Asher Black: Asher's Maxims

Asherisms: For Asher Black, maxims are a way of storing his voluminous thinking on any given subject via easy-access file labels in the soul. He's been writing them since 1992, when he read Kahlil Gibran's aphorisms in Sand and Foam, and he was spurred on a bit by Oscar Wilde. Some of his maxims are personal, and some are about the world, life, the universe, writing, love, pain, monsters, and nearly anything else he encounters. Some are things that go into making characters and stories and should be considered merely speculative and not taken too seriously.

Asher's Maxim 672

Political belief is just as problematic as religious belief; the former requires things to be as they appear, despite all evidence to the contrary; the latter insists on the reverse.

Asher's Maxim 671

It doesn’t take wit to be an atheist: the sophistication of what fundamentalists believe in and what atheists deny is more or less on par

Asher's Maxim 670

Intellectual honesty is the most elusive quantity in the world.

Asher's Maxim 669

Achievement doesn’t come from a balanced life, but from pushing things off balance.

Asher's Maxim 668

I respect public intellectuals of any stripe over demagogues who merely share my convictions; if you can’t read Russell Kirk and Lewis Mumford and Hannah Arendt and Eugene Debs and respect the integrity of thought in each – if you can only pick sides, you aren’t thinking.

Asher's Maxim 667

The imaginative cannot abide pretense, because pretending about real things leaves one unfree to really imagine.

Asher's Maxim 666

No one else can choose your commitments, because all motivation arises from the activity of personal volition.

Asher's Maxim 665

All commitment starts with one commitment.

Asher's Maxim 664

There are victims of circumstance but, as long as I’m not one, I refuse to allow the sentence “I wanted x but it didn’t happen.”

Asher's Maxim 663

Nice people are indispensable to evil; therefore all resistance comes from anti-social impulses.

Asher's Maxim 662

The first disputation of the individual is with the prison of fate, the second with the restraints of society, and finally we challenge the imagined limitations of the self.

Asher's Maxim 661

A lot of people are very social but anti-communitarian; I’m the opposite.

Asher's Maxim 660

Alcohol has become as much a part of the personal brand identity as car makers and designer clothes. As long as adults are so self-conscious about drinking, kids will adopt early and to excess. It’s not a force of nature, but of culture.

Asher's Maxim 658

A bad knife is sharp for a moment.

Asher's Maxim 657

A good knife dulls on the wrong surface, but a great knife doesn’t care what it cuts.

Asher's Maxim 656

Young girls look dumber when you’re not trying to date them.

Asher's Maxim 655

Women have roughly the number of sexual conquests men wish for, but women downplay them and men brag.

Asher's Maxim 654

If I owned everything, I would own nothing, because owning something has meaning only when facing a possibility of not owning it. Therefore, the system of ownership exists to keep me competing in a game that cannot be won, which requires mediocrity for sustenance.

Asher's Maxim 653

All words and ideas are sacred, in that to punish them is a violation of the sacred. But words and ideas that encourage such punishment, or reject the sacred are, while unpunishable, the use of the sacred to reject the sacred, and so are groundless and nonsense.

Asher's Maxim 652

Contempt for any environment in which I can be reported for what I say, what I think and say, or what someone thinks I think and say. Contempt for those who entertain, encourage, and uphold such an environment, and scorn for those who turn a blind eye.

Asher's Maxim 651

When someone insists on the official explanation for a thing, what I am hearing is “I don’t really want to think about this.” Consequently, at risk of an unreasonable ritual, I don’t really want to have the conversation, either.

Asher's Maxim 650

What most people regard as tolerance, I regard as intolerance, and vice versa. Tolerance is approving of some things and critical of others; intolerance insists on one or the other. To those who approve of everything, I’m deeply intolerant, because I share their opinion only part of the time which, of course, illustrates my point.

Asher's Maxim 649

I have very few principles of success as a generality; one is: when the only thing holding you back is not knowing how or why an action works, act anyway. The others are, “bet at 80% certainty” and “commitment trumps intelligence, in the long run.”

Asher's Maxim 648

What is unsustainable ultimately becomes unethical.

Asher's Maxim 647

I don’t value degrees issued by schools. Schools should be voluntary and award nothing, leaving the value of what one finds there uncompromised. Schools issuing degrees and diplomas for learning is like Pepsi issuing a certificate for drinking their soda, or banks issuing a badge for consuming their loan products. Schools are libraries. Degrees should be issued by Guilds – not for what school you’ve completed, but for what you *do* with what you’ve gotten from any experience or source, school included. Degrees should match what you’ve demonstrated you’re good at in the non-sequestered, non-hypothetical environment of the larger world.

Asher's Maxim 646

It’s not that I don’t submit to authority, it’s that I don’t agree there is any authority, except what an individual earns with me personally, which is really credibility – not the role of boss.

Asher's Maxim 645

I’m actually one of the toughest men you’ll ever meet. I’ve heard grown men express terror at the prospect of living somewhere new, eating an unfamiliar plant, or just at being misperceived socially and made unpopular – at standing alone against the crowd. Oh, there’s always someone with bigger fists and more of a tolerance for blood – superficial toughness. But, in terms of society, I win the cage match, and everyone in a room with me knows it. After all, I was unafraid to say that, even if you took it for arrogance or self-delusion.

Asher's Maxim 644

My criteria for caring about your opinion is not that you think it, but that I haven’t heard anyone else express it before. Since I don’t lend credulity or weight to something just because it’s repeated or widely held (the availability cascade), you can just say “I subscribe to one of several commonly held opinions” and we can go back to enjoying our coffee.

Asher's Maxim 643

The artist’s greatest defiance as a revolutionary against preordained design is to revolt against his own design, and hack the self – and continually, so that design stands no chance of achieving hegemony, and all things the artist is and does are routinely recontextualized. In effect, the earmark of the artist is routine inconsistency even in the routine of inconsistency. An artist is a living paradox against expectations and an enigma to rage.

Asher's Maxim 642

It’s axiomatic, and therefore wrong, that to be good at breaking rules we must first learn to follow them. You can spot the mistake, because the advocates of the rules describe it as “paying one’s dues”. When they say ‘rules’, they merely mean the consensus of opinion, with which they happen or have chosen to agree. But where we don’t don’t ask for or accept rules of that kind in the first place, both breaking and keeping them are accidental and incidental. Likewise, being good at something does not require knowing anything at all about what another thinks one *should* do with it; this confuses one’s own ability to form judgments and choose criteria with the persuasion and force of other people’s restrictions. Goodness at something is neither objective nor subjective (which in this sense is a false dichotomy) but can appear as either, being the seamless totality of an individual’s personal preferences. Goodness, in other words, is absolute in the sense that it’s the singularity of one’s own judgement, and simultaneously relative in its entirety to one’s own personal goals. Conclusively, then, rules – and goodness at following them – are a denial in principle of the individual person. Where we have used the phrase “my own rules”, it’s merely a concession to language – an attempt to explain the expression of individual personhood to minds that relentlessly recontextualize it with reference to the conclusions of everyone else. One’s own rules are really the interior consistency of a free mind doing what it wills.

Asher's Maxim 641

I never read “the instructions” because I don’t particularly like receiving instructions, even if we now call them “the documentation”, as though things that already exist need to achieve additional validity by submitting themselves to being documented by an observer. Such a self-important insistence on one’s own perspective. Consequently, I have always approached everything from the perspective of a hacker. If I use it the way it’s intended, it’s because it’s useful to me that way. The moment it’s more useful another way, I’m unburdened by a script bound up with a set of rules.

Asher's Maxim 640

An artist isn’t designed to do things the way they’re designed. Artists are hackers, which are revolutionaries against preordained design.

Asher's Maxim 639

I may have broken parts, but odds are better than certain you have no idea what they are, and are as apt to make them worse if you go trying to perform a barber shop tooth extraction on a complex bio-binary coded device. Most likely, I’ll just repel you as a foreign organism.

Asher's Maxim 638

I sometimes feel like a broken android auto-repairing itself over the course of a life rather than a few hours or days. I’m always ‘coming’ to things. Sometimes they don’t work. Sometimes they do. I’m a lab for self-reconstruction.

Asher's Maxim 637

You don’t become powerful by imitating powerful people. That’s merely applying to become powerful. You do it by hacking what powerful people do for your own purposes, which might have nothing to do with power.

Asher's Maxim 636

The job is a noose. For it, men will change their appearance and speech, submit to corporate trial without preparation, and lay down their moral and ethical compass on demand.

Asher's Maxim 635

There is no such thing as a benign employer.

Asher's Maxim 634

Leadership is not a thing to seek or study. Sooner or later, those who do, will trot out the words obedience, subordination, and submit, thereby revealing their true intention.

Asher's Maxim 633

It takes genius to withstand the tide of culture consistently and thoughtfully. So genius will always be in opposition to the assertions of the liberal, conservative, or moderate mainstream. The requirement becomes a necessity as the mainstream ceases to be thoughtful and merely reacts. And it remains dissent even when it does agree, if only because it possesses reasons the mainstream can only borrow and not create. It can’t retreat to the cowardly “I see all sides” cop-out of snobbish bewilderment, either, because genius simply cannot quit thinking and, inevitably, thinking leads to thoughts. This is also why it’s smarter not to have an opinion on everything, because genius, by its nature, must necessarily be selective about its focus.

Asher's Maxim 632

The US has an inbred bias against any mixture of confidence, intelligence, and articulateness; it will throw that off the boat, even if the boat then sinks from indecision, stupidity, and poor communication. Nowhere is this more apparent than in politics and corporate life. Most importantly, these things provide an alternative to control – persuasive and powerful ideas that can stand on their own and compete in an open environment. The solution thus far is to make use of such people, but insist they be self-deprecating and laud that as humility. Rand was right, though – to disparage yourself is the ultimate betrayal. Better to find your own buoyancy and let others sink if they will. Better to sail off to your own, and leave them, while they call for you to be drowned. This is why I adore Atlas Shrugged.

Asher's Maxim 631

Control is the quintessential human crime, and it is offered in every guise, in every outlet of human expression, with every justification and defense. The person, institution, cabal, or social device that makes another person into a bomb, or a tool, or a sacrifice, or a slave, or fodder for personal growth, or makes sure he doesn’t have too much self-expression or freedom is fundamentally criminal. You have this in your closet; you justify it over dinner as if, when you do it, it’s OK. Control is the character of all moral crimes, and therefore it is the main thrust of goodness to resist it.

Asher's Maxim 630

When you say “I feel called to be a leader”, I hear “I want other people to look up to me, so I can believe it too.” It’s about self-image, not contribution. There’s no such thing as leadership, in general. Leadership doesn’t exist without context and particulars. Leader of exactly what and whom, and for what purpose? Leadership is a specific covenant involving other specific people’s invitation and consent. In short, the people going around offering their leadership are itinerant ministers engaged in a racket of preying on other credulous minds.

Asher's Maxim 629

Leadership and control are opposites; power and bitchyness are opposites. Don’t offer me your control and bitchyness and tell me you’re a powerful leader.

Asher's Maxim 628

If I don’t have time for you now, it’s only because I’m busy making time for you later. You are precisely the point of what I’m doing. In that sense, I never don’t have time, I’m just investing it wisely.

Asher's Maxim 627

Forgiving people who did terrible wrongs isn’t about how bad it was, or whether they know or care, it’s about us. We get to be free, because we forgive. In effect, the definition of forgiveness is releasing a thing and so being free of it.

Asher's Maxim 626

I don’t need Calliope for a muse. I have coffee, music, and a pipe full of woodsy tobacco to summon.

Asher's Maxim 625

I choose to express appreciation to someone for something every day; it lets us keep our integrity with everything, which is our union with everything.

Asher's Maxim 624

I have a word I can say that brings all my confidence back from the edge of the abyss, and fills me with certainty of what I must do. Mastery. I have only to say it, and I can do it.

Asher's Maxim 623

I have no need of another person, even a person I love. It’s not delusion or arrogance. It’s a decision because, by choosing to be complete in myself, to have what I need within, I create the possibility of real relationships, without putting a weight on someone’s shoulders that no one else can ever fully bear.

Asher's Maxim 622

When you ask me how I’m doing, I used to tell you the truth. But it wasn’t the truth, it was only accurate. Now I say I’m great, because the truth is actually what I am choosing for myself, not what has chosen me.

Asher's Maxim 621

My commitments are my life. That’s the opposite of a limitation. The uncommitted life is random and always yields to something greater. The committed life consists of what I have freely chosen. Therefore I now honor my commitments as though not doing so were the brink of the grave and I can smell the caution of death.

Asher's Maxim 620

I choose to be out front of what I am committed to, not always behind it. When I make choices now, I place the commitments over everything, because when I choose against them, I end up running after my life, trying to catch up.

Asher's Maxim 619

There is no such thing as being against war, but supporting a particular war, because wars only occur as particularities.

Asher's Maxim 618

Quite seriously, when someone supports a war, they are supporting famine, because the two are connected at a fundamental cause-effect level.

Asher's Maxim 617

It’s a mistake to think of a weapon as a tool of violence; it’s a tool of control.

Asher's Maxim 616

Any sufficiently advanced philosophy is a weapon.

Asher's Maxim 615

The theory that we’re a more advanced people than those in previous eras, which inspires a lot of pomposity, is best examined not through the lens of technology but of ethics. We still have the Arena of entertainment killing by way of the popular movies list and our public and non-public executions, state torture, and all the carnage of wars fought over arrogance and manipulated mob impulse. What distinguishes us from the Romans, Elizabethans, or genocidal extinguishers of the American Indians is mostly different clothes. And visit a mall – it’s not even clear that we’re ahead in fashion.

Asher's Maxim 614

Any sufficiently interesting phrase, insight, or concept mentioned to even one other person, no matter the degree of trust or privacy, will travel the world and be commercialized. Therefore, if you want to own such an idea, you can scarcely even say it aloud to yourself.

Asher's Maxim 613

The story you began to tell becomes real as it starts to tell itself to you, whispering quietly in your ear, instructing you on how it must go.

Asher's Maxim 612

The story starts to become real when it becomes a waking nightmare, filling in the haunted moments of menial distraction with its horror.

Asher's Maxim 611

The sea of earphones on the subway is a downgraded technology; when I want to hear a song, I play it in my head; and I don’t miss out on new things, either – they’re called thoughts, and they look like ideas if I’m being intellectual and stories if I’m being creative. I bet I have more channels and more recorded tracks in my head than you do on your device.

Asher's Maxim 610

The reason I can never restrict myself to ‘ideological art’: as a poet, I want access to the full range of human emotions; as a storyteller, I want access to the full range of potential speculation.

Asher's Maxim 609

I have to disagree with basing prison sentences on dollar value of items stolen as much as with lengthy incarceration to begin with. Why is it that stranding me by stealing my car gets you 25 years, but taking my bike gets a small fine? The inconvenience is the same.

Asher's Maxim 608

Much of our self-help serves as a cover for working out why the other guy is wrong and, until we quit making him wrong, whoever he is, we’re helping ourselves to self-righteousness, where inauthenticity about our motives prevails.

Asher's Maxim 607

Authentic feminism isn’t liberating women from men, but women emancipating themselves from excuses.

Asher's Maxim 606

Racism elicits an ironically conservative opposition. Misogyny and patriarchy have feminism, a constructive response to a destructive force; racism elicits no coherent constructive alternative and, until it does, it looks like those who rail against it are interested in retribution more than rehabilitation.

Asher's Maxim 605

Anarchism is skeptical not merely of claims of authority but of political discussion or assertion itself; therefore, genuine anarchism is virtually apolitical.

Asher's Maxim 604

Everything I think is tentative – which is why it can be called thinking; otherwise, it becomes dogma.

Asher's Maxim 603

The notion that we must choose a constructed belief system, an archism, in order for the world to survive or to live a practical life, is for children. You learn this stuff in school, are shown the list of accepted dogmas, told that mature people choose one of them, and are given the assignment to morally affiliate. In addition to not believing the dogmas, I don’t believe affiliation will save us, or that you are more of a reasonable adult because you are a believer.

Asher's Maxim 602

You can never trust a nihilist, not even to be a nihilist, because if nothing means anything, then you can’t even mean what you say, even if what you say is that nothing means anything.

Asher's Maxim 601

To say that I will never befriend a nihilist is as much a recognition of fact as a statement of resolve; a nihilist cannot really have friends, even if they seem to have dozens, because real friendship requires transcendence.

Asher's Maxim 600

To love someone is to learn how you have failed them.

Asher's Maxim 599

Energy in a system organizes the system, and that organization can be expressed as sets of rules; I can only conclude that those who find all rules distasteful lack energy or are very leaky systems.

Asher's Maxim 598

A man who thinks no one is beneath his friendship or companionship has no self-regard. A man of substance and self-knowledge chooses his companions, not decides they have a right to personal access by default.

Asher's Maxim 597

My arrogance is not the kind you can break; it’s not a mere conceit, but a failure to be afraid and a freedom to be honest.

Asher's Maxim 596

I think I have a better grasp of scientific method than most people, but I have an exploratory consciousness, not a merely scientific one.

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Thanks to all 5500 (approx) Twitter followers. Maxims, ramblings, insights, and random ideas expressed are those of the author and not any agent, publisher, or bookseller.

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