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Finding Blue Infinity

Here it is, the heart
in earth, breathing heavens
intimately untangled.

Preparing the Ground

I've been passing time in the stream of life teaching people about giving. It's a good way to live.

In the link above, I make a case for "smart contracts as ceremonial transactional space." This is quite literally the word used by many people, most often when creating the correct initial conditions for their protocols: Aztec and the Powers of Tau being just two examples.

More broadly, ceremonies and ritual invoke in us a sense of the sacred, which is really just "something more than me". I'm not a cryptographer, though, so how can I go about creating my own little ceremonial space on these new, decentralised time machines?

I thought about this as I walked down an empty beach and considered the recent boom in non-fungible tokens on Ethereum. I have never combined my poetry and any "blockchain" technology because of this very simple insight from Muriel Rukeyser, which I love:

“But there is one kind of knowledge — infinitely precious, time-resistant more than monuments, here to be passed between the generations in any way it may be: never to be used. And that is poetry.”

This same essential idea can be found throughout the Qur'an, most prominently - because nothing is a coincidence - in Surah Ash-Shu'ara (The Poets), see 26:127, 145, 164, 180-1, but also in many other places, like 25:57-59 6:90.

I will never sell a poem, because I do not write them for reward. I write them as reward. That is, the simple act of writing poetry is already reward enough for me. Therefore, it never made sense to do anything on chain, as I'm just not interested in making money from poems.

But, as I walked down that empty beach and thought about our last speaker in Kernel Block III - Britt Harris - and his question "What will you do when you have more than enough?", I had a moment of insight.

What if I could use NFTs to grant responsibility for each chapter to someone I love and respect? That way, they could always change what appears in that chapter and the "found" versions of The Blue Book could extend indefinitely, limited only by the innate creative capacity of each guardian. Which is the same as saying, the kinds of versions we can find together are limitless.

Readying the Library

Before telling you how the ceremony unfolded, we must speak about this word "found". What on earth does it mean to "find" a book? Well, it's all to do with a Jorge Luis Borges short story and an internet friend of mine called Jonathan Basile. Jonathan, the same man who tweeted this timeless insight, actually built the infinite library Borges wrote about in “The Library of Babel”.

There are some caveats to this, but the is made up of all the characters in the Latin alphabet, plus a space, a comma and a period. Each line contains 80 characters, each page contains 40 lines, each book contains 410 pages, and books are arranged on shelves, which are grouped in volumes, which are placed against the walls of hexagons, just as Borges described it in his original short story.

This means that every thing it is possible to write in 3200 characters using the Latin alphabet already exists in the library. One does not write something; one remembers it, puts the text into the library's seach function, and is reminded of where it already was. Go and try it yourself. Take that poem or diary entry or dream you once wrote and never showed anyone and try not fall out your chair when you discover it was already in there.

When thinking about creative ways to engage people going through Kernel, I decided to write some "koans": cryptic little treasure hunts through the library that were based on the content in each module. You really had to understand what was being taught each week to find your way through the whole koan and win the NFT gift at the end of them. While I was doing this, I got quite excited by the effect the constraints of the medium had on my writing and began writing a bunch of other stuff, which I then put aside and promptly forgot about.

Sufi shaykhs feed the birds
Zen masters play bass
to early morning country music.

There is no mystery in this
only life.

Need is just
to be given away
so, in humility, I come
to know the unspeakable

The Ceremony

It was this "other stuff" which came back to me as I envisioned having NFTs which could be given away to people I love that would grant them the ability to change a chapter in the fifth, final, and infinite peace of The Blue Book. I knew I could find all this "other stuff" in the library, gather all the links to each library page into one page on my site, and present it as a chapter. No problems there. The issue is: how to use NFTs to manage what gets displayed on a website?

And, the truth is, it turns out to be simple.

  1. I used Holly Grimm's wonderful Neurapunks NFT contract - which comes with full instructions for any interested developers.
  2. I adapted it to let Guardians update the tokenURI which stores the metadata for each NFT.
  3. I use this contract to mint Guardian NFTs and give them to people I love.
  4. I set the external_url in the metadata of those NFTs to an Arweave page where I have uploaded the html file.
  5. I use the OpenseaAPI and a tiny bit of jQuery to fetch the metadata associated with each NFT, query the external_url and replace the html content on each chapter page with whatever comes back. It currently takes 14 lines of code to do this.
  6. Guardians are therefore entirely in control of what gets displayed for their chapter and can change it by using the updateTokenURI method in the Guardians.sol contract.

As you can see from the links above, everything is free and open source and always will be. Please take this, improve on it, and do more creative things if you feel inspired.

Finding Blue Infinity

You can find the first version of this peace of The Blue Book here.

There are many more chapters to write, and the library never ends. Only love can find the shore.

I broke a glass today
and we spread a table together,
so my bookish blood tells me
this is the day I am married,
for my soul mate has found me
and it's all so very simple.

Death is the cycling
of eternal life
and now is timeless.

Thank the others always,
let peaceful water flow and leave
here a garden for our children,
those playful phases of you and I
come back to recite these lines:

let there be