2014 :: 2013
2012 :: 2011 :: 2010 :: 2009
2008 :: 2007 :: 2006 :: 2005
2004 :: 2003 :: 2002 :: 2001



This post (and the next three posts, for that matter) will consist of pieces of email from over break jammed together into one semicoherent whole. Due to this, references to time and place may jump around a bit. You kids are smart enough to figure out how that works—but to help you out a bit, I'll even put them in roughly chronological order. Good luck.

Note: to certain of you, these emails are somewhat foregone conclusions. If'n any of this shouldn't have been posted, tell me and it's gone. In general, what's posted here should be of general interest to all involved parties, hence its relevance and my posting it.

Edit: What, no replies?

- - -

I learned long ago to keep my mouth shut, not to tell people too much, 'cause just as soon as you tell some people things, they think they've got something on you or know you and can use that information to their advantage. They think they've got all your shots called just 'cause you spilled a small secret to 'em...but that's not a good way to go. So I stay quiet.

I'm not all that close to R., in a relative sense—I'm not really that close to anyone at the university, not even the people I live with—but among university friends, at least, she's one of the closer ones, and she's a pretty astute observer of my predilections and habits. I'm glad she called. I'm not sure how long we talked, but luckily everyone else was in the living room, watching The Mask of Zorro. (It was like deja vu, I told her, as pretty much the last time I had a conversation of any consequence with her was while my roommate and I were taking a break from watching the same movie about two weeks ago.)

There are some things I'm still reasonably certain of, like my intelligence, my wit, my ability to write well and lay out arguments, my easy acquaintance with my own physical abilities, my ability to size people up almost on sight, etc. A lot of times, esp. when reading various novels or watching movies, I long for the days (did such a day ever exist, esp. for a woman, I wonder?) when one could just pick up a trade by virtue of one's talents, on the basis of pure merit in the matter and not worry about all these degrees, all this nonsense that I'm cobbling together to meet the requirements to get this piece of paper. I get tired of working for grades, as I've said in posts before. I got tired of it in high school, for that matter.

Heh...It's all so confusing, and needlessly so, I often think. What happened to the days when I knew what I was going to do and went about with bravado, bravely proclaiming my intentions of getting a psych degree and keeping my 4.0 throughout college? Well, what may have happened is that 1. I encountered a new environment, one needlessly full of B.S. and things that sap my energy and test the strength of my convictions and 2. I'm not so sure I was ever that certain of being a psych major and carrying on with all that—but I had to be certain (cognitive dissonance at work, there), or rather act certain, to say all the stuff I did in admissions essays. I'm slowly moving towards my ideal of a lack of pretense, of being able to honestly say what I mean when I mean it, but then I come up against barriers to saying what I truly mean, e.g. the problem of hormones—such horrible things, hormones, neh? They act upon me and I don't even realize it until I look back on a day and piece it together...At least I can do something to lessen the effect of those.

Some years ago, right after MSA and for a few years after, if you'd asked me what my goals were, I'd have told you, "To find a philosophy." I even wrote about that in my admissions essay, about the vast grand questing I wanted to do and how the university would be a great place to do it. So yeah, the past five semesters have beaten a bit of that idealism out of me, especially as I've gotten so bitter about so many things, all this stuff that has gotten on my nerves since I've been here. I came to the conclusion last year sometime that this definitely was not the place to be if you wanted to become a pure soul questing for gnosis, not by a long shot. Then I figured out that most of the people who really quest for that sort of thing, the eternally deluded, are the ones who become highfalutin' professors, haunting the much-vaunted halls of academia...and doing little else. Me, I've always thought that my philosophy would at least be practical, not dusty like these philosophy classes tend to be. Screw epistemology, all this linguistic questing after evolution and the origins of things—much like Richard Bach, I want something that works, something that'll tide me over and make my life work right.

But perhaps I'm still on the quest! Or if I'm not still on the quest, I can get back into the quest, as these experiences here have been valuable. I haven't really even thought about it for awhile, but I always come back to it when I get to read for awhile and see ideas of mine reflected on the pages—my philosophy is being built as we speak. Perhaps I needed to be stripped of idealism—that's just the part of the process, perhaps, that these past few years have provided. A phrase comes to mind..."You told me you'd say that. You told me you'd say that, too." Oh yes, from Fight Club, as Tyler Durden laid plans so that his other self couldn't undo the whole enterprise, making sure that no one could call off Project Mayhem, not even he himself. I set myself on this quest, and even when I thought I'd abandoned it and forgotten it and was ashamed that I'd become uninterested in it, well, perhaps I've still been on it this entire time. Does any of that make sense?

I really liked the book Siddhartha when I read it, as it seemed like that was the idea—that's the idea of Buddhism, albeit bound up a bit in existentialism, supposedly, in Hesse's form, that all the experiences you go through are necessary, the stripping away of layers of pretense, the suffering of continually knowing that no matter how much self-knowledge you've attained, there's always some other level to know yourself on, you're always chipping away at pretense, always realizing that what you thought was progress was simply leading you down yet another false avenue of experience. Yet even the false knowledge was necessary, as you move to another level of falseness that's perhaps less false, overall...even the depths of depravity have something to teach you. Also, there's the idea of hitting bottom, which is part of both existentialism and Buddhism, albeit in different ways.

The Buddhist take on it is simply what I already talked about, nausea of existence-provoking situations. The existential, nihilist Fight Club view of it is that hitting bottom is necessary so that you can see where you are and go from there. It's necessary to know the limits of your depravity and to give you a foundation to build from, so that when you build you're not working with the spongy ground of your psyche, but a simpler, more solid psychic foundation. You can't build a solid life, one free of pretense, 1. without figuring out at least some of your limits, how far you can fall given the chance, 2. afraid of failing, having never tried it (3) working from the litany of excuses and fears that approach near-failure. Some people have to learn things by trying them—which I realize is a line used to justify a lot of things, and a line to which there are many exceptions, but nonetheless, I think it applies in this case. There are many good reasons I can think of to justify failing a bit this semester, and perhaps the experience will serve me well.

Heh...when I think about being back on the quest, it gives me this surge of pride, then a pang of guilt, as I know someone like me shouldn't be indulging in silly vain pride at jumping back on the quest for a philosophy. Then again, perhaps that means that I've gotten a few battle scars, necessary ones, and will at least be seeking along a higher plane this time. Each plane has its perils, apparently, and one can slip from plane to plane...perhaps I'm not on a "higher" plane as such, but I've gotten more experience, whatever plane I'm on and whatever that plane's destination.

After just reading a few novels, getting back in the swing of reading, I'm recalling that yeah, the idea in Good Will Hunting was quite a valid one, really, that with just a few bucks in library fines you can come a lot closer to establishing yourself a good bit of knowledge than you can with $100,000 worth of fancy-ass classes. Yeah, some philosophy, the practical sort, like my Biomedical Ethics and Present Moral Problems classes looked at, is tolerable and perhaps useful, especially for my argumentation skills, but man...reading and real-world experience count for a hell of a lot, too.

- - -

I don't even see words when reading. I see pictures—it's almost like being in a trance or dream state, I suppose, hence how I can read for hours and not hear what's going on around me.

What sucks is that I'm going to be a psych/English-type major, but I really despise people of those castes. I consider myself more technically able, more capable of deep thought, than most of the bubbleheaded hacks I see in these classes. I'm definitely more self-aware than a lot of them, despite the looming fog of unconsciousness that overtakes me each semester. I don't know if you know many psych/English majors where you are, but you know the type at least, neh?

I'd like to think that whatever depths I've fallen to, I'm still standing upon a high plateau compared to the depths inhabited by many of these people around me. Then again, perhaps this is "malignant narcissism," as Richard Matheson would have it, a kind of belief in one's utter infallibility that leads one to become delusional and belligerent.

11:33 pm, January 29, 2004 :: the jablog years

You should follow me on Twitter.