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Monthly Archives: February 2009

Orientations and Priorities  §

Orientations

Wisdom

World

Home

Elements

Contextually Meaningful Priorities

Knowledge

Experience

Creativity

Language

Culture

Health

Prosperity

Tranquility

Contextually Appropriate Means

Reading

Writing

Academics

Frugality

Ingenuity

Determination

Exploration

Labor

Succinctly  §

Yes, there is always tomorrow. But action (or inaction) can occur only today.

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What happened to all of the “normal” jobs, and what happened to “normal” work for “normal” pay to live a “normal” life?

The social construction of normalcy has fallen into disrepair even as normalcy has fallen into comparative disrepute. In its place, we have entertainment passing for real life.

Four major pushes  §

need to happen in my life right now.

First, a push to own my data. For years I have accumulated and generated data at a ridiculous pace and kept ahead of it with “better and better” tools. Or so I thought. I am no longer ahead of it; I am lost in my own information and unable to function. I need to identify and properly name and file all of those files. I need to sort through my address book(s) and put names in their proper places. I need to archive what needs to be archived, listen to my voice mail when it arrives, and to implement organizational regimes to ensure that I own my data, and not the other way around.

Second, a push to find stable work, as opposed to merely teaching work. Time’s a wasting and the push to work needs to have a kind of priority about it. Problem is that my ability to make this happen is tied closely to my data life, so both need to evolve in concert.

Third, a push to catch up on my freelance work. Both of the freelance gigs are paying me some money, but could be paying me a lot more if only I would work at them, if only I would catch up and do what I’m capable of getting done on both ends. No more weekends to relax; weekends are to work.

Fourth, a push to make the degree happen or to find someplace else to go where it can happen. I am not prepared to play politics; that’s just not where I am in life. I need to stop being timid and draw lines in the sand, piss people off, make things happen. Either they come along or I move along. There can be no middle ground. I’m no spring chicken and I’m no beginner at this. I know what I’m doing, I know what has to be done, and I know what I’m willing to do. Now is the time to do it.

These four things are the driving forces of complexity and worry in my life right now. Sort them out and I sort everything out. Hopefully.

Late night thoughts on future selves  §

Simplify, simplify, simplify.

In my life, I display what at times like this I realize to be a series of undesired biases:

  • Toward complexity.

  • Toward ideological submission and complicity.
  • Toward self-alienation.

There is no reason, for example, for me to have dozens of separate folders in my mail client into which mail is filed, nor is there any reason for me to keep my entire mail archive dating back to 1996 or so online at all times.

So why do I do it? Stupidity and a bias toward complexity.

The same thing goes for the way I live. i am an elemental person if I am honest with myself. Stone and air, morning and evening, pages and words.

Somehow I can only (re)discover this for days at a time before invariably falling into many-years-long stretches of overcomplexity that gets married to a kind of void-filling category of exercises in which I do in excess all of those things that I hope will make me feel better but never do, and forget to do the two or three simple things in the universe that always make me feel better:

  • Write.

  • Read.
  • Explore.
  • Photograph.

These things are tough to justify when one is ideologically submerged; they are fruitless, lazy, unproductive, dreamy and unserious, immature, the playthings of children and people who don’t know their place.

I have to continually resurrect them, and when I lose track of them for even a little while, every aspect of my being suffers: physical health, emotional health, mental health.

I need to get this Ph.D., stabilize my life, simplify my life, and then settle down to do the things listed above, with simple teaching as my “day job.”

It . is . high . time . for . serious . changes .

In general, I hate unpublishing  §

entries. But these days jobs are important to me, and sometimes, in the interest of protecting one’s job, one has to concede. That is the shame of the world that we live in. Men of conscience have to eat; eating an conscience are mutually exclusive.

This is precisely how “not progress” happens in the world.

Cave  §

We live in a world in which virtually everyone is out of their element. People have no idea what they’re talking about, have no idea that their metaphors are just that, metaphors. They have no idea about the intellectual genesis of ideas or of the necessities that lie behind the processes and methods that gave rise to the objects of such ideas.

Experts, professionals, and journeymen in every field in which I’m involved literally have no idea what they’re talking about much of the time, yet because they all share the same misconceptions, or because they all share the same lack of knowledge and assume that such knowledge doesn’t exist or isn’t important, none of them knows just how much he and his fellows don’t know.

Even more embarrassing (or at least it should be), you can at times find them mocking what is in actuality precisely the originating concept, the workable process, the intellectual basis for what they do. “Look at him,” they seem to say, “he actually believes in some magic ‘force’ called electricity. What a simpleton! He doesn’t realize that everyone is making fun of him and of the fact that he’s never realized that light bulbs are simply jars of fire!”

I know. It’s about as trite as anything to talk about the cave. I guess it’s one of those things you realize as you become a certain kind of functioning adult, even if you’re trained in disciplines that are supposed to render such observations superfluous.

People are completely uneducated. The reservoirs of knowledge that we’d like to take for granted as existing out there somewhere in society… don’t. We’ve passed the human capacity to learn any more, at least so far as the bulk of the population and our inborn mechanisms for sociality and social epistemology are concerned. This is as far as the human race goes; most simply aren’t capable of better.

Settling down, settling in  §

They say time heals all wounds, but they forget to add that time also often alters realities without changing any material facts.

Things seem to be settling down. Maybe because we’re creeping back into denial, but I somehow think it’s more than that. We had our indulgent crisis of faith in our own abilities and in society and we worked ourselves into hyperventilation about the degree to which everything in life was collapsing around us, but now it’s a few days later and some facts on the ground have become obvious:

1. Un/under-employment can be reversed unless you’re dead

2. It’s February, not April

3. Life goes on unless you lay down and die

4. You have never totally screwed up beyond all hope

No, we’re not in objectively better shape than we were two weeks ago when it seemed as though the sky was falling. Turns out, through, that maybe we weren’t entirely objective about things two weeks ago, so it makes sense that they look a little different to us now.

There is time to maneuver. We can, hopefully, make it work. Yes, we will follow through with our contingency plans and make sure to have plane tickets and organizational regimes in place that allow us to make a tidy, orderly escape it if should come down to that.

But at the same time, there is at least a month and maybe a hair longer than that to try to right the ship. This is New York. There are jobs in New York. We are not that far out of the game; we are not starving, homeless, or living in Penn Station. Yes, we need to be attentive, careful, and on top of things, but we do not need to pretend like this is some kind of suicide pact.

Opportunity is also on the horizon. There are things happening that, while not immediate, look good for the future. Things we’d hate to leave prematurely before we see whether or not they can work out.

Maybe we can stay here after all.

We do have to get busy, but we’ve done that before. It could work out that way. And even if it doesn’t, there’s no need to sacrifice a virgin and self-immolate afterward, or anything like that.

We’re just getting on with it.

As an aside, it sometimes is driven home to me just how much troubling irreconcilability there is between myself and the world of religion. I was listening to NPR today and heard the statistic that (as I recall) went something like this: as the result of missionary activity, there are now more evangelicals in Brazil and South Africa combined than in the United States. This, of course, on top of the incredible spread of Catholicism around the world since colonialism.

These sorts of statistics make the religious amongst us feel tremendously pleased; people are getting to “learn about Jesus” and “let God into their lives.”

At the same time, it aggravates and depresses me. If it was up to me, the missionaries would be brought up on charges. Maybe all missionaries would be brought up on charges. It’s cultural imperialism, the destruction of traditions and identities, the spread of western market ideologies and the justification of current economic and power relations.

This sort of thing makes clear to me just why it’s tough for me to make peace with family members and others that are very religious—because the very things that they want to happen most in the world, that they want most for others are the things that I want to save the same people from.

The “saving people” that they are overjoyed about, as though they’d saved a life or even many lives, is precisely what I feel a deep wish to save people from. We both think that the others are spiritual murderers. The religious are killing the spirits of the world’s cultures, replacing these with western ideology and the western structures, architectures, and practices that go with these. They see someone like me, who would try to stop missionaries and to stop anyone from being persuaded to adopt this “Jesus” thing as a killer of individual “spirits.”

We both believe the other side to be committing crimes against morality or ethics that are almost unforgivable.

Certainly I can’t forgive the religious for their crimes, first and foremost amongst them the crimes of conversion—of actively getting others to abandon their identities, their cultures, their histories, their own belief systems and buy into western domination.

I have been here before  §

Somehow I end up here over and over and over again. There is a lesson of some kind that I am failing to learn. I just wonder which one it is. There are several candidates, none of them pleasant, and I’d hate to decide on one of them only to find out after another few years that I’ve selected the wrong candidate and made matters worse, at best.

Looks like we have no choice  §

Things are not going well.

Right now only one of us can work most jobs and only one of us is still interested in completing a Ph.D. Unfortunately, the one who is still interested in completing a Ph.D. is also the only one that can work most jobs.

Both of us, however, are currently underemployed, which means that we are not making ends meet, it is structurally difficult (and getting moreso) to try to make ends meet, and we are very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very tense with each other in response to the crisis.

So it looks (after lots of very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very tense discussion) as though what we need to do is leave the country and hope that it will be better somewhere else.

I don’t know whether this means “for a while” or this means “forever,” but it basically seems that we’re leaving in June unless God turns out to be real, knocks on our door personally, and tells us we’ve won the New York State lottery despite our never having entered it in the first place.

Basically, tough times right now. Everything is crap and nobody is happy. Dreams are busy being shattered and people around us are busy not understanding why. One big component of the “why” is that not everyone has been “affected” by the economic crisis yet. We appear to be somewhere in the middle of the pack, time-wise.

I presume that those who are bewildered will learn soon enough that times are tough. I can only hope that many of those we’ve had to deal with will go out of business, lose their jobs, have to fire their employees, and will starve to death with tears streaming down their faces in existential, life-ending regret.

Hurtling downward  §

We have officially been “affected” by the economic “downturn.”

Last year at this time our combined gross income was in six figures. This year we are wondering what exactly is going to happen to us.

Another course cancellation. Between us, in a year, we have lost two full-time jobs and six courses canceled due to low enrollment. We are dazed and confused but we have very little time to try to come to; we have to do something or we won’t just be “affected,” but rather much, much worse.

Meanwhile, jobs are evaporating from our economy at a ridiculous pace, and there is crazy competition for what’s left. Thanks, Bush. Thanks, all you assholes that voted for Bush. Thanks supply-siders and invisible-handers. You did this to all of us. Hope you’re happy.

Frequency  §

I dream about the ocean. Funny, because I’m living right beside it, but somehow this New York ocean is not the ocean I’m talking about since it affects New York life as much as any other single thing on earth can do, which is to say, not much at all. I’m also not talking about California-style beaches, where the water comes apologetically to land, crawling along white sand toward you then running away again like an overexcited savant and overcooked, mostly plastic beachgoers cheer for it with faux, self-righteous enthusiasm just the way they would for any other overexcited savant.

I think I’m dreaming about the pacific northwest ocean, neither frigid as the industrial revolution nor warm as the tropics, but rather body temperature, room temperature, fall afternoon temperature, the temperature of being sans semiotic narcicissm, sans advertising, sans overcompensation, sans consciousness. The temperature of any sensation unshared and unnoticed.

I feel awash in publicity, in the midst even when alone of the public that is me, of the public that is the furniture, deliberative and harsh, and the air, progressive and forceful. I am tired of publics and I am tired of the particular refrain of pulp music that I’m hearing.

I think in fact that for some people life is a song, or a melody sung by an ambient voice in a soothing cadence. For me life is no song. Life is instead a median or even a mean, some sort of running average. When peaks or valleys are the flavor of the day, I come as a result to be conscious of a certain sense of displacement, of distance from center, of corrections yet to come. For me ife is also a singular color—the color of dusk in the absence of any particular season. For me life is the color of the aseasonal and the willfully atemporal. For me life is also about a certain lack of quantity or perhaps a certain nonquantitative modality.

I am too far from the pregnant emptiness of a northwestern coast, where no crowd has gathered, neither any particular coldness or warmness, much less any particular season or time of day. I am too far from silent, non-song unity, in which time and space are the superficial conceits of Los Angeles people and meaning and sensation are the superficial conceits of New York people.

(Aside: Both peoples would no doubt feel that I have these attributions backward. I don’t.)

I dream of being lost, of being off-grid, beyond reach, unavailable and utterly forgotten. I dream of that isolation and solitude that is neither joyous nor barbarous but is merely complete, passive, and uninterested in asserting or in defending its own reality.

I dream of seeing that particular transition to water, without wanting to swim and without wanting not to swim. I dream neither of action without reaction nor of reaction without action, but merely of “re.”

Pushawaybotage  §

Human consciousness is basically an ideological state machine. False consciousness isn’t exactly the right term. Vacuum is a better one. People do not exist; they are not there. They are monkeys with chalkboards for heads. On these chalkboards are the scribblings of other monkeys (nobody writes on their own chalkboard), containing opinions formed while reading the chalkboards of all the monkeys they’ve encountered thus far.

Each monkey takes his or her own chalkboard-head to be the universe, or the galaxy, or god. In fact, it’s just a worn flat face, taking the place of any brain, filled with the ranting nonsense of a bunch of monkeys, written out in filthy, scrawling, fading chalk.

Only two aspects of a human life are real: birth and death.

Ironically, they will only experience, firsthand and as real, everything else.

Rationality is often assumed to equal appropriate instrumentality with respect to ends, but the ends are taken for granted and are socially constructed and normative in nature.

Thus rationality = unemotionality and impersonality in our society, because the desired set of ends for all actions and indeed for rationality itself is a certain kind of detachment, often called “maturity.”

If upheaval were a normative end, or violence, then it would be rational to be as emotional and as strident as possible at all times.

I should have stayed with cultural anthropology, gone to SUNY or GWU for my Ph.D., continued to work at making myself into an absolute relativist with theoretical purchase and a big toolkit.

Priorities in disarray.

Apparent contradictions everywhere.

No emotional resource.

Is this indulgence or analysis?

What next?

When next and where next?

What do I need to survive?

What do I want?

When I decide, who should I tell?

Probably it’s not for telling.

Probably it’s for doing, like always.

Push it out.

Push it out of my mind.

Let it ride.

Let it ride and do what it takes.

Do what must be done when it must be done.

Nothing more.

Don’t cling and don’t plan.

Also, don’t lie and don’t equivocate.

Know, in spite of it all.

Know, in spite of myself.

Know all by myself.

KNOW.

THIS // CLOSE.

THIS //// CLOSE.

T H I S / / / / / / / / / / C L O S E .

T () H () I () S () C () L () O () S () E () !

GAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH

I’m old enough and experienced enough to know. I’m too old not to get it. The only question is: what do I do about it? Maybe there is no remedy. Maybe seeing is moot. If so, life really sucks.

Problem: I feel good about myself. This, doing what I am doing right now, makes me feel good about myself. Working on a Ph.D. Even if it’s slow. Even if it takes a hundred years. It makes me feel like I’m doing something worthwhile. Like I’m giving myself what I owe myself and what I’m owed. Like I’m living up to my obligations to the world.

Making money alone does not make me feel good about myself. I know, I’ve done it. Making money without doing something like a Ph.D. made me miserable. The universe was meaningless, empty, horrid. I could barely wake up each morning, could barely face the waste of it all.

The Ph.D. project gives me meaning, makes existence a little bit meaningful to me. Money does not. To trade one for the other is, for me, basically emotional death. If I can’t be a thinker, I don’t know if I want to be anything at all.

But of course I am in the global minority on that point. That can feel like emotional death as well.

Maybe I am condemned to emotional death in my life, when all is said and done.

I can not be honest here.

I can not be honest anywhere.

I am the trapped man of existential literature.

I am the disciplined man of Foucault.

To be human

is a damn shame.

P.S. to all:  §

This is now the old site. The new one is here.

Year in review  §

Okay. Things are bad. Attitudes are bad. We have been in a downward spiral, paralyzed, falling apart. I don’t know if we’re “coming out of it” or if we’re just having a moment where we realize that there may still be hope in the world. But in the interest of knowing just what we’re dealing with, it’s time to review what’s gone on to get us here.

  • Our income in April fell by 90 percent through no fault of our own; everyone was let go.

  • We hit a personal-political obstacle in our Ph.D. program that appears to be insurmountable; the degrees are, for the moment, effectively stalled by ego and others’ self-interest.
  • Economy takes a dump and students start de-enrolling at universities. We lose 50 percent of our teaching load at least, and another 50 percent of our income.
  • The visa deadline(s) approach rapidly with no solution in sight.
  • We find out that there are laws on the books in many of the most promising locales around the world that prevent us from moving there with our dog.
  • We find that in most of the others, fees for applying to go are tremendously high, and in many places, insurmountable legal barriers also appear to be present.

In short, time is running out on us. Only one of us can legally work outside of teaching. The economy is pounding teaching like a tsunami against a wood hut. We are running into dangerous financial waters. Meanwhile, we must emigrate. Emigrating costs money, first just to try to get permission to go somewhere (many thousands) and then to actually move. Getting permission for most places looks iffy. Even if we managed to somehow get permission, afford everything, and move, we’d start out jobless.

We are unhappy and have bad attitudes because we have been royally screwed. No wonder we’re not happy.

The question is what to do next. Possibilities:

  • Find another school, a lower-end school that will be so happy to have us that they will extend visas and offer funds indefinitely until we can actually get our degrees.
  • Move somewhere immediately and start over in a new life with new careers and life goals. Leverage whatever funds are still available to us to make an “escape” and hope that we can find work. This limits choices radically, basically to bad options where it’s not clear what we’d do, how we’d fulfill our financial obligations, or whether we’d both even speak the language—but anywhere is better than here, it sometimes seems.
  • Stoically continue to do what we’re doing knowing that time is going to run out on us in very, very bad ways, crossing our fingers in the meantime while hoping that things will suddenly change for some reason and it will all work out—knowing all the while that if it doesn’t our lives are basically over.
  • Split up and go in different directions. One of us goes one place, another goes another, and we plan to reunite in the future, when conditions are favorable (whenever that is).
  • Win the lottery.
  • Break the law.

Not a good set of options. Is everyone in this kind of shape right now around the world, or is it mostly just us? I wish I knew. If we’re going to be living in misery we’d at least like some company.

The big question is: which option will it be? I mean, if you had to choose from amongst these, what exactly would you choose? How does one even go about weighing these options? What are the criteria involved? What are the ultimate values from which we ought to work?

It seems to be a distinct possibility that we are not going to “make it” in one way or another, depending on how “make it” is defined.

Meanwhile, life at home has not been easy recently. I hope we can change that, because the atmosphere is making it difficult to confront all of these problems with a clear head, which in turn almost guarantees that we won’t be able to solve them.

Open seas  §

There are those who would say that I’m not much of a man.

That’s fine. I never wanted to be a man. Men are weak. They are either losers or not-yet-losers, either hated by women or not-yet-hated by women, either dead or not-yet-dead.

I spent my whole life wanting to be a pirate, wanting to pillage and to plunder. Wanting to fight and to smell. There is no joy in being a man. There is precious little joy in being a pirate, but there is just a little, at least—every time you run someone through in your life, up until, of course, you are run through yourself.

The blue LEDs use electricity each time they flash. Everything uses electricity these days. Mankind should never have invented electricity. Electricity is the root of all evil.

We are meant to be animals.

Animals we should have stayed. Just look where we are now. Animals remain blissfully ignorant and at the same time noble, worthy. We on the other hand are infuriatingly holier-than-thou, completely unworthy, and immensely, disastrously, despairingly unhappy as a species, a radical mistake.

DO NOT SEE Revolutionary Road.