Thursday, December 22, 2005

All that is solid melts into air

all that is holy is profaned, and man is at last compelled to face with sober senses his real condition of life and his relations with his kind."

-Karl Marx and Frederick Engels, The Communist Manifesto

Are we disintegrating ourselves into milieu of our own technological sophistication?
Is our impulse to globalize dangerously feeding our desire to fractionate?
Are we at last compelled to face the real conditions of our life and the life we share with others?

The Communist Manifesto is perhaps still one of the most interesting critiques of the phenomenon of disintegration, not only as it applies to the bourgoisie's ability to disintegrate the proletariat's identity of herself and her relation to her labor, but Marx's impact upon the world is scarecly to be underemphasized. Though this book does not have the answers to the problem of disintegration, and perhaps this book and his movement did more to accelerate the world into the direction we may be headed into now...the questions it raises are important.

It is often suggested that the questions are more important than the answers. For those that seek just answers are doomed to an ideological abyss. That it is the search for questions that keeps one afloat in a world which seeks to drown us under the weight of our tasks and our emotions. Should we forever be buried, drowned in a sea of daily life.

Or, is this just one step of many? Not the first or the last, but a cyclical journey between holy and profane, innocent and guilty, naked and nude.

Is Disintegration the first step towards reconciliation...

Sunday, December 18, 2005

The Third Column

Paracelsus, called Alchemy the Third Column of Medicine.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Evil's Mirror

"Justice must never mirror evil, Justice must always be a mirror for Evil so that all may see."

How does one define struggle? It seems that we enter to each new experience in life struggling to get out of the previous one. Does one wait for the next great conversation to happen, so that we may be transported out of the existence we so often berate for its condition. The things we carry along, weigh us down so heavily-you see it people's faces. It hurts, you see it in people's art-it hurts. You see it in people's writing (it does hurt). That we struggle constantly to express ourselves to be recognized even through non-recognition, to be accepted through non-acceptance, to be honored through disgrace. The internal conflict grows in some, and it is often debilitating, but I only fear when there is only resolution in their hearts-then one is capable of anything anything. It is this conflict which gives us access to the other, and in other lays the possibility for the transcendent. The other contains that which we cannot see but would be all the richer for us to be able to understand. To be able to see the other as another self-not identical perhaps not even compatible but just to recognize the other (all others even enemies) as one who also shares in inner conflict. This inner struggle which tears asunder that comfort and creaturely satisfaction that comes with blind emotion, the need to check ourselves before we wreck ourselves. To check out the other before the other checks out on us. If we are unable to seek reconciliation with the other we will be forever lost in the immanent, forever stuck in time-to live out our finitude in crass animal-like existence, seeking to take our next meal our next conquest...always seeking never finding. We must have insight if we are to find justice, and we must be willing to look into another's eyes and not to see fear, danger, but acknowledgment, hospitality, reconciliation. We do not have to love each other, that is perhaps a possibility that only exists in the paradise that is promised to us in the afterlife, besides...our embodied, temporal nature will not allow us to love in the way that would be suited to such an expansive outpouring of feeling. We must however learn to really see each other, not as a side or an argument or an enemy but a person struggling with his or her own humanity-struggling to connect to something greater, or at least different. Connecting struggle to struggle, forever. See with the eyes of the other gives us the ability to reflect evil for ourselves and not to recapitulate it in self-justified acts of violence (not just physical violence, despite what the kids say words can definitely hurt you). To see with the other's eyes, even if we do not see it that way ourselves, can serve as a mirror for Evil, and justice does not have to operate like evil-the avenging left hand of justice can be tucked away so that the loving right hand of justice may sweep us away like scared children waking up from nightmares. These nightmares get stronger and though they sometimes frighten us, the power of these nightmares comes from a place that is much harder to locate and one that is much more immediate than fear and that is pain. The pain of failure, the failure to communicate, to connect, to understand. It begins in youth through confusion, a friend's mommy won't let you play anymore with your friend. It continues into adolescence through physical torture, you get beat up or tossed around because they don't like you, even though you have never said anything to them. In young adulthood anger and frustration, why can't they understand, why must they be so ignorant. In later adulthood, disappointment that your efforts though valiant were perhaps in vein. Finally, in the twilight of your existence a small yet very noticeable hole, missing, what is it-this world you are leaving has torn something out of you, has torn that piece of humanity which could have opened you up to the other could have opened you up to the infinite. It has been ripped away by the banality of society. We are wallowing in a filthy lake of hatred and it is eating away at us. We see it coming, we even see it in others (if we are lucky) in their art, in their writing and in their hurts.

Monday, December 12, 2005

"Crossing Frozen-Lake-Michigans-of-Believability"

Contrived Situations Hollywood Style.

In the movie,The Four Brothers, Andre Benjamin's character Jeremiah Mercer meets Victor Sweet (the bad guy) in the middle of a frozen Lake Michigan to make a deal. Essentially, money for his life and the life of his brothers. Now it looks bad for Jeremiah, being that he is out in middle of a frozen lake the size of a medium-sized state as it is just him Victor and his cronies, and it looks like he might be thrown into a fishing hole. Well, it turns out that Jeremiah has made a deal with Victor's "buddies" beforehand, and the tide turns against the ne'er do well. Well, Victor an amateur boxer asks who is going to step up and take him down. Initially there are no takers...but in the distance walking towards the group is a man. That man is Mark Wahlberg aka Bobby Mercer, Jeremiah's "brother." To make a long story short he dispatches with Victor and they ride off. Let me repeat he walks across Lake Michigan. Now maybe there is a car 10 miles or so away but...

I remember thinking little of this scene at the time, perhaps only to think, "wow, that Bobby Mercer is as cold and hard as the ice he's walking on." Or something ridiculous like that. The contrived situation that was orchestrated to generate this little plot loop as always struck me since as just a little strange. Something at that moment was broken. Though I did not realize it then, something changed in my understanding of the Hollywood movie industry vis-a-vis the suspension of disbelief. I feel as if now my ability to deal with movie situations that are not explicitly fantastical, i.e. Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings, Narnia etc. has been seriously altered. It seems that the Frozen-Lake-Michigan-of-Believability that we are expected to cross for some new releases are too wide and are we are on too thin ice. It also seems that for many directors, producers, and screenplay writers the effort of actually making a story narratively operative is a wasted one. It is almost paradoxical, on one hand the imaginativeness of such a situation as described above is at least creditable to a degree, but on the other hand the lack of ingenuity to make a situation both engaging and at least thinly conceivable is absolutely deplorable. This particular critique of Hollywood is not particularly new or inspiring but as a particular example of an individual's moment of insight (such that it is one) I wished to share. Perhaps this realization (or perhaps it isn't a realization so much as it is a distortion) might be due to my increased viewing of classic and foreign films. La Strada, Battleship Potemkin, the 400 Blows, Hiroshima Mon' Amour, these are some great films, artistic, thought-provoking, stylish without being fetishized. There have been some great, very well done movies in recent memory as well, Fight Club, Memento, The Boondock Saints, GATTACA (the last two are just my preferences).
Simply put part of me fell through the ice on Frozen waters of Lake Michigan.

Walked across the damn lake.....seriously.

"Our Virtual Ontological Sanctuary"

"To buy books would be a good thing if we also could buy the time to read them."
-Arthur Schopenhauer

What Schopenhauer goes on to say is that books on the shelf are often mis-appropriated as "knowledge." Though many (including myself) have a rather healthy number of books on their shelf that are unread and remain unread; it would not be surprising if a large number of those people did not take a least a pride in their collection. Perhaps for some they recognize that they will never, ever, read some of the books on those shelves. But nevertheless their collection grows. Why do they do this? Is it purely some intellectual snobbery on their part to maintain an impressive collection of books? No, I believe that it is more about the possibility for learning that each book on their shelf represents. In their hands that book can become virtually anything. Some of those things are positive, like a tool, a dream, a career, or an adventure or some things that are frankly quite negative a weapon, a drug, or something which leads one ultimately to a path of destruction. In an example of the last, I am speaking of the book the Sorrows of Young Werther , Wolfgang von Goethe. This book led to the first recognized example of the social phenomenon of the copycat suicide. An author wrote once that he could hear the gunshots go off at night throughout Germany as young men ended their lives. Despite the morbidity of such a predicament; it would be wonderful (poetically speaking) to be able to write something so moving, so influential that individuals would respond with these acts of passion and bravado that this sort of act must entail. Of course, the suicides in themselves are tragedies but the sentiment is beautiful. In Homage the cynical young man performs an act of unmatched response, unrepeatable emotion. It would be my hope that I could write something akin to that. So powerful such that it might drive someone to commit some supererogatory act of kindness or heroism, but perhaps it is only the Sturm und Drang that accompany the Sorrows that can spur the heart to such great heights of action.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

"Coffee is For Closers"

That quote is from Glenngary Glenn Ross which was written by the talented David Mamet who also wrote the screenplay for Ronin, and Wag the Dog.

The quote is spoken by Alec Baldwin's character Blake, a lawyer. It is a great quote, mostly because of the way it pithily captures the nearly pathological over-the-top "Conquer not just compete" attitude that pervades corporate America. Successes unlike cookies are not sometimes food, or so we are often led to believe. We in the Malaise of Modernity feel compelled to outdo ourselves and each other in a race to oblivion. The tasks before us increase exponentially, while our abilities to deal with them are reduced periodically with the various distractions that populate our life-world. Sidetracked by fear of failure, annihilation by acts of terror, general existential ennui all serve to undermine the increased demands upon our active selves. Our attention is consistently drawn away from that which makes us who we are. Though the movie was sub-par the line from I Heart Huckabees, "How am I not myself," repeated ad nauseum as a kind of conscious clearing mantra-is useful in understanding this notion of drawing away that was referred to previously.

I Heart Huckabees is an abomination
The overdone, under-thought, overconfident underwhelming manner in which the movie pretends to be philosophical is really sort of disappointing and nearly embarrassing to watch. I will not pretend to tell you, "what they are really talking about," but in watching the movie, I would suggest that a reasonably sophisticated individual even if he or she lacked any formal instruction in philosophy would quickly realize how asinine the, overwrought-pyschobabble-masquerading-as-intelligent-dialogue double-talk really is.
Again, I Heart Huckabees is an abomination.
End Aside

Perhaps the act of blogging represents an outlet, by which individuals can individuate themselves from the blur of distractions and reclaim some sense of the self. Ironically, what better way to make this claim than to do it in the very medium that has taken this sense of blur and turned it into a hyper-reality. In an attempt to make one clear call for ourselves in a sea of distraction we use the Internet the single biggest ocean of distraction on the planet. Our waves of being as it were, emanate from a center-the self. Maybe this self is constructed electronically, but all selves are constructed. Perhaps this center lacks the embodied nature of our experience, and this truly not to be under-emphasized, but perhaps without the body this self has the opportunity to reconstruct a body, an electric body or what Morpheus tells Neo in the Matrix is, "the residual self image, a mental projection of the digital self." This electrical body, though it may lack certain essential features of what it means to be a self; it does allow a flexibility which though may exist in the "meat-world" is only truly evident in the "digital-world."

In other words, the freedom to redefine who and what we are, which we may believe we do not have in the physical world suddenly becomes accessible to us, at least imaginable to us, in this world. The reason that so much is invested in the creation of handles (usernames for the non-311it3) and avatars isn't because of fear of being discovered or being "found out" in fact many would like to be recognized or gain some level of web-notoriety (which explains the proliferation of not only blogging sites but blog-award sites); it is recognized for the most part that if one takes some basic precautions our "identity" is secure. No, the reason for that phenomenon lies in our not so hidden desire to be something other than what our bodies and our roles in society have defined us. The evasive, self-deprecating computer programmer can be the suave sophisticated polemical blogger, the archetypal 97-pound weakling can be the Madden 2006 champion, the misunderstood Goth chick can be a creative genius. Of course there are many issues that are both psychologically unhealthy and potentially sociopathic that arise when there is a confusion between the two selves or if one self dominates the other, but overall the overwhelming majority of bloggers, message board participants and online gamers have a general constructive desire to become something more, to realize potential in a world that does not allow them to otherwise.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

"One Clear Call For Me."

Paul Valery once noted that in every theory there exists a fragment of an autobiography; it may be the case that with every Blog there exists a fragment of an ego. Hopefully, mine will not be too evident. Or that if it is so, that it will be found acceptable. As I become more adept at blogging, it is my hope and my dream that my prose will become more creative (or at least more readable) and that my thoughts will become more subtle. It is also my sincere belief that this is actually possible.

"Here I blog, I cannot do otherwise."
-Of course, otherwise could be done and perhaps should be done but yet here I am.