A Little Privacy, Please?!

quote-all-conditioning-aims-at-that-making-people-like-their-inescapable-social-destiny-aldous-huxley-312195Some people like to tag every moment of their lives – eating, running, sleeping, goofing off, cooking, watching…something… or walking ….through the house…now it’s on the street…nope, catchup….we’re in the yard now….hahahahaha, gotcha, we’re in the forest…beach, now…hurry up, we’re already on the train!!! I’ll confess to being secretly curious over how they pull this off…who is ever there to suspend all those moments and capture them!!?? I always get this sense that God is omnipresent to them, snapping pics as they go as if to document a precious life that may appear as the Second Coming! 🙂 But not everyone is as public about their private lives. Here’s the testimonial of a young woman  who expresses her sense of discomfort over pictures shared on the internet (see here: http://www.gurl.com/2013/05/10/take-down-facebook-pictures-online/). In her own words:

The big thing was that I just felt that they didn’t show “me” the way I worked to convey myself to people. They were old pictures and I was a very different person and I didn’t like these lingering photos making me feel kind of uncomfortable. I just didn’t want them living online.

Now, this is a friend of mine I hadn’t talked to in a couple of years. These pictures were maybe like five or six years old. And yet, I wrote this whole long message about how I would really appreciate if she took down those pictures of me, even though they were untagged. It made me uncomfortable knowing that they existed and I didn’t have final “approval” over them, mainly because they were from so long ago.

My friend was totally sweet about it and took them down. However, it’s probably worth nothing that this is not the first time that I have done this. That’s what is making me worry that I have a tendency to overreact to these pictures that probably to other people don’t seem like a big deal at all. How much control can I have over other people when it comes to their pictures
 that happen to have me in them?

It’s unnerving to me that she should be made to feel excessive, over-the-top, hyper-sensitive…take your pick. I have experienced this first hand myself, and truth be told I was not quite as lucky as this young woman. I recall the first time that my very polite request was met with hostility – I believe she said something like: you shouldn’t be in the damn picture if you don’t want people to see it! Interesting assumption! If you’re in a pic expect that it will be uploaded for the world to see. ASTONISHING! She did take it down; but since then I had become more cautious about people snapping pics with their iPhones. Again isn’t this getting things the wrong way around? Should one be mindful of how others invasively snap and post pictures of them; or should one be permitted the luxury to walk this earth without running the risk of being exposed?

Another point that I relate to is how one’s public persona is an outward expression of self. Seen in this light I think it not too outrageous that how and with whom one is depicted can be an issue. And this is not to say that a picture reveals sensitive information, or is somehow untoward, but that it simply does not speak to one’s sense of self, and thereby makes one feel invaded, violated, trampled upon, alienated. Is it too much to ask that a picture that is from days past be removed because it is now the source of embarrassment? Again, there is no outwardly obvious infraction. It is a personalized invested sense of self of which I speak. I can’t know what people have in their minds that are determined to remain silent and yet gleefully in control of your face-online; I can’t know if there are secret agendas, ego-plays, double and triple narratival scenes, regret, impotence, or even an inverted sense of care. All I know, all any of us ever know, is what is made plain to see. And isn’t that the point: where there is no engagement and clarity of spirit, we are all only the sum of our internet parts! 😩

*Though the Huxley quote may seem extreme in this context, it may prove to be hypo-sensitive to the underlying gravity of this scenario.*

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Get Outta Your Mundane

The calamity of life is boredom. Kierkegaard said so. His linguistic elocutions had better gait, of course, but his point was the same. As he too warns,  idleness is not boredom. Inertia is different. It is kinda like passive aggression, it never quite poses for itself. Newton’s Law of Inertia basically speaks to the “inability of a physical body to change from a state of rest or of uniform motion, unless it is acted upon by an external force”. But it was Dostoevsky that understood the existential crisis brought on by this state. Inertia figures in Dostoevsky’s work Krotkaja (“The Gentle One” or sometimes translated “The Meek One”) where the running theme tragically narrated concerns a context, indeed that human-made context, of human understanding which is a coolly, mechanistic world determinate of laws of causation. Here then, inertia is not properly understood as actual inactivity, but activity determinant of a causal network of relations which are taken to define human activity. Much in the same way that objects are subject to laws of nature that determine motion, humankind self-identifies – well not consciously, people!!!!! – as a well greased machine, well at least when performative capacity is optimal. The suggestion is that the laws of nature in the physical world operate in precisely the same way with regards to humanity. Though the threat of determinism is imminent, suppose that this could be surpassed, it leaves free will at the mercy of a modus operandi that seeks out those governing laws of human nature according to which, or for which, any judgement should properly comply. Of course, the point would be that agency is tied up with goals, and the means by which these are fulfilled reflect the modus operandi.

The lucky ones – or maybe not so damn lucky!!! – discover this inertia that has seeped in and corroded all that is human, and despairing look to break out of their mundane. Don’t be fooled, the mundane is actively ( 😉 ) at work in the mosthuman-inertia sprightly, successful, and assertive lives! Was not the lives of the Greeks – Aristotle (though I will argue in my upcoming book that there is room here to manoeuvre) and notably the Stoics – aimed at virtue-building in accordance with nature, whereby one could learn to address all of those contaminates of the proper ordering of human activity, and live an active, prosperous, fulfilling life? The natural forces do not bend under the human will, mind you, rather it is the human will that learns to adapt and bend to the governing Will of the universe. As a result one would not futilely suffer over the events of one’s life but rather learn to live in accordance with them. As Epictetus famously says: Men are disturbed not by things, but by the view which they take of them.

At what cost Dostoevsky? At what COST! The shrilling706x410q70ee9d94f4485e80f5f054a92f746730a5-470x260 sounds vibrate in my mind and arrest my feet. I stand motionless, I am inertia! A double paradox presents. Once there, there seems no where to go, and hence the overwhelming, indeed fossilizing, experienced as angst. Recovery finds its way in the 2nd paradoxical state as vexed resistance: resistance to change.

Zen is not an option. Serenity, Î±Ï„Î±ÏÎ±ÎŸÎŻÎ±, is a self-annihilating state. But subliminal peace is too potent to resist and so back to the running wheel disguised as a road spanning over the vast and unyielding beauty of nature. Resist and condemn yourself. Yield and loose yourself. Troubled are the waters not for the Phelpses (Micheal Phelps was a US Olympic decorated swimmer) of the world, but the circus clown! 🙂

 

 

No Blank Slate

There’s no Locke-down ( 😉 ) on personal history, people. There’s no blank slate! Don’t gripe and complain that your partner has hang-ups, concerns, issues, and expectations! What did you think you were getting into? A vegetable garden? Cause if you’re asking for my histoire to be left at the door, I might as well be a vegetable! Look, it’s like this. If you’ve picked me out of a crowd, there’s something about how I hold myself, how I wear my being, that you’ve spotted. Now I didn’t get here just from popping out of my mother’s womb. I crawled, walked, digressed, walked some more, ran (in my case A LOT), took a couple of pit stops, got slapped down, crawled some friggen more (but now as a full-grown adult!!!), learned to walk all over again and maybe in between there might have been some singing and dancing! But ultimately I have a walk, a stride all my own. It’s what you saw. It’s what elated you in my presence, it’s what drew you in. Now maybe you might not stay long. Maybe my run now looks more like a trot, and my gait now makes you think; Purina Dog Chow. But that wasn’t always the case.

What’s my point? We are all historical and existential beings, and that’s just a fancy way of saying that life experiences are the material from which each of us gives shape to our being. Who we are is neither given, nor entirely a social construct. We are intimately preoccupied with the “who” of our being; it keeps us awake at night, and causes us to anguish over how to respond to life’s callings. We are inescapably arrested by that inward pull into ourselves as we wrestle to understand through a process of self-understanding. We are uniquely oriented to the world with others in this way. We don’t just make decisions that can be deemed rational, valid, quirky or stupid. We don’t simply (well, maybe not that simple) speak to a set of claims organized according to logic specs. For even when decisions ascertained are strictly valid, there remain residual concerns of conscience. I can reason my way out of a situation and still find myself startled by the lack of insight and agential restitute that follows. How can this be?

Well, it would seem the who of our being is not constituted by rationality alone. Decisions made do not speak authentically to my sense of being for their excogitations but rather for the unique way that I am the experiencing subject of a life. Again this boils down to the act of understanding as self-understanding that is always concrete, individual and which cannot be outstripped. People come with all sorts of baggage but the #1 slot goes to betrayal! We’ve all experienced it even if the conditions and circumstances that occasioned it were radically dissimilar. So Aleena, a thoughtful, lovely young woman spent the better part of her adult life with Damian ( 😉 ). Damian, though not overtly abusive; in fact, one might say, to the contrary; he was outwardly caring, thoughtful and tremendously supportive. But he had this one teensy, itsy-bitsy quirk, you might say. He was an insatiable womanizer. Blindly committed, Aleena was in the dark…well, until she wasn’t. But that came some 20 odd years later. Those that knew her, knew her to be a true Kantian, and hence, autonomy was non-negotiable. There’s no way Damian could not have known this. So the news of his compulsive infidelity came like a tsunami! Resilient, but now single, Aleena carried on, and as luck would have it, met Stergios. Now Stergios, as his name suggests, was a caring, reliable and dependable man. You might say, Aleena had found her Kantianpart ( 😉 ). So when Aleena would find herself expressly agitated by what were for Stergios perfectly innocent liaisons with other women, he first appealed to reason – her reason, his reason, the selfsame Reason inherent to all human thinking God damn it!!!! –  but that was to no avail. Aleena seemed unappeased, and hence to his mind, irrational, unreasonable, and quite frankly, exhausting. It seemed unfair that he should have to pay for the wrongful ways of Damian! After all, Stergios is the guy! He’s the one that has his shit together, is decent, caring, a man of integrity, and committed to building a life, his future, with Aleena. Shouldn’t she be expected to transcend her past, her life experiences? Shouldn’t she be able to attend to the situation at hand, and with reason guiding her breast, conclude that her reactions are nothing more than displaced emotive energies?

Could Stergios be asking that Aleena leave her history at the door? Could his expectation be that Aleena turn back the clock and undo all that has been done? Reason most certainly can guide thought processes, and this is essential insofar as clarity of thought, and precision of speech can put quandaries and paradoxes to rest that might otherwise be the source of aporia. However, Aleena has not become a suspicious, and infuriatingly sensitized woman alone, she has also become that magnanimous, deeply caring and vulnerable woman. That woman, in fact, who Stergios found to be exquisitely endearing and authentic. It is through an active process of self-understanding that often arises in moments of rupture that we come to renegotiate ourselves, to redefine, and realign ourselves in the world with others. Who we are is always on its way, for as Sartre would say, we are inescapably free and in this life practice we must (re)invent ourselves. But none of this is ever accomplished in a vacuum (well Sartre got pretty damn close…) and hence Aleena is who she is (e.g. magnanimous  and fragile) only because of the manner in which she experienced herself as the subject of betrayal and the meaning that that came to have for her. It would do little good to speak to her of betrayal as something commonly experienced and walk her through the 5 stages of grief (Kubler Ross’s account has been adapted to speak beyond the scope of death). This can often do no more than demoralize, deflate, and decay Aleena’s sense of person. It will create a disconnect; one where I – in Aleena’s voice – feel misunderstood. I am not anyone of those people that have experienced betrayal. Even if there are commonalities that one can discern in the narration of my story, the particular experience is existentially relevant to me because only I can experience myself as the experiencing subject of said betrayal and come to an understanding of myself within such dimensions of life. It is not to be discerned dispassionately, as a spectator, by Stergios, himself unaffected, living life at a frequency of sound unheard, though nonetheless relayed by word and deed.

So that’s it? Case closed? Should Stergios just accept Aleena’s hyper sensitivity? Well no, of course not. For we are also not just the product of our experiences, even those existentially realized experiences of self. We are always on our way, and who Aleena is can and will be renegotiated within a backdrop of openness and care with Stergios, who critically but un-judgingly will indulge Aleena looking to uncover that narrative which speaks to the way in which she has come to see herself (she may experience herself as more vulnerable and yet open, or intolerant and closed…) and others (she may now experience others with suspicion or with greater insight into the human condition), the values she has picked up along the way (she may now reject her Kantian ways!!!), and the opportunities that her relations with Stergios have now occasioned. The conversation is not conducted by two rationally disposed, self-contained beings, bridged by their mutual adherence to basic principles of reasoning. Instead, engagement is characterized by mutually, amongst inter-historical beings who share an inward process of self-understanding within a context of openness (open to the possibilities of becoming through the activity seeking joint understanding). Stergios then does not begin from a position of superiority as if to suggest that his leanings are impervious to historicity, and hence he is called upon to also expose his existential, and hence, personalized investedness in his paradigm of meaning. Suddenly, engaging in liaisons with other women is neither abstractly and hence absolutely innocent or suspect, and manners of being-with-(female)-others need be renegotiated. Mutuality suggests, therefore, that a paradigm of meaning shall be negotiated amongst two historical existential beings.

Relations?! It’s a l o n g, convoluted, often treacherous road. Negotiating these can be taxing, yet rewarding, as each time it takes partners to deeper levels of intimacy, connectedness and mutual understanding. When left unnegotiated or when they are beyond negotiation (the reasons are endless, but high on the list is an existential disconnect) it’s time to sever ties, but WOW, when those ties are restructured, rekindled, that twisted, messy webbed tangle, is gloriously fulfilling, and unmatched. Hold on to those, people!

Song  – the arts in general – have this incredible way of communicating the non-transferable and utterly subjective character of human experience. Have a listen (my Greek readers will understand best!)! 🙂 ❀

 

FYI – None of the characters in this story are historical figures, rather they are a semblance of many – of you, me, mom and dad, distant strangers and more.

You Only Live Once

A parable exhaustively announced as if something novel and true. Yes, yes, unless you believe in the transmigration of the soul whereby identity remains in tact (I don’t know about you, but if I’m somehow assured an afterlife with a prelife I have no knowledge of, sign me up for cremation!) you only live once. Got it. Mostly people advocate (insert long heavy sigh) “you only live once” to make a point about doing their utmost to live this one life. It is one of those thoughtless motivational ploys to get people off their asses and really live! I get that. I do. But really? Is anyone ever really moved to live life to the fullest beyond a somewhat transient, flippant, arms flying in the air, “take me now’ mode of being when making such banal pronouncements? There is as much oomph, as much gumption in these words as there is in the goo goo ga ga of mothers’ first words to their (presumed idiot) offspring!

This does more to obfuscate than illumine insights into the human condition. Only the obtuse would enjoin the thoughtlessness that accompanies this prescriptive journey. The reflectiveness of the conscious, or perhaps as Sartre rightly suggests, self-conscious, more brightly sways placating anxieties to turn their wavering heads from indulgences – even those requiring some configured determination, usually of the more physical variety – to festering inner struggles wherein the Subjective looms. Living life to the fullest is not something one simply does, it is an orientation of life that is unsettling as much as it is motivating, disturbing as much as it is enlightening, defeating as much as it is empowering, painful as much as it is moving, crippling as much as it is igniting. It is not a simple task, a monochromatic way of being. It is polychromatic, strangely infused with a cacophony with harmonic hues, which fall deaf on unassuming ears. Being-towards-death is a nonrelational, hence intimately subjective, if lonely, experience, and most importantly it cannot be outstripped, for death is the “possibility of impossibility”. Do the work, if you’re going to make the talk!

No Text Back!!!?????

e94b1011d24e2736c519f5a8bb757653What is Netiquette? Basically acceptable conduct on the net. Don’t get excited, I don’t have anything terribly deep or exciting to share. I’m not a fan of social media;  I’m also not one of those that simply advocates that the value of all things is entirely determined by use. Environments host structures of meaning which however elastic nonetheless are the oxygen in which all forms of engagement come to life! One thing in particular disturbs me regarding netiquette: texting. Like all forms of inter-human communication, texting is not immune to various inter-gender, inter-sexual, inter-political plays. So ya, as a young girl I recall how boys wouldn’t return calls right away in order to jack up their sense of self-worth and invariably put me – any girl – in her place! “Dude, wtf, don’t be such a douchebag,  there’s protocol!!! Call backs before the 3-day grace period make you a puts! She’ll think you’re desperate and that she’s worthless!!! And whatever you do, do not, I repeat DO NOT even acknowledge her at school. If you see her in the corridors, turn quickly away.  How else will she know how lucky she is to have your attention??!!!” At first dejected, girls soon learned how to read silent gestures and boys soon learned to follow standardized plays. We learned early on not to ever say what we mean, and to be “clear” in our overt indifference. It’s truly a miracle people ever get together at all!

Texting has just exacerbated the ridiculous! Bling, bling!!! Noises familiar to anyone with a phone these days! Bling, bling! Hey you have friends! (as my daughter mockingly likes to say!) Email? Text? A notification? Whatever it is, you’ve been notified!! So that means when I send an email or text, unless you find yourself in Bermuda-wifi Triangle, any delay in response must be owned to time-management of sorts. Essentially, the recipient goes through a process at lightning speed, and delegates your importance cross-checked against all other notifications and whatever (if ever) s/he is doing at the moment. It essentially tells you how important you are to that person, or at least how important they conceive themselves to be in deference to you. Some of us will only occupy enough importance to keep one “company” sitting on the can, waiting for their dental appointment, or in temporary partner-absentia (as when they’ve gone to the can…hahahaha). Others aren’t so lucky, and find themselves lost in cyberspace or lockdown! I’d laugh if it weren’t so tragic!

Somehow I’ve never felt empowered by making people wait. I relish not casting others into the land of oblivion. Lapses are suspended moments occupied by silence, the gravity of which are as palpable (often more) an experience of derision as the most caustic of words (it is actually a very distinct kind of derision). I’m not suggesting that all communications are created equal – I’d hope my family and lover would as a rule be motivated to get to me first – but that’s just the point, right? Immediacy suggests care: it says, you matter to me. It says you matter. I’m not oblivious to these plays – not by a long shot – but I don’t care enough to permit it to define my level of engagement. Who the hell decided these damn protocols anyway? 3 days not 2 or 1 day? WTF??!! I don’t feel more enticed by rejected; only bored and literally dis-engaged…so, ya….BORED!

Stranger, newbie, student, acquaintance, colleague, inquisitor? They all get a response from me! And all with equal care (time-permitting, of course) and consideration of their existential import. So yes, text me and I will as a rule respond as immediately as life circumstances permit. Clearly such scenarios are ever more comically and disturbingly realized amongst those with whom you share intimate historical ties – ach, existential anomie overwhelms…until boredom sets in! Until then I remain deliriously amused!

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