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If I was an anime blogger…

            This week’s episode of GC finally brought some closure to several of the questions we have been asking, simultaneously opens up new questions as always, but also drops some more salient questions that could have opened up more meaningful content. But I’m going to start at the top – this was a good episode, filled with powerful images and the music to accompany it. Any preconceived biases should not prevent you from at least appreciating the artistry, and perhaps even feel a bit of the emotion as Shuu finally accepts the sin of his own indecisiveness and incompetence – not that of the King’s Power. I, for one, got those tummy-butterflies or goosebumps when the events of this episode unfolded as I expected them to, and exactly in the satisfying manner that I hoped they would.   

             To begin with events: Shuu pulls out his own void and draws out an arm, a development that I repeatedly “jested” about. However, I don’t find this development to be particularly contrived, because as a main character of a fairly standard anime, he has to end up with his powers again and resolve the major crisis. In fact, the predictability lends great power to this episode by giving the viewer time to absorb the actual execution - which was filled with lights and general badassery. However, I am bothered by Arisa’s willingness to not only leak Inori’s location to Shuu, but also chauffeur him. I may have missed what Shuu used to convince her, but I found Arisa’s creepy stalker-like determination to find out anything and everything about Gai to be a terrible reason to aid the enemy. I really can’t tell why some characters in GC just have such a hard time having a personality and maintaining it – and Arisa is the newest member of that club. I suspected last week that her grandfather allowed himself to be shot and killed by her, so that she would see the light of her impure feelings. I don’t know if she is supposed to maintain the slightest milieu of nobility, but I think part of that peeked through when she called out Shuu’s name after he tumbled out of the van.

            On the other side of things, Segai managed to demonstrate some of his cunning, as well as his expertise with a blade – unfortunately, I felt like we were really sold short on his death. As he was one of the last “interesting” and also cryptic antagonists, many of us had speculated that he was a man who somewhat operated beyond the reach of the law, even turning upon his own men in order to fill a somewhat perverse and voyeuristic interest in the Shuu and his void powers. He left us with a particularly interesting point of plot consideration: he deleted the photo he took of Gai drawing Kerriganori’s void, stating that it felt wrong somehow. Was this his assessment of the difference in the “art” of Gai’s and Shu’s void powers? Or was it simply he being creepy?

            With his premature death at the hands of Shuu, a much stronger case is made for being nothing more than creepy. His murderous and playful instinct appeared to be nothing more than a twisted sexual interest – for him (and tacitly, everyone else in the cast), having a void drawn was a very sexual act. In light of the infamous Toothbrush Scene, I think he can get away with having that thought. Unfortunately, that’s all that we are given of the great Segai. No boss battle, no existential-crisis-inducing dialogue. Just a whole lot of excitement about someone’s void being inside of him, and a really cool scene with his evil eye grinding to a halt. Whimsical to the end - but he was quite the dynamic character and could’ve made a much larger “bang.”

            Finally, we’re left with Shuu, whose determination to finally hold himself accountable took form. By plunging the syringe filled with the void genome into his heart in a fashion that would make even the most resolute drug addicts wither with envy, Shuu consumed the third and (presumably) final void genome while most likely sealing his own demise and also stealing the heart of Ayase in one fell swoop. Unfortunately for our favorite Katawa Shoujo, Shuu has his eyes on someone else. Going beyond the terrific amount of fireworks that Shuu generated, him retaking the King’s Power fully elucidates the “guilt” that adorns the title of the show. It is not necessarily the guilt of peering inside of people, or even using them – it is the guilt of self-doubt, of inaction, of overreaction, that all contributed to the deaths and resurrections of this show. While this revelation is a welcome one, there is one more pressing issue at hand: Who’s the bad guy here, and what’s the point of whatever they’re doing?

            Apparently, one of those things include dressing up Inori again. Now, it’s only natural to be a bit jealous of her ability to look good in gravity-defying outfits, but twice? Inori is again clad in wedding attire. Can we construe Shuuichiro’s failure as him getting spurned? I’m glad that Mana/Inori doesn’t haven’t a thing for creepy old uncle figures, but is Gai supposed to be the young zombie stallion who is going to win them over? When I saw this, I kind of facepalmed for a second. Is this really a rehash - a take two, so to speak - of the first arc’s events? Because genomic resonance didn’t work, did Shuuichiro and Gai just opt for the path of least resistance: an intergalactic fleet of Void Rays (I mean, Leukocytes) pulled from the ether world? Who knows.

            With the relationships between Haruka, Kurusu, and Shuuichiro looking about as clear as the one between Gai, Mana/Inori, and Shuu, and with that relationship looking about as clear as the one between Shouma, Himari, and Kanba (though one set is dramatically different than the others), I really don’t know what to expect anymore. Well, that’s a lie. I expect there to be a lot of pretty explosions, and some kissyface between Shuu and Inori. And then…

No, Mr. Ouma, I expect you to die.

Adapted from Facebook

I had thoughts. I wrote about them. You should therefore read them.

I don’t actually disagree with the facts stated here. Elite Universities do in fact create or otherwise foster mindsets that create really shitty situations such as PiKapp’s Thanksgiving party. I clearly disagree with the analysis though.

I’d have to disagree with a good chunk of this, because the premise is based upon somebody who I guess you could say missed the point. My experiences have been on the complete other side of the spectrum - you look around you, and no matter how much advanced mathematics you’ve taken, or advanced biology, or advanced philosophy, talk to someone who is studying something completely unrelated, and you really feel the limitations of not just what you’re studying - but what you’re capable of understanding. The messages are all there - some of them are exactly as the author points out. Others are dramatically different - I, like many others, suffered from depression here for a variety of reasons, and that reflected in my performance in class. At first, I was told to not worry and to just try harder in subsequent semesters. As my problems dragged on, I was given the very human response that many of my advisors and professors had lived through firsthand - discover your own path through life, and enjoy it at the pace you feel appropriate, even if it means not being a first-year Med school student. There is no linear progression from going to an elite feeder school to an elite private university to an elite job in the upper class. Instead, there’s a journey of discovery that meanders before diverges time and time again, resulting not only in your Al Gores and John Kerrys, but also that Stanford graduate who ended up teaching Linear Algebra/Dif Eq at a nameless community college in a little suburb in the middle of the desert in California. It’s up to the individual student to demonstrate to the world which messages he or she believes to be most relevant - and is that really such a bad thing?

I’m a person who loaded up on 14 AP classes in high school, and participated in just about everything on the “checklist.” I got a 2310 on the SAT my junior year. But none of that matters here, and that’s the first thing I understood here. There’s an underlying dialogue that doesn’t happen in this country, on a much broader scale, and to fault elite universities for fostering people who want to go into business or politics or medicine is just absurd.

[Sarita Sha-Sha] 

I agree. Universities should not be at fault for having a high standard in preparing students for such careers, but I think the point the author is making is that there should be more than that. Also, I’ve had a similar experience here- and I’ve definitely taken away that very message: “”discover your own path and do it at a comfortable pace.” However, leaving the ability or inability to ‘talk to people who are aren’t like you” up to individual has created problems that affect our community and greater society, for instance, pi kapp’s thanksgiving party.

[Me] There *is* more than that, but you’re absolutely correct in recognizing that we face substantial (and real) problems as a result of that process. But the true root of the problem is how Americans interact as a society. In regards to race relationships, something we’ve always had trouble with, I’ve seen a huge amount of difficulty in actually promoting equality: back in high school, our “award-winning” presentation on Black History Month smacked of pedantry: instead of presenting cultural gems, we got things such as a skit of two African-American students in a dialogue, one asking why she was bequeathed with “dark skin” or “large lips,” and the other masquerading as God, standing behind stage and using the overhead speakers to respond to her “gifts.” This is but one particularly jarring example, laden among countless others where our attempts to integrate end up being nothing more than touting differences.

I would say that as a whole, we all seek to be noble, and for the most part, also take steps to try to perform noble actions and hold noble beliefs. Yet if there is one thing that isn’t emphasized enough, it is not learning to think, but understanding how to think. Morality is certainly not binary, but it’s also not a continuum. It is a minefield, a stochastically fluctuating field of bullets, you could even say, where your chances of slipping up are pretty much uniform no matter where you stand. While we live in the relativist nightmare that is the American Dream, while everyone is entitled to hold their opinions and fight for them, what reason is there for the educational system to slip up and create people like me?

Actually, Deresiewicz already answers that question elegantly. But it isn’t the answer he wants to go with - you don’t want to become a spiritual exile. Being an exile does not mean being wrong from time to time and having to re-evaluate life decisions, or brandishing reasoning and argumentation from the metaphysical plane like weapons. It’s cynical, depressing, and gets you stuck in loops of existential crises that cannot possibly be reasoned out of. He stops at introspection, something that every semi-intelligent person does (but maybe just not be very effective at). For what exile does, it certainly doesn’t help you connect with the working class.

I’d like our subsequent leaders to not mix genuine concern about the suffering with intellectual pedantry. Suffering is a concrete, tangible thing. It has concrete, tangible causes. What Deresiewicz calls truth is purely conceptual - I don’t care if it’s right or not, because after all, right and wrong are just words. Their meanings constantly change given the situation, the speaker, and just about everything else. The demagogues yelling about “death panels” and “rationing,” that a human life is sacred no matter what, are not operating on the same level as the physicians on the medical board that have to peg cost-effectiveness onto treatments to ensure that the hospital can stay afloat. Our leaders already think. They already reason. To accuse people of “not being educated to think” just smacks of the intellectual condescension that this paper seems to argue so ardently against.

First Observations

Are the blind entitled to make observations? I would say so.
A fairly finite amount of immediately observable phenomena exists in the natural world at any instantaneous slice of time, but it is not all uniformly accessible. For this reason, it appears that potential knowledge is infinite - and it might well be, but that is not the concern here. The amount of information available to the individual (observer, thinker, what have you), is compartmentalized and scaffolded: first, there are directly observable objects that more or less exist in the same way for everyone. An agricultural chemist, a winemaker, and a hog certainly would not perceive of a vineyard of grapes in the same way, but a vineyard there is nonetheless. Then, there are phenomena that can only be observed with a proper mindset or the tools necessary to observe them. Much of scientific inquiry falls into this field. Beyond that, however, there exists the scaffolding of knowledge - much of which is incredibly difficult or completely impractical to observe. It is upon this information scaffolding that much of our society exists, and also accounts for the vast differences in perception given the same phenomena. Should that scaffold crumble, we would be limited once again to what we can access with our senses - and there are people today who function in that mode.

Now to take a step back - this is but a light philosophical treatment, yet there is still some continuity to be expected from the brief discussion above. In our academic development, we exist at different levels of the information scaffold. The subdivisions of different disciplines serve to present entire subsets of information in individual, more manageable, facets. Naturally, we are given an incomplete view of a particular subject, our greatest strengths lying within rather than among disciplines. In this sense, we are all blinded (some more than others) by our own perceptions, by the very machinery that gives us a way of understanding and processing the phenomena around us. The quest in life, for those like me, is not necessarily lofty and ambitious. It strives only for one simple thing, and that is to observe truly.

I like to describe life, living, as a zero-sum game. All things considered, it probably does not even perform that well, though a case can be made that because we can’t really stop people from make babby, humanity as a whole is pretty good at winning. On a broader level, one needs only look as far as extinction. It’s going to happen, sooner or later. We occupy such a small slice of the geographic time scale, and it’s only a matter of time - probably time on an order of magnitude larger than any of us are, and will ever be, concerned. On an individual level though, we are presented with what scientists call “a shitty situation.” That is, that we’re all going to die. In the game of life, there simply is not winning. The best we can do is to not lose - and in the interim, find ways to fill out the time by producing and reproducing. I will not address one of the two subjects.

One of the wonders of common communication is the ability to build information scaffolds. This is present in all levels of nature, in different formats. Ours, though, is especially powerful and not merely concerned with survival. Our information scaffold allows us to create physical scaffolds. It empowers us to conceive of abstract concepts, then express them in accessible manners. But the greatest capacity of the scaffold is the relative ease with which we can situate our offspring upon it. The tacit goal of humanity in general, therefore, is to ascend this scaffold, build upon it, preserve it, and reinforce it. A failure to do these tasks lead to ignorance, stagnation, a proliferation of wheel-reinvention, and perversion of information. Interference at one level strongly impedes the ability to ascend beyond that point - and that is the particular danger of death.

How high does this scaffold go before humans are unable to ascend fully in order to build upon it? When does our ability to create new, usable information plateau? With every generation, we are replacing those who have already spent a lifetime climbing the scaffold, with those who must again ascend from the bottom. These are nonequivalent exchanges.

On Being Asian

Thank you,
I’ve been thinking about this kind of stuff for years. It really is one of those terrible realities that almost seem inescapable at times. Throughout high school, I tended to not associate myself with any of the Asian groups. I did not join any cultural clubs, and I resisted getting involved with ASA here for quite a while. But when I reflect upon what I’ve done (or more importantly, what I have not done) these past two years, it becomes quite evident that not only am I quite miserable, I have no good grades whatsoever to show for my misery. This sense of powerlessness, of impotence, is only more evident the more you try to struggle against it. It almost cost me my ability to continue attending this university, simply because I could not yell louder than the people who were trying to harm me.

I guess it is quite opportune that you chose to show me this. This morning, I had my wisdom teeth pulled in lieu of the regular scheduled cleaning. I already was locally anesthetized for some dental fillings, and decided to go ahead and get the extraction done. Not only was I berated for not consulting my mother first, but also my father lashed out viciously at my outward appearance, at my grades, at everything that I had no ability to control but inevitably ended up leaving a mark upon my existence. And I had two large gauze strips in my mouth and was unable to even defend myself. This was, of course, before I headed up to my room in tears, only to have the harassment follow. In the process, a gauze swab was dislodged and went down my wind pipe, almost ending my miserable life.

I have never really rebelled. I have disagreed, and disagreed vocally. But I do not think I have broken substantial rules. Yet my success has entirely depended upon those rules being in place - standardized exams, course objectives for AP Exams. Other people had to carve out what I was meant to do. I only had to do the easy part, and that was to follow that path. I saw my first B, C, and D during my freshman year here at Duke, and for the longest time, the reason for my sudden failure had eluded me. Yet even armed with the understanding of the faults that led to such disappointing performance, I have been unable to rectify my social or academic conditions. Instead, any attempts at recovery were shattered the first semester of my sophomore year. From November last year to now, everything has been painfully surreal, and only then did I realize that my separation from the rest of the world was absolute. They did not speak my mental language, and I did not speak theirs. I do not even think this is a matter of culture, as I have spent many years philosophizing and directing my thoughts towards this “transcendence” that Yang seems to be referring to, instead of openly challenging my Asian upbringing and white-dominant environment. Regardless of the source, this mindset has not done me much good. My confidence and poise, “swag” as we often refer to nowadays, evaporated a long time ago and was replaced by this perception that my success was necessarily tied to my academic performance.

And there is still a part of me that tends to think that the easiest road to salvation, or at least some validation, is to bump up my grades. Four semesters in though, I am still looking at the same B’s and C’s that were reserved for the partygoers and jocks. But those people now are happier than me, have more fun than me, have sex (see what I did there?), and still manage to perform better. I don’t think I can manage all those things, but I have no intent on being miserable any more. It’s simply not worth it.
The question then, is where do I start, or restart? Gone are the days where you could hit up every girl in sight asking for her phone number and have it be considered perfectly normal. The biggest tragedy of my existence here has not been my abysmal grades, but my abject isolation. Perhaps I am still bitter that I was betrayed, falsely accused, and almost expelled because of it. Perhaps I am too distracted by gaming and by the internet. Or maybe everything is just a tool so that I don’t have to face my own crushing cynicism towards my life, my non-existent future, and everybody who insists that there is something there.
In any case, thank you again for showing me this article. I think I’m doing pretty good, for an Asian.


- Hide quoted text -
On Tue, May 10, 2011 at 11:14 AM, Misha Angrist, Ph.D. <> wrote:

You should read this:

And you should take my Science in the Media course in the fall.

All best,

Ondine | Gaspard de la Nuit | Maurice Ravel


What does it take to prove that you’re being honest with yourself?

When reflecting upon myself in writing, one of the largest difficulties I’ve encountered is the proper balance of the word (and the idea), “I.” Especially starting sentences with that dreaded word – that bothers me immensely. For those who knew me when I was playing around with the idea that it was impossible to act virtuously while attempting to sustain the ego, surely they have heard my lamentations about the inconsistency of such sentence structure. It seems unavoidable, that without giving up reflection altogether, it is impossible to do so without inserting that word.  I love Ayn Rand and everything, but damn, I’m using the I, with the active attempt to try to start as few sentences as possible with it.

I’m the kind of guy who has spent too long looking at himself in the mirror. Metaphysical mirror, I suppose. Even though I am guilty of stroking my ever-lengthening hair while smiling coquettishly at myself whilst inside my dormitory bathroom. I mean, I understand myself. I know that my nose is squished in, and that there are two disfiguring scars on my eyelids, and one is more evident than the other, but only two people have been close enough to me to see that, and neither of them have.  I am aware that the five-year-old boy who played the piano fervently in an attempt to revitalize a dying crayfish is the same person as the one who lies here today, typing away. I have been broken by my experiences here at Duke. About a quarter of those experiences are, well, actual physical experiences. The other proportion is all in my head, and it does the most damage, because I’ve enabled it to do that damage. I am prompted to take good long look at myself, because I’ve taken for too many long looks at myself, and I’m not really sure what I look like anymore.

Who I was… there was just compassion. Not pride, or ambition. I never thought of myself as being particularly intelligent or virtuosic. But other people told me I was all of that. They drew attention to my tremendous vocabulary in both English and Chinese when I was three years old. They drew attention to my perfect pitch and natural inclination for the piano when I was four. They drew attention to my masterful storyweaving when I was five. The list would expand, things that would find their way to my résumé. But philosophically speaking, none of that really mattered to me. What mattered to me was the one time I was at the school playground, where I was playing with a painted tire tubing, rolling it around and down slides. I was not aware that a small child was climbing up one of the slides, and bonked him straight on the nose. Was that really my fault? Nobody really insisted that it was mine, because it probably wasn’t. Then why did that child’s contorted, shrieking visage haunt my conscience for years, even after I came to America? Why the fuck do I still remember it vividly now?

It isn’t merely that I have never had any desire to hurt others. I do not merely understand the pain that I cause others, but I experience it as well. But empathy, gift or not, is not complete without perceptiveness, and while I seem to have an abundance of the former, my naïveté has oft precluded the latter. None of that, however, explains why I have walked the path I have. None of that explains why I have hurt many people to get to where I am today, and why I have often done so deliberately and more or less remorselessly. I don’t exactly know where my cynicism came from, or where my confidence came from, or why I felt like I could lead. But these things were all tied together, and nothing could stop my churning mind. Until one day, I stopped.

Actually, I should rephrase that. I don’t know exactly what happened, because there is a big gaping hole in my memory where the events of those few months should have been. I don’t feel like I learned anything, even though I know I went to class. I don’t remember much. What I did, who I was, what I said, I don’t remember even being a part of that world. I don’t know what triggered it, but I know how I dealt with it.  I remember the intense hatred I felt for myself, and I remember that anger being smothered by emptiness. Was it guilt? Towards what? If I knew who I was, if I knew why there was such a dichotomy between who I always held myself to be, and who I portrayed to myself as, would I have been able to answer that question? I don’t think there’s any point speculating, because it didn’t happen. What did happen was that the seed of my desolation was sown.

The prelude to what you here today began back then. That winter, a year ago, I had no solace or rest. When I came back, the first thing I did was take a shower. I grabbed the handle and turned it counterclockwise.  The water running down my hair turned from frigid to lukewarm. I turned the handle some more, and I saw myself standing before my parents. I saw myself home again, dejected and defeated. The anger that I had perceived in reality was not there anymore, only the most abject misery and disappointment. Their sorrow chilled me to my bones, and as I stood there, laid bare before them, I fastened my grip on the handle and turned it some more, my body quivering in the cold night, desperately trying to draw itself under the steaming water. I saw them withering away, their empty eyes wandering past me, and at that moment, my heart froze. Every cell in my body shrieked accusingly, “you murdered them,” their dirge sending jolting pains throughout my crumbling mind, the torment pouring forth from my eyes in burning, salty tears, the ichors escaping with every rasping sob I took. Further and further the valve turned, the water burning, seething, purging my guilt – no, my impurities. And it stopped. The exhaustion was too much to bear. I threw myself upon the bed, knowing that I had to create a new tomorrow.

That tomorrow never came, and the despondency nearly claimed me again, until I saw that program. That single name. Ondine. Contingency does not send the divine to pull you out of your waking slumber.  The light that had guided the cynical, callous side of me, the very light that alerted me whenever I had reached a crucial point in my life in which my ideology and expectations would be altered, the same force that persuaded Socrates to accept his fate, had appeared before me and urged me to challenge mine. That is my mental background upon meeting Clara. And when I heard her performance, my blood froze. My listlessness was converted into anger. Hatred. Hatred towards myself, my weakness, hatred towards the time I had wasted, towards the lack of focus plaguing my mind. Is it bad that it was hatred that stirred my pride? Whatever the underlying motives, I knew that I could recover through piano. I would seek to compete against the goddess that opened my eyes to my own frailty. And I would be defeated, but it was enough to get me through the semester. After five hours of practice, I would have enough capacity to sit down and study efficiently. And so this frenzied piano practice… it was a temporary relief for me so that I could perform my work. But my mind, it functioned under the wrong principles. I would recover this slowly over the summer, but by then, I would not have my piano, or my furious inspiration. Of course, I feel as if I paid my proper respects to Clara. You don’t meet somebody like that every lifetime – people like her are going to write the next chapter of our intellectual and artistic history.

My mental clarity was returning to me rapidly, and soon, I had conquered my fears of my ability to process information by retaking Organic Chemistry. It wasn’t easy, and I wasn’t confident that I would receive the grade that I did, but my professor assured me that I earned what I deserved. Piano, unfortunately, became very difficult to maintain during that summer. While I was taking class on campus, I had no inclination to go practice on East Campus. You would be surprised how much your artistic drive dies down when there’s a half-hour or more travel time involved in getting to an instrument. The issue isn’t that I couldn’t make time for practice – but rather, when a piano was just downstairs in Alspaugh, I could practice whenever my emotions were ready to create, or whenever I was just bored. But when you have to travel, it’s a little bit different. Sometimes you feel hungry and stop by Quiznos, or Brooklyn Pizzeria, and the food just invokes waves of somnolence. Other times, you feel like derping around on Facebook, or well, talking to Jane over Skype. Or calling her. Or just wondering if she’s doing okay. I had almost completely dropped my practice of standard piano repertoire. That would involve the fiendishly difficult Scarbo (the third movement of Gaspard de la Nuit, of which the hauntingly elegant Ondine is the opening movement), and the passionate flurry that was Rachmaninoff’s Fourth Concerto.  When I did sit down in front of a piano, it would be at the Goodson Chapel. But that was an imperfect plan, for often there would be some other Asian guy there, whacking away soullessly at the keys, and I would bury my face in my books. At other times, there would be a guitarist there, who somehow felt that it was a good idea to occupy an entire chapel as a practice room. Then even more outrageously, sometimes there would actually be service.

But the few times I did manage to get in, I would feel so awkward trying to practice my chaotic, impressionistic pieces. So instead, I stopped bringing my music, and only my heart. And in the shimmering morning rays, the first asphodels began to bloom in the heavens, in my mind. And they bloomed for Jane.

I’m sure you would like to hear this story; however, I do not feel that I am entirely entitled – or qualified – to tell it. The biggest reason is probably because I still think this is an organic story. I refuse to believe that it has ended, but for all functional purposes, it probably just has an open-ended conclusion.  The other reason, which is pretty much just as important, is that it has exactly two sides, and only two sides. Mine, and hers. I want to hear her story more than I want to tell my story, but I don’t think she knows her story anymore. Anyway, this interlude takes us back to a little while after my breakdown, to a faculty recital put on by my professor. He was playing my favorite Chopin Scherzo and the entire Le Tombeau de Couperin suite, a project that I was also working on. I recalled that he mentioned something about an assistant (or maybe accompanist?) of some sort, which in retrospect, I probably misheard, but I wanted to meet this person. But more importantly, I wanted to support him by being up in the front row, and starting those damn encores. So here’s where it kind of gets blurry, but I saw this beautiful, serene-looking young woman sitting a few seats down. Presumably I asked her if she was the assistant, to which she presumably responded, “no, I’m the usher,” and presumably we talked about something or other, and presumably we got along. She said I was flirtatious, which I find hard to believe. But presumably I asked her out for lunch or dinner, to which she responded that she was taken, to which I definitely responded, “it doesn’t concern me, you need more friends and fewer suitors.”

We would have many lunches and dinners. I learned much about her, and my mind began to run, almost algorithmically, until I knew. That summer, I knew that my final test awaited me. That test was the final step to my recovery, to wash away the guilt and doubt that plagued me, to cleanse the poison from my mind. I had to organize the nebulous fragments of my philosophy and cement them into principle. Those individual principles had granted me drive and dedication, perceptiveness and insight, eloquence and charisma, and all those forces built me up from the bumbling idiot I was into the leader I had become. Tranquility washed across my mind as organic chemistry faded into the distance. I was being freed from the social constraints that built up anxiety within us and turned our emotions into destructive fissures. I could harness my emotions to express and create beauty, and thus the artificial strands of society that placed moral placeholders on certain emotions began to fall away. I was unafraid, and I was going to make her the happiest person in the world. That was something that the ideal friendship, the perfect empathetic attunement between two people, could create, while the conventional understanding of love would always fail.

            I lost again, and that goes without saying. But I’ll elaborate on that some other time. I’m tired.

The Thing About Philosophy Graduate Students

I had a discussion with a fellow student in my Molecular Biology lab section the other day, not to sound like I am actually getting anywhere in my studies (because I’m not, but that’s another story for another day), in which he challenged my assertion that I am, in fact, a philosopher. In the same way an individual concerned with matters of the body and of health cannot simply call himself a physician or a doctor (without specialized training and certification), it was argued that one cannot simply call himself a philosopher just for thinking about philosophical concepts. Surely one’s practice in life is not defined by the degrees one holds from a given school, but rather (and quite trivially) by well, what one practices. Would we say that Socrates is more vagrant than philosopher because he did not hold a degree? I don’t really want to answer that, but perhaps the fact that I am more concerned with practicing philosophy than studying it hinders my ability to actually do the former. Then call me a bad philosopher, but at least recognize that I am in fact a philosopher first, and then a student.

However, having that said, the practice of philosophy is not a solipsistic system in which one throws down his or her thoughts upon paper willy-nilly, with little or no consideration for the locus of one’s ideas within the continuum of human rationality and understanding. If nothing more, higher philosophy education at least does this - if not elevate one’s capacity for understanding. So here I find myself, somewhat reluctantly walking forward into a system that I have little patience for, with a deplorable mindset that I wish I could shake off (but not that badly). I have heard, primarily jokingly, that philosophy education for graduate students is primarily concerned with the writing of critiques. Having examined some critiques, I will readily admit that having such dialogue among minds if a powerful way to assist in the development of ideas, but does this always occur? In the rare cases in which one individual misinterprets the argument of another, we are oft left with little actual clash of empirically verifiable evidence. We do see, however, some “casual” vitriol, and some fortunate humor. Fortunate for the bemused reader, of course.

I don’t claim to know how to write a strong critique. Hopefully I’ll get there one day soon. But I do want to take some extra time out, well, this was the original intention of the post, to respond to one of my dear friends’ entries. The original can be found here, and it is, per usual, witty, remarkably insightful, and damn honest. I’m loathe to admit that I do not feel that there is anything worth writing about in my insignificant existence, but Natalie has always been a good conduit for my thoughts <3

When it comes to emotions, we’re on completely opposite ends of the spectrum. At least based upon the conversations we’ve had, this seems likely. But in reality, we’re probably the same - equally well-adjusted to the ebb and flow of our neurotransmitter-induced “particular passions,” but we just harness that information in different ways. My understanding of particular emotions, of happiness and sadness and the like, are most likely subtilely different, in the same way we probably have different metrics for what an “ideal” red is.

The scores for the last Biology quiz just came out, and I would be crying on the inside, but I think I’ve already been bled dry. Anyway, I can relate to the whole process of college applications, because it really forces us to consider the lives that we’ve been living. Some people choose to not consider - and I think they pay for not doing so as well. For some, the cost is only present in lost opportunities and lost experiences. For others like me though, the cost is much more tragic and painful, and it alters our very reality. I’m not referring to just considering which people to keep in your lives - a subject that my good friend and I have laughed about many times - but the mindset with which you assimilate and understand your surroundings.

I guess the relevance of this is, I sometimes think that there is some reality to my emotions, just no weight, as such things are subordinate to rationality and always superseded by principled philosophy. Being able to act based upon principle, and the ability to act as a result of purely neutral contingency (meaning that some actions have no emotional weight as to why that particular action is performed over any alternative action, insofar that no causal link can be established between a particular emotion and the action, and that should it be possible to replicate the circumstances of that action, any other neutral action is reasonably observable), really does change our understanding of our own identity and of our wants and desires. My philosophical goal doesn’t really involve “me,” from the perspective of an independent ego. So that’s why I do validate my emotions, because I am in fact human, but more importantly, because it gives me two simultaneous approaches to one environmental stimulus. This way I know that my ideas do not collapse back into relativist blather.

But even then, sometimes you meet someone, or something, that completely drops you and your ideas on your forehead. I guess it’s happened to me. Even when I had a fairly good system of systemizing my thoughts and feelings, she never fails to scramble things around. Orderly thoughts become conflicted and dichotomous, simple ideas become multifaceted and irreconcilable. I am now not so sure that my emotions are as they seem, and I cannot really agree anymore that what I feel is at all indicative of me, but maybe just another physiological response to the barrage of information coming towards me. More troubling, moreover, I can’t even attest to the reality of the information we are given. I will give a nod to  Descartes, but this really isn’t even a matter of epistemological doubt, it’s a more semantic one. Why do we base our understanding of so many “terms,” especially abstract ones, on anachronistic, often tautological arguments? This ultimately links back to my introduction to this post, just one example of something that truly reflects the divergence in our very realities.

I apologize for not having anything vaguely inspiring to say. But I feel like I’m beyond inspiring at this point. It’s just about dragging on the rest of my life. Inertia, they call it. When people have died on the inside, only physics keeps them rolling.