Twenty-Five Random Things About Me

[recycled from the brief Facebook craze of 2009, discussed here]

1-25. I am willing to spend over an hour thinking of subtle ways of showing off how cool I am and then delete them in embarrassment.

And then another hour trying to do the thing with the right ethical attitude. Sigh.

1. In the Seventies I told a movie theater owner that someday people would pay money to own their own copies of movies and he thought that was ridiculous (I was pitching a business plan to him, a kind of “movie of the month club” based on Laserdiscs, which I thought would make me rich). I think this was because I had already seen 2001 more times than anyone I knew and thought it would be fine if I could watch it every day.

2. I like Siberian Huskies. I had one once but she ran away. When he was two years old I told my son a bedtime story I made up about how he and a Siberian Husky snuck on a rocketship they found in a park and went to the moon to have lunch with the King of the Moon People.

3. Ever since I read Dune as a kid, I’ve been fascinated by how religions begin, though I suspect there’s not a whole lot more to say than what Dune already says.

4. I’ve spent more time than I care to think about arguing with strangers on the Internet. I have lots of Internet-only friends, and some of those friendships have become realworld and changed my life.

5. When I was in college I sold blood plasma for cash and spent it on Sara Lee cakes and orange pop; it’s a miracle I’m still alive. This beat food service jobs, of which I’ve had far too many, and I hated every minute of each of them.

6. I have complicated and, I think, interesting, views about romantic love, and am puzzled by why neither philosophers nor psychologists seem to have much interest in figuring out how it works and what it means, and why those few who do misunderstand it, and themselves, so badly.

7. If I like something, I just try to experience it over and over again, and never tire of it. So I know a few things really well, but not nearly as many things as I wish I did.

8. The smell of eggs makes me gag, and when I look at breakfast menus, it makes me sad that I will never just enjoy a stereotypical breakfast.

9. I reason out loud or not at all. This poses certain practical difficulties, especially since I feel weird talking out loud alone. Most of my silent thinking is in pictures, and I strongly associate colors with emotions.

10. I like thinking about the etymology of words, and tend to notice this side of language when I shouldn’t. Mixed metaphors make me have conniptions, and I actually correct them in student writing. John Gardner said that how one uses language reveals character, and I try to correct that too, which makes reading my teacher comments really scary for some.

11. I get migraines.

12. I am, like most of my countrymen, obsessed with the American Civil War, but for utterly weird reasons that relate to Hegel, Nietzsche, Heidegger, Gore Vidal and Ken Burns. OK, the Ken Burns part isn’t so weird, but the others are.

13. I am really really lazy.

14. I tend to think that everyone is pretty much the same, not just in moral status, but in detail, and that it is prudent to imply that you, of course, are the exception. For example, I find the Godfather films deeply meaningful personally… just like everyone. Thus I find talk about human rights halfway plausible but talk about diversity hilarious. What diversity?

15. I am a political junkie, but only about the national stuff. My family was active in local and regional politics. When intellectuals talk about “the system” I stare at them in blank amazement at the psychotic things they say, but they think I’m naive.

16. I like peaches. A lot. Usually in my kitchen cabinets there are a couple dozen cans of the stuff.

17. I used to draw, think I should again, and probably won’t.

18. I envy scientists and have fantasies about fixing certain defects in my education in that regard, and know I never will. By contrast I tend to think most doctors are… well, overrated. In almost every conceivable respect.

19. I actually liked law school. I think judges are more rational than philosophers. Sometimes I look at philosophers and am just agog at how weird their thought processes are.

20. I like taking long romantic walks on the beach. Alone. Mountains are cool too. I think the world approximates perfection to the extent that it is not only devoid of human life, but all life. I’d move to Mars if I could.

21. My mom can talk her way into anything; my dad can talk all day if you let him. I fall utterly silent until I think I have a captive audience, but once I do, oh boy.

22. I once ran for student government as a kid. When it looked like I was going to lose my party’s nomination, I changed parties, which says a lot about my attitude toward commitment I suppose. When I gave my first political speech, I droned on and on, saying the first thing that came into my mind until they dragged me off the stage. I still blush when I think of it.

23. Temporality troubles me. I’m not sure time is running in the right direction. I feel nostalgic for old sci-fi fantasies about what the future would be like now that I know it isn’t like that (this is the future, what you see around you. Isn’t it?). I would like to believe the past is still happening, just like in time travel stories, even if we can’t go there. You might think this is about death, but actually it isn’t.

24. In middle school we played football. When the guy opposite started trying to charge me I just stepped out of the way and let him go wherever he wanted to. This still seems pretty reasonable to me.

25. My most frequently used word is “weird.”

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5 comments on “Twenty-Five Random Things About Me

  1. Joe says:

    Oh the possible reasons for this post. Oh, oh, oh…

  2. T says:

    Out of curiosity, what are your views on romantic love?

    • poseidonian says:

      It’s complicated. My interest is in what people call falling in love. The first is semantic, and somewhat obvious: the word “love” is used as a label for many different things that have nothing much in common other than that we approve of them, and that we use different labels for some of these exact same things when they turn up in contexts where we do not approve of them. So the same thing, when it turns up in a teenager is called “infatuation,” in a married person (directed at someone other than their spouse) “obsession,” and in a person toward the person they are subsequently successfully married to “falling in love.” But we also call completely different states, including a kind of mix of friendship and sexual attraction “falling in love” if it leads to a successful relationship. So the first point is that language is somewhat useless here because our labels are mostly about approval and disapproval, not consistent labeling, so we have to set them aside. Second, the propensity to fall in love admits of degrees within a population. Some people fall in love easily, some people with difficulty, some people simply do not. That phenomenon interacts with the first phenomenon to create all sorts of miscommunications, as when a relationship begins between a person who is prone to falling and a person who is not, because typically the person who is not prone does not know that they are not prone; they think falling is what they experience, just as a red/green colorblind person initially assumes that everyone sees colors the way they do. Third, the psychological processes involved in falling have never been adequately described by anyone except for Stendhal, who should be consulted. (That’s the biggest part of my view, so the short answer is “see Stendhal.”) But Stendhal is cynical: he assumes that the perceptual state the lover is in is delusional (which is not surprising). My principal disagreement with Stendhal is that I do not think that what he calls “crystallization” involves delusion, but rather a kind of heightened perception. The lover is able to perceive qualities in the beloved that are not readily apparent to the non-lover (and vice versa) and this accounts for his mistaken belief that the lover is always delusional. Further, as Bowie said “love is not loving.” That is, falling induces not only the capacity to perceive positive qualities otherwise hidden from others, but it also ushers the person into a state of caring for the welfare of the other as such, but that these are not the same thing. Further, and this is something the culture doesn’t know quite how to discuss comfortably, the underlying process that leads parents to, as we say, “love” their children is, when it occurs, essentially the same process as what happens between lovers, with much the same results (which explains in part why adolescence is so painful for parents). Further, neither love nor loving has much to do with sexual attraction at all. Further, in relationships where one person is prone to falling and the other is not, the former will tend to accuse the other of being “selfish” to make sense of the fact that they are not getting something back, and the other will tend to accuse the first of being “needy” for never seeming to be satisfied, but neither of these things are really true. Lastly, the evolutionary function of whatever the mechanisms are for falling is to promote pair-bonding and reliable child-rearing; clinical depression is a phenomenon related to falling in something like the same way that hunger is related to nutrition. Depression is falling-hunger.

      That’s all that occurs to me off the top of my head. But the best of it is already in Stendhal and everything above presupposes him. Dorothy Tennov is also very good. Almost everyone else, not so much.

      • T says:

        Thank you for the lengthy and interesting response. I’ll be sure to look up both Tennov and Stendhal when I have the chance.

        Something you said piqued my interest (perhaps in a shallow or superficial way). You wrote that “neither love nor loving has much to do with sexual attraction.” Are you, by any chance, familiar with asexuality? If you are not, Wikipedia has a decent article on the subject, but the gist of it is that some people do not experience any sexual attraction whatsoever (or do so in infrequent or limited ways). However, many who identify as asexual are also capable of experiencing “romantic” love, and are desirous of romantic relationships, despite not having any sort of sexual inclinations. That most people assume that sex and love are somehow inextricably connected (or, at least, that romantic love pre-supposes some sort of sexual interest) is rather odd to me. After all, people can have sex with people whom they’ve no emotional connection, so it seems to follow that one can love without a sexual connection.

        Anyhow, that was my two cents on a random topic. Thanks again for the lengthy reply.

      • poseidonian says:

        That one’s complicated. It’s not that, as I may have said hyperbolically, they have nothing to do with each other, but that they are distinct processes, sometimes connected, sometimes not. Falling for someone who fits your orientation usually inspires a desire to have sex with them, but finding someone sexually attractive doesn’t generally inspire falling in love with them. As Stendhal explains, falling begins with admiration.

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