Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Pile them all together, and call them destiny

Here's one of those times when everything seems so serendipitous.

The other day, my Animus brought up the topic of wartime letter-writing. "Can you imagine," he asked, "how much more strain there must have been, for those on the front and those at home, whose only opportunity to communicate was by the snail mail?" How long would it take back in the day for individuals to feel stress over their letters? Would they count the days until the letter arrived, and then the days until a hypothetical letter returned? How many days would they give their correspondent to reply before they started that return count? Would they take excuses of letters lost in the postal service at face value?

Next level: The History Department reads a "book in common" every year; this year's text was This Republic of Suffering, which touches on (among other things) the breakdown of the postal service in the Confederacy. All the postmasters had gone to fight. Families hoping for news from their sons-brothers-fathers on the front had no idea in what state their boy might be, and cases of mistaken deaths, in addition to being greatly exaggerated, were multiple.

Next level: I feel a low-level of anxiety any time I write someone a text or email without receiving a response in X amount of time. Is it narcissism? Is it the need for instantaneous gratification? I recently found myself apologizing to an individual because I'd left his email marked "unread" for a couple days, reminding myself that I needed to reply to it, finally receiving a "hey, are things cool?" message from him before I opened up an email and wrote back.

The pinnacle: Ishtar recently wrote an interesting post in which she queried why we trivialize the stories we narrate. To rephrase it, twice: Why do we make important stories sound as if, or present our important stories so they seem to be, less important than they really are? Why do we hesitate to tell stories simply because we can't see their immediate relevance? (That is - why do we alter the communication of either extreme. I presume there's a middling level of story that one is typically capable of telling without worry.)

As I've progressed up the ladder of this phenomenologized synchronicity, I've made an attempt to make the emotional tie-in clearer: one feels anxiety during the course of a conversation, of an interaction. One feels nervous at one's presentation, at one's audience's perception, at one's remembrance of self-perception, self-reflection.

Is it because of a metahistorical sense that we might find our own words used or quoted against us? Do we mean to save ourselves from "the condescension of history," to quote EP Thompson?

Is it because of a more immediate fear of failure, not even of a communications breakdown, but for fear that some revelation may prove not to revelatory? Some revolution, indeed, quite reactionary? Aren't there those ones in front of whom our tongues are stilled, not out of fear, but out of the desire to please, to present only the best and brightest of our ideas and conceptions?

Monday, August 30, 2010

A Phantasm of Moscow

I came upon this among my Moscow notes. I don't know if it'll inspire a separate blogpost or something more substantial than my temporary jumps upon the soapbox, but sometimes it's fun to self-plagiarize.
I was possessed by the idea that if every generation had its own defining moments: post-war reconstruction; the Civil Rights movement and fighting against the perceived war atrocities of Vietnam; the Challenger explosion and the fall of the Soviet Union; what would be the defining moments of my generation?

I can only assume that they would be anti-moments, all, moments of hope and promise that never came to pass. 1984 and there’s been no major downfall of capitalist society. The fall of the Soviet Union didn’t bring about the end of history, nor the end of postmodernism any sudden break in art and artistic ventures. 1999 and no one’s partying, not really. 2000 and no nerdy man is reunited with his disco love, nor have any bank systems collapsed. 2001 and we still haven’t charted the stars, and there’s been no breakthrough in our nirvana, no children of the stars arisen. Some two-thousand people may have died on September 11, 2001, but there’s been no major policy change in either the US or the Middle East, just new ways to define who can be whose enemies…

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Maybe There'll be Price Inflation

No one ever believes me when I say that I think of myself as "angry writer" or "dissident intellectual." I think Briullov queried why I like that adjective, "dissident," so much. My Animus just laughed in my face. I have, nevertheless, convinced myself that I ought to identify as an angry intellectual, that I was a stereotype and a cliche but one that's proven to work, that I should enjoy it.

Now that I have an Animus, now with a new thing by which people will try to identify me, I feel less threatened by the prospect of those as negative stereotypes as by any "boxing" through their introduction. I'm still the Frozen Icarus. I'm still so (theoretically) rebellious.

I know there's nothing new in what I'm saying. It's not necessarily the writer's task to present something new, as much as to phrase the old in an elucidating way. My own idea of myself is under fire. How can I fight against people assuming I am "just" anything? I prefer the ideas, though sometimes self-contradictory when I gather them up like this, of the Simones and the Judiths and the Michaels.

Don't pigeonhole.

No transvestites on the bus for you.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Available Exclusively for Real Life

My Animus and I went, a while back, to see Inception, that new movie with Leonardo diCaprio et al., a bit of scifi-action movie blockbuster flickery. A crack team of con artists and peripheries work through a special drugging apparatus to share their target's dream, either for "extraction" - stealing secret data - or to attempt "inception" - an as-yet only theoretical practice of putting an idea into someone's mind. Leo And Friends™ decide the best way to inceive an idea into their target is to go three dreams deep, establishing a scenario where the target thinks he himself has come up with the idea.

That was the crash course version of the plot. Does it not, from that scenario, sound like it should be a Tarantino-inspired mindf***? And such was I expecting.

Which goes to show that even when one's expectations are unfulfilled one can be pleasantly surprised. But now, wondering what Briullov might draw from modern American movie-making, I find myself considering the ramifications of this summer blockbuster, this film that, despite all advertising and intellectual possibilities, chose not to make a psychological thriller, but a feel-good video game of a movie. If a character dies in the dreamworld(s), one of two things happens: if they're near the end of the drug's effects, they wake up; if not, they have an unpleasantly long trip through the subconscious, but still can, potentially, survive.

No one dies. All of the objectives are complete. Everyone is happy.

Wait. Wait. What?

What does it say about us that Inception is just a feel-good video game flick? It is a movie such as has obvious capacity to discuss - if not a Matrix-like high school student's level of inquiry into the nature of reality - then at least something relevant or intriguing to be stated about dreams, dreaming, imagination. Christopher Nolan's previous work queried the nature of neurosis and psychosis without becoming hyperintellectual; why not with Inception?

What are we so scared of facing?

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

The World in Black and White

There are so many white people here.

I hesitate to say that. I usually try to stay within the lines of only covert social dissidence, never explicitly writing something politically incorrect or insensitive.

But there are so many white people here.

I'm honestly shocked. I was excited to come to a place with more diversity than small New England towns can provide; even Moscow, for all of its ethnic and international groups, has a lot of homogeneity.

But there are so many white people here.

Another girl in the program, who moved from Alabama, said that she's gotten more flak for her race here than she did down there. She said, "I guess when I talked on the phone to my realtor, she must have thought I was white."

She said, "When my husband - who is white - and I pulled up to the property, you could just see on her face: 'We were expecting you, but...not her.'"

She said, "Someone's already busted up my mailbox."

Honestly, what century do I live in?

Sunday, August 22, 2010

From The Aquarian Conspiracy

"In his 1918 diary, Hermann Hesse recalled a dream in which he heard two distinct voices. The first told him to overcome suffering, to calm himself. It sounded like parents, school, Kant, the church fathers. But the second voice-which sounded farther off, like 'primal cause'-said that suffering only hurts because you fear it, complain about it, flee it.
You know quite well, deep within you, that there is only a single magic, a single power, a single salvation...and that is called loving. Well, then, love your suffering. Do not resist it, do not flee from it. Give yourself to it. It is only your aversion that hurts, nothing else."

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Like a Dragon after a Pregnant Lady

So many times Briullov and I rolled the thought around with our tongues, with no discernible headway. So did Nietzsche. So did every philosopher the whole world round. Around, around, the imprecise grace of an amateur at the wine-tasting, tuxedo ill-fitting, shirt billowing where it's not drenched in sweat, the thought still rolling, cheeks bulging like the Gallows' man.

The hypothesis: An intellectual must write from a place of discontentment.

Why? Simply because the question of innovation demands the stimulus of unhappiness?

How linguistic does this inquiry become? Can the intellectual be content? Happy? Pleased? Enlightened? Do we not always associated The Enlightened as The Teacher -- yet wouldn't The Enlightened, the most separated from suffering, feel the least need for revolution? If no suffering, whence discontentment, incontinence, unhappiness, displeasure, melancholia -- in short, that state of being de rigueur du homme intelligent?
I've had a recurring nightmare
I was loved for who I am
Missed the opportunity
To be a better man

Do I tell myself: "You will never reach a perfection of happiness, and that's enough to fuel your thought"? Should I search for ways to make myself miserable? When does querying the status quo [because the status is...not...quo], pushing the proverbial envelope, stepping, stage left, out the box - when does inquiry stop and malcontent ideological war-mongering begin?

Riddle me this: Can I, so staunchly refusing to be placed in any box, exercise that same maneuver, separating life-life from intellectual-life? Wasn't one of the first things I ever wrote in this blog that I wanted that never to be the case?

And yet I like being happy.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

D-Days of August

Even at the height of my productivity senior year, or last summer, or during Moscow, I felt dissatisfied. I chalked it up to some hybridized overachiever's complex mixed with Napoleon. Sprinkled-on inferiority for flavor.

Compare me to a summer's day; I am far lovelier and more temperate. Compare that dissatisfaction with a day at a half moon of a lake. Accumulate the minutiae, the likes and dislikes, the hopes and dreams: a life in the woods, a childhood of lakes and paddleboats, memories of Sea-Doos and Bose blasting across the waterway and sunlit oil paintings. Time contracts, levels and variations of the future quash into one narrative, one sentence refers to tomorrow, and the next to five years from now, and the following to this coming Thanksgiving, as if there were no absolute passage of time. Note the new colors even I - the self-professed connoisseur of sunsets - see in the reflections of those calming waters, the shades of blue and maroon, soft orange and pinks and greens.

A boat, its motor barely running, glides across the perimeter of those waters, a single white light above its starboard side, a lantern in the night. And there's no guilt in sitting and observing its slow passage.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

I Can Has Narnia Now?

After all these years of desiring after what so many drunken UNH students have done before me, I climbed atop Wild E.

I miss Snugglz.