Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again but expecting different results. -Einstein

The other day, while driving around the poverty laced backwoods of central Connecticut and listening to Nine Inch Nails as I am wont to do, I started thinking about what makes humans so amazing. I'm not a fan of most people, and I don't think most of them are particularly impressive - both intellectually and physically. But the kind of "amazing" I decided on is applicable to pretty much everyone.

From science to philosophy, we seek an answer to the question of what sets us apart from the rest of the animals. There's a pretty fair consensus among rational and non-combative people (so, likely not most philosophers) that we have something that goes above and beyond what animals are capable of. The simple answer is, well, "Humans can think. We have bigger brains and we're capable of cognitive functioning that entails learning and memory. Most importantly, we are the only creatures that are self-aware."

The conclusion I came to in the car (the place where I am most lucid) is that humans are unique because of our ability to change. We morph, we repair, we become damaged, we despair over the past, and we hope for the future. And all these emotions are driven by our ability to alter ourselves. We choose new clothes, ditch old friends, choose to forget the most painful memories (or perhaps replay them over and over, forcing ourselves to feel the sting of self-loathing) listen to different music. No other creature engages in these behaviors.

Not only can we do all this changing, but there is some strange property in our minds that allows for change but also never lets anything quite slip away. The Nine Inch Nails song I was so enjoying, Somewhat Damaged, used to speak to exactly everything I felt about life and myself. I really felt a connection to it. Yet somehow, the other day, I was able to appreciate and love it, but the sentiments expressed no longer exist in me actively. They're still present, and I can still remember what I felt; sometimes I still feel that way, but it's just...different. I've changed! Humans can change. It's what makes us different.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Edward Gorey

Edward Gorey was such a fantastic eccentric. He went to every performance of the NYC Ballet while Allegra Kent was a dancer there, wore floor length fur coats, and kept his empty medicine bottles on the window ledges because he thought they looked pretty with the light coming through them. I guess part of my wants to be that type of nutty, although my kind is entertaining too.

A book was written about his home, The Elephant House. I met the author at Gotham Book Mart by chance, and while clearly in awe of Gorey, I don't think his book ENTIRELY captures the author's whimsy (at least as I like to imagine it).

Today's visiting demon is the realization that I must leave Alex and beautiful California today, and face the challenge of finding a job that might actually result in a career and success. Not to mention the fear of getting back my Metaphysics paper, which might be one of the more disjointed papers I've ever turned in. It's a graduate seminar and I'm out of my element.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Funeral Blues, W.H. Auden

Stop all the clocks, cut off the telephone,
Prevent the dog from barking with a juicy bone,
Silence the pianos and with muffled drum
Bring out the coffin, let the mourners come.

Let aeroplanes circle moaning overhead
Scribbling on the sky the message He is Dead.
Put crepe bows round the white necks of the public doves,
Let the traffic policemen wear black cotton gloves.

He was my North, my South, my East and West,
My working week and my Sunday rest,
My noon, my midnight, my talk, my song;
I thought that love would last forever: I was wrong.

The stars are not wanted now; put out every one,
Pack up the moon and dismantle the sun,
Pour away the ocean and sweep up the woods;
For nothing now can ever come to any good.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Burnt Norton (excerpt), T.S. Eliot

Time present and time past
Are both perhaps present in time future,
And time future contained in time past.
If all time is eternally present
All time is unredeemable.
What might have been is an abstraction
Remaining a perpetual possibility
Only in a world of speculation.
What might have been and what has been
Point to one end, which is always present.
Footfalls echo in the memory
Down the passage which we did not take
Towards the door we never opened
Into the rose-garden. My words echo
Thus, in your mind.
But to what purpose
Disturbing the dust on a bowl of rose-leaves
I do not know.

At the still point of the turning world. Neither flesh nor fleshless;
Neither from nor towards; at the still point, there the dance is,
But neither arrest nor movement. And do not call it fixity,
Where past and future are gathered. Neither movement from nor towards,
Neither ascent nor decline. Except for the point, the still point,
There would be no dance, and there is only the dance.
I can only say, there we have been: but I cannot say where.
And I cannot say, how long, for that is to place it in time.
The inner freedom from the practical desire,
The release from action and suffering, release from the inner
And the outer compulsion, yet surrounded
By a grace of sense, a white light still and moving,
Erhebung without motion, concentration
Without elimination, both a new world
And the old made explicit, understood
In the completion of its partial ecstasy,
The resolution of its partial horror.
Yet the enchainment of past and future
Woven in the weakness of the changing body,
Protects mankind from heaven and damnation
Which flesh cannot endure.