25 November 2009

A Few Changes

I'm supposed to be writing an essay, so instead I am going back and forth between this blog and facebook. Very useful of me.*

Moving and meeting up with old school friends (how is that the people I first met at fourteen have now known me more than half of my life?) has pushed me into thinking a bit more carefully about what I'm doing with my life. That's not quite accurate - I am quite happy about what I am doing this year and most of next. It's more that I have been confronted with my own and, what's stranger, other people's memories of what used to be my priorities. I'm now asking myself, and asking rather urgently, why I gave up so much that I loved.

I don't yet know whether this is just the common or garden variety of nearly thirty-ish angst that will slide back in to general content without much fuss or whether this is a prompting into a more genuine inquiry as to what exactly has happened in the past six years.

I have been worried about talking about myself too much on this blog and I have been attempting to write about what happens in my life in a generalised and universalisable manner. How well I have succeeded in that is questionable. That is really neither here nor there; my point is that I am going to stop doing it as a general rule because it feels false. I'm tired of falseness. I don't want to force myself into omission and elision. I'm not sure whether I want to continue with a pseudonym. I would never have done that in the past. I've been infected with fear of consequences and a desire for what will only ever be a rather spurious kind of respectability. After all, how respectable can one really be if one is periodically mad?

All this inner turmoil has prompted me to change things around a little here. I was planning to wait until the one year anniversary of this blog came around to make changes but I've done it now because I wanted to. I've changed my picture so that I'm now identifiable to anyone who knows me. That's as close as I'm going to come to getting rid of the pseudonym for the moment - that's as close as is comfortable right now.

I had to get rid of the green. It is my favourite colour but it needed to go. There was so much green in my old apartment and it made sense there but there is nothing green in my new one. I decided to do something different and go modern or, as I have dubbed it, 'plebian moderne'.** I had the cheap but older and pretty arts and crafts period furniture that one can so easily find down south. Here I've gone a little closer to derivative Bauhaus. This is not to imply that my blog ought to match my flat: I'm just tired of looking at green things and have been purging them.

So, yes. I am just going to go ahead and write and not be so paranoid about rogue identifying details. I'm not going to worry about being egocentric because the way I have been writing about things has come to feel very stilted and I can't keep it up. If I sound self-involved, so be it. It would be better than the didactic, sing-song tone that leaks in so often. As I tell myself frequently, there is no point in doing things other than the way in which I would do them. I've hated myself for so long that I still don't believe that doing things the way that I would do them will ever be anything but a disaster, however trivial the act in question. I still don't believe that it's ever right to do what I actually want to do. I've been trying to trick myself into thinking otherwise for more than a year now with notably uneven results. I haven't given up.***

The idea of being honest and not pretending that I have greater equanimity than I actually do and that I am not as much of a mess as I actually am scares me. Nonetheless, here I go.

*I do have a draft and two more days to finish it - I'm not always as useless as I make out.

**Yes, I am the kind of person who would come up with a name like that - unbelievable, isn't it? I am very prone to that slangy manner of talking about art, clothes and furniture. It's like a game for me. Scoring points with obscure references and that.+ Rather obnoxious, isn't it? Especially when one hasn't been drinking.

***And in writing about myself I may yet, like Charlotte Bartlett, reveal 'depths of strangeness, if not of meaning'. It is strange to worry about whether one is being selfish if one is the only person wanting to get off at one's home bus stop and to be daily relieved when somebody else rings the bell first. That's something I do, every single day.

+Speaking of which, nota bene the quotation in footnote three.

21 November 2009

The Benthamite Utility Monster is Eating My Claims About Art: Help!

Last night I went to the ROH for the first time since moving back here, which was a thrill. I have missed it! It was only to go the Linbury Studio Theatre but any disappointment I might have felt at not getting in to see the main house was more than mitigated by the fact that I was there to see an old school friend of mine who had had some of his work commissioned for the ROH Firsts 09 season. The programme was a mixed bag but that's what happens with series like that.

Unbelievably, I have not even made it to the Tate Modern (easy enough walking distance from university) nor the National Gallery (ten minutes walk, if that far) since I got back here. No art, when that was one of the things I had most looked forward to having back. I have been just a little bit busy for some reason...but still.

I feel a lot better today than I have for a couple of weeks and I blame that entirely on my theatre excursion. I have for years realised that studying ballet was what got me through all the depression I had in high school, and that singing at church and working at the gallery have been a mainstay for me over the past few years. Nevertheless, I was genuinely surprised at how much better I felt last night. Art, it seems, is actively good for me. At the moment, I would say that it helps as much as klonopin does, though I wouldn't vouch for that being true if I were really in the depths.

I have generally been against the idea that art has or ought to have a utility value on the grounds that art works are not fungible in any meaningful way and utility values function off of a notion of exchangibility, which implies price and thus that art should be wholly a means rather than an end in itself*, so I worry about making a medicinal utility claim about it. However, I don't think that such a claim harms the dignity of an individual art work if I restrict the claim to art as a species of human activity and the end to which I make a claim that art is a means is an occultly achieved human end that art can achieve as a generality. I don't know; that's still a bit Benthamite. However, I do not make this claim universally: I imagine that there are others for whom the football or foreign language study or collecting match boxes achieves much the same end when art would not do the same. Actually, though, that is Benthamite ('pushpin is equal to poetry'). Oh dear. The dangers of making any claim to utility!

I need to have a think about this, but for now I shall just say hurrah for Art and hurrah for feeling better. At least for today, that has priority to philosophy.

*This is part of the good remains of the time I spent as a devout deontologist and secular humanist.

16 November 2009

Eyargh! : Or, the Demented Battle Cry of a Lunatick Philosopher

I came home early today, nominally because this is the third week in a row when I've had some sort of a virus or other and I am very tired.

Why am I so tired? Because I stayed out far too late on Saturday night. The night bus let me off in front of my door at 3.07am. Where did I go? A rather insipid student night not at my own university but at the rival one across the road. Why would I go to such a place, I who firmly dislike not only loud music but also nights out that involve dancing? Because I have an idiotic crush on a girl that isn't even a proper crush because she's not someone I would date in real life, though I'm not tremendously sure of what real life, my real life, is at the moment because everything seems to have been upended and I've had a cold for three weeks which does not make for clarity of mind and I really thought I had broken my habit of getting crushes on younger women but I guess not and I don't know whether to be distressed, indifferent or amused about it, not that she's that young but still.

Last Wednesday night I didn't sleep but a couple of hours and yet had no trouble being awake and alert on Thursday and I have been talking back to the newspaper, out loud, while on the train in the morning and distractedly twitching at noises from the street while reading in the common room and forgetting to eat and having alternating flashes of panic and rage in the morning while trying to find the right books to take with me for the day and trying to weave through the people who meander dazedly down the tube platform in the morning when really they should be trying to get away from the crowded part and get down to the very end where there are only five or six people standing and 8.00am is really not so early as to make dazed meandering really necessary. I have been staring at people generally which I have largely explained to myself as being the result of moving to a place where there are more than 1,000 times as many people as the last place I lived, to a city whose population is almost as large as that of the entire state of North Carolina, which is almost as large in area as the entirety of England and Wales put together so that, as you can see, the people were a great deal more spread out and therefore not as easily stared at but then that falls apart when one considers the subset of all that staring which is a new-found involuntary tendency to gawk - let's not mince words - at other women, which is not very polite and has the added detraction of making me feel like I've turned into an adolescent boy: I've had 'staring issues' before but not like this.

And the real reason I came home early is that I was worried I would do something weird and aggressive because I am having the harsh tail end of a hypomanic blip and I am extremely uncomfortable and I don't quite know what to do with myself and and and...

And too many things are happening on top of one another and sometimes simultaneously in the wrong order and I can't calm down and writing this has helped some and I thought it would but (eyargh!) why have I had colds for three weeks and why do I have to choke on the dregs of mania?

03 November 2009

How Do People Think, Generally Speaking?

I have a question for everyone. It just recently occurred to me that part of the way I think might not be common to the way most (i.e. mentally normal) people think.

The way of thinking I have in mind is the sort of quasi-epiphany manner of thinking; the kind of thinking where a whole rush of complex thoughts lands in the mind, inspiring wonder. I don't mean rapid thoughts - the quality of this is sudden but whole, and while exciting, it doesn't gallop away in all directions as the rapid thinking of mania does. It has a finality to it and a completeness to it that rapid thinking, in my experience, doesn't.

It's not the kind of epiphany thinking that goes along with delusions, either. When it happens, there's a feeling of exaltation but not anything like god-likeness, nor is it a revelation of 'the one right way of being, doing and thinking' fixation that can accompany psychosis. It's more like an immediate inductive understanding of part of the world, or a sudden intellection of the functions and forces of part of the world. That's how to put it; an immediacy of inductive comprehension.

If it only occurred while I am thinking about the nature of things, something which I, as a philosopher, I feel very fortunate to spend a lot of time doing, then I would not wonder whether it were unusual. However, it also just happens upon me while I'm trying to decide what to have for dinner. It also happens pretty often, at least once a week and sometimes more frequently, even daily.

Does this happen to anyone else? Is this something that qualifies as a mental health symptom or is typical of the human thought experience? Is it a by-product of too much philosophical reading and discussion? Whatever it is, I'm very happy to have it. It's very useful when it happens in the middle of a seminar, among other things, and very enjoyable besides. I wouldn't want to lose it. I just can't settle for myself whether it is normal or not. Any thoughts?