Wednesday, December 13, 2006

On the continual fear and danger of violent life (not death), or Why you must risk something that matters

Recent happenings in my life have inspired me, but not in the ordinary or casual sense. This post is an attempt to clarify what is meaningful in the context of my personal life, in shedding light on my shortcomings. This is not about recontextualising or subverting my failures, or even seeing them as in any way permissible. My failures are failures, and my bad qualities (or lack of good ones) really are bad. Not only this, but they are bad in such a way that extend real, sickening problems to me.

It may seem that I am departing in practice from what I believe in principle, but this isn't the case. Affirming power means understanding what power is there, even if that means we are pathetic and weak. The internet is full of snivelling bastards, all too happy to tell you how sad (!) they are, but I don't mean to be one of these. Despite the subject matter, I am not sad.

Perhaps I should start with the current problem. I have noticed that my interpersonal competence varies wildly. Given recent situations where small talk was an urgent requirement for any flowing conversation, I found myself unequal to the task. The outcome of this is that, firstly, I can be unacceptably boring, and, secondly, I can be unacceptably boring for sustained lengths of time.

I spent this afternoon with Dr. Jim Urpeth, in frantic conversation concerning the nature of belief, language games, forms of life, and especially the reality of power and what it means to be a philosopher. This I can do. Stopping to chat to a final year undergraduate, a little later on, found me as dynamic and friendly as I am used to being - yet the focus of conversation was mainly on the exegetical problems of elitism in Nietzsche.

What is it about the price of chips that I just can't make sound convincing and vital?

But I jest. It would be extremely bad faith to paper over the cracks and count my blessings, comparing worthless currents of social bondage to the supercharged meaningfulness of high-brow thoughts. I refuse to posit that attempting to relate to someone on something approaching a ground level is inferior to demanding they satisfy intellectual curiosity. I just don't believe this, and in any case it smacks of denial.

Relationships between people framed by their trying to relate on an 'everyday' level, with a 'normal' - that is, quick - level of success, seem to surpass my competence. This is actually a frightening problem. It is so frightening because of the importance of everyday relationships. Yes, we usually say random, painful relationships, where desires butt heads and the war of all against all rages continuously. But this is wrong. The acceptance and affirmation of what happens between people is the most joyous thing, and the love engendered can, will, and does fill our hearts in exactly those ways in which it can possibly be filled. If you risk everything for some notion of meaning, let it be this one.

People matter utterly, some more and some less than others, but each in their own way. When I reason for myself, I reason for you too. If this weren't the case, thoughts would be totally worthless. Attempting to act equal to this truth is an extremely hard, one might say an impossible task. But in fact, even though this sounds akin to 'there's a hard hill to climb', we do in fact want the difficulty of doing justice to reality to match the importance of reality. We cannot throw our hands in the air. What we can do, what we can affirm, we must and do affirm, and not because we are forced to, but because we will for the love between us.

I am unequal to the tasks before me, and I have to become equal to them. I am, under certain conditions, a bore. What I must do is move through, via this and other problems, the following transition: 'Will understanding that I do and mean to do the best for those I have contact with stand over and above any notion of suffering I could endure?' Which should instead be thought of as: 'Can my love overcome my hate and allow me to give with love to others what they are able to receive, and be satisfied?'

My changeability - now competence, now incompetence - demonstrates that I need people, that I am vulnerable to them. Investing in other people to the extent required (how much more do you have? chuck it in the hat) brings the worry that emotional violence can happen very easily and simply. But isn't this the Hobbesian fantasy? I know the issue, really, is knowing what to fear and what not to fear, but this is still young with me. In the meantime I am at your mercy, whoever you are.


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