be found in any of the parts.  But of course, the whole is greater than the sum of its parts and self is found in the synthesis.

But that was not the extent of what I found foreboding about it.  The Buddha introduces the dharma by saying that it is the path to a life "free from cares and troubles."  So he sets out by saying that the only way to be free from Samsara (the process of death and rebirth)--the way to attain nirvana--is to be free from desire, to be completely indifferent toward everything in life, to not be bound by attachments to anything dear, to hold nothing dear--basically, to love nothing.  And yet he says that compassion is good.  

The Buddha also says things that are irrational.  Since he says there is no self, he also says, "There is pain but no one to feel the pain."  I would say this reduces a person to one dimension, but it goes further that that.  It abolishes the person.

But the magic elixir of indifference was slowly presented to me throughout the book.  If you stop caring about everything your suffering will end.  In Buddhism this indifference is total.  Any attachment keeps one bound to the wheel of Samsara.  Holding anything dear is a crime against yourself.

I remember you saying that indifference is the opposite of love.  But the Buddha, as being a proponent of the Middle Way, says that indifference is a midpoint between hatred and love.  Here's how I see it: There is a triangle with love at the top, hatred on the left corner and love on the right corner.  In this sense love is opposed by both hatred and indifference.  Of course, there is a time and place for everything.  There is a time to be indifferent, just like there is a time to love and even a time to hate.  One day when the Buddha was meditating he heard a musician teaching his pupil, by saying, "Tighten the string too tight and it will break.  Make the string too loose and it won't play."  So the Buddha approached everything this way--as if everything were reduced to a flat line.  Buddhism is totally reductionistic, and yet it is attended by a great deal of obfuscation.  It's designed that way.



Friday, October 27, 2017

A New Look at The Soul

If I am my consciousness would a computer that matches my consciousness and is placed in a body just like mine become me after I die? If yes, then it would be possible to trap a person in a computer after his death. If no, then there must be more to me than my consciousness and my body, i.e a soul.  If, however, you say this scenario is impossible you are admitting there is some part of my essential being that cannot be replicated.

Earlier I said that a reincarnated person is a continuation of a person from a previous life, meaning that the reincarnated person's baseline awareness was a continuation of the baseline awareness from a previous life.  I imagine that if a baby were born today his baseline awareness would be a continuation of the baseline awareness of a baby from a previous life.  In truth, I believe a person's baseline awareness is the same throughout his life.  How does this square with the possibility of a soul?

A person's awareness is essential to his self.  And I don't believe in a disembodied soul.  Since the soul must inhabit a body to be conscious it may be the case that a soul gives rise to awareness or at least helps to give rise to awareness.  So the possibility of a soul does not contradict my stance on reincarnation.  But it may be that memories of a previous life are carried to this life by the soul.

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

What Is The Best Metaphor For Society?

Many people call for a level playing ground in our society.  But is that the best metaphor we can think of?  In some cases people think of society as a stick to be straightened.  But society could also be thought of as a body to be nourished.  There could perhaps be any number of other metaphors for society.  Society has long been called the Body Politic.

In the case of a stick to be straightened, the stick represents a person’s character or the character of society.  Some people are born with straight characters.  These people are naturally upstanding.  A society may also be conceived the same way—giving rights to individuals and ensuring responsibilities.  But a society is more than its character because a society is a body to be nourished, not a stick to be straightened.

In the case of the level playing field—that metaphor does not include all of society, but rather the opportunity inherent in society.  It is only one aspect of society, so it can be ruled out as a metaphor for the whole of society.  The whole of society must be something that integrates all its parts.

A society does not directly conform to its character in the same way that a person’s body does not conform to a person’ individual character.  It is rather inspired by its character.  You may bend the stick to the right if it is bent too far to the left, but a body is far more complex.  The stick is one and only one thing.  It’s parts are of no concern so long as they conform to what is required, but a body has its own requirements independent of a person’s character.  Each part needs something from the whole and gives something to the whole.

But why straighten a stick?  A fletcher may straighten a stick to use it as an arrow, but then the stick is only a weapon, not something that exists for its own sake.  Society may use it’s character to propel it toward an end, but society is the archer, not the arrow.  The arrow is meant to serve a purpose, to hit a target.  Perhaps warring states can be thought of as arrows, but only while they are at war, and even then individuals would have to be considered.    

An objection to this might be that all states are constantly at war, in an economic sense, with other states, and that the larger government exists to protect the citizens of the state.  But how is economic war waged?  And shouldn’t each citizen be given his own autonomy as much as possible?

Economic war is waged both for and against a cause: for the cause of individual liberty and happiness and against anything that might impede on this liberty and happiness.  In both cases it must be recognized that individuals are autonomous to a certain degree and will act in their own best interest.  If society is seen merely as a stick you will end up with a splintered stick in which the individual parts go their own way or a whole stick in which liberty and happiness is repressed for the sake of cohesion.  However, the only people to benefit from this cohesion would be the few that do not have to be constrained for the sake of the whole, namely the ruling class.  Survival in such a state would, for most people, mean suffering.

In the case of the body the parts, which may be either individuals or small groups, retain their dignity because each part is necessary.  The pinky is perhaps not as honored as the eye, but it is useful in a way that the eye is not.  The purpose of the body as a whole is to act in the way that best nourishes itself.  In this sense the aspirations of each individual are secondary to the needs of the whole, but the secondary status is sacred and cannot be overridden by the primary needs of the whole.

For instance: My job demands a premium on my time, but cannot require me to practice a certain prescribed religion or think a certain way.  I may not enjoy my job, but it is my primary obligation with respect to society.  Both my primary and secondary obligations exist independently of each other as long as I wish for them to.

For the health both of the individuals and society at large many small groups are necessary and serve as individuals themselves.  Only in small intimate groups do individuals gain societal nourishment.  Individuals who do not gain a sense of purpose from small groups will not gain a sense of purpose from the state at large.  This is why religion is so important as well as artist guilds, trade unions, historical societies, etc.  An isolated person loses his mind in a sense.

Likewise, toes do not work alone but in concert with the other toes.  Fingers work in concert with other fingers.  The eyes work in concert with each other.  And the heart works in concert with veins.  So different people work in concert with their respective groups.

Societies nourish individuals only by means of intimate small groups.  Likewise, individuals nourish society by relating to small groups.  Big Brother is a phenomenon that can only occur when small groups are obliterated.  This is why religions and art are controlled in communist states.  Communist states are designed to be straight sticks.  Small groups, religious groups, artist guilds, were all suppressed in the USSR, because they were seen as subversive.

During the time of the Second World War it was easy to organize the Soviet people around the central cause of defeating Nazi Germany.  The straight stick had become an arrow which was being fired by Stalin and the higher ups at the enemy.  But once the wars subsided and once the nuclear threat made war too costly the society started to fray.  But even during the war most Soviet citizens suffered greatly by the administration.  They had no secondary life.  Their primary life was the only life they were expected to have.  So again, the picture of society was one-dimensional.  Good luck controlling people once they get into small groups behind closed doors and start chatting.  Then the real plans are made.

So small groups are intermediates, necessary intermediates, in which secondary needs and desires can flourish unimpeded.  Only three things need to exist for a society to be viable: individuals, small groups, and the body politic at large.  In China today there is a great deal of religion.  People get together of one mind and one accord, then the talking starts and decisions are made, promises are made and broken, deals are struck.  But most importantly: Secondary purposes and plans are determined.

By “secondary” I do not mean “less important.”  I simply mean that with respect to society at large secondary needs are usually not the most important.  The secondary needs of a plumber to write poetry may be the plumber’s own primary needs, but for the larger society those needs are secondary.

The state may not always be necessary.  For now it is needed to protect the citizens of the nation from other states and their armies.  It might be the case that roads could get built and hospitals and universities could be staffed without a state, but I think that would require a higher caliber of human than the ones we have now.  People would have to be very disciplined, very generous, and very honest to keep that body from being an amorphous blob.

Sunday, October 22, 2017

The Soul

I have a question: If I am my consciousness would a computer that matches my consciousness become me after I die? If yes, then it would be possible to trap a person in a computer after his death. If no, then there must be more to me than my consciousness, i.e. a soul.

Saturday, October 14, 2017


Society is a body to be nourished not a stick to be straightened. 

A duck is not a rabbit and a rabbit is not a duck.

"Not that which goes into the mouth that defiles a man but the appetite with which it is consumed."--Thoreau

"Not that which goes into the mouth that defiles a man but that which comes out."--Jesus

Monday, October 9, 2017

Magnetic Slingshot Device for Space Travel

Based on the reality that if you drop an iron cylinder through a successive set of hollow electromagnets which each turn off just before the iron cylinder reaches them, there will be no terminal velocity, I propose a space shuttle which is flat and triangular with thrusters on the bottom which blasts through a long line of these electro-oscillating magnets.  There would have to be rails to guide the spacecraft. The device would be placed in space, orbiting the earth.

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

How Karma Could Interfere With Justice

Let's say a five-year-old child was abused.  If you believe a person can inherit bad karma from the previous life you might believe the child deserved what he got.  Be very careful with this concept.  It must not interfere with bringing perpetrators to justice.

Meriting Celestial Realms

As I've said before I don't necessarily have experiential knowledge of karma unless the devastating psychosis I experienced in 2006 counts as karma for fucking with Buddhism.  Just prior to that episode I wrote a kind of fable in which I tried to take down the Buddhist claim that there was no self.  I said, "Do you believe one is one's own refuge?"  Is one one's own?  Is one not one's own?  I ended up with four statements: I am a self but I am not my own.  I am no self but I am my own.  ( This last statement follows if the person says he is not a self but he is his own refuge.)  And by extension, I said: I am a self, but my self is found in others.  I am no self, but I am inhabited by others. 

What followed was a spiritual head-reaming.  Maybe that was negative karma.  But what about all the shit I went through in high school?  Did those people suffer their negative karma?  The evidence for this concept seems inconsistent at best.  People do get away with murder.  Just look at Detroit.  Nevertheless, in absence of concrete proof one way or the other, I live in hopes of meriting celestial realms.  I live in hopes of justice, maybe even mercy.

Friday, September 29, 2017


I just want to say that I do believe humans have souls.  I have seen at least one image--a horn hung between two fires--that I think is from the akashic records.  It felt like an ancient image.  But I am not sure of disembodied consciousness.

It may be that the essence is consciousness, or that it enables consciousness to exist in a disembodied form.  Here's an argument for the essence: There cannot be an infinite series of conditioned realities.  A conditioned reality is a reality which is dependent on other things (component parts) for its existence.  A hydrogen atom is a conditioned reality, because protons and electrons must exist for hydrogen atoms to exist.  Each component layer--molecules, atoms, subatomic particles, etc.--is a conditioned reality.  Since each layer is completely dependent on the layer beneath it there must be an unconditioned reality--a reality which has no component parts--for the same reason that an infinite series of zeroes does not add up to one.  This debunks materialism, because the essence (unconditioned reality) is not a material form of reality, since all material forms of reality are made of component parts.  And since this essence actively sustains the cosmos, it is God.


I'm bipolar (I) and I was able to include a comment in response to a complaint about microaggressions today.  I said people should not expect the world to change for them, but should develop an internal locus of control.  Several other disabled people actually upvoted the comment.  I was surprised and gratified.

People don't understand that if you make just two changes you can improve your life drastically.  First, take responsibility for your actions.  This puts your life in your hands.  Second, (and this is kind of a panacea) stop caring so much.  Life will hurt a lot less.

Sunday, September 17, 2017


One purpose of eugenics is to create a ruling class that was born to rule. Since eugenics would not be enforced by a rigid worldwide mandate (let's hope!) it would create a ruling class and a ruling society. This would create extreme hopelessness among the ruled and would grant license to the rulers. In the past the only thing that made this bearable was the obvious flaws in the system, so that the commoners could laugh at the stupid king. Likewise, the only thing that would make it unbearable would be its flawlessness.

Tuesday, September 12, 2017


Marcus Aurelius wrote an excellent book about 1,800 years ago called Meditations.  It is compiled from notes addressed to himself.  In it he describes his stoic philosophy, how it takes a kind of middle path between (for instance) being an overly social person and a recluse.  In it he says a person who is wholly good would not regret missing pleasure and concludes that pleasure is therefore neither beneficial nor good.  I disagree with this, thinking that pleasure is the only thing that makes life worth living.  But as someone great once said, "Happiness is remembered, not experienced."  Thus, happiness comes from remembering times we now consider good.

An English professor once told us to read the ancient texts, and that is what I am doing now.  I have already read a good many of them: The Odyssey, The Tao Te Ching, The Bible, some of the Upanishads and the Bhagavad Gita, and others.  I already imbibe enough of this world.  I want to travel back in time.

Sunday, September 3, 2017

The Greatest Good

I keep trying to decide what the greatest good is.  I used to think it was love.  Then I thought it was freedom.  Now I think the answer is in the Hindu tradition.  To dissolve into the highest experience is love and freedom.  It is love because it fulfills.  It is freedom because it breaks chains of bondage (in my experience, temporarily).  To be absorbed by something completely is the greatest thing.

On day I was sitting on my bed when I began to hear a jet passing overhead.  The sound entered me at the top and moved down into my chest and then into my lower parts.  This experience was like nothing I had ever felt before.  The only thing I could compare it to was the eeriness that comes from watching "A Warm Place" by Nine Inch Nails.  It totally opened me up.  I was completely absorbed by the sound.  I dissolved into it.

I have felt nirvana before.  This was a more moving feeling.  I wasn't just liberated.  I was opened.  I blossomed.

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

This Really Happened

Synchronicity happens to me from time to time, but the other day, about two weeks ago, something absolutely remarkable happened.  It qualified as a remarkilarity.  I wrote a poem about how one event begets another, and how that one begets still another, etc.  Right after I wrote this poem I got in my car to go to Wal-Mart.  The song that was playing on the radio was that song that ends by saying, "Every new beginning comes from some other beginning's end."  Electrocusive!

Friday, August 18, 2017

New Poem


All the friendships I make
I make with myself first.  My body grows
tense with handshakes.  Every man
I come to know makes knowing him
the hardest thing imaginable,
the deepest excavation, the dirtiest
dig.  The rope that leads out of me
does not lead away from me. 
Anyone who can climb me does.
Strangers watch me acquaint
myself with music, each of my fingers
touching the sky when I touch
my chest.  Women sit around me
and look at their toes.  I am beauty
that only becomes.  What’s missing
is the knowledge of having lived,
that old root cellar of reserved
gestures.  I wake in the morning
and run.  My punishment consists
of miles, the hard luck of laughter,
an enemy’s insolence, wilderness
in a child’s voice, the spot
on the map where everyone comes
to cry.

Joel Fry

Published in the Florida Review.

Thursday, August 10, 2017


When pain occurs it occurs to me. Otherwise I would not merely feel pain. There is distance between myself and what I feel. --If I had no self--if there were no me--I would be the pain I feel, because there would be no distance between it and the part of my mind I call my self. I would be a room full of fire rather than a room lit by fire.

The whole is greater than the sum of its parts, which means that the whole is something completely other than the sum of its parts. The self arises out of this. The Buddha said that if one breaks down a person's consciousness into its components he finds no self. That is beside the point.

You can transcend the self, or dissolve the self, but that is a lower state of consciousness (perhaps), not a higher one. In deep states of meditation Buddhist monks feel no physical pain. That's because they've shut off part of their brains. Lower cognizance equals lower consciousness, in a sense. But it could also open up the mind to a different dimension of awareness. A dimmer switch could actually make some things more visible.

I have felt, at fleeting moments, what may be referred to as nirvana--that is, complete clarity. But I don't know whether that made me more or less like a snail, more or less like a deer, more or less like a plant. I'm talking about awareness not intelligence.

The Way Things Are

For now, consider the ducks in the park.  They squabble over food, but they never worry about the way things are, because they are unaware of death and rebirth.  But I try not to worry about the way things are for different reasons.  I am aware of death and rebirth.  If there is an ultimate good, moksha or nirvana, it is not something I can fully comprehend, except to say that I have felt a brief whiff of it in this life, but it was not something I could maintain.  I can only aim at something I can grasp with my mind.  How can I aim at liberation?  When I have felt it I neither knew where it came from nor how it was arrived at.  The world is dynamic.  While I have a nature, the nature of reality is atman.  Maybe my nature is the same as the nature of reality.  It must be so.  But since I don't know how to arrive at the ultimate state of union I must be satisfied with assuring myself that "the way things are" is simply an illusion.  The present is not the past, and the future is not like the present either, not exactly.

Saturday, July 22, 2017

The New Moderates

I don't know about you, but I am sick of extreme conservatives and extreme liberals. I propose we start a new organization called The New Moderates. Why? Because the media does not cover the concerns and actions of moderates. We aren't fringe enough to warrant air time. Instead, people like Michael Savage blare their voices across the airwaves and groups like Evergreen College are constantly getting the spotlight by inciting chaos. Never mind that Michael Savage is not conservative in his demeanor, as if a disconnect between conservative values and conservative demeanor shouldn't raise an eyebrow. Never mind that the far left says I shouldn't have freedom of speech because I was born with the wrong color skin.
Enough. We need to hear from reasonable voices that can tie the nation to a center, to keep it from drifting apart. We need people who understand that the rights of individuals cannot be infringed upon by the state, but that the individual also has a responsibility to pay his fair share in taxes to support the nation he claims to love. We need people who understand that the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness hinges on affordable health care. We need a return to politeness and civil discourse, a return to humility, and leaders who enculture these values in the people.
We need to protect our borders without assuming that a useless, expensive wall can do what fences can't. We need a police force that encourages mentorship and that reaches out to the community. We need a body politic that is instructed on how to interact with the police. And we need thorough character evaluations of potential police officers before they are hired. Certain personality types must be barred from becoming officers.

Friday, July 7, 2017


Every Winter

The Snake River slithers
up to the old man’s house every winter
through oak thickets and brambles,
through a latticework of layered leaves.
It carries enough driftwood to build
a city. He lives close to the tumbling water,
close to all he knows -- near catfish, bass,
bream and gar.

Always he hears the climbing
ripples slink away like the woman
who brought him crooning to her nest,
the cottage of her fingers, who inhabits
his study of rage and remorse, whose face
he sees blood-red and stamped on the sky
big as a harvest moon.
The cloudy night carries him
through desire. It swaddles him
through a tour of every woman
he has known, through torrents
of elegance when he reaches for flesh
and blood but finds only bed sheets,
when he hears only his heartbeat and
the distant howl of a neighbor’s dog.
His voice courses through a fever
of starlight, a promenade of echoes.
He is poised on the edge of a mystery
he cannot command, a chorus he cannot escape.
Life is a one-act play that loves to repeat itself.
The river covers the sounds of his prayers,
the rumbles of his body’s ecstasy, the memory
of a summer that curled his torso. The water
swallows every approaching sound. He lives
by its permission.

Joel Fry

(Published in Birmingham Arts Journal.)

Saturday, June 24, 2017

Free Will (fleshed out)

Free will is entirely possible, even if there is a part of my brain which automatically makes an unconscious decision for me before I make the same conscious decision a moment later. If I choose to to go on a diet without having the desire to lose weight (so that the decision to go on a diet is based on an evaluation that I am fat rather than a desire to lose weight) that decision will produce the expectation that I will forgo eating lunch tomorrow. That expectation will in turn deaden my desire to eat lunch the next day so that when the next day comes I will choose to forgo eating lunch. This is an example of a completely free choice.

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Free Will!!!

I can decide to lose weight without having any desire to. This decision can produce an expectation, which in turn can produce a desire or deaden a desire. In this case the choice was completely free.

Monday, June 19, 2017


No matter how great you are if you don't stop for the train it will kill you just as if you were anyone else. When a man steps into a river he enlarges the river, but the river does not enlarge him.

Thursday, June 15, 2017


I know that pain is occurring to me. This limits my pain. But if I were nothing but sense perception (like a slug?) I would not merely feel pain. I would be pain.

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

The Night Sky

If you look up to the night sky on a clear night you will see an image which is all background with no need for foreground to establish perspective.  This is the only image I can think of that does this.  It is immediately perceived, which is why the night sky is so powerful and refreshing.

Friday, May 26, 2017

A Poem


Pain makes me matter.
My blossoming leg muscles ache 
and my mind dances as thunder sweeps
through the face of a storm.  This is the miracle
that miracles won’t stop.
Old sunlight made of memory in cracked
glass makes me move to recent wonder.
One delight leads to another
until joy leads to nothing at all.  The rain falls,
steady as light shedding the weight 
of the world, making the earth consistent
with its burden.  Not even a snail crosses
the path of my suffering.
In the woods I can find the river and follow
it as if I were following the veins
of my wrists, but I cannot find the city,
which reveals neither hide nor hair
of its material existence.
Everyone who seeks starlight looks
for the place in his body
where he is pierced and he finds a hole
leading to the end of his affairs,
the concourse through his common night.

Joel Fry

Published in Eclectica.

Wednesday, May 24, 2017


The reason so many white people go into shopping malls and shoot 30 people is because they live in a society in which people say, "Hey man, I'll call you," and the call never comes. That kind of insincerity will drive you up the wall. --No, I'm not talking about myself. Life is good.

Saturday, May 20, 2017

Biology Question

If a man can lift 200 pounds while he is not sexually aroused how much can he lift while he is sexually aroused and adrenalin is flowing?

Sunday, May 14, 2017

A Secret of The Buddha

One day the Buddha was walking in the forest with Ananda, his closest disciple, and Ananda said to the Buddha, "Lord, have you told us everything that you have to teach us or are there things which you know which you have not taught." The Buddha held out his hands full of leaves and said,"The leaves which you see in the Blessed One's hands are the things which I teach, and the leaves you see spread on the forest floor are the things I know which I do not teach."

Here is the meaning of this: If you hold a green leaf up to the sunlight you can see that the leaf is made of individual cells. The Buddha would have known this. He could have inferred that the bodies of all living things are made of cells, but he did not teach this because it would have confused people.

Monday, May 1, 2017

Two Models of Truth (unfinished)

The first model of truth is that of a map that allows one to make it through a maze.  In this case the map must match reality exactly.  Truth is made of all true statements that pertain to the objective world.  In the second case truth is a raft one uses to get across a river.  But in this case also, truth is made of all true statements that pertain to subjective needs.  Anything that floats well enough and holds together and is made of true statements that promote my needs is truth.

The map model of truth represents scientific truth.  The raft model represents morality.  Science must accurately model reality as closely as possible.  Morality, on the other hand, must provide a way of weathering the turbulence of reality.  What are rights? What are responsibilities?  These are constructs.  But pain and pleasure are at least real.  Morality maps pain and pleasure.

If I say that I have the right to freedom of speech, that is a true statement, but that is true because someone else has the obligation to let me speak my mind.  Here, however, truth is not a map that must be followed lest I reach a dead end but an allowance that must be granted so that I don't perish beneath the waves.

The disagreement between science and philosophy sometimes comes down to a disagreement as to which model best represents truth.  I have needs that must be met.  Whereas the objective world makes demands that also must be met.  But both must be acknowledged.  To ask whether my needs match the objective reality is wrongheaded.  The two often have nothing to do with one another.

It must never be the case that reliance on one model completely supplants the use of the other model, because if that occurs then most people will fail in the world model that has been destroyed or displaced.

Thursday, March 23, 2017


The moment you say this IS the way it is you are discerning the object in view as having certain features which are discrete from other objects and their features. It is what it is only because that’s what it came to be. All change produces change in the future, and that change produces change in the future, ad infinitum. Change is irreversible. Change is permanent.

Monday, March 20, 2017

Transcendental Trespass

Despite Alister Crowley's statement "Do what thou wilt" it is possible to trespass against the transcendental.  Transcendental trespass is commonly known as blasphemy.  The only reason Crowley's statement has any bearing is that it is ridiculous, feeble, and obviously false.  It attempts to deny that a trespass can be made against the transcendental.  And yet millions of such trespasses are made each day.  Without a violation of the sacred there is nothing sacred, and if nothing is sacred nothing can be profane.  And if nothing is profane nothing is worthwhile.  And if nothing is worthwhile nothing is knowable.

Sunday, February 26, 2017

Why I Am Not a Buddhist

Think of the history the West Coast, and ask yourself this question: When did the West Coast begin its slide toward radical leftism? The answer is, of course, the 1950s. The catalyst was Buddhism.  

I am a poet, and while I do like some of Allan Ginsburg’s poetry, especially “Howl”—I also realize that the Beatnik Movement, which preceded the Hippy Movement was the decisive moment at which the West Coast began its descent into hell.

Ginsburg was a profoundly devoted Jewish convert to Buddhism. I’ve even heard that at one point he bowed down and worshipped a man in Central Park because he recognized this man as a Bodhisattva. Ginsburg was so devoted that he co-founded Naropa University in Boulder, Colorado. You don’t get much more liberal than that.

But what did the Buddha actually teach? When asked whether a human is a self he said this question must be set aside.  He also taught that all phenomena are impermanent. Thus, he said there is merely suffering, but no one to experience suffering. There are deeds but no doer of deeds. There is only movement, but no one in the movement. However, we know that no matter how much we change we can only become ourselves.  No matter how many times I step into the Tennessee River it is always the Tennessee River because of its specific geographical location. Each life has a social context, which lends, or should lend, a kind of permanence to my life. My life consists of sensations and component impressions, but the whole of my life is greater than the sum of its impressions, because, as Aristotle noted, the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.  No wonder we are taught to believe that a grasshopper is simply a machine, because a machine has no individual awareness and is simply the sum of its parts. And how would someone recognize any part of life as unsatisfactory unless he had some point of satisfaction to compare it with, some ideal that stood apart from the parts?

The Buddha taught that the cycle of death and rebirth is without beginning, but he also taught that one should not accept something as truthful unless he sees that it is truthful, never mind that this kind of apprehension can be tricked and that philosophy is more than a matter of “seeing.” He taught that the stream of consciousness is without beginning, never mind that it is impossible to “see” an infinite regress and that, if there is consciousness outside the brain that still hasn’t been conclusively proven. And every stream has a source.

The Buddha says (to paraphrase)—truth is a raft one uses to get to the other side of a river. Once one gets to the other side, he leaves his raft behind. He overextends this metaphor. Truth is, indeed, a raft one uses to get across a river. But this is where the metaphor ends. The central obsession of Buddhism is letting go of attachments. So we are told to let go of truth. But in reality we retain truths in our minds. Letting go is not always the proper response.

The Buddha taught that the cycle of death and rebirth is without beginning, but that which never began to exist cannot cease to exist because it can never reach a point of not existing.

So why is there such a rush on the West Coast to embrace Buddhism. It is because Western white Buddhists believe that because “all component things are impermanent” that morals are also wishy washy. This is strange given that most Buddhists in Japan are usually cultural conservatives. Could it be that Westerners are just jaded? Whatever the case, Aristotle is a much more solid ground for ethics than the Buddha. But so is Confucius, who said, “The archer is a mature person in that when he misses the mark he finds the fault in himself.” China is, first and foremost, a Confucian culture, but so is all of the far east. In Japan, Buddhism is separated from the indigenous religion of Shinto. This is how they have dealt with the influx of Buddhism. The Buddha taught that since a person is simply the sum of his parts, “There is pain but no one to perceive the pain.” But Confucius will not allow the person to escape his personal responsibility by denying the offending self.

Joel Fry

Source: What The Buddha Taught by Walpola Rahula.  All the facts pertaining to Buddhism can be verified in this text.

Friday, February 24, 2017

Establishing Reality

Truth is found not merely in the cohesion of two thoughts or in the resolution of a single thought with an external object, but in the cohesion of two thoughts and their joint resolution with an external object or reality. Example: It's a rainy day in February. Rainy days in February are always cold. Then: I walk outside and behold the cold, rainy day. This way of thinking and acting establishes reality. By walking outside I have a kind of epiphany, and when I am struck by the simultaneous collision and resolution of my thoughts and the external reality, I witness truth.

If I am only verifying the correctness of the single thought that it is raining by stepping outside there is no epiphany, only a bland concurrence of reality with my single thought.

Monday, February 13, 2017

Responding to Daniel Dennett

"A brain filled with apps is a human mind." Horse shit. A human being is aware, first, then self-aware. Self-awareness both affirms and denies the existence of different things. All this talk about the human brain and no mention that the brain responds out of a state of awareness, and no mention whatsoever that awareness comes and goes. The whole is greater than the sum of its parts. A human isn't just a brain. As my doctor told me, if you were just a brain in a vat it would be easier to treat you, but you have a body also. If there is no free will why can't I predict what you are thinking? On a good day I might be able to predict what you will DO, though usually not, but I am at a complete loss as to what you are thinking. Shouldn't I be able to predict what you are thinking as well as I can predict what you do? If human responses are inevitable there is no such thing as right and wrong, because nothing that is inevitable is immoral. Rain isn't immoral, neither is the explosion of a volcano no matter how many people it kills. And yet the very fact that we have morality means that we acknowledge right and wrong. If some process does not take the path of least resistance then some other variable must have interfered with the process. And yet in theory I can quit smoking even though my brain still wants to smoke! I had considered reading Dennett's book on consciousness, but it would obviously be a waste of time. (And how is it that my brain can distinguish between something that is obvious and something that isn't? Is that a function of intelligence or a function of awareness?) Dumbasses.

Friday, February 10, 2017

The Virtue of Acting in The Extreme

Martin Luther King Jr. was successful by the means he chose to be successful. Gandhi was successful by the means he chose. The jest is to be extremely good. I may collect license plates on the side, and that would be considered soft-headed, but if I collect them carefully and obsessively enough, devoting all my free time to expanding my collection, I will be considered wise and admirable--because I am acting in the extreme.

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

A Regress in the Trump

There's an regress in the trump: Donald Trump's doctor as magician; his magician as handyman; his handyman as plumber; his plumber as diagnostician; his diagnostician as bringer-of-bad-news; his bringer-of-bad-news as bringer-of-good-news; his bringer-of-good-news as public informant; his public informant as ontologist; his ontologist as proctologist; his proctologist as confidant; his confidant as doctor, etc.

Friday, February 3, 2017

After Trump's Speech

I haven't read what Trump actually said. For me there's a lot of conflict. We have Trump in office on the right with their goons and masses on the left who are ready and willing to riot and go to great collective lengths to stomp out freedom of speech. Clearly there is sanity, but those of us who are sane--in the middle--aren't caustic enough to get any air time. And the pendulum swings longer and wider.

Dr. King said, "The arc of history is long but it bends toward Justice." --And since the Christianization of Rome that has been the case, with some terrifying hitches. The church stopped the mass crucifixions and the gladiator games. Then, unfortunately, slavery became widespread in Europe and the Western Hemisphere. Then it was outlawed in Europe first, then here then in the rest of the Western Hemisphere. Then there were women's rights and the rights of minorities. Then we defeated the Nazis. Then came the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s. Then gay rights. And since WWII wartime deaths have been on the decline. So the Great Movement of history has been Justice. But you can notice the huge backlashes in history--slavery and the activity of the Axis Powers, each of which were convinced they were superior races.

When a nation is built on a constant struggle for Justice and Justice is actually achieved people become restless. Enter the "Social Justice" movement, which is nothing if not an outright effort to silent dissent. These people are Miniver Chevys. So we get what we have today--a decadent nation that cannot see beyond its borders, a nation that hasn't got the fortitude to tolerate any of the founding principles. The blind elect their kind as President. The choice was between postured and unpostured blindness. There is nothing more to protest but our own downfall.

Thursday, February 2, 2017

The Ontological Problem

The whole is greater than the sum of its parts.  A cow is not just a collection of atoms, but a whole, conscious being.  How much more is this true of a human?  And yet a computer is not conscious and is therefore simply the sum of its parts.

Another aspect of this ontological problem lies in the fact that something cannot be dead unless it was once alive.  A machine isn't even dead.

Thursday, January 26, 2017


Then and Now

If I could hear the water running through
the rocks and the stones under my
feet rumbling, I could behold your voice
again and feel my surprise wherever I go. 
You crack a smile somewhere far away. 
I confer the warmth of a kiss
onto the most solitary star in the night sky. 
Coming here has always been my wish, and now
it is my reason.  From pulp to legal tender,
the truest reason is made from wishing,
and the first sign of spring is that which awakens
within me rather than what I awaken to. 
My first intention is an impulse budding,
not sunned by any need I know. 
I have another day on my mind I must overcome
to forget.  Old hurdle, I have jumped it
a million different ways.  I had a place in mind before
I came to this breezy garden, a maze full of yellow
roses and ivy.  How can I break this unending
splendor to myself, this actual solace of Japanese
maples in the first fog, that so exceeds the flowers
I had thought I would find?  The world I listen to
is the private enterprise of learning. 
I grow older in what I hear than in who I am. 
The years that approach me come to me
in the strictest silence and the starkest light,
and your voice is the clean break I make
with indifference, when you tell me how your father
cannot find himself among his many
waking hours.  There is no alarm for us. 
I keep what you said when you stood
behind me at the party last winter. 
I part my lips to receive your breath.

Joel Fry

Published in Poem.

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Why Poetry Must Become More Philosophical

The following essay (sans poem) was published in Eclectica.  The poem was published in Stirring in the summer of 2000.

Why Poetry Must Become More Philosophical

Since the 2006 publication of The God Delusion by Richard Dawkins there has been a massively renewed interest in whether God exists, whether humans have free will, whether there is an afterlife, and whether artificial intelligence is attainable any time soon.  This influx of interest, this sudden fire of controversy, has meant a staggering success for Youtube as well as an onslaught of atheist / theist debates.  It has made people rich and has created a kind of thinking republic of the world.  One would think that poetry has cashed in on this, but little seems to have changed.

While it is true that isolated poems like John Hennessy’s “Convenience Store Aquinas,” as published in the March 2015 issue of Poetry Magazine, have begun to address concerns over whether the business of living is an accident, a happy coincidence, a mistake, an emergent property of God, or something there is no word for, I have yet to read more than one or two contemporary poems of vital significance that comment on what any of this existence forebodes.  Yes, all poems are about just that, but few of them tackle the issue in a way that directly confronts the kinds of dialogues that are playing out all over the world.  None of them debates the issue relentlessly and exactly enough.  None contends for more than consolation, at least not to my satisfaction.  Is Richard Dawkins right to suggest  that the universe ultimately has only blind, pitiless indifference to offer us?  What I find to be most curious is that *$200,000,000.00 can’t make a difference.  It has finally been proven that all the money in the world can’t make poetry relevant.  What does this say about human nature?  About poetry?

I’m not suggesting that poetry which moves me to weeping or laughing is anything less than divine.  I’m not implying that consolation is not great in its own terms.  I’m saying that lyric poetry is bigger than any of those things.  In my poem “Such a Bright Future” I begin by saying, “If freedom means anything / it means one thing.  Be free from want / then do what you want.”  Those lines are mere attempts.  Lyric poetry is more than just emotion.  Narrative poetry is more than just story.  I want to see more eternal poems like “The Lake Isle of Innisfree,” but I also want to see more poems like “The Man With The Blue Guitar.”  

Thinking for its own sake is thinking for the sake of the world as well.  One promising paradigm might be Metamodernism (http://www.metamodernism.org/).  Though I’m not sure terms need to be defined that neatly.  Whatever the terms and conditions of poetry they need not imitate nature.  There is no need to believe that poetry is subject to entropy.  There is no need to see gravity as the opposite of levity, for that matter.  Some of the best poetry is that in which sanity is called into question: either the sanity of the poet, the sanity of the reader, or the very idea of sanity altogether.  Reconciling opposites—which is one of the major themes of Metamodernism—is important.  So is drawing a fine line between two related things.  Poetry is a kind of logic.  I’ll write my story / so deep in myself / no one will hear it / in my voice.

The end of thinking may be either tragedy or joy.  One may realize in his thinking a zenith or a nadir—but at least he will know where he stands.  This is usually the case.  Thinking clarifies one’s life, but it can only be done within a context.  It can only be managed within a need.  If there is no need there is no need to think.  Poets must bring to mind the need that never alters its course, the star which all the other planets revolve around.  How do I know what I need?  If I’m hungry I need food.  If I’m thirsty I need water.  Poetry cannot live without the one desire we all have in our natural state, which neither dissipates nor dissolves.  Remind the reader of that, but do it in a way that accesses the soul by means of the brain, just as Emily Dickinson did.

I will close by including a poem of mine which was published in Stirring (as “Down Here in Alabama”) 

Late Alabama
An abandoned car
sits on the side of the road
in 1957.  It's Walter's,
but he listens to the moon ascend
showers in India.

The late drum begins its beating.
Cities, shanties, dirt lots,
miles of corn in Elkmont
depart as sand under the foot
of the stratosphere.

Headlights bead
around twilight every day.
They come down from the Cumberlands
with pine in their bulbs.

And tomorrow,
this land will be turned by rust,
by a machine that hitches its own mule,
pinning him between cattle prods.

It will be too late to sow seed then.
The sky will have stopped.

This is the estimated amount of money the Poetry Foundation has acquired and accrued after the Ruth Lily bequest. (http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2007/02/19/the-moneyed-muse)

Saturday, January 21, 2017

Comprehension, continued

What is the qualitative difference between comprehending a moral truth and comprehending an empirical fact?  Is there a quantitative difference between the two forms of comprehension?

Thursday, January 19, 2017



I flash a distress signal, my body alert 
and dancing beneath the sky.  I bring strangers
into the fold of my attention.  Long walks
in the woods carry the world—the sad, receding
claim of sight born without intention.
All the trees take root in the rocks.  The only thing
left to love is myself, and I have all night to grow
warm by that fire.  The worry of other evenings
sparkles and shines through my eyes.  Gratitude
gives me over to the new light, the new way
of seeing, where every branch and stump radiates
rain-slicked luster.  The whole world is sick with visions.
I move through its fever, to the caw of a crow.
My black lashes bat.  The hay fields come into focus
and settle everything seen.  I am not the one working
for this dream.  More and more remains to be heard
when I walk through the pasture that was once
a village and a place to come home to.

Joel Fry

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Shame, etc.

I feel shame.  Do you feel pride?

The Good

How does the good change depending on who enjoys it or how it is enjoyed?  How do notions of goodness alter us as we grow?  If we are the origin of goodness how is it that goodness has an objective existence?  Is the external nature of goodness our internal nature?

Tuesday, January 17, 2017


If I comprehend the mystery is the mystery what I comprehend?  How does comprehension form?  Are there different degrees of comprehension?

How close is the ability to grasp an object to the mental act of comprehending a moral truth?  How exact is that metaphor?

The Good

What is the qualitative difference between the good that is done, the good that is experienced, and the good that is observed?  What is the quantitative difference?

Is the thing that measures the good he who measures it (for he is measured)?

Is this door the right way out but the wrong way in?  Is it the wrong way in but the right way out?  Is it the right way in and the right way out?  Is it the wrong way out and the wrong way in?

At which point does up become down?

Does the good change because it is known?  Can the good change without being known?

Once a good is known how does it alter the knower?  Is this an existential or an ontological question?

Is the way in which knowledge is known altered with the knower?

Tentative refutation of mind-dependent reality

The basis for reality must be something that is self-existent.  Something self-existent must be absolutely simple (not made of component parts)(see "Reincarnation" below).  It must not have, in its original state, been the product of something else.  This is essence (spirit), not consciousness, since consciousness is (originally at least) the product of the brain and is not absolutely simple.