Friday, August 7, 2009

How bout you legislate me a PB&J

Two days previous to the now, a friend of mine, who I hadn't seen in what must have been many a year now, happened to show up at my sister's house with his sister, who is also one of my sister's closest friends and through whom I know this friend of mine. Hah. That was a bit of a verbal tornado. I admit, I probably like and pay more attention to the rhythms of speech that the actual content quite more of the time than I should, which may seem weird based on the fact that the content I tend towards tends to be on the heavier side. And I do love to wax philosophic as a way to while away the time, but I do still follow the rhythm as a kind of intuitive path through the logical jungle of thought.

Anyway, as I was on vacation (thank the lord in heaven for that) and he was on vacation, I got to spend the day with him and his sister yesterday, and so we launched almost directly into an all day discussion of both all things serious and also ridiculous. Kind of alternating between the two, sort of. More like starting with the serious over breakfast and a hike through the densely mosquitoed woods of rural Massachusetts and trending toward the ridiculous, lounging in innertubes in a so-called pond that is really a lake (who knows why they would call this lake a pond).

Of course, I can't really recall the content of the ridiculous. There was something about whether or not there was sexual tension between Alvin of Alvin and the Chipmunks fame and Brittney from the, maybe, Chipettes (there wasn't even consensus on the fact that a girl chipmunk group even existed), and a riff on the fact that he used to chase a really dull girl that he was in love with in high school because she was beautiful, who used to bore him to tears talking about watching wrestling, and who has now become very obese as discovered through the magic of Facebook. I believe his words were, "she looked like she ate herself", and he insisted this was an okay thing to say because of the the high school love that he'd formerly felt for her. And it isn't funny to say such things I'm quite sure, and but yet we laughed like hyenas about it for a really long time. Being the hyenas that we are.

So again, anyway, the content of the serious was the content that I was more concerned with trying to scribble out and maybe follow through some of the thoughts I'd had about sort of where we'd gotten to, which was with me sort of saying, "yes, you're right; I'm kind of an idiot who just lets things dribble out of his mouth once his monologue gets really underway and can sometimes not be totally paying much attention to what it is that he is saying", here on this blog. Another twister. (The here on this blog part really makes for difficult parsing, but once I commit to a bit of weirdness, it becomes a little painful to edit it out, so, you know. It stays today, as per the soon to be mentioned vacation style.) Vacations and the concordant sleep often times associated with them do wonderful things for the self. Also sun poisoning and beer do things that are maybe not so wonderful in truth and but probably have more to do with the nature of the runaway blogpost I'm all up in here now. (Why stop? It is a blog after all. I think I'm just gonna let it all hang out here, vacation style.)

Here's an interesting tidbit that I learned from my friend while we were making breakfast yesterday morning. As he's quite caught up in DC politics as like part of his job, he knows all about the insane contortionary nature of the politics of a city that's also kind of a state, but that's also sort of overruled by the federal government's bicameral legislature. Somehow it happens that congress has the power to hold up the city/state of Washington's budget, and they did so because the city/state hadn't changed the municipal signs when congress changed the name of Washington's airport to Ronald Reagan International Airport. This means that, in the city state of DC, no firefighters, teachers, cops, etc. got paid until the municipality changed a bunch of signs because our federal congress is clearly full of mean adolescent children. I would've asked him how and why it is that the congress has this power, but I had to concentrate on English muffins since the toaster didn't actually eject them until they'd become doorstops, and we'd already burnt, like, four or five.

Interesting? Yes, I think this is. In any way related to the point I was working my way up to? Somewhat obliquely I suppose, in that there were a couple of interesting points that came up in the eight or so hours of our relentless jabbering on, and one of them had to do with his choice to get into politics (and he admitted that there were days that he felt he needed a shower when he got home from work because the job had made him feel unclean but not as many as you'd think and most times he felt like he was accomplishing something). So, to the point(s) I'm trying to get at. First was this question about the practical and the ideal. I, myself, tend towards ideals. I like the philosophic, and it's unquestionably and somewhat albatrossly what I do best. Abstract thinking has always been the thing that comes easy, the innate ability if you will, and philosophy, while challenging, rarely seems impenetrable in the way I've been told it is by others. Now, the ability to apply these ideals to the real world in any kind of meaningful way on the other hand is more so difficultly impenetrable for both myself and seemingly also the world at large. If Plato's cave analogy is right (and as a self-professed philosophically minded individual, I have to say it rings pretty true to me), then how do you get those chained to a wall staring at the reflection of a fire to realize that reality is really behind them and outside of this cave they're not even aware exists qua cave?

Just to quote my friend (who will remain nameless since I've already quoted him as saying his high school crush now looks like she ate herself), "the perfect can become the enemy of the good." Clearly, he's putting it in a way that I can understand, but it's an important sentiment I think. The problem being that those of us enamored with ideals and abstractions can, kind of, check out from plain vanilla yogurt reality for this outside the cave reality, and in that way scholastics becomes a kind of monasticism, without the mandated asceticism (which was an unimportant addendum but I'm leaving it nonetheless). He paraphrased his father, who is a man after my own heart and a full bore theoretician, as making the somewhat silly statement that we need a total cultural revolution in response to the question about how some of these ideals might be instituted practically. Which is a kind of cop out, I'll admit, because, as my friend said, "You can't legislate a cultural revolution." Nor can you really do much of much in that direction.

But culture is clearly a key element. As long as our culture remains one of, really, immediate gratification as the national religion, there's no real avenue towards working up serious long term solutions in the political sphere or really any sphere for that matter. And my own abstractionary conclusions about why I write (which I do also admit is tacked on after the fact [as in I just feel like I must write, but if I can make up this reason why it's, capital i, Important that I write, well, then all the better to satisfy my inner philosopher]), is that it's my hope that I can, at the very least, add my little bit to the cultural slipstream, and one day maybe there'll be enough whatever that it will take to actually, kind of, get this revolution or evolution or something or other going, and the the mindlessness I see streaming through the main cultural valves will evaporate, and we can all have a good laugh about: "Remember when we used to pretend that global warming was bullshit and when the average household watched like 6 hours of television a day and when everybody wanted free healthcare and nobody wanted to pay one red cent extra for it and when et cetera, et cetera, et cetera. Isn't that just the funniest thing you've ever heard. Can you believe how short sighted we were before this spontaneously magic cultural revolution". Yes, I do realize the implications of both the term and the idea of cultural revolution and those implications have a lot to do with why you can't legislate one and why it has to be essentially a slowly formed but ultimately gotten consensus, maybe, sort of, something along those lines.

(Although, when I talk about writing, I'm not really so very much referring to this blog per se but more to the more structured projects like novels and screenplays and such [that will emphatically change the world {!ironic statement clarification! (as in that was meant to be ironic, please don't think I'm that full of myself [because of course I am, it's just I don't want people thinking that themselves in their heads or hands or feet or wherever it is these alleged people care to do their thinking for themselves])}].)

Cause the otherwise besides the big chuckle after we've gotten it all together and think through our actions collectively and honestly, it's Thunderdome, full on. Gladiators on bungee cords attacking each other in giant fence-like cages covered with garbage can lids surrounded by wild-eyed fanatics screaming at the top of their lungs and rattling these cages furiously, and Tina Turner lording over the whole thing as some weird riff on her role as the Acid Queen or some such. Is that really what we want? I mean, really! I know I always end up in these doomsday scenario apocalyptic scare tactics when it comes to why we should be more serious and maybe consider the soul instead of the mocha chacha frappa-hooffaa or the turbocharged Maserati instamatic penis-mobile or the lobster or, like, Whatever, but it's the callous, cold-blooded truth of the thing: this life, this world, this cavernous reality that we are all together now trapped inside and trapping ourselves within the confines of for no really very clearly good reason does not have to be this plastic and, like (I promise from this blogpost forward not to use this word in this way ever again. I'm just really enjoying myself with it today, so...), shallow.

Okay tiger, let's dial it about 85 notches back from seriously, over the top, effin' crazy. The point I was in the vicinity of making is that we should look around and have a think before we leap. Wait no, that's not the point, although it is a good point. What I was going for was the idea that it's culture and not material that should be the focal point of social striving. Well, maybe not really social striving so much, as egalitarianism is one of my sacred ideals, but that a society that uses its excess productivity above basic necessities not for the cheap material gimcracks of status but for cultural creation is a society that...I don't know, will just be like better or something.

I've kind of lost the plot here. Alright I lost the plot some many years ago, but I think in this instance I've gone long enough on what's derailed more rapidly and deeply than usual into an overheated, somewhat deranged rant. Don't get me wrong. I do clearly love to rant, and I don't really think that people are shallow but more that our culture is. Still, I should really get some more structured writing done before this vacation is over and I wake up Monday morning wondering how it is that I got absolutely nothing accomplished in an entire week of free and unstructured time (as if that would be hard to figure given the available evidence [like I really have any place criticizing anybody for not having gotten it together, what!]). I did want to dig into what would've, no doubt, been a digressionary hole about the way philosophers create representations that don't always fit neatly onto the territory of reality, and that was going to flow totally seamlessly out of the aforediscussed personal artistic pretensions, and it was going to be so completely awesome I can't even begin to describe it in a way that wouldn't be just a cheap imitation of the real thing. But the steam, it has run out. So I got nothin' that regard.

(edited to say: I can't believe I just spent the past hour editing this post, and it now makes even less sense than it did when I started [personally, I'm blaming David Foster Wallace for this whole mess]. I promise next time, oh next time, I'll be more considered and less thoroughly, all-hanging-out manic and all 'oh woe is me the world is coming to an end if we don't change our ways' [and I also promise to tone down the bracketing, commaing, and general linguistic absurdity, if you promise not to try and get me committed to, like, an institution or anything {Let's all just pretend this never happened. These are not the droids you're looking for. You can go about you're business. Move along. Move along}].)

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