Monthly Archives: November 2008

A Beautiful Quote From “Mad Men”

The following is a quote from one of the best shows on television today, Mad Men.  It comes from Peggy, who is played by Elisabeth Moss, and she is speaking to Pete, who is played by Vincent Kartheiser.  Peggy has just told Pete how she gave up their baby for adoption.  She opines about loss in general when she declares that:

Well, one day you’re there, and then all of a sudden, there’s less of you.  And you wonder where that part went, if it’s living somewhere outside of you, and you keep thinking maybe you’ll get it back.  And then you realize, it’s just gone.

–Peggy Olson (Elisabeth Moss)
Mad Men, “Meditations in an Emergency”
Original Air Date: 10-26-08 on AMC

Is this passage a reference merely to loss in general, or something more specific?  Is she lamenting the loss of her child via adoption, the loss of her innocence/virginity, the loss of a potential relationship with the married Pete, or the loss of part of her soul?

Perhaps it alludes to all of these.  Either way, it makes for some powerful and entertaining television.

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A Poem Rife With Irony

ANOTHER POSTMODERN POEM

Art is a kind of innate drive that seizes a human being…
–Carl Jung

metaphorically speaking we are stuck in a hall of mirrors
are you aware of yourself as you read/hear this line?
except for numerous revisions nothing is outside this text

in reality do you encounter the thing or an idea of the thing?
the view as always contains the viewer
without knowing it we are consumers of knowledge

the Other is once again not invited to the Party of Ideas
arbitrarily we arrive at meaningful fictions
sadly the Signifier has split from the Signified

as a matter of fact brothers Time and Space are relatives
there is no history just overlapping narratives
naturally we nurture the socially-constructed self

just tossing these hot-potato lines your way
some of them ought to catch you by surmise
not getting them does not preclude their being had

has the familiar been rendered unfamiliar?
like a giant helium balloon in the sea of thought
has the unconscious bubbled to the ego-surface?

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A Poem About Loss

RECOVERY

it’s like wearing a hat all day
and then taking it off at night
something in me is missing

I feel the brim just above my eyes
the tightness clinging to my head
my hair curling up along the sides

but my head is bare now
it lies alone upon the pillow
sensing a lack it cannot grasp

we take comfort in the forms we assume
they get us here and there
but are you really comfortable in your skin

when I reach for what’s known
I encounter vague amputations
as if my legs have disappeared

disengaging from my battered torso
walking out the back door
a ghostly figment of my mind

I’m left with the odd reality
that my life will now require
days upon days of painful crawling

we take comfort in the forms we assume
they gets us here and there
but are you really comfortable in your skin

hatless leg-less how shall we continue
beyond our broken selves
how do we recover from loss

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Reflections On My Reflecting

Below is a post that originally appeared on my MySpace blog on July 22, 2007.  I have made some minor changes to the text and have adapted it to WordPress formatting.  Enjoy.

The following quote is from pages 268-69 of William Barrett’s Irrational Man: A Study in Existential Philosophy (New York: Anchor, 1990):

As a teacher of philosophy, a very dubious profession in this country, I am in a position to observe how precarious a hold the intellect has upon American life; and it is not true merely of the great majority of students but of cultured people, of intellectuals, to whom here in America a philosophical idea is an alien and embarrassing thing. In their actual life Americans are not only a non-intellectual but an anti-intellectual people. The charm of the American as a new human type, his rough-and-ready pragmatism, his spontaneity and openness to experience are true of him only because he is unreflective by nature.

In this passage, Barrett evokes Socrates’ famous mantra: “The unexamined life is not worth living.” Of course, most Americans either have not encountered this line or have failed to let it sink into their overtaxed Twenty-First Century brains.

Americans, with our flashy technological gadgets and presumed world dominance, truly are a dull lot. Most of us cringe at philosophical inquiries, labeling them “idealist” in nature. Our thoughts, after all, must be aimed at getting as much wealth, status and power as possible; philosophy bogs us down with too much abstract thinking.

I wonder, though, if pondering “life’s great questions” has actually hurt me. Do I flee from the everyday struggles of my existence by engaging in philosophical quests about the nature of life in general?

Can a person think so hard about his thinking that he loses his mind?

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Keeping An I On Our TV Selves

Below is a quote from one of my favorite books, Pathology and the Postmodern.  It comes from chapter 5, a section of the book that deals with the effects of technology on the self.  This selection focuses on the alluring qualities of television.  The author describes her relationship with TV thus:

At times, I turn on the television and just leave it to chatter in the background, something that I’d never done previously.  The voices of the programs soothe me . . . I find myself sucked in by soap operas, or compulsively needing to keep up with the latest news and weather.  Dateline, Frontline, Nightline, CNN, New York 1, every possible angle of every story over and over and over, even when they are of no possible use to me.

–Maia Szalavitz (1996)
“A Virtual Life,” The New York Times Magazine, July 28, p. 50

as quoted in

Kenneth J. Gergen (2000)
The Self: Transfiguration by Technology

from

Dwight Fee, ed.
Pathology and the Postmodern: Mental Illness as Discourse and Experience
London: Sage Publications, p. 111

As we can see in the above passage, television continues to enchant us, so much so that, like many of us have done before, Szalavitz “leave[s] it to chatter in the background.”  Even though she may not be watching the “boob tube,” she still feels an urge to have it on, in the background.

Somewhere along the way, TV went from being a form of entertainment to a mode of existence whereby people lose their “selves” in the process of engaging in/with it.  We are lulled to sleep–both actual and metaphorical–by the white nosie our television sets create.  Rather than employing it to help us escape from reality (albeit briefly), we have given TV a special place in our daily lives, a place from we which we now have difficulty escaping.

Our eyes are fixed upon the screen, but broken lie the “I’s” with which we try to identify.

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Self Is Fiction

“There is no attainment of a higher self in Buddhist theory; instead, only an exposure of what has always been true but unacknowledged: that self is fiction.”
–Mark Epstein
Thoughts without a Thinker: Psychotherapy from a Buddhist Perspective
New York: Basic Books (1995) p. 154

Pay attention to the last three words from the above quote: self is fiction. It’s difficult for Westerners to accept this genuinely Eastern principle. We in the West strive daily to “do things,” to “make things happen” in our lives.

Our Buddhist friends from the East see things very differently.

Although we like to assume that we can improve our “selves” through hard work and persistence, we forget one vitally important truth: self is fiction. Contrary to what the plethora of self-help books at our local Borders might proclaim, the self is not an object we can manipulate to our liking; it is not a thing, like a rock is a thing or a chair is a thing.

In reality, the self is an illusion we use for staying grounded; it’s like the ropes tying down a hot air balloon that, if it were not anchored to some fixed entity, would float into the sky without anyone manning the controls. Rather than allowing the balloon simply to be, to let it exist in its current elements, we wish to tighten the ropes of self that, while keeping us “safe,” never grant us true freedom or the wisdom to accept that we are inherently nothing.

The truth is, we are all balloon-like and we are already floating, even if the gravity of self wishes to tell us otherwise.

The self is a fantasy, a futile attempt (out of our yearning for attachment to something, anything) at achieving an inkling of permanence in an ever-shifting world. We try to make our “selves” into things and end up failing miserably.

This is why, as Epstein points out, “there is no attainment of a higher self in Buddhist theory.” How can one reach a “higher self” when no self existed in the first place?

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Welcome To My Blog

I want to welcome you to my new blog!  Here, in my little corner of the Web, I’ll be posting random thoughts and other thought-out pieces.  You may even find some new poetry from time to time.

So, please check back as often as you like.  I hope that you find my blog moving and fresh, like a bakery truck!  Thanks again for stopping by.

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