Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Sunday, July 24, 2016

The Cult of Comfort (Journal Post)

I am seduced by the cult of comfort, which is really a great poison.

Comfort in itself is good; it brings pleasure and frees the mind and the body to respond to challenges and goals that are not immediate. We need to do more than simply survive in order to have the space to work towards something beyond duty, the maintenance of our biological life, and supporting those who are closest to us. Without some degree of comfort, life is unbearable; creativity, friendship, and happiness all depend on allowing our guard to go down in a way that only comfort can provide. Imagine being without anything but what one needs to maintain the functioning of our organism. You probably cannot imagine it; imagination breaks down when there is no respite from the stress of merely surviving.

The cult of comfort is another matter. The cult of comfort is the desire for more comfort than anyone needs, the desire for comfort at the expense of other values that might make an individual life meaningful and noble. It is the desire for comfort at any price or at least a price that is simply too high, comfort at the cost of one's best values. To give up art, creation, philosophy, friendship, community, and the search and fight for justice for the easy relaxation, the easy happiness, the easy distraction is to give up on life. It is to become bloated on the fat of the land. It is to die an early death while still alive.

We give up so much that we otherwise would not for the sake of feeling safe and buying pleasure. We quadruple safeguard against the possibility of going without in exchange for denying others a single dram of security and luxury. We make sure we will never lack for things and forget the spirit.

rotting fish lake Michigan beach
Detritus by the Lake
Here is the political and cultural problem par excellence for my peers (the relatively affluent) and my generation (those who have just reached and those who are just now reaching the traditional age of maturity). We have no guts! We have no fear of losing that which could make us human! We have no sense of proportionality in being wronged! We have no sense of our opportunities to be our best selves!

What do I mean? We who have much in the way of comfort: the ability to travel, good food, a roof over our heads and places to turn if we lose that roof, a voice and the media to have that voice heard, friends, families, and lovers who have our backs, opportunities for more because we were privileged enough to get good educations, and more (or less) depending on our individual situations—we who have so much in the way of comfort all too easily shout for more for ourselves. I'm not talking about altruism here. I'm not saying that we quit caring about ourselves simply because we have more than most people. I simply mean this—we have many values, including some values that we might consider our best values. For me, my best values are the will to create, the will to forge relationships with others, and the will to fight against oppression. You, my reader, will have your own set of your own best values, whatever they may be. We hold these best values as more important and more noble than the pursuit of more comfort, more pleasure, more security, and more luxury, but we sell those best values out to the cult of comfort all the same.

Enjoy your sip of wine. Enjoy your bite of bread. Enjoy the caresses of your lover. Enjoy knowing that you won't be homeless today or tomorrow or likely ever. Enjoy your trip to Sweden. Comfort and luxury are necessary and good things, things that for many are in too short supply. But comfort and luxury are our undoing as possibly great humans if acquiring more and more becomes obsessive, if it becomes a cult. It becomes a cult when we sacrifice that which we truly believe makes life beautiful and worthwhile for it. I bet that you, my reader, are a part of that cult (like myself). Let us help each other escape. Let us leave the cult of comfort, which is really a great poison. 

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Eternal Return CCIII {The Urge to Punish} (watercolor and mixed media on card stock

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Eternal Return CCIII {The Urge to Punish}

Where are the decadent poets who curse at the stars? (Journal Post)

[From November 8, 2008]

I need a program, both for my life and for my philosophy. I feel as though I am getting caught in a certain mediocrity in both areas. I know, in part, why this is, at least for philosophy. There are two factors: 1. I have spent so much time working on my dissertation proposal that most of my philosophical efforts have been in the area of Nietzsche’s epistemology and it is difficult to see how I might have time in the next few years to pursue my other interests. 2. My coursework is such that I am spread so thin that I cannot focus on any single text or problem. I feel all over the place, like I can’t concentrate. Even as I sit here my mind wanders to and fro without a mooring. Next semester after I defend my proposal I intend to spend half of my productive day working on my dissertation, but I also plan to spend the other half of my productive day reading outside my area, outside Nietzsche in both Continental and analytic philosophy, thinking about problems that interest me and expanding my knowledge beyond the narrow realm of my Nietzsche specialty.

bridge wine tempranillo
Me by the Duero River in Peñafiel, Spain
In my broader life, I feel trapped. The women I've been meeting for dates bore me and try to get me to fall in love with them, and the people who I have considered my friends I find insipid, dull, weak, and completely caught up in norms and values that I want no part in. Why is and why has it always been so hard for me to find, make, and keep friends? I find myself despising people. I only seem to like people I date until I can fuck them, and then when they demand too much of my time, I completely lose interest. Part of me just wants to completely lose myself in my studies, discovering everything there is to know about art, culture, and philosophy and just forget about developing relationships with people whom I know I will either let down or they will let me down. I’m not afraid of betrayal. Rather, I am just afraid of not being interested or interesting and of being disgusted or bored to tears. Where are the irreverent, angry, non-conforming decadents who want to compete with one another and build each other up, create new ways of thinking, don't give a fuck about prudish bourgeois mores, write poetry, and who end every evening with by cursing at the stars or by taking someone home. Why is everyone in search of love? Where is the search for an unconventional, non-conforming greatness of character? I'm still looking.

Monday, May 23, 2016

Eternal Return CCII {Larval Becoming} (watercolor and mixed media on card stock)

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Eternal Return CCII {Larval Becoming}

How Capitalism Organizes Our Desires (Journal Post)

[From October 30, 2008]

I’ve been feeling pretty off lately, both philosophically and in life in general. I’ve been thinking about it quite a lot, but I can’t quite put my finger on just what it is that I’m thinking (or not thinking) and feeling (or not feeling). For one, I feel completely uncreative, and I feel like I have absolutely nothing to say; I feel like I’m becoming more and more stupid, incapable of insight or expression. Maybe it’s not stupidity though; perhaps it’s a lack of things to think about, things to say. Perhaps I’ve allowed the world to be too transparent, too unproblematic, for too long. Sometimes things seem so obvious to me that I stop wondering about them. Or maybe it is that my cynicism about political change, moral improvement, and cultural flourishing has greatly limited the scope of what I even think to care about. 
Espana Holy toledo
Puente de San Martín, Toledo, Spain
Why should art matter? Or better, why does art matter to me? Why do I read fiction? Why do I care about who the next President of the United States is? I’m reading One-Dimensional Man by Marcuse right now, and it just seems naïve. Marcuse argues that the form of instrumental rationality of developed capitalism completely determines our form of life and desires such that all opposition to the (oppressive) system is taken in and converted to a desire that functions within the system. In other words, capitalism organizes our desires, creates them, in such a way that the system will continue to function with the smallest amount of hindering unrest. I am fully willing to argue against and fight the place that capitalism puts people, especially those people who live in poverty because of the economic system’s inability (or unwillingness) to equitably allocate resources. But I am completely unwilling to get worked up about capitalism having organized my (and society’s) desires. All I can say is that of course capitalism has created, shifted, and reorganized our value investments. How could it not? Is not every social, economic, and political system constitutive of, if not the particular desires of individuals themselves, at least the field of possible desires. Could we even desire without a culture that includes systems of exchange and will inevitably have power differences and interests? Is it not power that is productive of desire itself? How could we desire anything more than food and sex, there is not a community which depends, in part, on exchange? And then, is capitalism, in terms of what it does to the field of desires, really so much different than any other past configuration of exchange and culture?