I was writing about a record I like and it occurred to me I like music that’s overwrought and self-involved, but only to some degree and that has a sense of self-awareness, a sort of ‘I know I’m being dramatic right now and I’m embarrassed about that, but I can’t help it!’ sentiment. That thought took me to an E.B. White quote that I don’t recall exactly, something about how he was quite interested in himself, and had the good sense to find that comical and embarrassing. I may have made that up other than the part about being self-involved, and in a way that would be even more self-involved than quoting White. I’m uncomfortable with my own self-absorption and my discomfort is another facet of (another repetition of) my self-absorption. I’m reading a Jonathan Franzen essay collection at the moment, called Farther Away. In it he discusses David Foster Wallace, who he describes as trapped on the island of himself, while Franzen seems to both want to be alone and to explore or make himself and also to be around and connected to others. Franzen’s might be a more interpersonal self-absorption, rather than cutting off from others it’s ‘attention me! I’m a big deal!’ I relate to that, in the moving both toward and away from other people, wanting both connection and aloneness, while fearing both vulnerability and loss of self in others as well as isolation and being lost only in one’s self.
Thinking some pre-writing thoughts (or pre-typing, I can’t write so much as type) I had the thought that I have an impulse to write myself down and to write myself a new self, and that this is all quite self-absorbed, since my actual life happens away from typing. More simply all of this comparison of myself to famous people and people who actually do and make things is also quite self-absorbed. I had the impulse to write several self-deprecating comments to follow, but I’m swallowing that.
Am also caught up in music and loving music and feeling a mix of nostalgia for my older relationships with music, anxious about my current ‘it’s complicated, and maybe we should talk about where we see thing going’ relationship status with music. One of my college professors once stopped mid-lecture and asked ‘do you ever get depressed because there’s so much great rock and roll in the world and you know how little of it you’ll ever get to actually hear?’ I didn’t get it at the time, I took it as a quirky way to wake the class up, but now I totally get it.
I went back to some punk rock music I haven’t listened to in a long while. I put it on while washing dishes and while doing some relatively mindless work. Read the rest of this entry »
Quick note on something that annoys me: when people are like “let’s criticize [name of some ideology]” then give a really overgeneralized statement of that ideology. A social system like capitalism has a social logic that is subject to criticism, though there are important limits to the use of general social-systemic criticisms (because we don’t live in capitalism-in-general, we live in a particular time and place in a particular version of capitalism). Ideologies like marxism and anarchism don’t. They don’t have a logic so much as a grab bag of qualities built up over time. Most adherents to an ideology disagree with what’s actually in that grab bag too, so really they’re composed of clouds of grab bags that have roughly and only roughly similar labels written on them. This is why criticism of a particular -ism falls flat when that criticism operates at a general level of “this -ism is like THIS.” Instead people should quote, summarize and paraphrase, and name people and criticize the ideas in those quotes and summaries. That way the criticisms are actually valid and hit their targets.
Of course, more general terms are very useful for constituting a scene and a scene-based identity.
Dear [book] (it doesn’t seem right to name names publicly like this, I’m already unsure about airing something so personal in this way),
We’ve been together, off and on, for quite a long time now. Read the rest of this entry »
A friend draws a comic I like (and more importantly, that my older daughter likes). Occasionally small creatures called doldrums come around to sap the energy of people; cats drive off the doldrums and save the humans. (For a while my kid would play-act this, imagining herself a cat driving off doldrums, an image more accurate than she understands.) Doldrum levels have been pretty high lately for me. Today I looked up the definition of the term for the first time. The etymology of the word includes a reference to sea travel – the doldrums as becoming calmed at sea, no more winds to provide motor power, leaving you just floating. I started to write ‘floating aimlessly’, that’s the feeling but not the old term – doldrums in the ocean-going sense is loss of ability to make forward motion. Doldrums in the metaphorical sense is more loss of both direction and motive force, losing the map, compass, and goal as well as the energy to get… wherever. I could imagine this as a kind of greying out, like the Kansas scenes in the Wizard of Oz, turning colorless. I suppose the Wizard of Oz is another sort of metaphor here, Dorothy’s shoes, the ability to move is there all along, the feeling of being trapped is a matter of being trapped by that feeling itself. Another metaphor I often think about for this is exercise. The first 10 or so minutes of a run are mostly about shedding the impulse not to run. After outrunning that impulse the run gets good, I’m in motion and feeling good about being in motion. The urge to stop may occasionally catch up but it’s easier to keep in motion than it is to start moving. My bouldering partners and I have started ending our climbs with circuits where we do a hard route, a second hard route, then the first hard route again, with no rests between them other than the time it takes to walk the ten feet or so between climbs. We finish each route out of breath with muscles tired, and because we’re tired the climbs get sloppy – feet slipping, just grabbing whatever we can make contact with, no elegance of technique. The hardest moments are when I have to get back on the wall after my feet slip, and when I have to start the next climb after walking over. Starting the third climb is the worst. In a way it’s the rest that makes it hardest, because that means having to break out of rest and into motion again. That this is so hard is part of why I like climbing circuits. Well, “like” is the wrong word. After finishing a circuit and recovering I feel very satisfied in part because I feel good about having overcome my impulse away from activity. It feels good to defeat the doldrums. Unfortunately those wins are only ever episodes, and the next episode never feels like a guaranteed win, but in those later episodes I can still look back at the past episodes to remind myself that I can break into motion. Retaining or re-inventing that sense of possibility (the possibility of possibility?) is crucial.
Motivation drought continues. One way to deal with this is to ask myself, what do I want to know that I don’t currently? What do I want to think more about?
In no particular order:
– climate change
— the various IPCC reports
— the various centers studying the issue, industry publications on the issue, and national gov’t reports
– social structure of accumulation theory (I’ve read a lot on this but I need to write something on it so I can retain what I’ve read)
– a richer idea of ‘left-wing of capital’
– more on abolitionism
– more on finance
I’m tired and sick and that’s bullshit but I’m on my third glass of orange juice and that’s making me feel better, in part because I put a big bunch of vodka in this third glass and that has medicinal properties that enhance the power of the vitamin C. I read that on the internet on a reputable site here.