August 19, 2009

Pedantry ahoy!

Posted in Uncategorized at 11:19 pm by Iain

Sometimes, late at night, I think about things. Lots of things. Sometimes I think about myself. Sometimes I think about my abstract self. Sometimes I just think about how much I wish I had a kitty (I think about kitties a lot). Most times though, I just think about how much I want to discuss what I’m thinking about. So here is the first of hopefully an indefinitely long series on: hey you, look at what I’m thinking about.

Episode One: Work

A lot of prominent historical work concerns itself with the study of “work.” How we construct the idea of what is work and what isn’t, what constitutes as “true” work, and the role labor plays in our society, or rather, the lack of it. It’s all incredibly stimulating and probably interesting enough to have its own entry, but you never really fully understand what it means to be busy with work until you literally do nothing for an extended period of time.

And conveniently enough, that’s what I’ve been doing for the past two weeks. Nothing. Almost fourteen days now of unremitting boredom.

I’ve dabbled in photography. I’ve taken countless walks, runs and bike rides, (and subsequently nearly explored Cedar Falls in its entirety). I’ve cooked five different types of curries. I’ve conjured, and quickly abjured my passions for: playing frisbee, continuing my research, photography, and curries; I was even able to go climbing at the end of it all. But each time I tried to do something, I could always feel in the back of mind that the few things I did were always just paltry bandages for the festering wound. Mediated choices for a quixotic respite. Escapism.

You see, as depressing as it may seem, work is life. You could easily argue that from our primordial ancestors, to the rise of Islam, to Darfur, and back again, living is work, and work facilitates living. And once you break that cycle, you flounder. Look to the slums of any country and see what unemployment has wrought. Try to understand what could possibly motivate a jobless husband to beat his beloved wife. I have issues with this article, but I am being passive aggressive.

Even the spiritual realm has the tell-tale signs of labor soiling its immaculate edges. Try to rationally explain the creation of something like indulgences, the literal purchase of the afterlife, without work as your primary actor (the profit motive is not a correct answer). Not buying it?  Perhaps an emphasis on life’s work, rather than pure faith might change your opinion.

So without work you have no life. But with only work you certainly aren’t living. Living is photographing forgotten streams, panting through too long bike rides, and climbing up 35 foot tall boulders. Living is making your life more than life.

But how do you decide when to live and when to have a life? What is it that makes life so necessary? And how is importance attached to living once your life has been fulfilled?

…Maybe I’ll think about that later.

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August 16, 2009

Every. Time.

Posted in Uncategorized at 7:25 pm by Iain

I have this reaccuring nightmare. It haunts me, reaccuringly.

It all starts out under the sickening florescence of a generic small-town Fareway. They’re busy today, as am I, for I have just finished shopping; the cart before me strains under the weight of my groceries. I approach the endearingly dirty check-out counter area and take my place at the back of a line.

“I can help you over here, sir!” A blond-haired cashier vies for my patronage just down the way.

I smile at the cashier graciously, but gesture forward to my fellow linemates out of courtesy. None move.

“Just right over here, sir,” she cossets so nicely, awaiting  my business at  counter number 5.

The dream reorients. The rest of the store fades to nothingness, while the slightly yellowed counter grows to encompass the entire space.

I wheel my cart over and smile a second, hesitant smile. The cashier only looks downward, expressing her desire to begin scanning.

“Paper or plastic sir?”

I smirk to myself. Finally. I have been crafting my rejoinder to this question for the entire trip. I assume my most dramatic pose, “Actually,” I reply with a rakish grin, “no bags please, I have my…have my…”

That’s when I see them. Thousands of them.

Read the rest of this entry »

August 14, 2009

Bonfire of the Vanities

Posted in Uncategorized at 8:14 pm by Iain

Future textbooks

It’s so surreal actually seeing this happen. The internet supplanting the written word, que interesante!

The funniest thing about all this is I’ve actually had a conversation about this with my brilliant and also slightly mad professor-mentor. His argument was that Kindle and the internet were soon going to replace libraries and bookstores, despite the fetishism that so many people place on the books themselves. It was actually quite convincing. But, then again, he also thought that  the university would be replaced by the internet after we find a way to directly plug the internet into our brain stems, so take that with a grain of salt.

Being the eminent genius that he is, I mostly just sat and tried to absorb everything that he was saying, but to humor myself, both then and now, I tried to respond in turn: I, perhaps mistakenly, thought that as humans, we need some sort of power structure to filter information to us. To me, the very creation of the university, the imposition of Latin as the language of the learned, and the relative difficulty of becoming a university student all pointed toward this. Or more plainly put, the university wasn’t created for the information, but by the information and the need to render it hierarchical.

But now I think I’m starting to side with my half-mad professor. Maybe we are on the cusp of an even further disjointed internet age. Maybe books are a doomed piece of second millennium kitsch. The cultural ascendancy of Twitter sure seems to support that. But then again, we’re never really going to know until our future grandchildren have to physically show us. Slowly, and with great exasperation.

Peeps should be discussin’ this shit!

August 3, 2009

The Centennial State

Posted in Uncategorized at 8:13 pm by Iain

-From the proceedings of the journal of I.M. Wilson, Esquire. A white, male, upper-middle class brain-worker, Wilson studies at a small university nestled  in the center of Cedar Falls, Iowa. As of this journal, he is 22.

July 16th, 1909

Superb news! After much deliberation, my comrades and I have at last made good on our collective proposition to journey to the mountain passes of Colorado! Long have we planned our expedition, yearning blindly for the rugged Colorado landscape to forge upon our bodies the knowledge of the sweat, grime and striated musculature of frontier industry. We shall return changed men.

And though Frederick Turner may deem our imagined frontier closed, I for one find his admonishments wholly and entirely false (although not without good reason of course). For I have on good authority that, in the wilds of Colorado, there still yet remain peaks to be graced by upright human form! My good friend Benjamin has assured me that this is entirely true, as the native Indians of the area, noble as they are, have long feared the high mountain aeries that proliferate.

Nevertheless, our decision to embark upon our very own “errand into the wilderness” could not have come at a more propitious time. Just a few weeks hence I had found that my eyes were exhibiting the signs of a gradual deterioration, falling victim to some sort of temporary myopia, likely caused by my assiduous work at the university. Owing to these early signs of ocular mischief,  I conveyed my worries to my personal physician post haste, for I was most anxious to resume my studies.

As is always the case, Arnold immediately discovered the irritant, finding that I had contracted some sort of bizarre stress-related neurosis (a sort that, dare I say, seems to be swiftly overcoming our humble Cedar Falls of late) of which only a strict regimen of physics could stymie. However, he further counseled me that ‘till I sought respite in the cleansing busom of Mother Nature, the physics could merely prevent any further damage.

Although my greatest fears have been confirmed, I have found that after my appointment something almost…primal seems to have awakened deep inside me. The rarefied mountain majesties of Colorado beckon me at every turn, and upon the wings of every dove I taste the hearty mountain air that I so desperately desire. The very thought of Colorado threatens to completely overcome me.

Signed, I.M. Wilson