January 16, 2012 § Leave a Comment
Because after a little more than two weeks in, I’ve noticed The Change. Change as a concept is something I wrote briefly about last year, when I said, “The New Year has rarely felt as new as this one does to me,” and then again after I moved to DC, in a post where I wondered if “uncertainty is the rigor, if being thrown is the routine.” But in each post, both of which were more journal-y than I think mine tend to be, I missed the point, I think. I missed the point that I’m feeling the edges of, seeing the contours of, now, in 2012.
Is it surprising anymore that the grounds of truth, the place where meaning springs up from and lives project themselves off of, is located in another person? This is the reality I saw glimpses of every couple of months for the last year – last years even – but it wasn’t until 2012 that it hit me, that it ran me through and made me know it.
What I mean is something like this: the way we move about this world, the way we understand it and communicate it, the way change occurs – which is an internal, rather than external thing, always, I’m convinced – all of it, all of this that means anything at all, that is meaningful, it happens through intimacy. « Read the rest of this entry »
November 16, 2011 § Leave a Comment
Really, I could title this, Being Pretentious, or Trying To Be A Tastemaker – either would apply. But when it comes down to it, being wrong, staking out something that was partially untrue or not wholly true or not even partly true or wholly untrue, that’s the awful consequence.
See, for some reason, I thought growing up and maturing meant that I would continue to narrow my tastes and my opinions, that eventually I would have more figured out than I have un-figured out. I thought I would get the sense of Me, and that hand-in-hand with that sense is acquiring a thought-through, developed philosophy so that whenever News Event X or Album Y is presented, I could decide pretty quickly if it’s Good or Bad, Right or Wrong, and what my critical stance is. « Read the rest of this entry »
October 11, 2011 § 3 Comments
This is not a good idea, this post. What I want to do is talk a bit about the Occupy Wall Street movement (and the other Occupy protests), the very clear passion and inspiration behind it, what it means to be Powerful, and what in the end might be inevitable limits and powerlessness, or worse, a “negative compromise.”
So here are the caveats: I am talking about this not because I know any of what I am saying, but because I wonder about it, I want to know, and I want to hear more. “So just read about it online!” Well yeah, I’ve tried. News sources are reductionist, pro and con Occupiers are invested in their passions – so I haven’t found the worthwhile gems in the rough that is the internet. If I am missing clear doctrinal stuff that answers all of this, well send it along. Please.
August 9, 2011 § Leave a Comment
It’s August, and I’m in a new city, doing new things, and have moved from the home I grew up, quite possibly seeing it for the last time. It’s August, and I’m on the heels of Next, having left behind Before. As it seems to do almost a couple of times every year, the supports of what I was have been shaken and splintered, some replaced, all questioned and plumbed for their strength. It’s August and who I am has changed from who I have been, or at least who I see myself as has changed from how I saw myself before.
And none of this is new, really. It’s not special for me to experience it, nor for it to rise up again. It’s just there, the prankster Change who has waited patiently until he could wait no longer, playing the same trick he always has, the same ones I should expect and unfailingly do not. « Read the rest of this entry »
July 23, 2011 § 4 Comments
The Economy of Words is one of the first, most important, and longest lasting lessons a writer learns when trying to figure out what it means to write, how to do it better, how to take it seriously, and how to make it Artistic. I was writing before I learned this helpful little phrase, and then I learned it and at once writing became challenging, difficult, and rewarding.
And yet, as I think about this heavily ingrained aspect of creative writing pedagogy – at least here, in America – I wonder how strong of an influence it has had in shaping aesthetic, and perhaps even broader actions like reading styles and attentions. I wonder if the emphasis on economizing words has preempted the true beginnings of creative writing, which could alternately be described (based on your disposition as more optimistically-inclined or pessimistically-) as long-suffering or pleasure. « Read the rest of this entry »
July 8, 2011 § 3 Comments
Richard Dawkins has been the subject of an interesting stir in the online atheist/skeptic communities recently, and while I admittedly followed the story at first from a vantage of schadenfreude (I think he almost singlehandedly made atheism less intelligent and more arrogant), thinking about it today led me to a problem that underlies every system and ideology and philosophy and religion, a problem that creates dogma, crushes individuals, promotes arrogance, eschews any sense of humble questioning, and ultimately lays the foundation for one’s own unequivocal rightness. And this problem is rationality.
First, a note: read my blog long enough and it’s evident I identify as a ‘Christian,’ as much as I hate the sociopolitical assumptions that the label carries with it, and so one might expect a pretty vitriolic take on Dawkins and the contemporary skeptic/atheist communities. I don’t really have a problem with atheism, skepticism, empiricism, or whatever other term one prefers. One of the most meaningful philosophers I read, who continues to impact my life rather often, was atheist Arthur Schopenhauer, and on the whole I have much less a problem with the system of thought as much as I do the seemingly contemporary self-righteousness that comes along with it – but then again, I am writing from a tradition that mastered self-righteousness. Point is: I’m not going to use this post to hammer Dawkins, but will instead use this story and a few other strands, like Spinoza and the story of Jesus in the desert, to try and flesh out what I mean by the problem of rationality. « Read the rest of this entry »
July 5, 2011 § 3 Comments
I’ve been working on a longer essay of literary criticism lately, but I want to sketch out a few of its basic ideas here in the hopes of getting some comments and feedback. I suppose, to start, that calling it “literary criticism” is not too accurate: the essay is basically a compilation of fears and concerns that have made me skeptical about contemporary American poetry, and trying to at least blueprint a possible alternative path.
A number of assumptions sit in the center of the essay, and the first one is that poetry, to be important, meaningful, and truly Art, must remain fringe, difficult, and opposed to anything that tries to systematize it. This is more of a tautological point about Art as a whole: Art must remain Art, and to what Art is is always terrorizing, unsettling, thoughtful, questioning, and restless. And the assumption to this assumption is that we, as humans, live always along a stream of hidden prejudices and unconscious motivations, caught always in the middle of what we know we know, what we know we don’t know, what we don’t know we know, and what we don’t know we don’t know. This is my assumption of the human condition, and thus Art is meant in its highest to uncover and discover, to reveal, to lift up what we think we’ve got pinned down so we can stare into the abyss beneath the carpet. This assumption includes the idea that this is the exact task of religion and philosophy and psychology and every other social science, to a degree, but that none of them work the same way Art does, that where sciences operate logically and consciously, Art can operate above, behind, and underneath logic and consciousness, but also with them. « Read the rest of this entry »
July 4, 2011 § Leave a Comment
July 4th is a tricky day for me to think about, and it seems like it gets a little trickier each year. I can’t really mentally place a day that has so much around it, and don’t even understand the document that is celebrated, the Declaration of Independence.
A year ago I would probably be more vehement in my not-understanding which would have easily manifested itself into critique, for certainly there is a lot to critique. Built on a sentiment of human equality, the country that sprang up quickly immediately compromised on just how human black humans are, then struggled against outsiders, whether minorities or women, up to even the present day, when we witnessed recently the state of New York allowing gay marriage. And it has been a rough ride: we can tick off the major wars, but in between there are the numerous skirmishes and battles, the dark marks and undeniable scars on the skin of a nation that has grown at a cost we simply cannot tally. « Read the rest of this entry »
June 23, 2011 § Leave a Comment
Since I first heard it last November, Sufjan Steven’s Impossible Soul, that impossible song stretching twenty five minutes at the end of an album already glut with long-songs, sonic challenges, and a lyrical perspective equally messier and more personal than in his previous albums, has haunted me. Has been played and replayed, is one of the few songs that simply demands my fullest attention whenever I hear it and so it is reserved for when I am alone and quiet, when I have good headphones nearby, when I’m driving, anytime when I can let it course over me without interruption. It’s an epic song, and yet unlike the epics of tradition, it is bound to the perspective of the I, and the skeleton of one side of a complex relationship.
Or, at least, that is what I am going to try to lay out. This is a ridiculous post, an indulgence in a song I really like, so feel free to skim. I’ve been thinking about and playing the song a lot recently, and so I want to try to narrate it. Below is a youtube I found of the entire song, so if you don’t have it, if you haven’t heard it, load it up. It’s very, very worth it. « Read the rest of this entry »
June 16, 2011 § Leave a Comment
Though used only once in his aesthetic treatise Poetics and once more in Politics, Aristotle’s mysterious concept of catharsis has been so thought over, so discussed and debated, so questioned that it has made its way into the English lexicon. If something is cathartic, it is freeing, it is a release. Or, even more specifically, it’s therapeutic.
That, I think, is the conception of catharsis that has made its way into the general consciousness, at least. And for good reason: a number of philosophers and interpreters thought that that’s what Aristotle meant by the term as it relates to pleasures derived from and the purpose for tragic plays. Such a conception is almost mystically backed through experience: for some reason, we enjoy the stress and tension of great suspenses, the terror of horror flicks, the sadness of drama. We come out of the experience almost exhausted, stunned, purged.
What I want to do here (apologies for the quick break here, I’m trying to avoid always “burying my lead” in the conclusion, as my essay-posts here seem to feature) is disagree with this therapeutic notion and try out a new conception of catharsis, something that is not based in us, the spectator, but rather inherent in the tragic work, and ultimately an ethical movement. « Read the rest of this entry »