So you’ve started cycling and you think you’ve found the answer to all the world’s problems? Gas dependency, traffic congestion, even commutes hours long? Get to the website below to do any of the following:
-insult “car people”
-ask strangers (nicely or crudely) not to steal your bike
-preach the importance of gas-free transportation
-strut your oh-so-fit lifestyle
Square one, or the original position, or the veil of ignorance– said some philosopher talking about, of all things! economy/political theory. Paraphrased, “to assume a state of pure objectivity, to purge past predispositions or knowledge,” is our subject. My own experience with square one is a fickle and caricaturesque one, complete with a youthful zest for non-absolutes and a lack of knowledge to begin with. My square one is not this theoretically perfect position of objectivity; for my mind is already tainted, with prejudice disguised as experience, with a standardization of thought.
There is no practical, quotidian example of square one, it is impossible to even decipher it in everyday thought. The one differentiation that can be made, however, is that the “original position” is meant to be imposed on oneself by oneself and my similar situation, square one, imposes its unwarranted presence. A thought can begin, not in any state of objectivity, and lead me back to square one, a rational ouroboros, a self-fulfilling prophecy. Sidenote to the cyclical nature of absolutely everything, but that’s for another time. The thought, then, is not completed, but rather has led its host back to the beginning, forcing objectivity, in a scheme of saturated senses and chaotic possibilities, all leading nowhere but back to square one.
Naturally, the time spent on a toilet is marvelously reflective, usually inspiring a pensive mood or, in this case, a blog. I think of Literature sometimes, Wilde and Baudelaire’s Literature, and I wonder if I am capable of it. To “publish” has become a one-sided joke with no punch line, or an action as trivial as telling a friend about a realistic dream. After all, as soon as this text is complete, this text far from Literature, I will push a button and it will be “published”. People do it all the time… on paper, that is, so the illusion is made concrete… from weight loss books to romance… Nicholas Sparks and Dan Brown… Stephen King once called himself the “McDonald’s of Literature”. God bless him, he can keep it real. This is the problem, lack of that which is real, that which isn’t transient or trivial… the Internet does not help. It sometimes seems like the Internet does everything in its cosmic power to hinder actual communication. Enter Facebook, enter Twitter, enter the illusion of human interaction– what happened to people’s faces? Their eyes? Their body language? Were going nowhere, this blog far from excluded, and so we should abstain altogether. Abstain from what? What can really matter? I can’t wait to have a child, that way I’ll find solace and distraction in parenting… to learn to grow complacent and consider it comfort. I’ll now click “publish” and be back at square one, delightful in its plateaus.
This began as a school essay, optional for extra credit, during a final exam in 2008. I read it and re-read it, there were 45 minutes left to write it. I had taken the rest of the exam with no glitches and now this… I stared at the question for the remaining exam time, unable to answer it. Last month, I made an attempt.
(This course has dealt extensively with modernist challenges to western civilization, traditionally defined. Of the many object of the critique, the literary ones stand out: the disappearance of literature, the decline of literary reading, our failure to read interpretively, our difficulty with metaphors, and not least our own problems with literary expression or even argumentation. Just so, we have read a great deal of literature in this course – from epic poetry and drama to philosophy and history. We have also defined “literature” as “writing of permanent worth or
value”. Still further, we have considered the maxim that “literature is not an ornament of civilization but is civilization itself”. We have in the process discussed such classic “ ” as which force us to see one thing in terms of something else.
With these issues in mind, discuss what “writing of permanent worth or value” suggests about human values, aspirations, or potential.)
The maxim that Literature, (with a sanctioned capital “L”), is not an ornament of civilization but civilization itself is a comme il faut aphorism. One should not attempt to define “writing of permanent worth or value” without citing timeless tidbits of literary marvels through the ages; one should not even attempt to write this essay without a certain scholarly weight or professional ballast found only in years of experience your humble narrator still finds alien and conflicting. In order to truly satisfy the premises of this essay the most inquisitive historians, disheartened philosophers, and gifted wordsmiths must be brought together in a small room and left there for years. Only then can these ubermensch grapple with the task at hand. I am not yet any of the aforementioned people, so it seems I am not qualified to write this essay. However, this text offers an exercise of will and talent, to be repeated every five years of my life; as a sort of recounting, an echo of voices heard and styles stifled– a languish of language or an exaltation of verbalization– ultimately, eventually, “writing of permanent worth or value.”
What do I know about Literature? Apart from the quotidian structural concerns of plot, character, and style development, I only know that Literature is among the most beautiful yet useless mediums of expression man has to offer. I know that language came first, of course; first as a system of monosyllabic exclamations then it evolved into a series of exchanges, subtly integrated into an increasingly clever society of naked apes. What happened afterwards only historians and other members of the alienated intelligentsia really know. A possible source of Literature’s evolutionary decline has to do with (ironically) the reason why many learned to read and write and why books were produced en masse in the first place. It has to do with square one which is, to this day, the greatest and most marketed (or vice-versa) work of fiction ever conceived: the Holy Bible. Yet, I now find myself out of my depth. To continue would be to spell out my youthful, anarchic and existential prejudices, to make an argument that cannot yet be defended. (Note to self: for the next draft, dethrone the Bible as cause for the stunted growth of literary merit).
The Dark Ages, the Renaissance– all of these happenings, though curiously sanctioned with capital letters as well, are still a metaphysical mystery to me. In creative or artistic terms (airy, flowery, non-absolute predispositions) the race has not changed in hundreds of years of history of blunders and miracles, as though there were an inherent capacity for creation that struggles against overwhelming tides of go-with-the-flow. In fact, in terms of literary merit, very few persons are considered timeless, (or worth studying, anyway), usually maladjusted philosophers of their simple times that were able to verbalize a foundation of being. Most if not all of my impressions on this matter are, as of now, shaped with non-absolute nothings. To attempt to organize what has happened is an exercise in futility– all or nothing, Caesar or a peasant, a life’s work, resulting in a masterpiece, or a few pages of half-finished sentences.
However, it is inevitable to admit that, somewhere along the line, we took a wrong turn- just as an infant is born and immediately starts to age, to die, so does Literature falter and fade in the lazy, clumsy hands of a populous. I believe this is due to a shift in mental facilities toward the advancement of technology. It should go without saying that it is easier to invent a salable object, designed for ease and comfort, however trivial, than it is to invent (or rather reinvent) an art form such as Literature. It should go without saying yet it does not. Alas, our species’ unpardonable mistake. To reinvent Literature, to have it evolve into something greater, would mean to dethrone language as a whole and much (if not all) of civilization as we know it– a man, an inventor, faced with these circumstances would forgivably opt out and create, say, a dandy kitchen appliance. And so, our day to day lived have never been simpler or more comfortable. Gone are the days of nomadic hunter-gatherers, replaced with stay-at-home parents and nine-to-fives. The inevitable advancement of technology promises a future in which the quality of that which is literary will decline further; into synergized pseudo words and sentences so concise yet fragmented our language will become multisyllabic utterances from hushed and hurried people. What is most regrettable, truly unpardonable, is the fact that the species will consider the future, their present, the best and most marvelous epoch history has to offer; with insane and surely inhuman advances in the technologies of “communication” and just about everything else. To have the word “communication” in quotations offers me chills and worrisome predictions of a post apocalyptic human landscape in which, if we are lucky, we will have to start again from square one, syllable one. This is my abominable fear, my regrettable study, my reasons for suicide and, suddenly, my halfhearted mission statement: to grow out of trivial distractions and needless cynicism and judgment, to study the path of man and to make this decrepit, dishonorable decomposition of the written words evident to any and all.
Having both feet on the ground isn’t something to be admired,
it is, in fact, a burden– a substantial load of accountability.
Caught in a tide of unconsummated scene and wisdom,
dragged by cruel, unflinching currents to dismal places unknown.
Find us solace, sight, and human spirit untouched and unalloyed;
even as flat-earthers, the old say that it all doesn’t last long enough.
Dystopia novels, stale air and cigarette smoke;
dust, routine and a murky film– unnamed and unprecedented– embracing our thoughts.
Virtue superfluous and mind defunct we, some of us, grind forward with quotidian disregard,
for reasons that we can’t or won’t identify.
Consider the nature of a cry for help, its sharp urgency–
nothing we can do will ever seem like anything like it.
Such a chronic condition does everything in its power to quell such expletives;
but there will come a time when a memory’s brevity will appear disillusioning.
Trivial nature of things noted? Maybe not, let’s say not,
but somewhere along the line, our edges will wear away and we’ll notice things are round.
So I’m watching NatGeo, (the reduction makes them so much hipper), and it’s this documentary on Amish youth. It’s about something called Rumspringa. At 16, parents and the church let the youth explore the rest of the world without the restrictions of the faith. Later, they decide if they wanna join the church or not. During this great little montage the song “Cliffs” by Aphex Twin played in the background. Three days ago I heard it in a movie called, “Manic” and it was the same “find yourself” shmear. As soon as the documentary was over the same song played in a commercial! I had just gotten my fill of existential conundrums after “I Heart Huckabee’s” and I thought, how fun! My very own coincidence! Only thing was, I think the commercial was about a new hybrid or something… funny how I can’t even remember now– I was too busy getting excited about a coincidence. Pshaw.
And everything just seemed to melt away. It was then that I thought, “what was I carrying anyway?” I had no idea what was slowing me down. In these days fulla dead hours there’s nothing to do but try to burn it, but quick.
A life-long soundtrack to a movie not yet written? iTunes and Limewire rejoice.
Family is swerving and throttling harder and harder. Granny from dad’s side over– a month.
Suddenly, with a little help from something unnamed in Sunday nights, I find myself speeding along Alligator Alley. The night eats up the windows and the instrument panel seems warmer because of its gentle lights. “She’s The One” by Caribou helps the car cut through the night along with the overwhelmed headlights trailing behind it. Shotgun rides her, whoever she is. In there, deep in the recollections of when we read Heart of Darkness in high school, hides a not-so-platonic intimacy– no, not explicit at all. Hours pass, here and there, without our notice. The chatter becomes hushed and ripe with emotion and lack of confidence. Suddenly, we notice we’re whispering but neither does a thing about it. Then, I can’t help but stop. To want it too much would ruin it, yeah?
This forced vacation, (although not, but one could hardly call school a chore), has been a blessing. The days hold nothing but time to read and freak out and calm down again. I feel it’s just what the doctor ordered but I can’t ignore the gentle gnawing at the nape of my neck– a road trip is in order. I figure septemberish would be a good time to escape to New College for a weekend. I feel those trips have been vital to whatever is happening. Granted, I usually do have an obscenely good time, but hey, it’s me time?