Sunday, September 19, 2010

The future of this blog

This blog was originally established to detail the (mis)adventures of myself and my best friend Greg Lotze, as we attempted to bring philosophical discourse to the streets and avenues of Portland, OR. Our plan was simple in design: we would bring a large sign, which we achieved with a portable tack board, which would display a specific topic that we would have liked to have addressed, as well as basic information detailing who we were and what we were about. Examples included "Is love real?", "What is reality?", "What is truth?", etc. etc.

This did not materialize for several reasons:

Greg and I disagreed on the exact nature of what it was that we were doing. He believed it to be little better than panhandling. I had hoped to actually create something, a movement similar to the philosophy cafes popularized by Marc Sautet in the early 1990s. I believe that dialogue is the root and core of philosophy, the heart that beats blood to its brains and limbs, and my hope was that we could bring such dialogue to the streets. This leads to the second problem that we encountered: the streets might not give a damn about what we had to say. The few times that we attempted to bring our message to the streets we were hampered by the weather (wind would tear our sheets of paper; it was also late autumn/early winter and thus very chilly, so few people felt like sticking around and chatting), by location (our sign broke a city ordinance in the downtown region, and the side street that we sat on in the Hawthorne district did not have much foot traffic), and perhaps most importantly, by the people themselves. Many people were extremely confused: some thought we wanted jobs (we did/do, but we weren't advertising for them), others thought we were demanding money (we weren't, we asked for donations), and still others had no idea what the hell we were talking about. One person asked us what philosophy was. I have to admit I was a little flabbergasted and my explanation probably came off as much more mystical than I intended as I tried to explain that it was an approach to living that had been developed in ancient times. (Greg explained it much better than I.) There were also people who didn't care about what we had to say; we were subjected to a five minute rant from a gentleman about how his philosophy was "Kill narcs." He also showed us his tattoo of a gun and flower with the aforementioned phrase scrolling around the bottom of the tattoo. One person who talked with us was most likely mentally handicapped and probably just lonely; he was also the only person who ever gave us money ($0.35 if I remember correctly). [1]

So, all in all, due to our disagreements about how to treat the operation and our early failures to really connect with anyone in a way in which we, and especially I, had wished to, we abandoned the project without much consideration.

That's one of the two primary reasons that this blog has been so devoid of content.

The second reason is that for the past year I have been operating under a malaise of sorts. My health, especially my mental health, has been severely challenged by a series of unfortunate events, which have led to several upheavals in my life including job loss, the end of a significant romantic relationship, and the general post collegiate shift all combined to make my life quite miserable. Dealing with any sort of creative exercise was an extreme effort that required willpower that I didn't have on a day-to-day basis, or even moment-to-moment. When inspiration did strike it was often for my Exalted campaign setting, which will most likely never see the light of day because I no longer, and most likely never will again, have access to those books. I don't regret the work that I did do on that, but my players didn't seem to be very interested in the work that I did produce. In fact, they seemed to avoid the wiki that I created for it at Obsidian Portal altogether; I had more interest in it from non-players in the proposed campaign, e.g., friends in other cities, than the actual players showed in it, so the exercise often felt pointless to me even though I now realize that it wasn't.

That all said, this post is not merely to despair in this blog's progress. In fact, what I hope to take from this is actually quite the opposite. This blog failed because of certain factors. I have since removed the majority of those factors - I no longer live in Portland, but have instead relocated to the Washington, D.C. area. I am still looking for full time work, but in a much more casual and relaxed manner than I was before. I've also begun studying for the GREs, and working on applications for graduate programs in philosophy, and while it will be an uphill battle due to my grades; I spent most of my collegiate career with an undiagnosed illness, sleep apnea, which severely impacted my performance as a student, which in turn contributed to some of the mental health issues that I suffer from. My hope is to turn in stellar work in all other areas of the application (GRE scores, letter of intent, writing sample, CV, etc), along with an explanation of my struggle with sleep apnea and my mental health, and that this will help weigh the scales in my favor.

I also now have the chance to not only give myself a second shot at achieving work and scholastic success, but I've also got a second shot at making this blog into something that I'm proud of and will enjoy writing for. As such, I've decided on a much more focused set of topics that the blog will examine. I've come up with a list of topics that this blog will serve to cover:

  • A place where the relationship between philosophy and popular culture, especially indie and pop music, comic books, table top pen and paper role playing games, is examined through critical textual and metatextual analysis. This will include critical reviews of works academic and pop culture oriented.
  • A depository of my thoughts and feelings on, and understanding of, more traditional philosophical works that I am currently reading.
  • A place to ask and provide an evolving answer to the question, "What does it mean to be a professional philosopher?" (This will harken back to the title and original intent of this blog, i.e., what does it mean for philosophy to be for hire?) This will include examining the role of philosophers in the public sphere, both contemporary and historical.
  • A place to document my progress in my graduate school applications.
  • I also hope to use this blog as a means of announcing events, both public and private, that are relevant to the current state of philosophy in the greater metropolitan area of Washington, D.C.

To that end, I'm currently working on a review and analysis of the most recently released film that I've seen, Scott Pilgrim vs. The World. Other upcoming features will include a deconstructive reading of the comic series Phonogram; essays on Martha Nussbaum's The Fragility of Goodness: Luck and Ethics in Greek Tragedy and Philosophy, Frederic Jameson's The Cultural Turn: Selected Writings on the Postmodern, 1983-1998, and Howard Zinn's A People's History of the United States; and an essay on Martin Heidegger's views on being and death contra Emmanuel Levinas, as viewed through the realm of pop culture (specifically Dune and somewhat in jest, Top Gun [2]). I also at some point would like to research and articulate a number of points regarding the relationship of philosophy and philosophers to the Holocaust/Shoah/etc., and how that relates to the development of professional philosophy, especially in the United States and postwar Germany.

So, thank you all for your patience and your understanding. My goal is produce one work a week, at least in rough draft form, and have it posted here by Saturday night 11:59 p.m.

With all that said, sapere aude. Dare to know.[3]

1: I am all for providing empathy and sympathy to our fellow human beings, so it wasn't as though we chased him off or anything. However, the setting was not necessarily a good one for discussing philosophy with a mentally ill person, though I do believe such a thing is possible, as I myself have a mental illness that I must cope with.

2: Inspired by, and dedicated to, my good friend Matt Johnson.

3: Many thanks to my fellow students of philosophy and religion at Central Washington University, for their encouragement and support this last year.

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