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Monthly Archives: April 2009

We are clearly in the middle of  §

a massive inversion, a wild inflection, a deep shift in the nature of our lives. I don’t know exactly how things will look afterward—I’m not even sure how they look now—but there’s change in the air, I can smell it.

It smells a little like spring, also happening now, but with more excitement in it, and also more threatening overtones—more of the musky hint of fear.

But in any case, time marches on for us, since we live in the western metaphysical universe and don’t get to choose the natures of our clocks and life narratives—the natures of the universals under which we labor. They were given to us by elders and authorities.

“Time,” they said, “is progressive.” And thus it is. And thus we must be as well. And so the changes are happening and we will see how we do in living with them. We have no choice.

Humans, after all, have come far enough to be able to create and start time, but not far enough—as we can see everywhere today—to have the first clue about how to stop it once again.

At about 5:30  §

The storm cleared for a while. Things have partially clouded over once again, but for a brief moment all was open, self-evident, productive, and pleasant.

I need to return to that, but I’m not quite sure just yet what the right way to bring it back about is, or what exactly it has to do with.

Along with this moment came a couple of amazing realizations that I won’t bother to go into here, but that will no doubt change my life in coming days.

Things can’t continue as they have been. It’s time to find center once again. It’s time, it’s time.

It’s time.

Baby boomers:  §

RETIRE ALREADY.

You are TAKING OUR JOBS and we are gonna start COMING TO GET YOU for it. Yes, we know this is an economic downturn and you feel suddenly as though your lifestyle is in danger.

NEWS: YOU ARE NOT ENTITLED TO YOUR LIFESTYLE.

It is you assholes, Baby Boomers, that f*cked up the world with your lifestyles in the first place, and now you are taking our jobs so that you can “preserve” them.

Go be poor and old already. You have the wrinkles and incontinence, even though you tell yourself you don’t. You can’t escape death and you don’t deserve to live OUR lives and take OUR jobs just because you want to be young forever.

Your generation needs to leave the world stage already. You’ve done enough damage and you’ve taken more than your fair share.

GO!

ASIDE: Anyone who argues against the Frankfurt School position on media, who thinks that media consumers really are “critical” or at least “aware” or even “autonomous” at some level… are damned fools.

The world today should be all the empirical demonstration you need, from the Iraq war to endless consumption in the face of global warming.

Can I do this?  §

In one week, all the old demons come back with a vengeance.

Every question, every doubt, every maladjustment.

This sucks. Hard.

Madness  §

Frustration

Tremendous, tremendous frustration

Determination

Helplessness

Frustration

Just when I believe once again I’m sane…  §

It is a time of serious transition in my home life. I am shifting once again from being in company most of the time to being alone most of the time. In the past, this has not been an easy transition, and this time it is no different.

I am unfocused, unable to perform, bewildered, uncomfortable, aimless. Time seems to fly past and freeze where it stands simultaneously. Days are endless and unbearable and also over in a flash.

I am (as my wife has recently noticed) very sensitive to one certain kind of change in my environment. I’m tremendously affected by the people around me, probably because people are so “loud” to me—I experience them as tremendous forces acting in my world even if they’re doing something as simple as knocking on my door. They’re like earthquakes happening all the time.

Some people seem completely unaware of their circumstances; they press ahead with clear goals, clear motivations, and a clear idea of how to proceed no matter the circumstances, and no matter who happens to be nearby at the moment.

Now I don’t need any particular spatial routine; I can operate from anywhere at any time, and I can handle with grace and shocking level-headedness almost any emergency or crisis that interrupts my life or the lives of those around me. I am critically reliant, however, on one thing: the stability of my people routine. An unexpected knock at my door can mean the difference between a day in which I write 50 pages, do my taxes, catch up on bills, and finish up by reading a novel, and a day in which I don’t even manage to watch a television program or read a page once the door has been answered, much less write or work—a day in which I’ve become completely debilitated by the unexpected visit. Same thing for suddenly being denied the presence of someone whose presence I’m very accustomed to. Who knows what happens to the time afterward? Not me!

It’s as though my functioning in the world is entirely reactive, a matter of stimulus response, and I come to rely on subtle cues and interactions with and from those around me for my routine, for the “I’ll do this now, and that in ten minutes, and the other after that,” and without the cues, or with a new cue inserted that I’m not prepared for, my entire motivational system goes haywire and I’m completely maladjusted and miscalibrated.

For three days now I’ve been unable to do anything at all. I haven’t watched television. I haven’t read a book. I haven’t written a page. There are a lot of things I ought to be doing, but I haven’t done any of them. I look at them and I am completely unable to focus; my mind wanders; it fills with dandelions and butterflies, with cirrus clouds and theoretical traffic accidents, with the ethics of medical trials and the portrayals of the Fibonacci number sequence I’ve seen on television, and with so many impermanent shades of azure and gold, hanging in the air like the crystallized ringing of bells.

I don’t eat well. I eat too much or too little, all junk. I don’t sleep well. I don’t do anything particularly well. I want to reach out to other people but I’m unable to do so. I want to change things around but I have no idea how to proceed.

I feel like the person who has been in the asylum for twenty years in a tiny room with no furtnure and is suddenly declared sane and loosed upon the world. I have no idea what to do; I have vague ideas of what ought to be done but no idea how to go about them, despite the equally vague idea that I ought to be, and perhaps once was, an expert in all of them.

In time, over weeks, things will normalize and I’ll gradually get back to regular functioning. It’ll take time. Hopefully less and less time each time this happens in my life. But at the same time, I know very well that once arrangements change again, say, at the end of the summer, and I’m suddenly alone a lot less often, there will once again be tremendous occasion for tension and bewildering behavior just as there was the last time I went from “mostly alone” to “mostly not alone,” because I simply can’t handle very well changes in the human-interactive structure of my intimate personal life, whether that involves friends, significant others, family members, etc.

I am not wired for modernity in that sense; I’m clearly wired to be a tribe member, in a stable tribe, with a stable routine. I experience all changes in my close personal interactive patterns as both tremendously troubling and deeply debilitating, an apocalyptic episode in each case from which it takes significant resources to recover.

It has always been this way and I have blogged endlessly in various ways attributing the effects to various things, but now, as I get older, I realize it’s just this simple: I am a person of deep subconscious needs and expectations when it comes to the people most closely surrounding me. When some new face intercedes unexpectedly or when some usually expected face disappears, I become an emotional and intellectual cripple for weeks.

It’s like breaking a leg, or recovering from a concussion, and no amount of other people bitching and moaning at me (as they have often done over the years) will change the fact that at this moment in my life I am simply incapable of doing anything other than typing out this very blog post, despite work that is piling up, and indeed I’m very lucky to have a blog and to be able to even do this at all.

I feel, as always has happened thus far when such changes have occurred over the decades of my life, quite unsane at the moment.

Bells, piano, guitar  §

I haven’t thought about the Cocteau Twins in a long time. I never really listened to them. Funny things pass across NPR.

Sometimes I feel as though the only thing in life that’s holding me back is my choice of tools, or the lack of tools, like a good writer’s word processor and a display that sort of pulls me in, rather than distancing me.

I feel as though i was much more productive back when my tools were more rudimentary. It’s as though displays are so high in resolution and anti-aliasing and contrast these days that they take on the appearance of the objective and generate the subconscious belief that they are not, just as are not the pages of a book, places open to amendment.

Complacency is creeping in everywhere. I am becoming middle aged in the quality of my mind, in my lack of creativity and drive.

I used to think that suffering was the source of work in the end, but actually it’s not. You can reach middle age and suffer a lot and get nothing done. You can actually stare straight ahead for hours simply wondering what’s happening in the rest of the world without once bothering to check on it.

Not that I have time to stare for hours at anything. I suppose I’m making that up. Really, it’s minutes.

But in the current climate even losing minutes is something of a disaster.

I’m just not ready for where I am. As has always been the case, I’m a step behind myself. Or a step ahead of myself. Or on a different page from myself, etc.

Every day I tell myself that today when I get home I’m going to work. Recently I never do. The moment I step through the door, all motivation leaves me. Vexing because while I’m sitting in the car, I’m being driven absolutely nuts by the fact that there is no computer screen in front of me with matching keyboard on which to type. I feel as though I’m going to burst from the pressure of all the things that need to come out, the weight of all the ideas and amendments for existing papers that are piling atop my eyeballs.

But when I get home, it’s all gone. All I want to do is flop myself down and miserate (not comiserate because recently I do it myself). What they say is true: it’s impossible to really work at home. Home is poison for writers. You need an office. Home is where to be comfortable. Writing is simply not comfortable. You go home and home wins. You’re at home and home wins.

Why shouldn’t it? You only live once. You find yourself in a place where you can kick back, relax, where nobody can blame you for not working just now (after all, you’re at home) and you take advantage. You don’t deprive yourself.

I suppose it’s the sign of a good home life that you’re unable to work at home. If you hate it, work won’t just be preferable to sitting there experiencing your environment, it might even provide a kind of escapism.

Not that I’m wishing for a worse home life. Paradoxically I also need my home life to sustain me when I’m not at home.

But the long and short of things is that something’s got to give. I have a few ideas:

– Go to my office at the college more often (problem: it’s bare and public)

– Get a different chair (a kneeling chair, which for some reason might help)

– Make a rule or a bubble of some sort about “Aron’s Writing Time”

– I don’t know

I have no other ideas. But this is ridiculous. This is crazy. I’m brilliant and I’m a multiply published writer and I’m at the top of my Ph.D. program and should be in my prime and I’m having not even writer’s block but pure and simple writing/researching laziness.

I hate my other work, yet I spend all kinds of time doing it. I love writing/research, yet I don’t ever do it anymore when I get the chance.

Add another option to those up there:

– Spend more time on campus

This would, of course, be easier if we had a proper campus. But yeah, that is what’s missing, that’s the variable that’s changed. At Chicago I spent all my time in Regenstein. When I first got to the New School, I spent all my time sitting in 65 Fifth Avenue, and I was incredibly productive. There was nothing “at home” (home was International House with a tiny room to myself, not even my own bathroom, much less actual space or comfort or furniture of any kind) to draw me out of my academic shell.

Basically, I’m getting soft and it sucks and I have to arrest the process because I can’t afford to get soft before I get this damn Ph.D., publish 76.4 articles, get $12 million in grants, and get appointed at Harvard.

There are times when  §

it’s painfully obvious that some of the most stinging critiques of the academy and of academic life are altogether too often on the mark.

Academics as a field is often ossified, moribund, inherently ultraconservative, an insider’s club of “good old boys” determined to keep the money in and the newcomers and dissent out.

Even more embarrassing is when academics becomes a way to put on airs. Community colleges who act, for example, as though they can be as choosy as Harvard when in fact they’re struggling to put people in the seats and find effective teachers for their classrooms, do no one any favors.

At every level, the name of the game is “prestige.” Dead weight who haven’t published in years and who refuse to take risks (because to be challenged would endanger their club member status) try to be stuffy enough and officious enough to anyone around them to justify their titles and salaries.

Despite efforts and a rather desperate need, I’m having trouble finding the right change for my life right now.

I’m having trouble, in fact, creating any change. Trajectories in society are actually very difficult to change, whether for political reasons (in some kinds of states) or for economic ones (in free market systems).

In the former, change requires connections and power. In the latter, change requires capital or freedom from the need of it.

The trajectory right now is generally troubling. With every passing day, I feel less a scholar. Also, less a family man, less a worker, and less literate. I feel less in general.

And nothing is on the horizon to reverse this trend.

And I can’t make any major changes because I have to keep clawing ground as hard as I can, treading water to use another metaphor, to avoid the risk of turning a general downward trajectory into a catastrophic fall right off the edge of a cliff.

Is this all impossible?

What else is there, though?

What else, precisely, is there for me to do in the world, that I’m actually willing to do, that I prefer to insanity or its practical equivalents?

I have become once again obsessed by clocks.

It has been a long time since I wrote anything substantial that I like at all. Many, many months. I also feel less a writer every day.

That, perhaps, makes me feel most apprehensive of all.

Messy  §

I am a mess.

This blog is a mess.

My time is a mess.

The word of the day is mess.

Rorganization will be eht next word of the day.

Tick  §

hard ricochet

from March, from May

letters unanswered,

faces filed away

or

bleeding as yet undone,

funerals not yet attended;

on April airwaves the past and the future

arrive as inevitable hauntings,

electric, anachronistic, and scatological at once,

shattering thought and little household tasks,

etching fatal geometry into temporal space,

piercing every self,

souring coffee,

burning leaves,

staining linens,

wasting breath and adrenaline

for nothing in particular,

all lost to a liminal moment,

to the echo of a hard ricochet

that inevitably marks the ‘now’

with the ghastly prescience,

of an interminably postponed night.

What does it mean when you start to understand  §

all of those things that all normal people are certain are beyond understanding?

Where, exactly, do I belong, and what does it mean that I’m asking this question once again? Am I better than everyone else, or worse? Or merely separated by oceans?

I have grown tired of New York.

I may actually hate New York.

Groundhog day. Living it all over and over and over and over and over again.

This society  §

makes one tired, exhausted, beaten, old.

I am aging at a rate of a hundred years every day.

Just thinking  §

that this is the longest I’ve had a laptop in years without it fizzling out on me. Now I have replaced a bunch of stuff—two fans, processor, keyboard (twice), screen hinge, hard drive (four times) and the heat sink goo a couple of times, most recently with arctic silver to see if we couldn’t reduce segmentation faults—but still, it’s here and it’s working and I haven’t replaced it in what seems like an eternity (but is actually about two years, I suppose).

Still, the last time I had a single laptop for two years it was an AST PowerExec 386 machine, predating laptops with color displays and CD-ROM drives, and being super high-tech in its time for having a built-in hard drive, rather than being purely a floppy disk affair.

So: nice job, Toshiba, on the M200 tablet. Hanging in there, no cold solder joints, no failing inverter or display pixels/lines, etc. And with a 1400×1050 display, integrated Nvidia GeForce 5, a gig of RAM, and a very fast Pentium M processor (for its time), it still plays lots of great games and has a lot of life left in it for an only $250 outlay a couple years ago.

If you disagree with someone,  §

telling them so doesn’t actually do anything to change their mind. In fact, discussion is generally worthless, a waste of time.

Better to simply make your decisions and act without talking to other people about it, since in our culture the very ideology is to avoid entering into discourse or compromise, but rather instead to defend your position as you would your body.

Thus, dialogue is war; war is harmful. Avoid war, simply go about your business, even if somewhere else.

Somehow  §

people imagine that in a free society like this one relationships must be nurtured only until they are named. Once they are named as such according to some official title, they are there, they exist as objects independently from the actions of either person.

They are then shocked when, after taking them for granted and weighing them down with expectations, they begin to seem ephemeral once again—and they take this not as a sign of their own failing or the relationship’s starvation for material practice to support and maintain its existence, but rather as evidence of some original falsehood, i.e. “it was never a good relationship to begin with” or “that other person is to blame for what has happened; since I wasn’t seeking to harm it, they must have been.”

People: relationships are practice. Stop the practice, stop the relationship. Alter the practice, alter the relationship. There is no objective, a priori there there. They don’t exist except in our enacting them daily.

Stop enacting them daily and they will weaken by a corresponding amount.

Stop enacting them at all and they cease to exist.

I am shattered and bewildered that this far into my life I still find myself musing about how nobody else seems to believe this.