"I really don't care that much about "Beauties." What I really like are Talkers. To me, good talkers are beautiful because good talk is what I love. The word itself shows why I like Talkers better than Beauties, why I tape more than I film. It's not 'talkies.'Talkers are doing something. Beauties are being something." - The Philosphy of Andy Warhol: From A to B and Back Again.
For the past few months, or - if I’m being honest, the better part of a year - I’ve been trying to get through Plato’s Republic. It’s one of those slower-paced reads that becomes kind of inevitable when the driving force feels more like an obligation than genuine interest. I think the most interesting thing about the book is that the framing device of the informal dialectic makes it easy to forget how fucking old it is. Like, something about the fact that people were saying "WAKE UP, SHEEPLE" 400 years before the birth of christ is hilarious to me.
One of the points that you always hear with the Republic is that it’s where the line starts to blur between Plato’s use of the Socrates character as a representation of what the real person said/thought and as a puppet to state his own beliefs. In some parts of the book, it's also where the dialouge format gets a bit closer to a monolouge, because so much of the talking is done by Socrates and his interlocuters don't add much. It's a lot of "Quite right", "By all means, "very true" etc.
We’ve all been in one-sided conversations like this. I do think it’s good to have the capacity to give someone the floor and listen when they have something to share, esspecially if they really do have a certain authority of on a subject or if their telling a story that's uniquely theirs. But sometimes there's those moments when you realize that an uncomfy imbalence is present. It's not always clear if your interlocuter is aware of this imbalence, or if their perfectly aware and unconcerned by it. There's nothing like inherently bad about this, I just wonder where it comes from. Power dynmaics are a weird thing to think about, esspecailly when we're just talking about normal, every day conversations. But I think that they have a pretty big effect on what gets said and what doesn't, which can have pretty important consequences for any space.
Anyone who happens to be following this site can probably see that obstacles to expression is sort of the introductory focus here. It's also probably clear why. I don't know what the general ettique is around the frequency of blog posts - or if anything like that actually exists (it's my website, universe is indifferent, etc.), but I'd like to keep it a bit more frequent than once a week. Also I'd like to try and figure out a comment section, so if any netizens stroll through we can get ourselves a little dialouge going!
When I think of the whole obstacle to expression thing, my brain goes to two places: this clip from Slavoj Zizek's A Perverts Guide to Ideology and the first chapter of Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace. Zizek's description of the "Big Other", a concept from Lacanian psychoanalysis, gets at this anxious hesitence, this mysterious ever-present third party that is never seen but always felt.
The first chapter of Infinite Jest shows the main character, Hal Incadenza, in an interview with a college board while trying to express as little as possible. When he does finally decides to speak for himself to assert his athletic and intellectual ability, they react to his outbust with an inexplicbale sense of abject horror. Infinite Jest is a famously enigmatic novel; I don't have the chops for a comprehensive analysis, but this sense of arrested expression does seem to be a big part of what the book is actually about. The rest of the book is a set a year proir to this exchange, so it's kind of what the enitre story is leading to. A big theme throughout is catatonia; hiding from reality with drugs, entertainment, and - in a way - pursuing goals that utlimately don't mean anything. That's all cool, but it's the vaugely lovecraftian reaction to Hal's attempt to express himself which really interests me. Something about the disconnect Wallce brings out in how he describes Hal's actions and how he's preceived. Hal spouts a dorky rant about how smart he is ("I do things like get get in a taxi and say, 'the libray, and step on it'" - pg.12) and the guys react like they just watched a mondo film ("His face. As if he was strangling. Burning. I beleive I've seen a vision of hell." - pg.14). Hal is restrained and leaves the college in an ambulence, even though there's nothing obviously wrong with him.
I'm stuggling to put a cap on this, but this is a blog so I guess I don't need to. I'll leaveyou with a relevant quote:
No Exit by Jean-Paul Sarte: "You scare me rather. My reflection in the glass never did that; of course, I knew it so well. Like something I had tamed...I'm going to smile, and my smile will sink into your pupils, and heaven knows what it will become."