Posts Tagged With: futurity

Time has us by the Strings


Just now, while searching through my old files, I found a letter I wrote to my ex just over 10 months ago. Since I haven’t had time between co-authoring a chapter, working on a farm, and dealing with yet ever more exciting “ex-relationship” drama, I thought I’d post it here. <But then I changed my mind at the last minute>

 

I. An Untimely Self

This letter was my final attempt to move my ex through logos, and it’s failure to do so–the failure to rebuild trust and intimacy with meaning–left me disillusioned more than ever with reason. At the end, I resorted to ethos, to find a common meeting ground, a simple, common, everyday activity to bond over, but every invitation was blocked. Logos and ethos could not have access to pathos so long as I had become the abject of my ex’s subjectivity. My attempts at logos and ethos were in fact a symptom of the larger problem. Both tactics pressured her to live by my time, rather than letting her be as she had become in her own time. The tactic I should have followed was kairos, an attentive, self-restrained patience.

Although what she said most often was that she needed space, what I think she really meant was time. Within the tradition of liberal humanist discourse, personhood has been defined territorially, not temporally. To say one needs to be oneself is interpreted as one needing distance from being touched, from being affected  by something outside. The subject, to have integrity, needs to be autonomous–not dependent on others–to properly perfect oneself according to one’s own image. Yet such existential independence is rarely achieved, especially when space must be shared. To let one be is not so much leaving space as it is respecting time. For who we are changes, and although change can be very painful, it must be affirmed if we are not to act violently to ourselves and others, to manifest suffering.

 

II. A Puppet of the Past

I cringed when I acknowledged that this letter retains relevancy in the present. Reading the letter encouraged me to reflect on my recent behaviors over the past couple months to make amends with someone I became very intimate with and likewise had to live and work with in the aftermath of intimacy. I find myself making the same mistakes,  attaching myself to the value of “I” and the possessiveness of “me.” Each time a powerful “relationship” comes to an end, I feel simultaneously devastated and empowered, for I have learned through my faults. But history teaches me that it is so easy to let faults slip through our consciousness back into the body of habits. I discover myself repeating these uncanny words.

Without losing myself, I will not become someone else. Yet, after months on the road relatively cut from my former roots in Texas and Illinois, I cling fast to my bumper during each intentional swerving maneuver to release me. Consciousness and swerving has helped clean up some “noise,” but has not established a new paradigm for my being. I sit on the side of the road lost in thought, but not of the past. My familial, fraternal,  and romantic relationships are knotted around my ego, suffocating it of creativity. The knots tie me down to people and land I am thousands of miles and hundreds of days apart from, playing me like a marionette. I’m a puppet of the past. The more force I apply to these strings, the more tangled I become; the more I act like a Man, the more of a mockery I prove myself to be.

 

III. Concrete Reality: Time has got us by the Strings

Must one accept our string, our knotty personas, to move beyond it? To master oneself, one must not attempt to master others, but to master kairos, to master a situation by allowing it to be and be undone. For years I have attempted to  master time, to conform the present to the fantastic future and the future to my representation of it in the present. But to live in fantastic expectation, to force things from out of the present,  only works so long as the fantasy is not traversed.

The difficulty of reality is our exposure in time, our ineffable exposure to ghosts from the past and omens of the future. Reality is that time has us, not us it. Karma is the catching-up of time when we believe we have moved beyond it. Suffering is the manifestation of reality’s disillusionment of our ideals once time has tagged us. Once tagged, we are not I, but is. And is is all there is. If we cannot accept that, we cannot accept ourselves, and so we suffer even as time has passed us by. We continue to dragged ourselves behind or run ahead of cars, and so eventually feel the friction of reality against our flesh, tearing us apart without pulling us together.

In writing this, I feel as though I’m resigning myself to fate, writing against resistance. Do I prefer life as a puppet over life as a person or has my thinking finally become just as tangled up in knots as my identity?

Advertisements
Categories: Essay, Original Writing, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

A Call for Solidarity on Climate Change


We have five times as much oil and coal and gas on the books as climate scientists think is safe to burn. We’d have to keep 80 percent of those reserves locked away underground to avoid that fate…. what all these climate numbers make painfully, usefully clear is that the planet does indeed have an enemy – one far more committed to action than governments or individuals. Given this hard math, we need to view the fossil-fuel industry in a new light…this industry alone, holds the power to change the physics and chemistry of our planet, and they’re planning to use it.

– Bill McKibben 2012

 

Global Climate Disruption used to be an issue I focused on as much as trans-species justice, but since having become focused on food justice and more extensively on privilege and identity, it’s been an issue I’ve direly neglected.

I write direly, because this is THE issue of the century, and perhaps of all of human existence given it may be the greatest tragedy in the last 100,000 years or more. From a god-like position, this is “nothing’ given the existence of life on the planet. But we are HUMANS, and this affects us and all the other species who brought us into existence and came into existence with us, many species also populated by sentient and social beings.

But this isn’t something humans in the universal have reaped upon the earth, but modern Western civilization in general, and the capitalist, engineer, and political elite specifically. Something like 40% of all anthropogenic contributions come from the US and China (and China has been polluting a lot only recently and its population is four times ours!). The elite, however, who control the capital and political candidates are not even the .1% Yet, the elite indirectly pull the strings for no greater reason than making a profit (as if their millions of dollars weren’t sufficient).

Yes, we all contribute, especially the more affluent of us in first world nations; and institutions do need to be changed to reduce all of this. But is it not the case that the enemy is equally the apathy, ignorance, and dis-empowered-feeling of the 99% as much as the arrogance and decadence of the 1%?

 

The power of numbers is in our favor, but the social organization, education, and empowerment is missing. And this is not an accident. The political and economic elite prefer it be this way and so our education, political, media, and economic systems are designed to dullen critical thinking, prepare us to be cogs, and give us bullshit “solutions” that don’t address the fundamental problem of democracy’s subordination to capitalist gain. Some environmentalists will refer to population growth as cancerous, but the truth of the matter is that the cancer is the political-economic imperialism of the ruling elite, their lords in congress. and the ideologue conservative (including most democrats) constituency and consumers.

Since global climate disruption is an issue that disproportionately falls on the backs of those whose backs have nearly been broken by growing markets and “development,” it is an issue which all progressive/radicals should be united on. Given all these movements dream of a just future and that GCD makes any just future impossible, it’s clearly in the interest of the 99%. This should be an opportunity for the greatest solidarity between socialists, first world environmentalists, third world decolonialists, and students and professors everywhere.

We need coalition building if this is going to work, even beyond that of efforts to make incremental changes to policy. This is an urgent issue that cannot be put on the backburner, because if it is, not only the dish will be cooked, but the house it’s cooked in will be as well.

 

Unfortunately, it’s even hard to convince people who are already sympathetic to the issue to socially organize and be politically mobile. This is because the majority of people are struggling to maintain what they have now and either gain back what they have lost or achieve what has always been unfairly out of reach. Yet, GCD is only going to make these unfortunate and unjust situations much, much worse for them and their children and their children’s children.

I think it’s sound to speculate that GCD will further bifurcate the haves and have-nots, and the solutions to addressing the corruption in political systems will become more limited and desperate. Not only do we all face a looming ecological crisis that will translate into food, refugee, and economic crises, but these will in turn translate into political crises. The non-violence revolutionary movement in Egypt may not be an option as the small number with half the world’s wealth control the militaries and police to protect their hoards of wealth and technologies from a righteously angered populous. The worse part is that this is all irreversible and that we may be at a tipping point, meaning we can’t even predict what technologies to develop and where to deploy them as the global climate is drawn into a torrent.

But as people repeatedly note, there is opportunity in crisis. Either way, the world WILL be radically altered. It is our action, however, that will dictate whether it be altered by techno-science, capitalist patriarchy or by human solidarity with one another and with other species. Will everyone’s fate be contingent upon the entrenched values and institutions of the past or the political aspiration of international justice for the downtrodden and their allies?

 

 

*The poor political and media interest in the Rio conference may very well correspond to the increasing apathy and burnout many of us advocates have fallen into and be part of a larger social  phenomenon. Bill McKibben’s latest article, “Global Warming’s Terrifying New Math” in last month’s Rolling Stone, however, inspired me to write a several page long reaction to something I read online–something I haven’t done in a long while but used to do regularly between undergraduate and graduate school.

I haven’t posted much update on my adventure lately due to priority commitments, exhausting work days, lack of privacy, and an otherwise frustration. I promise to update the blog more in the upcoming month!

Categories: Political Rants | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

Oregon Trail 2012 (a manifesto)


I. My Itinerary:
On the 18th of April 2012, I set sail on the “open road” toward the setting sun to the Pacific Northwest. This is the preliminary itinerary for the first part of my journey.


COLORADO (week 1):
April 18 – the Road
April 19 – Ft. Collins
April 20-21 – Boulder & Rocky Mountains NP
April 22-23 – Denver
April 24 – Breckenridge
April 25 – Dinosaur
UTAH & ARIZONA (week 2-4):
April 26-May 9 – Utah Krishna Temple (& Salt Lake City)
May 10-12 – Arches NP & Moab
May 13-14 – Canyonlands NP
May 15 – Navajo Nation
May 16 – Sedona & Flagstaff
May 17-19 – Grand Canyon NP
May 20-21 – Page, Pariah Canyon, & Best Friends Animal Sanctuary
May 23-24 – Zion NP
May 25-26 – Bryce Canyon NP
NEVADA & CALIFORNIA (week 5-6):
May 27 – State Parks & Lake Mead
May 28-29 – Las Vegas
May 30 – Death Valley NP (and more)
May 31 – June 3 – Yosemite NP
June 4-6 – SF Bay Area
June 7 – Napa Valley & California SR1 / US 101
June 8-9 – Arcata & Redwoods NP
OREGON & WASHINGTON:
June 10 – Sanctuary One
… to be continued …

II. Context Sensitive
Since I was a pre-adolescent I wanted to live amongst the lush green forests on the other side of the Rockies, sandwiched between sea and mountain. The wet, temperate climate, alternative culture, and radical politics appealed to my biophilic sensibilities. It was a long ways away form the arrogance, greed, and consumerism of the affluent north shore of Chicago. No doubt, the Pacific Northwest was the romanticized other–the opposite of everything I disliked about the domesticity of the suburbs.

I was a divided soul. Someone who loved “nature” more than humans, but who actively identified with machines. From youth until my college years I had praised emotional restraint, analytic objectivity, and functionalism over emotional expression, lived experience, and aesthetics. These are the values of the master mindset, the will to knowledge, certainty, control, and power. I learned these values from my father, but had never questioned their origins and justification. They were absolute. And they were daily validated in our misogynistic culture that assigned value to masculinity over and against the feminine. I believe these values subconsciously took such force because they constituted my assigned identity as male, and they had to be performed if I were to sustain what I felt was expected of me as a male. Yet, my desire for wildness was an excess that could not be repressed.

Although I wanted to go on outdoor adventures on rivers and through the woods, I felt isolated and took no initiative to do much beyond video games, Legos, writing, basketball, and homework. I spent my childhood pent up at home, unambitious and sheltered. My family had no interest in the more-than-human world with the exception of my grandfather who kept a hobby garden. My parents had no hobbies outside of their jobs, no love for art, sports, and recreation. Leisure time was devoted to observing new places, attending a constructed space for entertainment, or–what I disliked the most–shopping. These were all meaningless to me. I wanted adventure and wonder.

Years later, I can now recognize and appreciate the wild beauty as well as connect with people on social, moral and political levels in my own (sub)urban “backyard.” However, I’ve spent so long making compromises over what I want to do, where I want to live, with who and how I want to be intimate. After the abysmal Fall of 2011, I needed a moving horizon, I needed a future to go on living, to crawl out of the gravitational pull of Nothing. Pursuing one of my life interests–an outdoor adventure to my new home–is saying yes to myself, yes to a future I want, yes to life.

III. Counter-objections
The very idea of this journey has collected a number of objections. Here I am addressing these common concerns and criticisms not out of a need to justify myself, but to explain why they miss the point.

1. Now is not the time! (you are too old for this)
To this I must ask: when is the right time? How long must I procrastinate on what I really want. When will I not be either too old or too young? I want to live in the present.

2. Get a job! (your priority is to settle on a career and nail a job)
I’ve lived a rather stoic existence for someone from my means. Until the last few years I have drank little alcohol and had not experimented with any drugs. You can save a lot of money simply by not being an addict to drugs and alcohol, but you can waste a lot of time being overly-calculative. So I’ve been able to save some cash over the years, but at a cost to my flourishing and lived experience. No more!

I’m no longer going to feel guilty about spending money, storing away what I have to spend at some later time. The money I’m using on this trip is money I’ve earned since graduating from college. I may not be employed at the moment, but that’s all the more reason I should be doing something incredible. It’s no longer crystal clear what career I want to pursue. Rather than stagnate in a “secure” living situation, I’m seeking inspiration from adventure and experience, letting spontaneity be my guide (more or less).

3. Stop procrastinating! (you’re fleeing from responsibility because you don’t know what you want)
This is the whole point of the trip! I’m finally going to stop procrastinating and second-guessing what I want in favor of security and social expectations. This is what I want and is a better means at discovering myself and my country than slow, armchair contemplation. The adventure is not only an end in itself, but also a means to an incalculable end.

4. Don‘t go alone! (you need help and companionship to be safe and have fun)
When I was a child, I was anxious being with people. I preferred solitude. Since my first love, I’ve become anxious being alone. One thing I learned (again) over the last year is the insecurity of emotional dependency. I need to be able to define and value myself on my own terms without the expectation or constancy of support from friends. After the Fall of 2012, I realize a need to become more self-reliant, more confident in my ability, and more free in my being.

Yes, I’ve thought about how having a companion on my trip could make it all the more amazing. Having someone to share experiences with is validating and can make the experience even more meaningful especially in the future when reminiscing. Having someone along would also bring greater security as if anything bad happened we could work together and protect one another. On the other hand, being alone makes temporal space for more reading, introspection, observation of the more-than-human, and conversations with strangers.

In no way is this trip extreme. Ambitious yes, but Into the Wild no. I’m not Chris McCandless. I’m not seeking to free myself from people or to prove my vitality. Really, what I’m doing is rather tame, just large in scale. I have every intention of preparing myself and I don’t plan on doing anything “stupid,” I’m just not going to cower from life and the risks it presents. The journey is less about self-mastery than it is a course on vulnerability. Vulnerability is a condition we must all accept if we do not want to suffer. By placing myself into a situation where I may be killed and eating, I’m un-sheltering myself from the illusion of mastery and control technology creates. (see “The Uncanny Goodness of Being Edible to Bears“)

IV. Rules of Thumb
A list of rules I plan on keeping more often than breaking to make my adventure a bite more campy.

Existential:
1. No self-denial!
2. No regret!
3. Focus on the Beautiful, not the Bad!
4. Attune to the present with all my senses
5. Meditate every morning
6. Write every evening

Travel:
7. Leave No Trace Behind
8. Learn about a stranger each day
9. Take at least one person for a ride
10. Alternate between local radio & podcasts
11. Read the history of each place I visit
12. Avoid traveling the same route twice

Food & Shelter
13. Avoid sleeping in the same place twice
14. Sleep in a tent or on a couch (avoid hostels and motels)
15. Eat whole foods (avoid eating out)
16. Forage something from the wild in each state
17. Drink one local beer in each city
18. Eat at one (or more) veg*n (friendly) restaurants in each city

Categories: Oregon Trail 2012 | Tags: , , , , | 2 Comments

The Promise of a Self


The following are thoughts I had that came to me during a walk last month.

Faith, Promise, and Forgiveness
In an age predicated on rational control through prediction and certainty, faith has been devalued. Faith, however, remains an important element of human existence, pertaining to our relationship to time. Faith is that of a promise, a promise that can only be imagined, never certain, a belief that things can be better. Faith is the promise of the impossible, not necessarily that which is against and in defiance to established tested knowledge, but for that which is most improbable, recognizing it as such. Importantly, Faith in Promise relies on the precondition of forgiveness for that which was. That is, to have faith in something is in some sense to forgive it, to recognize redemption in that which is towards that which is to be–the promise.

Humility vs. Humiliation
One reason behind the devaluation of faith in modern times is surely the devaluation of dependency and the non-instrumental. By configuring freedom as self-assertion and reason as pragmatism and holding both as the central ideals of our epoch, that which is beyond our control and negligible in its use value is deemed inferior and in need of assimilation and mastery. Humanity and its alleged superiority defined by these concepts of freedom and reason as such, becomes a narcissistic fantasy devoid of humility. Humility in an epoch of greater and greater (illusion) of control is identified as a weakness. Humility is as such associated with humiliation–to be alienated from one’s freedom and individual integrity.

How dangerous that these two concepts be equivocated. They couldn’t be more foreign from one another in their effect upon the psyche. Humility affirms self’s relationship to its world. It is catalyzed through enlightenment as a corrective and a challenge to the illusion of the everyday. Humiliation, in contrast,  negates one’s relationship to world and self. It is annihilating in the strictest sense, stripping one of their meaning and value, and is thus experienced as defeating. So while Humility leads toward positive transformation, humiliation leads towards despair,destroying self-esteem and agency, creating a violent and/or depressive impulse. It stains one’s existence, leaves a deep, dark, bottomless hole that pulls one’s being back into it. The hole becomes a source of gravity in one’s life that makes it hard to go forward and transform. Humiliation becomes the defining event of self–difficult to transcend and exit.

Evolution and Revolution in Self
Why the blackhole of humiliation is so difficult to escape from is because it absorbs all light, consuming the visibility of something beyond darkness. It is where faith is the most impossible yet is the most needed. This paradox is what rips open the space-time continuum and gives birth to the miracle that is faith. The leap of faith is thus the vision of something beyond possibility. To go beyond humiliation is to have faith in a self, not yet in existence. It is to forgive the self that was, so that self may be freed into the future.

Dwelling in the past is not necessarily the antithesis to forgiveness and faith. In dwelling, one may play,  reinventing possibility. Such reinventing through the play of reinterpretation is an evolution of the self. It takes what was, resists its meaning, and establishes a new one. Such may free one from shame, yet it is not a revolution because it still hinges on the centrality of a particular event. Dwelling in the past is always a dwelling in a particular past event, place, and idea. By continuously returning to that event, one becomes a subject of it. That is, one subjugates self  to the Event as a definition of one’s existence. One cannot think outside of the event. One recapitulates its centrality. Through exiting the orbit of regret through forgiveness (of self and other), one achieves a revolution by decentralizing the event’s priority.

Self, Selfishness, and Selflessness
The conflation of humility and humiliation surely has much to do also with the conflation of ego and self. Self and ego, however, are likewise vastly different entities. Self is grounded in relationship to one’s identity and existence. It is the recognition and practice of one’s agency. Ego, on the other hand, is a grasping at the self that is most familiar (most established or old) out of the uncertainty from which anxiety grows. The stronger the ego, more strongly one is possessive of old values and identity, the more one fetishizes them without thinking them through and allowing for becoming. Ego is thus childish, or rather immature, in its lack of social development.

The negative connotation of ego is transferred over to selfishness as well because of its proximity and association as a concept. The refutation of selfishness has led people to advocate selflessness as a virtue. This is again to conflate the problem with selfishness with care for the self. In actuality, both selfishness and selflessness are against Self: the former places the primacy of ego before the Other, and the latter places the Other before self. Genuine self, however, cannot exist when in opposition and priority over others nor at its subordination. Self transforms and earns value with, for, and by others. Self that is violent toward others or accepts violence from others is lacking in integrity.

Categories: Essay, Original Writing, Social Conciousness | Tags: , , | Leave a comment

Blog at WordPress.com.

%d bloggers like this: