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Annyeong haseyo!

May. 23rd, 2011 | 09:22 pm

I'm much too lazy to compose actual entries about the last six months. Let's just think of this as Korea's metadata:

Long and mostly clandestine application process, a trip to Peoria, getting ready to leave, crying on the train to the airport, 14 hour plane ride, Incheon Airport, mountains EVERYWHERE, my students thinking I'm a goddamn rock star, separation anxiety followed separation appreciation, emotional and creative deadness in winter and awakening in the spring, Japan trip (Shibuya, Shinjuku, Akihabara, Japan Rail, Kyoto, being certain that I could live in Kyoto forever and be content, forests in the middle of the city, religious moments at Riyoanji, lost at Fushimi Inari), trying failingly to learn and use Korean, Seoul, car trips with Ms. Choi, "Homesick" playing and neon Korea rolling by, train trips to Daejeon and a boy named Darryn, the science museum, my perennial bad moods, expo park, Lotte World, Seoul Land with my students (who I love but don't really enjoy teaching), the Janggi rebel crew, Expat Thanksgiving and Christmas, friendships of convenience, drunkenness for the first time, soju, Korean barbecue, Gyeongju (Bulguksa, Seokguram, Buddha of Compassion, who feels the pain of everyone), climbing a goddamn mountain (Dobongsan, Namsan in gyeongju (and Seoul)), Itaewon, Hongdae, Jongno, disposable income, jimjilbangs, late night noraebang, rocking out without self-consciousness, D&D, Gwangwhamun lit up, Chagall, the lantern festival, walking with the parade, bonding with Koreans really easily (for some damn reason), increased confidence, "All I need to hear is that you're not mine," "I'm about to see a million things I thought I'd never see before," the 8600 all the way to Si-Chang windows open and cool night air, a budding love affair with airports, missing home, increased resolve, Man's Search for Meaning, Gimpo, Munsusan fog, flooded glimmering rice paddies, the hills near my apartment, Gangwha-do, Aegibong, moaning over pitures, Grandpa Ken, Grandma Phyllis, Kevin and Dominic, being satisfied by the smallest things, cherry blossoms at Yeouido, Sejong, pilgrimages to Taco Bell, guys back home, strange dreams, being an ethnic minority.

That's a lot already, and there's lots more, but I'll stop for now.

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I wrote this ages ago and didn't post it cuz it was omg so random and unfinished, but whatever.

Jul. 31st, 2010 | 01:15 am

(I wrote this post a long time ago, or a longish time ago, and I'd hate to just erase it - so, I'm going to post it. A lot of these thoughts are already expired, curdled milk. Don't imbibe them or you will be poisoned and afflicted with a terrible illness. In other words, don't take anything I say here to heart because I've already changed my stupid flighty mind. 

I want to post something else and I have nothing new or all that relevant to add to this one.

So yeah: here it is. Whatever.)

It occurred to me a while ago that if it weren't for my nature writing course and my introductory theory course, my experience at UIC might have been a total wash. I did take a course where ecocriticism was featured,  and that might have been cool if the professor wasn't such a pompous douchebag.

It also occurred to me that in three of my major papers (the ones that I most enjoyed writing, as well), my main focus was on man's relation to the environment, and the ways in which writing/ideology/thought (literary, philosophical, rhetorical) complicates, enhances, or in some way alters that relation. I wrote a lot about gender and sexuality, too, but that seems less important, less original, and ultimately less essential than these other papers (not that any undergraduate paper is really 'important' or 'essential' but you know what I mean).

Then I realized that of all the things that matter to me, literature, ethics, philosophy, and nature immediately jump out.

So I googled. I googled and googled and read and read, and it turns out that I should probably just enroll in a graduate program devoted to literature and environment/literature and science, then move on from there to whatever -- most likely to a prestigious managerial position at wal-mart, since the demand for ecocritics/literature and environment specialists is... low, but whatever. Once I've accumulated the funds this is what I want to do.

For now.

Ecocritical concerns match my concerns. How do we construct a sense of place? What is home, or how should we think about home? How should we relate to our environment? What are the ethical implications of the ways we relate already, and how can the relation be altered either through political action or ideological deployments (such as lit or other texts)? What is the meaning of nature? How can we organize social practices such that the environment becomes a focal point? What have writers said about x issue? How do authors like Ed Abbey differ or line up with the likes of Annie Dillard, or Thoreau, or Emerson? What are we trying to accomplish when we engage nature through literature? What do we actually accomplish? How does the portrayal of nature in texts of any sort affect our perception of it, and therefore our actions within it?

These are some of the questions that ecocritical discourses attempt to answer. They're questions I'd like to think more about.

Ok so topic change!

I'm reading Annie Dillard's For the Time Being. She's just gone from talking about how there are 86 billion people who have already lived and died on the planet, to talking about the Bal Shem Tov and his love for books, and then Emperor Qin's hatred for them. Then she talked about clouds for a while, and the problem of evil. I've loved every second of it.

Read this kabbalaist rabbi's explanation of the creation of the world and origin of evil (presented to us by Dillard):

"Luria's Kabbalist creation story, however baroque, accounts boldly for both moral evil and natural calamity. The creator meant his light to emanate, ultimately, to man. Grace would flow downward through ten holy vessels, like water cascading. Cataclysm -- some say creation itself -- disrupted this orderly progression. The holy light burst the vessels. The vessels splintered and scattered. Sparks of holiness fell to the depths, and the opaque shards of the broken vessels (qelippot) imprisoned them. This is our bleak world. We see only the demonic shell of things. It is literally sensible to deny that God exists. In fact, God is hidden, exiled, in the sparks of divine light the shells entrap. So evil can exist, can continue to live: The spark of goodness within things, the Gnostic-like spark that even the most evil tendency encloses, lends evil its being.

'The sparks scatter everywhere,' Martin Buber said. 'They cling to material things as in sealed-up wells, they crouch in substances as in caves that have been bricked up, they inhale darkness and breathe out fear; they flutter about in the movements of the world searching where they can lodge to be set free.'"

Does this mean, essentially, that god effed up? How would God not have foreseen that his holy light would splinter the vessels? Silly god.

Note to self: read more theology.

Also, Desert Solitaire is a great book. Read it. It will change your life possibly. Every book changes my life, I think, so I don't know how much anyone can take that comment to heart when they hear it from me.

Ok end.

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Jun. 30th, 2010 | 08:20 pm




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On having a messy mind.

Jun. 28th, 2010 | 07:18 pm

So about that book I mentioned: not as useful as I thought it would be. Political thought that fails to get anywhere (like a lot of political thought. Its always, "Hey look at all these books I've read that actually had useful insights, but that I'm going to say very little of any real substance about! Look at all the theory I read! Look!"). No real conclusions, no really mind bending insights, or even mundane ones. Nothing you can use. Not like Emerson or Thoreau. All the interesting things that get said in the book are said by someone other than the author himself. The personal bits were interesting but ultimately not very useful. The argument wasn't clean. The structure wasn't organized. I could try mining it for something worth remembering, but I just don't have the drive.

Terms, concepts, stuffs to sort of keep in mind: pathos of disappearance, four facets of the lonely self (being, having, loving, grieving, and, additionally, writing), loneliness's relation to totalitarianism, the inevitability of the fragmentation of our relationships to one another, solitude vs. loneliness, death-boundedness, melancholy versus grief (according to Freud), we are undone by each other (butler), embracing nothingness, analysis of the west, thought as partial action, life as total action (emerson), possession of others, possessed by others, loneliness and longing... yeah. think that's enough.

Right now, my attention has shifted toward the idea of place and its role in the construction of ourselves. Mostly because of this quote, which I stumbled upon after googling "I hate cities" and reading some articles about suburban sprawl. It's sort of obvious but I think it's neat:

"What people make of their places is closely connected to what they make of themselves as members of society and inhabitants of the earth, and while the two activities may be separable in principle, they are deeply joined in practice. If place-making is a way of constructing the past, a venerable means of doing human history, it is also a way of constructing social traditions and, in the process, personal and social identities. We are, in a sense, the place-worlds we imagine."

I also just watched Junebug, which is hailed as a film that succeeds in portraying the notion of place and its relation to identity/character/etc. authentically and effectively (citizens of North Carolina are the focus in that film).

I've been thinking about Spring Valley. I've been thinking about Alabama. I have a strong attachment to both places, and yet part of me knows that I will never identify completely with that town or with that state, that there has always been something about me that fails to assimilate properly and fully with those settings. And this seems to happen everywhere, not just there - but with Chicago, I feel like more than anything I am counter-identifying, not identifying, not disidentifying - just flat out identifying against. /shrug

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What I mean when I say I'm homophobic

Jun. 25th, 2010 | 07:25 pm

I told Lauren (hallo thar, Lauren!) recently that I suspect I'm a tad bit homophobic. A long discussion followed about subtle forms of homo/transphobia displayed by otherwise well-meaning, generally tolerant straight/cis folks, along with a celebration/affirmation of the variability and fluid nature of gender and sexuality. It was a good talk.

But there's still the problem: I'm trying to parse what I mean when I say "I'm a tad homophobic." I don't think it's the right way to put it. When pressed, I qualify it further as a sense of discomfort with, distrust of, and a failure to identify with what I guess could be called 'mainstream gay culture.'

You know what I mean. Dance clubs. Flashing lights. Intentional adoption of unnecessary and unflattering mannerisms. Obsession with theater. Showtunes. Promiscuity. General intolerance for women (at least among the gays I know, some of the time). Intense sexualization. Erasure of L, B, T, Q, and A from the acronym.  Apple martinis. Will and Grace. Queer as Folk. Obsession with friviolous pursuits. Frivolity as an end in itself. Guuuurrrlll, shoot. Body worship. Excess of middle class white subjectivities. Anal sex. Reinscription of ultimately harmful binarisms. Political apathy. Homonormativity. An overabundance of Lady Gaga (who I love, sure, but she isn't the messiah). And Brittany Spears. And Madonna.

Some of these things are fine. They're harmless, more or less. People incorportate these things into their lives, enjoy them, and that's great. Some of them aren't harmless at all (especially the exclusion and intolerance that happen). A lot, if not all of it, is stereotyping and gross over-simplification, I grant (though in my limited time dating, not just reading about gay culture, they are all things I have encountered). What I'm saying is this: none of it is how I want my desire structure, my gender configuration, my sexuality, my self, culturally represented. I don't want apple martinis conflated with the part of my psyche that determines who I love/fuck/whatever.

I read a good quote recently from a story about the people who run The New Gay, which voices my discomfort pretty well: "You come out into this culture that you had no hand in creating, and you're expected to conform to it if you want to have friends or sexual partners," Rosen said. "One of the greatest tragedies in gay life is that you spend the first 18 or 20 or however many years of your life feeling as an outsider -- and then you come out, and still . . . you may not want to come into this fabulous world of big, mega dance club music with all these guys in Hollister T-shirts. It's one way people live, but it's not you. One of the tag lines of [the New Gay] is: 'Be gay and be yourself,' and here, it's often very hard to do both."

I've felt this vaguely for a while now. The sense that this culture, this community, no matter how much I might try to align myself with it, is not me and is never going to be me in the way that it is for some people.

I feel too old for it. I'm not a child, and I think of most gay men as locked in a state of perpetual youth.

I didn't make this culture. I don't identify with it. When I walk through gay town I'm struck with an overwhelming sense of its absurdity, its alienness. It doesn't feel like coming home. I don't feel myself finally finding a community that's mine. It feels more like a battleground I need to traverse, or a movie I only enjoy because it's so self consciously terrible (I know, this is like, the definition of camp, which is also associated with gays, but whatever, let's ignore this). But if I want to fall in love, or whatever, it's the culture I'm supposed to embrace, even though it feels like violence to my psyche.

Of course it's not as inescapable as I'm making it. I can work outside that monolithic culture, but it makes something already considerably difficult even harder (since, after all, the monolithic gay culture is decidedly outside the terms of monolithic straight culture, even though that gay culture attempts to incorporate straight culture's various terms and requirements for itself).

So when I say I'm homophobic, what I think I mean is that homosexual culture, in large part, does not appeal to me in any way. I don't want much to do with it. I don't think it's harmful in itself, but I think that it can be alienating for large swaths of people who identify as gay, but not as 'that kind of gay'.

Is this homophobic? I don't know.

I should perhaps start thinking about the kind of gay culture I'd like to see, as opposed to just listing what I don't like. But that's difficult work, and this post is already long. But just for fun: a commitment to common political goals would be a start, as long as those goals contribute to the widening of the definition of queer/gay/whatever else, and not a constriction of it. A move toward greater inclusion of various queer identities -- more mixing. More people of color. More trans folks. Room for various interests. A serious alteration of the body-centeredness in gay male culture. Places to meet other than bars (these places do exist already, of course, but more couldn't hurt). Less ghettoization of queer communities. So on. So forth. Etc.

[The loneliness quotes are coming later. It's just that I've been thinking about recent developments with Wade, along with my apprehension about pride, and the conversation Lauren and I had, and yeah.]

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Something Called The Politics of Lonely

Jun. 24th, 2010 | 08:36 pm

I've been thinking a lot about loneliness lately: what it is, where it comes from, how to deal with it, what it means. They're not exactly easy questions to answer when you really stop and consider them. I've come up with some definitions, some vague aphoristic pronouncements about dealing with it, but I could definitely use some help in thinking it through.

Thankfully this fellow named Thomas Dumm wrote a book, Loneliness as a Way of Life. He uses political theory and philosophy to explore what loneliness is, what it means to be lonely, and the relation between society and our experience of the emotion -- basically, this book is exactly what I was in need of. Hooray!

His contention (from what I've read so far) is that loneliness has become an (if not the) essential condition of the modern self, that we're utterly bound to the feelings of loss and longing loneliness causes; because of this, we must examine this condition, and if we can't best it, we must better define the terms of our confinement within it.

I'll probably be using the next few posts to get some quotes up, which I'll think about out loud here, if not within the same post, then later on after I've finished the book.

Ok. That's it for now.

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The Cult of Personality Testing

Jun. 22nd, 2010 | 11:43 am

"An X-ray of personality." Since the early days of personality tests, this has been the testers' favorite metaphor, and no wonder: it calls to mind a precise and powerful instrument, capable of penetrating mere surfaces to produce an image of what's within. And yet this metaphor has never been more than an alluring fantasy, or perhaps a willful delusion. The reality is that personality tests cannot begin to capture the complex human beings we are. They cannot specify how well we will change over time. Many tests look for (and find) disease and dysfunction rather than health and strength. Many others fail to meet basic scientific standards of validity and reliability.

The consequences of these failures are real. Our society is making crucial decisions -- whether a parent should receive custody of a child, whether a worker should be offered a job, whether a student should be admitted to a school or special program -- on the basis of deeply flawed information. If these tests serve anyone well, it is not individuals but institutions, which purchase efficiency and convenience at the price of our privacy and dignity. Personality tests do their dirty work, asking intrusive questions and assigning limiting labels, providing an ostensibly objective rationale to which testers can point with an apologetic shrug.

But perhaps the most insidious effect of personality testing is its influence on the way we understand others -- children, coworkers, fellow citizens -- and even ourselves. The tests substitute a tidy abstraction for a real, rumpled human being, a sterile idea for a flesh-and-blood individual. No doubt these generic forms are easier to understand (and, not incidentally, to manipulate) than actual people, in all their sticky specificity. But ultimately they can only diminish our recognition and appreciation of others' full humanity.


The author argues that attempting to box ourselves into the categories created by various theories of personality ultimately limits self understanding, and she's right. When we're unwilling to allow ourselves to grow outside the confines of an abstract category, when we're constantly policing ourselves and working from a perspective that endorses the permanence and empirical reality of those categories, we're undoubtedly going to run into trouble.

That's a perfectly reasonable argument to make. But it ignores some things. The call for moderation applies to more than just personality tests -- it applies to everything. Most of the categories we have for identification and self-understanding are historically variable and socially constructed, but nonetheless determinative and influential for lots and lots of folks. 'Homosexual' is a relatively modern category, socially constructed in large part by doctors in the nineteenth century. Lots of people know this, but it doesn't change the fact that 'homosexual' remains a hugely important part of people's identification.

I don't view these possibilities for self-understanding and self-creation as problematic: I view them as important and useful. We humans are lucky. We have an unbelievable array of tools and resources that can aid us in the construction of our identities. Type systems and their accompanying theories, when adequately modified, are just one implement in our arsenal. Admittedly, they're more frivolous and ultimately less determinative or important than, say, personal narrative, experience, gender, sexuality, and race, but they're still tools for identification that we can use, that can shape us if we allow them to. The self is shapeable in a number of ways, the mind is constantly molded consciously and unconsciously, and if people responsibly and critically use personality tests as a tool for self-discovery, reflection, shaping, and so on -- then I think that's fine.

I do, however, think she's absolutely right about discontinuing the use of the tests for major life altering decisions. These tests should be wrested from the hands of institutions that use them to make important, material decisions about people's lives. Authorities should not be using these tests to better understand the people they're going to employ, much less place them in an integral role based on their type. That's a mistake. And we certainly shouldn't be using the Rorschach test to determine custody hearings.

I think the tests do have a place though -- thoughtful individuals trying to construct a version of themselves with which they are comfortable should look at these tests as possibilities, jumping off points, but never the final word (which, unfortunately, is how institutions, psychiatrists, and others who can't be bothered to think hard and critically about the theories often look at them). I understand that MBTI theory, and Jungian theory too, is in large part fabricated and constructed, but that doesn't change the fact that it's compelling and useful for me and how I think of myself; and I understand fully that it's all a stunning work of creation, but still it is useful for me to conceptualize myself in the ways that it makes available. Just like fiction is useful. Just like movies are useful. Just like anything that offers a site of identification is useful.

Of course, I'm just trying to justify my three years-long obsession with MBTI, but whatever. I don't think I'm wrong. Am I wrong?

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The troublesome thing about life is that there aren't any right answers.

Jun. 19th, 2010 | 12:38 pm

I just made the bitterest coffee in the history of bitter coffee.

I couldn't sleep last night. I couldn't sleep this morning. I wanted to laze around in bed until one in the afternoon, dreaming about riding motorcycles and sexing up carnies. It was a beautiful plan, but anxiety's a prick who gives me no mercy.

My time in the city ends in a month. I'm fresh out of college with a degree that qualifies me for a meager assortment of jobs I'd sooner kill myself than perform. I have no prospects. I have some passions or interests or whatever you want to call them, but they're all so varied and unrelated that attempting to transform them into a 'career' seems like a nebulous task.

The original plan was to teach in Korea and then either go to grad school for library science or further studies in English or philosophy.

It was a good plan when I believed in it, back when it was far away and my fantasies easily concealed the various aspects of my personality that make the design more unworkable in reality. Now that it's close the thought of running off to Korea scares the hell out of me. I'm terrified that I'll fail. What if I apply and don't get the job? What if I get the job but can't teach? What if I can do the job fine, but being in another country or teaching is awful? Can I endure another year of awfulness? And can I endure it without family nearby? I pride myself on being adaptable, but how much of my life do I want to spend adapting to the adverse conditions that I willingly expose myself to? What about my sexuality? What about the way I talk? What about my diminutive nature? What about living in a big city for another year? The uncertainty is paralyzing.

In the long term, teaching in Korea makes sense. It looks good on grad school applications. It looks good to potential employers. It'd give me some much needed exposure to teaching, which would help me decide what my graduate studies ought to be. I could save money in Korea. I could possibly learn Korean there. It might be a chance to grow. Teaching overseas is the logical option, the best option, the sensible one.

Or there's trucking. Trucking also makes sense in a certain sort of way, but only as a temporary fix to a larger problem. Trucking lines up with a lot more desires I have right now. I have an idealized notion of the West and the road, of travel, seeing what is to be seen, experiencing what's there to be experienced. The road West is freedom and footlooseness and the ale for all ills -- that's what it is in my brain, at least. I can't say the word freeway without tingles running up my spine, without jolts of electricity surging through my brain and rattling through my veins. The road is a symbol that I want to know as more than a symbol. The west is a promiseland I have to see.

Trucking: I like the freedom. I like the solitude. I like the risk. I like, also, that it's so unexpected and unlike me -- that is the me most people see. No one looks at a guy like me and thinks "There's a trucker if I ever saw one. A good ol' American boy." I like that it seems.. spiritual? Enlivening? Meaningful? I mean, I hate all those words because I hate most of the people my age who use them (Tumblr is sort of torturous), but I can't think of better ones. There's something poetic about becoming a pilot of the sort of vehicle that took my father's life, too, but that's a whole other thing that I won't talk about much at the moment.

Teaching: I hate how conventional it feels. How planned it feels. I hate how unlike me it is -- the 'internal' me if I can be granted the concept, the me that has all these ridiculous corny ideals.

There are other things I hate about it, too. I feel like I've already lived Korea out in my head, and I don't want it. I don't want more city, more people everywhere all around me. I don't want to vie for others' acceptance, especially the acceptance of children. I don't have the energy or the drive for Korea. And it's not like I can never go there or never do it -- just right now, it doesn't feel right. This part, to me, seems less about fear and more about following what I actually want than what I think I'm supposed to do.

I want to be impulsive. I want to make a stupid decision for once. I want to let go of whatever remaining sense of myself I've been holding on to. I want to transform in an unexpected way. I feel like I've spent so much of my life already doing things I didn't want to do. I want to start trusting my impulses. At least when I listen to them I'm not quite as miserable, not nearly as numb. Amanda Palmer has this song she wrote to celebrate being dropped from her label. Here's what it says: "I've already spent too much time doing things that I didn't want to, so if I wanna sit here and write and drink wine, you can bet your black ass that I'm going to." I've already spent too much time doing things that I didn't want to, so if I want to drive an eighteen wheeler regardless of my degree and regardless of what others think about it -- I'm damn well going to.

Trucking wouldn't be disastrous for my future, either. It just wouldn't be as beneficial or informative. But then maybe not. Already I'm thinking of the ways that my experience as a trucker could be profoundly useful and formative in relation to my literary ambitions, my scholarly pursuits, and my philosophical inquiries. Ok. That makes me sound way more pretentious than I think I am. Put another way: it could be good material for writing, it could help me gain insight into various 19th century pioneering narratives, as well as modern and contemporary ones, it could help me really understand what guys like Thoreau and Emerson are saying when they talk about the west. It could also send me in a completely different direction, which I wouldn't mind at all.

Every time I write these things out, this is the standstill I arrive at. The sensible option or the option in line with my impulsive untrustworthy desires. The life planned or the life vaguely improvised, and then attempts to rationalize both options.

For some reason I'm thinking of Toy Story now, that scene where Buzz 'flies' and Woody calls it falling with style. Maybe I need to start falling with style. Falling with some kind of roughly sketched plan, but nothing so regulated and charted and precise as a flight course. A kind of falling that's exhilarating and scary but ultimately has some kind of design, albeit improvised and based on the obstacles at hand.

I think it's pretty clear that I've already made my decision. A big part of the problem right now is the waiting -- it gives me too much opportunity for these episodes of internal vacillation and chaos. I have to wait though, because I don't want to start trucking school until I'm back in the Valley. But it's hard to sit here day after day waiting for the end of July when all I want to do is be behind the wheel of a big rig. I want to have this decided and done with. I'm so tired of anticipation.

Ok. Enough about that. Usually I don't write this stuff out for other people (Look how goddamn long and disorganized it is! Look how little care I put into the diction! Look at the ridiculous cultural artifacts I use to aid my thinking! Look!). Whatever. I wrote it here in this pane, so I'm going to post it.

I might post again today. Last night was vaguely spiritual and weird and I want to remember it. Now I'm going to walk all the way to Target to buy a bike Tube because I don't feel like just going to the bike shop down the street. Yep.

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Moments and pieces just go through me so fast.

Jun. 15th, 2010 | 10:55 pm

I think I'm going to use this again to chronicle what's going on in my head and to think out loud from time to time, usually about what I'm reading or problems that are capturing most of my attention.

So here is a landscape shot of my current mental vista (This is extremely long and not totally complete, but whatever -- I've gone a long time without posting here, so a long update is warranted).

"Asexual" has become an increasingly relevant signifier for self-identification lately. I have some problems with the term as it's currently understood by the asexual community itself, but minor quibbles over essentialism and permanence don't detract from the fact that it's comforting to align myself with the group for now. It's encouraging to find people who legitimately share my feelings and thoughts about sex, identity, and desire. It also doesn't hurt that lots of them are well read when it comes to gender, sexuality, and queer studies/theory.

I've become enamored with lazy spiritualism, unsupportable mysticism, hokey systems of thought lacking in intellectual rigor, and anything else that's meant to exacerbate or prod at my emotions while completely bypassing my critical intelligence. I've become pretty willing to call beauty and apparent epistemic impossibility the presence of god. I've even considered going back to church, though maybe just a Unitarian one where I can meet Buddhists and Pagans. I'm pretty sure that they have all the important answers to life's big questions. Annie Dillard and Ralph Waldo Emerson are to blame for this new development.

I was reading some old emails I sent to Mike, and I realized that even though there's a lot I don't like about him we still had really neat conversations. Things like this were said without shyness: (discussing the aesthetic merit of transgressive fiction) "So what I'm saying is this: the method may not be wonderful, but I think the result -- which is social critique, along with a move toward greater human freedom, creative agency, and autonomy -- is. I think transgression is beautiful precisely because it belies a desire for a deeper sense of freedom, a flight from normativity, and a move toward independent self-expression. Which are all pretty cool. But reading about gigantic lizards with narcotics-secreting penises sodomizing boys hanging from nooses can sometimes be a bit much."

I'm still constantly beleaguered by my terror of entrapment. There's always this fear of being stuck, of being without options, always the suspicion that at any moment I'll be caged. After dealing with the educational system so long, I don't want to feel stuck again.

In MBTI theory, the types that worry most about being trapped or feeling their possibilities are stifled exhibit strong extraverted intuition -- they're always searching for a way out, scanning the environment for possibilities, looking diligently for the next opportunity that will completely alter their conditions. They're constantly restless, dread routine, and want more than anything to get the hell out of dodge to something new and exciting (the way I'm describing this sounds awfully similar to extraverted sensing, but whatever, just go with it). I think I've definitely got that -- but it's all curtailed and reduced and diminished by my more dominant introverted thinking, a process famous for shutting every crazy notion down through its unique life-stunting brand of hyper-analysis. I am a wellspring of fantasies already in the process of being deconstructed.

I'm seriously considering trucking as a profession. A temporary one that I wouldn't do indefinitely -- but something to try for a couple years to build up funds to make my next move? Sure.

Thanks to Luis Alberto Urrea (the best professor I had at UIC), nature has become a new obsession. I have to know everything about it. I have to call everything by its right name. In Le Guin's Wizard of Earthsea series, knowing something by its right name was a way to have total power over it. Maybe that's what I'm imagining myself doing. Getting power over things. Foucault thought naming was an important part of establishing something's social existence and therefore its ability to be manipulated and regulated, so maybe I'm onto something here.

I just really like the nature of the knowledge gained through naturalist inquiry. It's so factual. It's so real. You read a fact or you see something out in the world and that's all it is -- a fact, hard and cold and there in front of you. You can't argue with it the way you can argue about the meaning of sociological 'facts' or psychological 'facts.' It's just pure observational reality -- animals do x most of the time, some caterpillars have x number of muscles in their heads (x, in that second fact, equals 49 :O).

Maybe natural facts are all a lot fuzzier than I'm making them out to be. You could complicate all of it by talking about the subjective nature of observation, the problem of universalization, or whatever. But if facts about spiders and bees and ants are fuzzy, then "facts" about human beings are even more fuzzy, even more in need of interpretation and analysis and difficult thought. And sometimes I just want the simpler, easier facts that result in fewer conceptual headaches.

Chicago is draining the life from me, much like it drains the life from everyone (if "facts" are to be believed). You walk in an urban environment, writhing as it does with its clatter of cars and milling faces and scrutinizing glances -- you walk through all that and your attention runs out, your brain turns to mush, you can't make yourself cohere. You walk in the woods, hear a bird sing, hear your footfalls, hear water splashing over rocks, see plant life -- and your mind's replenished. There are studies to support this, there is experience to support this, there is everything to support it -- but we don't take any of it as a sign that we need to go back, turn back time, do something to counteract urbanity. Well, I do. But most people don't. It's troubling.

Also troubling is the strange affinity I feel with carnival folk (who are called carnies, but who apparently prefer to be called "show people" according to this one blog I read).

Also troubling: I watched Spring Creek swallow an overly intrepid crab spider not long ago. First I thought he was going to murder an ant, which was already incredibly exciting, but then he went and drowned himself which, really, was even better. I'm not sure what it means to feel so enlivened and excited by witnessing the death of other creatures. Maybe I'm just thrilled to witness anything at all. Things are happening out there. Creatures are dying every second. Risks are taken each moment. Sometimes I see those things happen, sometimes I see those risks taken, sometimes I see those lives extinguished. I am lucky. We are all lucky.

On that same trip, I found a clearing in the woods near my house that is beautiful. I have to go back to it as soon as possible, and see it -- really see it.

Oh! I gazed into the eyes of a solitary fish, too, on that trip. He stood and watched me. He had nowhere to go. I could have snatched him from his pool if I wanted. But we just stared at each other.

I will live in Wyoming one day. I will live where there is nothing for miles save mountains and hills and sky, and one lonely road leading to elsewhere. One day I will also become romantically involved with a sea captain. And ride upon the back of a mighty stag. I have lots of plans. I'm what they call ambitious. "That Tony," they say, "there's a boy who's going places." And they're right, they're right.

Finally: I have listened to nothing but Blink 182 for the past three hours. I'm not sure what it says about me as a person that I still relate to them at the age of 22 (in an hour and a half O__O).

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Aug. 18th, 2009 | 06:22 pm

I don't suspect anyone's reading my old entries. I hope they aren't, because when I read them I want to punch myself in the face. Or throw myself off a bridge. Or maybe both of those things, though I'm not sure in which order. Probably there would have to be more than one punch involved. At least one before hurling myself off the bridge to dull my senses, and then probably some more on the way down, just to get all the extra rage out before hitting whatever's below me. That's my version of catharsis.

What was I talking about? Right. My posts are garbage. So garbage that they make me want to inflict the aforementioned violence upon myself.

And if these poorly written, excessively whiny entries are able to induce that kind of fury in me, I can't imagine what they must do to anyone who doesn't have the absolute privilege of possessing the mind that formed them.

For this (and other) reason(s), I've set all of my entries to private. Which is the next best thing to my brutal version of catharsis and what I'll have to settle for since, after all, I'm quite averse to pain -- and I'm not a great fan of death either.

I reckon I won't be postin' round these parts again.


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