Tag Archives: random thoughts

Love is a Casual Greeting

Love is a casual greeting.  Love used to feel like a word that made the strongest weak in their knees.  Made the blood flush to their cheeks, as they tried to control the pitch of their voice and the queasy feeling in their stomachs, so they wouldn’t give away the obvious (which everybody had already figured out): they were in love.  But love is a casual greeting.

It means hello, or goodbye–like Aloha!–it’s been colloquialized.  People date for two hours, they say they love each other.  For two days, they are in love.  Six months later, they no longer say they love that person.  Now they both say they love someone else, as casually as they once said they loved each other.  Because to say you love someone is the right thing to say when you see them, it is as expected as saying, “Hello!”  To not say it would be impolite.  And decorum and civility trumps passions.

The word love used to hurt, so it had to be declawed.  The sting is removed with every casual use.  It becomes normal–boring, even!  Ask someone how their day was, and you’re already bored before they can ever answer.  Words that are boring have no power.  They can’t hurt, or disappoint.  Saying words like hello or goodbye yield no commitment or expectation; the emotional investments are net-neutral.  If the word love means saying hello or goodbye, then love yields no commitment or expectation; love’s emotional investments are net-neutral.

Words don’t mean what we want them to mean, they mean how they are used.  And if love is used like a casual greeting, then love is a casual greeting.

Much love to you all,

SS

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Why We Write

I’ve heard it said on several occasion that a writer’s best ally is maintaining a high degree of modesty in her/his work.  The reasoning behind this is obvious to most people in that no self-respecting reader wants to support the scribbles of a smug narcissist, convinced that her/his words are the world’s gift to human expression.  However, despite its practical value, the adage does ignore an important attribute all writer’s share to some degree:  namely, writers are narcissists.

Whether we’re aiming to share our words by traditional print media, or blogging free of charge in our spare time, there is something undeniably self-indulgent in our conviction that we not only have something of importance to add to a topic of discussion, but that the greater public might benefit in hearing our take on a subject matter, too.  And if you really don’t feel that you have anything worthwhile to say on a topic, why are you typing so many grueling posts testifying to the contrary?

Let it be clear, this is not a social criticism on my part.  Rather, it is a personal affirmation.  I write this blog precisely because I feel it is worth the time and effort, and–in a broader sense–hope that it offers some benefit to somebody, somewhere (even if just to avoid having to read for that book report you failed to research on your own).  Moreover, I have no shame in recognizing the benign egotism of the act.  I find humility, of course, in knowing that my opinions on the topics I discuss hold no more inherent value than anybody else’s.  Likewise, I find aggrandizement in the conviction that my opinions have as much of a right to be heard and shared as anybody else’s (whether anyone else agrees, I’ll readily leave to the free marketplace of ideas to decide).

Modesty, by virtue of consistent self-scrutiny, is definitely a valued tone writers and commentators should strive to maintain in the work they share with the world.  Yet, I feel it is also important to acknowledge how those of us who take the step of actually putting our thoughts and musings into a public forum, are also just a little bit full of ourselves.  Which, although always capable to evolving into a boorish vice, can also serve as an indispensable catalyst for creativity.  Ovid probably captured this sentiment best in the epilogue to his Metamorphosis:

Now I have done my work.  It will endure,

I trust, beyond Jove’s anger, fire and sword,

Beyond Time’s hunger.  The day will come, I know,

So let it come, that day which has no power

Save over my body, to end my span of life

Whatever it may be.  Still, part of me,

The better part, immortal, will be borne

Above the start; my name will be remembered

Wherever Roman power rules conquered lands,

I shall be read, and through all centuries,

If prophecies of bards are ever truthful,

I shall be living, always.

Our words, too, are immortalized, in the far reaches of cyberspace; leaving a piece of ourselves to forever be either derided or appreciated long after we have lost the ability to partake in the conversation.  Possibly a very humbling thought, but not really all that modest.

Consider this my welcoming post to the coming summer days, and the approaching half-year mark.  In case anyone can’t tell, my new year’s resolution was to strive to be more honest with myself (also to start spending more time outdoors, but I’ve been making that one 10 years in a row, and quit every time I notice just how uncomfortably bright the sun is).  So a jovial greeting to whoever happens to be reading.  Stay safe, positive, and slightly eccentric, wherever you are.

A Failure to Communicate

I occasionally like to rummage through the old files and papers I have lying around in my storage closet (it’s what I call my back-up reserve of documents collective hardware dust), because it’s a good way to see how my writings and ideas have developed over the years (and, sometimes, I also stumble across a good literary critique/analysis that I can post on this blog).

Unfortunately, I haven’t stumble onto any forgotten masterpieces I had composed, but I did find a pamphlet that was handed to me during my freshman year in college from the Humanities department.

It reads:

The indicative self-measure that postulates itself through the adolescent weltanschauung has a tendency to both hyper-diversify, and hyper-conflate the delicate stimuli, out through which decision making agencies are subverted by the consistent array of submission-intensive exaction.

This sentence, for me, perfectly embodies the reason why so much of academia cannot take the Humanities department seriously.  I mean, what the fuck is this crap.  And it’s not that I can’t decipher what the pamphlet is saying, but the way it is being said is so needlessly pretentious and obtuse, that I’m basically drowning in a sea of sophistry.  Why would anyone choose to write the above when the can just as easily write:

The ego-centric mindset common to adolescents can both over-complicate, and over-generalize the various factors that are looking to influence, and subvert, their decision-making process.

There.  Same message as before, written with a similar academic flair, but much more legible.  Seriously, what is the point of having an entire department, whose academic objective is to teach students how to communicate and express themselves clearly, only to produce this sort of drivel.  Yes, when writing one shouldn’t be afraid of experimenting with different techniques and styles, but it is also important to keep in mind the medium one is using, and most importantly, the audience being addressed.  It should never be a showboating contest on how many “scholarly” sounding words can be crammed into a single sentence.  Never dumb yourself down, never use a simple word to replace a perfectly valid technical term, but don’t overwhelm the page with this redundant attempt at so-called sophisticated scholarship.

In his essay, “Politics and the English Language,” George Orwell gave six rules for writers to follow:

  1. Never use a metaphor, simile, or other figure of speech which you are used to seeing in print.
  2. Never use a long word where a short one will do.
  3. If it is possible to cut a word out, always cut it out.
  4. Never use the passive where you can use the active.
  5. Never use a foreign phrase, a scientific word, or a jargon word if you can think of an everyday English equivalent.
  6. Break any of these rules sooner than say anything outright barbarous.

From where I stand, #2-5 have been completely violated by the pamphlet writer(s) (and that’s only one sentence, the pamphlet goes on for a good few more).  If this mode of communication continues to be pushed in literary-critique courses (and various other humanities courses, such as the social sciences), the ironic result will be the desire to express oneself in more elaborate words, only to end up depriving one’s prose of any relevant meaning.  A failure to communicate, indeed.

The Peril of Talking to People

WordPress does a pretty good job filtering out all the spam that ends up in my Comments tab.  Although, it’s not like its really hard to spot:

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The first one is an obvious ad (I know what you’re thinking, who can I tell?  Well, I’m psychic), but the others seem–at first glance–to be genuine responses.  Until, of course, you notice the awkward diction, the vague commentary, and the fact that the actual content of each one of these only relates to the posts they were left under in a broad generic, sense (as in, they could be easily placed under any post, with the same message, and work just as fine).

Since starting this blog, and being expose to the commentary of mindless spambots on a daily basis, I have come to realize that my everyday conversations don’t sound all that much different from any of the comments above.  Granted, my word choice is more lucid, and I don’t usually plug designer dresses as I’m talking (or, do I?), but the general vague responses are still just as empty and devoid of substance as those generated by these automatons.  As people talk to me about the mundane happenings of their day, I’m not listening, I’m just nodding in a neutral rhythm because that is the routine that I have learned from having people talk at me throughout life.  Moreover, I’m fairly certain that the other person in the conversation is following the same routine when it becomes my turn to take over the role of “talker” so that they can gather their thoughts for another round thereafter.  No, I don’t do this with everyone (just most of my co-workers, all of my acquaintances, and more family members than I want to admit).  There is a handful of people I really do talk to in the course of a conversation, by they are by far in the minority.

I also noticed the same thing happen when I watch the news.  The anchors serve no pertinent role on my local programming, they are just fillers to provide empty commentary so that the bullet points on the screen seem more personable to me (and strangely enough, it works).  This makes me wonder how many conversations in life I must have taken part in, where I contributed nothing of value whatsoever–just serving as a sounding board for the other person, because I felt like that was the proper thing to do.  Since I don’t have firsthand access to any other mind but my own, I can’t help but fall into the fallacy of generalizing my experience to everyone else.  Part of me hopes I’m wrong, and it is only a bizarre minority of us who feel this way; otherwise, how can we as a society be expected to communicate in a evermore globalizing world, when we don’t even know how to talk to one another, yet?