In a few days my first love is marrying a man who isn’t me. I wished her a wonderful time and told her to remind her soon-to-be-husband how lucky he is.
This doesn’t mean I’m free of regret. I met my ex in high school and we dated ten years. Life, as it often does, “happened” and we slowly grew apart, but against the odds remained friends.
We almost tied the knot in high school—in a marriage and family class, for credit only. We had a chance to play house and raise a ten-pound bag of flour. I got sick and changed schools to avoid seeing a classmate who hurt me emotionally and physically. He’s got a family of his own now—funny how the universe works.
I used to watch from the window as my ex walked to the bus stop, wishing I were there beside her. When I think today about a life for us that never happened, a tremendous sorrow fills my soul. Then I look again, through a different window. I’m happy she’s found love, because she has loved me.
A sudden thought: what if throughout my adult life I continue to repeat childhood traumas? Is every day, every relationship, an unconscious re-creation of events over which I had little control? Maybe I’m fixated on variations of the same thought—the One Big Idea—that of recovering a self I barely knew?
The universe has its own issues. Space is occupied with making the best of a bad situation. Time finds it tough moving forward with respect to what’s passed.
Where am I going with this?
Sleep is hard to come by when you’re always dreaming. The stars and I—we’re the same, really. We shine brightest when nobody’s looking.
Where technology is concerned on this blog, there’s a method to my snarky-ness. I value sustained, intimate communication—texting and tweeting and status-posting constitute speech at a distance. Messaging is instant but superficial. Rather than opening up a dialogue, we’re speaking to externalized versions of ourselves whose friendship means liking the same piano-playing cat video.
Being somewhat tech-adverse and wholly introverted, I enjoy plenty of alone time. Some might find retreating to one’s room to ponder the absurdity of existence a sign of depression. They’d be half right: philosophy makes me sad, but as a philosopher of sadness I gain some control over my depression.
Sometimes I need to check connections I’ve made in my mind against the reality outside my head. This requires talking to others. I’ve authored some meaningful albeit abstract pieces, but other people have a way of challenging theories merely by being themselves in a way I am not. The best ideas come from spontaneous encounters with people I’m simultaneously delighted and terrified to be around.
It’s hard to be vulnerable. In protect mode I tell myself over and over that I’m too vulnerable—that my soul’s exposed, a wound too raw to bear. Then I hide from the world. And miss potential connections.
There is freedom in seeing one’s limitations and recognizing we all get caught up in negative self-talk. Maybe this makes me a better philosopher. Maybe it just makes me human.
“Free Time,” a 1977 essay by cultural critic Theodor Adorno, examines the relationship between work time and leisure time. We think we’re free when it comes to our free time, Adorno asserts, but leisure is simply an extension of the workday. Even at play, we labor to enjoy ourselves.
The compulsion to consume: we make money in order to spend it on crap we don’t need when we’re not on the clock. Entire industries are dedicated to filling up our leisure time, to satisfy our need for (temporary) freedom. The totality of this process escapes us. Adorno: “Hence the ease with which free time is integrated; people are unaware of how utterly unfree they are, even where they feel most at liberty, because the rule of such unfreedom has been abstracted from them” (191).
Threatened by the specter of boredom, people crave distractions. Adorno holds nothing back in his condemnation of our obsession with the cheap thrills popular culture provides:
People have been refused freedom, and its value belittled, for such a long time that now people no longer like it. They need shallow entertainment, by means of which cultural conservatism patronizes and humiliates them, in order to summon up the strength for work, which is required of them under the arrangement of society which cultural conservatism defends. (193)
The culture industry placates us, snuffs out the faintest flicker of rebellion in the heart of man. Capitalism finds support in a cultural conservatism that reinforces the compulsion to work and spend, work and spend. A “shocking” movie or provocative painting makes no significant political difference after we’ve consumed it. The status quo remains. Tomorrow’s shift awaits.