“Kant” Revisited: Arthur Schopenhauer

I was most certainly drinking while writing most of Kant. But there’s a reason why some of the best writers were, and are, complete drunks.

I don’t remember writing a single sentence for this episode. However, some things were obvious: when I was on, I was ON.

Not everything that I wrote during the course of the series worked. Yet there were times when I surprised even myself. I’d like to say that I don’t like to toot my own horn, but I’d be lying. There were times when my writing and thinking soared between poetic and enigmatic. While I’m not a fan of Hegel, I was intrigued by his method of purposefully trying to make his writing difficult to understand. To a degree, I was trying to do the same…and there were times that I succeeded.

I don’t know if THIS exact episode is a perfect example of that. BUT when re-reading this, a certain dread came over me: have I taken a step back in my writing? While you might not be a fan of it, there’s a part of me that wishes that I can return to this form of enigmatic style.

Now that I’m sober, is it gone? Can I ever “re-discover” it?

I don’t know.

Really, I couldn’t even follow what I was talking about. I suppose the question I was trying to ask was: is free will found in unimpeded passions OR is it found in not becoming a slave to them?

With Thanksgiving coming up, I’ll probably be unloading a lot of these “Kant Revisited” posts. So look forward to that.

But as usual, I don’t edit or spellcheck these. Please forgive those errors. Enjoy!

What could art be, if it’s not the diversion from the phenomenal conditions of life?

As much as Zizek still finds Hegel relevant, he remains a minority. But while Hegel was at the height of his powers, while lecturing at the University of Berlin…he did manage to attract rivals. One such rival was none other than Arthur Schopenhauer…who would schedule his lectures during Hegel’s. But despite Schopenhauer’s animosity, Hegel managed to attract more followers in his time, leaving Schopenhauer bitterly frustrated…a characteristic that very much shows through his writing. Even though he didn’t find the attention he deserved in his OWN time, Schopenhauer seems to have bested Hegel among thinkers in our era. With his obvious crankiness resonating with modern audiences.

But as much as we become confronted with the nothingness that’s set before us, there’s a deep-seated concern for purpose. Why continue on? In his work “The Wisdom of Life, Schopenhauer introduces what he calls “Eudaemonology”….or how we can structure our lives, so that we may maximize our success and happiness. The key point here, being that existence should become preferable to the alternative…that of non-being. So, “The Wisdom of Life” for our practical purposes today…can help us navigate through the void.

But it would be interesting to speculate, how…someone like Schopenhauer would be received if he were alive today. In our Golden Age of self-help books and uplifting quotes, in order to be cherished in this era, one must appeal to the liberal democratic optimism of progress. There are few thinkers today that would deliberately take a contrarian or cranky perspective. Slavoj Zizek seems to come close, but he seems to take a scatter-minded, loosey-goosey approach, which may come across as contrarian, but in actuality…his writing is just a representation of his inner monologue. The writer and podcaster Bret Easton Ellis comes the closest to Schopenhauer, with his unfriendly views towards current entertainment and disdain for the thin-skinned millennial generation. But this attitude towards current times is hard to come by. Us liberals have been spoiled by the eight years of Barack Obama, that we ended up choking on our positivity when Trump got elected. Whatever sort of creative drives that are bourn out of disdain, will hopefully return under the Trump years.

But what would Schopenhauer HIMSELF think of these times? Even in his own era, he held contempt for the seemingly innocent activity of card-playing. Such distractions only took away from one’s own inner constitutions. Even though he would marvel at our technological advancements, notably the internet…but he would flip his lid to learn that we were using it for social media and vanity, rather than for knowledge and education. To him, social media would be a mindless distraction that would only reinforce our dependence on an interconnected world.

For Schopenhauer, real happiness is found in self-sufficiency. The mind shouldn’t have to rely on the stimulus of the outside world ONLY, in order to find happiness. As the cliché goes, one could be surrounded with material gains, but still be poor in spirit. Not that the external world and the body aren’t necessary. Schopenhauer would even state that physical health is necessary towards happiness. But for a genuinely happy person, that individual would have the power to generate meaning from their own intellectual faculties…or the world of the mind would be found to be infinite and sufficient.

Therefore, it is the intellectual pursuits that are held in the highest regard. The pursuits of the material world are nothing but empty drives of the will, aimlessly propelling the self forward without meaning. So it would be safe to say that Schopenhauer wouldn’t be supportive of the lifestyle decisions of James Bond…or even a Charles Bukowski. Although, these would be considered intelligent and self-sufficient men, their ambitions don’t go farther than the material world. Theirs is the acceptance of the nothingness and absurdity of the world, that they would find it unnecessary to live a self-sufficient life of intellectual pursuits alone. They primarily favor the physical extremes of sex, violence, drugs, and alcohol.

And it is here, where we come to a crossroads within the Schopenhauer system. If we accept our representation of the world as our will, and we reject the metaphysicism of dogmatic religion (like Christianity)…we have two choices. Possibly more, but I want to focus on two of them: we can adopt stoic-like practices, either through pure stoicism or other self-disciplinary practices like Buddhism (as Schopenhauer likely did), OR, we can engage in our animalistic/nihilistic tendencies and engage pursuits of the material world…or the path of James Bond.

Now must of us choose the happy medium in between. We realize that by failing to play by the rules, the external world will enact ITS WILL against us. To find cooperation, we adapt our will, so as to not piss off the Medusa of the outer world…one that can strike at us with its many snake heads. This path is the most comforting one…we acknowledge the beast within us, but to not agitate the large beast outside of us…we quietly take our prey, even if just in imagination, because keeping up appearances (despite knowing the falsity of the outer world) is the true gift from the gods…the blanket of conformity, to keep the world turning.

Perhaps the acknowledgement of both the blanket and the animal beneath it, is the true path towards self-contentment, if not happiness. But happiness itself is a far loftier goal. Ultimate happiness, or the perpetuation of unlimited gratification, can be considered unachievable. The mind carries excessive baggage from its journey from the pond…towards a self-aware being, that continual happiness would work against the purpose of the mind, therefore making the pursuit of it unwise. While ultimate happiness is unachievable, sustainable self-contentment makes itself a far more worthwhile goal. And this is done by making a truce between the nihilistic ghost driving the will, and the external beast ready to pounce at any moment.

Schopenhauer seems to see the intellect as being a releasing energy, made to liberate the soul from the material body. This is a gift to mankind….what elevates us from the animals that co-habitate the planet with us. But what if we took the contrarian view? The view that the intellect is not a blessing, but a curse? Life has been existing on this planet for millions of years. Life lives, it eats, it fucks…or it doesn’t, but nevertheless it procreates…and so the system goes on…millions of years without a hitch….species going extinct as nature dictates. Then blossoms the human intellect, taking us to places life has never been before. So mother nature, with millions of years of experience under her belt, then here we come, circumventing the process…going into space and fucking up the planet. Then, after years of reflection, we become aware of our destruction and impending doom.

What have we achieved with this superior intellect? We might have uncovered the mysteries of the universe, or we are well on our way towards doing so, but to what purpose? So that we can alleviate the pains of death and uncover the nothingness that awaits us? Everything comes at a cost, to include the intellect. Are we really better off knowing about our impending demise? Are we that much happier for knowing the justness and injustices of the world? Perhaps Eve was better off not eating the fruit of knowledge. We have been cursed with our knowledge, and we continue to pay the price for our great leap forward….with our continual deliberations on what it means to be happy.I guess, as the old saying goes…ignorance is bliss….or, it’s more bliss than knowing. Look no further than your pet; living a sweet blissful life, unknowing of the struggles of what it means to be human. Your dog, happily moving from one moment to the next…overjoyed at the prospect of getting a scrap of food, or a pat on the head. You take comfort in having an animal that gets the simplest joys in the most mundane things. You suspect that your animal could wish itself to be human, that you pity it in the most innocent of ways. But with this consistent blissfulness, perhaps its your dog that pities you.

Schopenhauer invokes Aristotle when says that life devoted to philosophy is the happiest. But how true has that proven to be? A life of philosophy has the burden of knowing the true conditions of reality. Knowingly believing in falsities is not a practice that the philosopher usually condones. If we took any philosophy out of history (say, Schopenhauer), and put them into a room with any religious cleric, I would wager to say that the cleric would be the most cheerful of the two. The belief that the nothingness of death are actually alleviated by venturing to the afterworld, is such a powerful nonsensical idea, that it disguises or obstructs the true pain of being. The believer is able to go through life without any burdens of the philosopher, because their questions have been answered…and they take comfort in the lie.

But what Schopenhauer is trying to reach towards, is the freedom we receive from being unobstructed from our pursuits. And a person with deep intellectual capabilities will find that their pursuits will spoil the other necessities of life, namely relationships with others…which they will find shallow and unrewarding. This person might, as a result, find themselves alone or bored, due to their unquenchable thirst for knowledge and wisdom. Schopenhauer acknowledges the burden of the intellectual, but on the flip side…the person that only pursues the joys of physical reality, (whom he calls Philistines), will also soon find themselves bored. But this specific boredom and restlessness, is of a much shallower variety. Their restless pursuits could never compare to that of a true intellectual.

So where does that leave those with deep inner worlds? Without the assistance of drugs, alcohol, and other substances, is true happiness attainable? Or perhaps a more suitable question should be…is happiness the ONLY worthwhile feeling? The burden of knowledge cannot be put back into the tube; Eve cannot attach the fruit back to the tree. We are, for better or worse, doomed with the reality of our knowledge. How does one move forward with this burden? The pursuit of happiness is the cornerstone on which liberal democracies are based. But is it the cornerstone on which existential meaning is based? It makes sense for governments to cherish this pursuit…but why must there be a pursuit of it at all? From a mental health perspective, the only obstructions to our happiness are the ones we place in front of it. If we adopted the way of the stoics, we can theoretically be happy in any situation, therefore negating the use of the pursuit. But is true happiness possible? With our awareness of uncertainty, and time, and the realities of the world, perpetual happiness is an unrealistic goal. At best, the greatest that we can achieve is perpetual solitude, a la the path of the stoics and Buddhist enlightenment. But what’s the mechanism behind this solitude?

In the last episode, Zizek explained to us that the real objective of philosophy, is to not explore the nothingness of the thing-in-itself, but to explore the veil of perception that covers over it. The human mind has been jostled from one extreme to the next…it’s far better suited for managing catastrophe (which is a better tool for survival), than maintaining any sort of grounds for perpetual contentment. Our actions of completing one objective to the next is not motivated by ONLY pure survival, but driven by a conception of the IDEA of happiness. It’s the carrot that dangles in front of us. We might get a nibble every now and then, which keeps us hungry for more…but the idea of living in a world with an endless amount of easily accessible carrots, is an empty one. Yet, that’s what moves us forward, despite us understanding that such a world is unattainable. It’s the temptation of the carrot, the veil over the nothingness, that keeps us wanting more. So it’s the idea of happiness, and not happiness ITSELF, that’s the valuable tool. It’s The PURSUIT of happiness that’s the real key towards eternal self-contentment.

But with this burden of knowledge, we know that a state of persistent pleasure is only a myth. When we look at the condition of life, we realize that happiness and pleasure are seldom applied. Most of our lives are spent in sleep or operating functions that might bring about pleasure, but are, in fact, not pleasurable in themselves. Yet while a life might be full of happiness…does that happiness bring about meaning? Has the one that has spent their entire lives in the solitude of pleasure…brought about meaning upon themselves? This pointless existence, in Schopenhauer’s terms, is just an aimless drive of the will…seeking pleasure because that’s what the machine demands. A blind allegiance to happiness is not, in purely self-aware terms…not a full utilization of the free will. By giving way to pleasure at every turn, then it is the pleasure that owns you.

Indeed, seldom do we find meaning in happiness, outside of its own sake. Usually, we find the excessive dwelling in it, to be precious time wasted. To construct meaning, to possess the burden of knowledge, is to live beyond pleasure and pain…and not to become a slave to them.

Have I argued in favor of Schopenhauer? I have no idea because, once again, I failed to make it through the entire book. But that’s okay, because that gives YOU the opportunity to explore this subject on your own. I’m not asking and answering questions so that you don’t have to, I’m asking questions because I want you to be up late at night, like me! The ball’s in your court, buddy! Go read the damn book yourself!

Thought of the Day: “I prefer not to”

While in rehab, a fellow drunkard explained his life this way: “when you boil a frog, the water has to start off cool. If it starts too hot, the frog will jump out”.

I don’t know if that’s true. I never boiled a fucking frog before. But the analogy seemed appropriate. When we jump into our addictions, it starts off cool. The longer we stay in it, the heat rises and then it’s too late. We’re boiled.

I’ve been sober for just over three months. Honestly, I’ve made it look easy. It hasn’t been difficult necessarily, but there’s been many times where it’s crossed my mind….To dip my toes into drinking, have a swig or two because no one will find out. But that’s how it starts. The waters are cool in the beginning, but it progressively gets hotter. The next thing I know, I’m boiled. So I’ve decided to step off that merry-go-round. But I’ve spent most of my adult life on that ride. I try to block the past from my mind when  the weekends or evenings come around and I’m all alone. That’s the way I once did things but not now. And I must admit, it’s strange sometimes to sleep in on the weekends, only to wake up and find myself NOT hungover. But that’s been nearly every weekend since turning 21.

But I’m reevaluating myself, trying to find a new identity under my newfound sobriety. And what I’m finding is surprising. My favorite episode so far of Maria Bamford’s Lady Dynamite is where she visits a “loaf coach”, played by Jason Mantzoukas. Maria wishes to avoid overextending  herself and being back in a psyche ward due to stress. Mantzoukas attempts to teach her to “loaf” and avoid taking on too much responsibility. This naturally fails, nevertheless Maria learns a valuable lesson in….taking it easy? Honestly, I don’t remember, it’s been a few days. But the episode stuck out to me because I found myself wanting to be Jason Mantzoukas’ character. Hell, I wouldn’t mind being Mantzoukas the man. That being said, I guess we all wouldn’t mind loafing around the house all day, but the episode taught me a lesson in not rushing things.

In the end we all die. So I might as well enjoy the ride towards death.

I don’t know if that’s what the episode was saying. But that’s what I took out of it.

I vaguely recall Slavoj Zizek, in one of his many interviews that you can see on YouTube, once wearing a shirt that read “I prefer not to”. I later learned that that’s a reference to Herman Melville’s short story Bartleby, the Scrivener about a man that turns lazy while working on Wall Street. I never read it, and probably never will. Not because “I would prefer not to”, but because, well….I’m lazy. So yeah, “I would prefer not to”. But I didn’t know that at the time, so I saw Zizek’s shirt as an endorsement of laziness.

I mentioned in an earlier post how I was dreading turning 30. It’s amazing how people are living much longer, yet culture still embraces youth like it means something. “30 under 30” are bullshit columns that we find littering the internet. And now we find more people than ever going through a “quarter life crisis” because we’re told that we have to accomplish shit early if we are to ever find success in life. Despite thinking that I was better than that, I came to find out that I wasn’t immune to that sense of dread either. So I pushed myself into getting a second degree and falsely believed that I was capable of handling a managerial job.

Living life in America, we’re told to do MORE. As some asshole explained to me, it’s part of our “protestant work ethic”.  (Fuck that guy, by the way) And now we have a generation of people buried under student loan debt dissatisfied with their employment because “it’s not what they went to college for”. Additionally, a fuckton of people are being diagnosed with a mental disorder and many more are becoming addicted to prescription medication, alcohol, opioids, and who knows what else. And few of us have the money to pay for all of our student and medical bills. Because of this “DO MORE” attitude, everyone is fucking miserable and addicted to something.

So here’s a revolutionary idea: do less. You know that you want to. Are you pushing 40 and stuck in a dead-end job that you love? Fuck it! You were meant to do that job!

But the larger lesson to be learned is: you don’t have to wait for something to be happy. You can choose to be in that state RIGHT NOW. No amount of money, college degrees, job responsibilities, houses, cars, etc. are necessary to achieve that. In fact, the less shit you have…the happier you’ll probably be. But it’s something that you and I have to bring to ourselves, nothing (or no one) else can do that.

As some wise people once said:

“I’m in a hurry to get things done. Oh I rush and rush until life’s no fun. All I really gotta do is live and die. But I’m in a hurry and don’t know why.”

Yes, I quoted the band Alabama. Don’t fucking judge.

So I’ve decided to slow down. It’s a hell of a lot better option than making a return to drinking.

“Kant” Revisited: Zizek and Hegel

Let’s traverse down memory lane once again with another transcript from the defunct My Life With Kant podcast.

Through mismanagement, I’ve lost track of most of the transcripts. As I find them, I’ll be publishing them here.

As usual, I don’t edit and spellcheck. So good luck and enjoy!

branches&creatures

Believe it or not, this podcast was one bad day away from being called “My Life with Hegel”…which, by the way, I completely regret naming this show “My Life With Kant”. You know…in hindsight, I probably should have named it “Existential Angst” or “The Arguing with Myself” podcast. But whatever, here I am.

But it was the German Idealists that intrigued me first…Notably GWF Hegel. There’s just something so enigmatic about him…the fact that he influenced so much of 19th Century philosophy…and yet no one understood him. How does that even work? But I’m such an audiophile, that I listen to all kinds of books and podcasts…and Charlton Heston’s reading of, the synopsis of Hegel’s career, contributes so much to the mythos of Hegel the Philosopher…you know, by saying things like: Hegel not remembering what he meant with certain paragraphs, and making it the reader’s responsibility to understand the reading…to the point where he would deliberately make his writing difficult. All of this seems to indicate that Hegel teeters on the border between philosopher and simple madman.

His philosophy can be considered so “out-there” and convoluted, that he has more or less fallen out of favor in modern circles, despite his influence. But not everyone is intimidated by this labyrinth of a philosopher. Slavoj Zizek, the contemporary Slovenian thinker, in his work titled “Less Than Nothing”, calls the decades between the publishing of Kant’s “Critique of Pure Reason” and the death of Hegel, as some of the most crucial regarding human thought. And it’s a shame that I never got around to exploring German Idealism in its entirety (well, at least not yet), But Zizek says of the big Four within this sub-genre, as echoed by Badiou…quote “Kant relates to Newtonian science, his basic question being what kind of philosophy is adequate to the Newtonian breakthrough; Fichte relates to politics, to the event that is the French Revolution; Schelling relates to (Romantic) art and explicitely subordinates philosophy to art as the highest approach to the Absolute; and Hegel, finally, relates to love; his underlying problem is, from the very beginning of his thought, that of Love.” End quote.

And thankfully from that, I have more ideas for new episodes. But, I guess the project for German Idealism…especially for Kant…is that when seeking philosophical certainty, we needn’t concern ourselves with the objectable “Thing-in-Itself” that we don’t have access to, but instead…with the phenomena of our PERCEPTIONS of the thing-in-itself. This, understandably, is so disconcerning for many thinkers, notably Schopenhauer…who essentially criticized Kant for constructing a barrier, to shield us from the fact that he was, basically defending Christianity.

But Zizek asks the question: “What if there is more truth in the mask, than the face beneath it?”. Therefore Kant missed the biggest point of his gigantic philosophical project. Remember how I was trying to deny reality in the last episode? Well, thanks to Kant and the German Idealists, I can ALMOST do that. Not that I can deny the EXISTANCE of reality, but I can almost deny our INTERPRETATION of reality, as being nothing more than a self-serving device, (Not intended to isolate us from truth, but instead, it is to help us navigate the landmine that is “the thing-in-itself”), and because this a construct of the mind, the perception of the TOTALITY of the “thing-in-itself” can be changed, and is not concrete. Therefore, the real project of philosophy is understand THE MASK, and not the face behind it. So, please invite me back to your parties, I’m not THAT crazy.

But Zizek wants to place Hegel above the other three German thinkers. Because according to him, We ponder and observe the unknowable thing, and because of our frustrations with understanding, this is evidence of Truth.

I should point out though, That Zizek is not without some controversy, and his YouTube videos are a glorious sight to behold. He often flips people’s arguments, and then draws the same conclusions. This can appear insane at best, and downright Evil at worst. I read somewhere, that he thought Nazism failed, not because it was an evil ideaology….but because it didn’t go far enough! If a celebrity said that, there would be a MASSIVE apology tour. I’m pretty fucking far from being a Nazi apologist, but just think about it….what if the Hitler succeeded in his world domination? We don’t even need to do that much thinking, there’s a very good television series on Amazon about this very problem. But if they succeeded in the real world, would that have been a major paradigm shift in our morals? So we appeared to have dodged a bullet. But that’s the kind of road that we have to traverse when we explore Zizek.

And the book “Less than Nothing” is quite an undertaking. Luckily, Zizek seems to road rage his way through philosophers (which is pretty much what I do), so hopefully I’ll be able to make it through this book. We’ll see though.

But I’ve always thought fiction or creative reflections make far better philosophy than typical treatises. And in a Kantian sense, where we are far more concerned with the veil covering ultimate reality, writing and are provides us with a far more accurate picture on the monolith staring back at us. It’s unrestricted from the true themes that affect the heart. Philosophers can attempt to describe these experiences in a clinical sense, but rarely is there any connection to the actual human condition.

What really takes the reader into an alternate world, is reading testimonies of terror and survival. The case in point here, as Zizek explains, is the Holocaust. No amount of words put together in any order, can adequately explain the true horrors of this event. Yet those that did survive, needed to convey to the world what actually happened, even though we are disconnected from those experiences. Zizek explains that survivors returned home, only to find that their family and friends couldn’t comprehend the gravity of those experiences. To cope, or as a way to direct their message to a willing receiver, they told their journey to something called “The Big Other”. Or, in other words, something that will understand, even if it’s not present in a temporal sense. Some writers might direct their angst towards future generations, who might be more understanding of their predicament. But this is not a given.

Some might despair at the thought at not finding an audience, but perhaps the bigger picture is to capture moments between the Idea and the Real…with a capital I and R. Or as he says, quote: “There is more truth in appearances than what may be hidden beneath.” End quote. And that’s some pretty spooky stuff. Leading him to say that the benefit of having a poem about the Holocaust is that it provides the “Idea of the Holocaust”, which forces us to reckon with the terror that it really was. The terminology here, gets a bit wonky for me, but the things that we perceive, often distracts us from the reality of what it really is; sex being an exchange of bodily fluids, food being dead animals and vegitables and such. And the ideas that we receive are not perceptions of the Real, but are actually DISTRACTIONS….or escapes from the REAL, as Zizek says.
So those ideas do not generate on their own power, but are a culmination of the empirical world. Therefore, as the positivists are all too aware of, only the physical world is real. Bringing us to the problem Hegel was trying to answer….the problem of metaphysics. But Zizek explains that the question doesn’t become: “how do we discover truth behind ideas, but how are ideas generated from truth.”

So perhaps this is why I call this thing “My Life with Kant”, because this is essentially Kant’s project. If Zizek is any indication, philosophers today haven’t really moved passed this problem…we form our conceptions of the thing-in-itself based on a priori means, making these means the basis metaphysics, post-Kant. According to this definition, even the analytic philosophers are unwittingly engaging in this metaphysical discussion…namely by focusing on language. Which, we can think of in some ways as being an a prioric tool to understanding the world. I don’t if that’s correct, so don’t get pissy with me, analytic philosophers, I’m just saying it. And Google brought up all kinds of nonsense when I tried to research it, so who knows?

But Zizek places Hegel above Kant, so in actuality, we haven’t moved passed Hegel’s project. And speaking of nonsense, get a load of this. Zizek says, quote: “Appearance is appearance reflected against the background of nothing (or, to put it in terms of quantum physics, all entities arise out of the quantum vacillations). Appearance is nothing in-itself.” End quote. YES!!!! Everyday I get one step closer to rationally denying the real world. But what does this mean?

Just as matter is the filling of the void…as to are the appearances of things. Our perceptions are the fillingness of the nothingness behind it. As I’m saying that, this sounds dangerously close to George Berkeley…as in…”to be is to be perceived”. But as where Berkeley would claim that nothing exists outside of the mind…perhaps Zizek would say that not even the mind exists! So we can quit this whole philosophical discourse, because when it comes to the ultimate question of “why is there something rather than nothing?”, Zizek would say that there is ONLY nothing, OR, “from Nothing, through nothing, to nothing.” So I’m just completely wasting your time. Or, as the great Sammy Hagar would say, this is all “mental masturbation”.

But this nothingness isn’t all gloom and doom. After all, the Buddhist notion of no-self, would lead us to the nothingness, or flame out, which is the path towards Nirvana. But Zizek doesn’t subscribe to this, preferring to see this nothing as just a “pure gap”, ontologically speaking. And its from here where we can bridge off into the mechanics of reality, where the positivists might reduce everything to matter in motion. But it’s also from here, where we can take away the matter, and just leave motion. That is, if I’m understanding this correctly.

Carl Sagan said something similar in “The Cosmos”, during his whole “making a pie” sketch. We’re all dorks here, you know what I’m talking about….that atoms are mostly empty spaces. So the universe is primarily made up of, nothing at all. And if Carl Sagan said it, then it is good enough for me. So the matter that does occupy an atom, is really just energy in motion, causing mass. And when that energy ceases to be in motion, then it reverts back to nothing. What am I talking about? Doesn’t matter because I’m talking about…nothing. But again, we find that positive reality is just a network of interconnectedness. So how do we bring about free will? Or something that can generate an act, independent of this network?

Now for Zizek, we seem to be at a crossroads….we can choose the metaphysical path of Plato (not that I know anything about that). Or we can continue to kick the same materialist/positivists/postmodern can down the road.

One of the things that distinguishes the human mind from others (and why I suppose, a purely Darwinist approach would be insufficient to explain it) is that we are able to willfully deceive ourselves in order to believe fiction…or become infatuated with the veil. If the veil were to be removed, it would reveal the emptiness behind it, and the charade would be over. This is the mechanism of fetishness. The infatuation falls unto the cloth that covers the reality behind it. And if it was taken away, the mythos disappears and we are left with a void…the reality of nothing.

Now I have to spend more time of social media than I like, mostly Twitter because I’m lazy. And you look at the work of fellow starving artists…and what you find is the celebration of awkwardness, or the quote “creepy cuteness”. And those things are fine, a lot of it is very well done. But that’s the infatuation with the veil that I was speaking of. The reality of the perpetually awkward is how socially crippling those situations can be…or that a zombie will eat your mother fucking face off!!! And zombies aren’t even real, they’re a veil over the veil. The dwelling in the so-called “darker” aspects of life, is not the acceptance of the nothingness of life…but only serves to distract you from the terror that REALLY exists.

Not to put words in Zizek’s mouth, but I suppose we can take this grand assumption all the way down…down to the subatomic level…where we see the atoms, and protons, and God-knows what else that makes an atom…but we see them for what they really are…a mask. But what alarms me about this absence of reality is…other than the obvious being, half the horseshit we deal with, day in and day out…but in the age in which we live, how much of our politics are just facades?…Trying to deceive ourselves into believing that our projects are all that important? Like there’s an “end all, be all” solution to our problems. Or would we rather not face the fact that, heh…we are all just making it up as we go? Are the policies which we create just stand-ins for myths…that get categorized for having practical implications for the real world? So is Thomas Piketty’s “Capital in the 21st Century” just another mythologizing of mathematics, economics, and politics that we hold dear today? Making it no different than Aesop’s Fables?

Now there’s a shitton more to this book, but it’s longer than War and Peace, I mean like…literally, it’s longer than War and Peace. So, I completely missed Zizek’s larger points, so if you want to learn more…read the damn book yourself. You’re welcome Slavoj Zizek…you just got free publicity.

But what I actually was Hegel…who has alarmingly gone seldom mentioned in this podcast. But look, I don’t know if the idea of nothingness is empirically sound…but, I just hate this world so much, that I’ll believe anything that contradicts it. So instead of talking about Hegel, we got to talk about…nothing at all.

The Curse of Passion

In rehab, people argue all of the time. Especially in group meetings.

Although I thought that these arguments were a complete waste of time, I nevertheless engaged them. I mean, why not?

The last “debate” I got into, some kid was trying to define the meaning of success. He wanted to be a YouTube sensation. He was going to be a rapper/DJ, and expected to be a millionaire by 30.

Most people would have simply rolled their eyes or discarded this conversation as nothing but a misguided dream of youth. But I was having none of it. For him, it was all about the money and the “bitches”.

Someone needed to speak up.

“So you’re not in it for the music?” I asked. I probably should have called him out for calling women “bitches” as well, I feel kinda bad about that.

But this conversation has sort of stuck in my crawl.

Not because it was the dreams of some kid. If he becomes successful, good for him. But because it’s a total lack of commitment to craft. Where’s the story? Where’s the love? Where’s the conflict? WHERE’S THE PASSION?

And he’s not the only one. If you’ve spent any amount of time around pretentious white people, it isn’t long before you hear “I’m writing a book”. Like they want you to heap praise onto them for something they haven’t completed yet.

If you truly love something, you won’t give a fuck what people think. One shouldn’t go into the arts for the appreciation of others. Sadly, that’s why MOST people are attracted to it. Not gonna lie, there’s probably some part of my subconscious that’s attracted to that end. But if that’s the primary motivation, you and me are bound to be disappointed. Art, to a degree, is to be cathartic….a release of one’s own emotions, to create something that’s reflective of the artist.

It won’t matter if it’s appreciated, as long as the final product is something the artist truly wanted to construct. The objective isn’t to make something that others want to see, but to create something YOU want to see.

How true one is to their own passion is the genius of art. To FEEL it, one must be brave enough to face their own realities. Which is why most of the great artists are (were) absolutely insane.

TO BE great is to be insane. Which is why passion is not a gift to the possessor….but is a curse.

Again, think back to Nikos Kazantzakis’ The Last Temptation of Christ. Christ never at any point felt blessed that he had to die for all of humanity. He was burdened by it. To take pleasure in it would have meant that it wasn’t a sacrifice at all. Christ had gifts and was given a duty of heavy burden….to have gifts, and be “blessed” with the burden of genius is no blessing.

The saying “dance like no one’s watching” is such a cliché. It’s thrown around haphazardly without any sort of thought. But do we have the courage to practice it? I believe that it was Diogenes that went around Ancient Greece arguing with himself. It didn’t matter if you acknowledge the shit he was saying, it was important to him. He had such conviction in his lifestyle and philosophy, that he infamously didn’t give a fuck that he was talking to Alexander the Great. Nowadays, we’d just consider this person clinically insane or blow them off as simply being a homeless person.

In those days, that person was a philosopher!

But Western society has become too formalized to permit the normalization of such behavior. While simultaneously wishing to break out of such social demands, we also steadfastly uphold them. We don’t do this through any legalized practice, but (if I’m understanding this correctly) through a Zizekian (or Lacanian) “Big Other”. Or through some invisible order that socialized peoples attempt to abide by. This, in my view, hasn’t KILLED artistic genius, but has shifted it around the struggle between duty and meaning to one’s self and their responsibility as a socialized creature. Therefore, partly explaining why a Diogenes-like thinking is difficult to come by these days.

So while artistic genius hasn’t be killed (or rather, it’s been shifted), it has been stymied by the predominance of this “Big Other”. Or rather, modern artists attempt to appeal to this Big Other (a non-existent entity), which in turn jeopardizes the integrity of their work. Artists begin to see their own worth in how others perceive them…which is an anxiety that’s perpetuated by the prevalence digital media outlets. We, as spectators, partake in this “Big Other” by rewarding and consuming cheap content. Therefore merit is not found in quality or genuine artistic genius, but through clicks, likes, and shares.

Art is not a democracy.

We can argue that these threats have been made against art since the beginning of time. Censorship might have been the greatest threat once, but in our own era it has become the “tyranny of the majority” for a lack of a better description. This new threat promotes not artistic genius, but the drive to be noticed rather than being true to one’s craft.

So once again, we find ourselves struggling to find authenticity. Which is why the world of Blade Runner is so relevant now.

Speaking of which, I find it funny that so many of the criticisms of Blade Runner: 2049 are similar to the ones from the 1982 film. If you went in expecting to see Ryan Gosling mow down an army of replicants, then you’re an idiot. People were also expecting that in 1982 and they missed out on one of the greatest films of all time. Blade Runner: 2049 isn’t an action film, it’s genuine sci-fi. And since it’s underperforming at the box office, you’d be doing the film, and yourself, a great disservice by avoiding it. It’s truly a cinematic experience, so go shell out a few dollars and three hours of your life and go see this movie!

 

The State of Perpetual Revolution

I’m cranky most of the time.

In spirit, I’m an 80 year old man stuck in a millennial’s body. So I don’t really have time in my life to pay attention to Demi Lovato. I’d rather gripe about grandkids and drive around with my turn signal on.

That being said, Lovato made it into the news recently for something that isn’t really newsworthy. She declined to talk about a specific area of her personal life…her sexuality. This prompted several articles like this to be written.

Now I’m a straight white male, I have a relatively easy time in America. I’ll admit. So the gentleman that wrote the article previously mentioned is calling out Lovato for her reluctance to declare her sexuality because, to him, it shows that she might be embarrassed in an era when the LGBT community needs to be loud and proud.

Makes sense.

The average white American male might read that article and think: “who cares?” or “that’s none of our business.” or “people’s sexual lives need to be kept quiet”…and so on. This view, of course, allows the heterosexual to take their sexuality for granted because they are never judged for such behavior. You see where this is going. BUT amongst the liberal heteros that might get peeved at such an article, by believing that Lovato’s personal life doesn’t belong to us, there’s still a wanting to make non-heterosexuality a normal occurrence in everyday life….thus taking away the necessity for such cheap articles.

Am I making sense?

Basically, I think that the author of the article (and his supporters) and those that might despise the article are arguing the same point from different angles. Both sides wish to normalize LGBT lifestyles to the point where it isn’t debated like heterosexuality….it’s simply a normal function of society.

Now I gave Star Trek a lot of shit in the last post. But one thing it did well was SHOW how the various HUMAN cultures interacted without controversy. In the 60s, there was a Russian navigating the ship, a Japanese guy piloting it, an African-American woman handling communications, a drunken Scottish guy running engineering….and no one batted an eye. It wasn’t even talked about. It was simply a part of everyday life. In fact, I don’t believe that the show ever addressed (or went in-depth) the prejudices that were going on while the show was airing. Within that universe, humans evolved passed the point where those things ever became an issue.

The universe of Star Trek was (is) what I like to call a “post-revolutionary” society, at least as far as Earth was concerned.

I believe that it was Slavoj Zizek that said (paraphrasing), “it’s not the revolution that’s the problem, it’s what happens after the revolution.” Honestly, I don’t know if he said that, and if he didn’t….then I just did.

But what that means is, supposing some “radical” political force achieves its objectives, it must quickly establish a degree of normalcy within its society. It can’t continue on in a state of perpetual revolution. Else it exposes itself to a series of “counter-revolutions” that might jeopardize its achievements.

Every political movement must concern itself with its “post-revolution”. By remaining in a state of violent upheaval, either through ACTUAL violence or radical expression, only begets similar reactions against the movement.  (Of course, what makes a movement “revolutionary” or “counter-revolutionary” is based upon the perspectives of the respective movement) How this is achieved is open to debate, but it’s assumed that it might require being gracious in victory RATHER than enacting vengeance against former enemies.

These so-called “revolutions” don’t necessarily mean “physical violence to overthrow the state”. They can be simple cultural revolutions. The information age opened up a wave of change across the globe. Suddenly, the internet was opening windows to perspectives that were previously living on the fringe. I don’t imagine that same-sex marriage was too popular in Ronald Reagan’s America. In fact, in 2004, I recall that several states voted to ban it altogether. Yet a decade later, it was legal across the nation. This can be an example of a “cultural revolution”.

Barack Obama seemed to have captured the zeitgeist of this particular revolution. And like all good revolutions, a counter one was soon to follow. This one was spearheaded by Donald Trump and the alt-right. (Although these two sides might argue which one is the “revolution” and “counter-revolution”)

Movements and revolutions are products of their age. Usually their successes come at such at rate, that it’s difficult or outright impossible for a generation to fully grasp their effects. Again, the information age, the age of the internet….science fiction from only a few decades earlier failed to predict its rising. No one saw it coming. But it changed everyday lives and American culture.

That was why Barack Obama came seemingly out of nowhere. The openness provided by the internet brought forth a new age of left-wing politics. Reagan-esque conservativism went out of style. It’s no wonder that Donald Trump came in the wake of its destruction. After the successes of Obama, both culturally and politically, many people were left wondering “what the fuck just happened?”. And then the Alt-Right became the digital-age’s counter revolution to Obama’s liberal popularity.

And on and on, this mad cycle goes.

This thing happened so quickly, that this generation didn’t have time to consider a “post-revolutionary” phase. We’re still caught up in the revolution ITSELF! And in the heat of the struggle, everything becomes about winning and vanquishing your enemies. This is why there’s no middle ground in the fight between the Obama Coalition and the Alt-Right. And because of this lack of middle ground, the revolution is allowed to continue, therefore permitting a perpetual cycle of movement/counter-movement. The clashing of these revolutionaries MIGHT endanger the very ideals that the two sides promote. And being birthed in the Information Age, these two sides MIGHT have more in common than what they realize.

Their ideals might be manifesting themselves in different ways…which is why it’s IMPORTANT to find middle ground, because failing to do so would endanger those ideals. But thinking about how a “post-revolutionary” world might look, is a step towards de-escalating tensions and ENACTING the principles that are behind the revolution itself.

And I already forgot how Demi Lovato fits into all of this.

I should mention that, being on the side of this so-called “Obama Coalition”, I am not saying CONCEDE to alt-right talking points. But on a larger note, it’s important to not fall into the idea of imperviousness to being wrong. When that happens, you’re already wrong. So avoid that.

That’s all I got.

Thought of the Day: The 12-Step Recovery for Skeptics

If you realize that your drinking and/or addiction problems begin and end with you, usually that’s a good start.

I’ve been frequently in and out of AA rooms for the last couple of weeks. It’s universally recognized that if you “work the steps”, then that will give you the best shot at long-term sobriety.

And I’m not going to lie: I’ve been lazy. And perhaps a bit skeptical.

When in rehab, I was pounding the table saying “if you take the Big Book too literally, then you would be missing the point.” (or some shit like that). In my observation, those that knew the Big Book inside and out were the ones frequently returning to rehab. They would twist the so-called “rules” to meet their needs so that they could return to using.

Perhaps that’s why so many people find the 12-step method disappointing: many interpret it as a legalistic system. As if the 12-steps THEMSELVES actually provide the power to keep you sober, and NOT the power that you give to them.

Many may not like this point. But if you’re an agnostic and skeptic like me, it’s important to understand: Alcoholics Anonymous holds no power of its own. The Big Book is not a holy text. Bill Wilson was not a prophet. AA is nothing more than a placebo effect. It takes a cultish form because of one reason: it’s effective. It’s nothing more than rituals to help you “fake it until you make it”….and that includes the 12-Steps.

If I may recall Slavoj Zizek, AA is the veil over the nothing behind it. When the veil is removed, all we see is emptiness. So it’s Veil itself that we are concerned with….it keeps us sober, even though we know that there is nothing underneath it all.

And this is the truth of everything. Our jobs, our relationships, our hobbies…they’re all meaningless until we provide them meaning. It’s the power of our own minds that we should come to appreciate. Of course, having an external system of rituals and beliefs are extraordinary helpful in providing meaning.

Hence, we get AA which goes through painstaking lengths TO NOT associate itself with any outside political or religious organizations because that will only distract from its main intention: TO KEEP US SOBER.

That’s it.

So what many might have thought was an attack on AA…this is actually a defense and clarification thereof. If you wish to make a counterpoint and say “actually AA means different things to different people”, then you are only making MY point.

AA is the canvas. The mind is the painter. By the way, the same goes for the Big Book.

The 12-steps therefore, in their very literal form, are bullshit tasks that won’t ACTUALLY make you sober. Only you have the power to make that happen. But that’s okay!

Take a look at your own life. How much meaningless bullshit do you go through each day? Even shit that you enjoy doing? Making your bed? Is that really necessary? Hanging up pictures of your family? Don’t you already know what they look like?

None of those things are necessary, but we do them because they provide some degree of order in our lives. The bed doesn’t necessarily HAVE to be made in a certain way. You don’t necessarily have to stop at that certain Starbucks each morning. But you do. And the 12-steps are the same principle, they provide a preset order to our sobriety.

That statement might piss some people off. That’s cool, be pissed off.

But the truth is that the order is arbitrary. Some steps are absolutely unnecessary. A sponsor, although extraordinary helpful, is also unnecessary if someone truly wants sobriety. Finding a “higher power” remains a contentious and questionable step (therefore also throwing into question the necessity of steps 3, 6 and 7). I’m not going to wait until step 9 to make amends, especially when amends need to be made sooner than that. So I should only wait until step 11 to start meditating? Does this “spiritual awakening” happen ONLY on step 12?

So if we look at the 12 Steps literally, none of it makes sense. But I’m going to do them anyway.

Why?

Because I need order. I WANT sobriety. I don’t care if I have to “fake it until I make it”. I know that it’s all nonsense designed to get us into AA rooms so that we can meet other addicts to help us through our struggle. That’s what makes it so fun. It’s no different than the rituals we performed in high school before the big game. THAT’S WHAT BOUND US TOGETHER.

And this is why, I believe, most use the word ‘cult’ as a pejorative to describe AA. But they’re missing the point. Does AA utilize cult-like tactics? Yes. But there’s a reason for that: they work. And like all things that work, they can be used for good and evil. Military training also deploys cult-like tactics to enhance unit cohesion. It’s all done in the name of re-organizing yourself, so that we can maintain long-term sobriety.

But the power still rests in your hands. Which why each meeting ends with chanting “keep coming back because it works IF YOU WORK IT.”

The End of Philosophy

I haven’t written anything in a week. And truthfully, there hasn’t been much to say.

I know that there are studies out there that discuss pornography’s ill-effect on the human mind (not that I have anything against pornography, by the way). But I wonder if there’s a study that discusses frequent reading/watching of cheap political punditry. Wouldn’t that have some damaging effect on reasoning and creativity? To me, that shit is just as toxic as pornography.

And I went on a bender, where I was listening to politically-charged podcasts ranging from Chapo Trap House to the Glenn Beck Program. And it ended up zapping away any sort of creative or critical thinking. In my opinion, cheap punditry is worse than pornography, and even DRUGS. It causes us to view the world in a narrow light, and instead of getting a better insight into the issues, we become LESS informed. So the next time a friend asks if you read or watch Breitbart, Huffington Post, Salon, Fox News, etc. JUST SAY NO.

It makes me sad really….that the way most of us become informed about events in the world is through cheap outlets. I know that it’s difficult to construct a thorough and unbiased piece about an event. After all, the media has to keep the people’s attention somehow. But you know what? I don’t give a shit. That’s just a lazy excuse. We should be more concerned with the TRUTH rather than reading any sort of agenda-conforming puff piece. Have higher standards for yourself!

But anyways, as I’ve discussed before, this shit literally makes me ill. Mentally and physically. So after that bender, I needed to clear my mind.

And honestly, as stupid as this sounds, at one point I though that I said everything that needed to be said about philosophy. Between My Life With Kant and this blog, I believed, shit you not, that I laid out my philosophical framework and that there was nothing more that I could deliver. So we might as well pack up our bags and close up shop because there is nothing left for philosophy to do….like I was Ludwig fucking Wittgenstein.

Clearly I ran into a wall. I believed that philosophy would reveal something to me….unlock a hidden side of myself and this universe…help me come to peace with the order of nature….SOMETHING….ANYTHING.

Instead it revealed the nothing that lies behind everything. Even myself. Behind the exterior, past my personality, all the way down into the darkest corners of my psyche….there lies nothing. All the things you see are facades, because the reality of nothing is far too terrifying to face.

Which brings us to a tragic question….is this the end of philosophy?

If not here, then where? When?

Now clearly this is just me being dramatic. Yet if we accept nothing, like it’s the gold at the end of the rainbow, what then are we chasing?

Perhaps this is a better description of what I’m going through: burn-out. I stated before that I’ve been attempting to write a post about Edmund Husserl for weeks now, but what’s the fucking point? There’s an academic sterility to many philosophers, particularly those in the 20th Century, I find. And this dryness nearly kills my interest.

Personally, I think philosophy should be struggled with. It’s best when it’s an art. Which is why it’s unfortunately true…the best artists and thinkers are CRAZY. And we just don’t have that sort of thing in modern times. There’s a few standouts, Slavoj Zizek being one, but has society progressed to the point where it’s too…..SAFE!

Now you might think that I’m a terrible person, but I include myself as one the people that I’m bitching about….so it’s okay….because I’m medicated for severe chronic depression. And many people that suffer this problem are medicated as well, particularly in our safe first-world society. We have access to therapy, doctors, support groups, and all kinds of shit that help us deal with these problems. And that’s great! Life has certainly gotten a lot better for those suffering mental ailments…..

…but it wasn’t always that way.

Nietzsche, Hemingway, and my personal favorite Charles Bukowski, all had demons that they wrestled with. If they have lived today, with all the advancements in medicine, would they have produced the same great works? Would they have traded in those demons for a shot at the ‘normal life’? I don’t know. But we have their works today, and it all came at a great price.

And our safe society too is coming at a price….at the cost of individual and artistic genius. Few, and even fewer in academia, are willing to rock the boat. No one wants to be labeled a ‘contrarian’. So we take to social media, because we want to conform to our friends, and become accepted into the mainstream…because it’s OTHER PEOPLE that determine our worth. So we don’t explore our own ideas, we just regurgitate what great thinkers before us said, never engaging with our own genius.

There are few independent thinkers left.

Philosophy has been a casualty in this new group-think. The social sciences are no longer discovering. The act of engaging philosophy has been relegated to arguing about how Kant, Plato, and others might argue about certain topics. Philosophy now only plays second-fiddle to other areas of study, no longer the behemoth it once was.

So we have seemingly ventured into a new era. An era where we must ask ourselves: “what more can philosophy present to us?”

Clearly I have a flair for the dramatics, as I really didn’t intend on discussing “the end of philosophy”. But as of recently, I have found it unsatisfying or incapable of engaging my imagination.

Perhaps I just don’t care about logic, or phenomenology, or epistemology, or “things-in-themselves” anymore. Yet I still ponder the…unponderable? Is that a word? Am I making sense?

Of course, if it were “ponderable” it wouldn’t be “unponderable”, but my intention is to stretch the limits of the mind. And I’m increasingly finding it difficult to explore that within typical philosophical literature.

I guess that would explain the “new theology” that I was writing about. In order to find this so-called “unponderable”, I have to reach into theology and religion. Not that I would call myself a “religious” person, I still consider myself a hardcore agnostic. BUT the only place I can find inspiration LATELY is through Gnosticism, Judaism, and early Christianity in general.

Why?

I haven’t figured that out yet.

But this nothing that I feel predicatbly leaves a void. I didn’t know where else to go with it. Perhaps this spiritual path will lead nowhere, but that’s where I’ll be going anyway.