Tug of Piece

Don’t mistake ambivalence for neutrality
As if the pencil balanced on and by your shifting fingertip were a steady base
As if love with hate made calm indifference
As if tug of war could be called a state of peace
As long as no side wins

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The Fantasy Pedestrian

I find it a little bit funny when dance people, usually of the postmodern sort, use the word “pedestrian” to refer to their cleanly-crafted arrangements of steps, lines, and gestures. As if that could be placed in the the same category as the confused and unruly gaggle of walkers who complicate the walking path from the train to the studio.

Inside that pristine world, pedestrians move with intention and a clear, deliberate focus.

Out here, only half the pedestrians seem to really know where they’re going. Most of the rest bow their heads down their Google Maps for guidance, making the occasional 180 when they realize that the pointer on their screen isn’t quite oriented to this earth.

In there, pedestrians use simple movement to demonstrate an awareness and skillful use of time and space.

Out here, pedestrians walk way too slow until they realize that they need to pummel through the crowd in a fit of lateness. They walk on the wrong side of the sidewalk. They stop to think about how they’re on the wrong side of the sidewalk. They spend seven seconds deliberating over whether they can cross that crosswalk in time, and five seconds actually crossing it (the last three to a chorus of impatient car honks).

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In there, pedestrians cross each others paths calm with acknowledgement, drawing intricate floor patterns which just so happen to fall into the open spaces between their peers.

Out here, pedestrians manage to bump into each other even when they’re going the same direction, setting off a sprinkle of curses and dirty looks.

In there, all pelvises hang in a delicate “neutrality,” the kind you engineer through years of careful micro-engagements and releases.

Out here, pelvises sway and slouch and jut and twist and teeter and bounce and jitter. They’re pelvises that hold histories and pains and desires and fears that might tip them on way or another–and who’s to say if they ever knew a default state before all that weight?

In there, we imagine that pedestrians walk with no affectations down a street with no name and no homes and no real estate. There’s no fairies or princesses, but don’t be mistaken: we’re looking at a distant fantasy land.

The Awkward Moment When (Month 4)

You’re homesick
but you’re not sure where for

And you decide you want to be a normal person
almost as much as you really don’t

When you’ve forgot what you’re running to
and start wondering what you’re running away from

and what if you sat back and let it catch you this time?

Keep the Change

I want to change the world one day!

That’s it? You can do that in the next 10 seconds.

How?

Scootch your chair in a bit.

*Scootch*

And thus, the chair distribution of the world was altered.

That wasn’t much of a change.

You’re right. That was a small change. You’ll make more of those than any other kind.

As long as you keep scootching and talking and touching and buying and using and exhaling and appearing–or not–I guarantee it. Some for the better and some for the worse and some for neither.

Sometimes you won’t be able to tell which is which, and I’m not sure there’s always an answer, but I hope you keep remembering to ask. Even if you go looking for bigger changes to make: don’t stop seeing how you are always changing the world, and always have been, and sometimes get to choose how.

 

 

Philosophy Majors Run Tech Support (Part 2)

Finally, the much awaited* follow-up to Philosophy Majors Run Tech Support (Part 1):


Customer: Lately, I’ve noticed that my laptop battery has been dying really quickly. I’m not sure what the problem is.

Tech Support: Well would you really consider that a problem, given the alternative?

C: Alternative?

TS: With the inevitability of death, the only alternative to dying quickly is dying slowly.

Which is better? It’s hard to say for sure.

Would you rather have a slow decline, with enough time to plan for the end–but also enough time to dwell upon every grain of vitality that slips away, until down to just a sliver? Or would you rather have that life yanked away with hardly any warning–but hardly any dreading anticipation either?

But perhaps the question comes down to not just how quickly it dies, but how quickly it lives.

Some seek to race through their existence, leading lives which end quickly, but not before getting their share of excitement and danger and joy and conflict and achievement and loss. Others are equally content to languor along the journey, leading lives which are longer, if less densely packed. Perhaps the only real tragedy is to die faster than one lives.

So you ought focus not so much on how much time passes before your battery trickles away to zero, but on what actions it produces in that fleeting window of power.

C: Uh yeah, I guess I was running a lot of apps at the same time, if that’s what you’re getting at.


C: I’m trying to update my software on my phone, but it says that I don’t have enough space. Do I have to delete a bunch stuff from memory before I can get the new version?

TS: Ah, the dilemma of progress. At times, it seems that we must choose between holding on to our memories of the past and moving onto to future. 

There are those who remain attached to their pasts and refuse to relinquish them in order to hop on the latest bandwagon of “progress.” They ignore the nagging messages to bring themselves up-to-date, unconvinced that the newest tools have as much worth as their stockpile of moments, conversations, and personal history, weighted with nostalgia and lessons learned.

Eventually, these people will get left behind, unable to function properly in the world we live in, unable to communicate with those who have moved on, unable to accept new developments.

But these people are not the only ones who are misguided.

You may be eager to wipe away your past for the promise of something newer and better. You don’t want that weight slowing down your forward progression.

But often, you’ll find that the moment of change is not the great leap forward that you imagined would render all your previous experiences irrelevant. And as you advance in shaky half-steps, you’ll still need those same old memories to make sense of the present. 

Because you know what they say about those who forget history . . . Though you are always looking forward, you find yourself in repeating cycle: making moments to delete as you jump into the next round, never holding on, never building up.

For genuine progress, we need to find a space for our past memories to be held and referenced, without allowing them to dominate the forefronts of our lives.

C: So you’re saying that I should make a backup before I erase stuff from the phone? Got it.

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*By whom? Maybe just me.

Keeping Stuff Separate (Normal People Edition)

Sometimes I am shocked and fascinated by how cleanly compartmentalized many people’s lives seem to be:

You go to work, which is something you do for money and not fun. You are paid based on what you can do and how good you are at it, which is unrelated to who you are and how good of a person you are.

And work hours are for working hard and shouldn’t be squandered on chatting or joking or mindwandering or checking social media. Work is payed precisely because there are other things you’d rather be doing.

But there is no reason to check your work email or plan out your latest project after hours. Don’t squander your free time–you’re not being paid.

Of course you are a fun person with recreational interests, which are enjoyable and relaxing. There is no reason for these interests to be a source of intense effort or stress, because they are not your job.

And of course you care about being good, so you siphon off some money (and maybe even some time) from the regular part of your budget to donate to charity. You get reminders for this kind of stuff once or twice a year, so its no big deal if you forget the rest of the time.

And obviously you have a personal life too: you should expect to fall in love by going on dates in which you meet for the purpose of mutually evaluating each other as sexual and romantic prospects. These people should ideally have no other significance in your life outside this context, though the goal is that they become your most significant other

And though they should be ideally be people with whom you share similar values and enjoy being around, they should never be compared to “friends,” a category of people who belong in a completely discrete zone.

And don’t bring up politics on a date, because that’s not part of polite conversation. What’s politics got to do with love?

And certainly don’t bring up your love life in a pollitical context, because that’s vulgar and inappropriate. What’s love got to do with politics?

And obviously, don’t talk about love or politics at work. These things are of no professional relevance.

You should care about serious issues like violence and discrimination, of course. It is important to make time each evening to stay updated on such issues, so that when the occasion calls for it, you can voice your concerns in such somber, sober conversations. There are no jokes and no smiling in these talks. How insensitive could you be to discuss big, serious issues as if they were everyday problems?

And the rest of the time, don’t be a downer who brings up race or bombs in fun, casual conversations. Such big, serious issues have no place in everyday life. You shouldn’t have to think about those things when you’re not trying to think about them.

Your body is relevant insofar as it is a sexual object or a subject of medical interest. You dedicate maybe an hour each day to intentionally rigorous physical exertion for those reasons. The rest of the time you can mostly disregard your material existence. (If it gives you aggressive signals to pay attention to it, there are ways to drown that out.)

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I assume that this all makes perfect sense to plenty of people. Personally, compartmentalization has never been my strength.

Lately I’ve been questioning the implications of pursuing artistic careers in which the lines between professional, personal, and pollitical are pretty nonexistent. On one hand, it seems much more natural to me to be living life as an interconnected whole. And I’m really lucky to have the opportunity to do that (or at least try).

On the other hand, when you get your professional ambitions, artistic passion, pollitical expression, personal relationships, physical and emotional health, and income all hopelessly tied up in one another, it seems terrifyingly easy to let one of them pull the others out of whack.

There are advantages to keeping stuff separate, I guess.