Living: This leaden and painful joy we shoulder
I've been doing less than nothing since January 15th, and it's starting to evacuate what little meaning I've forced into my body. Here is a numbered list of events in a typical day for me:
A tedious catalogue to be sure, but a point in my life I'd prefer to remember for a number of reasons which are rather too lengthy and personal to include here.
- Wake up at approximately 11:00 AM.
- Lie in bed staring at ceiling while my auto-timed stereo plays The Best of Fela Kuti.
- After I can no longer take the boredom of doing nothing but listening, I generally pick up a book and read for another hour or so (for the interested reader, today's choice was The Fabric of the Cosmos by Brian Greene).
- Finally leave my room around 1:00 to 2:00 PM. Depending on the day, I will also greet whichever roommates happen to be either a) awake or b) around. Generally speaking Iris has left the house and Peru is either gone or still asleep.
- Vast swathes of empty time 'spent' between reading and playing one video game (Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas).
- If I have to work that day (I work three days a week, for three hours each day), I will commute to work by way of the metro. While at work I will, generally, fail to have any appointments and spend, again, vast swathes of time (up to and, generally, including, 3 hours) doing absolutely nothing but checking my email and making painfully dry small talk with my co-workers.
- Retire to the apartment where I will most likely have my first and only meal of the day at approximately 9:30 PM (Did I mention the dramatic poverty? It's good for me.). This meal will, generally speaking, consist of some combination of beets, lentils/chick peas, brown rice, and onions. Though in the past few days I've come into a little money and have been eating noticably better.
- The night will generally be capped off with a household movie-watching session (Last night was the surprisingly good Road to Perdition, the night before was the predictably and satisfyingly weed-funny Super Troopers).
- Finally, I will retire to my dimly-lit chamber for another few hours alternately spent brooding and reading until I fall asleep around 5:00 or 6:00 AM.
Thinking: The humble space between free drinks and a sucker-punch.
So with all this brooding surely I've been thinking, as I'm supposed to be doing in preparation for my stunning master work, that genius tome which will be entitled "Dry Academic Makes Good on Promise to Produce MA Thesis". Happily, I've not been thinking in that direction at all. What I have been thinking about is Loshon Hara, the Chofetz Chaim, my desire (or potential lack of desire) to continue formal education, potential alternatives to formal education, and my general relationship with the people I know and, sometimes, care about.
The more I've thought about it, the more I agree that Loshon Hara ('bad speech' or, more colloquially, shittalking) is one of the worst things we do, certainly one of the worst things I do. I've taken notice lately at the percentage of my time spent dwelling negatively on others, and it is surprisingly high (even though my preliminary expectations were high to begin with!). I think this means that I am, by and large, increasingly, dramatically, hopelessly a nullifying rather than an edifying sort of person. Ideally, I'd like to lessen this negating force in my personality but I'm not optimistic (surprising!). I'd like to think I can help people and create things but it is telling that the most obviously 'creative' thing I am engaged in is also the most destructive thing I'm involved in. And, even more telling, I prefer and demand that it remain that way. The Chofetz Chaim would rightly have suggested the forcible cessation of my biological functions with all haste.
Having completed my SSHRC and doctoral applications in a flourish of obeisance, I'm half realizing (the other half is still not sure) that formal education and a career in academia mightn't be to my tastes as much as it was, say, 3 years ago. I'm not sure I can see myself organizing conferences and really pushing the viability of a philosophical education to future generations of academatons. But then I think that all this worrying is, in fact, the result of thinking that has its own roots in philosophy and what I've taken from it. Maybe all these worries are the sign that I'm at the top of some disposable ladder. But maybe, and more likely, they're the sign that: a)I'm not cut out for academia and I've realized it but don't want to face it or b)That I'm trying to get myself out of the ease I've imposed on myself since I've been able to impose anything on myself. I'm not sure where it will go, but if I don't get into any schools things will certainly be interesting.
Eastward Bound? For all the typical reasons.
So being the great original life-constructor that I am, I thought that if I don't get into any schools (maybe a 60% likelihood?) that maybe I'll go... teach English in Japan! What nobility of vision. But things are popular for a reason and I would actually be qualified for a job for the first time in my life. (Qualified for a job that can be said to require actual qualifications). Lying awake brooding, as I've already said if a common (painfully common) occurence, I was thinking about all the hilarious minutiae that moving to Japan would entail: would they have ATMs with English on them? Do they have Kanji for numbers or the Arabic numeral system? (I immediately, maybe naively(?), answered that of course they would use the Arabic numeral system). What would interactions with my landlord be like? Would I be interested in having friends at all or would I become more solitaire than I am even now? What about Korean food, can you find good Korean food in Japan? (How ridiculous is that question?). Answering these questions alone is a worthy reason to go to Japan. I might even do it if I do get into a school. What would that be like? I almost think I'd have to be a different person to follow through on this; if I could really write down how I feel about travel it would a complicated and perhaps pointlessly pensive exercise, but it would illustrate why this sort of thing is almost entirely out of character. If I can be said to have a character.
Thoughtlessness and its associated tremors
I always estimate myself but only very rarely do I adjust myself according to my somewhat damaging estimations. I think I'm vaguely interested in feeling like a sinner, vaguely enough that I revel in it without seriously thinking about it. What I'm writing right now is an extension of it really. I've noticed today, with particular poignance, that the people I ostensibly care about do, in fact, care about me and they are far better friends than I am (maybe even better than I'm capable of being). An easy act of material affability is something I'm capable of, beyond that it's hard to see what my friendship counts for. An unbiased ear when I should be biased, a harsh critic when I should be a subtle conspirator. I get it wrong more than I get it right and I know its because of the way I think of myself. The thing I think I'm capable of halting is my need to impress people. It leads to a lot of problems and idiocies on my part, which I'm particularly offended by. Offended! Hilarious. I've got two pieces of advice, one my own and one lifted from the heavens:
This is what I offer up for my sins.
- Don't measure yourself by any standard that can fit you.
- "Be better than you have to be. Be unreasonably good." - Garrison Keillor
What has been pushed to the side?
A) Philosophy: less interested in it than I've been since I became interested in it. A dangerous situation if you have to write a 'thesis' in the coming months
B)Music: I'm so content with my current tastes that novelty in music isn't even a concern anymore. Bill Withers, Johnny Cash, Dizzee Rascal, The Wu, and some Snoop and I go "Ayyyyyyyyyyyyyy" like the Fonz.
C)Painting: It's too cold. We paint inside on the weekends. Waddya want?
D)Social: Almost the same reasons as above, though add fiscal insolvency to the mix and you're golden
Reading: What I do when I want to stop doing.
I think it is a pretty good idea for me to catalogue the books I read somewhere (E2 is as good as anywhere else). I generally forget what I've learned unless it pops up or there is some sort of record of it (e.g., book ownership). Just today I was reading some crap I wrote on here and it reminded me that in the summer I was intensely interested in the origins of academic law in the West and, then, indirectly, in the origins of the Western university in Bologna. That is an interesting area I would never have thought about again (in all likelihood) if I hadn't happened upon a stray sentence in a writeup. I thought I hadn't been reading a lot until Iris pointed out the variety of the books I read, which would be a silly thing to point out if I'd only read one or two books. Turns out she was right, this is a recent-ish list (some of the titles are off, but the general idea is the same):
A History of Private Life from Pagan Rome to Byzantium, edited by Paul Veyne (This is, quite simply, the best book I have read in 3 years. Without qualification.)
The Fabric of the Cosmos, Brian Green (I'm still not done this one, I have to applaud Dr. Green for two reasons. First, he has written as lucid and generally comprehensible introduction to the niceties of quantum mechanics, general relativity, superstring/M-theory and their respective relations to problems of space and time as one is likely to read. Second, nowhere else would I have found the intense joy of reading the words 'Coolstroke Williams'.
Patrimony, Philip Roth (I read this with a soft realization that I'd better step up my ability to see what I have before it is literally and ineradicably 'too late')
Sakhalin (I'm really into histories of somewhat marginal places that have played pivotal roles in certain historical epochs; Acre (I guess Acre isn't that marginal, but...), the White Sea, etc, etc. This is a really great book of that ilk).
The Uzbeks (I sort of half-assed this one because I got the main idea pretty quickly; the idea that the Uzbeks have only ever been a sort of random and strategic consortium, and not really a nationality per se... Some interesting bits on Sogdiana in here that might lead me somewhere though).
Siberian Village (with intense interest)
The Tibetan Empire in Central Asia. (Dry and factual, but quite interesting and, as far as I can tell, almost the only comprehensive source for the particular period (around 650-850).
Valis, Phillip K. Dick (I can't believe how long I fronted on this guy, it's almost embarrasingly snobbish that I'd done it. This and the other book of his I've read have me very optimistic about some satisfying reading in the future).
Lolita (finally!!!), Vladimir Nabokov (To be honest, I think this isn't one of Nabokov's best books; and it really bums me out to say/type that. At certain points I was groaning under the weight of its eloquence. If you're at all familiar with my general and specific appreciation of Nabokov you'll realize that I wouldn't say it if I didn't think it was true. In any case, I think it might have been my own hype-machine and my high estimation of the Peter Sellars (he steals the show) film version... maybe I'll give it another go in a couple of years after Pale Fire, Pnin, and Despair have limped out of my memory for a few months).
Rationality of Emotions, Ronald De Sousa (this only peripherally and stuntedly)
The Gay Science, Friedrich Nietzsche (abruptly and as a purgative to the De Sousa, though still interestedly: De Sousa is a good philosopher and a generally good writer; I think my problem is that his ideas are subtle in the literature-navigation sort of way that I find hard to deal with in analytic philosophy...but I still really think he's on to something)
Thibault Family History (my mother gave me this little pamphlet (her mother was a Thibault), I never thought I'd be interested in genealogy or in onomastics, but I quite enjoyed it when it had something to do with me: I'm that unshakeably fascinated with myself)
Events: The dust of it
The romance has been drained out of my life (perhaps resulting in a more angsty-whiny tone than is the norm even for me). My special lady friend and I have called it quits, perhaps for good, perhaps not. Amicably parted, depressingly removed. We thought it would be a good idea to relinquish the titular aspect of our relationship due to the distance; though neither of us has even an inkling of interest in another 'other'. I'm wretchedly ill-at-ease with the while situation and I vacillate between pathetic optimism and a horrible solitude I only rarely experience.
Friendships have been bleached. Things seem too calm to be troublesome sometimes. But this is misleading. And for precisely the reason that indifference or improperly focused attention can be the worst cruelty. This: something to be remedied!
My parents: perhaps the best people I know. And woefully underacknowledged by me. I love that my Mom is almost-but-not-quite addicted to gambling; I love it even more that if she goes to the casino, she invariably returns with over $500 more than when she left. I love that my Dad, like me, is entirely averse to telephone conversations with no direct justification, and that he can be fascinated intensely about a certain kind of minutiae that only he and I see the import of.
I'm still pretty much incapable of appreciating poetry as such, but I have noticed that snippets, even whole passages, strike me if I look at them as particularly stunning acts of prose. William Carlos Williams and Philip Larkin, in particular, have recieved favourable reactions recently. I think I like the idea of the everyday poet (as opposed to the evangelical Ezra Pound type) and that is what Larkin and Williams remind me of. I'm actually ending this writeup with some lines from Larkin's 'Whitsun Weddings':
We slowed again,
And as the tightened brakes took hold, there swelled
A sense of falling, like an arrow-shower
Sent out of sight, somewhere becoming rain.
No, we'll end it with a prayer (I like that more):