Saturday, August 01, 2015

Then Zarathustra Returned Again to the Mountains and to the Solitude of His Cave and Withdrew from Men

Now I am still
and plain:
no more words.

— Rilke

The time has come for this blog to hibernate while I indulge other creative hobbies.

As I've said a number of times, I'm just a working fellow with a day job and some entrepreneurial activities on the side. Free time is very hard to come by. For the last several years, I've devoted the majority of that free time to writing. Now I'm going to return to my first love, music, and concentrate on re-recording a few dozen of my old songs before seeing what sorts of new stuff I might write, given today's incredible technology and more than a decade's worth of new influences.

I want to immerse myself in it, which is why I'm not going to attempt to keep writing at the same time. That would only lead to the frustration of trying to do too much with too little time, and as a result, failing to do any of it satisfactorily. So, now, when I'm done with work and chores, I want my default setting to be picking up a guitar, rather than surfing the web. When I'm bored, I want to open up GarageBand and play with new sounds, rather than open a browser and play with the same old words. I aim to form an entirely new practice of leisure, to instill new habits. That's the positive vision. On the negative side, I can feel diminishing returns setting in: I'm satisfied with the perspective I've attained, I've explored most of the available topics within my limited reach and ability, and I'm frankly just bored and/or weary of most online discourse. Books are far more worthwhile for inspiration, and I do plan to get a lot more reading done as well, but it takes a lot of time to fully consider the perspectives and insights that books offer. Better, in my view, to just close the lid on my brain stew and let those ingredients simmer unwatched for a while.

I'm not making any promises or suggesting any timetables. Weeks? Months? Years? I don't know. I'll just go as the spirit moves me. I seriously doubt I could ever quit writing, any more than I could quit being musical (in my mind, I've just taken a fifteen-year nap during recording). And I may yet escape from the rat race and find myself with more free time than I've ever had (that's still the active plan, anyway). Until that time, then...

Monday, July 27, 2015

Can I Get an Amen?

Because this isn’t what is actually on the Antiracists’ mind. The call for people to soberly “acknowledge” their White Privilege as a self-standing, totemic act is based on the same justification as acknowledging one’s fundamental sinfulness is as a Christian. One is born marked by original sin; to be white is to be born with the stain of unearned privilege.

The proper response to original sin is to embrace the teachings of Jesus, although one will remain always a sinner nevertheless. The proper response to White Privilege is to embrace the teachings of—well, you can fill in the name or substitute others—with the understanding that you will always harbor the Privilege nevertheless. Note that many embrace the idea of inculcating white kids with their responsibility to acknowledge Privilege from as early an age as possible, in sessions starting as early as elementary school. This, in the Naciremian sense, is Sunday school.

Think of it. A certain class of white person, roughly those who watched 30 Rock and Mad Men, lustily pumps their fists at the writings of a Coates who says that he is surprised that white people—i.e. ones like them—are interested enough in black people and racism to even bother reading his work. Coates is telling these people that they are sinners, in a sense, and they are eagerly drinking in the charge, “revering” him for it. This, ladies and gentlemen, is worship, pure and simple.

Might as Well Be Hung for a Sheep as for a Lamb

Aristotelis Originos:

In a dazzlingly archetypical display of horseshoe theory, this particular brand of millennial social justice advocates have warped an admirable cause for social, economic, and political equality into a socially authoritarian movement that has divided and dehumanized individuals on the basis of an insular ideology guised as academic theory.

I realize that this is merely a rhetorical trope which serves to position the speaker as reluctantly critical, rather than innately hostile, but the vapidity of it is still annoying. The vague, amorphous cause for "social, economic and political equality" (whatever the fuck that actually means in reality) does not need to be "warped" in order to become authoritarian; in fact, it's part of the blueprint. The only way such a state of affairs could be achieved and maintained would be through some form of authoritarianism. You don't have to be a card-carrying libertarian to see that as long as people are free to think and act for themselves, they will inevitably defy the best-laid plans of social engineers; hierarchies, both benign and harmful, will inevitably spring up like toadstools after a rainstorm unless they are mowed down. Calling the cause "admirable" is a pointless concession to make. You're already one of the damned.

Saturday, July 25, 2015

This Is the Day of the Expanding Man. That Shape Is My Shame, There Where I Used to Stand

Ruth Fowler:

Educating the general public about the trials of being a larger woman is a worthy endeavor. But calling thinness a “privilege” presumes that thin people do not understand the suffering of anyone deemed by the western world to be “fat,” or do not have their own struggles. West and her brand of pro-fat feminism also wander into the rocky territory of oversimplified identity politics, trying to equate dress size with other oppressions such as racism, sexism and poverty, and ignoring that one’s weight is not an inherent privilege. 

Last fall, I aggravated a recurring knee injury. Apparently I got a small tear in my meniscus. I say "apparently" because an MRI would have been expensive enough even without factoring in surgery to fix it, so I was content to just take my doctor's best guess based on a physical exam. Not long after that, I began to feel the stirrings of an inguinal hernia on the left side, a year and a half after having the right side repaired. This was all on top of a very painful ganglion cyst in my wrist that had made weightlifting too onerous. Suffice it to say, this was demoralizing after having gotten back into a regular exercise routine, so I was feeling quite sorry for myself through the winter.

In late April of this year, I went in for an appointment with my rheumatologist. I complained about my ankles, knees, hips and back aching more than usual, expecting that he might suggest my arthritis meds were losing their effectiveness, as they are known to do in many patients over time. Surprisingly, though, he said my bloodwork looked perfectly normal. My body wasn't showing any signs of reacting to inflammation. Honestly, he told me, the best thing you can do then is to lose more weight. Take more of those pounds-per-square inch off your joints, which have already taken enough abuse from the arthritis.

Had you asked me that morning why I wasn't working out regularly anymore, I would have complained that I was in too much pain, and that I would probably need more effective drugs to get me to the point where I could start up again. Now I didn't have that excuse anymore.

When I got home from work, my inamorata and I sketched out a brief meal plan based on reducing calories to around 1800-2000 a day and incorporating more fats and protein at the expense of carbs (this is something I never had the discipline to do on my own, but I've come to see that it is far and away the most important thing). Then I went out to the porch to begin my stretching routine before getting back on the treadmill.

Five minutes in, the muscles alongside my shins were starting to cramp. Shortly after that, my feet were protesting. By the end of a half-hour walk, I had reduced my speed and needed to grasp the handrails to keep steady. It was painful and humbling.

Still, the next day, I did it again. And the day after that. And every day since then. Having started by struggling mightily to walk two miles, I now walk four or five easily, at an increased pace. The minor aches faded soon enough, the knee healed well enough, and the hernia has benefitted from having less weight pressing down on it. I've never had any overwhelming hunger cravings or needed to exceed my calorie budget. I've lost thirty pounds in those three months, and aim to lose as much as thirty more (which would put me back to skinny soccer-playing weight). Even if I eventually ease off on the exercise, I think I've acquired enough knowledge and discipline about meal preparation to keep from overeating again.

I won't pretend to know exactly what it's like to be genuinely obese. Even at my weightiest, thanks to my former athleticism, I never showed more than a slight paunch and love handles. But it was enough to be disappointing in front of a mirror, and it certainly felt awful from a physical standpoint. Nonetheless, the point I'm making is that nothing at all changed on that spring day except my mentality. I could eat sugary snacks or pizza with the best of them, but after that, I simply stopped doing it. Those foods didn't become less tasty, I just cared more about losing weight and feeling better. I'm not superhuman, I'm just motivated. It wasn't like I got some grim warning that I needed to lose weight or else face an imminent demise. It was just a suggestion. I just decided to act on it. The rest is all rationalization and procrasturbation.

The Mere Mouthing

Shelby Steele:

In this new liberalism, dissociation from America's characterological evil was not simply a means to a better world; it was an end in itself, a gesture that proved the decency of individuals and the legitimacy of institutions...The point is that America met the great challenge of the 1960s by inventing a faux human virtue — the idea that a vicarious or merely symbolic dissociation from America's evil past counted as a timeless human virtue like courage or honesty or perseverance, all of which require selflessness and sacrifice.

Dissociation is an artificial virtue because its entire reason for being is to avoid the selflessness, sacrifice and risk that true virtue inevitably involves. It gives us a road to the decency and legitimacy we want while sparing us the difficulty and struggle of true virtue. Dissociation turns virtue into a mask. It gives us the means to construct a "face of The Good." It counts the mere mouthing of glossy ideas of The Good the same as an honest struggle toward what is actually possible.

For example, how does a people emerging from four centuries of racial oppression actually overcome all the damage done by that oppression and reach a true and self-evident equality with others? Dissociation spares America the need to wrestle with this. It asks us only to identify with public policies contrived around vague effusions of The Good, like multiculturalism, diversity, gender equity, etc.

See also: virtue signaling, the unwelcome burden of agency, social media as a playpen for political posers, and the general worthlessness of online progressives. What a delight it has been to discover Steele's work. An incisive thinker and an excellent writer.