Tag Archives: rant

Insomnia…One Tough Mother

Insomnia is one of those strange things about the human body, where you feel physically tired and mentally drained, but for some reason cannot find the means by which to drift off to sleep.  My past bouts with insomnia have always followed the same basic trend: months (even years) will go by with completely regular sleeping patterns, then, suddenly, I’ll find myself spending most of the night staring up at my bedroom ceiling–wide awake, despite being tired as hell.

If my prior experiences with insomnia are anything to go by, these sleepless nights will cease in the next few days/weeks.  Nonetheless, I just want it on record that when it comes to whichever part of my brain is responsible for causing my insomnia, if in the coming decades dementia overtakes me, I hope it affects you first; so I can at least be restfully senile.

Okay, now that I’ve had my say, I’m off to watch old episodes of Futurama.

Advertisements

Oh, the Humanities! How Low Have Ye Fallen

Back in 2012, like many people do at least once in their lifetime, I went through a period of listlessness, brought on by a series of professional and financial downturns that left me disoriented on how to proceed forward with my time.  However, because I don’t see the point in boring anyone with a drawn out account of a life episode that was really filled more with trivial annoyance than any serious dilemmas, I’d instead prefer to do what we crusty writers do best: rant and rave about things experience long ago that left me perpetually disgruntled.

As mentioned above, in this frustrating time of my life I decided that it would probably do me some good to get out of the house I had been confined to for long enough to start seeing facial patterns etching away on the blank walls around me.  My first outing was to the one place I knew even I was cool enough never to feel unwanted in–the local college library.  And the fact that I had some overdue debts to take care of there was just the sort of icing needed to sweeten the deal to set forth on my gallant journey to the illustrious book depository, over yonder.

Wonderfully enough, in the course of taking care of my literary business [see what I did there? huh? huh? *wink, wink*], I stumbled upon a flyer at the library that advertised a small seminary/quasi-lecture/talkie-thingy at the college on the topic of Shakespeare, and his place within English Literature.  Leading me to think to myself:  I read Shakespeare, I’ve taught Shakespeare, maybe it would be fun to read and learn about Shakespeare with other bespectacled and pompous literature folks.  And on that thought, I was wrong.  Because, you see, this talk on Shakespeare wasn’t really about discussing Shakespeare’s work as much as it was about [some academic I’ve never heard of], “radically exposing the cultural dogma in the hitherto accepted canon of English literature.”  Yeah, man, getting radical…about literature; the safest of all forms of rebellion for such tenured mavericks.

The first thing we in the audience were treated to in this discussion was the revelation that William Shakespeare (yes, the William Shakespeare) was essentially a stooge of the English aristocracy, and his plays illustrate the lowest common denominator in serving as authoritarian mouthpieces.  You see, because Shakespeare never urged his audience masses to rise against the authority they stood under, his primary role in the history books deserves to reside as a man complicit in promoting the authoritarian status quo.  Furthermore, it was suggested (by this same academic) that this is the very reason that Shakespeare is so highly esteemed in the literary canon of English departments today–because the man’s work subtly teaches us to accept The Powers That Be presiding above us, and act with complacency towards it for the sake of not rocking the boat (or, I suppose, spoiling the entertainment) for everybody else.

Interesting hypothesis.  However, when it came time for the Q&A portion of the talk I couldn’t help but raise a note of observation that should have been more than obvious to the maverick intellectual.  Namely–I asked the gentlemen–if it is true that the English departments of today hold Shakespeare in such high esteem because they need him to promote complacency about the authoritarian forces ruling over us, does it not also follow that he too (the speaker for the evening) holds a share of the guilt, as he seems to happily accept a wage, speaking engagements, and (I’m presuming) book deals, by these same stooges of (evil, capital-A) Authority?  In fact, doesn’t his agreeing to be there that evening, in an event sponsored by these same mouthpieces for authoritarianism, without a word of urging on behalf of a mass uprising against The Powers That Be holding dominance over us, complicit him as much as Shakespeare’s lack of rebellion against the authoritarian aristocracy of his day?

The gentleman’s response: although he is more than happy to accept challenges to his ideas, he believed everyone’s time would be much better served not engaging with such blatant, baseless ad hominem attacks.  And one look around the audience showed that they were in agreement with him, so the evening continued unmolested, with everyone seemingly pretending I wasn’t even present from there on out.

Ah, the great spirit of 21st Century Humanities scholarship.  Where every sociopolitical idea and hypothesis at least halfway, and half-brained, conceived innately ascends above such pesky things like critical examination, or verifiable data.  With such intellectual rigor leading the way, I just can’t for the life of me figure out why a Liberal Arts education is seen as a joke by the rest of the academic community these days.

Dear Noble Assholes,

Assholes don’t bother me.  Assholes who pride themselves on being assholes (and advertise their “asshole-ishness” publicly) don’t bother me, either.  However, there is a certain type of asshole that exists that does tend to irk me just a bit.  I would call this type the noble asshole.

Noble, because this sort of assholes has actually convinced themselves that being an asshole is synonymous with having an honest dialogue, thereby framing their need to be vindictive and rude towards people into a public service for the greater good of humanity.  Moreover, the noble assholes believe that being assholes just means that they are braver than you, because (unlike you) they aren’t scared to speak plainly.  Ultimately, I think it’s this sense of self-aggrandizement that grinds my gears about the noble asshole.

Because, tell me honestly, what great feat of bravery are accomplished by harping on about something as personal as someone’s physical flaws?  Do we honestly think that ugly people don’t know that they’re ugly?  That short people don’t know that they’re short?  So what great service is accomplished by calling for people to have to be confronted with these sort of shortcomings in every conversation they have, be they relevant to the conversation or not?

Now, don’t misunderstand me.  I have no problem with anyone saying whatever the hell they want.  I really, really could not care less at how offensive something is (be it something said, published, or put on display), because within a free society the right to be offensive needs to be as protected as the right to be offended is.  And claiming offense cannot, and should never, serve as a tool to silence someone simply because you feel insulted by what s/he said or did.  What I am saying is that, in that same spirit, if you are being insulting don’t further insult our collective intelligence by pretending that you are doing anything else.

No, you’re not “just being honest”.  You’re going several steps beyond that, on account that anyone past the age of puberty, who isn’t on the extreme end of the autism spectrum, ought to have enough common sense (not to mention human decency) to know the difference between speaking honestly, and being an opinionated dick on matters where your opinion was never asked to begin with.

The most annoying part is that, while I went out of my way here to accommodate the noble asshole’s asshole-ish ways by openly stating her/his right to be as shamelessly insulting as s/he sees fit, this same type of asshole will always (and I do mean, always) cry foul the moment someone responds accordingly to the insults s/he so freely spouted out.  It’s a warped sense of logic, in which the noble assholes demand the right to insult you, but deny you the right to acknowledge the reality that they have in fact just insulted you.

And these are the self-proclaimed “truth-tellers” of our age?  The noble souls who can’t even grasp the basic physics of how exerting an action will result in an equal reaction.

Noble?  Truth-tellers?  There is a more fitting description for people who lack the ability to speak with others with the basic tone of civility, who lack the ability to have the foresight or maturity to understand the consequences or impact their conduct can have on others; we call such people children.  And if you behave like child, throw temper-tantrums like a child, and have the emotional maturity of a child, then I will presume that you wish for me to speak to you like a child.  Just like a spoiled, undisciplined child, who has no filter and spouts out the first thing that pops into her/his underdeveloped mind.

And make no mistake, if you are among the self-proclaimed noble assholes, I am not doing anything noble by writing all of this.  I am insulting you, and you should be insulted but it.

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

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.

My Problem With Personality Tests

I would wager that astrology has suffered a big drop in its number of believers over the last few decades.  Some people still undoubtedly read their horoscopes now and again, but few would take it seriously if the prophetic paragraph typed in the flimsy pages of their morning newspaper told them to avoid going outdoors because doom will be awaiting them.  It’s easy enough to point to examples that call into question the rational basis of astrology (like pointing out how it can be that people born on the same date, at the same time, emerging from the exact same womb, can still go on to have completely different futures, and even personalities?) that much of the practice has been reduced to something of a passive interest for most of its practitioners, and is rarely avowed amongst new acquaintances.

For many millennials the idea of orienting their personality based on what astrological sign they were born under seems silly, however, at the same time many within this same generation seem to accept alternative personality groupings, like the Myers-Briggs Personality Test as something more concrete.  While the Test purports to indicate psychological preferences on how a person perceives the world, and makes her/his decisions as a result, it’s reliability, practical utility, and scientific validity leave much to be desired.

The problem with Myers-Briggs is the same as the problem with all personality tests, in that it is self-administered and reflect a self-selected view of one’s personality, failing to take into account the fact that how you see yourself in your inner dialogue might not be how you come across in your external interactions with others, all of which goes considerably into influencing the perceptions and decisions you form and make on a daily basis.  This is fueled by an inevitable personal bias innate to personality tests, making it damn near impossible to be objective when the subject matter in question is, in fact, yourself.

The reason I compare such personality tests to a horoscope is that when I read through the various personality summaries of each astrological sign, there is not a single one that will not reflect some basic component of my personality and character that I can choose to focus on, if it happens to please me to do so.  And when I read through the descriptions of each personality type on the Myers-Briggs scale (or any other personality test), I can also see ways in which every category listed could apply to me if I just focused on different aspects of my personality.

I get that having a ready made list of attributes makes it easier for many of us to interact with and make decisions about other people (as well as how we choose to view and carry ourselves, personally).  But something as fluid and adaptable as a “personality type” comes across to me as much too situation-specific to be neatly labeled by any one, two, three, or seven scale tests, anymore than reading celestial patterns to determine one’s lucky/unlucky days.  I find that actually talking with each other is much more affective at gauging another person’s personality, just like having an honest dialogue with oneself goes much further in helping us figure out what makes us who we are deep down.

The Value of Patriotism: A Rant

This is going to be a rant, brought about partially by the brain-draining ennui of the seemingly never-ending election season.  So bear with me for a second, please.

I believe it is important to own up to one’s ignorance on a topic, hence I have to admit that I don’t understand patriotism.  I can understand the desire individuals might have to closely associate to one group or another for the sake of feeling a greater level of security, or even just to provide some reference of possessing a “greater” identity.  I can also understand how this might develop into a sense of protectiveness towards one’s place of birth, which (after family) is usually the most common form of self-identity for a person.  But what I don’t understand is how acknowledgment of the fact that we are relatively dependent on the communities we reside in, translates into a perpetual need to proclaim the superiority of one’s arbitrary nation of origin over any other.  After all, no one chooses the place he or she–or one’s ancestors–will be born in.  The accomplishments that have been achieved by individuals who happen to reside within the same borders as you were done wholly independent of your existence (and even if you had a direct participation in some grand achievement, would it be fair to attribute your accomplishments to something as random as a place of birth?).

What perplexes me most about patriotic sentiments is the manner in which most people accept its value as a self-evident fact.  “You need to be proud of where you come from”, “My country, good or bad”, “Any man who does not love his land, and the land of his forefathers, is a man who does not love himself.”  The message propagated by all sides is one that denounced all who do not feel the fervor of patriotism as possessing some kind of defect in character.  That if you don’t show an innate defensiveness about your nationality, you are thought of as somehow deprived of a matter that is (for some reason or another) vital to a person’s psychological health.  This I don’t understand.  And simply repeating to me that it’s important to feel pride towards your country of origin is not an argument, it is a demand–worse yet, it is a command.  A call for assimilation, in favor of a value that can not be defended outside of baseless tautologies (i.e. “being patriotic is good, because it is good to be patriotic”).  I pay my taxes.  I follow the laws of the land.  So, why must I stand in union with the rest of you as you shout meaningless slogans, sing eccentric hymns, and salute pieces of cloths as if they were the very fabric holding the universe together?  Why must I prove that I deserve to be a part of this community through such flamboyant means, when I am already doing my all to keep society functioning at the individual level (the only level I have any authority on)?

I am not ashamed of either the country I was born in, nor the one I currently reside and identify with, but neither am I overtly proud.  In truth, I am forced to be neutral on it as a whole, since it holds no uniform identity from coast to coast, from city to city, from person to person.  Perhaps, the patriots are right, and my apathy is causing me to miss out on something spectacular here.  But then again, I can’t really miss that which I’ve never had.