Happy Mortal

This life, well-lived.

June 6, 2011
by rekonstruct
7 Comments

What is a Human Being?

What is a human being?

Let me start by saying that I don’t know. You might think that this lack of knowledge would disqualify me from pursuing this line of questioning, but you would be wrong. After all, I am a human being. Or, to say it another way, since I am the being in question, there is no one more qualified to ask.Central Park Math

This is the genius of Heidegger’s analytic. First, ontology can only ever really be the phenomenology of ontology. And second, Dasein is always and forever my own.

To put still another way, I am/you are/Dasein is the only one who can formulate the question concerning the nature of being.

So, I put it to you again–what is a human being?

The question of being is perhaps a silly question. Or maybe I just feel silly posing it. I don’t know.

What I do know is that the question is something I want to work towards, or circle around–or at least sit on for a while.

Depending on your -ology of choice (no pun intended), being functions quite differently. Is it an empty signifier? A collection of attributes? Is it fundamental laws of nature?

Traditional philosophy tried to save us from the impossibility of this question by positing a Real behind/beyond the real. Metaphysics.

Essentially, thinkers concerned themselves with the nature of stuff. The what. But what about the that? What about the fact that we exist? What is that?

Heidegger took it one step further, asking a terribly curious question: what is is? Believe it or not, this simple play on words changed everything. It was Nietzsche who proclaimed the end of metaphysics; but it was Heidegger, less than a century later, who brought it about with his silly double verbing. Silly or not, it seems that contemporary philosophy has not yet dealt with the end of metaphysics.

Contemporary thinkers have tended to return to classical ideas looking to erect a scaffolding of being somewhere exterior to the human in question. Badiou has taken up refuge in the analogy of set theory. Zizek in dialectical materialism. Baudrillard in the desert of the hyperreal. Brilliant as their thought is, I think that we have to come to it after we have dealt with Heidegger and his folly.

If we are to move forward, or circle, or sit on the question of being, it begins (as Heidegger suggests in Being and Time) with the one who is concerned with the question. Furthermore, taking into account the mine-ness of Dasien, the question of being belongs to you in the same way it belongs to me.

Putting it another way, the question of being qua being begins with the question of human being.

As we will be approaching this question–at least in part–through language, one caution. When we try to explain the existence of something, we “naturally” try to put it into words. There is a tendency then to confuse the rules of grammar with the way of being.

Ontology…really, all the -ologies have fractured our perception of the world in an effort suture names and patterns to our experience. And if it’s the wonder of experience (or the anxiety of it) that draws us to the question, we should be leery of approaches that break wonder into bits just for the sake of putting it into appropriate categories.

As I close I want to invite all of you to share some of the mine-ness of your being. Don’t bother getting too deep into the question. I’d love to hear your first thoughts and impressions on the question. The more nonsensical the better. I don’t have this all scripted out yet. It’s a little daunting to call this a first installment, or a series of blogs, but I suppose it’s something like that.

I leave you with a quote from Alan Watts:

“I cannot formulate the question that is my wonder…as soon as I open my mouth I find I’m talking nonsense…”

May 8, 2011
by Will
2 Comments

What Bothers Me About Osama’s Assassination

Time-Magazine-cover-Osama-Bin-Laden-dead1

The celebration sparked by the assassination of Osama bin Laden causes an itch in my mind that I can’t scratch: something bothers me about U.S. joy in the wake of bin Laden’s death. Others too have expressed reservations about the celebration, and so far those misgivings have fallen into four camps.

  1. The moral objection. By assassinating and celebrating, we fall into the very trap set by the terrorists. We try and fight terror (a concept) and end up becoming terrorists ourselves (cf Chris Hedges). In fact, we are even worse than the terrorists (cf Chomsky).
  2. The realist objection. Osama’s death may have some cathartic use-value, yet we shouldn’t allow this to blind us to the fact that Al Qaeda has other capable leaders. Moreover, we should be asking serious questions about the complicity of Pakistan in aiding and abetting bin Laden (cf report on nymag).
  3. The political objection. Obama chose to share this information now to bury his birth certificate release and/or to gain points for the coming election (cf report on Gawker).
  4. The conspiracy objection. Unless we see the pics, we won’t truly believe he is dead. (you know where to find this).

None of these objections, however, get at what’s bothering me. So, I will attempt an explanation, and maybe you can help me gain more clarity in your comments and questions. My perception is that we live in a time when there is a general acknowledgment of the bias and spin put on “facts” by the media, the government, your mom. In other words, we know that most organizations–especially news organizations–tweak their reporting to support particular ideologies. Often those ideologies are political. They are always economic.

We know this. We live with it. Fox on the right. MSNBC on the left. The current administration makes political decisions in order to get re-elected, in order to get political funding. This isn’t the whole story about our institutions, but it is a major part. We live in an ideological theater. Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose, Jean Baudrillard, Theodor Adorno, etc. Break out the popcorn. What bothers me has more to do with those moments when we collectively ignore the theater, the pageantry, the manipulation. Moments when something so momentous occurs that it overwhelms the spin and we stop and react “as a nation”. 9/11 Was one of those moments.

Here’s the point, I saw many people reacting as if bin Laden’s assassination was such a time, where we leave aside bias and come together in a collective catharsis (cf John Stewart). Let’s all rejoice as a nation. Let’s set aside our differences and find some closure. Take a moment and feel the righteousness and security of justice. It is truly a good day.

Of course, we are never free from spin, from telling stories about facts, from interpreting. Yet my objection isn’t that people are merely pretending that Osama’s death should be spin free, when in fact it is still subject to ideology. I didn’t object to this phenomenon after 9/11. My objection is that this particular “event” isn’t worthy of a collective suspension of disbelief. It isn’t even convincing. I’m not buying into the conspiracy rhetoric. I believe he is dead. I believe he likely had something to do with 9/11. But I don’t believe bin Laden’s assassination warrants turning a blind eye to spin and hugging each other senseless. I don’t believe that reducing it to “they screwed us and so we screwed them back” constitutes a genuine cathartic response.

Why the hell not? Two answers: 1. To a certain extent I buy into the first three objections I listed above. These are reasons why the simple narrative is weak. 2. Most importantly, Osama’s death isn’t an event. It was always already covered. September eleven crashed in on us through our literal infrastructure and our ideological infrastructure. It shot through the hyperreal of continual coverage with the real (HT Baurdrillard). Therefore gave us the chance for genuine collective response. “Genuine” in the sense that it gave us the opportunity for something new.

Bin Laden’s death is not a true event, neither in Badiouian sense nor in the Baudrillardian sense.  For Badiou, at least in his earlier work, an event occurs and then becomes an event for us when it is named. We next have the opportunity to live in fidelity towards that event, to explore its ramifications for the status quo. This is the way that things actually change. Galileo’s discoveries were an event. Those who recognized this named its significance, and eventually the scientific community undertook the task of living in fidelity to that event, exploring how it changed their relationship to the universe. Osama’s death was not an event in this sense. It did not arise from outside the set of the status quo. It is more of the same. Pretending to live in fidelity to it through a collective catharsis is a farce.

Furthermore it is not an event in the Baudrillardian sense. It did not crash through the hyperreal. It is flat. Don’t pretend it has depth. It was always already mediated. Therefore it cannot be truly symbolic for us (though it might be that for other groups).

Reheat your popcorn and take your seats. There is no intermission in this show.

movie & popcorn

April 12, 2011
by rekonstruct
6 Comments

Recovering Our Mythos: An Open Letter to All of Us

Lately, I’ve been plagued by a seemingly simple question: How can I offer meaningful (and concise) explanations of the world to my 18-month-old daughter? What do I say when she encounters something new, and wants to know what it Cave paintings, Magura Cave means? And when I say ‘mean’, I mean both kinds of meaning.

From the earliest stages of consciousness we are curious about the collectively determined signs associated with objects and events. But there is more to meaning than signs. Meaning also refers to the ontological determination of our collective.

Interestingly enough, there is not actually that much distance between the nuance in meaning.

The questions:

“What is rain?” And, “To what do I belong?” both emerge unconsciously from the iterative exchange that exists between self and other. Because we are self-reflective creatures, we do not merely participate in the exchange; we are also burdened by, and are serendipitously aware of it.

It didn’t take long for me to realize that what I wanted for my daughter was something that I wanted for myself as well. This opened up a host of other questions that had been burning to get out…questions that in the multifarious discourse of post-modernity had seemed tired and cliché.

Perhaps, not surprisingly, my daughter gave me permission to go there. And, like Theseus, in order to survive the labyrinth, I need some new narrative threads…and plenty of them. In other words, I think it’s time for us to recover a mythos that is both contemporary (taking into account the current iteration between us and the world) and timeless. After all, when my daughter  ends up experiencing the trauma of inequality, I can’t just hand her a copy of Das Capital and say “figure it out.”

The beauty of myth, is that once we venture into its realm, we become aware of a host of other questions that thrive there.

Questions like: What is a human being? What is life? What is death? What do I value? Where did I come from? Where am I going? And, in terms of an ethic based on the answers to these questions, how do my values iterate with the values held by my social circle? with those beyond my circle?

Friends, let me clarify by saying that I have no doubt we have a mythos. I have no doubt that it guides our decision making, or that it enables us to operate within the context of our values. But when I go to look for it, there’s nothing there. When I reach for a simple explanation, for an image which is bound to the larger symbolic matrix of our existential reality, I come away with half formed ideas and cumbersome circumlocutions. And, on their own, these have utterly failed to help me answer the big questions in life:

Who am I? Where did I come from? Where am I going? To what/whom do I belong?

These questions have driven me to distraction, they’ve stolen hours of sleep (though Netflix watch instantly might have contributed to that as well), and they’ve left me mostly speechless. If the agenda of post-critical thought was to increase discourse to the point of nonsense (in an effort to undermine the presupposition that language itself was inherently coherent), it worked. And if this is some sort of unintended Zen treatment for the western condition, then on the other side of nonsense is silence, and on the other side of that silence is wisdom. (This is my unfounded hope)

But for me, in the day-to-day practicality of my existence, if there has been a particular anxiety that has floated to the surface these last few years, it is voicelessness. Lacking a myth, I’ve cycled through the various voices which have been made available me to help in the decoding process.

1. Psychoanalysis: It seems that the world has become a deconstructed symbolic matrix of former totems, which neither the king’s horses, nor the king’s men can re-assemble (glass-half-empty)

2. Heidegger’s Ontology: We have revealed Dasein into near oblivion, and are waiting for the flash of Dasein that comes as a salvation from our Enframed posture towards the world (glass-half-full)

3. Baudrillard: We are living in the desert of the hyperreal, and are effectively cut off from our symbolic matrix (there-is-no-glass)

Insightful? Yes. Helpful? Sometimes. But more often than not, in my post-college, post-graduate school life, I’ve just had to become accustomed to living in the tensions of a fractured meta-narrative (how best to be in trouble…thanks Butler). I picked up short-hand to help navigate the gaping holes in my existential map of the world.

“Differance this,” and “performativity that.”

“Baudrillard’s hyperreal FTW!”

“Capitalism, WTF?!?!”

“Help me Rhonda, I really need a little Heidegger before I upset my Pomme-Descartes.”

But really, I was just using irony to avoid the specter of meaninglessness. I was joking about the destruction of my (and our collective) meta-narrative, because there was nothing else I could say when faced with the reality of it. At the very least, it helped me laugh when I felt like crying.

So, where do we go from here? In all likelihood, “Uncovering Our Mythos” would probably have been a better title for this blog. It’s my firm belief that myth isn’t something we generate for ourselves in some arbitrary fashion. I’m not interested merely in new stories. Stories abound. They’re everywhere. “Tell a story with it…” is the buzz phrase of the year. Everyone from data geeks to marketers, and politicians to salespersons are burying their discourse in so much context, there’s not really much discourse left. Our cultural exchange has degraded to the place where we’re primarily concerned with the interface of packaging. This opens up a space where the juxtaposition of context has replaced discourse.

This is true ideologically; it’s also true practically. We’re tracked as demographical segments by corporations, governments, and research institutions. The tragedy is that our ontology is taking on the characteristics of demographical segments. More and more we seem to exist as data, rather than Dasein.

We should see red flags everywhere. In a world where I can’t prove my existence without the proper paperwork, and I can’t get the proper paperwork without the proper paperwork, what form does my essential self take? I’m not just tossing around words. It feels to me like we have migrated fully into Rilke’s prophetic elegies where “the things we live by have fallen away, replaced by an act without its symbol.”

So how do we get our symbol back? How do we recover the things we live by that have fallen away?

Meta-narrative is dead. I’m on board with that, even if it’s depressing. But if arbitrary narrative doesn’t cut it (as we discovered in the populist movement of ‘indie’ culture where the mundane became noteworthy, song-worthy, and film-worthy, where we no longer related to any story but our own private narrative), where do we go from here? How do we organize ourselves around our values? How do we even begin to recognize what we value?

That’s where you come in. That’s the point at which we decide to gather in the labyrinth with the threads we have, and (re)generate a new mythos.

This is where I get a little hokey, but I’d encourage you to come along for the ride. I think our new mythos emerges like a great improv scene. We carry myth in us. And in the right moments, when there is enough collective gravity, myth grows out of our (collective) existential situation like an apple tree (grows) apples, or like the earth (grows) peoples. (Thanks Alan Watts)

The new mythos is already here. It’s simply a matter of weaving our threads together. In other words, the recovery of our mythos is just a matter of speaking it to one another. It’s a matter of recovering our voice. It’s a matter of putting trust in what emerges from that collective utterance.

We’ve been through the silence. I think it’s time to push forward into wisdom.

November 17, 2010
by rekonstruct
1 Comment

The Age of Adz and Dexter: Or Madness as the New Hermeneutic pt. 2

Continued from (The Age of Adz and Dexter: Or, Madness as the New Hermeneutic)

To hear him explain his creative process with this album–he got lost. Whether he got tired of the banjo and the kitchenSufjan Stevens @ Beacon Theatre sink shtick, or just wanted to explore something new and different, he started experimenting with electronic sounds. He spent month after fascinating month building sounds and layers, and accomplished absolutely nothing. Having set aside his previous muse (rural americana, which he used to tell stories both simple and poignant in the understated yet iconic language that powered the emergent indie scene) he needed a new one.

He found it in Royal Roberts, a schizophrenic artist and musician whose art features prominently in Sufjan’s visual portrayal of The Age of Adz. That Royal’s art and music spurred the writing and conceptualization of The Age of Adz is not as interesting as that it was in the incoherence of Royal’s work that Sufjan rediscovered his creative will.

As I reflect on my experience with these forays into madness, I can’t help but think in terms of nuance. It starts with this question: What is the difference between madness as muse and madness as hermeneutic?

When I watch Dexter I lose myself. Similarly, as I watched Alice in Wonderland, I got lost in the flows of narrative. Such is the vicarious nature of art. During The Age of Adz, I merely felt lost. Almost taken advantage of in a way. The experience was incoherent enough that I couldn’t enjoy the encore, which consisted of an acoustic set of all his “old” stuff, which his back up singer was so unfamiliar with she had to read the lyrics off a sheet of paper.

Perhaps it was telling that Sufjan closed the show with a half-hearted version of John Wayne Gacy Jr., a song about a serial killer who stuffed the corpses of neighborhood boys under his house. In the end, Sufjan seemed at a loss to convey the nature of his creation. However, the lyrics to the final song, and the fact that it was placed at the end of a show inspired by madness, make me think that, at least to Sufjan, it somehow captures his predicament. Consider the last line:

And in my best behavior
I am really just like him
Look beneath the floor boards
For the secrets I have hid

Sufjan said several times during the show that he wasn’t mad, and that he didn’t suffer from madness. His words fell flat. No one crafts a show that epic in stature, without having stood transfixed by the muse at its center. Madness was his raison de jouissance. It seems strange to me that he had a hard time admitting that fact. Perhaps, that’s one of the reasons that the show fell flat.

We live in an age of madness. Our symbolic connection to the world is relentlessly stripped away. As Rilke would say it:

“The things we live by are falling away more than ever, replaced by an act without its symbol…”

During The Age of Adz I found myself contemplating Heidegger’s diagnosis of the existential trauma of our current age. I found myself also wondering about his suggested cure. “Such a realm is art,” he tells us. The longer I sit with that answer, the harder it becomes to know what is meant by “art.”

For me, the question remains: What is the difference between madness as muse and madness as hermeneutic? To say it another way: What is the difference between losing ourselves in art, and just plain getting lost because of it?

November 17, 2010
by rekonstruct
1 Comment

The Age of Adz and Dexter: Or, Madness as the New Hermeneutic

“You’re entirely bonkers,” Alice says to the Hatter, “But I’ll tell you a secret. All of the best people are.”The Mad Hatter's split personality

This exchange takes place near the end of Tim Burton’s re-imagination of Alice in Wonderland. Throughout the bulk of the film, Alice is reluctant to act because she believes that she is stuck in her recurring nightmare. However, as the film reaches its climax Alice begins to accept that what she had considered to be impossible, even mad, could be just as ‘real’ as her real.

Ironically enough, it is by accepting her own madness that Alice is finally able to do what is supposed to be impossible: kill the Jabberwocky. “I imagine 6 impossible things each morning before breakfast,” she tells herself. Then she counts them off, one by one. And as she does, something happens to the audience. Through Alice, we begin to re-imagine what we have thought of as impossible.

As Burton tells it, this is a coming-of-age story for Alice. And we should not be surprised to find that it is predicated upon madness and the acceptance of the impossible.

But what of our coming of age? And what part does madness play in it?

Enter Sufjan’s The Age of Adz and Dexter. Like Alice in Wonderland, madness takes center stage in each. The protagonist in Dexter is a psychopath and a serial killer. Interestingly enough, Dexter is the character we identify with the most.

Why? Or, perhaps how is a better question. How can a psychopath appear as a sympathetic character? How is it that we can identify with him? Not unlike Baudrillard’s unique reversal of Disneyland, where the fantastic facade of it makes us forget how our own reality, the one beyond its walls, has already lost connection to its symbolic antecedent, Dexter becomes a foil through which we can explore our inability to understand our world gone mad.

We understand Dexter’s failure to connect with his surroundings, his difficulty playing the arbitrary, rule based game of relationships; we empathize with his interpretation of events whereby he considers himself broken, mad, and alone. How is this possible? Certainly, it is not that deep down we’re all serial killers–though Sufjan may challenge this interpretation. Beneath the veneer of a dark, well-written version of CSI Miami, we discover that the show really isn’t about a mad superhero/serial killer who examines blood spatter for a living. Rather, Dexter is about a world gone mad–a world broken, leaving its inhabitants alone.

Madness becomes a meaningful hermeneutic, not because we’ve lost the ability to relate symbolically to our world, but because the world (our ontological locus) has been lost to us. As we come to an awareness of the ramifications of life in the desert of the real, the motif of madness provides a means of preparing an interpretive apparatus. But is this helpful? Can a tour de folie refashion our symbolic connection to the world?

I hesitate to use the word concert to refer to Sufjan’s Age of Adz tour. It felt more like an installation, or a meditation, than a show. Sufjan referred to it as therapy for him and his band, and thanked the audience for paying admission in order to provide it. He was joking, and the audience laughed. But he wasn’t really joking, and the audience didn’t stop laughing.

This became running theme. While trying to explain the creative impetus behind the album and the tour, Sufjan explained that he had tried to capture the quotidien aspects of life, and portray them through the lens of madness and apocalypse. A broken heart is not just a broken heart. Instead, heart break appears as a grand struggle between supernatural forces. Depression is not just depression, it is the result of alien abduction, and is the harbinger of the kind of invasion that puts all of planet earth at risk. The audience laughed some more.

How does this compare to Dexter? To Alice? What age are we coming into as we follow Sufjan into The Age of Adz?

(The rest of this blog can be seen here: The Age of Adz and Dexter: Or, Madness as the New Hermeneutic pt. 2)

October 14, 2010
by rekonstruct
Comments Off on Imperialist Whine

Imperialist Whine

Question of money While I was driving to coffee this morning, I couldn’t help but notice the ‘Vote No on 1098’ sign. Don’t worry, this blog is not one of those deeper-looks-into-the-finer-points-of-taxing-the-rich-to-fund-schools-for-families-who-are-too-poor-to-send-their-kids-to-top-tier-private-schools.

However, the sign did get me thinking about public funds and their source. For instance, people who tend to think socially (I’ll use that word word to avoid some of the insanity surrounding the pejorative-ness that surrounds the term socialism) expect tax revenue to fund social aspects of our culture and infrastructure. Those who prefer not to think socially, want the burden of funds for ‘social aspects’ of our culture and infrastructure to be funded through an unregulated and unfettered multinational private sector.

When I think about this argument politically, it makes perfect sense. The right wants less regulation so that the rich can manipulate the markets and the middle class as they see fit, while the left promises utopia-like public services while never being able to deliver on the specifics. For instance, I was one of the 50 million uninsured before the so-called Obamacare, and guess what, still uninsured. But back to the topic at hand.

If I take my political hat off, and try to think economically, the argument looks a little different. The promises of the left are limited by the amount of tax revenue they can produce, and there is of course, an upper limit on the level of tax that the population can handle. The right, on the other hand, is essentially promising to pull a fist full of rabbits out of their proverbial hat in order to pay for their version of infrastructure. Now, for the sake of clarity, let’s take the neo-cons out of this discussion. All they want to do is bankrupt the government to showcase what they see to be the failure of our democratic republic.

There is a whole other kind of promise of funding that comes from the right. And it’s difficult to grasp initially because it’s tacit. It hides behind terms like free market and patriotism and tax relief. Where is all that money supposed to come from to build up our infrastructure and sustain our system of government? Sure, they promise to cut out the fat. But that only goes so far. When roads and public schools and medicare are on the cutting table, it’s hard to call them fat and be convincing.

The tacit assumption behind the patriotic free market is nothing other than a veiled resurgence of imperialism. Deregulated markets and tax structures allow United States (truly multinational) companies to circumvent US tax law, environmental law, work safety standards, and business ethics. In short, this tacit promise of patriotism and free market as a solution to our economy is nothing other than an excuse to continue to rape, pillage, and profit from countries who have smaller economies and a smaller militaries than we do.

Needless to say, this is an unsustainable way of thinking about the economy. It has remained so entrenched among voters simply because it has allowed bigotry and imperialist tendencies to hide behind the mask of free market and patriotism.

I’m tired of it. So tired that I almost don’t have the energy to talk about it any more. But it’s time for the little folks like you and me to stand up for those who don’t have a voice. After all, last time I checked folks in sub-saharan Africa and Guatemala and Indonesia can’t vote in America. It’s time to start saying something that doesn’t sound very American at all, namely this:

“Tax me, not the environment. Tax my neighbors, not our allies. And tax our corporations, not the impoverished third world.”

Sincerely,
Rekonstruct

June 7, 2010
by rekonstruct
Comments Off on Putting the ‘Art’ in Partisan

Putting the ‘Art’ in Partisan

Donkey Republic 2010I’d like to think of governing as an art, but lately America has been pretty artless. This is largely due to the inability of congress to represent its constituency. But before we can get into this, I’ve got a bone to pick with the generic masses. Folks, our ‘democracy’ does not function as a ‘two party system’. It’s atrocious, but when people describe the process of the American government, there are certain key words that crop up more often than any other.

1. Democracy (yes, but we’re really not a democracy…)

2. Representative democracy (that’s better)

3. Of the people…

4. Free market (hate to break it to you folks, but that’s not a form of government…)

5. Two party system

Let’s focus on number five. America doesn’t have a two party system. A two party anomaly, two party problem, two party rule, any of those are a better way of putting it. But don’t refer to our governmental process as a two party system. There’s nothing inherently two party about our constitution, culture, or way of life.

Trouble is, when we think of ourselves as ‘two party’ it’s easy to believe that partisanship is a problem. It’s almost impossible to listen to the news today without hearing pundits or politicians complaining about partisanship. If the talking heads are to be believed, partisanship is the cause of every congressional deadlock, economic downturn, military death, etc… Politics has become a game where the players keep saying “they are doing it wrong, so let us do it.”

What’s wrong with this picture? If voters fall into this trap, we allow anti-incumbancy to become the modus operandi of our government. And anti-incumbancy is not a useful dialectic. It’s not a dialectic at all. It’s akin to that childish effort of trying to shove that square block into the round hole, and then giving up on that, and instead trying to shove the cylinder into the square hole. Let me suggest something different. Let’s try finding all the pieces to our governing puzzle, and then put them in their corresponding holes (no pun intended). In this way, partisanship isn’t the problem; rather, partisanship becomes the solution.

When was the last time you had a conversation with a pure Democrat? Or a pure Republican? There’s no such thing any more. We’ve had to shift our language to try to keep up with the disconnect between the people and those who represent them. We talk about leftists, and progressives, centrists, neocons, the Christian right, tea-partiers, etc. Yet, we still go through the motions of voting along party lines that are not represented in our culture. What’s wrong with this picture? Let me be blunt. Our current form of government has stripped away the ‘of’, ‘by’, and ‘for’, thereby leaving its ‘people’ naked.

It might be that what we need is a more radical partisanship. One that allows for the many voices present in our culture to find a representative voice. Americans can’t be broken up into the categories of Democrat and Republican. Should our government?

May 23, 2010
by rekonstruct
3 Comments

Reading Tea Leaves (and coffee grounds)

he reads tea leaves So, recently the future has been freaking me out. First, there’s the constant stream of information about the downturn of the economy. Every time I sit down to poop (and read articles on my nifty New York Times app on my iphone), I get more bad news. Recently it was the “3,620 applications for eight positions” line from the article about the lack of teaching jobs in New York.

See, in two weeks I’ll graduate from my master’s degree program, which has taken longer, and cost more than I would have imagined when I started in the fall of 2007. This degree was supposed to be a stepping stone to a PhD, and then a cushy–albeit discursive–ride into tenure at a university. Not surprisingly, that seems to be the same plan that millions of other 30 somethings had in about a five-year span. The market is flooded with over-qualified, scrappy, somewhat desperate, and really bored folks who are currently working part time jobs as their “in-the-mean-time” extends into a career of fragmented attempts to pay the bills.

Having just received rejections from the two law schools I applied to (yes, I only applied to two…no I wasn’t willing to move to go to law school), I’m plotting my next move. But what sort of metric do I use to plot this kind of course?

I find myself torn between all the non-sense, platitudinal advice that presents itself in our multivocal culture. Here are some common phrases (in no particular order):

-Uber-practical: Starbucks (they offer medical insurance…plus, with your experience you could work your way up to manager)

-Practical: Technical/para-Medical school (the market according to jobs available on craigslist)

-Professional: Apply to a Phd (you just need to find your niche)

-Connections: Whatever you’ve heard about through friends or family (It’s who you know…)

-Disney: Follow your dreams (in other words, if you do what you love long enough, someone will pay you to do it…)

-Paycheck: Research the highest paying jobs and head that way (it’s just common sense, dummy)

Trouble is, as much as I love advice, I’m not good at taking it. After all, my Natural Cures app told me that drinking coffee only makes you more anxious. It recommends switching to green tea (green tea makes me sick to my stomach), which brings me to my final question. How does one choose between a series of cliches? Or, to say it another way, if coffee makes you anxious and green tea makes you sick, what on earth do you drink?

May 18, 2010
by rekonstruct
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Wrestling with American Politics

WWE WrestlersLinda McMahon, does that name ring a bell? Maybe you’d know her from the WWE–if you’d ever admit to watching it. She’s the genius behind Hulk Hogan, and the current dark horse challenger to Mr. Blumenthal in what could turn out to be an interesting showdown in the Connecticut senate race.

Now, she has to win the nomination before she can face him, but with 50 million to spend on the campaign, there’s about as much left to chance in the primaries as there is in the WWE. The way this story is shaping up, I’m not sure if I need to tune in to CNN or Pay-per-View to keep up on the antics.

In the blue corner we have the draft dodging Blumenthal, in the red, we have the tough as nails McMahon who’s just about as likely to filibuster as kick you in the gonads. She is the same spokesperson who claimed that wrestling was “one of America’s greatest exports.” After everything we’ve heard in recent years about exporting democracy, it’s almost a relief to hear someone cut through the finer points of misdirection and tell it like it is. That a fan-base can forget that they’re participating in a satire of a satire.That in America rarefied irony is not only entertainment, it’s a commodity.

What does it say about the state of American politics that a career in the WWE has become a stepping stone to the United States Senate? Is it that we’re comfortable with the poor production? The cheesy outfits? The paper-thin story lines? Is it that we’re too squeamish to see actual conflict in politics?

Whatever the case, it’s getting harder to know if I should head to the voter’s booth to cast my vote, or to the bookie to place a bet.

April 16, 2010
by yeslets
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Gratitude Friday: Sleep

my_time_schedule

I often work long hours. Lunches and breaks aren’t scheduled and certainly aren’t guaranteed. The pace is generally fairly hectic. Some months require me to work weekends and frequent 30-hour shifts. It is not particularly rare for me to forget to go to the bathroom in the midst of it all. I love it. What I love more? SLEEP.

This month I get the best of both worlds: Shift Work!

This means that I know when to show up and I know when I get to leave. I’m working four 8-hour shifts/week and life is good! Busy shifts with interesting things going on, but still plenty of time to sleep. Plenty of time, that is, in theory!

Today I stopped to reflect on all I have to be grateful for in my life, and I found myself completely overwhelmed by the sheer number of beautiful and positive aspects of my life. From the simple to the profound, from the warm weather today to the love of family and the satisfaction of being in a career that I love – life is good and I cannot deny that I have been blessed. It got me thinking, how does my gratitude for these blessings show up in my life? What does gratitude look like, day in, day out?

It strikes me that one way to put gratitude into action is to respect the things that I have been given. When I receive a gift I am truly grateful for, I put it to good use and I take good care of it.

It has come to my attention that I have not been taking very good care of my sleep hygiene. Even when given this beautiful opportunity to get enough sleep, I just don’t. My time schedule unfortunately ends up looking quite similar to that of the poor schmuck in the cartoon above.  And I have no excuses! No kids, no pain, no true insomnia, no loud neighbors, nothing … just a love of staying up late.

Am I alone out there? Do you get enough sleep? Could you if you tried? If you do, how do you go about it? Does it come naturally? If you don’t, what gets in your way?

I cannot say how long it will last. But today I am going to make a commitment to show my gratitude for this beautiful schedule by taking advantage of this wonderful opportunity to do what I love … SLEEP.