Thursday, March 22, 2012

Recursion


Hey, listen to this as you read, yeah? Multimedia chops, I'm the big bad boss man from a dot com start up, revamping internet 0.5 to 1.0 :



My favorite novel is Stephen King’s Insomnia. Well, no, that’s not really true, but only untrue insofar as I don’t have a hierarchical rating system for things I enjoy. I’d find it incredibly difficult to try to stack Insomnia next to Pullman’s His Dark Materials trilogy. It’s a pointless distinction anyway. The only purpose of a hierarchy is to be useful in rationing out a limited resource. My enjoyment of things is not a limited resource, especially my enjoyment of things I no longer need to put time into. A more realistic measure might be “which of the two are you more likely to read in the future?” though that’s not a particularly useful definition either, because I own both and have plans to read neither and anyway there’s new things to try all the time. I digress.


I liked Insomnia because I felt I could really thoroughly relate to the main characters in their creeping insomnia. I think King did a fantastic job of portraying the feeling of lacking sleep, the sort of hazy “I am going crazy” cloud that descends over the entirety of reality, distorting some noises, making lights brighter or dimmer, sapping your attention. It’s like trying to drag yourself through a awkwardly acoustically designed stage through clouds of weed smoke while a rave is going on. It’s awkwardly designed because every so often there’s a multisided and mirrored convex pillar distorting the noise and light so if you stand just so, you’ll be blinded and deafened or maybe not. Being sleep-deprived is like reading that paragraph over and over.


I’ve been insomniatic since I was old enough to have a notion of set bedtimes. No amount of guilt-tripping, diet changes, lifestyle changes, no place I’ve lived, essentially nothing I’ve done has ever produced any more than a temporary shift in a stereotypical sleep pattern. I am a fraud, so to speak. I don’t have any problems sleeping. I can sleep all day if I so feel. This is why I garner no sympathy, reap naught but shame for how I sleep. Perhaps here I could rail against the establishment, justify my sleep schedule and feel superior in the knowledge that the typical hours that the rest of society runs on is a socially constructed system of moralistic and disconvenient bullshit. I don’t really feel like it. I just wish I were asleep right now because I have to get up in four and a half hours and listen to a health lecture (or watch a ridic movie) covering genetic ideas I already know. I won’t get to go home until 7:15, and I won’t sleep then even, as my roommate will be home and making noise and all of that. Eventually I’ll pass out and everything will be okay supposedly because it will be the weekend or something. I dunno.

And listen to this why not:




I’m not really sure why I’m writing this either, I have other things to write. I have stuff to do, I am busy, perpetually busy. Why? Because I keep putting it off. I keep putting everything off because I don’t want to deal with it. I want to deal with other parts of my life. I need to go resolve some interpersonal shit with a ton of fucking people, but I can’t do that either. Instead I have to stare at a screen and convince myself to be particularly passionate about tourists and tourism when the class has reached that magic moment of recursion where the class isn’t really introducing anything new anymore and instead is reinforcing concepts or identifying things taken for granted. I worry all the time that I’m going to be an academic failure because I literally can’t reconcile the bullshit with my conscience. I can’t imagine doing anything if I don’t feel really good about it. I’m not really principled, I’m fickle and petty and what makes up my “conscience” changes from week to week, if not day to day, but if nothing else I’m a god damned stubborn asshole about some things and I’m well aware that that is what will inevitably hold me back.


I’m also way too damn smart. Inevitably everything I think ends up coming under self-scrutiny. I’m not even really an author anymore, as I sit here and reinterpret what I’m writing as I write it. I consider “well, you just wrote that to reinterpret your sloth as some kind of ennobling behavior, when in reality it’s just a moral failing that you’re refusing to deal with, in part by writing about it in ways to ennoble it and justify it to yourself” or I consider “well, it’s still true on some level right?” until I don’t really know how I should feel about it anymore and whenever I do feel something I feel guilty about feeling that something because I’m not sure if it’s because I am making a calculated effort to present it or if I’m sincere and if I am sincere what does it mean about a person who is that way and how can it be criticized and should I change it so I’m less criticizable? I’m a walking, breathing argument.


I’m not sure I’d have it any other way, either. I both admire and totally disrespect people who have any sort of surety in themselves. Confident sorts of people, confident of opinion or attitude or whatever, are totally uncritical of their activities. How could they be? Criticism undermines confidence. But being uncritical means that you’re not thinking, that you’re just passively living in the world without question even if it’s your own world that you’re not questioning. You may as literally well be an animal of lesser cognition who just so happened to be enculturated and look like the rest of humanity. That’s why no real person is without some weakness or insecurity or disconfidence in them at some juncture (except, I dunno, the autistic and Asperger-ed [criticizing my own statement and adding qualifiers. Qualifiers I’m not even all that comfortable with, as I’m sure it’ll draw ire from somebody somewhere {most likely the autistic or Asperger-ed}]) that makes them relatable and related to the rest of the human race.


Criticism itself too is criticizable. You can problematize anything, as long as you have the moralistic cojones to beat off the hordes of people interested in their view of the world. Academia properly expressed is a lot of bullshit authors bullshitting together about their bullshit, and even my opinion under their bullshit rules has merit. The smartest academes are well aware that the system they’re participating in is on many levels complete crap, but they do it anyway because it’s one of the few socially sanctioned places for people who like to do nothing but talk to hang around and talk. It’s the only place in the world where an egalitarian merit-based system will teach you about the pitfalls of egalitarian merit-based systems and then grant you merit based on how well you absorbed the lesson. It’s missing the forest for the trees, or whatever hackneyed phrase works here. I’m still in college, god dammit, not because I really want to be or because I fundamentally support the system, but because it pays my bills and fulfills my fetish for listening to people passionately talk about things they’ve studied for years. If I could find a decent job where all I had to do was listen to people’s stories about what they’ve learned and what they’ve read and where they’ve been and who they’ve met, I would take it in a heartbeat. For fuck’s sake, if I could get a decent job building houses or fixing bikes or some mindless-yet-unionized factory work, I’d do that. But jobs are hard to find and colleges are pretty much right there and that’s where we’re at.


If you want to know a secret, I added that last bit because I had a momentary pang of guilt/realization that I’m still writing in a super-rich country as a member of a fairly privileged segment of society. As the phrase goes “my privilege is showing” (a hilariously awful method of criticism, as my privilege is not and never has been “mine,” even as the phrase indicates that I have some sort of control over it [problematizing the concept of “privilege” {I’m sure I can find at least a dozen papers to cite}]) and I need to acknowledge it, lest some random stranger come along and point out how good I have it and what an awful whiny person I am for complaining. Except that person already came along and he lives inside my head and follows me wherever I go and I can’t sleep because

Monday, March 5, 2012

"I'm just going to type until the feelings stop."

No one is immune from self-delusion, it’s a product of life as fragile constructs influenced as much by instinctual emotions as by rationality. We all lie to ourselves, sometimes in big ways, sometimes in little ways. Sometimes the lies are necessary, self-preserving, benign. Other times the lies we tell are harmful to ourselves and those around us. But we all have them, each and every one of us.

I lied to myself for a while. I told myself that what I wanted would inevitably come to pass. I seized on every scrap of information that affirmed my lie and minimized any data that denied it. Even now, after confronting the truth, I still hold out hope in my head that my reassessment was wrong, that I haven’t interpreted the data correctly. It’s the hardest thing in the world, and one of the most painful to break through, to accept as fact something your very subconscious doesn’t want to believe.

Popular morality believes that any sort of lie is anathema to existence. (Good) religion believes that self-knowledge is the path to enlightenment. The idea of the fully self-aware as the pinnacle of existence is pervasive throughout region and worlds. This is a convenient belief: where the goal is clear and obvious and the objective world deemed the most important. But it loses sight of the function of self-deception. We lose sight of its purpose.

People don’t lie to themselves forever as a sinister method of shading the divine from their eyes, they do it to protect themselves from what emotions they cannot practically deal with. In a world that is constantly moving, no matter the era, no one has the time to spend two or three weeks resolving some kind of emotional problem for themselves. We can’t all spend three days on the couch crying and refusing to move every time we’re hurt. We don’t belong to monastic orders, practicing peace and dispassion. We’re humans with hopes and fears and dreams and beliefs. Shit can and will affect us, and we don’t have the time to deal with it.

It sounds bad, to be sure. Maybe a better world would be one where we could throw all obligation to the wind, sit on a couch, and stuff ourselves with ice cream and watch sad movies. Maybe we should be able to call into work and take the next month off, going on a wild drug binge, trying to avoid the incipient emotion through altered mental states. The best possible world, of course, would be a homogenous world, where no one has any hopes or dreams or indeed any passion at all. Events would pass before us as wind through reeds, as snow falling on a quiet night. Pain, though, is but one side of existence, and without pain we would not know pleasure.

But again, we have no time for pain. Our world demands that we pay attention to our surroundings, that we keep an eye out for opportunity, that we remain steady and constant in our activities, if not our mental state. This is what self-deception is ultimately for: to create a semblance of stability, to maintain the forward march of progress for our species. We’ve even codified a sort of strained sympathy for people who are “unable to move on” or “incapable of letting go,” preferring the mercurial to the constant, at least in emotional concerns.
So rather than solving a self-deception, ultimately I’ll be replacing one for another. The new lie is that I don’t feel bad. That I don’t feel hurt or depressed or angry or frustrated or just plain upset. The hope is that it will eventually even become true.

Jake's Second Mardi Gras

I forgot what I wrote for the last Mardi Gras thing I wrote. I don’t remember much of that time. It was a tough period in Jake-ville, as my girlfriend dumped me while in the midst of a severe depressive episode (indeed, because of that severe depressive episode. “I can’t handle this” she said, ironically walking out after I had put up with her anxiety attacks and nervous breakdowns. Whoops, too bitter.) which then dragged into a several month’s long spiral of drama and bullshit as we had our apartment broken into by a neighbor and subsequently became homeless when we moved out (because said neighbor was being covered by other neighbors) thanks to Jazzfest and then endured a short period of “I think we would be great roommates” nonsense before I kicked her out. I willfully block out the memories from that period, because that is my unhealthy coping method: forgetting that bad things ever happened.

All I do remember from that note was complaining about people drinking and how awful the world was. I think the entirety of my mainstream Mardi Gras experience was Druids, Muses, and Chewbacchus. I hated it because it was everything I don’t like in a group of people: rich white drunken tourists standing around in front of floats of rich white people throwing useless trash on the ground and generally being loutish. The KKK horse riders sealed the bullshit envelope for me as a strong reminder that the world is a fucked up place and it’s everyone around me’s fault. That much didn’t really change this year. I was high as fuck on Mardi Gras evening and I sat at a bar and watched the Rex Ball, some kind of conglomerate of inbred southern fucks milling about at 9:30 at night playing nobility charades. It’s spooky as hell. People still do this! In this day and supposedly enlightened age! I really am pretty na├»ve. I tend towards the belief that people are basically smart and when they buy a party line it’s just a matter of good persuasive politics or some kind of psychological tribalism that necessitates group identification regardless of veracity in ideals. (or, as is usually the case on the internet, a knee-jerk reactionary contrarianism constructed from the conceptualization of “cool” or “edgy” as being against the expected response toward a situation. See: 4chan) But when I’m confronted with a very clear set of ritualized oppressive politics that is so thoroughly embraced and maintained so as to seem “normal” and be thoroughly accepted, I’m usually dismayed and upset by the manifest reality that these people seriously do not understand the source or inevitable result of their actions.



Carnival is okay! Nothing is inherently bad about parading. Second lines are an awesome community-binding force and a seriously uplifting representation of alternative constructions of life-patterns (I really am just fucking around now. Blame college) accessible in the otherwise monocultural landscape of America. There’s a reason I love living here. I love parades, I love the effort people here put into costuming and creativity, I love the laid-back lifestyle of the artist community. What pisses me off is not the season itself or the people or even really the parades, what bothers me is the clear and obvious demonstrations of subjugation that take place year in and year out.

New Orleans is very much a Caribbean bumfuck third-world island nation, where everyone with a job works to please the rich white foreigners that come along and fuel the economy in its entirety. We’re whores, and in a culture that doesn’t give three shits about its whores, we’re treated as expendable pleasures, temporary forays into the world of sin to be condemned vociferously after we’ve been used. Everyone who lives anywhere else will gladly talk about the wild parties and crazy adventures off the one hand while warning us about the collapsed housing market and hurricanes and the scary n*****s off the other. Kanye wasn’t wrong, that’s not why he was shut up. Kanye made people uncomfortable with the god damn truth. We’re in a city packed with black people. Up to the gills. 60 odd percent. It’s terrifying to the rest of whitebread America, who only see their monocultural media views of the scary n*****s yellin’ ‘bout murderin’ an’ rapin’ an’ whatever.

I’m never going to forget how god damned ashamed I was to sit there at the fucking Marriott in a room full of white male oil execs and chemical engineers waiting on a keynote over a nice (free) lunch and having a black waiter waltz over to serve the old white men and I. It’s terrifying to me that there was nothing I could do about it. I couldn’t make any of them feel bad about it; it’s all they’ve known. They have years upon decades of ingrained justification for their attitudes and behaviors. All I can do is eat a nice lunch and file away my impotent rage for some other day (probably around Mardi Gras). Since my unhealthy coping mechanism is to forget that there’s a problem when I can’t solve it, I don’t like being reminded of that problem. Watching the KKK march on by on horseback, flanked by floats of moneyed white people, surrounded by white tourists with nothing but abject terror at the prospect of confronting class or race disparities, having a sea of white men in tuxedos leading around their nubile daughters in a display of eligibility to ensure breeding stays amongst the nobles televised during the celebrations, none of it makes me feel any better about the chances of forming a more tolerant and loving society.

That’s why I’m depressed during Mardi Gras. That’s why I didn’t go to any parades except the ones I was actually in. That’s why I was high as fuck on Mardi Gras and pretty thoroughly wasted on the days proximate. Cause my other coping method is drugs.