A Note about this Blog

Welcome! I’ve been told that good websites have blogs + I have a lot of tangential thoughts that belong nowhere else + this sounds like fun. There’s something decidedly cathartic about typing furiously (somewhat performatively) into a technological void whose purpose appears to be the contrary. Also, I get to write insufferable sentences like that and I can’t see your eye(s) roll.

I don’t plan to write exclusively or even primarily about philosophy, but it’ll inevitably pop up. Not expecting to be wedded to any of the ideas I discuss either, so if you have any comments/questions/concerns/free time on your hands, shoot me a note.

(hopefully) happy reading!

table of contents

it’s very blustery, I know. (6 july 2020)

awkwardness is good, actually (21 september 2020)

emotions, expectations. (24 november 2020)

all things add. (8 november 2021)

all things add.

when I played flute, I would labor over runs for days and weeks, always messing something up somewhere. I could never get all the notes, or I would play at the wrong tempo, or the notes didn’t hit the beats exactly right, or my intonation and dynamic and spirit was off base. then one new day, after these days or weeks, I would start fresh and immediately, it would be there. sometimes not perfect, but the missing thing — the notes, the tempo, the convergence between the two; my own cheer — would arrive strongly and without question. and from there, small tweaks, but the central element in place.

I had thought once, that this was a beautiful anomaly of music. that something about the repetition and know-how involved in learning a run was drastically different than learning a topic, an argument, how to speak clearly. but of course, it’s not. all things add.

all things take as component parts practice. you repeat things to yourself over and over again, you strive for the right form of thought, you bend your legs in ways that don’t hurt but remain unpleasant. this is grueling because your mind is blank and confused here; and the persistence of these states makes an irritated cloud of you. you try. you grow frustrated, because you are doing all the requisite things, you are practicing, you are approaching with faith — and nothing. nothing. weeks of nothing.

but nothing is lost. all things add. one day you wake up, and words click in your mind. you say something in the perfect tone of voice. the argument is repeated and it weighs heavy in your heart and light in your head. this moment of settlement is not itself clarity, but the foundation upon which clarity is to be found. it is one step prior to the moment of insight, while being that which brings its first and most necessary formulation. the bedrock of all this is grown and built from nothing. everything ceaseless and pointed nowhere becomes something, and the familiarity of this impossible thing is utterly mysterious. how can it be, that nothing becomes something? that idle, futile speculative wastes lead you somewhere you wanted to be? how can everything be so absorbed forward, how is there no remainder?

if your soul didn’t sing in your ears just now, perhaps we would worry about the remainder. to be consumed and not left alone, makes into completion something that prayed of its own independence. perhaps the warm light on this november sidewalk goes nowhere and exists only and forever for itself;

but, no

it cannot because this nowhere goes here and I say it to you now. it was warm air this morning. it was sunny. the light was soft.

all things add. nothing is lost. we are peaceful now, in grounding that bears incandescent seed. I want you to picture robustly rich soil, in deep shades of every brown, nimble to touch and made larger each time you take your finger and rub the parts of it together. there is empty, happy space here because from the nothing that should shrink: growth.

I am enamored more with this foundation than the moments it births; this foundation makes possible and its existence is that for which I am so thankful today.

emotions, expectations.

my emotions know about my expectations before I usually do.

relationships are difficult, and I often do not know what is appropriate to expect in them. this ignorance irrationally licenses my complete disregard for setting expectations, standards; and even denies that I have any expectations at all. I enter into relations with the thought of ‘not overthinking them’ and just ‘going with the flow’, lest the intrigue of my ignorance stifle and ruin a natural thing.

but my emotions always bring me back to center. usually, they are the negative ones — anger, frustration, disappointment. I get angry when someone fails to return my texts or ask me about my day, disappointed when we rehearse the same three topics of conversation again. sometimes my joy enters the scene as relief, as when someone waits for me to catch up while walking in a group, or remembers something I said long ago. but these are rare instances, and the centering my emotions provide tends to be painful.

our emotions respond to our expectations, and our negative emotions in particular, respond to their violations. just because I don’t want to think about the expectations I have of other people, doesn’t mean that I don’t have them. I am the woeful child that plugs their ears and eyes, and hopes the world will disappear if they can no longer see or sense it. but this is childish, and our emotions remind us that we are expectant beings, we are wanting and desiring; this nature does not leave us simply because our object is a human being rather than a career, a dinner choice.

these reminders can be a bit humiliating. there are costs to not thinking through what you should be able to expect, and in turn, what others can expect of you. it allows cliches and uncritical expectations to be the ones you actually hold. growing up with a strong sense of fairy tale romance, you expect your partner to perfectly anticipate your every need and want and never slip up. armed with 90s sitcoms where issues resolve themselves in neat, 25 minute slots, you expect your friends and family to listen and fix your problems (no matter how deep they might be) quickly, easily, seemingly without effort or burden. we find that we expect these ridiculous things, because life rolls around and our partners, friends, and family disappoint and anger us. Why can’t you read my mind? Why must you have your own life? Why aren’t you able to fix me? these thoughts pour through our head, and find themselves as the epithets we throw at our loved ones. we question their love and commitment and dedication, because if they were ‘real’ friends, family, partners, then they would not have violated our expectations. we house these accusations in our anger and disappointment; these are the vehicles which deliver our expectations to us, and perhaps regrettably, to others.

I don’t take this as an indictment of our emotions. they aren’t to blame. they bring our inadequacies to the fore, and make them significant. they say, you haven’t thought through what you want this relationship to be like, and this lack of reflectiveness will not serve you long. they force your hand, as you see yourself embroiled in them, saying things you’re not even sure you mean. and I suppose without them, we could live in peace in our ignorance. perhaps we could exist more peacefully with our uncritical expectations, if our emotions never made them into insults. but I still operate under the general naïve tendency, that it is important to rectify your ignorance when possible. our emotions, albeit painfully, force us to recognize the ignorance we have of the way our relationships are supposed to go. they tell us about the thing we’ve been avoiding. and understandably, many of us run away from these deliverances. it’s hard, really hard, to come to have expectations of others that are good. if you haven’t been raised with these considerations in mind, you scarcely know where to begin thinking. and even if you are able to develop these expectations, then you have to do another terribly difficult thing and stand by them. you have to say, when others violate your expectations, that they have done so. you enter confrontational settings, and are met frequently with the derision that you are too uptight, that you need to let go, ask less, stop being a burden, grow up, be self-sufficient, and generally, let your expectations simply float away.

I don’t have much helpful to say on what your expectations are supposed to be, and I even agree that sometimes, another’s expectations can be unwarranted. but to return to our emotions, I think their value in relation to our expectations lies in setting us up, putting us in the position, to critically reckon with our expectations, perhaps for the first time. setting us up is not the same as doing the critical investigation for us, that much is true; we can always choose to ignore our emotions and what they enable us to do. but we can also choose to take them up, and work upon the base they provide for us. they tell us what whacked out shit we expect from others, and now that we know, we can question whether we want to stick by those expectations or not.

awkwardness is good, actually

For some reason, there’s this ideal way of being where no one is awkward. Where you make a decision and follow it through to a T, where no one stumbles and says the wrong thing or accidentally spits when they talk, where you don’t second-guess your actions. Everything you do, is intentional, deliberate, and in character.

I guess I get the reason(s). You want to be this put-together person, and awkwardness betrays this effortless persona. Awkwardness catches you thinking, deliberating, anxious; trying to decide who you are as you are being that person. You appear taxed and in your head, rather than yourself out in the world. It’s like you’ve missed a step in the order of operations for living a human life: first you’re supposed to decide what to do, and then you’re supposed to do it. When you’re awkward, it’s like you’re trying to do each step at once and end up bungling both.

But I think there’s beauty in this mixed activity. Humans think, and they are always trying to think better. And when we’re awkward, that’s exactly what’s going on. We see an awkward person in thought, trying to make their reality coursing around them match what they perhaps caught as something that could have been going better a second later. We see in our awkwardness, the way our minds react in live time to the serial of reality that plays out in front of us, and the discordance between the world and whatever happens inside our minds. We think, ‘oh no, not like that,’ and then awkwardness ensues. There’s a sense in which we should perhaps be more comfortable with ourselves and our foibles, and a way of being where this kind of reflection is best left for after the full event (the dinner, the conversation, the saying of goodbyes) is fully over. This betrays confidence, and we are suckers for confidence. But I think there is room for us to grow to love awkwardness too, because awkwardness can be inward reflection in the best sense. It indicates a person concerned, someone trying. Attempting for something to be better than it is. It is an impulse that we laud when we see it romanticized in songs or written words, but whose existence we are wretched towards when we see it enacted. Of course, maybe it’s the wrong setting for such an impulse. But why?

There’s a wise saying, that if the other person isn’t at least a little nervous on their date with you, something has gone wrong. Nervousness begets awkwardness, they are cousins (it’s a bit of a screwy analogy). And both show intention, concern, and thought. (hence, the saying is good.) I’m simply a fan.

it’s very blustery, I know.

human relationships are difficult. often, we are caught in a sea of obligations and burdens — I am your friend, so I should listen; you are mine, so you should care. we create these dependencies between us, and codify them in rules that govern the relationships we title ourselves as existing within. I am your friend, daughter, partner, sister.

many of our actions are simple rule-following. they may be punctuated by affect, or authentically motivated for the sake of the person (and not yourself!); but in absence of affect or such motivation, we would do the very same things. maybe not in the same way (and maybe that makes a significant difference), but the same things. I won’t interrupt you no matter if I like you or not. many of these relationships we fall into, or are otherwise born into. continuing to exist within them is the path of least resistance, and they do good for us and others. so we stay. but (and this is what this nay-saying leads to), there are often times when we remember and create (at once, together) the significance of our relations with one another.

this happens, I think, when we share our feelings. not sharing in the sense of one person speaking aloud their traumas, anxieties, joys, while the other passively receives. nor even when that listening is active, and you can find yourself comforted, sympathized with; when someone sits with you. both those are good. but there is another thing, a time when you share what is at the very surface of your mind, the very last thought that you’ve had in all its (large, inchoate, hesitant and true) meaning and depth, and the other person, in response to you, does the very same. your thought is met by theirs, and you find yourselves to be co-creators of a little world. you may be sitting across from one another, lying in bed beside each other, or miles apart staring at each other through some new technological void. but what is created is a space, whose sole occupants are you and the other person. just your thoughts, just your feelings (your being, it’s your being), just this atmosphere. it is a space you can feel, you can sense; that evokes wonder. it is fragile, and if the other person doesn’t buy in, it gets lost. but sometimes you two can exist in it.

(no one else is there. the news doesn’t matter, facts don’t matter — what matters is what is on the surface of your mind, and that you two can share it with each other. no one else is there!)

you grow in this space, as isolated as it seems. you carry it with you long after it’s gone, after you’ve grown tired of holding up a created world (it is exhausting work), and it serves reminder as what your relationship with this person can be like. what is actually, literally, can and has been like. there is no metaphor here; it is a memory that illuminates and provides corner to your existent relationship. sometimes you remember it when your relationship is suffering, you recall what it was like and lament that it is that no longer. sometimes it can lead you to try and salvage the relationship for its sake, and its sake alone. something so wonderful should be fought for. and sometimes this can push your relationship past how it ought to be, straining, with too much pressure, with too much deliberation, something that must arise organically — not without intention or effort or good will — but organically. the brittleness of the force, can cause it all to break, you, them, the relation, even the memory can be disturbed and pushed to a destructive doubt (was it even ever like that? that couldn’t be real could it? I must have made it up). this is the worst case, and I want to recognize the worst case because that is where our minds go so naturally, because this world is cruel and we must push past the worst case at all times in order to say something that reaches.

but it was there, and it was real, and even though it couldn’t have lasted forever (is that right?), this potential to create with another person, is what I think lasts as one of the most beautiful aspects of relationships. there is beauty and value to duty, to care, to feeling and spontaneity; and there is beauty also, and quite significantly so, in these little worlds we make with each other. that we always, somehow, have the potential to create with each other. there is an ebb of energy, if we recognize it within ourselves, if we can push past the muck that shrouds our spiritual energies, the energy we have to connect with others, that sits within us all and waits to be awakened. there is meaning everywhere, waiting for us to birth it, to mold it; and it exists profoundly in our relations with one another. it’s everything of human experience. everything.

just really, everything. I know this adds nothing to a written explanation, but there are some things that find themselves caught between the spaces of the right repetition. everything, everything. (maybe we can leave the written word); everything.