Sunday, January 9, 2011

Trajectory

I am afraid that I am just writing silly things.

Nothing too substantial or meaningful to anyone except for me.

I enjoy the process that I'm going through with this big writing project.

But I wonder what it is for.

My friend told me something that made me feel better. He told me to not expect too much of it, but to regard at as changing my trajectory, developing my patterns for the future.

I suppose the more issues I deal with at this point the better. The more I try to write about things the better. But I just am starting to realize how much reading will do for me. The more I read the better I'll be able to think about all kinds of things.

It is just nice and uncomfortable in an exciting way to feel the limitations of my thinking and writing. I just don't know how to do serious issues yet. Duh. I'm young. How am I supposed to be able to make sense of really difficult issues? How am I supposed to even know why any of it matters? Ummmm. A quest, sure.

I'm just setting out into the unknown on a regular basis. Who knows.

I certainly do think that my writing makes me feel better about myself at times. Then I get confused about myself and about my writing.

But I think more than anything else I am trying to figure out how I can live a decent life. To not feel so bad or weird about things.

Not that I feel bad or weird about things.

I feel pretty good about things, actually.

I'm not sure how my writing makes me feel, or what I'm doing with it.

These questions. The question probably is how to live well.

I was thinking a few months ago about the flow of my writing over 2010. What was I doing? What was the questions I was trying to ask? What was I thinking about?

Obviously it went discontinuously, working from one vague question to the other, entertaining multiple questions simultaneously. But I can tease out some general themes I think.

In March when I first started this blog I was still dealing with all the things I had been exposed to in my undergrad. Clausewitz was still a major concern, and of course still is. But I wrote about it a lot more at the beginning of 2010. I was finishing my paper on Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde and I was starting to explore other questions. Questions about the practical consequences that Clausewitz and Sumida's work had for my life.

At that same time I was beginning to read some neuroscience, notably Mirroring People and The Mind & The Brain. Those books tied in to Clausewitz in that they helped me understand how it would be possible to engage in a process of transformation like the one he describes. I was convinced that the mind could change the brain, and so Clausewitz's work took on a greater depth for me after that reading. It also gave me conviction that reenactment would be real. Mirroring People introduced me to Simulating Minds, which is an important book, one that grounded me in a theory of mind that also helped explain what was up with Clausewitz.

In April I took a detour into writing and reading some nihilist stuff. Simultaneously I was reading and writing some stuff about the imagination. At the end of April I produced a substantial essay, my first major one, I think. I became more and more curious about the intersection between Collingwood and Foucault, and was moving a bit further from Clausewitz, but still pursuing his questions in a way.

How does the mind work? What can neuroscience tell me about it? How can thought change the brain? What is the imagination? How does that work in the mind? What does history matter to the imagination? How can this help me become a better person?

In May I continued to write about simulation theory and empathy, but took more of an interest in history and narrative thanks to The Landscape Of History.

Then in June I had another interesting breakthrough with an essay about the a priori imagination. I think I started taking a bit more of an interest in Collingwood. Was starting to think of him a bit more seriously. And right after that I pursued another two essays on self-transformation, how it could happen, and how we could conceptualize it.

So it seems as though after convincing myself that personal change was really possible i concentrated on the question of how. Luckily all that reading on the imagination and philosophy of history and stuff gave me some good tools to work with.

In July I took on another big project, my most substantial completed project to date. I was preparing to move that month so I had a good bit of scattered reflections. But my reading and writing was dominated primarily by Foucault's Discipline & Punish. I was startled by how he used militaristic metaphors, and was also very curious about how his macro analysis could possibly exist on a micro level. So I wrote the 'Society's Implicit War' essays between July and August. Frankly, I think that those essays are a fairly contained statement, I think their structure makes sense. Even though they are highly abstract and probably very difficult to translate into something concrete.

But the questions were this: does society resemble resemble war in some ways? Is politics simply the continuation of war by other means? If there is indeed something like an implicit war in our society, how does it function without explicit violence? What role does knowledge play in the implicit war? How can simulation theory help me grasp that transition from torture to prison? How can we resist the forms of knowledge that Foucault describes?

A strange series of essays. At that same time I was trying to write about simulation theory and theory theory, and trying to incorporate mindfulness into it all. Society's Implicit War has mindfulness as a running theme, as did my writing on the a priori imagination.

Then at the end of August, after SIW, something happened to me. I wrote an essay 'the genealogy of the modern mind', in which I tried to conceptualize philosophy of mind as a historical project, and what that would mean for its usefulness.

At the end of those essays I was baffled by the issue of creativity. It seemed so central.

I tried to follow up on that question of creativity (in its broadest sense) with an essay called 'the science and art of minds'. I was then resolved to figure out this issue of creativity. So I read Collingwood's The Principles Of Art, which spawned my current project.

Since September I've been grappling with this project. In the meantime I continued to read about the internet, about the brain, about art. Notably, I read The Shallows and The Condition of Postmodernity, both of which contributed to my concern with art and expression.

I grappled with my changing life and my new job in October, eventually producing some stuff on small talk. Sometime in September and October I decided I wanted to write poetry. So I've been trying. Collingwood's work on art has generally made me push myself to be expressive in different ways, to not be afraid of trying to write new things.

Similar themes abounded in November: the imagination, simulation theory, aesthetics, military metaphors, so on.

December I avowed to be weird, to write fiction, to write poetry, which I've been doing. All the time trucking away on this new project on art. Writing a section every week or two. Continuing to write about empathy and language, about art, about so on.

So since August and September I've really been fixated by the role of creativity. It seems like it all still comes back to the notion of self-improvement and self-transformation. But there is this political desire lying in the back of my mind. I want to understand how the cultivation of the self can become something that can help other people. This stuff on art definitely addresses that stuff, but I don't know how, except in the abstract. Theoretically, I understand how art, and an artistic life could become political, but it seems to mean so little in the real world.

My themes are consistent but they change, new ones come in, others wax and wane. Much of it has been spurned by Clausewitz and Sumida. The questions they put to me about self-transformation, about judgment, about history.

Now I suppose I grasp the trajectory of my writing a little bit. Not completely, of course.

But I want to start asking myself about serious questions about the trajectory of the future. What programs would do me best?

At some point I'm gonna have to settle down and get a doctorate. Choose an expertise, become an expert on something.

But what? What expertise would set me up to do good things?

Collingwood? Why Collingwood? Clausewitz? Of course Clausewitz has to be a thing. But Collingwood? Who?

What to study hardest? What to stick with?

Graduate school is on the horizon, but the path isn't at all clear.

It isn't clear what I'm steering myself towards. But there is no doubt that I'm steering myself somewhere, that I'm making myself into this person with certain ideas and with certain ways of viewing the world. I just don't know what they will become, what they will make me into.

What am I doing to myself?

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