a culture crisis

for the depraved

Tag: Words

“One day I will…

“One day I will find the right words, and they will be simple.” – Jack Kerouac, The Dharma Bums

As Thoughts Come, Let Them Go

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(Source: http://www.libcom.org)

On this blog, I have a page for “Words.” As I’ve mentioned in a previous post, I have dedicated this page to those words that I have encountered in my life and that, in some way or another, have impacted the way I understand, approach, or treat my life. These words may be from literature, from film, from the mouths of the rich and famous; or they may be words that have been said to me personally, words that I have said to others, good or bad, positive or negative. What they have in common is that they have been productive in some way. They have come to inform my mind, shape it, or be taken into it.

I have recently taken up yoga, and in several practices I have attended, this statement is often repeated: “as thoughts come, let them go.”

I am a big fan of personal interpretation, of allowing one to form her own decisions about how she understands words, concepts, thoughts, etc. So while I highly encourage you to think about what this statement may mean on your own, what it may mean for you and for others, I would also like to briefly share its impact on my life.

It seems that such a simple statement would equally have a simple impact, and perhaps that is the case. The impact is a simple one. But it is by no means small. For the past five or so years, I have dealt with a strong case of OCD, Purely Obsessional OCD, and several phobias. In the last year, I have worked with a psychologist and learned how to deal with these parts of me, these elements of my life that comprise and inform a lot of what and how I am. I recognized all the positive things that these challenges brought to my life (more on this later), but that they brought me a certain productivity made them no less difficult to deal with.

In the last year, I have worked very hard on acceptance. Acceptance: simple, but by no means small, nor easy to achieve. A big part of acceptance is coming to terms with the fact that you are of a certain disposition at the moment, and while that might be unpleasant for the time being, you actively acknowledge that yes, it is the case that this situation currently sucks, but I accept this suckiness and will see it through. It is a very difficult, very mentally taxing thing to accomplish. That said, once you learn this acceptance, once you allow yourself to give into such a radical relinquishment of control (or attempts at control, I should say), life gets betters. Obsessive thoughts get easier to deal with. They leave quicker. Not because this is some failsafe, or a trick you can use each time such a thought invades your mind. It’s not quite that easy. It is a practiced behaviour and involves something of a rollercoaster of successes and failures before you internalize it. But simply by virtue of practicing this acceptance, those obsessive thoughts show up and dissipate of their own volition. It’s rather lovely, actually.

How does one maintain this state, though, where your thoughts just leave on their own? I used to think my biggest problem was that my brain was always on overdrive and clung on to every thought that showed up in my mind. Perhaps I am still like this. But as thoughts come, you let them go. It’s not even an active behaviour, because I think to actively do something about it forces the thought to stay, or forces you to focus on other things to distract yourself from the thought, but let’s face it, it doesn’t go anywhere that way. But eventually, through acceptance, those thoughts come and go, and you let them. You don’t stop to worry about them, to obsess over them. They come and they go.

Let them.

Written from a Starbucks near you.

Lots of love,

J.

Judith Butler on Hard Intellectual Work

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So, I thought I wouldn’t post anything for a while, but in the midst of researching for a paper, I found this gem. It’s taken from Gary A. Olson and Lynn Worsham’s essay “Changing the Subject: Judith Butler’s Politics of Radical Resignification.” I have my own thoughts about this, but I will leave it to you to form your own. Just know, these are important words. You have to let them sink in in order to feel their full weight.

‘[Judith Butler] reminds us in the interview below that rigorous intellectual work is necessarily extremely hard labor. Becoming a critical intellectual in- volves “working hard on difficult texts,” and it entails “undergoing something painful and difficult: an estrangement from what is most familiar.” It is precisely because intellectual work is so demanding, so painful, that “not everybody wants to undergo it.” Perhaps the very pain of intellectual work is one cause of the upsurge of anti-intellectualism that the academy is currently experiencing. Butler wonders whether there is “guilt” about being an intellectual because we simply don’t know “what effects, if any, the intellectual (especially the intellectual in the humanities) can have on the larger social world.”‘

Words: A New Page

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I’ve recently added a new page. “Words” is what I hope will remain a continually evolving, continually growing page, filled with words that have shaped me, developed me in some capacity. Because, after all, words do that. They make us grow, they make us regress, they flatter us, the hurt us, they render us sad, they spur passion within us, etc. I could go on, but, let’s be honest, the list can never end. Words have such weight, such power, and yet these qualities often go unnoticed, unrecognized.

This page, then, is a tribute to the words in my life, for better or for worse. They are not always good words, not always happy nor inspirational. To be fair, though, I am not always good, nor happy, nor inspirational! Such is life, though. But nonetheless, they have come to mean something to me; they have helped mould whatever it is that I have become, whatever it is that I am today.

I’ve started the page with a series of quotes from some literature and authors that I really admire. Eventually, though, I hope to add some words from philosophy, from politics, from critical thinkers. If I am brave (and I hope that I am), I will also contribute words that I have encountered in my personal life. That is not to say that I don’t consider literature or philosophy a personal encounter, but rather that I want to contribute words that I have said or that have been said to me, even if they have been difficult to bear. Bearing them, though, is why I am my own self today, right now.  Words that troubled me have had equal influence (if not more) in shaping me, challenging me to determine who and what I would become.

What do I want for my life? Who will I surround myself with? How do I choose to cope with anxiety? How will I remain healthy? What kind of person do I want to be? What are those things, those qualities, that I value most?

While such questions are seemingly generic, something you’d perhaps find on a silly “discover yourself” questionnaire, if answered as honestly, faithfully, and bravely as possible, they somehow becomes exceptionally revealing. I recently interviewed for a position in a research firm (more on that later), and my interviewer told me that I seemed to be very self-aware. I told her that it was one of the things I was most proud of in myself, because I worked very hard to achieve this state (more on this later as well).

All to say, though, that words are extremely influential. Pay attention to them.