Saturday, February 14, 2009

Flying saucers, unicorns and top down delusion ...

So, I was listening to the jazz station on Comcast's Music Choice (because being a graduate student in English apparently requires one to "listen to" at least a modicum of the "good" stuff in order to check off yet another box in the "certified elitist" list) and hardcore Reggaeton started playing. I was reading at the time, and it took me a while to realize the switch, since most music, when reading, is really just nicely ordered background noise. When I did notice, I couldn't help but laugh.

Here I was, up to my eyeballs in education debt and trying to figure out how I could budget enough money for food for the next couple of weeks as I read Joyce's Dubliners and listened to a random assortment of sophisticated, energetic, clamor. I love (most) music, especially jazz, but sometimes, in specific situations, it's just sounding brass and tinkling symbols; when the Reggaeton started playing, I realized that this was such a situation.

* * *

I've already made the post(s) about the despair and utter loneliness that this path provides, about languishing under the weight of oppressive expectations, and sipping from the cup of vitriolic recompense--a cup distributed to those who thirst after a spot of recognition for their expended time and energy. I've sung the song, participated in the dance and listened to the tiny violin playing the soundtrack to sorrows of my new life. This isn't about that.

This is about the utter lunacy of it all. Seriously. In the span of a week, I read hundreds of pages of educated people talking about the whole of humanity, a whole to which they pride themselves on having no direct connection. From their ivory towers of, truth, art and love they regurgitate discriminatory axioms coined by enlightened minds of old--hoping that this time, after going through (partial) (re)digestion, the incongruous "axiomatic" bile will, unlike the time before, come out as a well-ordered testament of progress.

I sit (on my room-mates couch) reading books (bought with borrowed money) that go from talking about the importance of "civilization" to pontificating on how arbitrary and meaningless life is. All the while, I become more and more pissed off at how I've let my (apparently meaningless and arbitrary) life revolve around questions and concepts that "say" both everything and nothing. Why is it so hard for people to see that the higher they are above the daily grind of existence, the easier it is for them to be sucked into the illusion of beating the system?

I am not, by any stretch of the imagination a Marxist, but why do we put a premium on an angle of vision that privileges the elevation of a select few individuals at the expense of a vast majority of others? This is an old, old, question, I know. But it seems that we gasp collectively every time something horrible happens as a consequence of us not fully coming to terms with what keeps the wheel of human history turning. Before I fall into the cycle of doom-saying and crazy-talk, I'll stop there.

Just know that now you have the reason for why I study science-fiction and fantasy. In the house of time where running from room to room, through this door and that, only leads you right back where you started, speculative fiction (at least for me) is a doorway in which you are afforded a view of what lies between; it is not a door that you go through, but one you stand in and observe how all of the rooms, at the end of the day, when the various decorations fall to ruin, and the illusion of distinctions disappears, are all the same.

At any rate, I guess I'll get back to reading...


Nathan said...

It's like trying to shepherd the wind, huh? Meaningless. Meaningless. Sounds like Qoheleth has been whispering in your ear. I hear him from time to time too. Fantasy seems kinder, doesn't it?

christianne said...

Hey Clay,

You hit on something that really gets to me, too. I thought I wanted to be an academic for a big part of my early twenties. Then I went to an academic conference that didn't seem to deal with reality at all. All these academics talking to one another, and really only 1 percent of the population (or less) is ever going to understand or care what they're saying, much less even know they said it. Meanwhile, real people with real concerns are walking up and down the street outside the room where we are meeting, and I want to be out there, on the street, talking to them. Writing about the things that actually concern them. Finding out where hope really lies, not creating formulas or clever riddles to obscure lines in obscure books.

This may or may not have been what you're getting at, but it's how it hit me. I like your struggle to find what's real, and I like your ability to call ridiculous what is ridiculous. Makes me wonder what is driving that ridiculous machine under there. Why do people do it?

Maybe it is one part of the world they feel they can find some measure of control or power.

Drea said...

I really love that in the middle of all the questions and hopelessness, you can find the reasons and reasoning why it is you want to study speculative fiction. The fact that you used the ivory tower, and all its ridiculousness, as a point of reinforcement for what you want to study is great.

I appreciate the fact that you are not becoming lost in the midst of it all, despite the bitterness and the confusion (not to mention the poorness) I feel like the confusion is shedding more light on who you are for yourself, and not for anyone else. And I guess I admire the fact that through the hell of it all, which is long and sucks but will eventually end, that you will still be you (possibly even more so you if that makes sense) and that the entire experience will help to solidify that rather than shake it.

And I'm also going to add that in the middle of all of this- and this is a perfectly selfish notion- to read your writing, which I cannot help to love, is a pleasure, one that I miss and treasure. (ooh! I rhymed!)

Anonymous said...

clayton u should write books..i mean u should write coz u write well and meaninful.