Tuesday, February 27, 2007

paralysis, inaction, and needless things

a nation of people shuffling along backwards is a strange sight to behold. they are moving forward, for time only flows one direction, but they are facing backwards. this is more of an observation than an indictment, however, for it takes uncommon valor to turn and face forward. facing forward is not just facing the unknown, it is facing the unknowable. life only acquires meaning retroactively. no wonder it seems so much more natural and comfortable to live life forwards yet understand it backwards.

but natural and comfortable vanish in the face of terror. and what do you suppose lurks in the shadows of the final moments of our lives? we have spent the entirety of our lives facing backwards, distracted from the impending unknowable. and once we feel our feet on the edge of that abyss, once we know with certainty that we are about to tumble head-first into that unknown... helpless, hopeless, and full of regret – our last moments must undoubtedly be the worst.

it is no small wonder that we have exiled death from our sight, from our senses and sensibilities. the most natural outcome in the world, the complement to life and indeed that which gives life meaning, and we have made it the nightmarish stalker, the tragic reproachful injustice, the enemy. the injustice, of course, has been committed by ourselves against ourselves. for, in demonizing death and banishing it from our sight, in denaturalizing it, we have bred a nation of cowards.

in order to keep death incarcerated within the periphery we must continually manufacture value where there is none and indulge in ever more potent forms of distraction. when we have imputed the highest value into the trinkets that we surround ourselves with, we must protect them. yet, no matter our skill in acquiring plastic treasures, we are never satiated. so, we must insure our ability to acquire more. and when we numb ourselves with distractions, we must insure that these opiates will flow uninterrupted. death, having been successfully exiled, is just a curious fate that befalls others, it has lost its capacity to induce night sweats or insomnia. the people of this nation, the automatons ambulating about in perpetual reverse, instead tremble in fear at mild discomfort.

and now, you paraplegics who have taken offense at my assessment, ask yourselves what you would be willing to throw your job into jeopardy for? your car? your cellphone?

what then of the question of life? what would you die for? (and upon coming to an answer, any answer, flay yourselves. for you enjoy the unfortunate luxury of knowing that no one will ever demand it of you.)

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

speaking of vaginas . . .

during a recent conversation, a friend of mine (and member of our intrepid goup!) told me about an email exchange that they'd recently had with a beloved old aunt. the subject of the exchange was the Eve Ensler production titled The Vagina Monologues. i have not yet seen this show but have heard a great deal about it. the main gist, from what I understand, is that a rotation of characters on stage present short vignettes that have to do with womanhood, vaginas, feminism, vaginas, sex, and, of course, vaginas.

my friend (who would like to remain anonymous and thus shall be referred to from here on out as #23) thinks (and I agree!) that there might be some themes, issues, and/or positions within the brief exchange that took place with dear ol' aunty worth discussing and has thus submitted it for your consideration.

AUNTY: You never answered my question back then to say if you had enjoyed it. What did you think of it? The audience here had a few men, but mostly women. A lot of it was very funny, and some very moving. Altogether well done (I read that the playwright, Eve Ensler, originally did all the roles herself!)

#23: ...I saw it with the actress who played Sue Ellen in Dallas. My favorite part was when the narrator was talking about some guy examining her, but talking about how plain he was. Not some guy who listens to Prodigy and eats spicy food, or some guy who blah blah blah.

The reason that was entertaining, is because the entire group I was with, turned and looked at me at that point. This is because I was (and probably still am) known for, both, listening to Prodigy and eating spicy food.

It has been many years since I have seen the play, but from what I remember a lot of the play seemed to vilify men. I do not remember the context [of our conversation], because I am sure I had a point, but right now I would say that it seemed (and this is a gross simplification) fairly sexist...

I maintain an open mind and I can enjoy and learn from other people's view points. But I prefer it, if they are balanced and just. The Monologues did not seem so.

One other story that sticks in memory is [of an] underage girl experiencing her first lesbian encounter with an older woman. She had to be maybe 12 in the story. The older woman was not presented as a pedophile, but she was. Such an upbeat story, I have to wonder if the older person in this story had been a man, would it have been presented in the same
way? Would it be socially acceptable?

One of the definitions of monologue: "a long utterance by one person (especially one that prevents others from participating in the conversation)". I do think it is aptly titled. I would assert that this monologue is concerned with the self, without the consciousness about others and the world around you. It represents a selfish perspective that is a luxury, more frequently of those that cannot break out of molds presented by society, while attempting to appear as "out of the box". It is definitely, "in the box".

Now, like I stated above, I have not yet seen The Vagina Monologues. But some interesting questions came to mind when I read #23's review. In no particular order, they were: to what extent is a certain amount of vilification unavoidable or even necessary in a reclamation project (of one's comfort with or ownership of their own femininity, blackness, sexuality, or what not)? To what extent is The Vagina Monologues a reclamation project (were vaginas co-opted?) versus a celebratory one? If it is celebratory, it would likely have little appeal to men (who have no vagina to celebrate), but what does such a celebration have to do with denigrating men? Should gender matter when it comes to salacious, lude, pornographic, or pedophilic content? Does it anyway (whether it should or not)? The word 'vagina' is in the title and from what I understand there is plenty of (shocking? provocative?) content to go with it - is this play empowering/liberating or is it a series of gimmicky vignettes? I am sure that there are plenty more interesting questions, but you get the idea.

Thanks to #23 for contributing.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

yes, but symptoms of what?

one place to begin is with recognition: your frustrations, your general unhappiness – that is, your inability to relate to your own life meaningfully and with a sense of fulfillment – are symptoms that share a common origin with the societal ills that are typically confined to the realm of “public sphere”. expand the area of concentration beyond the tip of your nose and readily apparent are large-scale versions of your own dissatisfaction and aggravations. these too are symptoms. and thus impotent feelings of “how can I be concerned with the world at large when my own life seems so dysfunctional?” are exposed in their ignorance: the personal symptoms and the social symptoms are indicators of and effects from the same sickness. our mistaken assumption that the “larger” problems that plague society are separate concerns with disparate causes that require solutions best left to politicians, counselors, judges, and special interest groups is part of a worldview, a common perspective, that begets and perpetuates the overall failure that dogs our personal lives.

Sunday, February 18, 2007

alieNation (the State of the Union)

in considering my own state of affairs, I think it wise to examine the social environment that has spawned and which continues to shape me. it is not only instructive in terms of providing a basis for comparison, but also encourages me to reflect upon the interdependent nature of my plight. after all, to seek the character of society's needs and requirements is to begin the process of delineating my own. is not society merely a mirror of our common base, the generic self, upon which our distinguishing idiosyncracies and peculiarities are draped as so much adornment? and so it is that I find myself prone to turning outwards for the sake of illuminating my innards. and so too it is that my many posts expressing grief, despair, annoyance, anger, or the like have me as their subject at least as much as any other.


one of the most damaging phenomena that this nation, among others, is rife with is that of alienation. as regards this apparently inescapable process of estrangement, our own society exhibits a wide variety of ways and means. called into action by unrestrained narcissism and fortified by our natural gifts of guile and ingenuity, alienation is perpetrated as a matter of course.

passive. active. intentional. incidental. accidental.

we passively alienate those in need whom we neglect. we actively alienate those we fear or don't understand. we intentionally alienate those we deem valueless or harmful. we incidentally alienate others because of self-absorption or issues of comfort. we accidentally alienate the ones we love because of our insecurities and attachments. we even alienate ourselves by constantly distracting ourselves from the difficult questions.

I believe that we mistakenly associate leisure with enjoyment and fail to recognize that the unbridled success of the prolific entertainment industries (what I affectionately refer to as the ‘distraction factories’) can be attributed almost exclusively to our entrenched aversion to questions of meaning and purpose.

we distract ourselves in order to preempt scenarios that might throw our confidence or comfort into jeopardy. we distract ourselves so we don't have to despair over how to assess the damage and dress such severe and intimidating wounds. why are video-rental chains so incredibly successful? why are they a distant second to cable television? why has one of the greatest technologies of our era, the internet, been utilized primarily for enhanced consumption of needless products or pornography of various tastes? indeed, the methods and materials we have developed to both disguise and perpetuate this process of alienation have reached epic levels of complexity, as have our problems and our inability to handle them.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

towards a deconflation

Introspection identifies me as a western man in a western world. It also isolates and diagnoses the catalyst for the cancer eating away the mesh of my essence. It is the condition of being a western man in a western world. I would sooner amputate my own arm, by any means available, than let my own unruly hand slowly choke the life from my lungs. As such, I thus forth, repeatedly and continually, vow a promulgation - a disclosure of my intent and discontent. Let it be known that my intentions are nothing short of leeching the cancer from my essence. I am divorcing the condition of being a western man in and of a western world.

The divorce is inaugurated with a confession: I am not the master of my body or thoughts. I cannot control my desires and whims. What is "self" in the face of such a condition? The audacity of having expectations without having discipline or restraint is staggering. I am quite simply adrift. I have tossed the oars in the water. I have removed the rudder and carved it into a wooden puppet that wants to be a real boy. I spread before me maps of places I have never been, but have read about, heard about, or dreamt of. I carefully choose from among the destinations and then I run to the front of the ship in eager anticipation of my arrival. It is amazing how much time can pass in the doldrums when one is sufficiently distracted.

Thursday, February 1, 2007

why this, why now?

In a dog-eared notebook on the far end of my bookshelf, I recently came upon the following passage:

"In order to create miniature ruptures towards a perpetual self-overcoming I must create and sustain a liminal mind; a mind that has functional notions of self yet recognizes such notions as useful conventions and not inherent qualities. A liminal mind is eager to dissolve these notions of self in order to construct more highly evolved ones."

Some people strive towards getting a raise or losing weight. I, on the other hand, appear to be stricken by an unshakable penchant for grandiosity. I suppose that is why I have created this space.

I am always curious as to why people start blogs. For many, I suppose, it is an opportunity to reinvent oneself. Disheartened by the difficulties and complexities that inhibit improvement of their actual selves, they turn towards cultivation of a virtual self. A completely malleable and controlled facade. That would, in any case, go a long way towards explaining the MySpace phenomenon. Well, that is not why I created this space. I have created this space because I am interested in willful evolution. Not just the idea, but the process. And not just of a virtual self, but of the actual self.

So that is what this space is for. To try and get at what willful evolution looks like and entails, and the tragedy and comedy that come out of attempting such an arrogant venture. I cannot say that I have any wisdom to dispense, though I may be able to provoke and challenge you on occasion if I remember to sit and write in between the second and third cups of coffee.

Whether it evokes "shock and awe" or just mild amusement, it is my sincere hope that, between my convoluted rambling and your waggish replies, this space will become something of value and not just another bathroom wall along the information superhighway. I have dubbed the space 'limina' which is the plural form of the word 'limen'. A limen is a threshold or boundary, a space that is no longer this but not yet that. It is the fuzziness of the demarcating line, the grey between black and white. When you dig deep enough, you'll find that the liminal space is the repository of truth. But I'm getting ahead of myself. And I've just finished my third cup of coffee.

Upcoming topics: monogamy, alcohol, pornography, wellness, habit, virtual reality, exercise, eating meat, meditation, discipline, and more!