Tuesday, August 10, 2010


For the people who have been telling me since kindergarden that I think I'm all that, and for the relatives who don't read this blog because it has too many big words, I am your loss, which I'm down with. For the people I've bullshitted to, substituting a keen sense of exactly how much I can get away with for the rewards of deeper honesty, you are my loss, I am sorry.

I've been reading this book on "launching your personal brand," which is not quite as terrible as it sounds. Close. Beneath the stink of yesterday's trends is an (accidentally) insightful commentary on reputation, which is old, stolid, inevitable. The most authentic parts of you are seldom what anyone is willing to pay you for, but authenticity speaks to us, in the marketplace where we are starved for it as much as anywhere else.

I don't know when I came to the conclusion that God would strike me down with lightning if the people around me doubted for an instant that I was Smart. But at some point--maybe being forced to live with myself for long hours in the simple dark, maybe learning just how much it is that I love sunlight--I began to let it go.

I like physics, and like philosophy--even school philosophy--but not nearly enough to devote my life to either of them. I've been driven to that in an attempt to prove myself, seeking the rubber stamp, but maybe it's no good; maybe the rubber stamp will crush you. Maybe I'm worth not being crushed.

Of course I care what people think. I want them to think I'm nice, that I'm pretty, that I'm smart; I want them to think my taste is good and I'm not too weird and my breath doesn't smell bad. Commonly, I want to be the one insightful voice that resonates so deeply and so compellingly that they can't forget or disagree with me--I want to be so smart that people love me. Sometimes it works. Sort of. Strategy wise, I can't recommend it--I've heard physical beauty works better, maybe you can give me some tips.

And, of course, it's no accident people who accomplish something have often spent some time alone. And it's no accident that in letting go of some of the expectations of others, I realize I've already accomplished a lot that I care about.


___________________________ said...

No, I can't give tips on beauty. If I could, I wouldn't try to be intellectual on any level.

I dunno, one of my major problems is that I find that I find it difficult to give up the feeling of competence. I mean, the disturbing fact of the matter is that unless I devote a large portion of my life to a lot of subjects, I am going to be incompetent to speak about them, but the issue is that I want to be competent. The issue is, that, at least at the moment, I haven't had the time to be competent. Maybe it is a deficiency of my character as well though. Probably the standard is just too high, as most people specialize, even ultra-specialize.

I dunno, I doubt it is others so much as my own expectations that bother me so much. Everybody fails, I just fail to let those instances go.

Oh well, the real quest with life is often just peace with oneself. I am not sure if I will have that, or if I am that interested.

Day said...
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Day said...

I don't mean to suggest that one should give up mastery as a goal. Instead, we might want to be careful that we are choosing for ourselves what it is we want to master, and how we define that mastery.

One example; I do well in high level philosophy reading discussions. I am insightful, I ask deep questions, and I'm good at being respectful of colleagues but still making my point (and sometimes destroying theirs). When I do read I read very well, and am usually bored by the level of analysis the class can get to; more often, I skim, and am able to impress. Maybe this is more a poor reflection of the educational system than anything, but in any case it's one of two or three things that I'm best at.

But, when it comes to thriving in an academic environment in general, I am not competent, let alone masterful. I'm an incredibly slow writer, and invariably my professors tell me that I've misjudged the scope of the questions I've set forth to examine.

Should I invest myself in becoming competent at The University Philosophy Game, because I'm already good at some parts of it and I enjoy philosophy? Maybe not. The important part is, it's not a given, and I shouldn't prioritize the parts of it that I don't enjoy and don't know if I value just because I'm desperate for the recognition and respect that comes with publications and degrees. I should prioritize these things only if I see value in them.

It might be more valuable in my life, with my values, to take my reading skills and body of knowledge in philosophy and become competent in ways of sharing them with a non-academic audience, rather than focusing on mastery of the academic game.

___________________________ said...

Eh, I wouldn't really know. As it stands, I know I am considered a dilettante by most standards. I am usually quite sharp. Friends who study philosophy a lot think I am competent, but... I get the feeling that I don't really interface *that* well to anything I address. I am unsure whether it is incoherence, unusual intuitions, or what it is that propels me.

I am not saying anything about your specialty. I don't think either of us should get PhDs in the subject anyway, as there is probably a better path. I just... well, if truth is a rather binary thing, in as much as small variations in logical reasoning can cause massive alterations in a system of reasoning, then it seems that any step away from omni-expertise is a step towards being outright false. And well... even though I want to not be bothered, this bothers me. Even if I were in a small pool this might bother me, but in a larger pool, like reality, I guess I feel vulnerable.

Some people seem to have a stronger existential concern for truth, and I think I tend more towards that despite my cynicism towards the possibility. This results in emotional aberrations, and aberrations in my ideas. (particularly given that both tendencies [concern and cynicism] are odd together)

Day said...

Two thoughts; one, I relate to that somewhat. I think that, unfortunately, most people's standards for quality of thought are unbelieveably low.

Two, the presumption that truth is bianary seems. . . wrong. You should check out some Derrida.

___________________________ said...

Well, it is one of those assumptions I have great difficulty escaping, even though intellectually, I am not highly committed to this standard at all, seeing knowledge as evolutionary.

What would you recommend by Derrida?