Editor of Logos, an online journal of society and culture.
Lives in New Jersey.
Won't eat frozen vegetables.
Thursday, July 8
I have not written in this BLOG for quite some time. This way, perhaps readers that would frequent it with some degree of regularity have given up, convinced that I have abandoned my personal reflections.
But recent events have brought me back to write once again and to probe and express my thoughts.
You see, I think that my life will kill me. I am increasingly sinking into a profound despair. It has made me anxious, nervous, jittery. I have heart palpatations, cannot concentrate properly. I am often depressed. I cannot live like this anymore, and yet there seems to be no choice. I think that living alone is really the core factor. I feel more disconnected, less relevant to anyone else, and less valuable than at any other time in my life.
I cannot say that I have been able to approach this problem with any degree of optimism. But I do know that things are becoming extreme--and extreme situations call for drastic measures. I simply do not know what these things are.
I am tired. I am exhausted. I no longer have the same grasp on reality I once had. I must come to terms with the impending doom. I am convionced that I will not live another 8 years. My heart has taken so much stress, it is constantly under siege from stress and from nervousness. I can taste the end, as if it were a premonition.
Dear reader, can you not recall the womderous words of Celan?
Sie rudern, sie rudern, sie rudern --:
Ihr Toten, ihr Schwimmer, voraus!
Umgittert auch dies von der Reuse!
Und morgen verdampft unser Meer!
[They row, they row, they row--:
You dead, you swimmers, lead on!
This, too, surround with the bow-net!
And tomorrow our sea will be dry!]
Michael was existentially meandering at 11:26 PM \\
Friday, March 5
I was laid off from my job this week. I am so happy. I am so relieved, liberated. For five years I have languished in a form of purgatory that even Dante's genius could not have created. I have felt like Prometheus, bound to that rock, the slow pecking at my liver finding affinity with the constant mediocrity of this swamp of obsequiousness and inauthenticity.
I cannot say that I have even the slightest regret about this fortunate experience. I can finish my book this summer, take some time off and then teach maybe at CUNY or Rutgers until I get a tenure-track job. Writing and reading are the only things that really interest me now. I have been so deformed emotionally by this place; my outlook rendered bleak and banal.
Hegel tells us that once philosophy paints its gray on gray, then a form of life grows old and the Owl of Minerva must take flight (at dusk, of course). Dear reader, I have never been so adamant as I am now: break free from the bonds of servitude that the iron cage of modern existence places on us. Embrace your passion for life, creation and association. You should know that at all time we are all--beneath any religious, national and/or ethnic perversions--endowed with a cosmopolitan sense of universality. We must work for the creation of a better life, for ourselves and for others.
Well, be this as it may: simply remember those great words of the great Florentine:
Segui il tuo corso, e lascia dir le genti.
[Follow your own path, no matter what anyone may say.]
Michael was existentially meandering at 2:35 PM \\
Tuesday, January 20
It is so strange to take a more unconventional look at the people around you sometimes. It is so strange to see how many of them are lonely, frustrated, resigned, at times desperate. There is a sense that these emotions are not always at the forefront of who they are--hence they are very subtle and easily missed when we speak to our collegues, friends, and others that we know. Rather, they set the tenor of their lives; they characterize the things they confess to themselves;what they think of when they're going home on the train after work, or in those fleeting moments of contemplation.
Sometimes they stir to the surface, as when some crisis point occurs in their everyday existence. If it is true that we occupy the end of history (I mean Hegel here, not Fukuyama) then it is possible that our culture may never recover from this phenomenon. It may be that this is the fate of our once-productive and expressive western culture: to diminish in the light of prosperity and the fading light of an exhausted humanism.
Michael was existentially meandering at 9:15 AM \\
Thursday, January 15
I was having a discussion last evening with someone and the subject of books arose. As I thought about it, I realized that I know books in ways that few others seem to. I do not mean that I necessarily know more books than others, but that when I think of books or I read them, I find myself so intimately connected to them.
Books liberated me. They freed me from the class-based ignorance of my upbringing and they helped form me in moral and aesthetic ways. I love books not for symbolic reasons, and not only because of their content. Physically they are wonderful objects. Beyond the neophyte's love of the olfactory attributes of older (or newer) paper and different grades of glues, the feel of different kinds of paper, their textures provide me with endless pleasure. The many kinds of fonts--some with sensual curvy lines for x's and y's and others more stern and angular in their k's and w's--are a pleasure for the eyes. Older books that I own--especially the old French volumes of Corneille and Racine--still have indentations for each letter impressed from those older modes of printing.
To overcome all of these little pleasures is one thing, to discuss content, that is quite another. Perhaps more on that some other time.
Michael was existentially meandering at 9:24 AM \\
Friday, January 2
It is perhaps one of the most perennial of questions that man has ever asked himself: why is that women are so difficult to understand? I have to say that I am utterly unconvinced by the argument that there simply some gulf between men and women that make them unable--or largely unable--to truly understand one another. I am well aware of the semantic and anthropological distinction between "sex" and "gender"--that one is biological and the other socially constructed--but I fail to see the profundity behind such a dichotomy.
No, I am more convinced that women operate at a very different frequency than men because of a complex mix of biological, social and psychological reasons. That these different aspects conspire to make women more prone to irrationalism under certain circumstances and therefore less comprehensible by men. This would seem on the surface to be nothing more than mysoginistic banter wrapped in pseudo-rationalistic prose. I beg to differ, in the most extreme way.
First, biologically women have a whole complex of chemicals coursing through their bloodstream, all of which are impossible to calculate in terms of their exact amounts--their blood concentration levels are dynamic, and thus are their effects--and which differ from woman to woman. This is nothing on its own, or, it could be a defining variable in a woman's behavior. Women are therefore more sensitive to their biological limitations in terms of having children and the like. Yes, this is well known and hardly anything new but there are other elements, too.
Next, there are psychological and social elements. These cannot be underplayed. The subordination of women to men begins with the family, itself a product of female subordination to men historically and throughout the development of civilization. Now, this subordination--however thinly veiled it may in fact be--creates a very different view of the world for women. Each personality will deal with this in a different way and it gives rise to the plurality of female personality types that we know from the slut to the airhead to the uptight.
Now, why is there such a disconnect between men and women? I think men lack these elements for various reasons--those that do not to a greater or lesser degree have their own issues--and therefore see the world in more basic, logical and rational ways. Women tend to be more prone to outbursts of irrational emotion and require emotional support more than men because they are less likely to think themselves out of a situation.
Women are therefore the most complex of creatures in a man's eye. They fascinate me with their twisted "logic"; with their odd views; and with their outbursts of frustrated emotion. They are so deeply needy and express/hide it in the most multifarious of ways. They are deeply aware of their condition and feelings and therefore become self-conscious about it, and then insecure when exposed. Of course, this means they can complicate the lives of men in emotional terms, but then again, men tend to do their own share of harm. But not all of us do (I certainly do not) so it is difficult to explain it away as mere revenge on the male side of our corrupt race.
All this would point to the superiority of men over women. I am not so sure how far that can be taken, but I would say that the ability for men to concentrate for long periods of time--and therefore create the masterpieces of art and science that we know--is the result of being unencumbered by those things that plague women. I say plague because they are things that they are born into; it is a condition. Suffice it to say that reasoned analysis will support my broad claims here and that those men that constantly wonder to themselves, thanks to some ridiculous argument or another with their girlfriend or wife, why they are unable to get their point across, be listened to, or to let reason get the upper hand, should take heed that this is nothing more than another aspect of the human condition: the predicament that we all find ourselves, the solution to which constantly exceeds our reach.
Michael was existentially meandering at 1:34 PM \\
Wednesday, December 17
Above all else, I despise inequalities. I do not mean only of the economic variety--for that leads to other forms of inequity--but the most mundane and obvious kinds. The big stuff I deal with in my writings in social science and philosophy. The other I deal with everyday and respond with the most deeply rooted emotion of disgust.
I seriously believe that--as I have said before in this blog--that the modern office is a place of the most pre-liberal (and by that I mean feudal) kind of inequality between us. This is not a matter of property or money, it is one of privilege and power. Management--even if they do not like one another personally--will cultivate a sense of cohesion among themselves in order to keep some kind of structural order of power relations between "us and them." They are the most petty of minds, not seeing that the power of democratic forms of organization are in the ways that information is communicated and a sense of involvement is nourished. They hold on to these positions of power so tightly because their interest is more in their psyche than in the broader concerns of the organization. Indeed, this was the essence of C. Wright Mills' great analyses of white collar culture, but it is no less true today than it was 50 years ago: management sucks, they wield too much power over those who do actual work and their daily lives, and produce more inefficiency than efficiency, all out of a sense of privilege that they seek to protect.
I despise it, and I despise those who--like sycophant boot-lickers--go along with it out of fear, a sense of aspiration or, even worse, because it is the very logic of "what is." I will fight this, and I will never let this change my will, bend my sense of real duty to what is right--both for me and the larger purposes of my work--and I will never submit.
Hence my brief manifesto. Let others take it to heart and join me. We have nothing to lose but our chains.
Michael was existentially meandering at 12:37 PM \\
Tuesday, December 16
I suppose that there is ample reason to believe in the theory that, at least in its more colloqual phrasing, is known as "what goes around, comes around"; or, even better and more provincial, "the chickens coming home to roost." But I can say that this is not the case more often than not: suffering from bad luck is not something that I think is adequate to explain the vagaries of our unhappy existence. (For those of you whose existence is, by your own admission or, perhaps, delusion, one of self-described happiness, I think you are fooling yourselves.)
But back to the matter at hand. I am no longer willing to accept that I have bad luck or that there is some cosmic force willing or otherwise to steer my course toward any kind of misfortune. I need to rediscover the self-willed autonomy of my pre-office working days. I need to see that this world is all what I make of it, and that this whole situation is a matter of my own submission to a petty mind-set that has its roots in the ancient past of human social organization.
Reading Kafka can be such a splendid experience. Readers among you may recall his "In the Penal Colony" where a condemned man is about to be put to death by a huge machine that will ornately inscribe--via the incision of thousands of tattoo needles--the words: "obey authority" onto his back until he is killed. Such is the fate of those of us in the midst of this iron cage of modern existence--of cubicles, subway cars and one hour lunches. What, to borrow a phrase from Buber, paths to utopia do we have before us? I know only expression--art. Philosophy has become tiresome to a certain degree; a curious and always stimulating endeavor, but never fulfilling at a deeper level. Art can do this, however, and I am rediscovering this all the time through my poetry and music.
Perhaps I'll put some on this blog in the near future. For now, I am more content with contemplating the reality of creativity and the powerful sense of freedom it unleashes.
Michael was existentially meandering at 12:22 PM \\