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Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Hussalonia Song # 18: The Questioning Machine

Though I hate to admit it, I probably relate to "The Questioning Machine" more than any other character or figure in Hussalonia. Perhaps that's a slight exaggeration, I'm sure there are other contenders, but at the moment I am swept away by how familiar this Questioning Machine feels to me. This is the type of track that, when I'm not listening to it, I think of it in terms of a certain emotional weight that is uncomfortable to access indirectly and too often, and so I don't think of it as a personal favorite, and yet while listening to it, I find it so moving, so original, so brilliantly written that I consider it a favorite all over again.

Really, every time I hear it, I wish I'd written it myself. Perhaps if I wasn't so averse to robot stories I'd have a better chance at writing things like this. Such is life.

It is a spoken word piece, but I would like to take a moment to recognize the instrumental as well. It fits perfectly and captures the mood. Being spoken word, it feels closer to my own style of creative endeavor, and so I feel that it is more accessible to me in that way, I could almost see myself writing something similar; the music, however, is something I can't create, but as with music in general I can very much appreciate it. I should also take a moment to honor the robot actor; for a robot with a synthesized voice, there is some real emotion in that voice, especially when he asks "Do you know what it is like to really love?" The word "love" there is spoken in a way that sounds like he is about to have an emotional breakdown, to say nothing of a mechanical one. The production here is impressive all-around.

Now, I've already said that I find the questions in this track and the mood of the machine asking them quite familiar. Having spent nearly this entire past winter alone in a house, I found my thoughts piling up inside my head. When I do get the chance to speak to someone, I tend to ramble on even longer than I am usually wont to do, getting wrapped up in my own thoughts, caught somewhere between the tendency to talk to myself and the desire to talk to someone else. I find quite a bit of myself in lines like "I'm probably boring you. I'm very sorry. You know what? Nevermind. Let's pretend I never said any of this."

I wouldn't mind if there really was a Questioning Machine. I think it was Aristotle (though it may have been Plato) who said that though the life of contemplation and reason was one of the highest ideals to aspire to, one of the truest ways to live, few people could sustain it for very long. That is quite true, and a shame it is if, as Socrates said, the unexamined life is not worth living; that's a notion I am quite inclined to believe myself. Having a Questioning Machine, preferably something portable, that could bring to your attention the various philosophical elements and existential issues and problems that appear within your daily life, would likely be a very good tool for self-improvement. It may get annoying quite quickly, but wouldn't you be a better person for having it? Perhaps there should be an "app for that," though that wouldn't do me any good as my cell phone is over five years old and doesn't really do so well with all the new-fangled phone tricks you kids are always raving about. At any rate, I quite like the idea, and I hope that maybe someone can implement it in some form. I'd certainly like one, though I would hope such a thing would be free.

Now, to bring this entry back into focus, and to do honor to this track, I think I shall simply respond to The Questioning Machine.

Question: I think about death all the time. Is that normal?

Answer: Normal is a rather deceptive term. I wouldn't worry about it. I thought about death far more often when I was younger. It haunted me frequently as a child, even though no one close to me died until I was older. It still haunts me now, but my depressions due to it have lessened as I've aged. I'm not sure why that is; perhaps it is my interest in philosophy. I think Lou Gehrig responded to the diagnosis of his fatal disease by "accepting it philosophically." Philosophy doesn't remove the anxiety entirely, but it can help one come to terms with it. Perhaps that is what is meant by "The consolations of philosophy."

Q: What will happen to me when I die?

A: Sam Cooke expressed an anxiety over this question in "A Change Is Gonna Come." As for an answer, you can't possibly expect me to answer with absolute certainty, and if I did, you'd be dissatisfied, because really, is there anything more repugnant and irritating than a human being who proclaims absolute certainty on a matter such as that? My advice is to not worry about it too much; I believe it is in The Bible, in the Gospels specifically, where it is observed that, at least in regards to things one can't change, worrying won't help. Perhaps in these cases, outside of using them as springboards for potentially fruitful philosophical contemplation, the best thing to do is to distract yourself and enjoy yourself as best you can.

Q: When I get old, will I live differently knowing death is around the corner? Will I want different things?

A: Possibly, but my answer to this is more or less the same as my previous answer.

Q: How many people are thinking the same things that I am thinking?

A: I have no hard evidence or solid data, but my guess is that probably most people think of these things at least one time in their lives, probably many times but not necessarily on a regular basis. Everyone is unique.

Q: I wonder if I've ever been in love. Will I ever be in love? Do you know what it means to really love?

A: In regard to the first question, I'd say probably not. In regards to the second question, it depends on the definition you are using. In regards to the various possibilities that this opens up, I don't want to go into it at the moment. Let's just say that I have my ideas and leave it at that, okay?

Q: I'm probably boring you.

A: Not at all.

Q: I'm very sorry.

A: There is no need to be.

Q: You know what? Nevermind. Let's pretend I never said any of this.

A: If that's what you'd prefer.

Q: Leave your message after the tone. Thank you.

A: Oh, well, I was…I guess I was just checking in. I don't really have anything to say.


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